Friday, December 23, 2022

Highlights from the Final Report of the Select Committee To Investigate The January 26th Attack On The United States Capital.

What follows are my highlights from the Final Report of the Select Committee To Investigate The January 26th Attack On The United States Capital. You can read the full document here:

gressSecond Session House Report 117-000 

These are excerpts from the Executive Summary, which is the shorter version of a much longer report contained in the same document. I obviously have not included anywhere near all the information from the summary; the full report contains significantly more information than the summary.


I encourage you to read the whole thing (or at least the full summary). Of all the politicians or political operatives interviewed, all but one are Republican. This is not the testimony of Democrats going after a political enemy. This is testimony from those who saw how the political sausage was made leading up to the 2020 election and leading directly to the insurrection on January 6. 

Yes, this is a really long post. 

But how it happened matters. Why it happened matters. And who made it happen matters perhaps most of all. 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

A Flyover of Christmas History, Folklore, and Celebrations


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 (early 200s) 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]

* * * * * *


SATURNALIA: In the time that Jesus was born, Roman had been observing Saturnalia starting December 17 and generally lasting 6 days. It was a holiday in honor of Saturn, “the birthday of the unconquered sun,” and it was a party (to say the least) characterized by a lot of personal and societal chaos. It was a mix of good and bad for sure.

There seems to be little reason to think Christians chose December 25 to join or subvert a pagan holiday.[6] The Jewish population from which Christianity emerged was quite good at establishing their own holidays, and their math was based on Jesus’ death date/conception date. Really, because the early church did not celebrate birthdays, the likelihood of Saturnalia influencing a Christmas celebration is small. The more likely candidate for potential overlap is the next one.

SOLIS INVICTI. “On December 25th, 274 AD, the Emperor Aurelian created a holiday called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – the birthday of the Sun – officially elevating the Sun to the highest position among the gods.”[7] This would be a better candidate for the melding of Christian and pagan holidays, but by the time December 25 becomes a Christian celebration, Solas Invicti was largely more of a cultural festival than a religious one.[8] In addition, this means the holiday was created well after Hippolytus and others had claimed that day as a potential birth day.”[9]

Saturday, November 5, 2022

My (Incomplete and Imperfect) 2022 Values Voter List

God rolled out a vision for a just society through biblical revelation, starting with the Israelites in the Old Testament and moving into the church in the New Testament. As a Christian, I see a lot of issues to which the Bible speaks - issues which ought to guide my conscience and form my heart for the world. Justice is many splendored thing, and while some of issues will be more prominent in the minds of Christians than others - and should be - all of them are worth considering. Check out just a small sampling of verses. 

  • “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3).
  • “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17).
  •  "When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." (Proverbs 21:15)
  • “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
  • "For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong..." (Isaiah 61:8 )
  • "Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!" (Psalm 106:3)
  • “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another." (Zechariah 7:9 )
  • “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." (Leviticus 19:15)
  • "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3)
  • “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deuteronomy 27:19)
  • "Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place." (Jeremiah 22:3)
  • "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31:8-9)
  • "He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18) 
  • “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” (Hosea 12:6)
  • "A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge." (Proverbs 29:7)
  • "Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." (Psalm 82:3)
  • "I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy." (Psalm 140:12)
  • “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:9-10)
  • "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:17-18)
  • "Who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!" (Isaiah 5:23 )
  • "It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice." (Proverbs 18:5)
  • “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts." (Malachi 3:5)
  • “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge." (Deuteronomy 24:17)
  • "Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor." (Proverbs 22:8)
  • “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit." (Exodus 23:6)
  • "Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who write oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!"(Isaiah 10:1-2) 
  • "The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice." (Proverbs 17:23-28)
  • "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.“ Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."(Matthew 25: 35-40)
In addition to justice, we see a love of mercy in the bible, a concept integral to an understanding of God's dealings with humankind. It involves compassionate and loving acts expressed in tangible ways. Justice is intertwined with mercy.  Similar to mercy is grace, giving people more than they deserve irrespective of the cause of their need.  The gospels present Jesus as one who brought good news of gospel grace to all who would listen, but especially to those who lived on the periphery of society: lepers, slaves, the demon-possessed, a paralytic, a tax collector, prostitutes, idolatrous Samaritans, a young girl, the blind. Throughout church history, people whose hearts were transformed by God's spiritual grace inevitably expressed this change by extending grace in very practical ways: taking care of all the poor, nursing all of the sick, adopting all of the babies set out to die. 

Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31); do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31); when you help the ‘least of these,’ it is as if you helped God himself (Matthew 25:40). All of these biblical commands are wrapped up in notions of both justice and mercy. And here’s where we begin to see why these things need to merge in our thinking just as they are intrinsically intertwined in the nature of God. The following quote is from an article entitled "Eight Core Christian Values": 
 Biblical justice… refers to very practical, down-to-earth actions which ensure that the weak, the poor and the socially disadvantaged are cared for, whether they ‘deserve’ it or not… Biblical justice… ensure[s] that the weak are protected from abuse, that the poor have what they need, that the stranger in the land is shown hospitality and that the socially disadvantaged are cared for. Even when this means giving them what they do not ‘deserve’… Justice is often interpreted in terms of seeking rights for oneself or one’s own group (‘we demand justice’) when biblically it is really an action on behalf of others… ‘Justice’ is not for ‘just me’. This means that Christians will be more keen to protect others than themselves.“

This is what I want to guide my vote when I identify the values that guide my voting.  While the things on the the following list probably ought to be weighted, I believe they are all worth considering.

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.