Friday, 25 April 2014

Others that hinder the message

 
The Lord is my Good Shepherd
The Lord is my Good Shepherd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Those who are willing to read God’s word for themselves – and keep reading so that they get its full flavour and meaning – are conscious of the amazing message that becomes clearer the more they read. But sadly there are others that hinder the message – Jesus says, “He who is a hired hand, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees and the wolf snatches them and scatters them” (John 10:12). But scattered sheep can listen and, even today, hear “the good shepherd” by reading his words and those of his disciples and other of God’s prophets. If they feed on them every day they find the only true pasture in the wilderness of this world – and will come into the promised land.
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Christianity to be enshrined

In a letter to The Telegraph, eight leading thinkers including Prof Roger Scruton, the philosopher and writer, insist that the moderate brand of Christianity “enshrined” in the British constitution actively protects those of other faiths and none.
The letter was published as Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who is himself an atheist, said it was “flamingly obvious” that Britain is founded on Christian values.

in the course of a 90 second talk had used the words "Britain's Christian traditions". It was enough to get him excluded by a particular member of the BBC's thought police. One wonders if the Prime Minister, David Cameron will be allowed to say his latest remarks on the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Many object to the British Prime Minister his characterisation of Britain as a “Christian country” and the negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders.

"In his call for more evangelism, Mr Cameron is exclusively tying himself to one faith group, inevitably to the exclusion of others," opined Elizabeth O'Casey, Policy and Research Office at the National Secular Society. She also warned the British people that we are moving away from the concept of all of us being "rights-bearing citizens first and foremost, with democratic autonomy and equality, regardless of which faith they happen to have, or not have".

At a social level, Britain has been shaped like many other European countries for the better by many pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces. They are a plural society with citizens with a range of perspectives. To call it religious is taking the religious element out of proportion. I do know many call Belgium also a Catholic country, but if you would question the citicens about their beliefs, wou would get a total different opinion. They mix Catholic and Christian as if it is the same, because they do not know the diffenrence and most of them do not know what Catholicisim enhales.

Most citicens donot want to recognise they have gone far away form religion and certainly far away for m the reall Christian and Jewish values.

The inhabitants of the West European countries should come to realize that they are a largely non-religious society.

I would agree with more than 55 signatories:
Constantly to claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society. Although it is right to recognise the contribution made by many Christians to social action, it is wrong to try to exceptionalise their contribution when it is equalled by British people of different beliefs. This needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates that are by and large absent from the lives of most British people, who do not want religions or religious identities to be actively prioritised by their elected government.
Gavin Littaur reacts also:
David Cameron should be more careful when pontificating about Christianity, given that he does not speak for those (such as myself, a Jew), who are not necessarily of his faith and beliefs.
The Prime Minister’s urging of Britons to be “more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there” is particularly unfortunate. It is at best tactless and at worst an exemplification of the zealous proselytising of extremists.
The commentator finds the letter against David Cameron just the latest expression of an infantile multi-culturalism that has done terrible damage to social cohesion precisely because it is too weak to create any substantial bonds of identity.
The Church of England is the established church and the Queen is the head of it for reasons which are deeply bound up with the country's political, religious and cultural inheritance.
Neither does the fact that most people don't nowadays go to church on a Sunday mean that Christian values and symbols do not play a vital role in national life. Whenever there's a national tragedy -- the death of Diana for example -- watch how quickly Christianity moves back into centre stage.
says The commentator.

As in Belgium the Catholic church may be the main church, the Church of England is the established church in England, but that does not mean that most British citizens would adhere to that church or believe in the God of that church.
It is not because when we go from place to place, where we may find everywhere in any town or village across the country a local church, that we may find religious people coming to that church aor that it is functional or not. It tells more about the past than about the present. In most countries those village churches are most of the time empty buildings.

More than anything else the church buildings may define the local landscape and the visual community of which we are all a part, but that does not tell us that they and we are from the same religious community, nor believing in the same things.


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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Problems attracting and maintaining worshippers

 The urgency to reach people with the Gospel can,
if the church is not faithful and watchful,
tempt us to subvert the Gospel by redefining its terms.

 We are not honest if we do not admit that the current cultural context
raises the cost of declaring the Gospel on its own terms.

 

Jim Hinch writes:


The exteriors of Crystal Cathedral. Garden Gro...
The exteriors of Crystal Cathedral. Garden Grove, CA, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just 10 years ago, evangelical Christianity appeared to be America’s dominant religious movement. Evangelicals, more theologically diverse and open to the secular world than their fundamentalist brethren, with whom they’re often confused, were on the march toward political power and cultural prominence. They had the largest churches, the most money, influential government lobbyists, and in the person of President George W. Bush, leadership of the free world itself. Indeed, even today most people continue to regard the United States as the great spiritual exception among developed nations: a country where advances in science and technology coexist with stubborn, and stubbornly conservative, religiosity. But the reality, largely unnoticed outside church circles, is that evangelicalism is not only in gradual decline but today stands poised at the edge of a demographic and cultural cliff.

The most recent Pew Research Center survey of the nation’s religious attitudes, taken in 2012, found that just 19 percent of Americans identified themselves as white evangelical Protestants—five years earlier, 21 percent of Americans did so. Slightly more (19.6 percent) self-identified as unaffiliated with any religion at all, the first time that group has surpassed evangelicals. (It should be noted that surveying Americans’ faith lives is notoriously difficult, since answers vary according to how questions are phrased, and respondents often exaggerate their level of religious commitment. Pew is a nonpartisan research organization with a track record of producing reliable, in-depth studies of religion. Other equally respected surveys—Gallup, the General Social Survey—have reached conclusions about Christianity’s status in present-day America that agree with Pew’s in some respects and diverge in others.)

Secularization alone is not to blame for this change in American religiosity. Even half of those Americans who claim no religious affiliation profess belief in God or claim some sort of spiritual orientation. Other faiths, like Islam, perhaps the country’s fastest-growing religion, have had no problem attracting and maintaining worshippers. No, evangelicalism’s dilemma stems more from a change in American Christianity itself, a sense of creeping exhaustion with the popularizing, simplifying impulse evangelical luminaries such as Schuller once rode to success.
California's Crystal Cathedral, now Christ Cathedral (Photo by Wikipedia user Nepenthes)


Continue reading: Where Are the People? -
Evangelical Christianity in America is losing its power—what happened to Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral shows why

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Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?

Black Christian new writes:
The emergence of the megachurch as a model of metropolitan ministry is one of the defining marks of evangelical Christianity in the United States. Megachurches -- huge congregations that attract thousands of worshipers -- arrived on the scene in the 1970s and quickly became engines of ministry development and energy.

Over the last 40 years, the megachurch has made its presence known, often dominating the Christian landscape within the nation's metropolitan regions. The megachurch came into dominance at the same time that massive shopping malls became the landmarks of suburban consumer life. Sociologists can easily trace the rise of megachurches within the context of America's suburban explosion and the development of the technologies and transportation systems that made both the mall and the megachurch possible.
 
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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Phoenicians sacrificed infants


 A new paper co-authored by Peter van Dommelen, the Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and professor of anthropology, attempts to put to rest a long-standing mystery about infant bones found in Phoenician cemeteries in modern Tunisia and Italy. Experts have long been conflicted over whether the bones, found packed in urns and buried under tombstones, were the result of ritualistic sacrifices or simply carefully buried remains of children who died before or soon after birth. Van Dommelen's research, conducted with colleagues from several European institutions, concludes that the Phoenicians did kill their own infant children, burying them with sacrificed animals and ritual inscriptions in special cemeteries to give thanks for special favors from the gods. Published in the journal Antiquity, the researchers used the manner in which the remains were buried and the inscriptions on the tombstones as evidence that pointed toward the sacrifice rather than natural death. Additionally, although hundreds of remains were found, there were far too few to account for all of the stillbirths and infant deaths in that area, according to the study.
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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Who Celebrates Easter as Religious Holiday

The 2010 study by the Barna Group which explored Americans’ definition of the Easter holiday. (See: Eostre, Easter, White god, chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies and metaphorical resurrection)

They asked a nationwide, representative sample of American adults how they would describe what Easter means to them, personally.
English: Icon of the Resurrection
Icon of the Resurrection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Interestingly, those who articulate a resurrection-related concept of Easter are no more likely than other religiously oriented Americans to indicate that they will invite friends to worship with them on Easter.

The types of Americans who were most likely to express some type of theistic religious connection with Easter were evangelicals (93%), attenders of large churches (86% among those whose congregation has 500-plus adult attenders), born again Christians (81%), and weekly churchgoers (77%).
Republicans (77%) and Democrats (71%) were more likely than were independents (59%) and non-registered citizens (51%) to say Easter has religious meaning for them.

In terms of age, members of the Boomer generation (73%, ages 45 to 63) were among the most likely to describe Easter as a religious holiday for them, compared with two-thirds of Elders (66% of those ages 64-plus) and Busters (66%, ages 26 to 44). The youngest adult generation, the Mosaics (ages 18 to 25), were the least likely age segment to say Easter is a religious holiday (58%), reflecting the increasingly secular mindset of young adults.

Other population segments describing Easter with a non-religious bent were faith groups other than Christianity (just 31% said Easter’s meaning is religious), atheists and agnostics (36%), and unchurched adults (46%).

Those who identify Easter explicitly as a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus were most likely to be evangelicals (73%), large church attenders (60%), born again Christians (55%), active churchgoers (54%), upscale adults (54%), and Protestants (51%).

Showing a perceptual gap between political conservatives and liberals, those on the political “right” were nearly twice as likely as those on the political “left” to say that Easter is a celebration of the resurrection (53% versus 29%, respectively).

In terms of the audience that most Christian churches attempt to attract on Easter weekend – non-churchgoing adults – the research shows that while 46% of unchurched adults view the meaning of Easter to be religious, while just 25% connect the holiday to Jesus’ return to life.

As for denominational affiliation, most Catholics said they celebrate Easter as a religious holiday (65%).Still, just one-third of Catholics listed the resurrection as the meaning of the holiday (37%). In comparison, Protestants were more likely than Catholics both to view Easter as a religious holiday and to connect the occasion to Jesus’ awakening from death (78% and 51%, respectively).



Most Americans Consider Easter a Religious Holiday, But Fewer Correctly Identify its Meaning


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Please, also find to read:

Welcome to Easter 2014
Easter: Origins in a pagan Christ
Eostre, Easter, White god, chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies and metaphorical resurrection
High Holidays not only for Israel 
14-15 Nisan and Easter 
Ishtar the fertility goddess or Altered to fit a Trinity 
Peter Cottontail and a Bunny laying Eastereggs

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Eostre, Easter, White god, chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies and metaphorical resurrection

Tomorrow many Christians celebrate Easter Sunday as the day to remember the Resurrection of some one they consider to be also God, though God according to the Holy Scriptures is a  Spirit Who can not die.


RESURRECTION
The Cross and Resurrection (Photo credit: Luz Adriana Villa A.)
As Easter approaches, many Christians struggle with how to understand the Resurrection. How literally must one take the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumph to be called a Christian? Can one understand the Resurrection as a metaphor — perhaps not even believe it happened at all — and still claim to be a Christian? And what do they want ot understand under being a Christian, because for many it does not exactly mean to be a "follower of Christ" but means more to be a follower of a trinitarian doctrine.

For the Americans who answered to the survey only 2 percent identified it as the most important holiday of their faith. For Christ Jesus 14 Nisan and 15 Nisan were two very important days, but most Christians do not even know what does days are and for what reason Jesus came together where.


Jesus Resurrection 1778
Jesus Resurrection 1778 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having a society becoming more religiously diverse, the U.S.A. nation’s population has had to grapple with how to define its holidays and celebrations at the 2010 Barna poll which showed that only 42 percent of Americans said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection. The results indicated that most Americans consider Easter to be a religious holiday, but fewer identify the resurrection of Jesus as the underlying meaning. The study also explored the degree to which Americans are likely to invite an unchurched friend or family member to attend worship service on Easter weekend.
“More people have problems with Easter because it requires believing that Jesus rose from the dead,” 
said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of the new book, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.”
“But believing in the Resurrection is essential. It shows that nothing is impossible with God. In fact, Easter without the Resurrection is utterly meaningless. And the Christian faith without Easter is no faith at all.”
It is strange to hear it from a a reverend who takes Jesus to be God, but than should know that death can not have any grip on God. Jesus who had his “last supper” before the festival of Passover, was taken hostage that night and tortured before he was impaled. On the wooden stake Jesus really died.

Among the Jews crucifixion was an anathema. (See Deuteronomy 21:22–23: “If a man is guilty of a capital offense and is put to death, and you impale him on a stake, you must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must bury him the same day. For an impaled body is an affront to God: you shall not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”)

They wanted to humiliate and frighten Jesus and his followers, and by putting Jesus on a stake in front of all to see, he had to be an example for those who thought they could speak against Pharisees and priests and against the ones in charge of the Empire.
Christian iconography usually shows the nails piercing the palms of Jesus’ hands on a horizontal beam. Nailing the palms of the hands is impossible, because the weight of the slumping body would have torn the palms in a very short time. The victim would have fallen from the cross while still alive.

In a 2011/2012 research on sediment disturbances bring in its study of cores and seismic activity near the Dead Sea (International Geology Review + Discovery News suggested: * + ** ) scientific data relating to the event described in Matthew 27. Those sediment disturbances can be combined with Biblical, astronomical and calendrical information to give a precise date of the crucifixion: Friday, April 3rd, 33 C.E.

Geologists Jefferson B. Williams, Markus J. Schwab and A. Brauer examined disturbances in sediment depositions to identify two earthquakes: one large earthquake in 31 B.C.E., and another, smaller quake between 26 and 36 C.E. In the abstract of their paper, the authors write,
“Plausible candidates include the earthquake reported in the Gospel of Matthew, an earthquake that occurred sometime before or after the crucifixion and was in effect ‘borrowed’ by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, and a local earthquake between 26 and 36 AD that was sufficiently energetic to deform the sediments at Ein Gedi but not energetic enough to produce a still extant and extra-biblical historical record. If the last possibility is true, this would mean that the report of an earthquake in the Gospel of Matthew is a type of allegory.”
This quake, occurring during Jesus’ crucifixion, would have been too minor to be described by non-Biblical histories, but major enough to terrify the surrounding centurions.
Matthew explicitly reports strong seismic activity as the occasions of both the storm on the Sea of Galilee Jesus stilled in 8:24 (seismos megas) and the moving of the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb and in 28:2 (seismos . . . megas). In 27:51, he reports that the earth was shaken (he gE eseisthE) and stones split, but does not use the adjective “great” as in the other references.

The soldiers at the stake were confronted with the death of that Jewish rabbi, son of Miriam (Mary) and Joseph from the tribe of king David. They had seen the water coming out of his body and no doubt were convinced he was really death.

Those who know god can not die and as such also would not be able to stand up from the dead, would love to have others to believe the resurrection or that Jesus literally rose from the dead, should be taken only symbolically.

New York University professor Scott Korb, 37, a non-practicing Catholic, who once wanted to become a priest, says:
“The miracle of a bodily resurrection is something I rejected without moving away from its basic idea.”
“What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others.” 
That change — from a literal to a metaphorical approach — has given the story more power, he said.
“There is only one story to be told of a single man who dies and then rises,” Korb said. “But if we think about the metaphor of the Resurrection, that allows us to return to the story year after year and find new meaning in it.”
Reg Rivett, 27, finds the repetition of the Easter story a big problem. A youth minister at an evangelical house church near Edmonton, Canada, he said his belief that Jesus literally rose from the dead is central to his Christian identity and faith. Nonetheless, he still has conflicting feelings about how the Resurrection story is used in some circles.
“You hear about it year after year or at the end of every youth event — ‘This is why Jesus came and why he died,’” he said. “We tack it on to the end of everything and that is not what it should be. It’s like we’ve taken something that is very sacred and made it very common.”
That leads to some internal conflict on Easter Sunday, even as he goes to church with his family and joins them for a big meal.
“It becomes something I need to do and I do it out of respect for others,” he said.
To restore the Resurrection and the Easter story to its appropriate place, Rivett said, the church should “build” toward it throughout the year — place it in its context within the whole biblical saga.
“It is another story about Jesus, another piece of the whole Bible, but at the same time it is such a significant piece,” he said. “Neglecting it completely would be wrong, but over-saturation is wrong, too. It is hard to find a balance.”
Today we do find an over-saturation of the Easter tradition in the shops, where from the beginning of March they are already selling Easter eggs. Several Christians strangely never oppose such fertility symbols, and enjoy fantasising telling their kids about bells coming from Rome and throwing the eggs all over the garden, and hiding eggs all over in the house.Not many Christians seem to oppose those  symbols of fertility “handed down from the ancient ceremonial and symbolism of European and Middle Eastern pagan spring festivals.

According to Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, the hunt for Easter eggs, supposedly brought by the Easter rabbit,
 “"is not mere child’s play, but the vestige of a fertility rite."” Some cultures believed that the decorated Easter egg “"could magically bring happiness, prosperity, health, and protection."”  (Traditional Festivals).
The name Easter, used in many lands, is not found in the Bible. The book  Medieval Holidays and Festivals tells us that 
“the holiday is named after the pagan Goddess of the Dawn and of Spring, Eostre.”
Eostre or Eastre (hence Easter) goddess of fertility, according to the legend, opened the portals of Valhalla to receive Baldur, called the White God, because of his purity and also the Sun God, because his brow supplied light to mankind,”(The American Book of Days)

Like many European pagan customs the Church in its early days adopted the old pagan customs and gave a Christian meaning to them so that they could give the people something in which they beleived already for ages. They also knew people would not put away their traditions so easely and than would not convert to Catholicism.

The festival of Eostre was in celebration of the renewal of life in the spring and marked for many people who lived from the land, the sign that they could go back onto the fields to bring in assurance for their livelyhood. Without a good harvest they could not survive. Therefore it was felt important to do good to the gods so that they would be blessed.

for the Catholic church it was easy to make it a celebration of the resurrection from the dead of Jesus, whose gospel they preached, because they presented Jesus as the new life and the bringer of light and life for all.

This adoption explains how in certain lands the Easter customs, such as Easter eggs, the Easter rabbit, and hot cross buns, came about. Concerning the custom of making hot cross buns,
 “with their shiny brown tops marked by a . . . cross,”
 the book Easter and Its Customs states:
 “The cross was a pagan symbol long before it acquired everlasting significance from the events of the first Good Friday, and bread and cakes were sometimes marked with it in pre-Christian times.”
Nowhere in Scripture do we find mention of these things, nor is there any evidence that the early disciples of Jesus gave them any credence. In fact, the apostle Peter tells us to
 “form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it [we] may grow to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

So why did the churches of Christendom adopt such obviously pagan symbols into their beliefs and practices? and why do people keep to those traditions of hiding eggs, eating Easter bread or cross buns?

Why when lots of people do not accept a taking out of the dead as a possible event, do they keep telling stories to their children of Easter bunnies and egg throwing bells.

For sure many do not put much accent on the real person they say they are celebrating. Not much is known about his ransom offer and on who he really was and on what he really did.

Christians should come to see the importance of following the teachings of Christ Jesus and on knowing the man Jesus about Whom God said 'This is my beloved son'.

Let us remember that that son of God really gave his life, died, and was taken out of the dead after three days in hell (the grave).

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