The promise that “Giving is Sowing and God Promises a Harvest!” met me on my way to work this morning, and it got me to thinking.
My first thought was of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” which asks followers of a church to give money to the church with the promise that God will mysteriously reward them by changing their life so that followers get even more money back. In a recent e-mail blast, Pastor Benny Hinn laid out the claim in a bald-faced grab for his followers’ cash:
Let me quickly explain about this historic miracle: A long-time and beloved friend of mine and of this ministry shared something with me this week that literally touched me to the core!
“Benny,” he said, “God wants your ministry to be completely out of debt, and I want to plant an anointed seed that will help you take a giant step toward becoming totally debt-free!”
Now this is a very precious man of God whom I have known and loved more than three decades. He has been such a blessing to the cause of Christ. So when he said this, needless to say, I was thrilled beyond words at his unbelievable generosity and the remarkable timeliness of his offer.
You see, even as God has given us a new beginning, we have faced incredible challenges as a ministry as a result of things that happened in the past few years. At the same time our broken home was attracting attention from worldwide news services, the economies of so many of the countries where our partners live have been hit mercilessly. As a result, some of our partners decided to suspend giving or to simply walk away.
And while we have seen God beginning to restore so much, one of the last pieces of the puzzle has been our finances. So you can only imagine how it nearly took my breath away when he told me how much…
But then there was something more this man of God added:
Benny, God has laid it on my heart to plant a seed of $2.5 million into your ministry, but God only wants me to make this gift if the ministry partners match the amount within 90 days! I feel so strongly that He wants them to be part of the supernatural wealth transfer that is coming to every believer who will obey God’s Word.
What could I say? Immediately I saw the hand of God in this.
God wants Benny Hinn’s followers to give him lots of money? Why, what a convenient revelation.
Hinn goes on in his e-mail fundraising appeal to promise a “double harvest miracle” for people who give him their money: they’ll get double their money back!
Are you ready for God to do the “impossible” in your life!
Are you ready to see your harvest doubled?
Are you ready to see your debt cancelled in the next 90 days?
Imagine not dreading going to the mailbox, no bills piling up on your counter, and no calls from collectors coming to your home. God wants to wipe your debt out! Every bit of it…and in the next 90 days!
This is an appointed hour. Imagine: Your $100 gift immediately doubles to $200. Your $500 seed literally becomes $1,000. If God leads you to plant $10,000, it instantly grows into a $20,000 seed! And your double seed, sown bountifully, will reap bountifully through the supernatural law of multiplication!
Only God could provide something like this—a double harvest for you. And the more you plant, the more you will reap!
The anointing for biblical abundance is being released. As you step into this miracle by faith, it will be poured out upon you, too! Your giving is literally the weapon that breaks the bondage of debt in this ministry and in your home during the next 90 days.
Plant your seed-gift now, then begin confessing over every bill, every debt, and every area of financial struggle in your life:
“With God I’m coming out of debt in 90 days!!!”
These repeated confessions will be constant reminders of the financial breakthrough that is coming to you.
I don’t believe for a minute that this “prosperity gospel” thinking works, and neither does anybody who spares a minute to think: if Benny Hinn is so holy, and if the holy receive immense divine dispensations of cash money, then why does Benny Hinn start off his fundraising appeal by admitting that he and his ministry are in debt?
But that’s the last perverse piece of the “prosperity gospel” scam: it preys upon people who are already the among the most vulnerable in the world: people who can’t, won’t or simply don’t think carefully. Benny Hinn and those like him who preach the “prosperity gospel” are the worst of religious predators.
There is another possible explanation for the church sign I saw this morning, one that speaks to gardening at its heart. If you’ve met enough gardeners in your life, you’ve met some givers. Most committed gardeners end up as givers, you know: once you let it slip that you’re thinking of starting a new bed, you’ll be headed home with a cardboard box full of cuttings and divided bulbs and special seeds. A committed and open-hearted gardener likes nothing more than knowing that somewhere over yonder, someone will be enjoying a fall with more hostas or garlic or black-eyed susans or peas or potatoes. By giving, they know that somewhere there is the promise of a harvest, and it doesn’t even matter if they ever see that harvest with their own eyes. Just knowing that something’s growing for someone, somewhere makes them happy.
These are the people who redeem the world despite all the conniving Benny Hinners, and I love them with all of my heart.
A plow and an aesthetic sensibility are not mutually exclusive.
First, there’s the good news: America will no longer need to wince at the speeches of Congressman Paul Broun. Broun lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Georgia this year, and won’t be running for re-election to the House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, this reprieve was followed by bad news: The Republican who is favored to replace Paul Broun looks even more extreme and intolerant than Broun. The GOP candidate in Georgia’s 10th congressional district is Baptist preacher Jody Hice.
Hice is running for Congress on the promise to end separation of church and state in the USA, and to replace it with a Puritan-style theocracy.
Preacher Hice warns that “militant atheists” are threatening the United States, although he has never been able to summon any evidence that atheists are taking up arms. For atheists to be categorized as a “militant”, all that Hice requires is the suggestion that atheists are asking for equality under the law.
Jody Hice’s fervent story lines of dangerous atheists often seem to reflect his own burning ambition to overturn cherished American traditions of constitutional freedom. For example, during his September 2nd radio show, Jody Hice told his audience that atheists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation are “always on a witch hunt”.
A witch hunt. An atheist witch hunt?
Atheists have never hunted witches. Witch hunts are a Christian tradition, dating back to the Puritan fervor around the time of the European colonization of North America.
That’s a tradition that Jody Hice has expressed a special affection for. On his congressional campaign web site, Hice celebrates the Puritan theocracy as a “rich spiritual heritage” that the United States of America should seek to renew. “Dating back to the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact, our society has been based upon Christian principles,” Hice writes.
Should we really base our system of government upon what the form of government that the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts established generations before the United States of America became an independent nation?
If we did, here’s what it would look like:
– Kissing between husbands and wives on Sunday prohibited
– Women outlawed from wearing short sleeves
– People thrown in jail for the criminal offense of not going to church
– Territories splitting away from U.S. states over religious differences
– State governments telling citizens which churches they should go to
– Non-Christian religious practices banned
– Religious dissidents deported
– Christian ministers owning slaves
– Non-church members not allowed to vote in public elections
– Government given the power to punish churches for deviating from approved doctrines and religious rituals
– A system of spies, controlled by the government-sponsored church, reporting all failures to obey government codes of religious behavior
– A return to witch hunts
If this Puritan theocracy is what you want for the United States of America, by all means, go ahead and vote for Jody Hice.
As I discussed last week, the One Year Bible for Kids promises to have “your 8- to 12-year-olds read the bulk of God’s Word in one year — you bet!” Tyndale House, the Christian company that publishes The One Year Bible for Kids, declares explicitly that kids should get to know God and that the best way “to know what God is like and what he wants you to do” is for kids “to spend time with him. One of the best ways to do that is by reading his special message to you — the Bible. And the cool truth is that as you spend time with God, you will see how he works in your life.”
In last week’s initial glimpse, I noticed an odd gap in the Bible passages the book makes available for children to read. In readings for the month of March, kids were encouraged to read 1 Samuel 13, and 1 Samuel 14, and 1 Samuel 16, and 1 Samuel 17, and 1 Samuel 18 … everything except 1 Samuel 15, a passage in which the character of the Lord God is said to command that every man, woman, child and baby of the Amalekite nation be slaughtered because 400 years prior, Amalekites went to war against Israel. The One Year Bible for Kids omits a highly relevant character trait of God — that he is a mass murderer who kills kids and babies because once their very distant ancestors declared war. This is no God of peace. This is no God of love. This is a genocidal baby-killing God of bloody revenge. The One Year Bible for Kids has decided it’s best for kids to stay in the dark about that.
Today I decided to take another look at The One Year Bible for Kids’ reading plan for the year. Are there any other gaps? Right away, another one popped out. Look at these scheduled readings of Exodus:
Now, it’s the darndest thing, but if you look closely you’ll notice that throughout February, the Bible asks kids to read Exodus, Exodus and more Exodus, right up to the end of Exodus 20. Why doesn’t The One Year Bible for Kids include Exodus 21?
Read Exodus 21 for yourself. You’ll see God’s commandments:
If a man is a slave, gets married, has kids and then gains his freedom, he must leave his wife and children behind, because his wife and kids are someone else’s property. (Exodus 21: 1-4)
If that man refuses to leave his wife and kids after gaining his freedom from slavery, then the slaveholder should ram an awl through the man’s ear and own him, and the wife, and the kids, forever. (Exodus 21: 5-6)
A man can sell his daughter into slavery. (Exodus 21: 7)
A child who hits his or her parent, or even just shows disrespect to them, must be put to death. (Exodus 21:15,17)
If a slave owner beats his or her slave, then as long as the slave doesn’t die the owner should not be punished. (Exodus 21: 20-21)
In this passage of Exodus, the very passage that The One Year Bible for Kids neglects to show kids, God is revealed as a callous proponent of slavery, human trafficking, family dissolution, daughter selling, slave beating, and child killing. No wonder The One Year Bible for Kids doesn’t want kids to know about this side of the character called God. It’s enough to make a conscientious young person reject Christianity — and that’s the last thing the editors of the heavily-censored Bible for Kids would want. If the authors have to hide religious truths from children to keep them in line, well, so be it.
P.S. Careful observers may notice another missing piece of Exodus from the February reading list: Exodus 17. Why would the editors of The One Year Bible for Kids
remove Exodus 17? Read Exodus 17
and you’ll find out the horrible, awful sin committed by the Amalekites that in God’s eyes justified the wholesale slaughter of their great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren 400 years later. The Amalekites engaged in military attack upon the Israelites — a common enough act at the time — and lost. For this, the killing of every Amalek man, woman, child and baby — 400 years later, in 1 Samuel 15 — is justified? Better to leave Exodus 17 out of The One Year Bible for Kids
than to have to explain why a wonderful, lovable God would command something like this.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has the job of ensuring that the products and services we buy operate properly, at least to the extent that they are free of hazards. To that end, the CPSC operates SaferProducts.gov, where people can report products that have dangerous design faults, and gain access to other citizens’ reports about unsafe products and services…
… though these reports may be completely useless. The CPSC posts a statement on the bottom of the SaferProducts.gov web site warning that “CPSC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Database on SaferProducts.gov”.
If the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s SaferProducts.gov web site is supposed to keep people informed about which products are dangerous to them, but the reports on the web site are unreliable, doesn’t that make SaferProducts.gov itself unsafe? I would report SaferProducts.gov as an unsafe product on SaferProducts.gov, but then, the accuracy, completeness and adequacy of my report there would not be guaranteed.
A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox…
As members of Congress abandon their task of crafting legislative solutions to America’s problems in order to find corporate patrons to bankroll their re-elections, there is much talk about the unfinished business of the 113th Congress. The unfinished business of Congress goes much further back than just the last couple of years, however. There are years and years of unfulfilled promises in the closets of Capitol Hill, enough bills that never received a vote, or even a committee hearing, to provide an entire generation of children enough material to make paper airplanes to their hearts’ contents. My heart sinks when I see what might have been.
In particular, I pause over one worthy piece of legislation from the 109th Congress, introduced by Martin Meehan 9 years ago: H.Con.Res.243 – Expressing the sense of Congress that Billerica, Massachusetts, should be recognized as “America’s Yankee Doodle Town”.
Now, it may be true that Yankee Doodle never came to Billerica. Sticklers for historical accuracy will note that no person named Yankee Doodle ever existed, and that the song Yankee Doodle was actually invented in Europe long before the American Revolution. So, if reality matters to you, then you’ll have to admit that Yankee Doodle really has almost nothing to do with Billerica, Massachusetts.
Still, the fact remains that Congressman Meehan promised to support a resolution calling for the official recognition of Billerica as Yankee Doodle Town. H.Con. Res. 243 may have been filed as with the Clerk of the US House of Representatives, but Meehan never managed to get the leader of his own committee to give the bill a glance,
Consider the consequences. To this day, the USA lacks a Yankee Doodle Town. Is it any wonder we are so divided? Is it any wonder Lady Gaga has replaced Johnny Mathis on the Hit Parade? What’s next? Cats sleeping with dogs? Ice Bucket Challenges in church? Rick Santorum running for President again?
Congress, stop the madness! America demands that you reconvene this week and give Billerica its due as a silly little town with nothing but shopping malls to attract visitors! Young Billericans need something to pin their hopes and dreams on, and what could fit that need better than Yankee Doodle?
The time for the Yankee Doodle Town has arrived! Billericans, unite! You have nothing to lose but your macaroni!
Last year, the government of Syria wasn’t on acceptable evil. The Syrian government had been caught using chemical weapons on it’s own people. The bloodshed had to stop. The United States military had to become involved.
Such was the moral certainty of the time.
In 2014, we have a new moral certainty. The moral certainty of our time is that the Islamic State is evil and must be stopped. To that end, U.S Representative Dana Rohrabacher has suggested that the government of Syria, last year’s intolerable evil, should become America’s ally in the new U.S. warm against the Islamic State.
Rohrabacher writes, “Alternatively (not to say controversially), we should reassess our relations with two now-odious names: Assad and Putin. We should remember to seek out the enemies of our enemies. Assad is a bloody brute, but his interests now lie more with the West than with any grotesque IS agenda. He is at least predictable, certainly more capable of making long-term deals with us than he is to survive victory by the insurgents he faces. He has in some degree protected Christians from genocidal attacks by these fanatical terrorists now running wild in that part of the world. Oddly, Bashir Assad and his Ba’athist regime now find themselves sharing interests with Israel.”
Once, Dana Rohrabacher demanded war to eliminate the evil of imaginary chemical weapons in Saddah Hussein’s Iraq. Now, he embraces a policy to support a government in Syria that is known to have used chemical weapons.
Where will our moral certainty lead us next? In 2015, will there be a new unacceptable evil enemy? Will members of Congress, next year, suggest that we join with the Islamic State in order to go to war against this new enemy? with so many enemies, who is not the enemy of our enemy?
Given that the moral reasoning used to support America’s involvement in wars in the Middle East has become so relativistic, wouldn’t we do better simply to remove ourselves from the conflicts?
“Can your 8- to 12-year-olds read the bulk of God’s Word in one year? You bet!”
So says the advertising copy for The One Year Bible for Kids, a publication of the Christian publication company Tyndale House. In its introductory material, The One Year Bible for Kids explains that it’s good to get to know God’s character by learning all about God:
“How do you get to know someone? Probably by spending time with the person and talking with him or her, right? The same is true with getting to know God. If you want to know what God is like and what he wants you to do, you have to spend time with him. One of the best ways to do that is by reading his special message to you — the Bible. And the cool truth is that as you spend time with God, you will see how he works in your life and helps you change in ways you never thought possible!… There is a way for you to read through the Bible in one year and understand what God is saying to you. Keep reading!”
But in the Bible passages the book makes available for children to read so they can learn about God’s character, there are odd gaps. Take, for instance, the Book of Samuel. Here’s the book’s reading plan for the end of March:
There’s 1 Samuel 13, and 1 Samuel 14, and 1 Samuel 16, and 1 Samuel 17, and 1 Samuel 18…
… wait a minute. Where’s 1 Samuel 15? Why doesn’t the plan call for kids to read 1 Samuel 15? After all, the more kids read, the more they’ll know God, right? After all, the introduction calls of kids to “keep reading,” doesn’t it? Why doesn’t the One Year Bible for Kids want kids to “keep reading” in this instance?
Let’s read 1 Samuel 15 in the New Living Translation (the version preferred by Tyndale House publishers):
One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation — men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”
So Saul mobilized his army at Telaim. There were 200,000 soldiers from Israel and 10,000 men from Judah. Then Saul and his army went to a town of the Amalekites and lay in wait in the valley. Saul sent this warning to the Kenites: “Move away from where the Amalekites live, or you will die with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites packed up and left.
Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else.
The Lord God commands that all men, women, children and babies of the Amalekite nation be slaughtered because 400 years prior, those people’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents gave the Israelites a hard time.
Even in the Lego version of the scene (via the ever-helpful Brick Testament, this just doesn’t look good:
If kids read that part of the Bible, they’d learn that this God character demands the merciless killing of babies who have done nothing wrong because of something that their far-distant ancestors once did.
Why doesn’t Tyndale House want kids to get to know this side of God? You know the answer.
The people at Apple like us to think that they are experts in design. They describe their products as superior to those from Microsoft because Apple products, it is said, are designed intelligently to meet real human needs with a user interface that can be adopted intuitively.
What I discovered this week, with the release of iOS 8, is that Apple’s smart design image is, to use a technical phrase well-known to industry insiders, a
load of bullshit.
Yesterday, when I was using my iPad Air to write a document in the application call Pages, I received a pop-up message telling me that Pages was no longer compatible with iCloud, because of the release of iOS 8, which was released on Wednesday. The solution seemed simple: Update my iPad to iOS 8.
The update took a bit of time, but seemed to work out well. But then, this morning, I got on my desktop, an Apple computer I bought just this summer, and everything fell apart.
The reason I decided to buy an Apple desktop computer is that Apple software is supposed to be easy to integrate across multiple devices. So, I can begin writing a document on the desktop, and then continue working on it on the iPad when I have to travel, and then come back to the desktop when I’m back at my home office. All the while, the document remains in sync, stored in iCloud.
That’s how it worked with iOS 7 for the iPad, anyway. Apple is busy telling people that upgrading to iOS8 will make keeping devices in sync even easier, but I had a different experience.
When I logged on to my desktop this morning, the computer informed me that, because it was using the operating system Mavericks, the Pages documents I had been writing could no longer be kept in sync. The work I had done last night on my iPad, and the work I had done on my Apple desktop, were no longer linked. I had two separate documents now, each one with its own set of additions and corrections. I had to hop back and forth between the two devices to figure out how to keep all the content I wanted.
Furthermore, the documents I have on iCloud can no longer be opened on my desktop computer, because the desktop computer’s software is now regarded as out of date.
The problem, my desktop Apple computer told me, was that I had not yet updated to the new operating system for Apple desktop computers. The name of the new Apple desktop OS is Yosemite. I should update to Yosemite, my computer said.
“That shouldn’t be too hard,” I said to myself, and went to look at the App Store to find the update.
It wasn’t there.
OS Yosemite, it turns out, won’t be released until the middle of next month some time… if there are no delays. In the meantime, Apple suggests that I log in to a web page to use a beta version of Pages and its other iWork applications, each of which is missing many of its standard features.
The release of iOS 8 and the release of OS Yosemite are a month out of sync with each other. Apparently, no one at Apple, the company that is supposed to specialize in elegant design, considered the implications of this gap for the user experience. Apple itself seems to be out of sync, with the mobile side of the company unaware of what the laptop and desktop side of the company is doing.
How can we trust our work to such an awkward chimera?
It’s a move designed to show the absurdity of allowing religious groups to distribute their propaganda in public schools. However, Orange County, Florida Christian groups don’t seem to be getting the message.
The Satanic Temple has demanded equal access to Orange County public schools for their own material, a coloring book with the title, the Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities. The coloring book promotes patience and understanding of difference, as exhibited by friendly Satanist children who contend with playground bullies and teachers who seem unable to comprehend the worth of cultural diversity.
Members of the Satanic Temple do not actually believe in the reality of any entity known as Satan or the devil or demons. Instead, the group believes in separation of church and state, and uses the metaphor of Satanism in order to communicate that belief in a form that other people are likely to pay attention to. The Satanic Temple has expressed the desire to refrain from distributing Satanic materials in public schools, asserting that it is unconstitutional and unethical for religious groups to use government-sponsored schools to spread their messages. However, given that the Orange County public school system had been giving sole access to Christian religious groups, the Satanic Temple decided that the best course is to provide students there with a broader range of religious propaganda, and to show Christians what it feels like to have someone else’s religion shoved at their children by public school administrators.
Local Christian groups are expressing outrage, however, saying that Christian material ought to be allowed, while religious materials from containing ideas that Christians don’t like ought to be banned. Satanism is too scary for children, say the Christians, ignoring the mass murder, rape and torture that populates their own holy book.
The Orange County public schools could stop the nonsense at any time, of course, by deciding to get back to the fundamentals of education, respecting the First Amendment ban on government establishment of religion, and allowing students and their families to come to decisions about religion on their own.