Friday, April 08, 2005

Faith-based oil exploration

A Texas oil man is searching for oil in Israel by using the Bible.

John Brown, a born-again Christian and founder of Zion Oil & Gas of Dallas, can quote chapter and verse about his latest drilling venture in Israel, where his company has an oil and gas exploration licence covering 96,000 acres.

"Most blessed of sons be Asher. Let him be favoured by his brothers and let him dip his foot in oil," Brown quotes from Moses's blessing to one of the 12 Tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:24.

Standing next to a 54-metre (177-ft)-high derrick at Kibbutz Maanit in northern Israel, Brown said the passage indicated there is oil lying beneath the biblical territory of the Tribe of Asher, where the agricultural community is located.

Geological surveys and an attempt by an Israeli-based company to find oil at the same site 10 years ago, a venture he said was abandoned for lack of funds, led Brown to pick the spot where new drilling will begin this week.

Brown said he raised money for "Project Joseph" from fellow evangelical Christians in the United States.

"From the investment standpoint, they certainly hope to have a return of the money," he said. "But the basis of it is Genesis, chapter 12."



Thursday, April 07, 2005

Lounge Lizards?

Bigot and huckster Lou Sheldon:
TVC exposed the wasteful spending of millions of tax dollars by the National Institutes of Health on frivolous studies and research projects—including tax dollars to study the behaviors of “lot lizards,” – prostitutes who hang out at truck stops

They're National Security threats, you know.

Oh, wait. It's Congressional Lounge Lizards who are the threat...



From the Miami Herald:
Teenage offenders in a Pompano Beach halfway house will benefit from the nation's first ever faith-based mentoring program.

Under a $336,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Broward Intensive Halfway House will recruit and train volunteer mentors from area churches, synagogues, and mosques. The facility is one of six statewide selected for program.

"It's not an easy population, but we're looking for volunteers who sincerely want to listen," said house director John Sherman.

Most of the 24 boys at the home have bounced around the juvenile justice system, racking up multiple offenses. Because they are minors -- 14 to 18 years old -- their families have consented to treatment, and must consent to have them take part in the program.

Each mentor will work with a nondenominational chaplain and another volunteer.

"Christian, Jewish, Muslim -- we're not into changing these kids' faith or imposing one," said Sherman, 45. "This program is just another way to find people who want to get involved."


The University of Florida's criminology department will monitor the program with visits and interviews and deliver a report to the state.

So, let's get this straight. This is a program run by a government agency, not a church, that states it doesn't work on the kids' faith, and is overseen by a university.

And it's faith-based how?


Department of Strange Bedfellows

news24 from South Africa:
Beverly Hills - Brad Pitt is among the leading celebrities featured in new public service announcements for a campaign led by U2 singer Bono to fight poverty and Aids.


Bono and Pitt were joined by Jack Valenti, the former top lobbyist for the film industry, and actor Djimon Hounsou, a native of Benin.

A 60-second ad to air on Sunday night on various networks and cable television channels features actors, musicians and religious leaders. Among them are Jewel, Penelope Cruz, Tom Hanks and Mos Def.

Also featured are Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, and Hounsou as well as evangelist Pat Robertson and the Rev Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Yeah, I know I'm no Photoshop pro...



Killer frogs land in Portsmouth, sez the Guardian:
Less than 5cm long, the Colombian golden poison frog hardly looks like a killer. But it is among the deadliest of land creatures, secreting a poison that can kill humans within 30 minutes.

Staff at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Southsea, Portsmouth, which received four of the 2in-long frogs this week, enter the isolated quarantine block only when wearing goggles and gloves.

The aquarium plans to breed Phyllobates terribilis so that they do not have to be captured in their shrinking habitat in the Chaco rainforest region of west Colombia, whose tribes poison their darts by wiping them on the frogs' backs.

If I were an MP, I wouldn't be trying to cut Blue Reef's funding any time soon...


They're bragging about this crap now?

Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition:
The Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (GLHRC) has just published a new report that credits TVC with getting bisexual, pro-abortionist Patricia Ireland fired from the YWCA in 2003.

The report, "Written Out: How Sexuality Is Used To Attack Women's Organizing," describes TVC’s media campaign on pages 73-75 of the online PDF report.

The report notes that technological advances have allowed increasing use of web activism "that elicits fast mobilization of conservative constituencies. As a result, targeted lesbian- and sexuality-baiting can stretch across a country or the globe with a few clicks of a computer mouse."

TVC responds: "TVC’s objective was to expose the truth about Patricia Ireland’s radical bisexual and feminist agenda and the impact it would have on young girls who joined the Girl Scouts."

Perhaps I'm missing something here. Where does Jesus say "Blessed are they who get one another canned, and then use that to raise funds"?

Very traditional values, Lou.



Lakoff, anyone?


Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Just when you thought it couldn't get more idiotic:
An openly gay bishop said Tuesday that observations he made about Jesus' lifestyle were taken out of context to suggest he was implying that Christ was gay.

During a forum at a Massachusetts church in February, Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson noted that Jesus "was single as far as we know (and) traveled with a bunch of men."

The comments made their way onto the Internet and into a London newspaper Sunday, where critics said Robinson had suggested Jesus was gay.

Not so, Robinson said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.


He said he was stressing that concepts such as "traditional values" and the nuclear family are relatively new, and that based on the choices he made, Jesus led an untraditional life.

"What I recall is that the question was trying to get me to say that Jesus affirmed the nuclear family as the only way a family can be," Robinson said. "I was just pointing out that you best check Scripture again before you use the life of Jesus to try to pronounce a blessing on that."


Mmm-hmm, that's good poll!

The controversy over Terri Schiavo has raised concerns among many Americans about the moral agenda of the Republican Party and the political power of conservative Christians, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds. (Related: Poll results)


• By 55%-40%, respondents say Republicans, traditionally the party of limited government, are "trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans" on moral values.

• By 53%-40%, they say Democrats, who sharply expanded government since the Depression, aren't trying to interfere on moral issues.


Mark Rozell, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia who studies religion and politics, says the case has created a "clear backlash."

"It's one thing to look at religious conservatives as part of a broad coalition that makes up the Republican Party," he says. "It's entirely another if people think that religious conservatives are calling the shots in the Bush administration for what was a deeply personal situation."


In the poll taken Friday and Saturday, Bush's job-approval rating is 48%, 3 percentage points higher than in mid-March. His standing on personal characteristics such as trustworthiness remains above 50%.

Still, Americans by 53%-34% say they disapprove of Bush's handling of the Schiavo case. Congress' rating on Schiavo is worse: 76% disapprove, 20% approve.

By more than 2-to-1, 39%-18%, Americans say the "religious right" has too much influence in the Bush administration. That's a change from when the question was asked in CBS News/New York Times polls taken from 2001 to 2003. Then, approximately equal numbers said conservative Christians had too much and too little influence.

It's too early to tell if this is the beginning of a sea change. But it's safe to say that in this climate, the Democrats stand to gain far more than the Republicans.



Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What's Grassley up to?

WASHINGTON - A former White House official says 'widespread congressional apathy and a desire for political gamesmanship' doomed the president's tax incentives for charitable giving.

In testimony prepared for a hearing on charities, David Kuo, former deputy director at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, also criticized Republican efforts to repeal the estate tax because of its potential drain on charitable giving.
Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, called Kuo to testify Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee as part of an investigation into abuses at tax-exempt charitable organizations. Grassley has said he wants to pass a bill clamping down on the problems this spring.

Since when does Grassley care about this stuff? I wonder who that bill's going to target. And why call a former administration aide who has been publicly critical of the president's efforts in this arena?

For that matter, why is Kuo now giving it to Congress? In his published comments late last year, he pinned the blame on both the administration and Congress. So has he changed his focus, or does the other side of his critique not come through in the article?

The whole thing is a puzzle.

But here's what he's got to say about the estate tax and charitable giving:
Kuo also said estimates show that a full repeal of the estate tax could cost the charitable sector more than $10 billion each year. The estate tax leads wealthy individuals to contribute to charities because the donations reduce their estate tax liability.

"That is a lot of money," he said.

The Congressional Budget Office last year reported that repealing the estate tax could cause a 6 percent to 12 percent drop in charitable contributions and bequests.

Could it be more obvious that these folks don't give a crap about charity? If they did, they wouldn't seek tax cuts that would kick charitable organizations in the nuts. This is another tax cut for the wealthy, plain and simple.


Nice to know, somehow

"TORONTO (Reuters) - Sabrina the flying squirrel has been allowed permanent residency in Canada after a government order to deport her -- which made headlines around the world last year -- was reversed this week.

'I think justice got done,' Clayton Ruby, a high-profile Toronto lawyer who led a campaign to change Canada's policy on importing squirrels and other banned rodents, said on Friday."


Monday, April 04, 2005

Who Killed Martin Luther King?

from grannyhelen

"...but that gave me the wonderful privilege of spending the last hour on earth. Three preachers in a room -- Abernathy, King and Kyles. And we spent that last hour together in Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel.

The press is always curious and writers -- what went on? What did you talk about? I say, we just talked preacher talk. What preachers talk about when they get together, revivals and all the like. About a quarter of six we walked on the balcony, and he was talking to people in the courtyard.

He stood here, and I stood there. Only as I moved away so he could have a clear shot, the shot rang out."

--Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles, on videotape discussing the 30th Anniversary Commemoration of the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I've met Reverend Kyles. Shook his hand. Right on the grounds of the National Civil Rights Museum, set up within and around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

I was almost five months old when Dr. King was murdered.

Until reading the above referenced quotation, taken from a transcript of a video tape of a news conference where Rev. Kyles is discussing plans for an upcoming commemoration of Dr. King's assassination, the question of "who killed Dr. King" was best left to the conspiracy theorists. You know the kind: the sort-of-pudgy, sort-of-pasty, chain-smoking paranoid people who watched one too many Oliver Stone movies, and who probably should be in therapy.

At least, that was my opinion of conspiracy theories until I encountered this quotation. When I did, it left my head spinning. I started reading the entire transcripts of King v. Jowers, the wrongful death civil suit that the King family successfully litigated against Lloyd Jowers. The suit was brought against Mr. Jowers after he revealed on a national news show that he was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Dr. King.

A jury of twelve Americans, just normal, average people, found after days and weeks of testimony that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Dr. King that involved local, state and governmental authorities.

What would drive twelve normal, average Americans, who had nothing to gain by deciding one way or another on the assassination of Dr. King, to decide that their government conspired to kill him?

Maybe it was the same evidence that Dr. William Pepper uncovered when he first interviewed James Earl Ray and decided to take him on as a client. Maybe it was the same evidence Reverend James Lawson, who worked alongside Dr. King, was troubled by and recounted during the King v. Jowers trial:

Q. (BY MR. PEPPER) Jim, from that day tothis have you been concerned about how Martin King was assassinated?

A. [By Rev. Lawson] Yes. Almost immediately there were things that troubled me about the assassination. I learned within the next day, next twenty-four hours, that his normal security group from the police department had not been assigned.

I learned that one or two firemen, and I've not tried to check on these details, but one or two fire then who were in the fire station across the street katty-cornered from the motel, black firemen, were transferred from that station in ways that at least those firemen thought was unusual. They contacted me and Ralph Jackson and one or two others about their removal. They were not what they considered to be normal removals. The fire station let's say was over here and the motel here. It had clear vision.

I learned that Ed Redditt, who was on surveillance from the fire station, was moved an hour before. I learned that patrol cars that were in the region when he was there patrolling on Mulberry and Main and what not suddenly disappeared, were nowhere to be found.

I discovered that on April the 4th, the night of that day, that there was on the police band the notice of a white Mustang fleeing the city in the north who got away. There was never any explanation of how that call got on the police band. Ostensibly it was accessible only to the police.

Well, now I know that there were two white Mustangs. I've met the drivers of both of them quite some time ago. The one driver was James Earl Ray. I visited him in prison. I can't remember the name of the other driver, but I sat in an airport in Nashville two or three years ago with the second driver of the second white Mustang, and he told me who he was, why he was in Memphis and whose car this belonged to. We know now that there were two white Mustangs in Memphis on the April the 4th evening.

These questions were never answered to my satisfaction. I pondered them. I wondered why when Martin King had stayed more often in the Admiral Benbow and in the Rivermont, I wondered where this letter came from or where this report in the newspaper came from about why is this civil rights leader not staying in the perfectly good negro motel, why is he staying at that white motel. I wondered about that.

I wondered how they had two or three different names for whoever they were seeking, how did that go on? What was that about? Then when they captured James Earl Ray and they came to the prison, they fixed up -- they had him in the county jail, and they fixed up a special cell with twenty-four-hour surveillance, no privacy, twenty-four-hour lights. He had no privacy whatsoever. He complained.

I kick myself now that I did not go down to the county jail and talk to William Morris about why this was going on. It reminded me of something quite specific. It reminded me of the brainwashing that our GI's had in the Korean War...

...When I saw this, I was astonished. I said to myself, what is going on here?

This is the man, why are they torturing him. That was brainwashing from Korean experience according to the things I read from our GI's. If they've got the evidence about him, why not just simply go to trial.

Then when they had the plea-bargaining business, I said to myself, here is this justice system, the most important American perhaps other than the President of the United States has been killed, and they are going to have a plea-bargaining instead of a full-scale trial so that a court of law can tell us, can give us a full transcript of what that murder is about.

So these things bewildered me and made me upset.

All of the facts of the assassination that Rev. Lawson mentions in his testimony were also established in King v. Jowers. Maynard Stiles, retired Division Superintendent for the City of Memphis Department of Sanitation testified that he received a telephone call from Inspector Sam Evans of the Memphis Police Department at 7 am on April 5, 1968, the morning after Dr. King was assassinated, instructing him to have the thick brush and debris, which on the hillside directly facing Dr. King's room and the balcony where he breathed his last, removed. Floyd Newsom, a former City of Memphis firefighter, and former Chief of the Memphis Fire Department Norville Wallace testified that they were indeed removed form the fire station, which overlooked the infamous balcony of the Lorraine Motel, shortly before Dr. King's assassination, even though the fire station was under-manned. Ed Redditt, retired detective from the Memphis Police Department, who had been assigned to ensure Dr. King's safety testified that:

...Originally it [providing security for Dr. King] wasn't an assignment. It was one that I decided upon and that I had noticed something that was unusual once upon arriving at the Lorraine with Dr. King. If I may continue, Inspector Smith was in charge of security. When he asked me, he said, well, you may go now. I noticed there was nobody else there. In the past when we were assigned to Dr. King, we stayed with him, guarded him up the steps, down the steps, and stayed with him. I saw nobody with him.

So I went across the street and asked the Fire Department could we [Detective Redditt and Officer Richmond] come in and observe from the rear, which we did...

Detective Redditt conducted surveillance with Officer Richmond the days of April 3 and April 4, 1968. He goes onto recount what happened shortly before Dr. King's assassination on April 4:

Q. [Dr. Pepper] It is hard to reconstruct that, isn't it? But fairly late in that afternoon is it fair to say your activities were called to a halt? You were removed from your -- is that fair too say that you were removed at some point fairly late in the afternoon?

A. Yes.

Q. Would you describe how that came about, just how you were removed and did you have any advance notice of it or what happened?

A. Well, that morning I received a phone call on the pay phone in the fire station, and the voice on the other end was saying that we're going to kill you. That's about the size of that. I'd go back to where I was. Later on that day Lieutenant Arkin came by and stated I was needed at the headquarters. I said, for what? He said, well, director wants to see you...

Q. ...Did you have threats on your life from time to time?

A. That's part of a policeman's job.

Q. Did you take them seriously?

A. Not really. If you do, you need to resign. That's the way I felt.

Q. So it wasn't that unusual that you would get that kind of -- have that kind of threat?

A. Nothing unusual.

Q. Okay. Now, who was with Lieutenant Arkin when he carried you down to central headquarters?

A. He was alone.

Q. He was alone. Was he an officer to whom you reported on a regular basis from this assignment, as a result of this assignment?

A. He wasn't one of the ones I would directly report to. He worked in intelligence.

Q. Okay. When you got down to central headquarters, where did you go?

A. We went to the conference room.

Q. And who was in the conference room?

A. There were a group of men, I would assume many of them law enforcement. Once we arrived and got inside, Director Holloman stated that there was a man there who had just flown in and there was a contract on my life and that they had prepared to send my family to safety and that I was to go home. At that point I told him that -- he knew as well as I did that you couldn't stop a contract and it was best for me to go back to where I was...

Q. What did Director Holloman say to that?

A. We had a brief argumentation. He said, well, you going home anyway, it is my job to protect you, so, Lieutenant Arkin, take him home.

Q. He didn't want to hear about your objections?

A. No...

Q. ...Did you learn where the threat came from, where this information came from?

A. A couple of years ago.

Q. Now, would this person who conveyed the threat, was he a local person?

A. I never seen him before. They say he had flown in from the Washington D.C. and said he was from the Secret Service Division.

Q. He had flown in from Washington and he was from the Secret Service Division. He was the one who told -- brought the information about the threat on your life?

A. Right.

Q. The reason why they removed you?

A. That's correct

Q. If I advice you that the records have indicated that the person was a man named Phillip Manuel, would that name ring a bell with you?

A. Manual sounds familiar.

Q. What happened next?

A. We proceeded to my home in his cruiser. I was waiting for the arrival of those persons who were supposed to be my security. While waiting there, the radio blasted that Dr. King had been shot. I jumped out of the car and ran in the house, because my mother-in-law was in the bed sick and I didn't want her to hear the news.

As I got inside the house, she screamed out, Lord, take me, don't take Dr. King, because we had forgot she had a small transistor radio under her pillow. In fact, she died a week later.

Q. Who was sitting in the car with you at the time?

A. Lieutenant Arkin.

Q. By himself?

A. By himself.

Q. Had you just pulled up when the news --

A. We had been there a brief time while we was waiting on the guys to come.

Q. You had been there for a brief time and were just waiting. What happened aboutthis threat? Did you go back to work?

A. I called about every hour to come back to work. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Finally Sunday they said you can come on back. I never heard anything else about it.

Q. You never heard anything else about the threat?

A. No.

Q. No one ever mentioned it to you again?

A. Not again until two years ago.

Q. But did you ever question officially anyone about this threat?

A. No. Someone mentioned, oh, it wasn't you anyone, it was somebody in Knoxville, Tennessee, that they had a contract on.

Q. It wasn't you, it was a mistaken identity?

A. Right.

Q. It was someone in Knoxville, Tennessee?

A. Then I heard again it was somebody in St. Louis.

There's more in these trial transcripts. They tell of Merrell McCollough, the man kneeling beside Dr. King in the famous photo of his assassination, checking his vital signs. Mr. McCollough was actually working for military intelligence and whose mission was to infiltrate the Invaders, a group of young people were in Memphis to help provide additional security for Dr. King and civil rights workers during the Sanitation Strike. Mr. McCollough was later hired by the CIA in 1974, and his employment in the CIA was independently verified by Sam Donaldson.

There is so much material in these transcripts it is difficult to sum up in one short diary. So to close tonight as I post this, the evening of April 4, 2005, I'll just ask a request from my friends in the blogosphere: please read these transcripts. Investigate Dr. King's assassination for yourselves. Look at the Church Committee reports, and see the information contained in Dr. William Pepper's "An Act of State" and Dexter Scott King's "Growing Up King".

After reviewing all of the evidence, decide for yourself: is our government capable of conspiring to assassinate Dr. King? Did it have the motive and means? Does the evidence point toward this conclusion?

Whatever conclusions you find, please share them with others. Gannon, Iraq, Abu Ghraib...these current events have roots that extend deep in our nation's history.

Investigating the assassination of Dr. King is a vital step in understanding this history.


News aggregators are fun!

From a Yahoo! news e-mail with the keyword "UCC":
Albany, NY (PRWEB) April 4, 2005 -- When Sinus Buster hot pepper nasal spray made its" commercial debut in 2004, sales were small but interest was big. Within a just three months, this innovative product received a rush of media coverage including a feature in the Wall Street Journal and national coverage on NBC News.

Now barely a year after it"s official commercial launch, Sinus Buster Hot Pepper Nasal Spray has become perhaps the most talked about headache and sinus remedy ever. Billed as the "World"s first hot pepper nasal spray," Sinus Buster has quickly become the recommended natural alternative to dangerous prescription headache medicines and popular over the counter sinus products.

Nah, you'll just have to read it yourself to see how the "UCC" fits in.


Americans want a liberalized church

Sez AP:
Most Americans want the next pope to work for changes in Roman Catholic Church policies to allow priests to marry and women to join the priesthood. And they want more done to combat sexual abuse by priests, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

A solid majority of Americans, and Catholics in the country, are calling for the changes even while saying they widely admire Pope John Paul II, who supported traditional policies against priest marriage and against allowing women into the priesthood.


Just over half of Americans, 51 percent, and almost three-fourths of Catholics say John Paul, who died Saturday, will be remembered as one of the greatest popes, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

The U.S. Catholic church is struggling with a variety of problems, including a dramatically shrinking U.S. priesthood, disagreement over the proper role for lay leaders, and a conservative-liberal divide over sexuality, women's ordination and clergy celibacy.

About two-thirds of those polled, 69 percent, said priests should be allowed to marry and almost that many, 64 percent, said they want women in the priesthood. Six in 10 Catholics supported each of those steps.

More than four in five Americans - and about the same number of Catholics - said they want to see the next pope do more to address the problem of priests sexually abusing children.

For better or worse, the Church is not a democracy, so polls only carry as much weight as the new Vatican leadership gives them. But it is interesting to see very solid support for a new direction.

Update: apparently, 60+% of American Catholics are just a bunch of hippie weasels:
Many of the more Liberal types hope that the Pope's successor will change the Church to suit their "modern" morality, so that it will suit them better. That would be a terrible mistake. It was his consistent affirmation of traditional values that made him a great leader, and I believe the next Pope will see the wisdom of following John Paul's lead. So if you're hoping to see a Pope George Ringo changing the cross to a peace sign, proclaiming "if it feels good, do it," wearing tie-dyed robes and introducing the "Buddy Christ" from the movie Dogma... forget it.


Jesus Christ, the body is barely cold!

Lou Sheldon has good things to say about the pope:
Pope John Paul was a man of peace; always concerned when there was physical conflict and violence. So much so that he even visited and blessed the man that attempted to murder him at one time.

He was also a man of righteousness, never wavering in his belief that the Holy Scriptures were to be obeyed in matters of morals and human sexuality. He spoke out clearly that homosexuality was not a gift from God, but could be healed through the Gospel.

So does Gary Bauer:
Perhaps John Paul II’s most enduring legacy will be his rallying of the
Catholic Church on the crucial issues of our day, including the sanctity of
life, the importance of marriage and the family, and the true meaning of
human sexuality. He was never afraid to raise his voice against the
contemporary evil of the culture of death.

Albert Mohler disagrees:
Even so, we must also recognize that John Paul II also represented the most
troubling aspects of Roman Catholicism. He defended and continued the
theological directions set loose at the Second Vatican Council. Even as he
consolidated authority in the Vatican and disciplined wayward priests and
theologians, he never confronted the most pressing issues of evangelical

Even in his most recent book, released in the United States just days before
his death, John Paul II continued to define the work of Christ as that which is
added to human effort. Like the church he served, John Paul II rejected
justification by faith. Beyond this, he rejected the biblical doctrine of hell,
embraced inclusivism, and promoted an extreme form of Marian devotion,
referring to Mary as "Co-Redemptrix," "Mediatrix," and "Mother of all Graces."

In the end, evangelicals should be thankful for the personal virtues Pope John
Paul II demonstrated, and for his advocacy on behalf of life, liberty, and
human dignity. Yet we cannot ignore the institution of the papacy itself, nor
the complex of doctrines, truth claims, and false doctrines that John Paul II
taught, defended, and promulgated. As Roman Catholics mourn the passing of the
pope, we should take care to respond with both compassion and conviction,
fulfilling our own responsibility to take the measure of this man and his

All of these from their respective listservs.

This is disgusting, as were the "Ding Dong, the Evil Pope is Dead" threads seen around lefty blogs over the weekend.

It seems so simple, and yet simple decency seems so elusive these days: let's bury the man, and then begin to assess his legacy before we rush in to claim or spit on it.


Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Word For the Week

John 20:19-29

The Christianity Today Weblog had it exactly right: "Few weeks are as heavy on religion news, or death news, as this one." Terri Schiavo dies, Karol Wojtyla dies, investigations continue into mass shootings at a church and school, executions (both legal and extra-) work their way through the courts. As CT puts it, "See a theme?"

It's a good time to be reminded of the promise of the resurrection. Again, this is no "pie in the sky" affair: in the gospel accounts, it is emphatically, almost embarrassingly, physical. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands," says Thomas, "and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later, Jesus appears to invite him to do just that.

This is an earthy resurrection, a bodily one. The gospels are vague on the issue, but Jesus seems to reappear to the disciples, wounds and all. This is the same body that was laid in the grave—and yet it is restored, somehow. It is in the process of some further transformation: as Jesus tells Mary Magdalene when he appears to her, "Do not hold onto me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." Is this transformation promised to us as well? The gospels are silent on the point.

Skeptics—some friendly, some not—occasionally ask how I can hold a boatload of counter-intuitve beliefs. You seem like a reasonable person, they say, yet you believe things that aren't rational.

I tell them I believe because I have seen the power of the resurrection with my own eyes.

In my time as a pastor, I've been called upon to do a lot of visiting with the sick and dying. One of my favorites was literally a singing cowboy; he'd had his own band back in the 30s and 40s, though for most of his life, he made his living selling insurance.

He was quite possibly the kindest, friendliest man I'd ever met. He claimed to have made a few enemies along the way, but I didn't believe him for a moment. He died in great pain from lymphoma.

For many months, as he struggled against the cancer, he was cheerful to a fault, telling everyone he met that he was going to beat it and get back to life. His wife would tell me privately that she didn't think he would, but she didn't want to say so because she thought it wouldn't be supportive. When I talked to him, he'd say the same thing about her.

This went on for weeks, even when it became obvious to everyone that he was not going to beat it. I finally spoke to him in private and asked him again how he was feeling about the situation. "Fine, pastor," he said. "I'm going to beat this and get back to church."

"See, here's the thing," I told him, as gently as I could. "I don't think you are. And you and your wife need to start talking about it, so you can enjoy the rest of your time together."

He put up a little more resistance, but eventually fell silent. I pressed him on the issue, and he said, "I'll take care of it." He did, and from there, they began the long process of reconciling themselves to his death.

Another woman in the same congregation had been bed-ridden for years with multiple sclerosis. Then she, too, was diagnosed with cancer, an aggressive kind that by all rights should have killed her. (Three years later, she's still making it.) I asked her if she believed in the resurrection, if she believed her body would be restored someday.

"You bet," she said. "It's what keeps me going."

And there's the power and the promise of the resurrection: that whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

"Peace be with you," Christ says to his disciples. Not, "you have nothing to fear." Not, "nothing's going to happen to you," but "Peace be with you." Awful, painful, humiliating, even killing things happen to our bodies. Yet through all those things, God is present with us, working to reassure us that strife and pain and death are not ultimate realities.

I don't know about you, but that's reassuring for me in this week filled with far too much news of division and death. We cannot avoid these things, but by God, they don't have to have the last word.