Is Christianity a religion?

I’m beginning to dislike the word ‘religion.’  Whenever I see the word ‘religion’ in an article, I think of all those religions of the world; Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, etc., as a choice one makes to accept, to believe in, and to follow those ways and means. Is choosing a religion the same as the choice of a Chrysler over a Buick, a Ford, Chevy or Volkswagen? A cup of coffee in the morning instead of hot tea or milk. What basis do we use when choosing which to follow? Do we have to accept one or the other? Or, nothing. Atheism is considered a religious belief.

So let’s start by looking at how Webster defines ‘religion.’

“Religion is:

  • a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
  • a body of beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural and the worship of one or more deities.
  • the service and worship of God or the supernatural
  • commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

We don’t and can’t see the law of gravity, but we see its effects when a coin falls out of our pocket. We don’t see, taste, smell, feel or hear the air we breathe, yet it’s there. We don’t see the waves of sound moving from the lips of another to our ears, yet it happens, and we don’t feel it either. We don’t see the aroma of a rose bud reaching our nose. These sensations are invisible, but yet, they are just as real as these fingers of mine pushing on the keyboard. Are these sensations we don’t see just a system of religious attitudes?

Jesus was a real physical human being in a body like ours: two legs, two arms, eyes, ears, a nose as part of the head with hair, two lips, all together connected by a neck to the shoulders, chest, hips connected by bones, arteries, muscles to the knees and the same to the ankles and toes. He breathed, ate bread, and smelled the roses just like we do.  His seed was planted inside a woman’s egg to make a human, which grew as you did within your mother’s womb. He was born and given that first breath of air. After some thirty years of physically moving here and there upon this planet, He was whipped and hung on a cross, where He gasped and exhaled that last breath of air. His life-less physical body was wrapped as the custom was then, laid to rest and secured in a tomb.

But then that unseen dimension, the spiritual element intervened, and the spiritual Jesus entered that same dead body. The stone rolled away, and He walked and talked again on this physical earth. There are eye-witnesses to it. We have their testimony. We can read about it, just like we read about Thomas Edison and the invention of a light bulb. It’s historical. It was real. His life changed the world and people like us for the last 2000 years.

 

Christianity is more real than a system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new One.

The newest novel is finished, but not yet published. Yee Gads, to get something published nowadays is like walking , thumbing one’s way through ten-feet high bales of hay.  But anyway, it’s still one day at a time, one key punch after another and then the end comes with a big shout followed by a deep breath of relaxation. Yes, the title is: “Just a Matter of Time.” Subtitled: “Until the end of Time.”

We all rise to a world of technology advancing faster than a Nascar Corvette. Where will it take us five, ten, twenty years down the road, or even just two years. How will this technology of iPhones doing more than a desk-top computer of three years ago affect our communications, our social network (which used to be just extended families), and our daily work lives.  Huh? Think about it. That’s what Just a Matter of Time delves into. The daily lives of a family of four over three months.

Election Noise

“Make some noise, let’s hear it.” The electronic sign bellowed out to the 50,000 fans watching the ball game.

That is my summary of the election yesterday. Noise.

We still have the rule of law. We still have Two houses of Congress. In two years we’ll vote again.

There are two kinds of noise; natural and manufactured.

It’s the loud, consistent rumbling on the airwaves that gets our attention. It’s the thunder that causes us to look out the window. It’s noise, it’s the alarm clock that wakes us from slumber. The loud arguments between relatives disturb the kiddies. The media and what we hear on the tube, see on videos, hear from the media, from Hollywood, from Washington, and locally is manufactured noise that has the effect of dividing us.

Then there is the natural noise of nature. Thunder and lightning, volcanoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, the roar of a lion or bear, the woofs of a rabid dog, the hissing of a snake. We run to take cover. We huddle together. We reach out for a solid safe hand to hold onto. It’s the natural noise that draws us together.

The Psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Independence.

July the 2nd

During this tumultuous time of 242 years ago fighting off the English since 1773, the colonies wanted badly to gain independence one way or another. The southern colonies desired to keep slavery as their right while the north fought against it. The two sides eventually came together agreeing to declare their right to govern themselves as one united nation.

Thomas Jefferson was quietly composing the declaration of Independence to send to the British crown. Even though he was a slave holder as was Washington, he wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (back in those days the term ‘all men’ included all of humanity regardless of sex, race or nationality) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable (impossible to take away or give up) rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Let us not ever forget it, or as Ben Franklin has been quoted saying, “We must hang together or surely we will hang separately.”

 

July the 3rd.

It was yesterday 242 years ago that the colonies agreed to declare their independence, and not until 6 days later when the official declaration was read to the people of Philadelphia. No instant news in those days as news traveled slowly by horseback and sailing ships across the Atlantic delivering the news to England on August 20th: “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”

A couple days before the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, George Mason stood up – a delegate from Virginia, genius, brilliant – and he said, ‘If Congress shall turn oppressive, the only way to reform what’s taking place is through violence. We must give the people the power to address a tyrannical Congress,

Article V of the Constitution provides a means where the states have the right to propose Amendments when ratified by 3/4th of the States, it would be valid to all Intent and Purposes.

It was not until 1938 when Congress declared the 4th of July as a federal holiday to be enjoyed by all. Our customs of celebration has changed over the years, from an earlier custom of building towering pyramids, assembled from barrels and casks and setting it on fire. Currently, we hold BBQ’s, picnics along a lakeside, a campfire, family gatherings in the backyards with sparklers and our own purchased legal fireworks, and then to view the local fireworks displays. We will perhaps record the Macy’s celebration in NYC to watch later.  This Year Hallmark is broadcasting a White House celebration as the President, and First Lady will commemorate the day by welcoming military families for an afternoon picnic on the south lawn and later viewing the fireworks display put on by the National Park Service.

Happy Independence.

 

July the 4th.

The last paragraph of that declaration.

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Cicero was murdered in 43 B.C. What might he have said that enlightened the Declaration of 1776?  “There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil,”

“It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must forever reign, eternal and imperishable,” Cicero said. “God himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer.”

What did Hamilton think of this argument?  “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records,” Hamilton wrote in 1775. “They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

Then there was Jefferson: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” — John Adams.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Concord Hymn”

R.W. Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

He penned these few lines about the famous Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first official engagement between Britain and the Colonies in Americas beginning on April 19, 1775, which lasted eight and a half years. The American Revolution finally ended on September 3, 1783, with America and the King of England signing the Treaty of Paris.

This document was signed by 56 Americans wanting to be free and independent, many of whom gave their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Tonight, when you see and hear the fireworks exploding, think of the shot heard around the world.

 

The Lone Wolf destroys the peace of many.

What’s going on in this great land of ours from sea to shining sea? A teen-ager grabs a couple guns from his father’s cabinet hides them under a trench-coat, makes his way to the school where he’s a student in good standing and then pulls the trigger aiming and killing some of his class-mates. What was going in in the mind of this kid?  Why? Why is it happening more and more in this 21st century of ours compared with previous times?

In researching this list of previous shootings and rampages in our schools, I landed upon a Wikipedia page listing EVERY shooting in America’s schools going back to the first in 1764 when 10 were murdered by American Indians in what has been named the Enoch Brown massacre. [1]   It was considered a school shooting because a school principal was shot while the others not affiliated with the school were killed in hand to hand combat. Knives and hatchets? Bows and Arrows?

Tracing these shootings through history reveals that in earlier times most were angry outbursts, disagreements of parents angry over the treatment of a child, disagreements of an employee being fired, angriness of one sort or another. Then in 1966, the first mass shooting occurred at the University of Texas when 17 were killed and 31 injured by 25-year-old engineering student, who from the observation deck continuously pulled the trigger on innocents at Sandy Hook for 96 minutes. He had previously taken out his hatred for his parents by killing them that morning. [2]

Fast forward to the 21st century. The first decade had 65 shootings with 110 killed. From 2011 thru 2014: 94 shootings and 36 deaths. 2015 to present: 66 shootings with 84 killed. And now less than 5 months into 2018 there’s been 3 school shootings resulting in 47 deaths.

Let’s go back a few decades.

1940’s- 8 shootings.

1950’s-14,

1960’s-19,

1970’s- 31,

1980’s- 41,

1990’s- 66 separate shootings including the famous ’99 Columbine massacre where 2-teens ambushed   fellow students killing 15 and injuring 21.

Why the escalation? What has changed, what changes occurred in our culture over those decades?

It’s easy to surmise that the trend is escalating, but again, why? Is it because guns are available?  Is it because the legal requirements for obtaining a license to purchase and own a gun are not strict enough? How many of these assaults on human life has been made with an illegally obtained gun? How many of the incidents have been committed with a legally purchased weapon obtained by a student from his parents.

There have been many contributing factors suggested by various leaders, media and politicos including: Failure of government background checks. Higher accessibility and ownership of guns. Desire for fame and notoriety. Copycatism.  The gap between expectations and actual achievement. Mental Illness. Bullying. Psychiatric Drugs. Bullying.

All it just takes is just one to destroy the peace of many.

The political speak is all about gun safety, about the availability of guns, about the need for more additional gun restrictions and even the concept of outlawing guns altogether has hit the airwaves. “Our children are precious to us and their safety is our main concern, so let’s do this now. We must ban fully automatic assault rifles now.” The same old measures are being floated to prevent these shootings from ever happening again.  How about around the world? How do other countries restrict personal gun ownership? Ah, all that is another story.

Allow me to boil it down to just two factors: 1. One or more guns have been used. 2. One human pulled the trigger of the guns.

Do we outlaw all humans from attending schools?

Yes, it’s a human problem of that inherent free-will nature of ours. The first historical account of a human killing another is that of Cain slaying his brother Able. Jealousy is said to be the motivating factor.

There is only ONE solution to this dilemma. Yes, one only, and it’s been known for the last 2000 years.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”    Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

Ten-Commandments 2

Yep, if parents, students and school officials lived respecting and loving each other as themselves it would end school shootings. Centuries before that humans were provided the Ten commandments. And Yep, if everyone obeyed and lived by these standards set forth in those tablets of stone, that would end school shootings.

But, throughout history, a lone Wolf can destroy the peace.

But, these two simple codes cannot even be discussed in schools anymore, nor displayed anywhere in our public-school system. Outlawed by the court. It’s been considered a violation of that separation of church and state doctrine.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists, Inc. became famous in the 60’s for pushing the concept of separation of church and state. She eventual won the banning of mandatory prayer and the daily reading of bible passages from the public schools in 2 supreme Court cases of ’62 and ’63.  The Ten commandments were banned from being displayed in public schools in 1980.

Since then, oh how the basic nuclear family unit as the backbone of society has been slowly degraded.  Now it’s meism. Me first. A disrespect for each other, no more honoring each other above selfish desires. Adultery became a no big deal. Then divorce. It’s our sensuousness, our selfishness. Abortion legalized in 1973. Teen pregnancies. Drug use. Foul language. Cheating. Lying. Stealing. Murder. Rape. Incest. Homosexuality. Bisexuality. Oh, and also, dress codes have changed too. In the 50’s the high school required girls to wear lode fitting blouses and dresses that covered their knees and boys had to wear button-down shirts and slacks, no shorts. Nowadays, well anything goes . . . . just cover your genitals is about the only unspoken dress code.

Summary.

Oh, this part is easy. Even in the churches, the Fear of the Almighty God is not being preached and emphasized.  The fear of what happens after we die: Heaven or Hell. Yes, the creator destroyed the entire population of this earth except for one family because the rest of humanity was living as they desired. The ability of God to do this is not being preached. Yes, God threw His first humans away from that beautiful garden because they did not listen to His one wish. Instead they desired to be like God, to be their own master knowing both good and evil. Oh yes, we do know about evil.

Let me present an analogy.  You’ve been hired to work for a certain company and the owner has informed you of his expectations and rules. Obey those and you’ll enjoy the work, the benefits and the comradery of the fellow employees. You also know that if you don’t live up to those standards the owner has the right to call you into his office and say; you’re fired.

“Fired.” Yes, that phase had its beginnings with the concept of spending eternity in the Lake of Fire.

I can’t hear you.

Friday was a senior day at the BA community Center on Main.  Many companies wishing to make known to the hundreds of seniors leisurely strolling from one booth to another while passing by others, what they could do to help seniors. Senior living. Nursing homes. Independent living.  Hospice care. Medicare info. Yes, and funeral director and cremation services too. Not a fast food booth anywhere to be seen.  I stopped and had a conversation with a lady at a hearing aid booth. Told her of my predicament with inadequate ability to hear plainly as I had done for 60 some years previously. Even In situations where background noise was high, I could understand the person sitting across the booth. Now, you put me in a smallish room with cement walls and the voice sound bounces off the walls creating a double tone, an echo of sorts.  Now you put me in a restaurant where background noise is part of the atmosphere and it’s hard to understand a distinctive word said to me by a person leaning on my shoulder.

That’s my dilemma, I told her. “Ah, come on in and we’ll test your hearing”.

Sure. I’ve been through four or more of those tests of sitting inside a soundproof booth with earphones listening to a beep. All I must do is listen and press the button when I hear the beep. Wonderful. Ha, to me they’re useless. That’s what is used to program that tiny computer inside the tiny devise that sits behind my ear that has a tiny tube connecting to the microphone inserted into my ear.

Well, anyway, I’ve got an appointment set for the second week of May.

Our ears. What marvelous pieces of equipment they are. Two of them separated by a 7-inch skull. A sound enters the left ear at the same time a slightly different sound enters the right ear. Perhaps even somewhat similar to our two eyes being separated allowing us to view in 3-D.  The sounds enter the ear canal sending the waves to that drum that vibrates the waves on to another cavity over microscopic bones to the inner system which interprets the sound sending the info to the brain which let’s me know what you said. Holler out BOOM and the drum vibrates faster than the hairs on my head as I descend the ride on the roller coaster. Softly say my name and I suppose the drum barely vibrates.  Is the skin of the drum damaged? Or is it the inner system that interprets what the ears have transmitted damaged? Or, and yes, knowing me, is it the brain that is damaged by that last ride on the roller-coaster, by being hit by a baseball, by the loud noise of a rock band concert, by months of having my ears closely tuned into a radio intensely listening to the dots and dashes of Morse code, or is it the years of operating noisy equipment without ear protection? Hmm?

And our voices, what a distinctive sound we make with our tongues, lips and vocal cords. Our languages; so many there are. Thousands of different languages throughout the world and within each of those are very different dialects. Even here within this smallish town of Broken Arrow, there are many distinctively different dialects of American English, and yes, some too who have not learned enough English words to speak it understandably to a local. There you are in a crowded restaurant of peoples from similar or very distinct backgrounds most all speaking softly, some louder and more forceful unaware of disturbing the next booth of four just wanting to enjoy the fellowship over a nice dinner. The voices of all bouncing off the ceiling, the panels of smooth walls and glass windows, so I must carefully pick which one of those eating places to enjoy a conversation. Rush hour is for them, not me.

Imagine the vocal sounds of a German, a Frenchman, a Russian, a Chinese, a Scandinavian and a south American who have just learned to speak some English incorporating the homeland dialect into the Brooklyn dialect. Would you understand much, if any at all?

This post started with the idea of documenting my own inability to hear well enough to understand the words of someone sitting just a few feet away. My personal conclusion: to all of you with good ears, stay away from those loud in-door concerts, from most of the loud noises that have penetrated this world of secular sensuous arm waving happiness. In a stadium of 70,000 watching a ball game, bring some ear plugs to deafen the noise of the speakers yelling: “Make some Noise.”

Don’t forget nature. Take a walk through the woods. Listen to the waters of a stream, to the bristling of leaves. Tune your ears to hear the calling of a yellow finch, to the sound of butterfly wings, of a hummingbird, and, yes, even the thundering of a lightning strike. Sounds of nature will not hurt your ears but sounds of machinery will.

 

You’re Fired

Recently a headline of our everyday, every minute news broadcasting the latest providing us citizens information on what’s going on somewhere else, by someone else. One headline in bold type stated: “You’re Fired.” The inside story was about a previous administration politically appointed individual who spoke against President Trump and his fascist discriminative ways being dismissed from his position. This brought back memories of the TV series: “The Apprentice.”

Hmm? Everything has a beginning, a history. Yes, even commonly used phrases have a starting point, a beginning somewhere in past history. So, I wondered where and when did that phrase have its beginning. You may already perceive where I’m going with this, but anyway here goes. I entered the phrase into the computer search box and up popped many bold typed headlines with answers, one of which was that TV series when Trump is facing the contestants announcing which of them is being terminated from the next segment saying: “You’re fired.” The camera focused on the look on that person’s face revealing the disappointment, the dismay of not meeting his standards of performance.

Another explanation referred back to times of clans and tribes when a person committed a serious offense and they burned down his home.

Another explanation went back to 1885 indicating that it was a play on the word ‘discharged’ which has two meanings: dismissal of an employee, or to fire a projectile or weapon.

On this earth of ours we see the effects of fire in Volcanoes, forest fires destroying neighborhoods, wild fires burning brush, lightning strikes causing fires and the casual burning cigarette being throw out the car window. We enjoy sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows. We enjoy the warmth of a fireplace and in olden days the light provided by a wick burning within a glass.

Interesting, but still not conclusive for me as I seek to retrieve older historical records of the first beginnings from the most read, most publicized book ever, the one translated into every language: The Bible. First: the story of the old cities of Sodom and Gomorrah when burning sulfur destroyed the area because of the wickedness.

How about this one from Isaiah: “then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against me for their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched: And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

From the book of Revelation: “He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” 14:10

This also from Revelation: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” 20:14-15

“So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, for it is better for you to enter life crippled than having your two hands to go into hell; into the unquenched fire. Mark 9:43

Is that enough? We sure don’t hear many, if any sermons on this topic anymore, do we? Why is that? Do we disbelieve, dismiss these verses as being uncharacteristic of the merciful, gracious all caring creator Almighty God, who wouldn’t or couldn’t do such a thing as it goes against His goodness.

Sorry, but “You’re Fired.”