Thursday, July 29, 2010

Baby Pentacostal Preacher

Hello my fellow Disturbed Christians! I'll be on vacation tomorrow, so I'm doing Friday's post today.

I know the Bible says, "From the lips of children and infants, You have ordained praise," but I don't think it had this in mind:

As I watched this clip, I couldn't help but wonder if the audience actually understood anything the kid was saying. Or even if the kid was saying anything period! To me, it sounded like the baby was just mimicking sounds he had heard.

But then again, if God can talk through a donkey, I guess He can talk through a one-year-old as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mormon Mondays (on Tuesday): Cartoons Make Learning Fun!

Initially I was going to post something about the “Book of Mormon” challenge today, but I have decided against it because I realized that a lot of people probably don’t even know what the story in the Book of Mormon is. Luckily, there are a series of short Youtube videos that describe who the Mormons are and what they believe. Here is a handy, short, friendly, LDS-approved cartoon about what’s in the Book of Mormon.

And here’s a rather strange cartoon about the Mormons. It’s labelled “Banned Mormon Cartoon,” and the narrator and soundtrack are creepy as hell. This one has a very clear anti-Mormon slant, along with delightfully prurient observations on the faith.

On the YouTube page for the above video, the guy who posted it gives a list of what I guess are citations for each of the claims made in this video. Citations are great, because just the appearance of them makes something seem legitimate, and most people won’t even bother reading them to find out if they support what someone is saying. The above cartoon touches on the Book of Mormon, but also allegedly draws from other sources, such as the Book of Abraham, the History of the Church and the Doctrines and Covenants among others. I have no idea who made this cartoon and when, but the animation is gloriously crappy.

I plan on doing a post on this later, but before that, I just have one question for any Mormons reading this thing: is it true that Satan and Jesus are brothers? That seems like something that anti-Mormons would make up to scare people away from the church, but I’ve seen this mentioned elsewhere as well. This is not flamebait. I really want to know if this is true, and if it’s not, what on Earth would give people this idea?

Friday, July 23, 2010

John Piper and Abusive Husbands

Last night I was browsing around YouTube (like usual), when I came across this clip from John Piper:

There's one thing Piper forgot to mention: RUN!

Yes, telling the church elders is good, but I think if a women is really concerned about the safety of her and her children, the #1 thing to do is to get away from her abusive husband, not wait until the church elders talk to him. Call me a heretic, but I feel that once a man puts his hands on a woman, he has violated his role as leader of the household, therefore he's no longer fit to be a husband.

Am I wrong?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mormon Mondays (on Tuesday): Now I Ain’t Sayin’ He’s a Gold Digger...

Joseph Smith is one of the most fascinating men in American history, yet he tends to get ignored in American history classes. In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about this man until I independently started reading about the Latter-day Saints and their history. I think that it’s something of a travesty that the founder of a major American religion gets ignored in these classes, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s probably near-impossible to cover him in a completely objective way. The problem with covering Joseph Smith is that, unlike the prophets of the ancient major religions, we have a full written record to contend with. This may not seem to be a problem at all; in fact, from a historian’s point of view, this is a blessing. However, because a large number of people believe that he was a messenger for God, and that his revelations were divinely-inspired, his prior criminal record becomes an issue. In fact, the question that everything hangs on, including the Book of Mormon, is this: how much can you trust a potential conman? Was he lying about certain aspects of his past, or did he really have certain magical powers? A historian trying to deal with his life in an objective way is stuck with the unenviable choice of stating that he had magical abilities and found a new testament of Jesus Christ in the Americas, or that he made it all up. No wonder this thorny issue gets skipped.

One aspect of his life that is difficult to deal with is his career choice before becoming a prophet. Around the same time that he was being visited by angels, Joseph Smith achieved an impressive degree of fame by being a treasure hunter. He did this with a seer stone, which he plopped into a hat and then gazed into, burying his face in the hat to block out the sunlight and “read” the relevant data from the stone. He was known for having some impressive skills finding treasure by using this technique. These skills were all the more impressive when you discover that he never actually found any buried treasure anywhere at anytime. Whenever a dig would turn out to be fruitless, Smith would state that the treasure was being pushed further down into the earth due to wicked spirits. These wicked spirits were a godsend for ol’ Joe. At one point during a dig, the shovels banged into what seemed to be wood. This, clearly, would have to be treasure. To make sure, Smith was asked to take a peep into his stone and find out if it was safe to dig it out. He refused. As it turns out, the spirit of one of those pesky dead Indians was guarding it, and would not allow it to be removed. So even when his seer stone led them to hit “pay dirt,” they still never got any real treasure from Smith’s skills. That didn’t stop folks from paying him a decent salary, in addition to a place to stay for leading them to the right spots.

The evidence of his treasure hunting is documented in the records of a court case, when Smith was brought to trial for some misdemeanor. He also admitted to it later, saying that he only earned about $14 a month for it. These activities were not unique to Smith, but were fairly common to people at the time who held what has been referred to as a “magical worldview.” It seems to be pretty straightforward that he participated in these activities, but the most intriguing part about it is the implications it has to those who believe Smith to be a true prophet of God.

According to Dan Vogel, author of Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (2004), there are three possible explanations for Smith’s treasure hunting:

1. Smith saw imaginary treasure in his stone.
2. Smith pretended to see a treasure in his stone.
3. Smith saw real treasure which disappeared before being unearthed. (Vogel, 2004)

If we believe that he saw imaginary treasure in his stone, then he may have been confused and really did believe that there was treasure, but was mistaken. Sometimes an idea can be so powerful that a person thinks that they see or feel things that are not present. It is fully possible that he thought he saw treasure, but was wrong. This doesn’t make it right, but it could be an understandable mistake.

If we believe that Smith lied about seeing treasure, then this causes some major problems with his character, and how reliable he is as a prophet of God. Knowingly lying about being able to see treasure, and bilking believers out of cash has serious implications for his future career as a full-time prophet. Especially troubling is that the same technique he used to “see” buried treasure (burying his face in a hat), was also how he translated the golden plates containing the Book of Mormon. If this technique was fraudulent in one instance, there is little reason to believe that it was somehow legitimate in another.

If we agree that he did actually see real treasure in his stone, then we are forced to except the reality of a magical worldview. The means that the angry souls of dead Indians really did guard buried treasure, and would shift it about in the earth to prevent the living from stealing it. Because other people at the time also participated in these activities, then we would have to believe that they potentially may have been able to locate buried treasure as well, yet were unsuccessful due to malevolent spirits. It would be odd if Smith, using the same techniques as many others, was the only one who truly saw the movements of spirits underground and knew where to find treasure.

The treasure hunting aspect of Smith’s past tends to get downplayed, but this was a major part of his life before he had his visions and started his church. A prophet does not have to be perfect, but if they turn out to be a conman, then it takes a gigantic leap of faith to ignore certain lies while taking others as the word of God. Some of his claims become especially difficult to reconcile with known facts when we get into his later translation of the Book of Abraham. This was a translation from an Egyptian scroll that he purchased, which was later translated by specialists and discovered to be funeral rights and not the scripture that Smith created. Further allegations, such as the Book of Mormon being plagiarized, will be dealt with later. I am not saying that Joseph Smith was a conman. What I am saying is that if he really was able to do the things he claimed he was doing, then we are living in a much stranger world than I previously believed, and there are a lot of pissed-off Indians underground that don’t want us to steal their treasures.

Monday, July 19, 2010

TV Evangelism circa the 1980s

I'm so glad my parents never made me watch "Circle Square" when I was a kid. In the 1980s this was considered the Christian Sesame Street.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Heresy Hunters Are Coming!

(UPDATE 12/02/10: Since I first wrote this, I have gotten to know Chris Rosebrough, and he's actually a pretty nice guy. So I take back what I said about him. Ken, on the other hand, well that's another story.)

If you are a blogger, you will experience criticism from time to time. When your put your thoughts out there for the entire world to read, you will eventually find some one who disagrees. And there's nothing wrong with that. Here's the main thing to remember when dealing with criticism. If it's constructive criticism--for example, "I think you should research your topics more before you write about them"--then you should consider what your critics say, because they might be onto something. However, if your critics something like, "You liberal scumbag!" it's best to delete their comments.

The Christian blogsosphere has a specific kind of critic called the Heresy Hunter, who has taken it upon him/herself to expose every false doctrine they can find within modern Christianity. Heresy Hunters see themselves as modern day Reformers pitted in a battle against the corrupt Church. Sometimes they accurately find false doctrines that a lot of Christians accept, like the Prosperity Gospel and the Word-of-Faith movement. However, sometimes the Heresy Hunters forget about 2 Timothy 2:24-25: "The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth." (Emphasis mine) When the Heresy Hunters get on a roll, they often resort to name-calling and finger-pointing.

For example, there is Chris Rosebrough, better known as piratechristian on Twitter. He is the host of the online radio show Fighting For the Faith, and he also blogs at Extreme Theology. He recently compared the Emerging Church to facism and socialism. To me, that's something Glenn Beck would say, not Jesus (unless it's Tea Party Jesus). Also, one of my friends recently had to block him from on Twitter because, according to my friend, time and time again Chris twisted his words and took them out of context.

But I can't totally vilify Rosebrough, because he actually does talk to people he doesn't agree with. In fact, he recently agreed to be a guest on Phil Shepherd's Whiskey Preacher podcast. I only heard half of the interview, but I was impressed by the way Rosebrough handled himself. In fact, I love the story he tells of the boy with Down's Syndrome who received communion. So even though his rhetoric might sound mean at times, he will listen to your story.

Ken Silva, on the other hand . . . well . . . let's just say that I don't think I'll be inviting him over for a cup of tea any time soon. And here are a few reasons why:

1. On his blog, he regularly slams Christians who do not agree with his theology. Some of his targets include: Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Rick Warren, John Piper (for believe in an Old Earth), Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Doug Pagitt, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jurgen Moltmann, Julie Clawson (for being a fan of Moltmann), Tony Jones, all Catholics . . .

2. When he can't think of anything to say, he relies on pictures like this:

3. He doesn't allow comments on his blogs.

4. He refuses to do interviews, unless it's with CrossTalk Radio.

5. He recently posted this picture as a jab at Bolz-Weber:

Sexist much?

If you find yourself in the cross hairs of the Heresy Hunters, what should you do? The best thing to do is ignore them. If they say something really offensive about you, though, email them privately about it (see Matthew 18:15). If you and the Heresy Hunter talk about the situation gracefully, and at the end agree to disagree, then you're alright. However, if the Heresy Hunter is persistent in bringing you down, shake the dust off your feet and say, "In the words of Tupac, 'Only God can judge me.'"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mormon Mondays (on Tuesday): Introduction

There are many things that are shrouded in mystery: the vastness of the universe, the number of species floating in the deep sea, how much of a sausage is actually hoof and snout, and the Mormon church. There's a lot about the Latter Day Saints that people just don't know, something that is both a curse and a blessing to the church. It's a curse because this lack of knowledge leads people under the erroneous assumption that Mormons are something strange and scary, a pinkly-scrubbed army of Stepford husbands and wives with bizarre lifestyle choices. It also a blessing because, well, there are a number of things about the church that are just plain odd to those on the outside. Your typical Christian-based faith does not have the instantly-recognizable image of the Mormon missionary, all wearing their standard uniform black slacks and impossibly crisp white shirts. Also, the idea of a sequel to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, understandably strikes a majority of Christians as insulting, in the same way that designating the Jewish Bible as an "Old" Testament is probably insulting to a majority of Jews. Then there are the contents of the Book of Mormon itself, which makes such claims as Native Americans actually being Jews and Jesus spending a brief stint in the New World to preach the good news to said Indians/Jews. Not to mention such divine pronouncements as plural wives, blood atonement, and baptism of the dead, two of which have been done away with and continue to be an embarrassment to the church. As such, the church is extremely sensitive about its image to the world, and continues to work hard to show the world that they are nothing to be afraid of, that they are nothing more than your pure, dutiful, hard-working neighbor ready to lend a hand when in need.

That is not my interest with this series.

I have a deep, sometimes frustrating love of the Latter-day Saints. It is one of the most fascinating religions in the world because unlike the other major world religions, there is a crystal-clear written record documenting the creation of the church and the life of it's founder, Joseph Smith. That alone makes it fascinating. There is also the matter of the Book of Mormon, which can either be seen as the divinely inspired word of God in the New World, or the lengthy first novel of an exceedingly religious and cash-strapped con man. The Mormons tend to get ignored in history classes, with maybe the odd mention of Brigham Young. What I hope is that I can bring you some of the juicier, more interesting aspects of Mormon history, along with analyses of their sacred texts, reviews of Mormon books/movies/documentaries, and other assorted goodness. I am not personally a Mormon, but I am definitely an unabashed fan, and everything I plan to write in this series is the product of both love and respect for this church and their members. Now sit back, take a swig of your favorite decaffeinated beverage, and let's begin.

Note: This series is confusingly called Mormon Mondays, Since this is Scott's blog and he owns Monday, this gets posted on Tuesdays. However, I still love the name "Mormon Mondays," so I kept it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Surprised by Humor?

People think church they think serious; the same is true about the Bible. Why is this? Why is it that a book full of joy has an image of dryness? It’s a stigma today that the Bible can’t be enjoyed—it is only to be studied. The Bible wasn’t written to be observed—it was written to be experienced.

Next time you pick it up, drop the seriousness of it; read the New Testament as someone might who was there as it happened—Jesus was actually a witty guy! He is full of sarcasm, remarks, and quick wit!

Wit aside, the New Testament is also full of mockery; early believers would have been laughing when they heard that priest bribed soldiers to tell everyone that disciples stole Jesus’ body while they were sleeping—think about that…if they were sleeping then how would they know that the disciples were the culprits?

Acts 12:14 demonstrates a scene of slapstick comedy; Peter has just been release from prison and goes to Mary’s house; he knocks on the door and the servant girl recognizes his voice—but does she let him in? Nope. She runs around telling everyone the great news, meanwhile Peter just stands staring at the unopened door.

Humor is all over the place. Proverbs has a lot of wisdom, but is also full of wit. Proverbs 11:22 describes a woman lacking discretion like this: she is like a “gold ring in a pig’s snout.” Nice image, right?

One of the great comedy routines of the Bible happens in Numbers 22-24 when Balaam’s donkey sees God meanwhile, Balaam does not! Think of that image—a donkey sees God, and not the owner.

A lot can happen when you open the Bible and read it with an open heart—one not looking for pearls of wisdom, but for just an experience with God. God will give you a laugh in the Bible when you least expect it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey?

I've heard people talk about this video for a while, but it wasn't until my friend Ben at Christianity, Post VHS posted the video that I took the time to watch it. Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness the most insane 8 and a half minutes of your life:

Where do I begin!

First, let me start off by saying I'm not an expert on healing ministries. However, I will say that I don't remember Jesus leading the blind men and lame beggars into a funny dance. I also don't remember reading anything about the hokey pokey being used as an effective method for curing illness. But the thing that ticked me off the most was when the pastor says, "Alzheimer's is not biblical." So does that mean my grandmother is a heretic? Can she have her mind fully restored again if she goes to this church and does a funny little dance?

I do believe that God is a healer, but I think His healing power is bigger (and better) than a funny little dance.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Fourth Observed

The Fourth of July has become nearly Biblical in proportions.

While driving the other day, I was struck by an alarming number of firework stands that were sponsored by churches. Aside from the fact that they blow off the fingers of way to many people every year, there’s nothing particularly wrong about them—it just seemed like an odd thing to do to raise money for church.

And more than likely, if you happened to go to church yesterday, you probably heard something about the brave service men and women—you probably even prayed for them. And why not? There’s nothing wrong with being proud for the country and wanting to protect it, right? Perhaps the minister even gave a whole sermon on how this country was formed on Biblical principles—and if that’s the case he (she) probably also mentioned what a shame it is what’s happened to this country—with gay marriage, abortion, not allowing prayer in school, etc—it’s as if this country doesn’t believe in God anymore.

I say it again: there is nothing wrong with being proud of where you live, or even praying for the people who protect it…but when your pride enters the house of God, I wonder if perhaps there’s a conflict of interest. Sometimes, I think we see this country of ours a little too possessively—instead of saying this land is God’s land, we believe that it’s our land.

Whenever I hear people get worked up about this country and how un Christian it has become, all I can think is who cares? Mark Twain, who was not a Christian, once famously said that if we want to save the country we should bring back all the missionaries and have them convert the Christians. There’s way too much truth to that wit.

Yesterday, I was thinking about what I heard someone say—about how Biblical this country used to be and how it was founded on those principles; as I thought about it, I picked up my Bible to do a nightly devotional, and it happened to be Matthew 22—the one where Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar.” I know the verse well, but on the 4th it seemed even more important.

I happen to believe if Jesus was alive today and he gave a sermon on the 4th, it wouldn’t be about Pride of Country—I think it would be about not celebrating where you live, rather it would be about thanking God for your freedoms by living a life that is fruitful.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lisa Gungor - "Jesus and John"

Here at Disturbed Christians, we like to showcase Christian music that's actually good. Here's a song that I really love by Lisa Gungor called "Jesus and John."

(And for those who don't know, the man playing guitar is Lisa's husband and musical partner Michael, who you may remember wrote the song "God Is Not A White Man".)