Wednesday, 31 May 2017

125 years ago--The death of Bahá’u’lláh

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
Deuteronomy 18:18-20

For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. Mark 13:22

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
John 10:7-8

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

On May 29, 1892, Bahá’u’lláh, born Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí, died at the age of 74. Bahá’u’lláh, a Persian, founded the Bahá'í Faith in 1863.

According to the Bahá’í Faith website:

Throughout history, God has sent to humanity a series of divine Educators—known as Manifestations of God—whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization. These Manifestations have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.

Bahá’ís believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life. Such a vision unfolds in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh.

I have some disagreements with the above statements. I very much disagree that such figures as Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Muhammad, and Bahá’u’lláh are messengers of God. A major problem with the Bahá’í Faith is its erroneous view of progressive revelation. According to the Bahá’í Faith, I'm supposed to believe, for instance, that Muhammad and Jesus are both Manifestations of God, with Muhammad, of course, appearing six centuries later. However, the God of the Bahá’í Faith contradicts himself in his progressive revelation; the Qur'an, alleged to be the revelation from God through Muhammad, flatly denies that Jesus was crucified, and denies that God has a son. The Bible, of course, affirms that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He was crucified for our sins to satisfy His Father's conditions for the payment of the penalty of sin. The Bible and the Qur'an can't both be true on this.

The biblical view of progressive revelation is that God has progressively revealed Himself, but later revelation has built on previous revelation without contradicting previous revelation. The New Testament builds on the Old Testament, but doesn't contradict it, recording, for instance, numerous Old Testament messianic prophecies (such as the passage from Deuteronomy 18 mentioned above) that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Understanding God's Truth: How Progressive Revelation Can Help You Understand the Bible by John Cunningham was published by a small publisher in Alberta in 1981 and may be difficult to find, but this blogger found the book very helpful.

I also take issue with the indication in the passage above that Bahá’u’lláh is a Manifestation in the line of the others mentioned. First and most important, Jesus Christ stands alone, and I take great offense at him being placed on a level of equality with the other "Manifestations of God." Second, it seems that in the Bahá’í Faith talks out of both sides of its mouth; some "Manifestations" are more equal than others, with Bahá’u’lláh above the others:

Bahá’u’lláh—the “Glory of God”—is the Promised One foretold by the Báb and all of the Divine Messengers of the past. Bahá’u’lláh delivered a new Revelation from God to humanity. Thousands of verses, letters and books flowed from His pen. In His Writings, He outlined a framework for the development of a global civilization which takes into account both the spiritual and material dimensions of human life. For this, He endured 40 years of imprisonment, torture and exile.

I have no desire to delve into other Bahá’í Faith errors; the ones I've mentioned are enough to show that Bahá’u’lláh was not a true "Manifestation of God," and that the God of the Bahá’í Faith is a false god.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signs Sermon Protection Act into law

And now for something completely different--a measure to protect religious freedom. As reported by Mark Collette of the Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2017:

The state's top two elected officials took to the pulpit Sunday, preaching the righteousness of conservative gender norms – and hitting on several other red meat Republican issues – before the governor signed a copy of a new law protecting sermons at a Woodlands church.

Senate Bill 24, listed among Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's top priorities, bars the government from forcing religious leaders to turn over copies of sermons during a civil lawsuit or administrative proceeding. It also bars the state from compelling a religious leader's testimony.

To mark the occasion at Grace Community Church in the Woodlands, Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott joined pastor Steve Riggle and three of the four others whose sermons were subpoenaed in 2014 by the city of Houston, igniting a political fire storm for then-mayor Annise Parker.

Riggle and the so-called "Houston Five" were fighting a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance, mostly over objections to the rights it would have extended to gay and transgender people. Parker and the city sought the sermons amid a legal battle over a petition drive led by the pastors.

The move sparked outrage nationwide from people who saw it as intimidation of the church and infringement on religious liberties. Parker said the city only wanted evidence related to any instructions the pastors may have given on how to conduct the petition drive. But she acknowledged the subpoena was overly broad and withdrew the request for sermons.

The officials' trip to the Woodlands was a celebratory tour of sorts, returning not only to where the issue originated but to deeply conservative territory where 72 percent of Montgomery County voters chose President Donald Trump in November, and where religion and politics easily mix.

"You are fighters for freedom," Abbott told the congregation, which is an offshoot of Grace's megachurch campus in Houston.
Patrick preached that the world needs the strength of America and Texas, and said deep divisions in the country aren't between political parties, but between Christians and non-Christians.

"The Sermon Protection Act came about because of an issue, an issue that's not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue," he said. "It's the right issue, and that's to keep men out of ladies' rooms."

The equal rights ordinance would have banned 15 categories of discrimination, including based on gender identity, but made no mention of public bathrooms. It was already illegal to assault someone in a restroom, but conservatives rallied votes against the measure by playing on fears of attacks. A campaign ad famously depicted a little girl at the hands of a male attacker in a bathroom stall.

"We never thought we'd need (the sermon law), but this is a crazy day," Riggle said. "We never thought we'd have to define men and women either, but here we are. We thought the name on the restroom doors actually meant something."

The bill passed easily, but wasn't without opposition. Some legal experts contended that its protections are too broad, and could hamper discovery in cases of church sexual abuse, forced marriage and corporal punishment.

Others found Sunday's ceremony inherently disturbing for its mix of politics and faith. To be sure, the church service sounded at times like a campaign stop, with plenty of glad handing.

A group of about 10 people held up signs by the church entrance off the North Freeway, protesting a breach of church and state separation.

"Our forefathers escaped tyrants that were heads of churches in Europe," said B.P. Herrington, who held up a poster that said "religion is a private matter."

Patrick and Abbott "should realize they are not defenders of faith as the queen of England is," he said. "They are servants of the people."

Herrington, a music professor and an Episcopalian, said the officials treat the churches as de facto political action committees.

But Riggle noted that American churches have long participated in politics. And the Trump administration has sought to make that easier. Earlier this month, the president signed an executive order aimed at removing enforcement of the longstanding ban on churches and other tax exempt organizations supporting political candidates.

Abbott noted the unusual nature of the ceremony, saying it might be the first time in Texas history a law was signed in a church.

In fact, according to the Senate Journal, the official signing happened in Austin on Friday, when the law became effective immediately.

The politicking in the Woodlands came as the Legislature was holding marathon sessions aimed at, among other things, passing a state budget before the legislative session ends May 29. Lawmakers were also considering debate on another priority of Patrick's – regulating the use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Sologamy--yet another indication that we're in the last days

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
II Timothy 3:1-5

Several of the characteristics mentioned in the passage above--and the word "men" includes both men and women--can be found in the article below. It comes as no surprise to this blogger that the sisters and stepsisters of the main subject of this article remain unmarried. Nor does it come as any surprise that the ceremony took place at a Unitarian church. The Unitarian Church never seems to pass up an opportunity for buffoonery. The reader will also notice that the vows were "adapted from their Biblical origins"--i.e., wrested out of their proper context (see II Peter 3:15-16).

So far, the practice of sologamy seems to be restricted to women, but it will come as no surprise to this blogger to read of metrosexuals and members of Generation Selfie following suit. Any normal man who reading this article will likely react to a sologamist by quoting Horace Stoneham out of context: "Who wants that?" As reported by Charlotte Lytton of the London Daily Telegraph, May 19, 2017 (links in original):

When 38-year-old Sophie Tanner celebrated her second wedding anniversary on Tuesday, there were none of the usual trappings – no flowers or romantic meal for two, no card sealed with a kiss.

It’s not that her other half is remiss, but that on May 16, 2015, when the PR consultant took her vows on the steps of Brighton’s Unitarian Church, the person she swore to cherish for eternity was, well, herself.

“I literally had the idea when I was lying in bed recovering from flu and a bad relationship,” she remembers. “Everyone celebrates getting together with someone and getting married, but there’s no milestone in society that celebrates escaping something awful or returning to your own happiness and contentment.”

Initially, Tanner's idea was to write a book in which a woman married herself, but after two years researching sologamy – people who commit to themselves – for her novel, Happily, she was sold.

“By the end of that journey I was such an advocate for it as a concept that I thought I’d better do it myself,” she says. “It felt like an obvious step, and all of my friends and family had become really into it, so by the time I said I wanted my own wedding, they were on board.”

The nuptials were both holy and wholly unique; the vows Tanner wrote were all adapted from their Biblical origins, she wore a $105 vintage white dress and her father Malcolm, a 69-year-old painter and decorator, gave her away – to herself. Afterwards, the 50-strong wedding party danced through the streets of Brighton and down to the beach to the sounds of Kendrick Lamar’s I Love Myself playing from a boom box.

It’s tempting to dismiss this as the height of Generation Selfie’s narcissism, particularly as the ceremony is not legally recognized (Tanner’s letter of enquiry on the matter, to Brighton and Hove register office, while researching her book met with the response that marriage was “exclusive” to two people). But for Tanner, the weight of the occasion – a celebration of being single, and thoroughly enjoying it – still holds.

“Initially, I thought of the wedding as a light-hearted thing, and held it during the Brighton Fringe so passers-by could be a part of it,” she explains. “But I got really nervous the day before. It felt like a really important thing to be doing, especially as it was one of the first sologamous marriages many people had seen. A few people told me it was the best wedding they’d ever been to. The atmosphere was amazing and it felt really powerful.”

Though solo ceremonies such as Tanner’s are unlikely to unseat the traditional union for two, they do seem to be on the rise; part of a much bigger social trend for women rejecting the traditional timeline of their mothers and grandmothers, and forging an independent path, worlds away from the 'spinster' stereotype.

“I think it’s hard not to adopt whatever society’s messages are… and I certainly think that one of the messages is, ‘You are not enough if you are not with someone else’,” says Erika Anderson of her decision to self marry. The 37-year-old, who lives in New York, wed her university sweetheart in her twenties, but the pair split aged 30 after growing apart. Committing to herself, she says, was “an act of defiance”.

The notion of marrying oneself entered popular consciousness in a 2003 episode of Sex and the City, the US television series, in which Carrie Bradshaw, its protagonist, announced she was fed up with forking out to celebrate friends’ life choices, but never her own.

In 2010, one of the lead characters on TV musical comedy Glee enjoyed a solitary wedding ceremony. Now, with some 42 per cent of British marriages ending in divorce (unmarried women having outnumbered their married counterparts for the past decade), marrying yourself is, perhaps, the only safe bet.

Its proponents say that it is a modern rite of passage. “A wedding is just a marker in life,” explains Alexandra Gill, a Canadian food critic who married herself in 2006 and renewed her vows on her 10th wedding anniversary last year.

“Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have the choice to remain single… Self-marriage is an opportunity to celebrate our personal independence, self-reliance and freedom from the chains of convention.”

Unsurprisingly, a number of businesses have spotted opportunities. Gill launched Marry Yourself Vancouver, a wedding planning service, last year. In Japan, where one in seven women are unmarried, Cerca Travel offers a two-day package that provides a dress fitting, make-up and hair styling, and a photo shoot, for upwards of $4,400.

Are these companies helping to de-stigmatize lone declarations of love or, as one website posited in response to Erika’s big day, “just looking to make bucks [off] a few sad feminists”?

“This is not a substitute for a partner, on the contrary it is (about being) a stronger member of society (and) more grounded as a person,” says California-based jeweller Jeffrey Levin, who created the self-marriage kit service, I Married Me, despite being conventionally married to his wife, Bonnie.

The pair have sold “hundreds” of packages, which can include white gold wedding rings, vows and ceremony instructions for around £200 [$352 Canadian], in a bid to “allow individuals to be have a physical, tangible way of self-reinforcement and positivity”.

Of course, not everyone looks at the trend quite so positively.

When news of Tanner's wedding hit the headlines, many on social media were quick to call her a narcissist; acquaintances, too, haven’t held back.

“A couple of guys have become a bit incensed,” she says. She has continued to date since her wedding ceremony, but has no plans to marry anyone (else). “One told me I couldn’t have my cake and eat it by marrying myself and then going on to have other relationships, and a man I was having a holiday fling with flipped out,” she says.

“I was surprised by the anger – it’s not harming anyone. Most of the guys I’ve been out with have been really supportive. It’s been a good filter to see their reactions when I tell them, as if they suddenly become wary, they’re not the one for me anyway.”

Tanner has one sister and four step-sisters, ranging in age from 22 to 38. She is, thus far, the only one out of the six of them to have been a bride.

“We’re all familiar with the fact that 2.4 children don’t always work out,” she says. “I think Mum might quite like me to find a nice man and be happy, but she knows from experience that things don’t always end up like that.”

If marrying oneself doesn’t preclude having a relationships with anyone else, however, and confers no legal benefits, what is the point?

“You can be more lonely in a relationship that’s not functioning than just being on your own, and a lot of people don’t realise that,” Tanner explains. “I hope seeing how empowering committing to yourself is, can liberate people and teach them that seeking solitude is a good thing. You can waste your life waiting for the one, when you are the one yourself.”

Perhaps sologamy is the inevitable next step for millennials, who have already traded the traditional grown-up signifiers of home ownership and settling down for travelling the world, itinerant careers and moving from one rented flat to the next. In these very modern marriages, as with so much else, the only constant seems to be themselves.

Monday, 15 May 2017

10 years ago: The death of Jerry Falwell

On May 15, 2007, Rev. Jerry Falwell, one of America's best-known televangelists and "Religious Right" activists, died of cardiac arrest at the age of 73. Rev. Fatwhale Falwell was pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia from 1956-2006; founded what is now Liberty University in 1967; and founded the political lobby group Moral Majority in 1979. He was one of America's most prominent televangelists, and was known for his conservative theological, social, and political views.

Rev. Falwell did some good things (e.g., he backed up his pro-life views by founding a chain of homes for unwed mothers) and was unafraid of controversy, but was often guilty of poor judgement and unwise and unbiblical fellowship. See my posts:

Libertine University (May 9, 2009)

25 years ago: Jerry Falwell announces the formation of the Liberty Federation (January 3, 2011)

25 years ago: Jerry Falwell resigns as PTL chairman (October 9, 2012)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

100 years ago: The first apparition of Our Lady of Fátima

On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children--Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto--reported the first apparition of Our Lady of Fátima (the Virgin Mary) in Fátima, Portugal. Mary Dalke at her Living4HisGlory's Blog has two excellent and lengthy posts on the subject, which I recommend:



The only thing I have to add is that it was on May 13, 1981--the 64th anniversary of the first apparition--that Pope John Paul II was in St. Peter's Square in Rome when he was shot by would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The pope had just bent over to look at a small picture of the Virgin Mary that a little girl was wearing, and if he hadn't bent over at that instant, the first bullet would have struck him in the head. During his convalescence, Pope John Paul experienced a vision of Mary, who told him that she had spared his life in order to fulfill a special mission in bringing peace. On May 13, 1982, one year after his shooting, Pope John Paul made a pilgrimage to Fátima, where he prayed before a statue of Our Lady, and consecrated the world to Mary (not Christ), as she had requested. Five years later, Pope John Paul II declared a Marian year, which ran from June 7, 1987-August 15, 1988.

June 13, 2017 update: Another post from Living4His Glory's Blog:


Thursday, 11 May 2017

10 years ago: The death of racist cult leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, Matthew 24:24a (also Mark 13:22a)

...I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9b

On May 7, 2007, Yahweh ben Yahweh died of prostate cancer at the age of 71. Mr. Yahweh, born Hulon Mitchell, Jr., was the son of Hulon Mitchell, Sr., who pastored a church in Enid, Oklahoma that was affiliated with the Pentecostal denomination Church of God in Christ. Mr. Mitchell, Jr. founded the Black Hebrew Israelite cult Nation of Yahweh in Florida in 1979, claiming that he was the Son of God and the living Messiah. He was in prison from 1990-2001 after being convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of conspiracy in more than a dozen murders. Mr. Yahweh was paroled after serving 11 years of an 18-year sentence; restrictions imposed on his activities as conditions of his parole were lifted a few months before his death from prostate cancer.

The Nation of Yahweh is a race-based organization that subscribes to a form of replacement theology, teaching that people of African descent are the true Israelites rather than Jews. The Nation of Yahweh can be regarded as a Negro counterpart to white race-based Christian Identity groups; it still exists despite the death of its "Messiah," and has reportedly repudiated its racism. Readers can go to the Nation of Yahweh's website and come to their own conclusions.