Archive for Immaterial Witness

Jesus and I

“I knew Jesus,” sang Glen Campbell, “before He was a superstar.” It ain’t “Amazing Grace,” but maybe it works for some folks:

This does seem to be a modern theme in our culture: it’s for me, forget the rest of the people. I think this also shows up in some of the newer hymns/praise-songs that are more about either “what God did for me, specifically” or, as some people have derisively called them “Jesus is my BFF” songs. And yeah, yeah, probably the best-known Christian hymn ever does say “saved a wretch LIKE ME” but … many other hymns are more about the attributes of God, or God’s greatness, or the church as a whole, rather than as individuals. And I do wonder, if we lean too hard on “me” and forget about the “us,” if that doesn’t lead to allowing some of the divisions we see. I mean — I have people in the congregation with me that I consider friends, that I probably would never socialize with if it weren’t for the commonality of our faith.

And then there’s Tom T. Hall’s “Me and Jesus,” which sounds like one of those BFF numbers, but which slips a few counter-tropes into the mix.

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Toward a higher purpose

Something about this is stirring:

From Wikipedia:

The Katskhi pillar is a natural limestone monolith located at the village of Katskhi in western Georgian region of Imereti, near the town of Chiatura. It is approximately 40 metres (130 ft) high, and overlooks the small river valley of Katskhura, a right affluent of the Q’virila.

The rock, with visible church ruins on a top surface measuring c. 150 square metres, has been venerated by locals as the Pillar of Life and a symbol of the True Cross, and has become surrounded by legends. It remained unclimbed by researchers and unsurveyed until 1944 and was more systematically studied from 1999 to 2009. These studies determined the ruins were of an early medieval hermitage dating from the 9th or 10th century. A Georgian inscription paleographically dated to the 13th century suggests that the hermitage was still extant at that time. Religious activity associated with the pillar was revived in the 1990s and the monastery building had been restored within the framework of a state-funded program by 2009.

And is the place unoccupied? Not even:

A stylite (from Greek στυλίτης, stylitēs, “pillar dweller” or pillar-saint is a type of Christian ascetic who lives on pillars, preaching, fasting and praying. Stylites believe that the mortification of their bodies would help ensure the salvation of their souls. Stylites were common in the early days of the Byzantine Empire. The first known stylite was Simeon Stylites the Elder who climbed a pillar in Syria in 423 and remained there until his death 37 years later.

In recent centuries this form of monastic asceticism has become virtually extinct. However, in modern-day Georgia, Maxime Qavtaradze, a monk of the Orthodox Church, has lived on top of Katskhi Pillar for 20 years, coming down only twice a week. This pillar is a natural rock formation jutting upward from the ground to a height of approximately one hundred and forty feet. Evidence of use by stylites as late as the 13th century has been found on the top of the rock. With the aid of local villagers and the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia, Qavtaradze restored the 1200-year-old monastic chapel on the top of the rock.

Bless you, sir.

(Via American Digest.)

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My townspeople, beyond in the great world,
are many with whom it were far more
profitable for me to live than here with you.
These whirr about me calling, calling!
and for my own part I answer them, loud as I can,
but they, being free, pass!
I remain! Therefore, listen!
For you will not soon have another singer.

First I say this: you have seen
the strange birds, have you not, that sometimes
rest upon our river in winter?
Let them cause you to think well then of the storms
that drive many to shelter. These things
do not happen without reason.

And the next thing I say is this:
I saw an eagle once circling against the clouds
over one of our principal churches —
Easter, it was — a beautiful day!
three gulls came from above the river
and crossed slowly seaward!
Oh, I know you have your own hymns, I have heard them —
and because I knew they invoked some great protector
I could not be angry with you, no matter
how much they outraged true music —

You see, it is not necessary for us to leap at each other,
and, as I told you, in the end
the gulls moved seaward very quietly.

— Al Que Quiere! (1917)
William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

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Keeping kosher

Tierra Farm, about 20 miles south of Albany, New York, is my go-to place for bulk dried fruits and such. Also granola, if I don’t want any right this minute:

Tierra Farm keeps kosher

I must have missed this the last few years; I’m pretty sure they’re not big enough to keep two sets of email addresses, Jews and non-Jews. Not a problem for me, anyway.

And what’s with the Comic Sans?

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We can dance if we want to

If you draw a line from the nearest mosque to the nearest synagogue, you’ll pass by my house. The amount of discomfort in the neighborhood is essentially zero:

I have known not that many Muslims in my life, but the ones I have known … just ordinary folks, just trying to get through life like the rest of us. All groups of people have individuals who do wrong or have bad motivations in them but in all groups most of the people are … okay. Not saints, not terrible people, just people trying to get through life who love their kids and worry about their jobs and laugh at dumb stuff and all of that. The people I think I knew best ran a restaurant … I remember my father once asking the father if it was okay to wish them a Merry Christmas — because without thinking, he just had — and the man kind of shrugged and said “We accept all good wishes as good” which is like an echo to me of “the prayers of all good people are good” from My Antonia — though there the “anti” sentiment was, I guess, anti-Catholic, as Mr. Burden was “accepting” the prayers of an Eastern European family…

It has been argued that one should always discount any pleasantries from Muslims, for reasons of taqiya, which has apparently grown over the years from “Conceal your religion, lest you be persecuted” to “Conceal your intentions, lest you tip off the non-believing infidel scum.” But the funny thing about your mass murderers: their chief weapon is surprise, be they Islamic or Episcopalian, and nobody ever suspected a thing. So I don’t feel compelled to keep an eye on the folks who run the Pakistani restaurant up the street: they’ve made the place into a going concern, something it wasn’t as a Mexican or Italian eatery, and I suspect it’s a little more difficult to become radicalized if you’re working that hard. Of course, I could be wrong, but so could all of us.

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Call it what you want

Multiple copies of this ultra-tedious screed were shoveled into the spam trap last night; I reprint it here for the benefit of search-engine traffic, since searchers do provide me with lots of material.

Hey, how’s it going?

Did you hear that the powers that run this world want to put a RFID microchip in our body? It will contain not only our bank accounts but our personal information, making us total slaves to the elite. This will cause us to lose even more of our privacy.

Did you know that this RFID microchip matches perfectly with the Mark of the Beast in the Bible, more specifically Revelation 13:16-18?

“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name…”

Referring to the last days, this could only be speaking of a cashless society, which we have yet to see, but are heading towards. Otherwise, we could still buy or sell without the mark amongst others if physical money was still currency. It’s amazing that the Bible foretold a cashless society!

Did you also hear that the Jewish people are in the process of bringing about the Third Temple prophesied in the Bible by the prophet Daniel, Jesus, and Apostle Paul? They deny Jesus as their Messiah and say their Messiah will be revealed to rule the whole world under a one world religion. They are not even hiding this information, but are actually promoting it. You can view videos about this on YouTube.

When Donald Trump made Jerusalem captial of Israel in late December 2017, the Jewish people said this was a big step for them to build this Third Temple. They even printed a Temple coin with president Trump’s face on the front with king Cyrus'(the man who built the Second Temple in the Bible) face behind him. On the back of the coin is an image of the Third Temple. They are selling these coins to raise money to build the Temple.

People have been saying for many years that the end is near, but we needed not only the Third Temple, but also the technology for there to be a cashless society for the Mark of the Beast to be a reality.

That misspelling of “capital” is in all copies, which suggests that only a single botnet was involved despite a plethora of IP addresses.

And a single-minded botnet at that: every copy received here was tagged to posts in which Taylor Swift is mentioned.

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Blinding ourselves with science

What is the purpose of big-s Science these days? Gerard Van der Leun explains:

[T]he only thing that makes a bigger splash in Science these days than a cure for cancer is some bit of “cutting-edge research” (almost always with the aid of computer modeling) that either warms the globe or disparages religion. To the secular, nothing is sacred. Then again, why should it be? They’re “secular.”

Why? Because it is a central tenet of faith, of pure faith, in the Secular Religion, that traditional Christianity is the “Anti-Darwin” to that faith. Strange when you consider that, in terms of actual dogma and actual acts, Islam is far more hostile to all the core tenets of science, but … it really isn’t very safe to take too close a look at that collection of ergot-derived insights out of the desert. Those adherents are a bit more lethal when it comes to accepting slights on their religion. But then Christianity is the dominant religion of the First World and that’s what we’re discussing here — not which faith is right, but which faith is to be master. It seems that for Science to triumph as the new religion, Christ has to die again — and this time he’s got to stay dead.

Lurking behind the curtain are observations that dare not be noted but which are obvious nonetheless, and they involve otherwise meaningless notions like “fairness.” Now nothing in life is fair, of course; it was never intended to be. But Suzie Cheesecake down the street resents the hell out of the fact that [any random guy] can engage in indiscriminate screwing with seemingly no consequences, while she has to worry about pregnancy and such. Why she blames the Pope for this is anyone’s guess.

There are fundamentalist Christians who hold that everything in the Bible is as the Bible says it is. And there are fundamentalist Scientists … who hold that nothing in the Bible is as it says it is.

My very small puppy in this fight says that there is a lot in Science that lets all of us live longer and better lives while there is a lot in Christianity that lets us live deeper and more meaningful lives.

I don’t look to Christianity to bring me the weather reports for tomorrow. At the same time I don’t look to Science to ever, in its widest dreams, reveal the core of the miracle and mystery of being a conscious entity who has been granted the gift of being able, in my better moments, to witness — even for an inch of time — the wonder of Creation.

I know that there are many zealots of the Secular Faith who will think the less of me for not being “tough minded” enough just to face up to the fact that everything really is “purposeless matter hovering in the dark.” I know that habit of mind well. I wore it like a pre-fab Medal of Honor for many years. Then one day I had had enough of Nothingness and I sent it back.

Today, you are not allowed to suggest any kind of qualitative difference between any random member of the Forbes 400 and a guy in frazzled T-shirt and jeans who takes a dump on the streets of San Francisco. After all, the bucks-up Forbes guy has money, and therefore at some point he must have exploited the Bay Area Crapper; at no point does it matter that the Forbes guy actually refrains from fouling the streets.

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You don’t want to see the router

This is actually a pretty good question: Does Hell have Wi-Fi?

One answerer said no, they still have dial-up, which is pretty close to my concept of hell, but I’d like to hear what you guys think.

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Budgetary surplice

We learned the phrase from the Constantinople (not Istanbul) update to the original Nicene Creed, circa 381: “one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” Beyond those four marks, there are doctrinal bits here and there which might reasonably be challenged, should you possess a Certified Galactic Intellect. Mr. Porretto, that’s your cue:

First, the pope is not infallible as that notion is commonly understood. Yes, the Church teaches that the Supreme Pontiff is infallible on matters of faith or morals, but this is impossible to accept given the egregious sinfulness and excesses of so many popes throughout history. Indeed, at least one pope, Benedict IX, has been credibly accused of practicing witchcraft. Some apologists for the infallibility doctrine have tried to finesse this, claiming that being infallible is not the same as being impeccablei.e., without sin — and that sinfulness does not therefore imply that the pope could promulgate false doctrines. That defense, to put it mildly, isn’t terribly convincing.

For papal infallibility to be reasonable, it should be interpreted in a different fashion, to wit: if the faithful follow the pope’s teachings on faith and morals, then they are spiritually indemnified even if those teachings are absolutely wrong. Any other approach would attribute to a mortal man a characteristic that mortal men have never exhibited.

Think of it as an Eternal Warranty.

Second, clerical celibacy and the denial of ordination to women are merely Churchly personnel policies. Nothing in the Gospels mandates either. For any cleric of any altitude to claim otherwise isn’t just wrong; it’s deceitful. Most of the Apostles were married men. For a thousand years priests were permitted to marry, though only a celibate priest could ascend to the rank of bishop. Feel free to search the Gospels and the records of the early Church.

It was explained to us that had Jesus Christ wanted female Apostles, He would have selected some. Oh.

Third, clergy have no authority over lay Catholics in any sense. We are the Church; they are the servants of the Church. Christ established that relation when He proclaimed that He had come “not to be served, but to serve,” and instructed His disciples that “the first shall be last, and the last first.” A priest’s special status as one who can validly administer the seven sacraments implies no other power. His responsibilities are to promulgate the teachings of Christ and to administer the sacraments as appropriate.

And just for the record:

If this be heresy, make the most of it. I stand by it nonetheless.

I know not whether this will precipitate a serious theological argument, or if it will go unnoticed. (I do know one theologian who actually reads this stuff now and then.) But I’m putting it out there, and if I’m risking fire and brimstone, well, it’s got to be warmer than this week’s spate of freezing rain.

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Note: not a theologian

The Instapundit ponders a notion that’s occurred to some of us now and then, though he takes it a step or two farther:

So I’m reading Greg Benford’s Rewrite, and it gave me a thought about the theological implications of the “many worlds” version of quantum theory. Theologians have worked on the problem of evil, but I think the many worlds theory either makes it go away entirely, or maybe makes it worse. On the go away entirely side, under many worlds you don’t have to worry about why God lets evil happen, because God lets absolutely everything happen. And it kind of evens out: Maybe you die of pediatric cancer in one universe, but in another you’re a billionaire rock star who lives to 90, or a saint. (On the other hand, on the “make it worse” side, everybody dies of pediatric cancer, or worse, in some universe or another). Somebody’s probably worked all this out somewhere, but it was a new thought to me.

Then again, if anything that can exist must exist, there ought to be some sort of dark pathway that leads from World #1 to World #280,774,310 — but I suspect the payback for trying to negotiate that pathway is severe and then some.

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Psychedelic schlock

What do we want? Spiritual enlightenment!

When do we want it? Now!

How do we get it?

You see that “happiness” is marketed as a commodity by clever hustlers who understand that in an affluent society there are millions of people like Julia Baugher, born into middle-class comfort, who are desperately in search of some deeper meaning to their empty lives. There are corporate executives and other successful people who believe their career achievements and wealth entitle them to a greater share of happiness than is enjoyed by the common rabble. These would-be consumers of “happiness” represent the demand side of a market equation from which spiritual hustlers hope to get rich by providing the supply. Like the hippies of yore, however, the 21st-century seeker of spiritual enlightenment doesn’t want anything to do with the Bible or Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics or the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Insofar as any belief system is part of the Western cultural tradition, this is sufficient to render it obsolete, invalid and worthless in the eyes of the spiritual seeker, who either craves “ancient wisdom” from some non-Western culture, or else will prefer a trendy new belief (e.g., “climate change”) as the basis of his enlightened worldview. After all, if happiness and “enlightenment” can be found by any hillbilly yokel attending a Baptist church in Kentucky, there isn’t much social status to be gained by this pursuit. No, the upwardly-mobile middle-class college-educated spiritual seeker prefers to believe in something exotic, and this requires innovation by the hustlers of the Happiness Industrial Complex.

When I was young, the catchphrase “spiritual but not religious” cropped up nearly as often as “cats ask for it by name.” Nothing has changed but the tone:

“Remember that very little is needed to make a happy life.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Sanctuary much

Now this is how you do sanctuary right [warning: autostart video]:

A non-stop church service in the Netherlands — aimed at stopping an Armenian family from being deported — has become so popular it has issued tickets for the Christmas period to control numbers. The service has been going around the clock since October 26 — more than 1,400 hours.

Under Dutch law, police officers are not permitted to enter a church while a religious service is taking place. So, church leaders hatched the idea of meeting non-stop to prevent the Tamrazyans from being removed from the country. Since then, hundreds of pastors and volunteers have taken part in the service.

And it’s not like the family sneaked over the border late one night:

The Tamrazyans have lived in the Netherlands for almost nine years, but their claim for political asylum was rejected. The Dutch Minister for Migration, Mark Harbers, has so far refused to use his discretionary powers to intervene and allow them to stay.

“Just before Christmas, when we celebrate God’s humanity-loving and peaceful deeds, we feel strengthened not to forsake our responsibility for the Tamrazyan family,” Rev. Theo Hettema, chair of the Protestant Church The Hague, said in a statement.

(Via Dawn Summers.)

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As the cycle beginneth anew

Roger wrote this for an Advent devotional at his church:

Quite a few of my friends are apathetic or even antagonistic towards the church. I totally get that. I’d been there myself some years ago.

My friends often see some elements of the church favoring those who have, the insiders. “Send money” so the pastor can have a bigger house, a better plane. I actually heard one of these guys say that if Jesus had come to earth in the 21st century, rather than the first, he’d be riding around in the newest and fanciest airbus.

That’s not the Jesus I’m seeing in this passage. He is instead a sacrificial Lord. While He is learned enough to swap scripture with the scribes and elders, He’s spending most of His time tending to the marginalized.

Scripture seems pretty solid on this: I’m sure that Christ would have had more interest in feeding five thousand with what started out as barely enough food to fill a bag of Subway sandwiches than in buying a couple days’ lunch for a dozen or so passengers in a Gulfstream.

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This is your Holy Father’s Popemobile

And it could, assuming a miracle or two, be yours:

Roughly a year ago, Lamborghini customized a Huracán RWD for Pope Francis. This was not a commissioned job but a gift from the automaker to the Vatican. Tragically, His Holiness wasn’t interested in holding onto it so he could more easily cruise for babes and [the] Catholic Church decided the best course of action would be to auction the vehicle off for charity.

While sold by Sotheby’s in Monaco last May for 715,000 euros (about $813,000 USD), it would appear the final bidder either didn’t have the necessary funds or experienced a change of heart. Maybe it was divine intervention. Regardless, the Huracán is now being raffled off for ten bucks a ticket — though you can choose to donate more and better your chances.

The winner will “head to the Vatican to receive the keys to your new car during a private ceremony with Pope Francis and Lamborghini’s CEO, Stefano Domenicali. Flights and hotel included.”

And what of the money raised?

Proceeds will go toward rebuilding villages “that have been devastated by violence and war, assist victims of human trafficking, provide medical care and education to those living in poverty.” Funds will be distributed through Charities Aid Foundation of America.

The brunt of that was previously said to go toward the reconstruction of the Nineveh Plain in Iraq and aid to help the Christian community resettle the area. However, a significant portion had been reserved for the Pope John XXIII Community — a charity that focuses on helping women who were victimized by human trafficking at the hands of ISIS.

There are seven weeks to go before the drawing.

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A very strait-laced god

Facebook selfie posted by Rehana Fathima

An Indian activist who made a failed attempt to become the first woman to enter a prominent Hindu temple this month has been arrested for “exposing her thigh” in a Facebook photo.

Rehana Fathima, 32, has been suspended from her job and was remanded in custody over the picture, which showed her dressed as a pilgrim to the Sabarimala shrine in the south-western Indian state of Kerala.

The hilltop temple has been the subject of weeks of protests after the Indian supreme court lifted a ban on women of menstruating age worshipping at the site. Bands of male and female demonstrators have formed cordons and hurled rocks at the women who have tried to reach the inner sanctum. None of the women have succeeded so far.

And once turned away, she struck back:

Soon after, she posted a selfie on Facebook showing her dressed in black, with white sandalwood paste across her forehead and striking a pose associated with Ayyappa, the deity who is worshipped at the shrine.

A case registered by police in October claimed the photograph was “sexually explicit” and “wounded the religious feelings of Lord Ayyappa’s devotees.” Her attempts to prevent her arrest failed this week and she was remanded in custody on Tuesday.

The deity in question is the son of Shiva and Mohini, the one and only female avatar of Vishnu. His shrine in Kerala draws millions of pilgrims during mandala season (mid-November through mid-January). The pilgrimage is open to all except women in their childbearing years.

(Via Fark.)

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Rules to live by

The developers of SQLite, an embeddable database that somehow does not require a full-fledged database engine, have adopted a new Code of Conduct. Or maybe not so new, since it dates to the sixth century Anno Domini:

Having been encouraged by clients to adopt a written code of conduct, the SQLite developers elected to govern their interactions with each other, with their clients, and with the larger SQLite user community in accordance with the “instruments of good works” from chapter 4 of The Rule of St. Benedict. This code of conduct has proven its mettle in thousands of diverse communities for over 1,500 years, and has served as a baseline for many civil law codes since the time of Charlemagne.

This rule is strict, and none are able to comply perfectly. Grace is readily granted for minor transgressions. All are encouraged to follow this rule closely, as in so doing they may expect to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. The entire rule is good and wholesome, and yet we make no enforcement of the more introspective aspects.

Everyone is free to use the SQLite source code, object code, and/or documentation regardless of their opinion of and adherence to this rule. SQLite has been and continues to be completely free to everyone, without precondition.

However, those who wish to participate in the SQLite community, either by commenting on the public mailing lists or by contributing patches or suggestions or in any other way, are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that honors the overarching spirit of the rule, even if they disagree with specific details. Polite and professional discussion is always welcomed, from anyone.

Smitty observed yesterday:

What also shouldn’t be surprising, but still is, that in the Age of Outrage some would start demanding we quit using some great code due to Ancient ThoughtCrime:

“Well, it looks like it may be time to stop using SQLite as it’s readily apparent that my kind is not welcome there,” sighed programmer James Hollingshead.

Oh, bless your heart James.

For five points and a trip to the Bonus Round: “Which is more overrated, diversity or inclusiveness?”

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Tales of the Deformation

The Pope, we are assured, is still Catholic. Some of the Church’s other institutions, perhaps not so much:

Secularized American Catholic universities fail every test of honest advertisement: they are neither Catholic nor American, insofar as they peddle heresies and anti-American ideologies, and they don’t even resemble universities. They are more like glorified PC high schools or left-wing adult learning annexes. They are worse than a waste of time and money; they corrode souls and deform minds. A few of them are academically strong in this or that department, but in general they are ghastly messes — sorry products of the 1967 Land O’ Lakes Statement, a baldly heretical declaration cobbled together by Notre Dame’s Theodore Hesburgh, and incidentally signed and promoted by the pedo-rapist Theodore McCarrick, which called on all Catholic colleges and universities to secularize.

“Baldly heretical”? Well, yes, that was the whole idea:

In crafting the “Land O’ Lakes Statement,” the priest-administrators of these top American Catholic universities invoked the principles of the American Association of University Professors, which categorically declared that there was no place in a “modern university” for any antiquated adherence to a creed of dogmatic truths or moral teachings. Rather, professors and students alike needed to be free, said Land O’ Lakes, to operate on an “intellectual campus” that has “no boundaries and no barriers.”

There could be no restraint of any kind placed upon freedom of inquiry and research: “there must be no outlawed books or subjects.” This freedom from ecclesiastical oversight was an essential aspect of “the evolving nature of the Catholic university” which would “necessitate basic reorganizations of structure.” The statement went on: “A great deal of study and experimentation will be necessary to carry out these changes, but changes of this kind are essential for the future of the Catholic university.”

After half a century, we all know what happened: the schools rejected Dogma A in favor of something just as dogmatic but decidedly less spiritual.

What, then, are we to do with the children? An out-of-right-field comment:

Send them to Wyoming Catholic College. The only college where you can’t have a cell phone, but you can have a gun. True. Look it up.

Page 32 of the WCC Student Handbook:

The College’s policy banning cell phones from campus during the academic year also includes any electronic device small enough to fit into a pocket [such as an iPod] which can access the internet. Therefore, no student living on campus may be in possession of either a cell phone, hotspot, or such an internet capable device anywhere on campus or in the Lander [Wyoming] area. If a student chooses to bring a cell phone or another internet-capable device to the College, it must be stored with a prefect at the student’s own risk. Students should take this policy into consideration when deciding whether or not to bring such devices, because devices will not be kept charged while in storage (often a month or more). Cell phones and such handheld devices may be checked out again whenever students are going outside the Lander area or when reasons of personal and group safety make it prudent to have them.

However, this doesn’t mean you can go gun-crazy either. Page 34:

Students are allowed to bring firearms, ammunition, bows, arrows to the College with them. (For the purposes of College policy, “firearm” is defined as any functional gun that is not manufactured with an orange tip.) These weapons are not permitted to be carried on campus or stored in students’ rooms or cars. All weapons are to be stored with a College-appointed official. These items will not be allowed on campus until students have reported them to the designated member of the College’s Risk Management Committee. Students bringing a gun must have proof that they have had gun safety training. Detailed rules and waivers will then be conveyed to the student.

Wyoming Catholic is in compliance, I assume, with John Paul II’s Ex corde ecclesia.

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The man who knew too much

It was at this point he knew he was doomed:

(Via Colin.)

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Sciuridae, o gratias

Seen in the comment section at Weasel Zippers:

The Presbyterian church called a meeting to decide what to do about their squirrels. After much prayer and consideration, they concluded the squirrels were predestined to be there and they shouldn’t interfere with God’s divine will.

At the Baptist church the squirrels had taken an interest in the baptistery. The deacons met and decided to put a water slide on the baptistery and let the squirrels drown themselves. The squirrels liked the slide and, unfortunately, knew instinctively how to swim so twice as many squirrels showed up the following week.

The Methodist church decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creatures. So, they humanely trapped their squirrels and set them free near the Baptist Church. Two weeks later the squirrels were back when the Baptists took down the water slide.

But the Catholic Church came up with a very creative strategy. They baptized all the squirrels and consecrated them as members of the church. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter.

Not much was heard from the Jewish synagogue; they took the first squirrel and circumcised him. They haven’t seen a squirrel since.

Hey, it’s easier than the Comparative Religions course I took back in the Pleistocene era.

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And chew the wafer

Roger is not alone in this belief:

My sister chooses to believe in the possibility of transubstantiation. I don’t dismiss it out of hand. It’s true, though, that I can’t remember that word without thinking of Tom Lehrer’s irreverent “The Vatican Rag” from the 1960s, a song guaranteed to offend at least a few.

Then there’s Patrick Sky’s early-Seventies opus “Vatican Caskets,” which will offend just about anyone. There’s a beat-up copy circulating on YouTube, and I’m not even sure I should link to it. (Yes, I have my own copy of the recording: it’s on Sky’s Songs That Made America Famous LP.) I’ll give you the first verse, though, just so you’ll know to avoid it:

Vatican Caskets are just fine,
Made of sandalwood and pine.
When your loved ones have to go,
Dial ET-CUM-SPIRI-220.

Best thing on the album, I think, is a version of Dave Van Ronk’s “Luang Prabang,” the lament of a soldier wounded (in perhaps the worst way) in Vietnam.

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De profundis

From out of the depths, a ray of light:

A friend taught me a beautiful analogy for prayer, one that works even for us skeptics. He compared praying to standing in front of a room with a one-way mirror, speaking to the occupant within. We don’t know who or what is in the room, or whether the occupant of the room is there always or only sometimes. We don’t know whether this mysterious occupant listens to us or takes action based upon what we say or do. About these matters, we can only guess — and have faith. But regardless of who or what is in the hidden room, when we pray we see our own reflection in the one-way mirror.

It’s a wonderful analogy, and it is reinforced further by the fact that, in Hebrew, the verb “to pray” is a reflexive verb: one for which both the subject and object are the same.

I am persuaded that all prayers are in fact answered, though the answer might well be “I don’t think so.”

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Eventually this will be mandatory

But for now, it’s just tokenism:

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A goddess for our times

This just utterly floors me:

The deity in question:

It’s a long thread, so you might want to read it here courtesy of the Thread Reader App.

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It was inevitable, of course

It’s a theological and philosophical dilemma you’ve surely encountered before:

Guys like Luther and especially John Calvin had a problem: God’s omniscience implies predestination — if God knows everything that will happen (which is the definition of “omniscience”), then obviously He knows everything you’re going to do, which means He knows, and has always known, whether you’re going to Heaven or Hell. But if that’s true, then what did Christ die for? Dying for our sins is pointless — the slate is wiped clean for that second, and only that second, because we’re just going to go on sinning, as God Himself knows full well. For Christ’s death to have done what it did, we must have free will … which means God doesn’t know what we’re going to do minute-to-minute, any more than we ourselves, His poor creatures, do.

There’s an answer for this, of course* (read it later), but it only applies to God. For everyone else selling a Determinist philosophy — Marx, the Stoics, even my beloved Hobbes — the problem is insurmountable. If the Revolution must happen, comrade, then what’s the point of all this “activism”? Y’all are, as the man said, like a group of astronomers who know with mathematical certainty an eclipse is coming… but who immediately form a Party and start murdering people, to make sure it comes. The very foundation of your philosophy has a crack, and all the ugly neologisms in the world can’t fill it.

Still, as they gaze into the abyss, what they’re seeing is not the abyss staring back at them, but a receptacle for more ugly neologisms: imagining a demand, they hasten to provide a supply. And they have no concept of Christ dying for their sins; their priority is making sure that you die for yours, and their idea of generosity is making sure that you know what those sins are, by telling you at every available opportunity.

And now to solve the aforementioned predestination issue:

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Resurrection shuffle

Exactly twice in my life, Easter and April Fools’ Day happened to coincide. The first time, I didn’t notice. This time, it’s different.

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False-ish witness

Eyebrows we have raised on high:

A Vatican office has acknowledged blurring portions of a letter written by Benedict XVI regarding Pope Francis’ philosophical and theological formation, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The Secretariat for Communications released the photo March 12 along with a press release announcing a “personal letter of Benedict XVI on his continuity with the pontificate of Pope Francis.”

The AP’s Nicole Winfield wrote March 14 that the Vatican has admitted “that it altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis. The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.”

Winfield added that “The Vatican admitted Thursday [sic] that it blurred the two final lines of the first page … The Vatican didn’t explain why it blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict’s tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.”

So what was it the Holy See would rather you not see? Benedict, it seems, had received an eleven-volume set of The Theology of Pope Francis, about which he said some kind words — but:

“I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read. Unfortunately, even if only for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven little volumes in the near future, all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed. I am sure that you will understand, and I extend to you my cordial greeting.”

In other news, the Vatican has always had a mission in Eastasia.

(Via Tony Woodlief.)

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A time to every purpose

And yes, you have time for that, as do all of us. It’s simply a matter of sticking to the plan as we know it.

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No virtue left unsignaled

Moses brought down from the mountain fifteen ten Commandments, and for some people, that just isn’t enough:

[O]nce a people give up the intricacies of Levitical laws or similar, they seem to want to invent their own earth-bound laws to “prove” how pure or earnest or something they are, and it makes me tired. From this week’s Sunday school lesson, a quote from Martin Luther that said something like how we’re all sinners but are also all “justified” (to use the language of the lesson-writer; that was probably not how Luther said it in the original German). But yeah. I tend much more to side with Luther on this: we have areas where we’re good at doing what we “ought,” and others where we aren’t, and everyone is like that, but they have different places where they fall down, and as long as their ‘falling down’ isn’t actually hurting anyone, it seems excessive to judge them harshly. “I don’t eat anything with almonds,” says a person. “Do you know how much water they require as a crop?” and my butter-like-food loving self over here, who is now apparently allergic to peanut butter kind of wants to weep, because I’m not giving up yet another food; I’m to the point of only giving up foods when I canNOT eat them for health reasons (bad teeth, allergies, bad digestion) but then again: there are a lot of things I forgo, not so much out of deep environmentalism, but because I can’t be bothered (e.g., watering my lawn on a regular basis. So far the St. Augustine hasn’t died, and that even includes the dry summer of 2011).

What gets me is how trivial these feigned virtues actually are. Where is today’s Simeon Stylites, avoiding the temptations of the earth by spending 37 years on a pillar? (Then again, Simeon didn’t think himself “above” anyone else, except in the purely geometric sense.) I should probably keep in mind that today’s hair-shirt is likely 90 percent polyester.

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We’ll be Dahmed

District 33 Senator Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) seeks to replace Jim Bridenstine, nominated by President Trump to be the next administrator of NASA, as 1st District Congressman. The most likely result, I’m thinking, is that rather a lot of Dahm’s proposed legislation will be dug out of the archives, including the Piers Morgan Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms Without Infringement Act, which, if nothing else, got him an invitation to appear on Morgan’s CNN TV series, canceled shortly thereafter, presumably for non-Dahm-related reasons.

Then there’s this year’s SB 1457, which reads as follows:


SECTION 1. AMENDATORY 29 O.S. 2011, Section 7-204, is amended to read as follows:

Section 7-204. All wildlife found in this state is the property of the state Almighty God. The people of the State of Oklahoma place the authority to manage all wildlife pursuant to the Oklahoma

SECTION 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2018.

Almighty God has not yet commented on this measure, but if I were Nathan Dahm, I might want to stay away from thunderstorms, especially if they’re packing lots of lightning.

(Via Bridget Trowbridge.)

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A load of crap

In fact, literally so:

Obviously too late to reform this guy, if he’s still playing with poo at his age.

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