Monthly Archives: November 2017

On St. Andrew, Advent, and “Prosperity Theology”

Artus Wolffort - St Andrew - WGA25857.jpg

St. Andrew – the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle” – brought his brother Peter along with him…

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Thursday, November 30, is the Feast day for St. Andrew.   And:  “Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year.”

Advent2007candlelight.JPGWhich brings up that Liturgical (church)  year that begins with the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas….”  The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah…  (E.A.)

As Wikipedia also noted, the church calendar “divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their own mood, theological emphases, and modes of prayer.”  Put another way, “Advent” begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and/or “the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day (30 November).”  So this year the First Sunday of Advent falls on December 3.  (Which is also the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s day.)

Incidentally, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmas Eve Day (Which is cutting it really close.)  

And which brings us back to St. Andrew.  As noted in St. Andrew, the “First Apostle,” Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know very little about him.   Which is another way of saying that he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four…   That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[.  In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

All of which means that if it hadn’t been for Andrew – dragging his brother along – we might never have had a St. Peter.   Also incidentally, St. Andrew ended up crucified on an x-shaped cross, as illustrated above left.  (Which will be tied in a bit further below…)

Andrew chose that method – according to tradition – because he  “deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been.”  And that x-shaped cross –  a saltire or crux decussata – is now commonly called a “Saint Andrew’s Cross.”  (Which appears on a number of flags and emblems, including Great Britain’s Union Jack, seen at right.) 

And that raises the question, How Did The Other Apostles Die?

Short answers:  Peter and Paul died in Rome around 66 A.D.  Paul was beheaded – an “honor,” because he was a Roman citizen – while Peter chose to be crucified upside down.  (Like Andrew, he “did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.”)  Matthias – who replaced Judas Iscariot – died by burning.  Thomas was “pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.” Philip was “arrested and cruelly put to death,” for converting the wife of a Roman proconsul. And James was said to have been “stoned and then clubbed to death.*”

And all of that brings up the hoax – if not heresy – of “prosperity theology.”

Briefly, prosperity theology “is a religious belief among some Christians [which] views the Bible as a contract between God and humans:  if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.”  Which brings up the question:  Didn’t the Apostles have faith in God?

The short answer is yes they did, but they certainly didn’t end up secure and prosperous.  They ended up with something far more precious, despite their gruesome deaths  See 1 Peter 1:6-7:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Then too, as Jesus Himself said in Matthew 6:24:  “No man can serve two masters…  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  (In the King James Version, the Bible God uses.  “Mammon” is illustrated above left.)  And speaking of a “contract,” according to the Wex Legal Dictionary it is an “agreement between private parties creating mutual obligations enforceable by law.”

So, if Mr. Prosperity Theologist feels like he isn’t getting all he “deserves” from God, in what court will he file a lawsuit?  (See e.g., You Can Sue God, But You Can’t Win.  For one thing, “There could never be service effectuated on the named defendant…”)  But we’re digressing here.

The point is that mixing up the worship of God and Mammon has been around since the time of Jesus.

The same could be said of “peddling God’s word,” along with other forms of hucksterism.  That’s also been around for some 2,000 years.  See for example, 2 Corinthians 2:17.  In the New Living Translation it reads, “You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit.”  Or in the New International Version:  “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.”

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You can read more on the upcoming Season of Advent in the following posts:  On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent(11/30/16.)  On Advent – 2015(11/30/15.)  And An early Advent medley (12/4/15.)

As to all of which a follower of prosperity theology might simply say, “Why bother with all that Advent rigamarole?  I’ve got a contract with God.  He owes me!!

In the meantime, the rest of us can enjoy the upcoming “time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  And also the calling of St. Andrew, who – along with his brother Peter – were two of the preeminent Apostles

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Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew,” by Caravaggio

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The upper image is courtesy of Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Saint Andrew the Apostle’ by Artus Wolffort.”  Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section. 

Thus as to how other Apostles died:  Of the rest of the 12, some accounts say Matthew “was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.”  There are various accounts of how Bartholomew “met his death as a martyr for the gospel.”  Simon the Zealot was said to have been “killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.”  Only John was “thought to have died a natural death from old age,” after writing the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.  But an early tradition had him “escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil.”

The “snake oil” image is courtesy of Patent medicine – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew – Art:

A beardless Jesus gestures Peter … and his brother Andrew to follow him…  Caravaggio gives his own interpretation.  Because of his prominence, the man on the left is thought to be Peter…  One of the details that shows this work must be the original is a carving in the ground layer under Peter’s ear.  Caravaggio often used such incissions [sic]…

See also, The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew – Wikipedia.

And finally, a distinction between “prosperity theology” and lives of abundance, per John 10:10:

“Abundant life” is a term used to refer to Christian teachings on fullness of life…  For a Christian, fullness of life is not measured in terms of “fun” and “living large”, or in terms of wealth, prestige, position, and power, but measured by fulfilled lives of responsibility and self-restraint, and the rewards and blessings that accrue over a lifetime of pleasing God. According to the abundant life interpretation, the Bible has promises of wealth, health, and well-being, but these promises are conditional promises.  

In other words – Mr. Prosperity Theologist – lots of luck in that lawsuit where you start off, “I’ve got a contract with God.  He owes me!!

On Thanksgiving – 2017

The “First Thanksgiving at Plymouth,” as envisioned by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

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I posted the painting above at the end of On the first Thanksgiving – Part II, in 2014.  (And an FYI:  I included a footnote – featuring Dirty Harry – which asked the rhetorical question“So, punk, do you feel like getting chastened and liberated?”)

Which had to do with pilgrimages in general.

And which seems especially appropriate, given my own recent pilgrimage to Spain and the Camino de Santiago.  (See “Hola! Buen Camino!”)  And incidentally, the “Santiago” in that pilgrims’ route refers to “St. James the Greater.”  He in turn is thepatron saint of pilgrims and pilgrimages.”  Further on, the post on St. James included this:

“In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”

I don’t know about that “state of beatitude” at the end of my Camino trip.  However, I do know that I was pretty darned happy to be back in the ATL and “God’s Country.”  Anyway, I ended the St. James post with this:   “you could say that – in a sense – we’re all Pilgrims

File:Louvin.jpgWhich brings us back to that First Thanksgiving…  And which ties in to my last post, “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Bear with me.

As noted,* the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock suffered greatly for their faith.  49 of the original 102 died between 1620 – when they landed – and that First Thanksgiving in 1621.  Of the 18 adult women, only four survived that first winter.  And they did all that  just to get the hell away from “conservatives” back home!

And incidentally, the word “pilgrims” – applied to passengers of the Mayflower – first came from the pen of William Bradford (Of whom it is said the author is a distant relative.) 

In his book, Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford wrote about whether they should return to England, from their stay in Holland.  He noted that he and his compatriots “had the opportunity to return to their old country but instead longed for a better, heavenly country.”

In other words, they wanted to get the hell away from “conservatives” back home!  (Conservatives, how about “Make America Better!”  It never stopped being great, fool!”)

Anyway, Bradford also wrote about conditions that made that decision easier:

[The “Pilgrims” in England] were hunted & persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them.  For some were taken & clapt up in prison, others had their houses besett & watcht night and day, & hardly escaped…

See Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony) – Wikipedia.  That site also said Bradford used the imagery of Hebrews 11 – “about Old Testament ‘strangers and pilgrims'” – to make his point:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning;  they were sawed in two;  they were killed by the sword. 

And all of which – arguably – came at the hands of conservatives.  The same “conservatives” who threatened to stone Moses, who insisted the world was flat and threatened anyone who disagreed, and burned people at the stake in the form of the Spanish Inquisition

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Of course some of the foregoing is mere hyperbole:  “exaggeration as a rhetorical device… In poetry and oratory, it emphasizes, evokes strong feelings, and creates strong impressions.  As a figure of speech, it is usually not meant to be taken literally.”

The problem is that today’s conservatives – in both politics and religion – have used hyperbole so long and so often that they do take it literally.  They ignore the fact that “If Jesus was a Conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”  (See The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says.)

Which leads to this thought:  It’s time for all of us to take a long pilgrimage away from our gross overuse of hyperbole – to the point where far too many people take it far too literally.  Enough of “strong feelings” and “strong impressions.”  Let’s all tone it down a bit.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…

That’s from Isaiah 1:18, in the King James Version(You know, the one God uses…)  And that seems to be a Bible passage that today’s “conservative Christians” seem to ignore.

Meanwhile, those of us who  aren’t “conservative Christians” still have reason to give thanks on this holiday.  Those of us who dare call such conservatives to account aren’t “hunted & persecuted on every side,” we aren’t “taken & clapt up in prison,” and we aren’t “put to death by stoning,” “sawed in two,” or “killed by the sword.”   (Not yet anyway…) 

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As to the phrase “whole new world” in the caption below:  It’s “a nod to the song by that name in the movie Aladdin.”  See A whole new world … YouTube.  and Whole New World Lyrics:

“A whole new world,  A new fantastic point of view,  No one to tell us no,  Or where to go…  Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feeling, Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling, Through an endless diamond sky…”

All of which could describe the feelings of any pilgrim setting out for any “new world.”  But finding that New World necessarily entails getting the heck away from the conservatives!

But finally, to all y’all out there, liberal, conservative, and way too “moderate and nicey-nicey:”

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Or as it says in Deuteronomy 26:11, “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.”  But of course, the “emphasis” brings up a whole ‘nother subject entirely…

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 Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving conservatives back home, looking for a “whole New Wo-o-o-orld…*”

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The upper image is courtesy of Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, caption: “Jennie Augusta BrownscombeThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.” 

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the phrase “As noted,* the Pilgrims:”  This year’s post was gleaned – in reverse order – from past posts:  On Thanksgiving – 2016On Thanksgiving 2015On the first Thanksgiving – Part I, and On the first Thanksgiving – Part II.

Re:  William Bradford‘s use of Hebrews 11.  Wikipedia said he “used the imagery of Hebrews 11:13–16.”  The passage about people being sawn in two (etc.) is from Hebrews 11:35-37.

The caption for the map to the right of the paragraph beginning “See Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony) – Wikipedia,” is captioned:  “Samuel de Champlain‘s 1605 map of Plymouth Harbor, showing Wampanoag village Patuxet, with some modern place names added for reference.  The star is the approximate location of the 1620 English settlement.”

 The lower image is courtesy of Pilgrim Fathers – Wikipedia:  “Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.”  

“There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?

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It came most recently from Rick Santorum.  In 2008 he supposedly said, “There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.”  And although some debate whether he actually said that,* his sentiment is hardly new.

There was for example the 1952 song by the Louvin Brothers, “That word, ‘broad-minded’ is spelled s-i-n.”  (As shown in the image at the bottom of the page.)

One strange thing?  Ira Louvin was “notorious for his drinking, womanizing, and short temper.”  (Or maybe it wasn’t so strange after all.)  Ira ended up getting married four times, and his third wife Faye ended up shooting him six times.  (Four times in the chest And that was after one time he allegedly beat her up.  See On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n.”)

And then of course – more recently – we’ve seen the saga of Judge Roy Moore.

But we’re digressing here.  The point is that in the interest of turnabout is fair play, it’s time for someone to say, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

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As noted previously, my brother and I recently hiked the Camino de Santiago(From September 13 to October 12, 2017.  See “Hola! Buen Camino!”)  And one thing you definitely have time for – on such a long and arduous pilgrimage – is a lot of thinking.  (In mile after  mile of hiking.)  And one thing I definitely thought about was:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle!

As in:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle about what this particular blog is all about…

Which brings up the question in the caption above:  Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God … and risk being transformed (See also On arguing with God.)

(In Jacob’s case he got transformed significantly,  He had his name changed – from Jacob to “Israel” – and then became “Father of the 12 tribes of Israel.”  See Genesis 32:22-32.  If he’d been a conservative, Jacob would probably have been content to stay Jacob…)

William TyndaleSo anyway, the answer is probably not.  (A conservative Christian wouldn’t think of wrestling or arguing with God.)  But an FYI:  The link to the definition of “transformed” in the caption above leads to the King James Dictionary (And you can’t get any more “old school” than that.  As I’ve noted, the King James Version is the “Bible God uses.”  See Bill Tyndale [left] – who[se] Bible you could actually READ!)

In turn, the King James Dictionary defines “transform” – in one sense – as “to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”  Using that definition, it would seem most so-called conservative Christians would prefer to stay caterpillars.

Another definition is in the field of theology, where it means to “change the natural disposition and temper of man from a state of enmity … into a disposition and temper conformed to the will of God.”  (The KJ Dictionary even provided a Bible quote, from Romans 12:2:  “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”)  And that leads to another observation:  That one thing conservative Christians hate – and/or can’t handle – is change.

Which raises a question:  “Is God really a bloated, sanctimonious old white guy in a pin-striped suit?”  And that leads to another definition of “transform” from the KJ Dictionary:

Among the mystics, to [“transform” is to] change the contemplative soul into a divine substance, by which it is lost or swallowed up in the divine nature.

And if there’s another thing so-called conservative Christians hate, it’s the term “mystic.”  (Or mysticism.)  Which led me to note previously:  “The terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”

All of which leads to the question:  Should “real” Christians be narrow-minded or broad-minded?  To me, the best answer to that question comes from Luke 24:45:  “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Which brings up the Daily Office Readings for Monday, November 13.  They included Matthew 15:1-3:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,  “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”  He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

And incidentally, the image at right is by Gustave Doré, “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.”

Another note:  The “DORs” are the Daily Office Readings.  (See What’s a DOR?)  And that brings up the DORs for this morning, Thursday, November 16.  They included Matthew 16:12:  “Then they understood that he” – Jesus – “had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees.”  And that’s a problem we’ve had ever since…

That is, at least initially the “relationship between Early Christianity and Pharisees was not always hostile.”  (Paul the Apostle was a Pharisee, at least initially.)  But as the term has evolved – and as it is now used in the lower case – the term pharisee has come to mean a “sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.” 

So it seems to me that a lot of “Christians” who say they’re conservative are actually pharisees.

For example, when I just Googled the phrase “negative Christians,” I got over 500,00 results.  And when I Googled “hypocritical Christians,” I got 189,000 results.  But to me, real Christians aren’t negative, self-righteous, sanctimonious or hypocritical.  Real Christians work every day to make the world a better place, plowing ahead, while the pharisees get all the negative press.

Which of course leaves the rest of us with a heavy cross to bear.  And that leads to a final note:

“It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture…” 

And that’s another problem that we’ve had since the time of Jesus…

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Would the Louvins let Jesus “open their minds,” per Luke 24:45?

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The upper image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.  For more on the idea of “struggling with the idea of God,” see On arguing with God (posted May 2014) and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella (posted April 2016).

Re:  Rick Santorum.  See also The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to debate about Santorum’s supposed comments, see e.g. Liberal media shamelessly twists comment from Rick Santorum.  And aside from the Louvin Brothers’ sentiment, see also The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:

Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom.  Freedom from tradition, freedom from institutions, freedom from authority, freedom from dogma.  The freedom to be and do as you choose…  Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin.  In short, it is anathema to God and should be recognised and treated as such by all who consider themselves Christian.

And an FYI:  I Googled the phrase “there’s no such thing as a conservative Christian” and got some 17,500,000 results, including the following:  Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian.  His name was Jesus (HuffPost), Rick Santorum In 2008: There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal ChristianNo Such Thing As A Liberal Christian –, and Article on: There is no such thing as a conservative-Republican Christian: Jesus is a small-c communist.  Thus it seems the title was designed to be deliberately provocative, as was this thought in the main text:  “consider now that you have been led to associate ‘Jesus’ with the views of those who are not really Christians.”  Which is pretty much the theme of both this blog and this particular post…

Re:  “Conservative Christians” and mystics:  See The Bible and mysticism, or The Christian repertoire.

Re:  Jacob being transformed.  See 9 Famous Fathers in the Bible, and also Genesis 32:22-32:  

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,  because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Re:  “Narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading.”  See On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

The lower image is courtesy of The Louvin Brothers – Wikipedia.