Was Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Israel Worth It

Check out my latest article in the Nashville Free Press: The Pope’s Visit to Israel – Was It Worth It?

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The Catholic Bishop Holocaust Denier Is Making the News and, ba-da-da-da-da, I’m Lovin’ It

Find out why in my latest column in the Nashville Free Press! Click HERE.

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Pope Mixes Signals, Apologizing for Priestly Molestations While Focusing on World Youth Day

For South Park, a show that comments on and mocks so many facets of American society but also manages to focus on religion quite frequently, the fact that Catholic priests are repeatedly accused and often found guilty of child molestation seems nothing less than a really, really, really easy shot. Interestingly enough, molestation arises in a variety of episodes without the mention of Catholicism, including 406, “Cartman Joins NAMBLA” and 416, “The Wacky Molestation Adventure.” But episode 608, “Red Hot Catholic Love,” is definitely the big Catholicism and child molestation episode and has already been discussed at length in the post, Around the World Pic of the Day: The Vatican & Red Hot Catholic Love.

Apparently, like the United States earlier in the century, Australia has been hit by a host of scandals related to Catholic priests molesting young boys. Thus, Pope Benedict XVI, who I must say, I’ve been totally impressed with thus far as a world diplomat, is going to apologize. But why am I impressed? Well, this pope, like his predecessor, has not shied away from the public light. Maybe he’s a media whore, though I doubt it, or perhaps he just wants to use his influence as pope to send some positive messages and broker some deals. Fortunately for the world, most of those deals have emphasized peace and positive change.

Unfortunately, none of that change has related to the strictures of the Catholic church that would probably help curb child molestation, like say, allowing priests to marry women and live ‘normal lives’ (though I think they should be allowed to be gay too and marry men – full grown men – if that’s their preference, I don’t want to push it…one step at a time). But hey – change is still good if it’s in the right direction (unlike the change that pre-Vatican II Catholics like Mel Gibson want which is a reversion to the way things were before the Church said things like, sorry Jews for all the persecution since you didn’t f-up our savior).

However, the pope has met with Turks and Muslims (mostly due to a verbal faux pas) in an attempt to broker more peaceful relations and diffuse some tense situations. He has met with numerous world leaders about far more than the Catholics in their countries but also about maintaining peace and general human progress. It may sound like fluff and nonsense but when you’re the ruler of the tiniest country around but with the largest ex-pat community, so to speak (and a faith based community at that), you better believe that there’s not so much else you have to talk about. Except when it comes to apologizing for child molestation. Well, that and a climate change festival titled World Youth Day.

The mixing of these messages is not one that I see as tactically wise, though I understand where the sentiment comes from. It’s like when Charlie Sheen, the notorious sex addict, was involved with rumors about seeking girls that were a little too underage (yes, there’s underage and a little too underage) and then released a line of clothing for pre-school aged girls. Harmless? Probably. Well-intentioned? No doubt. Good timing? Oooo – not so much. And that’s how I feel about talking about World Youth Day while apologizing for Catholic sexual abuse scandals.

However, World Youth Day is about positive change in our daily lives in order to affect the environment for sustainable future development. Though I’m not big on the global warming rhetoric, as you may know, I do appreciate positive social and personal change for the sake of improving the environment and seeking more sustainable resources. So, large goofy hats off to you Pope Benedict XVI, and keep up the good work.

In the News: Left Behind….Mentally Speaking, that is

It is no new observation on my part to point out http://www.youvebeenleftbehind.com, a site that promises to send out emails to the loved ones of those who disappear at the Rapture for believing properly in Jesus (for more on this go to http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/06/service-lets-yo.html). Of course, this service will cost you a nominal fee. Now, I’m guessing that those taken at the Rapture don’t just want to brag that they played the whole Jesus-card properly; they want their friends and family to take note and take this opportunity to repent and become good believing Christians so that when Jesus really comes they can bounce before things get ugly.

Okay, I classify all of this under the giant rubric of belief – and it’s totally acceptable. Who would I be to knock faith, to disagree with it or to challenge it. It’s faith: inherently, none of those things really work with faith anyway. What I do disagree with, though, are a few other things about the whole predicted Rapture/Apocalypse/Jesus’ return extravaganza. Let’s start with an example: the year 2000, what people thought was the Millennium (though it was really 2001).

People said that Jesus was coming back, that the world was going to end, and the lesser believers amongst them freaked out about the technological Y2K possibilities. What did I do at this time? I offered to take bets – as many bets as I could. You had a prediction, I said, I will bet you absolutely anything that your prediction won’t materialize. I wasn’t asking people to renounce their religions if I was right and nothing happened; I was just asking for, say, ten dollars. If someone challenged that, if he were right he could not collect (presuming of course that he would be gone or busy attending to Jesus since he would have been here), I reassured him that my eternity in Hell would be ample enough punishment (though if the Rapture ever happened I’d be one of the first on board to a life with Jesus).

So what am I driving at here because it’s not mocking Christians or mocking Jesus? In fact, I love Jesus. He’s probably my favorite historical character  (tied, perhaps, with Buddha and Louis XVI). Jesus was amazing – you don’t have to believe in his divinity to know that. So, what I’m getting at is prophecy, and in particular, when prophecy fails. In fact, there’s a fascinating book called When Prophecy Fails (available now through Amazon.com by visiting http://www.thezenofsouthpark.com). It is about a modern group whose leaders make predictions that obviously prove false – they thought the group would be rescued by UFOs. The inevitability of all prophecy of this nature (end of the world) failing is obvious, but the question becomes, just like after the year 2000, what do people do when they’re proven wrong, as the passing of the predicted date obviously shows them to have been? Well, they make excuses and keep on believing. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that this book details through a case study, and Christian predictions about the Apocalypse and Jesus’ coming are the quintessential example.

People have been predicting Jesus’ second coming from the moment he ‘left.’ And guess what – they’ve always been wrong. Always. And I’ll take any bet about it. This brings me to the point of prophecy. The prophecies that predicted Jesus’ return were speaking in the immediate sense. They never expected people to reinterpret what they said to make the time longer and longer. Every reinterpretation confirms who wrong these predictions were. So what is prophecy in the Bible?

Prophecy, in the Bible, is meant for a specific time and place, and that time and place is the prophet’s time and place. When Isaiah spoke to the people about being bad and on the edge of destruction (or about wonderful futures) he did it to persuade them to change their behavior and bring a new, better situation about – or be punished. Prophets had a message for their own age. Peoples’ attempts for centuries to reinterpret those predictions for their own times are foolish and misguided. They were messages to other people. Of course, the lessons can still be valuable (i.e. be a good person) and transcend time and place – that’s what’s made them continually applicable – but that doesn’t mean that the prophetic prediction was really talking about now – it was a threat to the people back then.

I look at the messages of South Park in a similar way. Though they will resonate as true for generations to come, they are messages for the people of our time, exhorting us to change our ways, think differently or behave differently – just like those biblical prophets delivered. To call Trey and Matt prophets would be ridiculous, but I am drawing a comparison between who their message was for and what can be done with it. It is for us now, to change our ways, but it can be used later as a means of saying, South Park said the Vatican would be destroyed if priests didn’t stop molesting children (last night’s episode – 608, Red Hot Catholic Love) and I’m still waiting for it to happen. They didn’t say it would be destroyed – they just created a wild scenario to demonstrate how important change right now is. Prophecy worked the same way. If you’d like to read more on this check out my essay under Bonus Material at http://www.thezenofsouthpark.com.

In short, when someone tells you that the world is ending and Jesus is coming, ask what they’ll give you if they’re wrong – maybe they’ll sing a different tune or at least you can get a free meal out of it.

Do you think that the Rapture is coming? When? Do you believe in prophecy or think I’m an idiot for what I’ve said? Tell me why – I’d love to hear and know what you think and why.

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Enjoy some Fun with the Bible posts and start to learn for yourself what’s really going on in the book of Revelation.

Around the World Pic of the Day: The Vatican & Red Hot Catholic Love

Jay in the Vatican

It’s a crappy picture I know – a little too dark, not centered, etc. – but it’s so appropriate for tonight’s episode of South Park, “Red Hot Catholic Love.” This is absolutely one of my favorite episodes. When the priest-molesting-boy scandal makes the South Park parents fear for their children’s safety, they abandon the Church and become atheists. In the meantime, Father Maxi goes to the Vatican to try to put a stop to the molestation and save Catholicism and the results and closing words of the episode are inspirational and amazing.

Personally, I found the Vatican to be one of the most sensational places I visited in four months of non-stop backpacking around Europe. The Vatican Museum was by far my favorite museum, especially Raphael’s School of Athens painting. It was breathtaking and brought tears to my eyes. The collection aside from that was spectacular, and I can’t even imagine all of the amazing knowledge waiting to be found in the Vatican’s files and libraries. Conceptually, that it’s a country, the place is also fascinating – so small and entirely inside the capital city of another country! St. Peter’s Basilica is unbelievably enormous (though the statues everywhere I found a little weird – kind of pagan and a little too cult worshippy). All in all, though, a sensational place that I recommend to every traveler.

But the issues in the Catholic Church are fascinating and require greater scrutiny – something that South Park gives us in episode 608. Why do the South Park parents go atheist? Are their reasons connected to their concerns about their children? Do you agree that when people don’t have any mythology to try to live their lives by they just start spewing a whole bunch of crap out of their mouths? A fantastic episode – do not miss it!

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