Friday, December 31, 2004

The Wrath of God ??


Luke 9:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

Nehemiah 9:31 Nevertheless for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.


Christian fundamentalists assert that their God is in total control of his Creation. When "bad things happen" like the recent death of many people along the coasts of Indonesia and Asia, their God is clearly responsible. But the ways of God are "mysterious".

Invoking a "mystery" as an explanation is never satisfying and never enlightens. Their God is a "God of Love" , especially if you believe and "are saved". Their God is a "God of Wrath", with elements of mercy, for those outside the fold.


Is there a special lesson here about the evil of Non-Christians (Muslims, Bhuddists, Hindu,...)?? Christian fundamentalists believe Non-Christians are already on the way to Hell, and maybe they needed a little shaking up to get them to see the "light" ??

So maybe, the deaths of 100,000 plus Non-Christians is ok because many more may be saved from eternal damnation??

The existence of "evil" and awful events has always been a deep problem for Christians, and it will always be such. But such is the tortured existence of those who believe in the book: reason can only lead one astray.

"Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason"
(Martin Luther: V, 425 )

"There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason, especially if she enters into spiritual matters which concern the soul and God. For it is more possible to teach an ass to read than to blind such a reason and lead it right; for reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed."
(Martin Luther: V, 1312 )


A New Year's Wish


May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist,
your cardiologist,
your gastro-enterologist,
your urologist,
your proctologist,
your podiatrist,
your psychiatrist,
your plumber
and the I.R.S.

May your hair,
your teeth,
your face-lift,
your abs and your stocks not fall
and may your blood pressure,
your triglycerides,
your cholesterol,
your white blood count
and your mortgage interest not rise.


May New Year's Eve find you seated around the
table, together with your beloved family and
cherished friends.
May you find the food better,
the environment quieter,
the cost much cheaper,
and the pleasure much more fulfilling than
anything else you might ordinarily do that night.

May what you see in the mirror delight you,
and what others see in you delight them.
May someone love you enough to forgive your faults,
be blind to your blemishes,
and tell the world about your virtues.


May the telemarketers wait to make their sales
calls until you finish dinner,
may the commercials on TV not be louder than the
program you have been watching,
and may your
check book and your budget balance
and include generous amounts for charity.

May you remember to say "I love you"
at least once a day to your spouse,
your child,
your parent,
your siblings;
but not to your secretary,
your nurse,
your masseuse,
your hairdresser
or your tennis instructor.

~Extracts from a Prayer by Rabbi Jacob Pressman~

thanks to shirley for passing this along...


Friday, December 10, 2004

Twas the year 2029 and...


Ozone created by electric cars now killing millions in the seventh largest country in the world, Mexifornia, formally known as California. White minorities still trying to have English recognized as Mexifornia's third language.

Spotted Owl plague threatens northwestern United States crops and livestock.

Baby conceived naturally . . scientists stumped. Couple petitions court to reinstate heterosexual marriage.

Last remaining Fundamentalist Muslim dies in the American Territory of the Middle East (formerly known as Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon).

Iraq still closed off; physicists estimate it will take at least 10 more years before radioactivity decreases to safe levels.

France pleads for global help after being overtaken by Jamaica

Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking

George Z. Bush says he will run for President in 2036.

Postal Service raises price of first class stamp to $17.89 and reduces mail delivery to Wednesdays only.

85-year, $75.8 billion study: Diet and Exercise is the key to weight loss.

Average weight of Americans drops to 250 lbs.

Japanese scientists have created a camera with such a fast shutter speed, they now can photograph a woman with her mouth shut.

Massachusetts executes last remaining conservative.

Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.

Average height of NBA players now nine feet, seven inches.

New federal law requires that all nail clippers, screwdrivers, fly swatters and rolled-up newspapers must be registered by January 2036.

Congress authorizes direct deposit of formerly illegal political contributions to campaign accounts.

Capitol Hill intern indicted for refusing to have sex with congressman.

IRS sets lowest tax rate at 75 percent.

Florida Democrats still don't know how to use a voting machine.

Texas votes to secede from the United States effective Jan. 1, 2036.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Nobel Prize Money: An Example of Generosity


Gunter Globel is a cell biologist who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1999. He is the director of the Laboratory of Cell Biology at Rockefeller University.

The New York Times carried an interview with Globel on Dec 7, 2004. He explained that one of his concerns is the responsibility of scientists to try to explain their work in terms which the layman can understand. "I'm always telling my students that if they can't explain what they are doing [in science] to their grandmothers then they probably don't understand it themselves."

Upon receiving the Nobel prize in 1999, Blobel donated the prize money (one million dollars) to the effort to rebuild the synagogue which the Nazis destroyed in Dresden in 1938 (Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass) , and which cost 10 million dollars to rebuild, as well as the effort to rebuild the Lutheran Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady. The Frauenkirche collapsed after bombardment of Dresden by English and American aircraft in the Spring of 1945, near the end of World War II.

Before receiving the Nobel prize, Blobel had started the Friends of Dresden as an effort to raise money to restore some of the architectural glory of pre-war Dresden. As a child of 8 yr., Blobel had passed through Dresden as his family fled Silesia to escape from the invading Russian army. A few days later the city was firebombed by the Allies, and Blobel later saw the horrific destruction.

Blobel has spent many years looking for scientific evidence for his ideas about how proteins created in a cell are able to be transported to the correct location in the cell for executing their particular jobs.

Much of this time his work and ideas were heavily criticized by his peers. When asked in the New York Times interview about his ability to ignore this initial criticism, Blobel replied:

"I've never cared about being judged. There is an internal revolt in me against conforming. After the war [WW II], my family lived in East Germany and that taught me that truth is the most holy and important thing in life. I thought my ideas were reasonable. So why not propose them?"


Gunter Blobel Accepts Nobel Prize

From the Howard Hughes Medical Institute description of Blobel's research:

"The billion or so protein molecules of an average mammalian cell are constantly being renewed—that is, degraded and resynthesized about once every month. Each cell contains about a dozen compartments enclosed by a membrane. Each of the membranes and the compartments they enclose are composed of distinct proteins, and both the compartments and their surrounding membranes carry out distinct functions.

Membranes are impermeable to proteins. Essentially, proteins are synthesized in only one of the cellular compartments, the cytoplasm (although a few are synthesized in the mitoplasm of mitochondria and the chloroplasm of chloroplasts). How are newly synthesized proteins directed to their proper membranes and compartments? And how do these relatively large molecules traverse the compartmental membranes without destroying the essential gradients of small molecules and ions that exist across each of these membranes? ... "

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Problem with Fundamentalist Christians


In a recent N.Y. Times op-ed piece, David Brooks complained about the inclusion of Jerry Fallwell and Al Sharpton "in a discussion on religion and public life" on the Sunday morning Tim Russert Meet the Press show. Brooks says:

"Inviting these two bozos onto "Meet the Press" to discuss that issue is like inviting Britney Spears and Larry Flynt to discuss D. H. Lawrence. Naturally, they got into a demeaning food fight that would have lowered the intellectual discourse of your average nursery school. [I don't understand why Brooks thinks Sharpton is at the low level of Fallwell ]

"This is why so many people are so misinformed about evangelical Christians. There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored.

"It could be that you have never heard of John Stott. I don't blame you. As far as I can tell, Stott has never appeared on an important American news program. A computer search suggests that Stott's name hasn't appeared in this newspaper since April 10, 1956, and it's never appeared in many other important publications."

Later Brooks continues with John Stott's positions:

"Most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed."

And in Stott's own words (as reported by Brooks):

"In Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, God's revelation is complete; to add any words of our own to his finished work is derogatory to Christ."


I normally agree with a lot of David Brook's opinions, but his reference to a "better" representative of the evangelical mind set off alarm bells. Since I had never heard of his "John Stott", I proceeded to Google search the name.
I found a great comment by Bishop John Shelby Spong on called "John Stott: A Fundamentalist in Sheep's Clothing? I have selected parts of this dissection of the evangelical mind and also used light editing. (See the link for the entire un-edited version)
John Stott is probably England's best known and most published evangelical Christian.

John Stott struggled all his life to make his dated version of Christianity relevant to the modern world. That is not easy since he, like all evangelicals, starts with the assumption that the Bible is "revealed truth."

For John Stott, the proper method for settling questions for Christians is to search the Bible's pages for answers. Revealed truth for him is timeless, and thus Holy Scripture provides eternal solutions for all contemporary issues--an argument made by fundamentalist Christians.

Stott is sophisticated enough to know the literal Bible is filled with land mines, so he steps delicately around those places in Scripture where women are defined as the property of men, where polygamy is affirmed, where menstruation is regarded as a source of uncleanness, where slavery is viewed as an acceptable social institution, and where capital punishment is prescribed for such offences as being disobedient to one's parents, worshiping a false god, or being a homosexual.

Yet all of these things are present in the Bible Stott calls "the revealed truth of God." One wonders what he means by the use of both of those words "revealed" and "truth."

When challenged, Stott’s pious smile disappears and his soft voice becomes edgy and rejecting. He suggests that anyone who disagrees with him disagrees with the revealed will of God. He seems never to have heard of Bible 101.

The Bible was written between 1000 B.C.E. and 135 C.E. It makes assumptions that modern men and women cannot make unless we turn off our minds to the expansion of knowledge over the last 400 years.

The Bible reflects the three-tiered universe of the pre-Copernican world. It defines God as a supernatural being, living "above" the sky, capable of invading this planet earth in miraculous and not always moral ways to accomplish what is called his "divine will".

This God strikes the Egyptians with a series of devastating plagues, which include murdering the firstborn son of every family of that nation. Is that moral behavior? This God then opens the Red Sea for the Jewish people to escape and closes the Red Sea to drown the Egyptian pursuers. It is not a very pleasant view of God if you happen to be Egyptian.

Evangelicals base their understanding that the male is to be the head of the family on the words of a patriarchal social order written 2,000 years ago when women were not educated and not regarded as equal in the sight of God. Might we ask whether they have confused "revealed truth" with "prejudiced sin"?

Evangelicals oppose divorce based on what they call "clear biblical teaching." Yet that clear teaching is predicated on the inferiority of the woman. It was not until the 20th century that women won the legal right to leave abusive marriages.

Does "revealed truth" compel a woman to place herself in harm's way, or, if she manages to escape, does it then condemn her to a life of loneliness when she finds the courage to walk away from an abusive husband? I do not think so, and I would not care to worship a God who was presumed to suggest that such was "revealed truth."

Evangelicals are vehemently opposed to any acceptance of homosexuals because they are condemned, or at least their behavior is, in the "revealed truth" of Holy Scripture.

That is nothing but a claim of uninformed ignorance. There is almost no scientist today who thinks sexual orientation is either chosen or changeable behavior.

Is it appropriate for anyone to make judgments on sexual orientation today based on the ancient book of Leviticus, or the story of Sodom from Genesis, both of which were written more than 2,500 years ago?

The writers of the Bible thought God brought rain, floods, drought, and heat waves as punishment for sin.

Only television evangelist Pat Robertson still seems to think that way, for he not only was said to have prayed a hurricane away from his Virginia television empire, but to have warned the people of Orlando, Florida, that they were at risk of a hurricane for passing a gay-friendly city ordinance.

When fundamentalists and evangelicals come to the Christ story, the stakes go up dramatically, and the claims for the "revealed truth" of the Bible become excessive. But biblical scholars note the disparities in both the story of Jesus' birth and of his resurrection.

They also note that both the virgin birth and the resurrection, understood as physical resuscitation, do not even enter the Christian story until the ninth decade of the Christian era.

Evangelicals tell the story of the crucifixion of Jesus in terms of God demanding the sacrifice of his son. They wax eloquent about the intrinsic sin of human life, its "fall" from grace, its need for rescue and restoration to a pre-fallen status.

Yet we know from the fact of human and animal evolution that there never was a "fall" into sin because there never was a righteous "pre-fallen" human status, either in history or in mythology.


Evolution teaches us that life has emerged and evolved over billions of years. Human beings are incomplete creatures who need to be empowered. We are not fallen creatures, lost in sin, who need the bloodshed of a human sacrifice of the son of God in order to have the price of our sins paid to a judging deity. What a grotesque idea this "revealed truth" is. I am repelled by those images.

"Revealed truth" turns out to be evangelical propaganda.

The Bible tells us that in the life of Jesus, every life is loved, even those who reject, betray, deny, and kill the God-bearer. Finally, the Bible suggests that every life is called into the fullness of his or her humanity by the life of the Spirit.

That is our destiny--to be our deepest, fullest, most complete selves in all of our wondrous diversity. That is the truth that keeps breaking through the barriers of Scripture.

The fundamentalist, evangelical tradition will do nothing except justify the human divisions between the saved and the unsaved. That religious stance will ultimately victimize every person who does not reside inside the definition of the Bible as "revealed truth," as evangelicals interpret it.