Category Archives: Christianity

False Teachers

I’ve been taking part in a couple of discussions (and reading others) around the net on “false teachers” lately. Basically, my position is that I think “false teachers” as described in the bible have a particular intention – while wrong teachers are just confused, like we all can be sometimes.

They were largely prompted by this post on the solapanel by Gordon Cheng, who followed up with a pointer to that post on his blog.

“Just to be clear, let me say that I think Brian Houston, Rowan Williams, NT Wright and Karl Barth are false teachers.

I’m angry at people who treat their teaching seriously, in the same way that a few years ago, there was a sense of outrage that racist politician Pauline Hanson got any thoughtful attention at all from political leaders.”

Now Michael Jensen has weighed in with his views on the matter.

A follow up comment on that post gave his position on the issue with some clarity. I’d have to say that’s where I sit on things – but all those other posts (and I think, my comments) are well worth reading if you’re at all interested in a somewhat contentious issue.

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More bad santa

Separated at birth

Separated at birth

And another link linking Santa to Satan… and this one even mentions Harry Potter for good measure.

If the most productive time of salvation are the pre-teen years, and if the pre-teen years are the most vulnerable – does it not stand to reason that Satan would fiercely attack this time? Can we not see the overwhelming evidence of this Satanic attack on our children? From the sexual, sensual music of Britney Spears, or Nsync, to the occult and witchcraft of Harry Potter – there is an attack aimed directly at our children. It is assaulting them from the TV, the music, the Internet, the peer pressure, the public schools – Satan literally “seeks” to “devour our children” into every nook and cranny.

A bit of reductio ad Harry Potterium, and reductio ad NSyncium for good measure (nb only funny if you know that reductio ad Hitlerum is the practice of introducing Hitler into a logical argument – also fulfilling Godwin’s Law). My favourite quotes on Santa:

The Devil is a master of disguise. He can make it appear good, pleasant, and seemingly so innocent – and yet it is deadly! The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:14, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” He does not appear with horns and a pitch fork breathing fire. He might just appear as a pleasant, friendly, fellow, with “a broad face and a round little belly, That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly… “

Actually, this bit is quite bizarre – and very long. But it’s interesting reading… Basically Santa = Thor = Satan. In summary Santa and Thor both enter buildings via chimneys and so are invulnerable to fire… just like Satan. Coca Cola just added fuel to the fire by painting Santa red. Therefore coca cola is devil water… 

The unusual and common characteristics of Santa and Thor are too close to ignore.

* An elderly man, jovial and friendly and of heavy build.
* With a long white beard.
* His element was the fire and his color red.
* Drove a chariot drawn by two white goats, named called Cracker and Gnasher.
* He was the Yule-god. (Yule is Christmas time).
* He lived in the Northland (North Pole).
* He was considered the cheerful and friendly god.
* He was benevolent to humans.
* The fireplace was especially sacred to him.
* He came down through the chimney into his element, the fire.

Even today in Sweden, Thor represents Santa Claus. The book, The Story of the Christmas Symbols, records:

Swedish children wait eagerly for Jultomten, a gnome whose sleigh is drawn by the Julbocker, the goats of the thunder god Thor. With his red suit and cap, and a bulging sack on his back, he looks much like the American Santa Claus. (Barth, Edna. Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights, The Story of the Christmas Symbols. New York: Clarion Books, 1971, p. 49)

Thor was probably history’s most celebrated and worshipped pagan god. His widespread influence is particularly obvious in the fifth day of the week, which is named after him – Thursday (a.k.a. Thor’s Day).

It is ironic that Thor’s symbol was a hammer. A hammer is also the symbolic tool of the carpenter – Santa Claus. It is also worth mentioning that Thor’s helpers were elves and like Santa’s elves, Thor’s elves were skilled craftsman. It was the elves who created Thor’s magic hammer.

In the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, author Francis Weiser traces the origin of Santa to Thor: “Behind the name Santa Claus actually stands the figure of the pagan Germanic god Thor.” (Weiser, Francis X. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1952, p. 113)

After listing some the common attributes of Thor and Santa, Weiser concludes:

Here, [Thor] then, is the true origin of our “Santa Claus.” . . . With the Christian saint whose name he still bears, however, this Santa Claus has really nothing to do. (Weiser, Francis X. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1952, p. 114)

Another interesting trait of Thor is recorded by H.R. Ellis Davidson in Scandinavian Mythology, “It was Thor who in the last days of heathenism was regarded as the chief antagonist of Christ.” (Davidson, H.R. Ellis. Scandinavian Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1982, p. 133) In case you are not aware, an “antagonist” is an enemy, adversary or replacement.

The bizarre and mutual attributes of Thor and Santa are no accident.

It’s funny, because I always thought Thor looked more like this:

Separated at birth?

Separated at birth?

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Santagram

Uncle Santa needs you

Uncle Santa needs you

According to some Christian’s it’s no coincidence that Santa is an anagram of Satan. My wife doesn’t think fondly of St Nick. Who by all accounts was a lovely guy who anonymously and generously gave to the poor and downtrodden of his community.

There’s a long and passionate debate regarding the evils of Santa – and specifically the evils of teaching your kids about Santa. Is it a lie? Probably. But I’m not overly worried by it – if you’re going to tar all “fiction” with the same brush then go for it. Hate Santa, as much as you hate Harry Potter. Ironically, Harry Potter is probably considered evil by most people who hate Santa.

The other refrain as commonly heard as “Jingle Bells” at this time of year is that Christmas has been commercialised. That commercialisation is evil. That modern Christmas has been stripped of its meaning. Well yes. Christmas is commercial. That’s no reason not to support it. Particularly this year. Christmas means jobs. We’re facing the “economic downturn” since the great depression. Jobs are good. Spending money is good. Do it wisely.

I wonder sometimes if our spirit of Christmas protectionism – it’s our holiday and you guys can only celebrate it if you remember our God – damages what could be a great PR opportunity for the church. People are generally thinking nice things about us Christians at this time of year – we get them a “holy day”, they sing carols that often contain the gospel message. And here’s the church, harping on about commercialisation.

Did you know that in Scotland Christmas was banned for almost 400 years – right up until the early 20th century. In fact – the good old Presbyterians were so keen on the ban, they made their signing of a treaty with England contingent on its introduction there.

Scottish Presbyterians, when called on for support by the Puritans of the English Parliament in 1644, did so on the understanding that their allies would in exchange impose the ban on Christmas. For over a decade traditional English Christmas festivities were prohibited

Really. A ban on Christmas. That’s a public relations disaster. Like the “war on Christmas” being waged throughout churches world wide now.

Christmas in Australia is big business. $37.2 billion worth of business. If you divide that by the average Australian wage – or an aggregated household average wage of $115,000 – that’s 328,000 households who keep their jobs because of Christmas (unless I’ve got my zeroes wrong in the billions bit of the calculation… it’s nine in Australia right?). In very poor economic modelling. Of course, retail workers earn less per hour than the “average wage” – which probably means more jobs rather than less… and because we import a lot of the stuff being bought and sold a lot of the money leaves the country, and trickle down economics is dead… anyway. Christmas means jobs. Christmas means food on the table for families this Christmas.

In a second set of calculations – Mastercard reckons the average Australian spent $800 on Christmas last year. That comes up with a figure about half that of the above methodology. 20 million people, multiplied by $800 is $16 billion, which works out to 320,000 jobs paid at $50,000 per year – nice round figures. Whichever way you look at it – Christmas means jobs.

Unemployment is set to surge. Be a good citizen. Celebrate Christmas in the spirit of St Nick – who gave generously and anonymously. And buy me something useless from here… oh wait, that’s a Japanese site. In a slightly related note – the CASE blog has an interesting post about “ethical shopping” that’s worth taking into account. It’s not that fair trade garbage that has taken over people’s sensibilities when it comes to coffee – it’s just biblical advice for shopping with a clean conscience.

For those of you unconvinced by my argument – or more convinced by this (satire warning) those of you who want your children to believe Santa is evil – here’s an evil Santa generator – if you put pictures of Evil Santa all round your house your child will thank you for it later – and be much less messed up than they would be were they to believe in Santa. What do I know anyway, I’m not a parent yet.

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Fake ID

Rules for public Christianity 101 – If you’re going to put a stupid Jesus fish on your car – don’t put it under a massive advertisement for your fake ID business.

Want faith with that?

Want faith with that?

Clearly the guy behind this business isn’t the smartest cookie in the Cookie Man store (mmm cookie man, incidently Townsville has a combined Cookie Man and Baskin-Robbins the two nicest smelling franchises in the world)… anyway. If you’re going to have a Jesus fish on your car:

  1. Don’t advertise an illegal enterprise.
  2. Don’t swear when a light turns red (in case of lip readers).
  3. Don’t speed.
  4. Don’t partake in road rage.
  5. Don’t tailgate.
  6. Don’t honk your horn.
  7. Don’t extend your middle finger in another driver’s direction.
  8. Don’t talk on your mobile phone.
  9. Don’t cut in front of anyone.
  10. Make sure you give way to pedestrians, let other people in at busy intersections, and let people change lanes when they’re indicating.

These are all reasons not for me to put a stupid Jesus fish sticker on my car. And probably for you not to put one on yours. Here are some reasons you shouldn’t have a Jesus Fish on your car from urban dictionary. If you want people to know you’re a Christian – tell them the gospel. Or wear a good novelty T-Shirt.

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Nerd theology

Kevin Kelly is the founder of Wired Magazine. As far as nerds go, he’s pretty cool. He wrote an interesting little piece on “nerd theology

It’s worth a read if you’re a nerd, and at all interested in God.

His basic premise is this:

“We investigate the nature of intelligence, not by probing human heads, but by creating artificial intelligences. We seek truth not in what we find, but in what we can create. We have become mini-gods. And thus we seek God by creating gods.”

If you’re not a nerd – or at all interested I’d stop reading there – because this gets kind of confusing. But is also kind of interesting…

In nerd terms, god is a being function. We could write it like this:

Let g (god)=? s (initial nothing state) -> sl (something state)
Or g=? s -> sl

Now the universe we humans occupy is sl We are inhabitants of the something state produced by some god function. Christians like myself see a recursive nature in God. God (g), the creator created humans in his image, and so we too are creators. We can be designated as gl .

By means of our technology, we are becoming derivative gods ourselves. We are making our own tiny somethings out of nothing. True, our nothings are not as nothing as the nothing we came from, but we are getting better at starting from scratch, and producing more elaborative creations once we start creating. Our godhood could be described like this:

gl = ? sl -> s2

That is, we derivative gods began in a made world and created a second-order something.
Those somethings might have once been astoundingly realistic paintings, or perhaps a marble statue of a hero, or more recently a VR world crowded with fantastical creatures.

Someday, not too far away, we will create a creature (a robot) with its own mind (yes, a different mind) and its own free will that is capable of taking the next step and creating its own creation. In other words our little man will, like us, make its own little man or its own made-up world.

Right Ahead

I’m preaching at church on Sunday night. A Christmas talk. On Revelation 12. It’s a weird passage. You should read it.

Here’s the first five verses:

1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Seriously, how can you not want to write a 25 minute talk on that (and the next bits)? Will you be putting a seven headed dragon in your nativity scene this year?

Revelation is, along with Daniel, one of those books that gets Christians in a bit of a pickle. It has been so poorly understood and spawned crazy theological ideas and eschatology (end time theology). Revelation was written to the early church, in a time when the early church was being ripped to pieces (quite literally) by crazy emperor Nero.

One outcome of the confusion surrounding the book of Revelation is the unbelievably (in the literal suspension of belief sense) popular “Left Behind” series. I haven’t read them. I have no desire to. But the underpinning idea of secret one world governments and the shadowy “Illuminati” is based on a really poor apocalyptic reading of Revelation that defies context.

I caught Louis Theroux and the Survivalists on TV a couple of weeks ago. These are people who take Revelation all the wrong way. Here’s the full length episode on google video.

I plan one day to write a spoof of “Left Behind” called Right Ahead. I’m not sure anyone will buy it. But at least it will be theologically correct.

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Passionate Defense

Mel Gibson is in trouble. The screenwriter from his hit movie gorefest “The Passion of the Christ” is claiming he was underpaid. I haven’t seen the Passion. I have no intention of doing so. I don’t see how Gibson’s interpretation of the events of the crucifixion of Jesus could be any more compelling than the text.

The scriptwriter is seeking $10 million for the work. Pretty good money if you can get it – particularly since the original was pretty much there in the form of one of the world’s best selling and most popular books. Any monkey could have produced a screenplay from that source material. Who does this guy think he is?

On the Religious Right

Frank Schaeffer – son of theologian/evangelist Francis Schaeffer (sometimes regarded as the founder of the Religious Right) – has some interesting thoughts on the movement’s future posted in an article on the Huffington Post today. He has made major moves to distance himself from his father – even converting to the Greek Orthodox church. I read a couple of his novels this year – they’re pretty funny, they deal with some of the frustrations of growing up in the home of a Calvinist Minister – I could relate, but don’t share his sense of disenfranchisement with reformed theology.

He brings up the Old Testament laws – like stoning homosexuals – as a strawman point in his otherwise reasonable piece. There are some theological problems with this point which he doesn’t go over:
1. The Old Testament laws are specific to God’s people – Israel – Israel do not run around imposing the laws on their neighbours – although foreigners can sign up.
2. Israel don’t do a great job of keeping the laws – and the laws were set at a standard that no human could keep – hence the need for Jesus.
Schaeffer’s argument basically focuses on these other points:
1. America is not “God’s people” – even if they are nominally a Christian nation – the presence of just one non Christian in America would debunk that.
2. Nor is America a theocracy.
It’s a good article on how the Religious Right could choose to be a force for good – rather than bleating and trying to repeal laws that are popular with the majority.
EDIT: I think I need to point out that I do think there are some issues that transcend the rights of the majority and the need for protection of minorities – and in fact there are some issues where this point of view is shaped by theology. Issues like abortion – where the question is not a question of freedom for the parents (not just the mother) – but also the question of protecting the innocent unborn child – and their rights. Schaeffer makes an interesting point that’s worth repeating if you haven’t clicked through to the article:

“This knowledge signals not just a loss for the Religious right but a resounding and permanent defeat. It also signals (to anyone sane) that even if you except the Religious right’s view that, for instance, all abortion is murder, gay marriage an affront to God’s natural law and so forth, a change of tactics is in order. Obviously no one is getting convinced, but rather the culture is moving in the other direction. In fact the Religious Right has made its case so badly that with friends like these them causes need no enemies.”

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Tanner’s hide

Finance and Deregulation Minister Lindsay Tanner is Web 2.0 enabled with a blog over at the SMH. Today’s post is all about the government’s new Web 2.0 based thinking – they’re probably going to use blogs in some upcoming community consultation. Ironic really, given that the same government is advocating restrictions to the internet that would put us on par with China. Perhaps comments they don’t agree with in the consultative process will be blocked? Or the IP address taken down and the perpetraitor (sic) silently removed from their homes and literally excommunicated (possibly a removal of Internet privileges).

Here’s Tanner’s rather convoluted description of what he thinks about Web 2.0…

“This new mode of production is known in the academic literature as peer production, but is more commonly referred to as Web 2.0. It is a trend that applies to much more than the creation of cultural goods, although these goods, such as the innumerable YouTube video mashups which poke fun at politicians, are acting as the harbingers of change.”

“Peer production empowers every citizen to be creator and critic, as well as consumer, of information. It is a mode of production that is enabled by two key factors. The first is the collapse of cost barriers to producing information – computers are now widely accessible in western society. The second is the removal of logistical and functional barriers to collaboration through new internet based networks.”

“The glue that binds peer production together is the ethic of collaboration it inculcates among groups. People contribute their time to peer production because they find communities with a passion for making their adopted content niche the best it can be.”

“This environment also creates efficiencies by allowing skilled amateurs to allocate their intellectual capital to the content niche about which they are most passionate. This is significant when you consider the quality and value of work done by people for love and not money.”

All in all, his article is a pretty garbled way of saying the Government is down with the Internets and all that.

“These changes are not easy for government to process. Our Westminster bureaucracy has optimised its policy production processes over centuries. Adaptation to the new information environment will be neither quick nor easy.”

I guess that’s something Obama can relate to.
Here’s his obligatory dig at the Howard Government:

“The Australian Government should be leading the way in adapting our old processes of consultation, policy making and regulation to the connected world. Yet we lag behind other nations in both the scale and pace of reform, a situation largely attributable to the culture of secrecy, spin and apathy of the Howard years.”

“I am taking steps to reinvigorate the Commonwealth’s efforts in this area. For example, early in the new year the Government will run a number of trial online consultations using blogs and other Web 2.0 tools”

You know what would be brilliantly ironic – if all this consultation got blocked by the Government’s proposed clean feed (a very bad idea – putting us on par with China in terms of restrictions) with it’s invisible blacklist of sites. My disdain for the Australian Christian Lobby is growing – I think they miss the point on so many issues when dealing with a secular government and trying to impose Christian values on the general public – who generally aren’t Christians. I acknowledge that as Christians we believe our way of life is better – and more in line with God’s expectations – but it’s not for us to impose our code of conduct on the rest of society. I also acknowledge that increased consumption of pornography has some links to increases in sexual violence and is socially undesirable. But I don’t think this is the way to tackle it – and I don’t think – as Jim Wallace so tactlessly put it that opposing this plan is tantamount to supporting the evils that lurk in the dark corners of the internet. Here’s the quote from the ACL Media Release.

“Obviously the Internet industry is going to continue to fight this important initiative

but the interests of children must be placed first.”

“The need to prevent access to illegal hard-core material and child pornography must

be placed above the industry’s desire for unfettered access.”

Censorship is bad. Particularly for the church. Once you start advocating censorship what happens if a militant anti-Christian or Islamic party gets in and adds all the Christian sites to the black list? Have you thought about that ACL? Have you? Christians who are serious about Christianity’s real agenda – which is the proclamation of the gospel can not be supportive of Government intervention into the minds and beliefs of the general public.
By all means, if you’re a Christian then take part in the political process – but don’t pretend to speak for all of us – and do so to raise your opinion on a matter – not to demand legislation be based on a Christian world view. That is not in the spirit of democracy – that’s a theocracy.
Oh, and if you want to voice your opinion on this matter through the press (or the Government’s upcoming Web 2.0 consultancy process) – the ACL has a handy letters to the editor writing guide.
I’m going to do some work now.

He’s not the Messiah, according to the "religious right"

I promise not to dwell on the US election for much longer. I keep finding new and interesting (to me) material as the pundits continue to dissect the results. There's a serious paucity of real political news to report now that the election is done and dusted. We've got two months left of George W Bush – but diplomatic gaff stories (and associated snubbings of antipodan PMs) will only entertain for so long. There is the ongoing selection of Obama's cabinet to occupy interested observers. But when all is said and done, the most interesting thing for political commentators to do is pull apart the reason for Obama's crushing victory – and in some cases the reasons certain areas bucked the trend. 

This particular finding may shock you. Evangelical Christians didn't take a shine to Obama . Funnily enough – where the evangelical population was most concentrated was where McCain did best. Who'd have thunk it? These are the voters who were the core of support for George W Bush. Who'd have thought arch conservatives wouldn't like Obama. I find it odd that I liked him so much given my own typical social conservatism. And evangelical beliefs. But then, I'm not an American and Americans (particularly the Christians) have this odd view that puts America at the heart of God's kingdom – and the President as a pseudo pope – their representative of God's kingdom. I don't understand a system of democracy where an individual's faith comes ahead of their ability to govern when they're leading a secular organisation (ie the government). By all means, appoint church leaders on the basis of their doctrine and teaching – as is biblical – but officials should be elected on merit.  

Perish the thought

My grandfather, who we affectionately call "Fa fa", has written a book called "Preach or Perish". He's an old school church minister with a passion for clear communication – and so that's the subject matter the book tackles. I haven't received my *ahem* free copy yet (I'll send him a link to this post and hopefully get one in the mail). Dad has a chapter in it. So as you can see preaching is in my blood (incidentally I'll be preaching at one of the local Pressy churches this Sunday night).

I'm even included in the bio:

Donald Howard had a varied career before his passion for preaching took him to Moore Theological College. His first parish was St Peter's Burwood East from 1966. Foollowing the death of his first wife Diana, he worked in the Anglican Department of Evangelism. In 1981 he married Nan and they ministered at St Stephen's Lugarno until 1992. They retired to Camden where Donald pastored the congregation of St James' Menangle for eight years. He has four children, eleven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild from his first marriage and he and Nan have two adult daughters.

It turns out that a plague of plagiarism is running rife in the American church (and probably Australian ones too) – the dawn of podcasts and posting full text versions of sermons has created the shoddy practice of lifting texts from the net and delivering them verbatim, without disclaimer. The article linked there makes a somewhat unfair (in my opinion) comparison between plagiarising sermons and pornography…

"Clearly, the internet has contributed to the problem. Sermons in both written and audio form are quickly accessible, and the temptation to plagiarize is easier than ever before to indulge. In this regard the sin differs little from the epidemic of internet pornography. But accessibility alone cannot account for the problem. Just as many believe porn is an unhealthy way of coping with a lack of intimacy, there must be some underlying issue that drives pastors to plagiarize."

While I'm prepared to acknowledge plagiarising is probably an example of laziness – I would have assumed that those of us who subscribe to a belief in the Holy Spirit would see sermons as "open source" able to be shared, and used by others within the broader body of the church royalty free. I certainly don't buy in to this argument, at all. If you want to preach someone else's sermon I think that's fine – provided that in the spirit of the open source movement you give credit to the original author. One of the key strengths of the Open Source movement is that source code is provided and is malleable – you're free to make contextual and appropriate changes to suit you use – this too has applications to preaching.

Reinventing the wheel when someone else has a functional, well planned wheel already working seems somewhat silly. I always thought that's what commentaries and other Christian resources were for – that said, I'm not condoning the wholesale reproduction of other people's work – preachers need to connect with their audiences and no one is better placed to speak to a particular church than their own minister – or in fact the other issue raised by the linked article. That of ministers video-casting their sermons to multiple church campuses ala Mark Driscoll. Which is the subject of a separate article

"Only a preacher with a golden tongue has authority to preach the gospel. It conveys the unspoken belief that no one in the satellite congregation has the authority to speak to their context because preaching requires unique talents that only a few actually possess. Like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz, only the larger-than-life giants, painted by pixelated light, and hovering above the congregation, possess these elusive talents.”

Liber(al)ating

There was a fair bit of conjecture during the Presidential campaign over what Obama actually believes – is he a Christian (one of his senate speeches)? Is he a Muslim (urban legends)? Is he the Messiah (slate.com)? Is he the antichrist (snopes.com)?

Back when Obama was just a senate nominee he conducted a lengthy interview on his beliefs which has just been republished here. Interesting reading – there’s a fair bit of extra-biblical doctrine in his thinking – but he’s certainly no Muslim. He also doesn’t really subscribe to a belief in hell, thinks all roads lead to God etc – and professes a personal faith in Jesus. He’s a classic liberal Christian – a bit wishy washy for my liking, and biblically wrong on a few issues. I don’t have time to go into the whole church v state issues regarding flashpoint topics like abortion and gay marriage – but this seems to be the dominant doctrine for Obama.

“Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure. I mean, I’m a law professor at the University of Chicago teaching constitutional law. I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root ion this country.
As I said before, in my own public policy, I’m very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in politics.
Now, that’s different form a belief that values have to inform our public policy. I think it’s perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values tha tinform my politics that are appropriate to talk about.”

So – I’ve had arguments with my Christian friends and non Christian friends over how people of faith should act when in office – and it’s a fundamental question that goes back to your views on what the “representative” means in representative government – is the individual elected to act as a representive of the views of their electorate – ie take all views into account and form a balanced position, or is the individual elected as an individual who best represents what people want (that’s a clumsy definition) – ie the person is elected and then should act in good conscience (which seems to be limited to, and by party lines).

I tend to think government as a whole should fall into the former category – and the best way for it to do that is through the diversity offered in the latter. Your thoughts?

Edit: I think the whole Messianic cult of Obama thing, perpetuated basically by his campaign team and the media is interesingly idolatorous. I think Obama, like many of us, is guilty of trying to craft God in his own image – not the other way around. Particularly these sections from that interview:

On Hell:

I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.
I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.
That’s just not part of my religious makeup.
Part of the reason I think it’s always difficult for public figures to talk about this is that the nature of politics is that you want to have everybody like you and project the best possible traits onto you. Oftentimes that’s by being as vague as possible, or appealing to the lowest commong denominators. The more specific and detailed you are on issues as personal and fundamental as your faith, the more potentially dangerous it is.

On Heaven:

“What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.
When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.”

On Sin:

FALSANI:
Do you believe in sin?

OBAMA:
Yes.

FALSANI:
What is sin?

OBAMA:Being out of alignment with my values.

I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.

None of those positions are consistent with what God actually says about himself in the Bible – they’re more pictures of how Obama would like God to be. Dangerous stuff really.

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Odds on God’s on

British betting agency Paddy Power are taking bets on the existance of God.

Current odds are 4-1 that God exists – down from 33-1 at the opening of betting.

Unfortunately scientific proof is required prior to a payout being made.

Perhaps Dawkins will pull a Satan from South Park and bet on himself then throw the fight…

From the article:

“Interest in the wager has increased greatly following the recent launch of a campaign to have atheist adverts placed on London buses declaring that “there’s probably no God”.

As a result of a flurry of small bets Paddy Power, which also runs books on who will be the next Pope and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, has cut the odds on proof being found of God’s existence to just 4-1.”

“The atheists’ planned advertising campaign seems to have renewed the debate in pubs and around office water-coolers as to whether there is a God and we’ve seen some of that being transferred into bets.

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Sign of the times

If there’s one thing I hate more than atheists advertising on buses (actually I don’t hate that – “probably no God” – where’s the commitment…) – it’s so called “Christians” doing nutty things to give the rest of us a bad name.

The Westboro Baptist church systematically protests at the funerals of dead US soldiers becaues they believe the US system’s lax stance on homosexuality. I don’t think they read the bits in the bible where Jesus hangs out with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors… anyway, kudos to this guy for his funny sign campaign. If you can’t beat them – join them.