Archive for June, 2010

Is The Bible Infallible?

Posted in religion with tags , , , , on June 30, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Of all of the differences between denominations in the Christian faith, one of the biggest and most important to many is whether or not the Bible should be treated as the infallible Word of God, or whether the Bible should be treated as partly historical, and partly allegorical.

In this article from Religious Tolerance, interpretation of the Bible falls into three categories: the complete Word of God, completely infallible and always relevant to the user; contains the Word of God, but also contains items that we should reject because they go against the Word of God; and a wide-ranging human document, written by humans with agendas, containing folklore and myths, and was compiled and edited by other humans.

Different denominations in Christianity have different ways of interpreting the Scripture. Fundamentalist Christians, like Baptists, tend to view the Bible in the first interpretation, being the infallible Word of God. They believe that the Holy Spirit intervened in the minds of the authors and editors of the Bible, making it divinely inspired. This sort of believe means that the creation stories and the stories of Noah, Jonah, and the rest of the cast of characters is undeniably true.

Meanwhile, the “religiously liberal” believe that the Bible, being written, compiled and edited by humans, is bound to have some errors. I believe that Wartburg College can be part of this “religiously liberal” sect, as I remember learning in my religion class that several stories in the Bible–including the stories of Job, Noah, Jonah, the Tower of Babel, the Battle of Jericho, the Creation, and several others–are merely folktales, and did not actually happen.

Personally, I’m of the camp that says that while the Bible may contain the Word of God, it was also handled by humans, so there will be human biases in some of the writings. Some of the Bible is not relevant in today’s world, such as the directions on how to treat your slaves, and not allowing midgets or cripples to take communion. Of course, I also believe that this sort of thing also permeates into the New Testament as well, because although the Apostle Paul wrote most of the Epistles, a lot of the Epistles don’t follow the same voice and ideals as the others. The same guy who wrote that we should not conform to this world cannot be the same person who wrote that women are inferior to men.

But the question also arises: how do we determine where the biases lie? If we believe in a Loving and Caring God, obviously, the biases lie in anything that does against that narrative; any sort of Scripture that goes against loving other people unconditionally is obviously against the will of God, and must be rejected. However, because God is also a Jealous God, maybe some of those biases really don’t exist.

It’s an interesting thing to consider, because many times the issue of Scriptural interpretation makes or breaks relationships between denominations. This is one of those topics where I’m curious as to what you believe: is the Bible infallible, or can it be up for interpretation?

Advertisements

Political Incorrectness: Adjective-Americans

Posted in opinion with tags , , on June 28, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

The worst part about living in this culture of not wanting to offend anyone and to always be kind and respectful to different cultures is that many times we go too far. In our attempts to make sure that every reference in America is free from prejudice and harm, we lose the whole point of our language. One of the most blatant examples of this going too far attitude is the invention of the term, “[Adjective]-Americans.”

The only problem (which is, in fact, a huge problem) with the [Adjective]-American culture is that many times, we are completely off with the descriptors.

Over the years, the term for our dark-skinned, former slave friends has evolved into “African-American.” While it is a much better descriptor than “Negro” from days of old, it is far from being the most effective descriptor. Once upon a time, I was caught up in the hype of political correctness before a friend of mine pointed out to me: “You know, a lot of our ‘African-American’ friends never came from Africa. They have no ties to Africa at all. Therefore, they are not African-Americans.”

That statement has stuck with me ever since. In fact, most of my black friends can’t even describe in what part of Africa their ancestry lies. The only people I know that is a true “African-American” isn’t even technically American; I had a roommate this year in college from the country of Kenya, and while technically he is here on a student visa, he would never call America home. “I am African, through and through,” he has told me.

This same concept goes for all of the other [Adjective]-Americans out there: Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Arab-Americans, etc. Unless you know for a fact that they were born and raised for a time in that geographic region, and then came to America, those are not true descriptors of that group of people. Granted, most Hispanic people are Mexican-Americans if they’ve gone through the proper legal channels. But I have only met a few true Asian-Americans, and have never in my life met an Arab-American, though I have met plenty of people in America with Arab ancestry.

The thing that strikes me as the strangest of all is that there is no similar [Adjective]-American for people not of minority status. If I wish to identify myself as a “German-American” or an “Irish-American” or a “Norwegian-American,” I should be able to do so. But because my skin lacks some essential pigmentation, I am merely “white.” It’s a strange sort of racism that tries its hardest not to be racist, and it isn’t working.

In fact, thinking about it, I’ve met more Norwegian-Americans, Italian-Americans, Canadian-Americans, and French-Americans than I have African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Arab-Americans. The whole idea of an [Adjective]-American culture is ridiculous. Is there a problem with describing people the way they are?

My black friends are black, and they identify themselves as “black people.” My Asian friends identify themselves as their heritage: Vietnamese, Laos, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, etc. My Mexican friends are Mexican, my Indian friends are Indian, and my white friends are trying to figure out what exactly is the right thing to say, lest they become forever black-listed as “that racist guy.”

Obama’s Not Evil, Stop Marketing Him As Such

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

I was wondering to myself today why I continue to watch Fox News when I know it upsets me. For everything else I’ve experienced in life, when I’m upset or frustrated with something, I remove myself from the equation. But for some reason, the torture I subject myself to when I watch Fox News makes me want to watch more. Secretly, I think it’s because I’m finally proud to be smarter or have more common sense than someone, but really, I’m not exactly sure what it is.

This was blatantly obvious when I was watching Fox last week, and the ticker across the bottom mentioned that Obama’s BP speech was the first time he addressed the nation from the Oval Office. It read, “Obama is the first President to not address the nation from the Oval Office within his first year.” W. Bush did it twice in his first year, including after 9/11. Clinton had also done it a couple of times in his first year.

Maybe it was because I was completely ready to be offended by something, or maybe it was because I was absolutely wiped from six hours of working with day camp kids, but to me, that read like Obama was a terrible President by not addressing the nation from the Oval Office. I mean, seriously, Bush did it twice. Why couldn’t Obama even do it once?

Probably because it doesn’t really matter where the President addresses the nation? The Oval Office is just as good of a backdrop as the Lincoln Memorial, or the Washington Monument, or the Gulf Coast. In fact, any backdrop that is at least relevant to the subject matter of the speech is a good back drop. Sarah Palin announced her resignation outside, next to a hydroplane, and not in her governor’s office. But no problem with that, because Palin is an outdoorsy sort of gal, so it made sense.

But it wasn’t just the location of the speech that got Fox News uptight, but the language used. Obama mentioned that we are “waging a battle” on containing the oil spill, and introduced a “battle plan” to fight it. “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got,” said Obama. “And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done.”

Leave it to Fox News to call out Obama on his choice of words. “It’s too militaristic,” said Glenn Beck. All of the war metaphors were upsetting him. We’re declaring war on an Oil Spill? Isn’t that a little bit silly?

I’ve got three words for Glenn Beck: “Don’t Retreat, Reload.”

The “battle plan” from Obama is nowhere near the literal call to arms that was given to the Tea Party. Don’t retreat, reload. As in, don’t give up when people call you crazy; in fact, counter it with more crazy and violence. Bricks through windows not working? Try death threats and profanity. Not being noticed with your misspelled and grammatically incorrect (and factually untrue) picket signs? Feel free to spit on anyone you disagree with. And throw in a racial epithet while you’re at it.

Obama is not evil. He’s not trying to destroy America. That was Dubya’s job. Whatever crazy pills people at Fox News are inhaling, we better take them away, and hopefully the withdrawal symptoms are enough to knock some sense into them.

There is No High Score for Christians

Posted in opinion, religion with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

There are many perks to being a Christian: a huge support group, opportunities to personally grow in one’s faith, and a whole genre of music/literature/television/movies, just as in any religion.

Unfortunately, just as with any religion, with all of those positives come quite a few negatives. Christianity has its fair share of extremists and whack-jobs, people who claim to be preaching the love of Christ and practice hatred instead. The biggest offender is probably Fred Phelps, of Westboro Baptist Church fame, though occasionally we will see appearances by Pat Robertson, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and nearly every politician (mostly Republican) lobbying for legislation that oppresses a group of people.

But despite all of that, the thing that most disturbs me is the fact that many Christians feel that, in the quest for eternal life, we must rack up a high score of sorts. Good works + converted souls = Eternity with Christ.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. I’ve not read anywhere in the Bible where it says that God favors those who turn the most people to Christianity. But for some reason, people are all about converting the masses rather than living like Christ.

I see this most often in retreats or conferences I attend. Out of the multitude of speakers with a variety of hit or miss messages, there is always one preacher or presenter that gets up and talks about how the world is on a slippery slope into damnation, and it is up to us Christians to win the world back for God. I’ve heard stories of a battle cry being established, but I personally have not seen nor heard any.

While the idea itself isn’t necessarily bad, the means by which those people achieve ends is frightening. Thinking back throughout history, the conversion of souls to Christianity usually involves a lot of bloodshed, like in the Crusades, or the violent conversions of the Native Americans. And while there is little to no bloodshed in the modern age, scare tactics and violence are often the method of choice for showing people that Christ is a loving deity.

Who hasn’t heard the fire and brimstone preacher shout to his congregation that non-believers will be thrown into a lake of fire for all eternity, forever suffering the stench of seared flesh and the crushing pain of eternal torture? Because it’s certainly not a metaphor or anything. But that’s another entry.

The point is, being a Christian isn’t like playing Halo (or for the older crowd, Super Mario Brothers). After you die, you don’t enter your initials into Heaven and hope like crazy some punk with a few extra tokens is going to beat you. Most rushed conversions don’t really blossom into anything meaningful anyway; like the parable of the seeds, sometimes the seed is choked out by weeds, and sometimes it is eaten by birds.

I’m sure I’ve led my fair share of people to Christ. In fact, I can think of a couple of instances of where by purely loving someone and being there for them, I’ve helped them see that Christianity isn’t a religion of ignorance, but one of acceptance. Thing is, I’m sure there are many more that I’m completely unaware of.

I’m not in it to see my name in flashing lights. I’m in it because there is nothing better. Shouldn’t it be the same way for everyone else?

What BP Can Teach Us about Alternative Energy

Posted in current events with tags , , , , on June 21, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

It’s been over 60 days since the BP oil rig in the Gulf exploded, sending hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the water and onto the shores, and destroying much of that ecosystem. The images of oil drenched birds and turtles are infuriating, and are sending Americans into a rage, wondering when exactly we’re going to fix the damn thing.

I’ve not written about the oil spill, if only because everyone else is doing it. Every blog that I’ve seen lately has had an article or three on the oil spill, and the streaming video of the oil spilling into the water is on every major news network. Don’t get me wrong, I care about the environment. It’s just that everyone else is saying exactly what needs to be said, so why bother rehashing the same thing over and over again?

Because there are still some people out there that aren’t getting it.

Watching my buddy Glenn Beck last week, I was shocked to see him fully admit that the oil spill was awful, but then completely tear down those who are asking for more funding for alternative energies. It makes me wonder what is going on in that head of his. Is it really that bad to ask for research grants for safer forms of energy and prevent the waste that comes from accidents like BP’s?

Eventually the oil is going to disappear, plain and simple. There isn’t an infinite amount of dinosaurs buried under the surface of the Earth to make an oil shortage impossible. Especially if accidents like BP’s continue, it will run out faster than we care to imagine. What won’t run out, however, is the sun. Or wind. Or water. Or whatever geothermal energy comes from the Earth.

America’s dependency on oil is as frustrating as it is destructive; besides oil spills, there is also the destruction of ecosystems to build oil rigs on land. Sometimes the destruction of that ecosystem means that many species go extinct; it messes with migration patterns, mating rituals, and habitats in general. A lot of oil is wasted, in the form of plastics and the excess waste from gas and oil use in cars.

And yet, some people still think that moving to alternative energies is a terrible idea, and will ruin the foundation of America, a foundation, mind you, that had little to do with oil and a lot to do with freedom from oppression.

There are countries in the world that have already accepted the use of alternative energies. And in fact, many people talk down about alternative energies only when we talk about getting rid of oil. They have no problem with the millions of wind turbines that exist in America, and they hail the use of hybrid cars that run on electricity. But the moment someone starts talking about nuclear energy is cheaper and more effective than oil, it turns into a huge deal.

I say let’s cut the dependence on oil as soon as possible. Wind energy, solar energy, nuclear power, geothermal energy, water power, and all other forms of alternative energy is better for the earth in the long run. Some will cite studies that say that alternative energies aren’t as effective as oil, but that’s because they’ve never been allowed to surpass oil.

I believe that given time, alternative energies will be the norm, and we will wonder how we were ever addicted to oil in the first place.

I’m Not Enraptured by the Rapture

Posted in opinion, religion with tags , , on June 18, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

In Wednesday’s article, I passively mentioned something about the Rapture, specifically that it occurs before the Second Coming of Christ, taking up all deceased and living believers, in that order, all according to a single source.

I mentioned the Rapture only in passing and in the context of my source, because I’m not entirely sold on the idea of the Rapture. While many interpret the Scripture to say something about souls being suddenly sucked into the sky, much like what happened to Elijah in II Kings 2.

But beyond the idea of precedent, I’m not entirely sold on the idea of the Rapture. Really, the idea of the Rapture only comes up in I Thessalonians 4, and even then, it is only as words of encouragement. In my experience, most of the “words of encouragement” I’ve received have been only that: words. Occasionally there was meaning behind them, but in reality, it is mostly fluff that is meant to build spirits up. The fact that talk of Jesus coming back and taking all believers up with him appears only once in Paul’s letters, to me, is testament that something needed to be said to keep spirits up. And what better way than to promise something mystical?

As firm a believer as I am, I’m still skeptical. I’m skeptical only because it gives me the motivation to seek out the answers. And in the case of the Rapture, I’m not finding the answers that give me a sense of comfort.

It’s one of the great mysteries of life. No one knows when Jesus will return to Earth, just as no one will know when the Rapture will occur. Is it my place to tell people what to believe and what not to believe? Absolutely not; some dopey college student from Iowa has no place in dictating the beliefs of millions of people. But I know people who can’t even give a definite definition of the Rapture, much less cite where it’s from in the Bible.

It’s an interesting thing to ponder. God only knows when the time will come when we find out who is right and who has been left behind.

Heaven Can Wait

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

One of the biggest follies of Chrisitianity is the belief that if we are good, we will spend eternity in Heaven, a place of eternal bliss and pleasure. It is the same line of thinking that children have around Christmas time: if I’m good, I’ll get everything I want.

But to quote a friend of mine, in quoting a pastor that spoke at their camp’s staff training: “Heaven is bullshit.”

Most of us are taught at an early age that faith in Jesus Christ (and occasionally the addition of good works) will guarantee us a spot in Heaven after we die. But in the book What In The World Is Going On? by Dr. David Jeremiah, no one actually goes to Heaven when they die.

But what many people don’t realize is that since the death and resurrection of Jesus, no one in the Bible has died.

Take a moment to let that sink in: Since Jesus defied the laws of, well, everything, no one in the Bible, from the Gospels to Revelation, has died. Instead, it is said that they have “fallen asleep.”

Jesus says in John 11:11, before ressurecting Lazarus: “Our friend… has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

Stephen’s account in Acts 7:60 says, “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

And later in Acts, in describing the end of David’s life: “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.”

Dr. Jeremiah describes later in his book the Greek word for the burial place of loved ones: koimeterion, meaning “a rest house for strangers, a sleeping place,” much like we would stay in a hotel in the modern age.

It’s an interesting thing to consider. All of this work that we’re doing on Earth to gain entry into Heaven, and all that happens in death is that we “fall asleep.” Why even bother doing good works anyway?

Because we don’t go to Heaven; Heaven comes to us.

It’s in the Lord’s Prayer that we all say but never really pay attention to: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” In the time leading up to the Second Coming, everyone who has passed on in this life will be woken up with a great cry. All those believers who passed on will rise again, just as Christ had, and they will be called to Jesus in glory in a phenomenon many call the Rapture.

After the Rapture plus seven years of trials and tribulation, the Second Coming occurs. This is when Jesus returns to Earth, accompanied by a host of angels and the Kingdom of Heaven. The evil world will be replaced, and we will be translated into perfect bodies and live in eternal bliss and pleasure.

We don’t go to Heaven; Heaven comes to us.

It’s an interesting thing to consider, if only because it forces us to re-evaluate our actions. Are we doing good works because we want to help out the people around us, or are we doing them to go to Heaven after we die?

It’s not too late to change your lifestyle.