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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wendy Says that Everything's Gonna' be All Right

Just doodling around - here's a doodle of Shelley Duvall in The Shining.

I've recently watched both film versions of Stephen King's book and I still prefer the book.  Ain't that the way it always goes?

Jack: The most terrible nightmare I ever had! It's the most horrible dream I ever had!
Wendy: It's okay, it's okay now. Really.
Jack: I dreamed that I – that I killed you and Danny. But I didn't just kill you. I cut you up into little pieces. Oh my God! I must be losing my mind.
Wendy: Everything's gonna be all right.

Fake Dog Testicles

Fake Dog Testicles,
this magazine shows you how.

Monday, May 30, 2011

This is Not "No Greater Love "

Can we be honest a moment?  I realize that people get caught up in a swell of patriotic warm fuzzies on Memorial Day with all the flags and ribbons and red-white-and-blue bunting, but can we try to put that aside for a few minutes?

Can we put that aside long enough to realize that John 15:13 has nothing to do with military service. And it is inappropriate to apply it that way. 

Because, let's face it, those who serve and die in military action are not "laying down" their lives.  No.  They may be willing to die if they have to, but they are not "laying down." 
Soldiers approach the battlefield to kill the enemy. They are there to take lives.  They might be willing to die in the effort but they are not going there with the purpose of dying.  Our example for that is Jesus, who did not go into a field of battle with a just willingness to die if he had to - but with the specific purpose of dying.  And Jesus didn't try to take out as many of his enemies as he could before he was forced to lay down his life. 

Can we stop the misapplication of Jesus' words? Please.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Have you ever wondered how a fine hand-crafted pen or pencil is made?
Watch this video.

Major's Inkspot Pen Production from Brad Carter on Vimeo.

The craftsman in the video is my father.  You can purchase these fine and pen and pencils sets from him. And the money goes to support the work of The Salvation Army in countries around the world.

The video was filmed by my brother, Brad. 
And I made the music. 

I used some sounds from the Freesound Project:

Singing Bowl
Wavey Drone Loop
Real Virus 02 G#4


This collage decorates the front of the binder that holds my notes on the book of Genesis.

It has nothing (specifically) to do with Genesis, but I like it there, nonetheless.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What on Earth Would Make a Man Decide to do That Kind of Thing?

Maybe you’re familiar with the Weird Al Yankovic song The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.  Maybe you’re not, and that would be unfortunate.  

In it the song’s unnamed narrator recalls the time that he took his family on a vacation trip to see the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota (which, by the way, is a real thing.  It’s in Darwin, Minnesota).  The song is a loose parody of the narrative folk ballads of singers like Harry Chapin and Gordon Lightfoot.

As the song reaches its musical climax he sings out in a rapturous spirit of wonder and awe:

Oh, what on earth would make a man decide to do that kind of thing?
Oh, windin' up twenty-one thousand, one hundred forty pounds of string
What was he trying to prove, who was he trying to impress?
Why did he build it, how did he do, it was anybody's guess
Where did he get the twine, what was goin' through his mind?
Did it just seem like a good idea at the time?

Our family hasn’t been to see the Biggest Ball of Twine (yet…) but we took a similar road trip this morning to see the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, Iowa.  And the little voice inside my head that often gets me into trouble was singing,
Oh, what on earth would make a man decide to do that kind of thing?

The grotto – actually a conglomeration of nine grottos – was the life work of Father Paul Dobberstein (1872 – 1954), a German immigrant to the United States and a Roman Catholic Priest.

During his time in seminary he became critically ill with pneumonia and was very close to death.  As the tour guide explained it to us, “this was before penicillin; all he could do was pray.”  He promised the Virgin Mary that if she would intercede for him and if he lived to become a priest, that he would build a shrine for her honor.

Oh, what on earth would make a man decide to do that kind of thing?

It really is a magnificent work of art; but not in conventional ways.  It reminded me of outsider art.  Using stones of multitudinous varieties, sea-shells, petrified wood, stalagmites and stalactites and glass, Dobberstein built a monument to the glory of God.   The grotto devoted to the birth of Jesus was constructed from 65 tons of petrified wood from Montana!  The rocks and minerals were collected from all 50 states and from countries around the world.

Some of the stalactites that were transplanted from other caves were placed into the Grotto of Redemption with the intent to allow them to continue to grow.  Small holes were left in the roof of the cave to allow rain water to flow past mineral depsoits and to continue the slow drip by drip by drip growth of the formations. 

Dobberstein died before the grotto was fully completed, but the work was finished by a parishioner and the priest who followed him.  It took 80 years. 

At one point, the grotto featured two live bears that had been donated to the project.  Really.  Bears.  But, sadly, a four year old girl was hurt by one of the bears and they were put down.  (One of the bear’s pelts is displayed in the museum.) 

Oh, what on earth would make a man decide to do that kind of thing?

Whatever it was that drove him, I’m thankful to Dobberstein for his devotion.

The brightly colored rocks in this photo aren't actually rocks.  During the years of the Great Depression, Dobberstein couldn't afford to pay the shipping fees required to bring in the huge amounts of rock necessary for his project. So, clever man that he was, he asked his parishoners to save all their scrap glass.  He melted them down along with broken bits of old crayons and then when the slag glass and crayon mix had cooled he broke it into the pieces that he would use to make the intricate formations in the grottos.  He also used melted Coca-Cola bottles - specifically for their green hue - to create a number of "mountain streams" that run through the grotto formations.

(My ten year old son took several  of these photos for me.  Thanks, buddy.)

War Machine

Friday, May 27, 2011

Every Pastor has a Weird Funeral Story or Two

I attended a funeral this afternoon.  As a pastor I attend many funerals – it’s expected, it’s part of what we do.  And like the people for whom the funerals are held, every one is different.  Every one is unique. And that is as it should be.

But this funeral today was … well, it was strange.

The departed was an infant.  Little Marcus James was only three weeks old.  His death was attributed to SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – which is to say, we’re unable to say why he died.  He died suddenly and, seemingly, without cause.

His mother and four brothers used to live just a few houses from our church building.  I got to know them as the boys came into the building almost every afternoon. Sometimes they came to see if we had any free food they could take home.  Sometimes they came to ask for treats.  Sometimes, though, they came because they just wanted someone to talk to them.  They never said it that way, of course, but that’s what they wanted.
The family eventually started attending our Sunday services and youth programs and bible studies and woman’s programs. But about a year ago they moved to another nearby community.  I hadn’t seen them since, but we’d certainly missed them.  When I arrived at the funeral home, one of the boys immediately recognized me and ran through the chapel to give me a hug.  Apparently I was missed too. 

The funeral service itself was conducted by a chaplain from the hospital, the chaplain who’d helped comfort the family immediately after Marcus’ death.  But I’m not sure how much input he had in the planning of the service.  I think the family did most of that and just asked him to speak.

What struck me as strangest was the family’s selection of music.  Now, I grant that the funeral is not really for the dead, but is for the living.  And I also concede that the service should be personalized and relevant to the grieving family.  But it was their selection of music that left me confused.

The first song that they wanted played was Eric Clapton’s song Tears in Heaven.  This was an appropriate and interesting song. Clapton wrote the song following the death of his four year old son and so it makes a certain kind of sense to play it at a funeral – especially the funeral of a young son. 

Beyond the door,
There's peace I'm sure,
And I know there'll be no more
Tears in heaven.

The song was accompanied by a slide show of photos of little Marcus.  This is a common thing in funerals.  Usually, however, there is a whole lifetime of photos to see - photos of the deceased as an infant, as a child playing in the yard, as an awkward and moody teenager, graduation, first car, wedding photos, photos of the deceased with their children, on family vacations … all the activities of a life captured on film and remembered in the funeral service.

For Marcus James, however, there were precious few photos.  The slide show began with a few images of him, still in his mother’s womb, from an ultrasound scan.  Then there were a couple of him as a newborn, his eyes still goopy with the antibiotic ointment and his dark, dark hair standing up in all directions.  There were a few photos of him lying in his crib in his little onsies, and a picture of him sleeping on his mother’s chest. 

The hospital chaplain read from Psalm 23 and then another song was played through the funeral home sound system:  Wind Beneath My Wings as recorded by Bette Midler.  This was, to me, a strange selection… not really a song a mother would sing to her son.  But I tried to remind myself that this wasn’t about me. If she wanted Bette Midler to sing Wind Beneath My Wings at her son’s funeral, who was I to object?

Besides, the final lines of the song almost work…

Fly, fly, fly high against the sky,
so high I almost touch the sky.
Thank you, thank you,
thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.

The chaplain then stood up to share his funeral sermon based on an alliterative summary of Psalm 23 (God is a Person and Personable, he Protects, Provides, and leads us on the Path...) I dislike this kind of preaching – but again, I forced myself to ignore my preferences. (Was that another part of his alliterative outline?)  Besides the youngest of the boys (who was still only crawling around on the floor when the family moved away) had indicated that he wanted to sit in my lap, and after playing with my hat for a few minutes, he fell asleep in my arms.

The hospital chaplain finished his sermon and led the assembled in a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer – which, I think, most of them didn’t really know.  They muttered their way through it, stumbling over the only vaguely remembered phrases.

And then chaplain indicated that there would be one more song, after which everyone was invited to attend the reception.  And the final song was – get this - Madonna’s Like a Prayer – a song of a young girl so in love with God that it is almost as though He were the male figure in her life with metaphors for sexual intercourse and ambiguous innuendo referring to fellatio and orgasm.

I’d given up trying to rationalize and justify the song choice. It was just an inappropriate song choice for a funeral.  

But I still loved the family and tried to share their grief with them. 

Every pastor has a weird funeral story or two (ask me some time about the Biker funeral I led a few years ago...).  It’s part of what we do.


Terrible person that I am, this is all I could think of when Like a Prayer started playing.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Continuing my review of Human Faces…

In recent posts (here and here) I have been sharing my thoughts on Thom Stark's book The Human Faces of God:  What Scripture Reveals when it gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It). It is a challenging - thought provoking book, and I want to put down a couple more general thoughts on the concept of inerrancy before moving on to more specific arguments from the book. 

I come from an Arminian side of the free-will / predestination debate.  I believe that God has given us a measure of freedom – to choose to do this or to do that.  I believe that God created us this way as a reflection of his own image and because of his love for us, and I believe that this free-will entails a measure of risk for God because we are free to reject and abuse that love.

The concept of an inerrant bible that comes to us – dropped from the sky, as it were – free from mistakes and errors is not compatible with a belief in free-will.  If, as proponents of inerrancy claim, the various authors of the divinely inspired Old and New Testament were prevented by God from the possibility of error or mistake in every aspect of their writing – then they did not have that free-will with which we were created.
As an illustration – Adam was inspired by God – that is, God breathed into him – but he still made mistakes – or at least one glaring mistake.  Divine inspiration doesn’t mean the absence of mistake or error.  It can’t if we believe that we have a measure of free-will.

Tom Stark makes this same argument, “The doctrine of inerrancy rejects out of hand the possibility that the human authors of scripture were permitted to exercise their God-given free will in the writing of what would eventually become scripture…” (page 63 – emphasis his)

To be fair and balanced, he then goes on to show how the concept of inerrancy is also incompatible with a Calvinist’s focus on the sovereignty of God.   Ha! I love that.

Stark doesn’t mention it, but I wonder how those who argue for the inerrancy of Scripture could ever argue against the infallibility of the Pope.  They both use the same weak argument. ‘Surely, God wouldn’t allow the Pope / the scripture author to say something that isn’t true…’

Anyway – moving on…

Chapters four and five of Thom Starks’ The Human Faces of God examine the ways in which the ways in which ancient Israel’s theology mirrored the various theologies of their neighbors – specifically in the belief (and worship) of many gods (Polytheism) and in the practice of human sacrifice (page 86, 99)

I found myself agreeing with Stark in the first three chapters; affirming what he affirmed and rejecting what he rejected.  But here in these two chapters, I’m not quite ready to follow him.

We have been taught (many of us) since those flannel-graph stories of Sunday school that there is only one God – that there has ever only been one God and that there will ever only be one God.  And that any references within the bible to other Gods were to “false” gods, that these were non-existent, imaginary deities.  But that’s not really the attitude assumed by the biblical authors.  For them the other gods were real - though not deserving of worship. For example, consider the words of Miriam (Moses’ sister) in the book of Exodus:

Who is like you, O Yahweh among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in grandeur, doing marvelous things?
(Exodus 15:11)

Or Moses’ words in the Song of Moses:

See now, that I (Yahweh) am he,
 and beside me there is no other god
. (Deuteronomy 32:39)

This isn’t a denial of the existence of other gods but a claim to superiority over all other gods.

The Israelites of the Old Testament were not then, as we have often been taught, Monotheists.  Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God in existence.  It would be more accurate to say that they were Monolatrists; that they believed in the existence of numerous other gods, but worshipped only one.

But Stark doesn’t mention this understanding.  He doesn’t mention Monolatrism at all.  He casually dismisses Henotheism as indistinguishable from Polytheism. (page 76 - Go ahead, look it up. I had to as well.) But he never distinguishes Monolatrism from Polytheism.   Instead Stark concludes that “the worldview of the Israelites prior to the Babylonian exile – just like that of Israel’s Canaanite and ancient Near Eastern neighbors – was thoroughly polytheistic.” (page 70)  And I’m not convinced that he’s correct. Maybe he is – but I’m not convinced.

His first argument comes from that same Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, where it says:

When Elyon divided the nations
when he separated the sons of Adam,
he established the borders of the nations
according to the number of
[the gods / the sons of God].
Yahweh’s portion was his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.
(Deuteronomy 32: 8 – 9)

Part of the difficulty in interpreting this passage is that there are several different variations among our early sources.  The earliest Greek version – the LXX or Septuagint says, “according to the number of God’s angels.” The Masoretic Text ( the MT - which was, until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our earliest Hebrew version – but still wasn’t really very early….) says “according to the number of the sons of Israel.” And discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls was a copy of Deuteronomy (referred to as 4QDeutq) which translated this verse as “according to the sons of the gods.” 

Getting to the earliest (and presumably more correct) version of the text is difficult.  Whatever Hebrew version lies behind the Septuagint has been lost.  In comparing the differences between the LXX and the MT scholars used to believe that the translators had “bungled” their translation from the Hebrew, but it is more commonly believed today that the LXX represents an accurate translation of its (lost) Hebrew source, and that the differences between the LXX and the MT are not necessarily errors or changes but may in fact be evidence of a differing source.

We may never know what the earliest (and presumably more accurate) version of this verse said. Nevertheless, even if we accept the 4QDeutq with its “sons of the gods” version as the earliest (and more correct) translation, this doesn’t necessitate the belief that the early Israelites were, as a whole, polytheists like their neighbors.

Stark also argues that the Israelites practiced human sacrifice to Yahweh as an acceptable – and even divinely mandated – part of their religious practice, and that in this, too, the Israelites were just like their polytheistic neighbors. I don’t disagree that the Israelites did practice human sacrifice, or that they sometimes did so in the name of Yahweh, but I don’t believe that this was ever a legitimate part of the worship.

Stark appeals to Exodus 22:29, “You will give me the first-born of your children,” which an unqualified command – and to 34:19 -20 “All that first issues from the womb belongs to me: every male, every first-born of flock or heard.  But the first-born donkey you will redeem with an animal from the flock; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck.  All the first born of your sons you will redeem, and no one will appear before me empty handed.”

The import of these verses, he claims, is that Yahweh demanded that his Israelite followers sacrifice their first born sons to him, but that he was willing to accept a lesser sacrifice in their place.  And if we were to look at those two verses in isolation, then I suppose that is the conclusion that we would have to reach.

But there is an earlier passage in Exodus that Stark didn’t examine (or, if he did examine it he didn’t discuss it in his book).  Exodus 13: 11 – 16 provides the basis for both the previous passages – and gives the underlying reason behind them – and it is not Yahweh’s desire for human sacrifice.
"Now when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD.
"But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
"And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' then you shall say to him, 'With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.  'It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.'
 "So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt."  (Exodus 13:11-16)
 Animals were to be sacrificed, yes.  And Yahweh demanded the offering of the first born – but not as human sacrifices.  They were to be redeemed as continual reminder of the Passover event.  To slaughter them in sacrifice would be to forget the meaning of that event.
The motivation for the redemption of the [human] sacrifice was not a “utilitarian” desire to keep practical and valuable resources within the community (page 89) but indeed a “moral” value reflecting – if not Yahweh’s values –then at least Exodus’ author’s understanding of Yahweh’s values.  He valued the first-born sons of Israel and so allowed them to be spared. (We could discuss the horrifying idea that it was okay to slaughter the Egyptian firstborn sons, but that’s another issue…)

I don’t know textual-criticism well enough to know if Exodus 13 is considered to be a later addition to the text.  It could be argued (I suppose) that this interpretation is not the original idea, but a latter addendum, but Stark never addresses these verses.

His appeal to the stories of Abraham and Jephthah are not easily resolved.  Both stories are ambiguously open in their interpretation.  The authors of these two narratives have told their stories in such a way that readers through the years have argued back and forth as to whether or not the human sacrifice in these stories is a good or an evil thing.  I don’t think they do Stark any real good.

Stark also appealed to the prophets – usually presented as strident voices against human sacrifice – to demonstrate that human sacrifice was a normal and legitimate practice in the Israelite religion.

“With what shall I enter Yahweh’s presence
and bow down before God All-high?
Shall I enter with burnt offerings,
with calves one year old?
Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand,
with ten thousand streams of oil?
Shall I offer my eldest son for my wrong-doing,
the child of my own body for my sin?
You have already been told what is right
and what Yahweh wants of you.
Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6: 6 – 8)

Stark reasons that Micah’s rhetoric depends upon the “assumption that the sacrifice of one’s child is noble. If that assumption is not shared by his audience, his rhetoric would fall flat.  The text does not condemn child sacrifice, or else it must necessarily also represent a condemnation of the sacrifice of calves, and rams, and of the offering of oil.” (page 95).

I think maybe he’s missed the point slightly.  Micah is, as Stark realizes (page 95) trying to show that Israel’s sacrifices are intended to lead them to repentance and without repentance these sacrifices are pointless.  Without a proper religion of the spirit, more sacrifices are empty and ridiculous Micah argues
reductio ad absurdum from small sacrifices, to larger and larger sacrifices, to even the sacrifice of my own child… even this – seen as the most desperate epitome of sacrifice to a please deity – even this (even if it could be of value) wouldn’t be of any value!  Micah isn’t putting any value in human sacrifice – he’s pointing out the utter ridiculousness of sacrifices without a true religion of the spirit.

I believe the prophet Jeremiah when he gives voice to God saying “They have built shrines to Baal, to put their children to the fire as burnt offerings to Baal – which I never commanded, never decreed, and which never came to my mind…” (Jeremiah 19:5)
Stark suggests that the early Israelites were polytheists who practiced human sacrifices, that this was sometimes done in the name of Yahweh, and that the prophet Jeremiah sought to shift those practices away from Yahweh to other pagan gods like Baal.

Baal was originally a generic term for “lord” and was applied to many near-eastern gods, including occasionally to Yahweh.  What we have in Jeremiah is the people taking practices from pagan gods and performing them under the name of Yahweh – who objects and says “this is not what I wanted.”

Stark assumes that the direction of change from polytheism to monotheism was in one direction only,  but what seems more likely to me is that there was an ebb and flow between the monolatrism of Israel and the polytheism of their neighbors until it finally settled into the monotheism we see after the Babylonian exile.  Sometimes they held their one God separate from their neighbors’ gods and sometimes they mixed the two. During the time of Jeremiah the Israelite’s had accreted some of the pagan practices of their neighbor and mixed them with their own practice and the prophet (if not Yahweh) objected.

I seem to be going on at great length to argue with an author that I generally agree with.

Maybe I’m wrong.  Could be.

But I wasn’t convinced by his arguments in these two chapters.

This Is All that Remains

This is what remains of a larger collage - a collage that wasn't any good, except in this section. So I cut the rest off and threw it away. This is all that remains.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some Unsorted Thoughts on The Human Faces of God

Yesterday I posted a brief review of The Human Faces of God by Thom Stark (or at least a review of those parts that I've read so far.)

Today I have just a few unsorted thoughts to share:

- The bible is not God. It is God’s condescending to us. ( And usually we don't like condescension.)

- To say that God makes mistakes might be blasphemy, to say the bible has mistakes isn’t.

- The bible can be inspired (God-breathed) without being inerrant; Adam, after all, was inspired and look what happened to him.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I’m Reading: The Human Faces of God- What Scripture Reveals when it gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It)

“Why me, Lord ? Where have I gone wrong? I’ve always been nice to people. I don’t drink or dance or swear. I’ve even kept Kosher just to be on the safe side. I’ve done everything the bible says, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff.”
Ned Flanders in Hurricane Neddy

I bought this book with a gift card I received at Christmas last year and it has been sitting in the middle of a growing stack of books that I want to read.  I’m slowly making my way through the stack.  The Human Faces of God  represents the last of those that were part of my Christmas gift but there are many others that have been added since then.

It was my friend Steve Douglas who brought this book to my attention.  He wrote a review of each individual chapter in his blog. (You can read his reviews here.)  After reading the first couple of his reviews I decided that I wanted to read this book for myself and I quit reading his summaries. I wanted to come to it myself – without his opinions, (even though I respect and learn from his opinions.)  I’m glad I waited, though wish that I’d come to this book sooner in my stack.
I’m not finished with the book yet. I’ve read the preface and the first two chapters.  I’m taking my time with it - to enjoy it, to argue with it, to think about it, to fully appreciate what Stark has to say. 

Thom Stark takes a critical look at the doctrine of Inerrancy (the idea that the scriptures of the old and new testaments are without error in everything they affirm – historically, scientifically, geographically, culturally, and theologically), and he isn’t impressed.  He contends instead that the Bible is not univocal; it is not ONE book with one unified voice.  It is a book of books with numerous authors each giving voice to different concerns and different ideas.  And sometimes these authors are in argument with other authors within the book.
“In the beginning was the Argument, and the Argument was with God and the Argument was: God. God was the subject of the Argument, and the Argument was a good one.”

“…the Bible is ‘a collection of writings that is marked by a lively internal debate, and by a remarkable spirit of self-criticism.’ To put it bluntly: the Bible is an argument – with itself.” ( from page 1)

Here are two brief examples of this argument within the Bible:

Ezra harshly and violently opposed Jewish intermarriage with other peoples of other nations – even going so far as to demand the dissolution of those marriages and families.  (Ezra 10: 2 – 11).  According to Ezra, this intermarriage and pollution of the pure race was a hateful thing to God.  But, Moses took an Ethiopian wife, Rahab – the Canaanite prostitute was allowed to integrate with Israel, King David’s great-grandmother was a member of the hated Moabite people. In Deuteronomy 20:14 Yahweh himself permitted the Israelite people to intermarry with woman from other regions and religions.  And in Numbers 31, Yahweh even demanded that 32,000 Midianite virgins be permitted to integrate with the tribes of Israel. 

Some parts of the bible speak glowingly and with praise for the monarchical system – the King of Israel is God’s man. Other voices within the scriptures disagreed and said that the establishment of a king in Israel was an affront to God. 

Understand though (and this is important), the critical examination of these arguments is not an attack on the Scriptures and Stark is not motivated by a hostility toward the gospel.  As I see it, this kind of careful and critical examination of what’s really in this book that we hold so dear, is the best kind of appreciation.  I want to understand (really understand) what it says (what it really says) – without ignoring or dismissing or whitewashing the difficult and ugly parts.

Also – a rejection for claims of Inerrancy isn’t necessarily a rejection of the claim that the bible is Inspired or that it is Authoritative.  It just means that we’ll have to think carefully about what it means that this is an inspired and authoritative book (an inspired and authoritative collection of books.)

The first doctrine of The Salvation Army affirms our belief that "the scriptures of the Old and New Testament were given by the inspiration of God,” but says nothing about inerrancy. 

Here’s a quote from the study guide to Salvation Story (the Salvationist’s handbook of doctrine) that helps – a little bit:

“As diverse in style, cultural content and authorship as are the scriptures Christian hermeneutics approaches its task with the conviction that the Bible has an underlying unity of purpose and message.  What this means with respect to any given text is that, first, it needs to be interpreted within the context of the whole witness of Scripture, and, second, it cannot be interpreted in a way that contradicts the basic message of the Bible.  It is certainly true that some texts are difficult to harmonize with each other, but even the resulting dissonance usually represents contrasting aspects of the same truth or opposites that must be honored.” (page 9)

As I said, it helps a little bit.  I’m not sure that it’s possible or even desirable that every passage within the bible should be harmonized with every other passage.  Some of those voices do contract other voices.  But maybe we can learn from that argument anyway.

If we can extend the musical idea of harmonization of scripture - Perhaps it would be better to conceive of the bible, not as Barbershop Quartet with tight harmonies and pleasant melodies, but more like a composition by Igor Stravinsky with lurching off-kilter rhythms and startlingly dissonant melodies.

I’m not sure that I’ll agree with every point that Stark makes in the book, but I know I’ll appreciate reading this book.

Even the Monster has Unresolvable Questions

My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them.

-the 'monster' in chapter 15 of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Remember That Trip I Took to the Antarctic?

Remember that trip I took to the antarctic?  It was really cold.
(Drawn in photoshop)

The prophet Joel says "Jubilate"

The prophet Joel remains a strange enigma to us. We know very little about him. The only concrete thing we know about him is that his father was named Pethuel – and that’s it. That is all that we know for certain about Joel.

We don’t know where he was born, where he lived, or even when he lived. We don’t know if he was married or if he had children. We don’t know what he did for a living. Was he farmer, a merchant, or a rabbi? We don’t know. We don’t even know specifically when he composed the lines that have come down to us as the book of Joel. As I said, we know very little about Joel.

Yet his writings have survived.

Working from certain clues within the book of Joel, it seems likely to Biblical scholars that he wrote sometime during the fourth century B.C. during the time when Persian Empire ruled the world (though some have argued for an earlier date, pushing Joel as far back as the ninth century B.C.). During this period of time the nation of Israel was only an insignificant province within the expansive Persian Empire.

But even still, his writings have survived; we can read them in our bibles today these 2,400 some odd years later. And, what is more, they have survived in such a way that even though we know next to nothing about the prophet Joel as an historical figure, we can still understand the message of his book.

One thing is immediately apparent as we read through the book of Joel: he (whoever he was) wrote to an agrarian society. And this is something we can understand in our present community. Even though not all of us gathered here tonight are farmers, we certainly understand the urgent necessity of our agriculturalists. We understand that the strength and security of our country rises and falls with the farmers. When farmers do well, everyone does well. When the farmers suffer, everyone suffers.

This is something we understand. And Joel’s original audience understood this as well.

He wrote his message to them during a period of urgent distress and national crisis. Vast swarms of locusts had overwhelmed the country side and billions of these malevolent insects had devoured the crops. They ate the leaves, stalks, bark, flower, fruits, seeds, and stems of every green and growing thing. Joel compared them to an invading army of horses and chariots destroying everything in their path.

As the swarm moved on to devastate other regions, the people of Judah began to relax, but not for long. While the locust swarms filled the sky, and destroyed the fields the male and female locusts were also busy mating. The pregnant females then deposited clumps of 50 – 80 eggs in the uncultivated ground.

And after about a month (30 – 40 days) these young locusts began to hatch and grow. Their appetites increased proportionally as they increased in size. Every day they grew a little larger and everyday they ate a little more than the day before. From birth to death, the locust is an eating machine that leaves only destruction in its wake. A full grown locust can eat more than its own weight each day. That might not be much for one locust, but when you have to remember that it’s a swarm of millions of these ravenous insects devouring everything in sight. This was round two of the locust plague. (Eyewitness description of a locust swarm that descended on Palestine in the spring of 1915 – Anchor Bible Dictionary vol. 6 pg. 1150)

What the chewer left the swarming locusts consumed;
and what the swarming locusts left the jumpers ate;
what the jumpers left the finisher devoured. - Joel 1: 4

And then to compound their already desperate misery – the devastation of the locust swarm was immediately followed by a severe and lingering drought. The sky withheld rain for month after month and slowly the watercourses all dried up. The once flowing streams and brooks of clear cold water became trickles of goopy mud, and then hard packed clay.

Their cattle wandered the barren fields lowing in distress and hunger. Sheep stood perplexed.

Seeds have shriveled under their shovels;
storage bins are desolate,
granaries ruined;
for the grain has dried out.
How the beasts moan,
the herds weep,
for lack of fodder;
even the flocks of sheep are hurting. – 1: 17-18

As the drought held week after week and month after month, the land dried out, and the countryside became a dangerous tinderbox waiting for a spark – then – Conflagration! Fires blazed across the dry fields, burning and blazing and leaving ashy destruction across the land. The sky was filled with acrid smoke and the burnt out landscapes were devoid of life. There had been nothing like this in their collected memories– even the elders had never witnessed anything comparable in their time.

To you, YHWH, I cry out;
for fire has consumed the pasture land,
a flame has licked all the trees in the field.
Even the beasts in the field
complain to you;
for the waters sources have all dried up,
and fire has devoured the pasture land. – 1: 19 - 20

And here, I think, we can understand their predicament. Our culture is distinctly different from Joel’s in nearly every respect, but we can still relate to their plight. We don’t speak the same language but we can certainly understand their complaints.

Our society hasn’t been devastated by a plague of locusts followed by drought and fire, but we certainly have suffered a series of crippling economic disasters. And maybe we’ve started to feel like the people of Joel’s 4th century B.C. audience.

We may not have a plague of locusts, but we have collapsing banks. We may not be suffering through a period of drought, but we do have an increasing number of people who are unemployed. We may not be dealing with catastrophic firestorms, but the general feeling is that our country is in serious trouble.  We haven’t shared the exact same circumstances as Joel’s original audience, but we share their desperation, their confusion, their angst for the future.

Stand dismayed, you farmers,
wail you vinedressers,
for the wheat, the barley!
The harvests of the field have been lost!
The vine is withered,
the fig tree wilts away;
pomegranate, palm tree, apple tree,
every tree in the countryside is dry,
and for human beings
joy has run dry too. (Joel 1:11-12)

That last line catches at me “and for human beings, joy has run dry too.”

How many have said that recently? They’ve been laid off, their car has been repossessed their home has been foreclosed and the joy of life has just run dry.

And what did the prophet have to say to his audience in the forth century B.C and what does he have to say to people suffering today? What does Joel have to say to people who have lost everything, to a nation on the verge of collapse?

Land, do not be afraid;
be glad, rejoice,

This is counterintuitive. In the aftermath of horrific destruction Joel says “Do not be afraid” and “Be glad, rejoice.” In one rabbinic translation of this text the translation reads, “…be glad, jubilate.”

What a great word.

Jubilate leads me to the Latin phrase “Jubilate Deo” from Psalm 100 “Acclaim (Jubilate) Yahweh all the earth, serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence with songs of joy.” And that leads me to the hymn tune Old 100th known simply as The Doxology, written in 1674 by Thomas Ken, a clergyman in the Church of England. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”

Jubilate is the verb that Joel uses. Joel writes to the very soil of the land and he says,

Soil, do not be afraid;
be glad, jubilate,
for Yahweh has done great things.

He writes to the wild animals of the country and he says to them,

…do not be afraid.
the desert pastures are green again,
the trees bear fruit,
vine and fig tree yield their richness.

And after addressing the soil that has been ravaged by locusts and drought and flame, and addressing the wild beasts who have lost their food and their homes because of the locusts and drought and flames, Joel finally turns his attention to the Sons of Zion.

Sons of Zion, be glad,
rejoice in Yahweh your God;
for he has given you
autumn rains as righteousness demands
and he will send the rains down for you,
the autumn and the spring rains as of old.
The threshing-floors will be full of grain,
the vats overflow with wine and oil.

Joel says that the people of Zion should rejoice and give thanks – Jubilate – and he promises that God will restore the regular cycle of rains and that the green growth of the fields will return.

Joel says that the regular rains will be restored because Righteousness demands it.

And I have to ask, whose righteousness? Mine? Ours? The people of Joel’s 4th century B.C? No. We have no righteousness of our own, “there is no one righteous, no not one.”

So whose righteousness demands that the regular cycle of rains should be restored and that the devastated crops re-established? Whose righteousness demands that all that has been destroyed will be returned?

It is Yahweh’s righteousness that demands it.

The restoration of the land is a return to the covenantal blessings that God made with his people – the devastated fire blasted land would once again become the Edenic paradise. When the people of Zion – the people of God – have been restored to relationship with God then the land itself will be blessed. And the people of God would never again be ashamed.

When the people of Zion – the people of God – are in their proper place, in their proper relationship with God, there is rejoicing and jubilation, and there is restoration. And this is cause for our thanksgiving. This is cause for our celebration. This is cause for our Jubilation.

Do not be afraid
be glad,

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's Not the End of the World

I'm preaching from Joel chapters 1 and 2 tomorrow so I've made this short little video for the worship service.

The prophet Joel described of the swarm of locusts that had swept over the land as the coming of the Day of Yahweh (or the Day of the Lord.) It was a terrible thing, described in cosmic, end-of-the-world kind of language - but to read Joel's description of the locusts of his day as a prediction of a still future day of doom and gloom produces the kind of insanity we've recently seen within a small segment of the Christian community (cough, cough, Family Radio, cough, Harold Camping).

Let's try to keep it in perspective.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This is the Beginning of the End

I am both fascinated and repulsed by last-days, end-of-the-world, rapture movies.  How could I not love them - all the bad acting of B-movies, and the weirdness of science-fiction.  But they disgust me too. It's the bad theology. 

And since the rapture is going to happen within a matter of hours, it is time for me to share with you the first part of my own it's-the-end-of-the-world-jesus-is-coming movie.  I've cobbled it together from hundreds (maybe not hundreds but a lot...) of books, movies, and television programs.


This is the Beginning of the End from jeff carter on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The Locusts

Like Joel, I have seen the swarming clouds
of insatiable six-legged locusts,
seen them dressed in tailored Italian suits
and driving slick black cars,

the swarming deregulated sub-prime locusts,
the cutting free-market frenzied locusts,
and the scandalous bankrupted locusts,

and now that the devouring cloud has moved on,
the swirling dark veil has been lifted,
working people across the land
examine the remains of their fields.

Our pensions – devoured
Our factories – closed
Our jobs – devoured
and our homes – foreclosed.

“They’ve left us with nothing, not even laughter.”


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I’m Reading: Early Narrative Christology – The LORD in the Gospel of Luke

A few years ago I was leading a Sunday morning bible study concerning the deity of Jesus of Nazareth. We had been in this particular study for a couple of weeks but on this particular morning one of the older women in the group stopped me in the middle of the lesson and said:

            “Are you saying that Jesus is God?”

I answered, “Yes.” And she responded:

            “Well I’ve been coming to this church for 65 years and I’ve never heard
anyone say that before…”

After a moment of stunned silence I, very gently, said, “Well then, you must not have been listening.”  Maybe I wasn’t as gentle as I thought because she quit coming a few weeks later.

Not only must she not have been listening (because I know I had said it) but she also must have never read Luke’s gospel; Luke over and over and over again makes it quite clear that the man Jesus of Nazareth is both man and God and he does so in many different ways.

C. Kavin Rowe – in his book Early Narrative Christology explores the way that Luke uses the word Lord to express Jesus’ humanity and divinity. “Throughout the story Luke uses κύριος so repeatedly that its reverberation within the narrative becomes the rhythm of the Gospel.  Κύριος is thus somewhat like the famous leitmotiv of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which not only opens the piece in dramatic fashion but also can be heard clearly – with intricate variation – in all four movements, directing, as it were, our listening to and experience of the piece.” (page 29)

Rowe allows for the complexity and ambiguity of the Greek word – which can mean, in one sense “sir” or “master” or “milord” and in another “Lord” as in “the Lord God.”  This complexity and ambiguity, he argues, is integral to the way that Luke uses the word, allowing it to point at the same time to both the Lord God in heaven and the Lord incarnate on earth, or allowing it be used ironically as both “sir” and “Lord (God)” at the same time. 

For example:  He points out that in the birth-infancy stories of Luke the word κύριος is used approximately 25 times – and that only 2 of these instances refer specifically to Jesus (1:43 and 2:11).  But these two instances carry such weight within the narrative that they shape the way that whole story is read.  Over and over the word κύριος is used in the birth story to refer to God in heaven, the God of Israel but then at the first point in the story when Jesus exists in the human plane (1:43) he also is addressed as κύριος.  The connection shouldn’t be missed. 

Rowe very carefully explores the way that Luke draws out these connections with the word κύριος throughout the gospel. He is detailed and exhaustive in his examination of the text.

I’ve enjoyed reading the book. It hasn’t changed what I believe, (unlike the woman of my bible study group, this is something I’ve heard before…) but it has given me new ways to think about it, shown me a new depth of meaning within the text.

But it’s been a difficult book for me to read.  I’m not a professional academic. I don’t know German – so when Rowe quotes German sources and doesn’t translate … I can’t follow.  He also doesn’t translate the Greek texts.   I also don’t read or speak Greek. (I am a bilingual illiterate. I can’t read in two languages!)  I can pick out the few words that I recognize but I can’t really read it.  In order to read Rowe’s book, I’ve had to keep the Bible close at hand so I can read along (which maybe isn’t a bad thing…)  Rowe has written this book for the academic community and not for the ‘ordinary’ Christian reader.  This is my only complaint.  I would like to recommend this book to others, but as difficult as it is, I’m not sure how many would be able to get through it.

Early Narrative Christology: The LORD in the Gospel of Luke
C. Kavin Rowe
Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2009

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This is a collage I made some years ago.  I still like it.

By my count there are five different individuals at distinct levels of disappearance into the artwork.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Anglerfish ii

short while back I posted a simple drawing I made of an anglerfish.

I have, since then, messed with it in Photoshop. What do you think? Better? Worse?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Psalm of the Pit and the Pendulum

I was sick unto death with that long agony”
said the somber eyed poet.
Thou hast put me in the lowest depths, in darkness
in deep dungeons of reoccurring trials.

I remember the trials, the judges, the accusations.
I remember the sentence.

Will your wonders show if I fail?
Will you be glorified if I fall?
Do the dead rise to face the blade again and again?

From my youth I’ve struggled
with these foes, faced these enemies
and I’ve begun to despair.

But I cry out, hoping for the
sudden arrival of your army
to invade this, my personal Toledo.

(based on E.A.Poe and Psalm 88)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"A man with a gunshot wound is bound to attract notice."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beauty and the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

61 Years - the Modern Psuedoscience of Mental Distress

Today - May 9th - is the 61st anniverary of the publication of L. Ron Hubbard's book: Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health - The ...ehem! "church" of Scientology likes to refer to it as "the owner's manual for the human mind," but that is in no way accurate. 

Dianetics is the psuedo-scientific ramblings of a seriously disturbed hack science fiction writer.  There is no Science, modern or otherwise, in Dianetics.

For my summary of Dianetics, read - This is Dianetics

or for all things L. Ron Hubbard

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In the Beginning Was the Word: The Apocalyptic Writings of Saints John, Paul, George and Ringo

I originally wrote this for the now-defunct Wittenburg Door Magazine; it appeared in Issue 210, March / April 2007.

In the Beginning Was the Word: The Apocalyptic Writings of Saints John, Paul, George and Ringo

Say the word and you'll be free,
say the word and be like me.
Say the word I'm thinking of,
have you heard the word is "love"?

"The Word" 1: 1 - 2

The words of the four apostles of the modern age (Saints John, Paul, George, and Ringo) have much to teach us about the various aspects of theology and worship, but the purpose of this paper will be to explore the eschatological teachings of the Beatle community of believers.

Skeptics who reject the teachings of the Beatles, of course, point to the failure of Charles Manson  - who wrongly interpreted the writings of the Fab Four Apostles.  He believed that a "race war" was imminent and that it was incumbent upon him and his followers to initiate the coming of this "helter skelter" Armageddon.  While we recognize that Manson's interpretations were heretically unorthodox, we still maintain that the writings of the Apostolic Beatles are the result of divine inspiration and that they reveal God's plan for the future of our world.

A Christophany

Just as Saint John's Revelation on Patmos began with a vision of the risen King of Heaven described in apocalyptic fashion so, too, does an exploration of the Beatles' Revelation begin with an apocalyptic vision of the returning Christ.  In true apocalyptic form this vision of Jesus is loaded with difficult images:

He wear no shoe-shine, he got toe jam football
He got monkey-finger, he shoot Coca-cola
He say, "I know you, you know me"
One thing I can tell you is you've got to be free.

He bag production, he got walrus gumboot,
He got ono sideboard, he's one spinal cracker
He's got feet down below his knees
Hold you in his arms, you can feel his disease.

He roller coaster, he got early warning
He got "Muddy Water," he one Mojo filter
He say, "One and One and One is Three"
Got to be good looking 'cause he's so hard to see.

"Come Together" 1:1 - 3:4

The Beatles describe the Lord as one who knows us, desires for us to be free, and calls us to "Come together, right now, over me."  Who else could be described in such terms?  Only the Risen King who appeared to the disciples in the middle of a locked room, and who could disappear from their sight; he is the one who is "so hard to see."

There is also the obvious reference to his participation in the Trinity: "One and One and One is Three." Believers are to maintain an anxious expectation and to be continually looking for the Lord precisely because he is "so hard to see." But see him we will - and soon - at his return.

The Second Coming

The second coming of the One wearing "no shoe-shine" is described in the Psalm of John and Yoko (1) :

Made a lightning trip to Vienna, eating choc'late cake in a bag ...
Caught the early plane back to London, fifty acorns tied in a sack
The men from the press said we wish you success
It's good to have the both of you back.

Christ! You know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can bee,
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me.

"The Psalm of John and Yoko" 4: 1 - 5

These lines confirm that the Lord's return will be as a "lightning trip" from east to west (Vienna to London) just as Matthew recorded in his gospel (Matt. 24:27).  Indeed, it will be "good"  to have him "back." The "fifty acorns tied in a sack" are, of course, the reward that he brings with him for the faithful (Rev. 22:12).

The time shortly before his coming will be one of trouble and trial; it will be the birth pangs of the end.  Christ knows that it will not be easy for Christians.  They will be handed over  to be tortured and put to death (Matt. 24:9) even "crucified." But anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Well, will you, won't you want me to make you?
I'm coming down fast, but don't let me break you.
Tell me, tell me, tell me the answer,
You may be a lover, but you ain't no dancer.

"The Letter of Helter Skelter" 3:3

The return of one with "feet down below his knees" - a reference to the "feet of burnished bronze" as seen by Saint John (Rev. 1:15) - is nearer each day.  As He told His disciples, He was coming soon - "coming down fast."  We may not know when, but when He does come it will be quickly.  His return will be a comfort for the faithful, but a terror for those who have rejected him.  He urges them to no let Him "break" them with his "spinal crackin'" at his return.

The Rapture

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
"I am the Walrus" 1:1

Those who have accepted Jesus as their "Walrus" (the two tusks of the Walrus are akin to the horns of the Lamb in Revelation 5) will be united with the Lord at his coming - "we are all together."  We will be one with Him as He is one with the Father.

The repeated use of the "I Am" phrase in this letter should immediately draw us to the fact that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is speaking.  He says "I Am the Walrus."  and "I  Am the egg-man" - a reference to Easter and his resurrection.  He alone can speak the words "goo, goo, g'joob." (Walrus 5:12) - a voice calling the dead from their graves, and calling those who remain up into the sky with Him.  The purpose of his coming is to bring us where He is. " Come together...over me." he says to us - be together with Me and my Father in Heaven.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Taken these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life , you were only waiting for this moment to be free.
Blackbird fly, into the light of a dark back night.

"Blackbird" 1: 1 - 9

The Blackbird Epistle contains a wonderful description of the rapture, the glorious hope of all believers.  Christians throughout the centuries have been "waiting" all their lives for this moment.  They will take their "broken wings and learn to fly" with their Savior through the darkness, and into the eternal light of God's presence.

We cannot know the exact time or day when our Walrus will return to take us but we can know that it will be on a "Tuesday" that the heavenly "van" will come to rapture us away.  the Walrus Epistle says:

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come,
Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday
Man you let you been a naughty boy; you let your face grow long.

"I Am the Walrus" 3:15

This "stupid bloody Tuesday" refers to the chaos unleashed upon the earth as millions of believers , children and infants, suddenly and without warning, disappear  Further evidence of the Tuesday Rapture is found in another of the Apostolic Beatles writings:

Tuesday afternoon is never ending,
Wednesday morning papers didn't come
Thursday night your stockings needed mending
See how they run.

"A Vision of the Lady Madonna" 4:17 - 18

The Rapture on Tuesday - a Tuesday that will seem to last forever to those who are left behind - will lead to a catastrophic disruption of normal human affairs.  Unoccupied cars will swerve off the highway, planes will plummet from the sky, and daily newspapers will not be delivered as the result of the sudden disappearance of all believers.  The chaos will continue for many days resulting in the need for many things to be "mended."  People will "run" in terror and fear.

The Rise of the Antichrist

After the Rapture of the saints, the world will fall into a time of deep despair.  World leaders will be anxious for answers but none will be forthcoming.  Instead of looking to the Bible for answers, however, the people of the world will be lead into satanic spiritualism.

At 12 o'clock a meeting 'roudn the table for a seance in the dark,
With voices out of nowhere put on specially by the children for a lark.

"Cry, Baby, Cry"  - A Lament 3: 1 - 4

As conditions worsen, Russia will attempt an invasion of Israel.  Gog and Magog are "Back in the U.S.S.R."  the collapse of communism in the 1990's was not the end of the bear from the north.  this invasion will not result in a victory for Russia.  Instead, a new world leader will arise to make peace between the nations.  This is the Antichrist.  His name is Maxwell.

Maxwell the Antichrist will make peace between the nations of the world, but he will persecute the people of God.  using his "silver hammer" he will strike a killing blow upon the heads of the tribulation saints (Rev. 20:4).  It should not come as a surprise that when translated into Finnish, the name Maxwell contains the numerical value of 666.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer came down on his head.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's sliver hammer made sure that he was dead.

"Maxwell's Silver Hammer" 3:3

Much more could be said of the Apostolic Beatles writings about the Whore of Babylon:

She thinks of him and so she dresses in black,
And though he'll never come back she's dressed in black.
O, how long will it take till she sees  the mistakes she has made?

"Baby's in Black" (Sackcloth) 1: 2 -5

The "Baby" is none other than a reconstructed "Baby"lon, home of the one world religion and one world government.  She is also described in the brief writing "Her Majesty" as "a pretty nice girl" who "changes from day to day," indicating her fickleness and her unfaithfulness.  The Antichrist's control over the nations of the world through this "baby" in black will bring about peace - but it will be a false peace.

Let me tell you now, everybody's talking 'bout
Revolutions, evolutions, mastication, flagellation
Regulations, integrations, meditation, United Nations
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
All we are saying is give peace a chance.

"Give Peace a Chance" 3:1 - 5

But while they are saying peace and safety these "ministers, sinisters, banisters, and canisters, Bishops, fishops, rabbits and Popeyes ("Give Peace a Chance" 2: 1 - 4) will be dragging the people of the world closer and closer to the final battle; Armageddon, the final "bye-bye, bye-bye."

The hope of all believers is in the soon coming of our Lord and Walrus, Jesus Christ. Come quickly. Amen.

It won't be long, yeah, yeah.
It won't be long, yeah, yeah
'til I belong to you.

"It Won't be Long" 1:1

(1) Some manuscripts are titled "The Ballad of John and Yoko," but these are fragmentary.
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