FAQs on Christianity

Frank J. Fleming has posted a tongue-in-cheek set of FAQs on Christianity for today’s secularists who have no clue about this scary new religion.  A sample:

How long have Christians been around?

While many people see Christians as a brand new and quite scary thing, records show Christians have been around since at least the 1950s, and maybe even much earlier.

What are their beliefs based on?

It’s a book called “The Bible.” It’s full of thousands-of-years-old religious writing, which Christians believe to have been written by men inspired by God. It’s very long.

I see many Bibles are labeled “Holy Bible.” What if I got a non-holy version?

Immediately return it for a refund.

The Bible is full of really old values, with lots of outdated views on things like sex. Do Christians actually follow this thing?

Indeed they try. Their view is that while society and technology change, the fundamental nature of man doesn’t, and neither do the values God gave us. Thus, the Bible is something they find relevant and expect people to read and follow many years into the future, like Harry Potter.

Don’t Christians know how weird and old-fashioned following the Bible makes them? Everyone else is fine with swearing, sex on TV, and abortion. Why do they have to be so different?

To Christians, following the ways of God is more important than fitting in with societal norms. Thus they are gladly counter-cultural.

So they’re like hipsters?

Yes, except everything they do is unironic.

via PJ Media » An FAQ on Christianity for the Unbeliever.

He goes on, though he sticks to culture war issues and never gets around to the heart of Christianity:  God becoming man and atoning for our sins.

Let’s  compose, in the comments, some actual FAQs about Christianity, raising common questions and giving pithy answers.  (I know, we could just post the Catechism, but let’s try it.)

Is the President our national pastor?

No, the president is most emphatically NOT a national pastor, such an understanding betraying a deadly confusion of God’s Two Kingdoms and completely distorting the nature of the pastoral office.  But the normally circumspect Christianity Today has two articles that say, yes, the president kind of is a national pastor.

See Owen Strachan,“Our American President: The ‘Almost Pastor’ of an ‘Almost Chosen’ Land” and  Judd Birdsall, “Is the President America’s Pastor in Chief?“.  A sample from the latter:

Ironically, the curious American integration of piety and the presidency largely stems from our separation of church and state. Without an established religion led by an archbishop, ecumenical patriarch, or grand mufti, the President acts, for better or worse, as the nation’s senior religious figure.

Cambridge University professor Andrew Preston makes this point in his massive, 815-page work Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy: “There is no official hierarchy in the American civil religion, but as the nation’s head of state as well as its chief executive … the president has acted as its de facto pope.”

What exactly are the President’s papal duties? Preston explains: “Since George Washington, the president has been the interpreter of rites, symbols, and meanings of the civil religion, with some—particularly Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman—significantly recasting it under the pressure of war.”

Obama’s and Romney’s faith-infused interpretations of the Aurora shooting are case in point, and the most recent chapter in the long history of the presidential pastorate. Both politicians denounced the killing as “evil,” and both turned to the Bible for meaning, solace, and hope.

In his public statement after meeting with victims’ families in Aurora, Obama quoted the famous eschatological promise found in Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Focusing on the here and now, Romney encouraged his audience to “mourn with those who mourn,” a reference to Romans 12:15. In poignant remarks packed with Christian language, Romney expressed his prayer that “the grieving will know the nearness of God” and “the comfort of a living God.” Citing the apostle Paul by name, Romney quoted from 2 Corinthians 1:3–4, “blessed be God, who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.”

Many commentators applauded Romney for sounding “presidential.” Especially in times of tribulation, Americans expect their President to be their pastor—not in any formal sense as a leader of a church but in the general sense as a provider of spiritual care and theological perspective for the nation.

The president as our archbishop, since we’re not allowed to have a state church?  Our pope?  A provider of our spiritual care?  These writers, of course, are speaking by way of analogy.  The workings of the “civil religion,” not to be confused (though it often is) with Christianity, though I’m not sure these articles finish that point.  They describe how the presidency functions and how the public responds, not how things should be.  But still. . . .

What is wrong with this picture?

HT:  Paul McCain

The new new atheists

The old atheists deny that God exists.  The new atheists deny that God is good and that therefore he does not exist.  Now we have what Christopher R. Beha describes as “new new atheists,” atheists who believe God does not exist and are trying to figure out how to live without Him.

In the current issue of Harper’s Magazine, I write about three books by writers I call the “New New Atheists.” The New Atheists—among them Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens—wrote bestselling books in the past decade that fiercely attacked belief in God. The fundamental difference between these polemicists and the next wave of atheist writers is evident in the titles of their books. In place of Dawkins’s The God Delusion, we have Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists. In place of Harris’s The End of Faith, we have his follow-up, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. And in place of Hitchens’s god is not Great, we have Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality.

The New New Atheists tend not to take up the question of God’s existence, which they take for granted as settled in the negative. Instead, they seek to salvage what is lost when belief erodes, concerning themselves with what atheists ought to believe and do in religion’s stead. Botton, for instance, asks how the benefits of faith—a sense of community, a sense of wonder—might be found in the secular, while Harris addresses what might be the most vexing problem facing atheists: how morality is possible without God. Only Rosenberg—a philosopher at Duke with a predictable commitment to rigor—insists that doing away with religion means doing away with most of what comes with it: a sense of order in the universe, the hope that life has some inherent meaning, even the belief in free will.

via The Literary Response to Radical Atheism—By Christopher R. Beha (Harper’s Magazine).

HT:  Matthew Cantirino

How many abortions are for the health of the mother?

Abortion is called a woman’s health issue, with the right to abortion necessary to protect a woman’s life, in many instances, and physical well-being in many more.  So what percentage of abortions are to save a mother’s life or to protect her health?  Not very many, according to a British study of abortion in that country:

A report to Parliament has revealed abortions performed in the United Kingdom to save the life of the mother are a stunningly low 0.006 percent of procedures.

David Alton, who for 18 years was a member of the House of Commons, wrote, “When the case for allowing legal abortion was first placed before Parliament it was argued that the law needed to be changed to deal with extremely serious situations.

“More than six million abortions later the figures reveal that in 99.5 percent of the cases where an unborn child’s life is ended there is no risk to the health of the mother,” he said.

The details came in a response from Earl Howe, the parliamentary undersecretary of state in the nation’s Department of Health, to Parliament. He confirmed from 1968 through 2011, the last year for which details were available,there were 6.4 million abortions for women in England and Wales.

“Of these, 143 (0.006 percent) were performed under Section 1(4), i.e. where the termination is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman,” he wrote.

He noted another 24,778 were done on the grounds that a continued pregnancy would involve more risk to the mother than if the unborn child were destroyed.

via 0.006% of abortions to save mom’s life.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Todd in the comments for doing the math:  If there were 143 abortions to save the life of the mother out of 6.4 million, that would only be 0.002% of the total number of abortions, an even smaller figure than 0.006%, which would come to 384.  Whichever is the correct number, the percentage is miniscule.

What is a Lutheran?

Anthony Sacramone tells about his own spiritual history, his current frustrations in trying to find a Lutheran congregation, and various theological difficulties.  He closes by asking “what is a Lutheran?” and asks for help in sorting through all of this.

The man is a great humorist, but this is a plaintive post.  His experiences are important for us Missouri Synod types to face up to, how in our doctrinal purity we sometimes scare people off and drive them away even when they desperately want and are open to precisely what we can give them–Christ, the Gospel, the Sacraments. And can anyone help him with his search for a congregation that would put up with him and vice versa?  (I do know that Lutheran identity is, in practice, more flexible than it is sometimes presented and that congregations vary a lot, in some positive as well as negative ways.  He lives in New York City, a small town when it comes to the number of Missouri Synod Lutherans.  But perhaps some of you could give him suggestions.)

If I send you over to his blog Strange Herring, will you help him and not attack him?

If so, here is the link:  Nadia Bolz-Weber and Lutheran Identity « Strange Herring.

Medicare, the free market, and a drug that doesn’t work

This story will make you discouraged about BOTH the government AND the free market when it comes to healthcare.  Peter Whoriskey reports:

The U.S. health-care system is vastly overspending for a single anemia drug because Medicare overestimates its use by hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to an analysis of federal data. The overpayment to hospitals and clinics arises because Medicare reimburses them based on estimates rather than the actual use of the drug.

The government for years has tried to rein in spending on the prescription drug, Epogen, which had ranked some years as the most expensive drug to taxpayers through the Medicare system.

Medicare’s current estimates are based on Epogen usage in 2007 for dialysis treatments. But since then, use of the drug has fallen 25 percent or more, partly because of Food and Drug Administration warnings about its perils and partly because Congress removed the financial incentives for clinics and hospitals to prescribe the drug. Because Medicare continues to reimburse health-care providers as if the dosing levels haven’t changed, the significant savings in doses has not translated into savings for the U.S. Treasury.

The amount of the overspending is more than $400 million annually, according to calculations done separately by The Washington Post and experts.

“I think we probably left money on the table,” said Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a critic of the way the drug had been used who helped shepherd through legislation that removed the financial incentives for bigger doses beginning in 2011.

The overpayment for Epogen reflects both the promise and difficulty of large-scale government reform of health-care spending.

For years, Epogen was one of a trio of anemia drugs — all manufactured by Amgen, a California biotech firm — that cost Medicare as much as $3 billion annually. Overall U.S. sales of the drugs exceeded $8 billion.

Nearly two decades after the drugs were first approved in 1989, their purported benefits were found to be overstated, and the FDA issued a series of stern warnings about their potentially deadly side effects, such as cancer and heart attacks.

At least some of their popularity stemmed from the fact that hospitals and clinics made lots of money using them: The spread between what they paid for a dose and what Medicare paid them to administer one reached as high as 30 percent, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

The incentives drove up usage. By 2007, about 80 percent of dialysis patients were getting the drugs at levels beyond what the FDA now targets as safe.

Congress pushed Medicare to revise its payment system to remove the incentives for larger doses. Under the new system for dialysis patients, Medicare pays a set fee for a bundle of dialysis services and drugs.

via Medicare overspending on anemia drug – The Washington Post.

So Medicare reimbursed based on ESTIMATES rather than actual usage?  And hospitals and doctors prescribed the drugs so much in part because “they could make so much money using them”?

Of course, the reason the drugs were so lucrative is because Medicare paid so much for them, so it’s the unholy alliance between the government and the private sector–which is at the heart of Obamacare– that is to blame.  Still, this dashes further the assumption that our medical treatment is always based on objective considerations of patient care.

Are business practices that work in other profit-making enterprises fitting for health care?  For example, why are all of these prescription drugs being advertised on television?  Are patients now “consumers” who are expected to demand certain medicines from their physicians, in which case, what happens to objective determinations in the practice of medicine?  Or are the physicians the target of these marketing campaigns, in which case, again, what happens to objective determinations in the practice of medicine?


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