Nel's New Day

July 16, 2017

Christians Fight Their Beliefs

With the removal of health care from people impending, religious supporters of Trumpcare forget that Jesus provided free medical care to lepers in a books that talked about him traveling with 12 men to give medicine to poor people. As Holly Wood wrote:

“Jesus was a homeless brown refugee who ran around giving people universal healthcare.”

This statement is a far cry from a statement made by Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS):

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

Children in public school bible classes probably won’t learn about the Jesus that took care of the sick. But these Kentucky students can take an elective in the study of the bible, thanks to a new law—HB 128, the Bible Literacy Bill. In Kentucky, 2017 is also the “Year of the Bible,” according to another law, and Gov. Matt Begins encouraged people to take part in a bible-reading marathon.

Kentucky is also the state that subsidized a Noah’s ark-themed museum in Williamstown. Even with generous tax incentives and, Ken Ham, head of Answers in Genesis, said that his park is failing because of atheists and the media. Another conservative is blaming “fake news,” this time for the lack of investors. Despite the taxpayers support that hurts the community, employees must “confirm agreement with Ark Encounter’s Statement of Faith.” Applicants “must profess, interalia, that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the bible is literally true in order to be considered for the job.”

One Alabama high school teacher is using a one-sided summer reading list to teach conservative religion and politics. Gene Ponder provided titles of over 30 books for his Spanish Fort High AP Government and Economics students that included authors such as Ann Coulter, Rand Paul, Michael Savage (five of the 30 titles), Steve Forbes, and Mark Levin. Richard Mack, author of The Magic of Gun Control, was one of the armed resister on the Bundy ranch in Nevada using a possible strategy of women and children as human shields. The focus on how liberals lie opposes secularism, abortion, taxation, left-wing politics, and the belief in climate change. Social media made members of the Baldwin County School System aware of the list, and it was recalled. Yet Ponder faces no repercussions and will undoubtedly pass along his extremist conservative views in the fall to the top students of a public school.

A goal of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is to permit houses of worship to endorse political candidates while keeping their tax-free status. A House Appropriations subcommittee has added a provision to a funding bill to the IRS that would remove money from to IRS to implement the 63-year-old so-called Johnson Amendment. In reality, churches have been violating the law against endorsements with impunity despite the 1954 law. It already allows religious ministries to promote and reject any issues, even ballot referenda.  Evangelicals however, want to become political machines and still avoid paying taxes on their churches. DDT’s success could lead to foreign powers funneling campaign donations through these tax-exempt churches.

Evangelicals might want to start giving their money to charity instead of building huge churches and mansions for their pastors. “Small-government” believers claim that churches should provide the money for the needy instead of the government. DDT’s budget cuts require every one of the 350,000 U.S. religious congregations to raise $714,000 a year for 10 years to offset cuts to programs that aid the needy. He isn’t the first: Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget called for eliminating $3.3 trillion in ten years. His excuse was a personal interpretation of subsidiarity, the philosophy rejecting any care for the poor. Although faith-based groups provide up to $50 billion worth of services each year for the needy, many of their initiatives count on government funding for operations. Catholic Charities USA gets half its operating budget from federal funds. A group called “Circle of Protection” issued a statement about DDT’s cuts:

 “We do not support sharp increases to defense spending that are made possible by corresponding reductions in non-defense discretionary spending, particularly in programs that help poor and vulnerable people. The biblical prophets teach us that our security depends in part on upholding justice for people in poverty.”

One corporation that moved the United States closer to Christian control with the help of five Supreme Court Justices is Hobby Lobby. They claimed religious beliefs in their restriction of insurance to not pay for contraceptives and won the case. With their wealth, they are building a “Bible Museum” near the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. and got into trouble with smuggling acquisitions into the country from Iraq. The corporation was required to forfeit thousands of artifacts and pay $3 million. They also promised to stop making “mistakes.” The priceless archeological antiquities were sent to the U.S. through Israel and the United Arab Emirates in packages labeled such innocuous terms as “tile samples.” Instead of wiring money to a dealer, Hobby Lobby deposited money into several bank accounts under a number of different names. Just like DDT’s family and other colleagues, Hobby Lobby pled ignorance, and the U.S. government swallowed their excuse. The money may have gone to Daesh, an extremist group that destroys and/or sells its cultural heritage to fund its terrorism. People who go to the Hobby Lobby museum may want to remember the terrorism that the corporation supports.

In one piece of good news on the evangelical front, the Southern Baptist Convention took a huge step last week when it passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and the alt-right. At first, leaders refused to consider the proposal submitted by Dwight McKissic, a prominent black Texas pastor, but a backlash forced a reversal. The controversy came from divisions in a denomination founded to support slavery. Of the 15 million Southern Baptist members in 46,000 churches, 85 percent are white.

For centuries, Jewish and Christian religions have referred to “the curse of Ham” when justifying the white belief of superiority over blacks. The definition of this justification for slavery has no historical basis, but evangelicals have supported the concept that the “sons of Ham” are “darkened” by their sins. Baptists were split almost 200 years ago about this issue into northern and southern branches, and the perception of blacks came to a head again at the June convention when the Southern Baptists had to decide whether to leave their centuries’ old position.

The SBC is struggling toward racial equality. In 1995, it finally got around to apologizing for its foundational support for slavery. In 2015, it passed a resolution promoting reconciliation. Last year, it called on Christians to get rid of their Confederate flags. Now its policy has these positions:

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

It is a watered-down version of McKissic’s proposal (below) but it is a start:

Affirms that “there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing.”

Identifies this “toxic menace” as white nationalism and the alt-right and urges the denomination to oppose its “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”

Claims that the origin of white supremacy in Christian communities is a once-popular theory known as the “curse of Ham,” which taught that “God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos” and was used as justification for slavery and segregation.

Calls on the denomination to denounce nationalism and “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”

Even passing the resolution was not satisfactory for McKissic. He said his proposal’s rejection “showed a fault line. It showed that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t where you’re supposed to be on this.” The vote at the convention may have felt like a success, but the SBC doesn’t bind members to its resolutions. It uses “congregationalist” polity with decentralized power focused within separate churches. They can retain their racist policy.

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February 9, 2014

Nye Debates Creationist, Fundamentalist Christians Divorce

Ken Ham, left, and Bill Nye, debate science and creationism.The biggest talk in religion this past week is the debate between scientist Bill Nye and Creation Museum Founder Ken Ham (left) about evolution. The thought processes of these two men can be summarized by their answer to just one question—could anything change their minds about their beliefs. Ham said that no one could ever convince him; Nye said that just one piece of evidence could change his position that the universe is evolving. The answers show that Ham started with his conclusion whereas Nye works on the evidence.

The debate demonstrates how useless a debate with creationists can be. Nye used his customary science: Neanderthal skulls that point directly to evolution; layer upon layer of rock formations, each millions of years apart; carbon dating and fossil records; even the impossibility of fitting 16 million species on a single ark made by eight humans with no power tools.

Ham justifies his narrow position by claiming that “we weren’t there, and we didn’t observe it.” Neither was he, so he relies on “the biblical account of origins”—what he calls observational science and historical science. Now is the observation, and the bible is the history. Ham calls radioactive dating “assumptions” and uses biblical genealogy to “prove” that this planet is 6,000 years old.

Despite Ham’s belief in his personal infallibility, his life-size “replica” of Noah’s Ark is hurting for cash with a current shortage of about $30 million. He may be able to deny evolution, natural selection, uranium-lead isotope dating, fossil records, and basic physics, but he can’t deny the financial ruin facing him.

Something else Ham surely won’t believe is a recent discovery by researchers Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University) who used carbon-dating to determine the age of the oldest-known camel bones.  Their investigation shows that camels first came to Israel about the 9th century BCE. The Old Testament places camels in that region at the time of Abraham, considered by biblical scholars as the 20th century BCE.

Dr. Robert Harris, an Associate Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, said through his associates:

“While these findings may have been published recently, those of us on the inside have known the essential facts for a generation now. This is just one of many anachronisms in the Bible, but these do not detract from its sanctity, because it is a spiritual source, not a historical one.”

Several years ago, archaeologist William Dever said:

“We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That’s a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean.”

Ham’s belief is even too extreme for right-wing fundamentalists like Pat Robertson. The TV evangelist said, “There ain’t no way that’s possible…. To say that it all came about in 6,000 years is just nonsense and I think it’s time we come off of that stuff and say this isn’t possible…. Let’s be real, let’s not make a joke of ourselves.”

Robertson’s points were similar to those made by Nye: “Anyone who is in the oil business knows he’s drilling down, 2 miles, 3 miles underground, you’re coming into all these layers that were laid down by the dinosaurs. And we have skeletons of dinosaurs that go back like 65 million years. And to say that it all came around 6 thousand years ago is nonsense.”

Someone might want to point out to Robertson that he and his Christian network sell materials arguing that the earth is 6,000 years old and that the Bible says dinosaurs and humans lived together, a premise of Ham’s museum.

Nye’s goal in debating Ham was to protect children:

“I say that to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe that’s fine, but don’t have your kids do it because we need them, we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”

Parents in the United States are not allowed by law to starve their children’s bodies, but they are permitted to starve their minds.

Pundits in the U.S. were disgusted because Nye gave creationism credibility by debating Ham. On the other side of the pond, however, the audience of Britain’s Christian Today website reports that Nye won the debate: 92 percent of almost 50,000 responses found for “the science guy.”

At this time, adults are teaching these young people a literal version of the bible—at least when it suits the adults’ needs. For example, in their desire to maintain dominion over women, men cite 1 Corinthians 14, in which Paul tells the church of Corinth that women should be silent during the service. Fundamentalists use this verse to deny women the right to become pastor, even to pray aloud during services. Nye’s debate with Ham was not about religion; it was about politics. Ham takes the position that evolution leads to “lawlessness, homosexuality, abortion, etc.”

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) presents this connection between religion and politics in his new memoir, Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!

“The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice. The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.”

Pearce refers to the New International Version book of Ephesians, which says wives should “submit to their husbands in everything.”

Evidently many fundamentalist women are not submitting to their husbands. Evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates, more so than people in the United States who claim no religion. This research was part of a study by the Council on Contemporary Families at Baylor University on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act to examine changes in the past half century for groups affected by the law.

Other findings:

  • The number of people in the country who do not identify with any religious tradition has grown from three percent to 20 percent.
  • Protestants as a share of the adult population has shrunk from 70 percent to 50 percent, primarily because of the decline of such denominations as Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalians which have had their numbers cut in half.
  • Evangelical populations rapidly grew until the early 1990s when the population began to decline.
  • The percentage of Catholics has kept steady, but the ethnic composition has dramatically changed because of increasing Latino immigration.
  • The number of people who affiliate with non-Judeo-Christian religions has doubled.

Another study found that all couples who live in predominantly conservative Protestant areas have higher divorce rates. Religiously conservative states Alabama and Arkansas have the second and third highest divorce rates in the U.S., while religiously liberal New Jersey and Massachusetts have two of the lowest. Atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rates of all.

map_conservative_regional_divorce-650x501

While the GOP tries to woo people back as their followers, the extremist Republicans, like Pearce, are determined to drive them off. Susanne Atanus, an Illinois Republican trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky this year, puts God first. In so doing, she thinks that God controls the weather and put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth to punish people for LGBT rights and legalized abortions:

“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Mary Helen Sears, a candidate for a Michigan seat on the Republican National Committee, wants to have LGBT people “purged” from the GOP and believes that homosexuality is a “perversion” created by Satan. Her post on the Schoolcraft County GOP website is prefaced by a warning asking readers to “please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information in this blog.” For good reason because Sears claims that homosexuals prey on children.  Last month, former state GOP lawmaker Dave Agema was asked to step down from his position with the RNC “for the good of the party” because of his anti-gay comments.

Sears is, according to Macomb Daily columnist Chad Selweski, “if anything, to the right of RNC Committeeman Dave Agema on the political spectrum.” According to Sears, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia.”

This is the party that wants to run the country.

November 17, 2013

Current Status of Religion–Dinosaurs, Bonds, Surveys, & Beer

A friend sent me this information about the Salvation Army:

“Some of their charity work is given freely, but their primary focus, providing for the homeless, requires recipients to submit to religious indoctrination. Their rehab “program” requires attendance at church services, 12-Step meetings which are led by preachers, and participants are required to pay. SA gets federal grants and donor contributions to operate these programs and then get homeless people to sign up. It’s the only way they can stay in the shelter more than three nights. A few homeless people actually have the money to pony up the $50/week fee. The ones who can’t are required to “volunteer” twenty-five hours labor, i.e., they’re paying these people $2/hour and preventing them from looking for real jobs. in addition, they are ALL required to apply for food stamps and give their SNAP cards to SA. I’ve known guys who were stuck in the SA rehab program for ten years or more. The few of them who get real jobs with SA are paid minimum wages and not allowed to work full-time, so they still have to pay to stay in the program. It’s not a charity; it’s a racket.”

The Salvation Army website does indicate that participants in rehab are required to work for them; the rest of the information above may also be valid.

Around the evangelical circuit:

*On a Veterans’ Day broadcast, televangelist Kenneth Copeland and GOP pseudo-historian David Barton used Scripture to argue that military veterans returning from war can’t get PTSD because they’re doing Godly work. According to Barton, members of the “faith hall of fame” in the Bible “were warriors who took so many people out in battle,” but did so in a just war in the name of God, proving that “when you do it God’s way, not only are you guiltless for having done that, you’re esteemed.”

*Some evangelicals are convinced that dinosaurs and dragons lived at the same time as humans but have to stretch the truth when it comes to the scripture evidence. These are some of their justifications:

  • The great sea monster (whale?) or the giant armored creatures (alligator or crocodile?) would be dragons.
  • God didn’t put every species in the Bible.
  • There is not room in the Bible to discuss dinosaurs or any other extinct species of life.
  • All of the basic “kinds” of living creatures were brought into existence in the same initial creation week. Moses wrote: “In six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exodus 20:11). This would include both dinosaurs (“terrible lizards”) and man.

*Ken Ham wants to build a full-scale wooden replica of Noah’s Ark at his creationist museum in Kentucky. All he needs is $73 million. How do the dinosaurs fit on the ark? Ham said, “When it came to the very few dinosaur kinds that grew to a very large size, God probably sent ‘teenagers,’ NOT ‘fully grown adults’ on the Ark.” The ark represents the end times which makes this a good time to build it, according to Ham, because of the current “great rebellion against God and His Word in the land.”

Because donations comprise only ten percent of his $73 million thus far and state funding from Kentucky dries up next year, Ham has decided to sell junk bonds to fund his project. The original plan was a “private placement equity offering” for contributors who would “participate as limited equity members in an LLC, with AiG as the controlling/operating member.” The group’s lawyers said, however, that the Affordable Care Act would force Ark Encounter “to provide abortifaciants (i.e., abortion-causing drugs) under its health coverage to its employees.” The lawyers are referring to Plan B contraception which does not cause abortions. The truth doesn’t get in the way of people who think that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time.

The new solution: “A private bond offering through a 501(c)(3) that will allow us to claim the exemption to supply abortifaciants.” Instead of an LLC, Ark Encounter will be an official religious nonprofit. The website, Answers in Genesis, makes the bonds sound like a sound investment. However, they “are not expected to have any substantial secondary market” and are “not an obligation of AiG.” Because they are unrated—and thus highly risky—they would be almost impossible to resell. And the bonds are secured only by the revenues and assets of the Ark Encounter project, not by Answers in Genesis itself. A failing project means that investors lose their entire investment, principal and all.

*David Barton, listed as one of Time’s most influential evangelicals in 2005, now agrees that climate change is man-made—or at least woman-made. The historian claims that climate change is caused by abortions: angry because of abortions, God is warming up the planet to make crazy weather. Voting pro-choice people into office has brought curses, including flooding, tornadoes, murder, and pedophilia. Barton claims that the country’s founders intended only Christians to be elected to office. He briefly considered running for Texas senator; winning would have made the state’s other senator, Ted Cruz, seem slightly more sane.

The Roman Catholic Church:

Incensed by Gov. Pat Quinn’s signing the bill that legalizes marriage equality in Illinois, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, head of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, plans to preside over a prayer service of “supplication and exorcism.” He said that marriage between gays and lesbians “comes from the devil and should be condemned as such.” The legislators are, according to Paprocki, “morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin.”

Pope Francis, however, is more concerned with fracking. Last week, the pope met with Argentine filmmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas (La Guerra del Fracking — The Fracking War) and environmental activist Juan Pablo Olsson at the Vatican to discuss fracking and water pollution. [Olsson is on the left, below.] The pope seems to have added the concept of people being stewards of the church to his opposition to poverty, inequality, and bigotry.

Pope frack

The pope’s recent financial reforms may be upsetting the Italian mafia. Anti-mob prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, reported that the Ndrangheta, an active mafia in southern Italy, is not pleased with the new pope’s actions. “Those who up to now have fed off the power and wealth coming directly from the Church are nervous, upset,” Gratteri said. “If the mafia bosses can trip him up, they won’t hesitate.” Pope Francis is dangerous because he seems to be a true believer in the words of Christ.

First, the pope installed a special commission tasked with investigating the Vatican’s bank and another to probe Vatican finances in general. He also asked a U.S.consultancy, Promontory Financial Group, to conduct an external review of the Vatican bank’s money-laundering rules and, more recently, to look into the internal agency handling its many real estate holdings.

Another way that Pope Francis may be upsetting the apple cart of tradition is surveying Catholics about their opinions. He wants to know how his constituents—and not just the top hierarchy—think about a variety of subjects including marriage equality, divorce, and birth control. The Vatican sent out the survey a month ago to Catholic bishops around the world.

The survey asks what “pastoral attention” can be given to those who have chosen a same-sex union, and “in the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?” Catholics will be asked about is the church’s stance on “the value of the family” in the modern era. Another issue is whether divorce, remarriage and same-sex marriage are a “pastoral reality” in their local church. “How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?” the document asks. It also names mixed or interreligious marriages, single-parent families, polygamy, and “forms of feminism hostile to the church” as issues requiring the attention.

The poll must be conducted by the end of January. Findings will be included in a working paper for a meeting of the synod of bishops next October.

A survey by Quinnipiac University shows that two-thirds of adult Catholics in the United States agree with the pope’s statement that the Catholic Church is too focused on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception. Six in ten Catholics surveyed approve of marriage equality, above the 56-percent national approval. They also support the idea of ordaining women priests by a 60-30 margin.

The pope’s approach hasn’t made fans of everyone. Sarah Palin is taken aback by his liberal attitudes, and Pat Buchanan says the pope is leading the church toward moral relativism because of his “stance of non-belligerence.”

 Protestant churches are also looking for ways to lure more membership, and a new one is providing the members with beer. Calvary Lutheran Church (Fort Worth, TX) has Church-in-a-Pub. The old First Christian Church (Portland, OR) has a monthly Beer & Hymns night, sponsored by the anti-alcohol denomination, the Christian Church Disciples of Christ. 

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