Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pastor Terry Jones won’t repent, but I think he’s resigned or retired

As I said in my previous post on Terry Jones, through his bold act of disgrace (to Islam) and defiance (to the Church), put himself into a position where there were only three rational options left: repent, resign or retire. No one who has so misrepresented our Lord on the world stage should be allowed to continue in pastoral ministry. He incited hatred of Muslims and when threatened he started carrying a .40-calibre pistol, making him armed and dangerous. It was this outrageous act which convinced me to present this case for Jones to repent, resign or retire.


Terry Jones put himself in harm’s way through his foolishness. A pastor who is carrying a gun and is prepared to use it is not following in the way of Jesus. He may have been protected by the 1st and 2nd Amendments, but he isolated himself from the Christian church and even among his 50 followers, at least 15 left him, maybe more now. We watched a man self-destruct. Since he clearly will not repent, it is best that he has now effectively resigned or retired.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

‘Pregnant nun’ ice cream ad: Is it offensive to Christians?

This ad ran in two British glossy magazines before being censored.

Pregnant nun ice cream ad

As you can see, this Antonio Federici ice cream ad features the tagline “Immaculately Conceived” along with the motto “Ice Cream is our religion” (cut off in the above pic). Do you find it to be offensive? Should Christians find this “ice cream” ad to be offensive? Or is it just a concern for Catholics? What do you think?

After receiving just a few complaints, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned any future use of this ad. “We considered the use of a nun pregnant through immaculate conception was likely to be seen as a distortion and mockery of the beliefs of Roman Catholics. We concluded that to use such an image in a light-hearted way to advertise ice cream was likely to cause serious offence to readers, particularly those who practised the Roman Catholic faith,” the ASA decision says.

The Italian ice cream company admitted to the ASA the ads are meant to criticize religion. “They said their decision to use religious imagery stemmed from their strong feelings towards their product ... and also from their wish to comment on and question, using satire and gentle humour, the relevance and hypocrisy of religion and the attitudes of the church to social issues,” the report says.

I do find the ad to be offensive and unacceptable. It is certainly not coincidental that the ad was run just before Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK, as the company’s response to the ASA decision was to try to purchase billboard spots (not under the ASA decision) along the papal route. In other words, this ad is more about attacking Christianity than about selling ice cream. Really then, this is not satire but a direct attack pretending to be an ice cream ad.

PM Stephen Harper serving ice cream, click here for bonus satirical article: What's the difference between Stephen Harper and Sarah Palin?I have no particular issue with satire, even religious satire. In fact, as Christians I think we should listen carefully when The Simpsons or Bill Maher or other media make fun of the church or Christianity. We should be aware of what they find objectionable and be prepared to address it. And we should recognize that a cartoon is just a cartoon and that satire is just satire. Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not go ballistic every time a press picture or political cartoon pokes fun at him and neither should we, even when Christianity is the target of the satire. It is a mode of expression and it can be informative to us and sometimes even entertaining – why shouldn’t we be able to laugh at ourselves? We’ve all sat through sermons that went on too long so whennun_eating_gelato The Simpsons pokes fun at that with Rev. Lovejoy preaching through the whole Bible in one sermon surely we can laugh. An ice cream website has this picture to left posted. They don’t use this, but I wouldn’t see a problem with a tagline like: “Give in to temptation” or “Indulge” or even “Sinfully delicious.” That would be satirical, but the Antonio Federici ad goes beyond that.

The nun is pregnant, labelled with the words “Immaculately Conceived” which is an attempt to mock the divine conception and virginal birth of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus. The people I asked in my office said that it was an attack on Christianity. One atheist co-worker said he liked it because it was making a total mockery of religion. Please note how the crucifix has been place on the nun’s pregnant belly. I feel that the ad is subtly challenging the entire notion of the incarnation of the Son of God. It is not just using hyperbole to exaggerate some common observation about Christianity. No it ridicules a central belief of all Christians – that the divine Son Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Thus, I am arguing that we should be offended by this ad and be glad that Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority decided to ban this ad.

rl00207pryng.tif I do not view the ad as an attack on Roman Catholicism alone even though a Catholic nun is depicted and properly understood the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is Roman Catholic and not generally accepted by Protestant or Evangelicals. You see, the Immaculate Conception is actually the teaching that the young girl who would be mother to God’s Son, the virgin Mary, was conceived without any stain or original sin (see Wikipedia article). Though accepted by Martin Luther, this is not commonly believed by Evangelicals today. So we could dismiss this ad, then, as a Roman Catholic issue, but here’s the problem! On the popular level, people do tend to believe that it refers to the conception of Jesus by a virgin, Mary, a confusion frequently demonstrated in the mass media (again, Wikipedia article). As I said, my co-workers saw it as an attack on Christianity. I concluded that the best thing for me to do was to say that I did not the like the ad and that I felt it went too far. I said that it had nothing to do with selling ice cream and instead was trying to attack the beliefs of the Church because the Pope was coming to the UK, and that was showing incredible disrespect and unacceptable in a modern society which claims freedom of religion.

Imagine how different the response would be if Antonio Federici had published an ad depicting a Muslim cleric eating their ice cream and making a statement which compared the ice cream to something significant about the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. In that scenario, do you think Matt O'Connor, the creative director at the ice-cream company, would argue that the ad is an "intelligent, challenging and iconoclastic piece of advertising” as he did in this current situation? It’s important for us to recall the worldwide fury in 2005 after a Danish cartoonist’s depiction of Mohammed wearing a bomb in his turban was published in a Danish newspaper. The latest attempt to murder cartoonist Kurt Westergaard occurred on January 2, 2010 by a Somali Muslim who broke through the security of the man’s house and was swinging an axe and a knife when he shot by police. Or how about Molly Norris?Molly Norris She’s the Seattle cartoonist who drew up a poster declaring May 20 to be “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” That poster features no religious imagery and was designed to be a satirical response to the Comedy Network for its censorship of South Park. Again, with the nun eating ice cream ad above, the ice-cream maker said the idea of "conception" represented “the development of their ice cream and their use of religious imagery was a commitment to their product.” Who would dare publish such an ad mocking Islam in the same way? Molly Norris wouldn’t do it again (please read this important article). As you read this follow-up from The Seattle Weekly, keep in mind that she drew a cartoon poster – it’s not like she was threatening to burn Qur’ans!

You may have noticed that Molly Norris’ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly.

The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, “going ghost”: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It’s all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon.

Why does our society accept that’s how it is with Islam and then insist on the right to attack Christianity and treat it with total disrespect. Again, I have no problem with religious satire: go ahead mock, ridicule, poke fun at the things Christians do – I laugh just as hard as the atheist at some of satire in the Simpsons. No problem. But publish an ad which mockingly depicts a pregnant nun and attacks a central belief of Christians and doing this to insult the Pope who is coming to the UK on a state visit – well, that is just in poor taste. Perhaps, now only Antonio Federici ice cream could taste worse.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learning from the Professor and Mary Ann… here on Gilligan’s Island

mary-ann-prof-1 Back to school… for many of us, the first professor we ever knew was the Professor on Gilligan’s Island! He was incredibly intelligent and it seemed like he could invent almost anything from two coconuts and a bit of wire salvaged from the Minnow! I was always impressed that the Professor spoke with such an academic vocabulary that the Skipper and Gilligan could never understand what he was saying. Now I realize that was rather arrogant of the Professor to always speak over their heads, to always sound impressive and to always impose his great rescue plans on the others. Almost every time those rescue plans would come to nothing because Gilligan would do something clumsy or unintentionally make some big mistake that would ruin everything. And on a few occasions, it turned out that if Gilligan had not foiled the plan, all the castaways might have died instead of being rescued. You see, the Professor for all his intelligence struggled with pride, one of the seven deadly sins. He was so proud of his intelligence that he would always come up with these rescue plans by himself and assume he was correct in all his assumptions. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Sometimes the Professor’s plans weren’t really all that good, but pride kept the Professor from seeing this reality.

gilligans-island-show In medieval times, the Church made a list of seven deadly sins which are the starting points for all other sins. When Sherwood Schwartz created the TV show Gilligan’s Island, he marooned seven castaways on an uncharted desert isle. Schwartz said he wanted these vastly different characters to be a microcosm of the social diversity in the U.S. so that survival could teach them how to live together. Another theory has been widely circulated, one which I’m prepared to defend. The seven castaways each represent one of the seven deadly sins. This is actually the reason why none of their attempts to get off the island ever worked, they were too caught up in their personal sins to be able to truly work together and find a way of escape.

Mary Ann was very helpful on the island, always peeling vegetables, it seemed, and preparing meals for all the castaways. Mary Ann was a good sport, always willing to pitch and always aiming to please the others. It didn’t come out often, but when it showed itself, it became clearly that Mary Ann didn’t think much of herself, just a lowly farm girl from Kansas with big dreams. She was envious of Ginger’s beauty and glamour, envious of the Professor’s intelligence and envious of the Howell’s enormous wealth. Envy is, of course, another of the seven deadly sins. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). Poor Mary Ann had a hard time accepting herself and just being herself because she felt so insignificant compared to those she envied. She didn’t even make it to the theme song in the first season, “with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and his wife, the movie star, and the rest are here on Gilligan’s Isle.”

reunion-Russell-Johnson-Dawn-Wells-Bob-DenverI’ve made a case for all seven of the castaways each representing one of the seven deadly sins and published it at Squidoo: Gilligan’s Island and the Seven Deadly Sins. There are numerous lists and ideas about this on the Internet and some of them really disturbed me so I thought it was time to set the record straight. One published “Bible study” on this theme of the seven deadly sins argues that Gilligan is guilty of sloth which is totally ridiculous. If you’ve ever watched the show, I’m sure you’ll recall that Gilligan in fact does most of the work on the island, from gathering wood to picking fruit to fishing to doing the laundry and to the biggest task of all, serving the Howells. Another crazy theory argues that the Skipper is a big guy and thus guilty of two of the sins, leaving Gilligan without a deadly sin. So why is that crazy? Well, they go on to suggest that since Gilligan always wears that red shirt, he is, therefore, the devil and this is why he always ruins their plans to escape from the island! Again, this violates the very premise of the show which presents Gilligan as a lovable klutz, somewhat naive but well intentioned and yet very unlucky, not exactly Satan! These arguments parading as sophisticated socio-cultural analysis show little understanding about the nature of the seven deadly sins and even less understanding of the actual TV show. I’ve tried to return to an earlier, more accurate identification of the seven castaways and seven sins and you’re not going to believe which sin Gilligan most exemplifies!

Ken Symes’ Squidoo lens: Gilligan’s Island & the Seven Deadly Sins

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Qur’an Controversy in Florida: Why Pastor Terry Jones must resign, retire or repent

Why people are losing interest in the church – Case 2
Perhaps more Christians should be concerned about what’s going on in some churches today. The more I look, the more I understand why it’s getting harder to tell people about Jesus. We have churches making a mockery of what Jesus taught us. What are these churches thinking? I never read the author Anne Rice until she posted this on Facebook: “Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.” I think I’m beginning to understand her point. In each part of this series, I want to look at what one local church is doing and then ask what Jesus might say to them. Your feedback and guest posts are most welcome.


This is an extreme case of a church gone wrong, and I’m troubled that we even know about it. Why has the media chosen to give this man and his church so much attention, worldwide attention? It boggles my mind that such a dangerous story would be trumpeted so loudly. Would it not have been better to ignore him? Why give this man a global audience?

Let’s be clear on understanding what Pastor Jones has planned to do this Saturday, on the anniversary of 9/11. The burning of the Qur’an is an act of hatred. Creating a bonfire to burn Qur’ans which have been sent to Pastor Jones from people all over the U.S. will fuel hatred toward Muslim in those who participate in such an event. Since I do not believe that freedom of speech needs to include acts designed to incite hatred, I personally believe that this event should be stopped.

Christians have tried to convince Pastor Jones not to do this and so have Christian leaders. Now, religious leaders are urging him not to do it, joining opposition from the U.S. Armed Forces, State Department and White House. If God were trying to speak to you today, do you suppose it could be any more clear than it should be now to Pastor Jones and the 50 members of his church?

Pastor Terry Jones: no one can see how you could possibly think you are doing what Jesus would have you do. How could this act of hatred which will incite violence against American and Canadian soldiers as well as Christians worldwide—how could you think, even for a moment, that burning Qur’ans has anything to do with the mission Christ has given to his church? Sir, you have put yourself in a position where there are only three rational options left: repent, resign or retire. Repent—change your mind now because you are wrong. Or resign because you have clearly disqualified yourself to lead a church—no one who has so misrepresented our Lord on the world stage should be allowed to continue in pastoral ministry. Or retire before you do any more harm. Repent, resign or retire and be sure to do so before Saturday. This is your only way out now.

Terry Jones says he has received more than 100 death threats and as a result he “has started wearing a .40-calibre pistol strapped to his hip” (The Canadian Press). What does he plan to do with that gun? What’s his intention? This is not the Christian way. At the arrest of Jesus, one of his followers pulled out a sword and cut off the ear of someone in the arresting party. Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that this was not the way that a true follower of Jesus should respond.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blessing for your Blackberry, iPhone, netbook, etc.

ew083110technology.jpg Rev. Lisa Vaughn is inviting Blackberry addicts, iPhone worshippers and users of mobile phones and other technological gadgets to bring them in this weekend for a special blessing. “It’s not just about please don’t let my cellphone drop calls today,” says the pastor of the Anglican parish of St. Timothy, on the road to Peggy’s Cove, somewhat near Halifax, Nova Scotia. “It’s about, you know, help me to be the best Christian, the best person I can be in my conversations, in my communication.”

Vaughn is holding offering this decidedly contemporary blessing service this Sunday on the Labour Day weekend. "I think they traditionally used to call it Plough Monday, where people used to bring their farming equipment and tools to the church to be blessed," said Vaughan of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Hatchet Lake. "Most of us live with our cellphones and laptops and BlackBerrys and all that kind of stuff. I mean, those are just daily tools for us."

rev-lisa-vaughn-iphoneA youthful woman with short hair and a past career in journalism, she says her motto is don’t be boring. “The gospel message is as relevant as it gets,” Rev. Vaughn says. “How do we package it is the question. This message of Christ is the most important thing but the packaging needs to change.”

Vaughn recently read about a church in London, England, that expanded its blessings to modern workday devices. It struck a chord with her, not least because she’s quite the wired person herself. "We have three laptops and three tabletop computers in our house," she said. "I’m about to buy some kind of smartphone. I just haven’t decided what it’s going to be!" Vaughan also uses Facebook to connect with friends and her congregation, and she plans to open a Twitter account for St. Timothy’s.

facebook - Ken Symes She acknowledged the Internet has its share of problems and presents a side of the world that might seem incompatible with the church. "But I think it’s a wonderful tool," she said. "I think God is blessing it in all kinds of ways and we shouldn’t be afraid of it as Christians. We need to embrace it. That’s where a lot of our folks are — they’re emailing, they’re texting. And if that’s where they are, that’s where we should be."

The blessing itself will include the hope that we’re patient and kind in our communications with each other during the often hectic workday, Vaughn said. "And, as well, that it’s productive, that it’s life-giving, that it’s supportive to the community as a whole."

While the services are meant to be a fun way to celebrate Labour Day, there’s a serious spiritual point to be made, she said. "It’s also a reminder for people that God is present, not just one hour per week on a Sunday morning or evening. We make decisions every day about our work and our words, and in that we’re not alone."

This is a great idea! Think about the amount of time we spend on our Blackberrys, iPhones, netbooks and other gadgets. And how often do we misuse these devices, killing time on foolish things or look at thingsrev-lisa-vaughn-blessing-blackberry that we wouldn’t want everyone to know that we were viewing.  Prayer should intersect with our daily lives. So I say “Kudos to Rev. Lisa Vaughn.” Since you might not be able to make it to her Halifax-area church on Sunday, get your device now, hold it close to the screen, hit this link to a video of the blessing and bow your head (and after the commercial, you will be blessed). God bless you and your device.

*This blog posting is a re-edit of content from the excellent articles written by Oliver Moore for The Globe and Mail and John McPhee for The Chronicle Herald. Please see their articles for original copy.
This marks the second time in just two weeks that I’ve posted an article related to Terence Bay, Nova Scotia! I pray for God’s blessing on Don Symes and hope that he is recovering well in Terence Bay from that horrible ordeal in Libya.
Here’s how you can find out more about The Anglican Parish of St. Timothy, Hatchet Lake and St. Paul, Terence Bay.


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