Thursday, December 22, 2005

Now THIS will get VERY interesting

This seemed to be a spoof when I first heard about it but it checks out legitimate (at least as far as I can tell). In the Catholic World News, read this incredible decision:

The First Amendment to the US Constitution "does not demand a wall of separation between church and state," a federal court has ruled.

In a surprising decision this week, the 6th Circuit US Court of Appeals approved the display of the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky county. In writing the decision for a unanimous court, Just Richard Suhrheinrich rejected the arguments of lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU), which protested the display. The judge wrote: "The ACLU makes repeated reference to the 'separation of church and state.' This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome."

The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution, the judge observed. He added that American history "is replete with governmental acknowledgment and in some cases, accommodation of religion."

The story also appears here as part of the Associated Press wires.

Plus, you can read a PDF of the actual court opinion here.

Obviously, this will be making the appeals circuit but there is hope that the PC Police will finally have their bullet removed from their shirt pocket.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Should've chanted the mantra a few more times

Bruce Wilkinson of "Prayer of Jabez" fame has made the Wall Street Journal - but not for good reasons. It seems he tried to "expand his territory" in Africa and it all fell apart. Here are some quotes from the WSJ article:
In 2002 Bruce Wilkinson, a Georgia preacher whose self-help prayer book had made him a rich man, heard God's call, moved to Africa and announced his intention to save one million children left orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

In October, Mr. Wilkinson resigned in a huff from the African charity he founded. He abandoned his plan to house 10,000 children in a facility that was to be an orphanage, bed-and-breakfast, game reserve, bible college, industrial park and Disneyesque tourist destination in the tiny kingdom of Swaziland.

What happened in between is a story of grand hopes and inexperience, divine inspiration and human foibles. Mr. Wilkinson won churchloads of followers in Swaziland, but left them bereft and confused. He gained access to top Swazi officials, but alienated them with his demands. And his departure left critics convinced he was just another in a long parade of outsiders who have come to Africa making big promises and quit the continent when local people didn't bend to their will.

This is a very sad story that went horribly wrong at some point. Perhaps it was in the asking
for the $190 million Christian resort!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Just a little . . . provacative, dontcha think?

The Church Without Walls in Tampa, Florida has obviously had enough of the Christmas/Holiday controversy. They erected THIS billboard to voice their point of view!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Richard Scarry books - changes are scary indeed!

Do you remember those Richard Scarry books you read as a child? They have gone through some major changes in the years since you were a tyke - mostly of the politically correct type.

The Physics of Santa Claus

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau).

At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh, and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound.

For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500,000 tons, not counting Santa himself.

On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting a "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them. Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance.

This would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft reentering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would bust into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 miles per second in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs, and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Merry Christmas!

I read this for the first time way back in 1999 but it still is an interesting take on the whole thing.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

More thoughts on Christmas

In the post immediately below this one, I wrote about some mega-churches that decided to cancel the Sunday morning worship services on Christmas day. This article quotes some "mega-church officials" from around the country. Mega-church "officials"??? Here's one: Willow Creek spokeswoman Cally Parkinson said, "It's more than being family-friendly. It's being lifestyle-friendly for people who are just very, very busy. Organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray."

Yeah, sure wouldn't want to waste staff resources if less than 500 show up to do something as meaningless as pray. Please wait a minute while I take my tongue out of my cheek!

From that article, a different perspective comes to light: Fuller Theological Seminary professor Robert K. Johnston worries that another Christian tradition is fading. Fuller went on to say that "What's going on here is a redefinition of Christmas as a time of family celebration rather than as a time of the community faithful celebrating the birth of the savior. There is a risk that we will lose one more of our Christian rituals, one that's at the heart of our faith."

David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in South Hamilton, Mass, brought the point home clearly: "This is a consumer mentality at work: `Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,' I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

Dr. Ben Witherington had some scathing remarks:
Our culture does not need any encouragement to be more self-centered and narcissistic or to stay at home on Sunday. It is already that way. Christmas above all else should be a day when we come together as the body of Christ to worship and adore the Lord Jesus. Christmas should be the day above all days where we don't stay home and open all those things we bought for ourselves INSTEAD of going to church. Christmas should be the day when we forget about ourselves for a few hours and go and honor the birthday of the great King, our Savior.

What we are dealing with here are churches whose priorities are so askew that they somehow think it is more important for the church to serve the wants of the physical family than the other way around. This is a far cry from the pattern of the original disciples of Jesus who were seen leaving homes, relatives, jobs to come and follow Jesus. What kind of message does it send to our culture when churches close on one of its highest holy days? That it is o.k. to stay home and do one's own thing even on Jesus' birthday?

All of this made me think:

  1. If these churches are cancelling Christmas, shouldn't the Christians in that church be upset and threaten to boycott the church. That's what they would do if Wal-Mart was closed on Christmas. What? Wal-Mart IS closed on Christmas Day? Now I really am mad - what if I need that last minute gift for my second cousin?
  2. I wonder if it is the same "Christians" who go down to Lowe's and throw a conniption about "Holiday Trees" who later complain about being too "busy" to attend church on Christmas day? Isn't it interesting that as they are fighting for a holiday whose observance is not commanded in the Bible, some Christians are blatantly ignoring commands that are explicit in Scripture?
  3. If church members need "family time" on Christmas day, then what about Easter? That's a major time for families to gather. What about Mother's Day? Father's Day? Super Bowl Sunday? Shouldn't we be considerate of our families on these days as well?
  4. If people are too busy to attend church on Christmas day, they won't. But what about the many who desire to attend to the spiritual aspect of this allegedly Christian holiday. Cancelling Christmas services does not hinder those who would miss. It only hurts those who want to attend but now cannot.
  5. I read another make this interesting observation: Many churches place a major emphasis on the belief that church is to be designed for the "seeker" or non-believing attender. These "seekers" are the ones who are not connected in any way to the church and feel no obligation or desire to be in church when it is inconvenient. Therefore, since a majority of their "focus group" will not be in attendace, let's just cancel. All of that brings up a MAJOR problem - church is designed for the worshipper, the believer, the Christian. It is not designed for evangelism, although evangelism does and should take place when the service and text call for it. When unregenerate people are dictating how and when the Body of Christ meets and worships, we are hopelessly adrift.
  6. Many churches are rationalizing their decision by saying that they are having a service on December 24th. But a Christmas Eve service is "in addition to" not an "instead of" type of service.
  7. I also realize that it is a distinct possibility that the majority of people who complain about their own churches cancelling are the same people who most likely do nothing but sit in a pew on Sunday mornings and "enjoy the show." They know nothing of serving in a nursery or preschool classroom or teaching a group of adults or singing in the choir.
  8. It is my opionion that a church that would cancel all of Christmas services is not a church I would want to attend in the first place. Maybe we should encourage them to close more often - maybe permanently.
  9. I have to admit that the Bible nowhere demands that we worship on Sunday mornings or even Sunday for that matter. It is a convention drawn from principles and precedents seen in Scripture. Paul also noted that some have special days and others do not - to each his own, basically. However, what is the image put forth in the community by churches who do this? Even the lost know that churches meet for worship on Sunday. What must they think about churches that close their doors? Maybe they think "Christianity must not be all that important to these people if they can't be bothered to worship on even THIS day that even I realize has some importance behind it!"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Willow Creek Church Cancels Christmas Services

From NBC5 out of Chicago, we read the following statement:

Members of one of the Chicago area's largest churches will have to find someplace else to go if they want to attend services on Christmas Day. The issues were resources," said Willow Creek Community Church spokeswoman Cally Parkinson.Parkinson said resources that would have gone toward a Christmas Day service in the auditorium would instead help the church offer a week of worship, culminating on Christmas Eve. There will also be a special spiritual DVD the congregation will be encouraged to watch at home on Christmas Day, NBC5's Jennifer Mitchell reported.
The article goes on to say that Willow Creek "has never held services on Christmas Day, except in 1994, when the holiday also fell on a Sunday. That year, only 1,500 people attended services. This year, the church expects at least 50,000 people to attend the eight services that will be offered between Dec. 20 and 24."

So, attending worship on December 25 is too inconvenient? For children of the King? Too busy to take time to meet as the Body of Christ?

Have we fallen so far that Christians have changed the emphasis on Christmas from a remembrance and celebration of the miracle of the incarcnation into "family time," which we all know really means "opening presents and playing with the new toys." Maybe we should just be honestly transparent and tell it like it is: we relish the idea of openly enjoying the sin of covetousness and materialism on the one day when it is deemed OK to do so. Attending a worship service would only "ruin the mood."

How's this for irony: Jesus said that life is not found in number of possessions that you own. He told us not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth, but in heaven. Yet, the holiday that celebrates His birth provides the most consumeristic, materialistic season of the year (Ascol). We are no different - I guess now some are just willing to admit it.

Other mega-churches to follow suit include Mars Hill Bible Church (link is to newsletter in PDF format) in Grandville, Mich.; North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. (Andy Stanley's church); Fellowship Church near Dallas (Ed Young's church, son of Ed Young from Second Baptist Houston); and Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky.

In looking at this page, I can't help but wonder at what transpired during the staff meeting! Who brought it up? What was the reaction? Did NO ONE stand up and question this decision? I try to imagine making this suggestion at Western Avenue!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sleeping with the Enemy?

Phil Ryken at the Reformation 21 blog writes:

Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Walt Disney Pictures is offering a free trip to London and a thousand dollars in cash to the winner of its promotional sermon contest. To qualify, a sermon has to mention Disney's new Narnia film. So welcome to a new medium of marketing: the sermo-mercial. It would seem that something more than Aslan is on the move. I wonder: Would mentioning the film while decrying the absurdity of the promotion qualify one's sermon for the contest?
If any pastor does this, he has sold out the pulpit.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Local Church is F-Bombed

The blog run by the editors of Christianity Today and Leadership Journal have several articles about a pastor who made an incredible decision.

Mike Sares pastors a congregation called “Scum of the Earth” in Denver, Colorado. No, Scum of the Earth is not your typical congregation. Scum calls itself “a church for the right brained and the left out.” They embrace authenticity, creativity, and those who are on the margins of society.

It appears a young lady contacted Sares about sharing a poem in a worship service. She warned the pastor that the poem had about sixteen uses of the "F-word," probably the single most offensive word in the English language.

Sares eventually asked the poet to cut the offensive words by half, saying that "the poem was not a crude attempt at humor, and it was not immoral. In terms of obscenity, you’ve got to think of what might be considered obscene in your own congregation. In our setting, the F-bomb is just another noun/adjective/verb that expresses frustration for many people. It’s not cursing in terms of taking God’s name in vain, or asking God to damn someone to hell. This poem was being spoken as an honest hymn of redemption."

You can read the news and the fallout here:
  1. Original post
  2. The Fallout
  3. The poet speaks out
  4. The pastor responds

If Paul Crouch was consistent, TBN would be GONE!

Long-time prophetic extremist Hal Lindsey was recently booted from the TBN collection of televised shows. Lindsey hosted a show called "The International Intelligence Briefing where he brought "updated news on current world events and Bible prophecy." According to the TBN sitge, the International Intelligence Briefing uses cutting edge research and International News for all subject matter.

The whole matter is a mess:
After insisting the pre-emption of Hal Lindsey's television show had nothing to do with content, a Trinity Broadcasting Network spokesman retracted his statement, admitting officials were concerned, at least secondarily, about offending Arabs and Muslims. But now, after talking with network programming officials, he says a secondary reason for pre-empting the show was that it "placed Arabs in a negative light."
So far, no word yet on whether or not Paul Crouch and all of TBN has been cancelled for fear of offending the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Wrestle not with flesh and blood?!?

In yet another sign that the modern church has fallen far from the Reformation, a new ministry has been making the rounds: ULTIMATE CHRISTIAN WRESTLING! Yes, and once again I am nigh dumbfounded. The gentlemen here bought into a vision of UCW Founder Rob Adonis (real name: Rob Fields), who said:
"I had a vision that I could combine two of my passions, Professional Wrestling and Evangelism. I had always wanted to do something like UCW, but I did not have the “CALL” from God. I have always believed that God will reveal his desires and only then should you carry out his business. On June 3, 2003 I got that call. I felt the ability come over me. . ."
Adonis continues, proclaiming, "Our mission is simple. Our methods are unique. Our results are unquestionable. Welcome to the most Christ fired ministry going today. Welcome to The most unique blend of spirituality and entertainment ever brought together. Welcome to the Future."
If you look at their schedule, it appears they spend a lot of time at Harvest Church in Athens, Georgia - appearing on a monthly basis for several months at a time. This caught the attention of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (might have to register to read) who covered on of the nights of wrestling/violence/entertainment/violence(?), writing:

A loose network of pro and semipro wrestlers, UCW is the brainchild of Rob Fields, an otherwise mild-mannered English teacher at Woodstock High School. Fields, who lives in Canton, has been body-slamming for God since last summer and claims more than 200 souls saved.

At each UCW event, matches alternate with testimony, gospel and prayer. Fields' crew wrestles for little or no pay, and the boss takes no salary, using the love offering collected at weekly matches, plus sponsor support, to cover costs.

Witness Fields (aka "Rob Adonis"), a 6-foot-4, 285-pound package of ministerial menace, getting trounced by Lee "Lover Boy" Thomas, with a succession of choke holds, chin blasters and a thunderous flying leg drop from the top rope.

When Thomas and his manager, Mr. Evil, gang up on the hapless Adonis, pounding him and stealing his UCW belt, we have to wonder, is the first going to be last tonight?

What would Jesus do?

Very likely he might try the Adonis Suplex, a patented "finishing" move (in wrestling parlance) that sends Thomas crashing to the mat and puts the championship back in Adonis' hands.

"There are other ways, other than going to church, to get the word out," he said, adding that wrestling encompasses universal themes. "This is good and evil."


In one match a pair of bad guys had bested a babyface — a good guy — and were ready to power-bomb the fellow through a folding table when "Adonis" stepped in to offer himself as a Christ-like substitute. Boom. Through the table he went.

"How many Jesus Christ fans do we have in the house?" Adonis hollers after the finish, to a cheering response.

"There is only one reason we need to be making noise tonight," he tells the audience of about 200 gathered in the Zoom Town roller rink, somewhere amid the kudzu on the outskirts of Holly Springs, "and that is the Savior, our living Lord."

Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair's former partner in World Championship Wrestling, offered his own testimony during a break in the Holly Springs match and stood ready at the altar call — a regular feature of UCW events — to counsel any new believers. Though none approached the ring that evening, wrestling, he said later, can win souls that conventional worship can't. "If you're fishing, and you don't catch fish, change bait."

I wonder if the apostles ever thought of doing this? I imagine that James and John, the SONS OF THUNDER, would have made a pretty good tag-team in this ministry? I doubt they did and yet, somehow, they managed to turn the world upside down!

You just couldn't make this stuff up!

Can it get any crazier in the modern church? It appears a German Protestant youth group has undertaken a fundraising tactic that boggles the mind. I'll let the India Times explain:
A German Protestant youth group has put together a 2006 calendar with 12 staged photos depicting erotic scenes from the Bible, including a bare-breasted Delilah cutting Samson's hair and a nude Eve offering an apple.

"There's a whole range of biblical scriptures simply bursting with eroticism," said Stefan Wiest, the 32-year-old photographer who took the titillating pictures.

Anne Rohmer, 21, poses on a doorstep in garters and stockings as the prostitute Rahab, who is mentioned in both New and Old Testaments. "We wanted to represent the Bible in a different way and to interest young people," she told Reuters. "Anyway, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude."

Bernd Grasser, pastor of the church in Nuremberg where the calendar is being sold, was enthusiastic about the project "It's just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the bible," he said.
Sadly, this group isn't the first, as you can see from these stories from the BBC:
  1. Assistant curate John Buchanan, of Holy Trinity Church, Barsham, hopes to raise £90,000 for the organ restoration fund by posing nude for a calendar. Assistant curate Buchanan said: "I recall that he (God) was wandering in the garden of Eden talking to two people who were starkers."

  2. A Gloucestershire vicar is lending his support to a nude calendar by displaying the images in his church. The Rev Stephen Earley from St Martins in Horsley, launched 'Exposed 2005' after a service on Sunday commemorating the genocide in Rwanda, Africa.

  3. The stars of a calendar featuring semi-naked builders in stages of undress, along with "spiritual words" underneath, produced to raise cash for a north Cornwall parish, have defended their vicar from criticism. Reverend Christine Musser, 48, who took over the seaside parish of Boscastle last year, revealed on Wednesday that she had received letters calling for her to resign after backing the calendar. Calendar producer Raymond Rogers praised the bravery of Mrs Musser, who appears on the front of the calendar backed by partially-clothed local builders. He said: "It was our idea to raise money for the parish. There's no way we would do anything to embarrass the Church." Rev Musser said: "Nudity and the Church are not traditionally linked, but to my mind, it was a group of guys who don't come to church, but are very much part of the community who wanted to show their support for their community church. How could I not support them?"

  4. Male members of a cathedral choir have stripped off for the second year running to produce a saucy calendar for charity. The "Heavenly Hunks" of Portsmouth Cathedral Choir Association are back by popular demand, according to the group. David Price, 33, organist and master of choristers, stripped to the waist in front of the organ pipes. "It is a refreshing story about the Church of England and a great example of some young guys doing something fun because of their membership of the church and of Portsmouth Cathedral Choir." The Bishop of Portsmouth, The Right Reverend Kenneth Stevenson, said: "I support anything that involves young people having fun as part of the church and congratulate these lads who have bared more than their souls to raise money for these charities."