Saturday, 21 May 2011

A christian sceptic's "take" on "the rapture"

(With thanks to my former colleague Bob Ginn. His Facebook posting inspired this screed.  He is not responsible for what I write!)

So, the “rapture” did not happen today (unless I have been hangin’ around with the wrong people and am therefore “left behind” (lol).

I am not sure who is the most stupid in all of this kerfuffle.

Is it Harold Camping, the California pastor who “crunched the numbers” based on Noah’s universal flood (itself unhistorical and mythical)?  (Garbage in – garbage out - as if God’s word is all a matter of numerology).

Is it his sad followers, some of whom liquidated all their assets in preparation for the “great hoax”?  I could feel sorry for them – except that they too have minds, minds which have been closed to history and science, and have been opened to speculation alone.

Or is it the media – press, T.V., blogs, social networks etc -  the list goes on -  who have reported Pastor Camping’s nonsense as if it were somehow “true”?  

Excuse my language, but I am pissed off that so-called reliable news sources such as N.P.R., the New York Times, the B.B.C. and the Guardian would waste a minute of broadcast time or an inch of newsprint on this f-cking nonsense.

I strive to be true to my christian heritage and convictions.  It’s a struggle.  I waver between unbelief and christian agnosticism.  

I move t’wards unbelief when I read “Camping’s Crap” and the serious way in which some christians accept his garbage. 

On the other hand, my “christian agnosticism” leads me to understand that the Kingdom of G-d is already here when humans strive for justice, feed the hungry, welcome the alien, protect the vulnerable etc etc. 

I believe that is what Jesus meant when he said “the kingdom of G-d” is within you” – the “you” being a plural.

That same agnosticism does not look for some magical intervention from the skies to solve all earthly woes.   That’s our task folks.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A "mess" of what?

I grew up using the “Authorised” (King James) translation of the Holy Scriptures.  My memory informed me that in the Genesis Chapter 25 story Jacob gave his brother Esau a “mess of pottage”.

Today I discovered that those fascinating words: “a mess of pottage” are not in the text of the AV/KJV translation.  Instead it reads:

“34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils”.

It seems that the “mess of pottage” language was used in a translator’s “heading” to the passage, and that it was not in the biblical text itself.

I have discovered that in the usage of 16th century England a “mess” meant something of little value, and that “pottage” meant soup or stew.

I got to thinking about this when I had a late lunch at a local restaurant last Monday.  The establishment is on the Philippi Creek in southern Sarasota. It’s nicely rustic, but it serves below par food,  at above par prices. 

My choice last Monday was a bowl of seafood gumbo.  The menu said that it was “hot” – i.e. spicy, but it was neither spicy nor hot.  It was “O.K.” - but it could have been so much better.

So much better that I decided to make my own “mess of gumbo”. This I did today.

My version included grouper, oysters, mussels, clams, with okra (from a can), diced tomatoes, onions, black beans, a few mushrooms, a bit of tabasco sauce, and some black pepper ......  not to forget the chorizo and andouille sausage.

The photo’s below show some lentil soup (a la Jacob/Esau) though the lentils should be red, and my own “pottage of gumbo”.

A mess of pottage (lentil stew)  -   the biblical lentils were red  (still the best!)

My mess of gumbo

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ireland and the U.K.

Although British born, I am not a monarchist, nor have I ever been such.

BUT I have been delighted with the words and deeds of the U.K. Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II in her state visit to the Republic of Ireland, and in the responses of the Irish leaders and people.

There is something to be said for having a Head of State who is not a politician.   The Republic of Ireland has its President.  The United Kingdom has its Queen.

Q.E. II and the Irish President (Mary McAleese) have each exemplified grace, dignity and wisdom which would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago.

How refreshing to see that two nations with a long and bitter shared history can now act "all grown up".

Good for Mary of Ireland and Elizabeth of the United Kingdom!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Religious suckers.

[There is no proof that Phineas Taylor Barnum ever said, "there's a sucker born every minute." He did, however, say that "every crowd has a silver lining," and acknowledged that "the public is wiser than many imagine."(From the Ringling Brothers website)

What with Twitter, Facebook and a thousand and one blogs, there are few editorial filters for news and/or comment on the internet. We are thus in a time when any crack-pot theory is accepted as true or as factual just so long as it has been “published” on the web. 

P.T. Barnum aside, there are many suckers out there!

Here is an example:

An acquaintance of mine from Massachusetts placed the following link on his Facebook page. 

This acquaintance  is a bright and engaging College graduate.  

I was appalled that he would give any credence to such clap trap.  

So I sent him a letter by old fashioned snail mail.

This is what I wrote.

Dear (n)

My warmest good wishes to you and to your sister, mom and grandmother. I remember you all with joy.

I was very disappointed that you added to your Facebook page that disturbing piece about President Obama’s health care bill.  Of course the hypothesis of the article regarding the “mark of the beast” has no basis in fact!  I am confident in saying this for three reasons.

The first is political.  If there were a provision in law for every one of us to be micro-chipped there would most certainly be intense opposition from groups as diverse as the NAACP, the Urban League, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, members of the Tea Party, and political leaders in congress from both the Democratic party and the Republican party.  Does it not strike you as odd that none of these groups are aware of the so-called micro-chip plan?

The second is practical.  How in the world would the government force every resident of the United States to be chipped, for we surely would not consent to this voluntarily?  Are there plans to send in the Armed Forces, the FBI, and every Police force or Sheriff’s Dept. to “pin us down” so that we could be forcible chipped?

The third is theological. If this (bogus) micro-chipping plan is a part of the “mark of the beast”, why does it apply to Americans only?   However we understand what the bible has to say about “the end times”,  surely we agree that it should have meaning for all people in all places.

I believe that the whole article is a piece of preposterous fear mongering based in fringe conspiracy theories.  It brings no honour to the Lord Jesus Christ, nor does it further the work of the gospel.

I truly wish that you had thought through some of the implications of the article before you posted it.  We are called to love the Lord with our minds as well as our hearts!

And, far from speculating about the second coming, those of us who are christians should be majoring in the ministries of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, and witnessing to the amazing grace of God which has been given us in Christ Jesus.

With every good wish, and fondly as ever,

J. Michael Povey

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

"Screened-in porch"

I was happy to hire Aldo Bari, a local handyman,  to make some cosmetic improvements to the interior of my screened-in porch.

He insulated the skimpy metal underneath the windows, then added laminate, painted it, and framed it (with beading).

I hope that these pics will illustrate the good work he did.

And I have added a gratuitous photo' of my beloved Penne!





Monday, 16 May 2011

Voyeurs or participants (2)

Some 25 years ago I took a vacation in Hawaii.  I spent some time on Oahu, and some on Maui.  I also took a plane trip which flew us over most of the Hawaiian Islands, and included a superb view of “Madame Pele” -  an active volcano on “The Big Island”.

Hawaii was O.K. in its own way, but it was no place for a single and gay man.  Most of the other holiday makers were heterosexuals who were newly engaged, newly married, or celebrating a wedding anniversary.

On one night I took a “Sunset Cruise” out of Maui.

Tight-assed or obsessive as I am, I was one of the first to board. I took a seat on a bench on the starboard side of the boat.

I was soon joined by two couples.  It was apparent that they were mother and father plus son and daughter-in-law, or daughter and son in law.

The younger male sat to my immediate left, with the other members of the family to his left.  He half turned away from me -  his body language indicating “don’t talk to us”.

Off we sailed with canned music spewing out of the cabin, and a more than abundant supply of “free” mai tais.

Other passengers would from time to time go to the prow of the boat, take a photo’ of the setting sun an immediately return to their seats and drinks. “Hmmm” I thought, “they are here to get a photo’ of the sunset, not to enjoy it”.

I took my turn at the prow and, leaning against the mast, I savoured every moment of beauty as the sun “sank into the ocean”.

On returning to my seat the younger man addressed me for the first time. “Are you a priest?” he asked.    It seemed to be an odd question since I bore no identifying clothing or insignia.  I granted  him “yes I am a priest”.

He immediately turned back o his family as said “I told you so, I told you so.  I knew he was a priest”.  And he and they never spoke to me again!