Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Sound of Silence

I'm still alive and I'm still here. Sometimes there's just nothing that seems interesting to write about. Which must truly come as a shock to anyone who's ever read the pointless things I do find interesting to write about.

Things are busy lately. I'm giving a number of talks at different churches over the next couple of weeks on The Da Vinci Code. For those who are interested in this sort of thing, I hear there's a top-notch Christian documentary on the subject airing nationwide in a few weeks. If one were so inclined, one could find information on it here. One could even tell one's friends and family about it, or better yet, one could get them a DVD of it.

I'm also fortunate to be going to this conference tomorrow through Friday.

So who knows when I'll be back? Could be tomorrow, could be next week. In the meantime, in the words of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, "Yo, holmes, smell ya later." And here, from NBC's "The Office," is a public service announcement on why I really shouldn't use that phrase.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Okay, last week's bizarre story was the battle of the midget KISS tribute bands. But this week I'm finding something almost as disturbing.

As you may have heard, creepy radio talk show host Art Bell's wife died unexpectedly on January 5 of a massive asthma attack at the age of 47. They had been married for 17 years. I felt bad for the guy when I heard.

Well, a couple of days ago, Bell, who's 60, announced that he has married a Filipino girl in her early 20's, and that he's selling all his stuff and moving near Manila to be with her. He says he dated her via internet video conferencing. Eeeew. (The wedding photos, which are even more disturbing, can be found here.)

Now, losing a wife must be a terrible thing, and I'm not his judge. Who knows what somebody will do under some stress? But I can't help but notice that if his last wife--the dead one--had a 90 day warranty on her, it would only have expired three days before he remarried. Hey, I'm all for picking up and going on. I've even told my wife that if, heaven forbid, something ever happens to me, she has my blessing on getting remarried. But I've also told her that I hope maybe she won't actually begin dating at the funeral. My hope is that I at least am a substantial enough part of her life that the next husband won't be able to just slip in and finish my half-eaten bowl of ice cream.

I'm sure spending night after night doing nothing but talking to mentally ill callers who think they regularly travel out of their bodies, as Bell does, eventually takes its toll on a person. Perhaps one loses a sense of decorum. But he did this quickly enough that the dead wife barely missed being a bridesmaid. I don't know what the proper waiting time is, and I'm no Emily Post, but I'm thinking it's gotta be longer than this. We're not even talking about beginning the dating process, in which case 90 days still seems a bit hasty. We're talking about courting, engagement, marriage and relocation.

If my wife, whom I dearly love, is remarried and moving within 90 days of my death, I want to be exhumed and receive a full toxicology screening. I'm just saying. You're my witnesses.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fulfilled Prophecy

Last week, I was asked by a commenter here if I really "think the media has it in for Christians."

I did a little empirical experiment this weekend that you can do yourself to find out. On Saturday, I turned on the television with my two kids and flipped to CNN to check the news. They were in the midst of showing a documentary on Jesus Christ, presumably because of the Easter holiday. I said to my children, "Watch this. We've just turned this on and we haven't seen anything about this program's perspective yet. But because I know how the media works, I know without a doubt that it will be critical of historic Christianity, and I can tell you that within the next few minutes, we will see at least several of the following five people: John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman, Amy-Jill Levine, Elaine Pagels, or Marcus Borg."

The reason I mentioned these names is because all of these five are ultra-liberal scholars who categorically reject the truth claims of Christianity. Crossan and Borg are members of the Jesus Seminar, which scholars both liberal and conservative characterize as residing on the radical fringe of liberal scholarship. Pagels is a devout evangelist for the "Gnostic Gospels," the Nag Hammadi writings that were written centuries after the life of Christ and found in Egypt in the 1940's. Ehrman is a disaffected former "fundamentalist" who has built a career attacking historic Christianity. Levine is a feminist scholar who believes the New Testament is anti-woman and anti-semitic. And yet some (or all) of them have turned up on every documentary I've seen on a secular network in the last five years on Christianity. Despite the hundreds of scholars, both conservative and liberal, doing first-class work, the media continues going to the same five people for the same perspective over and over and over again. Why would that be?

Sure enough, within less than five minutes, we saw Bart Ehrman and Amy-Jill Levine on the CNN documentary. My kids were somewhat impressed at my prognosticative ability. Then I flipped over to PBS. To our surprise, they were showing a different Jesus documentary. "Watch," I said. "Same rule applies, sight unseen." And again, within five minutes, we saw John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman, and Elaine Pagels. In other words, in less than ten minutes of random documentary-watching on the subject of Jesus, we saw four of the five people I had named. By this point, my kids were really impressed.

To be sure, each of these programs attempts to present some semblance of an appearance of "balance." They'll do this by invariably bringing in one of two people: N.T. Wright or Ben Witherington III. One or the other of these guys will provide the "conservative" viewpoint in the face of the scores of predictable liberal scholars. Both of them are okay (though even as token "conservatives," Wright, while personally believing in Christ's bodily resurrection, thinks it's basically optional for Christianity, while Witherington believes that the apostle John didn't write the Gospel of John), but why don't we find any of the hundreds of other good, conservative scholars working in the field on any of these programs? And why are they always outnumbered five or eight to one? And, why, for that matter, don't we find anyone other than the same five people pushing even the liberal perspective on these shows? Is it possible that the producers of these documentaries have a preconceived story they want to tell, and they like the way these guys usually tell it?

Does the media have a built-in bias against Christianity? You tell me. Biblical scholarship is not a tiny, arcane field with only a handful of knowledgeable experts. How is it that I can name most of the guests that will be appearing in any CNN/Discovery Channel/History Channel/National Geographic special sight unseen? Try it yourself if you don't believe me. Memorize (if you don't know them already) the five names I mentioned, and the next time you're flipping through channels with someone and you see a documentary on Jesus or early Christianity, tell them immediately who is about to appear. They'll be amazed and you'll look incredibly smart. But in reality, it won't be intelligence that caused the feat, it will be the tired and predictable (and lazy) bias of the mainstream media.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

If This Isn't The Most Disturbing Story Of The Day...

...I'll quit the business.

Rival bands clash over little-person KISS tribute

By Robert W. Welkos
Times Staff Writer

They might be pint-sized performers onstage, but offstage they're in a giant-sized dispute.

Joey Fatale, the 4-foot, 4-inch New Yorker who heads the all-dwarf KISS tribute band MiniKiss, is denying published reports that he tried to sneak past security last month at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to confront a rival band leader, 4-foot "Little" Tim Loomis of Tiny Kiss, for allegedly ripping off his idea for such a group.

Loomis, a former drummer for MiniKiss, was performing with Tiny Kiss, which includes three little people and a 350-pound woman, on St. Patrick's Day at Beacher's Madhouse, a Las Vegas variety show, when the incident occurred.
Oh yeah, and there's a photo.

(Photo by Dan Anderson)

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I See Where This Is Going

Fantasy baseball started (along with real baseball) last week. In the online league I'm in, we play a head-to-head format. That means each week my team is pitted against another team in the league. If my team outscores his for that week, I win that week's "game." The won-loss record then determines the standings.

Anyway, in Week One, I had the second highest score in my entire 14-team league. I even doubled some of the scores of other teams in the league. It was huge. Lights out.

Of course, the number one high score belonged to the guy I was playing. I had the second-highest point total in the league, and I'm 0-and-freakin'-1.

Oh yeah, I can see what kind of year this is going to be. When does football start?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Work Emails

With the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis opening today, my friend Dave and I were exchanging observations on the event via email. Obviously, being big Cardinal fans, we both wish we could be there.

In a seemingly unrelated note, you may know that the birth certificates of many Domincan players have been disputed over the last few years, and baseball commentators are always speculating on the fact that Albert Pujols doesn't seem like he's only 25. And Dave and I are both 37.

That having been said, here's our email exchange. This is time well-spent:
John: Whaddya say we plan to meet [at the new ballpark] in October of 2046, when they begin demolition on it?

Dave: I'm in. You bring the geritol and I'll bring the prunes.

John: The good news is, even though we'll be old, Albert Pujols will still be older....

Dave: His birth certificate is like the odometer on my car. Each year he gains a year. He's still only twenty five. But he was first born in 1959.

John: I watched "Woodstock" again on PBS the other night, and I noticed Albert Pujols dancing in the front row to Country Joe and the Fish.

Dave: He must have taken one of the brown tabs. He should have reported to the nurses tent. I heard he used to date Joni Mitchell.

John: We should have all gotten some idea when he was featured as a guest on the old "Ed Sullivan Show."

Dave: He was truly great in those early Sun record days. Nothing quite like that picture of Albert Pujols, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Carl Perkins. The million dollar quartet.

John: Yeah, it was only the fact that he was balding which left him behind in the major cultural transformation from radio to television. If he had the hair of those other guys, he'd still be performing today.

Dave: Double true. His voice characterizations in Orson Wells' "War of the Worlds" were simply astounding. What a talent.

John: Well, from what I understand, the original plan was to build the entire RKO radio network around him. He was just such a phenomenal talent. But he was drafted when the U.S. was gearing up for the war in Europe, which put the kibosh on the whole thing. I guess they were conscripting Dominican troops. It really was a World War.

Dave: Well, he served with Black Jack Pershing in the Rainbow Division during the First one, it's only natural they'd call him back into service.

John: How could they not? I mean, having distinguished himself by receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor because of his actions at the Battle of Antietam, and with President Lincoln's accolades ringing in everyone's ears, it would be natural for Black Jack to want to get hold of him. And once you're in with those people, you're in!

Dave: So we've got him at about 170 years old now? He's now the same age as Montgomery Burns. Excellent.
Only tangentially related is this snippet from Albert's ESPN bio, which convulses me in fits of giggles every time I look at it:
Proper Name: Jose Alberto Pujols
Born: January 16, 1980
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Height: 6-3
Weight: 225 lbs.
Age: 26
Pronounced: POO-holes
So I grant that I could probably be more mature. Which I would be, if I were only as old as Albert Pujols.

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No News Is No News

I walked into my local Borders last night and was stunned to find virtually an entire display on books regarding "The Gospel of Judas" right at the front of the store. I'm amazed at how much publicity this thing is generating, and evidently the publicity push has been in the planning process for a year or longer.

But while the media is breathless about the "new revelations" contained in the document, centuri0n points us to the fact that the Associated Press reported on this story over a month ago, and brought the proper perspective that's so lacking in all the other coverage.

In Richard N. Ostling's story from March 2, he writes:
An expert on ancient Egyptian texts is predicting that the "Gospel of Judas" a manuscript from early Christian times that's nearing release amid widespread interest from scholars will be a dud in terms of learning anything new about Judas.

James M. Robinson, America's leading expert on such ancient religious texts from Egypt, predicts in a new book that the text won't offer any insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. His reason: While it's old, it's not old enough.

"Does it go back to Judas? No," Robinson told The Associated Press on Thursday.

....He says the text is valuable to scholars of the second century but dismissed the notion that it'll reveal unknown biblical secrets. He speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of "The Da Vinci Code" a fictional tale that centers on a Christian conspiracy to cover up a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

"There are a lot of second-, third- and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles," Robinson said. "We don't really assume they give us any first century information."
How many times have you heard that in the feverish TV news accounts?

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You Read It Here First

On March 28, we brought you the story of the Islamic crackdown on Christianity in Algeria.

Late last week (April 6, to be exact), the story hit the New York Times.

That raises the total number of stories broken here at Rabe Ramblings, in the three-plus years of this blog, to...one.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Product Placement

Predictably, the "Gospel of Judas" received a lot of television coverage last night, including a puff-piece on ABC's "Primetime," which was little more than a promotional trailer for the upcoming National Geographic television special.

What nearly all the accounts made little mention of, of course, is the fact that this document, even if authentically ancient (which there's no reason to doubt), dates to more than 100 years after the life of Christ, and decades after the biblical gospels. You'd think a fact like that would at least deserve a few seconds.

And of course, they all interviewed Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels again (and watch--they'll turn up in every story on these documents), both of whom make money selling books touting these later gospels as meaningful.

Nonetheless, Al Mohler has an excellent article today on the whole controversy.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

I see that the media today seems to be quite excited about the "Gospel of Judas" that's been discovered, a translation of which was released today. Evidently, the news media has become a subsidiary of The National Geographic Channel, which has been heavily touting it's documentary on this manuscript for weeks now. It was found in 1970.

As the AP describes it:
For 2,000 years Judas has been reviled for betraying Jesus. Now a newly translated ancient document seeks to tell his side of the story.

The "Gospel of Judas" tells a far different tale from the four gospels in the New Testament. It portrays Judas as a favored disciple who was given special knowledge by Jesus -- and who turned him in at Jesus' request.
Wow, that's scandalous stuff. Except that it comes from a document that was written, at the earliest, more than 100 years after Christ's crucifixion. That means it was written, virtually all scholars agree, much later than the four gospels of the New Testament. While it may give us interesting insight into the people who wrote it in the second century A.D., it tells us nothing of historical value about the first century events themselves regarding Jesus and the apostles, coming far too late to be historically reliable. It's simply another fanciful addition to the many Gnostic Gospels.

The story goes on:
Christianity in the ancient world was much more diverse than it is now, with a number of gospels circulating in addition to the four that were finally collected into the New Testament, noted Bart Ehrman, chairman of religious studies at the University of North Carolina.

Eventually, one point of view prevailed and the others were declared heresy, he said, including the Gnostics who believed that salvation depended on secret knowledge that Jesus imparted, particularly to Judas.
Though Bart Ehrman is turning up a lot in the media lately since he has a new book to flog (as well as a vested interest in arguing for the value of these later Gnostic gospels), he is, once again, mostly incorrect.

As a historical matter, there are four--and only four--gospels circulating in the first century: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Virtually all reputable scholarship, conservative or liberal, has agreed on that. All of these supposedly competing gospels begin circulating in the second century, or in many cases even the third century (and indeed scholars are dating this copy of the Gospel of Judas to about 300 A.D., more than a quarter millenium after Christ and the times of the eyewitnesses).

But these novelties do sell books and TV programs, which is really what this is about anyway.

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Why The GOP May Get Swept This Year

Those Republicans sure know how to take record-low approval ratings and drive them into the ground. It only makes sense, during these difficult days, to find an issue that's extraordinarily unpopular with voting Americans and wrap it around your neck. And since that ports deal got scuttled, they had to find something.

Hmmm, a welfare state combined with a sudden influx of 11 million aid-receiving residents. That should work. Why, Europe is thriving under those conditions.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Changing The World One Bumper At A Time

The other day while driving, I saw a car (I think it was a Prius) with a bumper sticker on it that said "Eracism."

And it was amazing, because suddenly I could feel my whole attitude changing. See, I had been this virulent, hateful racist oppressing people and discriminating at every turn and delighting in it. I used to tell people, "I'm a racist. And I'm proud of it. I just happen to think that it's the right way to be."

But when I saw that bumper sticker, it's as if the scales fell off my eyes and I could see again. Suddenly, my foolishness came fully into focus, and I realized "By golly, that dude in the Prius is not only environmentally friendly, he's right! Racism isn't good and praiseworthy, like I thought it was. It's bad, and should be erased!"

Anything less witty might not have done the trick. In my seething, reflexive hatred, I probably would have been impervious to "Please quit being a racist," or "Racism is an awful thing," or something clumsy like that. But the simple, witty elegance of "Eracism" profoundly changed me. If only more people were willing, like Prius-guy, to take such a bold and lonely stand against such popular and beloved practices as racism. Oh, what a different world we'd live in.

And you know something else? Mean people really do suck. I understand that now after driving behind a 20-something girl who lives in my neighborhood. Who knew that changing the world was this easy and sterile?

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Having Atom

The Terri Schiavo post from last week has sparked a spirited discussion in the comments section, in which a materialist is nonetheless trying to assign greater objective value to one set of chemical reactions (in the brain of an uninjured person) than to another (in the brain of Terri Schiavo).

Of course, if one believes that matter is all that exists, then it is supreme silliness to try to claim more worth for some matter than for other matter. Indeed, the very concept of "worth" is nonsense under such a view.

However, because materialists cannot live for even a moment under the view they profess (which is why they spend so much of their meaningless chemical brain reactions on trying to convince other people to get their meaningless chemical brain reactions to fire the same way on this issue), they continually contradict themselves, smuggling in concepts of intelligence and value where all that exists is only atoms colliding. They can't help from trying to transcend the mere material in all their discussions despite themselves.

Feel free to take a look at the discussion so far.

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