Where I’m at…

Well, it’s been a while, I guess. I still intend to get through the gospels. Hopefully this year.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey lately from hardcore fundamentalist Christian, to a doubting Christian certain that studying the bible would resolve my questions, to becoming more convinced that Christianity as I was taught and practiced was complete bullocks.

That might sound like I’m flirting with agnosticism, but I’m not.

I know the bible isn’t inerrant now. That there is evidence from the text that some parts of it were put together from various sources and written and re-written by scribes with their own political or nationalist agenda. That the Genesis stories are just that: stories, and that the law of Moses is full of objectionable material that I can no longer reconcile with the idea of a just and loving God.

But I still remain a Christian, albeit a progressive one, for two reasons.

First, I remain a Christian, because I have seen God work in my own life and I’ve seen the miraculous happen. Now I know that’s not very compelling, but it’s my own personal experience.

Secondly, I still believe in Jesus. I believe in the kingdom he preached and the live he lived. I believe in a kingdom where peace reigns. Where men no longer kill one another for any reason. Where the forgotten and outcast are treated like kings and the wealthy are treated like everyone else. Where the sick are healed whether or not they can afford it. Where there is justice for wrongdoing, but mercy and compassion for the penitent. Where the “other” is seen as family and treated like a brother.

Where there is no one going to bed hungry. Where no one dies alone. Where men and women are no longer seen as a commodity to be used and discarded.

I still believe in the resurrection where every day is new. Where every day is a chance to put the past mistakes behind us, and where we can start anew.

I still believe in a place where every man and woman is a Good Samaritan to each other. Where they each put one another above themselves and where love reigns.

I still believe that is the kingdom Jesus was calling us to work towards. Not some pie in the sky afterlife, but something real and tangible in this life.

So yes, intellectually, I know the reasons why I should disbelief and the reasons why I should doubt, But I still believe.

It’s that time of year…

When you should be afraid… so very afraid.

For you see, you may think your kids are just enjoying innocent Halloween fun dressing up like Han Solo or Harry Potter or a Ninja Turtle, but in reality, Satan is everywhere. He’s right behind your door. He’s under your bed. He’s in your closet! He’s in the candy your kids get and then, BOOM! Suddenly your kids are sacrificing virgins and summoning the Great Old Ones to destroy the mortal realm in an orgy of madness, insanity, and death!!!!

Or so I was taught growing up in Christian schools…

John 1:35-51

35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 And Jesus turned and saw them following, and *said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” 39 He *said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He *found first his own brother Simon and *said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He *said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

I think I’ve discussed how different the gospel of John is compared to the other gospels. And we see that here in a very different account of how Peter and Andrew were called to become disciples. In Matthew 4:18ff, we are given the account of Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee and seeing Peter and Andrew working their trade as fishermen.

19 And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Luke gives us a third account with differing details in Luke 5:

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

John’s account seems to put this even in the days following Jesus’ baptism in Judea down near the Jordan. Verse 43 even states that Jesus intended to go to Galilee the day after meeting Andrew and Peter. The other two take place in Galilee, one with Peter and Andrew working on their own accord, the other with Peter and Andrew working at the Lord’s command.

None of these accounts are impossible to reconcile, and conservative readers will generally view them as separate events, with John’s account implying a first meeting with some of the men who would be his core group of disciples, Matthew’s account as another event calling Peter and Andrew to full-time discipleship, and Luke’s account as an expansion of Matthew’s, filling in details as to why the two fishermen would abandon their vocation and families to follow a homeless rabbi.

Are these different events or different traditions/stories about Jesus and the apostles in the church that were circulating in the 1st/2nd century? I’m not certain, but I lean towards the conservative view. We’ve seen discrepancies in details with the synoptic gospels with different authors recalling or hearing stories with slightly different details and those are rather easy to reconcile. Here the details are so different that it does almost seem like two separate events.

It’s also useful to remember John’s (or the author’s) reason for writing this gospel:

30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

This is a tome aimed at converting the unbeliever into accepting Jesus as the Son of God. The Synoptic gospels likewise have that end, but Matthew and Mark are more accounts of getting down Jesus life, words, deeds, and resurrection, while Luke aims to be a purely historical account. It would make sense for the Synoptic writers to focus more on historic events they deemed important, such as their calling away from their lives to following Jesus full-time, while John would focus on the witness of John the Baptist, and Nathaniel’s confession of Christ as the Son of God. John is very concerned with convincing us of the deity of Jesus.

Nathaniel is sometimes associated as Bartholomew from the Synoptic gospels.

We’re given a picture here of evangelism. With John the Baptist testifying of Jesus and Andrew and Philip going out and bringing their friends to Jesus. There was a long expected hope for a Messiah in Israel at this time, a godly prophet, judge, and general that would lead the nation of Israel into a restored Davidic kingdom. So the fervor of the two to go and find their friends and siblings reflects that. Here was the king, the deliverer! Come and meet Him!

And they did. Simon receiving a prophetic word of a future name-change, Nathaniel getting a glimpse of who Jesus was, as Jesus calls him an Israelite in whom is no guile, calling back to Nathaniel’s response to hearing the Messiah was from Nazareth, in which he blurts out, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The man speaks his mind and Jesus shows him that He saw him before they had even met, adding in the details of seeing Nathaniel under the fig tree.

For Nathaniel it is enough. He makes a confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the on of God. Jesus basically says, “You haven’t seen anything yet…” and makes a call back to the book of Genesis and Jacob’s dream of a ladder between heaven and Earth with angels climbing up and down it. Jesus associates Himself with the ladder, as the bridge between heaven and Earth, between God and humanity. It is an expression of the incarnation, as God, incomprehensible to man, takes on ‘earthiness’ or flesh to be the perfect representation, the perfect expression of God, the perfect Word of God to us.

It is an image of Jesus fully existing in both worlds, and becoming our Way into experiencing God and heaven while existing here on Earth and ascending with Him when our time here is done. It is an acknowledgement of Nathaniel’s confession.

John is a lot more heavy on theology than the other gospels which are mainly focused with practical teaching and actions, so we’ll get a lot more of this as we move forward.

Banana Republic isn’t just a store in the mall

I recall when we used to drive down periodically to Mexico, that we’d be warned to avoid the Federalies and carry a bit of extra cash to ‘gift’ them with if they stopped us.

Guess we should probably start doing that for cross country road trips in case we run into cops like this.

If someone with a gun stops you and takes your money — would you call police? What if the person who takes your money also has a badge? 

Some people in Humboldt County, tongue-in-cheek, call it “highway robbery.”

One deputy in particular is being singled out for his practice of pressuring travelers to abandon their money or face losing their cars as well. The I-Team has obtained exclusive dash-cam video from one of these drug interdiction stops. While no drugs were found, that didn’t stop the deputy from grabbing the cash.

“How much money you got?” Humboldt County Deputy Lee Dove can be heard asking on the video.

Dove can be seen dropping cash on the hood of the car. 

Deputy Dove: “That’s not yours, is it?”
Motorist: “That’s mine.”
Deputy Dove: “Well, I’m seizing it.”

The dash-cam video gives insight into what some say is a pattern of questionable drug interdiction stops by Deputy Dove along I-80 near Winnemucca in northern Nevada.

The out-of-state motorist was stopped for doing 78 mph in an 75 mph zone. Deputy Dove finds $50,000 cash and $10,000 in cashiers checks during a search of the car.

The first issue is whether Dove obtained permission to search the car or whether he simply told the driver, Tan Nguyen, he was going to do it.

Deputy Dove: “Well, I’m gonna search that vehicle first, ok?”
Nguyen: “Hey, what’s the reason you’re searching my car?”
Deputy Dove: “Because I’m talking to you … well, no, I don’t have to explain that to you. I’m not going to explain that to you, but I am gonna put my drug dog on that (pointing to money). If my dog alerts, I’m seizing the money. You can try to get it back but you’re not.”
Nguyen: (inaudible) got it in Vegas.”
Deputy Dove: “Good luck proving it. Good luck proving it. You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you.”

But Dove never seizes the money under state forfeiture law, instead he offers Nguyen a deal. Abandon the cash and you can leave with the cashiers checks. Otherwise, Dove will confiscate the cash anyway and tow the car because Nguyen’s name isn’t on the rental agreement.

Deputy Dove: “It’s your call. If you want to walk away, you can take the cashiers checks, the car and everything and you can bolt and you’re on your way. But you’re gonna be walking away from this money and abandoning it.

“Our sheriff and our DA have said there’s no wrongdoing here,” said Dee Holzel.

Of course there isn’t. Though, somehow I doubt you’d feel the same way if Mr. Nguyen had been accosted outside of a casino by an armed guy in a suit who asked Nguyen to leave his cash with him or else he’d be in for a load of pain.

Hard to see what the difference between that scenario and this one is.


Oh dear Lord…

I guess part of the persecution myth of a certain sect of Christians has been that Hollywood treats them as evil buffoons, so in a way, I suppose this movie makes sense in casting a science teacher who teaches actual science as a sneering, mocking one-note  villain who will no doubt get his comeuppance for the crime of exposing a naive Christian teen to biology.

I wish they had written in a Catholic or Mainline Protestant character who would calmly explain to the girl that she can believe in God and Jesus Christ and still accept the scientific evidence for an old universe and evolution.

But then they’d probably make that character out to be a sleezy secret atheist gay drug addict or something, so maybe it’s best that this particular community continues to ignore us.

Random thoughts

- The NBA didn’t really have a choice with Donald Sterling. No large business trying to appeal to customers and top talent is going to tolerate racial bigotry. They needed to show nervous sponsors, angry players, and shocked customers that they would take this seriously and they did,

Also, I’m sure the folks who were outraged by the Eich incident at Mozilla will be stepping up to defend Mr. Sterling any day now… any day now… (crickets)

- Someone posted a response to me over at io9 and it so captured my own thoughts that I’m going to post it with permission here:

One of the tools I use when talking to biblical Literalists is to ask them to imagine Moses (who is considered to be the author of Genesis by Literalists), being told by God about the formation of the universe.

“Okay Moses, I’m going to explain to you how the world came to be. So, in the beginning, I caused a point of near-infinite mass to appear within the quantum foam.”

“Lord, I am but a small being and it is presumptuous of me to ask a question of you, but what is quantum foam, and what is infinity?”

“Moses, this doesn’t matter all that much, but since I am telling you the accurate way in which the world came to be, I will explain. The quantum foam is the underlying probabalistic state of the universe beneath the level of quarks and other subatomic particles.”\

“Lord, I know I am but a small being, but allow me another question. What is an atom, and what is probability?”

“Moses. This… this doesn’t really matter. Okay. The atom is the fundamental building block of matter. All things you see about you are created of atoms. There are other things besides atoms, but… well, just say that they are made of atoms. That’s close enough. So, as I was saying, after I-“

“Lord, forgive my interruption, for I am but as dust beneath the soles of your shoes, but this concept of an atom. What does one look like? How shall I describe it?”

“I… Its a cloud, Moses. Like me. A cloud of electrons that surrounds the central nucleus like… like… like how the bird goes around its nest, or the earth goes around the sun.”

“Lord, I am as nothing before you. Did you say that the earth goes around the sun? How does that work?”

“That… that’s skipping ahead. That involves gravity which. No, Moses, don’t ask what gravity is. That’s complicated. I doubt anyone for millenia will even be able to comprehend what that might actually be. I… Okay, look. This isn’t working. I can’t explain all of the workings of the universe for you to put into your book. New plan. I’m going to tell you a story. An allegorical story about how I created the world in only six days, and what my relationship is to it and to humanity. I hope nobody centuries from now assumes that this is factual for some bizarre reason. Okay. Start writing. In the beginning…”

- The crimes the men are accused of are horrific, but I’m not sure how anyone who is pro-life could possibly be comfortable with this, and that’s not even touching on the hundreds of folks who have been acquitted via Project Innocence and other lawyers working tirelessly on behalf of innocent convicted clients.

- Hey, you know how in Iraq, there are armed bands of extremists who set up checkpoints in neighborhoods and terrorize the populace while making threats against the civil authorities all in the name of their fundamentalist perverse ideology?

Yeah, we’ve got that here too.

The militia, as reported by Horsford’s constituents, “have set up checkpoints where residents are required to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass,” the letter said.

They have also maintained a presence, sometimes armed, along highways and roads, as well as community sites like churches and schools, the letter asserted.

Whiskey Rebellion

Riding in at the head of an army… I wonder what Fox News would say about that? Probably call Washington a tyrant socialist oppressor. 

How would the Founders respond? Hmm…



Day 11 of sobriety.

The things I’ve learned so far:

1. My sleep is much better and feels healthier than it did while I was drinking.

2. Television sucks a lot more than I thought it did and I’m no longer all that up for spending my nights watching it.

3. Your brain is a total dick in that it tries desperately to replace those lost calories by making you crave other things like potato chips at night.