The “Will of God” and the Fallen Idol

What do you get when you mix magic, idolatry, and religious fundamentalism? The irony that the same crucifix that you believe “cured your wife of cancer” has now crushed and caused the loss of your leg.

I feel bad for poor David Jimenez, who first had to endure the ordeals of his wife’s ovarian cancer, and has now lost his leg. I really do. And this is a pretty standard liability/injury lawsuit involving an accident and an insurance company.

But it is interesting how many people who attribute healing to prayer to crucifixes and the “will of God”, so quickly abandon this theological position when bad things happen. When good things happen, many devoted religious fundamentalists attribute the good they experience to the “power of God” and “God’s will” brought about through the power of prayer. BUT, when something bad happens, it is no longer the “will of God” (unless you’re a Republican running for senate), but is a civil liability claim against the church because of shoddy construction.

So when you need a miracle, you pray to God, but if God doesn’t deliver a blessing, you sue him.

Such is the state of religious fundamentalism in America today.

Who will win the 2012 Presidential election (and by how much)?

Mitt Romney Endorses Richard Mourdock

First there was Rick Santorum saying that women made pregnant by forcible rape should “make the best of a bad situation” and be forced to give birth to their “horribly created” baby.

Then there was Todd Akin‘s “Legitimate Rape” comment.

And now there is Indiana Republican senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who offered this gem:

“Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

The Mitt Romney’s campaign has already released a statement saying that he ‘disagrees‘ with Mourdock. And yet, just this past Monday, Mitt Romney released an ad endorsing him.

You be the judge. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? Three times??? They’re not fooling anyone.

If you follow the “life begins at conception” logic through to its logical end, you get moronic statements like what we see and hear above. GOD INTENDED FOR IT TO HAPPEN!

Unbelievable!

Horses and Bayonets

Wouldn’t it be an intriguing news story if President Obama’s “horses and bayonets” line  during the third presidential debate became THE line that stopped the slide in the polls and turned things around for President Obama?

Here’s my mashed-up contribution to the “horses and bayonets” meme.

Obama as Gandalf with bayonet: You shall not pass!

President Obama as Gandalf with bayonet: You shall not pass!

 

Mac Learns To Navigate the Stairs

My son, MacLaren, has developed a superior method for descending the stairs safely and quickly. Note that he gets down on his tummy and then backs onto the stairs, makes sure the gate is closed (safety first!), and then transforms into a penguin to maneuver down the stairs.

Enjoy!

Backup Quarterback Patents Prayer: Tebow Trademarks ‘Tebowing’

Leave it to Evangelical hero, NY Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow, to trademark prayer and profit from it.

Tim Tebow has trademarked “Tebowing”: kneeling on one knee and praying on a football field. Yes, the moneychangers at the Temple have nothing on Tim Tebow: now you have to PAY to PRAY.

I’ve said this before: Tebow is a proven winner in a college football context. But for Tebow, it’s always – ALWAYS – been about him (not Him): his brand, his charity, and his marketing arm (XV Enterprises Limited). Tebow has repeatedly stated publicly that football is merely his stage upon which he gets to promote his real message.

Of course, athletes have been kneeling and praying with head bowed for as long as there has been sports. Leave it to Tim Tebow to patent it.

(And yes, I’ll take the author’s advice and make the joke: Tebow’s marketing arm is better than his actual arm.)

Clever Pastor Makes Gutsy Argument Against Gay Marriage*

I’ve argued this issue for a long time, but this gutsy pastor actually lived it – in front of his City Council!

The Rev. Dr. Phil Snider of Brentwood Christian Church stood before the Springfield, Missouri City Council on August 13, 2012 and made one of the bravest 2:30 arguments against* gay marriage I’ve ever heard.

Watch the video, and then remember: when contemplating your position on social issues, you must read the Bible in the same way you must watch this video: ALL of it, all the way through TO THE END.

If you’re going to make claims about “biblical values” on social issues, you had better be prepared to use that same hermeneutic (manner of reading and interpreting the Bible) consistently on all of the Bible’s social commands. AND, you had better read ALL of the Bible, lest you make an argument on ONE social issue, and then paint yourself into a corner and force yourself to defend some abhorrent position on ANOTHER quite ‘biblical’ social issue, like slavery or the suppression of women, or genocide, or the taking of foreign women from conquered people as your wives.

I say the preacher is gutsy because he actually stood up and did it for the public record. He took the SAME religious arguments from old social issues and applied them to same sex marriage. THAT just happened!

Watch the video all the way through to the end, and you’ll see acted out what I’ve been arguing here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here for years now.

(HT: Matthew Paul Turner)

How NOT to Issue a Press Release: Lies, Misleading Statements, and Coverup at Emmanuel Christian Seminary

The scandal at Emmanuel Christian Seminary involving the attempt to (wrongfully) terminate Professor Chris Rollston appears to be much uglier and more mishandled than we first thought.

Thomas Stark, who first broke much of this story on the Religion @ the Margins blog, has posted a new story that at first seems too unlikely to be true. But after reading the story, and more amazingly, viewing the screen shots, it unfortunately appears to be all too real.

Emmanuel President Michael Sweeney apparently asked Thomas Stark to issue a press release for Emmanuel that addressed the Chris Rollston disciplinary action presently underway at Emmanuel. This is, quite frankly, insane! (With all due respect to Thomas Stark and the Religion @ the Margins blog.) Since when does a university president ask a blogger to issue a press statement on the blogger’s blog?  Does the Emmanuel President not own a computer and a website? And how is it that we STILL haven’t heard a single thing from Emmanuel on this issue (outside of Paul Blowers divulging the confidential business of a disciplinary action to the public on Facebook, and then writing an entire article to the B&I website discussing the situation publicly)?

Who taught these guys to deal with press? And who taught them to do damage control? Silence from the Emmanuel administration only further exacerbates the perception that they have committed a grievous crime and STILL haven’t even figured out how to begin to address it. The Emmanuel administration’s complete failure at damage control (i.e., Blowers’ self-serving, and quite unhelpful article at B&I, and nothing else?) and their inability to communicate to the public even an acknowledgment that something is, in fact, going on at Emmanuel, belies just how bad things are there.

(Side note: screaming “mind your own business” and “cheap seats” is not considered effective damage control.)

Not only is Emmanuel missing opportunity after opportunity to address and settle this matter in an expedient manner, now they have apparently taken to attempting to convince bloggers to release “official” statements containing numerous falsehoods on their behalf. That is, they appear to be trying to get bloggers to lie to the public for them. This is absolutely shameful.

Stark’s latest post offers examples of four misleading, incorrect, or false statements in the Emmanuel statement. Here is an example of just one of them:

A fourth and final problem with Emmanuel’s statement is this: “nor is a disagreement over the content of Dr. Rollston’s Huffington Post article an issue in our discussions.” This statement is, in no uncertain terms, false. It is not simply a mischaracterization; it is a lie. It is a very troubling lie, and it is a lie that could not have been unintentional. As revealed last Monday in the Inside Higher Education article, President Sweeney’s letter to Rollston does in fact bring up the Huffington Post article as one of the causes justifying termination proceedings against Rollston. A whole paragraph is devoted to the subject of Dr. Rollston’s Huffington Post article and his Facebook posts. In fact, the letter mentions the Huffington Post article more than once, and does in fact express disagreement with Dr. Rollston’s conclusions.

But of course, Sweeney’s letter resorts to obvious mischaracterization of Rollston’s conclusions in his Huffington Post article. Sweeney’s letter alleges Dr. Rollston’s article made the claim that “the Bible, as a whole, marginalized women,” and that its conclusion was, “we cannot put our trust in ‘biblical values.’” This is of course completely false. Rollston did not argue that the Bible “as a whole,” marginalized women. He argued that a majority of texts relevant to the question of women’s status in ancient Israel reflected patriarchy, while a minority of texts pushed back against this ideology in various ways. In the article, he identified eleven examples of such push backs. Moreover, he did not conclude that we cannot put our trust in “biblical values.” He concluded that patriarchy was one biblical value among many (and who in their right mind can deny this?), and that this specific biblical value is not something we ought to value. (Does President Sweeney wish to defend the patriarchal institutions established throughout much of the Bible, and argue that they should remain in force within modern Christianity?) Clearly Dr. Rollston’s article showed that he saw a clash of values within the Bible, and demonstrated that he found some of those values to be morally praiseworthy. President Sweeney and the experts in hermeneutics at Emmanuel should be defending him from those who have plainly misinterpreted his article, not engaging in the same careless and sweeping mischaracterizations themselves.

More to the point, clearly this displays that there was discussion of and disagreement over the contents of Dr. Rollston’s Huffington Post article in connection to disciplinary proceedings. So when President Sweeney releases a statement in which he flatly denies that any “disagreement over the content of Dr. Rollston’s Huffington Post article” was “an issue in our discussions,” we know he is lying. I have spent a great deal of time trying to imagine a charitable interpretation of this claim that does not amount to an intentional lie, and I have been unable to do so.

Unbelievable! But there it is. Not only has Emmanuel apparently begun termination proceedings against a tenured professor (wrongfully, I might add), but they have yet even to address the matter publicly, because their one attempt to quell the growing outrage from other scholars and former students against them failed miserably when the blogger they asked to release an official statement refused to do so because the statement was utterly false – falsehoods that were immediately confirmed by the publication of the Inside Higher Ed article.

Had Thomas Stark published the Emmanuel statement from President Sweeney as-is (like he was asked to do), Stark would have been roped into lying on behalf of Emmanuel, which based on the evidence, Emmanuel asked him to do!

Stark describes how he felt when he finally realized that he had been asked to lie for Emmanuel:

Then, when I was sent a deeply problematic “statement” described as “officially” from President Sweeney, to be published on my website, I had come firsthand into solid confirmation of my suspicions of incompetence. No matter whose idea it may have been, how incompetent would President Sweeney have to be to approve the publication of an official statement from Emmanuel, with his name on it, on my blog! Does this evoke a sense of direction? Does this communicate a sense of properly handling a potentially damaging scandal? What is more, to include in that statement a number of mischaracterizations, evasions, and an outright lie—a lie he should have known full well could be proved false at any time—I ultimately concluded that President Sweeney appears to be in over his head, and is having a great deal of trouble managing the combination of this financial crisis, this ideological controversy over the direction of the seminary, and now what appears to be the wrongful termination of Professor Rollston, in anything remotely resembling a competent manner. It seems to me that President Sweeney has made mistake after mistake after mistake, and in doing so, has put Emmanuel’s reputation and its viability in serious jeopardy.

IMHO, Emmanuel should settle this case ASAP. They should either drop this farce of a “disciplinary action” against Professor Rollston immediately, apologize, and perhaps open an inquiry into Professor Blowers’ activity in this whole mess, OR, Emmanuel should pay Professor Rollston his salary for the next bunch of years, apologize, part ways (I can’t imagine Dr. Rollston (or any other faculty member for that matter) wanting to stay at Emmanuel after this), and end this absolute nightmare before they end up in court and the national press picks this up. It’s only a matter of time. Emmanuel should go to their “six-figure donor”, ask him for the money to buy out Dr. Rollston (and avoid court), and then at least Emmanuel can claim a partial victory (the departure of Prof. Rollston). Professor Rollston can go to a school that will actually appreciate him, and the remainder of the faculty can watch their backs as the Paul Blowers thought police plays hall monitor in Johnson City.

Only time will tell if Emmanuel’s credibility and reputation are too damaged to recover from this inexplicable mess, brought upon their own heads by their own mismanagement.

Public Lecture: Dr. L. Michael White Named University of Iowa Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor

Dr. L. Michael White

Dr. L. Michael White is the Ronald Nelson Smith Professor of Classics and Religious Studies & Director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin and one of this year’s Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professors at the University of Iowa.

Dr. L. Michael White, the Ronald Nelson Smith Professor of Classics and Religious Studies & Director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin, has been named one of this year’s Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professors at The University of Iowa.

Professor White will be offering a public lecture entitled, “A Jewish Community in the Port of Rome: Recent Excavations in the Ostia Synagogue”.

Title
“A Jewish Community in the Port of Rome: Recent Excavations in the Ostia Synagogue”

When
Monday, October 22, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.

Where
140 Schaeffer Hall, University of Iowa

More Info
For more information, download the flyer here.


Dr. White will also give the following additional presentations:

Coffee Hour
4:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 23, 2012
3rd Floor Atrium, Gilmore Hall, University of Iowa

Colloquium
“Solving a papyrological puzzle with MSI: Ordering the fragments of PHerc 1471 (Philodemus’s ‘On Frank Criticism’)
5:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 23, 2012
106 Gilmore Hall

Brown Bag Lunch
“Scripting Jesus: The Gospel Authors as Storytellers”
12:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 24, 2012
3rd Floor Atrium, Gilmore Hall


The Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professors series and lectures are sponsored by:

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The Department of Classics
Center for the Book
Digital Studio for the Public Humanities
The Department of History
The Department of Religious Studies

The Latest on the So-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Benefits of Scholars Blogging

So-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Appears to be a forgery, in which the forger accidentally copied a typo from an online PDF translation of the Gospel of Thomas.

Jeremy Hsu at FoxNews has published an article entitled, “Did Jesus have a wife? Scholar calls parchment ‘forgery’“, that highlights the benefit of university professors, trained graduate students, and professional scholars using online resources like blogs and Facebook to share their research and findings regarding archaeological claims to craft together viable theories based in evidence.

This account was impressive:

The smoking gun
All the grammatical anomalies in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife suggest the writer was not a native speaker or even an academic expert in Coptic — the ancient, dead language of early Christians living in Egypt. Instead, Bernhard says that the pattern of errors and suspiciously similar line breaks suggests an amateur might have forged the “patchwork” text using individual words and phrases taken from Michael Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas. [Most European Languages Unlikely to Survive Online]

“There’s this general pattern in that everywhere the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could diverge from gospel of Thomas, it doesn’t, and in places where it does [diverge], it appears it’s following Mike’s Interlinear,” Bernhard told TechNewsDaily.

One the most suspicious grammatical errors in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife appeared to be a direct copy of a typo in the PDF file version of the Interlinear translation — a connection that Grondin himself made when he was examining his translation. He shared that knowledge with Mark Goodacre, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke University, who had been writing up a blog post independently about the possibility of the “Jesus’ Wife fragment” being a forgery.

Goodacre and Bernhard eventually got in touch and agreed to coordinate the online publishing of their respective blog post and paper. Goodacre credits Bernhard with first making the connection between the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the online version of the Gospel of Thomas.

“I would have already put money on this thing being problematic, given the links between the fragment and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas,” Goodacre explained. “But the link with the online Interlinear version of the Gospel of Thomas really makes, for me, the case of authenticity a very difficult one.”

It is amazing how the internet is evolving with scholarship, and how scholars are beginning to harness the power of social media to share preliminary research. Of course, these results must still be subject to academic peer review, but because social media allows many more scholars to provide initial feedback (either making additional contributions by highlighting potentially overlooked evidence, or by encouraging the discard of poorer arguments through scholarly criticism and refutation), the arguments are usually much stronger by the time they reach the publisher’s desk. This is a good thing.

Check out the article. And read the summaries of the scholarly consensus, which appear to be leaning toward declaring the unprovenanced document, acquried from an anonymous antiquities dealer, as some sort of forgery. Of course there are some amateurs and pseudoscientists and pretend scholars who, for reasons of their own financial gain, attention, or conspiracy mongering, really really want this to be authentic. But those scholars who use scholarship to share evidence and debate claims and craft together a working theory based in fact are trending toward forgery.

And kudos to my colleague, Mark Goodacre!!

More:
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/jesus-wife-fragment-further-evidence-of.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/divorcing-mrs-jesus-leo-depuydts-report.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-latest.html
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/10/jesus-wife-an-egyptologists-perspective.html

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