Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter: Christianity, Tolerance, and Intolerance
1. Time on a clock.
Therefore, when the word "ball" is spoken, we must either ask clarifying questions, or find in context whether this ball is quite small, for golf, a bit bigger for baseball, slightly deflated and oblong for football, or large and round for basketball, if that is, the "ball" is about sports.
Yet, when someone says it is "3PM" it is the same post-meridium hour beyond noon, for everyone. When someone says "the" instead of "a", we know that the article indicates a familiarity in introduction. "A man came up to me and told me to hand over my money. The man had a gun in my back."
In the usage of pronouns, when one says "we" instead of "I", we know that he was not alone.
This does not change from person to person, nor from context, as the word "ball" does.
Seeing that this is Easter and I have written an inflammatory headline, let's define a few words:
Christianity is hereby meant the followers of Christ, as dictated by the Bible, consisting of 66 books, both Old and New Testament.
Tolerance is hereby meant the peaceful acceptance of other beliefs, persons, activities, etc.
Taking these terms into account, I wish a Happy Easter to Christian Readers, and hope that Jews have had a blessed Passover.
Statement Analysis is something, once embraced, that is difficult to shake. Regular readers here are influenced by language to the point where they read books, including the Bible, with the "lens" of Statement Analysis on.
Christianity is the following of Christ, of Whom there is one exhaustively intolerant of competitors. Statement Analysis notes:
Jesus Christ claimed to be the exclusive access to God, the Creator. When someone says that there are "many roads to Heaven", they oppose Christ, Who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" and that any other way to the Father is by "thieves" and "robbers."
If that is not clear enough, He said, "No man goes to the Father but through Me."
Jesus Christ claimed to be the visible embodiment of God, Himself. When the Pharisees challenged this, saying, "You're not even 50 years old, and you've seen Moses?" (not the language: he was only 30 or so at the time. Why would they compare him to a 50 year old in a dry climate, at a time where life expectancy meant 50 being old?) "He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief..." Think of how sadness impacts our faces and bearing the sins of others would wear upon us.
That he made the claim of divinity was not lost on the Pharisees who charged him with the capital crime of blasphemy.
He did not deny it. Not only was there no reliable denial, but Christ said, "You say it", yourselves, pointing out, perhaps, not only that they recognized that He had power over the laws of nature and had discussed it among themselves, but their own lips framed these words.
Truth, by definition, cannot be changed.
If you take two eggs and whip them up on a hot pan, they are "scrambled eggs." It matters not if you call them a "door"; they are scrambled eggs.
Time cannot change truth. As water may wear down a rock over many years, no such phenomena can be found with regard to truth.
If you whip up the eggs tomorrow, they will still be scrambled. If your great great great grandmother did the same, generations ago, they were scrambled eggs. If your great great great great grandchildren whip them up many years from now, they will still be scrambled eggs.
Truth is not altered by changing its wording, nor is truth changed by the passage of time. Truth, by definition, remains outside of influences of change; that is, of course, if it is truth in the first place.
Christ was utterly intolerant of all other religions, yet, He exhibited great tolerance for sinners while being exhaustively intolerant of sin.
Now, since everyone has a personal subjective dictionary within them, the word "sin" must be clarified.
Sin is any "transgression of, or failure to keep" the law of God, found within the Bible.
Do you remember growing up and memorizing the Ten Commandments? They revolutionized the world.
What was Christ intolerant of?
Sin, or "transgression" meant breaking of any of the Ten Commandments, with Christ explaining that to even think or plot to break one of them, was to break one. Therefore, the prohibition "thou shalt not murder" was broadening in understanding to include hatred. "Honor thy father and mother" was upheld by Him, even when the local culture and custom allowed for people to make a donation instead of taking care of their elderly parents; a clever twist to get out of the obligation. In fact, the teaching "honor thy father and mother" was applied to the civil magistrates and others; in short, anyone in authority. This was later applied to school teachers and Little League coaches as respect was due to those who would be in authority, or even for those older. In Hollywood, who knows what's best? The 16 year old girl, or the stodgy old 47 year old father? Even this, in small element, stands against the commandment.
The Ten Commandments were the basis of all laws and was the link between eternal life and eternal death.
So the imagery was set:
Picture heaven above you and the eternal death below you, and you hang by a chain, holding on for dear life.
The chain, of course, has links.
Ten of them, in fact.
The question is now asked:
Does it matter which of the ten links breaks?
The teaching of Christ was found within Him and the men He himself deliberately sent out to the world:
No one was able to keep the holy law of God; therefore, all were worthy, in the Eyes of the Holy (sinless) God, of eternal death.
Hence, God Himself, in the Person of Christ, came to earth and took upon Himself the sins of humans, unjustly punished and put to death for those sins.
The sins He had were "borrowed" sins, just as the grave He was put in belonged to another; a borrowed grave for borrowed sins.
Then, the Bible teaches, death was unable to keep Him in the grave, and so, as Christians both claim and celebrate on Easter, He rose from the dead.
There were hundreds of eye witnesses to this event, who "testified" that He had, in deed, as He predicted, rose from the dead. Some of the eyewitnesses learned that unless they recanted their testimony, they would be put to death.
They chose death rather than lying.
These eyewitnesses then went out telling others what they had seen.
The law was holy.
No man could keep it.
Every man deserved death.
Christ died for man's sins.
Christ conquered the final enemy of all of mankind: death.
They said "repent of your sins and believe this to be true." Then, the law, instead of condemning them, would now be "written in the heart", that is, part of the intellect and emotions.
Here, the word "repent" needs definition. It means to turn one's back to. They also repeated His stupendous claims about being the exclusive avenue of access to God, and claimed Him to be the only acceptable sacrifice since He, as God in the flesh, did perfectly keep the law; the same law that every other human has trampled in thought and deed, every day of life.
This message spread and slowly infiltrated the thinking of mankind. It was not easy, and it did not, in any single generation, come without struggle.
The intolerance of Christ's personal claim was thus commanded to be presented in a most...tolerant manner.
It was not a religion of the sword, that is, of coercion, but of persuasion. Specifically in word, the persuasion was to be done by "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you" and by giving mankind an example of how to live, using "God's Words", that is, the Bible, to do so.
It would be done in a see-saw fashion. First, it would bring sadness, and then it would bring gladness.
The number two selling book for hundreds of years highlighted this simply. "The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyon showed a man who had a terrible burden on his back.
This burden weighed him down and impacted everything he did in life. He could not enjoy his work, his wife, his children, fully, because it worried and oppressed him.
He had some friends who referred him to doctors who were said to be skillful at removing such "invisible burdens" as the melancholy of the main character bore. These remedies failed to remove the burden that the main character had, and the burden was this:
Keep each one of those links and hold on, and live. Break one of those ten links, and you're done for.
Since "thou shalt not murder" meant a prohibition of personal hatred and since "covet not thy neighbor's wife" meant keep your eyes to yourself, and since "thou shalt not steal" was even taught to makes sure that sales balances were not tilted, the main character knew that each day of his life brought him one day closer to eternal death. In fact the language of eternal death is "symbolic" language, which provided little relief since the nature of symbolic language means the reality is far greater than the symbol. He could look at his tiny wedding ring, a symbol so small, but know it represented such a huge part of his life: his marriage. Therefore, when the skilled doctors said, "oh, don't worry, it is just symbolic language of hell fire...", it brought him into greater despair.
As he made his "progress" or journey in life, his despair or "burden" grew and grew until he felt as if he could walk no further. It was then he was given direction and told to go through a specific gate; not other gate, that is, no other way would help him, but would "steal and rob" him of the promise of being relieved from his terrible burden.
He eventually came upon a cross, an instrument of the cruel death penalty of ancient Romans. It was there that he saw, for the first time, that "propitiation" or "payment" was made, in his name, by someone else, and his burden rolled off his back, down a short hill, and fell into...
an empty tomb.
The tomb, carved out of rock, had been a borrowed tomb, as it belonged to someone else.
He was now free of his burden, and would walk the rest of his life in maintaining, against many challenges, this freedom, that is, until he came to the final river which all mankind must cross.
This book was the number two best seller because, as people have said since it was written, it gives the reader a feeling that the reader, himself or herself, actually wrote it, and it is an autobiography.
This from an uneducated tinker!
The message of the risen Christ was to make mankind "sad" by telling them of the laws they must keep, with the hope that the utter fruitlessness of keeping the law would lead them to seek a substitution for the death penalty, that is, Christ.
When the sad person, made sad by the holy demands, "saw" his condition and the remedy, his "eyes were open" to forgiveness. He then would be challenged, against his own nature, to live the law and treat others as he wanted to be treated. This meant forgiveness and tolerance and mercy towards others.
Christians taught that there is no joy of forgiveness unless one realizes the need for forgiveness.
We often speak of the Holocaust as such an extreme example of suffering. Another is the "middle passage" in the slave trade.
Explorers into Africa concluded that most Africans, up to 75% in any given village, lived in slavery. They were sold by their fellow Africans into slavery spreading to Europe, the Middle East and America. Since they were "cargo", the conditions of the ship's passage was horrific, with disease, death and cruelty beyond imagination.
It was here that one who profited off the lives of blacks wrote, "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!"
These were, in context, vulgar words. John Newton saw his condition as a "sinner" as one who is "undone" and who had broken all of the links of the chain, and had no mercy upon the miserable black lives beneath even cargo on his ship.
Upon belief in Christ's message, he dedicated his life to doing good, and felt, as it were, that he was previously blind to his condition; a wretch. In his time, "wretch" was a foul, vulgar descriptive word of high insult. This is how he saw himself because of his reference point:
He stood himself up against the holy law.
His self esteem fell through the floor.
I esteem my children highly and have not spoken to them in name calling, but in kindly, supportive terms, all of their lives, while not "lying" with false words such as, "Yes, you will be 6'5" and make millions of dollars, and no one is better than you..." and so on.
I have enjoyed watching "Daniel Tiger" with my grandson. There are lots of good messages brought forth, yet it is that I saw a pattern in over 20 episodes.
The principle focus is upon Daniel's feelings. I compared this, not to Bugs Bunny whopping someone over the head with a hammer, but with "Davey and Goliath" of yesteryear.
The difference is startling.
Davey's focus was always upon doing good, while Daniel's is predominantly feeling good. Davey's feelings were dealt with, but were in subordination to his actions. I wonder if this is too much missing from today's philosophies where people are fighting one another for the best parking spot in life, or kids killing each other over expensive sneakers.
Perhaps I think too much.
Hitler said that Jewish blood was different than Aryan blood.
He really did.
This got so that if a professor of science took a drop of Jewish blood and put it under a microscope next to a drop of Aryan blood, the professor received rebuke.
He was forbidden to say such things as, "Jewish blood and our blood is the same."
Freedom of speech was denied.
It then progressed, because of resistance, to consequence.
Said professor went from admonished to a letter in his file to losing his job to losing his freedom to losing his life.
Hitler was not a fan of Christianity and he said, "Jews killed Christ."
Was this true?
Technically, one could say that Italians killed Christ, because it was the Romans that put Him to death.
But that wouldn't work because, early on, Hitler really admired Mussolini.
It was that Romans put Christ to death because Jews lied, under oath, about Christ. This is also technically true.
But the Bible, which for Christians is the final authority in all matters, teaches something very different:
That those who believe in Christ, present, future, and past, caused Christ to be put to death for their sins. In other words, it was not Jews, nor Romans, that put Christ to death, but, to follow the Bible, it was those who, like John Newton and John Bunyon, who recognized themselves as "transgressors of the holy law" that put him to death. This was a belief upheld throughout Christianity, taught and retaught, for 1938 years, give or take.
Hitler did not like this. He wanted Jews scapegoated for killing Jesus and wanted the doctrine changed.
What would the churches in Germany (and surrounding lands occupied by the Nationalist Socialist Party (a political organization) do?
Would they change doctrine?
Or, would they defy the politics of the day?
Answer: Some changed their teachings and lived, while others refused to change and suffered consequences with attendant "crimes against the political party" including:
Refusal to pray "blessings" upon Hitler;
Providing secret passage for Jews to leave Germany
Assisting Jews financially;
and so on.
As did some in academia, some of the clergy lost their freedom, and some lost their lives for the truth.
In upholding the law of God, Christians are sometimes slandered as "hateful."
The tolerance demanded from people of faith comes from the intolerant, themselves, bullying, harassing and slandering, all with the blessings of the media.
The "thou shalt nots" do not change. We may embrace them or we may reject them. Christianity specifically teaches "conquest by persuasion" with "persuasion" clearly defined as
a. Using sound words
b. Loving their neighbor, with specific instruction to "help them who oppose themselves", presupposing that people will literally oppose their own good.
c. Feeding them when they are in hunger.
d. Consoling them when they are in prison.
e. Providing clothing for them when they lack.
In other words, the persuasion of Christianity is prescribed in terms that represent the highest human dignity known to man.
As even a nominally Christian nation, America gives like no nation on the face of the earth has ever given. When something goes wrong on the other side of the world, we give and we give. We do not ask the religion of those in need: we just give.
Christ, Who most intolerantly claimed to be the only way to eternal life, had his followers do what he did:
yield, submit and even give up their lives for the good of others.
When confronted with same sex marriage, the political pressure is immense and it is growing. Just 20 years ago, imprisonment for declaring "thou shalt not" was unthinkable, yet now, here we are.
As they did in the 1930's, churches are now faced with one of two choices:
Change their teaching to fit the political atmosphere of the day, or...
In Islam, the person who practices same sex relationships is put to death by the devout followers of the Koran. When this was photographed recently, the media barely covered it. When a pizza parlor was asked about catering a same sex wedding, the media spread it like wild fire. The intolerance shown to the owners, because of their faith, was staggering.
I have gay friends who chuckle about gay marriage. They don't agree with it. Why not?
They say that the only ones who benefit are divorce lawyers, but they do not dare say such a thing aloud. Instead, they laugh about it.
Pendulums always return, historically speaking, and those who now are in the "favor" of the pendulum do well to consider showing tolerance to those who disagree with them. If Shariah law is imposed, for example, as it is in many countries (and even locales) in our world, here, the Christian church will, as it did in Nazi Germany, have a choice:
Change their doctrine to agree with Islam, or help those persecuted by Islam and risk their own lives.
"To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammad and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab . Here, I think, is a text for some eloquent sermon on the virtues of Christianity."
This was said by Gen. George S. Patton after studying the koran in preparation for possible North African campaigns. He knew Islam as a political and military religion and knew it needed study to be defeated.
Christianity, as a religion of persuasion, is under "direct orders" to continue to teach the truth about the ten links of chains, no matter how unpopular one or two may be today, and offer free forgiveness. It is commanded to do so in "meekness", "gentleness" and "forbearance", that is, in tolerance.
When one says, "this behavior is wrong", it is not "hate speech." It is a belief that, in America, we are free to embrace, or free to reject.
This has been part of our greatness as a nation: an ability to disagree, strongly, with one another, but defend the right to disagree.
Today, sadly, I do not recognize our nation as such.
We were told that we could not disagree with Barak Obama's policies, otherwise, we are "racist."
Blacks and whites are polarized, while all things "Islam" are being upheld as "multiculturalism" as its finest, even while the Koran calls for the subjugation of women, death to same sex, death to Jews, death to Christians, and is a culture of death.
When almost 150 Kenyan students were murdered this week, the live or die litmus test was if they could recite the Koran.
Obama said that it is not about religion.
When Jews were marked with the Star of David, was it not about their religion?
The devout followers of the Koran marked the homes of Christians with the letter, "N", for "Nazarene" so that they, too, like the Jews in Germany, could be marked, for extortion (the Koran teaches such) and for death (the Koran teaches death if they do not pay the extortion and "willingly" recognize the "superiority" of the Mohammadan).
We are told by our president that it is not about religion.
When we fought the Nazis, we studied Mein Kampf, to know our enemy.
When we fight the "war on terror" we ignore the specific words of the Koran that devout Muslims embrace when they go about their conquest, and their colonizing of Europe.
What do the intelligentsia say when the teaching of the Koran is pointed out, for example, in court when a woman is beaten by her husband?
When it is then pointed out that no specific race is identified, instead, an ideology, the response is "Racist!"
Knowing that a lie, repeated often enough, is embraced, "racist", like "hate speech" is repeated like Nazi propaganda, even to our children.
"Hands up!" by five year olds?
Christ taught that He was the exclusive avenue of access to God, and that His followers were to preach His Word, accompanied by "good works", that is, helping others with the bare necessities of life physically, as well as psychologically offering forgiveness, kindness and good will towards others.
Christians have succeeded in many areas and times, and failed in many areas and times, but these are their marching orders and the marching orders are in writing for one and all to see.
You don't like some of the "thou shalt nots"? Me, neither. Yet, personally, being shown how terribly "undone" I have been in life has lead me to change, of which I am grateful. You and I are free to then move on, if we do not like it. We do not have to demand that it change to suit our belief de jour. Bullying takes a lot of effort and always leads to backlash.
Backlash is something best avoided when possible. We can get along. We have done it before and we can do it again. We can disagree without being intolerant towards others. It will not be done successfully by bullying.
Should you be so inclined, consider reading "The Pilgrim's Progress" to learn why it was, for so many years, the number two best selling book of all time after the Bible. It will, in the least, give us much to discuss. Post some statement analysis on passages of the Bible. Is it really possible that since no two people can agree on anything that an entire book can be authored by more than 25 authors, speaking in different life times, different languages, different cultures, all agree and not contradict one another? I love reading challenges to inerrancy. It fuels me.
Statement Analysis, particularly when referring to original languages, provides innumerable lessons. I continue to be amazed at what I am studying, not reading, on the "Linguistic Archeology" by Avizoam Sapir. Stunning. Stunning.
I do wish for a very Happy Easter to all, that we may be respectful and tolerant of one another's beliefs, and that we might be utterly intolerant of that which threatens our liberty and our lives, even as I wished a Happy Passover to Jews around the world. Many of them, today, are fearing for their children's lives, and their nations very existence.
We do not live in easy times.
Christianity's message was called "good news", which presupposes bad news. The "bad news" is simply:
1. All have sinned
2. Sin brings death
3. Faith, or belief in Christ means new life, embracing or loving the law, but forgiven when broken.
4. Resurrection: Christ rose from the dead, promising, as One Who cannot lie, that those who believe in Him, will also conquer death.
This is the basic belief of Christianity. With forgiveness in hand, the followers were commanded to "build up" the garden to a "garden city", that is, progress well in life, literature, arts, music, poetry, conservation of resources, including fish, animals, and trees, all specifically mentioned, as part of "abundant life" for followers. John Bunyon's character would have challenges, but he was to make progress, even in difficult times. He, like all Christians, are commanded to "exegete" the world, itself, that is, to find out what God has put into the world. It is the "glory of God to conceal a matter" and for a man to "search it out."
This means learning to play the piano by finding out what marvelous things are found within its notes. This means studying the lives of African lions, exploring outer space, using technological advances to finding means to feed the starving in the Sudan. It means hitting a baseball as far as you can, or learning the beauty of colors, going one after another...and so on and so forth.
If we found how to split an atom and destroy an entire city, can we find a way to split an atom and produce clean fuel for the entire world to be blessed by? It is out there, somewhere, waiting, along with victory over cancer...if we press for progress in life; progress in education, and progress for the dignity of man, made in God's Image.
We can disagree with Christianity as we are free, in our nation to do so, just as we are free to embrace it. I am thankful for this freedom.
This freedom is as essential to the soul of man as air is to breathing.
We need our freedom. We can disagree with civility, and prosper, learning one from another, while defending each others' rights to think and believe as he and she so wishes.
as Mrs. Weinstein, my fifth grade teacher taught me to say so many years ago,
Peter Hyatt, Easter 2015