Journal of Heresies

My search for truth in a world of deceit.

Location: United States

I have what is probably an insatiable desire to search out the answers to what may be impossible questions.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bible Study Challenge #3

There are many stories in the Bible where God appeared to someone and asked that person to perform radical and sometimes violent tasks in His name. According to the Bible, God even commanded that the people of Israel destroy all the inhabitants of the promised land which He told them to take and possess. The Israelites did enter the land, but they did not destroy every man, woman and child of the inhabitants. Their disobedience in this matter made God very angry at them and led to various afflictions.

Imagine that God (or His angel) appears to you in some way. God tells you He has chosen you and makes a great promise to you and your children and your children's children. To receive the promise He tells you that you must wipe out the family down the street and take possession of their property in His name. He also tells you not to be afraid because He will go with you and will help you complete this task. Doing so will demonstrate to all the world that He alone is God. If you believe this and do this, it will be accounted to you as righteousness and He will bless you and your descendants.

Knowing it was God who asked it, would you obey the instruction of God? Explain your answer.

If you want to participate in this Bible Study Challenge, please review the simple guidelines here before submitting your first comment.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bible Study Challenge #2

Why are there so many similarities between Yahweh and the god Ba'al?

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bible Study Challenge #1

Who was the first Messiah?

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Bible Study Challenge

Last night I was thinking about my blog and how it might look in the future. I was also thinking some about why I haven't been writing. One reason I don't write is because I don't have many answers, mostly a lot of questions. When I find an answer, it creates even more questions.

So, I had an idea. I'm going to post questions on my blog. The intent is to stimulate discussion about interesting biblical, historical and philosophical topics. Some of the questions are ones that I struggle with, and some are not. Some will appear easier to answer than they really are. Others may not have an answer. Whatever question I ask, I hope that it will stimulate thought and discussion, both in my blog and in your personal lives. I want people to dig into the Bible and into the extra-biblical resources available to enrich the understanding of all participants.

I will moderate comments and they may not appear on the blog immediately. I will allow all comments that are not spam. However, this is not a place for personal attacks and I will not tolerate disrespect or abusive behavior. Please keep answers on topic and as short as possible to facilitate the interchange of ideas. I may contact anyone who posts a comment that is off topic or very long, to request that the comment be edited.

Eventually, I will probably add links on my blog to the bloggers who regularly participate.

I'll post the first question tomorrow.

Enjoy! And tell your friends. :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Personal Update

Wow, I have to say I'm surprised that I still get over a dozen visits a week to my blog even though I haven't posted anything for some six months. Sorry I've dissappointed those who were regular visitors.

I started a temporary part time job last April to get some experience, money and a small weekly vacation from my normal life as a stay-at-home mom. I do say vacation, because "work" is very, very easy compared to the job of raising three young children and caring for all the needs of a household. Going "to work" after being at home for five years has also been very good for my marriage and health.

While I worked, my husband had to be soley responsible for home and children for 8-10 hours straight twice a week. He suddenly discovered that when he has cleaned one room and then finishes the next, that the first one looks almost as it did before he cleaned it. Children LOVE to play in clean rooms. He also discovered that when you have three children, you can't just jump in a car and run errands... it takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes just to get everyone ready and loaded into their seats, let alone all the extra potty breaks, questions, complaints, and bags that are inevitable.

The second day of work, when I came home it was near our kids' bedtime. So, after I took my shower, I got them into their beds and then went into the living room. My husband came in and plopped down beside me with his hair all roughed up, exhaustion on his face. Then he asked, "Are they asleep yet???" He never had a bedtime growing up and would often contradict my insistance that they go to bed an hour or two before our own bedtime. Now, when I tell the kids its time for bed, he helps to get them up the stairs and on their way.

Anyway, the result of my working has been that my husband finally grasps what my life is like when he works all day, all week, all month, all year, and he is far more understanding when I say that I need a break.

Another great development has been that we are actively in the process of relocating. My husband is actually more excited about moving than I am. We will not be moving quite as far as I need to if I want to pursue an education in ancient civilizations. However, we will be close enough that I could occasionally do day trips to explore resources.

Right now our priority is to move into an area with a very good public school for our children. When our children are older, maybe I'll try to enroll in some classes. But, before we can move at all, we need to find a good job in the new location. I've had a couple inteviews but nothing definite so far. We recently decided that it will be more financially secure for us to wait until closer to spring to move. In the meantime, I am looking for more temporary part-time employment where we are. If I find suitable employment in the new location that can support our family, then my husband will stay with the kids until they are all old enough to go to school. If he find suitable employment, then I'll stay at home until then. Either way, we will have far more quality family time than his current position allows.

Spritually, I've been mostly just processing everything that has happened in the past two years. I have come to terms with my new perspective and with the Most High. I've even been able to discuss my views with a few other people without feeling as though I was about to subject myself to deep pain. I've needed time to grieve and to heal. Now its time to dust off the ashes, bathe, and re-enter the world. I'm not sure, however, that I'll re-enter the spiritual war. The only correct side of the war is the side of truth, but all the recruiting officers lie. Friend and foe look alike.

I won't make any promises about when the next time will be that I write in this blog. However, I do think about the people who I've connected with here, and I will probably write again sometime.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 30, 2007

"Jesus Camp"

The other night, my family and I watched a video called "Jesus Camp." The videographers basically follow around three youths and their families who attend a pentacostal evangelical church and who go to the week of camp the church leadership provides each year at of all places, "Devil's Lake," ND. I am sure that some people who watch the video wonder if the people who were followed are geniune in their presentation, or if they have been prompted on what to say. I personally am fairly certain that there was very little if any prompting that occurred in the video. I have personally witnessed and experienced the types of groups and situations depicted in the video.

As a person who encounters about 10 weeks of Christian summer camps each year for the past decade, I have seen many mininstry methods and I have seen the responses of many children. I also attended a camp once as a child and I especially remember going forward for the end of the week alter call and the conselor led discussion in our cabin shortly there-after. The camp I went to as a 5th grader wasn't pentacostal like the one presented in the video, but I can certainly relate to the desire of the children of that age to connect with God.

The continual question that most people probably have while watching the video is whether the children are being manipulated by church leadership to respond to the 'call of Christ.' Personally, I ask myself that same question often, even in less radical settings. Perhaps one reason I ask myself that is because when I was at camp in 5th grade, I went forward because I felt like that was what I was expected to do. I didn't realize that I went forward for that reason at first. It took some time for that fact to dawn on me.

We were told that if we go forward we were to wait until the pastor or a counselor came to pray with us. So, I did so, and I waited, and I waited, and I waited... there were a lot of kids who went forward. Probably every kid at camp. Did every one of them feel called by God to go forward? As I said, I waited a long time kneeling on the floor and the room was becoming nearly empty. I suddenly began to wonder why I need a pastor to pray with me about this when I already pray in private and knew that God heard me. The whole idea of an alter-call was foreign to me even though I had previously seen people respond to alter-calls at other church events. I wondered why I had even walked forward when I had never felt the need to in the past. I suddenly felt like an idiot kneeling there waiting for some sort of assistance that I didn't need. So, I got up, walked away and returned to my cabin where my cabinmates were waiting for the last of us.

Once we were ready for bed, the counsellor had a discussion time so we could all talk about our experiences that night. She had us each take a turn to share. When my turn came, I gave the same general story as everyone else, even the part where I supposedly cried because my sins were now forgiven. I wonder what the response would have been had I told the truth of what I had learned that night? Knowing that I had lied, I went to sleep that night wondering why I not only went forward for something that was unneccessary, but why I also later lied about what happened.

I had simply done what was expected of me.

Children want to be accepted, they want to fit in, they want approval from the adults around them, and they are also very curious about spirituality. Most parents use their childrens desire for approval to express what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not acceptable. Most adults would frown at and scold a child for writing on the walls or jumping around on a couch, and praise them for picking up their toys and for being polite. This is training for life skills. But, is there a point at which we, as parents or guardians, use our parenting tools to force children to act in a way that ceases to reflect the truths they know in their hearts?

At one point a 12 y.o. boy is preparing to give a sermon and he tells his interviewer, "Its not going to be me up their preaching." I know that he was implying that God would be preaching through him, but I wondered too how much of what he would say would be the catch-phrases that he hears over and over again from the ministers. At various time in the video you can hear the kids repeating as their own words the jargon and phraseology of the church. Personally, I am far more interested in what they really think, than in regurgitated jargon.

To be honest, as an adult, I still struggle with expressing thoughts that are outside of the expectation of the people around me. That is part of the reason I started this journal. Its a way to express things that too often I leave unsaid. In fact, if I walked into a church like the one shown in the Jesus Camp video and taught from the Bible, they'd probably start trying to cast the devil out of me with unintelligible babbling. (By the way, I've been in services like that one, and they are certainly memorable experiences). But, even in the not so charismatic groups, I would be viewed as a heretic. As the one mother in the video put it: "There are two kinds of people in the world, those who love Jesus, and those who don't." I wouldn't say that I don't love Jesus, but I certainly have a different understanding of him than most people. According to many christian authors, I am the enemy. Whats the point in talking with people who will imediately ostricize me?

Another interesting quote from the movie is from Becky Fischer, the youth minister: "If you want something from God, you have to cook a little." This quote is followed by the room full of kids and counsellors becoming as intense and emotional as they possibly can as if the more they do these things, the more of God they'll get. Once the congregation is in the desired emotional state, they are told what monsters they are in their hearts, to which they all burst into tears. Finally they are told to tell Jesus their evils and to come forward to have their hands washed with bottled water to make them clean again.

The basics are there: you've done something wrong, repent, and God will forgive. But there is another message too. A little girl gets the message loud and clear when she tells of "The churches God likes to go to." She says they're "Not dead churches, but ones where people are jumping up and down, and if they ask God just right, he'll go there." Yeah, just like Santa, right? By the way, some may think the message is only getting skewed in Pentacostal churches like this one, but perhaps they should think again. What are churches teaching our children? What is the right message?

There are a lot of pressures on our children today to be super-children. And, the children want to fullfill those expectations. I remember my childhood experiences at camp and in other settings, but my experiences were not nearly as intense as the multi-media, pressure intensive assault that is being heaped on the kids of today (and not just in churches). Becky the youth minister says that she wants Christian kids to be as radical as the Arab children over in Palestine. In a deleted scene, the director of a pro-life clinic says: "This generation wants something worth dying for... this generation... they will do anything you tell them to, and its who gets ahold of them."

How frightening is that? These are children, not little mini-me's. They have hearts and minds of their own. We need to foster their desire for truth and their compassion, not shape them into automatons. But too often today, inside the church and outside the church, that is what is being done to this generation. What will happen when they become adults and wake up? Or worse, what will happen if they become adults and don't wake up?

If you watch the video, also watch the director commentary when you're done. I didn't finish listening to the commentary yet, but from what I've seen so far, its their reactions to what they were seeing and experiencing and looks quite interesting. Jesus Camp is bound to stir up controversy from people of various belief systems. It would be quite useful for a group discussion.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

So I've read Stitchin

I have had at least five people tell me that I should read "The 12th Planet" by Zechariah Stitchin. So, I have read the book. The 12th Planet is the first in a series of books by Stitchin which he calls the Earth Chronicles. I believe the book was recommended to me because in it, Stitchin delves into the ancient texts and attempts to explain what it all means.

In the beginning of the book, Stitchin makes several claims which I was expecting him to support during the course of his book. Some of these claims equated the gods of various near-eastern pantheons as the same gods. While I am compelled to agree that there is crossover between pantheons, I'd like to see how his specific conclusions are made. He does not provide explanations for these claims, nor directly references other resources which might do so. I was disappointed to find that he was making this and other statements as if they were well known, and was making the statements as a starting point for his theories. Written in 1976, Stitchin uses some of the then popular scientific theories to support his theories. Unfortunately for Stitchin, some of these are now debatable. For instance, it is now known that neandarthal man posessed physical attributes that suggest he had a higher potential for intellegence than modern man, that neanderthal also had a culture, used weapons, practiced medicine, burial and other "advanced" behaviors, and co-existed at least for a time with both homo-sapien and homo-erectus. The more recent discoveries have caused those older theories on mans evolution, to which Stitchin refers, to be re-thought. Because the "facts" on which Stitchin builds his argument are shaky, so are the theories based on those "facts". I have to wonder what Stitchin (if he is still alive) thinks of the recent debates about how to classify a planet as a planet and how he fits the theory he once presented regarding the 12th planet together with the latest astronomical discoveries. Stitchin also presents mostly hand drawn copies and a few photo-like copies of various ancient artifacts which he says depict the gods wearing attire which would be necessary for air, water and/or interstellar travel. Personally, I have to do some serious mental acrobatics to agree with his interpretation of these images.

The single most annoying thing that Stitchin does however is also something employed by most Christians. Many Christians, including myself at one time, look at the Bible as one big book where details from Matthew are directly connected to details from Genesis, and to Revelations and to Romans, and to Isaiah, and so on, and so forth. Basically, most Christians don't look at verses in their historical and cultural context. They don't consider who the writer was (because its all really from one source right?) and they don't consider who the words were written to, or what it would have meant to those people in their own time. Nor, do they consider that the writings of past generations were used and misused by succeeding generations just as is done by our own generation. Verses are intermixed and thrown together to say "This is what we believe, and see, God says we are right, so you'd better believe it the way we do." This is backwards logic, and dangerous logic. Instead of inquiring for the mind of God, Christianity presumes to be the single almighty authority which alone can speak for God. Unlike Christianity, Stitchin does not presume to speak as if he is God. He does however, use all ancient texts in this same manner, irregardless of time, place and culture, he carves out a quote here and a quote there and pastes them together to prove his point. He takes the words and images of the past and forces them together into his worldview.

Although I have great difficulties with Stitchin's assertions and methods, I did find a couple of his statements interesting, and worth considering while I continue to learn about the ancient Near East. The one most intriguing to me is the idea that the area of Egypt and Nubia may have been the domain of Enki/Ea, and the northern areas, those of Sumer and Akkad, may have been the domain of Enlil. This idea if true also has some interesting implications for understanding the meaning of texts which describe the interactions between Enki and Enlil.

Given the enthusiasm with which this book was promoted to me, I am very disappointed in it. Zecharia Stitchin fails to effectively present enough solid evidence of his theories to convince me of his postulations. I hope that those who made the recommendation only thought that I would find something interesting in his writings; this I did. However, there isn't enough in it for me to recommend the book to others.

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