Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Christianity: It's Personal

There will never, ever be any scientific evidence that atheists require out of Christians for proof of our convictions. Never. I do not have it, I have never claimed to have it, I never will claim to have it. Because the scientific evidence that atheists demand simply does not exist. This does not, and will not, waver my Christian beliefs. How is it that I can live with such a paradox of thought? How is it that I readily admit that I don't have the evidence that atheists look for, but continue to accept what they would consider to be blatant fiction?

It's a valid question and an important question. It's also a question that needs to be thought out and pondered – especially as more and more question the validity of the Christian faith for many, many reasons – especially when mainstream Christianity has become, in my opinion, anything but Christianity but a political and financial powerhouse in itself, which poses in a shroud of religiosity. But that is for another time.

Why then do I continue to believe in Jesus Christ and His teachings? Why is it that I believe in the realms of heaven and the reality of spiritual beings even though I cannot show you or prove their existence? Why is it that I believe in angels? Why is it that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That there even is a God? I can't prove it to you – so why do I continue to harbor and support what many today regard to be myths, legends, fantasies, or even acute mental illness? How is it that I can believe in the face of so many arguments that seemingly assert that the Christian faith (and other religions) are simply the relics of bronze age educational immaturity?

It's not that I ignore the arguments. In fact, I know them pretty well. I've not only read Dennis' posts frequently – and much more than these – I have. It's not like I haven't heard of the skeptic's bible or skeptical positions. It's not that I haven't ignored the theories of Dawkins, the scientific minds of brilliant physicists, or the many arguments of the non-religious. Many of their findings are rooted in scientific fact and evidence, that's undeniable. I don't ignore the arguments. I don't even reject the arguments. The fact is, much of what they say can be evidenced as fact in reality – in our universe and in our realm. 

So how do I reconcile the fact that they may be correct in some things and yet I am still a Christian?
  • I believe in the existence of other realms beyond our scientific evidences of our realm.
This may be the most important belief structure that I carry. Science itself has proven that there are multiple, parallel dimensions well beyond our own, separate and distinct. I embrace this belief and reality, and I believe that what many call “Heaven”, and what many call “Hell”, and other realms in between, are simply what scientists now believe that have theories that point to their existence. This is where I am not able to pull out “proof” to the point. The only thing I can do in regards to this is to believe.
  • I believe in the personal evidence of a personal God in my personal life.
This is equally as important a belief structure as the first thing. That the evidence that I hold is personal, undeniable evidence that no other person beyond myself can prove. I can tell you right now that I am absolutely certain – fully convinced – of the personal intervention of spiritual beings in my life – interventions in my path, interventions that have saved me from harm, interventions in daily life, warnings that have stopped me from certain catastrophe – even direct angelic experiences. There is no other explanation to me. This is personal. This will not, and cannot stop those of whom I might share these experiences with from attempting to use the rules, laws, and physics of our universe to attempt to explain these away – using arguments of illusion, illness, coincidence, irrational thought, and you name the other twenty thousand explanations they would come up with. Yet personally – to me – there is no other explanation as to where I am today except for the direct intervention of spirit beings in my life. It is the only thing that makes sense to me.

Now, what about my belief in Jesus Christ, and in God? Even if many can accept the reality of some sort of higher power – that can stop for many when it comes to the claims of Jesus and of God as written in thousands of year old scriptures. The only answer that I can give is this:
  • Believing in Who and What Jesus Christ and God is – and the Holy Spirit – is a matter of personal conviction and faith and cannot be proven in any other way. It's a sole choice.
There will always be, and has always been, countless physical arguments concerning the things of God and Jesus Christ. There will always be those who will look at the Bible “literally” and will “literally” debunk tens of chapters and thousands of scriptures that do not fit with reality by any shape or form. There will be many who will look at some scriptures and literally refute talking donkeys, burning bushes, worldwide floods, six days of creation and one day of rest, manna – and taking it clear to the resurrection of dead bodies being raised, earthquakes, three hours of darkness, and you can go on and on with the literalism. The truth is, I wasn't there. You weren't there. We are not familiar with the writing styles and allegorical styles of thousands of years ago. We will never get a full grasp of what the whole story really was. The problem happens when you begin to take our translations of scripture as completely literal and fully perfect (there have been full scriptures added, and words removed or changed, depending on the translation.) The other problem happens when your understanding is that there is nothing beyond the box beyond the “written word”. I do not pretend to know the whole story. I do not pretend to have all the answers. What I do know is that I believe in the main point of the story – the central focus of Love, of God, how man fell from Grace, and was reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ, and all that entails in the age of grace and reconciliation to the Father in this present age. Misunderstandings only happen when you look at things perfectly and literally and miss the overall big picture.

Then there's the elephant in the room I need to talk about. What about “Old Testament Bible God”? What about all of the blatantly horrible things that are mentioned in Numbers? And Deuteronomy? Kings? And other OT books? What about that? Do atheists have a point here? Are they right that Bible God is exactly what they say He is? And that Old Testament God and New Testament God seem to be two very different Gods – or one very Bi-Polar God? How does one reconcile the things that Old Testament God did or endorsed – with the things New Testament God condemns? Does this make any sense? Are we just to ignore the arguments of those who see these things and are bold enough to point them out? Are we to simply ignore them and say “We don't have all the answers”? Should we brush those points out?

No. I don't believe we should. There's a lot in the Old Testament that is cringe-worthy to read. There's a lot that is horrific. A lot that is very gruesome and a lot that we know is unacceptable in a civilized society. No one is going to claim that such things are permissible “just because God did it so we can too”. If we were to believe that then we've missed the whole point. So how then do we approach this?

I can only tell you how I approach it. First, I believe that through the beginning of time to the end of time that the realms of love have always existed, and that God is and always has been love. Scripture is clear that God has always been love, and changes not, yesterday, today, and forever. Love is and always has been the nature of God, through and through. We know that is the foundation of all things holy – love. Second, I know that something happened from modern man's rise in civilization – the introduction of wickedness and evil from what we read in the Bible are called “the Serpent”, and “the Watchers” otherwise known as the “Nephilim”. We know this wickedness rose to horrific proportions, according to scripture. We know that mankind was categorically evil through and through, due to the interference of the “serpent”, the “watchers” and the “Nephilim”. Do I have proof of these things? No, I do not. It is simply a matter of belief.

It is my belief that in order to be reconciled to God the “fully evil” mankind had to be made “fully aware” of their condition and their need for a Savior to reconcile them to God. This then is where the prophets came in and the Law was made known so as to bring people to a place where repentance could finally be achieved, and where Love could come down and reconcile mankind to the Father, once, and for all. I am not going to sit here and claim that I know all the answers to the OT God/NT God questions. Because I do not have the answers. It is only by faith and by belief that I can state this: That just because we do not know the answers completely does not mean that we have to have it all figured out. There is much we must admit we don't know, and things we think we know and understand and have to admit we absolutely do not understand. It is not shameful to admit we don't know it all, but to trust that those things will be answered in due course. It is more shameful to try to convince others of things we say we know and actually do not, then to admit we do not know when asked if we know.

It can seem difficult to live a life of belief in a world where physical evidence is absolutely mandatory in modern life to show fundamental truth because our belief is in what is beyond our reality, and what is beyond our realm. It is beyond us. This is what Christianity demands, though. Christianity demands belief in the unbelievable. Christianity demands we believe what Christ has told us. Christianity demands we take Jesus for his WORD. Christianity demands we surrender ourselves and let Christ lead the way to the other realms we know nothing of, but have personally and unexplainably yet undoubtedly experienced. Christianity demands faith in those things which have not yet been seen, and belief in that which has not been revealed. This is the life of the Christian. This is the life of faith. It's a life that seems to the atheist to be crazy, insane, ill, illogical, redundant, misguided, ridiculous, bronze-ageish, mythological, fantastical, immature, unreasonable, and uneducated in every sense of our physically minded realm. But personally, it's anything but. Personally, it's a whole different picture. It's meaningful, reliable, calming, assuring, relieving, clear, fully visioned, fully seen, grateful, truthful, and – and this is the main point – absolutely undeniable. But you can't convince anyone else of what you know is true, because it's personal. And it's real – but only to you. And your God who has a personal relationship with YOU.

And in that is the whole point which physics, literalism and atheism cannot and will never see, feel, or grasp. Which leads Christians to be seen to be illogical, unreasonable, insane, mentally ill, and uneducated.

If that's how it seems, that's how it seems. Because it's a personal link to a personal God. And there's no other way to explain it. And there never will be any other way to explain it. Not now, not ever.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Promised Land: New Play Based Upon Armstrongism, Brighton, UK

Rhiannon Brace’s autobiographical play The Promised Land gives us the best of two dramatic worlds – the ring of authenticity and a pleasing narrative arc (not always present in autobiographical work). Her website states that she 'creates performance from a female perspective' that is 'often rooted in personal experience and events'.

The best of two dramatic worlds.

Here we are drawn into Brace’s childhood experience of the Worldwide Church of God, a conservative and fundamentalist Christian organisation with a head office in the USA. The end of the world is nigh, and this inevitably has repercussions – what is the point of making long term plans? Why go to school when we’re all about to be consumed in a lake of fire? (except for the faithful, of course, who will enter the Promised Land). Ultimately, though, how many years can you wait for the imminent end of the world?

Brace’s evangelical father (played with benign menace by Scott Swinton) tells us, as members of the congregation, 'Satan is not neglecting your children!', and every aspect of life has to be policed to keep the faithful and their vulnerable offspring safe - television and pop music are full of invitations into an almost universally sinful world. In terms of UK television, only Blue Peter gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. All else has dangerous content lurking like deadly rocks below the surface, ready to wreck all good intentions.

The only problem is that Brace is not faithful, she is indomitably guileless and with an innocence that becomes increasingly fragile as time passes. She is a musician who cannot understand why music can be sinful; a dancer who can only see beauty, and not Satan, in the ballet that she is learning and which ultimately becomes forbidden.

The perspective of personal experience makes this a tender piece of theatre rather than a cult-bashing diatribe, although the toxic nature of this kind of rule bound religious community is clear throughout. Being told that she will need to be subservient and obedient to her future husband leaves Brace bemused rather than angry and this is perhaps a key point: in the sheltered world of her community such statements are perfectly normal, even though it is the 1990s. In Rhiannon’s case, independent spirit (which, we are reminded, comes solely from Satan) remains subdued but it is still very much alive. Poignantly, we find that this remains the case despite much effort to subdue it. A tale of female resilience and survival, this is a testament to one woman’s authenticity and tenacity in a world that demands subjugation and threatens ‘disfellowship’ at every turn.

Novelist, journalist, co-founder of Yama Theatre and Fringe fan. Author of cult Brighton based novel Thirteen.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

COG Myths: The Place of Safety CANNOT Be The Mountains!

Ever since Herbert Armstrong and Gerald Waterhouse dreamed up fantastical stories about "the place of safety" or the "place of final training", the church has been filled with endless speculation on how this would happen.

We all know that Herb and crew designated Petra as that final place, while a few raving lunatics found other places, like Pella, Utah, in your own home, in the moutnains. and many more crazy ideas.  You can now official scratch the mountains as a place of safety.

Juan Raines of Truth Search, a COG splinter, has the reason the mountains CANNOT be the place of safety.  Because the mountains are now infected with survivalists, white supremacists, and forest rangers, it will not be safe to hide in the mountains. Leave it up to Smokey the Bear and the forest rangers to kill a good idea!

Another aspect of the argument is that God will protect us wherever we live, in the mountains, etc.  Forget that!  The mountains of this country are no haven for anyone.  They are full of forest rangers and if people started hiding out in the mountains the FBI, and other federal agents, would be swarming in no time.  Furthermore, there is the problem of finding food to eat and water to drink.  Moreover, let us face it; most of us could not climb a good size hill without having to call in an ambulance with a cardiac massage team!  One might say, “But God will have to produce miracles.”  True!  
Therefore, why does it have to be in the mountain at the back of our home?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Kevin Dean Pleads Guilty: "... Dean previously told investigators that he “did things he shouldn’t have done” with the victim "

Fugitive child molester pleads guilty to 11 counts

A Kennesaw man who fled a Bartow County courtroom in 2012 — and has been on the lam for approximately seven years — entered a negotiated plea of guilty to 11 charges Tuesday morning.
Georgia Superior Court Senior Judge Shepherd L. Howell sentenced Kevin Owen Dean, 68, to 40 years for nearly half a dozen offenses, for which he will spend the first 20 years in prison and the remainder on probation.
“We had this case set back for a non-jury trial seven years ago in front of Judge D. Scott Smith,” said Cherokee Judicial Circuit Senior Assistant District Attorney Sharon Fox. “On the day of the trial, the defendant did not appear. I have spent years tracking Mr. Dean through multiple countries, in cooperation with Interpol and the United States Marshals Service.”
According to Fox, the defendant was arrested in Mexico. “He had a driver’s license and a false name and was recently brought back to the United States to face these charges,” she said. 
Prosecutors said Dean molested his step-granddaughter — who was under the age of 16 at the time of the offenses — at both his Cobb County residence and place of business, Imperial Medical Technologies, in Cartersville. 
Dean was originally charged with two counts of aggravated child molestation and two counts of aggravated sexual battery — which were reduced to the lesser included offenses of child molestation and sexual battery of a minor. He entered a plea of guilty to those four charges in Bartow Superior Court Tuesday, as well as six additional counts of child molestation and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes.
In court, Dean pleaded guilty to touching the breasts, genitals and buttocks of the victim, as well as showing her explicit sexual material, performing a lewd act in front of her and penetrating her with a foreign object.
Dean entered an “Alford plea” for all 11 charges — meaning that the defendant did not technically admit to committing the crimes in court, but nonetheless pleaded guilty due to the prosecution having sufficient evidence to likely garner a conviction during a trial. 
He received a 20-year sentence on the first count of child molestation, with a concurrent 20-year sentence for the second count of child molestation and two concurrent five-year sentences for the two counts of sexual battery on a minor. Dean received a consecutive 20-year sentence for the third count of child molestation, for which he received concurrent 20-year sentences for the remaining five child molestation counts and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes.
Fox said the victim, who is now an adult, is in agreement with the State’s recommended sentencing.
“Had it gone to trial, the State was also prepared to argue life,” Fox said. Per Bartow Superior Court documents, Dean faced a maximum quadruple life sentence for the offenses, plus an additional 130 years.
A bill of indictment indicates the offenses occurred between June 1, 2008, and Jan. 20, 2010. Fox said Dean previously told investigators that he “did things he shouldn’t have done” with the victim. 
“He acknowledged that she saw the porn on the internet and that she had seen his penis,” Fox said. “He also wrapped his penis in Saran Wrap and had her engage in oral sex on him. He masturbated in front of her and told her he would go to jail if she told.”
The victim, Fox said, told authorities the defendant would fondle her on rides to and from his Cartersville-based business. She said she anticipates more charges to follow for Dean in other jurisdictions. 
“I’ve been in touch with the Cobb County prosecutor’s office and they have docketed it pending his return to the United States,” Fox said. “It’s my understanding they’re going to pursue charges against him there as well.”
Pending Dean is released from prison, Fox said the defendant is subject to numerous sex offender probation conditions.
“I’ve marked that the credit for time served to be determined by the custodian because I wanted to make sure that he did get credit for the time coming out of Mexico and the State of Texas,” she said. “I know the court customarily waives the driving charges, but because in this rare case some of the incidents occurred while they were driving, I do want to include those in his special conditions. I also want to make sure the internet conditions are there, because a lot of the sexual material had been downloaded.”
Fox said Dean may possibly face additional child sexual abuse charges in other states.
“The State has served notice of similar transactions involving a conviction for two counts of lewd and lascivious acts against a child under 16 in Pinellas County, Florida,” she said, “as well as two additional similar transaction victims … that came forward and are willing to testify to similar acts committed against them when they were minors.”