Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The End of Christian America: A Christian Response

'Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.' Jeremiah 23:1


Last night my friend Jonathan was telling me about his decision to confirm Christ in his heart. He had been raised in the church, and upon reaching adulthood had gone through a period of doubt and disbelief. He also specifically expressed having a problem with some Christians, whom he simply didn't like. I empathized with the sentiment, though in the end I think our problem is largely with people who claim to be Christian but are not.

This morning I saw that the cover article of Newsweek was entitled: The End of Christian America. Today being April 9th, and this being Holy Week, it's a logical choice for a lead story, and I looked it over. As I read I was struck with the idea that some of the people most up in arms about that sad decline are in part responsible for it.

The article, written by Jon Meacham and published April 4, begins: 'The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen ten points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now--and what, as a nation, we are about to become. It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.--president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth--read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler--a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life--the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent.' -- Newsweek, April 4, 2009

I first heard of Mohler--who likes to be called Dr. Mohler--last fall. His radio program is aired on one of my local Christian stations, WTBN. One evening I decided to give it a listen. It really wasn't to my liking, because rather than expositing scripture and glorifying Christ, he was pontificating about contemporary issues like some self-appointed moral authority. I was reaching to change the station when I heard something that dropped my jaw. Mohler's show is sponsored by Superior Gold Group--gold101.com. I went to the website out of curiosity, played the introductory video, and in the background of a shot of some shiny gold coins, the first three words I heard were: "Gold is king."

I was absolutely flabbergasted that a Christian radio program would be sponsored by a company that would make such an audacious statement, so contrary to Scripture and Christian philosophy on so many levels. There is but one king, who is the King of kings, who is Jesus Christ, and 'no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.' Matthew 6:24.

And we all know how God regards gold, for His disdain of man's esteem for the stuff appears repeatedly throughout the Bible. 'The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.' Psalm 19:9-10. 'Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold...by me kings reign...my fruit is better than gold.' Proverbs 8:10,15,19. 'The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.' Haggai 2:8. 'Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...but with the precious blood of Christ.' 1 Peter 1:18-19.

I emailed a number of employees at WTBN and Dr. Mohler to express my incredulity at this glaring incongruity. I know WTBN received my missive, because someone there inadvertently replied to my email when asking the station manager how he intended to answer me. He never did. Nor did anyone else at WTBN. Neither did Dr. Mohler. And as of this moment, Dr. Mohler's show continues to air on WTBN, and continues to be sponsored by Superior Gold, who continue to proclaim gold as king on their website. So, Dr. Mohler, let me ask you this: in exchange for the plugs on your show, does the Superior Gold Company pay you in cashier checks and bullion, or with prayers for your soul?

I left the Newsweek article, and just a few moments later came across this headline in The Colorado Independent: FOCUS ON THE FAMILY NARRATOR ARRESTED FOR LURING TEENAGE GIRL FOR SEX ON NET. Focus on the Family is an evangelical organization based on Colorado Springs that was founded and led by Dr. James Dobson, who recently announced his retirement. Juan Alberto Ovalle, a 42 year old man who works in the Spanish broadcast department and narrated Focus on the Family's audio Spanish Bible, was arrested on two felony counts of using the internet to lure a teenage girl for sex, when he drove to meet the girl--who turned out to be an undercover cop--after detailing the sexual acts he wanted to perform with her. Ovalle had appeared in court on Monday, April 6th. And while it is certainly unfair to blame and indict an entire organization for the unseemly conduct of one member, I do find it odd that as I edit this article, on April 14, Mr. Ovalle's Santa Biblia (Holy Bible) is still available for purchase ($24.99 plus shipping) at Focus on the Family's website. While he must be presumed innocent, if in fact he committed the crime, the truth is that Focus on the Family is distributing a version of the Bible read aloud by a pedophile, insomuch as we can substitute 'child' for 'woman' and 'pedophilia' for 'adultery' in the scripture: 'whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart.' While Focus on the Family has every right to wait until the justice system makes its pronouncement, God already knows the truth, and for my part I think I would err on the side of caution, and remove those bibles from the shelves.

I first heard about Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family last summer, around the time the presidential election shifted into high gear. They came to my attention when they released that absolutely preposterous video in early August calling on their followers to pray for 'abundant, torrential, umbrella-ain't-gonna-help you, flood advisory rains of biblical proportions to swamp the streets of Denver,' during the Democratic National Convention. They immediately retracted the video, claiming it was partly a joke, but how do they reconcile that with the inerrant scriptural truth of Matthew 12:34 'O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.'

A few days later Tropical Storm Fay formed, and over the ensuing three weeks Fay, along with Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike dumped a few gallons of rain upon places ranging from the Caribbean to Texas to Florida and as far north as Massachusetts. They also caused an estimated 900+ deaths and roughly 40 billion dollars in damage.

Is that Christian prayer answered?

As the election approached, Dobson endorsed the McCain Palin ticket, even after unequivocally stating, on February 5, 2008, that "I cannot and will not vote for Senator John McCain, as a matter of conscience." Did a few shekels thrown at your ministry buy a change in conscience? During the 08 election cycle, Focus on the Family also funneled over half a million dollars into the fight over Proposition 8, which proposed to define marriage in California's constitution as between a man and a woman, thereby outlawing gay unions. A woman on Focus on the Family's board, Elsa Prince, donated almost another half million dollars to the campaign. Proposition 8 passed narrowly.

Not two weeks after the election Focus on the Family announced that it was laying off twenty percent of its workforce. They spent thousands and thousands of dollars in a fight to bar homosexuals hundreds of miles and three states away from marrying, then a week before Thanksgiving informed 202 members of their staff that they no longer had jobs in this terrible economy, and had to go elsewhere for employment or go on the dole. That's the holiday spirit! And then he heaped insult upon the injury when, just a couple days later, I happened to hear Dobson on WTBN one morning running down the list of retailers he deemed acceptable to shop at for holiday gifts, his determination being based on which ones would and would not say Merry Christmas in their advertising, as opposed to the more generic and broad appeal Happy Holidays. I was truly in disbelief at the boorish insensitivity of what I was hearing. I wondered if his retailer warning was airing within earshot of the laid off staff. I wondered if he informed them of their unemployment with a personal visit in his luxury car, or with a simple heartless email, or if he hired some minimum wage lackey to heft the axe. I wondered how much money Dr. Dobson had in the bank, and what nice, retailer correct gifts he planned to buy his own family for Christmas.

So after reading about Mr. Ovalle's arrest, I surfed around the internet and shortly thereafter found an interview with Rick Warren conducted two nights before by CNN's Larry King, on April 7. In the interview the renowned author and pastor Warren said, and I quote: "I am not an anti-gay, or anti-gay marriage activist. I never have been, never will be. During the whole Proposition Eight thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop Eight was going."

That is a LIE.

I just watched another video of Rick Warren from last fall, wherein he said, taken word for word from the video: "By the way, the election's coming up just in a couple weeks, I hope you're praying about your vote, and one of the propositions of course that I want to mention is Proposition Eight, which is the proposition that had to be instituted because the courts threw out the will of the people, and a court of four guys, actually, voted to change a definition of marriage that has been going for five thousand years. Now, let me just say this really clearly: we support Proposition Eight, and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition Eight. I never support a candidate, but on moral issues I come out very clear."
We know how God feels about liars. 'I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars...who shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.' Revelation 2:2, 21:8. By this do I say that I think Rick Warren is damned to skinny dipping in the flames of hell? I judge no man. I only give two examples of how scripture speaks to dissembling, and nowhere do I see it described is justified nor virtuous.

While I haven't yet read his books, what little I do know about Warren I find troubling. I watched the Obama McCain forum he held at Saddleback in August 08. He promised to ask each candidate identically worded questions about which they had no advance knowledge; he did not. And while Obama went first, during which time Warren assured his audience that McCain was backstage in a 'cone of silence,' McCain was in fact en route from the hotel, with very plausible access to the live feed of Warren interviewing Obama. And while Obama, when asked about his faith, gave a very eloquent discourse about his relationship to Christ, McCain, when asked the same question, diverted his answer to a story about his imprisonment in Vietnam.

Warren doesn't always lie. Sometimes he's just factually inaccurate. In November 2006, after a trip to Syria, while commenting on Christian Muslim coexistence in that nation, Warren stated: "In fact, you know Saul of Tarsus...Saul was a Syrian. St. Paul, on the road to Damascus, had his conversion experience, and so Christians have been here the longest, and they get along with the Muslims, and the Muslims get along with them. There's a lot less tension than in other places." Saul was a Jew from Tarsus, which is in TURKEY. He converted to Christianity and changed his name to Paul.

In December of 2008, Pastor Warren presented George Bush with the first International Medal of PEACE, in recognition of his contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The absolute and utterly absurd hypocrisy of that act needs no elucidation.

And while Warren claims not to endorse political candidates, during the 2004 election he made no secret of his preference. Two weeks before the election, he sent an email to the several hundred pastors on his mailing list, enumerating "non-negotiable" issues for Christians to consider when casting their votes: abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, euthanasia and human cloning. That's like my saying: "I'm not going to call the sun by its name, but I am referring to that burning, yellow orb in the daytime sky."

While I was at it, I decided to do a search on Tim LaHaye, to see if he'd been in the news recently. Dr. LaHaye is co-author of LEFT BEHIND, the bestselling series of apocalyptic novels based on his interpretations of biblical prophecy. I read about one hundred pages of the first book. While there was not a single scriptural reference and nary a mention of Christ, I was treated to a tedious, two page description of an airplane modem. The writing was uninspired, and certainly not the sublime clarity one would expect from a writer through whom God was revealing understanding of biblical prophecy.

Anyway, in my search I found an interview conducted with Dr. LaHaye by Rachel Maddow earlier in March. In it they were discussing Obama, Socialism, the rapture and the antichrist. I have transcribed an excerpt here.

LaHaye: "I'm not worried about Antichrist right now, because the truth is, the rapture has to take place first. And then after a period of indeterminate time, the antichrist will come onto the scene...The antichrist isn't going to take over the whole world all in a moment of time without preparation for the people of the world, and you'd have to admit that some of the great intellectuals of our time believe that the only way you'll have world peace is to have world socialism. Now they may call it something else, but it's where the government controls everything. And when the government supplies money and decides who can be poor and who can be rich and so on, that's social government."

Rachel: "So you think that Obama is a Socialist, and you think that a world socialist system is a necessary precondition for the rapture, and that after the rapture, then there's the antichrist."

LaHaye: "Yes."

Rachel: "So Obama's the antichrist doesn't make sense even if everybody believes everything we believe."

LaHaye: "He might be a closet Christian. He only claims to be a Christian, so if he is, when the rapture takes place he's out of here too."

For all his talk of antichrist, it seems to me that Dr. Lahaye, along with Dr. Dobson, Dr. Mohler and Rick Warren all endorsed and voted for one for president in 2004. 'As ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.' 1 John 1:18. George Walker Bush is an antichrist. For let us juxtapose the two. Christ is humble; Bush is arrogant. Christ is loving; Bush is vindictive. Christ is truth; Bush is a liar. Christ said 'Blessed are the peacemakers'; Bush is a warmonger. Christ's blood was shed for the redemption of all sin; Bush shed blood. Christ saves souls and serves God; Bush sold his soul and serves his master. Some call Christ the Son of Man; some call Bush the Son of Sam. Christ sanctifies life; Bush claimed to respect the sanctity of life as he dropped bombs on innocent babies, arrogantly disregarding the scripture: 'It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.' Luke 17:1-2.

And while we have the Bible open, let us turn to Proverbs chapter 6, verses 16-19. 'These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.' Which of these abominations does NOT apply to Bush?

On the other hand, let us turn to Ezekiel 18 and consider what God finds pleasing in a man. Verses 4-9: 'Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, and...hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the LORD GOD.'

As I write this I just heard Dr. Mohler in the background on WTBN lamenting the increases in contraception use and abortions as directly related to the crashing economy. Dr. Mohler, does it occur to you that our economy was destroyed by the policies of the politicians that you rallied 'Christians' to elect into office? If I punched myself in the mouth then complained about broken teeth, would you pity my plight?

For all that you speak in the name of Christ, you manifest the truth of the scripture: 'Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.' Romans 4:15; insomuch as you judge my faith by my vote in elections, and if I don't disregard all the issues and vote based on the candidates' stand on abortion (strictly a privacy issue, according to the LAW), you impute innocent blood to my hands. But then your 'pro life' candidates wage war, so yours are drenched too, we all commit murder and none can be saved.

You rant incessantly about abortion, but you care more about the rights of the unborn than you do the living, for the moment they are out of the womb you turn your back on the babes. You rail against liberals who think it more important that our government give a hungry child some bread and fish rather than a wealthy banker another tax break that he may buy a limousine to drive around his Miami mansion. If you want us to be a Christian nation, how is giving tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of ministering to the poor government in the service of God?

You demonize the word 'liberal,' and use it to revile the people it describes.

According to the dictionary, here are a couple of definitions of liberal: Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. Tending to give freely; generous.

And here is a scriptural definition of liberal: Isaiah 32:5-6: 'The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.'

Jesus Christ is liberal. And if a hypocrite's condemnation accuses me of being like Christ, then I am eternally blessed....

If Jesus came back today in flesh and blood, would you regard him with scorn and reproach, as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem treated him 2000 years ago? You'll say, 'of course not,' but I think you would. For the Christian leaders of today in many ways resemble the Pharisees who were in power when Christ walked upon the earth. Consider the criticisms Christ called upon the scribes and the Pharisees and the lawyers in the 23rd chapter of Matthew.

Verses 1-7: 'Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.'

That sounds to me like men who seek the spotlight wearing expensive suits, and who like to be called of men, 'Doctor, Doctor.' (Exactly why do Dr. Dobson, Dr. LaHaye and Dr. Mohler call themselves doctors? Who do they heal?)

Verse 14: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.'

You choose leaders whose bombs and bullets MAKE widows and DESTROY their houses; then you stand before television cameras and publicly pray in the name of Christ.

Verse 15: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.'

You cannot find enough lost souls who will follow you into the voting booth, and into your churches and rallies, and whithersoever you lead them.

Verses 16-17: 'Woe be unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?'

Are you listening, Dr. Mohler?

Verses 18-19: 'And, whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?'

There are not enough cash gifts and donations to satisfy the wants of some of these ministries. Just to give an example, I am on Dr. David Jeremiah's Turning Point ministry website now. His Circle of Friends is described as a giving program. It is a monthly minimum donation of $25 ($30 Canadian and International) to the ministry of Turning Point. Membership in The Inner Circle requires a minimum monthly donation of $50. What is the difference between the Circle of Friends and the Inner Circle, and why is it measured in dollars? Do you think Jesus charged the apostles an 'upgrade fee' for their 'promotions' from disciple?

Verses 23-24: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.'

You obsess about the sins of others, not taking heed to your own, and some of you spraying first stones like sanctimonious human tommy guns. You obsess about abortion while electing leaders who bomb innocent children on the other side of the world; you obsess about the points of law regarding homosexuals in other states--whose lives mean nothing to you, and have no bearing on yours, and who God will judge--while depriving your own family of their livelihoods. (WTBN is on in the background, and I just heard Dr. Dobson lamenting that because of the economy, people who once were able to sell stock options to make a gift to his ministry are now only able to offer smaller ten and twenty five dollar donations. Wow.) In the meanwhile our education system is a shambles, people are being foreclosed into homelessness, many impoverished are sick and dying because they can't afford healthcare, and we're sending our youth to die killing strangers on the other side of the world. In these ways and more do you swat at flies with bellies full of camel.

Verses 27-28: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.'

Armani suits and makeup, put on your public face. Lights, camera, action! The fields are green to harvest, and there are offerings to be gathered--er, souls to be saved.

Verses 29-30: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.'

As I said, you'll say that if he walked among us again today in an earthly body you would welcome and worship Christ, yet so many of you bear more resemblance to the murderers who hung him upon the cross than those who mourned at its foot.

You tell lies, protect pedophiles who are your own (see also the Catholic Church), pray for God to visit destruction upon fellow Christians, and exhort us to vote for an unholy warmonger for president, all in the name of Christ. How can you wonder why Christianity's rolls are in decline? Why would anyone who desires to live in truth, peace and love want to abide by your perverted examples of living in the faith?

'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spiritual wickedness in high places.' Ephesians 6:12

Do wolves hunt sheep in the desert? No, they go to the flocks where they graze, don wool costumes and lurk among them. If you are at all curious, don't let the pastors in private jets, the quacks and the devils in disguise turn you off: Jesus Christ is the greatest thing in this world. Read the Word and see for yourself.

Happy Easter. The Lord is risen.

Sarah Brosephina

Originally written as a Christmas gift for my beautiful friend Sarah.

Chapter 14
Sara Brosephina

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:4

His third morning in Albuquerque was Sunday, and a small church on the outskirt had caught his eye when PJ first drove him into town, so he decided to go and see what went on in there.

It was a several mile walk, and the service had already commenced when he entered, so he quietly took a seat in a pew near the back. There was a congregation of about thirty, and to his great delight the preacher was just beginning one of his favorite Bible tales, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The preacher was a short man with a full flower of white hair atop his head and he gesticulated and spoke with great animation. It was as much a theatrical performance as a telling from the pulpit.

"In the days of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image, which he ordered all people to fall before and worship; and decreed that whosoever would not was to be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Now there were three Jews set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who regarded not King Nebuchadnezzar's gods, and refused to worship the golden image which he had erected. When this was told to the king, he ordered the three men brought before him, and said: ‘if you will not serve my gods, nor worship the golden image I have set up, who is that God who shall deliver you when I have cast you into a burning fiery furnace?’ And Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego with one voice answered: ‘our God will deliver us from the fiery furnace, and out of thy hand. And be it known, O king, that we will not worship thy gods nor the golden image which thou hast set up.’

"At this King Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and commanded that the furnace be heated seven times more than it was wont. He then commanded the mightiest men in the army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and to cast them into the furnace, which was so hot that the flames therein flew out and slew the men. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished, and said, ‘did we not cast three men bound into the furnace? For lo, I see four men walking loose in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’

"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, you servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.’ Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Blessed by the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him.’"

"That the prophet Daniel wrote this six hundred years before the Son of God was given to the earth shows that life is eternal. And as are we tried by the fires of life, so by faith are we delivered into life everlasting."

Following the benediction, the pastor bid them all to take a moment of fellowship with their neighbor, and then to go on and have a splendid afternoon. There was a young woman beside Father Jeremy in the pew, who he had noticed quietly weeping; and so he went to her and said: "Why so sad, young lady?"

"My heart is broken," she softly replied.

"And who broke your heart?" he asked.

"Everyone in my life," she answered. She paused, and he patiently waited. "I came in here to pray for help in understanding why those who say they love me would do this to me."

"I've never been here in my life and don't know a soul," he said, "so maybe your prayer brought me to your side. I can shut up and turn into an ear if you'd like."

"Maybe talking would help...."

"It's a beautiful afternoon, we could go for a stroll," he suggested.

So they did, and as they went along she told him her story. Her name was Sarah Brosephina, she was twenty two and had been raised a Jehovah's Witness. (Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves the right church of Jesus Christ, while others regard them as a religious cult.) Two years before, in accordance with church law, she had been shunned by her family and the entire congregation because she broke off an engagement that her family had arranged with a boy in the church and took up with a different lad. Shrugging off the shackles of years of repression, and curious about the world she had been sheltered from, she dabbled with drugs, alcohol and sex, and had gotten a couple of tattoos. She had also celebrated her birthdays and Christmas, which was a serious violation of church doctrine. She was now sober, married and pregnant. She dearly missed her nieces, and all her family, and wanted them to be part of her coming baby's life, but refused to return to the church, and on their harsh terms.

The course of their walk happened to bring them by the Kingdom Hall, where the Jehovah's Witnesses worship; and at the very moment that an older man locked the side door and started walking directly toward them.

"Shunning loved ones isn't very Christ-like at all," Father Jeremy observed.

"I agree," she said. "Uh, oh...here comes Elder Josephus."

Their crossing paths was unavoidable, and when they did, the man said, "Good afternoon, Miss Brosephina. Are you come to return to the fold?”

"Return to the fold?" she repeated. "If I remain with Jesus, who is with me always, how could I have ever left?"

"Very well, Miss Brosephina," the man curtly said.

"Know you not the parable of the prodigal son which Jesus Christ taught?" Father Jeremy said. "How when the wastrel son returned home the father rejoiced and celebrated, and went out weeping to meet him? Knowing that Christ would await her with open arms at any moment she chose to leave and return, why do you coldly fold yours and turn your backs? For you know that there is more joy among the angels in heaven over one repentant sinner than ninety nine just persons who never strayed."

"Miss Brosephina has violated church law," Elder Josephus coldly explained. "If rules are not abided, they cease to exist; and without rules there can be only chaos. Miss Brosephina knows what she must do to return to our good graces."

"Except that the law of the Jehovah's Witnesses is false, and that they believe in things that are simply untrue," Father Jeremy said.

"How dare you!" Elder Josphus snorted. "If you knew what I know, you would know that what you just uttered is blasphemy."

"And if you knew what I know, you would know that much of what the Jehovah's Witnesses believe is in direct contradiction to what Christ taught, which is the truth. To start with, your church's founder, Charles Taze Russell, called himself 'God's mouthpiece.' Of such men did Christ prophesy in the twenty fourth chapter of Matthew: many false prophets shall rise, and many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Of these people he warned to believe them not, and to go not after them. Let me ask you this: of the death of Jesus, what do Jehovah's Witnesses believe was the manner?"

"We don't believe that he died on a cross, but on a single stake," Elder Josephus timidly answered.

"So let me get this straight," Father Jeremy responded. "God sent his only begotten son to be a light in the world, and to redeem mankind from his sin by dying on the cross, in front of many witnesses who bore it with written record, then let that light go dark through nineteen centuries of saints and faithful, only to spark it anew in a middle aged businessman from Pennsylvannia named Charles Taze Russell—a man who hid his worldly wealth from his wife (and therefore from God) before divorcing her—and who revealed to us, among other things, that Jesus did not die on a cross, but a stake."

"Um, yes, that's correct."

Jeremy continued: "That is just as wrong as the four dates the Jehovah's Witnesses set for Armageddon that came and passed and yet we are here. For notwithstanding that it is written in Mark chapter thirteen, verse thirty two, when Christ foretold of the end of the world and his Second Coming, of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only, the Jehovah's Witnesses went ahead not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times, in 1914, 1925, 1945, and 1975, and set specific dates for that hour which no man knoweth. So despite what the Bible says, God changed his mind and told these things to Charles Taze Russell."

Flustered, Elder Josephus said: "Stop saying Charles Taze Russell."

"Why? Who founded the Jehovah's Witnesses?" Jeremy asked.

"Charles Taze Russell," Elder Josephus answered.

"There, you said it,” Jeremy responded. “If I were to say to you that it were going to rain on Tuesday, and that day came and went without a drop; and I said a second time, it was definitely going to rain the following Tuesday, and that day came and went without a drop. How many times would you listen to me say it before you stopped believing that I knew about the rainfall? And if I proved myself repeatedly wrong about Tuesdays, would you believe what I predicted for Thursday, Friday and Saturday?"

Elder Josephus was speechless, and after a pause, Father Jeremy continued. "As a fellow Christian, please tell me about the one hundred and forty four thousand mentioned in Revelation. Surely you know what I’m talking about, and you are, after all, duty bound by Christ to shed that light on me."

Elder Josephus explained the church's belief. "One hundred and forty four thousand Christians will receive immortal life in heaven as co-rulers with Christ, ruling over mankind during the millennial reign. God's kingdom was established in heaven with Jesus Christ as King in 1914. The wicked will be destroyed in the war of Armageddon, and the survivors will form a new earthly paradise ruled over by a heavenly government."

"And Charles Taze Russell died in 1916, just in time to ascend and prepare for the one hundred forty three thousand nine hundred ninety nine to follow him,” Jeremy finished. “I assume you refer to the one hundred forty four thousand described in chapters seven and fourteen of Revelation." Jeremy removed the tiny New Testament from his pocket and read aloud. "And he cried unto the angels, hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. And he said unto me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
"We believe that parts of the Bible are intended to be interpreted symbolically," Elder Josephus explained. “The hundred and forty four thousand mentioned in Revelation are spiritual Israelites."

"Spiritual Israelites?” Jeremy remarked with disbelief. “Indeed they are not. They are very real, and of Hebrew blood. I will read the rest of the Scripture, from Revelation fourteen, then I will explain it, for I think I somewhat understand the truth of that mystery."

Father Jeremy found his page in the Bible and continued. "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their forehead. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb."

"Why would you interpret the writing symbolically when there is a literal explanation?” Jeremy asked. “Some of those are the Jewish children who were slaughtered in the great World wars. They are the firstfruits from God's firstborn Israel. For who suffered like Christ, and was as innocent, and of the same blood, but the children of the Holocaust? They were marked in the forehead, and as they were starved unto death by their murderers, neither shall they hunger nor thirst any more. As they were children, they are virgins. And what is the greatest sound the earth can make in God's ear? A choir of children. That is where you will find the hundred forty four thousand virgins who were redeemed from the earth into heaven to serve Christ, and to sing to him a new song, not in your secret society of elders running Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Halls. And just as Christ taught that they who exalt themselves will be humbled, so will it go with you when you die and find that you self-anointed chosen ones are not among the one hundred forty four thousand singers in that choir. That is what is written in my Bible," Father Jeremy said. "I can't speak to that strange translation of the Scriptures that the Jehovah's Witnesses wrote for themselves based on the actual Bible, which is more a loose adaptation than a translation, and which expurgates all references to Hell and includes hundreds of mentions to Jehovah that simply are not the words of the original writers, and therefore not true Scripture."

Then Father Jeremy turned to Sarah and said: "My dear Sarah, you are beloved of Christ, and the parable of the prodigal son indeed pertains here. For if you dwell in the love of the Lord Jesus, then they who dampen their love for you dampen their love for Jesus, for if you dwell therein those two loves are one, and to darken either light darkens both. Therefore wait with open arms, and if those loved ones who are lost to you return, embrace them with rejoicing, make a feast and celebrate Christmas, for how can it be wrong to joy that our Lord and Savior is born, God's gift to the world? And if not, they can never deny you the greatest love of all; for with Christ at your side, verily, you can dance in fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego."

She looked at Elder Josephus, and then at Jeremy, and smiled.

"Very well, Miss Brosephina,” Elder Josephus said. “Good afternoon, sir."

Elder Josephus went back inside the Kingdom Hall, and Sarah walked away with Jeremy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Resume

HOSPITALITY WORK HISTORY

Robert Charest
201 61st N
St Petersburg, FL 33707
(813) 351-0895
email: dabobber@hotmail.com

EDUCATION

BA in English and Music
Honors College with departmental honors awarded
Southern Connecticut State University
New Haven, Connecticut

EXPERIENCE

-- I worked during and after high school and college in Durham and New Haven, Connecticut, in bars and restaurants including Time Out Tavern, The Greenery, The Yale Graduate’s Club and Archie Moore’s.

-- In 1994 I moved to New Orleans, where I tended bar and served at Houlihans on Bourbon Street.

-- In 1995 I moved to Austin, Texas, where I tended bar and served at The Tavern, Air Conditioned, from March of 1996 until May of 1997.

-- In 1997 I moved back to Connecticut, where I tended bar and served at Cornerstones in Middletown, Connecticut from August 1997 until August 1998.

-- In 2000 I began working for Brinker Restaurants. I served and tended bar at On The Border in Rocky Hill, Connecticut from March of 2000 until March 2003, when I transferred to On The Border in Orange, Connecticut.

-- In October 2003 I moved to Florida, and transferred within Brinker Restaurants to Chili’s in Largo, Florida.

-- From 2004 through 2010 I worked at a couple of places in and around St. Pete Beach, including Shell's and Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse..

-- From December 2008 until Mother's Day 2012, I tended bar and served at Carino’s Italian Café, a fine dining restaurant on St. Pete Beach. At Carino's I was also responsible for liquor and wine inventory, as well as general front of the house duties.  I have worked at Carino's during the seasonal winter months, roughly November through May, for the past four seasons.

-- I returned to New England for the summer of 2010, where I was hired at Mama Leone's on Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Mama Leone's is a high volume Italian beach restaurant where I tend bar and serve tables.  They are open from mid May till Columbus Day, and I have worked there for the past three seasons, from 2010-2012, and have been invited to return next summer, a decision I have not made yet.

REFERENCES

Connie Peddle was the manager who hired me at Carino's. She can be reached at (727) 519-8833. Linda D'Angelo is the owner of Mama Leone's. She can be reached at (603)418-4877.   I can furnish more references upon request.

SKILLS

I read, write and speak decent Spanish. I author novels, and continue to pursue publication of my work, which can be viewed at my website: www.writerbob.webs.com. In 1998 I self-published a novel entitled: LORENZO’S FAT HEAD. I recently completed a new novel called PEPPERCORN CAFÉ, which is partly about my experiences in the restaurant world, and which can be previewed on the website. The gaps in my employment history can be filled variously by my supporting myself in other lines of employment and time devoted to my writing.