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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Day 39 (Does It Matter?)

[Reaction to April 28-30 readings in One Year Bible]

The Bible is a conversation. Having completed the last synoptic Gospel, I thought it worthwhile to consider the Biblical discussion about resurrection. Ask yourself, who was in the empty tomb? One or two? Angel or man? Ask yourself, did the women see Jesus? Ask yourself, did Jesus meet up with the disciples in Galilee (up North) or in Bethany (South outside of Jerusalem) or not at all? Answers here.

Why does everyone have such trouble recognizing Jesus at first?

The point here is that Luke and Matthew disagree on what happened. I wonder if either is right.

Can a good Muslim be a good American?

The challenge for me in responding to this question is to prevent becoming enraged myself. The answer is of course, yes. It comes from a hate-filled email string that is, most tragically, forwarded on by people who are not ordinarily given to hatred themselves, but when faced with such lies don't know where to turn. There were people in Jesus' time who perverted the law and the prophets to deny its teaching of love and justice so that they could further a political agenda. Here is Christ's response.

The email claims to be a response from the author's friend who "worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years." Um, living in Saudi Arabia deosn't mean you are knowledgeable of Islam any more than going to church means you are knowledgeable of the Bible. The "answer" is a list of lies about Islam. In each case I will respond to the lie with truth and then show how you could tell a similar lie about Christianity. (Until I just got exhausted, sorry.) The point is that (1) most of this is not true and (2) you could say equally untrue thing about Christianity. In fact, Muslims can be good Americans as surely as Christians.

"Theologically - no. . . . Because his allegiance is to Allah, The moon
god of Arabia."
TRUTH: Allah is Arabic for God. Go to Google translator translate Allah from Arabic to English. More here.
LIE ABOUT CHRISTIANITY: Christians do not believe in one god, but three. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. They are therefore not monotheists as Abraham, Moses and Jesus were. (See, this is a lie that someone could write about us. Can you see how someone without knowledge of Christianity could tell this lie?)

"Religiously - no.. . . Because no other religion is accepted by His
Allah except Islam . (Quran, 2:256)(Koran)"
TRUTH: The suggestion here is that Muslims cannot tolerate other faiths. In fact, Islamic nations have been as tolerant of other religions as Christian nations. For a link see here. In her book Islam, Karen Armstrong chronicles the tolerance of the Muslim Empires.
LIE ABOUT CHRISTIANITY: The Bible forbids Christians to be loyal to their country because Jesus teaches that "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." Luke 16:13. Thus, Christians are forbidden from declaring allegiance to a nation.

"Scripturally - no. . . Because his allegiance is to the five Pillars of
Islam and the Quran."
TRUTH: I don't know what to say about this one. The five Pillars of Islam are tenants of the faith that have nothing to do with being a good American. They are to pray, to be charitable, to live in accordance with the Koran, to make a trip to Mecca and to declare once in your life, "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet."
LIE ABOUT CHRISTIANITY: Christians' allegiance is to the Sermon on the Mount. (Again, not a lie but a non-sequitur to match this one.)

"Geographically - no . Because his allegiance is to Mecca , to which he
turns in prayer five times a day."
TRUTH: Again, what the heck does this have to do with being a good American?
LIE ABOUT CHRISTIANITY: Christians allegiance is to Rome.

"Socially - no. . . Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make
friends with Christians or Jews."
TRUTH: The refugees my dad resettled from Bosnia were Muslim and his friends. Likewise the family that Chalice resettled. Likewise Sonja and Deniz my friends from law school. So, I beg to differ.
LIE ABOUT CHRISTIANITY: The Bible forbids Christians to make friends with unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 6:14

"Politically - no.. . . Because he must submit to the mullahs (spiritual
leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America ,
the great Satan."
TRUTH: Muslims must submit to God. Not to mullahs. Islam does not teach the destruction of Israel, although obviously some adherents believe it.
LIE ABOUT CHRISTIANITY: Christians must submit to the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan (A Christian Organization), which teaches white supremacy and the eradication of non-whites from the United States.

"Domestically - no. .. . Because he is instructed to marry four Women
and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34 )"
TRUTH: This scripture is taken out of context. To put it in context, read here.
LIE ABOUT CHRISTIANITY: Christians are instructed to kill women who have sex before marriage and who are raped in a city. Deut. 22:20-24.

"Intellectually - no. . Because he cannot accept the
AmericanConstitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he
believes the Bible to be corrupt."

The American Constitution is not based on Biblical principles. For example, while the Bible requires respecting the God of Israel and promoting the Good News of Jesus Christ, the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Also, while Judeo-Christian tradition forbids private property, the Constitution supports it. In the Old Testament, there is the year of Jubilee, in which all property returns to its historic owners. In the early church, those who kept back any of their private property were kill by the hand of God. And of course, Jesus says holding on to private property keeps you out of Heaven. This reveals that the person writing the email has never carefully read the Bible or the U.S. Constitution.

"Philosophically - no. . . . Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran does
not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam
cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or

Ug. I've run out of gas. This is such bullshit.

"Spiritually - no.. . . Because when we declare 'one nation under God,'
The Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred
to as Heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in the Quran's 99
excellent names."

First off, the under God stuff is anti-Communist propaganda added to our money AND the pledge during the red scare of the '20s & '50s. Second off, it is only okay because the supreme court has determined that it doesn't mean anything. Third, under God is just English for under Allah.

"Therefore, after much study and deliberation.... Perhaps we should be
very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. - - - They obviously
cannot be both 'good' Muslims and good Americans."

Jesus Christ taught the people of his time, who were suspicious of the Samaritans, that people of another religion can still be good people. In fact, in the case of the women at the well and the one leper who returned after healing, the people who worshiped YHWH in a different way were the more righteous. Delete emails like the one referenced in this post immediately. Their mission is to fill the world with hate and lies. The Truth of Jesus Christ should fill your heart with joy and love. If what you are reading doesn't do that, be very suspicious. ;)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Day 38 (Passion Nuggets)

[Reaction to April 25-27 readings in One Year Bible]

So, I've read the Gospels before. I hear it all the time. I've seen the Passion and Jesus Christ Superstar. An yet, here are three little nuggets that I did not remember. First, right after telling Peter that he'd deny Christ and right before heading off to pray before his betrayal, Jesus gave these instructions to the Disciples.
Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?"
"Nothing," they answered.

He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."

The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."
"That is enough," he replied.
This passage is weird. I guess it explains why the disciples have swords to cut off the guy's ear later. Strange. Then there is the little detail I missed. Then, after Peter denies Christ the third time, according to Luke, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter." Finally, after Herod gives up getting to see any miracles from Jesus and kicks him back to Pilate, we have "That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies." Link to Luke 22-23.

Also, from Judges we have the story of Deborah. I recommend following the link. It is a very cool story with elements like war, trickery, a chick who drives a stake through an evil dude's head AND it ends in a musical number.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Day 37 (Tribulation)

[My reaction to April 22-24 readings from the One Year Bible.]

So what to make of these signs of the coming of the end of the age? What did it mean to the original readers? Do I believe that Jesus said it? What does it mean today?

The timeline goes like this. Jesus is executed around 30 A.D. The temple is destroyed and Rome levels Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Book of Luke-Acts is written some time around 80-90 A.D. Although the book was presumably circulated from the time of authorship, in 363 A.D. the Council of Laodicea established it as a part of the canon.

This end of the age stuff is in all three synoptic Gospels. Seems like as a minimum it is a part of the tradition of the early church. It seems quite reasonable to me that as a prophet, someone who interprets the events of his age through the lens of God's inspiration, Jesus could have recognized that trouble was brewing and that the situation with Rome was not tenable. He also could very reasonably have taught against violence and urged a response of spiritual toughness. Then, a generation or so after his death, when the temple is destroyed and the Hebrew world is turned on its head, he is vindicated. I'm comfortable with this reading and I think it does not make the passage without meaning. Certainly in our lives we face tribulation.

Also, here's the first folk hero, Ehud. He kills the enemy, but it doesn't last.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Day 36 (Civil War?)

[My reaction to April 19-21 readings in the One Year Bible]

While Jesus is turning over tables and publicly humiliating Pharisees, Sadduces and teachers of the law in Jerusalem--trying to get himself killed some would say--the story of Joshua is coming to a Lord of the Rings style close.

Numbers demonstrates, in tedious detail, that God fullfiled the promise to make Abraham father of a great nation. Similarly, Joshua ends by demonstrating, in tedious detail, that God fullfiled the promise to give Israel the promised land. The hugs and kisses ending is interrupted, however, when the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, the guys with the land East of the Jordan, build an alter, which some fear is to be used for sacrifices instead of the central alter. Civil war is averted when Phinehas son of Eleazar, who you'll recall replaced Aaron as chief priest, leads a fact-finding team across the Jordan and learns that it will not be a functioning alter, but a witness proclaiming the people's connection to God. Just to make things clear, "the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God." Full story. I cheated and read the OT passage for April 22 so I could close out Joshua today. It ends with a nice cliff notes version of the history from Terah to Joshua.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Day 35 (Caleb)

[My response to Apr. 16-18 readings from the One Year Bible]
Caleb is a popular name these days. Also, I have a cousin who just entered the Marine Corps who is named Caleb, and so I dedicate this post to him. Ooh rah, Caleb.

While Luke has Jesus healing blind men on his way through Jerico, en route to Jerusalem, the Book of Joshua is sort of tying up loose ends. Joshua is now an old man, and he and Caleb are together being remembered for being the two honest spies among the twelve. You will recall the other ten reported back to Moses that the land of Caanan was full of giants. Turns out there are giants there, but even advanced in age Caleb defeats them in the hills near Hebron. Then he gives his daughter a nice gift. Excerpts here.

Honest spy, giant killer and nice to his daugher. Not a bad guy.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Day 34 (Hard Lessons)

[My reaction to the April 13-15 readings of the One Year Bible]

While Joshua is putting wholes cities to the sword including women and children, I'm going to focus on Luke. I will say that the theme that comes out of Joshua is that obedience to God, and therefore the law, is supreme. Even if you have to stone your son to death, and even if you have to disregard typical customs such as not killing the leaders of opposing armies. Link.

Luke give a couple of passages that are easy, which is to say they directly affirm my world view. The kingdom of God is not some obvious event, but its coming is subtle, "the kingdom of God is within you," and if rich people are not kind to the sick and the poor, then they go to hell. Link.

Of course, Luke also provides a very confusing parable about the dishonest manager and this passage that if you are predisposed to the idea sure sounds like it is talking about rapture.

As we would say in the legal profession, how can these passages be harmonized?

Day 33 (Preparation)

I read yesterday, but didn't get to post until today, so I'm still okay.

[My reaction to April 10-12 readings in the One Year Bible]

As we begin the Book of Joshua, the Israelites are going to cross the Jordan river and start waging war by destroying Jericho. God tells Joshua to be courageous and strong. Most importantly obey the laws.

In Luke, Jesus has made his move out of Galilee and is headed toward Jerusalem. He will, not coincidentally, also cross the Jordan at Jericho before turning toward Jerusalem. On the one hand, that avoids Samaria, one the other hand there is some obvious symbolism. His statement of courage is a bit more bleak than that of Joshua. Basically, he says, "Where else can a prophet be killed but in Jerusalem." Does this means he must die; or does it mean he must carry his message to all of Israel, and if that means dying he accepts it?