Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Theft and the Anglican Rev

British Vicar Criticized for Advocating Stealing

ASSIST News Service reports that an Anglican priest in the United Kingdom has stirred up a firestorm over his comments that poor people who are desperate this Christmas should shoplift from major stores. The Rev. Tim Jones said in his sermon this week that stealing from shops was the "least worst option" -- better than burglary, robbery or prostitution. Premier Radio says he told stunned parishioners at St Lawrence's in York that it would not break the eighth commandment 'Thou shalt not steal.'

Kent comments:

And there you have it:  a collectivist ‘clergyman’ who is willing to admit openly what his kind have advocated covertly for a long time.  He thinks shoplifting would not break the eighth commandment.  I assume that shoplifting is a form of stealing, so it appears that the (somewhat) Rev. Tim Jones is willing to affirm that stealing would not violate the commandment ‘You shall not steal.’  There is a technical term for that, but “stupid” will do for now.

It is interesting the victims from which the (less than fully) Rev. Jones says poor people should steal - ‘major stores.’  Why not steal from small stores?  Why does the Rev so cavalierly exclude the tried-and-true technique of burglary?  Why not steal from the houses of well-to-do people who have gone to a Christmas party somewhere?  That way, the well-to-do could experience that famous statement of Jesus that “it is better to be robbed than to receive.”

OK, so Jesus didn’t exactly say that.  But with (the almost) Rev. Jones version of the Christian faith, why would that matter?

Never mind that those hurt by shoplifting a ‘major stores’ could easily include people of very modest means who have a financial stake in such stores:  workers, those who hold small amounts of stock in such stores, those who supply the stores, and others.

But beyond all that, we live in a world based on theft of the legal version.  Almost every piece of legislation that comes from our government and many others around the world is founded on the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to take from some and deliver the loot to others.  The pirates of Somalia are only practicing on a small level what most governments do on a massive scale.

People like the (morally not quite) Rev. Jones have advocated this kind of legalized theft for a long time.  Now they have simply become more consistent and dropped the pretense of legality.  You really have to admire their forthrightness.

One thing always puzzles me about people like the (perhaps not so) Rev. Jones.  They often base their advocacy of theft on the fact that there are needy people in the world.  But the (almost) Rev. Jones types of the world almost never take the first, obvious, and morally virtuous step in helping the needy:  giving away most of what they own.  My guess is that an Anglican Rev is far from impoverished.  He could certainly help a lot of needy people by giving what he owns to the needy, and continuing to do so.

But instead, he comes up with ‘shocking’ pronouncements that shoplifting isn’t stealing and the needy should do it.  This is where much of what calls itself “Christianity’ has come to lately.  But if that’s all the Anglican Revs have to offer these days, they might as well just die and decrease the surplus population!

And with that sad note I say, “Merry Christmas, God bless us every one.”  (Even the morally confused like the Rev. Tim Jones.  Perhaps God will give him some sense for Christmas.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Data

An interesting little tidbit from

It also turns out that Christmas in America is not all that commercialized compared to other nations. We are the 21st lowest in spending out of the 31 OECD countries; and we spend only $3 of every million dollars of GDP, ranking us the 6th most Scrooge-like country of the 26 major economies. Since 1935, Christmas-related spending has been reduced by 50 percent (when adjusted for inflation and GDP). We spend more, but Christmas spending is actually becoming less important in the bigger scheme of things.

Kent comments:

So why does Christmas seem so overly commercial?  Here are a few thoughts on that and some other matters.

First, even though we are 21st on the list, that is a ‘rich list’ so that’s still a lot of money devoted to Christmas stuff.  (By the way, this OEDC appears to be one of those innumerable international coagulations of people who milk governments for money to tell them how to try to implement command-and-control economies.)

Second, Christmas probably impresses us as more commercialized than it in fact is simply because of the extent of marketing devoted to it.  At least two full months of Christmas advertisement, plus ‘black’ shopping days and ‘gray’ shopping days and so on cannot help but start ideas about commercialism dancing in our heads like Christmas sugar plums.  (I find some Christmas TV ads very entertaining.  My favorite this year is the clinking glasses of beer that clink out a Christmas tune.  And I don’t even much enjoy beer!)

Third, the adjusted-for-inflation decrease since 1935 probably reflects a decrease of the influence of the Christian faith since then.  Christmas will probably tend to be a bigger deal when Christ is a bigger deal with more people – like it or not.

Fourth, I thank God that I live in a time and place where – for the time being at least – people are free to make money and ‘go nuts’ on black Friday and other maniacal shopping times if they wish.  That same freedom means that the rest of us can be self-restrained in these matters.  In my opinion, the second greatest freedom after freedom from the penalty and effects of sin is political-economic freedom.  You can’t wrap that one up and put it under a tree, but it’s the second greatest gift of all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mix & Match Religion


Eastern, New Age Beliefs Widespread

Dec. 9, 2009

The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination -- even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.

Kent comments:

As one commentator said, “"That kind of religious individualism is the American religion."  While having choices is good, that can never mean that all choices are equal.  Put another way, having choices does not mean that the alternatives from which we may choose are equal.

But beyond that, the situation here is that of people trying to produce new options by mixing the choices available to them.  In many areas, this is fine.  Mixing fashion styles, food styles, etc. is harmless and fun.  American culture is, almost by design, an amalgamation of sources.

But when we come to the matter of religion, a new dynamic comes into play.  This is because, by its very nature, Christianity is not “mixable.”  It is about “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”  It is about Jesus Christ Who is famous for His claim to be the Way, the only Way to the Father.  I could go on but you get the idea.  It is about there being no other name than Jesus given to us by which we must be saved.

When you attempt to “mix” Christianity, because of it’s very nature, you can expect only a spiritual mess.  It is rather like the color experiments that I remember trying when I was in grade school – something I think most people have tried.

It probably started with finger paints.  You mixed blue and yellow to get green.  Perhaps you tried stirring up some red with some yellow to get orange.  But at some point, you surely tried something I did:  mix all  the colors together.  What do you get?  I got a hideous pool that was grayish-purple.  It was horrid, simply horrid as far a colors go.

Something very similar happens when you attempt to ‘mix’ Christianity with other religions.  The ‘mixture’ will always be a horrible distortion of all the elements that are mixed, a frightful shade of grey spirituality that is both ugly and worthless.  Some things just don’t mix well.  The Christian faith is one of those.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Gospel In Parking Tickets?

Christian Group to Pay Off $10K in Strangers' Parking Tickets

The Associated Press reports that a Christian group in Boise, Idaho, will offer those guilty of traffic violations a special Christmas gift. Last year, the Grace Gift Parable giveaway paid off almost $7,500 in unpaid parking tickets for passerby at City Hall. This year, thanks to area businesses and various churches in Treasure Valley, the group hopes to give away up to $10,000. Organizers plan to gather on Dec. 12 in front of City Hall and see what happens.  Montie Ralstin, Jr., the pastor at Boise Valley Christian Communion, says the event is to help people understand that even though they've made mistakes, forgiveness is available.

Kent comments:

Try as I might, I can’t help seeing this sort of thing as lame.  It seems that some Christians must spend their time dreaming up these cutesy ideas to try to bribe people into thinking about their spiritual condition or the Christian faith.  But the more I think about such things, the more desperation-driven they appear.

What about the cross as a way to help people understand the forgiveness is available?  (Not trendy enough, I suppose.)

I suppose there is some remote gospel analogy in paying off parking tickets for people.  (Christ pays the penalty for our sin and so forth.)  But the analogy, even if it exists, breaks down at a key point.  We must come to God in faith and repentance in order to receive forgiveness of sins.  I’m not sure how you work that into the parking ticket scheme.

It’s as though many have decided that the gospel has lost enough of its “power of God to salvation” that it needs some help.  We supply that ‘help’ with a slick marketing scheme, we execute that scheme, and then we “gather in front of City Hall and see what happens.”

Well, I suppose it’s their money, and I hope it makes some parking ticket recipient think about God’s forgiveness.  But I’m sorry to say that, on further review, it still seems lame.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Eat That Pancake

An Arizona woman said she was given peace and comfort from an unlikely source -- a pancake bearing an image she said resembles the Virgin Mary.

Bianca Lopez said she was cooking Batter Blaster pancakes for her family a few days before Thanksgiving at their Glendale home and she noticed the image of Jesus' mother looking back at her from the final pancake of the batch, KNXV-TV, Phoenix, reported Thursday. "I think it's God's way of telling us that the holidays aren't just about presents. It's about... spending time with your family and friends and telling us to not forget about him, that he's always there watching over us and taking care of us,"

Lopez said. Lopez said she is keeping the pancake safe in her freezer until she can decide what to do with it.

Kent Comments:

I know it’s never safe to say “never” – but just this once, I will!

I always have to wonder in these cases.  How does this lady know that the image “looking back at her” from the pancake (I’m trying to contain myself here) is that of “Jesus’ mother”?  Has she ever seen Jesus’ mother?  Who on earth could have the slightest idea of her appearance?  Enough of that . . .

God has a way of telling us what we ought to be and do.  It, thankfully, does not depend upon trying to find images in pancakes.  When the Word became flesh that event was predicted, announced, and interpreted by the words of prophets and Apostles, the collection of which we call the Bible.

So my advice is this:  while you are eating the pancake, read your Bible.  I know that sounds far too simple for many, but what can I say?