Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rabbits, Eggs, and All That Jazz.

WHAT'S ALL THE CELEBRATING ABOUT?

The baseball season doesn't start till next week.

     Of course I know of a couple of college basketball teams and their fans who are beside themselves with joy today. I love the NCAA tournament. In fact, it's about the only basketball I watch. Football and baseball are my great loves, and my wife deserves a little bit of my time once in a while, so it's not really fair of me to spend a lot of time watching a sport that I have a lot less appreciation for. But the tournament is awesome! Wall to wall basketball, in a win-or-go-home format. I love the emotion.

     But this blog isn't about basketball. Shockingly enough, it isn't about baseball either. Although I could go on for days about my World Champion Royals.

     No, this is about rabbits, eggs, and Jesus Christ.

     I'm not even sure exactly which branch of science this falls under, but I've read a few books and I know rabbits don't lay eggs, nor did Jesus Christ hatch from one. So why are we even talking about them all in the same context? OK, that's a rhetorical question. We all know that today is Easter/Ishtar/Eostre/Astarte/Resurrection Sunday/Whatever. What are we doing this for? We claim to be honoring Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our salvation, but are we really honoring God by celebrating a Pagan holiday? Church goers know most of those terms refer to some sort of Paganism or another, and Jesus Christ didn't even rise on a Sunday.
      I know that Jesus Christ rising from the dead was a big deal. In fact, it's the biggest deal in history. His dying on the cross for our sins, of course, was the whole point of His being born. But that was just theoretical, until He rose. His resurrection was the proof that He was the perfect sacrifice and now our sins can be forgiven because of His death.
     But this whole spring ritual thing that we go through has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus or His resurrection. In fact, I'm convinced we are insulting God and what He did for us with all this carrying on about eggs and rabbits and assorted hogwash.
     This year we say He rose on March 27th. Last year it was April 5th. Next year, it will be on April 16th. How can you even plan for a holiday when they move it around all the time? I've got problems with Christmas, too, but at least it's on the same day every year. Why can't they do that with the Spring holiday? (No, I'm not going through all those names again)
     The obvious answer is that the holiday is tied to some celestial event. In this case, two of them: The vernal equinox and the full moon. The first ecumenical council, hosted by Constantine in the city of Nicaea (Nice) in AD 325 ruled unanimously that the Easter festival should be celebrated throughout the Christian world on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. But, if the full moon occurred on a Sunday, thereby coinciding with the Passover festival, then Easter should be commemorated on the following Sunday so as to make sure that Easter and Passover would not be celebrated at the same time, even by accident. I should point out here that there were a number of churches who refused to even attend this conference and who would not, under any circumstances, deviate from what had been passed down to them from the Apostles. These people were branded as heretics, hunted down and killed.
     So now we're stuck with this floating holiday that was put into place by people who were more concerned with not being Jewish than anything else. The more I learned about the details, the more it seemed to me that they were not as interested in having Jesus save them from anything as they were in saving the Name of Jesus from being associated with the Jews. If you're curious about the details of how we ended up with this mess, you can go to http://www.cogwriter.com/easter.htm. It's a very well written, detailed, long and boring article that explains where the name comes from, how it got into the Christian lexicon, and how virtually every aspect of the celebration is an attempt to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ while denying that there is any connection whatsoever between Jesus and those “depraved Jews.” Due to an incredible amount of unabashed antisemitism on the part of Constantine (“...in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. ...no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews.”), the official Christian doctrine, enforced on pain of death, intentionally and maliciously, discounted the entire Word of God because the scriptures were Jewish.
     Consider this: The early church grew to hate the Jews so much that they persecuted anybody that practiced anything that was perceived as being Jewish. Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, for crying out loud! The One they had been waiting for. While most of them didn't recognize this fact, there were an ever-growing number of believers working hard to get their fellow Jews to understand that.
     Now, here comes Constantine and subsequent church leaders that hated the Jews and persecuted them mercilessly... IN THE NAME OF CHRIST. So now, to Jews the name of Christ, who they didn't really believe in anyway, becomes synonymous with hate, persecution and death. The Jews have had their Messiah STOLEN from them by people claiming Him as their Savior; who took His life, death and resurrection – the greatest event in the history of mankind – and turned it into a children's festival. I'm not saying we should be adhering to Mosaic Law, but the church has developed a law of its own that is a slap in the face of the God we claim to be worshiping. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are to commemorate His resurrection. Yet we do, with pagan symbols, ham, and the name of a pagan god to boot. God threw the Jews out of Jerusalem because of their worship of other Gods. Just because you put the name of Jesus on it, doesn't make it God ordained....and we don't even do that. WE STILL CALL IT EASTER!
     We don't even have the basics down. We've got Him dying on a Friday and, “after three days and three nights”, rising from the dead on a Sunday morning. I didn't take calculus, or logarithms, or any of the other higher math for geniuses, so I may be missing something. But I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how you can get three days and three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning.
     I did a lot of research to try to figure that one out, and as it turns out, it seems He was crucified on a Wednesday. It was the day before Passover, which apparently landed on a Thursday that year. Not the day before Shabbat (Saturday). Then you give Him three days and three nights (that would be 72 hours), and He rises, not at sunrise on Sunday morning (when the people showed up before dawn on Sunday morning, he was already risen), but at sundown on Saturday night. Now I admit that I had always believed Jesus rose on Sunday. Even after I got the story on what day He was actually crucified, I never thought to do the math. Now I'm thinking that there is not a single detail of this annual fiasco that can be found in the Bible.
     All the research I did for this had lots of references, both from the Bible and from other sources. I didn't bother to include those in my little rant here because I figured if it actually made a difference to anyone reading this, it would be pretty easy to find the stuff yourself. I did provide a link to get you started. But while this whole thing weighs heavy on my heart, I believe a majority of Christians actually know this stuff. They just don't care. Anytime I bring this up to somebody in church, they say that traditions are important. Something about comfort and connections to the past. Let's not forget the chance for the family to get together and fellowship. A lot of people tell me they just do it for the children. It's so much fun for them.
     OK, now I'm a curmudgeon. Sucking all the joy out of Spring. But for the sake of fun, aren't we teaching the children to grow up practicing religions that are contrary to what we claim to believe? I actually know a few practicing Pagans, and they are laughing their butts off at us. They know we are celebrating their holidays with them. How can we convince them that we have a better way when we are actually practicing religion their way?
     So what to do? I don't know. What I like to do is get a leg of lamb and eat it at Passover, which happens to fall on April 22nd this year at sundown. (Yes, it moves around a lot, too. But that's because the the Gregorian calendar we use isn't in sync with the Jewish calendar. It's fixed on the 14th of Nisan on the Jewish calendar.) I try to get close to Passover. It usually ends up being on the closest weekend to the Passover so my family has a chance to get together. It also gives me a chance to eat lamb. I don't go through the whole Passover feast thing because I wasn't raised Jewish and I would look really stupid. But I love mutton, and it's pretty expensive, so I kind of need an excuse. I eat plenty of pork all through the year (BACON!), so it's not like I've got a thing about clean vs. unclean meat. But it does seem a little incongruous to celebrate Jesus Christ by making it a point to eat something He would never have eaten. The children? Why don't we take them fishing. Jesus liked fish, and the kids have a great time...if you can keep them from falling in the water. My kids are grown now, way past the age for Easter egg hunts. But you never outgrow fishing.


     I'm not going to say that any of this is going to keep anybody out of Heaven. I'm certainly in no position to judge. I get as excited about spring as anybody, and the things that get me excited , as I mentioned at the top of this diatribe, have little to do with worshiping God. Like all Christians, I cling to the hope that Christ, knowing how stupid, selfish and spiritually clumsy I am, died for me anyway. But what I tell my kids is: if you see any little round things in the yard left by a rabbit, DON'T EAT IT! Even if it does look like chocolate.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


The World’s Worst Christian

        I hate Christianity.

               BEFORE YOU LEAVE THIS PAGE, I should point out that I am a Christian. I am called a Christian because I believe every word in the Bible about Jesus Christ. I believe He is the Son of God, He died for my sins, and He rose on the third day, etcetera, and etcetera, all of it. So, my problem is not with Jesus Christ, it is with Christianity.

               See, Christianity is a religion. As such, it has DOCTRINE. Rules concerning what you should do, don't do, think, celebrate, how you should celebrate it, and on and on, and it's all voted on by a committee somewhere, and most of it does not correspond with what the Bible says.

               I read stories and commentaries and such on the internet like everybody else, and I like to read the comments that go with them. A lot of these discussions degenerate into an argument about religion. Of course, there is always some troll who answers every third comment on the thread with something about the whole Bible being a hoax, Jesus never even existed, or something along those lines, and at a certain point, I get to where I can't resist. Partly because the troll starts to irritate me, and partly because the Christians who answer the troll irritate me even more. These Christians go after the troll with some of the craziest stuff you'll ever read, and a fur flying, eye gouging, mudslinging fight ensues, with language coming from both sides that would peel the paint off a battle ship.

               So I go in with some fact based defense of my beliefs, thinking that maybe I could get an actual debate started. That never works. Everything I mention is dismissed as a lie or a forgery, and as I try to counter-argue these claims I become more irritated at the names I'm being called and I find myself throwing a few zingers in there as well. Nothing vulgar mind you, but insulting just the same.

               But I digress.

               These arguments always involve an attack on the part of the unbelievers on Christianity itself. Here they have point. Christianity as a religion is indefensible. Millions of people down through the centuries have dragged the name of Christ through the mud as they commit some of the worst atrocities in history - in the name of Christ....and they still do!

               I'm not talking about the murders and ethnic cleansing that went on during the Middle Ages. We have ISIS to do that now. But there is still all sorts of embarrassment available to anyone called a Christian today when you look at the things going on. Abortion practitioners being gunned down. Some Baptist church in Kansas harassing mourners at funerals with some of the most vicious, hurtful signs you could ever want to stick in the face of a grieving family. I just read today about a church pastor that got twenty women from his congregation pregnant. He said the Holy Spirit told him to. It is so easy for people that don't want to believe in God to point at the things done IN THE NAME OF CHRIST and discredit all the things we claim to believe in.

               For me personally, I don't even want people to know I'm a Christian. Not that I would deny Christ. But I don't want to be identified with a lot of the people down through the ages that called themselves Christians.

               But worst of all, I find myself falling far short of the type of person who should be representing Jesus Christ. I try not to compare myself to others in an effort to make myself feel more holy. You know..."Well at least I don't (fill in the blank) like he does." I do, however, compare myself to the person I used to be in an effort to convince myself that at least I'm making progress.

               I believe that the commandment against using the Lord's Name in vain is not a commandment against using the word "God" while cussing. Not that I'm taking any chances. One of my biggest failures is in controlling my tongue. I try. Oh, how I try! I worked for a company that had me working in people’s homes every day, and I did a very good job, I thought, of watching my language around customers. Maybe not perfect, but really good. However, turn on a football game involving my favorite team and its "Katy, bar the door!" But there is one common cuss word that I will absolutely not say. Like I said, I don't think that is what the commandment means, but I'm not going to chance being wrong. After all, the commandment says "the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain." I don't like the penalty for being wrong on that one. Yet, I still catch myself saying things like "My God!" I'm really hoping that doesn't count, but I wish I could quit saying it.

               So what does the commandment mean? Well, vain means "useless; without effect", and I would think taking the title of Christian would be taking the Lord's (Christ's) name. So, if you call yourself a Christian, but nobody can tell any difference in your life or in the way you treat other people, that would be taking the Lord's name in vain.

               That is why I compare myself to myself. There are things I can point to where I’ve improved. I quit smoking cigarettes a long time ago. So long ago that I wonder if it even counts.

               I quit using illicit drugs. I remember the day that happened. The Holy Spirit definitely had a hand in that. Yet, I still get a hankerin' to get high sometimes. It doesn't happen, but I still think about it.

               Pornography is another vice I've managed to get away from, but I still think about it. One of the biggest problems with that is: where do you draw the line? Obviously, Pornhub is out. But what about Sports Illustrated? I love scantily clad women, and they're everywhere! My wife and I started watching Game of Thrones. A very dark series with a lot of violence and ... Naked Women! Somewhere during the third season, I started becoming disappointed that there was still a lot of violence, but a lot less naked women.

               OK, I guess pornography is a relative term and I still have a lot of work to do on that front.

               Then there's the subject of hate. Of course, as soon as I say I'm a Christian, it is automatically assumed that I hate Homosexuals, Muslims, Feminists, Wiccans, atheists, physicists, jay walkers and Democrats. This is all patently ridiculous. But there are a few individuals I can't stand, and a couple that I'd like to knock upside the head.

               There are, in fact groups that I hate. The Yankees, for instance. The Broncos. I even still hate the Raiders, even though they've been so bad for so long, they're hardly worth it. See, I'm a life-long sports nut and hating your team’s rivals is part of the fun. It's hate for entertainment. This is probably terribly wrong. What really drives me crazy is when a player that I admire (Payton Manning) signs with a team I hate (The Broncos).

               The whole concept of loving a sports franchise so much that you name your children after their players, you insist that the world stand still while you watch their games, and you hate their rivals probably falls under the heading of Idol worship.

               The more I think about it, the less I seem to be progressing.

               I went to church for years. Even ran the worship team for a while. But I had no idea how tough a job that could be. I was a professional musician when I was younger, but got out of it because I didn’t like the compromises that had to be made to make a living in that profession. I thought church music would be different.

               What I found out was, not only was the church leadership not always in agreement with my vision of how the whole thing should work, but musicians are by nature incredibly emotional and temperamental; and when I was working as a musician, either as a professional or as a worship leader, I became increasingly more emotional and temperamental. I ended up getting my feelings hurt, and I left. I was invited to run the worship team at another church, and that didn’t end well either.

               I quit going to church altogether. I was actually mad at God for a while, but I realized that it wasn’t His fault I was a flake. I just wasn’t cut out to be a serious musician. Problem is, I still don’t go to church. Once in a while I go, but it’s just so hard to get out of bed on a Sunday morning and most of the time it just doesn’t happen.

               I do pray. Unfortunately, I pray like a lot of other people. “Jesus, HELP! Get me out of this!” I’m trying to learn to “pray without ceasing.” At least, pray to God just to be praying to God. That is what He really wants from His people. He wants you to communicate with Him, and show some gratitude. That is something I’m becoming more and more aware of, and I’m trying to learn to make a habit of it. I do better some days, and not so good most days.

               I read the Bible. This is about the only thing I do with any kind of consistency. By consistency, I mean I’ll be absolutely obsessed with it for months, then I’ll get into some commentary that I like and I’ll devour that for a while. Then, the cares of this world will start encroaching and I’ll not spend daily time in either one for a while.

               Then, I’ll get to thinking about all the things I haven’t done for God. There’s no doubt I’m going to meet Him one day. I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins, so it’s not like I won’t go to heaven. But when they look at the content of my life, I’m afraid I’m going to be pretty embarrassed about what a miserable excuse for a representative of the Kingdom I have been. At that point I wonder what I can do to bring something to the table, as it were. I don’t really have an answer, but at least I can acknowledge Him by reading His word. Then I get back into it again.

               I’ve actually been all the way through it more than once. I’ve studied it. Sought to understand what it really means. I have found more cool stuff in the Bible than most Christians have any idea is there. That’s because most Christians don’t actually seem to read it at all. They read bits and pieces, mostly out of the New Testament. Most Christians spend so little time in the Old Testament that I’ve heard from some Jews who think it’s not even in our Bible. Professed Christians, for the most part go to church or turn on Joel Osteen so as to be told what the Bible says. This puts me at odds with even most Christians. I hate to tell people they’re wrong, and nobody wants to be told they are wrong. So what am I supposed to do?

               I guess the answer is to write this blog. See, I know stuff. Stuff that I think is important, but nobody is going to listen to me, because all anybody wants to do anymore is argue, and the first thing they are going to bring up, the thing I get asked all the time is, “What kind of Christian are you?” Well, if you’ve read this far you know: A pretty bad one. I believe in God. I want to serve Him. I’m just not very good at it. In fact, I’m just about convinced I’m the world’s worst Christian. But Jesus loves me anyway.  

               My hope is that in writing a blog, I can present some ideas that might actually be considered, if they are not in the context of an internet argument. Admittedly, these ideas will probably start plenty of arguments on their own. It would be nice if my readers would spend about twenty four hours thinking about what I said before they actually post a comment. If nothing else, twenty four hours’ worth of consideration may make your lampooning of me more intelligible.