Now I know a title like that would get you thinking. Too often, that means that a Christian church has put aside their doctrinal foundation in order to make inroads into a community–to be accepted and cool, you know. The story in this video highlights something totally different.
When I was in Strongarm, we often got flack from mainline Christianity because our style was so heavy. We were inciting “evil spirits” with it, even though our lyrics and words clearly spoke to the opposite. That seems old news now.
But the church in the video took things to the next level. Watch it and hear their story. It is very cool.
I’m about to talk a little religiously today due to current events. According to Harold Camping, this past Saturday (May 21st) at 6 PM was suppose to be the Rapture.
Who is Harold Camping and what is the Rapture?
Harold Camping is a Christian radio broadcaster. He is president of Family Radio. More important for dozens of years he has been a Bible teacher via the radio and a few television syndicates.
In Christian eschatology (study of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell), the Rapture is a reference to the being caught up as referred to in the Biblical passage 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Most Christians believe that in the End Times, Christians of will be gathered together in the air to meet Jesus Christ. Probably, the primary passage used to support this idea is 1 Thessalonians 4:15–7, in which Paul cites “the word of the Lord” about the return of Christ to gather his followers:
Yes, the Rapture sounds strange. For me, it is not essential Christian doctrine. What I mean is, it doesn’t affect my daily life or how I go about my desire to follow and be like Jesus. I don’t go around having long conversations talking about it. In general, I simply try to live with a sense of urgency because none of us knows how many days we have left. But since it’s made the news, I thought I’d mention it.
I also wanted to talk about what to think about all this. Most people probably think that Harold Camping is a loon at best, and a charlatan at worst. After all, many people have sent their life savings to him to help him spread his Rapture message.
But according to the Bible, it is much worse. Harold can now be considered a false teacher. He has claimed to understand secret codes and teachings in the Bible and been found wrong.
Did you know that he also predicted the end of the world to be May 21, 1988, and September 7, 1994? And since he was wrong this time, he revised his numbers again. Did he say May 21st? According to him, he misunderstood the secret code. It’s really October 21st this year.
Oh brother…what a dope!
There shouldn’t be another person listening to his programs or supporting him with their dollars. It may sound harsh, but this isn’t simply a ‘misunderstanding’. This is a guy who claims to have direct messages from God that have turned out to be totally wrong.
So leave Camping to his own demise. Don’t listen to him. Don’t send him a nickel.
I do not wish death on him or evil to come to him. I’m not gonna call his show and taunt him. I’m not gonna litter his email box with spam. I simply think he needs to be ignored now. Although, some people may want to ask for a refund of their money and I support that!
So join my movement and ignore Harold Camping and anyone like him. It’s actually what we’re supposed to do. They do a disservice to God.
First, if you don’t know, Andy Stanley is one of the most influential pastors, church leaders, and communicators in America today. He founded a church called North Point Community Church, which is one the biggest churches in America today. It’s also the church I have been going to for the last 6 years.
Anyway, back to the bitches and whores thing.
He is currently teaching a series called Love, Sex, & Dating. It is very good. He’s been saying some very serious and politically incorrect things that need to be said.
Yesterday (Sunday) he was talking about how woman are treated. This was part 2 of the series that was directed to men.
He made the point that women are often treated like a commodity in our culture today. In other words, they are something to be acquired, something we can do with as we please (use them), and then done away with. And then, it’s on to the next one.
Obviously, this is wrong–and that was Andy’s point.
He emphasized that Jesus elevated the status of woman with his words and how he treated them in his day. In fact, he spoke to women at a time when they were treated far worse than a commodity. They were second class citizens at best. They were property, and many were slaves. The point is, they were treated in an inhuman way. But Jesus set a course that began changing that perception, which is one of the reasons Christianity caught on. And that is to be our model today.
At one point, he got very direct. He said something to the effect of:
If you have any music in your iPod that refers to woman as bitches and whores, you need to get rid of it.
Anything, even a song or entertainment, that devalues woman and relegates them to that inhuman place again needs to go. He also went on to say how terrible pornography is and actually dulls a man’s appetite for a real woman and sincere relationship. It’s destructive, creates dysfunction, and has to go too.
Pretty powerful stuff. So I guess my early Beastie Boys songs must go. Oh well. It’s worth it. And it’s the right thing to do.
Good Friday is so serious (and for good reason). But why not go into the weekend with a smile? Have a good Friday, great Easter…and I dare to watch this whole thing:
So here is a proper send-off for the weekend. Here is an amazing clip of the famous R&B singer Al Green singing/preaching at a church service. Agnostics and atheists BEWARE! You may not be able to resist coming to Jesus by watching this.
“I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”
-This is from notorious atheist Christopher Hitchens. Talk about nailing it. By the way please copy and past this in your social media status: Pray For atheist CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS #PrayForHitchensHere’s why>>> http://bit.ly/hIdSco
Love Wins is “A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” by Rob Bell. This is important stuff for sure, which is why I tackle it in my book, 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith, as well. So I come to this review with some knowledge on the subject. If you’re interested on a comparison you can download my chapter on Hell here for free.
In a way, Rob has been part of my life for eight years. I have read nearly all of his books, used several of his NOOMA videos as a basis for small group discussions, and listened to hundreds of his teachings (last week I explained why I stopped listening to him on July 29th, 2007, which is another story altogether). I have deep affection and great respect for Rob. It is hard not to. That is why this review is so difficult.
That being said, let me begin by stating what I agree with in Love Wins:
• God is love and more generous than we can comprehend
• People we don’t expect to see in Heaven will be there
• People we expect to be in Hell may not be there
• We are commissioned to bring healing to this earth with our lives
• Our eternal destiny will ultimately be of our own choosing, either Heaven or Hell
• God is displeased with misrepresentations of his character and nature by his alleged followers
• Yes, is his fairness, God will allow children, the mentally challenged, and the Pygmy in Africa (or anyone else) who has not had the chance to decide on Jesus into Heaven
Beyond that, Love Wins is ambiguous, dangerous, and angry.
I wanted to like Love Wins. I really wanted to like it. But I didn’t. That doesn’t mean Love Wins is poorly written, dull, or unoriginal. On the contrary! In true Bell fashion, it is passionate, deep, and relevant. But if a movie has forced acting, a half-baked story, yet manages to come through with stellar special affects, it is still a bad movie. With all the perfect expressions, appealing conversational tones, and deep passion, Love Wins left me confused and frustrated—to such a degree, in fact, I still cannot determine what the book is truly about. Other than ‘talking’ about this stuff, I cannot figure out what the overall point is.
Love Wins is purposely ambiguous. It poses many questions and answers very few. While Bell loves to try to emulate Jesus by answering questions with questions, he misses one BIG thing: an answer always came when Jesus was around. Jesus simply posed questions that invoked a pre-existing answer in the heart of the individual. Jesus also had another approach; he would enter the temple and teach from the Scriptures, explaining and answering in great detail.
Jesus wasn’t at all ambiguous on the essentials, nor evasive; he was not ‘hard to pin down.’ Jesus provided clarity at a time, and to subjects, that desperately needed it. So much so that we are still talking about his answers 2,000 years later. It’s very fashionable to pose questions, remain distant, and commit to nothing. To most, it sounds enlightened (and keeps everyone liking you), but it’s also insincere and elusive.
Love Wins is dangerous because its use and explanation of Scripture is manipulative. Sure, if a person has a pulse, then that person has a bias. We are all prone to interpret the Bible through whatever lens or worldview we have. But when a bias becomes an agenda, or even activism, with regard to Scripture, it can become very dangerous.
For example, Bell does not seem to believe in a Hell with flames of any sort or at any level, as most of traditional Christianity has held for the last 2,000 years. He believes it will be either a state (or condition) we create through our actions and choices or just a separation from God. (I elaborate on all three in great detail in the chapter on Hell in my book.)
So while explaining the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as told by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31, Bell deals a fatal blow to the meaning of it. His assessment? This is not really a parable about Hell and the afterlife. It’s about the Rich Man holding on to his pride, status, and cultural hierarchy, because, even in his torment, he wants Lazarus, the beggar, to ‘serve’ him. For some reason, the Rich Man begging for a cool drop of water on his tongue because he “is in agony in this fire” or his plea for a special warning to his family about the potential torment in the afterlife goes completely ignored by Bell. Sure, pride can be an application of this story, but it is not the thrust. It merely serves to accentuate the seriousness of the afterlife, since the Rich (Jewish) Man is in the torments of Hell, while the (Gentile) beggar is in Heaven. It is clearly a warning about Hell and the afterlife.
Bell appears to courageously jump to the end of Revelation, since it cannot be ignored when talking about Hell. He elaborates on all the great descriptions of Heaven and healing and being reconciled with God—we all love this stuff. Unfortunately, he conveniently ignores the whole “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15)
There is more, but Love Wins tumbles like a house of cards on these two areas of Scripture alone. What exactly are we being saved from then? Just our bad habits and attitudes? Bell enjoys blasting the reader with an assault of seemingly contradictory verses. Then, while the reader is dazed, confused, and off-guard, he seizes the emotional moment to introduce a controversial view. It leaves the person feeling like, “Of course this must be true…I must be an idiot if I don’t agree with it.” The Bible is filled with apparent contradictions, if you are willing to bastardize and ignore context. It is a manipulative and condescending tactic to use, since it attempts to trick the reader into agreement.
Love Wins is angry because it has all the makings of an immature, rebellious teenager trying to teach his overbearing old-fashioned parents a lesson about the new ways of the world. First and foremost, if you (or any Christian) believe that Jesus is absolutely essential to salvation or in a literal Hell with flames, Rob would like you to know that you are helping perpetuate a ‘strain’ of Christianity that is destructive, violent, toxic, venomous, and abusive. Got it?
While Bell presents himself as very magnanimous in interviews and graciously expresses that he has no desire to call out or criticize his detractors, he has done far more in this book. Bell uses fighting words throughout. If believing 1) the name of Jesus is essential and 2) there is a literal Hell with flames, makes me a fundamentalist, pre-modern, unenlightened, barbaric, blind, villainous, and idiotic, then so be it—although I would dispute the charges. Sound at all passive aggressive? It is. I know because I ‘are’ one.
So apparently all you crotchety, outdated, grandpa-like Christians need to realize (or else!):
• When God says He will reconcile all creation to Himself, He means everyone can get into Heaven regardless of your belief in Jesus
• God will let people decide to accept Jesus even after death, if necessary He will take as long as needed to convince them to come in
• You’re making people think Jesus came to rescue us from God, whom you seem to think is hot-tempered, switches modes, and is inconsistent
• While there needs to be room in Christianity for a wide range of opinions and views, there just isn’t room for your finite views on Hell, sin, or salvation
• Don’t worry about confessing the name of Jesus to be saved, just make sure you are living His story out in your own life
• There is a vein of God’s story in every culture, so whatever that plan of salvation is, it is perfectly acceptable to God and don’t judge them either
• Jesus died on the cross because that’s what they needed and understood back then, and that wouldn’t need to happen today since we’re, like, way more smarter than that
• Being ‘spiritual’ is probably enough for God, so don’t worry so much about being Biblical
• The Hippies had it right because it is actually possible to meet Jesus through smoking pot
• If Jesus and Christianity have put a bad taste in someone’s mouth, God doesn’t necessarily need them to follow Him because wherever they find truth is fine with Him
It’s funny, I commented on the last idea in my book a couple of years ago:
Since discussing God and Jesus can so often be divisive, why not create a new secular humanist faith that avoids all that? One that’s totally dedicated to promoting good deeds and good will among all. This would probably be more readily accepted. Coexistence and harmony between all creation—man, animals, and environment—would create universal peace and a heavenly state. Who could argue with that? This less offensive, more congenial religion would probably have more impact on society and culture as a whole. All we have to do is leave God and Jesus out of the equation. No biggie.
I guess my overall problem is that I read Love Wins in the context of Rob Bell being a pastor, not a writer. One of the primary roles of a pastor is to bring clarity, predictability, and truth whenever possible. But I suppose this isn’t really feasible if you believe all truth contains a vein of the truth and is therefore equally true. This explains the evasiveness and confusion. I do not believe Bell to be willfully deceptive, but I do believe he is still knowingly guarded in his opinions. He should simply be more honest, rather than opting for the creative guise of cool and distant. You just can’t have it both ways—or should I say all ways.
Bell admittedly likes to interpret Scripture as pliable and versatile (his words) if at all possible. This takes particular shape if a Scripture is especially uncomfortable. In doing so, he unavoidably opts for the guilt-free feel-good trappings of moral relativism and philosophical pluralism. I wish I could do the same. I wish it were all true and this easy. But in his framework, the Hebrew story of God and the Christian experience with God is of no affect and no importance, since following Jesus specifically or confessing his name is not totally essential. In fact, why should I even follow Jesus if everyone gets a pass in the end? Because he was really nice or said neat stuff? So what. So did a lot of historical figures. Why not live a life if debauchery and hedonism? Basically, it doesn’t really matter, right?
These thoughts fill me with great sadness. Why? Because based on what Bell says, God cannot hold us to his own standard, since He will not hold Himself to His own words.
I can make no other conclusions, according to what Rob has presented, than:
1. Love doesn’t win because there is no true choice and subsequent consequence (and this is what the nature of love is built on).
2. Christianity loses the very punch line of the ‘Greatest Story Ever Told’, since Jesus is not essential to the story.
3. God is a liar because he has called us to righteousness (and to follow Jesus) while rewarding apathy.
I am left wondering, what the heck is Christianity, what does it mean to be a Christian, and does that even matter? How does love win? Love should win because God sent his son to be a substitutionary atonement for our sins and to save us from them and Hell: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). That is the extent of His love. Nowhere does Bell make that abundantly clear. To me, that is the real story behind Heaven, Hell, and the fate of every person whoever lived.
I love Rob, but I hate Love Wins.
Here is a little segment on a church that has what is described as “Pole Dancing for Jesus” classes. What else can I say? I report, you decide.
Rob Bell. That’s a name that engenders all kids of emotions. He is in the news lately because of his new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person That Ever Lived.
I first heard of Rob Bell in 2003 when I heard a session of his from Catalyst Conference on cd. He was famous for starting a church by teaching through the book of Leviticus. Although this seemed like a bad idea (Leviticus is notoriously boring), the church exploded.
His session at Catalyst was so moving, which made sense of it all. Something about what Rob said changed me forever. And from then on I made sure to never miss a message. I listened to him teach every week via his church’s website. He had a way of teaching that was deep, passionate, and relevant to my life. I still have hundreds of his teachings in my computer. In addition, I consumed his supplemental resources NOOMA. Week after week I received from the well of Rob Bell.
Until July 29, 2007.
That was the moment he really jumped the shark. The series was “God Is Green“. I listened to this series four times to make sure I was hearing what I was hearing, because I knew this might mean a departure for me. I suspected I could no longer support or recommend Rob, so I wanted to be sure of what I was hearing.
This was a series about creation and the environment. Now, I’m all for being responsible and taking care of God’s creation. But there is a fine line. I don’t worship it. I am not subservient to it. I worship the Creator, not creation. That is a form of idolatry, as the Bible might say. And I felt God is Green crossed that line.
Yes, I believe the environment is important. After all, I live in it. But I felt Bell elevated it to a status that it was not meant to have:
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles… They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. -Romans 1:22,23,25
Bell went so far as to say that disrespect for the environment was a sanctity of life issue. That went too far. Sure, we all love the family pet, but Spike isn’t on the same level as my children. The sanctity of life is a concept that has it’s origins in Christianity. Specifically, it refers to humans because of their obvious difference from the rest of creation–we have souls. We are God’s crowning achievement. That’s what this term refers to.
Up to then, I had begun to sense a drift in Bell’s teachings over the course of a year or so. There was something evasive. It was as if he wasn’t saying some things he really thought regarding some foundational Christian doctrines–namely, Hell, sin, the nature of the death of Jesus, among other things–and some others were becoming questionalable (like in “God is Green”). There seemed to be a faint pluralism creeping in. And “God Is Green” is where I drew the line. In fact, I indirectly reference some of his themes in my own book (the problem of exclusivity, Hell, and sin) entitled 10 Thing I Hate About Christianity. Of course, these deserve exploration.
But I never listened to another Rob Bell message again.
Now, I kept up with all his books. He’s still a great communicator. I just couldn’t listen to him teach his church Sunday morning representing the office of pastor, so to speak. It may sound strange, but it was a line I had to draw.
So now Rob has a new book called Love Wins. It’s safe to say, my suspicions were right. It is creating quite some waves across the face of Christendom. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to challenge the process and question the status quo, but that doesn’t mean you’re right–or I’m right–or he’s right. I am in the process of reading it and a review is forthcoming (probably next week).
But I wanted to show a video of a recent interview he did on MSNBC with Martin Bashir. What’s interesting is that it seems like Bashir is the Christian here. Yes, oddly enough, he seems to be the one defending traditional Christianity–not Pastor Rob Bell. That was a bit of a surprise. Bell even seems a bit uneasy in the clip. This I understand as I have done nearly 100 interviews for my book (two for ABC News)
The irony is, I suspect that Bell has developed what he believes to be a faith that will crossover. By redefining Hell, sin, and consequence he likely hopes it will appeal to people who are not generally open to Christianity (like the main stream media). But in reality, they are not buying into it (I have seen other interviews that have gone much the same way). It makes even them suspicious.
Here is the clip:
Yes, I am a Christian. But I am not oblivious to the silly things Christians do. Take the “Praise Brothers”, for example. They are two middle-aged white guys from Kentucky who once had a public access show in which they ‘rap’ about Jesus. No, this is not a joke, but it is ridiculous.
So here there are for all the world to see. Anyone who can watch the whole things deserves an award.
Happy Monday Homey!
So a couple weeks ago I wrote about Said Musa in Afghanistan. He was a Muslim who was to be executed for converting to Christianity. Fortunately, it seems he was freed.
On this side of the globe, there is a Christian pastor and missionary, Danny Pye, in Haiti that is being held in jail. As reports go, his captors like to taunt him saying he’ll be released at the end of the week. As the day arrives, he waits anxiously only to be greeted be snickering guards who tell him the same cruel joke again.
Why is he being held?
There are no formal charges against him. According to the article, there is absolutely no reason for him to be in jail. Plus, his wife is expecting their first child. Terrible. That makes it even more cruel.
I just wanted to bring this to your attention. Please pray for him and make some noise about this in your circle of influence.
To me, it is sadder than sad when an individual walks away from God. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurence. How many people walk around cynical, hurting, and mad at God? If we’re truthful, that sums up all of us at one time or another. How does a person go from following God to thinking denying God seems to make better sense? I want to offer some thoughts on what I have discovered in my own life. It is what I call “The Evolution of Faith.”
Stage 1: AWARENESS
This is the starting point of faith. Usually something big happens that gets us here. It gets our attention and it is often a point of crisis in our lives. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge event, but it is some personal crisis that is the catalyst. It has a big impact on us and shakes us up.
Contrary to how these times feel, this is actually a good thing. We recognize our lives aren’t what they should be and we realize that we aren’t who we want to be. We usually decide some habits need to stop and possibly some relationships need to become healthier, maybe even end. But we desire to finally change for the better and stop perpetuating the same cycles, because they always end up hurting ourselves and others we care about.
This is a very good place to be in personally. The realization that we don’t exactly know how to change things ourselves is very positive. Why? Because this is the time we call out to God since deep down we all know that He loves us and He is the only one who can help us.
And that’s because He can.
He’s God after all. He loves to be our comfort in these times. This is the moment we acknowledge Him and begin to depend on him. It’s the first time we become truly open in a spiritual sense. This is the point in our lives when we become…aware.
Stage 2: FAITHFULNESS
Awareness isn’t enough. Once an individual learns to surrender, learning to be faithful becomes the next challenge. This is the first point at which true faith is proven. For most, this is where the departure from God happens.
You see, awareness initially results in obedience for a while. Doing what is right and best, even when it isn’t easy or we don’t want to, is easily maintained for a little while. But if it is only for a while, it will never grow into a character trait of faithfulness. So it is, by default, not true faith. It is more like a phase, or even a quick fix.
Once we clear our crisis and the impact it had on us wears off, we no longer ‘need’ God. Things go back to the way they were before: we depend on ourselves alone again.
Slowly the old self and old cycles reemerge. It becomes more difficult when the memory of the crisis moment wears off. When it does, the sense of dependence and desire for change is quickly forgotten and we’re back to the old life and old person again.
The thing is, obedience in good times and bad is a mark of maturity. This is called faithfulness (and sometimes loyalty). This is the strength of character that stays focused on a goal regardless of the surrounding situations. A crisis-based, quick-fix type of faith will never work. For faith to endure and grow it must evolve into a character trait of… faithfulness.
Stage 3: TRUST
If an individual can learn to be faithful the next challenge is to trust. To trust God, who we can’t see, can be very difficult. Life is hard and messy–plain and simple. It is the price of evil still being present in this world. And although you’ve given your life to God, this fact doesn’t change. It doesn’t make sense, but it is still true.
But this paradox just doesn’t make sense to us, so it begins to torment our faith.
It causes us to question what we can’t see since we want certain guarantees. So we begin to question more and more and, as a result, our trust in God begins to break down.
When we do this we automatically turn God into an adversary, which makes doubting Him inevitable.
We begin to assign blame for these difficult situations in life, and at some point we say, “If God loved me why would he let this happen?” We forget that this world is like it is, not because of God, but because of the evil that exists. Although life is still difficult, God does care for you and does have our best in mind.
There is just a timing to life that is beyond our comprehension sometimes. And it may never make sense, but we still need to trust God. He is not the enemy. He is the one we must draw closer to because he will give us the strength we will need to face these difficult times in life. By its very nature, for faith to progress is must be based on…trust
Stage 4: SACRIFICE
This is the hardest challenge in our faith. This is where it truly becomes active. It isn’t enough to avoid old habits. We must be challenged to ‘step-out’. We must be caused to leave our comfort zone. Unfortunately this is against our very nature of self-preservation.
Just when life gets stable and predictable–and it will–we have to be willing to abandon. It may seem like cruel and unusual punishment, but there a reason for this. This cycle keeps our faith ever-evolving. It is the only way. It ensures we grow and never become apathetic. It has been said that if something isn’t growing it is stagnating. Our faith grows as we begin to make changes, since things and situations that challenged us before no longer do. This means we are actually growing and gaining strength. So if our faith is to evolve, we have to ultimately be willing to…sacrifice.
Often we want the benefits there are in following God. We want his blessings on what we do. We want his favor when we need him to come through…for a new job, relationship, opportunity, or challenge. But we don’t want to truly follow him. How can he give us these things when we won’t keep our faith in him? It’s just not how things work with God. Sure he is full of grace and mercy, but if our faith isn’t evolving and growing then we will slowly lose it. It’s never that he gives up on us, but that we give up on Him because we don’t keep things in perspective. At least that’s how I would describe the evolution of faith in my life.
The process continues on and on in our lives: awareness, faithfulness, trust, and sacrifice…awareness, faithfulness, trust, and sacrifice. And on it goes… It is evolution of faith, and it is a constant.
Last week I brought attention to a Muslim in Afghanistan, Said Musa, who was being executed by the government by converting to Christianity.
Well, there seems to be good news. Apparently he has been freed and is even out of Afghanistan. This is great news!
Still, there is part of me that thinks he is still not safe. Plus, there are plenty of other Christians still in captivity in the region.
But for now, cheer in your heart for Musa and his family. Today is a good day.
Something that hasn’t hit the media airwaves much is a travesty of justice and violations of human rights in Afghanistan. The real problem with this is that we, the USA, is there right now. We are overseeing and supporting (with finances, training, and muscle) the new Afghan government and its president, Hamid Karzai. So I want to bang my gong on this issue today because it is something that deserves our attention.
So what is going on?
Said Musa, a father of six young Christian, is set to be executed. While being held for execution he beaten, sexually assaulted, and deprived of food and sleep on a daily basis by his captors: the Afghan government. Why do these horrors visit him?
Because Said Musa has become a Christian.
According to the National Review Online:
Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak). He worked for the Red Cross/Red Crescent as an adviser to other amputees.
He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.
In a letter smuggled to the West, he says, “The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head.”
Perhaps some of the most disturbing words come from an actual Afghan officials. The Washington Journal reports:
Afghan officials have been unapologetic: ‘The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,’ said Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice. ‘They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.‘
Of course, it is curious that the President has been silent on this. It is gaining quite some momentum–and rightly so. Why is it that the President could take the time to call some stupid loony pastor in Florida when he was going to burn a Koran, but can’t get a call in to our ‘democratic’ ally for Musa? I’m not trying to be antagonistic, but I believe this to be a valid question.
So pray for Musa. But do much more. Tell a friend, tell a co-worker, Twitter it with the hashtag #SaidMusa. Please bring attention to this in your circle of influence. Thank you.
[Update: Said Musa has apparently been freed]
There are a few reoccurring pastor’s jokes that are used in pulpits. They describe a story of someone wanting to sleep in on Sunday morning. The wife turns over and says something like, “But you’re the pastor! Get up and get to work!” I find these canned preacher jokes pretty…well, stupid. If you’ve ever heard one during, you can’t resist rolling your eyes. And rightly so.
Anyway, what do you do when that really happens?
That’s what happened to a congregation during a Christmas morning service, of all times! They were sitting waiting for church to start. And waiting. And waiting.
Finally, some lay-leaders in the church got up and saved the day. They read the story of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. The organ lady also picked up the slack and finished it out with some hymns. Hallelujah!
Eventually the pastor showed up after service in the Fellowship Hall. He was just in time for coffee and cookies.
So what happened to him?
He overslept. My suspicion is that he had a little too much to drink the night before. This was Sweden after all. Sorry, but I happen to know quite a bit about Swedes.
First Lady Michelle Obama is invading my church (North Point Community Church) today. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement (and it sounds like I am trying to stir up controversy). Today is the 1-year anniversary of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and she asked if she could come talk about it and celebrate the program at our church. From their own website it is: America’s Move To Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. Of course, our church said yes. I probably shouldn’t comment on this, but, well, you know me…
Am I going? No.
And it’s not because I have to work today. I am home doing stuff getting ready to welcome our new son (#4) on Friday. And it’s not because I am a fatty or that I feel guilty about raising fat kids (I’m not, by the way. Raising fat kids, that is. But I am a bit of a fatty myself). I could go. So that no is an emphatic one.
I’m not going because I am very uncomfortable with the decision. Now, I love my church. My family has been serving and giving there for 6 years. And we are not going anywhere (ie. not leaving because of this). So this is not a detrimental decision. I am not going to talk trash. I support my church in all their decisions and trust them. It’s probably the right decision, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some cautionary thoughts or opinions of my own. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever said anything like this because I love “all things North Point”.
I just don’t like the idea of government officials or representatives coming into churches, especially those with a philosophy of big, centralized government. It creates too many contradictions, too much hypocrisy, breeds corruption (since power attracts the corrupt and the corrupt seek more power), leads to blatant opportunism (since it seeks to sustain it’s control/power) and often not principled (which is built on core values, and if opportunism and control is your desire there is no room for core values).
For example, you know what’s really unhealthy for children? Abortion. That kills kids 100% of the time. In fact, it kills about 1.4 million children every year and has killed about 43 million since it became legal in 1973. I’m just sayin’. [source: whitehouse.gov]
I also don’t like government officials or representatives coming into churches who come from a philosophy that is constantly trying to secularize and sanitize religion from the public square or sector (unless it is politically beneficial, of course).
For example, I wrote about a person in my small group (community group, Bible study, discussion group, or whatever you want to call it) that teaches at a public school up the street. During the holidays the school had to take the decorations off of the Christmas tree because a parent complained. I don’t really get that one (being that Christmas trees are actually pagan and not Christian, or leaving it up bare being an amicable solution). And then there are the anecdotal stories of public school teachers warned not to hand out Christmas cards or say “Merry Christmas”.
So let me get this right, we can’t say Merry Christmas in the public sector more and more, but Michelle can come into churches and say Merry Government? Woo-hoo!
Beyond that, there is often criticism of religious groups trying to affect public policy (like with abortion)–you know, allegedly trying to create a ‘theocracy’. For some reason, faith is an illegitimate source for values. But there is no problem with government coming into churches to influence public policy? Let’s be honest, that’s what this is. I guess government is a legitimate source for values?
You might be thinking, “Jason, you’re so judgmental and jaded. Isn’t this neutral ground? You’re making a big deal out of nothing. We can all agree on making our kids healthier, can’t we?”
Sure, then let’s meet on truly neutral ground–like an event center or something (there are plenty in Atlanta). Then Washington could ask local churches to partner and support the agenda. That way we have a real choice. I mean, how much of a choice do you have when the President’s wife asks to speak at your church? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
There’s really nothing neutral when it comes to politics. And that’s the point: Politicians use political power to promise policies that will benefit certain people in order to harvest votes. Make no mistake, this initiative is about increasing government regulations and spending. As it is, speculations are that there will be more sin taxes on certain foods, salt limits in food production, and portion control for restaruants. Either way, the government is set to spend over half a BILLION dollars EVERY year on this initiative (and related ones). Read that again…$$$HALF A BILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR$$$
In general, this is not a legitimate use of tax-payer dollars (which is in reality being borrowed from China, by the way, so it is not even payed for), especially when we are all broke. It’s not the government’s job to tell us what to eat or what to do. I’m sorry there are so many fat kids sitting around and eating Doritos while playing X-Box. If we’re going to spend money on kids, let’s spend it something useful–like literacy, English, science, math, technical programs, marriage and family classes, etc.
I can’t help but also think that Michelle is trying to indirectly muster support for her husband with one base that is not supporting him all that much right now. Who’s that? White evangelicals. I’m just being honest, because that’s the main demographic at my church. It seems manipulative. Make no mistake, the election cycle has begun.
Our church is now officially on the radar of the government. That makes me uncomfortable. It should make everyone uncomfortable, both the religious and irreligious. This all begs the question, what will my church say when President Barack Obama calls and asks to speak when he is campaigning for president again? It probably won’t happen. But if it does, what do you say? Again, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Plus, I can’t help but worry if this is a jump-the-shark moment for my church with regard to political influences. It’s hard to resist the exposure, for sure.
And this tension is really what the First Amendment was all about:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It was meant to protect the religious citizens from government, not to sanitize the government of religion or religious citizens.
Just some thoughts from a ‘religious’ fatty.
Last week I talked about some of the things going on in Egypt. I mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, because they are part of organizing the riots and protest. They want a Muslim Theocracy in which society is oriented under Sharia Law. Do two minutes of research and you’ll discover this is a scary thing.
Anyway, today I wanted to present something from quite the opposite side of the spectrum that, somehow, ends up at pretty much the same place. In the video below, Catholic speaker and leader, Michael Voris, calls for a Dictatorship.
More specifically, he claims that the best form of government/political system is a Benevolent Dictatorship. I’ve actually heard this quite a bit from religious people (Christians, that is), and I cringe every time.
Why? Because in a Democracy everyone gets a vote–and that’s a real problem for him.
Why? Because most people are ignorant, ill-informed, and selfish.
Obviously, all of us idiot, evil people need some distant elite to tell us how to live. Sound scary? It is.
And it is wrong. I couldn’t disagree with him more.
This isn’t Heaven. So long as there is good and evil in the world, that much power in the hands of any leader is a nightmare. Power, especially that much power, leads to corruption, oppression, and despotism.
So watch the clip below and get informed and creeped-out all at the same time.
“Just because people are jerks, doesn’t mean God isn’t real.”
–unknown author (sort of)
Egypt is on fire. Quite literally. There is a political upheaval happening there is resulting in death for many. My fear us that this could spread. What the news is not really covering is that it the protests are very anti-America and anti-Israel. The scary part is that an extreme group called the Muslim Brotherhood is waiting on the sidelines waiting for opportunity to take over leadership in the country. Their motto is: “”Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
Uncomfortable? I am.
Anyway, parts of the protests and movement is also very anti-Christian. This is not the environment like we have here in the US. Here, we think people are persecuting us because we are not allowed to say Merry Christmas at our Public School job or pray at the High School graduation. It’s much worse than that in many parts of the world.
In Egypt, Christians get killed. In December there was a bombing in a Christian community to warn Christians not to celebrate Christmas. The article I linked above says:
Al-Qaida in Iraq had threatened Christians in Iraq and Egypt in the weeks leading up to the holidays and Saturday’s deadly bombing. Militant websites have even posted names and addresses of churches in Egypt to target, raising fears of a follow-up attack on celebrations of the Orthodox Christmas, which Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority marks on Friday.
Well, they celebrated anyway. Attendees had to show ID’s or their Christian tattoo to enter the service. Yes, many people have a tattoo of a cross on their wrists. How cool is that! It’s also very risky. There’s not faking it.
Perhaps we should take a moment to pray for the people and Christians in Egypt–and other parts of the world where they do not share the freedom we have here in the USA. And it is that freedom that so many autocrats, theocrats, and crazies hate. It enables everyone to worship the God of their choosing. It is something I take for granted too much.
Just thought you should know.