Nominating Mitt Romney

In circles of humility and modesty, no one cycles higher than Tom Sheepandgoats. Far be it from he to blow his own horn, but....hang it all....if you've nailed something, you've nailed it! Why not trumpet it far and wide throughout the blogosphere?

Several months ago I prophesied that Evengelical Born Agains would vote for a pig in heat before they would vote for a Mormon. Some readers were doubtful, and those of scientific bent still demand a pig should run Porkso as to properly test the hypothesis. But everyone else is convinced, having watched in dismay the unfolding of the 2012 Republican Primary race.

Among GOP (Grand Old Party) operatives, Mitt Romney is the guy they'd like to see as Presidential Candidate to run against Barrack Obama. The other wannabe's carry way too much baggage. They all have starry-eyed bases, to be sure, but that's it. In a general election you can't depend upon them to attract one additional vote. But with Romney you probably can, and thus he might conceivably beat Pres Obama, who is not that strong of an incumbent.

Even Romney doesn't positively thrill them, but he can probably get the job done. Why, oh why, they sigh, can't someone like Mitch O'Connell run? The South Dakota Senator gave the Republican response to the State of the Union and he was so reasonable, so reassuring, so competent, so......yawn....isn't there something on another channel?.....so boring. Only flamboyant cowboys run for President today, because folks can't focus on anyone else.

That's what Sesame Street did to us. 2012 2 16 Strong Musuem of Play 101It made us unable to hold a thought longer than two minutes. We have to be razzle-dazzled, awed by charismatic presence, and candidates in recent decades have had that ability in spades, if nothing else. Sesame Street...brought to us by the best and brightest and most well-intentioned of PBS child development experts. They loused us up, just like Dr Spock loused up the generation before. "We have reared a generation of brats,” he acknowledged toward the end of his life. “.....Of course, we did it with the best of intentions. We didn't realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self assurance of parents."

But don't let me stray off topic! We're talking about voters, Mormons, and Evangelicals. Romney does fine in eastern, western and northern states. There, he is watered down only by the Evangelical minorities. In the south, however, where Evangelicals prevail, he gets shellacked. He came in 3rd in Alabama and Mississippi, behind Santorum and Gingrich. Yet Romney outspends them 10 to 1! The reason is painfully obvious, though no one will say it lest it appear politically incorrect: Romney is a Mormon. He thinks.....I almost feel sorry for him.....that surely these folks can be won over, swayed by his reason, charm, and ability. I don't think so.

Do a blogoshere search of “Mormon” and “cult” and your server will crash.  Mormonism is a “cult,” the Evangelicals insist, in the same league with devil worship and Jim Jones. Do you think in your wildest dreams Evangelicals are going to vote a cult member into the Presidency? They're not. As Amy Sullivan writes, “it is nearly impossible to overemphasize the problem evangelicals have with Mormonism.” Only one other significant faith draws the 'cult' label.....Jehovah's Witnesses. Actually, I think JWs draw it more, but I could be wrong.

Now, Mormons don't fit the traditional definition of a cult any more than Jehovah's Witnesses do, but they do fit the new refined definition: faiths we don't like. At any rate, pundits, naïve as can be, suggest the real problem is that Romney may not be conservative enough for Evangelicals. Nonsense. What about how Mormons rammed through Proposition 8 in California that banned gay marriage? Call THAT not conservative? What about when Ron Paul suggested the U.S. ought not go picking fights around the world, and Mitt Romney swore that on his watch American military forces would be second to none? Call THAT not conservative? No, believe me, the problem is that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Everyone else can adjust and live with that fact. But Evangelicals? From early years they're indoctrinated to think Mormons are a cult, same as JWs. We wouldn't have a prayer either, were we to run. Fortunately, we never have, save only for Dwight D. Eisenhower, who doesn't count, since by the time of his election he'd long outgrown his JW upbringing.

 

Thinking his trouble might be Northernism, not Mormonism, Romney lays a “Mornin' y'all” on a Mississippi audience one recent morning. He started his day off right, he says, with “a biscuit and some cheesy grits.” Sigh....that's cheese grits, laments poor Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post, who  wants to know why can't he just be himself? Because 'himself' is Mormon, that's why,  and he's playing to an audience intent on re-establishing America as a Christian nation, and a Christian nation is not one led by a Mormon.


Be it Republican or Democrat, each primary race lands more spectacular than the one preceding it. The pattern's held for decades. But this current race takes the cake. Already, wannabes have shot like meteors only to vanish into thin air. Who can forget Rick Perry, an Evangelical like Ron Santorum, vowing in debate that he would eliminate three Federal departments...this one, that one, and um...um....uh....he couldn't think of the last one!....Ron Paul had to help him out. I guess it doesn't matter if you're going to ax them anyway, but voters weren't reassured. And Herman Cain, the GodFather Pizza founder....what pure charisma that fellow has! Alas, it turned out that he likes the women.

Romney will likely emerge with the candidacy, but will he emerge strong enough to beat Obama in November? Kathleen Parker offers advice ('be yourself') but it's inapplicable, because Evangelicals know who he is and don't like it. If he listens to me, however, the election is in the bag. And I offer my advice freely. I am not seeking Vice Presidential office, and will not accept it if drafted. The secret lies in registering dead voters. There's a lot of them. It plays to a Mormon strength. Nobody else has thought of it. And dead voters are not about to contradict you.

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Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!**********************

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Stadium Prayer to the God of Perfect Stats

Football season's over. And though it was just whimsy at first, the more I turn the idea over in my head, the more I'd love to see it for next year: atheist football players with Matt 6:5 on their eyeblack. Or atheist fans with that verse on their bare chests.

“Also, when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues [substitute “stadiums”] and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret...”

ImagesCARZ5EKXWouldn't that balance out those characters praising the Lord after every punishing pass, tackle, or touchdown? And ought not today's American atheists be ashamed of themselves for not yet doing it? So much so that I'm beginning to reassess my long-held view that our atheists are cutting edge, as opposed to Britain's atheists, who are wusses.

But wait, Tom Sheepandgoats, just wait. Would you really, truly like to see it? Wouldn't that turn God into a laughingstock? It's a well-meaning question. I realize that. Trouble is, Evangelicals have already turned him into a laughingstock. And that's the best face you can put on it. The worst is that they've  turned him into an obscenity. I mean, wrap your head around the picture they present: God, for whatever reason, doesn't do much about suffering or injustice....those things go unchecked....in fact, they intensify....but he never misses a game, tweaking each play to bless the born-again players. That's the God that Evangelicals present us with. Can atheists make matters any worse? I don't think so.

But...but...what if the effusive John 3:16 crowd gets mad, and fistfights break out on the field and in the stands? Wouldn't that be bad, Tom Sheepandgoats? Well.....that could happen, and yes, it would be bad. But not worse than the present spectacle, and it might even prompt these gushing religionists to conduct their prayer life in accord with the Lord's words at Matt 6:5. And that would be a good thing.

I don't know how to play this Tebowing sensation....it irritates me so. It's just like Paul strolling through the Aeropolis growing irritated at the idols. (Acts 17:16) If that got him irritated, he'd go ballistic over this! Should I spin it satirical? Relate how, back in the first century after a hard day doing religious stuff, the disciples would pair off into teams and play athletic games? And if one of them scored a goal, or run, or touchdown, he'd pump his fist and holler “GO LORD!” or “YEA GOD!” And how Peter especially would shout at such times “LORD, YOU ROCK!”....an expression which found it's way into scripture in a curiously garbled way? And how eventually the disciples forgot all about the religious stuff because the games were just so much more fun? But won't this border on blasphemy if I write all these things? Yes, I fear it will, but no more so than that which it satirizes, that which we see every Sunday on the field, throwing a pass, sacking a quarterback, or scoring a touchdown and praising God for it! As though the greatest miracle He might perform is to produce Perfect Stats! As though he revels in all the trophies he has produced for born-again players, knowing that their trophies are really His! Beaming with pride when the quarterback, having won a game, says "First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!"

It wasn't always this way. Fran Tarkenton, who quarterbacked for the Vikings and Giants during the 1960's and 1970's, was religious. He'd been raised that way. Son of a Pentecostal Holiness minister, he'd attended church services Wednesday night, Friday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night. That's more meetings than Jehovah's Witnesses attend!! Far from his faith being “honored” by him playing football, he had to get a special dispensation to play in the NFL!

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal Opinion page, Mr Tarkenton writes that he “never understood why God would care who won a game between my team and another. It seemed like there were many far more important things going on in the world.” See? Common sense once prevailed, before Evangelicals came upon the scene. Even when he relates how the New York Giants team owner would invite “half the priests in New York City into the locker room before games.” ImagesCA5L63RLAt least they didn't burst onfield with players from the locker-room, crossing themselves as they ran!

Still, even after Tarkenson blasts right through the hypocrisy of making God a Fan, he concludes: “But seriously, isn't it refreshing that the chatter around the NFL is about a great athlete with great character who says and does all the right things and is a relentless leader for his team—and not about more arrests and bad behavior from our presumptive "heroes"?

No no no no no, Mr Tarkenton! NO! It isn't! Sam Harris is right. You must call a spade a spade! Of course Tebow is a great guy and a great player! Of course its good that he's not raping and pillaging, as some of his NFL cohorts are wont to do. That's not the point! The point is that he trivializes God, painting Him an avid fan, even while taking no interest, apparently, in the unspeakable worldwide atrocities we daily see on the news! All that remains is to paint Him with a Beer and a TV Remote, his Heavenly Throne now a Celestial Easy Chair! Imagine yourself a victim of such atrocity, and you cry out to God for justice or relief, or even understanding. Not now, not now.....what....do you expect Me to miss The Game? This is what the Evangelicals bring us! No matter how much I rail about it, it's not enough!

It's not just Tarkenton. Michael Medved, scratching his head, it seems, also writes in the Wall Street Journal. There have been other great religious atheletes, he observes. “Three great Jewish baseball players—Hank Greenberg in 1931, Sandy Koufax in 1965 and Shawn Green in 2001—drew mostly admiring comments when they refused to participate in crucial games that fell on Yom Kippur......So why should Tim Tebow draw more resentment than other religious athletes?”

Are you kidding me, Mr Medved? You don't know why? It's because Greenburg, Koufax, and Green's actions represent sacrifice. They represent service to God. They're giving up something....something important to them....for the sake of their faith. They're not simply putting a God smiley-face on what they'd be doing anyway, an activity which hardly seems endorsable by a God who says he doesn't care for violence, nor is he keen on the competitive spirit. That's what rankles folk! Look, if you want to play football, play football. Nobody has any problem with that. But don't go carrying on as if it's sacred service you're performing. It's not. It's football.

Matt 6:5 resonates. It rings true. Those oh-so-public in-your-face prayers, punctuating high points of a decidedly unChristlike activity just turn the stomach. “Hypocrites” is the inspired word Jesus uses at Matt 6:5, and everyone except Evangelicals knows Jesus hits the nail on the head.

There was some bunch of atheists somewhere who denounced Tim Tebow as a hypocrite, even adding that he was “full of crap.” But there's no reason to think so, not especially. By all accounts, he lives a virtuous life off-field. No, it's not a personal hypocrisy that he can be charged with. It's a systemic hypocrisy, inherent with a me-first religious system he's bought into...that he was born into...so that it hardly seems fair to lambaste him personally. It's institutionalized hypocrisy, which these guys pick up as readily as breathing.

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Tebowing to the God of Football

ImagesCAABPHPTWhen you mention some acquaintance by name, and your companion brightens because he knows the fellow, but then clouds over because your description doesn't match his, there's no mystery. It's two separate people you're speaking of, who happen to share the same name; it's not the same person at all. This is a no-brainer. The point is so obvious that's it hardly seems worth your time to read it or mine to write it. I do it anyway because of the one notable circumstance where it doesn't hold true....when the person we speak of is God.

In this case, common sense goes straight into the dumpster. When God is spoken of with markedly different attributes, different ways of approach, people do not say 'we're talking two different God's here.' Nope. Rather, it's the same God, we just approach him differently and think of him differently. Try doing that in conversation the next time Bob Brown is brought up.  Just try it. Insist that the fat bearded Bob Brown your neighbor knows is the identical squirrely little twirp of a Bob Brown you're speaking of, and that you both just approach him in different ways. Take note of how quickly you're written off as a dope.

Admittedly, it's not quite that simple. Trouble is, when we speak of God, everyone likes to assume that their God is the Big One, the One who is All-Powerful, the One who truly merits the capital 'G' in God, and not just an uncapitalized 'g', the same letter that is used to start unsavory words like 'garbage' or 'grunge.' I mean, no one wants to be stuck worshiping some low class loser of a god, and no one will admit to it. So it's not exactly the same as discussing Bob Brown, a name everyone knows might belong to a prince or a pig.

But it's close enough. After all, in Bible times, different nations worshiped different gods, and they all thought their Guy was the Big One. Note the first panel of that Charlie Brown strip; the roster of Gods back then included Mithra, Horus, Hercules, Zeus, and many others, as any Bible reader knows. Furthermore, it was understood that different gods had different attributes. When the fighting Israelites mopped up the hills with the Syrians, the latter figured it was due to Jehovah being a God of mountains. “Let's try 'em again on the flat lands,” they said. Alas, Jehovah turned out to be a God of the low plains as well. (1 Kings 20:23-25)

I'll take the old way of thinking any day. Different peoples worship different gods who have different attributes. The God of the Evangelicals, for instance, is a god of Football. I don't know how you can conclude any differently if you've watched Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos this season. Time and again, Tebow's quarterbacked his team to cliffhanger come-from-behind wins. Each time (and many times in between) he drops to one knee to thank Jesus. They say it's a verb now: 'tebowing.' Nobody, but nobody, 'praises the Lord' more on the football field than does Tebow. Is the Lord really honored that way?

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ImagesCA1Q31K4ImagesCAM9XC8S"When I saw him scoring, [the player who caught his 80 yard pass, clinching a 29-23 win over the Steelers, making for the quickest ending (11 seconds) to an overtime game in NFL history.] first of all, I just thought, 'Thank you, Lord,' '' Tebow said. "Then, I was running pretty fast, chasing him - Like I can catch up to D.T! Then I just jumped into the stands, first time I've done that. That was fun. Then, got on a knee and thanked the Lord again and tried to celebrate with my teammates and the fans."

The media eats all this up. ImagesCAP7G2RQThey love it. They take it all just as Tim means it, as a Feather in God's Cap, genuine praise for the Football God. After every punishing play (that goes well) he drops to his knee to praise the Lord.  All this in front of tens of thousands of fans. And the Evangelicals go nuts! “Players have been pointing to heaven when they score and joining in post-game prayer circles for more than a decade. And every time the limelight lands on a prayer moment, evangelicals are delighted,” says Tom Krattenmaker, author of Onward Christian Athletes. They're not embarrassed to be thus trivializing God.....they're delighted!

The guy wears John 3:16 painted on his eyelids, for crying out loud, as do many players. It's his favorite scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son....” A game or two before, he actually threw for 316 yards, and you should have heard the swooning and ecstasy. Evangelical fans, loudly thanking God for each and every spectacular play, have John 3:16 painted on their bare chests! Just once I'd like to see some player sporting Matt 6:5 on his eyelashes:

“when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen...”

Man, this stuff is offensive! How can anyone stand it? God is disinclined to do much about injustice, depravity and mayhem worldwide....all those things go unchecked....but he never misses a game, eagerly tweaking his favorite players on this team or that! How dare the Evangelicals link God with something so trivial! How dare they! Lemme tell you, the enemies of God are not to be found among the atheists. They're to be found among those who claim to be his friends. The only way I can keep from hurling my cookies on this is to point out that these guys are not worshiping Jehovah God at all, nor even his son Jesus. They are worshiping the god of Football.

And don't think I'm writing this way because I'm jealous over the attention Evangelicals are getting. Pulleeese! I'm not! Absolutely not! No! Beyond any ques.....oh, alright, I AM! I mean, c'mon! First it's the new cool don't-ya-love-me Mormons, now this for the Evangelicals. And what do we have?! Tracts featuring furry cute animals to hand out Sunday afternoon, knocking on doors, interrupting folks doing homage to the Football God! Give us something, please, so we can show that we're cool, too!2011 3 27 san diego 356 Even if it's Segways on which to ride house to house. That would work. I mean, we don't have to abandon the ministry totally, like everyone else does. We just have to take it into the 21rst century.

And please, please, please, don't think I have anything against football. I do not. Though, truth be told, it is sort of competitive, um...not to mention violent, two traits that can't rank it too highly on God's approval list. I suspect that, at best, God just mildly tolerates the game and those who watch it, reckoning it as just one more run-of-the-mill human foible. At any rate, I don't investigate too deeply, for fear that His disapproval may be stronger, and then I wouldn't be able to watch any more games, which I seldom do anyway, but why cut off your options?

It may even be that my only luke-warm interest in football stems, not from any latent righteousness on my part, but merely from my proximity to the nearby Buffalo Bills, our geographically closest NFL team. The God of Football has not been kind to the Bills for many many years....it has a way of cooling one's ardor. I don't know why He doesn't Treat them better. They also have players who pray to him. Like when ImagesCAAGI35WStevie Johnson dropped the game-winning pass in his team's overtime....it was a perfect pass, and it just flew through his fingers. So he prayed to God that evening, using Twitter:

"I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!!" the 24-year-old tweeted. "AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO..."

That's the trouble with being the Football god. You get praises from your worshipers on the winning team. But those on the losing team cuss you out something fierce.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 


Earning Everlasting Life

Tom Pearlsandswine, the melodramatic sap, was conducting a study, or just starting to, with a surly fellow who reached into his wallet and pulled out $100. “This is what you're after,” he said. “This is what you guys are always after. Here.”

Pearlsandswine declined.

“Look, you're time is worth something,” the other said. “Nobody does anything for free! Why do you keep coming? What's in it for you?”

“I'll tell you why I come,” Pearlsandswine replied with quiet intensity. He turned to James 5:19-20 where he read “…..if anyone among you is misled from the truth and another turns him back, know that he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

“I've committed a lot of sins in my life,” he said sincerely, “and I need them to be covered. I want to make it up to God. I'm leaving behind all the bad I used to do.”

Was there a dry eye in the house? What a heartrending confession! What a humble reply! What an repentance-filled life turnaround!

What a pious big dope! For you know, and I know, that he butchered James 5:19-20. He got it exactly backwards. Last time The Watchtower magazine mentioned the verse (3/1/83 page 15), it said:

"The person who reproved him has thus worked toward the covering over, or pardoning, of the erring one’s sins."   (Wt 3/1/83 page 15, italics mine)

It's not the teacher who gets his sins covered and soul saved. It's the taught one. Look, it sounds all pious and teary, the way Tom explained it, I grant you. But if it was really that way, we would truly be earning life, wouldn't we? “Attaboy, Pearlsandswine....a disciple! That's one hundred sins knocked off the record! Just two more people baptized and you're home free!”

There's plenty of people who accuse Jehovah's Witnesses of having just that attitude toward their ministry....that of earning life through good works. But doesn't this accusation originate with people who do little or nothing in appreciation for Christ's free gift of life, yet want to feel morally superior to those who do? "Works" that Jehovah's Witnesses perform are in appreciation for that gift, and in obedience to Christ's command to "go and make disciples." (Matt 28:19) Witnesses do not imagine for one minute that they are "earning" everlasting life. The importance of Christian activity is supported by James 2:26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” KJV

See, the teacher already has his sins covered and soul saved. Not through any special merit on his part, mind you, but because he has put faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And by guiding the student to a place where he can also dedicate his life to God through Christ, he is “covering the sins” and “saving the soul” of that student. That's how it works, and not the other way around, the way Pearlsandswine said it.

But you can almost forgive Pearlsandswine his mistake....in fact, you can forgive it......since it largely stems from a revulsion of the other guys, the 'believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved' crowd. There's so many of these folk who do nothing after they start to "believe"...nothing in appreciation of the gift of life. Or, more typically, they suggest that anything they do after their 'believing on the Lord' has become sanctified....they've turned their life over to Jesus and Jesus is now driving! If they do something good....praise be to Jesus! If they do something not so good....you know, the kind of stuff they've long been used to doing......ah, well.....Jesus is driving, to be sure, but he is driving an old wreck of a car and there's only so much even an expert driver can do. However, it's not a problem at all, since Jesus' syrupy love covers us even when we're at our sinning worst. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved.” That's what they like to hear! The easier, the better! The rest of the Bible is just so much "fine print." In short, they get to live pretty much as they've always lived, only with a self-righteous layer floating agreeably on top!

Guys like Pearlsandswine hate that hypocracy, as do all of Jehovah's Witnesses, and so at times are inclined to blunder the way in which he did, in his case botching the James verse.

Pearlsandswine's well aware of the free gift of life:

 For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.   Rom 6:23   Okay? It's free. PnS knows that.

But he also knows of the many verses that call for showing appreciation for that gift, some which would seem to require substantial effort and self-sacrifice. Like “faith without works is dead,” quoted above, but also:

Now a certain man said to him: “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” He said to them: “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able.   Luke 13:23-24

Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it. Moreover, every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.   1 Cor 9:24-27

Or....


Consequently, my beloved ones, in the way that you have always obeyed, not during my presence only, but now much more readily during my absence, keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling...   Phil 2:12  NWT

Let's focus upon this last verse for a moment. The New World Translation renders it just as does the New International Version, the King James Version, and most other popular translations. There is remarkable agreement across translations on "working out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

However, if you don't really like the idea that you must “keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” maybe you can change the verse. Perhaps you can change the wording so that the advice appears to be a suggestion, not a command.

Notice how the New Life Version puts it:

My Christian friends, you have obeyed me when I was with you. You have obeyed even more when I have been away. You must keep on working to show you have been saved from the punishment of sin. Be afraid that you may not please God.   New Life Version.

Note the subtle difference? No longer must you “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” which implies you could lose that favored standing. The only danger, from New Life's point of view, is that you might fail to show your saved standing!

Or consider the Contemporary English Version:

My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 

See? No danger that you could lose your “saved” standing.  But you might....gasp!.... fail to discover what that standing really means!

Or the wordy Message translation, which I've quoted from favorably before, here and here. True, they undeniably scored a dud here. It's not a literal work. All paraphrased Bibles give their editors much leeway to insert favored interpretations:

What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.    The Message

I don't know what that's supposed to mean! Just a feel-good pep talk, really.

The offerings of New Life, Contemporary English, and Message illustrate what Jason Beduhn called the “Protestant's Burden.” You remember Jason Beduhn. He compared nine popular Bible translations and concluded that the New World Translation was the most un-biased...it ran truest to accurately translating the original languages! Placing a close second was the New American Translation, a Catholic translation. This somewhat flies in the face of what he expected, and what most people would expect. Shouldn't the more ecumenical Bibles, with editors representing many different denominations, result in the least bias? Yet the top two works for bias-free translating came from single denominations: Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics. What gives?

Beduhn hypothesized that the New World Translation had little pressure to be biased, since Jehovah's Witnesses are a relatively recent religion. Their track record isn't too long. Hence, they can just let their translation say whatever the original languages say, and then conform to it. If it calls for a change in some of their views, then they can just change them; they're no more than a few decades old anyway. Catholics are also free from bias pressure, Beduhn suggests, though the reason is different. The Catholic Church freely maintains that scripture is not the final word, but is augmented by interpretations of subsequent Saints and Popes. So if their translation reveals something contrary to present Church practices, (such as Matt 23:9, 1 Cor 9:5 which shows Peter, their first pope, a married man, and 1 Tim 4:1-3) it's really not a problem since nobody among them ever said the Bible was the final authority. 

But Protestants...alas! have the burden of a) a long history, therefore hard to amend, and b) an insistance that they represent Bible truth completely. So when the Bible doesn't agree with their doctrines or practices, that's a problem for them. And as the three translations above illustrate, they're not above changing the verses to solve such difficulties! Thus, the phrase Beduhn coined: the Protestant's Burden!

So.....albeit with some effort....we can now exonerate Tom Pearlsandswine from his doctrinal blunder re James 5:19-20, at least this week. It was merely an overreaction to pious fundamentalists. Let's hope he doesn't say something even dumber next week.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


Did Jesus Die on a Cross?

I think it was Tom Oxgoad who, when confronted with something shocking, or even unexpected, would frantically move his right hand from breastbone to abdomen and back again, over and over. Of course, any companion would look at him quizzically. 'What's with you?' they'd want to know. Nothing to worry about, he'd say: “Just making the sign of the stake.” He was merely staking himself.

All the JWs he pulled this on either thought him very funny, or would, at least, tolerate him. Naturally, the joke would be lost on everyone else, and even offensive to a few, but he never did it in front of anyone else....just JWs. He was just clowning, you understand. His joke could be made with Jehovah's Witnesses, and them alone, because JWs are well known for rejecting that Christ was executed on a cross. We maintain he was put to death on an upright stake. Where many Bibles say “cross,” the New World Translation says “torture stake.” (Greek word: stauros)

I've mentioned this quirky aberration from common dogma only once on this blog, and even that was in response to someone else....the scientist from Iceland, who was impressed with a dialogue between the two of us and chose to reproduce it on his own blog, assigning icons to himself and me. He, man of science that he was, represented himself with the double helix. I got stuck with the cross! So I fired back my reply that we don't believe Jesus died on a cross. 'Yeah, I know,' he admitted, 'but I had to use something, and a stake looks ridiculous as an icon.' I have to admit it does, but then who says that the instrument of Jesus death should be used as an icon, anyway...kissed, carried around, worn around one's neck, and so forth? What if he had been killed with a handgun? Would folks wear tiny handguns around their necks?

But I otherwise haven't mentioned our belief that Jesus did not die on a cross, because once you come forward with something like that, people latch on to it as the definitive Jehovah's Witness belief, whereas it really is only a detail for us. “What do you know about Jehovah's Witnesses?” they'll be asked, and their reply will be “well, I know they don't celebrate Christmas, and they don't take blood transfusions, and they don't believe Jesus died on a cross.” All true, but it's as though someone asks you at a party, “what do you do?” and you say “well, I brush my teeth.” So I haven't made a big deal about this point before.

But now I will make a big deal about it, because over the summer, ABCNews.com made a big deal about it. “Jesus Christ May Not Have Died on Cross” runs the headline of July 2, 2010, followed up with: “No Evidence in Ancient Sources Backs Up Defining Symbol of Christianity, Scholar Says.”

The text goes on to tell about Gunnar Samuelsson, an evangelical preacher and theologian, who researched the cross for his doctoral thesis and concluded it's a mistranslation! Stauros is the Greek word generally translated as 'cross,' but it doesn't mean that! Or, rather, it didn't mean that at the time it was written; it has been assigned that meaning retroactively by some who want to read their doctrines into the New Testament. Rather, Samuelsson says, stauros, at its time of use in the New Testament, meant stake, or pole, or even tree trunk.

This evangelical preacher searched through thousands of ancient texts to research his 400-page "Crucifixion in Antiquity." "If you chose to just read the text and ignore the art and theology,” he says, “there is quite a small amount of information about the crucifixion. Jesus, the Bible says, carried something called a stauros out to Calvary. Everyone thought it meant cross, but it does not only mean cross.”

“Ignore the art and theology,” Samuelsson says. Now, that is exactly what Jehovah's Witnesses do. They focus only on what the text says, not the art and “theology.” So, not having to grapple with these red herrings, JWs have recognized for over 100 years the truth about the cross. Not only was Christ not put to death on a cross, but the symbol itself far predates Christianity, and finds its roots in various beliefs which, from a Christian point of view, would be considered unsavory.

From An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London, 1962), W. E. Vine, p. 256:   The shape of the [two-beamed cross] had it origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A. D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical systems pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ. -

Samuelson originally printed just 200 copies of his work. He figured family and friends might like it....maybe a few others. Instead, he got his Andy Warhol ten minutes of worldwide fame. The ABC.com piece alone is followed by (at last count) 463 comments. [!] No....I didn't read them all...if I don't exactly have “a life,” at least its not to that extent. But I skimmed through some of them. There's a few scholarly types saying scholarly things. And quite a few religionists, essentially calling him the antichrist, since they know “by faith” that Jesus died on a cross. Then some atheists chiming in that, not only did Jesus not die on a cross, but everything else about him is made-up hooey, as well. Then the aforementioned religionists responding “Oh yeah!! Well, you atheists will be singing a different tune when you're BURNING IN HELL!!!” And then, somewhere along the line, Jehovah's Witnesses discover the post, and they....shall we say.....pile on? with comments that (in a few cases) amount to “nyah, nyah, told ya so!” But how can you blame them for piling on? Didn't I, sort of, do the same with that New Scientist article “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room”? It's irresistible. JW's have said this about the cross forever, only to be told to shut up since they are ignoramuses, and then some University fellow concludes the same, and it's taken as ground-breaking research. Not at all unlike the learned response to “unlettered and ordinary” apostles of the first century. (Acts 4:13; KJV reads more harsh: “unlearned and ignorant”) Once again, we see it's not what is said that counts, but who says it. If this Samuelsson fellow had been one of Jehovah's Witnesses, his story would not even be on the bottom of ABC's cat litter box.

Frankly, I'll bet he, an evangelist preacher, curses the day he ever thought to write about the cross. He thus joins the ranks of people like Bruce Speiss, Jason Beduhn, and Joel Engardio who write something that squares with JW beliefs, and spend the rest of their days on earth denying that they are one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Occasionally, they (though none of the aforementioned, to my knowledge) issue statements to the effect of  “Look, I'm not one of Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't agree with Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't like Jehovah's Witnesses.” But it's too late! The damage has been done! Sigh....what's a scholar to do? Agreeing with Jehovah's Witnesses is detrimental to one's career, and yet Jehovah's Witnesses are right on so many things. And the things they're right about, they have been saying for a long time, so it's embarrassing for cutting edge scholars to endorse what the JWs, for the most part unscholarly and ordinary folk, have long maintained. Alan Greenspan better be very careful the same fate does not befall him. He recently completed his memoirs in which he observes 1914 was a turning-point year, something you-know-who has said for 90 years.  

And, of course, we ought not let this subject go without putting in a good word for the New World Translation. There's not a cross in the entire work. Stauros is consistently rendered “torture stake,” and xylon is consistently rendered “stake.” Nor are there any “crucifies” in the NWT; the verb form of stauros is rendered “impale” throughout. Nobody else had the guts to do this, but now, per Samuelsson's research, we see that such translating is exactly correct. I am so sick and tired of know-nothings, guided by their “divine revelation,” and not scholarship, trashing the NWT, solely because it doesn't justify their favorite doctrines. It doesn't justify their favorite doctrines because those doctrines are not to be found in the Hebrew or Greek scriptures – they are found only “by revelation,” and the trouble with knowing things by revelation is that eventually someone else comes along who also knows something by revelation, but his revelation doesn't square with yours, and how is anyone else to ever get to the bottom of it? That's why Jehovah's Witnesses have always let their Bible study dictate their beliefs and not the other way around.

The closest any mainstream non-Witness work comes to exposing the cross dogma is the King James Version (and a few derivations that have kept its wording, such as the Revised Standard Version.)  Translating the Greek word xylon, the KJV reads:

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree   (Acts 5:30, see also Acts 10:39)

Not to worry, though. Most modern Bible translations have cleaned up this “apostasy,” either crucifying Jesus, or hanging him on a cross so as to conform to that “ol time [if innacurate] religion.”

Gunder Samuelsson deserves credit for his investigative work....there's no taking that away. Nonetheless, his discovery has been written about before, just not lately. The Watchtower organization can cite many sources. Such as this one from the Imperial Bible-Dictionary (Edited by P. Fairbairn (London, 1874), Vol. I, p. 376): “The Greek word for cross, [stau·ros′], properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling [fencing in] a piece of ground.....Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole.”—Edited by P. Fairbairn (London, 1874), Vol. I, p. 376.

“An upright pole.....on which anything might be hung.” Yeah. That struck Samuelsson as odd, too. Says the ABC.com article: “Part of what tipped Samuelson off to the apparent mistranslation, were routine references to things like fruits and dead animals being "crucified" in ancient texts, when translating the word as "suspended" makes more sense.”

Here's another source:

The Non-Christian Cross, by J. D. Parsons (London, 1896): “There is not a single sentence in any of the numerous writings forming the New Testament, which, in the original Greek, bears even indirect evidence to the effect that the stauros used in the case of Jesus was other than an ordinary stauros; much less to the effect that it consisted, not of one piece of timber, but of two pieces nailed together in the form of a cross. . . . It is not a little misleading upon the part of our teachers to translate the word stauros as ‘cross’ when rendering the Greek documents of the Church into our native tongue, and to support that action by putting ‘cross’ in our lexicons as the meaning of stauros.......[bolded type mine]

Well....."misleading upon the part of our teachers." It's what they do best. Doesn't that show you need new teachers? Someone has to call them on it. This time it is Gunder Samuelsson, but Jehovah's Witnesses came long before him. 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Four Suggestions to Clean up the Evangelicals

Just as Daniel apologized for his countrymen, though he himself had little share, so Ronald J. Sider bemoans America’s evangelicals, saying it all in his 2005 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Sure, they believe the Bible, as they are quick to tell you. But they don’t practice the Bible. They don’t apply it in their personal lives. Some do, of course. Some are upright, but no greater a percentage than is true of people in general.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, a point which chapter two, The Biblical Vision, makes painfully clear. That chapter is as concise and comprehensive a discussion of the subject as you will see anywhere. Taking each NT book in succession, Mr. Sider highlights scripture after scripture to show that Christians were (and are) expected to live under Christ’s law, and that doing so would produce a people who lived so decently that their lives, not just their words, would be a drawing card for the faith.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.         1 Peter 2:12    NIV

Here is Paul at Gal 5:19-21:  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“If Paul is even close to being right about what it means to be a Christian, one can only weep at he scandalous behavior of Christians today,” Mr. Sider states. “….How many preachers today speak that clearly about the sins of greed, adultery, and slander?”

He cites Peter as well: For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.      1 Pet 4:3-4

Apparently, the countercultural lifestyle of these early Christians was obvious to outsiders, notes Mr. Sider. Not so today among the evangelical community. “Our disobedient lifestyles crucify our Lord anew.”   Pg 96

After reviewing the evidence, “we have seen the stunning contrast between what Jesus and the early church said and did and what so many evangelicals do today. Hopefully that contrast will drive us to our knees, first to repent and then to ask God to help us understand the causes of this scandalous failure and the steps we can take to correct it.”  (pg 53) Mr. Sider has done just that and offers some remedies. You cannot read these remedies without noting they are the very building blocks integral to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they do, to a considerable degree, solve the woes Mr. Sider describes. Alas, they earn us ridicule, particularly the ones having to do with obedience and submission. Don't many evangelicals join in the ridicule?

First, says Mr. Sider, the Western world’s obsession with independence must end, to be replaced with recognition that Christians are a community belonging to, and having responsibility for, each other. Paul goes so far as to say Christians ought to be slaves to one another.  Galatians 5:13 literally reads “be slaves to each other,” yet most popular translations, Mr. Sider notes, dilute the verse to a more independence-savoring “serve one another in love.” (but not so the New World Translation, used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It reads “through love slave for one another.”)

Many churches today trumpet that they are “independent Bible believing,” yet the very notion is “heretical,” says Mr. Sider. To be part of the body of Christ, a church must align itself with a larger structure to give “guidance, supervision, direction, and accountability.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses have exactly such a structure in their governing body. Soreheads and malcontents rail against such organization as “mind control.”

Second, Mr. Sider suggests, any congregation with over fifty members ought to arrange its people into small groups, where oversight and encouragement can more effectively be offered.

They’re called book studies. Since as long as anyone can remember, perhaps from their outset, Witness congregations have made use of such small groups.

Make it harder to join, is a third suggestion. Evangelical Conscience points to early Anabaptists and Wesleyans, as if no modern examples existed. These groups took their time in admitting new members, ensuring that their conduct as well as words lined up with Christ’s teachings. They did not just settle for the silly and surface “confess the Lord and be saved.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for requiring an extensive period of Bible study as a prerequisite to baptism..

Lastly, “parachurch” organizations, groups like Youth for Christ that transcend the larger church structure, have, by definition, no accountability to anybody. “Many of the worst, most disgraceful actions that embarrass and discredit the evangelical world come from this radical autonomy,” says Evangelical Conscience. Somehow such groups have to be brought into tow, though the author admits that he has no clue as to how to accomplish this.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They strongly discourage any such activity not under the oversight of the central governing body. You should hear guys like Barfendogs carry onabout such “strong-arm” methods! But one can’t help feeling Mr. Sider would approve.      

To be sure, Mr. Sider and Jehovah's Witnesses are poles apart doctrinally, yet organizationally we are his dream come true - a peculiar irony, if ever there was one.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Reining in the Parachurch

I knew he’d have a field day with this, but I didn’t know when that day would start. The ink wasn't dry on that September Kingdom Ministry when Tom Barfendogs was peppering my blog with comments, haranguing me. It’s a good thing I can screen comments. Otherwise, he’d write on my blog more than I do.

“Did ya see it, Tommy? Hah, did ya? It’s right there in the question box, Tommy! Did ya see it?”

There was an article about some of our people grouping together to explore deeply this or that spiritual topic, delving where no one had delved before. They’d done extra research, released their own extra findings, to augment material coming from the existing JW organization. They’d held conferences, published books, and hosted web sites where collaborators from all over could contribute their own research. The faithful and discreet slave didn’t like the idea….didn’t like it at all, and strongly discouraged it. They cited a few scriptures, such as:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.      1 Cor 1:10

Might not independent research groups pose a danger to the unity Paul spoke of? In fact, there were some lone rangers back in the first century, which produced the following results:

For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.      vs. 11-15

Barfendogs likes the scriptures well enough, but not ones that get in his way. “It’s mind control, Tommy! A cult! ‘Don’t’ think for yourself; we’ll tell you what to think!’ That’s what they’re saying, Tommy! When’re you going to wake up?! When’re you going to free your head?! Better shut down this blog, Tommy, before they catch you! You‘re not allowed on the internet!” And I admit, even Tom Pearlsenswine seemed a little put out. He read the article over and over, grumbling as he read. I’m starting to worry about Pearlsenswine. You don’t think he’ll be the next to go bad, do you? With a name like Pearlsenswine, one never knows. He’s been engaged in top-secret Trinity research for years now. It seemed straightforwardand clear-cut at one time, but it just drags on and on.     (1 Jn 5:6,7)

Western society puts such a premium on independence, even to the point of belligerence, that any notion seen as “pulling in the reins” seems suspect, as if motivated by megalomania. But consider Ronald Sider’s observations about the evangelical community, a community which, he laments, makes a shambles of living the faith, though they do well at talking the faith. What causes does he identify?

Two are relevant. The first is today’s nirvana of independence, so prized by Barfendogs. It is anathema to the Christian congregation: “The notion - and practice - of an independent congregation with no structures of accountability to the larger body of Christ is simply heretical,” Sider writes in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. “How can an independent “Bible church” claim to be biblical when its very refusal to submit to a larger church structure of accountability defies the essence of a biblical understanding of being the church?     Pg 111

Doesn’t that dovetail with Watchtower’s discouragement of meetings, literature, or web sites which are not produced or organized under its own oversight?

The second is what Sider calls “parachurch” organizations, groups like the Billy Graham Crusade, the Youth for Christ, groups that transcend established church organization. They accomplish a lot of good, Sider feels, but they have no accountability, and thus provide an umbrella for the scandalous conduct Sider says is endemic in the evangelical community. “Frankly, I do not know how to solve this problem,” he admits.  Pg 112

The faithful and discreet slave does. But it takes guts to implement, and it earns them taunts and abuse from soreheads like Barfendogs. Are there even some evangelicals who join in with the catcalls?

So the Christian congregation adjusts to oversight from the parent Watchtower organization, which steps on the toes of a few (ouch!) whose motives not only are not bad but are often noble, yet whose unchecked projects might, over time, lead to the mess Mr. Sider describes. But now they are being checked. Nobody is saying not to do research. But there is a clear distinction regarding plain old research and organized efforts to augment the direction given congregations today. Even this (gulp) blog comes in for soul-searching. But at present, the author consoles himself that it’s contents do not match what is being discouraged. This blog is not a collaborating spot for Witnesses, there’s no “new truths” being unearthed, and posts that touch on religion are essentially no different than what the author might say in person were he to show up on your doorstep. (which he someday might do) Alas, there may be some overlap, however.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Good Evangelicals, Bad Evangelicals

When soreheads charge that Jehovah's Witnessses are mean, they offer as proof that JW congregations tell their people what to do. As proof of that, they point out that congregations impose discipline upon members ranging from mild reproof to strong reproof to even expulsion for individuals who persistantly and purposefully deviate from core beliefs and practices. Doesn't that prove JWs are mean? Doesn't that prove they are a manmade organization of rules, not love? Doesn't that prove members are slaves to a governing body comprised of old men on a power trip?

No, it does not. The discipline now practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses was practiced in most Protestant denominations until less than 100 years ago - and was based on the same scriptures upon which we base ours. But when it became unpopular, they gave it up. As a result, the morals and lifestyle of today's evangelical church members are indistinguishable from that of the general population. That might be okay if the general population was a storehouse of virtue, but newspapers remind us daily that it's not. And scripture is clear that the Christian congregation is not supposed to be a mirror image of today's morally bankrupt society. It is supposed to be an oasis.

Such is the conclusion of Ronald Sider, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience - Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? (2005) Mr. Sider is well respected within evangelical circles. He publishes PRISM magazine and serves as contributing editor to Christianity Today and Sojourners. He is professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy, as well as director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and some other accolades. He is not happy to reach his conclusion, and you cannot but admire the man for his frankness. One doesn't readily air one's dirty laundry in public, yet Sider does so out of moral outrage and shame for the evangelical community. He points to attitudes on sex, money, racsim, and personal self-fulfillment. Evangelicals live no differently than the rest of the world, he laments.

I vividly recall circuit overseers and their ilk pointing out that "50 years ago the difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general was doctrinal, not moral." Time was when there was little difference between the two groups as regards conduct. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

"Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist," Sider writes. ".....In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared." He then quotes Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

"Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches we have a consumer mentality."

They do. And because the church promotes it, caters to it, does whatever it must to swell its ranks, its people cannot be told apart from general society. Of course, some can. I personally know ones who, like Mr Sider himself, take living by Bible standards seriously. But the evangelical label apparantly means nothing as regards lifestyle. It points to a people who can argue Trinity and hellfire till your ears fall off, but who otherwise live no differently than anyone else. The ones who actually apply Christianity are left unreinforced, in some ways even challenged, by their own church.

Doesn't it remind you of that endless list of negative qualities that people are said to have in the "last days?" Paul writes "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..."

As Paul winds down his list, he observes that such people, far from being atheist or agnostics, are "having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."   2 Tim 3:1-5   (NIV)

What to make of Sider's book? I don't really know. A few upright evangelicals I know, such as in my own family (or are they just born-agains?) make me skeptical of the book's conclusions. Can it really be that all churches have sold out? But if I think of those evangelicals who picket our conventions, I believe every word. Such an unruly looking bunch you've never seen.

Only one other group comes to mind that has not forsaken church discipline: Mormons. Is it just coincidence that they, like Jehovah's Witnesses, carry a reputation for both honesty and family values and maintain a policy of internal discipline? Evangelicals, though, at least those on the web, deride both them and us as "cults," and rail against both for imposing rules of conduct on members. Yet discipline, even imperfectly applied (which is all you can expect of imperfect humans) has succeeded in preserving a people who can be identified by their conduct - a conduct which stands apart from the world at large.

God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.     Heb 12:7-11   (NIV)

 

More here, here, and I suppose even here