First, the “purification” is to make us more like Jesus: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1–5; “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2–3 (italics mine) This kind of purification comes through the “normal” kind of suffering the Christian will encounter: from persecution, sickness, loss of loved ones, economic downturns, natural disasters, etc., things beyond our control. This kind of suffering forces us to rely on God to strengthen our faith, meet our needs, heal us, see us through recovery—or see us “home”, and console us in our grief. We are to be grateful to god in ALL circumstances, for we should know that all things work together for our good eventually. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18; Romans 8:28)

Second, If pain can be compared to the refinement of metals, Isaiah says, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” This form of purification is to cleanse us of sin. Note that the context of the verse is Israel’s chastisement:

“You have neither heard nor understood;

from of old your ears have not been open.

Well do I know how treacherous you are;

you were called a rebel from birth.

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;

for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,

so as not to destroy you completely.

See, I have refined you, though not as silver;

I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.

How can I let myself be defamed?

I will not yield my glory to another.”

Isaiah 48:8–11

Third, sometimes, “a cigar is just a cigar”, so, pain is just pain. It’s our body’s way of saying, “Hey! Don’t do that again, dummy!” I don’t think the Lord is much behind the pain we experience when we get in a hurry and cut the tip of a finger off slicing vegetables or stubbing our toes confidently walking across a dark room, other than blessing us with the natural gift pain is…and perhaps to tell us to slow down and pay attention.

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Well, there were the nine Crusades; the eight French Wars of Religion; the 17th century 30 years War between the German states, Poland, and Sweden; and the “Reconquista”, the “war” to drive Muslims out of Spain and Portugal. So that’s nineteen.

Does Christianity destroy cultures? Well, no not really. What is has done at times (when it is acting at its best) is replace or remove sinful or morally repugnant practices. Just to give one example, in India, Hindus practiced sati, a funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her dead husband’s funeral pyre or takes her own life in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death. Horribly, it was not always voluntary. The British, love em or hate em, when they began to rule India, put an end to the practice. “…it was not until December 1829 that a later Evangelically-inclined Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck, having surveyed his Indian officers first to test their reaction, finally made suttee illegal in his second year of office.” (Cultural Imperialism or Rescue? The British and Suttee) Missionaries also called attention to the practice and begged for it to stop. “But sirs,” the Hindu protested, “this is our custom!” Sir Charles James Napier responded, “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.” (Charles James Napier – Wikipedia)

EDITORIAL:

“Religions don’t kill; people kill.” The question is: Is it legitimate to go to war “in the name of” Religion X? Assuming some country does go to war in the name of Religion X, is Religion X responsible for the war? I would submit that it is not legitimate to go to war in the name of Religion X, nor is Religion X responsible for the war unless Religion X, as a tenet of its faith, requires, condones, or encourages going to war in its God’s name. If Religion X declares sex outside of marriage to be a grave sin, can someone legitimately live a sexually promiscuous life “in the name of Religion X”? Of course not. If Religion X forbids wearing any apparel that is made out of polyester, can an adherent of Religion X wear polyester “in the name of Religion X”? No. Conversely, if Religion X encourages sexual promiscuity or the wearing of polyester, its adherents would be faithful in having as much sex as possible or having a closet full of leisure suits. So, if Religion X declared war in its name to be a glorious activity and worthy undertaking, for either forced conversion, acquisition of land, or genocide of “unbelievers”, then yes, Religion X could be said to be responsible for the actions of its followers. Of course, having free will, people would be free to reject that religion for the same reason.

Let’s apply this to Christianity: Is “causing war” a tenet of Christianity? Does Christianity require, condone, or encourage Christians to be the belligerents in war? No. Not just no, but absolutely no. Even in the Old Testament, it was God’s desire to drive Israel’s enemies out of the land himself, thus sparing both the inhabitants and Israel unnecessary bloodshed and loss of life. See Exodus 23:20–30. The proviso, “If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say” of course, was ignored, thus, the Israelites had to resort to their own means, which were never completely successful. Regardless, the “holy wars” of the Old Testament were ordained only for the Israelites at a specific place and time in history, one that is long since past.

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There were no wars fought by Christians or “in the name of” Christianity prior to the reign of Theodosius I in 380 AD. In fact, the early church fathers forbade both serving in government and soldiering: “From the accumulated literature of the ante-Nicene church, three facts emerge as relatively noncontroversial. First, from the close of the New Testament era until 174 C.E., no Christians served in the military or assumed government offices. Second, from 174 until the Edict of Milan (313), the ancient church treated those Christians who played such roles, including previous office-holders who converted, with great suspicion. Third, underlying this ecclesiastical antipathy to state positions exerting compulsion stood a theory of nonviolence hermeneutically derived from Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God. According to the ante-Nicene Fathers, the kerygma necessitated that Jesus constituted the Christian’s only commander, such that placing oneself under any other commander would spell treason.” (Nonviolence in the Ancient Church and Christian Obedience)

Around AD 69–76, Augustine wrote and seemed to justify the “just war theory”: “a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by military leaders, theologiansethicists and policy makers. The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: “right to go to war” (jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war, and the second the moral conduct within war. Recently there have been calls for the inclusion of a third category of Just War theory—jus post bellum—dealing with the morality of post-war settlement and reconstruction.

“Just War theory postulates that war, while terrible, is not always the worst option. Important responsibilities, undesirable outcomes, or preventable atrocities may justify war.” (Just war theory – Wikipedia) Augustine apparently based his entire doctrine on Romans 13:4, which says nothing about war or the Christian’s conduct regarding war; rather, the passage is about obedience to earthly authorities in civil matters in order to be a good witness and avoid punishment, and includes stern warnings against rebellion against those earthly authorities: “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” vs 2

I could not find evidence of an earlier “holy”, or “just”, war prior to the Battle of Tours and Poitiers in 732, at which Charles Martel defeated the Muslims under Abd-ar-Rahman. In 753, Pope Stephen II “… tells the Carolingian ruler of the Franks Pepin the Short [Martel’s son] that St. Peter will remit sins of those who fight for his Church. This is directed against the Lombards who threatened the pope’s control over Rome and the ‘Papal State.’” (Timeline for the Crusades and Christian Holy War) This would be the first time a conflict was sanctioned “in the name of” Christianity.

It was also an abomination. First, Peter does not remit sins; only God can do that through Jesus Christ. Second, it basically “sold” salvation to people in exchange for performing deeds that were forbidden by Christ, as well as the earlier fathers. “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:44–45; “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.” Luke 6:27–29; “We who once murdered each other indeed no longer wage war against our enemies; moreover, so as not to bear false witness before our interrogators, we cheerfully die confessing Christ.” Justin Martyr, ca. 150 AD (Nonviolence in the Ancient Church and Christian Obedience) Third, it usurped God as the sole righteous judge. The “church” thus began its descent down the “steps of degradation”: From the pacifism taught by Jesus, the Apostles, and the church fathers, the church slipped into accepting the notion of Augustine’s “just war”; from there, it was only a matter of time before “holy war”, inquisition, crusade, and all the horrors that came with them became excusable.

From that time on, every single war, murder, terrorist act, Inquisition, Crusade…that was done “in the name of Christ” was based on a lie. Anything can be done in the name of anything, but that doesn’t make it so. Jesus said very clearly: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21–23) If even false believers who do good things in Jesus’ name will be cast from his presence, don’t you think it will be far worse for those who do evil in his name?

He is both. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (quoting Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 32:35) This is demonstrated by the relationship between David and King Saul. Based on what Saul had done to David, including outright attempted murder, David had every right to defend himself and had multiple chances to exact, not just revenge, but justice by killing Saul. Yet, he refused. He also punishes: “He punishes them for their wickedness where everyone can see them, because they turned from following him and had no regard for any of his ways.” Job 34:26–27

If a person does not accept the Biblical narrative or the Biblical God, he must find another standard by which to judge the Biblical God’s decisions: are they just or unjust? The problem with that is, every other moral system will prove ultimately relative, so God’s actions will simply fall along a continuum of pleasant vs unpleasant, culturally acceptable or unacceptable; in other words, purely subjective.

If a person does accept the Biblical narrative, or simply wishes to use the Biblical standards of justice by which to judge God, he runs, yet, into another problem: The God of the Bible is the creator of those standards; therefore, he is not bound to them in every way that we are. A family has “rules of the house”. The parents, as the ultimate authorities in the family have every right to make rules that may not apply to them. For instance, they provide all the benefits of living in that family: clothes, food, shelter, entertainment. If they choose to farm out all the chores to the kids, that is completely within their rights to do so. “But DAD! You never cut the grass!” “No, son, and YOU never pay the rent!” Likewise, God is the giver and sustainer of life; therefore, it is his right to take it…in any way he sees fit.

Our greatest problem is we compare out limited knowledge with the knowledge of an omniscient God. We think he’s like us, that he doesn’t have any special abilities or capabilities to “read people”; so we see him as “striking people down” willy-nilly, left and right, all through the Bible, with nary a thought as to their actual guilt or innocence—or what he might be saving them from (the children who died in the flood).WE might see a mild, kindly, non-threatening old man down the street who putters around in his garden, has the best Halloween candy, the best Christmas lights, etc. and think, aww, he’s so sweet! GOD sees his heart, which may be full of sheer hatred for minorities and Jews, murderous in his private thoughts, perhaps, even, a concentration camp guard in a “previous life”. How many times have we heard the same old words by the surprised neighbors of a person discovered to have multiple bodies piled up in their basement or literally fertilizing the flower beds: “He was such a nice man. Kept to himself, always had a kind word and a smile”? Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, fooled many for years. He was a member of Christ Lutheran Church, had been elected president of the church council, and was also a Cub Scout leader! (BTK, btw, stands for “blind, torture, kill”, his m.o.) So, if we accept that God has PERFECT knowledge of all of us, it becomes less “troublesome” to accept that his judgments and decisions are perfect.

This modern Christian thinks they are cautionary tales for Christians who seek to change the world through political machinations. The Church Fathers, up to Constantine, actually forbade Christians from becoming involved in the political arena, though grudgingly allowed government officials who converted to remain…while keeping a close eye on them!*

We are to be first and foremost servants, not masters, not lords. “Jesus called 9his disciples) together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

Giving Christians qua Christians secular power is a recipe for disaster. ALWAYS.

*Nonviolence in the Ancient Church and Christian Obedience

I think a Christian has the “right”, perhaps even, the responsibility, to use the same weapons in self-defense that Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Christians, up to the reign of Theodusius, used.

“From the accumulated literature of the ante-Nicene church, three facts emerge as relatively noncontroversial. First, from the close of the New Testament era until 174 C.E., no Christians served in the military or assumed government offices. Second, from 174 until the Edict of Milan (313), the ancient church treated those Christians who played such roles, including previous office-holders who converted, with great suspicion. Third, underlying this ecclesiastical antipathy to state positions exerting compulsion stood a theory of nonviolence hermeneutically derived from Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God. According to the ante-Nicene Fathers, the kerygma necessitated that Jesus constituted the Christian’s only commander, such that placing oneself under any other commander would spell treason.

“The first Patristic references to the issue of Christians and violence sprang from Justin Martyr (110-165), the early church’s foremost Greek apologist. Refuting the charge of sedition, which the Romans saw latent in the Christian proclamation of the Kingdom of God, Justin apprised Emperor Antoninus Pius that believers lived as citizens not of an alternative human kingdom governed by anti-imperial politicians but of an already inaugurated divine kingdom, presently ruled by Christ from the heavenly realm and soon to be physically implemented when Christ returns. When the Kingdom is manifested on earth, Justin insisted, it will be a kingdom of peace fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 2:4, as people ‘will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks’ since nations will never again train for or engage in war. Since Christians find their citizenship in God’s Kingdom, Justin informed the Emperor that this prediction was starting to find fulfillment through the church and its missionary expansion: ‘That it is so coming to pass, let me convince you. . . . We who once murdered each other indeed no longer wage war against our enemies; moreover, so as not to bear false witness before our interrogators, we cheerfully die confessing Christ.’

“We now turn to indirect evidence for the early Christian repudiation of warfare provided by the anti-Christian satirist Celsus (fl. 170-80) and the apocryphal Acts of Paul (c. 175). A staunch patriot and leading representative of Roman bureaucracy, Celsus rejected Christianity in large part due to its nonviolent stance. Repeatedly attacking Christians for their refusal to fight in defense of the Roman Empire, Celsus sneered that if everyone behaved like the church, the emperor would be virtually isolated, and the empire would soon be conquered by the unruliest and fiercest barbarians*. Based undoubtedly on firsthand knowledge of Christian behavior, Celsus’ objection corroborates our observation that the church of his day would not permit believers to serve in the military. [*Interesting that we here the exact same argument against non-violence today…from CHRISTIANS!]

“Our earliest evidence for Christians serving in the military dates to 174 C.E., when a sizeable number of Christians in the eastern Cappadocian region of Melitene joined the Roman Legio Fulmata to fight against the central European Quadi tribe that was invading the region. Although the evidence renders it uncertain whether these soldiers were chastised by their local congregations, the incident appears to have received little notice by either Christians or pagans outside Melitene. Such an assessment is evidenced in the pre-Montanist writings of Tertullian, who in his early period showed categorical opposition to the military profession, notwithstanding that his father was a Roman centurion. Hence Tertullian articulated a position in Apologeticum (197) identified by Edward A. Ryan as ‘pacifism’: ‘We are equally forbidden to wish evil, to do evil, to speak evil, and to think evil toward all people. . . . So if we are commanded to love our enemies, whom have we to hate? If injured, we are forbidden to retaliate, lest we become as evil as our attackers. No one can suffer injury at our hands . . . since we do not bear arms nor raise any banner of insurrection.’ This remained true despite the fact, as Tertullian provocatively pointed out, that in certain provinces Christians were sufficiently numerous and powerful to unite and stage an uprising: ‘For what wars, granted these unequal forces, would we not be prepared and eager to fight, we who so willingly surrender ourselves to death by the sword, if in our religion it were not better to be killed than to kill?’ But since the Kingdom of God belongs not to this world, Tertullian insisted that Christians could not, without forfeiting their citizenship in the Kingdom, defend themselves by earthly weapons but must accept death when under attack. In his treatise De idololatria, written between 198 and 201, Tertullian explicitly answered the central questions of whether a believer may join the military and whether a soldier, once converted, can stay in the military.

[The punctuation in this article leaves a bit to be desired. This is, I believe, the text of the Tertullian speech. JH] But now inquiry is being made concerning these issues. First, can any believer enlist in the military? Second, can any soldier, even those of the rank and file or lesser grades who neither engage in pagan sacrifices nor capital punishment, be admitted into the church? No on both counts—for there is no agreement between the divine sacrament and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters—God and Caesar. And yet some people toy with the subject by saying, ‘Moses carried a rod, Aaron wore a buckle, John the Baptist girded himself with leather just like soldiers do belts, and Joshua the son of Nun led troops into battle, such that the people waged war.’ But how will a Christian engage in war—indeed, how will a Christian even engage in military service during peacetime—without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? For although soldiers had approached John to receive instructions and a centurion believed, this does not change the fact that afterward, the Lord, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.

“Prior to the Edict of Milan, the ancient church leadership’s aversion to civic occupations invested with the sword, including magistracy and military, could be summarized in three observations. First, Christianity on principle rejected war and the shedding of human blood. Second, magistrates under certain circumstances were obliged to pass the death sentence, and soldiers were obliged to carry out all acts of violence ordered by their military commanders. Third, the unconditional imperial oath or sacramentum required of the civic official stood in direct conflict with the baptismal sacramentum to God.

“On this threefold basis, church leaders universally denounced the practice of baptized civilians serving in either the government or the military from the New Testament period to the reign of Constantine. ” Nonviolence in the Ancient Church and Christian Obedience

Note, again, that all of the arguments we hear in favor of Christians using violence in self-defense (or the military) today, including most of the answers thus far, are nothing new; they have been made since the beginning of the Faith. What we know is that until Constantine (and the execrable time of Theodosius, when “Christianity” became the state religion—I prefer to say it was the beginning of Christendom, the pseudo-“Christification” of the state), the Church Fathers’ answer was “No”, as they rightfully preferred to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his example and that of the Apostles, to the extent of even disfellowshiping or excommunicating believers who violated those principles.

Like Celsus, the unbeliever, we play the “what about” and what if” game too much: “if everyone behaved like the church (fathers), the emperor/our government would be virtually isolated, and the empire/U.S. would soon be conquered by the unruliest and fiercest barbarians/Muslims/North Koreans/Canadians…” Not to worry. Today, most of the church behaves exactly like the world, not Jesus or the Church Fathers.

I am reminded of a pastor who, when he was of age in the 60s, had a discussion with the officer questioning his conscientious objector status. The officer asked, “How about flying a bomber? You’d never see the people you dropped bombs on.” The pastor said, “Do you think Jesus would drop bombs on people?” The officer snorted and said, “Of course not!” “The pastor said, “Then I can’t, either.”

“Die for my country?” he asked, “Never! For Jesus Christ? ANY TIME!”

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Don’t you just love loaded or leading questions? Me neither…

There has never been a “war on Christmas”. The gripe has been around since at least the 20s: “ ‘Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth,’ wrote Henry Ford in 1921, more than 80 years before Bill O’Reilly would utter similar complaints on Fox News.” (A History of the War on Christmas) A notorious ant-Semite, he blamed Jews of conspiring to “…’abolish’ Christmas celebrations in public places:

Not only do the Jews disagree with Christian teaching — which is their perfect right, and no one dare question it — but they seek to interfere with it. It is not religious tolerance in the midst of religious difference, but religious attack that they preach and practice. The whole record of Jewish opposition to Christmas, Easter and certain patriotic songs shows that.

“What Ford called ‘Jewish opposition to Christmas’ actually boiled down to a few instances of Jewish leaders challenging the teaching of Christianity in public schools — as when a Massachusetts school board was lobbied, and initially consented, to remove all references to Jesus from classroom ‘Christmas exercises’ in 1912. Jewish groups also challenged classroom Bible readings, which were not uncommon at the time. However, the groups did not argue against Christianity itself, but rather launched a First Amendment challenge to proselytizing in public schools.” (ibid)

The 50s saw similar conflicts, except blame was placed on Commies, when in fact, it was the same as before: Special status afforded to one religion (Christianity) over others.

The fight continued through the 70s and 90s until today. For the same reasons. Except people like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, et. al., have actually claimed the “war” has extended to personal displays of religiosity, the “right” of people to even say “Merry Christmas” has been somehow abridged. Pure garbage.

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In other words, the “war on Christmas” has always actually been a struggle by non-Christians to get Christians to follow the Constitution, which does NOT prohibit individuals from publicly expressing whatever personal religious—or irreligious— sentiments they wish, whether it’s “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Hanukkah”, or “Go Fly a Kite”! Rather, the Constitution prohibits government sponsored displays of religion.

Christians, and many of them were “Chino”s (Christians in name only), let’s be honest, for a long time enjoyed special status in the U.S. Public displays of their religion were the norm, Bible readings and state sponsored prayers in schools were common. But this has never been a “Christian nation”; at best, it has been a nation populated with a majority of people who identified with Christianity or had a Christian world view. As we became more and more diverse, conflicts arose between Americans who were not Christians and those who were. The courts looked to the Constitution for solutions; what they found there was pretty clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (this Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, later applied to the individual states, not just congress).

In other words, you are free as a bird to worship, put on displays of your religiosity, including greeting people with whatever words you choose, whether you mean them or not, erecting creches in your front yard with real people and live barnyard animals, or putting up elaborate, garish displays of lights, lasers, and speakers blaring carols (I absolutely adore them, by the way…); BUT…the government, whether it is your city council or Congress, cannot allow preference to be shown to any religion; either allow all to be recognized or none, and many municipalities have chosen to just not bother. Imagine the howling, moaning, weeping, and gnashing of teeth that would issue forth from conservatives if a majority Muslim town chose to begin every school day with salat and a reading from the Quran! FOX would go ballistic! So why do so many Christians think it’s okay to institute their form of sharia law?

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There is a separate issue for businesses, however. Although they have the same rights as individuals, they also have a diverse customer base, so, since there are many holidays of different faiths around the same time as Christmas, it would be wise for them to not alienate non-Christians; hence, “Happy Holidays!” or some such. again, the choice is up to them. It is also up to you whether you shop there or not, so if you are so offended because Store X is “bowing” to secularism, don’t shop there.

“Fellow liberals, will our false sexual charges bring down Trump after our Russian collusion scheme failed? Can we find enough women to go along & how much will our budget allow for paying them off?”