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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Musings on America's newest Holy Day

Saints Days originated as a commemoration of the martyrdom of an ancient Christian. After the subsumation of Christianity into Doctrianity, there weren't so many martyrs to commemorate, so the custom arose of naming certain famous people as Saints, and devoting a certain day of the calendar year to their memory. Since it often wasn't known exactly when someone was born, the day of the saint's death was typically so memorialized. Somewhere along the line days (probably those that were still open to such designation) were also devoted to the Apostles. Before too many centuries had passed, every day on the calendar was so designated, and people born on a particular Saint's day were often given the name of that saint. So, it you happened to meet someone with the same christian name as you--especially if it were an otherwise obscure name--there was a good chance you shared the same birthday.

Well, in our modern society, where we no longer think of the etymological origin of the word 'holiday,' we don't commemorate the deaths of famous persons, but their births. Thus Hitler's Birthday on April 19 was the most sacred day of the year to Nazis and the peoples who submitted to their subjugation. To this day it is commemorated by the neo-nazis and their ilk. Martin Luther King, Jr's Birthday, on the other hand, is a day holy to those who oppose the neo-nazis and all they stand for. And, in an even more modern twist, since federal holidays--with diminishing exceptions--must always be on Monday, most years it's not even the anniversary of his actual birth that is commemorated, but simply the third Monday of the year. You see, since 1986 Martin Luther King Jr Day has been a federal holiday in America, and since 2000 also commemorated by all 50 states.

What was unusual about MLK Day this year was that it was the very first time that an American Presidential Inauguration was spread out over two consecutive holidays. The actual oath of office, as prescribed on January 23, 1933 by Amendment 20 to the constitution, must take place on January 20, even if it is a Sunday (the Sabbath first being violated for this purpose by Woodrow Wilson in 1917, previous presidents having taken the oath on either Saturday or Monday to avoid doing so). And so it was.

But, as is always the case when the prescribed day falls on a Sunday, the actual celebration took place the following day--a federal holiday.  Federal employees who typically get Inaguration day as a paid day off work were thus denied the opportunity to double-dip, and as a result got only 10 paid days off this year rather than the usual quadrennial eleven.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Racism in Hollywood

Many months after starting this post--subsequent to viewing basically the entire ROOTS Miniseries for the first time--I've decided to cut my comments down to just the racism question. This is what I had noted right after viewing:

They glorified Muslims, truncated the Islamic prayer (made it sound very Christian) and gave a very syncretized view of African religion, yet made a big deal of pork.

Also, musings on the link between animism and illiteracy.

They only hired 'black' people to play the slave roles and 'white' people to play the 'white' roles, thus perpetrating the very racism the series was supposedly criticizing.


Okay, here's what I observed: the 'black' actors in the production ranged from almost completely white to almost completely black, but their skin tone had no bearing whatsoever on the characters they played, other than at the very beginning and very end of the series. In other words, Kunta Kinte's depictors looked believably African, and James Earl Jones bore a passing resemblance to Alex Haley, but in between you had a supposedly half-white slave, George, being quite a few shades darker than his supposedly half-African slave mother, Kezzie. As little as the actors' skin tone reflected reality, they may as well have hired 'white' actors to play some of the 'black' roles. Not bloody likely.

Except that is exactly what happened when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hit the big screen. Before I even saw how they were depicted in the movie, I just knew that there was no way the Oompa Loompas (depicted in Roald Dahl's book as little black pygmy tribesmen) were going to be played by black-skinned actors.

And, sure enough--they weren't. Despite the total lack of little white pygmy tribes anywhere in the real world, one had to be invented for the movie. All 165 identical Oompa Loompas were played by the Indo-European actor Mohinder Purba.

And that was okay, somehow.  Go figure.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Tom White and the Unanswered Questions

I've been aware of the Voice of the Martyrs since before it even went by that name. I read Richard Wurmbrand's autobiography back in the 1970's. It wasn't until the late 90's, though, that I got on their mailing list, and found out that Wurmbrand--founder of Jesus to the Communist World-- had retired, and VOM was being headed by Tom White. During the first decade of this century (following the deaths of both Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand), VOM experienced astounding fourfold growth--doubling just in the first year. That kind of success can go to someone's head--and a few years ago I noticed with dismay that Tom White was pulling in an income well into the six figures. That couldn't be right, I thought. But I said nothing.

I remember the day, less than a year ago, when I received an email stating that Tom White had died.
Odd, I thought. It doesn't say when he died, or where, or what of. Those details, when they did begin to come, were very painful.

Walter Thomas White, the executive director of The Voice of The Martyrs, killed himself in a VOM warehouse, overdosing on alcohol and sleeping pills in order to avoid prosecution for molesting a 10-year-old girl.

Now, it took more than four months for even this much information to be released by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner. And by then, the case had long since been closed by the Bartlesville Police Department, who had overseen the investigation.

Who is the Bartlesville Chief of Police? Tom Holland--the Board Secretary for the Voice of the Martyrs. That alone should raise some major questions--such as:

-Who warned Tom White that he was the subject of a police investigation? According to all published reports, he took his life upon hearing that he was being investigated--before so much as a warrant had been requested. This is a huge question that no one is even asking, much less answering.

-What was Tom Holland's role in the investigation? From what I've read, there's very little that goes on in his department that he's not involved in. He was voted one of the Worst Bosses in America for the year prior to this investigation.

-What sort of inside connections did Tom White have with other local government agencies?

-Were Tom White's office and personal computers searched for child pornography? It's inconceivable that a 64 year old man with a fondness for 10 year old girls wouldn't also have a pornography addiction.

Some other questions also need to be asked: Why did VOM loan $35,000 to Vice President for Domestic Operations Stephen John Lindquist, convicted embezzler? Besides "to restructure a burden that could impact his duties and service to VOM?"

Embezzlement By Clerk Or Servant 10.01 Y Int. Probation 04/14/2004 04/14/2014 48172-E TXJR

Why it's not generally considered a good idea for a corporation to loan money to one of its officers:

The Church Universal and Triumphant, founded by Mark Prophet and carried forward after his death by his wife, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, has also suffered from such tactics. Gregory Mull, a San Francisco building designer, became a member of the Church in 1974 at the age of 57. He moved to Los Angeles in 1979 to work for the Church, which loaned him $37,000 during his relocation. He signed promissory notes for the loans. He resigned after only eight months on Church staff. In an attempt to get the money repaid, the Church filed suit against Mull in 1981. Mull countersued for fraud, duress, undue influence, involuntary servitude, assault, extortion and intentional infliction of emotional distress — asking damages of $253 million. The case came to trial in 1986. During the trial, Mull was allowed to present numerous emotionally charged assertions to the court. While the Church was allotted one day in the four-week trial to present evidence of the promissory notes, the remainder of the testimony was devoted to putting the practices and beliefs of the Church on trial.
Inflamed by Mull’s statements, the jury found against the Church and Elizabeth Clare Prophet and, unbelievably, awarded $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Mull. The injured party — the Church — was not only put on trial, but found guilty, and denied the recourse for which it had turned to the justice system.

Something is definitely rotten in Bartlesville, OK. And it's going to keep getting stinkier until someone gets to the bottom of it.


Two things have happened recently to bring hope to this mess: I've received word from someone who is working to get to the bottom of the garbage in Bartlesville, and I've come across the website of someone who never knew, until it was also too late, that her own son was under the same deadly bondage that killed Tom White. She's working tirelessly to educate the public against this menace, before it takes even one more life:

Although this information was available on the web at the time I posted, I've only now discovered the identity of the victim. I'm not 100% sure, since the child in question didn't actually turn 10 until Tom White's obituary was posted, so I'll not reveal her name here--only comment that identifying her answered at least one question, and gave some clues as to a few others.

VOM took about a 20% hit in donations in 2012. I expect the same to follow in 2013, once reports are out.

Not so; reported income went up almost $2 million in 2013--enough to cover their advertising budget.

A lot of comments came in recently, on of which was a retraction of the previous one--so I didn't approve either one. But this would be a good time to give the name of an organisation I highly recommend in lieu of Voice of the Martyrs: Asia Harvest. They have no multi-million dollar headquarters--the founder runs it out of his home office. They have no highly paid felons on staff--their staff are all volunteers. And yet they have distributed over ten million Bibles to China's underground church--and supported thousands of native missionaries. 100% of each gift goes directly to the work.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Paul's Epistle to the Laodiceans

"Turn with me in your Bibles this morning to the Epistle To The Laodiceans," says the preacher one Sunday.

Would you do it?

Well, first of all, you'd probably say that there IS no Epistle to the Laodiceans. Well hang on, if you've read Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, you should already know about it:
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.--Col. 4:16
So there's no question that Paul wrote an epistle to Laodicea. Nor that he expected to to be read widely. So what happened to it?

Here's what Jerome wrote of what passed for that epistle in his day (4th century):
"Some read the Epistle to the Laodiceans, but it is rejected by everyone."
He was referring to a pastiche of Pauline content found to this day in some copies of Jerome's Vulgate. And truly, not a single patristic writer identifies it as a unique Pauline composition.
But what if there really was an Epistle to the Laodiceans, that got somehow misplaced, and the pastiche was only a lame attempt to provide what the author thought to be missing? What if another epistle was, in turn, re-labeled in a lame attempt to provide what someone else thought was missing?

Well, I propose exactly that. The Epistle to the Laodiceans is still in your Bible, just a few pages before Colossians. It's what has been known since at least the second century as the Epistle to the Ephesians.

Although I recently came to this conclusion independently just from studying the extant texts of Ephesians and Colossians, it turns out that this subject was hashed out rather thoroughly over a century ago--so, rather than rehash it here I provide links to two authors who wrote deeply on the subject:

F. Hugh Pope wrote in favour of the theory.

William Burgon wrote in opposition to the theory.

It goes much farther back than this, of course. Like virtually every textual debate currently raging, there can be some evidence found way back in Christianity: in this case, the late second century, when Tertullian wrote against the doctrines of Marcion. One of Marcion's purported errors, it turns out, was labeling what appears to have been what we now call Ephesians as the Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans.
Tertullian's Against Marcion, Book V goes through the Pauline Epistles, pointing out areas in which Marcion's ideas ran contrary to orthodox doctrine. The order in which he treats these epistles gives us an idea of the arrangement of Marcion's canon:
1 & 2 Corinthians
1 & 2 Thessalonians
Laodiceans (i.e., Ephesians)

This is what he has to say of the Epistle to the Laodiceans:
I pass by another epistle which we have inscribed to the Ephesians, but heretics to the Laodiceans. . . .
We have it on the true tradition of the Church, that this epistle was sent to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans. Marcion, however, was very desirous of giving it the new title, as if he were extremely accurate in investigating such a point. But of what consequence are the titles, since in writing to a certain church the apostle did in fact write to all? It is certain that, whoever they were to whom he wrote, he declared Him to be God in Christ with whom all things agree which are predicted.
Now, to what god will most suitably belong all those things which relate to “that good pleasure, which God hath purposed in the mystery of His will, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might recapitulate all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth,” (Eph. 1: 9, 10).
So, in essence, Pope was recapitulating Marcion's argument of the mid-2nd century, and Burgon Tertullian's of the early third century. 'Tis a pity we have no record of any evidence in favour of Marcion's argument, and that Tertullian's consists of no more than an appeal to authority.

There are, of course, several possibilities. The only one that I do not accept is that we have, in our Bibles, what Paul wrote as an Epistle to the Ephesians. I have read this epistle dozens of times, and have come to the following conclusions about its recipients:

1. They lived near Colosse.
2. Paul didn't know them.
3. Paul hoped to get to meet them sometime.

As I get time I intend to fill in these three points, but you can actually do it yourself by studying the epistle and comparing it to Colossians and Philemon, which appear to have been delivered on the same trip.

Here are the remaining possiblitities:

1. There was another letter to the Ephesians, which was lost. This one was re-labeled to replace it.
2. There was no letter to the Ephesians. They felt so left out that they appropriated this one instead.

I recommend this website for a thorough coverage of the question from an Alexandrian Priority perspective. Don't bother reading the whole thing, as he goes on and on in favour of the Alexandrian text; the best stuff in is the vicinity of pages 47 and 67. To get to the bottom line, he believes that the epistle was a general letter intended for churches in the vicinity of Laodicea, and that name became attached to it due to the reference in Colossians 4:16.

I should probably go into even more detail as to how it got its present name, but that would really just be sheer speculation . . .

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Why I won't be buying any of Pat Williams' books

Counter Although it was fast eclipsed by my opening post on albinism, my expression of opposition to Arthur Blessitt's divorce and second marriage has stayed in a strong second place ever since.

Now, I have a similar sad story to relate--I speak of the divorce and second marriage of Pat Williams.

Recently, my own marriage was helped by reading a book written by Pat and his wife Jill--a book I'd heard about when it first came out but had never read. I remembered that I hadn't heard from them since they were given a big magazine spread featuring them and their 18 children (14 of whom were adopted). I found, to my dismay, that--only 10 years after publishing a book sharing how Pat was able to singlehandedly save their marriage--Jill once again felt estranged from him, but this time, unlike before, she saw divorce as the solution. Their divorce wasn't even final yet when Pat fell in love with a single mother of one, whom his website now touts as the mother of "their" 19 children. As in the case of Arthur and Sherry, there is not a single mention of the woman with whom he posed with all 18 children. The woman with whom he coauthored at least three books. The woman who pushed him to adopt all those children in the first place.

Pat, on the other hand, had gone on with nary a glitch. Like Arthur, he's very close to the children and now their children. He's even had the temerity to coauthor, with new item Ruth, a book on raising a megafamily (he and Jill coauthored one back when they had only 10 children).

This adds to the considerable list of people who have appeared on Focus on the Family to talk about how God's hand was upon their marriage--only to disappear off the radar later on when, apparently, it wasn't.

ADDED MARCH 28, 2014
This post is a big hit today. In trying to find out why, I've found a few other articles on the story, like this one which says that Pat had to pay Jill $10,000 a year until HE remarried. That's odd, but it could certainly be a motivation to do so.  And--dreadful. He's written another book with his latest item, "Happy Spouse, Happy House."