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On the Road

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Name: Jack Neefus
Gender: Male
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Home country: US
Current location: Baltimore, MD
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 20,727

About Me

Email: jneefus@gmail.com

Journal Archives

Up to this Point,

Hillary Clinton is the closest thing America has ever had to a President in Waiting.

However, it useful to remember that the first time Hunter Thompson used that expression, he was referring to Gary Hart before the 1988 primaries.

The Development of the Language is Interesting

"Special rights" used to be a code word for white racists. Now it's being employed by anti-Christians.

There is a Very Different Vibe Here

over the last few years. It is not just the Clinton-Sanders thing. Also, the increasingly anti-Christian mood is chilling for anyone who does not share that sentiment.

Groups become less spontaneous, more dogmatic and less tolerant over time unless they are renewed in some way. DU had a wonderful beginning, but maintaining a community requires certain personal and group virtues that DU is not strong in. Things will probably improve after the election, but character is fate for groups as well as people.

It May be Cheating to Use Thomas,

but the parables are so familiar that it's difficult to hear them like the original audience did without explanation:

"And Jesus said: The kingdom of the Father is like a woman carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking on a distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal poured out behind her on the road. She was unaware, she had not noticed the misfortune. When she came to her house, she put the jar down and found it empty."

He who ears to hear, let him hear. On a poetic basis I like the opening of his brother's letter:

"Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

Civil Marriage Clearly Came Before Christian Marriage

and if you are recommending making all marriages civil, I agree.

However, in the US marriage is now a joint civil/religious institution. As long as that is the case, it is tied to Christianity, Christian deism, or the predominant Christian deistic ethic the countr ethic. If that is an issue, one sensible choice is to decouple the two. Right now the current effort insists that the institution remain a religious one (since civil unions are now considered déclassé). Short of making the institution civil, it's difficult to see how religious concerns can be considered not relevant.

MLK's views might have developed, although using the black ministry as a guide it is very possible they would not have. What I am saying it appears difficult for people to accept the version of MLK that really existed. The term "viewing the past through the lens of the present" may be better than "rewriting history" for describing the disconnect.

As Far as the Poll Question:

Anyone who has no interest in providing equal rights for gay people is probably a bigot. There are reasons other than bigotry for not buying into the current concept of gay marriage.

People often impute the beliefs common in their own environment to various historical times. For example, they may assume that Martin Luther King would have supported gay marriage when in fact this is unlikely. The same thing holds with the historical Jesus -- people assume he would have been been fine with gay relationships just because he was a good guy, despite the fact that this was an unthinkable position for someone of his background and society. The difference between the historical record and people's perception is what I was referring to as rewriting history.

Along the same lines, there seems to be a growing opinion that same-sex sex is either not really prohibited by the Bible or that the prohibitions are trivial. This implies people who believe otherwise are poorly informed and are driven by religious bigotry when to my knowledge these interpretations is that they are relatively new and poorly supported either by either modern textual analysis or historical commenters.

US law need not be consistent with the Bible or American ethical consensus, but the Bible and longstanding social norms bear on the question of whether to require the existing institution of marriage to be expanded to same-sex unions, and if so how to view dissenters among ministers.

Until now, the society's views of marriage were closely enough aligned with the Christian sacrament that differences in definitions were marginal. Now that is changing, and the question is whether to make the change in the civil or religious sphere. I think it is preferable to do it in the civil sphere even if that means making all marriages civil only. The current popular solution of not only changing the religious sacrament but forcing unwilling pastors to perform those ceremonies is IMO unnecessary and politically not very farsighted.

Sorry to Miss Your Meaning --

I agree "I am not lying" sounds like special pleading. The fact that Paul uses the same phrase in three different letters sounds to me like he was responding to a particular accusation that was circulating. Robert Eisenman thinks this is related to the Qumran document mentioning the Teacher of Righteousness, the Wicked Priest, and the "Lying Spouter, who denies the law in the midst of the whole congregation." Note: The Qumram documents are usually dated earlier, but there are good reasons to doubt the traditional dating (eg, Norman Golb, "Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?").

This question is so weird IMO because it looks like Paul may have been mythologizing an actual person, but pretty much just appropriating the name and applying it to his own heavenly character. What persuades me that Jesus was historical is that James is universally discussed in the early material as a physical relative, and the desopnysi that Domitian interrogated were seen as physical relatives of Jesus. I realize it is possible that 'brother' is not used literally, but the scholars on Crosstalk2 insist that Paul would have used a word other than adelphos if that's what he meant, and few of them have a religious ax to grind.

This is what I am starting to think happened: Jesus depicted himself as the King of the Jews, either trying to incite a revolt or hoping for divine intervention. He did what revolutionaries at the time did -- stir up support in the countryside and then reveal himself when the whole country was at a fever pitch in Jerusalem. The Romans and ruling Jews had good reason to suspect him of sedition. His death was not planned.

The earliest belief about the resurrection was that it was a spiritual resurrection from the cross -- Jesus ascended spiritually into heaven, and nothing special happened to his body. Although we do not know the details, James was famous for his "ascents" into the heavens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascents_of_James). Putting the two together, it is inevitable that James would report that he saw his brother in heaven, perhaps sitting at God's right hand -- this is the original heavenly Jesus. Some of this material was shared orally with subgroups of messianic Jews who met in the synagogues around the Mediterranean.

Paul picked up on this heavenly Jesus and appropriated his popularity for his own purposes, not caring about the real Jesus' beliefs. While Peter and some others accepted him at first, his denial of circumcision and Jewish law caused James to eventually banish him from the synagogues.

In the second century, Marcion issued the first New Testament consisting of ten letters of Paul and a version of Luke. Marcion argued that Paul was a gnostic and was the only correct interpreter of Jesus' teaching. The most incindiary belief of gnosticism was the claim that the god of the Old Testament was not Jesus' father but a jealous local tribal god. That got people's attention.

Marcion was eventually excommunicated, and part of the backlash against him was a reemphasis on literal truth rather than the allegories and heavenly truths of gnosticism. During the mid-2nd C, Irenaeus added three more Gospels and some other letters. Material that did not fit doctrine was changed, and in some case new sayings or stories were introduced or altered to fit orthodoxy. (Eg, at Jesus' baptism, the Arian "today I have begotten you" became "with you I am well pleased", as Bart Ehrman argues). Which is a big reason for the mass confusion in this area.

Strangely enough, while I agree Paul was dishonest, his version of Christianity was the most positive and uplifting as opposed to the ascetic legalism of James or the severity of the orthodox fathers. Arguably, more of the highest religious ideals of Western civilization can be traced to Paul than to anyone else.

We Don't Know of Paul Being Thrown Out of the Temple Itself

although he was arrested there later in his life. The ejection was from synagogues in other cities, largely in Syria and Turkey. From 2 Corintians 11:

5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles....
--snip with too much context for thread
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones....

The 'super-apostle' reference indicates that his enemy was also considered a follower of Jesus. This strongly suggests James, since he is depicted (eg, Acts 15) as having some kind of presiding authority over the movement and (Galatians 1) sent representatives to ensure that Jews (including Paul and Peter) were following the ritual law.

There are a lot veiled references to the Paul-James dispute in the NT. For example: "One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables." (Rom 14:2). This is very likely a swipe by Paul at James, who later Church fathers describe as having been a vegetarian. The letter of James says "Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?" This is pretty clearly a reference to Paul's doctrine of salvation by faith alone. (Note: James is often considered pseudonymous, but given the context and timeline it seems unlikely to me.)

Paul pretty much ignored the historical Jesus and preferred to speak about Jesus as a heavenly figure. This is due to Paul's gnosticism or gnostic tendencies, but also probably to the inconvenience of Jesus' actual relatives being his enemies.

"I am not lying" appears four times in the epistles, making it appear to be a general defense against being repeatedly called a liar. It is hard to see Paul defending Jesus' physical existence to the Galatians, since the context is a dispute with Jesus' physical brother.

"They committed suicide as a group, nearly 1000 people."

Well, not quite all of them...

To a certain extent, the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide; some sources, including Jonestown survivors, regard the event as a mass murder.

Clayton said that Jones approached people to encourage them to drink the poison and that, after adults saw the poison begin to take effect, "they showed a reluctance to die." Wikipedia article

There is also the question of how to characterize the nature of the community and the motive for the suicides:

Jones' recorded readings of the news were part of the constant broadcasts over Jonestown's tower speakers, such that all members could hear them throughout the day and night. Jones' news readings usually portrayed the United States as a "capitalist" and "imperialist" villain, while casting "socialist" leaders, such as Kim Il-sung, Robert Mugabe, and Joseph Stalin in a positive light.

On October 2, 1978, Soviet dignitary Feodor Timofeyev visited Jonestown for two days and gave a speech. Jones stated before the speech that, "For many years, we have let our sympathies be quite publicly known, that the United States government was not our mother, but that the Soviet Union was our spiritual motherland." Timofeyev opened the speech stating that the U.S.S.R. would like to send "our deepest and the most sincere greetings to the people of this first socialist and communist community of the United States of America, in Guyana and in the world." Both speeches were met by cheers and applause from the crowd in Jonestown.

On the tape, Jones urged Temple members to commit "revolutionary suicide". Such "revolutionary suicide" had been planned by the Temple before and, according to Jonestown defectors, its theory was "you can go down in history, saying you chose your own way to go, and it is your commitment to refuse capitalism and in support of socialism."

To use the logic currently in vogue, Jonestown should apparently be blamed on socialism. Certainly religion was not the issue. It's a perfect example of why the thought process is foolish and simpleminded.

Imagine that There is an Identifiable Group of Mentally Ill People with Religious Delusions

and a much larger group of religious people who have no symptoms of mental illness.

Sampling those two groups would show a positive correlation between mental illness and religious delusion. However, in no way does it demonstrate that religious causes mental illness or is a form of mental illness.

And of course it was "impossible to tell" cause and effect -- that kind of a study doesn't attempt to address causation.

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