Steve Jobs a Hero for Integrity? Pick Another Virtue

20150429_141409_Beech_Down_Dr[1]At South Arbor Charter Academy, an elementary and middle school in Michigan, there’s a corridor called Heroes Hall. It featured murals depicting such personages Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Betsy Ross, Gandhi, and Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts. It made news last fall when those murals reportedly got replaced with paintings of President Obama, J.K. Rowling, Oprah, Steve Jobs, and others. Parents were outraged. “This is no longer a hall of heroes,” a parent told Fox News. “Now we have a hall of celebrities.”

I want to zero in on Steve Jobs. School spokesperson Christina Hoff said he’s depicted because he shows the children integrity.

Steve Jobs had a lot of admirable qualities. Brilliance. Dedication. Perseverance. Perfectionism. Creativity. Foresight. Technical smarts. Marketing smarts. Negotiating smarts. A zest for life. A relatively modest lifestyle considering his billions.

But integrity? From reading Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, I didn’t get the impression that he was a model of integrity. He was notorious for putting others down – cussing and swearing at people, and being callous to them to the point that they feared his presence. And demonstrating a distinct lack of integrity as a senior in high school was the Blue Box escapade. He and Steve Wozniak constructed a Blue Box that enabled them to make free long-distance phone calls, thus depriving AT&T of revenue; essentially stealing. At first they used the Blue Box for themselves. Then, ever the entrepreneur, Jobs decided to build and sell them at $150 a pop. Over a hundred were sold.

It was the worst kind of greed – making money by selling a device that enables people to steal. The episode finally came to an end when Jobs showed the Blue Box to a gentlemen who was so interested that he pulled a gun on Jobs and told him to hand it over.

Said Jobs, “If it hadn’t been for the Blue Boxes, there wouldn’t have been an Apple.” So in other words, Apple’s origin was based on an episode that exemplified the opposite of integrity. No word on whether Jobs later in life ever offered to pay AT&T back.

Another example of lack of integrity: Jobs evidently wanted to abort his child.

When at age 23 he got his girlfriend pregnant, Jobs didn’t want to be a parent. He told Isaacson, “I was all in favor of her getting an abortion, but she didn’t know what to do.”

(Update, 10-4-15: Lisa Brennan writes, “I know it’s widely believed that Steve asked me to have an abortion. And Steve, himself, has apparently been quoted as saying so. He even actively led people to believe that I slept around. But none of this was true.”)

Chrisann Brennan had the child, Lisa Nicole Brennan. After the baby was born, Jobs skedaddled, as Chrisann went on welfare. “He didn’t want to have anything to do with her or with me,” said Chrisann Brennan. He even refused to pay child support. It wasn’t until years later that Jobs reconnected with Lisa.

Rubbing salt in her wounds, when the county sued Jobs for child support, Jobs and his lawyers tried to line up evidence that Brennan had been promiscuous – thus harming her reputation – in a failed effort to prove that he wasn’t the father.

A year after Lisa was born, Jobs agreed to take a paternity test. But that appeared to be based on self-centered motives. “Jobs knew that Apple would soon be going public and he decided it was best to get the issue resolved,” writes Isaacson. With the test being positive, Jobs finally started helping Chrisann and Lisa financially.

Jobs said that when he met his biological mother, Joann Simpson, he thanked her – apparently for not aborting him. “I wanted to meet my biological mother mostly to see if she was okay and to thank her, because I’m glad I didn’t end up as an abortion.”

Was Jobs glad that he wasn’t aborted at the same time that he allegedly wanted Lisa aborted? If so, then that’s even more shameful.

So again, for all of Steve Jobs’ virtues, integrity didn’t seem to be among them – at least as a young adult. Well, at least he expressed regrets. Reveals Isaacson, “Years later Jobs was remorseful for the way he behaved, one of the few times in his life he admitted as much.”

Attention administrators of South Arbor Charter Academy: Steve Jobs may deserve a spot in the Heroes Hall for a variety of reasons. But I don’t think that, among the heroes, he should be the one to represent integrity.

Free Speech is Money

You know the saying that time is money. Free speech is money, too.

The surest way to restrict someone’s freedom of speech is to prohibit their ability to spend money on getting their word out. Mass communications is expensive. For example if I wanted thousands of people to read this article, I’d have to pay hundreds of dollars to promote it on Facebook or Google.

A disingenuous government official could tell me I have freedom of speech, because I’m free to write this article. At the same time that official could say I can’t spend any money promoting it, knowing full well that few will read it without such promotion. That’s not freedom of speech. That’s severe restriction of speech.

Sure, I could stand on my street corner and shout my message through a bullhorn. But only .0001 percent of the population or less would hear it. For real freedom of speech, I would need to buy airtime on radio or TV in order to disseminate my message. That costs money. A lot of it.

Those against freedom of speech in America are the ones clamoring for additional campaign finance restrictions. They want to deny people access to mass communications, and therefore are trying to limit how much one can spend thereon. That’s particularly alarming, given that when one refers to the virtue of freedom of speech, one is mainly referring to freedom of political speech.

Denying certain people access to mass communication is grossly unfair, because others enjoy such access all the time who aren’t in danger of getting their speech curtailed. They include op-ed writers of the New York Times. What makes them more special than someone who wants to spend a million dollars on mass communications in order to try to reach the same number of people that a NYT op-ed writer reaches? Op-ed writers aren’t any more special.

Just as we certainly shouldn’t be restricting op-ed writers’ freedom of speech, we shouldn’t be restricting anyone else’s freedom of speech either.

Had Abortion Been Legal in 1950s, Maybe No iPhone for You

20150429_161819_Beech_Down_Dr[1]In his biography Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson tells the story of Jobs’ biological single mother being pregnant with him in 1954, apparently an unwanted pregnancy.

He writes, “Nor was abortion an easy option in a small Catholic community. So in early 1955, Joanne traveled to San Francisco, where she was taken into the care of a kindly doctor who sheltered unwed mothers, delivered their babies, and quietly arranged closed adoptions.”

Isaacson implies that, were it not for that small Catholic community – in addition to the fact that abortion was illegal at that time – Steve Jobs could have been aborted.

In other words, had abortion been legal in 1954, that iPhone, iPad and Mac of yours may never have existed.

Jobs was glad he wasn’t aborted as well. “I wanted to meet my biological mother mostly to see if she was okay and to thank her, because I’m glad I didn’t end up as an abortion,” he told Isaacson.

Imagine the wonderful things that don’t exist because, after abortion was legalized in 1973, all those would-be Steve Jobs got aborted.

When Protestant Ministers Turn Catholic

In recent decades hundreds if not thousands of Protestant ministers have left their vocation to join the Catholic Church. It’s enough of a frequent phenomenon that there’s even an organization, called the Coming Home Network International, dedicated to helping them with the practical aspects of having to abandon their career and transition to Catholicism. It’s a tough decision, which is why it’s likely that many ministers don’t go through with it even though they may have come to realize that the Roman Catholic Church is the church established by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. They often have to give up their jobs, their health insurance plan, and their status in the community, and may be abandoned by friends and even family members. But as the Coming Home Network intones, “At the same time, a sense of joy and discovery permeates every journey. Drawing closer to the Catholic Church means drawing closer to Jesus, our Lord and Savior.”

Coming closer to Jesus is certainly what happened with the former Protestant ministers whose conversion stories are featured below. A common thread throughout their stories is that at some point in their careers or education they were compelled to study the early Church Fathers – i.e. those who led the Christian Church in the first several centuries after the apostles died. Church Fathers include Ignatius of Antioch (d. A.D. 110), Clement of Rome (d. 97), Polycarp (d. 155), Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (d. 202), and Cyprian (d. 258). An in-depth study of the New Testament can additionally prompt a person to embrace Catholicism. Usually the decision boils down to coming to appreciate the importance of the Eucharist and the real presence of Christ within the Eucharist.

Home to Rome

Probably the most well-known former Protestant minister turned Catholic is Dr. Scott Hahn. He’s is a prolific author and prominent speaker on the Catholic lecture circuit. Currently a professor of Biblical theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville Ohio, he’s a former Presbyterian minister and was a militant opponent of the Catholic Church. He converted to the Catholic faith in 1986.

His powerful conversion testimony is the most widely distributed Catholic audio recording of all time, “Why a Protestant Pastor Became Catholic”.

Hahn is a scholar on the Bible and early Christianity, able to read the original texts in ancient Hebrew and Greek. While at Presbyterian seminary, that helped enable him to delve deep into the literature of that time period.Hahn1

As a Protestant he was of the school of thought that a person is saved by faith alone rather than by both faith and good works. Sola fide – faith alone – and sola scriptura – the Bible alone – were the battle cries of the Protestant Reformation. Luther based sola fide on a passage in Romans 3:28, which to him indicated that faith is all you need for salvation.

Luther’s German translation stated that man is justified by faith alone. But while reading the book of Romans in the original Greek, Hahn saw that something was missing in the Greek – the word “alone”. It said men are justified by faith, but not by faith alone.

Nevertheless he put that out of mind and became a Presbyterian minister in the Washington, D.C. area.

He began to share with his parish all that he had been discovering in his studies in college and seminary. He started to understand and appreciate the concept of covenant, and noted that Jesus only used the word covenant on one occasion, when he instituted the Eucharist. So Hahn’s church started having the Eucharist along with the sermons.

Then he started teaching a course on the Gospel of John, and got stumped when it came to John 6 verse 53. Jesus said, “Truly truly I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you.” He and his fellow Presbyterians had been taking that figuratively. It doesn’t mean it’s literally his flesh and blood, Hahn had always thought. But as he read the Greek texts, he discovered that Jesus nowhere indicates that it was just a figure of speech. Four times Jesus says to a crowd, eat my flesh and drink my blood. Most of the crowd left – except for the 12 apostles – because that concept was so difficult to accept. Had Jesus just considered it a symbol, Hahn recounts, he would have said so and called them back. But he didn’t. That prompted Hahn to realize that it’s more than the Lord’s Supper, it’s the Eucharist. It’s more than a symbol, it’s reality. It’s more than a figure of speech – Jesus really expects people to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

Another eye-opener came when, during a class Hahn was teaching, one of his students asked him, where exactly does the Bible teach sole scriptura? Hahn was stumped because the Bible doesn’t seem to indicate that Holy Scriptures should be the only authority. This implies sacred tradition can be an authority as well. In second Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 15, Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”

After some time Hahn began attending mass, just as an observer. He couldn’t believe how much of the Bible he was hearing – three readings of Scripture. Then during the liturgy of the Eucharist he heard for the first time in his life the words of consecration, “This is my body.” And when the priest elevated the consecrated host, he felt the last drops of doubt draining out of his heart. Said he, “I felt like an orphan who finally found my way home”.

A Sister Outwits a Megachurch Pastor

Allen Hunt, author of Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor, once led one of the largest Methodist churches in the world, serving more than 15,000 people each week.

After finishing seminary at Emory University, he got into the PhD program at Yale University on New Testament early Christian history.

While at Yale a fellow student in that program who was a Catholic priest introduced him to a cloistered monastery of Dominican nuns in North Guildford, Conn., where Hunt and the priest lectured for several weeks. While there, Hunt had “unwittingly stumbled into the most providential experience of my life.”

At the end of a lecture during Q&A, he got into an exchange with a particular nun there. She asked him why he wasn’t part of the Catholic Church. He said the main reason was communion. It’s a symbol, he said. A metaphor.

She said, “You’re a New Testament scholar, right?” Then she said, “You remember where Jesus said in the Gospel when he gathered his disciples together for the Last Supper, and he took the loaf and said this is my body and took the cup and said this is my blood. What don’t you understand Allen?”

HuntBut the sister wasn’t done yet. They had just got done studying first Corinthians where Paul passed on what he received from the disciples, who received from Jesus that this is his body, this is his blood. He doesn’t say this is like my body. He doesn’t say this is like my blood. He says plainly this is my body, this is my blood.

The nun continued, “Let’s open to John chapter 6. In verse 53, 54, 55, and 56 it says, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’” Four times in a row. She again asked, “What don’t you understand?”

Afterward Hunt started to do some reading about people in the early Church – the first, second, third and fourth century Christians. Reinforcing the point of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Hunt found that those early Christians were willing to die because they believed it is literally the body and blood of Jesus. (If one is puzzled as to how bread and wine can be changed into the real body and blood of Jesus, it certainly can be done, now that Jesus is in spiritual form. In spiritual form, he could change himself into the tree outside your window if he wanted to.)

All Christians until the 1500s considered the altar and the Eucharist as the centerpieces of worship. Hunt imagines time traveling back to the first millennium, and taking some people from that time to the 21st century and attending a Protestant worship service. Those first-millennium people would hear some good music, hear some excellent sermons and meet some really kind people, and then walk out and say, “When are we going to church? There’s no Eucharist. When’s church?”

While still a non-Catholic, during his vacations, Hunt started attending Catholic masses. He explained that had he attended a Protestant worship service inside an unfamiliar church in an unfamiliar town, he wasn’t sure whether it would be a good service. He didn’t want to waste a Sunday. By going to a Catholic church, he knew what he was going to get. He’d get the liturgy, focused on the altar – which has been the same for 2,000 years. It would be exactly the same no matter where he goes in the world, even if he doesn’t understand a single word.

One morning Hunt went to mass on the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The priest told the story of Aquinas, probably the greatest thinker and scholar of the church, who became dumbstruck one day as he elevated the host and began to speak. He was rendered speechless as he held the precious body. He was so dumbfounded that he placed it back on the altar, sat back down and didn’t finish the mass. That night in his journal Aquinas wrote something like this: “At that moment I was so overwhelmed by the Providence, the Love and the Grace of God and at his mercy and giving himself to us in such an intimate way that I realize that everything I have thought, everything I have preached, and everything I have written is like straw compared to that.”

Hunt prayed that moment and said, “God, forgive my unbelief.”

A New Testament Worship Service is a Catholic Worship Service

Deacon Alex Jones was an African-American Pentecostal minister in Detroit from 1975 to 2000, and is now an ordained permanent deacon in the archdiocese of Detroit. Not only did he convert to Catholicism, but he brought 54 members of his congregation with him into the Church, entering it on April 14, 2001.

Jones’ journey started one Wednesday in 1998. Always wanting to be innovative and creative, that evening he asked his congregation, “Would you like a New Testament worship service?” He was seeking to give them most genuine experience of the early Christian Church. They said yes. He said give me 30 days to study up, and after that we’ll do it the way the early Christians did it.

So he delved into the texts of the apostolic fathers. “In those 30 days of reading and searching,” recounted Jones, “my whole life was transformed.” He came face to face with the truth, says Jones, as he began to read the Church Fathers. He saw a different Christianity compared with what he was used to. The Church was liturgical. In other words they had a systematic way of worship that was uniform and universal. Great preaching wasn’t the center of the worship service back then. It was the Eucharist. Not only that, but they considered the Eucharist Christ’s real body and blood. Jones previously was under the mistaken impression that that concept arose duriJonesng the Middle Ages.

He found that the early Church was not only liturgical, but also hierarchical – with bishops, presbyters and deacons. The bishop presided in the place of God and the presbyters did so in the place of the council of the apostles.

“The most telling thing in my reading of the Fathers was that the whole spirit of the apostolic and post-apostolic Church was totally different from the Christianity that I saw around me,” he intoned.

At Jones’ Pentecostal church, everybody wants to be blessed. Everybody wants to receive.  Everybody wants God to do something for them. They want a new house, a car, a good job. But Jones didn’t see that in the apostolic church. He saw a desire to serve Christ to the point of giving up one’s life. He saw a dedication to holiness and to holy living.

Many things that Jones previously believed he found not to be true, such as sola scriptura and rejection of tradition, discussed above.

What mainly prompted Jones to join the Catholic Church were two truths. Number one was the Mathew 16:18 passage when Jesus says, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” He was giving the church perpetuity.

Number two was when the Holy Spirit, post-resurrection, breathed on the apostles as they gathered in the upper room, leading and guiding them into truth. That told Jones that the Church that the Lord initiated in the upper room would never become corrupted and that the Holy Spirit will be with it forever. There’s a clear line from what happened in the upper room to the present, and that line is manifested in the Catholic Church. “It seems the Holy Spirit branded that into my mind and heart,” thundered Jones.

He contrasted that with his own church, which began in 1982. Where was his and the thousands of other Protestant churches before the 16th century?, he asked.

His conversion cost him much, such as many friends and brothers with whom he had walked for the previous 40 years. But he thanks God that he’s home at last.

Making Sense of the Bible

David Currie was raised in a devout Protestant family, his father a fundamentalist preacher. Growing up, he had never wanted to be anything other than a fundamentalist preacher. He studied in the Masters of Divinity program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, but after a long and arduous journey Currie entered the Catholic Church with his family in 1995.

While at seminary he started to make a mental list of Bible verses that had no answer or that were not understandable in any Protestant tradition. He says there are a lot of them, and they started to nag on him.

He had no doubt that somewhere he would find the theological system that made the whole Bible makes sense – that took into account all of the verses of the Bible. He did find that but it was the very last place he ever expected: the Roman Catholic Church.

CurrieCurrie had gone through seminary without ever reading first-hand about the Church Fathers. He finally did that, and found that everybody who said anything about the Eucharist or about the mass for the first thousand years of the Church assumed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The verse he couldn’t get around was John chapter 6 verse 51, where Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” He had always thought that Jesus was speaking in symbolic terms. But after studying the early Church Fathers he realized Jesus didn’t give us that option. Currie knew there was only one church that consistently and faithfully taught the meaning of that verse.

He even spent a month trying to find one teaching of the Catholic Church that was verifiably the absolute antithesis to what Scripture taught, but he couldn’t find one.

Currie had always believed in the Apostles Creed, but only after tremendous research and soul-searching became convinced that the Catholic Church is the church of which this Creed speaks.

The more he studied the Bible, the more he found the truth in the Church. Currie and his wife became convinced that the Catholic Church really is the church that Jesus Christ founded 2,000 years ago, and for this reason he didn’t have any choice but to give it all of his loyalty and support.

The Catholic Church is to the Bible as the Supreme Court is to the Constitution

Additional reasons Protestants convert to Christianity include the realization that there needs to be a pope. Among other things, that’s based on Jesus telling Peter that upon him – Peter means Rock – he will build his church and give Peter the keys to the kingdom. As Scott Hahn explains, Jesus was referring to the Old Testament book of Isaiah 22 verse 15 which says keys are the symbol of authority to the House of David – and the House of David is a reference to a dynasty that lives on with succeeding generations, with offices that become vacant and that need to be filled. That of course is reflected in the succession of popes after the death of Peter.Hahn2

The early Church did recognize the Bishop of Rome as having that supreme authority. William Jurgens’ The Faith of the Early Fathers examines the early fathers and the many things they said indicating recognition of this authority.

The doctrine of papal infallibility is a favorite punching bag of Catholic naysayers, but Catholic converts come to see its necessity. Most Protestants readily accept the Bible as being infallible. Why would God stop there? Hahn explains that rejecting papal infallibility implies that once Jesus gave the Christian Church this infallible scripture, there was no need anymore for infallible interpretations of scripture. That’s like saying once the Founding Fathers gave us the U.S. Constitution, there was no need for any court of final appeal to interpret, enforce, explain and proclaim the truths therein. Confusion and disarray would prevail. Perhaps that’s why there are some 35,000 denominations of Protestantism today.

There are of course numerous other reasons why Protestants convert to Catholicism. Good books on that subject include Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home and Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth, a three-book series in which the author recounts stories of dozens of converts to the faith.

Other good sources are audio CDs (and MP3s) produced by Lighthouse Catholic Media, from which this article was derived. They are Scott Hahn’s “Why a Protestant Pastor Became Catholic” and “Why Do We Need a Pope?”, Allen Hunt’s “Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor,” Alex Jones’ “No Price Too High”, and David Currie’s “Quest for Truth: A Convert’s Perspective.”

Listen to them. Your salvation could depend on it.

 

 

 

 

 

A Weak Reason for Leaving the Church

Social critic and “dissident feminist” Camille Paglia, who often boasts of being a Democrat and/or Green Party supporter but who seems to have a soft spot for conservatism, was interviewed recently by the liberal Catholic magazine America in which she discussed her abandonment of Catholicism.

I asked the nun what still seems to me a perfectly reasonable and intriguing question: if God is all-forgiving, will he ever forgive Satan? The nun’s reaction was stunning: she turned beet red and began screaming at me in front of everyone. That was when I concluded there was no room in the Catholic Church of that time for an inquiring mind.

Why doesn’t God forgive Satan? As I mentioned in the comments to that article, even if God did forgive Satan, he wouldn’t come back to God. Angels’ intellects are far superior to those of humans, and once they make a decision – which Satan did when he chose to rebel against God – they accept and embrace that decision as final, with full knowledge of the consequences.

Another commenter explained that God did not provide a plan of redemption for the angels (which includes Satan, a fallen angel) as He did for mankind.

It’s silly to leave the faith because a nun couldn’t adequately answer that question. I’m sure Ms. Paglia had other reasons, but one should not join or leave a religion based on personal preferences. One should do so based on whether that religion is true.

There’s abundant circumstantial evidence, as outlined in several recent books, for the divinity of Christ and authenticity of the Gospels. There’s also a very strong case to be made that the Church that Jesus established upon Peter’s rock was the Catholic Church. By rejecting that Church, Ms. Paglia is taking an extreme risk. Best not to set oneself up for a rude awakening when it’s time to plop down on that judgement seat.

Will Greece Go Russian?

GreeceAthens is due to run out of cash within the next few months, and prospects are dim for a new loan agreement between the European Union and the recalcitrant new Greek government.

During negotiations with Germany, instead of trying to work out a deal Greece’s radical left leaders have been acting more like Soviet-bloc leaders used to act toward the West, making threats (e.g. to seize German assets and flood the E.U. with migrants and jihadists) and demanding that Germany pay reparations for World War II which ended 70 years ago.

With a cash crunch looming, Greece could abandon the West altogether and seek the assistance of Russia, and/or China. Early next month Greece’s new prime minister Alexis Tsipras is due to make a trip to Moscow to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

There are a lot of Marxists in the new Greek government, and still a lot of Communist influence in Russia. There also are reports that some top Greek government officials are cozy with their Russian counterparts.

Will Greece fall into the Russian orbit? The signs are pointing to that. Here’s hoping that the Greeks work out a deal with the West, liberalize their economy, and stay in the euro zone.

 

Courses on Christianity by a Christ-Naysayer

There are a lot of book authors arguing in favor of the divinity of Christ and authenticity of the Gospels. There don’t see to be many authors, however, who’ve made a name for themselves arguing against those assertions. One such author, though, is UNC-Chapel Hill professor Bart D. Ehrman. It seems whenever anyone wants to challenge a Christian apologist, or hold a debate between a Christian apologist and a contrary spokesperson, they turn to Dr. Ehrman. (Is there no one else to whom they can turn? Are the arguments against the authenticity of the Gospels so weak that so few researchers are prepared to defend that position?)

You may be familiar with The Great Courses – the audio lecture series with hundreds of courses in a variety of disciplines, presented by prominent professors. The Great Courses has several courses on Christianity, including History of the Bible, How Jesus Became God, A History of Early Christianity, Historical Jesus, The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History, and The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers.

Those constitute a large portion if not the majority of their courses on Christianity. And guess who’s the lecturer for all of the aforementioned courses: yep, none other than Bart Ehrman.

To be sure, The Great Courses has another course relating to Christianity, The History of the Catholic Church, taught by a professor who’s a Catholic himself. So they aren’t all religion-bashers there.

But Dr. Ehrman certainly is. Calling himself both an atheist and agnostic, he’s produced voluminous literature arguing against the divinity of Christ and authenticity of the Gospels. The Freedom from Religion Foundation even presented him with their Emperor Has No Clothes award last year. See here and here.

It’s obvious that this is a man with an axe to grind.

A less controversial lecturer would be preferred – at the very least someone who is coy about whether or not he or she believes in the divinity of Christ.

In their bio of him, it behooves The Great Courses to add that among Dr. Ehrman’s awards is the above-mentioned one from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Update: Having listened to Ehrman’s History of Early Christianity, it turns out that his presentation was more objective than I had expected. In any case, his FFRF association should still be in his bio.

 

 

New San Diego Bishop’s Wrong Approach to Poverty

First Chicago, now San Diego. Pope Francis just appointed a left-leaning bishop to lead the Diocese of San Diego, Bishop Robert McElroy. He reportedly is prone to “placing abortion and euthanasia on the same moral level as immigration and poverty.” That probably means he plays down the former in favor of issues such as poverty.

The irony is that it’s left-wing policies, which the Bishop no doubt espouses, that breed poverty. High minimum wages, for example, price unskilled people out of the job market, resulting in a large underclass of unemployed. Welfare often discourages work, which even Bill Clinton recognized. High taxes and regulations on businesses discourage business creation and hiring, resulting in fewer jobs and putting downward pressure on wages. Huge government expenditures and stronger government control of the economy slow economic growth – and slow growth is the biggest producer of poverty. It’s no surprise that inner cities, where leftist policies dominate, are breeding grounds of poverty. Same with leftist-controlled countries around the world.

So it’s quite ironic that the good Bishop, who claims to be most concerned about poverty, unwittingly supports the very policies that encourage it. (Preceding paragraphs taken from my comment to the above-linked article.)

Absolute poverty throughout the world has declined considerably over the past several decades. That has coincided with a much greater embrace of free markets, especially in places like China, India and other Asian countries. If Bishop McElroy were really serious about eradicating poverty, he would be a champion of free markets. But alas, my guess is that he does the opposite.

Obama’s Christianity: Details Please

When Washington Post reporters Dan Balz and Robert Costa asked Wisconsin governor and presumed presidential candidate Scott Walker whether he considers president Obama to be a Christian, Walker didn’t answer the question in a way that would have made this a non-story. He instead answered it like a typical man on the street would answer such a question, saying “I don’t know,” and tacking on additional watery comments such as “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that.” That was enough for the media to blow up the story and sow seeds of doubt in people’s minds on the question of whether Walker considers Obama to be a Christian.

A simple, “Based on news reports it’s my understanding that Obama considers himself to be a Christian,” would have sufficed for an answer. And that probably would have been the end of it.

But let’s say one of the reporters would have responded, “Yes but do YOU consider Obama to be a Christian.” Counter-question: “What’s your definition of Christian?” Being so unaccustomed to counter-questions, the reporter likely would have been taken aback. But after collecting his thoughts, let’s say he would have answered, “someone who believes in Jesus Christ.” Walker then could have said, “I’m assuming that Obama believes in Jesus Christ, so according to your definition, Obama would be considered a Christian.”

And that would have been that.

Of course, simply believing in Jesus Christ does not necessarily make one a Christian. To be classified as a Christian also requires one to believe that Jesus Christ is God, that He died for our sins, that He resurrected from the dead, and that we should conduct our lives based on the teachings of the Bible and especially the Gospels.

Does Obama believe any of that? The Washington Post reporters referred to above, or any other reporters, should press the president on those and related points. Of course, they probably never will.

Sweden’s Accelerated Cultural Evolution

Sweden flagOf countries gradually transitioning culturally by immigration, Sweden is undergoing one of the most rapid transitions.

It’s a small country – just under 10 million in population – but it takes in more asylum seekers than European countries many times its size. In 2013 it accepted about 55,000 asylum seekers, many if not most from Syria. Germany took in about twice as many but its population is 80 million, so it arguably can better absorb such seekers than Sweden.

On a per-capita basis, Sweden is welcoming by far the most asylum seekers: 5,700 per 1 million inhabitants, almost five times as many as Germany. In 2013, Sweden accepted almost 20 percent of the EU’s asylum seekers – more than any other EU country. That’s amazing, considering Sweden’s small size.

Sweden’s foreign-born population was 16 percent in 2013, and including those born to two immigrant parents, it’s 21 percent of the total. The Muslim population is said to be around 10 percent. And rising fast.

This obviously has huge implications for Sweden’s cultural, political, and economic destiny, which could fill books. Here, suffice it to point out an interesting observation gleaned from an account by Theo Padnos, an American journalist who spent two years imprisoned by Islamic militants in Syria. His captors were brutal and sadistic, as you can read here. Yet it could be that some brutal and sadistic persons have made their way or are trying to make their way to Sweden, through its liberal asylum system. Writes Padnos,

That night as we finished Abu Farouk’s watermelon and were gazing up at the stars, I listened to the fighters musing about their futures. “Hey, Abu Petra,” they asked me, “what is Sweden like?” If they were to present themselves as Syrian dissidents to the authorities, what would happen next? Was I familiar with the procedures in Sweden for seeking political asylum? And what about Berlin, supposing they found their way to Germany?

One wonders how many of Sweden’s immigrants share the mindset of those fighters.

Padnos also sheds light on the phenomenon of European Muslims going to Syria and Iraq to join the fight. It’s not so much because Islamic militants there need the help. It’s because they want to instill in European Muslims the jihad mentality, so that they can go back home to Europe and teach the values of fundamentalist Islam to others in Europe. Padnos again:

The Nusra Front higher-ups were inviting Westerners to the jihad in Syria not so much because they needed more foot soldiers — they didn’t — but because they want to teach the Westerners to take the struggle into every neighborhood and subway station back home. They want these Westerners to train their 8-year-olds to do the same. Over time, they said, the jihadists would carve mini-Islamic emirates out of the Western countries, as the Islamic State had done in Syria and Iraq. There, Western Muslims would at last live with dignity, under a true Quranic dispensation.

Hundreds of years ago, Muslims staked a claim in parts of Europe suddenly and militarily. Now, thanks to the niceness of Swedes and other European peoples, they’re doing it gradually and peacefully.