Sunday, March 29, 2015

Finally! Both Parties Agree!

My wife, who works as a teacher in the public school system, was reading to me an article concerning Toledo, OH teachers rallying for a moratorium on holding teachers accountable for the results of this year's PARCC exams (the state has already enacted one for the students). In the article it mentions how conservatives believe the testing is an encroachment of federal power.
This is funny to me. Think about this. Teachers, and teacher unions, have overwhelmingly supported liberal (a.k.a. "Democrat") politicians. Yet, they are standing WITH CONSERVATIVES - maybe not for the exact same reasons - on this issue. Wouldn't you think that liberal politicians would be paying attention to one of their largest and most supportive voting blocks?

Many conservatives and liberals have stood up against things like Common Core and Standardized Testing, and feel that the federal government has been spinning its wheels over improving public education. George Bush had his "No Child Left Behind", and Barack Obama has his "Race to the Top" initiative. Both are not only utter failures, but both emphasize testing children as a means of improving schools (or to be honest, the coffers of their lobbyists - tests, curriculum, and textbooks; a one-stop shop for all your student's educational "needs"). You can almost hear the engine screaming as the whole vehicle sinks deeper and deeper in the muck.

I guess it goes to show that both conservatives and liberals can truly be bipartisan about something: f***ing your children's education.

Teachers should make their political cry as follows: Stop this madness or you will lose our support. And more to the point, stop hurting our students!

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Be Careful WHAT You Worship

Today I went to church. Being a Sunday (the day I'm writing this blog), I'm sure that comes as no surprise to a lot of my readers. But if you have been reading for a while, you know that I've been on a sabbatical for the last several months. I had a lady ask me this morning what church I've been going to, since I haven't been around, and I told her "None. I'm on a sabbatical." That, of course produced a puzzled look, but that's expected. More on the sabbatical later.

I got to the church early. As I was walking from my Jeep to the building, I could hear the music team rehearsing. I found a seat in front, stage right (as a former theater person, "stage right" is the right side of the stage, from the perspective of the actors ON the stage looking out at the audience. Since the stage directions are normally for those ON the stage, this makes sense.). I wanted to be there early enough to be there for the rehearsal. I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to actually join the team; I just wanted to be there and "absorb" as much of the praise and worship as possible.

Outside of a few interruptions of people stopping to say hello and ask where I've been - both during the rehearsal and during the actual music portion of the service - I was able to focus on praising and worshipping God.

For the non-Christian, the terms "praise" and "worship" may be a bit confusing. Simplified, "praise" is the jump/shout/dance/run-about portion of the music. It is usually the part where you are expressing your joy of the one you are praising. "Worship", on the other hand, is usually quieter, more tender, and is an expression of adoration. There are times during worship when one may experience an almost tangible feeling of "presence". Usually, it takes "praise" to shed the stresses of the week, and allow one to open oneself to the possibility of getting close to God.

After the music portion, the minister welcomes newcomers, and then there is a period of fellowship, which I like to call the "meet and greet". This is where everybody goes around hugging and shaking hands. I took this as a good time to make my exit.

The sabbatical started initially as my taking a break from "intellectual Christianity". The church I've belonged to for many years refers to itself as a "Family Church, Charismatic Teaching Center, and a World Outreach". I wanted to make my next sentence "There is a heavy emphasis on the 'Teaching Center'," but that would be in error. The church does do a pretty good job of balancing the three, it's just that the sermons, by default, tend to fall heavy into the teaching portion. And that's where I've had to step away, for the health of my Christianity.

I said "started initially" above. What has happened during these few months is that it has become more defined as an intellectual/spiritual crossroads with what I call "bible worship". This is the practice of holding up the bible as something of EQUAL standing with God. I say this because I did exactly that. When I became a Christian, all those years ago, I not only read the bible, I carried around (and used) a Strong's Concordance (a dictionary containing every word in the bible, its English/Hebrew or Greek definition, and every location in the bible it is used). This sucker is bigger than the New York City Yellow Pages (ask your parents). I followed the Finis Dake philosophy of bible reading: "Take the Bible literally wherein it is at all possible; if symbolic, figurative or typical language is used, then look for the literal truth it intends to convey." (Dake's Annotated Reference Bible, Preface, © Copyright 1963 by Finis Jennings Dake)

And I wasn't alone. Most of the Christians I hung around with followed this same "adoration" of the bible. Since it was considered "The Word of God", it was equal to God.

As I've stated in a previous blog, I have come to believe that the bible CONTAINS the Word of God, but is NOT in and of itself THE Word of God. And I don't think I'm alone. Even St. John (the writer of the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) stated "I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face." (3 John 13). If John, who was called "the one Jesus loved" in the Gospel of John, and the only one of the twelve at the cross (who got protective guardianship of Jesus' mother) didn't think it valuable enough to WRITE down what he wanted to say (scriptures that are considered holy and inerrant), does it not reason that the bible is not the complete "Word of God"? I mean, weren't those things he did NOT write have equal value to what he DID write?

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." (Gospel of John 21:25)

Be careful of what you worship.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Stuff My Brain Says #73

I was getting all set to write a new blog article for this week, and was spending time thinking of all the crap going on there on the political front. That got me so irate that I found myself pealing the paint off the walls with the "Stupid this!" and "Moron that!" and "Why doesn't Crybaby Boehner go find another line of work!" that I couldn't focus to correctly conjugate a verb. So I am taking a week off.

Sometimes the most difficult part of writing a blog is not making it a giant string of 'F' bombs!

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ain't It Prophetic?

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog entitled "Why Muslims Should be America's Biggest Supporters", where I give three possibilities as to why the United States does not show up in the "end times" scriptures of the bible. Those three are The Rapture takes place, economic collapse, and massive terrorist attacks beyond the scope of 9/11. For details, please refer to that blog.

There is one other possibility, that previous to my current sabbatical, I didn't even consider: the bible is written entirely concerning a smallish and specific region of the world. This means that the writers did not even consider the possibility of other lands across the oceans that could be inhabited - especially inhabited with people who would be of major impact upon world events.

Why is this significant? IF the bible is without error, containing what has been called "God-breathed" words, how did these prophetic writings, that apparently reflect so much detail of future events, completely miss the existence of the United States? This means either these writings are not as inspired as many Christians (those I would term "bible worshippers") claim, or that they are being given far more weight than intended when written.

Maybe this is due to the elevation of the bible, and other religious books, beyond their initial intentions. As I've stated before, the bible is NOT the Word of God, but it does CONTAIN the Word of God. I find it funny that many Christians elevate the bible to something so inerrant, that it is practically worshipped, but when faced with statements that are difficult to swallow (like women needing to keep silent in church [1 Corinthians 14:34]) they quickly point out that those focus on the "culture of the times" and that they are not relevant for today.

I guess the bible is true and inerrant, except when it is not.

Or, just maybe, the book was not designed to have every little thing made into a doctrine (I'm talking to you, Faith, Word, Healing, and Prosperity preachers).

I am personally appalled at the atrocities against human life that have taken place over slights to the Koran and its content. I say this as a human being. I cannot say that hiding behind my Christianity. I cannot because Christians have used the bible in order to commit similar atrocities in the church's history (e.g., The Spanish Inquisition). Sometimes religion (of any stripe) goes so far away from its inception, to the point where its followers become an embarrassment to the God they claim to follow. Sometimes I think that Islam is simply going through its "Inquisition" stage - not all those following Islam plan on strapping a bomb to themselves . . .

I really wonder what God thinks of us sometimes.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Stuff My Brain Says #72

"The Society of Mind" by Marvin Minsky (cofounder of the A.I. Lab, MIT)

The above was an interesting book. It dealt with how we think; how we develop the thinking process as part of our early development (from an infant). When I was done, all I could think about was that the fear of artificial intelligence gaining self-awareness and destroying us all, like some dystopian science fiction movie, won't happen in my lifetime. All that is involved in how OUR brains function, and what makes us self-aware, is still, for the most part, a mystery. To replicate that into a functioning machine is beyond our technological grasp. Oh, we'll keep reaching for it, and someday we just might reach it. But that's a stretch that is too much a strain for today's best and brightest.

Right "Hey Siri"? "Hey Cortana"? "Okay Google"?

© Emittravel 2015