What would Jesus do about nationalizing the means of production?

Anthony Sacramone says, uh, no, taking on a claim in the Huffington Post:

This is what passes for deep thinking at the Huffington Post: an assistant professor of history insists that evangelicals must “hate” Jesus because they’re not socialists. Because Jesus was a socialist, you see.

Really? Jesus ran concentration camps? He murdered people who wore glasses because they were perceived to be intellectuals? He shot dissidents? He confiscated money he didn’t earn in order to fund a massive slave state? He denied the existence of God and claimed that religion was the opiate of the masses? He declaimed against those who wouldn’t arm totalitarian guerrillas? He insisted that personal responsibility for helping the poor should be pawned off on bureaucrats, who, of course, really really care about the poor? Because all that too is socialism, as even an assistant professor should know. . . .

In short: Jesus came to set men free. Socialism came to enslave them to Caesar.

You should read the rest of the rant, the point being that socialism has no right to the moral high ground that many people are giving it.

via Strange Herring | And other signs that the end is near.

More Bible translations

The Washington Post has an article about two new Bible translations.  We’ve already blogged about the new gender-adjusted NIV that will take the place of the NIV beloved by many evangelicals.  There is also a new translation of the New American Bible, the version approved for Roman Catholics.

The new Catholic Bible retools only the Old Testament. The first new version since 1970, it is meant to sound more poetic and more contemporary, with “spoils” replacing “booty” and “burnt offering” supplanting “Holocaust.”

It could stir controversy, however, with decisions such as the one meant to be truer to the Hebrew – translating Isaiah 7:14 to say a “young woman” shall conceive, and bear a son, instead of a “virgin,” which is how the previous Catholic Old Testament and most evangelical Bibles read. …

Some experts predict that the radical fragmentation in the marketplace will kill the contemporary notion that the Bible is a fixed text meant to be read literally.

Timothy Beal, a religion professor at Case Western University who just came out with a book called “The Rise and Fall of the Bible,” compared the flurry of versions to “a distressed crop. When a tree is about to die and puts out tons of seeds.”

The Bible, Beal said, “is not a book of answers but a library of questions. It doesn’t speak in one voice. It doesn’t take one perspective. This frantic, desperate effort to resolve contradictions is going against the grain of the Bible, which seems to embrace contradictions.”

via Sign of the times: Updated Bible.

One problem with today’s Roman Catholicism is its embrace of liberal Protestantism!  Liberal Bible critics have been pushing for the “young woman” translation of Isaiah’s prophecy ever since the RSV.  Never mind that when the New Testament quotes the passage it cites the Septuagint, which is clearly “virgin,” a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ.  Scripture is not allowed to interpret Scripture, as in classical Protestant hermeneutics. But now Roman Catholics are going down that line.  Will they now pray to the Young Woman Mary?

And what do you think of the Bible scholar’s comments?

Do you agree that so many translations is diluting the sense that the Bible has a fixed authoritative meaning?

Newt explains his affair to Christians

Newt Gingrich is gearing up for a presidential run, so he is courting social conservatives.  That requires him to account for his three marriages, including the one that grew out of his affair with a young staff member even as he was lambasting President Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.  What do you think of his explanation?

Newt Gingrich says his passionate hard work for his country contributed to his marital infidelity. In an interview posted Wednesday by The Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich – who recently converted to Catholicism – said he had sought God’s forgiveness for mistakes in his past.

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” Gingrich said.

“What I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them,” he said. “I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness.”

Gingrich went on to say that he and his third wife, Callista, now have a great marriage.

“Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I’ve had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice,” he said.

The twice-divorced former U.S. House speaker has said he had an affair with Callista, a former congressional aide, while married to his second wife. It happened at the same time he was attacking President Bill Clinton for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

via News from The Associated Press.

So would you support him for president?

Procedural ploy lets Wisconsin finesse union

We have been following Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s effort to stop the state employee union from being able to engage in collective bargaining for benefits.  We have also discussed the Democratic legislators who have been on the lam to prevent a quorum to take up the measure.  Here is the latest development:  Some slick parliamentary procedure let Republicans pass the bill without a quorum.

The Wisconsin Senate succeeded in voting Wednesday to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats and approve an explosive proposal that has rocked the state and unions nationwide.

“You are cowards!” spectators in the Senate gallery screamed as lawmakers voted. Within hours, a crowd of a few hundred protesters inside the Capitol had grown to several thousand, more than had been in the building at any point during weeks of protests.

“The whole world is watching!” they shouted as they pressed up against the heavily guarded entrance to the Senate chamber.

All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill” — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spends money. But Republicans on Wednesday took all the spending measures out of the legislation and a special committee of lawmakers from both the Senate and Assembly approved the revised bill a short time later.

The unexpected yet surprisingly simple procedural move ended a stalemate that had threatened to drag on indefinitely. Until Wednesday’s stunning vote, it appeared the standoff would persist until Democrats returned to Madison from their self-imposed exile.

via Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining | General Headlines | Comcast.net.

Lent catches on

The Washington Post has a weekend religious services directory that prints notices and advertisements from local churches.  I was surprised to see how many churches besides the usual liturgical denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran) are holding Ash Wednesday services, in a number of cases complete with the imposition of ashes.

The same issue included a wire article on how Protestants are increasingly adopting Lenten fasts:  via Lent Gets a 21st-Century Update – Religiontoday – News – Christianity.com.

It cites evangelicals who are taking on Facebook fasts and online fasts.  Methodists are asking their members to abstain from alcoholic beverages.  (I thought Methodists do that anyway!)  A number of liberal mainline Protestants are joining in an “Ecumenical Lenten Carbon” fast, in which members will mortify their flesh by lowering their carbon footprint.  The article mentions Catholics who are obliged to give up meat on Fridays and also the really rigorous Orthodox fast, which cuts out all meat and dairy every day for the entire season. (Does that include Sundays, which are feast days not counted in the 40 days?  If any of you are Orthodox, please let us know.)   In effect, this is a Vegan diet, and vegetarians in England are urging Christians to adopt the Eastern Orthodox fast this year.

Why do you think, in this age of constant indulgence, the Lenten disciplines are being taken up, to a certain extent, even by those traditions that normally haven’t practiced them?  What’s the attraction?

The oldest church in the world

Lent is a good time for contemporary Christians to contemplate their solidarity with the Church as the Body of Christ, which extends around the world and back through time.

Here are the remains of the oldest church building that has been found.  It’s called the  Dura-Europas, from a town by that name, in Syria.  It has been dated from 235 A.D.

It’s a house church,in that it’s an ordinary house to which was attached a separate long hall that was used for worship.  Remains of a baptistry were found, as well as fragments of parchment that have been identified as scraps of a Communion liturgy.  Also, around the baptistry are frescoes of scenes from the Bible.  Here is Christ healing the paralytic:

Christ healing the paralytic, from Dura-Europas Church, 235 A.D.

For more of these paintings, which must be some of the very earliest examples of Christian art, go to the Wikipedia article linked below.  I love their extreme simplicity, but also the intense piety that they express.

Think of the people who made these and who worshiped here.  In 235 A.D., the books of the Bible would have been available for about a century.  Christians were being killed for their faith and would be for another hundred years.  Based on mentions of the pre-Easter fasts in texts that date even earlier, these folks probably observed Lent.

The 10 Oldest Churches in the World | Weird Pictures, Wonderful Things.

Dura-Europas church


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