January 25, 2021

Saturday Ramblings 4.7.12

Greetings one and all to the Easter edition of Saturday Ramblings. We have an Easter basket full of goodies for you. Jelly beans, malted milk balls, chocolate bunnies (you do eat their ears first, don’t you?) and licorice whips. We’ve also hidden among the plastic grass some other treats—chocolate-covered ramblings. Let’s dig in!

Please remember Charles Colson in your prayers. As of this writing (Friday night) Colson was still in critical condition following surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. Let us all pray for our brother.

Elaine Pagels has written a book to clear up some “myths” about the book of Revelation. Before you write this off as another liberal academician making a name for herself at the expense of Christianity, read this article outlining what she has to say. Your thoughts?

Hugo Chavez, dictator of Venezuela, spoke at a mass on Holy Thursday, crying out for God to spare his life. Chavez suffers from cancer. What do you think of a communist dictator who calls out for Christ to give him life?

A very interesting article on “Christianity in Crisis” from Andrew Sullivan. Very interesting indeed.

The Mormon church invested what some seem to believe was $1.5 billion to build an upscale mall in Salt Lake City. So perhaps wasting money is not solely in the domain of evangelicals?

The Vatican is renewing its fight against the Mafia in Italy. The Church has realized that the Mafia is “anti-human and anti-religious.” Hmmm. That’s a revelation? Perhaps the Vatican could start the fight against organized crime using the 550 pound chocolate egg the Pope received for Easter. Ok, be honest with me. How long would it take you to polish off a quarter ton of chocolate?

Did the Easter Bunny himself lay the giant egg? And just who is the Easter Bunny? Here is a brief history of said rabbit.

Mark Driscoll. Easter Bunny. Need I say more?

Ok, I will say a bit more. Mars Hill Church rented the entire city of Ephesus for a day. Really. iMonk WenatcheeTheHatchet has some thoughts on this. But really, do you need to know more than that Driscoll’s church rented a whole city? They could have used the money to build an upscale mall.

The evangelical circus will set up many tents this weekend, one of which will be at a high school football stadium in North Carolina.  After giving those in attendance a “chance to respond to the Gospel,” a helicopter will circle the stadium dropping 12,000 plastic eggs on the crowd. Most will be filled with candy, but four will have coupons for thing like an iPad, iPods, and an XBox 360. The pastor, one Skipper Allen (Skipper? Really?), said he is modeling this after the “attractional things” Jesus did to draw people to hear his Gospel. All I could think of when reading this story was the line, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

Oh, and if you travel to the Philippines for Easter, please note that palm fronds blessed during the Palm Sunday mass are not to be used as anti-aging devices or as feed for fighting roosters. You probably won’t find that in a travel guide, so I thought I’d pass that on.

Happy birthday cakes were eaten this last week by Christopher “I need more cowbell!” Walken; Herb Albert; Al Gore; Ewan McGregor; Lon Chaney; Gordon Jump; Buddy Ebsen; Sir Alex Guinness; Barrett “Dr. Demento” Hanson; Jack Webb; Marvin Gaye; Leon Russell; Doris Day; Lowell George; Tony Orlando; Anthony Perkins; Bette Davis; and Merle Haggard.

You know I was not going to pass up a chance to feature a song by my Tulsa homie Leon Russell, the Master of Space and Time. Hey–don’t complain. I could have chosen Tony Orlando. Enjoy.



  1. WKRP in Cincinnati! Love it!

  2. Jack Heron says

    Not to sound like I’m criticising Elaine Pagels, but her points in 1,2 and 4 are pretty conventional (and, in many places, the generally accepted) interpretations. 3 might seem initially a little odd, but all she’s saying is that the author of Revelation did not have a form of Christianity that we might find familiar – which is pretty obvious given that he was writing part of the canon on which the Christianity we find familiar is based.

    Michael Spencer covered some of this territory himself, as here:

    • Yep, nothing particularly new and controversial there, except the little dig at traditional notions of Christianity – though I will say it’s refreshing to see St. Paul lauded as a progressive in this context 🙂

      One part that made me roll my eyes was this: “There’s no indication that he read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or that he read the gospels or Paul’s letters,” she says”.

      Well, duh! If we accept that this was written by a survivor of the fall of Jerusalem, then he couldn’t have read “the Gospels” since they were still in the process of being written down, Elaine! Also, I like the notion that the John on Patmos wasn’t the disciple John, it was another Jewish mystic and disciple of the same name. Well, you see where the confusion came in amongst the people who were living at the time and immediately thereafter – luckily, two thousand years on, we have a much clearer view of who was whom!

      That aside… the giant chocolate Easter egg is going to be donated to a juvenile detention centre in Rome, so the Pope won’t get any. Mars Hill (TM) are making a series on the seven churches mentioned in Revelation? Will Elaine Pagels be doing any script consultation? 😉

      Sounds like it will be interesting – I’d even give it a watch myself, just to see what he has to say. Shot on location is good, too, though boasting about renting the entire city of Ephesus is a bit much.

    • Randy Thompson says

      I think Pagels is interesting, but I think the traditional view of Revelation’s authorship makes way more sense than hers. Given the oddness of apocalyptic literature, and given the fact that there were many other apocalypses in the first and second centuries, I don’t see how something as odd as Revelation would have received a reading in the early church unless it was pretty clearly linked to a prominent Christian leader, like John the son of Zebedee, or, at least, the (mysterious) John the Elder. The faith community of her “John of Patmos” says more about her than it does about reality, I think. Even Raymond Brown, author of one of the best commentaries on the Gospel of John in the 20th century, didn’t write a terrible plausible book about John’s supposed “community.”

      And, having read a number of Gnostic texts, I don’t think the theological situation in the early church was as loosey goosey as she suggests. When you read second century Christian writers, like Ignatius, Justin, and Irenaeus, for example, you’re in the same intellectual world as the New Testament writers (for the most part). The Gnostic writings are, intellectually, from another planet. (The Gospel of Thomas comes closest to the NT world, I think, but it still reflects a later thought world.) Read the “Apocryphon of John,” for example, and compare it with the “Gospel of Mark” or “Galatians” and you’ll see what i mean.

  3. Elaine Pagels isn’t saying anything that I haven’t read before about the Book of Revelation except in one area. I agree with most of what she says, except I don’t think that the book or Revelation writer was opposed to things that the Apostle Paul was teaching! Next time I read that book I will keep what she said in mind and think about it again.

    I hope Chavez is able to recover from his cancer.

    I liked Sullivan’s article.

    That was not a bad article by Mark Driscoll about the Easter bunny.

    • Probably the best thing I’ve read or heard from Driscoll. I’m glad the Washington Post printed it.

    • Elaine Pagels book is nothing but the usual liberal line. I can live with another John, but anyone who has studied Revelation will bridle at her claim that the book does not talk about Jesus dying for our sins.
      Rev 5:6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain….
      Rev 5:12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
      Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

      Anyone who denies the over 20 occasions in the book that reference “the Lamb” as a symbol of Christ the Redeemer is just a poor scholar.

      Also, her claims about all the other books that were excluded from the canon for no other reason than prejudice just sounds like the usualclaptrap from those who want to “de-mythasize” the bible.

      There is NOTHING new to her claims.

  4. Regarding “Christianity in Crisis” from Andrew Sullivan, the article is largely based upon a false argument. Using Jefferson as an example, that the specific teachings of Jesus are distinct from those of Paul (mainly) and that removal of the Pauline letters removes the political content of the bible. I find both the words of Jesus, the gospel letters, and Pauline letters strikingly apolitical and need not be removed by the author or Jefferson.

    I find his comment that the non-Jesus words are un/less important than Jesus’ absurd. Jesus opened the scriptures and taught from them. More importantly, Jesus stated that all scripture was fulfilled in Him. Quite simply, the Lutheran dogma that all doctrine should be fruitful and point to our need for Christ, who Christ is, and what Christ has done for us seems to have have no place at the table this author argues. How can the author not read Hebrews, the Psalms, or Galatians (some examples) and find comfort, hope, and want to lead a grace filled life? Why on earth would he suggest these are not important next to Jesus teaching?

    • I agree, Rob. I was also struck by both Jefferson and Sullivan equating the affirmation of doctrine with being a Christian. Even the devil affirms the truth of the Christian doctrine, but no one would say he exemplifies true Christianity.

    • Randy Thompson says

      I don’t agree with everything Andrew Sullivan says, but I always find him thought-provoking and worth reading. I liked his piece on Christianity. However, if I was writing it, I wouldn’t have used Thomas Jefferson at the start of the article. I thought he used Jefferson to make a point, and then moved on, well beyond Jefferson, whose cut and paste view of Scripture he later rejected. Jefferson doesn’t carry his point in the article, which has more to do with kinder, gentler Christianity than the one he sees in the Christian right, which he refers to as “Christianist.”

  5. Andrew Sullivan has been fighting a war against “Christianism” in politics for a long time. Though I don’t 100% agree with how he sees things, I do see him as someone bring common sense & the teaching of Jesus to the debate. I enjoyed his article. There are alot of scared cows in need of slaughter if Christianity in the West is to survive.

  6. The helicopter drop must be the latest Evangelical circus fad, Flint River Baptist in Huntsville, Alabama is doing it also.

    • My father pastored at the original Flint River Baptist, and I assure you if he is privy to this info he is doing a major eye-roll in heaven.

  7. Richard Hershberger says

    It isn’t really correct to characterize Hugo Chavez as “communist”. He definitely is a leftist, but these are not synonymous. He characterizes himself as “Bolivarian”, whatever that means. It also isn’t really correct to characterize him as a “dictator”. He was reasonably democratically elected, and while the elections were not exemplars of squeeky clean electoral process, neither were they mere shams like the recent Russian election. Recall also that in 2002 he was briefly driven from office by a military coup, but was soon reinstated following massive popular protests.

    That being said, his civil rights record is spotty, and his actions in international affairs are often clownish. There are ample grounds for criticizing him. But the US also has a long history of crying “communist!” and “dictator!” in response to democratically elected governments we don’t like. We are especially prone to this with regard to Latin America.

    My point is that anyone interested in Hugo Chavez (and he is an interesting character) should work to move past the caricatures. In that light, my response to his prayer is that I have no idea what, if any, religious convictions he has, but there is nothing inherently surprising about a leftist politician also being religious.

    Moving closer to home, I read that piece by Mark Driscoll. Wow. Just wow. I never imagined Mars Hill to be a bastion of Biblical scholarship, but Driscoll seems not to have actually read the Passion story for comprehension. If he had, he would never have written such nonsense as “the Christians then were unsure exactly when Jesus rose from death”. Has he really managed to miss all the bits about Passover?

    He seems to be conflating a half-understood account of the dating of Christmas with respect to Saturnalia. He also seems deeply confused about the distinction between the origin of the word “Easter” and the origin of the Easter holiday.

    Are there really Christians who think Easter is a pagan holiday and don’t celebrate it? There is a long tradition in some strains of Protestantism to reject Christmas, but I have never heard this of Easter. I wonder if they aren’t confusing the two.

    • Jack Heron says

      Well said concerning Chavez. The guy isn’t exactly uncorrupt and the civil rights record is indeed poor, but nor is he the cartoonish plotting dictator that a lot of American media seems to paint him as (although, to be fair, he can’t exactly be described as the brave and honest bulwark against American tyranny that a considerable part of the European left thinks he is either). ‘Bolivarian’ refers to a follower of the legacy of Simon Bolivar, who was a central figure in the various anti-colonial independence movements in South America (and after whom Bolivia is named). Naturally people disagree considerably about what following Bolivar’s legacy actually means, but I believe the main thrust of those calling themselves Bolivarian involves self-sufficiency and in-country ownership of natural resources. This naturally pits them against some forms of the free market and especially against foreign multi-national companies. Hence bad relations with America.

  8. I think Pagels is closer to the truth than most Evangelicals (read; Premillennial Dispensationalist) on the subject.


  9. Did anyone else see the news story about the South Carolina church which mailed out a postcard to their community that had a picture of a dead rabbit next to a basket of eggs scattered in the street, and the caption: “Bunnies stay dead…Jesus didn’t”? Even I’ll admit that Driscoll’s article seems mainstream compared to this. But a visit to the “The Rock Community Church” website shows a photo of their pastor as a tough, macho character in a black t-shirt and dark sunglasses. I can’t help but see the resemblance to the real Driscoll – not the sweater-vest persona portrayed in his Easter Bunny article.

    • It wouldn’t be Easter without a newspaper story featuring a new angle on the Resurrection, and the “Daily Mail” does us proud with an article about a Cambridge (that’s the university in England, not the city next to Boston) art historian who believes the Shroud of Turin is genuine – but that the Resurrection did not occur.

      Rather, the image on the Shroud in some fashion made the apostles think they had seen the risen Christ due to some psychological affect or other – possibly because they had no concept of art and so mistook an image for the reality or something.

      Compared to that, egg-laying rabbits are perfectly reasonable!

      • “…art historian who believes the Shroud of Turin is genuine – but that the Resurrection did not occur.”

        Something like the Catholic atheist who clung to the belief that even though there is no God, Mary is his mother.

        Martha, what do most people in your circles think about the Shroud? Real or fake?

        • Generally benign indifference, Ted. A few are absolutely convinced of its reality (and also are very into Medjugorge, Marian apparitions in general, and the Catholic version of End Times prophecies), most take it or leave it as a devotion, a few probably don’t think its genuine.

          My father did believe in its authenticity, but he wouldn’t have gone to the crazy extremes. Me, I can take it or leave it as a devotion; I’m not going to say it’s real but neither am I going to deny it. If absolute proof (putting aside the testing in the 80s) was found that it was a mediaeval fake, I wouldn’t say “Well, dash it, so much for the Resurrection!” because I don’t believe in the Resurrection because of the Shroud. On the other hand, the attempts to make fake shrouds by ‘technology available to the Middle Ages’ aren’t all that convincing to me either.

          In general, I think most Irish people would just regard it as another relic or devotion, the degree of which is up to one’s personal piety (as some are devoted to the Little Flower and others to different saints).

          I can understand atheists who flat-ouit declare it a fake, and Christians of other denominations who reject relics for their own theological reasons, but accepting the shroud and denying the resurrection seems to me to belong to the school of rationalisation that ‘explained’ the walking on the water as Jesus surfing on a convenient localised ice floe. That kind of rational explanation requires even more faith than the miracle it wants to explain.

          • Well said. Like you, I’m open to it, and have read enough articles from decent sources to make me think that it may be genuine. But, I agree that if it’s a fake it’s only a fake in itself and the resurrection remains intact.

            It’s cool that it’s a negative image, scorched in 3-D, onto cloth that appears to have come from first-century Palestine. So if it’s medieval European, how did they do it?

            And one of the most interesting thngs is what we’ve learned about the practice of crucifixion—for example, that the nails went into the wrists—not the palms, as was thought in medieval times. And the blood appears to have dribbled down the victims’s body at two different angles, as he raised himself up on his feet or hung by his arms alternately to get relief from the pain. We don’t see this in medieval paintings.

            But I don’t hang my faith on it either. Have a wonderful Easter Sunday regardless of the Shroud.

        • Yeah, I’m on board with the Shroud. It wouldn’t destroy my faith if it were definitrively shown to be a fake. But it seems to me to be one of the most commonsensical relics. I mean, when you think about it, OF COURSE the disciples would have kept the grave clothes. It’s exactly the kind of thing they would have kept. What else are they going to do with them? Leave them to the Romans? Throw them away? I know what I would have done.

          The idea that our Lord’s grave clothes were preserved by His followers (and thereafter later generations of Christians) makes a great deal of sense to me. It just seems like a human and very natural thing for them to do.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        … art historian who believes the Shroud of Turin is genuine – but that the Resurrection did not occur.

        Shroud of Turin is real, Resurrection is not.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Did anyone else see the news story about the South Carolina church which mailed out a postcard to their community that had a picture of a dead rabbit next to a basket of eggs scattered in the street, and the caption: “Bunnies stay dead…Jesus didn’t”?

      No, but it sounds like definite “News of the Weird” material. With overtones of that church somewhere in Texas(?) who shot up a Santa Claus statue on a shooting range to make some sort of War on Christmas point.

    • Is it an Acts 29 clone? I wonder if the next card in the mail will be to all men living in the neighboring zip codes that will say “Real Marriage conference…Guys ____ Jobs are Biblical! Doesn’t that make you Excited about Jesus!”

    • Here’s what the Pastor Kevin Childs is saying about the mailing….


  10. Adrienne says

    “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

    “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”

    Two of the greatest moments in entertainment 🙂

    A Blessed Easter to all IMonks. This is what it is all about. HE LIVES!!

  11. Matt Purdum says

    Dead bunnies and places like Rock Community are driving people from Christ by the thousands.

    • David Cornwell says

      And so much of the other nonsense you hear about what churches are doing, pastors (?) are saying, and how money is being spent. Just look how far we’ve come!

      • There’s no discernment, no thinking any of this circus stuff through and asking what message it actually tells… Good grief! – helicopters, eggs, Ipods = Jesus? This isn’t even rational anymore…let alone spiritual…

    • I think that is a good point. The spokesman for “The Rock” church said the purpose for sending out the dead bunny postcard is to get people to stop talking about the Easter Bunny and start talking about Jesus. Instead, everyone’s talking about that church. The message here is obviously about church and getting more people to come to church, rather than about Jesus – even when they claim to be focusing on Jesus. Instead, as you say, people are just turned off. It makes me miss Michael Spencer (the original iMonk) even more, and his emphasis that Jesus is the message.

      (Hmmm, a PR man playing meat-shield for the macho pastor…sounds just like you-know-who.)

      • People are not talking about Jesus, pastor, they are laughing about the uptight Christians who can’t even enjoy their own holy day and who prefer to upset little children and make everyone as miserable and pinch-mouthed as they are.

        In the words of Blackadder, “Wibble.”

  12. Leon Russell is performing in Fargo this weekend.


  13. Dana Ames says

    Agree with above re Pagels article. Interesting what she says about the opposition to Revelation being included in the canon. In the Orthodox church, Revelation is included, but it is never read during any worship or prayer service, because no Orthodox dogma is derived specifically or solely from it. So the non-unanimous decision of the Council of Nicea still stands for us 🙂

    The Easter bunny article makes some questionable assertions. Roman Catholicism becoming dominant in Germany in the 15th century??? And the reason Christians use the word “Easter” is because of a goddess? I used to think that (and the notion that Christmas was established to divert people from celebrating Saturnalia) was plausible, but other explanations are better:

    Blessed Easter – and Blessed Passover for our Jewish friends – and blessed Holy Week and Pascha to my fellow EOs.


    • It’s a pretty bad article, right enough, Dana, and I’m disappointed that the Discovery channel should have anything to do with it. Either there was no proof-reading done, or the “University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture” is in pretty bad shape academically:

      “According to University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration — and the origin of the Easter bunny — can be traced back to 13th century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.”

      (1) 13th century Germany was still pre-Christian? Whoa, whoa, whoa, there, University of Florida! Try 3rd century, because I kinda sorta think, for a start, that the cathedral choir where the Pope’s brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger, was conductor celebrated their 1,000th anniversary back in 1976 which means they were founded before the 13th century, and if I’m not mistaken, there were a couple of other Christian churches around the place as well.

      (2) Here we go again with the goddess Ostara, or Eostre, or Eostra, or however they’re spelling her name this week. The primary source for this goddess? A mention in the 8th century text “The Reckoning of Time” by an English monk, the Venerable Bede, who talks about the pagan Anglo-Saxons of his own country as celebrating a month of feasts in honour of this goddess; the rest is philological reconstruction based on the name and how it may have been applied.

      (3) Rabbits – or hares. Both animals are associated with Spring, both are associated with various goddesses in Scandanavian and Teutonic mythology.

      (4) Easter is the English name and may (or may not) derive from the festival of this goddess but other countries which were pagan in their time call it by names associated with the Biblical terms Pasch and Pascha and Passover, for example, the Irish term is “Cásc”, derived from the church Latin “pascha”, and no mention of whatever pagan Irish celebration of the Spring Equinox.

  14. Leon Russell singing “Tightrope!” One of the best.

  15. With regard to Pagel’s article, separating what the Bible actually says from what the church has been teaching about it for 2,000 years remains a challenge. Her analysis of Revelation is nothing new, but helps emphasize how poorly we understand the historic, cultural and political context in which it scripture was written, and how inadequately our pastors are prepared in that regard at seminary.

    Give me a Cadbury Egg, another Red’s win, and the Resurrection. It just doesn’t get any better than that. 🙂

    Happy Easter, all.

  16. I remember seeing Leon Russell in concert a few years back. He has a very attractive daughter.

  17. Mr. Poet says

    A few years ago, my best friend called me and said he was going to ask me a question, and he did not want me to think about the answer before I answered. Whatever popped into my head first was the answer he wanted. So…

    “Where does the Easter Bunny keep his Easter eggs?” he asked.

    “Up his butt,” I replied without thought.

    He had asked several people, and no one could think of an answer. (“In his Easter basket” is the appropriate answer, but I was raised on Ren & Stimpy, Beavis & Butthead, etc.)

  18. An XB0X360 from a helicopter? I really hope it’s an egg with a gift certificate inside. Either way, this has lawsuit written all over it. I’m trying to imagine what the plastic eggs will do when dropped below the helicopter’s downdraft. They probably won’t even hit the stadium. Cinthia Tobias has a similar story in one of her books, where the bright abstract-randoms had the great idea of releasing Bible tracts attached to helium balloons as a community outreach, until one of those fuddy-duddy thinkers in the church pointed out that the air currents will carry them into the next state.

    Jesus’ miracles were “attractional”? I thought they were prophetic? The feeding of the 5,000 was no publicity stunt. Even the crowd didn’t get its meaning. It actually was a pivotal moment, when the crowds began turning away from Jesus.

    Oh, never mind. None of this is about Jesus, anyway. I’ll just quietly pound my head against the wall.

  19. Jeff…

    The Mormon shopping mall has been going on for a while. Go figure…Mormon missionaries living on $200.00 a month are begging for food. yet the LDS chruch has bene working on this project for a while.


    BTW…on the other post I posted about my expereince at National Community Church last night. Tomorrow I have a regular evangelical church service, and a freind who asked me to attend one service at Sovereign Grace. Tomorrow will be interetsing. I will have attended more services this weekend than I did in 2011. 😯

  20. It may have happened too late for Jeff’s Saturday’s ramblings, but let’s not forget Thomas Kinkade passing. Love him or hate him, he epitomized how to use the Christian industry for marketing purposes.

    • Allen, shouldn’t you mean “the marketing industry for Christian purposes”?

      No, probably not. You were right.

      I’m sorry, that was a little harsh for Easter Sunday morning. But I’m not a fan of his art. I do wish his family well however.

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