For us and for our salvation?:

That Jesus died for our sins is so ingrained in Christianity it seems almost absurd to question it. It’s in our creed: “For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” It’s in our prayers: “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.” It’s in our hymns: “Who did once upon a cross, Alleluia! Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!”

But the concept of atonement—that God and humanity have been reconciled through Jesus—hasn’t always focused so exclusively on Jesus’ death as a sacrifice and payment for sin. Like most teachings, it has evolved over the past 20 centuries of Christian thought, and today is being critiqued by some as problematic, not only for what it says about God but also for what it may mean for victims of violence.

This is an interesting and nuanced article about the history of theologies of salvation in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches. Few people realize that the story of salvation which is usually identified as “Christian” is actually more accurately called “Anselmian” — that is, derived from the theology of the 12th century theologian, St. Anselm — and that it is only one of several competing theologies of salvation.

Indeed, according to Father Robert Barron, professor of systematic theology at Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary, who is himself sympathetic to Anselmian theology, many modern Protestants and Catholics even “out-Anselm Anselm,” taking his theology to lengths he himself would not have approved:

Without overstating Anselm’s theories, Barron rises to defend him, noting that he, like his medieval contemporaries, saw God as utterly perfect, never needing anything from creation nor experiencing passing emotions. Anselm’s atonement theology “does not mean that God has fallen into an emotional snit or that he is a raging dysfunctional father demanding to be placated, or that he needs to see blood before his rage will die down,” Barron explains. “All of that would have struck Anselm as pagan and idolatrous, utterly irreconcilable with a proper understanding of the transcendence of God.”

I see this as somewhat parallel to the issue of Creationism: many people identify think that every Christian must believe that the universe was created six thousand years ago, in six days, and many people similarly believe that every Christian must believe that Jesus had to die to appease God’s demand for retributive justice in the face of human sin. Both have some Biblical justification, both have been supported by fathers of the Church, both have been accepted by many good and thoughtful people, and in both cases, the idea that those beliefs are necessary and defining for Christians have driven many people far away from Christianity.

Treaty of Tripoli on America as a Christian Nation

Founding Fathers Saw America as the First Entirely Secular Government

Surprising quote from the Treaty of Tripoli:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Boy, have we forgotten our history. This document was drawn up during Washington’s presidency, approved by both houses of Congress and signed by John Adams during his presidency. Nobody ever questioned the wording of this paragraph.

The page this was found on is fascinating — it thoroughly debunks the “America founded as a Christian nation” concept.

Via Mefi.

Christian right against ‘pro-gay’ sea sponge – World –

See, this isn’t even a little bit out of character for James Dobson. He really is that batshit crazy.

Christian right against ‘pro-gay’ sea sponge – World –

Christian right against ‘pro-gay’ sea sponge

By Tom Leonard
New York
January 22, 2005

Conservative Christian groups in the US have found a new sinner to rage against: SpongeBob SquarePants, a children’s cartoon character.

To his young fans and Nickelodeon, the television channel that broadcasts his escapades, SpongeBob is a sea sponge who lives with his pet snail, Gary, at the bottom of the sea. According to Nickelodeon, his “enthusiasm about just about everything makes him downright irresistible”.

Not to organisations such as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association, which insist that the character is spearheading an insidious campaign to spread homosexuality among children.

“Does anybody here know SpongeBob?” Dr James Dobson, Focus on the Family’s founder, asked guests this week at a dinner in Washington for Republican congressmen.

Dr Dobson accused SpongeBob’s creators of enlisting him in a “pro-homosexual video” in which he appeared alongside fellow children’s television characters such as Barney the purple dinosaur and Jimmy Neutron. The makers of the video planned to send it to thousands of primary schools to promote a “tolerance pledge” that includes tolerance for differences of “sexual identity”.

But, as far as his critics are concerned, SpongeBob’s complicity in the spreading of sin is proved by the knowledge that he is already a well-established gay icon – supposedly because he holds hands with his sidekick, Patrick, and they like to watch an imaginary television show called The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.

Nile Rodgers, the video’s creator, argues that objections to the program are based on a misunderstanding.

He insists that the video, which has been shown on network television, carries no reference to sexual identity and the tolerance pledge is mentioned only on his group’s website.

SpongeBob was “outed” by the US media in 2002 after reports that the TV show and its merchandise were popular with gays. His creator, Stephen Hillenburg, said at the time that he thought of all the characters as asexual.

It is not the first time that children’s TV favourites have come under the critical spotlight of the US Christian right. Tinky Winky, the purse-toting purple Teletubbie, was in 1999 declared a homosexual role model by the Reverend Jerry Falwell.

No peace on Earth during unjust war (Andrew M. Greeley)

I could be Catholic if more Catholics were like Greeley.

No peace on Earth during unjust war

No peace on Earth during unjust war

December 24, 2004


One reads in the papers that the Pentagon expects the war in Iraq to continue till 2010. Donald Rumsfeld will not guarantee that it will be over by 2009. How many dead and maimed Americans by then? How many sad obituaries? How many full pages in the papers with pictures of all the casualties?


The reasons change: weapons of mass destruction, war on terror, freedom and democracy for the people of Iraq, American credibility. All are deceptions. This cockamamie and criminally immoral war was planned before the Sept. 11 attack in which Iraq was not involved. It has nothing to do with the war on terror. American-style freedom and democracy in Arab countries are hallucinations by men and women like Paul Wolfowitz and Condi Rice whose contribution to the war is writing long memos — Republican intellectuals with pointy heads.

One must support the troops, I am told. I certainly support the troops the best way possible: Bring them home, get them out of a war for which the planning was inadequate, the training nonexistent, the goal obscure, and the equipment and especially the armor for their vehicles inferior. They are brave men and women who believe they are fighting to defend their country and have become sitting ducks for fanatics. Those who die are the victims of the big lie. They believe that they are fighting to prevent another terror attack on the United States. They are not the war criminals. The ”Vulcans,” as the Bush foreign policy team calls itself, are the criminals, and they ought to face indictment as war criminals.

There is an irony in the promise of a prolonged war. The Vulcans believed that, as the world’s only superpower, the military might of the United States was overwhelming, irresistible, beyond challenge. In fact, the war into which they tricked us has become a quagmire, 130,000 American troops are at the mercy of perhaps 5,000 true-believer guerrillas and an Iraqi population that doesn’t like Americans any more than it liked Saddam Hussein. It is a war in which there is no possibility of victory — whether it ends in June 2005 or June 2010, whether there are 2,000 American battle deaths or 50,000, whether there are 10,000 wounded Americans or 500,000, whether those with post-traumatic stress are 10 percent of the returning troops or 30 percent.

One of the criteria for a just war is that there be a reasonable chance of victory. Where is that reasonable chance? Each extra day of the war makes it more unjust, more criminal. The guilty people are not only the Vulcans but those Americans who in the November election endorsed the war.

They are also responsible for the Iraqi deaths, especially the men who join the police or the army because they need the money to support their families — their jobs eaten up in the maw of the American ”liberation.” Iraqi deaths don’t trouble many Americans. Their attitude is not unlike the e-mail writer who said he rejoices every time a Muslim kills another Muslim. ”Let Allah sort them out.”

This time of the year we celebrate ”peace on Earth to men of good will.” Americans must face the fact that they can no longer claim to be men and women of good will, not as long as they support an unnecessary, foolish, ill-conceived, badly executed and, finally, unwinnable war. If most people in other countries blame the war on Americans, we earned that blame in the November election — not that there is any serious reason to believe that Sen. John Kerry would have had the courage to end the war. Perhaps if he had changed his mind, as he did about the war in Vietnam, and opposed the Iraqi war, he might have won. Too late now. Too late till 2010 — or 2020.

Note: Some conservative Catholics — Republicans, I assume — are spreading the word on the Internet that I am an ”unfrocked” (sic) priest. That is false witness. I am and have been for 50 years a priest in good standing of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Call (312) 751-8220 if you don’t believe me. False witness is a grave sin and must be confessed before Christmas communion. Moreover, those who commit it are bound to restore the reputation of the one about whom they’ve lied.

School Defends Slavery Booklet

Raleigh News & Observer notes:

Students at one of the area’s largest Christian schools are reading a controversial booklet that critics say whitewashes Southern slavery with its view that slaves lived “a life of plenty, of simple pleasures.”

Leaders at Cary Christian School say they are not condoning slavery by using “Southern Slavery, As It Was,” a booklet that attempts to provide a biblical justification for slavery and asserts that slaves weren’t treated as badly as people think.

Years ago I lived in the Triangle area. I was getting my Master’s in Latin from the University of North Carolina. For a semester I made a little extra money teaching on Fridays for a “Friday School” for home schoolers. I taught Latin. This was a huge selling point for the school, which billed itself as a “Classical Christian” school and was part of some movement in that direction.

Apparently one of the booklet’s authors wrote the book which inspired that movement.


According to BoingBoing, where I got the story, the school has pulled the booklet because of the controversy.


I had no idea how creeptastic this “Classical Christian Education” stuff was. This is from a PDF made available by Wilson on his web site. The booklet is full of gushing about how important it is to learn Latin and the importance of language and imagination for the Christian mind, all stuff that sounds good, then it comes out with this:

Fundamental to Christian worldview thinking is the biblical notion of antithesis. An antithesis is a sharp juxtaposition of two claims or views. Part of thinking like a Christian means that we aim to rid our outlook of all non-Christian assumptions about the world, history, human nature, knowledge, science, the arts, and every other subject. In its place we seek understanding from God’s revelation on each and every concern, for in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? (Col. 2:3).

To be a Christian is to be in constant, total war. We have no say in the matter, and no one is exempt from serving. This war is not just some sideline feature of the Christian life. It is the Christian life. Every step toward seeing “every knee bow? before the Lord of glory is an act of war, whether in faithfulness or hatred. Until that point, the war is ruthless and relentless. The horrific enemy onslaught never ceases.

This war is not only constant but total, unconfined, and overwhelming. It is not limited to the daily fight against our own sin but encompasses everything within and without. It is not limited to our own or any one time but rages in every corner of history. It is not limited to our own flesh-and-blood world and history but is driven by dark clashes in heavenly places.

And as this battle moves us all along, killing and maiming, crushing and roaring, much of contemporary Christianity fights with bumper stickers and self-esteem seminars. As the enemy smiles and schemes to ravage our children and decapitate our churches, we try to play down our differences with our attackers and use their institutions as models for our own. As they mock Christ to His face, we learn to relax, take a joke, and create a more entertaining worship atmosphere. The only thing worse than being cut to death in the middle of a war is having it happen without realizing it.

The ironic thing is that, well, if Christians had historically held to this belief, there would be no Classical Christian education because Christians would have rejected wholesale the Classical culture on which the medieval intellectual tradition he so loves is based.

Few actual medieval intellectuals would recognize this kind of bile as having anything to do with themselves.

Of course, he’s not into the medievals that much — he is a very angry, angry Calvinist, and Calvin lived at the dark and chaotic end of medieval civilization, when Christianity was slicing itself to ribbons with the tools of Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric that Wilson idolizes (and I choose that word carefully).


I met a guy at the coffee shop a while ago who works for a Christian school on the north side of town, about eight or nine months ago, and he dropped the Classical Christian Education buzzword. They had been looking for a teacher of Greek I just missed applying for that job, but in retrospect I’m sure glad I did miss it. I do not want to be a part of that kind of thing.

No wonder our country is in such rotten shape, if it’s full of people who respect this kind of thinking. It’s not even thinking, it’s freaking pathology. And apparently it’s everywhere.

And in his happy little slavery booklet Wilson shows some glimmer of the kind of agenda that follows from it.