Saturday, 31 October 2009

Bolivian Catholics asked to forgo human skulls - Yahoo! News UK

 

The Bolivian Episcopal Conference on Friday asked the overwhelmingly Catholic nation to cast aside the "growing" trend of seeking protection from bad luck by making offerings of coca, cigars or drinks to human crania.

As much of the world celebrates Halloween and Mexico prepares for its Day of the Dead, Bolivian bishops had another festival on their minds, the Day of Skulls, which falls on November 8.

Bolivian Catholics asked to forgo human skulls - Yahoo! News UK

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Panorama - Undercover - Hate on the Doorstep

This is a very disturbing documentary for, amongst others, the following reasons (from most to least obvious):
  1. Racism is alive and punching in the UK
  2. The abolition of corporal punishment has proved disastrous
  3. Islam is an incredibly destructive force
The BBC1 documentary follows two British Muslims who go undercover for eight weeks, posing as an Asian couple in a Bristol housing estate. They are constantly abused, harassed, sworn at, racially slurred, sneered at, subject to missiles of glass and brick, threatened, mugged, reduced to tears and actually physically thumped. It makes one sick to be white and British, and stiffens one's resolve (if it needed any stiffening) against the BNP and Nick Griffin's slippery attempts to sanitise its inalienably racist platform.

Firstly, then, the most obvious conclusion is that racism is not dead in the UK, despite Trevor Phillips' assurance that nobody has a problem nowadays living next door to someone of a different ethnicity. Mancunian reporter Tamanna Rahman finishes the programme with a beaming smile on her face - because she is so relieved to be leaving the hell-hole she's spent only two months in. In that time, she avers, she experience more racist abuse than the rest of her life put together. The programme itself is an almost tediously ceaseless litany of hidden-camera clips of her and her on-screen husband getting attacked by nasty little oiks.

But this takes me to the second point: corporal punishment. The programme exposes not just that people are racist in Britain. It also shows the rather obvious point that undisciplined and unoccupied youngsters will latch on to any distinguishing feature of someone 'other' and attack it, like starving piranha. Skin colour is the most obvious distinguishing feature and laziest way of creating a 'them and us' dynamic, which can then lead to the cheap thrill of defeating someone weaker in an artificially constructed competitive scenario. Which is to say - it's easy to bully a brown person because they're brown than to work hard at Maths which you've never really been too good at, and you've never had much help with. Now, obviously, the broader point is that some of Britain's schools are failing to engage and motivate their students. But I posit that the removal of the cane has been a pulling out of the linchpin of school management. The children and young men in the documentary are entirely without fear of reprisal. They delight in creating terror and panic in the poor Asian couple. I cannot avoid the conclusion that if they had experienced the thwack of birch against their fleshier portions they would not be so greedy to terrorise those they label 'terrorists'. Humiliation in both senses of the word is radically underrated, and scrapping the cane has done this: that is, the burning shame in both face and buttocks of having been found out as a nasty little boy, as well as the humbling of soul and the pause for thought every time future temptations to be a racist bully present themselves.

On the terrorism theme, we consider, thirdly, the effect of Islam on both its adherents (radical and moderate) and the nation as a whole. Islam in its rarefied, Koranic form incites religious and racial violence. It is a religion of the sword, and now the bomb. To the moderate Muslim majority, Islam's sword is two-edged. Vilified as compromisers by the Wahabis, moderates are blessedly unfaithful to the violent tenets of their own faith, and mercifully ignore the Qu'ran's 'rise up and slay them' suras. However, these dear people are often the ones who bear the brunt of white Britain's confused fear of the terrifying and bloody excesses that Islam daily produces around the globe. It is interesting how the ill-informed and ill-mannered kids on the estate nevertheless constantly employed the semantics of 'the war on terror' in their bullying tactics. It wasn't just 'Get out P*ki'; it was 'Don't bomb me!' and 'Iraq's that way' and so on. While Al-Qaeda are flying planes into towers and coercing Down's Syndrome females to blow themselves up in crowded markets, normal, ordinary, assimilated, pleasant, decent, hard-worker, British moderate Muslims are taking the flak. But this is not the worst of it. Islam does not just slay the infidel, it slays its own followers. Many who die in extremist attacks are themselves Muslims, including 9/11 and 7/7. And yet this is still not the worst of it. Mohammed evacuated the gospel of the Cross, and left no way for his poor followers to find a way back to God from the dark paths of sin. Islam is Christianity with the Cross replaced with a sword. The most truly loving thing to do for a Muslim is to show them the love of Christ and help to them to escape from the prison of Islam.
Watch the documentary, fight racism in all its forms, discipline your kids (spare the rod, spoil the child and everyone around him), and love your Muslim (or otherwise) neighbour with the gospel.

Britian's most haunted village 'cancels Halloween' - Telegraph

I wish to point out that the typo in the heading comes direct from the Daily Telegraph whose copy office is probably haunted by the ghost of Samuel Johnson, a man who was never that punctilious about what he put in his famous dictionary. When he was asked by a lady why he defined ‘pastern’ as the ‘knee’ of a horse, he replied, ‘Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance.’

“The village is said to have at least 12 spectres, including a highwayman, a phantom monk, the hanging body of a schoolmaster and a poltergeist in the local pub.”

It seems that things that go bump in the night are not the fun-packed entertainment they are popularly thought to be. If only more would grasp this truth.

Britian's most haunted village 'cancels Halloween' - Telegraph

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Spoof : Merger creates new Church of America funny satire story

I do so want this to be true because then we can merge our literature into one mega-tract we can hand out to everyone.

Salt Lake City, Utah - In an unprecedented merger, expected to have massive ramifications for spirituality in America, several major off-brand sects of Christianity have all joined together into one monolithic faith.

The Spoof : Merger creates new Church of America funny satire story

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – Great Ones and Little Ones (Matthew 18)

There is something so human about the question, you have to smile. Along comes this amazing Jesus who walks on water, heals the sick and raises the dead. He begins to talk about his kingdom and offers you a place in it. It is human nature to wonder, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” The disciples are thinking the way the world thinks, of ambition, endeavour, accomplishment and status. The kingdom Jesus describes is characterised by entirely different principles.

18:2-4 Greatness in this kingdom is realised only by having the faith of a child. It is impossible without total dependence on God as a child depends on a parent. When Jesus called Israel they refused him and stood at a distance in judgement. A child, when called, responded immediately, trusting and humble.

18:10-14 Greatness in this kingdom is realised by recognising the worth of others with childlike eagerness. Greeting them with joy not judgement, caring for them and searching them out when they stray.

18:15-22 Greatness in this kingdom is realised by understanding that believers are brothers and sisters and we deal with them as family, seeking to resolve differences, being quick to understand and forgive.

18:23-35 Greatness in this kingdom is realised in servanthood. Jesus said that he did not come to be served but to serve (Mt.20:28) and his service was expressed in sacrifice. Our faith does not elevate us but offers us opportunities to serve sacrificially.

Some people think that rules make the world go around and help us grow and achieve. We need rules of course but it is the courtesies, sacrifices and selflessness of people that make the world go around. It is rather like the grace notes on the piano. You learn the piano by the discipline of the rules but it is those grace notes, the all-important embellishments that can turn a piece of music into a symphony. Just so in the kingdom where it is the grace notes of Christian service that make kingdom living and identify Christians.

In our witnessing doctrine is essential, apologetics is invaluable but the sacrificial, forgiving and loving life of the Christian is the greatest evidence that the kingdom of God is near.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

“A Record Kept”: Constructing Collective Memory - LDS Newsroom

In June 2009 the Mormon Church announced the building of a new church library to house historical records of the church.

“From the earliest moments of the Church’s founding, Latter-day Saints have kept a record of their history. The principle behind this practice stems from a scriptural mandate: “There shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1), intended for the “good of the church” and “the rising generations” (D&C 69:8). Maintaining a perspective on the past, while fixing an eye toward the future, is nothing new in religious history. Accounts of God’s intervention in the affairs of mankind have been promulgated by prophets and sages since the beginning of time. These records have provided a framework of meaning that continues to shape human conceptions of morality, identity and progress. Continued

Consistent with this long tradition of sacred record keeping, the Church has devoted substantial resources to construct a new library. This building, which, in the words of Church Historian Marlin K. Jensen, “will rival the great libraries of the world with its facilities and collections,” is more than a physical repository of information. It is, at its heart, a vast spiritual undertaking aimed at expanding the collective memory of a people. And yet, without the laborious process of preserving tangible records, the spiritual act of remembering is diminished. Memory, both collective and personal, is a fragile thing.”

History is indeed fragile, especially Mormon history which seems to break as soon as it is looked at. Mormons have faithfully kept this history for generations but every time it is cited it is denied, dissembled and dismissed. The 26 volume Journal of Discourses, which is supposed to have been the exemplar of record keeping for Mormons, the diaries carefully recorded and passed down through families, all become opaque and unreliable historical curios because of the embarrassing information that can be garnered from them.

From polygamy through the Mountain Meadows Massacre to Negroes and the priesthood and the  disingenuous and disgraceful mission on the African continent the Mormon Church seeks at every turn to distract attention from its history and perhaps one of the most inconvenient “revelations” Joseph Smith ever had was D&C 21.

They end the report, “if a religion cannot explain its history, it cannot explain itself”

(No I don’t find this funny. That was an ironic laugh you heard. As Freddy Frinton said, “not funny, ha, ha. Funny, ugh”)

“A Record Kept”: Constructing Collective Memory - LDS Newsroom

Monday, 19 October 2009

Koinonia: Latayne C. Scott: The Lost and Found of Masonry and Mormonism

 A great blog post from Latayne Scott:
I imagine that many Christians have wriggled uncomfortably as they read Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol. Scattered through the book are disparaging references to Christianity (and not a few barefaced prostitutions of Bible verses taken out of context).
But imagine the reaction of some Mormons who have been through the secret LDS temple ceremonies when they read, in the first pages of the book, of Masonic oaths whose penalties are "Throat cut from ear to ear. . .tongue torn out by its roots. . .bowels taken out and burned . . .scattered to the four winds of heaven.."
Koinonia: Latayne C. Scott: The Lost and Found of Masonry and Mormonism

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – The Good Shepherd (John 10)

The picture of sheep and shepherd is used to describe the relationship between God and his people. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Shepherd also describes Israel’s spiritual leaders in the Old Testament and their responsibility was serious. Jeremiah wrote:

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer.23:1)

As Jesus spoke we have to remember what picture was brought to people’s minds and how his words described their leaders and challenged them. And it is a challenge, to them and to us. Jesus identified the characteristics of a good shepherd, who is,

A courageous protector: The shepherd slept in the one opening to the fold like a door between the sheep and their enemies. He protected them with his life, prepared to lay down his life for his sheep

A steadfast leader: In Palestine sheep are not driven but led. The shepherd leads “from the front” and they follow

A trustworthy guide: The shepherd concerned for his flock guides his sheep to the best pasture, “that they may have life to the full”

A personal friend: At might sheep might sleep several flocks in one fold but in the morning each sheep knew the voice of the shepherd and he knew them

Jesus doesn’t mince his words as he declares, “I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them” There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that there are those who call themselves shepherds but are thieves and robbers who come to steal, kill and destroy; or are hired hands who cares nothing for the sheep. I said there was a challenge and it is this; do you know the shepherd?

All shepherds will have followers but do we know and recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd? Are we confident that we are following the One who laid down His life for His sheep or is our shepherd one who expects us to sacrifice for him? Is our shepherd leading us in green pastures, giving us life to the full, or is our diet poor and lacking nourishment? Is our shepherd our friend and do we know his voice?

That is the challenge, to know him and to follow no matter the other sheep and other voices.

Friday, 9 October 2009

McConkie: The Apostle Mormons Love to Hate

Bruce R McConkie (the ‘R’ stands for Redd), member of the First Council of the Seventy from 1946, was an apostle of the Mormon Church from 1972 until his death in April 1985. Born into a Mormon family he boasted polygamist forebears who rubbed shoulders with Joseph and Hyrum Smith. One biographer describes McConkie as, “breathing, talking, and living the principles of the [Mormon] gospel... in the McConkie home.” He married Emma, the daughter of Joseph Fielding Smith, grandson of Hyrum, apostle from 1910 and church president 1970-72. He studied at Utah Law School, obtaining his BA degree and his LLB, served in the military, retiring as lieutenant-colonel and worked for the CIA.

His work has been described in glowing terms in a biographical note in the Ensign magazine, Jan.1973:


“He has written numerous articles and handbooks and read hundreds of manuscripts submitted for his appraisal. His sermons at conferences have been consistently doctrinal in nature, pointing out the basic gospel principles that lead to exaltation. He has truly taught that to know God and his Christ is to have life eternal. He has raised his voice in many lands as he has toured missions. His value in counsel has been wise, clear, and in harmony with the true principles of the gospel. His gift to write and speak concisely and with clarity amounts almost to genius, and he exercises these gifts willingly for the benefit of the work of the Lord whose name he reveres.


During his years in the First Council, he has found time to write four volumes of doctrinal studies and to edit three volumes of the doctrines expounded and explained by President Joseph Fielding Smith. These books, exhaustive in treatment and clearly written, reveal the clarity of the mind, the logic of the presentations, and the guidance of the Spirit in their composition. These stand as bulwarks defending true doctrine against the nebulous assertions of modern philosophers.”


A “True Believing Mormon”, a gifted man of doctrinal consistency, clarity, wisdom and genius, McConkie was, then, a man with solid Mormon credentials whose background fitted him well for a place in the leadership of the Mormon Church and his scholastic endeavours for his role as commentator and interpreter of Mormon Doctrine. Notably missing from the 1973 biography is any reference to Mormon Doctrine (pub.1958) the book that would become celebrated and repudiated in equal measure by Mormons.

In it he attempted to assemble a one volume systematic dictionary cum commentary, a compendium of what Mormons believe. McConkie described the work as the first major attempt to digest, explain, and analyze all of the important doctrines of the kingdom" and "the first extensive compendium of the whole gospel—the first attempt to publish an encyclopedic commentary covering the whole field of revealed religion." From Aaronic Priesthood, through Godhead and Scripture to Word of Wisdom, Worthiness and Zion McConkie presented the prevailing Mormon Doctrine.

It was written primarily as a reference book for Mormons and so its author was able to be more forthright on sensitive issues such as the Mormon attitude to Catholic and Protestant Churches (the former characterised in the first edition as “the Whore of Babylon” and the latter “daughters of a harlot”). However, such forthright language came under criticism by church leaders and the book was published in a revised form in 1966 and with further revisions in 1978. What was revised?

It seems the most notable difference between first and second editions was the tone. What concerned Mormon leaders was the use of “forceful, blunt language; some strongly worded statements [and] its authoritative style” and, while there were some doctrinal changes, it is notable that much of the Bible dictionary included in today’s Mormon reference Bible (pub.1979) was taken directly from Mormon Doctrine. There is a good account of the controversy at ex-Mormon.org. Since that time Mormons have found it easy to dismiss McConkie whenever he is quoted to them by critics yet he continues to be quoted widely by members, leaders and official publications of the Mormon Church.

This situation has earned McConkie certain notoriety and it is easy, indeed instinctive for Mormons to dismiss this Mormon apostle with impunity. It is interesting, however, that at least 80% of his "controversial" book was taken from Doctrines of Salvation, a compilation of the sermons and writings of his father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith; a work that McConkie himself compiled and knew thoroughly. Smith's remarks on apostasy and “apostate churches” are hardly less controversial than McConkie's (Vol.3 of DofS). I just read him again on the subject and Smith is frank in his teaching about a mother church, which he pictures in the hands of Satan, a church that is evil, corrupt and polluted with pagan philosophies, and [Protestant] daughter churches that are no better.

He does concur that "there is some truth in all the churches" but this is not the ecumenical statement it sounds for he doesn't mean Christian churches especially but religions of the world, mentioning Buddhists, Greek and Roman Gods alongside what we might more readily call a church; not exactly flattering comparisons for the Evangelicals with whom Mormons seem anxious to associate and identify these days.

Smith comments:

"The fact that they teach some truth does not make them the Church of God. There is but one Church of God."

Smith's commentary is no less "offensive" to Christians or less controversial for the Mormon Church than McConkie’s, but McConkie was censured while Smith wasn't. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so ready, therefore, to buy into the whole disowning McConkie business. The “truth” he wrote chimed very well with the Mormonism of recent generations but what Mormons once believed and how they expressed that belief was becoming a liability.

I was a Mormon from 1972 until 1986 and my memory is vivid not just because I was there but because I was taught, and in turn I taught this material for much of that time in priesthood, seminary, institute and Sunday school classes. Historically speaking, this is my old stomping ground so to speak. I know what we were taught and what we comfortably believed and McConkie was a very snug fit notwithstanding the official rebukes of his work.

The fact is that Mormons did and still do identify with McConkie and you will find his book on their shelves. A question I often ask is why does Mormonism not have commentaries? I think Mormons were hungry for something solid in that line to get their teeth into and McConkie provided it. They flocked to him, not because he and they were wrong, but because they spoke together the language of Mormonism, a language that became inconvenient as the world became more politically correct, and they identified with him.

How often have I heard people who minister to Mormons yearn for those days of McConkie because you knew where you were with him; not like today’s mealy-mouthed leaders whose work has to go through a correlation committee to ensure they are on-message even if they are a prophet. I just can’t imagine somehow Ezekiel, Isaiah Jeremiah or Paul seeking approval and endorsement for what God inspired them to say. Yet these are the men in whose footsteps these timid Mormon leaders purport to follow. John the Baptist would turn in his grave.