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I Am Happiness On Earth

The film follows Emiliano (Hugo Catalán), a young Mexican film-maker, as he forms a relationship with one of the dancers featured in his film. However, with Emiliano not being completely satisfied by the young man, he soon turns to other men who he hopes will fulfil his needs.

It begins by suggesting that Octavio may be the main character, but he disappears for a long stretch while Emiliano films a sexual encounter of two men and a woman. This film-within-a-film seems interminable and has only a marginal connection to the main characters. Emiliano also takes up with a hustler before reconnecting briefly with Octavio at the end. During all these scenes, it’s hard to feel anything for the self-absorbed Emiliano, and the other characters appear too infrequently to register strongly.

Insomnia-ridden Emiliano begins mixing up his sexual encounters with hunky hustler Jazen (Emilio von Sternerfels) with whatever his artistic mind is elaborating. He’s a tormented soul, wandering between the easy urges of lust and the need for love. The only thing that seems to bring him comfort and balance is a song he’s obsessed with that recurs in his life and to which he starts singing along every time it pops up on TV. He listens to a song on a loop: one of those songs you sing or repeat as a prayer and forcing you to remember, believe and convince yourself.

They don’t understand art house films,” the subtitle reads. “There are no dialogues, and the movie is really long.”

I got confused with all the other characters who appear too infrequently.

Like the title, the story is filled with misdirections: It develops in its own interest-challenging manner, with a protagonist who isn’t clear until late in the film. It’s not the boyish (and very good) dancer we first meet, Octavio (Alan Ramírez), nor is it the sensitive hustler, Jazen (Emilio von Sternenfels), who comes into play later. It’s the brooding film director, Emiliano (Hugo Catalán), who beds them both, joylessly. Without much signal of what’s happened — yet another misdirection — “I Am Happiness” turns its focus midway to three new characters who may be part of Emiliano’s rather pornographic work.

If only I Am Happiness on Earth were less in love with the physicality of its actors and more seduced by the complexity of its characters.

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Dreams and Spirituality: A Handbook for Ministry, Spiritual Direction and Counselling Edited by Kate Adams Bart J. Koet and Barbara Koning

For a very long time, I have brought my dreams to spiritual direction so it was natural hat I would offer to listen to the dreams of others and I was surprised at how few directors do so. It was, therefore, good to read that one doesn’t have to be an expert in dreams to do so; just good at listening.

I was pleased to see a multi-faith element: there are Jewish and Muslim contributions.

Quotations:

In the Homeric poems all dreams are  of described as being sent by God. And although quite a few other Greek authors referred to the divine origin of dreams, the philosopher Aristotle did not accept that dream were from a divine source.

which dreams come from God and which ones do not? In the later books of the Old Testament, in the writ­ings of the New Testament and in the Early Church only the dreams that are accompanied by reference to that other holy revelation, the Scriptures, are considered a credible divine revelation. This can be seen, for example, in the dreams in Matthew 1-2, where there are also references to the Scriptures

In the popular Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Albrecht Oepke writes under the term ‘dream’ that dreams in the New Testament are no longer so important, since Jesus, God, no longer speaks in a mysterious manner, but speaks openly (Oepke 1954, pp. 22 8-3i). Dreams have not ­according to him — been necessary since Jesus.

a Macedonian man. This kind of dream is commonly known m Greek works, as found in Homer, for example. To readers in ancient ames Troy (and the surrounding area) was a symbolic place. According to Homer it was here that the first confrontation between Hellas and the East had taken place. Time and again great leaders had come to this place to relive this confrontation. For one, Alexander the Great made a stop in the region of Troy on his way to punish the Persians. Troy was also of great significance to the Romans. Virgil, when he had almost finished the Aeneid, tried in vain to make a journey to Troy but it became the death of him. And then, more or less in the middle of the Acts, at a decisive moment, on that crucial spot of the Trojan plains, Luke marks the crossing to Europe with a dream story in Hellenistic attire. Crossings between Europe and Asia were frequently accompanied by dream stories. Thus Luke, expertly drawing on his roots in the biblical tradition, enrols his principal character, Paul, into Hellenistic history.

Married people, fathers and mothers, teachers, but also managers and executives can take lessons from the story of Solomon’s dream of haw a listening heart is the main thing for a king, a judge, and a teacher. Only those who try to listen with their heart can suc­cessfully judge other people’s acts. Of course, this is easier said than done, but that is intrinsic to gaining wisdom. The stories about the kings of the Old Testament are narrative pedagogics.

I myself think that Luther, with his emphasis on faith and Scripture alone, was one of the first theologians to be totally against the interpretation of dreams as a form of revelation. A second blow came from the Enlight­enment. Although Swedenborg was a protagonist of the Enlightenment, he claimed that many of his inventions were based on visions. This was offensive to Kant, who always stressed the rational and even wrote a book against dreams

For monophasic peoples, dreams are synonymous with un-real, but for most peoples on the planet, dreaming is at least as real as waking experi­ence, and often considered more real.

After the discovery of REM sleep in 1953, it was assumed that dreaming only occurred in this phase (the dream being viewed as a epiphenomenon of REM sleep). This now appears not to be the case!

While it is good to check the situation out when dreams reveal medical conditions or warnings, it is always best to remember that dreams speak in metaphor, and to look at the dream from the standpoint of our personal associations to gain a balanced understanding.

It is especially risky when the listener behaves like an all-knowing seer who can clarify a mystery that the dreamer knows nothing about.

Dreams are a special source of inspiration for literary, poetic and artistic activity. For the artist, the dream often forms the beginning of a discovery, something new and original. It is therefore unethical to remove the stimulus from the dream by wanting to explain and clarify it completely. A dream can be followed by a creative action.

Most dreams in which ‘literal’ and concrete imagery of death occurs normally signify about something that needs to die in us. Dreams predicting actual physical death do occur, however, but that is conveyed in a much more symbolic language like going to make some kind of journey.

One of the colleagues regrets the fact that the pastor limited himself to the Passion: should he not have pointed towards Easter, the triumph of life over death? Richard’s reaction is vehement: ‘You professionals are always too quick with your answers, that all will be fine again and so on. But let it just be said for once how life really is!’…. Richard asks us emphatic-to stand next to him, to be serious about his sufferings and .  to his guilt. Only those who dare to stand next to him will be able to join him in search for forgiveness, reconciliation, towards Easter.

When it comes to the emotional dynamics revealed through dreams (the dominant perspective in western situations of t aregiving), people don’t expect their pastors to be master-interpreters of underlying unconscious structures. And likewise pastors should not assume that they need a very specific, highly developed expertise for that type of conversation. It is already of great value when a pastor is present to people’s life stories in a supportive way, and to the feelings and experiences the dreamer wants to share: by listening intently, being an interested and empathic witness and helping to explore what’s on the table by means of open questions.

We can claim space for such a pastoral conversation when we take into consideration that there is not one true interpretation of a dream ­several interpretations are possible at the same time, meaning that all can be true (Hebbrecht in this volume). And for such a type of counselling ministers have a well-trained ear to offer and have often undergone a thorough grounding in explaining texts and narratives. According to Bart Koet, in the past the interpretation of Scriptures and of dreams were related; and nowadays the same hermeneutics still count and are being put into practice

the daughter of Jairus, according to the Gospel of Mark raised by Jesus from the dead, is painted by Drewermann as a girl on the verge of adulthood, who needs to be freed from the grip of her parents’ obsessive care. The girl is not really dead — she was only so stifled that she could not continue living. ‘Give her something to eat,’ Jesus says at the end of this story, and Drewermann (1993) translates: let her grow and mature; do not keep her small and dependent any longer ­a message addressed to the parents of the girl and to all overprotective and possessive parents.

The dream has various meanings to convey to us; these mean­ings come from the dream and the dreamer and from the conversation between the pastor, dreamer and dream. This is why a psychosystems approach to dream work does not rely on pre-codified dream interpret­ation resources. The power in the dream is lost if we do not explore it with curiosity and allow its contextually creative voice to first affect us and then to take on new dimensions as we engage with it recipro­cally. Those pastors who work closely and productively with their own dreams will be best positioned to work with the dreams presented by others.

To examine the way the dream mediates contending values within the dreamer and impinging on the dreamer from his milieu, the minister might ask, ‘Does this dream help you set right anything in your life?’, `What value conflicts or moral distress does the dream disclose and what guidance does the dream provide to understand and resolve them?’ and `If you act on the dream, how will your life become more intense and harmonious?’

To examine the power of reciprocal transactions mediated by the dream, the caregiver might ask, ‘How does this dream speak to any stuck places in your life?’, ‘Does the dream offer you a way through the conflicting relationships you face?’ and ‘How does this dream speak to the ups and downs in your relationship with God?’

Rav Hisda said (too): A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.

Rabbi Johanan said in the name of Rabbia Simeon ben Yohai: The truth is, that just as wheat cannot be without straw, so there cannot be a dream without some nonsense.

Rav Berekiah said: While a part of a dream  the whole of it is never fulfilled. (b.Ber 5 5a)

However, implicitly, it is again clear that people themselves can also choose how to explain their dreams. As illustrated in fragment 3, the rab­bis strive for a positive interpretation, meaning that there is no need to fear one’s dreams, for one should always look for a positive explanation.

The rabbis know that a man is only shown in a dream w is suggested by his own thoughts. However, the rabbis do know that Scripture it is said that God speaks with his prophets in dreams and visions (Num. 12.6-7). According to this statement, this possibility is very limited only a very small number of dreams are prophetic.

Montgomery Watt remarked that the ‘modern Westerner’ realizes that what seems to the Prophet to come from ‘outside himself’ can really come from the unconscious and that Muhammad might have simply been a man with a  strong ‘creative imagination’.

Do not be overbearing or too anxious to interpret what you hear. Let people always tell you what they think. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Remember that revealing a dream is an act of intimacy, and cherish the very fact that people share their dreams with you.

add a word of caution about such materials, as well as books that claim be dream dictionaries. One of the basic principles of dream work as I practise it, and as promoted by the IASD, is that only the dreamer knows for certain what the image or s may mean in their dream. Many dream images and symbols can have multiple meanings associations.

the fact that we’ve recalled a dream means that we are ready to work with what it  is trying to tell us.

As St Augustine (354-43o) wrote, ‘Ever constant God, let me know myself that I may know you’. Faith in God, like every relationship, demands a level of self-awareness to be authentic. The insight into the interior life provided by dreams uncovers some deeper truths about ourselves, thereby drawing us closer to God, whose Spirit dwells in the depths of human nature.

The dreamer should be forewarned that unexpected issues or emotions may arise in the course of the dreamwork.

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Geography Club

GC16-year old Russell is going on dates with girls while nurturing a secret relationship with star quarterback Kevin, who will do anything to prevent his teammates from finding out. Min and Terese tell everyone that they’re just best friends. And then there’s Ike, who can’t figure out who he is or who he wants to be. Finding the truth too hard to hide, they decide to form a Geography Club, thinking nobody else would want to join. However, their secrets may soon be discovered and they could have to face the choice of revealing who they really are.

 

The film explores the teen’s hopes, values and dreams while on this journey of going public and offering the whole school support.

It’s interesting to note that the conflict here comes mostly from within, rather than from school bullies or inflexible parents, as each of the characters must decide whether to go public with his or her sexual orientation.

 

Brian Bund: I don’t really care about geography. I already have an A in Geography, so… I thought about joining this club for a while just to make friends, but… I was scared. I know people laugh at me. I’m not stupid. The thing is… I don’t wanna go home after school. I’m scared of it, actually, so I play cello. I play it when I’m nervous. It’s what I do at night – homework and cello. When I’m nervous and I don’t have my cello, my fingers twitch. Well, I just didn’t wanna go home after school; so, I’m not gonna force you to be my friend, though, so… Don’t worry about your secret. I’m not gonna tell anybody.

 

Brian Bund: Just because people don’t understand me, doesn’t mean I don’t understand them.

 

Russell: Either we’re in a relationship or we’re not.

Kevin: Why does it have to be that way?

Russell: It just does.

 

Gunnar: Uh, how am “I” the mom?

Russell: Um… ’cause you have man-boobs, Gunnar. Isn’t that obvious?

 

Kimberly: I really like you, Russell. I-I mean, I only got with Gunnar just so that we could chill.

Russell: This is so messed up.

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Liar Liar

In Los Angeles, career-focused lawyer Fletcher Reede loves his son Max, but his inability to keep his promises and the compulsive lying he engages in for his career often cause problems between them and with his former wife Audrey, who has become involved with another man named Jerry. In court, Fletcher is willing to exaggerate the stories of his clients, and his current client, the self-centered, money-grabbing Samantha Colehas garnered the attention of Mr. Allen, a partner at the law firm in which Fletcher works. If Fletcher wins this case, it will bring his firm a fortune and boost his career. Fletcher calls and lies to Audrey about missing Max’s birthday due to work, when he is actually having sex with his boss, Miranda, in order to get a promotion. Dejected, Max makes a birthday wish that for one day his father cannot tell a lie. The wish immediately comes true, and Fletcher accidentally tells Miranda he has “had better” after they have sex.

The following day, Fletcher immediately realizes that he is unable to do anything dishonest. He cannot lie, mislead, or even deceive by withholding a true answer, often uncontrollably blurting out offensive and painful truths that anger his co-workers, and his car ends up in an impound for speeding and several unpaid parking violations. This comes to a head when he realizes that he is unable to even ask questions when he knows the answer will be a lie, which is inconvenient as Samantha and her alleged affair partner Kenneth Faulk are willing to commit perjury to win the high profile case and he cannot ask him the questions they have been given answers for.

Realizing that Max had wished for this to happen, Fletcher tries to convince him that adults need to lie, but cannot give any type of answer at why he should continue to lie to his son. Fletcher also figures out that since Max wished for him to tell the truth for only one day, he tries to do what he can to delay Samantha’s case since the magic wish will expire at 8:15 p.m., 24 hours after Max made the wish. Things only get worse for Fletcher as he loses his loyal assistant Greta after admitting he had lied about the miserly reasons for denying her pay raises and the “expensive” gifts he gave her, and Audrey tells Fletcher that she and Max are moving to Boston with Jerry in order to prevent any more heartbreaks from Fletcher’s broken promises.

Fletcher’s erratic behaviour in court leads to several questions of his sanity as he objects to himself and badgers and provokes his own witnesses into admitting they had an affair against Samantha and her husband’s prenuptial agreement. He even goes so far as to beat himself up in a bathroom and claim that someone attacked him in order to try and avoid the case (not strictly lying as he describes his attacker as a madman with a vague description that still matches him), but when asked if he feels like he can continue, he can’t deny it and he says yes. During the case, Fletcher finds a technicality that Samantha lied that she was underage when she signed the prenup prior to her marriage, rendering it void and entitling her to half of Mr. Cole’s estate, allowing him to win the case truthfully. But when Samantha decides to contest full custody of their children, who Mr. Cole dearly loves, just because she wants more money from the child support payments, Fletcher regrets mentioning the technicality after seeing Mrs. Cole pull the children out of their father’s arms, and shriek her demands for more money. Realizing now that winning the case has punished the loving husband and rewarded the cheating wife, Fletcher has a crisis of conscience and shouts at the Judge demanding that he reverse the decision, but he is then arrested for contempt of court. He calls Audrey from the prison’s phone and pleads with her to bail him out and give him another chance, but she hangs up on him.

Greta returns and bails Fletcher from jail, who forgives him and realizes that telling the truth has made him a better man and he rushes to the airport to stop Audrey and Max from leaving forever. He misses their flight, but he sneaks onto the tarmac by hiding in a piece of luggage, steals a motorized staircase, and manages to gain the pilot’s attention by throwing his shoe at the cockpit window, forcing him to abort the flight to Boston, Massachusetts. However, Fletcher’s victory is cut short when he crashes into a barrier and is sent flying into a baggage tug, which causes a chain reaction that leaves Fletcher unconscious and with both of his legs broken. After waking up, he tells Max how much he cares about him and how sorry he was for breaking his promises. Despite no longer being under the wish’s influence, Fletcher means what he says and adds that Max is his priority, and Max convinces Audrey to stay in Los Angeles.

One year later, Fletcher is healed and is running his own law firm with Greta as his continued assistant. Max makes a wish with his birthday cake and the lights come on to reveal Fletcher and Audrey kissing, but explains he wished for rollerblades instead of them reconciling. Fletcher clutches his hands into “The Claw” – a game he likes to play with Max by chasing him – and chases him and Audrey around the house with it.

Fletcher: Mrs. Cole, is this a copy of your driver’s license? [shows paper]

Samantha: That’s right.

Fletcher: It says here you are a blonde, are you? If you don’t remember perhaps Mr. Faulk will.

Samantha: Brunette.

Fletcher: Maybe if we play the tape again, maybe it’s on there…

Samantha: I’m a brunette!

Fletcher: Thank you. Now let’s see… weight 105? Yeah, in your bra.

Dana: Your honor, I object.

Fletcher: You would!

Dana: Bastard!

Fletcher: Hag!

Judge Stevens: QUIET! Overruled! Weight?

Samantha: 118. [Fletcher gives her a look] Alright, fine, fine, I’m 127.

Fletcher: Uh, huh, and it says here you were born in 1964, but that’s not true either is it? Is it!

Samantha: No.

Fletcher: Please tell the court what’s on your birth certificate under Date of Birth.

Dana: Your honor, I object. What does this have to do with anything?

Judge Stevens: Overruled. Mrs. Cole, answer the question.

Samantha: 1965.

Fletcher: Now let get this straight. That means you lied about your age to make yourself older. But why would any woman want to DO THAT?

Samantha: I changed it so I could get married.

Fletcher: AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE! My client lied about her age! She was only 17 when she got married, which makes her a minor. And in the great state of California, no minor can enter into any legal contract without parental consent. [to Dana] Including…?

Dana: [sighs] Prenuptual agreements.

Fletcher: Prenuptual agreements! This contract is void! The fact that my client has been ridden more than Seattle Slew is irrelevant. Standard Community Property applies and she is entitled to half of the marital assets, or $11.395 million. Jordan fades back, swoosh, and THAT’S THE GAME! Nothing further, your honor!

 

 

Office Worker: Hey, Fletcher, how’s it hanging?

Fletcher: [groans] Short, shriveled, and always to the left.

 

[about Mr. Allen] Miranda: Well, what do you think of him?

Fletcher: He’s a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless steaming pile of cow dung, figuratively speaking. [a moment passes and Mr. Allen starts laughing. The other board members follow his lead and start laughing also]

Mr. Allen: That’s the funniest damn thing I’ve ever heard. You’re a real card, Reede. I love a good roast! Do Simmons!

Fletcher: Simmons is old! He should’ve been out of the game years ago but he can’t stay home because he hates his wife! You’ve met her at the Christmas parties. She’s the one that gets plastered and calls him a retard! And you, Tom, you’re the biggest brownnose I’ve ever seen! You’ve got your head so far up Mr. Allen’s ass, I can’t tell where you end and he begins!

Mr. Allen: [roaring with laughter] Priceless! [Fletcher continues with every member]

Fletcher: You have bad breath caused by gingivitis. You couldn’t get a porn star off. Your hairpiece looks like something that was killed crossing the highway. I don’t know whether to comb it or scrape it off with a shovel and bury it alive. Loser! Idiot! Wimp! Degenerate! [to Miranda] Slut!

Mr. Allen: I like your style, Reede! That’s just what this stuffy company needs – a little irreverence!

Fletcher: Good! I’ll see you later, dick-head!

Mr. Allen: [Adressing one of his board members] Keep your eye on that boy, dick-head!

 

Guy in the Washroom: What the hell are you doing?

Fletcher: I’m kicking my ass! Do you mind?

 

Busty Woman on Elevator: Everybody’s been real nice.

Fletcher: Well, that’s because you’ve got big jugs. I mean your boobs are huge. I mean, I wanna squeeze ’em. Mama! [puckers up]

 

 

Bum: Got any spare change?

Fletcher: Absolutely!

Bum: Could ya spare some?

Fletcher: Yes I could!

Bum: Will ya?

Fletcher: HMM-MMM!

Bum: How come?

Fletcher: Because I believe you will buy booze with it! I just want to get from my car to the office without being confronted by the decay of western society!… Plus I’m cheap! AHHH!

Bum: [Yells at Fletcher] Jerk off!

 

Judge: One more word outta you, Mr. Reede, and I’ll hold you in contempt!

Fletcher: I hold myself in contempt! Why should you be any different?!

 

“Everybody lies.”

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Paul on Baptism: Theology, Mission and Ministry in Context by Nicholas Taylor

Given how important baptism is, there is a dearth of accessible books to help clergy reflect on the implications of recent scholarship for contemporary issues of baptismal practice, pastoral care and mission.

The author examines Paul’s theology of baptism. Households, rather than individuals, were baptised. It was ‘in the name of Jesus’ rather that using the threefold formula. Neither submersion nor anointing were usual but signing with the cross was. Jesus’s disciples only underwent John’s baptism. There was no second stage rite for the reception of the Spirit.

Like W. Cantwell Smith, he points out that believing means far more in the biblical sense than in modern usage. The Greek verb pisteuo, commonly rendered into English as ‘I believe’, derives from the same root as the noun pistis, meaning ‘faith’. In English, ‘faith’ has a wider semantic range than ‘belief’ and entails commitment as well as intellectual assent. This applies also, and more emphatically, to the Greek pisteuo and pistis. To believe in the biblical sense means not merely to acknowledge the truth of certain teachings but to embody them through belong­ing to the community that represents those teachings, and through living in accordance therewith.

Although the author claims to deal with current pastoral issues, he does not address the request by some to be rebaptised.

There is some repetition.

Footnotes are kept to a minimum but there are detailed suggestions for further reading.

 Quotations:

the fruit of scholarship must be brought to bear upon all aspects of church life and ministry, including the pastoral care of one’s congregation, outreach to the local community, teach­ing the faith and administration of the sacraments.

Academic books are frequently inaccessible to the non-specialist and seem remote from specific pastoral situations. Many books tend also to reflect the compartmentalization of academic learning rather than connect the fruit of diverse disciplines to contemporary issues.

In most Christian traditions the sacrament of Baptism confers Christian identity and church membership. Baptism is theologically and sociologically fundamental to Christian life, and its implica­tions for the witness and ministry of the Church, and for the lives of its members, accordingly require continual theological reflection.

Among the most gratifying experiences of my own ministry have been those occasions on which I have baptized teenagers after months of catechetical instruction, shortly before presenting them to the bishop for confirmation.

Clergy face the dilemma of reducing Baptism to an all but secular social event that celebrates the birth of a child or rebuffing families who, notwithstanding expectations that may seem unreasonable, consumerist or superstitious, need to be drawn into the life of the Church..

His evident theological acumen and application of his theo­logical insights to pastoral and missionary situations, in documents available to be read today, render Paul’s letters a particularly use­ful source of early Christian teaching. A study of early Christian Baptism, therefore, cannot be undertaken without reference to the scattered allusions to the rite in the Pauline letters. These are not the only statements on Baptism in the New Testament, and Paul may not in all respects be representative of early Christian teaching and practice.

It is hoped that this book will provide pastoral ministers with the fruit of scholarship in an accessible and relevant form in the limited field of Paul’s teaching on Baptism.

The society in which Paul lived perceived the human being in a very different way. ‘Personal’ did not mean ‘individual’. The individual was not understood as autonomous and self-sufficient but as a dependent and integral part of a community, and in particular of the family or household into which he or she was born or was transferred to be a Christian in the world of Paul was primarily a matter of belonging, and only secondarily and consequently of believing in the sense of giving intellectual assent to a particular set of doc­trines.

The basic unit of society in the cities of the Graeco-Roman world was the family or household, oikos or oikia in Greek, domus in Latin. The notion of family is quite unlike the Western nuclear family or, for that matter, the African extended family. It is not defined by biological kinship at all but by the relationship of dependence and subordination between its members and the head or patron of the household.

Religious belief and practice were not matters of individual choice or conviction but were deter­mined by membership of the household. ‘It was ordinarily assumed that the subordinate members of a household, particularly the ser­vile ones, would share the religion( s) of the master.’ Personal con­viction was subordinate to the will of the all — powerful patron.

While household conversion and corporate integration into the community must be recognized as having been normative in the early Church, the situation was not as simple and uniform as Jeremias may be understood to suggest. Social relationships were much more complex than this, and there clearly were occasions on which the authority of the head of the household was less than bsolute. This could be the case when the wife was of higher social status than the husband, or married on terms that enabled her to retain some control of the wealth she brought into the marriage and the household. A woman in such a position might be able to exercise some autonomy, and even to influence the way her children I were reared, as may be the case where Paul addresses women in the church whose husbands are not Christian

Graeco-Roman householders were generally anxious not to see their estates divided or dissolved at their death, and their heirs lose status in society on account of re­duced circumstances. Hence the tendency to have few children of the marriage, and for the male householder to divert his sexual energies and desires away from the marital bed. The risk, of course, was that there might be no male heir at all, if the marriage were childless or the only son were killed in war or succumbed to disease. It was accordingly quite commonplace for heirs to be adopted so as to ensure the continuation of the household. An heir could be chosen from close relations, such as a nephew, or could be a son-in-law or the son of a friend who had ‘an heir and a spare’ or, exceptionally, could be chosen from the children born to the house‑holder out of wedlock. Roman law recognized a complete change in identity and legal status with adoption, and facilitated this pro­cess. An example that illustrates how widespread and accepted this custom was is that no Roman emperor until Titus (AD 79-81) was the legitimate biological son of his predecessor; Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius Caligula and Nero were all adopted heirs, and the remaining emperors all came to power through military coups. While status in the household could in principle be changed by legal means, we nevertheless need to recognize the privileged position of the family over against dependent members of the household, be they slaves, freed or freeborn, and of males over against females of otherwise comparable status in the household and in society.

The family was not the only unit but it was the foundational unit of society in urban Greece and Asia Minor. Other groups included trade guilds, burial societies and voluntary associations. There were also clubs for the various expatriate communities that gathered in the trading centres, and the cults of their deities, of which the Jewish synagogues are an example. All of these were likely to include cultic observances in their communal activities, and not only those established specifically to promote the cult of a particular deity. Corporate dining was another popular activity, which we need to understand as highly ritualized and as incorporating devotions to the patron deities of the group.

Spiritual beings were perceived to be present and controlling all aspects of the natural order. These spiritual powers were regarded as capable of doing good or harm to human beings. Rather than being governed by moral principles, they were understood to be amenable to human persuasion in the exercise of their power.

While Baptism undoubtedly became a rite in Christianity, whether at birth or at puberty or death, this is not how the rite functioned or was the earliest period. We cannot therefore simply equate Baptism with Jewish circumcision in Paul’s letters ….not as a rite of passage but as a conversion rite, representing not the continuum in the established life-cycle of a particular cultural group but rather the fundamental disruption in this cycle that saw some aspects of inherited identity repudiated and Christian identity conferred.

Therefore most conversions to Christianity during the early years of the Church would have been involuntary and collective rather than individual and voluntary.

While these cleansing rites are in no way initiatory and in this sense are unlike Baptism, they nonetheless illustrate just how integral to worship cleansing with water was in the ancient world. On the other hand, in that Christian life beyond the liturgy is often conceptual­ized as a ‘living sacrifice’ (Rom. 2.1 ), Baptism can in some sense be understood as preparing and purifying Christians for the lives of worship, witness and service that lie ahead of them.

Modern Western Christians tend to draw a distinction between `outward rite’ and ‘spiritual reality’ in Baptism, as in the other sacraments. But we need to recognize the close association between physical and moral or spiritual purity in the ancient mind, and that ritual reflects and reinforces this connection. Paul was fully aware that Baptism needed to be accompanied by transformation of the lives of those baptized but this does not mean that the Holy Spirit was not received in and through the rite of Baptism itself. As we shall see, modern distinctions between ritual and spiritual reality are a product of Western rationalism rather than being integral to the thought world of the first Christians. Modern biblical scholarship is a product largely of this rationalism, accompanied and perhaps sanctified by a Protestant suspicion of ritual, and is accord­ingly often blind to the conscious and subconscious function and power of ritual in ancient — and modern — societies.

The apostle Paul was more than simply an individual. His name represents a broader movement within early Christianity

While Paul does not develop the point, neither he nor the Galatian Christians would have been unaware that inheritance provisions almost invariably favoured male over female heirs. The status of Christians as children of God transcends their former identities, derived from their ethnic origins, social class and gender. This status and identity as children of God is of course what God intends in creation, as the broader context of this passage makes clear. The children of God are redeemed from slavery to sin, a state contrary to God’s intention. By implication, therefore, the social divisions abolished in Baptism are the product of sin and contrary to the created order as God envisaged it (Gen 1.27). The biological distinc­tions inherent in creation may remain unaltered but the ways they impact on relationships are transformed ‘in Christ’.

If Baptism has accomplished for Christians their adoption as chil­dren and heirs of God, then it is an immensely powerful ritual. Members of other nations who converted to Judaism during this period underwent, in the case of men and boys, circumcision. While this conferred membership of Israel, and the obligation to live according to the law of Moses, proselytes were considered inferior to Jews by birth. Their status was more akin to slaves who had been manumitted, but remained subordinate and dependent upon their former owners and forever tarnished by their former servile status. Their freedom was a chimera and they remained inferior members the household of God. Their children and grandchildren, born Israel, might enjoy the full status of children of God to which could not aspire.” Baptism into Christ is therefore a more powerful ritual than circumcision into Judaism, bringing greater more immediate benefits. Christians who chose to undergo the nor rite of circumcision would gain nothing but thereby lose their freedom (4.21-5.15).

Those who are baptized are described as having ‘put on Christ’. This is suggestive of clothing, as if with a garment, as a sign of spiritual transformation. This suggests that converts were stripped of their clothing in anticipation of the baptismal rite and dressed again on emerging from the water. Practical measures that would have accompanied bathing could quite naturally acquire a sym­bolic significance in a ritual context. The implication here is clearly that the clothing donned after Baptism is different from that worn before, and reflects something of the transformation undergone in the rite. In Graeco-Roman society, as in many others, clothing was not a matter of personal sartorial taste but rather an important indicator of social identity and rank. Their new identity, which Christians acquire at Baptism, abrogates the distinctions of race, social standing and gender that their clothing would normally indicate and emphasize, thereby identifying them in terms of their status in society

In a mercantile centre such as Corinth, any financial depen­dence on his converts would inevitably have drawn Paul into the com­plicated web of rival patrons with competing business and political interests, vying for status and influence in the city, and in the church.

Paul refers further to the Christians having been ‘sealed’. Imprinting an image in molten wax or making a mark on an object by other means served to indicate identity and ownership or the authority behind an official document. Livestock were often marked by branding with a recognizable symbol, and this could be extended to slaves, particularly escaped slaves who had been recaptured. Tattooing was another means of making an indelible mark on a person, and was used to mark slaves and soldiers. While used as a sign of allegiance in some cults of the period, tattooing was prohibited in the law of Moses (Lev. 19.28) and in Judaism was regarded as violating the body made in God’s image. While there may well have been dissent from this interpretation in some Jewish movements of Paul’s day, it is unlikely that he or other early Christians formed in Pharisaic and similar traditions of interpreta­tion of Scripture would have advocated such a custom. While the branding or tattooing of Christian symbols on the body, in particu­lar the cross, is attested or at least alleged by the end of the second century,” and was later to become customary among, inter alia, Coptic Christians, it is highly unlikely that this is what Paul envis­ages by having been ‘sealed’ by God.

In Romans 4.13, written probably not long after this letter, Paul describes the circumcision of Abraham as a ‘seal’, a visible sign that represents and endorses the righteousness he had previously received by faith.45 As we have noted already, there was at this time no correlation between the circumcision of male Jewish babies and Christian Baptism. However, Abraham is the archetypal proselyte, and proselyte circumcision is indeed analogous to the Baptism Christian converts. It is therefore entirely likely that Paul is referring to their Baptism in describing the Corinthian Christians having been ‘sealed’ by God. Following Baptism, no permanent physical or visible mark remains on the body, which leaves the question of whether Paul is alluding to a particular symbolic act that formed part of the baptismal ritual or to an invisible but fun­damental consequence of the rite as a whole. We have noted above that in Galatians 3.26-29, clothing is a visible symbol of the iden­tity received at Baptism. A seal corresponding to Jewish proselyte circumcision would be an invisible yet in a mystical sense indelible mark imposed on the body, permanently representing the transform­ation that Baptism had effected…..l In Ezekiel 9 a vision is recounted in which the righteous of Jerusalem are marked, with ink by a scribe, on their foreheads. The purpose of this marking is to set the righteous apart from the general populace so that the former might be spared when the lat­ter perish in the destruction God was about to bring on the city. The Hebrew word for ‘mark’ (Ezek. 9.4, 6) is tav, which is also the name of the final letter in the alphabet (n). The pun is intended, indicating that the mark took the form of the letter. This mark was interpreted as a sign of eschatological deliverance in Judaism of the Second Temple period and would have been available for Christian appropriation and reinterpretation from an early date.”

Paul describes himself as bearing ‘the marks of Jesus’ on his body (Gal. 6.17), almost certainly referring to the scars of torture and specifically flogging (cf. z Cor. 11.24-25) he had endured in the course of his missions. The marks of Jesus distinguish Paul both from the Galatian Christians and from his rivals in apostolic authority in those communities, to whom he imputes a concern to avoid perse­cution (Gal. 6.12). He is therefore not referring to any covenantal symbol, physical or otherwise. Nevertheless, Paul implies a con­nection between his scars and the wounds sustained by Jesus at his crucifixion, and in Romans 6.3-4, written shortly after his corre­spondence with the church in Corinth, he makes a ritual connection between the Christian and the death of Jesus in Baptism

In common with other Jewish teachers of his day, Paul recognized that salvation could not be earned through observance of the law, but this did not mean that the law was of no value.

A tank to a shaft grave, filled with water in which converts could be submerged, might allow a vivid analogy between baptism and interment of the dead. This image has been so vivid and seemed so obvious that it has been one of the arguments, among Baptists in particular, that submersion in water is essential to Christian baptism. However, the imagery was by no means as obvious ion Paul’s day, as funeral customs were quite different from what was traditional in northern Europe through most of its Christian history, and exported from there to North America. Irrespective of how many other cultures may have used, and continue to use, burial of their dead, this was not the prevailing custom in the world in which Paul wrote Romans. In Rome, during the first century, cremation of the dead was normative, and the ashes were placed in monuments generally located above ground. These might be family graves or those of one of the various associations that proliferated in the Roman world, often shaped like a columbarium. In Judaism, on the other hand, subterranean interment was normative, with corpses laid out on shelves carved out of the rock in caves or underground tunnels (cavity graves), such as the Roman catacombs and the smaller burial complexes found in many parts of Palestine; the entrances to these could be closed but the cavity was not filled in with earth. In the eastern Mediterranean regions, customs were much more varied, with cremation and interment in cavity graves both attested, the latter predominating. The analogy between the grave and the baptismal bath would therefore not have been at the level of physical structure and would not have been dependent upon the modalities of corpse disposal. We therefore need to seek a much more profound connection between Baptism and ancient funeral rites.

In the ancient world, interment in holes in the ground, filled in with earth directly over the body, was the fate of the poor. The bodies of executed criminals and other outcasts were routinely dumped in rubbish pits, if not left exposed for scavenging ani­mals to consume. If there is an analogy to be drawn between the shape of the grave and that of the baptismal bath, then the imagery Paul employs is not that of honourable and decent burial in either Jewish or pagan Roman custom but rather of dishonourable burial, as has been argued by Robert Jewett in his recent commentary on Romans.  Crucifixion, as a means of executing criminals, was a dishonourable death, and the burial that followed would of neces­sity be dishonourable. In invoking the image of death and burial, therefore, Paul is identifying the Roman Christians with the dishon­ourable nature of Jesus’ death and burial. However, the pits into which general refuse, including the corpses of executed criminals, were cast were not filled in with earth, and bodies dumped there would be covered only with other rubbish. While this would be a powerful reminder of the circumstances of Jesus’ death, to which Paul refers directly in Romans 6.6, the analogy is incomplete. This does not mean that Paul does not intend the readers and hearers of Romans to be reminded of the circumstances of Jesus’ death, which clearly he does, but we should seek a more adequate interpretation.

In the ancient world, death is the state of being that people attain after the demise of their physical bodies, when they begin a transition from one form of life to another, from one sphere of existence to another. While there was a great deal of diversity both in popular belief and in philosophical speculation, we need to approach the Romans passage with an understanding of death that envisages a process whereby the soul vacates the body and under­takes its journey to the netherworld and the life that it continues there. Funeral rites served to expedite this process; not simply a means of disposing of the corpse, the rites that accompanied death were intended to ensure that the deceased reached as congenial an afterlife as possible, as quickly as possible, and would not linger on earth and haunt home and family. The correlation between funeral rites and the quality of existence the deceased might enjoy in the afterlife meant that a great deal of expense was frequently dedicated to funerals and the construction of graves.

In this light we can understand the logic of Paul’s statement, ‘We were buried with him through baptism into death.’ This inverts the sequence of death and burial to which the modern world is accus­tomed, precisely- because the state of death is reached not at the point at which modern medicine would pronounce clinical death but when the body of the deceased has been deposited in the grave, accompanied by the performance of funeral rites, and the soul has departed from the body and completed the journey to the netherworld.

The circumcision undergone by the Colossian Christians is described as ‘not made by hands’. The opposite of this would of course be ‘made by hands’. Such an expression could be used to describe an object, or in this case a process, as the work of human artisanship in a descriptive and morally neutral sense, or even in a highly complimentary sense, implying that the handmade product is distinctive and qualitatively superior to an industrially produced object. However, in Judaism the expression ‘made by hands’ acquired pejorative connotations in certain contexts. In the Old Testament, idols and the accessories of pagan worship are described as ‘made by hands’; in other words, as having been manufactured by the very people who worship them, in contrast to the living God worshipped by Israel, who is no creature of human artistry (cf. Ps. 135.15-18). In the early Church this kind of polemic was on occasion applied to Jewish institutions, an example being Stephen’s condemnation of the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 7.48).

the cross was being used as a Christian symbol by the third quarter of the first Christian century, much earlier than previous scholarship believed.

The rite of Baptism in water is accompanied by ‘a word’, and the implication is that sanctification and cleansing are accomplished through the combination of speech and action. Some interpreters argue that the ‘word’ referred to here is the confession of faith of the individual Baptized, or of the Church as a whole. However, it is clear that ‘word’ and action alike derive from Christ and not from the recipient of baptism, which would exclude a creedal formulary as the referent in this text. This is not to say that those baptized made no profession of faith but that such an act of profession is not what accomplishes the cleansing and sanctification. Other inter­preters accordingly argue that the ‘word’ is the proclamation of the gospel. If this is the case, it could refer to a sermon or catechetical instruction accompanying the baptismal rite or to the proclamation of the gospel, through which those baptized were converted. This would indicate an essential unity in the conversion—incorporation process, of which the rite of Baptism is the culmination. While this is a possible interpretation, it is more likely that the ‘word’ is the liturgical formulary that accompanied and interpreted the ritual action of Baptism.” Although a Trinitarian formula cannot be excluded (cf. Matt. 28.19), it is more likely that the verse is referring to Baptism ‘in the name of Jesus’, as is reflected in Paul’s earlier references to Baptism ‘into Christ’ (cf. Rom. 6.3; r Cor. 1.13). In either event, the ‘word’ is the verbal counterpart to the act of administer­ing Baptism and is as such an integral part of the rite.

Most translations render the Greek huioi ‘sons’ but the masculine pronoun should in this and many other cases be understood inclusively. In Greek, grammatical and biological gender do not always coincide, and there is no ‘common’ gender as in English.

Circumcision of male converts was the defining ritual of incorporation into Israel, and ritual washing to remove the impurity of paganism was under­gone by male and female converts alike. Ritual washing is a well-known form of symbolic cleansing in Judaism and indeed in many other cultures, but these rites are seldom initiatory; rather, they are repeated from time to time as occasion requires. Precisely when the ritual washing that preceded the circumcision of proselytes acquired an initiatory significance is uncertain. It is unlikely that this development would have been introduced in Judaism after Baptism became an established and distinctive Christian initiatory rite. This suggests that Jewish proselyte baptism was already practised by the time this letter was written; or perhaps more accurately, that the ritual washing of proselytes had become part of the conversion—incorporation rite.

The Greek ek nekron means literally ‘from (among) dead [people”, the plural adjective referring not to an abstract condition of death but col­lectively to deceased humanity.

in the context of early Christianity, conversion was not always voluntarily undergone. For a slave or a child, or even a wife, conversion may have been no more than compliance with the regime of the householder who had, for whatever reason, decided to join the Church. For a house­holder or other person able to make an autonomous decision, conversion may have resembled much more closely the experi­ence as perceived in the modern world.

Even if submersion of the entire (naked) body beneath the surface of the water was normative, Baptism by immersion (partial submer­sion), affusion (pouring water over the head) and aspersion (sprink­ling) are all attested by the end of the first century.16 The desire to extrapolate a uniform ritual pattern from the biblical texts may well have more to do with later ecclesiastical controversies than with reconstructing early Christian practice. In reality diverse tradi­tions would have evolved in the light of such circumstances as the availability of water, and in what form and in what places, and of cultural conventions regarding nudity and the segregation of men from women, and whether or not the congregation was gathered to witness the rite. Precedents set at the time a particular church was founded may also have influenced subsequent developments in its customs.

The accounts in Acts discussed above indicate that Baptism was administered with some immediacy after conversion. There is no evidence of any catechumenate preceding Baptism; on the contrary, all the indications are that the rite of incorporation was admin­istered immediately upon conversion.

social scientific studies of religious  conversion have observed that incorporation into the community generally precedes the process of bringing the convert’s beliefs and way of life into conformity with the values of the Church

Wherever it is located and whatever the nature of its relationship with surrounding societies, the Church in its various manifestations needs to find ways it can both proclaim the gospel to the world, incorporating through Baptism those drawn into Christian fellow­ship, and baptize and nurture those born into the community so that they are sustained in the faith and remain committed members of Christ’s body. Mission, however effective, without retention sim­ply creates a proverbial revolving door and perpetuates if it does not hasten the decline of the Church.

In his analogy of Baptism as an adoption rite (Gal. 3.2.6-29), Paul does not merely emphasize a Christian identity that transcends all human divisions founded on race, class and gender but also identifies the Church as the family of God. There is little need to rehearse in detail the ways the Church has assimilated to societal and cultural patterns of domination and exploitation rather than transforming Christian societies in the light of the gospel. That Paul did not fully realize the profundity of his vision, still less implement it in his own day, in no way diminishes the obligation of the Church today to bring its life and values into conformity with the gospel.” Baptism is not merely a matter of incorporating individuals into the Church but of the earthly body of Christ ordering its life in accordance with God’s purposes. Being the family of God requires that the barriers of race, class and gender be overcome, as well as other forms of institutionalized violence, discrimination and exploitation that have all too easily been imported into the Church. The family of God must be a place in which human families can flourish and in which people whose family lives have been damaged and damaging may find healing and wholeness within the fellowship of the Church. Paul associates Baptism unequivocally and inextricably with the reception of the Holy Spirit, manifested in the complementary gifts Christians are given for the service of the Church (1 Corinthians 2). The authenticity of gifts is not measured by dramatic effect or sensational experience but embraces what in secular societies would be considered quite mundane competencies. These gifts do not function apart from human responsibility for the ways they are used. Nor is the Holy Spirit a substitute for competence and appro­priate training and formation. Baptism requires that the Church should not merely expect its members to be empowered by the Holy Spirit but also should encourage them to discern and to exercise their gifts and to mature in faith through learning to use them in the service of Christ and the community. Baptism is integral to Paul’s vision of a living body in which all members are active and the gifts of the Spirit are used collaboratively in and for the mission of the Church and in living in accordance with the gospel in the world.” This impacts directly on questions of church order and ministry. Paul recognizes that within the Church there are people called to particular roles and leadership (1 Cor. 12:8; Phil.1;1 1 Thess. 5.12) and endowed with the Holy Spirit accordingly. There is no precedent for charismatic anarchy. Nevertheless, those exercising leadership are to serve in such a way as to enable the entire body to function, with each member exercising the gifts of the Spirit received at their Baptism. Whatever ecclesiastical structures and orders of ministry have emerged in different Christian traditions, the body as a whole is empowered with the Holy Spirit. Whether Christians exercise their gifts within the life of the church or in service to the community, this is the realization of their Baptism.

Baptism defines the Church and Christian identity. For Paul, as for the culture of the societies in which he proclaimed the gospel, this identity was primarily corporate. This did not mean that indi­viduals did not matter, but they lived their lives within a network of social relationships that reinforced their identity. This had implications for the ways Baptism was administered and the gifts of the Spirit exercised in the life of the Church. In cultures that have become much more individualistic, this raises quite fundamental questions about the nature of Christian identity. These concern the ways the Church relates to families and to individual members. The Liturgical Movement has emphasized the presence and role of the gathered congregation in the celebration of Baptism, and iden­tified the Eucharist as the most appropriate setting for the rite. This represents a significant departure from what had been customary in most parts of the Church for centuries, where a private ceremony in the church building or in the family home had been normative, with only the immediate family and close friends present.

We have noted the evidence that the immersion rite would fre­quently have been administered away from the gathered congrega­tion during the early Christian centuries, and for reasons of decorum and practicality this may well have been the prevailing custom during Paul’s day. The privacy with which converts were stripped, immersed and clothed does not constitute a private ceremony, however, as the newly baptized were immediately integrated after Baptism into the Christian community and shared in the Eucharist. The administration of private Baptism, apart from the worship of the gathered congregation, is favoured where there is no intention that those baptized would become part of the worshipping commu­nity of the church. While this custom is defended, particularly in national churches with a ‘Christ of culture’ outlook, in terms of Paul’s theology the practice is aberrant and serious questions need to be asked as to how the mission of the Church is furthered by it. At best it sustains the most tenuous of links with the Church and Christian values, at worst it panders to superstition and, in denuding Baptism of much of its meaning, makes it less likely that those baptized will experience Christian life to the full, discover the gifts bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit and be encouraged to exercise these in the life of the Church.

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The Inter Faith Week Toolkit: Developing successful activities – Inter Faith Network

TIFWTKSuggestions for marking the Week and examples and illustrations drawn from the many successful activities held for the Week to date. It also includes practical guidance and links to further information.

There are activities for businesses, sporting clubs, schools and prisons as well as for existing inter faith groups.

There are also templates and checklists to help planning.

It’s online here

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Have a Nice Doomsday: Why millions of Americans are looking forward to the end of the world by Nicholas Guyatt

Why do fifty million Americans believe that the world is about to end? And should the rest of us be worried about this?

It reads like journalise – about meeting people in SUVs in parking lots.

Mercifully, he talks about the ‘Western Wall’ rather than the ‘Wailing Wall.’ But since when as Ezekiel the first major prophet (p. 70) ? What about Isaiah two centuries earlier?

Thankfully, he does accept the scholarly consensus on Daniel.

The search for a red heiffer in on so that temple sacrifices can be restored.

Maranatha (p. 110) is Aramaic, not Greek.

I liked the tem ‘arkeologist’.

There is a lot of ignorance about Islam, e.g. tht muslims worship Muhammad and that the more you know the Qur’an the more radicalised you will become – all the research points to the opposite conclusion.

Quotations:

John Hagee’s relationship with the media seems very differ­ent. CNN has invited him to chat about the end of the world as

if he were discussing the congressional elections. Fox News treats

him like an expert from the Council on Foreign Relations. In spite of his open embrace of doomsday in Jerusalem Countdown,

John Hagee has become an authority on the Middle East even while the region has been gripped by unprecedented instability and violence. He isn’t just offering a bleak commentary on this debate: he’s helping to shape it.

 

Hagee likes to tell a story about a trip he made to Berlin during the 1980s. I-I-e’d been invited to give a speech to American GIs; and he was taken around the western half of the city by a German guide. When they got to Checkpoint Charlie, and looked over at Soviet East Berlin, the guide asked Hagee sadly why God had ‘permitted the communists to build a wall around us’. Hagee, who’d flown to Dachau the day before, instantly replied: ‘Everything your parents did to the Jewish people, son, the communists are doing to you.’ This is a general rule, repeated in Hagee’s books: What a nation or an individ­ual does to the-nation oflsrael-is what God repays to them.’

Hagee hates replacement theology, and condemns it as the root cause of Christian anti-Semitism. But what really gets

under his skin is the idea that prophecy might be figurative rather than literal. If ‘Israel’ doesn’t mean Israel, but instead refers to the Church, then how can you be sure what anything means in Revelation or the Book of Daniel?

Larry is Jewish but is more David Frost than Jeremy Paxman.

‘Radical Muslims attacked America on 9/11,’ Hagee tells us, ‘and they still have their sights set on the destruc­tion of Israel and the United States of America. And yet the

Koran is required reading in many universities and public schools — the same schools and universities that forbid reading of the Bible,- and mock the teachings of the Bible in the classroom.’

Christian children are scolded for using the word ‘Christmas’. (Instead, Hagee spits, they have to celebrate a ‘winter holiday’.) Children are taught that ‘Heather has two mommies’ while the nuclear family and Christian morals are disregarded. ‘Why are we teaching them witchcraft through Harry Potter?’ Hagee enciuires, before insisting that the audience choose between the liberal permissiveness of Dr Spock and the timeless wisdom of Solomon. (`Spare the rod and spoil the child!’) After one partic­ularly withering attack on pornography, which the audience has applauded wildly, Hagee emits a loud, jarring shriek that sounds a lot like a macaw. There’s some nervous laughter among the congregation, and I’m not sure if he’s filled with the Holy Spirit or crowing at the hellfire that awaits those pornographers.

rails against ‘cotton-candy’ preachers who ‘walk along the abortion issue, walk along the same-sex marriage issue’, and who fail to register that abortion is ‘murder’ and homosexuality is an ‘abomination’.

Cotton-candy preachers don’t mind sinners saying, ‘I didn’t ‘get enough cookies when I was in the Boy Scouts, therefore I’ve grown up to become a psychopathic killer. And that’s: my problem.’ But your real problem is that you’ve got the DEVIL in you! THAT’S the problem!!

It happened because the United tates has an open border policy that makes it impossible to tell who is in our country and for what reason.

His insistence on the literal truth of Ezekiel- and his rickety read­ing of Gog and Magog — has led Hagee to see Russia as a natural enemy of Israel and America. The Russians, he insists, will be dragged by God into attacking Israel and igniting `Ezekiel’s War’.

‘Do not be confused into thinking that Allah is just another name for the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews,’

The United States won’t be able to contain the evil unleashed by its preemptive strike on Iran, but at least Christ can be relied upon – to vanquish his enemies at Armageddom –

Palestinian Christians would have a much better time under Israeli rule, since ‘Islam is not a friend to Christianity’.

Dave also differs from John Hagee in his assessment of the Israeli government. ‘My greatest frustration in the world today,’ he declares, ‘is with Israeli leaders. They’ve deceived themselves into believing that they can gain peace through appeasement. If you know anything about history, you cannot gain peace through appeasement.’ Now we’re back on familiar ground — Hagee likes to quote from Winston Churchill, and he spent a good deal of his speech to the CUFI Washington banquet retooling Churchill’s speeches against Nazism for the fight against ‘Islamic fascism’. But Dave has a couple of theories to explain the reluctance of Israel to use its might and to squash the Palestinians once and for all.

First, he tells me, the Israeli leaders are secular humanists. `They believe in the essential goodness of man,’ he says, some­what implausibly, ‘which is directly contrary to what the Bible teaches.’ (As an example, he mentions that the Israeli soldiers who seized East Jerusalem in the Six Day War didn’t destroy the Dome of the Rock.) Because Israeli politicians haven’t accepted the dark view of human nature outlined in scripture, they’re still clinging to ideas of universal brotherhood that their Islamic enemy can only see as a form of weakness.

Dave is_building up a head of steam here. ……Then, abruptly; he offers another example_ ‘Fiddler on the Roof ….He says, “God, why couldn’t you have chosen someone else? Why do we have to-wear this funny clothing? Why do we have to be different?” The Jews desperately want to be accepted, and they believe with all their heart that if  they do what the world tells them to do, they’ll be accepted”

I ask Dave to tell me what’s wrong with organizations like the United Nations or with high-minded concepts like international law. He pauses for a few seconds, before letting out a big laugh and saying, ‘I don’t think we have enough time for that!’ Then he elaborates just a little: `I think the Bible makes it very clear that it is not God’s will for nations to give up their nationhood, their sovereignty. The one time they tried to do that, and came together into one great empire, God poured out his wrath upon them.’ (He’s talking here about the Tower of Babel.) Dave tells me that, although he doesn’t have a problem with international dialogue over issues that affect us all, he’s suspicious of the ‘arrogance’ that under­writes any effort at global government. ‘God sets the boundaries of nations, and when we start crossing those- bound­aries and unifying into organizations like the UN or whatever, we’re going to start challenging God.’

Dave is genuinely perplexed at why British people have been willing to get involved with the European Union, but when he holds forth on this he sounds more like Jimmy Goldsmith than Jimmy Swaggart: ‘I would think the British would be having their eyes opened today to the nonsense of getting into cross-national organizations like the European Union, which says, get rid of your weights system that you’ve had for hundreds of years and we’re gonna put a little grocer in`jail here because he wants to- sell in weights that people understand.’ Dave remembers being in Britain in 2000 and watching bemused motorists -at petrol stations trying to convert litres into gallons. ‘They have a chart on each pump to try to convert, and people are trying to figure out how much they’re buying. Next thing you know they’re telling you how high your hedges-can be. Have the British woken up to the fact that they’ve surrendered their sovereignty?’

‘It is. I believe most Muslims don’t read the Koran very much. That’s why most Muslims are not radical, but when someone begins to really study the- Koran and they begin to read the 109 verses that call for violence and war, they become very, very different. They become radical, they feel that they need to convert people by force.’

`It wasn’t a voice, it was an understanding.’ Jack leans over, as if he’s about to tell me a big secret. ‘You know, my voice and God’s sound an awful lot alike. Sometimes I have an awful lot of trouble telling who’s saying what. But generally speaking, if you pay a little attention, you can tell. Because, generally speak­ing, when it’s God it’s not really something you want to do.’

of church-and state, a concept which other evangelicals seem eager to discard. ‘It’s absolutely indispensable,’ he says. While he’d love to see Bush-govern according to his own version of Christianity;- he doesn’t-want to live- in a country in which a different president-might bring a different religious agenda into the White House.- (He mentions the Republican governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has been touted as a candidate for the 2008 presidential race.) But when I push him on this,–he suggests that the separation of church- and state can go too far. He Mentions the recent brouhaha in Alabama, -where a Christian judge was instructed to remove a sculpture of the Ten Commandments from the lobby of his courthouse. Jack insists that the great British jurist, William Blackstone, based his legal system-on Christianity; and that Magna Carta rests on the same- foundations. –

When you convert men, they transform into identical-preppy kids wearing -V-necks. Women suddenly sport an orange- jumper, like Velma from &achy Doo. If you only convert men, you can do everything you -need to do in the game. But if you bring women to Christ; the game starts giving you polite reminders that your options are limited. ‘For the next operation,’ says the cheerful- voice in the tutorial, ‘you vvill need a man.

Tyndale House decided that the Christian community needs a penetrating book on homosexuality’ and asked Tim if he’d write one. He agreed, basing his work on his own experience counselling gay church members

At the San Diego Zoo, acts of-sodomy are said to be unknown among- primates!)

Daniel 11:37 contains an interesting prediction about the anti-Christ, who is destined to rule the world just prior to our Lord’s return to set up his Kingdom. ‘Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women …’ This suggests that the anti-Christ may be a homosexual. If he is, that would explain the significance of the influential group of international homosexuals who are rumored to be gaining worldwide political influence.

if American society learns to accept homosexuality, a host of bad things will follow Gay teachers will try to- turn their students into homosexuals (hence Tim’s peiplexing insis­tence that it would be=better to hire a straight rapist in a girls’ school than a gay man); there’ll be an increase in ‘crimes and sadistic murders’ because  gays have a ‘much higher crime potential and tendency toward sadistic-violence’ than straights; and, most worrying of all, God may take revenge on the entire  nation if America accepts homosexuality as a ‘normal way of life’. America-may-meet the same fate as Sodorn, razed utterly from the earth for its embrace of ‘human depravity’.

While the political situation in Iraq or Israel seems to cry out for nuance and expertise — the kind of thing that the boffins at the State Department used to provide, with the benefit of their many years of training and local knowledge none of that seems necessary when you train the ‘third lens’ of Bible prophecy onto the world’s hotspots.

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