Archive for jesus

you’ll shoot your eye out

 disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you will 

christmas is coming.  the geese are getting fat.  please put a penny in the old man’s hat.  or so the lyrics go (those lyrics being from edith nesbit bland’s classic christmas tune “christmas is coming” [though many times the second line is sung incorrectly as “the goose is getting fat”, but we’ll forgive that for the time being]).  this song is in a dandy little collection of songs that i personally like to refer to as “christmas songs”.  that, of course, is based mostly (well, maybe more of completely) upon the fact that they are about (believe it or not) christmas.

 now, i’m not going to be very politically correct in these words.  basically, this post is about christmas.  not hanukkah or kwanza or festivus or boxing day or any of that.  and that’s pretty much because i celebrate christmas and not any of the others.  so why not just talk about what i know?  and for that matter, why not talk about what (apparently) 96% of persons in the lovely united states of america know (according to this article at least [and make sure to please note the fabulous 105% of people that participated in the poll.  i’m assuming that’s due to holiday celebrating overlap, but it would be much, much cooler if they actually questioned 105% of people]).  so from this point on, christmas.

first of all, christmas is pretty much doomed.  as far as being what it should be and is supposed to be, that is.  as far as being a big time money maker and a commercial juggernaut (which as you all know is a lovely english word derived from the sanskrit word “jagannātha” [meaning “lord of the universe”]), it’s top notch.  as far as making people spend lots and lots of their well earned and meticulously saved money, there’s none better.  but (yes, there’s a but)… well, i won’t even say it.  i’ll let our friends at the ever-superb wikipedia(.com) spell it out.  basically, if you had no idea what in the world christmas was and wanted to know, you might go to wikipedia to find out.  if you were to take a quick look at their “christmas” entry, you might only have time to read the first line (and yes, we’re talking about a very quick look).  and if you could only read that first line, you would read the following: “christmas is an annual holiday that celebrates the birth of jesus.” oh dear, they said the j word.

notice, for a moment, what isn’t in that line.  there is a lack of presents.  there is a lack of shopping.  there is a lack of stores in general.  there is a lack of monetary exchange.  there’s even a lack of christmas lights, christmas trees, and christmas cookies.  the only item on the agenda:  jesus.

i touched upon this fact last year, so i won’t beat it into the ground.  i’ll simply leave it in a way that would make my math teacher of a sister proud.

jesus > presents.

and now back to where we started.  christmas music.  the reason i bring this up is because in my travels of late i’ve been going around (mostly, if not always) by car, and during those automotive excursions, i’ve been listening to the smooth sounds of lite 100.5 (which, by the way, is my “home for holiday music” [or something like that.  i can’t remember off the top of my head what their catchy line actually is]).  sadly, they don’t actually play any christmas music on the station.  they play a lot of holiday music.  but no christmas music.  which i think is weird.  even weirder, though, is the fact that the vast, vast majority of their holiday music is about christmas (and to be fair, i’ve decided to consider a song “about christmas” only if the word “christmas” is included at least once in the lyrics [or would be, i guess, in the tunes that are originally wordful but have been covered as instrumental]).

it is now time to be blunt (but not james blunt, as he has yet to release a fabulous christmas or holiday album [or any such album actually, fabulous or otherwise]).  in case you weren’t catching on to the witty sarcasm that was being employed in the above paragraph, i’ll make it easier.  lite 100.5 plays christmas music.  but they want to make everyone happy.  so they call it holiday music.  the end (or “that’s all folks”, as mr. porky pig would say.  your choice).  so is this really a big deal?  of course not.  but if it was, i’m sure i wouldn’t being writing (or typing, rather) about it.

the real problem with the whole “holiday music” deal is exactly the same problem as the whole present and money issue that we’ve already been over.  companies and radio stations and many other places and people have found an incredible loophole and are exploiting it for all it’s worth.  in our world and time (especially in the united states), religion is out and secularism is in.  and that is relfected about as clearly as anything around christmastime.  everyone wants to celebrate christmas (yup, everyone.  see, i told you this wouldn’t be politically correct) either because they like getting presents or it makes for booming business or whatever.  but very few people want to celebrate christmas in honor of what it’s actually there for (see above if you’ve forgotten already).  so instead of celebrating the “christmas season”, we now celebrate the “holiday season”.  but wait, that’s because we don’t want to discriminate against those who don’t celebrate christmas.  maybe.  but no.  first off, that would be 4% of americans (according to the stats we’re using).  this is a very, very slim minority, and if that was the real reason, it would be much more profitable to appease the 96% and push the others slightly aside for one holiday.  and let’s consider hanukkah for a second (or two, or maybe three).  it’s a lovely little holiday celebrating the maccabees and all that cool stuff, but as far as judaism goes, it’s not even one of the most important feast days.  so why then does the entire country bend over backward to make sure the small jewish population is happy around hanukkah but doesn’t pay any attention to any other jewish holidays?

i happened to take a course a couple years ago at the fun-loving university of connecticut with a professor who was an orthodox jew, and during the course of the semester we had at least three or four classes rescheduled because they were originally on important days on the jewish calendar and he couldn’t come to class.  the course happened to be about jewish history (hence the jewish professor), and because of that, a good percentage (probably about half) of the class was jewish.  now, on the days that my professor couldn’t make it to class, i still had to go to all of my other classes.  that would mean that all of the jewish students in the class probably had to do the same.  i’m sure that if they told their other teachers that they couldn’t go because of religious reasons they’d be excused from class, but i ask this:  why, if we’re so concerned about political correctness and keeping all people and all religions happy, didn’t we have those days off from school?  the only answer i can seem to come up with is that we don’t really care all that much (wow, that sounds really mean.  but sadly, may be rather true).  it’s not about being fair and understanding of all holidays during the holiday season.  it’s about dropping religion completely.  and honestly, it’s working.

so the next time you greet someone, think about things for a moment before wishing them “happy holidays”.  maybe you’d rather wish them a “merry christmas”.  and really, who cares what religion they are or what holiday they celebrate at this time of year.  if i was wished a “happy hanukkah”, i wouldn’t mind.  in fact, it would be pretty darn cool.  the only reason all those greetings are there is to say “hi. it’s great to see you” (or a similar variation thereof).  if you want to join in with all of the secularism and destruction of religion and all of that, i guess you’re free to do so.  someone has to do it.  but next time, at least think about it.  all that being said, i wish you all the merriest christmas you’ve ever had.  enjoy the family.  enjoy the friends.  enjoy the love.  and if you don’t get your official red ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle, don’t worry.  there’s always next year.  and you don’t really want one anyways.  you’ll shoot your eye out.

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wwjd

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you will

i hate things that i don’t understand.  i don’t like change.  i’m a horrendously (slightly) obsessive compulsive creature of habit.  basically, when things go from being one way to being another, it scares me.  not in a boogie man scary way or anything like that, but it creates a strange and different unknown.  and fear of the unknown is one of the biggest fears around.

it’s for that reason (amongst others, i suppose) that i’m a really big fan of both my faith and my religion.   both have been around for a long, long time, and for the most part haven’t changed all that much.  the faith part, some might say, has been around since adam and eve.  they were made by this guy named god and listened to what he said.  they did make one little oops by listening to the snake in the garden, but after having god yell at them and getting kicked out of eden, they straightened out and started listening again.  and if you don’t care to go that far back (whether or not you think we’re monkeys who wear socks), belief in jesus has been around for almost two millennia.  in my book, that’s a hefty bit of time.  and then the whole religion thing.  some would say that catholicism started with jesus dying and the apostles going around saying that he was a pretty righteous dude.  others would disagree and say that original christianity was not by any means the same as original catholicism and that those practices were really started as a more strangling form of religion that was placed upon the roman people by the power of the first council of nicaea in 325 (which may or may not have been imposed upon the church of the time by the oh so powerful emperor constantine [the great]).  personally, i’m all about the first option, but regardless, both points of view leave some sort of catholic teaching beginning between 1,700 and 2,000 years ago.  once again, i’d say that’s a hefty bit of time.

and that’s pretty cool.  in my eyes at least.  it seems firm and steady.  the foundation was put down so well way back when that even through a great religious exodus (often called the protestant reformation [and by the way, i’d like to wish you all a belated happy reformation day!  for any and all of you who were not aware, the 31st day in october [though it can be changed around to a different day if desired, making it more like one of those crazy “observed” holidays that never really make a whole lot of sense] is celebrated by many [especially in the lutheran tradition] as what is very formally called “the festival of the reformation”.  it’s a day to celebrate the great work of martin luther and his theses [there were 95 of them] that sparked the protestant reformation way back in 1517.  now, it was on that day [october 31st] that luther posted his theses [which by the way, were a big list of things that he felt the church was messing up on] on the door of castle church in wittenberg, germany.  as our friends at wikipedia[.com] put it “reformation day… coincides with halloween, but there is no direct relation between the two holidays.”  there are some more conservative thinkers in the christian world that aren’t big fans of halloween because of its pagan [and dare i even say just a touch satanic] history and background.  and that’s brought up a bit in a different wikipedia article that states “some christians do not appreciate the resultant de-emphasis of the more spiritual aspects” of the day.  regardless of how you view halloween, be impressed by the fabulous political correctness with which the writers handled the situation.  it’s well played]) and some crazy situations like having three popes at once or having some rather unfortunate sex scandals plastered across the television screens of the world, the catholic church has stood its ground.  the tradition has held, and simply put, it’s not going anywhere.  for me, that’s actually a huge part of what i believe and why i believe it.  it’s just like the bible.  you can’t can’t claim the bible’s a fake.  it just doesn’t work.  there are so many contradictions and bizarre things in there, that it would be the worst fake job in history.  but it’s still around and still gets occasionally read, so you have to figure that it’s not. and the catholic church is similar.  so many stupid and terrible things have happened in the history of the church, that if it wasn’t a legitimate and solid religion with some real spiritual basis behind it, it would have folded a long, long time ago.  but it hasn’t.  and people still occasionally go to church, so you have to figure that it’s not too bad.

and rather interestingly, that’s what so much of my life is.  habit and tradition.  and most of the time, i love that.  it’s a safe way to work with life, and i like safe.  but then i heard something.  well, i was told something actually.  more in conversation than in eavesdropping, so we’ll go with the “told”.  i was in church.  kind of.  here at the university, there is a student center back behind the church, and on sunday mornings at 10:15 am, they have a mass in the big room in there instead of in the normal chapel.  honestly, i don’t know why it’s in there or when they started having it in there, but they do.  and seeing as i often can’t make it to any of the other mass times offered, i go to that one a lot.  so i was in the student center (which by the way, is often just called “the center” when they make announcements about events and activities that will be happening in it.  that, of course, always makes me think of the “boy meets world” episode when shawn starts hanging out at “the centre”, which turns out to be a cult.  it always settles a little weird in my mind, but what can you do), and it just so happened that there was a silent auction going on in the lobby area of the building to support a couple groups that are involved in trying to help out the people of haiti.  those running the silent auction were walking around making sure everything was alright and that people knew how to make bids and things like that, and a wonderful man named bob (who is one of the guys that kind of unofficially run the church.  every church has those people that are just involved in absolutely everything, and at this church, bob is definitely one of those guys) came over and stood next to me.  we stood observing the scene for a moment, and he said “the money changers are in the temple.”  and he smiled at me and walked off to do something else.

it was really simple and really quick.  and for most people, it probably would have meant next to nothing.  but for me, it packed quite a wallop.  if you didn’t know, that line was a reference to an episode in the new testament gospel accounts of jesus often simply referred to as “jesus and the money changers”.  it’s found in all four gospels (matthew 21:12-17, mark 11:15-19, luke 19:45-48, and john 2:12-15), so that considered, there’s a decent change it happened.  for the sake of space (and goodness, we all know the internet is running low on space), i’ll just give you one of the four.  and i like matthew (it’s a good name), so we’ll go with that one.  the dandy new american translation states, “jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there.  he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  and he said to them, ‘it is written: “my house shall be a house of prayer,” but you are making it a den of thieves.'”  that only includes verses 12 and 13, but for our little chat that’s really all we’ll need (and on another fun note, john’s version talks about jesus making an impromptu whip to help get people out, which is pretty cool.  though, the fact that the story is given so early in that one gospel [chapter 2] and none of the others gives some scholars the inclination that they may actually be two different events.  my thoughts?  i had no idea about that until i just read it online, so you’ll have to ask someone else for more information in that regard).

there it is.  a lovely tale.  but why bring it up?  why now in the midst of talks of habit and tradition and all that jazz? well basically, because that’s exactly what was going on.  jerusalem was being a big huge creature of habit.  in a nutshell (and a very, very vague and simple one, to say the least), it was close to the jewish festival of passover and all the jews needed to go to the temple and make a sacrifice to god for the festival.  to do that they needed an animal to sacrifice, which they could very conveniently buy in one of the outer courtyardy areas of the temple. however, they had to buy these animals with special money (per the jewish law) that they didn’t normally have on them and had to go to the money changers first to exchange their money.  basically, it was like this:  they had money.  they changed their money to the proper currency.  they bought an animal to sacrifice.  they went and had it sacrificed in the temple.  and now i repeat: very, very vague and simple.  the thing was, jews had been doing this for a long, long time.  jesus and his family had probably done this themselves plenty of times.  plus, the setup was really convenient.  everything these people needed was right there.  in a (really strange) sense, it was the mcdonald’s of passover.

which brings us back to storrs, connecticut.  bob and i were standing there watching this hustle and bustle going on around us with lots of people worrying about making their bids on items and how much money they were willing to spend and all that.  and as bob walked away smiling, i realized that he was so right.  it was exactly the same.  and that confused me so much.  all these people were at church, there to celebrate god, and yet all of the focus was on what was happening outside in the lobby.  instead of being focused on faith and spirituality and listening to the word of god, it was all about bidding and donated items and money.  the thing is, it was all for a great cause.  the money that was being raised was going to end up going (in some way or another) to haiti, which happens to be the poorest country in the western hemisphere.  those people need all the money and support that they can get.  so it was a really good thing.  the catholic church has a list of “corporal works of mercy” that are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.  by supporting the auction, those things were going to be able to happen.  but at the same time, i stood there thinking about it, and the one thing that ran through my mind was the overdone and taboo (but if truly thought about and used, oh so perfect) line “what would jesus do?”.

wwjd.  i’ve seen it on posters, necklaces, t-shirts, bracelets, stickers, and a zillion other things.  does it actually make people think about what jesus would do?  maybe.  does it then make people act like jesus would have acted?  maybe.  i really can’t tell you that.  but i can tell you that for once, that line meant something to me because i really had to stand there and contemplate it.  regardless of what kind of swindling and overpricing the money changers and animal sellers were doing around the temple in ancient jerusalem, it was a decent service.  people got what they needed, where they needed it, when they needed it.  money was being spent on the outside, and sacrifice (which i guess could be the equivalent to modern “worship”) was happening on the inside.  it was a tradition of sorts.  a habit, definitely (if not the former).  it was the safe way to do things, so people did it.  and then jesus came in and started knocking over tables and thrashing around his whip.  the obvious question i had to ask myself was whether or not jesus would have done the same in our church.  now there’s the dumb debate over what kind of house of worship jesus would go to if he was around today, seeing as the christians worship him and the jews don’t…but he was jewish…whatever.  that’s not important.  what’s important is what he would have thought and done if he had, for whatever reason, shown up to church that day.  bob was right.  the money changers were definitely in the temple.  they were doing it for a good (even great) cause, but at the same time, the focus on god and worshipping him was totally being averted.  the minds and hearts were being dragged in the wrong direction.  and so i just stood there.  contemplative and downright confused. was what we were doing a bad thing? even though it was in an attempt to help the poorest of the poor? can good things occasionally be not so good? can they even be bad? oh dear. i was perplexed.

and here it comes, the answer.  well, no.  once again, i have no answer for you (it seems like that’s happening more and more often.  either i’m getting more deep or just less intelligent.  i’m definitely going to have to go back to the simple, stupid stuff.  it was a lot easier).  i was perplexed about the issue, and i remain as much so. and yet, i guess the only “answer” i have is to tell you not to worry about answers all the time.  i have books and books of catholic teaching, catholic laws, catholic thought, catholic history and most anything catholic you would ever want to know.  but i can promise you that none of them, even if i did look (which i’ll be honest and admit i didn’t), would have an answer to this question.  in this situation, all of that tradition and all of those teachings still leave us empty-handed.  so when you think about it, the safe way isn’t all that safe.  even with tradition, you can still lose.  for someone who is so big into these long-standing, changeless traditions, that kind of stinks.  but alas.  it happens.  sometimes all we can do is take it in and make our own decisions and opinions.  and sometimes (gasp), that may involve change.  as scary as that can be.

so go grab your wwjd bracelets. put on your jesus t-shirts and wear them proudly. and the next time you do something (anything, really), think about what you’re doing. think about it from all sides and angles. it’s incredible what you can find out when you take a look around the back corner of an issue. and if you find something a little scary, just go with it. it’s the tough things that make us grow and the changes that make us learn. even when we have no idea what jesus would do.

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god’s kids

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you will

hola (that’s “hello” for all you french-speakers out there).  so i was in church last week (on friday, september 14th, to be rather precise), and it just so happened to be the feast day for the exaltation of the holy cross.  while not a holy day of obligation, it was still kind of a big deal.  you could tell this because instead of the normal reading – psalm – gospel order that daily masses normally partake in, this mass was more sunday-esque with the reading – psalm – reading – gospel lineup.  i don’t mean to degrade the first three members of that group (which happened to come out of numbers 21:4-9, psalms 78: 1-2 and 34-38, and philippians 2:6-11, respectively), but the reason i bring up my ecumenical outing is due to the gospel reading.  this reading came straight out of the book of john, chapter 3, verses 13-17.  now if you’re in any way biblically literate (and i can say this solely because i consider myself extremely biblically illiterate and still know a bit of this reading), you might have already picked up on the fact that this biblical slice just so happens to include one of the more (and/or most) well-known bible passages in today’s lovely world.  that passage is john 3:16 which reads (in the new american translation), “for god so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  a lovely passage indeed.  it’s hard to deny that.  but at the same time, it got me thinking.  and honestly, this idea had been floating around in my head for a while.  but when it was read in church, that was it for me.  it made me think.  and when i think, i blog.  and when i blog, you have to suffer the consequences.  sorry.

my thinking, getting back on track, was about the dandy little phrase “his only son”.  this, if you didn’t know, is in reference to jesus of nazareth (who christians consider to be the christ, messiah, and savior of all).  now it’s only three little words (comprising of only twelve measly characters in a microsoft word spelling and grammar check), but those three words (in my mind at least) pack a wallop (which urbandictionary.com defines as a “pseudo-violently high-powered action performed abruptly”, so it’s quite a thing).  it’s not that i have a problem with the phrase, but i do have kind of a big problem with that phrase.  well, less of a problem and more of a confusion.  a bewilderment, if you will.  for if you’ve ever been to church on a (pseudo-)regular basis, you’ve probably heard at least once (or maybe even twice) that you are a “child of god”.  this, of course, makes the group around you in the religious community “children of god”, as the phrase is often put.  and this is where the problem comes in.  god is the father (…and the son, and the holy spirit.  but the internet doesn’t have enough space to even begin to try and figure out the holy trinity, so we’re not going to go there at the moment).  and we’re (all, if you choose to be at least.  though, i guess in my opinion we’re all his children, and people who don’t want to believe that are just kind of like the rebellious kids who don’t like their parents [whether warranted or not.  and in this case i’d go with the not] and disassociate themselves from their families as much as possible) his kids.  so english language-ly speaking, we are also his sons and daughters.  this being another term that you (the [pseudo-]regular churchgoer) may have encountered.  but… hmm.  going back to john (who i’m assuming was a lovely man back in his day), we see that jesus was the only son of god.  but according to popular linguistics, i (and you, if you happen to be a male) am a son of god.  i can assure you right here and now that i am not jesus (thank goodness.  i don’t think i could take the pressure).  so how does that work?  my best answer is as follows:  not really sure.

 what i am really sure about is that the internet is quite an intellectual resource.  so i did a bit of searching to quench the thirst of my quandary.   in the “son of god” page on the wonderful wikipedia(.com), we find this line right in the opening paragraph: “in christian traditions [son of god] refers to the relationship between jesus and god, as well as a relationship achievable by believing christians”.  so yeah, no help.  they covered both bases to be safe.  interestly, however, it does bring up a good point a bit further down the page about chapter 1 (verse 12) in the book of john.  this verse states “but to those who did accept [jesus] he gave power to become children of god…”  so jesus, the only son of god only a few pages later, gave us the power to also be sons of god.  interesting.

 a quick google search of the term “‘his only son’ god” brought me back to my roots.  sadly, wikipedia is not the end-all be-all source of information (shocking, i know), and so i ventured forward, this time straight into the catechism of the catholic church to see what it had to say.  thank goodness for the internet, because just looking through my copy of the catechism might have taken a while, but instead my online searching lead me straight to part one (the profession of faith), section two (the profession of the christian faith), chapter two (i believe in jesus christ, the only son of god), article ii (“and in jesus christ, his only son, our lord”), paragraph iii (the only son of god).  the most relevant statements, i thought at least, were numbers 441 and 444. number 441 states, “in the old testament, ‘son of god’ is a title given to the angels, the chosen people, the children of israel, and their kings. it signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between god and his creature. when the promised messiah-king is called ‘son of god’, it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. those who called jesus ‘son of god’, as the messiah of israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.” personally, i found the “adoptive sonship” line to be most interesting. number 444 then follows with “the gospels report that at two solemn moments, the baptism and the transfiguration of christ, the voice of the father designates jesus his ‘beloved son’. jesus calls himself the ‘only son of god’, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence. he asks for faith in ‘the name of the only son of god’. in the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified christ, ‘truly this man was the son of god’, that christian confession is already heard. only in the paschal mystery can the believer give the title ‘son of god’ its full meaning.”  because i know you want to know, the jesus calling himself the “only son of god” part of that is footnoted with a reference to john 3:16.  darn, no help there.  but, the “he asks for faith…” part two sentences later references john 3:18 (which was conveniently [or not so conveniently] just beyond the extent of the church reading), which states, “whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only son of god”.  there it is again, that same crazy phrase.  still without explanation (but thankfully, my notes in my bible pointed out to me the root of the greek word for condemn.  yeah, helpful).

further searching sent me to an interesting blog called “the monroe doctrine” and specifically a post on it entitled “jesus christ, his only son, our lord“.  it seems to be part of a series of posts about the apostle’s creed and has a whole section about the whole “only son” situation.  it reads, “the phrase ‘god’s only son’ focuses on relationships within the trinity.  god the son is not inferior to the father, but has submitted to the father in order to accomplish the godhead’s eternal purposes.  the terms father and son reveal the eternal and perfect familial love within the godhead”.  personally, i found that pretty interesting, though not particularly helpful.  for some reason, it seems that people are extremely willing to call jesus the “only son of god” while at the same time calling themselves “children of god” even if they might happen to contradict a tad bit (with “a tad bit”, of course, meaning completely).

the only real concept that has brought about any inkling of “okay, maybe that has something to do with it…”, in my mind at least, was in number 441 of the catechism.  the whole adoption thing got me thinking.  maybe jesus is god’s real kid.  and the rest of us are all just kind of step-kids.   yeah, i know.  it doesn’t really make any sense, but i’m working on it.  it’s tough when you don’t have much to go on.  i came across a sermon on the national presbyterian church website entitled “jesus christ, his only son, our lord“, and i had some high hopes for it.  but once again, this explanation falls short. here is the relevant section to read if you so desire: “so much for the relevance of his name. think with me now about his relation to the father as expressed in the words, ‘his only son.’ we in the west can be excused for thinking of biological childbirth when we recite that phrase in the creed. we may even fall to wondering at what point in eternity past god the father gave birth to the son. but that is not the meaning of the phrase, ‘his only son.’ in the hebrew mind, to be a son of someone has far more to do with common ideals than with common ancestry. even in our culture, when someone says, ‘he is a son to me’ they are not talking about matching blood types but about kindred spirits. winston churchill had a son, randolph, but the two never got along very well… but in parliament, churchill had an admiring young colleague named brendon bracken. bracken followed churchill through thick and thin, even to the point of bailing churchill out of financial difficulty just before the second world war… it could be said that bracken was more a son to churchill than randolph, because churchill and bracken were cut from the same cloth. we christians confess that jesus christ is god’s only son in precisely that sense. not that the son is the physical descendent of god the father, for they are co-eternal members of the trinity; but that jesus alone reflects with perfect clarity the glory of the father, and performs with absolute faithfulness the father’s will.”

what i find rather interesting is that the whole “only son of god” thing seems to have been pretty well established by the time jesus was around.  the concept was there.  it wouldn’t really be until a bit later that the church would decide that he actually did fit the bill like he said, but the concept was there.  and if that had stayed it’s course things would have been fine and dandy.  unfortunately (for the sake of this concept but not for christianity in general), paul came around.  and he decided to write about how we are all children of god (see romans 8:14-15 and 2 corinthians 6:17-18 [among others] for more information).  that changed things up a bit.  threw a wrench in the works, i guess you could say.  of course, it’s a beautiful thing to be a child of god, and that “title” (for lack of a better term) truly does emphasize the concept that god loves you unconditionally.  in that regard, it makes perfect sense.  in the logical sense, it’s all there.

 but logical is not really my field.  not at the moment, at least.  not when i (and maybe only i) can see the great debate of “son of god vs. children of god” ravaging forth across the land (yeah, i went for the big time dramatic effect on that one).  is there an answer?  well, maybe.  but not a concrete one from what i know and have read.  maybe we’re step-kids.  maybe we kids in sense of “he is a son to me”.  maybe we’ve just gotten so used to using both terms that they’re both right (or both wrong), and it’s just easier to keep them both going.  i don’t know.  when i started researching this topic, i had very honestly hoped that i would figure this out.  that there would be a simple, straight-forward answer.  but i guess there just isn’t.  i guess it’s just one of those read about it, think about it, pray about it, and then believe what you believe about it kind of things.  darn christianity.  always so full of derstandable things (derstandable, of course, being the opposite of understandable.  you can’t say “not understandable”.  it’s a double negative.  so just drop the “un”.  makes sense to me at least).

 so as i’ve come accustomed to often doing, i’ll leave you with something.  this time it will be a website.  and another version of the answer.  for me, i couldn’t decide whether it was the most helpful or least helpful answer i found.  it’s weird.  kind of risque and out there.  in fact, it’s supposedly from jesus himself (such excitement, i know).  it’s from the answer to the question “was jesus christ the only son of god?” on a website simply called “ask the real jesus”.  i’ll only quote one portion below, but the whole thing is an interesting read.  this section, though, really caught my eye.  it’s quite innovative (and apparently, by the editor’s note-like comment in parentheses at the end, jesus wasn’t so sure about it either).  so good luck on your search for the answer about whether or not you’re really god’s kid (and also your answers to all life’s question, i suppose).  it really is a tough one.  here’s how jesus puts it: “from god’s viewpoint, a lost soul is still one of his sons or daughters. yet, if you go inside the box of the soul, inside the soul’s sense of identity, that soul does not see itself as a son or daughter of god. therefore, in the here and now, the soul is not acting as a son or daughter of god. if a soul does not accept its divine origin, it cannot express its divine potential. if a soul does not accept its potential to be the christ, then the soul cannot be the christ in action. when i appeared on earth 2,000 years ago, only a few people had come to a full realization of their christhood. therefore, one might say that i appeared at a time when there was no other son or daughter of god on earth. i had realized the fullness of my sonship, and therefore i was and i acted as a son of god. in other words, when you look at this situation from a specific viewpoint, it is possible to say that jesus christ was indeed the only son of god who appeared in that particular place at that particular time. therefore, i can understand that some christians have strong feelings for this idea (i am not saying that i share those feelings).”

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news, news, news (with more of evan o’dorney)

first off, i’d like to mention to you all that this blog has reached a bit of a “celebrity” status in the world of internet writing. it seems that due to the previous extensive and intellectual post about spelling bee champion evan o’dorney, we’ve (and by “we”, i clearly mean “it”) been picked up as the official website of the prestigious “evan o’dorney fan club”. i know, it’s darn exciting (but please don’t let anyone know that the “fan club” is actually more of a facebook group [located here] than a legitimate organization. oh, and also don’t mention that said group currently consists of only two members). so i’d like to thank “fan club” president herchenrother for bestowing such an honor on “green cherries on the beach”.

moving on to the important matter of the day (though i’m sure many, if not most, will claim that the previous information was pretty darn important in it’s own right). a while back i made a bit of a promise that i’d be coming out with a biblically linguistical type of post sometime in the near future. and well, i was planning on it. but unfortunately it seems that such a post has escaped the realm of possibility. sorry about that. in it’s place, however, i offer you some good news. the reason that such a post will not be coming out is simply that i decided such a format would not do it justice. instead, i have created a separate blog solely for the purpose of the topic that the post was going to cover. this new and exhilerating blog is called “the words of the lord project” and can be found at http://wordsofthelord.wordpress.com. make sure to check it out. it’s dandy as candy.

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recovering catholic

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you willi consider myself what i’d like to call a recovering Catholic. now most of the time when people use the term “recovering Catholic,” they’re saying that they used to be Catholic and are trying to emphasize how that upbringing had a substantially negative effect on them. unfortunately for the norm, i’m not using the stylish version of the word. i’m simply a catholic that is recovering. i’m recovering from reading the daily campus and specifically a certain article called “religious values necessitate temperance.”on wednesday mornings i usually have a little time off and sometimes, if i don’t have homework or other important things to do, i like to walk over to the dining hall, grab a newspaper (which at the university of connecticut happens to be the lovely “daily campus”), and enjoy a nice leisurely breakfast. it makes me feel like one of those television dads, sitting there reading the paper and drinking his coffee as mom and the kids are hectically trying to get ready for school (my dining hall coffee of choice, by the way, is the french vanilla cappuccino). it just so happened that on this past wednesday, the 24th of january, i was able to do just that. i sat down with my breakfast, coffee, and newspaper and fell into my own little world.unfortunately, this moment was a bit short lived. i skimmed through a few articles, including one about two super-conservative preachers ranting on fairfield way the day before that made me both shake my head and chuckle at times. maybe i’m just a flimsy christian, but sometimes people can seem a tad eccentric to say the least. i was soon surprised to see that there was not one religious article in the paper that day but two. the second one caught my skimming eye because of a strange line in its second paragraph. it stated, “being at boston university, you probably have jewish and hindu friends.” it may have been early in the morning, but i was pretty sure that i wasn’t at boston university. i would later find out that the article was actually originally from the daily free press at boston university and was being “reprinted with permission.” that ended my confusion. unfortunately, in between being confused at the beginning and finding my answer at the end, there was a slightly biased article.it just so happens that andrew steiner, the article’s author, considers himself a recovering Catholic in the more fashionable use of the word, and he wanted everyone to know it. you do have to applaud his use of drama. he opens with several paragraphs that would offend just about anyone, claiming that jews, hindus, muslims, buddhists, homosexuals, minorities in general, and women are all doomed to burn for eternity (and since there are plenty of white, christian males left unoffended, he makes sure to later throw in eaters and athletes). thankfully, however, mr. steiner clears the air saying, “i don’t think like this, by the way.” then “why say it?” you might ask, and that’s where the article got juicy. of course he didn’t believe all those ridiculous things. “that’s how Catholicism thinks.”it was on that line in the fourth paragraph that my tv dad moment ended. i’ve read some pretty “did he really say that?” things in newspapers and even in the daily campus, but this one smacked me in the face. of course, part of that was because i was being personally trash-talked, but even moreso it was a pretty blatant attack. you don’t see a lot of those in the normal newspaper. it’s interesting to think about whether it would have been worse for him to just leave it at that or to go on and support the stark comment. both options would lead to some not-so-happy feelings, but in this case he chose to explain.well, mr. andrew steiner, i disagree with you. i guess for continuity’s sake i’ll have to explain as well.first off, the title of the article, “religious values necessitate temperance”, was actually pretty ironic. based upon the first religious article i read in the daily campus that day, it was pretty clear that not all people with religious values possess a whole lot of temperance. those two preachers on fairfield way certainly weren’t the most restrained people the world’s ever seen. the author goes on to claim that the world would be just as moral without Catholicism as it is with Catholicism. i believe this thought does have some backing. there are plenty of non-Catholics getting along just fine with the norms of decent society. but why is that? i really don’t think it’s just because we know things are wrong, as he claims. if that were true, we wouldn’t need policemen. we wouldn’t need courts, judges, and juries. people would just do what was right because they knew it was. the reason why our society functions as well as it does is because everything that we know and do is based in a “judeo-christian” sentiment. in all actuality, that term is really vague and awkward, but it’s premise makes sense. our society it’s based on a set of moral values that lead us to be polite, courteous people at least some of the time. whether or not we think of ourselves as religious or spiritual, we’re not walking around punching strangers for no reason or throwing our half-eaten meals across the room when we’re finished at dinnertime. we grow up seeing that such behavior isn’t what flies, so we don’t do it. we’re no longer barbaric tribes or pillaging empires. we’re a functioning society that was founded by a bunch of christians and continues to follow a basic set of standards that they set way back when. we do need those policemen and courts because for whatever reason some people don’t grow up matching those standards, and regardless of whether that makes them better or worse people, their actions are different enough to cause a problem with the flow of how things work. overall, though, things run smoothly, and that’s why the system is kept.as far as Catholics being the uber-race of men, i’m not so sure about that. while it would be a cool group to be a part of, the claim that Catholics go to heaven and everyone else gets a trip to hell is a vast exaggeration. i recently read an article online that made the claim that strong protestants have a much better chance at going to heaven than lame Catholics do, and honestly, i think that makes a lot of sense. i also believe the same concept applies for other religions. being Catholic, i believe that there is a god called “god” and that all the “good people” will someday go up to heaven where he lives and spend eternity in paradise. these good people are part of the one church that jesus started back before he was crucified. as Catholics (and some other christians) state in the nicene creed, “we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.” well there you go. Catholics believe only in the catholic church. it says so right there. upon closer investigation, however, it doesn’t. the word “catholic” isn’t capitalized. in fact, it’s a normal word in the dictionary that means “including or concerning all humankind” or “universal.” those going to heaven aren’t Catholic; they’re catholic. there’s a big difference.the way i see it, every religion in the world probably has at least one problem with it. with humans trying to run them, it’s bound to happen. with that said, if only the perfect religion sent its members to heaven, we’re all doomed. luckily, i highly doubt the application for heaven has a check box for “perfection.” basically, we’re going to die and either we’ll get sent somewhere (heaven, hell, purgatory, or other) or we won’t. if we don’t, we’ll know that the whole heaven idea was a fluke. if we do get to “go toward the light” as they say, we’re going to end up finding some sort of god-like guy up there, and we can ask him for the answers. the way i interpret Catholicism is that somewhere in that vicinity of time, we’ll have the choice to accept god and all that he stands for. everyone gets that chance, regardless of what religion (or lack thereof) they were during their life. it is at that point that we become “catholic.” yes, only the catholic church gets to go to heaven, but the catholic church is universal. that’s why the creed doesn’t say “Catholic.” unfortunately for mr. steiner, jews, hindus, muslims, buddhists, homosexuals, minorities, and women (good drivers or not), can all be catholic. they probably just don’t know it yet. of course, i suppose you could still say no if and when you get to the pearly gates, but at that point, you’ve passed the threshold from religion into common sense.i do agree with the article’s comment about repentance. it is pretty awesome that you can be forgiven and allowed into heaven, and it is on that main belief that i base my previous thoughts. if you shun god throughout your life, i do think you get that one last chance to say “my bad.” we’re all humans after all. regardless of what religion is actually the most “correct” (which we’ll all find out in that little q and a time with god that i was talking about), you can basically just say that some people caught on a little quicker than others.so i offer my condolences to all the recovering Catholics out there. i’m right there with you. and to andrew steiner: i can’t wait to see you in heaven. i here it’ll be good times, but i guess we’ll all really find out when we get there.and by the way, if you’re thinking that it’s completely and utterly hypocritical that i make all these claims at Catholicism not being the ultimate religion and then make it the only word i ever capitalize on my blog, yeah…sorry. i tried to think of another way to do it, but any other technique for catholic/Catholic differentiating just looked really weird. so i went with that. you know what they say… (nope, i don’t either. but just go with it. maybe no one else will notice.)

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no thanks, i’m fine

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you willi was at church today, friday the eighth of december. now normally on a friday there will be maybe fifteen or twenty people at the 12:10 PM mass that i go to. today, not so much. today there were seventy-four. yup, seventy-four. i counted them (though actually it may have been seventy-five. when i got done counting i couldn’t remember whether or not i had counted myself). i got there and the place was more full than normal, and as i sat in the pew before mass began, more and more people came in. it was nuts. maybe it was because it’s the first week of advent and people are feeling extra holy (or extra unholy and needing to go to church to get holier, depending on how you look at it). maybe people (both students and professors) were super excited about being done with their classes and went to church in celebration. it was confusing. really cool that so many people would be at church, but somewhat strange.and so when i got back to my room i decided to look into it. and i found my answer. it’s a holy day of obligation. so people had to go (if they wanted to). today happens, for any and all wondering, to be the feast of the immaculate conception. it’s a day to celebrate the very controversial concept that mary (the mother of jesus) was deemed immunity from original sin by god at her conception. she was “preserved from the stain of adam”, you could say. i find it rather ironic that here at the university, i attend st. thomas aquinas church. this is ironic (it’s an interesting question of whether something can actually be all that ironic when you have to go about explaining the irony behind it, but regardless) many modernist scholars today contend that when pope pius ix may his official decree on this doctrine, thomas aquinas was one of the theologians around that disagreed with it. and yet here we are, celebrating the feast of the immaculate conception in a church named after him. irony. though it should also probably be added that this may be a bit of a stretch of the truth. as an explanation i researched a bit states, “the immaculate conception was a teaching with which even the prince of theologians, st. thomas aquinas, had problems. aquinas did not deny the sanctification of mary while she was still in the womb of st. anne [her mother] before her birth, but he did express some difficulty extending this sanctification back to the first moment of conception. it was more of what one might call a technical question than a denial of the spirit of the teaching for him. it was the type of question with which we continue to struggle today regarding the ‘moment’ (if indeed it can be defined) when a person comes into being. is it, for example, the moment of ovum and spermatozoan union or some other moment of what biologists and anthropologists often refer to as ‘animation’?” so maybe he did believe it (mostly), and it was all just too technical. aquinas was an extremely scholarly fellow, so he probably thought into the whole matter way more deeply than it needed to be thought into.that explanation brings into play another rather interesting (and somewhat humorous, i’d say) note that i also found in my researching. the “catholic encyclopedia” online has an article about the “immaculate conception” and there is a section of it that goes as follows: “the term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. the question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents.” personally, i thought that was one of the most ridiculous things ever written. did they seriously need to add that? for those playing at home, i’ll summarize (in my best g-rated fashion): it had nothing to do with how well mary’s parents got it on. yeah. it actually says that. moving on.so why in the world am i throwing all this theological stuff your way? well, i’m glad you ask. it really doesn’t have much to do with the immaculate conception at all. that whole debate is for another day. today’s class is actually about the gospel reading that went along with the feast of the immaculate conception mass. it was the classic scene (from the first chapter of the book of luke) where the archangel gabriel comes down and greets mary with the “hail, full of grace” line (though apparently, that’s a rather poor translation by those darn catholics and the original greek is a lot closer to something like “hail, thou that art highly favored” or “greetings, highly favored one”). as that scene plays out and comes to a close you get to the part where mary replies something along the lines of “behold, i am the handmaid of the lord. may it be done to me according to your word.” when push comes to shove, she said yes. she’d do it.there is some debate about the concept of what the purpose of gabriel’s trip down to mary was for. was it just to let her know what was going on? or was he sent to ask her if she was okay with the whole thing? if that was the case, what would have happened if she said no? would god’s big plan have come to a halt?and that’s where this whole crazy post began. i was sitting in church listening to the priest speak of mary’s acceptance of gabriel’s words, and i stopped for a moment. what if she had said no? there are plenty of times when i do the wrong thing even when i know it’s the wrong thing. there are plenty of times when i’m asked to do things and find ways out simply because i don’t want to do them. i struggle with this problem all the time. a lot of times, saying “no” is just so much easier than saying “yes”. if an angel popped out of nowhere and laid down this crazy story about how you’re going to birth the son of god, what would you say? my first reaction would probably be “um…no thanks, i’m fine” (disregarding the whole i’m a boy situation, of course). but mary said yes. crazy.but really now, what if she had said no? what would have happened? no jesus? maybe. jesus has a different mom? maybe. who knows, all those catholics might be sitting around with their rosary beads saying their “hail bathsheba”s right now. or maybe jesus would have just kind of popped out of nowhere kind of like people expected the messiah to do. all in all, if we weren’t all still praising the roman gods at this point, our whole nativity story and the befores and afters of it would have to be rather different. maybe there’s no one singing away in a manger. no more little town of bethlehem. we three kings of orient aren’t. christmas in general is a not so much (though don’t worry. i’m sure our society would have found plenty of other opportunities to indulge in lavish gifts and food on other occasions). it would be weird. and all that makes the whole thing that much more impressive. the jews had been waiting for thousands of years for their messiah, and (according to the christians at least) whether or not he would arrive was resting at that moment on the answer of this little, teenage jewish girl. wow. props to her on that one. i probably would have peed my pants. or dress. or whatever a nice jewish boy of that time period would be wearing.but don’t worry, all is well. she did say yes. god’s great plan played out. things went as they were supposed to. the next time you’re asked to do something, though, think about it for a second. does it involve the birth of (arguably) the most influential figure in history? if not, it’s probably not that big of a deal. don’t bother saying no. if mary could handle virgin birth, then you can handle yours too.

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matthew

disclaimer: so this post is going to have some top quality christian propaganda in it; in my opinion that makes it all the better, but you can feel as you willi have to let you know that this post was not supposed to be like it will be. in fact, it was supposed to be very different. over the past two days i’ve been thinking about a post about how christianity and christians really scare me sometimes. it probably would have ended up being rather negative. i had all of my words ready and ideas to back up my thoughts and all that. but then i went to church this evening and heard a story. a story that changed my mind. this is that story:a woman died recently. she was a loving, caring wife and a mother of two children. her children were seven and fourteen years old. her funeral was arranged and the day came when it would be. the children were brought to the church before the service was to take place and were waiting around for everyone to arrive. the priest of the church, who would perform the ceremony, was sitting in the front pew praying about what he would say and hoping everything would go well. as he finished his prayers, he looked up and saw the seven year old boy standing next to him.”can i help you, matthew?” he said, for the boy’s name was matthew.”i was wondering if i could pass the baskets today,” he replied. the priest explained to him that today was going to be a celebration. a celebration of life and of everything that his mother had accomplished while she was alive. on such days, no baskets were passed. it wasn’t about giving or collecting money. it was about love and remembrance. the boy listened intently to the priest and when he had finished what he was saying matthew said, “alright. then please take this.” the boy held his hand out and dropped the contents into the open hand of the priest. he then walked away and went back with his family. the contents in his hand, the contents which he had desired to place in the basket that he was planning on passing, were two pennies and a dime. twelve cents.on a day where he should have been mourning for the loss of his mother, a day when most people in that church were going to think of little more than how they were going to be able to handle their loss, matthew gave.one of the priests at the catholic church here at uconn, father jim, told that story in his sermon. he was the priest in the story, and it had occurred this past monday. when he reached the end of it, with the twelve cents jingling in his hand, he was trying to choke back the tears in his eyes, and all he could really say, all he had to say, was that the boy’s mother must have taught him well. there was a lot more to the sermon, but when i heard that story it just pasted itself across my mind. there may be some unfortunate things that happen in the world, whether they be by christians, jews, atheists, or whatever, but amidst all that, there is good. there are matthews around to make it a wonderful place. i hope that someday i can grow up to be a lot like him.and nothing against the poor widow that was admired by jesus for her giving in the twelfth (wow, i couldn’t have planned that kind of continuity if i had tried) chapter of the book of mark, but she just got schooled up. big time.

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