Friday, April 29, 2011

Rev. James Manning - Still Crazy After All These Years

As you may of already know, Wednesday President Barack Obama released his long form birth certificate to get the idiots to shut up prove that he is a U.S. citizen. Of course there are still some racist buffoons people who are still not convinced. One of them is our dear old friend Rev. James D(umbass) Manning:

Apparently Mr. Manning is not satisfied unless Obama releases his college transcript, his Social Security card, his shoe size, etc. He's also says that the term "birther" hurts his widdle feewings (you have to read those last two words in a little kid's voice). He also thinks that him and his friends Orly Taitz (who definitely isn't from America!) and Donald Trump represent 45% of the Republican party.

I think it's safe to say that Rev. Manning's tin foil hat is a little too tight.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why The Cross Matters

The Crucifixion With Scenes of Martyrdom of the Apostlesphoto © 2010 David Brewster | more info (via: Wylio)
(Originally posted on my blog.)

A few weeks ago I read John Piper's book The Passion of Jesus Christ. He wrote it around the time Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ came out (can't blame a guy for wanting the cash in!). In the book, Piper gives 50 reasons why Jesus had to die. I'm pretty sure he wrote it for people unfamiliar with Christianity, because it's basically Penal Substitutionary Atonement 101. It's not a bad book, mind you; I just think Piper could have gone a little bit deeper.

I like to think that the atonement is like a puzzle: you have to put all the pieces together to get the full picture. If you focus only on one specific atonement theory--Penal Substitutionary, Christus Victor, Ransom, etc.--then you're only looking one little corner of the picture. From what I read of the Bible, the cross is way too big to be crammed inside our neat and tidy little theological explanations.

So why did Jesus have to die? Why does the cross matter so much? I'm only an amateur theologian at best, but here are some reasons why I think the cross still matters:

-Because on the cross Jesus paid the debt of our sin. Paul writes in the book of Romans that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Because of early mankind's disobedience, we all suffer death. Thankfully "just as one trespass [Adam's sin] resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [the cross] resulted in justification and life for all people" (5:18). God Himself became a (hu)man to experience the pains of death so that we may have life.

-Because the cross defeats worldly and demonic powers. Jesus began His ministry by reading from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (61:1, emphasis mine). Okay, so what are we prisoners of? According to Jesus, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). He had to become captive to the worldly and demonic powers so that we, like Barabbas the violent radical, could go free.

-Because the cross puts to death our old selves. Paul says that "our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6). In other words, the part of you that wanted to the do the opposite of what God wanted, the part of you full of malice, greed, hatred, apathy, etc? That part is now dead. No, not weakened . . . DEAD!

The cross changes everything. And yet, it's still not the end of the story.

What does the cross mean for you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

John Galt - He's Not the Messiah!

Who is John Galtphoto © 2009 Matthew Oliphant | more info (via: Wylio)
To the delight of Tea Party activists everywhere, a movie version of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged is finally seeing the light of day. It'll be a trilogy that will try to be as faithful to the original book as possible. Part One comes out today . . . Tax Day.

With it's strong emphasis on capitalism and individual freedom, Atlas Shrugged could be seen as holy scripture for the Tea Party movement (next to the Bible and the U.S. Constitution). If you go to any Tea Party protest, no doubt you'll see many references to John Galt, referring to the hero of the book who leads the people to revolution. While I have not read Atlas Shrugged, I've read little bits here and here about Rand's philosophy. To be quite honest, I don't understand why a lot the Tea Party activists would embrace the teachings of both Jesus and Rand, because they seem like two completely different gospels.

First, Rand was an atheist who believed that religion was a threat to personal freedom. Faith, according to Rand, was "the exact antithesis and enemy of thought." In Atlas Shrugged when John Galt is giving his 70-page speech (which, one might say, is Galt's version of the Sermon on the Mount), he says:

"For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors - between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and the good is to live it."

Which brings us to my second point: the key concept of Rand's philosophy. Jesus sums up the entire Law of Moses with just two commandments: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' . . . And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:37, 39) Galt, on the other hand, sums up his philosophy with this: "I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." One says the self must decrease and the other must increase; the other says the exact opposite.

Third, let's take a look at the symbols used to represent both worldviews. Christianity is symbolized by the cross: an ancient Roman device used for capital punishment. For John Galt, Rand uses the dollar sign: a symbol of wealth and prosperity. So basically Christianity is about losing the self, and Rand's philosophy is about gaining treasures for the self.

So just who is John Galt? To quote Monty Python, "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Attention Writers: The Not Alone Project

First, let me apologize for not writing anything yesterday. I've been in a weird place mentally, so any prayers will be appreciated.

Which leads me to my next point. My friend Alise at Alise . . . Write is collecting personal essays about depression for a book project called Not Alone. Here she is giving an update on the project:

So let's recap:

-Seventeen submissions so far, but looking for a total of forty.
-Click here for more information (formatting, word count, etc.)
-Deadline: May 24, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grace Wins (A Review of Jay Bakker's "Fall To Grace")

(ANNOYING YET NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: The fine folks at Faith Words gave me an advance copy of this book to review for free. And by "for free," I mean neither of us had to pay the other. Also, this review is on my regular blog as well as here.)

If fundamentlist Christians refer to Rob Bell's Love Wins as "the book that denies Hell" (even though from what I've heard that's not what Bell actually says), then Jay Bakker's latest book Fall to Grace is "the book that says gay is okay." While a good quarter of Fall to Grace deals with homosexuality (including a chapter that challenges the infamous 'clobber passages'), the book is much more than that. It's a reminder of God's unbelievable, incredible, and available grace.

The book begins with Bakker (with the help of Martin Edlund) retelling the story of his parents' fall from grace. Anyone who grew up during the '80s and '90s will certainly remember Jim and Tammy Faye's swan dive from televangelist superstars to symbols of everything that's wrong with evangelicalism. It was rough for Jim and Tammy Faye, but worse for Jay! Jay tried to destroy himself with drugs and alcohol, thinking that God would never want anything to do with him. But once Jay discovered God's grace, everything changed.

The rest of the book is a meditation on the book of Galatians, Paul's wonderful book about grace. Jay illustrates Paul's wonderful book about grace with stories from his friends and his own journey . . . including his work with the LGBT community. When his best friend from childhood Eric came out of the closet, Jay didn't take the news very well. But after a conversation with his mother, Jay learned that nothing changed about Eric. He was still the same kid Jay knew and loved since childhood.

Although the writing could go deeper in some parts, overall it's a great reminder that there is no one too far from God's reach.