Shifting Sands on What the Bible Means.

I’ve mentioned here how fundamentalists have changed their minds about the sin of “working on Sundays” during my lifetime.  With malls open on Sundays, it seems OK now.

Some would be surprised to learn the fundamentalist Protestant view on abortion was the opposite of the current view until rather recently.  In a short period of time, conventional wisdom went from “the Bible says it’s fine” to “the Bible says it’s sin”.

As recently as the 1970’s, leading Christian magazines published articles supporting the right to abortion.  Authors wrote the Bible’s reference to “life” referred to life after birth.  Arguably the loudest conservative Christian voice, the Southern Baptist Convention, supported abortion.

The path toward reversal has been plotted by many scholars.  Out sized personalities like Jerry Falwell helped the change.  But, surely one of the forces in the change was the “root of all evil”, money.

For whatever reasons, two issues have helped fill collection plates.  One is abortion, the other is gays.  If both of these caused churches to lose money instead of make it, does anyone think they would be opposed today?

The sands of time have always changed conventional wisdom of “what the Bible means”.   And, it makes sense these shifts continue.

Without financial support from people in the pews, there can be no church building or preacher standing behind the pulpit.  The sermon preached on Sunday is written, ultimately, by those in the pews.

The Liberal Wing of Christianity is Winning the Long Race.

With so much being said about “nones”, the rapidly growing group who do not affiliate with any branch of the faith, there is not much information about them.  Attached is an informative article.

While numbers from large branches of the faith, Catholics, Southern Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians are declining in membership, those identified as “nones” continues to grow.  They are worshipping somewhere else or not at all.

Atheist and agnostic numbers have been growing, but not as much as the group called “spiritual but not religious”.  This latter group still ponders the mysteries, but they do not ponder them in church.

They read books, more religious books are sold each year.  They take classes, seminars, yoga classes and study on line.

As an example of what is going on, Barnes and Noble no longer separates the “Religous” shelf from the “Self Help” shelf.  They have become one and the same.

While liberal denominations are being hit hard by this exodus to “spirituality”, the “spirituality” is an extension of liberal religious ideas, not conservative ones.

We know the neighborhood church is being replaced by the mega church with its flashy presentations and gourmet coffee.  But, that sense of community is being replaced, in turn,  by the Internet where people discuss ideas and ideals.  It is still popular to regard one’s self as “Christian”.

There have always been many “truths” in Christianity.  Now, the liberal wing is expanding the number faster than ever.

Is Obama Religious?

Many voters, mostly Republicans of course, blow off Obama’s expressions of faith as insincere politically posturing.  They have no idea of what is in his head, neither do I.

Some who are really into what other people think about religion are sure to think they know what Obama’s faith is all about.  They note carefully who he talks to, listens to and what he says in public about religion.

From this, one writer has made a detailed analysis of where the President has traveled in his head on faith.  He thinks Obama’s faith when entering into the White House was one of social justice, seeing justice for the less fortunate as a focus of the scriptures.  Now, he thinks Obama has become closer to a pentecostal, seeing the faith all about a personal relationship with the god.

The evidence for this transformation is the people he confers with and what he says publicly about his faith.

The author below refers to Obama’s faith as “out of the box”.  What he does and says does not fit into categories like pastors do.

This seems consistent in that much of what he does doesn’t fit neatly into a conservative or liberal box.  It’s some of each.  That kind of criticism has been made of all recent Presidents.

The thing I want most from a President is him not saying, “I prayed about this, and reached the following conclusion.”

I want him to take responsibility for his decisions, not act like some god told him what to do.

Which is More Important, Freedom of Religion or Freedom From Religion?

Today it is repeated often freedom of religion is our most basic right, “the first freedom”.  Both Presidential candidates, especially Romney, talk about it.

The Catholic Church has been successful in pushing their problems with pedophiles  off the front page by talking up their “religious liberties”.

Charleton Heston, when he headed up the National Rifle Association, explained in a speech the right to bear arms was the “first freedom”.  If you couldn’t shoot at the government, it would take away all the other rights.

It’s interesting the term “religious liberty” in not in the constitution.  While the constitution talks up freedom of speech, it talks down government religion.

In that way, one could say, the focus of the founding fathers was on freedom from religion, and only as a result of that is there freedom to practice it.  Conventional wisdom, however, has mostly placed the priority the other way around.

This is typical.  The Constitution, like the Bible, is often referred to as a document we are  to take literally.  In practice, even those most enamored by the literal concept do not do so.

Personnally, I cannot imagine the founders would like the way the Catholic Church is using religion in the workplace, especially when it received a billion dollars from taxpayers.  They receive this from federal contracts and by avioding local taxes.

Which is more important, freedom of or freedom from? In my view the balance tips at least slightly to freedom from.


Yes, The Rapture is About Floating.

There is a Minneapolis group called the Pretty Good Bluegrass Band.  “Pretty good” is about as far as any of us should judge themselves.

I wrote a blog way back I thought was “pretty good.” It was about the various views on what would happened at the Rapture.  One view is Jesus will float down, gather the good people and float back up with them.

The other view is Jesus will float down, stay a while, gather the good people and float back up.  I made light of all this Jesus floating.

One of the critics of that blog said the Bible does not refer to floating, so I was off base to make fun of it.  Today, I received confirmation there are Bible-based Pastors who think Jesus floats.

Every few months we get a tabloid from a local  Baptist church.  The preacher fills it with the Biblical citations we see from literalists.  He cites Acts 1: 10-11 which is about Jesus’ return to heaven after he died temporarily.

The preacher elaborates with a narrative that includes  “…as He nears the edge of the celestial city slowly floating in…”  Then, he wrote of a”…deafening noise in heaven when Jesus touched down..”

We know there is no gravity where our space ships travel. Since Jesus “touched down” we learn there is gravity in heaven.

If you believe Acts 10,  a Jesus going back and forth, you have to believe in what I would call “the literal floatation.”  I suppose I’ll be criticized again.

This Election is a Referendum on Rape.

Polls show the majority of Republican voters support abortion rights for women who have been raped.  However, the proportion of Republican House and Senate candidates who do not support this right is very large.

While publicity has gone to two or three Republican Senate candidates who have blurted this out, there are about 10 others.  In House races, I’ve read there are “dozens”, but I don’t know the number. The point is, it is not an uncommon view among Republican candidates abortion should be withheld from victims of rape.

I remember an experience some 30 years ago at a legislative hearing Bismark, ND.  I had never heard a person say, even in private, abortions should be withheld for rape or to save the life of the mother.  That day I heard it stated for the public record.

Today the unthinkable view abortion should be withheld from rape victims is  proclaimed from the mountaintops in the Republican Party.

If you are a pro-life person and believe human life begins at conception, but are appalled at the thought of abortion being withheld from rape victims, I’d suggest you do not pat yourself on the back.  You are an enabler of those who want to withhold the rape abortions.

That the fetus, even at the one cell conception stage, is a human being tells the rape abortion withholder he is right.  You have provided a reason for the rapist to get a pass and the woman to be further abused.


The Unculting of Cults

The recent announcement Romney visited Billy Graham after which Graham removed Mormonism from his cult catalogue was amusing to say the least.  Again, “the faith never changes”, but changes all the time.

Why would a group vilified for so long, Mormonism, be judged OK by the stroke of a pen?  The Baptist author below referred to it as a “fascinating intersection of religious pluralism, doctrinal concession and political reality.”

Remaining on the cult list are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists and Unitarians.  It’s hard to understand why Unitarians are considered a cult.  In fact, none of these does mass suicides and such associated with cults.

History tells us these latter groups will be regarded as cults until one of their members is a  Republican candidate for the Presidency.  Then, things change in a hurry.

This morphing of the faith to accommodate contemporary values goes back to the beginning.  The facade of the faith is that nothing changes.

Another announcement this week was the closing of a prominent seminary by the Methodists.   The closure was part of a budget cutbacks faced by many denominations.

One would guess doctrinal change will accelerate among main line denominations as membership falls.  Doctrinal change will accommodate new views among the membership but also accommodate mergers with other declining denominations.

When you think about it, one religious group calling another a “cult” is an insult of the highest degree.  It may fit sometimes but often is the pot calling the kettle black.


If Human Life Begins at Conception, Maybe Rape is Not So Bad.

People who congratulate themselves on believing the cell or two formed at conception is an actual human being are naive about the consequences.   They are on a train with no brakes.

Two Republicans running for Congress have made statements advocating no abortions in cases of rape.  If you believe two cells are a human being, you will have a tough time arguing with them.

It goes like this.  The two cells are a human beings just like the mother.  The mother gets to live.  Why not the two cells?

When one believes the two cells are a full fledged human being, the door is open to the misogynist, one who hates women.

The latest Congressional candidate said it is “God’s will” a fetus resulting from a rape be born.  If this is true, it does not seem possible rape itself can be a serious crime.

When rape results in pregnancy, the rapist has caused a blessed event, planned for and approved by God.  If the woman, and women in general, dress in ways that attract rapists, doesn’t he deserve a little slack?

In fundamentalist Christianity, the man is to be the primary decision maker in a relationship.   My guess is the case will be made eventually the rapist father should not be in prison, but present to have a voice in raising his own child.

As I understand anti abortion reasoning, the two cells are important, men are important, women are not.

The Emperor Has No Clothes!

The gay marriage court case moving through the Federal Court system is especially interesting because it forces the government to explain something it has not been able to do.  It has to explain, “Why is it any of our business?”

This comes from a narrow legal question raised in the case.  The case involved an inheritance from one partner to the surviving one.  They were legally married in Canada.  The IRS forced the surviving partner to pay $400,000 in inheritance taxes because they were not a heterosexual couple.

The surviving spouse’s attorney argued the Federal Government has no interest in the gender of the couple.  The law merely states one spouse may pass assets to another without paying these taxes.  Thus, the Federal Government was not treating citizens equally when it deciding to apply the word, “spouse”, only to heterosexuals.

This question, what interest does the Federal Government have, can be extended to our entire society.  What business do any of us have passing judgement on the gender of couples?

The anti gay marriage posturing done by those speaking in public is outrageous.  Christian operatives claim gay marriage harms heterosexual marriage.

This argument has been made for several years now, but no evidence has been presented  as to how gay marriage damages straight marriage.  It is obvious gay marriage, with its  stable households, benefits us all.

A Court of Appeals ruled the surviving spouse did not owe the taxes.  We owe gay people equality under the law.


Christianity’s Fortuitous Accident.

How many man hours over the past thousand years have been spent reading the Bible, teaching it and discussing it?  The number would have many zeros.

The Bible is such a central part of Christianity it is hard to imagine the faith without it.  But, there must have been hundreds or thousands of faiths before writing and parchment.

With so much preoccupation in the Bible, it is inseparable from the faith.   Christianity became popular because it stumbled into history just at the right time.  Had a Jesus character in a religious story died before writing and parchment, and many god figures probably did, we never would have heard about it.

Preoccupation with the Bible causes a failure to recognize how insignificant the Christian faith is in the history of humans.  I have the impression many have come to believe the history of man began during Biblical times.

Even the cave drawings date from 30,000 years ago are relatively recent in the known history of mankind.

The appeal of Christian writing is its focus on the “me”, the god knows me.  By extension, there is focus on the “us”, we who share in the experience of reading the Bible are special people in the history of human kind.

Just as parchment and paper replaced writing on cave walls, something will replace  paper.  Today, it seems like it will be the electronic impulse I am using.

It will be hard for the electronic impulse to hold the same sway over believers.