“The content of their character”

Today honors Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who said this:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That seems clear, doesn’t it?  But actually the statement is interpreted in all kinds of ways.  See Debate swirls over Martin Luther King’s monumental ‘content of their character’ quote – The Washington Post.

How does the debate over the meaning of that speech parallel other disputes over interpretation, such as the interpretation of the Bible?

A movie about Pontius Pilate

This sounds like it has the potential to be a terrific movie.  Mike Fleming has seen the script:

Brad Pitt is circling the title role in Warner Bros‘ Pontius Pilate, the drama about one of history’s most vilified figures. The studio acquired a script by Woman On Top scribe Vera Blasi with Mark Johnson producing through his Gran Via banner. Pitt is not committed, but it could well move that way quickly.

I revealed this project last summer, when the studio acquired Blasi’s script. I got hold of a draft and it’s very strong stuff and has the makings of a compelling period big budget film. This script follows the evolution of Lucius Pontius Pilate from the sensitive son of a Roman Knight into a ferocious soldier whose warrior exploits make him a general and puts him on a political track under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Promised a military governorship in Egypt, Pilate is instead assigned by Tiberius to become the prefect of Judea, at a time when Jerusalem was a cauldron of religious tensions between various factions of the Jewish faith. Pilate veers from the political fast track into the express lane to hell and historical infamy. Rather than a straight ahead Biblical film, Blasi’s script reads almost like a Biblical era Twilight Zone episode in which a proud, capable Roman soldier gets in way over his head. His arrogance and inability to grasp the devoutness of the citizenry and its hatred for the Roman occupiers and their pagan gods leads him to make catastrophic decisions. All of this puts him in a desperate situation and in need of public approval when he is asked to decide the fate of a 33-year old rabbi accused by religious elders of claiming he is King of the Jews. [Read more...]

Has the lost tribe of Mannaseh been found?

A tribal community in India that calls itself Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for “children of Mannaseh”) is claiming to be the the remnant of the Hebrew tribe of Mannaseh, one of the “lost tribes” that was taken into captivity by the Assyrians some 3000 years ago.  And the state of Israel is recognizing their legitimacy by according them the “right of return,” whereby all Jews are allowed to immigrate to Israel.  Some of the Bnei Menashe have moved to Israel, which some Christian groups are hailing as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.  See ‘Lost Tribe’s’ Return to Israel Fulfilling Prophecy? – Inside Israel – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

The tribe does seem to have some traditional songs and legends with echoes of the Exodus.  But according to the Wikipedia article, the Bnei Menashe are part of a larger tribal culture of animists and headhunters that converted to Christianity in the 19th century.   In 1951, a Pentecostalist preacher in the tribe said that he had a vision from God that the people should turn back to their ancient religion of Judaism.  (So do the Christians getting all excited about this believe that this was the work of the Holy Spirit?  Telling people to give up their Christianity?)  [Read more...]

Make your predictions for 2013

As is our custom on New Year’s Eve, we invite you to make your predictions for what will happen in the New Year.  We will then review those predictions in exactly one year to see how you did.  (See today’s accompanying post.)  Whoever made the best predictions will receive honor, accolades, and bragging rights.

Highly specific predictions will score higher than general predictions.  And predictions that are surprising and completely unexpected but that come true anyway will score the highest of all.

(The Deuteronomy 18:22 rule will not be enforced.)

So what do you think will happen in 2013?

Checking our predictions for 2012

At the turn of every year, this blog asks you to predict what will happen in the New Year ahead.  (We’ll do that in another post.)  Lots of blogs and publications do that.  But what we also do and others don’t is check last year’s predictions so that we can see who is the best prognosticator.  Review them yourself here:  Your predictions for 2012.

Everybody struck out completely when it came to sports predictions.  No one foresaw that teams with the same name (Giants) would win both the World Series and the Superbowl.

Most people who ventured a guest correctly predicted that Mitt Romney would win the Republican nomination for president.  Most also who mentioned it correctly predicted that Barack Obama would be re-elected, which was a different tune than what most of you said right before the election.

Several of you predicted the breakup of the European Union, which didn’t happen.

There were some general predictions that were true enough (Pete’s death and taxes), but we favor those that are highly specific.  My brother Jimmy was right on the election results, except when he said that the Democrats would take the House, and he was close on sports, but the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA finals.

Kirk predicted that the Guinea Worm, a particularly gruesome parasite, would be eradicated.  A quick Google search suggests that we are close, but this has not yet happened.  (Why isn’t PETA protesting this?)

Junker George predicted that the Hobbit movie would be the highest grossing movie of the year, an honor that actually went to the Avengers, though the Hobbit is doing very well and is still in the theaters.

Cincinnatus made a potentially winning prediction when he said that the Supreme Court would approve Obamacare, but the brilliance of that guess was cancelled when he went on to say that Romney would defeat Obama.

I thought Rick Ritchie was going for a dramatic win when he said foresaw a secession movement.  But then he said that it would be in China.

The winners made specific and unexpected predictions that came true, though they were somewhat weakened because they didn’t know when to stop.

Coming in 2nd:  Tom Hering, who predicted that police departments would get permission to use drones.  He picked up on the year’s biggest development in military operations, but he went on to predict outrage over police errors in zapping the wrong suspect, but I don’t think the police are using them that much just yet, and even then it seems to be for surveillance rather than SWAT duty.  Still, give him credit.

First place:  SAL, who predicted that the Southern Baptists would elect an African-American as their president, something that came true in June when Fred Luter was elected to that office.  He also correctly predicted the dramatic drop in the American birthrate.  He made 12 predictions altogether, a number of which came true, kind of (Obama was re-elected, but no vote-fraud scandal; there is a new war in the Middle East–Syria–but the US is not involved).  At any rate, we’ll give him our virtual imaginary travelling trophy for 2012.

UPDATE:  See the gracious acceptance speeches of SAL and Tom Hering in the comments.  And, as Tom reminds us, we can also recognize the worst prediction of the year.  The virtual trophy for that goes to the MAYANS.

Top religion stories of 2012

Religion journalists selected the top religion stories of the year:

1. U.S. Catholic bishops lead opposition to Obamacare requirement that insurance coverage for contraception be provided for employees. The government backs down a bit, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.

2. A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey shows that “nones” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population.

3. The circulation of an anti-Islam film trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” causes unrest in several countries, leading to claims that it inspired the fatal attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. President Obama, at the U.N., calls for toleration. . .  of blasphemy, and respect as a two-way street.

4. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith turns out to be a virtual non-issue for white evangelical voters, who support him more strongly than they did John McCain, in the U.S. presidential race.

5. Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia becomes the first senior Catholic official in the U.S. to be found guilty of covering up priestly child abuse; later Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., becomes the first bishop to be found guilty of it.

6. The Vatican criticizes the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of U.S. nuns, alleging they haven’t supported church teaching on abortion, sexuality or women’s ordination.

7. Voters OK same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, bringing the total approving to nine states and the District of Columbia. Also, Minnesota defeats a ban on same-sex marriage after North Carolina approves one.

8. The Episcopal Church overwhelmingly adopts a trial ritual for blessing same-sex couples. Earlier, the United Methodists fail to vote on approving gay clergy, and the Presbyterians (USA) vote to study, rather than sanction same-sex marriage ceremonies.

9. Six people are killed and three wounded at worship in a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. The shooter, an Army veteran killed by police, is described as a neo-Nazi.

10. Southern Baptist Convention elects without opposition its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans.

via Journalists Vote for Contraception Fight as Top 2012 U.S. Religion Story.

What can you conclude about the state of American religion from this list?  What does it leave out?  What do you think are the most significant religious or spiritual developments of 2012?