If you have ever thought that Scientology may not be as bad as is being reported than you need to read the latest expose on Scientology entitled, Going Clear Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013, hardback, 430 pages, $28.95). The book is a page turner.
Author Lawrence Wright is a graduate of TulaneUniversity and the AmericanUniversity in Cairo and is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He has authored six other books and has won a Pulitzer Prize. He is also a screenwriter. He is a meticulous writer and lists 6 pages of sources for this new book.
In spite of Scientology’s claim of millions of members Wright says that there really are about 25,000 that call themselves Scientologists. He explains that there are 3 tiers in Scientology. The majority of Scientologists are just average run of the mill Scientologists. Then there are celebrity and Hollywood Scientologists. Tier 1 would love to mix and mingle with tier 2 but that rarely if ever happens. The third tier consists of what might be called “clergy” that run the church mainly from Florida and California. There are approximately 3,000 to 5,000 and they are called the Sea Organization or Sea Org. The name is a remnant from the time that founder Ron L. Hubbard ran the organization while on the high seas.
Wright explains what motivated him to write this book: Continue reading …
If you are looking for an informative and stimulating Christian book this one is instructive, thought provoking and practical. Janet Parshall is a columnist, author and radio host. In Buyer Beware she begins by taking us back to the 1600’s and John Bunyan’s classic work, Pilgrim’s Progress. She borrows Bunyan’s Vanity Fair imagery to launch into discussions about our present public square; “Vanity Fair” was and still is a rough place. Surely Christian and Faithful would have preferred the gentle countryside that lay not far beyond the fair. After all, who really wants to go into all that messy stuff – the shouting, the stealing, the lying, the sexual promiscuity, the turning of Truth on its head?
So let’s go visit Vanity Fair together. We’ll visit the booths and see for ourselves what is being bought and sold. Come and study the counterfeit goods being offered in the public square today so that you can better know how to offer the countervailing gift of truth. (Pages, 19 and 21).
Parshall transitions to the Old Testament Jeremiah Continue reading …
Most often when we think of the consequences of false teaching, we think in terms of eternity. Where will those we care about be after they pass from this world to the next? That is a very big consideration but there are consequences to false teaching and false beliefs in this life which go on largely unnoticed by most in the church or even in culture. Big groups like Jim Jones’ “Peoples Temple” or the deaths of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX or Marshall Applewhite’s Heaven’s Gate make a big splash in the news but most are not personally affected and assume something was wrong with those followers. It is easy to take a passing interest and keep moving without much of a thought.
Often harm comes more one at a time with little fanfare. Jehovah’s Witnesses are proud of how many of their children have died due to a lack of a needed blood transfusion which they teach God opposes. These children died one at a time, here and there, with little or no public notice. Any family members who tried to oppose this to save the child are cut off.
Another group, Christian Science Continue reading …
In the midst of all the trivial headlines there were two fairly high profile conversions. First, rapper Snoop Dogg claims to have been “born again” and now wants to make records “kids and grandparents can listen to.” He’s changing his name to Snoop Lion. When a rapper who’s best poetry is dedicated to pimping and smoking marijuana gets religion and wants to clean up his act, we all win especially those of us who pass by his music when we are on “scan.” I myself was slightly excited when I heard those two magic words that often indicate someone has made a turn toward God but I’ve been burned before <cough> Paris Hilton <cough>. However, don’t go looking for Snoop at your local mega church or future Dove awards. Turns out that the Snoop had a religious experience all right. But “born again” doesn’t mean the same thing to a Rastafarian as it does to a Christian. Snoop is changing his name to Snoop Lion and believes he is the reincarnation of Bob Marley. He’s making a documentary about his reincarnation experience. Predictably Continue reading …
Where Has Oprah Taken Us? The Religious Influence of the World’s Most Famous Woman, by Stephen Mansfield, Nelson Publishers 2011, Hardback, 246 pages, $22.99
This book could be titled Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Oprah Winfrey and Much Much More. Stephen Mansfield’s book is a insightful page turner and an incredibly interesting read. He is a New York Times Best-Selling Author and Biographer. He is well researched in Eastern Mysticism and is also a professing believer in Christ.
In the early chapters Mansfield sketches a fast moving biography of Oprah Winfrey (born February 1954) and pin points the exact time, location and decision made by her that propelled her away from her Christian roots Continue reading …
“Marley was dead to begin with . . . This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. “
I love that line. It’s from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s an important concept because if Marley wasn’t dead then there would be nothing remarkable about Dickens’ ghost story. During Easter season, I found myself thinking about old Scrooge sitting there shaking uncontrollably from his first encounter with the possibility of the dead coming to visit. Unable to sleep because he can’t get the thought of what might have been a ghost that he saw in the door knocker. Of course in the comfort of his reasonable mind and soft house coat he realizes that what is nagging at his mind is almost surely nothing to lose sleep over. Just a bit of undigested beef right? More gravy than grave. But then again. What if it wasn’t? What if . . .
We’ve all seen it. The bumper sticker on the Prius that says:
I never knew the history of this particular piece of philosophic driving literature. Jeremy Jackson at Enoch Magazine is the first person I’ve seen to ask: “Who’s behind this idea?” The short version is that the design originated as a submission by a Polish designer for a contest promoting tolerance and understanding at the unique Museum on the Seam in Israel which displays art and design that centers around international political and social issues. Jackson explains that what happened after that was not so tolerant at least for the designer:
Piotr Mlodozeniec combined symbols for the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths in the word and intended it to be used to promote religious tolerance – 2001. The symbol was then popularized on the global Vertigo tour of rock icon, U2, in the early part of the past decade. According to a published report, no one from the band had requested permission to use the symbol from its creator. The museum claimed rights. The legality of its use by U2 was in question. Subsequently, a company was quickly formed in Indiana that used the same design with trademark rights requested in 2003 and granted in 2005. Though Coexist LLP profited from the t-shirt sales immediately, it had not been granted permission from the artist who created the design and was actually strongly opposed by Mlodozeniec. Coexist LLP went on to sue numerous other vendors who did not have the rights to the design but were nonetheless selling products with the design.
There’s irony in there somewhere I just know it. Of course, there are problems with the idea of coexistence. As this parody illustrates.
The clear “villain” here is Islam. It goes without saying (but of course must be said) that this is a gross oversimplification about the desires of the fastest growing religion. Not all Muslims want the same things. And neither do all Christians, pagans etc. But as with all satire, there really is a deeper point. All religions are not created equal. Coexistence is a problem not just because of violence but because of logic. Contradictory claims cannot all be true. All religions make some mutually exclusive claims about reality. They cannot all be correct. So coexistence faces a very real problem in that religions cannot simply be “different paths to the same thing,” as some Wiccans would have us accept. In response to Jeremy Jackson’s post about Coexist movement, one Wiccan wrote: “As a Wiccan I respect both of your blogs, and in it the truth of the Love for all [sic]. Of the message of Peace[sic]. I do believe in Christ and his teachings. Thank you for your point of view and sharing it.”
The difficulty with this Wiccan concept of love for all is that it is easy to simply ignore those teachings of Jesus that we don’t like or that destroy our cute little bumper sticker. Christianity is a proselytizing religion. It seeks to convince others that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. While peaceful, Christianity is not ideologically tolerant–if by tolerant we mean simply, “Hey you have your religion and I have mine, now let’s ignore both of them and concentrate on the kind of peace and love that can fit neatly on a bumper sticker because its all good.”As those often irreverent and sometimes profound folks over at Radio Free Babylon illustrate with their Coffee with Jesus web comic:
While Islam has its moderates, they are usually Muslims who deny the fundamentals of the Koran. Those who hold to strict interpretation of the Koran are usually the ones who are intolerant. This is, to my mind, a major difference between Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists (however you define it). I don’t care how fundamentalist you read the New Testament, you will not find authority to burn gay people, forcibly baptize Jews, or wage war on others to make them Christian. Even though all of those were done in the name of Christ they were done inconsistently with the fundamental teachings of the New Testament. On the other hand, no matter how liberally you read the New Testament you will not find a Jesus who “lives and lets live.” To the contrary you will find a Jesus who dies violently in order to show that he is the only way to know God. That is either a masochist or a savior. There is no “peaceful” third option. Next week I’ll talk a little bit about what actual coexistence looks like. Until then, I invite your comments on bumper stickers, fundamentalism, and coexistence.