Fake Good News

Isn’t everything that we hear which is not in accord with the Good News, a lie?

When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

That is how the Enemy is described by Jesus, not only as a liar himself, but as the author of all lies.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no. For whatever is more than this is from the Evil One.

That is one unambivalent caution, yes?  Do you follow its stricture?

We are awash in lies, dear brothers and sisters, drowning in delusion, as a country and as a faith. We have allowed the conflation of the Bible and the Constitution, interwoven the story of Jesus with that of Jefferson, redeployed Divine Providence to affirm Manifest Destiny.

And most grievously, we have mistaken the Grand Old Party as the political arm of Christianity.

This, in my weightless opinion, is the Enemy’s design and delight.

Witness the 2016 Presidential election. Has a greater pit of lies ever opened before a stumbling nation?

And the Republican Party, the self-proclaimed Christian party, not only fell into the pit, but dragged every soul they could grab on the way down. Now we find many of the lies issued from Russia, excoriated as an atheist swamp by the GOP up until this election. But of course, with all the power dangling in front of them, the prospect of a President, Congress and Supreme Court, Republicans do what they do best, lie. This time the lie comes by way of their cowardly, treasonous silence.

Or do we no longer consider intrusion into our elections by a hostile foreign power as act of aggression, even war? But so long as the desired results are achieved, Republican control of all government, every other national or patriotic concern is mere lip service.

More lip service. The $350 Billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Trumps major accomplishment so far. It sends limitless firepower to the very ideological source of jihadist mentality, Wahhabism, which is rooted in the Saudi government. To condemn the Democrats for not using the words, Islamic Terrorists, while selling our ideological enemies $350 Billion dollars in weapons is beyond hypocrisy. It invites Perdition.

Here’s some advice for my Republican Christian brothers and sisters–specifically white Christians–remove the beam from your eye.

Because, and the Bible is clear on the matter, every lie comes from Satan.

Donald Trump’s victory was a debacle for free speech. Nietzsche famously declared, God is Dead. That was and is false but it wasn’t his lie. Nietzsche believed it. Friends, Donald Trump has declared that Truth is Dead. He appears very much to believe it. Those of us who believe that Truth still lives must speak it in every circumstance.

Let me urge you to engage this thought experiment as a basic discipline. Before you let a lie pass your lips, or your keyboard, before you let a lie go unchallenged, complicit with your silence, remember: This moment, exactly as it will unfold, will stand between you and Christ when you are called before Him.

Still want to retweet the Fake Good News?

The Tares in Power

Why am I so hard on Republican Christians?

This is why. If you are a true Christian, no, let me say it this way, you are only a true Christian if you have been broken by Christ. Period. That is the benchmark. If you have not been flat on your face, or curled up into a sobbing knot of pain, calling out to God for rescue and forgiveness you do not know Jesus. You may have made an alter call, or been baptized within a community–you may sincerely believe the Gospel is true–but unless you have been abject before the King you are not saved.

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need, sings Bob Dylan on Every Grain of Sand, when the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed. You must be crushed with repentance to feel the light of forgiveness. That is the Christian experience.

When you are broken by Christ, you are then in that instant rescued by Christ. And it is a singular experience that forms the core of your life going forward. To be in proper relationship with Jesus, based on your terrified submission in that moment of crisis, is the foundation of the Christian life.

That moment of your total surrender to the Light of God, that moment of pain and cleansing is Christ. Not Bible study, not prayer groups, not five or fifty thousand member churches. And most certainly of all, it is not the Republican Party.

Because no human being who has been broken before Christ would dare say the words and do the things Republicans say and do. Ask any Republican Christian to site Biblical reference for their platforms. Outside of abortion, there is none. (Governmental marriage is none of our business, per C S Lewis) You don’t need a degree in Biblical Studies to know this is true. A little time at Bible Gateway in the search function is all that’s required. Try these terms; Servant, greed, rich, poor, harvest. Then you can cover Republicans specifically; Master, lies, tongue, pride, hypocrite.

Now I realize this condemnation is a wide brush. There are some, maybe many, Republican Christians who are also true Christians. They have been broken by sin and dysfunction, pleaded with Jesus and restored by love of God. Then time passes, the experience grows dimmer and there is life to be gotten on with. A community to be part of. Jobs and commitments to fill. If the true Christian tries to fit in with false Christians, there will be an incentive to not speak against the group. That is detrimental to the individual Christian and the Body as a whole. Because we speak for Christ.

Do not be afraid. How often does Jesus say that to us? And yet people who call themselves Christian spend many hours of their precious days trafficking in fear. Fear is the backdrop and narrative of the Republican party’s propaganda machine, Fox News. Many Christians use Fox as their sole source of information: a pit of vipers in smarmy suits and shimmery skirts. Wolves in Fox clothing.

Christians are taught that the Enemy has control of the world at present–he is the Prince of the Air. Today, a more relevant translation might be Prince of the Air Waves.

Fox News decries the persecution of Christians in the Middle East–they are right about this, and the liberal media downplay the atrocities–but in the next segment Fox lauds the Wall, and rails against the immigrants from the South. Well, I’m sure this is news to Fox News, but those immigrants are overwhelmingly Christian. The Trump policies are causing direct harm to many innocent Christians. and spreading fear like a virus over whole communities.

I won’t address race at Fox News. There isn’t much to go on. The faces are nearly all white and their grooming prom-night shiny. A reflex presumption  of white superiority burps from the mouths at Fox News, for those with ears to hear. Whitewashed tombs outside, but stench within. It’s convenient when the parable is color coded.

Healthcare is the issue that exposes Republican Christians serving the Golden Calf. There is no justification in the Judaeo/Christian ethos for their alliance with the Insurance/Pharmaceutical/Finance industry–truly a devilish triad–over the welfare of human beings. Republican Christians serve the Enemy openly, with earnest white faces, on this issue. They choose Mammon over God, and throw a beer blast in the Rose Garden. It may well be the last Garden they occupy.

To you true Christians, lost and abandoned in the rhetoric of the Tares who run the Republican party, please take heart. He is still with you. You may yet stand up and tell the truth. Just take some time to be by yourself, in prayer. Ask Jesus to let you remember exactly, vividly, how terrified and pitiful you were.

Yes, that sobbing wreck.

Would you in that moment of transforming truth affirm any Republican bitterness? Deny healthcare to anyone? Privatize prisons? Destroy the very earth He gave us ? Worship gold?

Would you, in that mortifying moment of God’s grace, tell a lie?

Christianity is at a crisis point Brothers and Sisters. We must not serve this vile, serpent-tongued Caesar.

We must be to the world the Christ who saved us.

May I See Your Receipt?

Some non-religious people who haven’t spent time researching the difference between Christianity and Islam seem to think they are pretty much the same. Ancient myths, constructed out of available stories, equally implausible to a non-believer. Essentially the same, equally flawed holy books.

But to Christians, that attitude is frustrating in the extreme.  It is self pleasing, self validating and lazy. Especially in the world as is.

People living privileged protected lives here in the US can afford, so they think, to ignore the very real danger inherent in Islam’s ideology. If you accept the polling data, the lowest figure, the most optimistic, says that 5% of  Muslims  are committed to violent Jihad. A small percentage, but of a very large pool. That would mean a minimum of 50 million Muslims anxious to kill for Islam. They find justification for their ideology in the text of the Qur’an.  That ideology is based on the claim that the Qur’an is a successor to the Bible. The proof Islam offers is the so called uncorrupted texts, the Tawrah and Injils.

So what, say the unbelievers, the New Testament is just hearsay and gossip too. The Gospels were written hundreds of years after Jesus, corrupted by translation after translation. Weren’t they?

Well, let’s take a look at the evidence. We’ll stick with the New Testament and the Injils.

Here is a Wikipedia page about New Testament textual criticism. This explains current methods for examining ancient documents.

Here is a general introduction. Biblical Manuscript 

And here are links to the thousands of New Testament fragments and nearly complete Bibles. If you want to take the time, you’ll see that the variations in the text are almost all grammatical or clerical. Those disputed additions by committee, which so offend non-believers, stand out in relief. But this lets you see that the essential message of the Gospel–Christ’s Crucifixion and  Resurrection–remains consistent from the beginning.

Codex Sinaiticus 

Codex Vaticanus

Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus

Codex Alexandrinus

NT Uncials

 NT Papyri 

Lastly, here is the Wikipedia page on the Injils

Notice please, no links to view a copy of an Injil. That is because no Injil has ever been found.

You could look it up. In fact, maybe you’d better.

 

 

Open Letter To Muslims In The West

Author’s  Note:  I am reposting this after Donald Trump’s victory.  We’ve heard what he has to say about Muslims. Trump markets in fear. But it is certainly true that horrific violence in the name of Islam is a daily staple of our news feed. So where is the real conversation we should be having?  

Dear Friends,

We don’t know each other. So if I started this post claiming to know your opinion on a particular topic, you might suspect an insult in the offing. But what if I say immediately the topic is: are you satisfied with the dialogue between Christianity and Islam?

Exactly. No one is. It’s a disaster. The hostility between us is palpable. Misunderstanding is rampant. This really does not need to be so. We do not need to make wild allegations and insult people of genuine faith.

We are at odds with the secular culture and with each other. Let’s think about this for a minute. We believers share the experience of attempting to live a human life in accord with God’s plan for us. We share the experience of trying to be good and failing. We experience awe, a universal trait, with the unique Abrahamic expectation that its source is the Creator.

But is the Qur’an really the successor to the Bible as it claims?

Can we find a simple test of reason to determine the truth?

It is with tragic consequences that Christians and Muslims continue to misunderstand each others’s Scripture. Especially in the West, where information—fact–is freely available to anyone with a smartphone. This freedom is key. We can make and examine truth statements based on evidence available to all.

I’ll make a claim, friends, and that is that I can convince you why no Christian in the West will ever leave our faith for Islam, a proposition I can make in five minutes, without insulting you in any way. I can explain why we don’t accept Islam without the usual tense arguments, but by using rudimentary logic. May I try?

I want to make clear at the start that I am addressing just the religion of Islam and not the people who embrace it. In particular, the people of the Middle East, in my personal experience, are often beautiful human beings of warmth and depth.  They have an appreciation for both the simple pleasures of life–food, family, community–and for the rigors of the intellect when it is engaged in pursuit of spiritual flight. They have a true heart for God.

I know this to be true because I know Christians from the Middle East. They are wonderful brothers and sisters, rooted in faith. The Desert Fathers are much revered in our tradition. Maybe more importantly, on a subconscious cultural level, Danny Thomas, with his classic Lebanese features and warm humanity, came into our living rooms every week and we gladly made room.

Let’s start with the arguments I’m not going to use, the ones we are all familiar with. I’m rejecting the pedophile charge against Mohammed because any competent advocate will counter with the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church. I saw Spotlight a few weeks ago. Not going there.

I’m not going to address the violence linked to Jihad. That is a matter for Muslims alone to determine. And we live in a murderous world. The horrific is now commonplace. Across the globe, in every corner. In 2014, a Japanese school girl beheaded a classmate. How can we understand that? The sheer scale leaves the mind in fear and trembling.

Obviously, I can’t address the argument that the Qur’an is a book of transcendent Arabic. I struggled with high school Spanish many years ago, my old brain isn’t up to the task. I have read that the Arabic of the Qur’an is perfection, and I have read that it is in parts undecipherable. Out of my reach as an argument. Ditto the claimed scientific and mathematical miracles.

This is a critique of specific apologetics from Islam.

The following is what I found with a simple Google search. All the points are claimed or stipulated by the Qur’an or Hadith. It is entirely due to the internet that although Islam has withstood its enemies for 1,400 years it cannot withstand a morning’s worth of research.

It wasn’t warfare that inflicted Islam’s critical wound; it was that sedate science, archaeology.

Mohammed was 600 years and 1,000 miles removed from the scene of the Crucifixion when he dictated the Qur’an. Mohammed denied the Crucifixion, appropriated the figure of Jesus, claimed there were “lost gospels”, the so called, Injil, which proved Jesus was really a Muslim. The Jews too were using a corrupted Torah (Tawrah) the original of which pointed to Allah.

Well, 600 years and 1,000 miles take a toll on historical speculation. The lost gospels Mohammed spoke of have never been found. The original Christian gospels have been found and historically validated. By using the Habermas Minimal Facts Method, Christians can confidently fix the doctrine of Crucifixion and Resurrection to within one year of the Event. Though copies of the Torah are mostly lost to history, in no extant Torah is there mention of Allah.

The Qur’an is entirely the work of one man, Mohammed. If you believe he was carrying a revealed message from God you are sincerely welcome to that view. If he had said, Allah has not spoken until this revelation, and other religions were man-made, he would have an unassailable argument. It would be simply a matter of belief. But once Mohammed claimed to be in the line of the Hebrew prophets and denied the crucifixion of Christ, he blasphemed both traditions. This is not a value judgment, the definition of heretic includes a rejected source.

The reality of Muslim pride does not need comment on, but the fact that Islam never sees fit to approach Christians or Jews with humility in the face of its egregious presumption, at the very core of its scripture, speaks volumes.

Let me repeat the key facts. Removed by 600 years and 1,000 miles. Neither the Injils nor the Tawrah have ever been found. Not a letter, not a pen stroke. In all of the Judaeo/Christian material authenticated in the Holy Land through 2,100 years, not a whisper of Mohammed or Allah. That is a fact.

The Gospels have been validated as existing substantially unchanged from their original forms to the satisfaction of all legitimate scholars. Also unearthed and examined are the apocryphal gospels, the Gnostic texts of the period. Not a single document in the 600 years between the Crucifixion and the Qur’an makes mention of Allah or confirms Mohammed’s message. That is a fact.

Fact: There are thousands of archaeological museums and private collections of antiquities. In that accumulated treasure of the past we share, there is not a single exhibit of an Injil or Tawrah.

Until Islam produces the so called uncorrupted texts, isn’t your entire argument, the dog ate my homework?

The Qur’an stands or falls on the reliability of Mohammed’s revealed message. That message contradicts every historically affirmed text and tradition of both Jews and Christians. On Mohammad’s word alone.

Now, dear friends, let me ask you a question. I know you will be honest. Would you convert based on that non-existent evidence? 600 years and 1,000 miles removed? Absent the purported mesmerizing purity of the Arabic and absent the self validating assumptions inherent in a closed culture?

Based on the facts alone, is there really any reason at all for a Christian to accept the Qur’an as truth?

When I first started to engage in Christian/Muslim apologetics, I assumed this argument would be the one in force. I was stunned to find it virtually absent on the internet. And while I thought Islam was deliberately obscuring the inquiry, I find to my amazement many Muslims themselves find the argument unfamiliar. It is my sincere hope that a renewed conversation will follow.

Will the irrefutable evidence against the Injils be enough to persuade 1.6 billion Muslims to leave their faith? Probably not. Belief is deeply rooted in the mind and the emotions we experience over a lifetime can easily drown a bare fact, if it’s troubling enough.  The true sense of brotherhood among Muslims, the hours of sincere devotion, the shared meals and warm friendships, those are also facts, facts of personal experience and they often weigh more in the balance than those of mere intellect alone.

Could the refutation of the Qur’an, based on it’s own claims, be enough to cause a crisis of faith? A reexamination? Or, at very least, an honest discussion?

God alone knows. Time alone will tell.

Yours, In the Hope of the Nazarene

Dan Bennett

The Way

A First Century Church for the 21st Century

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

Are you a serious Christian who despairs—groans in the Spirit—at the thought of the fragmented, contentious, self-righteous, judgmental state of the Church today?

Are you a mature Christian who longs for a community that does not cast out members for doctrinal disputes or power struggles or personality clashes? (we don’t have them)

Are you longing to love Jesus and each other as fervently, authentically as the first Christians?

Who are we?
What’s different about us?

• We model our service based on 1st century traditions.
• We greet each other by making a Sign of the Cross on our hearts
• We love one another
• We do not have a Pastor. Or a Board. Or Synod or See.
• We don’t tithe
• We love one another
• We do not have a Church hierarchy, but an equal fellowship before Christ.
• We are a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. In every circumstance.
• We make a commitment to speak the truth. In every circumstance.
• No politics, no drama, no gossip.
• We love one another

What do we believe?

• We believe in the literal Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
• We believe in the Trinity: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit
• We believe that the Bible is the Holy Word of God. Perfect True Transcendent not Literal
• We believe in the Atoning Death of Jesus Christ and in the Power of His Cross
• We believe Jesus established the Kingdom of God with his death and that the Kingdom of God is here now, a reality hidden by unbelief.
• We believe in the Power of God to heal and restore on Earth as in Heaven.
• We believe it is possible to obey His new commandment that Christians love each other. We believe our service reflects that Love practically.
We follow a 1st Century model of Christian Worship.

• The Cross is at the center the Altar
• All face the Cross in Worship
• Service begins with by ringing a small bell and begins with five minutes of silent meditation of the Cross.
• Scriptural Meditation: After meditation of the Cross, a Brother or Sister will read a passage of scripture. The faithful reflect on the passage in silence.
• Eleven more times, another passage is read, and reflected upon in silence
• Holy Communion is distributed among the faithful.

Silent reflection is the core of this liturgy.  We spend most of the service as a group in Silence.

After Holy Communion, the service is ended.Brothers and Sisters now share their time with each other over a  meal.

Why do you wear a cross?

• We wear a cross because we are slaves to Christ and the Cross signifies our bondage.
• We wear a cross because we read Matt 10:38 & 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23 & 14:27 and 1 Cor 2:2
• We identify ourselves as Christians whenever we go out in public by wearing the cross and we take the added public scrutiny of our behavior as a blessing.

• Martin Luther’s 92nd and 93rd theses:
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

***

Found the pages above while clearing out my projects folder. The idea for this Cross centered service came to me one day when thinking about the kind of church I would like to belong to.

It shares, I think, some of the advantages of a house church–small group intimacy, deep prayer–without the almost inevitable personal conflicts and doctrinal squabbles. It shares with High Church an expression of God in authentic liturgy without two thousand years of corruption making its way into the Body. Eastern, Western and Reform and Evangelical all have the beam in the eye that marks a hypocrite.

All those expressions of Christ have also, of course,  produced great, saintly Christians each in their own traditions. We wish to have a community of Christians that produces true Christian love with the essential doctrine as the exclusive doctrine. All you need believe is that Christ died for the sins of the world and was resurrected in a new body three days later in fulfillment of God’s promise.That is the doctrine in its entirety according to the venerable C S Lewis.

The uncountable books and spoken words amassed in exegesis–billions on Justification alone–through two thousand years, some directed by the Holy Spirit, some clearly not, all those have had their place in the unfolding of the Gospel. But it is very late brothers and sisters. Very late. Isn’t now the time to reduct our witness to His Love?

Isn’t keeping doctrine to essentials crucial to becoming and then enacting the Love of Christ to the world?

The Cross is the living symbol of the Living God.

The word Love should leap into our minds when we see the Cross.

That is our job now, isn’t it? To prove Love and the Cross synonymous to the unbelieving world.

May We Come In?

This is addressed to White Christians in America.

It is for those attending a predominantly white Church, or a church with a white pastor. It is intended as well for the many unaffiliated white Christians, the Nones, young and old, who have stopped going to church altogether.

Dear Fellow White Christians:

Find a new church. In a Black community. With an African American pastor. If getting to a black church is a problem logistically, hire a black pastor for your church. Gently, very gently, tell your white pastor to step down and take a lesser role.

This will be the first time many of us have been in an African American church, so let’s make sure we mind our manners. Sit in the back pews if there is any room at all; unlike white churches, many black churches are bursting. (And for God’s sake, when the music starts, just relax. You aren’t going to clap on the upbeat anyway, so just surrender to the pure gospel joy of an African American choir). This back-benching will be an adjustment for some of us, who are used to a certain deference paid to us for our tithing generosity. Actually, I’m glad I brought that up.

Bring your bank card. Bring your Bible. Read Matthew 19:20-22.  Act accordingly. That is, if you have resources. If you are a poor white Christian, take heart. You are about to feel a church embrace you with His warmth, maybe for the first time in your life.

Since we will be the new congregants let’s get ready to take those humble roles to help our new church function smoothly. We’ll take over the janitorial duties, setting up the chairs, stocking the pamphlets in the pews, cleaning the toilets. Work we can do for the Lord and our new congregation that allows us to spend some quiet time in church. We need to practice being quiet, most of us, because we need to learn to listen.

That will be the single hardest job for us, to listen.

White Christians in America are far more experienced at talking about race than listening. We are even better at not hearing at all. But please don’t despair, brothers and sisters, that’s just the Enemy’s doing. We can wake up at any moment if we hear the True Gospel. So let’s listen. For once, let’s just shut up and listen.

The Reverend Doctor King–a triple honorific of a name–confided that his biggest error in judgment was believing that white Christians would join the Civil Rights Movement as a body once they understood the Biblical necessity of racial justice. Just how wrong he was is horrifically evident in Charleston.

We white Christians can’t prove Dr King right about our moral bearing and Christian conscience–that ship has sailed. But we can recognize that our failure to embrace racial justice is another stripe on His back, another nail in His hand.

Let’s find a church where we can hear that Truth.

Pain and Policy

Caught up watching the the Charleston Massacre coverage unfold on TV.

Face after face, some in tears, most beyond the comfort of tears. Death and loss, sorrow, heartache. Pain.

Pain.

This is the crux of the problem, isn’t it?  The emotional pain that is at the center of every human life. It is a bizarre fact of the human psyche that we either ignore this pain as a topic or leave it to comedians to dissipate in laughter–Louis CK is a brilliant therapist.

That is, we ignore the pain other people experience. We are quite involved on all levels of consciousness in the intricate, day by day, moment by moment status of our own personal emotional pain. We acknowledge that others suffer, with varying degrees of empathy, but really, the vast majority of us understand Pain as that thing at the center my life.

Three hundred million Americans, all going to bed at night reliving the defeats of the day, the slights, put downs, cold looks; sometimes worse. The loss of a job, or of health insurance that will make security more tenuous. How will I pay the bills? Take care of my kids? Sometimes dire, a diagnosis, a physical threat. The anxiety of these thoughts lodge in the center of our psyches and cause deep emotional wounds. And of course, as we see in the news, a version of that pain converts to pure violence.

So this is my question: Why isn’t Pain a Public Policy issue?

The public life we  have now exists to serve a corporate entity, primarily financial. The individual is always associated with some corporate body in this system. The Government, Wall Street, corporate America; the alternative is the penal and mental health systems. The individual is expected to ignore, suppress, medicate away the deep sense of emptiness and loss we feel at the core, in order to function more efficiently in a system that holds us in no intrinsic regard at all.

Why don’t we order society for the express purpose of recognizing this truth: A society whose principal purpose is to address the only universal condition of its citizens? Ethnicity, income, health and mindset all will vary from person to person, but that unsettled, scary feeling at the core is one we all feel.

In other words, why don’t we build a society that, to the maximum extent possible, revolves around the value of Empathy?

What would that look like?

Full employment. Universal Healthcare. Merciful immigration. Free education. A rehabilitative, not punitive, court and penal system. Clean environment. Transparent financial system. Adoption of every child who needs a family. Each and every point by the way, endorsed and supported by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Feeling good about that, Liberals? Clean sweep?  Wait. One caveat.

Near zero abortions. The rarest of medical emergencies. A Public Policy that aimed at eliminating pain would include the pain felt by a fetus.