Midwest Conservative Journal
My bride and I are teaching a CCD class of fifth and sixth graders. The kids are a joy: inquisitive and bright. One of the topics last evening was the Trinity. When we came to Jesus we described him as the Son of God. One of our students later asked if Mary was the only human conceived without sin, what about Jesus. I replied that Jesus was also conceived without sin, but that we could never encompass Jesus just among humans since he was both God and Man. My bride then quoted Scripture: “A Man like us in all things but sin.” The great question for all of us remains that one posed by Jesus twenty centuries ago: “Who do you say that I am?” Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, at his blog, Midwest Conservative Journal, attacks one of the most common mistaken answers to that question by contemporary leftists:
You know what would be awesome, asks New York Times
über-douche columnist Nick Kristof. If Christians didn’t have to believe a bunch of stupid rules and stuff:
One puzzle of the world is that religions often don’t resemble their founders.
I now officially have a bad feeling about this.
Jesus never mentioned gays or abortion but focused on the sick and the poor, yet some Christian leaders have prospered by demonizing gays.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow WAY down there, cowboy. “Demonizing gays?” Really? You really want to go there, Nick? News flash. For 2,000 years, Christians taught that homosexual activity was a sin. There, I said it. And if you think that telling someone that his alcoholism is destroying himself and his family or suggesting that maybe he might want to think about not doing his best friend’s really hot and quite underage daughter on a regular basis is “demonizing,” then yeah, guilty as charged, Nick.
It’s what actual Christians are supposed to do.
By the way, Nick, if you’re interested, here’s a partial list of other stuff that Jesus “never mentioned.” Genocide, overdue library books, racism, recycling, fracking, using fossil fuels, running with scissors, Mohammed, nuclear war, jaywalking, preventing global warming, preventing global cooling, preventing global lukewarming, the “human right” of men who claim that they’re women to use women’s rest rooms, Donald Trump, “Islamophobia,” Whole Foods’ criminally-excessive mark-up, why anyone anywhere thought Seinfeld was funny, gender pay equity, Hillary Clinton, the inanity of Twitter, the fact that über-airhead Maureen Dowd still has a New York Times column, “homophobia,” the fact that St. Louis doesn’t have an AHL team while Chicago, Toronto and San Jose do, suicide bombings, political corruption, “transphobia,” the University of Oregon’s football uniforms, driving while intoxicated, blogging while intoxicated, putting free tampons in men’s bathrooms, the NFL, etc.
Do you see where I’m going with this, Nick? Of all the weak arguments in the leftist Christian arsenal, the “Jesus never said anything about it” dodge is pretty much the single weakest arrow in their quiver. But Nick’s not worried. Because he’s got some serious Christian firepower backing him up.
“Our religions often stand for the very opposite of what their founders stood for,” notes Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor, in a provocative and powerful new book, “The Great Spiritual Migration.”
“No wonder more and more of us who are Christians by birth, by choice, or both find ourselves shaking our heads and asking, ‘What happened to Christianity?’” McLaren writes. “We feel as if our founder has been kidnapped and held hostage by extremists. His captors parade him in front of cameras to say, under duress, things he obviously doesn’t believe. As their blank-faced puppet, he often comes across as anti-poor, anti-environment, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant and anti-science. That’s not the Jesus we met in the Gospels!”
McLaren is as much of a Christian as Oprah Winfrey. Nick’s piece just gets dumber and dumber so I’m going to bail out now. But I’ll leave you with the fact that while there are a lot of sins that Jesus never directly mentioned, there were quite a few sins that He did mention. And none of that latter group of sins, Nick, will sit well with Millennials.
Take adultery. According to Jesus, adultery is not just bumping uglies with that hot woman you’re not married to. If you see a woman in the grocery store, say, and you think, “Boy, what I wouldn’t give to be able to hit that” then congratulations. You’re officially an adulterer.
Murder is bad? So is being angry with someone.
Just can’t keep your eyes off this really hot divorced chick one pew over? Not such a hot idea.
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
That’s the real Jesus, Nick. Not the one that people like you and Bri-Bri invented to deaden your consciences. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal says it all:
From the United States Code, Title 18, section 793(f):
Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
There’s nothing in there about whether or not Hillary “intended” to break the law, Jimmy boy.
Today, the FBI sold out the Rule of Law in America. After describing clear evidence of extensive mishandling of classified national security information, FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI will not recommend indicting former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. This is naked crony government, ugly and exposed. Comey’s decision will go down as one of the government’s worst assaults on truth in its War on Honesty.
Today’s press conference was, in many respects, an exercise in legal and cognitive dissonance. Comey acknowledged Clinton sent and received Top Secret emails that “any reasonable person” understands not to discuss on an unclassified system.
Red flags? Excuse me, sir—that’s a crime.
Comey also acknowledged her email system was housed on unclassified personal servers that lacked full time security systems. Indeed, nations and groups hostile to the U.S. could have hacked the system. Comey acknowledged “hostile actors” hacked individuals corresponding with Clinton on her unauthorized system. She also used her unsecured personal system outside of the U.S.—in places where sophisticated adversaries could hack her communications.
Comey called this careless. Sir, it is reprehensible. It is reckless disregard of American security.
Then he said he would not recommend indictment.
This is beyond outrage. Everyone who has carried a Top Secret clearance and had access to Top Secret information knows that Clinton has criminally violated the laws protecting classified information. These laws serve a purpose. Protecting security secrets is essential to protecting America.
I am certain [Comey] expects an angry reaction, and he should also expect sustained anger. Public trust in the federal government is near an all-time low, and Comey’s decision is a heavy blow. Elitists should prepare for sustained disrespect of laws they favor. A large slice of the American population, fed up with crony government and crony capitalism, will begin experimenting with civil disobedience. As a former community organizer, President Obama is no position to object.
You know that Hillary Clinton has taken a torpedo amidships when the KINDEST POSSIBLE spin anyone can put on this travesty of justice is that Hillary is too bonecrushingly stupid to even be allowed on a White House tour, never mind being elected to the presidency of the most powerful country in the world as even the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza admits.
Here’s the good news for Hillary Clinton: The FBI has recommended that no charges be brought following its investigation of the former secretary of state’s private email server.
Here’s the bad news: Just about everything else.
FBI Director James B. Comey dismantled large portions of Clinton’s long-told story about her private server and what she sent or received on it during a stirring 15-minute news conference, after which he took no questions. While Comey exonerated Clinton, legally speaking, he provided huge amounts of fodder that could badly hamstring her in the court of public opinion.
Most importantly, Comey said the FBI found 110 emails on Clinton’s server that were classified at the time they were sent or received. That stands in direct contradiction to Clinton’s repeated insistence she never sent or received any classified emails. And it even stands in contrast to her amended statement that she never knowingly sent or received any classified information.
And while OJ Simpson was cleared of murdering his wife and Ronald Goldman, it did not ultimately matter much what a California court wrongly decided since from that moment, Simpson’s life was effectively over.
That said, campaigns aren’t governed by the ultimate legality of what Clinton did or didn’t do. So, while dodging an indictment is a good thing — she isn’t under criminal investigation and remains a candidate — it’s a far different thing from being cleared (or even close to it) in the court of public opinion.
For a candidate already badly struggling on questions of whether she is honest and trustworthy enough to hold the office to which she aspires, Comey’s comments are devastating. Watching them, I could close my eyes and imagine them spliced into a bevy of 30-second ads — all of which end with the FBI director rebuking Clinton as “extremely careless.”
So where are we?
(1) None of this should shock or surprise anyone since The Single Most Lawless Presidential Administration In The History Of This Country, The Nixon Administration Included corrupts everything it touches and everyone connected with it. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken a hit from which it may take a generation to recover. And that hit was entirely self-inflicted.
(2) Remember when people asked, “Do you really want someone like Donald Trump anywhere near this country’s nuclear launch codes?” Considering everything that’s transpired, any country that would allow Hillary Clinton near those codes has a national death wish.
(3) Hillary Clinton might be the stupidest person who has ever lived. Or she might the most arrogant (but there’s no reason why she can’t be both). Either way, electing her to the most powerful office in this land would signal open season on her and on rest of the left’s political enemies. And probably the downfall of the republic.
(4) Because if the American people are mentally challenged enough to elect the Va-Jay-Jay, it’s not too hard to imagine many state legislatures suddenly taking a, for lack of a better term, “Jacksonian” view of the “rule of law.”
Let’s say that the State of Missouri elects a conservative Republican governor this fall and keeps its Republican-dominated General Assembly. Let’s also say that the legislature passes and the new governor signs a measure which not only forbids “gay marriage” and legally invalidates all that have been performed in the state but allows anyone in a public or private capacity to opt out of direct or even indirect participation in a “gay marriage” without any possible legal sanction of any kind.
YOU CAN’T DO THAT, shrieks the left. THE SUPREME COURT SAYS YOU CAN’T!!
Maybe so, replies Missouri. But the Supreme Court has made its decision. Now let the Supreme Court enforce it. Because “the rule of law” either applies to everyone or it applies to no one at all. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, brings us this story that highlights one of the problems that the Church has these days with precious snowflakes who think they are heroic rebels:
Northwestern University student Kathleen Ferraro was RAISED CATHOLIC!! and thinks that it’s extremely important for all of you people to understand that fact:
My name is Kathleen and I am a little Catholic schoolgirl. I wore a sweater vest and knee-highs and a skirt that could be no more than two inches above my knees. Rogue nuns wandered the halls of my high school. We “left room for Jesus” at school dances, all of which were supervised by a resident priest. I come from a devoutly Roman Catholic family from a primarily Catholic community largely dominated by Catholic institutions, schools, values and beliefs.
Yet young Katie doesn’t consider herself Catholic any more.
And yet against all odds, I don’t fit into Catholicism. My Catholic upbringing and education seemed the perfect formula for a perfect Catholic. Nonetheless, I’ve developed values and beliefs that significantly diverge from this foundation.
Gee. Wonder what those might be.
Whenever I think about this question, I always resort to my list-making ways, crafting an inventory of the reasons that Catholicism has not worked for me. Old-fashioned values and traditions, hesitation towards accepting the LGBTQ community and inherent political undertones of church leadership leave me feeling conflicted and uneasy. I will never understand why dressing up in a modest J.Crew dress and sitting in the first pew at church trumps participating in a climate march, or why accepting doctrine on faith alone beats independent thinking, questioning and customizing one’s religious life. For me, religion has been more a culture of privilege than of prayer, a competition of piety rather than a humble quest of personal growth and spiritual connection. These are all examples from my experience with religion that motivate me to reject Catholicism, but as I think about it, are these also reasons that Catholicism rejects me?
No, because that’s just stupid.
I believe it is. Speaking only for the Catholic institutions I come from, I do not fit the prototype of what a Catholic is supposed to be–the by the book churchgoer who accepts Catholicism because that is what is true.
I am pro-choice, don’t go to church on Sundays, don’t put stock in the Bible or doctrine, challenge traditional ideas of religion and spirituality and care infinitely more about trying to be a kind, humble person than actively worshipping.
In other words, an Episcopalian.
On one hand, this rejection validates my personal beliefs and their deliberate divergence from Catholicism. On the other hand, this rejection leaves me unfulfilled. I find myself an outsider, subject to the Catholic exclusivity that ostracizes other divergent thinkers and doers: the very exclusivity that prompts me to reject Catholicism in the first place. Its a perplexing paradox – my beliefs exclude me and define me as an independent. And because my beliefs disqualify me from active participation, I am consequently excluded from a community that I want to engage with, though not necessarily be a part of. I would say “its not you, its me,” but I think “its not me, its you” is equally appropriate.
I’m not saying that my beliefs are right,
You are so.
but I am saying that I want to be heard, not just listened to.
Every Anglican in the world knows that means that we keep yammering until the Roman Catholic Church realizes that it’s wrong and I’m right.
For me, this conversation is not about stylizing religion to suit the tastes of young adults;
HAW, HAW HAW, HAW, HAW, HAW, HAW, HAW, HAW, HAW!!
it’s about aligning all voices with the process of organized religion and earnestly engaging in different conceptualizations of faith.
Whatever that means. Katie? I’d like to tell you a little bit about my mom.
Over and over again, I’m amazed at what a visionary my mother was. Mom was also RAISED CATHOLIC!! but had some sort of major conflict with the Catholic Church in the 40′s, the nature of which she never disclosed to any of us.
I suspect what it might have been but I don’t know for certain so I’m not going to speculate. But to those of you whose parents are still with you, a word of warning; you find out quite a bit after they shuffle off this mortal coil.
Mom was always a little bit of a rebel. She was born and raised in New York City and when she was in college at Adelphi, she vocally stood up for the Jews. She’d married in the late 30′s, early 40′s, somewhere in there, and had a daughter shortly after that. Her husband was killed during the war and after it, she was a single mom with a little girl to raise and she didn’t have any money coming in.
So Mom found herself a job. In Montana. She left New York City and never again entertained the idea of ever going back.
Anyway, Mom’s got this problem with the Roman Catholic Church. Know what she did about it, Katie?
She left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopalians. My mom loved the Episcopal Church until the end of her life. And as far as I know, she was the only one in her family who ever did anything like that. Her brother, my Uncle Howard, remained Catholic until the end of his life.
Kid? The Catholic Church is almost 2,000 years old; you’re not. Your idea that the Catholic Church needs to conform itself to the
bumper stickers beliefs of the Young PeopleTM is too absurd for any intelligent person to even begin to entertain. So emulate my mother, grow a freaking spine and drop into one of Chicagoland’s many fine Episcopal parishes next Sunday. You’ll be glad you did. Continue reading
Charlton Heston never played Jesus in a film, to the best of my knowledge, but he famously was Moses and also played John the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told. I so much wanted to hear him say, “You can have this sword when you pry it from my Cold. Dead. Hands!”
Deacon Michael D. Harmon
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, takes a verbal axe at Midwest Conservative Journal to the latest bizarre explanation of why Christ was condemned by Pilate:
Premise: a Christian event that happened over 2,000 years ago has been pondered, studied and debated from the moment it occurred until the present day and general agreement about the significance of that event has been reached. You, on the other hand, with the able assistance of “Christian scholarship,” have come up with a Radically New InterpretationTM of the meaning of that event:
Jesus may have been crucified because his followers were carrying weapons, according to a scholarly analysis of New Testament books.
Dale Martin, a professor of religious studies at Yale University, says that this aspect of stories about Jesus, as told in the gospels, has received too little attention, but could alone explain Jesus’s execution and also show that the man from Nazareth was not the pacifist he’s usually made out to be.
The biblical books of Mark and Luke both state that at least one (and probably two or more) of Jesus’s followers was carrying a sword when Jesus was arrested shortly after the Last Supper, at the time of the Jewish festival of Passover. One disciple, Simon Peter, even used his sword to cut off the ear of one of those arresting Jesus, according to the Gospel of John.
This militant behavior almost certainly wouldn’t have been tolerated by the Romans, led by the prefect Pontius Pilate, Martin tells Newsweek. For example, historical documents show that it was illegal at the time to walk about armed in Rome and in some other Roman cities. Although no legal records survive from Jerusalem, it stands to reason, based on a knowledge of Roman history, that the region’s rulers would have frowned upon the carrying of swords, and especially wouldn’t have tolerated an armed band of Jews roaming the city during Passover, an often turbulent festival, Martin says.
“Just as you could be arrested in Rome for even having a dagger, if Jesus’s followers were armed, that would be reason enough to crucify him,” says Martin, whose analysis was published this month in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament.
Conclusion: you’re not only wrong but you’re dumber than a bag of hammers.
Paula Fredriksen, a historian of ancient Christianity at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says Martin’s paper has several holes “that you could drive trucks through.”
For one, she doesn’t think it’s legitimate to assume that since carrying arms was illegal in the city of Rome, the same laws necessarily applied in Jerusalem. Control of the city wasn’t too tight, she argues, and the Roman prefect visited only during Passover, to help keep the peace. And during this time it probably would’ve been impossible to police the thousands of Jews that spilled into Jerusalem.
“I can’t even imagine what a mess it was,” she says.
Furthermore, she says, the Greek word used in the Gospels that Martin interprets as sword really means something more akin to knife. And these could be easily concealed, she adds. “Only professionals,” like soldiers, “carried swords,” she says.
While we’re on the subject of weapons, people didn’t carry staffs back then only because they needed help navigating the terrain. Staffs also offered [limited] protection against wild animals. Or wild people, whatever the case may have been.
Dear Newsweek or the Daily Beast or the Daily Tina Brown’s Ego or whatever you’re calling yourselves this week. Stop writing about the Christian religion. Just stop. You people have no idea how stupid you’re making yourselves look. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic, demonstrates yet again why I long ago designated him Defender of the Faith:
A continuing series
Thank you for your interest in writing for the National Catholic Reporter. Although we welcome your submissions at any time, we hope that these occasional posts help you to become exactly the sort of writer NCR is looking for. The following piece by Robert McClory illustrates two key abilities every great NCR writer needs to learn how to perform well. The first of these is how to:
Play dumber than a bag of hammers – Commenting on a recent column by Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago in which George said this:
Now, George says, “society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered ‘sinful.’ Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The ‘ruling class,’ those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone.”
I don’t understand what George is saying. If many states pass, for example, approval of gay marriage, aren’t Catholics free to oppose it in keeping with official church teaching, just as they are free to oppose the sale of contraceptives in drug stores? If the government requires insurance policies to cover the purchase of contraceptives, are not Catholics free to object, as George has done for months? But I don’t see how any of this amounts to a “ruling class” imposing “its own form of morality on everyone.”
The simple fact of that matter is that, unless he is too stupid to be allowed outside without supervision, McClory knows perfectly well what George means. But McClory has to pretend that he doesn’t; otherwise, he must explain why being governmentally coerced into committing a sin is fine as long as you’re free to feel bad about it as well as why being governmentally coerced into sin isn’t “imposing morality.”
The second ability any good NCR writer needs to know particularly well is how to:
Duck the question – Cardinal George continues.
“It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith,” [George] says, “will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”
One assumes that McClory knows that George’s last sentence has already happened several times since several private businesses have been driven into bankruptcy by the legal assaults of homosexuals. One also assumes that McClory remembers the Chick-Fil-A controversy of a while back in which the homosexual community as well as several prominent politicians publicly execrated Chick-Fil-A and wished for its destruction simply because its CEO opposed the concept of homosexual “marriage.”
Assuming that McClory knows all this, how does he respond? Like any great National Catholic Reporter writer would.
I hope some of George’s clearer-thinking colleagues would gather around their partner and urge him to consider a more positive, optimistic future for Catholicism. Is not the Holy Spirit still among us? Continue reading
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, over at his Midwest Conservative Journal takes a look at the cold call imbroglio:
A new Roman Catholic Doctrinal FirestormTM has recently erupted:
Did Pope Francis tell a divorced and remarried woman that it was okay to take Communion even though her parish priest denied her the host?
That’s the latest kerfuffle created by the “cold-call” pope who on Monday, the day after Easter, called an Argentine woman who had written to him about whether she should receive communion at Mass even though she was divorced and remarried.
“There are priests who are more papist than the pope,” the pope himself reportedly told Jacquelina Lisbona.
Kudos to CNN, which UPDATES the story with reporting from three continents (literally): CNN has a Vatican spokesman confirming that the call did indeed take place, but the Rev. Thomas Rosica provided no details.
“It’s between the Pope and the woman,” said Rosica, a consultant for the Vatican press office.
“To draw any conclusions about this particular situation, that the Pope may be setting an agenda, is incorrect,” Rosica told the network. “The Pope is first and foremost an esteemed pastor, and dealing with a human situation is always complex.”
That’s good to keep in mind, though if the contents of the pope’s conversation with Lisbona are true, then this is a big deal, at least in terms of the example Francis is setting rather than the doctrine that he is not changing.
Here’s the woman’s account of the phone call.
“The phone rang and my husband answered. It was Fr. Bergoglio calling. The father asked to speak to me and my husband asked: ‘Who’s calling?’, to which the voice replied ‘Fr. Bergoglio.’ I asked him if it was really him, the pope, and he said it was and that he was calling in response to my letter dated September.
“Then he told me there are some priests who are more papist that the pope. He was completely normal with me on the phone and I tried to speak to him with the utmost respect. Now I am overwhelmed by the enormous effect this story has had and I feel moved by the fact that I spoke to Francis. I told him I would write to him again when I take Communion again.”
Was this call actually made? It seems to have been.
Yes, the pope called Jacquelina Lisbona. The real question regards the content of the conversation. If indeed he said those things this would be a big deal because she is still in what the church would call an “irregular” marriage. Her husband is divorced, and they have not been married in the church.
In any case, Francis once again has set an example for the rest of the hierarchy even without changing church law, and it’s in keeping with the pope’s character — Francis has frequently shown little patience with priests who are “little monsters” (his words) who cite “small-minded” rules rather than ministering mercy to people.
Damian Thompson has posts on this story up here and here. This site’s Catholic readership can hash this out in the comments (in fact, I hope you guys do) but I am, for the most part, going to adhere to MCJ policy about controversial Roman Catholic news stories, hold off for a few days and wait to see how this thing plays out.
But somebody is going to have to remind Francis of the difference between a parish priest and the leader of a great Christian church as well as the reigning sovereign of the world’s oldest, continuous monarchy. Parish priests have a certain rhetorical latitude that popes do not, indeed cannot, have. Continue reading
You will find that a good many Christian political writers think that Christianity began going wrong in departing from the doctrine of its founder at a very early stage. Now this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a “historical Jesus” to be found by clearing away later “accretions and perversions,” and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a “historical Jesus” on liberal and humanitarian lines. We are now putting forward a new “historical Jesus” on Marxian, catastrophic and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold. In the first place they all tend to direct man’s devotion to something which does not exist. Because each “historical Jesus” is unhistorical, the documents say what they say and they cannot be added to. Each new “historical Jesus” has to be got out of them by suppression at one point and exaggeration at another point. And by that sort of guessing (brilliant is the adjective we teach humans to apply to it) on which no one would risk ten shillings in ordinary life, but which is enough to produce a crop of new Napoleons, new Shakespeares, and new Swifts in every publisher’s autumn list. . . . The “historical Jesus,” then, however dangerous he may seem to be to us at some particular point, is always to be encouraged.
CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Bart Ehrman, the New Testament scholar who transitioned from teenage evangelical, to liberal Christian, to agnostic, desperately wants to remake Christ in his own faithless image and therefore is popular with atheists and agnostics. He has a very old act, as the argument that he makes, that the Resurrection never happened and that Christ was but a man, has been made by anti-Christians since the Crucifixion. He puts old wine into a shiny new wineskin. He isn’t really very good at it, as Stephen Colbert, of all people, demonstrated several years ago. Go here to Creative Minority Report to view that.
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, turns his attention to Ehrman:
All sorts and conditions of men turn up at this site from time to time. Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians regularly comment here, disagree with one another’s theology now and then but do it, for the most part, respectfully.
That’s because of most of you, not me. You guys set the tone for this joint a long time ago. But if I do see what I consider to be disrespect in the comments, which happens, I’ll quietly edit the comment or remove it entirely. And if things get too intense in a comment thread, which sometimes happens, I won’t hesitate to shut that thread down.
I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing atheists comment here a lot more often than they do. I’m not talking about some douchebag whose default position is, “Christians are brain-dead morons” or who claims to collapse on his or her fainting couch at the mere sight of a Bible verse, a Christian Cross or any other Christian image.
I refer to that rare breed of atheist who doesn’t believe there’s a God but is comfortable with the fact that some people disagree and who doesn’t feel the need to insult or belittle religious believers. I can respect and even be friends with a person like that.
What I can’t and, indeed, refuse to respect are those atheists who still pretend to be Christians but who think that they’ve finally discovered What Actually Happened Two Thousand Years Ago And What It All Means. Guys like Bart Ehrman, say:
Jesus was a lower-class preacher from Galilee, who, in good apocalyptic fashion, proclaimed that the end of history as he knew it was going to come to a crashing end, within his own generation. God was soon to intervene in the course of worldly affairs to overthrow the forces of evil and set up a utopian kingdom on earth. And he would be the king.
Insert “but” here.
It didn’t happen. Instead of being involved with the destruction of God’s enemies, Jesus was unceremoniously crushed by them: arrested, tried, humiliated, tortured, and publicly executed.
Which is why Jesus’ influence ended right then and there and is also why absolutely no one anywhere, with the exception of obscure Middle Eastern scholars, has any idea who Jesus of Nazareth was. But for this bizarre reason, that’s not what actually happened. Stop Bart if you’ve heard this one.
The followers of Jesus came to think he had been raised because some of them (probably not all of them) had visions of him afterwards. Both Christian and non-Christian historians can agree that it was visions of Jesus that made some of Jesus’ followers convinced that he was no longer dead. Christians would say that the disciples had these visions because Jesus really appeared to them. Non-Christians would say that (several of ) the disciples had hallucinations. Hallucinations happen all the time. Especially of deceased loved ones (your grandmother who turns up in your bedroom) and of significant religious figures (the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appears regularly in extraordinarily well-documented events). Jesus was both a lost loved one and an important religious leader. As bereaved, heartbroken, and guilt-ridden followers, the disciples were prime candidates for such visionary experiences.
Once the disciples claimed Jesus was alive again but was (obviously) no longer here with them, they came to think that he had been taken up to heaven (where else could he be?). In ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish thinking, a person exalted to the heavenly realm was divinized – himself made divine. That’s what the earliest Christians thought about Jesus. After that a set of evolutionary forces took over, in which the followers of Jesus began saying more and more exalted things about him – that he had been made the son of God at his resurrection; no, it was at his baptism; no, it was at his birth; no, it was before he came into the world; no – he had never been made the son of God, he had always been the Son of God; in fact, he had always been God; more than that, he had created the world; and yet more, he was an eternal being equal with God Almighty.
That Kierkegaard quote’s on the top of this page for a reason. That an alleged “scholar” can seriously advance a view so fundamentally unscholarly, so absolutely unsupported by anything remotely resembling actual evidence, convinces me that a great deal of “Christian scholarship” is, as the Great Dane observed, as monumental an intellectual scam as the world has ever known.
Where to begin? Say what you want about him but Mohammed’s followers thought he was a prophet of God. No doubt, the Buddha’s disciples intensely revered him. Yet none of the followers of these two men, or any other great religious leader in world history, for that matter, ever invented a resurrection from the dead for their particular “prophet” and made that “resurrection” the basis of their religion.
Only the Christians did.
It seems to me that if you and all your associates somehow convince yourselves that you’ve seen the risen Jesus when you haven’t, you are, at some point, going to come down from your mass hallucinations. At which point, you can either admit to yourself that you were wrong or continue with the charade and maybe get yourselves executed at an early age for something that you know deep down is a lie.
And did any of you happen to notice who Ehrman leaves out here? I’ll give you a few hints. A devout Jew, he was not only not connected to the Apostles and Christ’s early believers in any way, he was, by his own admission, actively hostile to the new movement, imprisoning many of Christ’s followers and having others killed.
He received authorization to travel to Damascus in order to do more of this sort of thing. On the way there, he claimed that he saw a vision of the risen Christ, a claim from which he refused to back down to the end of his days, and began to preach Christ and Him crucified almost immediately. When they heard of it, the Apostles and most of the disciples initially and quite understandably didn’t trust him.
The man’s claim compelled him to plant Christian churches all over the eastern Mediterranean and to write letters to many of these churches, encouraging and/or upbraiding their members as the need arose. And this man’s claim about what he saw on that road to Damascus ended up prematurely costing him his Earthly life.
I’m pretty sure that the guy had a short name. Don’t hold me to this but I think that it began with a P. It’s right on the tip of my tongue.
I don’t know about you, Ehrman, but I can’t make myself die for an illusion. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, takes a look at how NBC refers to Communism, an ideology that has a murder total of one hundred million and counting:
Last evening, NBC opened its Olympic coverage from Russia with the following montage:
The towering presence, the empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint. The revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures. As a more reliable right to their collective heart. What they build in aspirations lifted by imagination. What they craft, through the wonder of every last detail. How magical the fusion of sound and movement can be. How much a glass of distilled perfection and an overflowing table can matter. Discover the Russian people through these indelible signatures. Discover what we share with them through the games that open here tonight.
Watch the video. As the highlighted words above are spoken, take careful note of the image that appears on the screen. And then thank God that Germany isn’t scheduled to host an Olympics any time soon. Continue reading
GK Chesterton once opined that “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, gives us a perfect example:
The other day, Bob Wright, Georgia’s Episcopal pointy hat, opened a speech before some “interfaith” complete waste of time or other in this fashion:
Good afternoon. Greetings to you in the name of Yahweh the Almighty, in the name of Allah the beneficent and merciful. Greetings to you in the name of the Eternal One who gave the Buddha his great enlightenment, and in the name of the Hindus’ Supreme Being that orders the cosmos.
I guess I could thoroughly document all the ways that that’s not only wrong but actually kind of insulting to many more people than Christians. But do you know how to tell when you’re just about finished with the Episcopalians? When you read something like that and the only reaction you can come up with is to say to yourself, “Whatever, Bob. And why do you hate Zoroastrians, bigot?”
Go here to read the comments. The mindset of Mr. Wright infests many who call themselves Christians today, even within the Church. It is hard for me to convey not only how mistaken this is, but how truly evil it is. Christ and the Jews who did not follow Him gave us an example of what I mean:
 The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?  Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.  They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
John 8: 57-59
Jesus in this passage stated that He is God, the great I AM that revealed Himself to Moses. The Jews who did not believe Him were ready to stone Him for this blasphemy. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels in defense of the Church so frequently that I have named him Defender of the Faith, has a memorable fisk at his blog Midwest Conservative Journal of Jamie Stiehm’s anti-Catholic rant, that I fisked here. Here is Christopher’s fisk:
In a case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor recently issued a temporary stay against the implementation of that DemocraticPartyCare provision that forces religious entities that consider it to be a grave sin to pay for their employees’ birth control or to facilitate such payment.
I’m not a lawyer but I imagine that Supreme Court justices issue these sorts of stays all the time against quite a few laws for a variety of procedural reasons. These justices may eventually find that these laws are entirely constitutional while nevertheless insisting that everything be done decently and in good legal order.
But that’s not how Jamie Stiehm saw it in Useless News & World Distort. According to Stiehm, Sonia Sotamayor is not a leftist “wise Latina” but a Vatican Trojan horse:
Et tu, Justice Sonia Sotomayor? Really, we can’t trust you on women’s health and human rights? The lady from the Bronx just dropped the ball on American women and girls as surely as she did the sparkling ball at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Or maybe she’s just a good Catholic girl.
And we’re off. Get yourselves something good to drink, folks, because this is going to be a wild ride.
The Supreme Court is now best understood as the Extreme Court. One big reason why is that six out of nine Justices are Catholic.
What should Obama do about it? Declare war on the Papal States or something?
Let’s be forthright about that. (The other three are Jewish.) Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, is a Catholic who put her religion ahead of her jurisprudence. What a surprise, but that is no small thing.
A hundy says Jamie’s an Episcopalian. That issue-a-result-I-don’t-like-and-you’ve-put-your-religion-ahead-of-your-jurisprudence take is a dead giveaway.
In a stay order applying to an appeal by a Colorado nunnery, the Little Sisters of the Poor,
Kind of like saying that St. Peter’s is just another Roman parish church but do go on.
Justice Sotomayor undermined the new Affordable Care Act’s sensible policy on contraception. She blocked the most simple of rules – lenient rules – that required the Little Sisters to affirm their religious beliefs against making contraception available to its members. They objected to filling out a one-page form. What could be easier than nuns claiming they don’t believe in contraception?
Might that have something to do with the fact that most people figured out a long time ago that the United States government has absolutely no business whatsofreakingever issuing ANY rules about religious doctrine to any religious groups at all because of that First Amendment doohickey, you simple-minded bucket of spit?
Sotomayor’s blow brings us to confront an uncomfortable reality. More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Especially if “you” are female.
This explains why capital punishment in this country is rare to non-existent these days and why this country’s had universal health care for decades now.
This is not true of all Catholics – just look at House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
An EWDKIY (an Episcopalian Who Doesn’t Know It Yet). Then there’s the fact that Sotomayor’s a sex traitor.
But right now, the climate is so cold when it comes to defending our settled legal ground that Sotomayor’s stay is tantamount to selling out the sisterhood. And sisterhood is not as powerful as it used to be, ladies.
At the rate she’s going, Stiehm should break out “greaser” real soon.
Catholics in high places of power have the most trouble, I’ve noticed, practicing the separation of church and state. The pugnacious Catholic Justice, Antonin Scalia, is the most aggressive offender on the Court, but not the only one. Of course, we can’t know for sure what Sotomayor was thinking, but it seems she has joined the ranks of the five Republican Catholic men on the John Roberts Court in showing a clear religious bias when it comes to women’s rights and liberties. We can no longer be silent about this. Thomas Jefferson, the principal champion of the separation between state and church, was thinking particularly of pernicious Rome in his writings. He deeply distrusted the narrowness of Vatican hegemony.
It says up at the top of the link that Jamie’s “a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist.” And it’s facts like that one and paragraphs like the previous one that make me wonder about God sometimes. Why should someone that bonecrushingly stupid have a syndicated column while I have to blow through my father’s inheritance just to pay rent, put food on the table and keep the heat going?
Here’s a historical question for you, Jamie. Do you know what group basically motivated all of Jefferson’s various proposals for religious liberty, against official church establishment, for the seperation of church and state and all the rest of it?
I’ll give you a hint; amazingly, it wasn’t the Roman Catholics. There weren’t that many of them around here back then. It was the Anglicans, the ancestors of that pseudo-spiritual entity that’s currently run by a woman and that’s suing people out of their meeting houses because of what they believe. Starts with an E, I think.
The seemingly innocent Little Sisters likely were likely not acting alone in their trouble-making.
Their big brothers, the meddlesome American Roman Catholic Archbishops are bound to be involved. They seek and wield tremendous power and influence in the political sphere.
Yeah, sure they do. There should be a “Whore of Babylon” along any second now.
Big city mayors know their penchant for control all too well. Their principal target for years on end has been squelching women and girls – even when they should have focused on their own men and boys.
You do realize what you’re implying there, don’t you, Jamie?
In one stroke with ominous implications, there’s no such thing as Catholic justice or mercy for women on the Supreme Court, not even from a woman. The rock of Rome refuses to budge on women’s reproductive rights and the Supreme Court is getting good and ready to strike down Roe v. Wade, which became the law of the land 40 years ago.
Really? I’ll take your word for it. But exactly how a Supreme Court decision can become the “law of the land,” since the Supreme Court doesn’t pass laws but only rules on their constitutionality, completely escapes me.
Unless a major news story involving the Pope develops, PopeWatch plans in future that Saturday installments of PopeWatch will normally be lighthearted, however this installment is somewhat darkly humored indeed. Catholics can often rightly feel that there is much amiss in the Church. Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who often has taken up the cudgels to defend the Church, reminds us in a current post at Midwest Conservative Journal that the problems of Catholics might seem trivial to Christians in various sects:
This one’s all yours, partner. Just keep it clean:
The bookmakers were right. Today it was announced that the Church of Sweden’s new archbishop is Antje Jackelén. But who is the church’s new top leader, who has chosen part of the Muslim prayer call as her motto?
Many have been taken aback by the theological opinions Jackelén revealed during a questioning in Uppsala on October 1. The candidates for the highest position in the Swedish church were asked if they thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer Jackelén suddenly emerged as the bishop who couldn’t choose between Jesus and Muhammed. This provoked strong reactions on some editorial pages.
Kyrkans Tidning thought that the bishop’s answer might indicate that Christ is being relegated to the margins of the Church of Sweden and Dagens Nyheter encouraged the candidates to show some theological backbone. The editorial writer at the newspaper Dagen wrote that it is time to accept the idea of a split within the church – between Christians and those who think all religions are equally good.
The bishop of Lund’s preference for Allah has prompted one of the church’s most preeminent theologians, professor Eva Hamberg, to leave her post as a member of the church’s theological council in protest against bishop Antje Jackelén’s failure to stand behind the Church of Sweden’s profession of faith. As a reaction to what she calls ”the inner secularization of the Church of Sweden”, she has also renounced her position as priest and her membership of the church.
In a number of interviews Hamberg has expressed her disappointment that not even the top leader of the church will clearly profess a Christian faith but wavers between Jesus and Muhammed.
It is not only Jackelén’s motto and her unwillingness to put Jesus ahead of Muhammed that has evoked strong feelings among many committed Christians. During her questioning in Uppsala, the new archbishop also said that the Church of Sweden has more in common with other religions than with other Christian churches, that the Virgin Birth must be understood metaphorically, that hell doesn’t exist and that the Biblical texts should not be taken as truth. Continue reading