From Jesus to Christ – A PBS Presentation

Last night (C’mas Eve) I watched Part I of the PBS Frontline program, “From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.” I had watched it sometime back (when I was writing my book), but had forgotten how much I appreciated the way the producers present the Christian story.

The contributors include archaeologists, bible scholars, and historians, as well as New Testament theologians. This combination produces a much more balanced presentation of Jesus, his world, and his followers than what is generally shown on programs of this nature.

On the back cover of the (soon to be released) paperback edition of my book, (Things I Never Learned in Sunday School), I make this statement: “For many believers, the preferred approach to Christianity is passive; that is, they would prefer to let church leaders give them answers about their faith rather than engaging in an active pursuit on their own. As a result, traditional doctrines and beliefs are generally accepted without question.”

What this boils down to is that few Christians really know the story behind Christianity. They simply accept the traditional accounts and consider them as “truth.” This program goes several steps further and puts early Christianity in historical and social contexts. It is not anti-Christian. It just presents facts and information about Jesus that many people have never heard.

As one reviewer put it, the documentary “takes on a number of weighty issues and treats them seriously, putting religious tales in historical context without ignoring matters of the spirit.”

In my area, Part II airs tonight (Christmas Day) and will be repeated on December 26th and 27th. If you have never watched this program, I strongly urge you to check your local listings.

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Guns Don’t Kill People …

Realitycheck

You know the rest of the line.

OK, so I have a question. If “people kill people,” then why don’t those “people” who are out to kill other people use a hand grenade? Oh wait. Those are illegal. But you CAN get a permit (in some states) … after you pay a $200 fee and go through an extensive background check by the FBI, who then passes on the information to the ATF. If you are finally approved, you will get the required stamp and paperwork so you can go to a dealer and purchase a hand grenade. Too much trouble? Too much time involved? Hmmm. Could this be why people aren’t mass murdered in the U.S. with hand grenades?

Well then, why don’t “people” use a machete? Certainly it would do the trick. Just swing it around a few times and you’d probably be able to kill a number of individuals. Oh wait. A machete is a rather obvious weapon to carry. But then, so is an assault rifle. Hmmm.  Maybe it would work after all. You might not be able to kill as many people as you would with a gun, but it could accomplish your purpose.

Some “people” have used samurai swords to kill others. Not quite as effective for mass killings. And again, it’s a pretty visible weapon. Definitely not something you could stick under your coat or jam in your pocket on your way to a murdering spree. But it’s a possibility.

Oh! I have it! “People” could use a few sticks of dynamite! Easily hidden. Lightweight. All you need is a good lighter and a strong throwing arm. Better yet, sneak into the location where you hope to kill other people and plant several pounds of dynamite, along with the means to blow it all up at the opportune time (i.e., Bath School disaster, 1927). Of course, this would take planning. Definitely not a spur-of-the-moment decision like grabbing a gun or two.

I have to admit. The gun advocates are correct. Guns don’t kill people (actually, it’s the bullets that kill them). And neither do other inanimate objects like grenades, machetes, swords, or dynamite. But the point that’s being missed (or ignored) is that it’s guns that the “people” are choosing to use. Preferably guns that kill as many people as possible in a very short amount of time.

A very close friend of mine who collects guns says establishing new gun laws is not going to change anything. He may be right. But can’t we at least try to come up with something  to stop “people” from using guns to commit these horrendous crimes against innocent people?

The Emotional Side of Gun Control

gunThe recent mass murder of innocent children has focused attention, once again, on guns and gun control.

One of the things I find rather disconcerting is how emotional some gun owners get when any discussion related to modifying gun laws comes up. They scream to all who will listen that the ultimate goal of  the government is to confiscate all their guns. (Of course, this is the mantra of a certain gun organization so why would they not think that?)

They are also quick to point out that the guns used in these killings are often stolen so gun owners should not be the ones targeted. The question then becomes … where (or who) was the gun stolen from?

As far as I know, except for the fanatical left-wingers, the discussion is not about banning guns completely. The more sensible discourse has focused on controlling semi-automatic and military style weapons because they are usually the weapons of choice in these senseless killings.

Just for the record, I am not anti-gun. I have friends and family members who are sensible gun owners. I have nothing against hunting or target shooting. And, in these crazy times, it’s probably smart to own a gun for protection.

But I do feel some gun owners need to stop letting their emotions about guns and gun ownership get in the way of meaningful changes in gun control. And they need to do it before any more people lose their lives simply because they visit a mall, go to church, or attend school.

The Truth Is Not Always As It Seems

In the November issue of the Costco Connection magazine, there was an article by John McManus, a communication professor and longtime journalist. He is also the author of Don’t Be Fooled: A Citizen’s Guide to News and Information.

In the article, he made some points that I fully agree with and have even mentioned in other posts on this blog.truth

When faced with information claiming to be factual, consider:

  1. The source. Who is behind the message? Is the source independent (free of conflicts of interest)? Is the source an expert or experienced in relation to the topic?
  2. The motivation. Is it really informational or is it an attempt to sell something, someone, or a point of view? Many “persuaders” cherry-pick information to make their case, omitting relevant contrary information.
  3. The evidence. Does the information come from direct observation? Does it logically support the claims that are being made? Does it include/magnify heart-tugging anecdotes to make it more compelling?
  4. The contents. Is anything left out? Are inconvenient truths missing?

It doesn’t matter what your persuasion. Don’t believe everything you read or hear just because it validates your personal beliefs. Do the research. Learn the facts before you repeat the information. This is especially true when it comes to religion and/or politics.

Keep in mind that the “truth” is not always as it seems.