Persecution? Are you being killed or raped for your faith?

Age of intolerance: the war on religion

November 2, 2013

In Somalia, al-Shabab, which slaughtered scores of people at a Kenyan shopping mall in September, has reportedly vowed to kill every Somali Christian.

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By Barney Zwartz
As Christian villager Asia Bibi languished in a Pakistani jail awaiting death by hanging for drinking water from a Muslim cup, two suicide bombers killed 85 worshippers in a Peshawar church.

For Egypt’s Copts, who risk having the small cross-tattoos many wear on their wrists burnt off with acid by militant Muslims, the Arab Spring has been wintry. In August it got worse: Muslim Brotherhood supporters, blaming them for the army’s removal of president Mohamed Mursi, attacked more than 100 Christian sites – 42 churches were razed.

In Somalia, al-Shabab, which slaughtered scores of people at a Kenyan shopping mall in September, has reportedly vowed to kill every Somali Christian.

For Egypt’s Copts, who risk having the small cross-tattoos many wear on their wrists burnt off with acid by militant Muslims, the Arab Spring has been wintry. Photo: Nasser Nasser
In northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has butchered thousands of Christians, as well as Muslims they consider inadequately ideological – such as those seeking an education.

Four of every five acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians, according to the Germany-based International Society for Human Rights. The secular US think tank the Pew Forum says Christians face harassment or oppression in 139 nations, nearly three-quarters of all the countries on earth.

It is not just Muslims, who themselves often face horrendous persecution, who attack Christians. In the Indian state of Orissa, Hindu nationalists attacked Christians in a vicious pogrom in 2008, killing 500, injuring thousands with machetes, and leaving 50,000 homeless. A nun was raped and paraded naked through the streets, watched by police who arrested no one.

In Burma, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Buddhist militants have murdered Christians, Muslims and Hindus. In 2010 the Burmese military attacked Christian minorities from helicopters, reportedly killing thousands.

These cases are horrific, certainly, but surely they are disconnected and accidental acts of cruelty and violence? Not so, rights observers say: they are all part of the biggest human rights challenge now facing the globe – religious intolerance – and also part of a largely unobserved global war on Christians. Things may be worse now for more Christians than at any time in history, including under the Roman Empire.

”War” does not mean a unified campaign directed by a single co-ordinating mind. But it is no exaggeration, Vatican analyst John Allen argues in his new book, The Global War on Christians, because it represents a ”massive, worldwide pattern of violence and oppression directed against a specific group of people, often explicitly understood by its perpetrators as part of a broader cultural and spiritual struggle”. If we are not honest enough to call it a war, we will not face it with the necessary urgency, he says.

What is happening? Why are Christians especially at risk, and why are Western governments, media and churches so reluctant to acknowledge it, let alone act? And, as some observers suggest, is religious persecution heading back to the West?

Religion is often only one factor in this violence, part of a combustible cocktail of racial, ethnic, economic and linguistic motives, but increasingly – such as with the rising tide of puritanical Muslim Salafists – it is the main or only reason. And in the countries where the problem is most severe, persecution has accelerated and deepened in the past two years.

The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need last week launched its 191-page report Persecuted and Forgotten, challenging the international community’s willingness to stand up for religious freedom.

The report calls the flight of Christians from the Middle East an exodus of almost biblical proportions. ”Incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening: churches being burnt, Christians under pressure to convert, mob violence against Christian homes, abduction and rape of Christian girls, anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from government, discrimination in schools and the workplace.”

Long-time religious liberty analyst and advocate Liz Kendal says when she began monitoring religious violence 15 years ago, ”I was reporting on an attack here or there, usually a militant who came in and attacked a missionary. Now it’s pogroms where people massacre their neighbours with machetes and with impunity”. Kendal is the Melbourne-based advocacy director of Christian Faith and Freedom.

This is a frightening new feature, that neighbours join or lead the brutality. ”One of the disturbing things about Syria is not just all the al-Qaeda-linked groups, but that local Muslims welcome them. They want their Christian neighbours to leave,” Kendal says.

Persecution can be a nebulous term. Both Christians and Muslims in the West have used it to refer to non-life-threatening discrimination. American scholar Charles Tieszen’s definition is a good one: any unjust action of mild to intense levels of hostility, directed at people belonging to a religion resulting in varying levels of harm, in which the victim’s religious identification is the main motive.

Todd Johnson, of Gordon Conwell’s Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, estimates 70 million Christians have died for their faith, 45 million of them in the 20th century.

John Allen notes that ”this boom in religious violence is still very much a growth industry. Christians today are by some order of magnitude the most persecuted religious body on the planet,” suffering not just martyrdom but all forms of intimidation and oppression in record numbers.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which monitors religious persecution and names the worst offenders in an annual report, listed 16 nations guilty of ”heinous and systematic” offences in its 2012 report.

Only one group is under attack in all 16 nations: Christians. (The countries are Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.)

Open Doors lists 25 countries as most hazardous, 18 of them Muslim-majority nations – six in Asia, seven in Africa, eight in the Middle East, and four in the former Soviet empire. As Allen notes, this shows that it really is a global war.

The Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, may soon be emptied of its adherents, and of other religious minorities. In Iraq, which had 1.5 million Christians before the first Gulf War, the total is now possibly as little as a 10th of that. Most have fled, but unnumbered thousands have been killed.

Muslims also suffer greatly – in Buddhist Burma and Thailand, in Hindu India and communist China, and in Muslim countries where their particular form is a minority. Hindus are persecuted in Buddhist countries, such as Sri Lanka. Iranian authorities, brutal against Christians, are even more vicious when it comes to Baha’is. Persecution seems an equal-opportunity affair.

Nor are Christians immune from perpetrating violence, as the world has seen in Rwanda, the Congo and Yugoslavia in the past 20 years. Yet when it comes to victims, they are well out in front. Why?

World Evangelical Alliance spokesman Thomas Schirrmacher says a number of factors combine. Christianity is much the biggest religion, so its numbers are likely to be large, and it is experiencing enormous growth in dangerous places where it makes established groups feel threatened. Religious nationalists tend to identify Christianity with Western colonialism. Christians, supported by better international networks, also tend to be more outspoken in advocating rights and democracy and in opposing corruption.

Dictators fear that Christians do not give them the undivided allegiance they demand (think North Korea, China or Vietnam), while some commentators even suggest Christians help bring suffering on themselves because of their willingness to turn the other cheek – militant Muslims might be more wary if they didn’t have impunity, if Christians too adopted suicide bombing.

Why, 1700 years after the Edict of Milan, in which Constantine decreed religious tolerance in the Roman Empire, is religious intolerance so savage? A number of cross currents have come together, including rising religious nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism driven particularly by Saudi Arabia’s petrodollars, victory for Islamists against Russia in Afghanistan, which sent the jihadis back to their various homes with ambitions entrenched, and the loss of American political influence after the global financial crisis.

This has been encouraged by a shameful apathy or denial by First World leaders. When it comes to secular politics, the victims are too Christian to matter much to the left, who are much more comfortable bashing the doubtless legitimate but comparatively minor target of Israel. And they are too brown or too foreign to matter much to most on the right.

Secularists also tend to think of Christians as the oppressor, not the oppressed. When they picture persecution, they turn to history: the crusades, the Inquisition, Europe’s savage 17th century religious wars, and colonial exploitation. But, as John Allen observes: ”Today we do not live on the pages of a Dan Brown potboiler, in which Christians are dispatching mad assassins to settle historical scores. Instead, they’re the ones fleeing assassins others have dispatched.”

He also cites two sets of ”blinders”. Christians in the West can overstate the struggles they face from an increasingly post-Christian state, which diminishes sympathy for the Christians in real danger. Second, Western powerbrokers tend to underestimate the role religion plays in persecution in the Third World, its consistency as a driver.

Liz Kendal says there was a brief period when the US made a difference through its religious freedom bill. Introduced in 1998, it worked well for a decade, but collapsed with the global financial crisis in 2008 when the US economic clout ”evaporated overnight and religious liberty was affected immediately, especially in China and Iran”, she says.

”Now the gloves are off. Persecution with impunity is the order of the day and no one can stop it. America could threaten sanctions, and things would settle down, but those days are over. ”

Kendal is scathing about Western churches, saying they often deliberately avert their eyes. ”The Western church is so happy having a nice time in celebratory worship, they don’t want the burden of this knowledge (of what is happening to their brethren). Pastors feel under pressure to have their congregations leave the church feeling upbeat.”

She says the churches have to stop expecting political solutions. ”The cavalry is not going to come over the hill, and it’s not where the church’s faith should be anyway.”

Her pessimism runs deep. Not only is religious persecution unstoppable in Islamic and other Third World countries, but it is on the way in the West, if in a different form, she says.

Where Christian social conservatism was once mainstream, she predicts Christians will face jail and other sanctions if they do not toe the fast-changing secular line on such issues as condoning homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Cardinal Francis George, the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, made a similar prediction, noting in 2010: ”I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

And why does mainstream Western media miss the big picture? ”That’s the million-dollar question, and I don’t know,” Kendal replies. She suggests it is a combination of ignorance by journalists about the historical and political context of persecution and a political correctness that will not allow them to criticise Muslims for fear of being labelled racist or Islamophobic. ”It’s just too hot to handle,” she says.

”Turn on your TV and there is a young BBC reporter in Syria saying ‘these freedom fighters are fighting for democracy’. And behind him are bushy-bearded jihadists waving a black flag and shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ [God is great], fresh from cutting throats.”

In Burma, Kendal says, Western journalists believe the regime’s talk of reform and don’t realise Aung San Suu Kyi has been silenced, or the religious hatred that is directed against ethnic minorities. In Sudan, the Islamic regime is running a declared jihad against the African Christians, who are sitting on the last of the country’s oil. ”It’s genocide taking place before our eyes, and we’re not talking about it.”

Paul Marshall, author of Blind Spot – When Journalists Don’t Get Religion, thinks another factor is that so few journalists are Christian. Thus they tend to think that religion doesn’t have any intellectual content, it is merely feelings and emotion, so it’s not worth the effort to learn about it.

Marshall, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute for Religious Freedom in Washington, says the churches, in turn, are not very good at talking to journalists. It’s easy, too, to overlook that opponents such as Osama bin Laden have had a coherent, intelligent view of the world, even if we disagree with it.

Meanwhile suffering Christians might find scant consolation in the knowledge they were warned – Jesus says, in the Gospel of John: ”In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Barney Zwartz is religion editor.

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Really what has Christianity done for the world?

Apart from being involved at the beginning of science, systems of government, philosophy, art, schools, hospitals, the emancipation of women, the abolition of slavery, social welfare, helping form the basis of the moral code most people live by and introducing popular notions of justice, mercy, decency and compassion … what has Christianity ever really done for the world?

Milton Jones

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Mark: Provenance, Authorship and Literary Style. Pt II

Determining the authorship of Mark poses some problems, as the text itself is anonymous. However the support for Mark as author from the early Church Fathers is almost universal[1]. Eusebius records Papias’ assertion that Mark, a disciple of Peter’s and his interpreter, wrote down accurately what Peter had said regarding the Lord[2].   This Mark has historically been associated with the John Mark from the book of Acts[3] who is mentioned 3 times in the New Testament; Acts 12:12, 25, and 15:37. Mark is mentioned 5 times in Acts 15:39, Colossians 4:10, 2Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24 and 1Peter 5:13. As Guthrie[4] points out, the Colossians mention of Mark as cousin of Barnabas connects him securely with the John Mark of Acts.

Duling and Perrin[5] outline the many problems with the Papias tradition including that it contains a strong apologetic tone via the use of words such as “accurately”; “erred in nothing”, “not to omit…or falsify”.   They also point out that Mark is more aligned with Paul in the New Testament writings, although 1Peter 5:13 does provide a connection between the two in support of the Papias tradition.

Guthrie takes a more lenient view of the challenges against Papias, stating; “This is surely a case where it can be said that the tradition has not been disproved even if it has been challenged”[6] W. L. Lane notes that the general points of Mark’s Gospel correspond to the “Petrine kerygma as recorded in Peter. That John Mark was neither a disciple of Christ’s, nor a disciple of note in the early church lends plausibility to the evidence that he was the author; if one were attributing authorship to an anonymous text one would rather choose a potential author of note[7].

 

[1]D. Guthrie New Testament Introduction (revised) Intervarsity Press, 1990

[2] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, iii.39.15 as cited in D. Guthrie New Testament Introduction (revised) Intervarsity Press, 1990: p 85

[3]D. Guthrie 1990: p 82

[4]D. Guthrie 1990: p 82

[5]Dennis C. Duling, Norman Perrin, The New Testament : proclamation and parenesis, myth and history, Harcourt Brace and Company, 1994.: pp 296-299

[6]D. Guthrie 1990: p 84

[7]C. Sevelle, Class Notes, Centre Point Bible Institute http://www.centerpointbibleinstitute.com/classnotes/Gospel%20of%20Mark%20Notes%20Center%20Point%20Bible%20Institute.pdf accessed 21. March 2014

I’m angry and disgusted with the US Christian Right

You may or may not be aware of the furor that World Vision opening their employment policy (and then 2 days rescinding that decision) to gay men and women has caused over in the US – but the behavior of the bullying right has been nothing short of blackmail…accept what we believe or have our supporters remove their support from you!  There has been a wealth of comment on the subject, Rachel Held Evans has had things to say HERE and HEREhowever the blog post that for me wins the internet is this one from HERE:

 

On one occasion an expert in biblical ethics and Christian standards of sexual morality stood up to test World Vision. “Chief Exec,” he asked, “what must I do to sponsor an impoverished child in the proper Christian way that is honouring to God in accordance with His Word?”

“What is written on our website?” he replied. “How do you understand it?”

He answered, “‘Our Christian identity underpins everything that we do. Motivated by our faith, World Vision is committed to following the teaching and example of Jesus Christ in his identification with those who are poor, vulnerable or forgotten’; and, ‘Just 75p a day can free a child from the fear that poverty creates. Sponsorship keeps children protected and provides them with clean water, nutritious food, healthcare and education – everything a child needs to enjoy their childhood’.”

“You have answered correctly,” the Chief Exec replied. “Do this and the malnourished, diseased, trafficked and enslaved children of the world will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked the Chief Exec, “But what if one of your employees is gay and in a civil partnership? You see, I read in Christianity Today that you’ve changed your conditions of employment and now accept married gay dudes, who aren’t actually married, you know, in God’s eyes, but you say that abstinence outside of marriage remains a condition of employment, so how does that work?”

In reply the Chief Exec said: “A six-year-old starving boy and eight-year-old trafficked girl were going down from Djibouti to Hargeysa in Somaliland, when they were attacked by fanatical militia. They stripped the starving boy of his clothes, beat him, and then raped and mutilated the genitalia of the girl, and went away, leaving them both half dead.Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the children, he passed by on the other side. So too, Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, when he saw the children lying there, he walked on by. And also Denny Burk, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, when he came to the place and saw them, passed by on the other side.

But a gay guy in a civil partnership, as he travelled, came to where the children were; and when he saw them, he took pity on them. He went to them and gave them bread and water, and bandaged the girl to stop her bleeding, hugging them both to comfort them. Then he carried the weeping girl and put the boy on his own bicycle, and brought them to a World Vision shelter and took care of them. The next day he took out $100 and donated it to the charity. ‘We must look after them,’ he said, ‘and I’m happy to reimburse World Vision for any lost sponsorship you may have as a result of your employing me.’

“Which of these do you think was a neighbour to the children who fell into the hands of the fanatical militia?”

The expert in biblical ethics and Christian standards of sexual morality replied, “The one who showed compassion and sponsored them.”

Jesus told him in his heart, “Go and do likewise.”

Mark: Provenance, Authorship and Literary Style. Pt I

This is the first in a three part series where we will look at the Gospel of Mark, seeking to understand a little of the reasons for accepting it’s primacy over the other three gospels (in terms of being the earliest written or not), authorship and whether or not a brand new literary style was invented by the author of Mark.  This series forms a complete essay written for my work toward a Masters Degree and I thought it interesting enough to post here for reading and discussion.

Pt I

For the greater part of the history of the church the Gospel of Mark has been sidelined as the “poor cousin”[1] to the Gospel of Matthew, rarely being preached upon by the Church Fathers and with very few commentaries being written on it, in fact none until the eighth century.  For the early church it was Matthew that was held to have priority over Mark.

Augustine was one Church Father who held Matthean priority over Markan, suggesting that, “Mark appears only as [Matthews] follower and abbreviator”[2] The view of Matthean Priority held for centuries until source critics[3] began questioning the primacy of Matthew.

…[tradition held] that Matthew was the first of the gospels to appear. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the source critics established the priority of Mark over Matthew and Luke. The traditional “Second Gospel” became the first gospel.

Widespread scholarly consensus on the priority of Mark postualtes what is known as “the two-source hypothesis”[4]; i.e. Matthew and Luke had before them a copy of Mark, along with a saying s source (‘Q’) as they wrote their gospels.[5]  The so called ‘minor agreements’ between Matthew and Luke[6] against Mark, which are often cited for support by scholars not convinced of Markan priority, have some weight, however;

“The differing arrangement of this material in Matthew and Luke has been held to preclude a direct literary relationship between these Gospels and to require an indirect relationship, mediated by Q.[7]

The dating of Mark is, as with dating many of the biblical texts, fraught with difficulty.  Dates range from 35CE[8] (Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel) to 70CE and even later.  Irenaeaus[9] taught that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome following the death of Peter and Paul, which occurred during the persecution of Nero in around 64-67 CE.  Clement of Alexandria however taught that it was in Peter’s lifetime that Mark wrote the gospel at the behest of those who had heard Peter preach[10].

Internal evidence however, suggests a later date .

Mark 13:1-2 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”

Unless the text is taken as an actual prophecy (which is not impossible), this apparent allusion to the destruction of the Temple by the Romans places the date of writing at earliest 70CE.

The Author of Matthew speaks of Jewish places of worship as ‘…their synagogues”: Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54. Christians used synagogues to worship in until 90CE when Jews excluded them from worshiping in them in 90CE[11].  This provides evidence for dating the writing of Matthew to 90CE at the earliest.  These proposed dates for the writing of Mark and Matthew further argue for Markan priority.


[1] Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark. A Commentary, Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2002. http://www.wtsbooks.com/common/pdf_links/9780801048418.pdf  See also William L. Lane, “From Historian to Theologian: Milestones in Markan Scholarship,” Review & Expositor 75.4 (Fall 1978): 601-617.

[2] Augustine, De consensu evangelistarum, 1.2 (PL 34:1044): as cited in Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark. A Commentary

[3] Francis J, Maloney The Gospel of Mark. A Commentary p2

[4] Ronald L. Troxel, Lecture 4: Markan Priority: Early Christian Gospels at http://hebrew.wisc.edu/~rltroxel/gospels/lect4.pdf

[5] Francis J, Maloney The Gospel of Mark. A Commentary, Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2002

[6] F. Neirynck, T.Hansen, and F. van Segbroeck, The Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark, with a Cumulative List (BETL 37; Leuven: Leuven University Press,1974)

[7] Jeffery Peterson, Order in the Double Tradition and the Existence of Q, http://www.austingrad.edu/images/Resources/Peterson/Order%20in%20Double%20Tradition.pdf

[8] James G. Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity (JSNTSup 266; London/New York: T. & T. Clark [Continuum], 2004).

[9] Irenaeaus, Against Heresies, 3,1,1

[10] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, vi.14.6f cited in D. Guthrie New Testament Introduction (revised) Intervarsity Press, 1990

[11] Kenneth L Carroll, The Gospel of John and the Exclusion of Christians From the Synagogues. https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:1m1947&datastreamId=POST-PEER-REVIEW-PUBLISHERS-DOCUMENT.PDF

Reclaiming the Centrality of the Eucharist as an act of worship

Depending on which church you belong to and what denomination, communion, or the Eucharist, or Mass may or may not play a central part in the lived worship experience you engage in weekly.  There are stark differences between the traditions of each church, from the ancient wording and liturgical ‘performance’ of the Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Lutheran and Methodist based churches, which has been around since the very earliest days of the church, to the seemingly laissez faire approach of some of the protestant and Pentecostal traditions.  

Whether from a formality steeped in tradition with a common cup and unleavened bread, or a short ceremony with cut white loaf and individual thimbles of grape juice, we are wrapped to varying degrees of understanding in the knowledge that this meal is an essential part of our Christian duty and need, after all, Jesus is the one who instituted the Eucharistic meal.  I wonder if, for the most part, we have lost our understanding of why this meal, this ‘love feast’ as Paul has called it in Corinthians 11

The word Eucharist; a Greek term, meaning  “thanksgiving.” is used in the New Testament for prayer in general, but preferably any prayer giving thanks to God. More specific usage includes a thanks given before a meal which led to the term being used to describe the “Lord’s Supper” at which Jesus gave his last message to his disciples and established the tradition of eating bread and wine “in remembrance” of him and as if they were his own body and blood.

Catholics and some Protestant churches call it the Mass which is any public celebration of the Eucharist. The word mass stems from the Latin term missa, the feminine past participle of mittere, which means “to send away, dismiss” which occurs at the end of the Eucharistic liturgy. After a time of thanksgiving for all that we have received, we stand and pray that we shall take what we have received into the world. A blessing is called down upon us and we are told to “Go”. It may be “Go in the peace of Christ” – or “The Mass is ended, go in peace” or it may be “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. Whichever wording is chosen, the emphasis throughout is on the word “Go”.  In a very real sense the service never ends – we gather, are sent forth to take out into the world all that we have received and then to re-gather in a weeks’ time.

In what way does scripture inform or shape what we experience in the Eucharist?  Although the Eucharist is a Christian sacrament and only spoken of in the Christian scriptures the Hebrew Scriptures are filled with allusion to and what you might understand as ‘shadows’ or ‘types’ that upon reflection can be seen to point to Jesus in the Eucharist.

The earliest shadow of the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood was Abel, the younger son of Adam and Eve. Cain murdered the good shepherd Abel. The Lord told Cain, Gn 4:10 “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” The Book of Hebrews reminds us of, Heb 12:24 “… [Christ's] sprinkled Blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.”

Melchizedek is a pre-figuring of Christ. When Abram returned from his victory over Chedorlaomer, Gn 14:18 “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High …” to bless Abram, pre-figuring the bread and wine consecrated by a priest at Mass. The Book of Hebrews tells us, Heb 7:2 “[Melchizedek] is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem [shalom], that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever.”

The Bread of the Presence, in the ancient Tabernacle and later in the Temple, 1 Kgs 7:48  was a shadow of Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist.  In the Eucharist Jesus is spiritually present in the bread.

In the Tabernacle God commanded Moses, Ex 25:8 “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” In the sanctuary, in the ark of the covenant, God told Moses, Ex 25:22 “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you…” God added, Ex 25:30 “You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me always.” Jesus told us, Mt 28:20 “I am with you always.”

Abimelech the priest gave David this sacred bread. 1 Sam 21:6 “So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence.” Jesus taught us that it was for all His disciples.Mt 12:1 “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck ears of grain and to eat. … [Jesus] said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence … I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.”

Jesus showed us what was greater than the Temple. Lk 22:19 “He took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”

The Eucharist is THE central act of worship and communion with God that we encounter as Christians, we even see it prefigured in the Passover ceremonies of Jewish families!

During the Seder, the head of the family takes three pieces of unleavened bread, reminding us of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He breaks in half the second piece, suggesting the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity crucified. He then wraps one of these two pieces, called the afikomen (Hebrew: festival procession), a reminder of Jesus’ constant call, “Follow Me,” in white linen, reminding us of Jesus linen burial cloth, and “buries” or hides it, as Jesus was entombed. Later the youngest at table “resurrects” or finds the afikomen as Jesus rose from the dead. The head of the family then breaks the afikomen and passes it around for all to eat, as Jesus did when He told His apostles, Lk 22:19 “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In that way, Jesus through the Seder calls us to follow Him into His death and resurrection, to become a new person in Christ.

The unleavened bread also reminds us of the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt. The dough that they were sunbaking on the hot rocks of the Egyptian fields was removed before it could leaven, and so remained flat. It represents our need to remain ever alert and prepared for the day when God calls us to our destiny as Jesus told us, Mt 25:13 “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Jesus is also spiritually present in the wine. When the afikomen is broken and passed around for all to eat, Jews drink the third of four cups of wine, called the cup of blessing because it represents the blood of the sacrificed paschal lamb. It is the cup that Jesus gave to His apostles, saying, Lk 22:20 “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My Blood.” He did not drink the fourth, the Kalah cup, explaining, Mt 26:29 “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” But later that evening at Gethsemane, Jesus prayed by moonlight,Mt 26:39 “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” After He was captured, Jesus asked Peter, Jn 18:11 “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?”

I have read some blogs where the suggestion is made that Jesus drank the last cup on the Cross, Jn 19:29 “They put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished’; and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

So truly – what’s the point of this article?  I would love for all Christians to reclaim the centrality of the Eucharistic meal as their right and proper act of worship and communion with Christ, I firmly believe that many have no idea what they are doing each Sunday (or each month in some churches) when they take the bread and wine – not just glibly taking the elements and consuming it without any thought.  Take some time to consider what the Eucharist really means – this is Christs very presence – not just bread and wine.

Fred Phelps, of Westbro Baptist Church has died

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His grand-daughter, Meghan Phelps Roper, who left the church two years ago posted, ‘I’m so sorry for the harm he caused. That we all caused. But he could be so kind and wonderful. I wish you all could have seen that, too. I understand those who don’t mourn his loss, but I’m thankful for those who see that “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

To Kill a Tulip: A Review of Against Calvinism by Roger Olson by TC Moore

Title: Against Calvinism
Author: Roger E. Olson
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zondervan – 2011
Language: English

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Introduction

First off, I am not at all unbiased in the infamous Calvinism v. Arminianism debates. In fact, I’ve been more than a little complicit in making them contentious at times. In the past, I have spent many a night, up late, “debating” with both Calvinists and Arminians about the particulars of divine providence, human responsibility, divine foreknowledge, and the ontological status of the future—both in person and online. Therefore, I won’t pretend that I come to Olson’s book as a neutral third-party. However, the reality is, none of us do! We all come to Olson’s book, all books, perhaps especially the Scriptures, with our preconceived notions firmly in hand, as much as we’d like to deny it.

Secondly, I am neither a Classical Arminian nor a Calvinist—nor any sort of “moderate” or “nuanced” Calvinist (whether such a thing actually exists is debatable). I’m more than happy to locate myself within the broad and historic Free Will tradition of Jesus Christ’s Church that includes Christians from nearly every stripe (many Roman Catholics, many Greek Orthodox, Wesleyans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Anabaptists, many Baptists, and all who call themselves “Arminians”). And, by the way, this tradition predates both Calvin and Arminius. But, specifically, I will even further identify myself with the label “Open theist.” Some will not gladly accept such a label, and as a result, I know many who I’d call “closet Open theists.” As Olson himself has argued, a particularly militant and vocal coalition [wink] of Calvinists have succeeded in convincing a dishearteningly large group of gullible evangelicals in the US that Open theism is “controversial.” They haven’t proven that Open theism is heretical—far from it! Instead, their arguments have been blatant caricatures. They haven’t been required to show Open theism’s actual error. They have only needed to claim the view contains error loud enough to convince enough people not to investigating the view for themselves.

[Sidenote: In a course I took this semester on conflict in Christian organizations, one of the authors we read had a term for leaders who lead by creating a false enemy and produce group cohesiveness by vilifying the Other. He called them Demagogues. …So…there's that.]

Third, what drew me to Olson’s book most wasn’t his deliberate attempt to refute Calvinism. I’ve read lots of books and articles that refute Calvinism. Heck, I’ve written some! No, what drew me to Olson’s book was his deliberate attempt to finally lay to rest a retort I hear constantly from Calvinists. I call it the “You-Just-Don’t-Understand-Calvinism” retort. Calvinists are notorious for claiming to be victims of caricature. Even while they are also notorious for caricaturing other views. I can’t tell you how many times, after backing a Calvinist into a philosophical corner, their response is: “You just don’t understand Calvinism.” Apparently, Calvinists are convinced their views are incredibly complex and esoteric. (In case you were wondering—they aren’t.) But Olson leaves no room for this defense. He demonstrates on nearly every page that he has gone directly to the sources, read them, studied them, understood their arguments (often better than most Calvinists do), and nevertheless comes to many of the same conclusions we Free Will theists have held for centuries:

1) Calvinism is theological determinism
2) Calvinism relies solely upon carefully-crafted proof-texting
3) Calvinism renders God morally ambiguous
4) Calvinism does not reflect the character of Christ

“New Calvinism”: The Occasion of Olson’s Writing

Students of Paul’s letters will know that to understand them, they must be placed in their historical and cultural context. His canonical epistles are “occasional” writings, we say. Which simply means, they were occasioned by their context. Well, the current occasion is also important for understanding the perspective from which Olson is writing. Olson is an Arminian theologian and church history scholar who is keenly aware of the climate of evangelicalism in the US. And he has become increasing aware of, and the victim of, militant bands of integrity-challenged Calvinists who would seek to oust him from his position as professor and public theologian based solely on the fact that he is not a Calvinist. He correctly identifies this “resurgence” of zealous Calvinists as those who have been called the, “young, restless, and Reformed.” And he correctly identifies their de factoleaders. At this point in US evangelicalism, attempts are being made to hijack the very Gospel of Jesus Christ and claim it to be synonymous with Calvinism. Olson is compelled to write this book not only for those being labeled heretics for Free Will theology, but also for the young people being unknowingly swept up in this movement.

“So, the time has come for an irenic and loving but firm “No!” to the extreme version of Calvinism being by leaders of the young, restless, Reformed generation and too often uncritically being embraced by their followers.” (p. 24)

I will leave you to judge whether Olson’s critique of Calvinism is “irenic,” but I’m confident most Calvinists will consider it anything but. Either way, whether Calvinists like this book or not, I, for one, am grateful that Olson’s answer to Calvinism is “firm.” And I give my hearty “Amen!” to Olson’s characterization of the need that lies before Free Will theists today in the US:

“I believe someone needs to finally stand up and in love firmly say “No!” to egregious statements about God’s sovereignty often made by Calvinists. Taken to their logical conclusion, that even hell and all who will suffer there eternally are foreordained by God, God is thereby rendered morally ambiguous at best and a moral monster at worst. I have gone so far as to say that this kind of Calvinism, which attributes to God’s will and control, makes it difficult (at least for me) to see the difference between God and the devil.” (p. 23)


“High (Federal) Calvinism” Versus Reformed Theology

One of the most important contributions this book makes to the current, highly-charged atmosphere created by New Calvinism is a much needed reality check. For some time now, the New Calvinists have been selling the US evangelical church the line that TULIP is the core and foundation of Reformed theology. In fact, the New Calvinists have preferred to call themselves “Reformed” over “Calvinists,” also using the terms interchangeably. But what Olson exposes is that this is decidedly not the case. TULIP is rejected by a good number of Reformed churches and even entire Reformed denominations. Olson helps US evangelicals, who have fallen victim to the New Calvinist PR hype machine, realize that “Reformed” theology is much larger, and far more inclusive, than New Calvinists would have us believe. As witnesses, Olson calls the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and several well-known and influential “Reformed” theologians who reject TULIP. Perhaps one of the more ironic points Olson brings up as evidence is the presence of explicitly Arminian churches in the WCRC like the Remonstrant Brotherhood of the Netherlands. (For those of you who may not be aware: “The Remonstrants” is the initially pejorative, later accepted label given to followers of Jacob Arminius, who objected to the “U,” “L,” and “I” in TULIP years before the Synod of Dort, by the Calvinists who condemned them). Olson’s case, that “Reformed” is absolutely not synonymous with affirming TULIP, is iron-clad. Be forewarned: Calvinists who will dare to argue with Olson on this point will find themselves committing the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.


Roger Olson Loves (to Destroy) Calvinist Proof Texts

One of the many things I liked about this book was Olson’s ability to quickly and decisively demolish the established, overused, rarely (if ever) questioned readings of passages Calvinists draw from their holsters like gun-slingers in the ‘Old West.’ Here’s just one example to whet your appetite:

“As with so many other proof texts used by Calvinists for their distinctive doctrines, this one is open to other and even better interpretations. For example, if the Greek word for ‘draw’ in John 6:44 can only mean ‘drag’ or ‘compel’ rather than ‘woo’ or ‘call,’ then John 12:32 must be interpreted as teaching universal salvation. There Jesus says ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ The Greek word translated ‘draw’ there is the same one used in John 6:44. Thus, if the word has to be interpreted ‘compel’ or ‘drag,’ then Jesus would be saying in John 12:32 that he will compel or drag all men to himself. That’s not how the verse is understood even by Calvinists!” (p. 51)


The Limited, Dependent God of Calvinism

When Olson turns his theological gaze to Jonathan Edwards, he unearths an error I’d wager even few Arminians have ever noticed. Edwards’ strong view of God’s sovereignty limits God to a heretical extent. (…Ironic, considering “limiting God” is usually the charge Calvinists level at Open theists.) Olson writes,

“Not only did Edwards affirm God’s absolute, determining sovereignty over all events in the world; he also affirmed the necessity of God’s own decisions. This nails down his belief in what I am calling divine determinism. For him, everything that happens, even in God’s own mind and volition, is necessity. […]

One has to question the orthodoxy of Edward’s view. The whole point of Christian orthodoxy traditionally affirming the freedom of creation is to assure that is within the realm of grace and not necessity. Whatever is necessary cannot be gracious. Also, if God’s creation of the world was necessary, then the world is in some sense part of God—an aspect of God’s own existence. This is known as panentheism: the belief that God and the world are interdependent realities. Most orthodox Christians have always considered that heresy.” (p. 75-76)

If you’ve spent any time whatsoever asking Calvinists how they account for the existence of evil in the world, how God can be said to “ordain” evil, or how God can be “sovereign” over evil yet not culpable, you will be familiar with the common Calvinist mantra that all these things (including evil) are “for God’s glory.” When such a response is proposed, it should logically lead one to ask, “Does God need us to be glorified?” Jesus certainly didn’t think so (John 17.5). Here’s what Olson has to say,

“Many Calvinists argue that only Calvinism protects God from being made dependent on creatures. [Lorraine] Boettner, for example, argues that Calvinism is all about God’s absolute freedom from being conditioned by anyone or anything outside of himself. […]

The question is, however, whether at least some versions of Calvinism inadvertently make God dependent on the world for something that he needs—his own self-glorification through the manifestation of all his attributes equally. This is a theme running throughout most high Calvinism —that everything God does in creation and redemption is for his glory. […]

In an ironic twist, this explanation of God’s purpose in creation and redemption, including sin and evil, comes back to haunt Edwards and most Calvinists after him (Hints of it can also be found in Calvin). Apparently, God needs the world to be as it is, including sin, evil, innocent suffering, redemption, and reprobation (hell), in order to manifest his attributes and thereby glorify himself. […]

Without the world, then, God would not be God in the same way; his glory would be less than it is with it. Evil, then, is necessary to God. God is dependent on the world, including evil.” (p. 92-94)


Where Olson and I Part Ways

As I said in the introduction, I count myself within the same Free Will tradition as Olson, yet I would classify myself as an Open theist in particular, rather than merely an Arminian. Olson shows where his classical Arminianism departs from Open theology when he speaks of God’s foreknowledge:

“God knows the hearts of people and can foresee that, given certain foreseen circumstances, they will do sinful things. God does not have to manipulate them; he can simply predict them infallibly.” (p. 84, emphasis added)

It is this classical Arminian insistence on exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) that separates them from Open theists. Open theists contend that the Libertarian view of free will, that all Free Will theists share in common, logically requires that free moral agents have the future possibility of doing other than what they eventually do. Therefore, definite foreknowledge of a free agent’s choice before it is actualized doesn’t exist. Open theists insist, with Arminians, that God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, but do not include in the realm of possibly objects of knowledge non-entities such as “definite” knowledge about choices that haven’t been made yet.

We must ask ourselves, if God knew “definitely” that Abraham would go through with the sacrifice of his only son, why does God’s Word make a point to record this surprising acknowledgement:

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” – Gen. 22.12, emphasis added

Either a Calvinist or an Arminian can claim this verse is “anthropomorphic.” But if verses like this one, about God’s knowledge, are merely anthropomorphic, how can we be sure of any view of God’s knowledge? In other words, pleading “anthropomorphism” cannot simply be an excuse to say, “My view of God’s foreknowledge is right, and yours is wrong.” If anthropomorphism in the Bible distorts the truth about God’s foreknowledge (as these two camps claim), then no view can be certainly correct, and Open theism is rendered even more plausible.


Conclusion

Against Calvinism is the latest in a long tradition of refutations of Calvinism. Yet, I would argue, the timing and precision of Olson’s work make it both the most accessible and most important for our generation. As the New Calvinism continues to gain popularity and churches fill with uncritical thinkers, this book will loom in the background begging to be challenged. No more will the leaders of this undercurrent be able to claim Arminians “just don’t understand”; no more will its leaders be able to claim “Reformed” is synonymous with “Calvinist”; and no more will its leaders be able to claim their system is the only evangelical option. Olson’s book throws down the gauntlet for the “young, restless, and Reformed.” But I suspect the challenge will not be met.

I highly recommend Against Calvinism to Calvinists, Arminians, and Open theists. Calvinists will certainly be challenged, Arminians may learn a few things, and Open theists will find in Olson a welcomed ally against accusation and defamation.

- See more at: http://theologicalgraffiti.com/against-calvinism-roger-olson-review#sthash.9DTe4WJB.dpuf

Part Christian Celebrity Smack Down, Part Christian Fantasy League

American Jesus Madness 2014 – 1st Round Breakdown

In the time honored (4 year) tradition that is American Jesus Madness, I like to offer a breakdown of the first round matchups as a guide of sorts to voting.

Who or what you vote for and why is, of course, completely up to you, but I know there are plenty of people out there in internet land who are not familiar with everyone or everything in the tournament. So, I offer the guide to try and explain who and what is in the tournament.

Be aware, of course, that this breakdown is about as serious as the tournament itself.

Not very.

Oh, and just like last year, if you have a breakdown of your own on your own blog, send me the link, and I’ll add it below.

And, of course, if you haven’t done so already, make sure you download a bracket, fill it out, and email it back to me before the end of the day on Monday, March 17th. You can still vote without filling out a bracket, but filling out a bracket is what makes this tournament so much fun.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s your breakdown for the 1st round of American Jesus Madness 2014

The Jesus Bracket

In a first for the American Jesus Madness tournament we’ve got an entire region of the bracket dedicated solely to Jesus. Well, movie Jesuses at least. The movie Son of God made such an uproar over its casting of a not unattractive man as Jesus, that I felt like we needed to settle this debate once and for all and decide who is the greatest Jesus of them all. Personally, my money is on Willem Dafoe. Why? Because, sure, they all have their Jesus powers, but he’s the only one who’s also an exploding pumpkin throwing, glider flying, halloween themed supervillain. He may be momentarily distracted by the sheer sex appeal of Diogo Morgado or get tongue twisted trying to say all those “o”s at the same time, but that’s nothing the Green Goblin can’t handle.

Christians’ Old Love For Duck Dynasty vs. Christians’ New Love For Matthew McConaughey

Racism and homophobia be damned, evangelical Christians love them some Duck Dynasty. Which makes their newfound love for actor Matthew McConaughey a bit awkward. As you probably know from your Facebook news feed (who even watches the real news anymore??), Christians everywhere freaked out when McConaughey thanked God during his Oscar acceptance speech. So, per Biblical mandate, McConaughey was adopted as a Christian for his fearless and unprecedented thanking of God at an awards show. But as Jesus once kinda sorta said, you cannot love both Duck Dynasty and Dallas Buyers Club. Either you will love the Phil and despise “the gays” or love “the gays” and despise the Phil…or you’ll just be oblivious to the contradiction cause you never saw Dallas Buyers Club cause the Focus on the Family movie guide told you not to.

Mark Driscoll vs. Integrity

Some would say this is a battle Pastor Mark has already lost. You know, cause of the plagiarism and the silencing of critics and buying his way onto bestseller lists and all that. Well…they would be right.

Rachel Held Evans vs. Every Calvinist Dude On The Internet

Rachel Held Evans hates the bible. It’s obvious. I mean you don’t spend a year following it as closely as possible and talk about the Bible all the time unless you really hate it. Every Calvinist Dude On The Internet knows this and they know they have a divine mandate to silence every woman in the church just like our lord and savior Paul told them to do. So, don’t listen to the rumors. They aren’t pathologically afraid of this one woman. That’s not why they troll her blog and obsessively write blog posts denouncing her every word as heresy. They’re not completely insecure like that. They’re just standing up for the sort of male centered, marginalizing kingdom of divine killer tornados that Calvin promised in the Institutes. Will they finally triumph over the queen of heresy and save the church? The future of the church is up to you my friends.

Greg Boyd vs. Assault Rifle Jesus

Greg Boyd is a little nuts. He’s one of those Christian pacifists who thinks Jesus was serious about all that love your enemies and turn the other cheek nonsense. But as everybody knows, Jesus is coming back packing an AR-15 assault rifle. Not only that, but he’ll have an entire church backing him up with their AR-15s. Ok, technically only one person won that giveaway. So, it’s just two people with assault rifles that we’re talking about. But one of them is God incarnate, so let’s see Greg Boyd and his gospel nonsense can stand up to that!

Mark Sandlin vs. The Third Eagle Of The Apocalypse

Mark Sandlin is our reigning champ. He destroyed all challengers last year in unprecedented fashion. Can he do it again this year? Absolutely….that is if he doesn’t get distracted watching The Third Eagle of the Apocalypse’s epic YouTube videos. Which is far easier said than done. I mean how do you not watch a video about the demonic phallic imagery at the Denver International Airport or an apocalyptic themed music video featuring a septuagenerian from Maine?? Sandlin is still a safe bet, but if The Third Eagle can create prophecy out of the thin air of a Cadillac commercial, then he’s got the chops the pull off the upset of the century. So Sandlin better be prepared or he’ll get blinded sided by the one-eyed salute of the Antichrist!!

Nicolas Cage’s Left Behind vs. Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind

I admit it. I saw Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind…in theaters…and was excited to do so. But, hey, give me a break. It was high school. I was sucked into the books. It was a crazy time. Well, now Nicolas Cage is coming out with his own version of Left Behind…and I’m even more excited than I was the first time!!! But for completely different reasons. I’m expecting a train wreck of epic proportions and can’t wait to live tweet it. But will the acting powerhouse of Nicolas Cage and Chad Michael Murray be able to top the dramatic prowess of Kirk Cameron and…who else was in that movie? Rebecca St. James? T.D. Jakes? With acting chops like that, this matchup is too close to call.

Gay Wedding Cake vs. Christian “Persecution”

Cake is delicious. Persecution, not so much. But this isn’t normal persecution we’re talking about. I’m talking about “persecution,” you know, the kind in America where people disagree with you and you’re forced to live together and get along. You might even have to do business with people who don’t share your ideological convictions. That’s oppression on a level never before experienced in the history of mankind. “Persecution” is a tough opponent to be sure, but Gay Wedding Cake has a trick up it’s sleeve – icing. Nobody can resist the sweet allure of icing. It’s like a siren begging to be devoured, only to smash its victims on the caloric rocks of deliciousness.

Pope Francis vs. Every Pope Ever

Does this matchup really need analysis? I mean, Pope Francis was the first and only pope ever on the cover of Rolling Stone!! Obviously he wins. Oh, and there’s all that Christ-like self-denial and compassionate stuff he’s into. I guess that’s a decent reason vote for him too. I mean, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Stephanie Drury and Matthew Paul Turner vs. Christian Culture

In another first for American Jesus Madness, last year’s runner up Stephanie Drury is paired with Matthew Paul Turner for the first tag team in American Jesus Madness history. For years they’ve waged war against tacky, cheesy, thoughtless, and offensive Christian Culture. So, it’s only fitting for them to team up to defeat Christian Culture once and for all. But can they take down their mortal enemy? In reality, no. Christian culture is a festering malignancy that refuses to die no matter how much good taste and common sense you might try to hurl at its ramparts. So, good thing for Stephanie and Matthew this isn’t reality, it’s American Jesus Madness!! And yet, you never know. If Stephanie and Matthew aren’t careful, Christian Culture just might show up when things are going well and Jesus Juke a win away from the clutches of defeat.

Real Life Steven Furtick vs. Coloring Book Steven Furtick

I know what you’re thinking. Steven Furtick should going up against the haters. He has, after all, been fighting them off for years and never more so than in the past few months. But you have to understand something. Legally speaking, if someone has a cartoon version of themselves commissioned, then I am obligated by law to match them up against their cartoon incarnation in any and all fictitious tournaments. I mean, something that humble and serious deserves recognition. But Real Life Steven Furtick should beware. If Road Runner and Wiley Coyote has taught us anything, it’s that cartoon characters can’t be taken down easily. And what is a coloring book character if not a cartoon that hasn’t yet begun its animated fight? (Wow, that got way deeper than I meant it to. Vote for the coloring book version. I mean it’s a coloring book. What’s not to love about a coloring book?? Oh right, cause this one’s kinda cultish….)

Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Tattoos vs. Albert Mohler’s Suits

Jesus wore a suit and tie. It’s in the Bible. That’s why it’s a sin to preach in anything else and a double sin to have tattoos behind the pulpit. Albert Mohler knows this, but Nadia Bolz-Weber couldn’t care less. In fact, I can’t even repeat what she said the last time she was told to dress up for church because American Jesus Madness is a family friendly event and there simply aren’t enough asterisks and ampersands on my keyboard to try and type it out. So, will the faithful to the 50s man of God take down the sarcastic Lutheran? Are you kidding me?? Have you seen Nadia’s sleeve?? Even the Hell’s Angels are too scared to talk during her sermons. Al doesn’t stand a chance.

Ken Ham vs. Reality

Ken Ham has been fighting the good fight against reality for years. His campaign against the obvious came front and center recently when he took on Bill Nye and the evil overlord that is science. It was an epic battle between brains and denial. So, was that the zenith of Ham’s war against reality? Or will ole Kenny finally win the day and destroy facts once and for all? That’s up to you, my friends. But no matter what happens, as long as The Creation Museum is still up and running, we all lose.

Well, that’s my breakdown of the 1st round. If you’ve got your own breakdown on your own blog, send me the link or post it in the comments, and I’ll add it below!!

MORE 1ST ROUND BREAKDOWNS

American Jesus Madness – 2014 Bracket Analysis (By The Xian Satirist)

Rambling Rev: American Jesus Madness (By Matt Gorkos)

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Want to see me in my ‘boardies’? I’m participating in Boardies Day 2014

On Friday March 28, 2014 I am taking on the challenge and showing my boardies for a cause and raising money for Australia’s largest volunteer movement – Surf Life Saving!

You can help support me by making a secure online donation using your credit card. Click on the link below:

http://my.slsfundraising.com/GregtheExplorer?SID=(!SolicitationID)&LangPref=en-CA

Proceeds from Boardies Day go toward Surf Life Saving Clubs to assist in purchasing vital rescue equipment, training and development of surf lifesavers. Money raised also help fund the delivery of educational programs to continue to save lives.

For more information on how YOU can also participate in Boardies Day 2014, please visit www.boardiesday.com.au

Thanks for your support!

Greg