Monday, June 6, 2022

"Embodied Alternatives" In A Broken World

“Simon Price has pointed out how hit or miss the apologists’ range of subjects was [in the first few centuries of the early church]. He gives a long list of topics that apologists failed to treat properly:  

“There is little on the Bible, little on Christology, nothing about the Holy Spirit or the emerging doctrine of the Trinity; little on the Redemption (only Judgment); nothing about the Church, its ministry, sacraments, and other practices.”

Michael Green, assessing the apologetic writings for their evangelistic success, has concluded that there is “no example of an outsider being converted to Christianity by reading an Apologetic writing.” Apologists wrote to convince their readers of the innocence of the Christian communities’ behavior. In fact, behavior figured largely in the apologists’ writings… because of their Christian conviction that the way people live expresses what they really believe. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Historical Reality Of Jesus

I love the Facebook page “Did Abe Lincoln Really Exist?”  It’s a spoof page that takes the argument against the historicity of Jesus and applies them to Abraham Lincoln. One entry compared Abraham Lincoln, Mithras, Horus, and Dionysius under the heading “More in Common Than You Think”:  

“Like countless others, all four were born on February 12, all were lawyers, all lived in a white house, all freed people from slavery, all were visited by wise men, all lacked a middle name, all were frequently called President, and all created a secret service. None of them existed.”

It’s funny, but it highlights a serious topic: Did Jesus exist? Is he who the biblical record claims he was? And can an accurate picture of the real Jesus truly emerge from history? With Easter just around the corner, this seems like a good time to address these questions.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The History I Did Not Learn (Black History Month Edition)

 

“Much of our identity is derived from our past, our cultural heritage – where we’ve come from…The white American ‘creation story,’ as it was framed in the melting pot analogy of the 1940s and ‘50s, is positive and exciting: a country forged in the ‘untamed wilderness’ out of nothing more than a healthy dose of curiosity and courage and a thirst for liberty, freedom, and – ironically – equality. The black American creation story, Asian American creation story, Latin American creation story, and Native American creation story are rooted in tragedy, kidnapping, enslavement, theft, coercion, rape, murder, genocide, inequality, exclusion, terrorism, and oppression in this country, all because of the color of their ancestors’ skin. There is no denying the powerful psychological influence of such a heritage, nor the difficulty involved with forging an identity out of such a painful past.”[10]


* * * * *


No, this isn't CRT.  It's just history. If we don't learn from it, we will repeat it. 


This is excerpted from a broader document to which I have added and will continue to add for years, so it's about the history of how POC in general have been treated in general, and the footnotes don't start at #1. Maybe I'll fix the footnotes next year.


I'm thinking I will post every year during Black History Month with any updates I have added throughout the year as I further my own education. Feel free to use this as a resource. You don't need my permission, and I don't need credit.


This is how the word is passed.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Fatalism vs. Faith and COVID-19


A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.” The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.” To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

* * * * *



I continue to see lots of memes posted that say something like, “I don't fear Covid, because God decides when it's my time to die.”

At its best reading, this kind of meme could be trying to say that in the midst of all kinds of things in life that have the potential to kill us, we Christians still go about our life without constantly worrying about it because a) we believe that God oversees history and at minimum permits life to unfold as it does, and b) the Christian hope of life everlasting doesn’t put all our life eggs in this present basket. As far as Christian theology goes, fair enough. I’m tracking. Death is really hard on those who remain, but not on those who move on into a heavenly eternity.

However, it often seems to means that someone is not willing to take any steps to avoid getting COVID (or to help other people not get it) because in some sense it just doesn't matter. If God controls the start and stop point of our lives, we have 0% control over either incident. Therefore, no action we take or choice we make will change anything. Que sera, sera.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Flyover of Christmas History, Folklore, and Celebrations

Is Christmas based on pagan celebrations? Is there a War On Christmas? Why do we have the decorations we do? What does it even mean to get into the spirit of Christmas? What follows starts 2,000 years ago; meander through the Middle Ages, Puritans, and your local Starbucks; and end up in your heart. I hope you enjoy the journey! 

________________________________________________________

The date of Jesus’ birth is not known. Dionysius (1st century) is known for doing the historical math and arriving at a birth year around BC 12.[1] Others disagreed.[2] Generally, Jesus’ birth date is now placed around 4 BC, but there is nothing of theological or spiritual significance that hangs on this date. It was not a priority in the early church, and no writer of Scripture saw fit to include a date. 

The early church associated birthday celebrations with the pagan gods.[3] Early Christian writers (Irenaeus, 130–200; Tertullian, 155–240; Origen of Alexandria, 165–264) mocked Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with  festivities at that place and time.[4]Origen (c.185-c.254) said it would be wrong to honor Christ in the same way Pharaoh and Herod were honored. Tertullian did not list it as a Christian holiday for sure.

When Jesus’ birthdate was discussed, the date would have been figured out from a tradition that martyrs died on the same date they were conceived. If Jesus died on 14 Nisan (March 25), he was conceived on a March 25, which meant he was born on December 25 if the timing was perfect.

Hippolytus' Commentary on Daniel (AD 200) claimed either March or December 25 as the date for Jesus' birth; Clement thought March 25 as the date of Jesus conception, thus 9 months before his birth and death.[5]

* * * * *

THE ROMAN INTERLUDE: Did Christians Join A Pagan Holiday?

Friday, October 29, 2021

A Response to, "For Christians, Dying From COVID (Or Anything Else) Is A Good Thing"

 I recently read an article at The Federalist called, "For Christians, Dying From COVID (Or Anything Else) Is A Good Thing."  I found myself…unsettled as I read. It’s not that I am bothered by the difference of opinion I have with the author about what churches should do or how cautiously Christians should respond to COVID. I think there is room for good faith disagreements as people genuinely wrestle with what to do. 

I’m bothered by the manner in which the argument is made, especially because it misuses Scripture in the process of making the argument. This is a long post, but there is much to be said.

 

I do not offer the following response to impugn the character of the writer, but to sort through the validity and soundness of the logical and scriptural arguments being made. 


The quotes from the article are in italics; my response follows each quote.

Friday, August 20, 2021

DO COVID-19 Rates Correlate With Illegal Immigrants?

I've got four maps from about two weeks ago (sorry...forgot to post this in a timely manner) to give us some visuals that may help gain clarity on this issue. This is not about the issue of illegal immigration - I've written in other places about the importance of having borders maintained by people who love order, justice and mercy.  

This is about making accurate observations in the pursuit of truth when it comes to why COVID-19 is surging right now. 

The first two maps have to do with illegal immigrant concentration in states and cities. This data is hard to find in "real time"; these are the latest official statistics I could find. 





Blue is a more; yellow is less, in case those numbers were hard to read. Below are major cities with the size of the dot representing the size of the population.




Third map: the places where COVID-19 was hot as of early August. 




Simply put, COVID-19 numbers do not correlate cleanly with the illegal immigrant population. 

If illegal immigrants as a group constituted the population of a state, they would rank between 10th and 20th (12%-18%) in COVID positivity (FEMA said it was 6% back in March). Mississippi, Idaho, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and Texas would all rank ahead of them. Kentucky, Louisiana and Missouri are are over 15%. 12% -18% is not a good stat to be sure, but singling out immigrants  who have been released to local health departments as the cause of outbreaks when there are pretty solidly in the middle of the pack is pretty myopic. There is clearly more at play. 
  1. Vaccination rates correlate more cleanly but still not perfectly.     
  2. Florida is the #1 tourist destination in the summer in the United States. California is #2, and Texas is #3. Tennessee is #4. So, yeah, we might expect COVID-19 surges there no matter whether or not people are vaccinated. (Number #5 is New Jersey, but they are one of the most vaccinated, and their numbers are good. Do with that what you will. I'm just giving stats.) In the winter, there's all these other spots that get hot. 
  3. Being outdoors or having well ventilated places  is better than being indoors or poorly ventilated in terms of slowing the spread of COVID-19. In July and August, Southern folk spend a lot of time indoors because it's ridiculously hot...and air conditioners spread the virus in enclosed spaces. Meanwhile, Northeners are outside because it's finally nice. You might have noticed our numbers were bad in the spring - when Southerners were outside and our heating systems were doing their thing in enclosed spaces. Watch for numbers to swap in the fall. This is all about "viral load" which will and can break through built-up immunization both natural and chemical.
  4. In states where schools have started, numbers are climbing because #seepreviousbulletpoint
  5. The most unhealthy states are in the South.  No offense intended; it's just a health fact. That's going to make people with comorbidities susceptible to becoming much more sick when they do get COVID-19. Mississippi (122, 662 cased per million; 2,570 death per million) is just going to get hit harder than California (102, 813 cases per million; 1,640 deaths per million from COVID) by the time all is said and done. 
  6. There's probably something to be said for how many people in a given area have already recovered from COVID-19 and have a bolstered immunity because of that. I can't find those stats broken down by state, but it would not surprise me that the more recovered folks there are, the lower the current numbers.  

So.....maybe this is a multifaceted issue?  I think we want an easy villain as to why this keeps dragging out, but the reality is that there are a lot of factors.  


Saturday, August 7, 2021

Where Do We Go From Here? (Planting The Wind; Harvesting The Whirlwind, Part 4)

This is the fourth post in a series on the history of slavery and racism in the United States.

In Part One, "1619 To The Civil War: Slavery Before Emancipation," I noted the biblical basis for caring about the history and the legacy of racism in our country before giving an overview beginning in 1609 through the Civil War and Emancipation. Basically, we should care because Jesus cares. If you have not yet read the first post, I encourage you to do so. There is a lot of information that will add context to what you are reading.

"Emancipation To The Great Migration: Jim Crow, Reconstruction and Sundown Towns" continued to look at the sinful impact and harsh legacy from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. So what can we do as Christians in response to racism and discrimination? I see a response happening in three different ways:  how we respond personally, how we respond in our churches, and how we respond in political policy and governance. 

In From The Red Summer To Today: The Lived Experiences Of This Generation, I ended by quoting Esau McCauley:

Jesus asks us to see the brokenness in society and to articulate an alternative vision for how we might live. This does not mean that we believe that we can establish the kingdom on earth before his second coming. It does mean that we see society for what it is: less than the kingdom. We let the world know that we see the cracks in the facade. Hungering for justice is a hungering for the kingdom. Therefore the work of justice, when understood as direct testimony to God’s kingdom, is evangelistic from start to finish. It is part (not the whole) of God’s work of reconciling all things to himself.  


This is the focus of this post.  



How we respond personally

 

Christians are called to the most basic and most daunting of commands: to love others as Christ has loved us.[1] It really does boil down to this. The book of 1 John is clear that if we don't love others, we don't love God.[2] Paul makes clear in his writing that there is no room for artificial divisions or hierarchies in the church.[3]  To his first century, predominantly Jewish audience, the divisions were male/female, Gentile/Jew, and slave/free.  These kinds of barriers fall once we do life together with Christ as our Lord as God intended. 

 

There is no room whatsoever for judgment or the assigning of worth and value based on irrelevant distinctions. It doesn't mean that we ignore that these differences exist -  I mean, men and women are different -  but it does mean that those differences do not order the attribution of value, worth, or dignity.  So it is with us today in the discussion of shades of melanin. If Paul were writing today, I suspect he would add black/white.