Asher Wiesenthal and Rosa Rapp were baptized in Salt Lake City, Utah. Some are calling their baptisms sacrilege and the church that baptized them is apologizing. What’s even stranger to some, is that Wiesenthal and Rapp are both Jewish and two weren’t even present for their own baptisms. In fact, they died several years ago as holocaust victims. So what’s going on?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) conducts what they call, proxy baptisms or baptism by proxy. It is an answer to the question of what happens to a person who dies before being baptized in the Mormon faith? According to Kathleen Flake, a Vanderbilt scholar who has studied the LDS faith, “Mormons believe that vicarious baptisms give the deceased, who exist in the afterlife as conscious spirits, a final chance to join the Mormon fold, and thus gain access to the Celestial Kingdom [the highest of the three heavenly kingdoms in heaven]” Flake adds that, “Mormons are encouraged to baptize at least four generations of forebears to seal the family together in the afterlife.” (The Washington Post online)
Jewish leaders believe it sacrilege for the LDS Church to insist that Jews are not worthy enough to receive God’s blessing and that it would take intervention on part of the Mormons to enable a Jew to be heaven (at least the Celestial Kingdom). Michael Purdy, LDS spokesman, has voiced regret on behalf of his church stating that the names of Wiesenthal and Rapp were submitted by an individual member of the church and only names of family members should be submitted. In fact, in 1995 the Mormon church agreed to stop baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims.
I myself do not follow the Mormon faith. I do not believe that I require baptism in order for my salvation. And I don’t know about the idea of being sealed together with my family in the afterlife. If I believed my salvation required baptism and I believed in baptism by proxy, I’d probably make sure a few family members’ names didn’t make the list. The holidays were bad enough. But an eternity? Someone’s name gotta come off that list.
So what do you think? Would you be upset if you found out that one of your deceased relatives was baptized by proxy into a faith he/she or you didn’t believe in? Is what the Mormons did offensive or was it worthy of at least a, “thanks for thinking of us” acknowledgement?
Is this worth going mad over?
Warning: Video in this story contains graphic scenes
I was once posed this question in an ethics class in seminary. If an Olympic swimmer sees a child drowning in a pool and does nothing, is he or she liable of a crime? The answer to that question was no. There was no law (15 years ago) that required us to offer help to another.
Now for a real life example.
In 1964 Kitty Genovese was attacked late at night in front of her building in Queens, New York. She was stabbed repeatedly and raped. She died as a result of her injuries. How people responded has been a dispute since that fateful night. There were multiple witnesses but few people called the police. Some said they thought it was a lovers’ quarrel, others claimed not to hear the attack because it was cold and their windows were closed. Regardless, her death led to psychological studies of human behavior. Those studies resulted in what we call the bystander effect. Put briefly, this phenomena states that the more people there are to help in a situation, the less likely someone will in fact offer assistance. The reasons for this vary. With so many people around, the thought is surely someone else must have called for help. Or perhaps someone else is better qualified than me. Then there’s the ultimate, I don’t want to get involved.
The bystander effect. Bystanders don’t get involved. They watch. They avoid. They wait for someone else to do something. They think, “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?”
Flash forward to 2011. Remove yourself from the streets of New York and place yourself in the small, but active alley in the southern Guyangdong province of China. Instead of a 28 year old woman walking from her car to her apartment, picture a 2 year old toddling in front of a van.
Wang Yue, or Yueyue for short was run over by two vans in an alley and lay dying while 18 bystanders ignored her. Some walked past while others drove by, some on scooters. She was disregarded. People stopped to look or swerved to drive around her. It wasn’t until trash collector Chen Xianmei, 57, an illiterate migrant from the countryside saw her that Yueyue received help. Her rescuer pulled her from the middle of the road and called for the girl’s mother who had been hanging laundry at the time the accident happened.
A security camera filmed the entire incident. The video went viral in China and people are calling the tragedy, “the death that awakened the conscience of China.”
The video of the entire incident is below. Warning, it is violent and disturbing.
Did Yueyue have no neighbors to help? Eighteen people walked by until someone worthy to be called her neighbor lent a hand.
Jesus was once asked, “Who is your neighbor?” The answer came in the form of a parable that is eerily similar to the stories of Kitty Genovese and Yueyue.
A man is beaten and left by the side of a road to die. Travelers who followed kept their distance. Two men walked past the victim. They continued without helping but a third man stopped. He helped the beaten man. He tended to his injuries. He took him to a hotel where he paid for the man’s stay until he healed. The irony of this story is that the first two were men of God and the third a hated enemy of the victim. (Think Israeli and Palestinian.)
What do you do when you see someone in need? Do you walk by and thank God it’s not you? Do you turn around and walk away, afraid of the scene before you?
Is it our duty to put ourselves in harm’s way in order to help a stranger? Or should it be illegal to avoid helping another when we can do so at no risk to our own safety? Those answers will always be debated.
Regardless of the answers, I am convinced of this. A neighbor will provide help to the helpless, regardless of race, religion, background, or anything else.
In response to the toddler’s death in China, government officials, members of the Communist Party, lawyers and social workers met for three days to discuss how to respond. Some lawyers are trying to draft “Good Samaritan” legislation to protect those who attempt to help and penalize others who deny it.
According to a quote in the LA Times, Zhu Yongping, one lawyer who attended the meetings said, "People are really shocked. Some were crying. We couldn't imagine that moral values have declined so much.”
That’s because of the first 18 people who walked by, none were neighbors, they were mere bystanders. Bystanders do nothing. Bystanders don’t need morals. Morality requires action.
An Alabama Judge is giving people convicted of non-violent misdemeanors a choice: Go to church for a year or go to jail.
The program is simple, offenders can pay a fine and do jail time, or they can pick one of 56 churches that are participating and attending each Sunday while checking in with the pastor and their parole officer. After a year, their case is dismissed.
See the story here
This story of jail versus church makes me think. As a pastor, every Sunday I see people attend church. They arrive at the same time, right on schedule. They wear their Sunday morning uniforms. People file in an orderly fashion and sit in their “assigned” seat. (Ever visit a church and sit in someone’s “spot”? I have. Get ready for a beat down. There’s a caste system here buddy… better learn it.) Sometimes someone tries to do something different that challenges the caste system and they get punished. They get shanked with the evil eye or a sneer, or get ostracized for messing up the system. There’s the church, and then there’s the “family” within the church that you are either born into or pass some test allowing you to join it. Once you’re in, your family. You’re on the inside now.
Of course I’m exaggerating. But there’s some truth to this isn’t there? Think about the youth of the church. In my experience when many kids who grow up in the church no longer have to attend, they simply stop going. There’s a common saying, “When kids graduate high school, they graduate God.” There’s an opportunity for them to “break out.” And for many couples that attend, when one can’t make it, the other doesn’t come either. Why go when you don’t have to?
The truth is we all do jail time, whether we are imprisoned by our own sin or allow ourselves to be taken hostage by God’s love. We are all serving a sentence. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).
Jesus has come that you might have life. He is offering you a sentence of life. To be set free of the chains of sin. Chains that bind us to all of our inadequacies, all of our failures and all of our faults. And he has offered you life. A life of being hostage to his love. To be set free from the things of this world, and to serve a life sentence in a world without limits.
I hope those offenders choose the alternative to jail. But even more so, I hope that after attending church for a year, they choose to accept the life sentence that Jesus has to offer.
So what do you think? Is this a good idea?
Unless you just woke up from a coma, you’ve heard the story of the three Americans who were arrested while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border. Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were detained and accused of espionage. Shourd was released about a year after the arrest. Bauer and Fattal were later convicted of spying and illegal entry and sentenced to 8 years in prison.
This past Wednesday, after a bail payment of $500,000 each, Bauer and Fattal were finally released. They arrived back in the USA to be greeted by their friends, family, and of course, the media.
Each spoke of their experiences. Bauer addressed the concept of forgiving his captors. He said, “You may ask us, now that you are free, can you forgive the Iranian government for what it has done to you? Our answer is this: How can we forgive the Iranian government when it continues to imprison so many other innocent people and prisoners of conscience? It is the Iranian people who bear the brunt of this government's cruelty and disregard for human rights. There are people in Iran who are imprisoned for years, simply for attending a protest, for writing a pro-democracy blog, or for, worse, being an unpopular faith. Journalists remain behind bars and innocent people have been executed.” Bauer as quoted on cbs.com
What he says about the government of Iran is probably true. But I want to address what he says about forgiveness.
If Josh, Shane and Sarah want to find forgiveness in their experience, they don’t need to look to Iran, they need to look to themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not coming to Iran’s defense, far from it. Nor am I blaming the three Americans for what another country did to them. What I am saying is that forgiveness is often more about us and not about those who wrong us.
By forgiving someone we are setting ourselves free from the wrong they have committed against us. On the other hand, if we do not forgive someone for bringing harm to us (whatever form that may be) we allow ourselves to be held captive by that wrongdoing.
Forgiving someone does not mean that the transgressor is released from justice. Justice needs to be served otherwise our world will be out of balance. For example, a person who commits a crime against another may be forgiven by their victim, but they will still need to pay the penalty for their crime.
Fatta, Bauer and Shourd can forgive Iran for what has been done to them without relieving that country of its responsibility for its actions. If they don’t find forgiveness, they will continue to be captives of another jail cell. One that houses regrets and hatred. One that binds our lives from being free from our captors.
Iran needs to be held accountable for the grievances it has committed. There are plenty of more prisoners that need to be released. Call me mad, but the last two prisoners they released, along with Shourd, need to forgive their captors, knowing that justice can still be served, and they can be set free from a prison they run the risk of placing themselves in.
If you watched the Mets - Rockies game the other day you saw that it was rained out for a while. At one point while the rain was coming down, the grounds crew ran out to cover the field. If you watch close, you’ll see one of the men stumbles. As a result, he himself becomes covered by the tarp. Soon you see a small lump in the tarp working its way toward the light.
Have you ever stumbled while doing something? Perhaps you’ve missed paying a bill. Maybe you said something you regret to someone. Or you blew a project at work or school. When that happens it seems as if you’ve stumbled and before you can get up, more seems to pile up keeping you down. What do you do?
Life isn’t always about running fast. It’s not always about feeling good. Sometimes the weight of the world bears down on us. There’s nothing wrong with crawling. Crawling covers the distance. Crawling takes integrity, it takes courage. Crawling even gets you to the finish line.
Call me mad, but I would rather crawl across the finish line than stop moving all together and not finish the race. It may not seem glamorous, but it covers the distance. Click here for the video
We’ve all heard the news… Osama has been found and killed. His body has already been buried at sea.
The purpose of his immediate burial was to respect Islamic customs that a body be put to rest about 24 hours after death. According to abcnews.com, “Traditional washing of the body was followed by wrapping in white sheets. A military officer read religious remarks that were translated by a native Arabic speaker, then bin Laden was eased into the sea.”
Some people are not too pleased to hear that bin Laden was given a burial. I have read blog comments that say, “Stuff his body and put it on display at ground zero,” “Light his body on fire and drop him from a sky rise building,” “Put his head on a stick,” “Hang his corpse from a bridge…” Those are the nicer suggestions
I understand people’s anger. We all wanted this man caught. No one is upset that he was killed.
Is it wrong for us to respect an Islamic tradition and provide a semblance of a proper burial? Should we destroy the body and let people abuse it?
I lost no sleep in hearing that Osama was shot and killed. Ok, I lost a little. I read about it on my phone while lying in bed and jumped up to read about it online. I was surprised to hear the next day that he was already buried. I didn’t know about the rules of Islam.
Call me mad but I think we did the right thing. We can’t treat his body the way he treated the living. We are not the same as this man. Does that mean that the way he is treated after death is better than he deserves? Evil will always take advantage of good. But that doesn’t mean we stop doing good. We, through our actions, set the standard for the world.
What do you think? Did the US do the right thing in the way Osama’s body was handled?
Have you seen the Rebecca Black video called "Friday"? Over 122 million others have. It's a 13 year old singing about Friday. In the song she ponders about sitting in the front or back seat of a car, clarifies that Sunday comes after Saturday and is looking forward to partying. I have no idea how a 13 year old parties, but I imagine it includes a lot of video games and Twizzlers.
The song is not that good. The lyrics are cheesy. (Hmmm, I wonder if Chesus is hiding somewhere in them. If that doesn't make sense, read this.) The music is weak. Oh, did I forget to tell you, A THIRTEEN YEAR OLD SINGS IT!
Some people hate it. And somehow they've come to hate Rebecca. She has received a of of negative comments including hate mail. Some people hate her video so much they are demanding it be taken off the internet. Now the Anaheim police are investigating two death threats. You read that right. Two death threats sent to a thirteen year old who uploads a music video to YouTube. When asked about her criticism she said, "At first it sucked. I cried. It's just shocking to see all these random people just hating you when they don't even know you. But they've made me who I am today. I f they weren't there I wouldn't be here so I gotta thank them." (Interview can be seen here on E! Online.)
Am I mad or is this 13 year old far more mature than the people who are criticizing her?
What are your thoughts?
And by the way, her song has led to endless parodies. My favorite staring Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Taylor Hicks.
Waco Texas has a new hamburger joint. It’s called Fat Ho Burgers. On its menu are items such as the Supa Fly Ho with cheese, the Supa Dupa Fly Ho with cheese or the Sloppy Ho Brisket.
The name is clearly a gimmick to draw customers. And it’s working. In fact in its opening week, one day customers stood in line over 30 minutes and then the restaurant ran out of cash and their supply of beef.
Fox News did a story. And to be fair, a lot of media sources did a story with the same angle. Fox 4 news reporter Dionne Anglin went down the street and around the corner to the Gospel Café and Bookstore, a volunteer run religious café and asked them what they thought of the name Fat Ho Burgers. According to Anglin, “Folks here at the volunteer run, religious café wish the burger joint were a little more ho-ly.” Get it, she made a funny.
This drives me a little mad. Not the name of the restaurant. (Although if I opened a hamburger joint I probably wouldn’t use that name. I’d call it something classier like Eat This.)
What drives me mad is that everyone is looking to aggrandize the story by asking the closest Christian institution what they think of Fat Ho Burgers. A controversial name goes up on a business sign and the news runs down a block and around the corner to ask what the Christians think about it. This type of reporting makes the church out to be a group of people who are uptight and repressed. And it’s using the Church to leverage a story.
Am I just going mad? What do you think?
Saul Kassin, an 89 year old rabbi in New York pleaded guilty on March 28 to illegal cash transmission. His charges were reduced from the more serious accusation of money laundering. According to CNN.com, “The rabbi was discovered as part of an FBI undercover investigation, "Operation Bid Rig," which made news in July 2009 when 44 civic leaders and public officials were arrested on the same morning for public corruption and money laundering. Among the 15 arrested for money laundering, five were rabbis who were alleged to have laundered collectively more than $3 million, officials said at the time.” Do I need to say it? This drives me mad! Perhaps Kassin and his colleagues need to be reminded of the story of Achan. Achan was one of the men who were seeking God’s Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership. Joshua led an attack against a fortified city called Jericho. It is a famous battle in the Bible where Joshua and his people defeat a city, not by their military might, but by their faith in God’s promises. All the silver, gold, bronze and iron of the city was to be given to the treasury of God’s house. But Achan stole some of these things and hid them under his tent.Achan’s greed led to God’s anger toward everyone. When Achan’s crime was discovered, he and his family were killed and their bodies burned. (Read Achan’s full story here.)The Bible doesn’t have a lot of good endings for people who steal from God. What makes Achan’s story so hard to read is that all of his people suffered when he stole. Then not only he, but also his family members faced the death penalty. We don’t even know if they participated in his crime. They may have been completely innocent.That’s the problem with crime and stealing; even the innocent suffer. Kassin and four other rabbis stole from people and God. Now their organization has made God to look like a fool, just another guy to steal from. And the rest of the world looks at God and religion as another institution that shouldn’t have our trust, attention, or resources.Call me mad but in order for God to be holy, Kassin and his colleagues have to be punished. God cannot allow himself to be lied to, cheated, stolen from and at the same time maintain his glory. Kassin’s greed hurt the charity he controlled, other believers who may now question their faith, his own family who has to live with the shame of his actions and unbelievers who are already skeptical of religious leaders. Worst of all, as a leader in his religion, he challenged the authority of God himself. What do you think? How much should Kassin and the other rabbis pay for their illegal transactions? How does Achan’s story and his family’s punishment translate to this modern day story? Link to CNN story here
St. Laurence Church in Hilmarton, England discovered that its very own Bible, sitting on display in its sanctuary is an original 400 year old King James Bible printed in 1611. It’s missing a few pages and it has been trimmed to fit a wooden cover. That particular Bible has seen better days. But it is quite a discovery for something that has been sitting out in the open as long as anyone at St. Laurence can remember.
The Bible is the best selling book of all time. Chances are you have one somewhere in your house. It may be in a stack of books, behind your bed, in a box, or up in the attic. Once you find it and dust it off, it might look as good as the day you bought it.
Call me mad, but I think every Bible should look old and dated. We should highlight the verses that touch us, underline words that have impact, write our thoughts and notes in the margins. I think everybody should have a Bible that looks like it’s been around about 400 years.
Do you know where your Bible is? Have you picked it up lately? Why don’t you open it up, read what it says, and write down a few thoughts?