January 28, 2013

Public Discernment vs Blind Patriotism

Political sophistication is, regrettably, not something associated with the Western public, particularly in North America. 
Voting participation rates tend to be low in most jurisdictions-- not surprising, since changing governments is perceived by the electorate to accomplish little. General public attitudes seem to be stuck in the doldrums of cynicism and lethargy.

In the self-regarded bastion of democracy, the public-- those who bother voting-- have been trapped on a crazy see-saw of Hegelian choice. It's either 'tweedle-dem' or tweedle-doo-doo; so-called Democrats, or so-called Republicans. Anyone with a memory longer than four years should be able to see that, effectively, there is no difference between the two parties. Third party candidates are simply ignored by the media, so they have no chance of making any substantive inroads.

One attitude that persists among the general public is that, regardless of how poor a job their government is doing domestically, its actions on the world stage are, nonetheless, laudable. In this regard, governments are fortunate to have the media as their willing cheerleaders. It looks like private sector propaganda, until one realizes that it's more like 'the best democracy  corporatism can buy.' That is, those who run the media also exercise control over government policy decisions, that they support in their media.

Yet most of that presstitute homage to our governments' external relations goes unnoticed and un-analyzed by the men/women in the streets. I think a major factor in the willing acceptance of self-defeating foreign policy (especially by the USA) is the 'good-guy mythology' that is ingrained in our minds from the earliest years. You know-- “Those other people (who are, typically, of a different culture, or a particular ethnicity) are horrible, baby-sacrificing villains, who all deserve to die; so we can do whatever is necessary to destroy them... because we are the good guys who can do no wrong.”

That kind of black and white characterization may be appealing to the adolescent brain; but as time goes on, it gets more and more obviously simplistic and stupid. As we mature, and especially if we travel abroad, we gradually realize that people everywhere fundamentally want the same thing-- to live a peaceful life and have a decent living. To hear our leaders and media mouthpieces portray any group of people as terrorists starts to grate on the nerves of those with a modicum of discernment.

Sadly, there's still a large proportion of the population that simply swallows their government's line on foreign 'enemies,' especially when the message is wrapped in warm, fuzzy patriotism. We are encouraged to 'support our troops,' and anyone who questions their mission 'over there,' must be an unpatriotic traitor. Only a few citizens have the insight-- combined with the courage-- to openly question the military misadventures of their government.

See, there's a big difference between a country and its government. You may live in a basically decent society (as most are); but, chances are, your government is making stupid, counter-productive decisions that serve the interests of only a relatively few individuals. And make no mistake; those few individuals who profit from wars, rapacious resource exploitation, and no-benefit labor laws, have nothing but contempt for patriots, nationalism, and all that sentimental nonsense.

So, it's time to wake up, and look beyond the crass appeals to the national flag and group chest-thumping. These are tools used to manipulate the naive masses; weapons to defeat rational opposition to irrational, destructive policies. Indeed, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, as declared by Samuel Johnson in 1775.

In centuries past, empires were constructed by ethnic entities, pushed by their monarchs and ruling elites. Notably, we had the Roman empire, which was quite an accomplishment for what was, essentially, a city-state. Centuries later, the British empire was another surprising achievement, coming from a small island that succeeded in planting its flag over a huge chunk of global real-estate. (And, far from being some kind of mutual-benefit society, the British empire was attained and maintained by ruthlessness and conniving, make no mistake.)

Today, the world is under the thrall of what will surely be the last empire-- that of America. Altho the US flag does not fly over the capitals of many countries beyond the 50 states, this modern empire exercises its hegemony in more subtle ways. Now, it's all about money-- economic colonization... backed up, of course, with the threat of the biggest military machine ever seen in post-diluvian history. Regardless of whether it's a political or an economic empire, the result is similar-- the flow of wealth into the coffers of a select few persons.

In the old empires, the shipping of resources went from colony to the hub of power, where raw materials were transformed into consumer products, and captains of industry were transformed into the nouveau riche aristocracy. In the American empire, resources may be extracted in client-state A, then sent to client-state B for processing into value-added products. The profits are accumulated by the corporate 'entrepreneurs' (really just a thin layer of influencers at the top) who  sequester their wealth anywhere the banks are co-operative.

Some of the lower-level players co-opted by the high-rollers in generating 'off-shore wealth' (formerly called plunder) eventually wake up and realize their nefarious role in this whole unsavory business. A famous case is a book written by Maj.Gen. Smedley Butler, USM, entitled 'War is a Racket!' His book was published in 1935, which proves that nothing has changed in a century of supposed social progress.

Likewise, in this 21st century of ostensible enlightenment, we are seeing the ongoing pillage of 'under-developed nations' proceed unabated, using the time-proven methods of empire. Now the empire consists of 'multi-national' corporations with no allegiance to anything but the bottom line. These entities have been able to enforce their will on their colonial supply sources by whistling for Uncle Sam to send in the troops.

Butler exposed, in blunt terms, how the US military is used as the collection agency for bills due, and as the enforcer of 'co-operation,' from exploited, sovereign nations. Uncooperative foreign governments are those that have the temerity to think that some of their national wealth ought, by rights, to stay within their borders, to be used for the public good. This view has always been completely unacceptable to the corporate racketeers, that have no other interest than the free flow of profit.

Actually, the more typical scenario, is that the US gov't sends CIA (-trained) operatives into the offending country. These agents stir up radical elements of the native society, who are now labelled as 'freedom-fighters' by the subservient Western media. You know the script by now; rebels topple old regime with copious amounts of dollars and weapons supplied by the West. New regime is as brutal (or moreso) than the previous one; country is destroyed by years of conflict; corporations move in and do their usual pillaging.

Another stratagem that has been increasingly employed by governments to justify unpopular military adventures is the use of 'false-flag incidents.' The 'Reichstag fire' of Berlin, was instrumental in getting Hitler and his Nazi party 'democratically elected' in Germany in the early 1930s. The 'Gulf of Tonkin' incident (now discredited) was the issue used to instigate American involvement in Vietnam, in 1964.

This new century has seen a flurry of false-flag trigger events, starting with a  bang (or three) on Sept. 11, 2001, but also including 3-11-04 (Madrid), 7-7-05 (London), and 26-11-08 (Mumbai). While the media immediately attributed these attacks as due to 'Islamist extremists,' any semi-thoughtful analysis of the facts, in each case, casts serious doubt on that theory, and points to more believable, 'in-house' operations.

All of the foregoing to underscore the nitty-gritty of it-- the Western public, in the main, is gullible enough to buy the BS fed to us by our governments, when given a free ride by the whoring media. Yet studies are showing that TV viewing (the electronic opiate) is finally on the decline, as it seems people are turning to the Internet for their news, as well as almost everything else in their lives.

And sure, the Internet is full of mis-information and dis-information, as well as the genuine article; but at least there is a dissenting voice to the manufactured consent of the presstitute media. People, it appears, are checking multiple sources, and seeing alternative, even opposing views on the events of our times. The Occupy Wall St. movement is proof of this new awareness.

OWS has been joined by 'Idle No More,' indicating the spread of new consciousness and resulting discontent with the status-quo. Nevertheless, I understand too well how ALL human movements eventually get co-opted by the establishment, 'absorbed by the Borg,' and become futile. Still, whatever road-blocks can be erected to delay the onslaught of the NWO, the better. As the popular movements gain enough publicity, however temporary, the discernment of the general populace is raised and expanded.

Of course, the PTB also see what is happening, and are frantic to complete the 'grand project of the ages,' which is to implement their global government and run the world 'their way.' Whether they fully succeed or not, the Bible and other sources indicate that things are going to get very ugly, for a short period. Anyone who hasn't woken up to the evil in our midst will have no choice, our lives are going to be seriously disrupted. Those who began to wake up in those spontaneous, popular campaigns will suddenly be wrenched into full lucidity. For them, the transition will be a bit less traumatic than for the majority, the sleep-walkers who have no time for 'reality' unless its a TV program.

My final advice? The alarm clock is chirping loudly; it's best to start waking up now, than hitting the snooze button for another few minutes of slumber.

January 24, 2013

Delusions of Rapture

As this 21st century has entered its second decade seemingly hell-bent towards an intersection of environmental destruction with Orwellian government, speculation on the future runs rampant. In what passes for Christianity these days, there's a sizable proportion of believers who are waiting to be zapped off the Earth ('raptured' as they call it) just as chaos is unleashed for seven years of truly bad luck for those 'left behind'. Among atheists, this sounds totally absurd; but among the undecided, the question may linger whether there is any truth to the 'rapture' story.
Since the believers say they got this scenario from the Bible, let's have a Bible study to see how credible are their claims.
The word ‘rapture’ does not appear in the Bible. Pundits use it to describe an ostensible bodily ‘elevation’ of the saints living at the end of the age, when Jesus returns to claim his people (or church). According to certain ‘evangelical’ speculators, this divine act of transporting Christians into heaven will occur secretly and suddenly. They claim it will precede a period of 7 years of turmoil or ‘tribulation’ on the world, ignited by the ‘Anti-Christ’… after which, Jesus returns a third time to judge and punish the wicked left behind on earth.

One of the scriptures that the rapturists base their theory on is found in Luke 17:34-36, where Jesus states: "I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”

Could this text refer to a secret ‘rapture’ of the believers who are alive at Jesus' second coming? In John ch. 11, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the grave, and has this exchange with Lazarus' sister: “[23]  Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' [24] Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.'"

According to those words, there must be a different rapture for the deceased saints-- on the ‘last day,’ seven years after the ‘first rapture.’ If there is a first rapture! A contradiction arises here-- is there one or two raptures?.

Apostle and preacher, Paul, clarified the situation in a letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4): “[15] For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. [16] For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a  shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (Emphasis supplied by me.)

Clearly, both dead and living saints (those saved) will be raised together, in one event. Yes, you can call it a rapture... but, it will be far from secret!

Did Paul just invent this idea; or does it accord with Jesus' teaching? Check Jesus' words in Matthew 24 (the ‘Olivet Discourse’): [30] "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son Of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. [31] And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

Once again, the climactic event is anything but secret; and the angels gather 'His elect' (i.e. both living and deceased) from the four corners of the Earth. That's not all; note further that Jesus indicates that there is one, unique appearing of ‘the sign of the Son of Man’ in the sky. At that appearing, ALL the people of the earth will see His approaching ‘sign’. That must include the believers, because…He then sends out His angels to gather the faithful, both living and dead!

In the same ‘Olivet Discourse’ Jesus warned his hearers of deception so strong  “as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” [v. 24]. Why would such warning be needed if believers were going to be raptured away in advance? Jesus' own words are proof positive that there is no such thing as a 'secret rapture' in advance of a period of tribulation!

What about the ‘one taken and one left’? Luke 17:36 “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left. [37] And answering they said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered."

Remember that at His appearance, the wicked will be destroyed by His glory (1 Thes 2:8; Rev 6:16, 19:17) ...while the saints are raised to meet Him. The text refers to two classes of people judged; there is nothing in it to justify or require the invention of a ‘pre-tribulation, secret rapture!’

Where do these theories come from? We can find a general answer in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they [Christians] will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…”  This describes today's Christians who let others tell them what the Bible states; and especially, American church-goers, who feel they should get a free pass to avoid whatever nasty business explodes at the end of the Age.

The book of Daniel describes another group. Chapter 12:10 "Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.” We get that insight, people, by studying scripture by ourselves, and allowing the Spirit of God to enlighten our minds.

The notion of a pre-tribulation rapture was unknown until the 19th century. Then, a new Bible, the Scofield Reference Bible, was released by a publisher never known to favor Christian books (Oxford University Press). Their version gained popularity by including copious 'study-guide footnotes' to 'help' the poor, unenlightened Bible student. Those notes, cribbed largely from John Darby, introduced the false doctrine of the rapture (and more importantly, the corrosive doctrine of modern Zionism... but that's material for another study!)

Closing thoughts

There are numerous scriptures that indicate clearly that believers alive at the ‘end time’ will face great tribulation, which will be a severe test of faith, as well as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel to all the world. (See the Olivet Discourse in the synoptic gospels, plus Revelation, etc.)

There are no scriptures that support the secret rapture theory-- it is an invention of publicity seeking men wanting to sell their books and videos, and collect a cult of adherents. Also, sad to say, to lure ignorant Christians into deception.

Belief in a secret, pre-advent rapture can lull ignorant Christians into thinking God will ‘rescue’ them just because they belong to an evangelical church. This could be deadly to their mental, as well as spiritual life!

January 7, 2013

One Man, One Faith

Christianity has been called one of the three 'Abrahamic religions;' which is true. However,
how it came to be a religion of Abraham is completely misunderstood, even by Christian scholars!
Almost every Christian (and I use the term loosely, to refer to a self-identified member of one of the myriad churches that assume the name of Christ) 'knows' that their faith was an off-shoot of Judaism. It's obvious-- Jesus was a Jew, and he started a new religion before his death at the hands of his countrymen, right?

This is the simplistic version of 'church history' promulgated in virtually every school of divinity, and from every church pulpit, down thru the ages. The truth, as usual, is far more interesting, but also more complex, than anyone (including pastors) cares to investigate. Therefore, the folk-tale is accepted as 'gospel,' regardless of its falsehood.

To know the true origins of the Christ-based faith, one must do a little Bible study. First, we have to understand the concept of covenants, basically a treaty or legal agreement, having a number of characteristics. (See Genesis 31 for an example).

The important things to note are that a covenant is made between two parties, and its terms apply to the full retinue of each party (i.e. extended family, and hangers-on). A covenant spells out the benefits (blessings) and the penalties (curses) that will accrue to the parties, depending on whether they fulfill or abrogate the terms agreed upon. The Bible describes several covenants within its pages, sometimes between humans, and sometimes between God and humans.

Now, the pivotal covenant that God made 'with Abram' (Abraham's name before the encounter) is described in chapter 15 of Genesis. At the climax, it states:
[vs. 17] It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking furnace and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. [18] On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.”

Some vital details are invariably overlooked by the trained scholars. Verse 12 tells us that “a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and terror and great darkness fell upon him.” In other words, he apparently fainted in fright, and was not fully functional when the events of verses 17-18 occurred. The educated ones tell us that 'God' appeared to Abram that night, to 'cut the covenant' with him. But, we just saw that Abram was in no condition to sign a legal deal! And if 'God' was moving among the sacrificed animals, what is the significance of the two 'objects?'

Ah, those are questions the learned always skate around. The text refers to 'a smoking furnace and a flaming torch.' Clearly, they are representative; but of what? In the book of Exodus, God's appearances to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness are likened to a smoking furnace (Ex 19:18). Also, God is said to have led them in the form of a pillar of 'fire and cloud' by day (Ex 14:24).

What about the flaming torch? This item is also translated as a 'burning lamp' since a torch was used as a lamp then. In the New Testament, the apostle John introduces Jesus as the 'true light which... enlightens every man' (ch. 1:9); and
in John 8:12, Jesus describes himself as the 'light of the world.' If that doesn't quite clinch it, Jesus makes an outrageous statement that infuriates his Jewish listeners, in Jn 8:56, by saying that Abraham rejoiced to see 'his day' (i.e. Jesus' reality).

When did Abraham see 'Jesus' day,' I ask you Bible students? There is no other record of direct evidence except the incident captured in Gen 15! If Abram was 'out of action,' yet a covenant was made, who were the parties to the deal? None other than God 'the Father,' with 'the Son of God'... who was acting on behalf of 'fallen' mankind, as embodied in Abraham! The 'torch/lamp' represented God the Son, later to become 'the Son of Man' (i.e. divinity in human flesh).

Every biblical covenant was inaugurated, or initiated, and then confirmed or ratified. At the inauguration, generally a 'monument' was erected to mark the occasion and often, to witness to its solemnity. (For ex. see the Jacob/Laban deal). The agreement was usually confirmed with a blood sacrifice, hence reference to 'cutting a covenant.' The Abrahamic covenant was initiated in Genesis 15, but was only confirmed almost 2,000 years later, by the shedding of Christ's blood on the cross. Let's review the proof of this claim.

In Daniel's prophecy of ch. 9:27, he refers to the future (to him) Messiah who “will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.” Briefly, a prophetic 'week' represents seven years, so that the middle would be three and a half years, the length of Jesus' ministry. Jesus' sacrificial death obviated the need for the animal sacrifices and grain offerings made in the temple (Heb 7:26-27).

At the last supper, Jesus made an enigmatic statement as he passed out the wine goblet: “this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for [the] many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28). Indeed, he was confirming the original covenant of faith, inaugurated in Abraham's day, and as predicted by Daniel.

Only by taking this 'big picture' view of the entire scriptures can we tie the pieces together and see the reality. And this is why the writer of the book of Hebrews can make his claims in the critical chapter eight, in particular, stating that “He [Jesus] is also the mediator of a better covenant” (vs. 6).

What was it that made Abraham so acceptable to God, that he should receive a covenant? Genesis 15 gives us the answer: “[6] Then he [Abram] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Christians say, in brief, that Abraham was deemed righteous by his faith in God. Much later, in the New Testament, the apostles' writings show how everyone is, similarly, deemed righteous through faith in Christ, God's 'Word with us.'

Now, do you see how all this comes together to provide the answer to the question in the essay's title? Clearly, the Jews are NOT partakers of the Abrahamic covenant, by their own choice! A believer in the Judaic system does not believe in salvation by faith. Not at all; they adhere to the Mosaic, or Sinai, covenant which is based on human works, i.e. obedience to the commandments, of which there are many. Besides the Ten Commandments of movie fame, the rabbis added numerous others over the years, so that there are 613 biblical laws, not counting later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions for Jewish religious adherents.

The author of Hebrews goes to great lengths to forensically demonstrate how the 'New Covenant' (which is really the Abrahamic covenant) is superior in every way to the 'Old Covenant' mediated by Moses in the desert at Sinai some 430 years after the time of Abraham. Note that the covenants are called new or old based on the time of their confirmation, not their inauguration. Jesus ratified the New Covenant with his blood sacrifice some 1500 years after Moses' covenant.

Finally, we have the story of Abraham's son, Ishmael, born of the servant, Hagar, and accepted by the Moslem world as the origin of their Islamic faith. I don't want to add a lengthy discussion here of how Islam diverges from the faith of Abraham, but I think if you followed the argument above, it should become apparent. Only those who believe in God and accept his freely-given grace (the gift of salvation, not earned by human works) can be 'adopted' as children of Abraham (see, esp. Romans 4). Islam, like Judaism, is predicated on the observance of laws, rules, to earn righteousness (salvation). Therefore, despite  Muslims' tremendous earnestness, theirs is NOT truly an Abrahamic faith!

In conclusion, scripture, when taken in its wholeness, establishes that the genuine, Christ-based faith (as opposed to what is erroneously called Christian) derives directly from Abraham; there is no 'Jewish phase' involved! True Christianity is not an offshoot of Judaism merely because Jesus was a Jew. And, just in case a few naive readers are confused on the issue-- no, Abraham was not a Jew! This is impossible, since the Jews arose from the tribe of a man called Judah, who was a great-grandson of Abraham. Remember that!

Furthermore, the foregoing study ought to be conclusive proof that there is no such thing as 'Judeo-Christianity' in God's eyes. As Paul and others wrote, you are either under the Law (i.e. in a works-based religion) or else under grace (which is true Christ-based faith); you cannot be under both, as is taught in practically all the mainstream denominations!  (See Deut 30:19, Gal 3:12).

Out of the patriarch, Abraham, there did indeed arise three religions; three worldly systems that each went astray from the original intention. Yet, there is only one, true faith coming from Abraham's story. It is described in the words of the Bible, over a span of two thousand years. That faith never got 'canned' and sold as a religion; it exists in the heart of everyone who goes directly to God in faith and belief. They are the spiritual descendents of Abraham, born of the Spirit, the true inheritors of the promised Kingdom of God.