The Death of the Episcopal Church is Near

By Ryan P. Burge, Eastern Illinois University

Last November, I wrote a post for Religion in Public with the title, “The Data is Clear – Episcopalians are in Trouble.” In it, I used survey data to paint a portrait of a denomination that was on the brink of collapse. One of the most troubling things about the future of the Episcopal Church is that the average member is incredibly old. The median age of an Episcopalian in 2019 was sixty-nine years old. With life expectancy around 80, we can easily expect at least a third of the current membership of the denomination to be gone in the next fifteen or twenty years. That’s problematic when membership has already been plummeting for decades.

Source: The Death of the Episcopal Church is Near

It’s not just Episcopals. Every mainline protestant denomination in America is facing exactly the same graphical prediction of doom: Methodists, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. In most cities, these churches are sitting on prime spots in the cityscape. In big cities, they are modern-day castles, occupying entire blocks of downtown. Like I’ve been saying for awhile: in 10 years, there will be a national bonanza on a lot of interesting real estate. I imagine that it’s already begun.

Sources and parallels of the Exodus – Wikipedia

The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of the Israelites. There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, and the Sinai Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium BCE (even Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites are said to have spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy). In contrast to the absence of evidence for the Egyptian captivity and wilderness wanderings, there are ample signs of Israel’s evolution within Canaan from native Canaanite roots. While a few scholars discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the exodus story, the majority of archaeologists have abandoned it, in the phrase used by archaeologist William Dever, as “a fruitless pursuit”.

The biblical narrative contains some details which are authentically Egyptian, but such details are scant, and the story frequently does not reflect Egypt of the Late Bronze Age or even Egypt at all (it is unlikely, for example, that a mother would place a baby in the reeds of the Nile, where it would be in danger from crocodiles).

Source: Sources and parallels of the Exodus – Wikipedia

These are the lead graphs from the Wikipedia page on the Biblical account of the Exodus. I’ve been watching this space for a long time, with some fascination. Every few years or so, someone claims to have proven that some detail of the story could not have been correct, so, therefore, the story is pure fiction. The biggie, of course, was that the Jews could not have been slaves who built the pyramids. Rather, it is now settled scholarship that the people who built the pyramids were patriotic Egyptians, who were paid and fed well for their work for the empire.

I would assume that Wikipedia’s editors would begin the discussion of “the consensus of modern scholars” with the most-significant pieces of evidence against the narrative being factual. (Wait. I thought “science” didn’t care about consensus? I guess that’s only climate science.) Anyway, the first issue is that there was no archaeological findings to establish Jewish habitation of the Sinai peninsula.

First of all, according to the Biblical account, they only spent 38 years in that region, which happens to be a largely featureless, wind-swept desert. This is one second of time, archaeologically-speaking, in a place that would actively obfuscate evidence of passage through it. These conditions would make finding a record of them difficult in the best of circumstances.

Second of all, the Biblical narrative records that they lived as nomads, in tents, moving continually — as beduins — building no permanent structures. Most famously, the center of their mobile “city” was the Tabernacle housing the Ark of the Covenant, which was setup, torn down, and carried away at every location. In essence, they left virtually nothing behind to record their journeys.

Did these “modern” “scholars” never actually read the text they are disproving? I recognize that the position for the narrative being true is that you can’t disprove a negative, but even so, this is hardly the slam dunk they seem to think it is. There’s no contradiction with the account on this point.

Second of all, “modern” “scholars” take issue with a mother floating a baby down the Nile River due to the fear of crocodiles. Again, I have to ask: did these “modern” “scholars” even read the Bible? Moses’ mother would have put him in a basket of reeds, despite any fear of crocodiles, because not doing so meant certain death at the hands of the Egyptians.

I’m a fan of science. I’m a fan of archaeology. I’m a fan of Biblical history. There are parts of the Bible that seem incongruent to me, but most of the issues that “modern” “scholars” raise don’t seem persuasive to me. It just seems like trying to rewrite history to fit their worldview, as much as they claim is was originally written to fit the Jewish worldview. I could just as easily point to this documentary, which makes some very compelling arguments that the account is true, and that turn-of-the-century Egyptologists got the timeline wrong, and no one wants to go back and edit every book ever written on ancient Egypt.

This persons’s snap story! Just doesn’t seem real at all. : thatHappened

This persons’s snap story! Just doesn’t seem real at all. from thatHappened

About 30 years ago, I started going to an Apostolic Pentecostal church. We believe that the stories in the Bible paint a picture of a God who is still very much involved in this world’s affairs, even though most people blow this sort of thing off.

One Wednesday evening, our Pastor was out of town, and one of the assistant pastors was preaching. At the end of service, he started to get a little agitated. He was trying to shut down the service and dismiss, but he was clearly wrestling with something. Finally, he said that he didn’t know why, but that he was “feeling led” to have us all to join hands in a big circle around the sanctuary.

He admitted it was odd. We all thought it was odd. It was awkward. We sang a song, and started to leave, but someone who had never been to our church before leaned over to the assistant pastor, and he gave him the mic. I couldn’t believe it. You don’t give a mic to a stranger. What was he thinking?

That stranger told us that he had been praying: God, if you’re actually real, lead me to a church, and if they all join together and hold hands, I’ll know that’s the church I’m supposed to go to. Now, you would think that this would cement someone’s decision to live for God forever, but, no, he came a few more times, and then stopped coming.

Regardless, I wanted to relay the story in response to this Reddit post, because I’ve seen “that happened” for myself. You can make fun of the posted story, but I’ve seen almost this same thing happen with my own two eyes.

Stop the EARN IT Bill Before It Breaks Encryption | EFF Action Center

The House and Senate are both pushing forward with the so-called “EARN IT” Act, a bill that will undermine encryption and free speech online. Attorney General William Barr and the DOJ have demanded for years that messaging services give the government special access to users’ private messages. If EARN IT passes, Barr will likely get his wish—law enforcement agencies will be able to scan every message sent online.

Source: Stop the EARN IT Bill Before It Breaks Encryption | EFF Action Center

Once again, I remind conservatives and Christians that every surveillance and law enforcement power we accede to the government in the name of terrorism or child pornography will eventually be used against people who quote and speak about the verbatim contents of the Bible, when they make such acts illegal.

Google And Oracle’s Decade-Long Copyright Battle Reaches Supreme Court : NPR

Source: Google And Oracle’s Decade-Long Copyright Battle Reaches Supreme Court : NPR

I don’t want Oracle to win on the basis of software copyrights, but I do want Google to lose, and get hit with an astronomical penalty. I also would love to see a general chilling effect on the use of Java and Oracle, which I think are terrible technical choices today. But everyone involved here is part of the problem of our country being a captured corporatocracy now, so I’m very conflicted. If there’s a way that they both lose, and the public wins, I’d be for that.

What the Hobby Lobby Ruling Means for America – The New York Times

If the court follows the logic of its Hobby Lobby decision in the decades to come, it’s not so hard to imagine a job market where people must interview employers about their religious and political views. Or where people who need to make a living may just feel compelled to accept a work environment increasingly shaped by their employers’ beliefs.

Source: What the Hobby Lobby Ruling Means for America – The New York Times

Scary quote by the Times, from years ago, but which I’m just now seeing. Scary, because you might feel pressured to adopt a more Christian-aligned mindset. God forbid!

Everyone who works for someone else feels at least a little pull towards their mindset, even if it’s just one person working for one other person. If you’re already compatible, great! If not, you have to decide for yourself if you’re so incompatible that it’s better to find other work, or start your own business.

The Times seems to be pretending that only Christian-owned companies have a culture that some people might feel uncomfortable with. The truth is that every organization — including companies — has a culture, and some people who are a part of it — including employees — may not feel completely comfortable in it. People join all sorts of organizations — companies, churches, charities, sporting leagues, neighborhood groups — with which they don’t completely agree, because they get enough out of the association that they are willing to put up with the stuff they don’t like. This is called “living in a society.” We all have to “live and let live.” You know, do our thing, while not preventing others from doing theirs.

As our society becomes more insular because of social media and, now, quarantine, this concept is indeed becoming lost. Also, I can understand why this writer at the Times, in that ivory tower of monoculture, seems to be confused about this situation. And, frankly, the fact that a Christian built a business with an overtly-Christian culture is easy target to attack because it’s so rare.

Joaquin Phoenix Thanks Oscar Crowd for ‘Second Chance’: ‘I’ve Been Selfish, I’ve Been Cruel’

Joaquin Phoenix accepted his best actor award for “Joker” with a speech that touched on racism, animal rights and his own ability to change.

“I’ve been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with,” he said. “I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. And I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of humanity.”

Source: Joaquin Phoenix Thanks Oscar Crowd for ‘Second Chance’: ‘I’ve Been Selfish, I’ve Been Cruel’

So. much. this.

For nearly 30 years, I’ve been pastored by a visionary man who believes this to his core. I’ve seen what redemption looks like in many people’s lives, and I cannot agree any harder: this is the very best of humanity.

Why white evangelicals are so hostile to immigration – Vox

The Bible contains numerous passages that seem to straightforwardly exhort care for the poor, immigrants, and refugees. Isaiah 10, for example, sees God excoriating those who “turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right.” In Matthew 25 (which a Methodist pastor quoted to Jeff Sessions Monday while protesting his speech), Jesus warns his followers that those who withhold care from the poor or the refugee — “the least of these” — are seen as having done it to Jesus himsel

Source: Why white evangelicals are so hostile to immigration – Vox

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on various social media sites, wherein liberals support taking a lax view on illegal immigration by using scriptural anecdotes, and paraphrasing things Jesus is quoted as saying. I have to say that I find it pretty hypocritical.

After many decades of trying to remove all traces of God and the Bible from any public or legal space — and telling “bitter clingers” that any reference to scripture as it relates to sin was antiquated and offensive — people on the political left are now trying to invoke the teachings of the Bible, and the words of Jesus, to influence government policy, presumably to shame people on the political right into compliance.

“All scripture is inspired by God,” and I totally agree that we should be taking a “kinder, gentler” approach to immigration. However, if we’re going to base public policy on immigration and the border on the teachings of the Bible, then there are some other policies that I think should be reviewed in that light as well.