“Myth of a Christian Nation” Question of the Day

I have a question regarding the myth that the United States was founded as a

I have a question regarding the myth that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation”.

Following up on Piers Morgan’s debate with Rick Warren, here’s your “Myth of a Christian Nation” question of the day.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thus, in the U.S., you can worship any god you want to worship, and this is legal, acceptable, and protected by the Constitution.

However, Deuteronomy 13:12-16 says the following:

Deut. 13:12 If you hear it said about one of the towns that the LORD your God is giving you to live in,
Deut. 13:13 that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,
Deut. 13:14 then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you,
Deut. 13:15 you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword.
Deut. 13:16 All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.

Now, we have heard many Christians say that the laws of the Old Testament have been “nailed to the cross” and are no longer binding. For instance, despite the fact that Lev. 11:10-12 clearly states that the children of God cannot eat shellfish:

Lev. 11:10 But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and among all the other living creatures that are in the waters—they are detestable to you
Lev. 11:11 and detestable they shall remain. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall regard as detestable.
Lev. 11:12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.

Christians will argue that Peter’s vision in Acts 10 “trumps” this law, allowing Christians to eat food previously deemed “unkosher”.

Acts 10:13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”
Acts 10:14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.”
Acts 10:15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

Likewise, despite the fact that Exodus 20:8-10 – one of the 10 Commandments no less – clearly states that one should not work on the Sabbath,

Ex. 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Ex. 20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
Ex. 20:10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

the NT gospel of Mark 2:27-28 states:

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
Mark 2:28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

and Christians use this text to argue that even though at one time God had people PUT TO DEATH for so much as picking up sticks on the Sabbath (cf. Num. 15:32-36:

Num. 15:32 When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day.
Num. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation.
Num. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.
Num. 15:35 Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”
Num. 15:36 The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. )

despite this, Christians no longer have to keep the Sabbath.

So, because the NT “overrides” the OT, the laws in the OT don’t have to be kept anymore.

EXCEPT, of course, for those laws that are NOT overridden, or better yet, those that are REITERATED and RESTATED by none less than Jesus himself, well, THOSE laws (like condemning homosexuals in Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13 AND in Rom. 1:26–27, 1 Cor. 6:9–10, and 1 Tim. 1:9–10) – these OT laws are to be KEPT and ENFORCED by Christians, because the condemnation was repeated in the NT.

Got all that?? So here’s my question:

Where in the NT does Jesus say it’s OK to worship other gods?

Where does Paul say it? Where does Peter say it? I mean, if we’re supposedly a “Christian nation”, and Deuteronomy 13:12-16 clearly states that anyone who worships another god must be put to death – THEY AND THEIR ENTIRE TOWN!! – because another god was worshiped somewhere in the land, and if not one, but three of the 10 Commandments clearly state:

Ex. 20:3 you shall have no other gods before me.
Ex. 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Ex. 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

then there must be someplace in the NT where Jesus or Paul or SOMEBODY says it’s OK to worship other gods (IF, that is, we’re a “Christian nation”.) Right? It must be there in the NT, because religious plurality would CLEARLY violate the commands of the eternal, omnipotent, infallible, inerrant God who clearly spells out in no uncertain terms that we’re NOT supposed to worship other gods, and yet our nation has legislated, nay, our nation was founded on the idea of religious plurality. That is, our nation is founded on a principle that is directly contradictory to one of the most fundamental biblical Christian principles: worship only God.

So it must be in there somewhere.

So where is it?

I can’t find it in Matt. 4:10:

Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

I don’t see it in Matt. 22:36-38:

Matt. 22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Matt. 22:37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
Matt. 22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.

I don’t read it in 1 Cor. 10:14:

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.

So WHERE IS IT EXACTLY that the NT authorizes our United States of America to protect those who worship other gods from the very punishments prescribed and authorized by the Bible against those who do so??

(And if the founding document of the U.S. is going legislate AGAINST the first 4 Commandments, then how again were we established as a “Christian Nation”?)

(Or, could it be that our nation was established with some laws that happen to be congruent with some Christian teaching (as well as with many other religions’ and philosophies’ teachings), but was NOT established as a “Christian nation”, especially given the fact that many of the founders were avowed Deists who believed in the existence of a god – a “grand architect of the universe” – but one who revealed himself through the strict physical laws of the universe – Deists who openly chastised Christians and Christianity for its reliance on miracles and mythology that contradicted the very fixed physical principles of nature they felt revealed the nature of God?)

But I digress. Let’s stick to the initial question: Where in the NT does it authorize our United States of America to protect those who worship other gods, when the OT clearly condemns it, IF we were founded as a “Christian nation”?


For more on this topic, read my earlier post: we were NOT founded as a christian nation: thoughts on article 11 of the u.s. treaty with tripoli

Also check out nonstampcollector’s (blog, YouTube) video, which makes a similar point:

Comments welcome.

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Simcha Jacobovici’s Circular Responses During Interview with Canada’s Drew Marshall

I just finished listening to Canadian talk show host Drew Marshall‘s interview with Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. Craig Evans.

This was my first time listening to Drew Marshall, and let me say he was a gracious host, and yet he didn’t let Simcha off the hook (my only fish pun). He actually called Simcha on a couple of things, but of course, that didn’t stop Simcha from entering into his obstinate alternate reality and completely dodge the questions and spin some answer that only a six-year old would accept as valid.

Listen to the interview. Read my marked-up comments.

Please keep in mind that in addition to being Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, I am also part of the “Digital Public Humanities” consortium here at Iowa. This means that part of my job as a scholar (in addition to teaching and researching and writing and excavating with Dr. Oded Lipschits at Tel Azakah in Israel) is responding to claims made in the public sphere (and if necessary, critiquing them) that involve technology and the humanities (i.e., the Digital Public Humanities), particularly in the fields of religion and archaeology. Simcha Jacobovici’s latest Discovery Channel documentary, The Resurrection Tomb Mystery (alternatively titled The Jesus Discovery in Canada) makes a sensational religious/archaeological claim involving innovative technology directly to the public, bypassing scholarly conventions of peer-review in refereed journals and professional conferences.

The above video is a critique of a publicly broadcast interview where filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici attempts to present ‘evidence’ for his latest pseudo-archaeological claim.

A couple of things to listen for:

At the 22:43 mark, Simcha mentions me by name, stating in the interview:

Even my worst detractors are saying, this – this guy Cargill he spends all of his days on his blog attacking me – even he says in the pages of the Washington Post, ‘This is important. This is different’.”  – Simcha Jacobovici, The Drew Marshall Show, April 7, 2012

Of course, I never said that. My four quotes from the April 5, 2012 Washington Post article by Nicolas Brulliard are as follows:

“It sounds like they’re trying to act out ‘The Da Vinci Code’.”

“The image on ossuary 6 is not Jonah’s great fish spitting out a seaweed-wrapped head of Jonah,” says Cargill, who favors the Greek vessel interpretation.

“Fish don’t have handles.”

“Cargill also says that the inscription and carvings found in the tomb are significant regardless of their interpretation.”

This is a typical example of how Simcha mishandles information. I obviously don’t agree with Simcha, but that doesn’t stop him from claiming I said: “This is important. This is different,” and spinning it into some kind of support for him.

(But, it’s always good to know that Simcha is paying attention. ;)

So there’s the joke that Simcha still does not realize the difference between a mention and an endorsement. I’ve addressed this elsewhere.

Second: I about fell out of my chair laughing at Simcha’s insistence that his 6-year old daughter’s assessment that the image on the ossuary is a fish was the “ultimate test”. Then again, that fact alone really does explain a lot about these sensational claims. Forget scholars and trained professionals. We don’t need no stinking scholars! (Because we scholars disagree with his conclusions.) So, he turns to his daughter. And she accepts that it is a fish. Case closed. Again, the “Mishi Test” (his words (on multiple occasions), not mine) alone trumps all the education and all the scholars in the world.

(BTW, and I mention this in the video: To be really honest, this is not a bad rhetorical tactic on Simcha’s part. Because now, if anyone ever calls Simcha on the fact that he consulted his six-year old daughter regarding ancient Jewish burial iconography, he can claim, “You’re personally attacking members of my family. How dare you!” or something like that.

Simcha invoked his six-year-old daughter’s professional(?) testimony as evidence in his interpretation of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6, but if you call him on it, he might try claiming “personal attack.” (And the less discerning among us might even buy it!) But I really wonder if he’d actually go there? I mean, it’d be a fairly obvious double standard and disingenuous retreat to a feigned offense designed to distract from his lack of evidence and circular reasoning. And yet, I’m torn about whether he’d actually do it. Maybe one of his doting fans (or employees) will claim “personal attack” for him? At least we’d know of its disingenuous nature beforehand.)

Finally, the sad fact that Simcha absolutely refuses to listen to ANY OTHER POSSIBLE EXPLANATION or interpretation regarding his “Jonah Fish” image is, with all due respect, laughable. In fact, if you listen to me on the video, you’ll hear me quite literally laughing out loud. Simcha actually tries to compare “that Drew Marshall exists” to his claim that the inscribed image on Ossuary 6 “is a fish.” Both are unquestionable facts in Simcha’s mind. In fact, he says that any other interpretation than ‘fish’ is “silliness,” and he refuses to entertain any further discussion about it. There is no other possible interpretation in Simcha’s mind. It’s a fish. End of story. (Did I mention he admitted he’s NOT an academic and NOT an archaeologist?)

The fact that Simcha absolutely refuses (and says so in the interview) to see anything other than what he ABSOLUTELY MUST see in order for his speculative theory to work essentially explains everything you need to know about both Simcha and this entire project.

In the video, Simcha admits he is “not a theologian, not a Christian,” and of course, elsewhere has admitted he is “not an archaeologist, nor an academic.” (Simcha Jacobovici, “The Nails of the Cross: A Response to the Criticisms of the Film,” jamestabor.com, June 22, 2011, p. 45.) And yet, if any theologian, Christian, academic, archaeologist, or any one else trained in these fields suggests anything other than “it’s a fish,” Simcha will have nothing to do with it.

That’s how desperate and precarious their theory has become…and the documentary hasn’t even aired yet.

Drew Marshall’s interview with Simcha Jacobovici will be remembered as THE moment that the delusional obstinate stubbornness of Simcha Jacobovici became self-manifest. He said it himself. He doesn’t want to hear anyone tell him it’s not a fish. It just is. Oh, and because it’s a fish, it’s a “Christian tomb,” “owned by Joseph of Arimathea,” those buried inside “knew Jesus” and “heard him preach,” and therefore the tomb next to it “contains the bones of Jesus.”

Do we really need to say more?

MacLaren learns to say Daddy

A proud day!

ARRRGGGHHH: the ramblings of an idiot

Rick Santorum said words yesterday, which means there’s a good chance he threw logic and facts to the wind and simply made stuff up.

Really? 4000 years of human history? That’s ‘traditional marriage’? Rosemary Joyce at Psychology Today has some pesky facts that speak to this claim. (HT: Morag Kersel)

And 4000 years? That’s as long as humans have been on the earth? Even fundies think the earth is older than that! Or is that how long humans have been getting ‘married’? And marriage between one man and one woman is ‘biblical’ marriage? Really? I’ve dealt with this fantasy before.

Likewise, hasn’t slavery also been around for most of those 4000 years? Is that his argument: because we’ve done it all throughout human history, we should continue to do so?

Where on earth is he getting his facts? Actually…don’t answer that. It may smell like…well…Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum needs to learn the difference between the loss of a previously exclusive privilege and persecution. Asking people of faith to treat others as they would be treated themselves is not persecution. Demanding that a large group not suppress the civil rights of a smaller group is not ‘intolerance,’ just like a police officer arresting an assailant is not ‘intolerance’ against the ‘right’ to assault people.

When the U.S. decided that it was wrong to, oh…let’s say, own other people, implementing the law emancipating slaves is not intolerant of the southern, slave-holding way of life. Rather, it is the loss of a previously exclusive (and unethical) privilege of southern slave holders. Southern plantation owners were not being ‘discriminated against’ when they were told that owning people was no longer legal, they were simply being told that what they had been doing for generations prior to that is highly discriminatory and flat-out wrong, and the state finally recognized this and remedied it, despite the fact that the Bible clearly endorsed slavery (Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22; Tit. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18), and despite the fact that slavery had been around for ‘4000 years of human history.’

This is pandering to religious conservatives at its best. For the Christian argument that demonstrates why it’s OK for Christians to support the legalization of same-sex marriage, and if you’re really looking for a Biblical basis for at least allowing the state to pass laws legalizing same-sex marriage, read here. (Warning: it’s long, rooted in the biblical text, and full of pesky facts and reason, so be prepared to think.) And if you still can’t get over it, try this.

getting bigger: maclaren december 2011

image

nap time

image

Nap time.

thank you fresno city college – transcript of robert cargill’s 2011 fcc commencement address

Fresno City CollegeI offer my heartfelt thanks to Fresno City College for this honor.

I was truly humbled by being named one of Fresno City College’s 100 Stars for 100 Years late last year, and I am once again humbled and honored to be named 2011’s Distinguished Alumnus and for being invited to speak as the 2011 commencement speaker.

As one who has experienced every level of California public education:

  • John Adams Elementary (Madera, CA)
  • Thomas Jefferson Jr. High (Madera, CA)
  • Madera High School (Madera, CA)
  • Bullard High School (Fresno, CA)
  • Fresno City College (A.A.)
  • California State University, Fresno (B.S. Human Physiology)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (M.A., Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations; Ph.D., Near Eastern Languages and Cultures)

I can attest to the fact that the California public education system works. California public education can continue to be the premier education system in the country, but only if we continue to fund our teachers and students, and only if we do not seek to bail out our state’s fiscal mismanagement by forcing our educational system to bear the brunt of the financial burden. California’s public universities (Junior Colleges, CSUs, and UCs) should not have to pay for California’s fiscal missteps elsewhere.

Education is the magic bullet in the heart of poverty, socio-economic inequality, racial tension, social and religious intolerance, and unemployment, but we must continue to fund our public universities at all three levels or else risk mortgaging the future of our state to avoid some present discomfort.

Special thanks to President Anthony Cantú for the invitation, Vice President Christopher Villa for the warm introduction, and to Kathy Bonilla and Ernie Garcia for making the entire experience flawless. Thank you to Ray Appleton for having me on his show. Thank you again for this honor. I hope that I can continue to advocate on behalf of public education for years to come.

Below is the text of my 2011 Commencement Address:


2011 FRESNO CITY COLLEGE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D., UCLA

President Cantú, Marshal Larson, Vice President Villa, Members of the Board of Trustees and President Smith, Parents and Relatives, Ladies and Gentlemen, and most importantly, members of the Fresno City College graduating class of 2011: thank you for the honor you’ve bestowed upon me today, and for the invitation to address this commencement ceremony this evening.

Graduates, I am you, 18 years from now.

18 years ago, I received my Associates degree from Fresno City College. And since then, my life has had its ups and downs.

I am 38 years old, married, divorced, and now married to my wife, who makes me both proud and very happy. I have a daughter, and now a son on the way. I bought a house, sold it for a profit, and used the money to buy a new house, which is now underwater.

I am you, 18 years from now.

I have experienced tremendous successes, and some terrible failures. I have gotten to meet many fascinating people throughout my young career, and I’ve watched many people dear to me die long before their time. I have done things of which I am incredibly proud, and I have made decisions I truly regret.

I am you, 18 years from now.

After receiving my AA, I enrolled at Fresno State and received my Bachelors in Human Physiology following a pre-med curriculum. Wanting to pursue matters of faith, I enrolled in Pepperdine University and completed my Master of Divinity degree. I experienced both the boom and the bust of the dot com bubble. Wanting to study biblical literature and archaeology, I enrolled in UCLA and earned an MA and PhD in these fields, and now, having taught at UCLA for the past few years, I have accepted a position to teach Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. But all of that – ALL OF IT – began right here at Fresno City College.

I am you, 18 years from now.

I enjoy the things you enjoy. I like watching the Fresno Grizzlies play ball. I love playing Angry Birds obsessively every time I pick up my phone, planking various landmarks in the Tower district, and like you, I am always quick to argue against anyone who even hints at cutting funding for education and for California’s Community Colleges.

I ask the same questions that you ask. Will she love me? Or will she leave me? Will I be rich? Will I make my parents proud? Will my children be proud of me? The only thing I possess that you do not is nearly two decades of experiences that all began with me sitting right where you are right now, because I am you 18 years from now.

So if I may, I’d like to share with you 3 things I’ve learned over the past 18 years that may help you in your next 18 years:

Number one: Be nice. Be kind. We live in an aggressive and cynical world, especially when we are young. We are taught to compete for jobs, compete for partners, and compete for goods. And yes, you have to compete in life. But while you are competing, be nice. There is nothing more comforting, nothing more disarming, and nothing more enjoyable than someone who is kind. Be kind. Be patient. Don’t go off when you’re wronged, but give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t set out to “earn respect.” Simple kindness will make far better impressions on people than any harsh words you might use. So be kind. It’s simple, it’s free, and it will do more for you than just about anything else you can possibly do.

Number two: Be proud of having attended Fresno City College, and of being from Fresno. We get to make fun of our hometown. Letterman can make fun of New York because he lives there. Conan can make fun of Los Angeles. And we all can certainly tease about Fresno because we’re from here. We carry the membership card. But never apologize for being from this beautiful, vibrant, diverse town. Never apologize for having to work hard to earn what you have. Apologize when you’ve wronged someone. Apologize when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. But, be proud having attended City College. It only makes you stronger, and when you make it, it will only make those around you all the more impressed. Be proud of Fresno and be proud of Fresno City College.

Number three: Say thank you. Be gracious. There is an Arab saying which says: “Blessed is the one who can say thank you in a thousand languages.” People love to be thanked, and people love to be around grateful people. So say thank you to your parents for raising you. Say thank you to your friends for sticking up for you, and covering for you, and for supporting you. Be sincere, look people in the eye, and say thank you.

And if you’ll allow me, I’d like to practice what I preach and take this opportunity to say thank you to a few people.

First, thank you to my coaches, Ron Scott, Eric Solberg, and Mike Noakes. I played baseball for these coaches at Fresno City College and Bullard High School. These men not only taught me to play baseball, but how to compete with character and confidence in life. Thank you Coach Scott, Coach Solberg, and Coach Noakes.

Thank you to Reuben Scott, who taught me to argue both sides of every issue. I came to Fresno City College knowing how to argue my side of an issue, but Reuben Scott taught me to understand opinions other than my own, and to write and argue cogently, to the point, and on the merits of the argument. He taught me to think critically, and for this I am eternally grateful. Thank you Reuben Scott.

And finally, I would not be here this evening, and I would not be a professor today, were it not for this evening’s Faculty Marshal, and my Western Civ. professor, Mr. Don Larson. I love this man for more reasons than I can count. For one, to me, this man is Fresno City College. I took Mr. Larson for Western Civilization, and on the first day of class he said, “I can love you and give you a ‘C’ and I can not like you, and give you an ‘A’. You will get the grade that you earn, and earn the grade that you get.”

Well, Mr. Larson must have really liked me, because he gave me a ‘C’. (Oh no, I haven’t forgotten.) But Mr. Larson also invited me to talk to him whenever I needed advice, or guidance, or just someone to listen. His facilitation of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings greatly influenced me by introducing me to successful role models, and afternoons spent at his home talking about religion and politics helped to frame many of my present positions on these topics.

By the way, you must visit Mr. Larson’s home during Christmas time. If you haven’t seen it, just imagine all of Christmas Tree Lane crammed neatly inside a single house. That is Mr. Larson’s house at Christmas time.

After my days at Fresno City College, Mr. Larson became a lifelong friend and mentor, and although I have not yet mastered the art of your ever-present bow tie, you have meant more to me than you will ever know. You are the most fair, honest, upright, and faithful man I know, and I want to take this very public opportunity to say to you, “Thank you.” Thank you Mr. Larson.

By the way, if you haven’t yet come up with a name for the renovated Old Administration Building, I’ve got a suggestion: how about the “Don Larson Administration Building”? I’m pretty sure he was already teaching here in 1916 when they built it, so you might as well name it after him. Thank you again, Mr. Larson.

So when you leave tonight, hug your parents and say thank you. Find a teacher who has taught you and say thank you. Find a friend who studied with you and say thank you. Be kind to them, and always be proud of what you’ve accomplished here at Fresno City College. And while I know it is incredibly cliché, go forth from here tonight knowing that you really can be whatever you want to be. Do these things and who knows what your next 18 years will bring.

Thank you again, and congratulations to you graduates on your hard work and your graduation from Fresno City College. Thank you.


Dr. Robert R. Cargill delivers the 2011 Fresno City College commencement address at Selland Arena, May 20, 2011.

2011 Distinguished Alumnus Dr. Robert R. Cargill delivers the Fresno City College commencement address at Selland Arena, May 20, 2011.

Sharon Cargill, Roslyn (and MacLaren) Cargill, Robert Cargill, and Don Larson

Sharon Cargill, Roslyn (and MacLaren) Cargill, Robert Cargill, and Don Larson

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