Tag Archive: Christianity


The Christianized Jesus

Photo by Sophie Molins

The Christianized Jesus – the turning of a radical into a conservative shadow of his former self – explains our problem of establishing and celebrating freedom fighters today. It is important that our progressive heroes be given a deserved fame, an accurately reported fame. This is crucial in ways that impact our own activism.

Jesus of Nazareth was not a Peak Performance Strategist as the prosperity preachers would have it. Nor was he an foreigner-hating patriot as the Tea Party would argue. Obviously American politicians and their lobbyists pursue so many policies that are against the teachings of Jesus but are supported by mainstream Christian opinion. In fact, Jesus’ parables and sayings push the spiritual revolution of gift economies, and of justice through radical forgiveness.

The Hallmark-carding of Dr. King’s life is what gave Glenn Beck the opening to disrespect his Lincoln Center speech. King’s basic differences with our present corporate economy needs to be a presence in our lives, especially in the educational materials and media of the young. Malcolm X’s spirited defense against the violence of entrenched power – this would help us now, as the security state begins to define 1st Amendment-protected protest as a form of terrorism. Cesar Chavez’s creativity and steady hand in unionizing the California farmworkers could be useful now as state employees face labor busting by governors and their wealthy tax-dodging sponsors. These three progressive heroes must be known for what they actually were.

It was believed that Jesus could be saved from the distortions of right-wing apocalyptic Christianity by researching the historical man. That hasn’t worked, despite the Newsweek (“Jesus – who was he really?”) cover story every Easter. I am writing from the Mayan region of southern Mexico, in the city of Chiapas, where another defense against the predations of the Christianized Jesus has been a success. Here, some of the people subjugated by the brutal conquistadors undermined the Spaniard’s god by concentrating their prayers on San Juan Bautista – John the Baptist.

San Juan stood in the flowing spirit of the River Jordan as he repeated again and again, “I am not He. I am not the One.” The Holy Spirit flowed through him as he baptized new believers in the water. John was in the river, in motion, always becoming. He offered his blessing to the act of belief, the creative power of the individual who approached him. As a result his personality is not so easily used to enforce hardened, violent fundamentalism. The Mayans have outmaneuvered fundamentalism to free themselves from those who rode toward them with the swords of Christ. Chiapas and Chamula, Mexico are far healthier and less consumerized then your average American suburb. This brilliant adjustment on their religion forced on them by the Spanish has a lot to do with it. What the Mayan did to the Spanish God is what we all need to do to the Bank of America.

Better approaches to the figures that we revere (and worship) are needed in this time of permanent war, economic piracy, and most of all the Earth’s crisis. Let’s find ways to be honest about radicals’ lives – so that we have clearer courage for our own activism.

 

From his humble beginnings preaching outside the Disney Store in Times Square,Reverend Billy has spent the last decade toggling between community activism and theatrical spectacle. He even became the subject of “Supersize Me” director Morgan Spurlock‘s sophomore documentary, “What Would Jesus Buy?” A logical extension of his anti-consumerism gospel, Reverend Billy now tackles the growing environmental crisis with “The Church of Earthalujah!” Backed by a 35-voice gospel choir, Reverend Billy and The Church of Earthalujah transcends parody in favor of a passionate humanism that speaks to growing public anxiety in the face of the ever-growing climate emergency and impotent leadership from politicians, NGOs and corporate CEOs.

 

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Colorado native Don Taylor, who describes himself as “a nonreligious individual,” was stopped dead in his tracks when he stumbled upon this divine apparition on his daily routine. Yes, a creeping vine on a telephone pole had taken on the unmistakable form of a crucified Jesus Christ. Local authorities warn potential pilgrimage-makers not to climb the pole to kiss or embrace Telephone Pole Jesus, however, lest they want to receive a 765,000-volt message of peace and love from their Leafy Savior.

 

Do you speak Christian?

Can you speak Christian?

Have you told anyone “I’m born again?” Have you “walked the aisle” to “pray the prayer?”

Did you ever “name and claim” something and, after getting it, announce, “I’m highly blessed and favored?”

Many Americans are bilingual. They speak a secular language of sports talk, celebrity gossip and current events. But mention religion and some become armchair preachers who pepper their conversations with popular Christian words and trendy theological phrases.

If this is you, some Christian pastors and scholars have some bad news: You may not know what you’re talking about. They say that many contemporary Christians have become pious parrots. They constantly repeat Christian phrases that they don’t understand or distort.

Marcus Borg, an Episcopal theologian, calls this practice “speaking Christian.” He says he heard so many people misusing terms such as “born again” and “salvation” that he wrote a book about the practice.

People who speak Christian aren’t just mangling religious terminology, he says. They’re also inventing counterfeit Christian terms such as “the rapture” as if they were a part of essential church teaching.

The rapture, a phrase used to describe the sudden transport of true Christians to heaven while the rest of humanity is left behind to suffer, actually contradicts historic Christian teaching, Borg says.

“The rapture is a recent invention. Nobody had thought of what is now known as the rapture until about 1850,” says Borg, canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.

How politicians speak Christian

Speaking Christian isn’t confined to religion. It’s infiltrated politics.

Political candidates have to learn how to speak Christian to win elections, says Bill Leonard, a professor of church history at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity in North Carolina.

One of our greatest presidents learned this early in his career. Abraham Lincoln was running for Congress when his opponent accused him of not being a Christian. Lincoln often referred to the Bible in his speeches, but he never joined a church or said he was born again like his congressional opponent, Leonard says.

“Lincoln was less specific about his own experience and, while he used biblical language, it was less distinctively Christian or conversionistic than many of the evangelical preachers thought it should be,” Leonard says.

Lincoln won that congressional election, but the accusation stuck with him until his death, Leonard says.

One recent president, though, knew how to speak Christian fluently.

During his 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush baffled some listeners when he declared that there was “wonder-working power” in the goodness of American people.

Evangelical ears, though, perked up at that phrase. It was an evangelical favorite, drawn from a popular 19th century revival hymn about the wonder-working power of Christ called “In the Precious Blood of the Lamb.”

Leonard says Bush was sending a coded message to evangelical voters: I’m one of you.

“The code says that one: I’m inside the community. And two: These are the linguistic ways that I show I believe what is required of me,” Leonard says.

Have you ‘named it and claimed it’?

Ordinary Christians do what Bush did all the time, Leonard says. They use coded Christian terms like verbal passports – flashing them gains you admittance to certain Christian communities.

Say you’ve met someone who is Pentecostal or charismatic, a group whose members believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as healing and speaking in tongues. If you want to signal to that person that you share their belief, you start talking about “receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost” or getting the “second blessings,” Leonard says.

Translation: Getting a baptism by water or sprinkling isn’t enough for some Pentecostals and charismatics. A person needs a baptism “in the spirit” to validate their Christian credentials.

Or say you’ve been invited to a megachurch that proclaims the prosperity theology (God will bless the faithful with wealth and health). You may hear what sounds like a new language.

Prosperity Christians don’t say “I want that new Mercedes.” They say they are going to “believe for a new Mercedes.” They don’t say “I want a promotion.” They say I “name and claim” a promotion.

The rationale behind both phrases is that what one speaks aloud in faith will come to pass. The prosperity dialect has become so popular that Leonard has added his own wrinkle.

“I call it ‘name it, claim it, grab it and have it,’ ’’ he says with a chuckle.

Some forms of speaking Christian, though, can become obsolete through lack of use.

Few contemporary pastors use the language of damnation – “turn or burn,” converting “the pagans” or warning people they’re going to hit “hell wide open” – because it’s considered too polarizing, Leonard says. The language of “walking the aisle” is also fading, Leonard says.

Appalachian and Southern Christians often told stories about staggering into church and walking forward during the altar call to say the “sinner’s prayer” during revival services that would often last for several weeks.

“People ‘testified’ to holding on to the pew until their knuckles turned white, fighting salvation all the way,” Leonard says. “You were in the back of the church, and you fought being saved.”

Contemporary churchgoers, though, no longer have time to take that walk, Leonard says. They consider their lives too busy for long revival services and extended altar calls. Many churches are either jettisoning or streamlining the altar call, Leonard says.

“You got soccer, you got PTA, you got family responsibilities – the culture just won’t sustain it as it once did,” Leonard says.

Even some of the most basic religious words are in jeopardy because of overuse.

Calling yourself a Christian, for example, is no longer cool among evangelicals on college campuses, says Robert Crosby, a theology professor at Southeastern University in Florida.

“Fewer believers are referring to themselves these days as ‘Christian,’ ” Crosby says. “More are using terms such as ‘Christ follower.’ This is due to the fact that the more generic term, Christian, has come to be used within religious and even political ways to refer to a voting bloc.”

What’s at stake

Speaking Christian correctly may seem like it’s just a fuss over semantics, but it’s ultimately about something bigger: defining Christianity, says Borg, author of “Speaking Christian.”

Christians use common words and phrases in hymns, prayers and sermons “to connect their religion to their life in the world,” Borg says.

“Speaking Christian is an umbrella term for not only knowing the words, but understanding them,” Borg says. “It’s knowing the basic vocabulary, knowing the basic stories.”

When Christians forget what their words mean, they forget what their faith means, Borg says.

Consider the word “salvation.” Most Christians use the words “salvation” or “saved” to talk about being rescued from sin or going to heaven, Borg says.

Yet salvation in the Bible is seldom confined to an afterlife. Those characters in the Bible who invoked the word salvation used it to describe the passage from injustice to justice, like the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage, Borg says.

“The Bible knows that powerful and wealthy elites commonly structure the world in their own self-interest. Pharaoh and Herod and Caesar are still with us. From them we need to be saved,” Borg writes.

And when Christians forget what their faith means, they get duped by trendy terms such as the rapture that have little to do with historical Christianity, he says.

The rapture has become an accepted part of the Christian vocabulary with the publication of the megaselling “Left Behind” novels and a heavily publicized prediction earlier this year by a Christian radio broadcaster that the rapture would occur in May.

But the notion that Christians will abandon the Earth to meet Jesus in the clouds while others are left behind to suffer is not traditional Christian teaching, Borg says.

He says it was first proclaimed by John Nelson Darby, a 19th century British evangelist, who thought of it after reading a New Testament passage in the first book of Thessalonians that described true believers being “caught up in the clouds together” with Jesus.

Christianity’s focus has long been about ushering in God’s kingdom “on Earth, not just in heaven,” Borg says.

“Christianity’s goal is not to escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better,” he writes.

For now, though, Borg and others are also focusing on changing how Christians talk about their faith.

If you don’t want to speak Christian, they say, pay attention to how Christianity’s founder spoke. Jesus spoke in a way that drew people in, says Leonard, the Wake Forest professor.

“He used stories, parables and metaphors,” Leonard says. “He communicated in images that both the religious folks and nonreligious folks of his day understand.”

When Christians develop their own private language for one another, they forget how Jesus made faith accessible to ordinary people, he says.

“Speaking Christian can become a way of suggesting a kind of spiritual status that others don’t have,” he says. “It communicates a kind of spiritual elitism that holds the spiritually ‘unwashed’ at arm’s length.”

By that time, they’ve reached the final stage of speaking Christian – they’ve become spiritual snobs.

Bill O’Reilly was not pleased with the New York Times’ labeling of Anders Behring Brevik, the 32-year-old mass murderer who took at least 76 innocent lives as a “Christian Extremist.” In his column, he notes that the “killer is not attached to any church, has no history of Christian activity, has openly criticized the Protestant philosophy, and has committed acts counter to all Christian teaching.”

o'reilly, christains, demonized“Anders Brevik did not kill in the name of Jesus,” O’Reilly argues. “He was not a member of a Christian-based al-Qaida-like group. He was not funded by Iran or enabled by Pakistan. He is simply a murderer, a man devoid of any spiritual conscience. A direct descendent of Cain. Yet, somehow, Brevik is now a member of a peace-loving, compassionate group, at least according to some media. He’s a Christian.”

“The left well understands that Christian opposition to things like abortion, gay marriage, and drug legalization makes those liberal causes more difficult to achieve,” O’Reilly concludes. “Thus, anything that diminishes Christianity is fair game to be promoted. Every newsworthy sin committed by a Christian is highlighted with a sneering reference to hypocrisy. Any whiff of Christian intolerance is celebrated in the press.”

Read more on Newsmax.com: O’Reilly: Christianity Demonized
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama’s Re-Election? Vote Here Now!

(CNN) – Given initial suspicions that Friday’s bombing and mass shooting in Norway were carried out by Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda, the way police ended up describing the suspect behind the attacks came as a big surprise even to many security experts: The alleged attacker was called a “Christian fundamentalist.”

But experts on European politics and religion say that the Christian fundamentalist label could overstate the extent to which the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik – who has told authorities that he carried out the attacks – was motivated by religion, and the extent to which he is tied to a broader religious movement.

“It is true that he sees himself as a crusader and some sort of Templar knight,” said Marcus Buck, a political science professor at Norway’s University of Tromso, referring to an online manifesto that Breivik appears to have authored and which draws inspiration from medieval Christian crusaders.

My Take: Norway attacks shows terrorism isn’t just Islamic

“But he doesn’t seem to have any insight into Christian theology or any ideas of how the Christian faith should play any role in Norwegian or European society,” Buck wrote in an email message. “His links to Christianity are much more based on being against Islam and what he perceives of as ‘cultural Marxism.'”

From what the 1,500-page manifesto says, Breivik appears to have been motivated more by an extreme loathing of European multiculturalism that has accompanied rapid immigration from the developing world, and of the European Union’s growing powers, than by Christianity.

“My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight,” to his political views, said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. “It is a signifier of Western culture and values, which is what they pretend to defend.”

“I would say they are more anti-Islam than pro-Christian,” Romarheim said in reference to what appear to be Breivik’s views.

The manifesto is religion-obsessed in that it rants for long stretches against Muslims and their growing presence in Europe.

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

It calls for a European civil war to overthrow governments, end multiculturalism and execute “cultural Marxists.” The manifesto includes a link to a video asserting that the majority of Europe’s population will be Muslim by 2050 “unless we manage to defeat the ruling Multiculturalist Alliance.”

The author of the document identifies himself as Breivik, but CNN could not independently verify that he wrote the document, and Norwegian authorities would not confirm that the man in their custody wrote the manifesto, saying it was part of their investigation

Opposition to booming Muslim immigration to Europe, exacerbated by high birth rates in the Muslim community, has become a mainstay of Europe’s burgeoning far-right, helping right-wing parties gain seats in parliaments across the continent.

But those right-wing movements are mostly secular. Europe’s hard right does not have deep ties to Christianity in the way that the United States’ conservative movement is entwined with evangelical Christianity and other theologically conservative religious movements.

A far-right comeback in Europe

Recently adopted European laws aimed at curbing Islam’s public visibility, including France’s new burqa ban and Switzerland ban on minarets – towers that a part of mosques – were secular causes, not ones championed by Christian interests. Many Christian groups oppose such bans.

“The bulk of the anti-Muslim sentiment is not against Muslims as such, but is a secular rejection of how some Muslims allegedly want to place Islam at the center of society,” Buck said. “It is more anti-religious than anti-Muslim.”

Breivik’s apparent manifesto, by contrast, cites biblical verses to justify violence for political ends.

“Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve,” it says. “It’s God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time.”

“The biggest threat to Europe is the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist political doctrine of ‘extreme egalitarian emotionalism,'” the manifesto goes on. “This type of political stance involves destroying Christendom, the Church, our European cultures and identities and opening up our borders to Islamic colonization.”

The video that’s linked to in the manifesto also includes some religious language: “Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution, for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Experts on religion in Europe said those faith-infused views are likely peculiar to the suspected gunman and do not appear reflect wider religious movements, even as they echoes grievances of Europe’s right-wing political groups.

“He was a flaky extremist who might as well have claimed to be fighting for the honor of Hogwarts as for the cause of Christ,” said Philip Jenkins, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies global religion and politics, describing the suspected Norway attacker. “He did not represent a religious movement. … People should not follow that Christian fundamentalist red herring.”

At the same time, Breivik told investigators during interviews that he belongs to an international order, The Knights Templar, according to Norwegian newspaper VG, which cited unnamed sources.

He described the organization as an armed Christian order, fighting to rid the West of Islamic suppression, the newspaper said. He also told investigators he had been in contact with like-minded individuals and said he counts himself as a representative of this order, it said.

For many in Norway, the potential implications of the suspected killer’s religion are still settling in.

“This is the first time we’ve heard of Christianity/religion as a driving force behind right-wing extremism,” Buck said. “The mainstream right-wing movements in the Nordic countries (very small and disorganized groups in Norway) would generally point to the Old Norse beliefs, if anything.”

“Norwegian, Nordic and European society,” he said, “were totally unprepared for a violent attack from someone who calls himself Christian.”

Christ the Redeemer statue

Standing atop Brazil‘s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in January 1999, stuntman ‘Fearless Felix‘ Baumgartner braced himself for what was to be the world’s lowest BASE jump at 29 metres (95 feet). When he stepped off the edge, split seconds would extend as Rio de Janeiro opened up before his eyes. Those who make jumps that fall into the highest category may win more plaudits as well as freefall time, but it’s the lower jumps that are more dangerous because there is so little time for the parachute to open. (Link)

The Bible: History or Myth?

When you hear the word “myth” associated with the Bible, what is the first thought that comes to your mind?

Many use the term myth in a pejorative sense to mean that the stories described are not factually true. Others define myth as non-historical tales that contain a moral message. Both of these definitions miss the richness of the term. Mythology is a form of literature that expresses fundamental truths in a way that ordinary discourse is inadequate to describe. The stories that make up the myths are often anchored in some historical reality, but this need not be so. Mythology adds a richness of detail and a concreteness to metaphorical language. Reading Biblical stories as mythology gives me the freedom to understand their underlying meaning in a way I never did when I was taught as a child that these stories were factually true.

Why do most modern scholars reject a reading of the Bible as history much less as literal fact?

1. In an age of science and technology, too much of the Bible is simply unbelievable to today’s mind and turns people away from the underlying messages. From a scientific standpoint, many of the “facts” in the Bible are simply wrong. One of many examples: according to Genesis, the universe is just over 6000 years old. According to physics, the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago.

2. Many of the stories are also scientifically impossible, like the tale of Joshua stopping the sun moving across the sky. This story assumes (as was the thinking then) that the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe. We simply know this to be false. Second, for the sun to stop would mean that the earth would have to cease rotating on its axis — an event which would destroy the planet.

3. For many of the miracle stories, natural explanations exist. The authors of these stories lived in an age when people believed that solar eclipses were divine omens, disease was divine punishment, and mental illness was caused by demon possession. In the case of Jesus, healing was an important part of his ministry. However, today we can find faith healers in Haiti who practice voodoo and in tribal Africa who practice witchcraft. Many of these modern-day faith healers have patients who are actually healed by these practices. Doctors call this the placebo effect, an effect so powerful that drugs must undergo double blind experiments.

4. Some of the mythological stories in the Bible are not original, but were borrowed from other traditions. The Epic of Gilgamesh — a Sumerian poem detailing the creation of the universe that predates the writings of Genesis by many centuries — contains a flood story whose plot points are almost identical to the story of Noah.

5. The other world religions also contain rich histories of mythology and fantastical sounding (to us) stories. On what basis can we Christians claim that our miracle stories are legitimate, yet theirs are flights of fancy? The mythology surrounding the Buddha, who lived 500 years before Jesus, includes tales of how he healed the sick, walked on water, and flew through the air. His birth was foretold by a spirit (a white elephant rather than the angel Gabriel) who then entered his mother’s womb! At his birth, wise men predicted that he would become a great religious leader. Twentieth-century scholars Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell wrote that certain archetypal religious myths are found across cultures, histories, and religions. Examples include the Cosmic Tree, the Virgin BIrth, and The Resurrection.

6. The Bible itself is full of inconsistencies. How can it be an accurate historical record, when the various books contradict each other? Here is UNC Religion Professor Bart Ehrman:

“Just take the death of Jesus. What day did Jesus die on and what time of day? Did he die on the day before the Passover meal was eaten, as John explicitly says, or did he die after it was eaten, as Mark explicitly says? Did he die at noon, as in John, or at 9 a.m., as in Mark? Did Jesus carry his cross the entire way himself or did Simon of Cyrene carry his cross? It depends which Gospel you read. Did both robbers mock Jesus on the cross or did only one of them mock him and the other come to his defense? It depends which Gospel you read. Did the curtain in the temple rip in half before Jesus died or after he died? It depends which Gospel you read … Or take the accounts of the resurrection. Who went to the tomb on the third day? Was it Mary alone or was it Mary with other women? If it was Mary with other women, how many other women were there, which ones were they, and what were their names? Was the stone rolled away before they got there or not? What did they see in the tomb? Did they see a man, did they see two men, or did they see an angel? It depends which account you read.”

 

7. Reading the Bible as a literal historical account of events from the past limits the power of these stories. Rather than expressing universal truths, a literal interpretation limits the actions of God to certain events in history. God’s actions in the world become finite, confined to certain historical events: like the chess master making individual moves on a chessboard frozen in time two thousand years ago. Reading these same stories mythologically, however, can bring forth their universal qualities.

8. A literal reading of the Bible alienates much of our society. The stories were written in a different age with different views on social justice — an age in which slavery was legitimate, an age when discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation was the norm. Too often because of this history, the Bible is used to justify intolerance today.

Reading the Bible as mythology is not a new concept. Two of the early Church Fathers, Origen (185-254 AD) and Augustine (354-430 AD), both interpreted Genesis metaphorically, rejecting literal interpretations. Early in the 20th century, German theologian Rudolf Bultmann called for a “demythologizing” of the New Testament for many of the reasons given above. Rather, the movement in many fundamentalist circles today to read the Bible as inerrant (an extreme form of literalism, in which every word of Bible is viewed as true) is a late development from the 19th century as a response to the chipping away at the historicity of the stories since the Enlightenment.

I fear that an insistence on a literal or historical reading of the Bible will ultimately lead to the irrelevance of Christianity in our society. By throwing off the shackles of having to believe in the historicity of the Bible, we are free to interpret the stories as a testament to the religious experiences of people from a different age — a testament that communicates a meaning about their experiences of Ultimate Reality, of God. I understand that their experiences of the divine ground in their lives were interpreted through the lens of a pre-modern view of the world, and my own religious experiences will take on a different form today.

Heathen’s Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever considered why it’s impolite to question another’s religious beliefs? The answer is simple. They can’t respond without sounding like a fool. It’s likely that many understand that their doctrines are absurd.

They do have this ability because they apply it to other faiths. They might say, ‘Group X believes man and woman were created when a giant bird snapped a piece of bamboo in two with his beak; that is so stupid.’ Yet, they cannot say the same for a clot of dust or a rib?

For me, this issue is minor compared to the larger one. These allegedly righteous affirm that they have the authority and duty to control your life and press their views on you. When someone points out errors in their argument most are so absentminded that rational points cannot penetrate their thick skulls. If you do manage to make a small dent in their spiritual armor, they retreat back to their Bible or holy shepherd for a reassuring swig of Jesus Kool Aid. There is a reason the church refers to its followers as a flock.

The faithful have been indoctrinated in the idea that their holy book is correct and this has been reinforced with constant threats of hellfire. This methodology is essential to the survival of Christianity, and those who reach adulthood with these notions intact aim to intimidate and bully others into accepting the same authority.

The holy rollers say they know the truth because it’s in their book. Most will continue to ignore evidence contrary to their particular church’s view. Their doctrine is grounded in wishful thinking but this system does have weaknesses. As mentioned before, these same individuals are fervent disbelievers in every other religion under the sun. They see the silliness in other faiths. Yet, most will continue to defend their claims until death in hopes of achieving some divine afterlife.

This type of behavior hinders their minds and society as a whole. How does this possibly affect others you might ask? Once again, the answer is simple.

They push beliefs onto other people. Evangelicals command huge voting blocks in the US that have hindered research in such promising areas as stem cell research. They want “creationist science” taught in schools. They oppose proper sex education classes while holding out on the notion that condoms are bad and abstinence is the answer. This aids in the spread of STDs, the rise of teen pregnancies and abortions, and massive government handouts to unwed mothers. They do this without ever considering the possibility that their religion, based on ancient scribblings of Bronze Age Palestinian desert dwelling thugs, could possibly be untrue.

Plainly put, religion is incapable of leaving people alone. The devout, especially Presbyterians, Baptists, and Catholics, want to ban books, censor movies and television shows, silence dissenters, and invade the private sphere by saying who you can marry or sleep with (and in what positions), all the while insisting they have the answers. Their actions do not equate with freedom. They would gleefully forfeit liberty as long as authority removed Darwinism from classrooms and placed the Ten Commandments on courthouse lawns.

Churches may preach of eternal bliss in some wonderful afterlife, but their leaders desire to make life on earth a living hell for us. Why else do they spend so much time and energy lobbying government leaders?

Can you imagine if we tossed billions into temples for Zues and gave our hard-earned money to men who preached stories about Apollo? Or if we refused to have our children vaccinated because some lunatic told us that we are interfering with Amen Ra’s will.

A nonbeliever can see through the veil of Christianity and other religions, yet the faithful look down their noses on dissenters. They believe an invisible, all-seeing and all-knowing man in the sky created them. He cares about them and loves them. He will reward them. The Bible is the be all and end all. Anyone who doesn’t believe in God or his book burns in hell. Under any other scenario, society would scoff everything they say and dismiss them as mental.

Remember this poor girl

Yet even today, in a nation such as the US, they are not taxed and exert tremendous control over politics, blocking pioneering research and insisting that their beliefs, masquerading as science, be taught in public schools. We must start criticizing these actions in hopes of putting these silly notions behind us.

Those willing to stand up to them need some “spiritual armor” of their own. And the truth is this: any time someone willingly puts reason aside based on claims without evidence it opens up realms for sinister things…as we shall see in future installments.

The General Secretary of the Methodist Church, Reverend Elisaia Vaiao Eteuati Tuitolova’a, has defended the church against claims by its members that they are financially burdened by the accumulating costs of its latest project, the big Church at Faleula.

The claims were made by members who asked not to be named.

They contacted the Samoa Observer questioning the cost of the church and expressing  concern about the large amounts of money follo

wers are forced to raise to fund the construction.

However Reverend Eteuati is adamant the church is “a private organization” and as such it is above public criticism.

“This is a private organisation and we are not subject to scrutiny from the media or anybody else,” he said yesterday in an interview during the church conference at Faleula.

He said church followers are not obligated to give to the church; it’s a personal choice.

A report on the church construction was read at the conference.
Said Reverend Eteuati:  “We are still on target.”

He explained that about $NZ5 million ($T$9.7 million) was put aside for the new church. “The report was read out here at the meeting and there were no objections raised.”

Once it’s completed the new church will be the main place of worship for Methodists in Samoa.

The building has been under construction for almost two years. Itis not known when it will be completed.
This will be the Methodist Church’ second main House of Worship. The first one is on Beach Road at Matafele, Apia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The popular image of a church is that of a selfless organization unconcerned with financial gain. It is reflected in the fact that churches receive tax-exempt status from federal and state governments. And without question, most churches do engage in substantial charity work.

But that doesn’t mean that churches are not, at least partially, money-making enterprises. Though official records are scarce, the world’s major churches are all believed to collect annual revenues in excess of several billion dollars. Like any other institution, these churches work hard to earn the highest possible return on their investments.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Otherwise known as the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has long been one of the world’s wealthiest religious groups.

Like most major churches, the exact tally of LDS assets is difficult to come by. In July 2007, the Salt Lake Tribune covered an Oregon Supreme Court ruling ordering the church to publicize its financials in connection with a lawsuit from an alleged abuse victim, noting that it had not disclosed such information since 1959. In 1997, Time Magazine found that current LDS assets totaled $30 billion. If LDS were a corporation, Time continued, its estimated $5.9 billion in annual revenues would have placed it midway through the Fortune 500.

The LDS church has taken ambitious strides to preserve and grow its wealth over the years. Beneficial Financial Group, a $3.1 billion insurance company with annual revenues exceeding $600 million, is wholly owned by the church. LDS also owns the Deseret Morning News, Utah’s second-largest newspaper. Bonneville International Corporation, which controls over two dozen top radio stations across six states, is also wholly owned by LDS through Deseret Management Corporation, the church’s for-profit arm. Another $6 billion of church money was said by Time to be tied up in “unspecified investments.” All of these activities, it should be noted, are categorized as “unrelated business income” and subject to state and federal taxes.

In 2005, MSNBC reported that the Roman Catholic Church owned more real estate globally than any other organization or individual on earth. Interestingly, a surprising amount of this land does not produce income for the church. Gabriel Kahn, a Rome Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, told MSNBCthat the church’s land assets “are not liquid and they can’t be put to use for the Catholic Church in the way they could be for, say, a corporation.”

But just five years earlier, the church’s own financial statements told a different story. In 2001, an official report stated that the church’s real estate activities in fiscal year 2000 produced $81.7 billion in revenue on $51.8 billion in expenses: a nearly $30 billion profit.

Outside of real estate, MSNBC suggests that the Catholic church maintains a portfolio of conservative investments. In 2006, the Boston Globe revealed that the church turned a profit of roughly $55 million on a portfolio heavily concentrated in government bonds. The Vatican’s TV and publishing operations, too, were said to have produced an unspecified surplus.

Of course, the bulk of the Catholic Church’s yearly income continues to come in the form of donations. The Boston Globe found that “contributions from worldwide dioceses” totaled $92.9 million in 2005, while individual donations made directly to the Pope neared $60 million.

In recent years, the Vatican has suffered from having a portfolio biased toward dollar-denominated investments. The UK’s Guardian found that in 2008 the church suffered its first loss in four years, owing to the decline of the dollar relative to the stronger Euro.

 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is less guarded than either the Catholic Church or Church of Latter-Day saints, releasing detailed yearly financial reports on its website.

In fiscal year 2009, the church claims to have earned $1,698,336 from “investment income”, $2,238,629 from “bequests and trusts” and another $1,003,420 in rental income. The same report lists a separate column of “temporarily restricted” revenues, on which another $1,625,000 in investment income is reported.

While the exact nature of these investments are not specified in the report, the church appears to derive substantial income from its Mission Investment Fund.

Through the Mission Investment Fund, the ELCA has made “nearly 800 active loans totaling over $475 million” to affiliated ministries located in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The purpose of loan proceeds is to help these organizations buy land, expand operations or in some way improve the Lutheran experience of nearby worshipers.

At time of writing, the Mission Investment Fund is offering 3.25% interest on four year, fixed-rate CDs, as well as 5.00% on one year, adjustable-rate mortgages. Members of the church are also encouraged to buy high-yield CDs, contribute to Health Savings Accounts, and use checking and savings accounts administered by the ECLA.

In total, the church claims that a significant number of “schools, colleges, universities, social ministry organizations and outdoor ministries” are invested in the Mission Investment Fund.

The Takeaway

Despite its un-businesslike nature, a church requires capital to carry outs its operations just as any other organization. In 2005, MSNBC’s Nanette Hansen even wondered if Pope Benedict XVI would “have to be a money manager as well as a spiritual leader.”

Regardless of the use to which church investment proceeds are ultimately put, there is no denying the financial clout that their activities provide them. Both the donations they take in and the investment income they earn help make the world’s major churches serious financial players.

 

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