Question of the week: Will Jesus protect me?

It’s fascinating sometimes to dip into the real conversations that people are having, just to see what kind of world they live in. Ok, there’s an element of tabloidish voyeurism here, I admit it, but I can’t help taking a peek now and then. Here’s my pick for Question of the Week, from Yahoo! Answers.

Will Jesus protect me from the demons that desire me to sin?

The correct answer to that question should be pretty obvious, if boring. But how do Christians deal with Jesus’ consistent and universal failure to provide believers with protection from temptation?

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An informal competition

In honor of the new year, I’m going to try something different. We’ve seen a few billboards over the years whose goal is to promote atheism in some way. Some have been good, some have been meh, and a few have been counterproductive (in many people’s eyes, at least). We need more good ones.

So here’s my idea. Let’s have an informal contest to design a good billboard promoting atheism and/or skepticism. To enter, grab your favorite graphics program, put together a mockup whose proportions match a standard billboard size (but reduced to monitor-friendly pixel dimensions of course), and then put it up on Flickr or deviant art or some other online picture service and send me the link. Then at the end of January, 2013, I’ll nominate the 5 submissions I like best and put it up for a vote. It’s just for fun, and unfortunately I can’t promise any cash prize or anything, but maybe if we get some good designs, some individual or organization might pick one and make a real billboard out of it.

Official rules below the fold. [Addendum: in rule 3, clarified that entrants are responsible for securing their own licensing, permissions and releases for any materials and/or persons appearing in their entries.]

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Jesus and Santa

Christmas is all about traditions, which means doing the same thing year after year. And so, in the true spirit of Christmas, I am posting my annual list of the Top Ten Reasons why Santa is Better than Jesus.

10. Santa does not endorse any political candidates or parties.

9. If you’re bad, Santa gives you a lump of coal, he doesn’t try to turn you into one.

8. Santa comes to town riding a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer; Jesus comes to town riding someone else’s ass (which seems to have become a tradition among some of his followers, by the way).

7. Jesus says he loves little kids, but Santa actually lets them sit in his lap.

6. Santa doesn’t spend all his time obsessing over how other people have sex.

5. Santa can run his whole enterprise, year after year, without begging for donations.

4. Some of history’s worst atrocities and injustices have been committed by people who believe in Jesus, but NONE of them have been committed by people who believe in Santa.

3. Santa is satisfied if you’re just reasonably good most of the time—he doesn’t demand the death penalty for everyone who fails to be absolutely perfect.

2. Santa cares enough to come back every year.

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So, what are you doing for the end of the world?

I don’t have a whole lot on my mind today, so I thought I’d just open up a thread for you guys to talk. My suggested topic is the end of the world, as scheduled by the Mayans for the 21st of this month (or not). Any parties being planned? Seen anybody building any mountain-top bomb shelters in your area? Has Nostradamus come back from the dead yet?

What bemuses me the most is the number of people who apparently expect the world to end next week, on 12/12/12, instead of 12/21/12. Somehow the number 12, repeated 3 times, is sufficient proof for—well, whatever.

Anyway, open topic: share your favorite Mayan calendar story, or bring up something completely different. It’s up to you.

 

Eyewitnesses

Seems like creationism, and specifically young-earth creationism, is poking its head up once again in the wake of Rubio’s uninformed comments regarding what we know about the age of the earth. As Ed Brayton reports, both Bryan Fischer and Joseph Farah have recently argued that no one knows how old the earth really is because none of us were there when it was first created. God is the only eyewitness, they claim, and therefore we should just take His Word for it.

Well, Bryan and Joe, I hate to disagree with you, but if you take Genesis literally, then God is not the only eyewitness. I’ll grant you there’s no human alive today who was around at the origin of the earth. But if you read Genesis 1, you’ll find that God created the heavens on the same day He created the earth. And we’re all eyewitnesses to the (non-)creation of the universe.

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AiG’s outreach to atheists

I actually got this off a friend, but it’s kind of fun. You know how Answers In Genesis likes to target most of their material at weak and wavering Christians (especially if they have too much cash on their hands)? Well, now they’re extending that same hand of duplicity fellowship to atheists as well, in the form of a post entitled “Dear Atheists,” by Bodie Hodge. And believe me, it’s everything you’d expect from a ministry like AiG.

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OMG, Biblical Christianity is dying!

Now this is more like what I was expecting yesterday: overblown Christian hysteria in reaction to Election Day’s free reality check. Writing for forbes.com, Bill Flax weeps and wails over the imminent demise of Biblical Christianity in America.

And it’s all a terrible misunderstanding. Christians never wanted a culture war, you see. They just wanted to be left alone. If only those mean old liberals had just given them the chance to stay quiet and neutral on issues of society and morality.

In the election’s aftermath, the culture war looks like a rout. Few ever relished this fight; most preferred simply to be left alone. We aren’t community organizers. Sadly, neutrality was not realistic. No, being Switzerland was never an option. By not defending America’s heritage of limited government, free markets and biblical morality, we’re being overrun a la Belgium.

Yes, those poor disorganized believers who were barely able to raise billions of dollars and initiate successful drives to add anti-gay amendments to the constitutions of roughly two-thirds of the states in the Union—they aren’t community organizers. They’ve never defended limited government, free markets, or biblical morality. They’re all just weak and helpless victims here.

Come on, work with me on this one.

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Ah, theism

In Traverse City, Michigan, there’s been a bit of a kerfluffle over a Veterans Day choir concert at a local church. As mlive.com reports:

[Pastor] David Walls decided to “censor” the concert three weeks ago over the objections of the church’s choir director.

Walls told the paper that the prayer was rejected because the church did not want to offend their congregation and military veterans they planned to honor that day…

Walls told the paper the prayer was “in Arabic, addressed to Allah, with references to Muhammad for an event that was intended to honor veterans.” The prayer was to be led by an Islamic leader from Grand Rapids.

The decision reportedly offended a Traverse City West Senior High student of Muslim faith who was in the choir. On the flip side, an NMC college trustee, Doug Bishop, told the paper he would have been offended at having to observe the prayer.

Somebody should lock Jehovah and Allah in a room to duke it out between themselves so the rest of us can have some peace.

Taking Back the Public Schools

Writing for The New American, Sam Blumenfeld has a plan for taking back the public schools from “the socialists” who, according to Blumenfeld, have been engaging in a decades-long plot to produce functional illiterates so that they will grow up to be Democrats. (Yeah, the whole piece is like that.) And his strategy involves, not better funding for public schools, or reducing the burdensome, irrelevant, and unfunded overhead imposed by Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative. No, his strategy is to get parents to push school boards to reject what he calls the “whole language” approach to reading education, and replace it with a phonics-based program instead.

But the parents who put their children in these schools want them to be taught to read. They are the natural allies of the conservatives who want to take the schools back. Just as Obama as community organizer organized the “have-nots” into a local political force, so must conservatives organize parents in their communities — White, Latino, and African American — to pressure school boards to start teaching their children to read with intensive phonics. They can be called Parents for Literacy.

Of course, a phonics-based reading program will need a curriculum specifically designed to teach phonics. I wonder where the schools will be able to find such a thing?

First, we propose that the school board authorize the creation of a pilot program in which Alpha-Phonics is used to teach the worst readers to read. The program will prove that all children can be taught to read provided the correct teaching method is used. Now there are other very good phonics programs in existence, but as the author of Alpha-Phonics, I know how well it works and how inexpensive it is. The board may claim that they don’t have the money for this project. Yet they have enough money for programs that don’t work.

Hey, that’s great, we’ll all just buy his book. Lucky for us we have this opportunity, eh? We don’t even have to give the school district any more money to do it, ’cause they can just use the money they’ve been spending on “bad” programs.

Personally, I’m all for quality reading education, because I had one. That’s one of the ways I can recognize a scam when I see one.