Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Evil Blind Spot Of Religious Fundamentalism And How It Is Used To Distort The Message

by Roger W. Hubbard, PhD

     The savage attack on New York on "9/11" and the massive loss of innocent lives has impacted the entire world and has resulted in the "International War on Terror" producing deadly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A list of all the atrocities carried out in the name of religion would be redundant here and not germane to the main points of this discussion. Neither do I wish to trace the history of the "Arab-Israeli Conflicts" except to note that radical Islamic fundamentalists believe that they are honor bound to convert or eliminate "Unbelievers" and that by fostering world war and world chaos, they will hasten "the return of the 12th Imam".
     As a layperson, I would say that this is not the message taught by Christians for establishing the "Kingdom of God". Clearly there is something amiss here. How can two great religions dedicated to peace have extremist fringes compelled to kill or eliminate people they consider evil sinners under the influence of Satan?    
     We are all aware that the state of Israel is considered the "Little Satan" and the United States of America is considered the "Great Satan" by Arab fundamentalists and the Iranian regime in particular. Thus, it would be safe to assume that at least one small seed for this ideological position can be revealed by examining differences in "core beliefs" as found in their respective scriptures. The intent here is not to try to label the Islamic faith as "bad", for there is much to recommend it, or to try to label the Christian faith as "good" in all of its forms and expressions, for that is not the case.
     Rather, the intent is to uncover just "one seed" in the formation of "radical thought and mind set" leading to either self-righteous license by religious terrorists or simply to unwarranted actions by heretical leaders that harm innocent individuals. If this "evil seed or blind spot" can be exposed then we can guard against it from creeping into our Christian faith, denominations and practice and thereby prevent well meaning individuals from acting upon heretical views and producing great harm in the process. Like all demonic plots this evil seed or blind spot will masquerade as good. It will appeal to common sense and have substantial human experience to support it. It will be difficult to change the "mind set" of the proponent groups even though it is based upon heresy. In any case, the main focus is on Christianity and not Islam or Judaism.

     There is one striking difference between Islam, versus Judaism and Christianity. That difference is their stated position on the consumption of alcohol. The prohibition of alcohol in the Qur'an is found in the following verse:

O ye who believe! Intoxicants and Gambling, (Dedication of) stones, And (divination by) arrows, Are an Abomination of Satan's handiwork; Eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. [Al-Qur'an 5:90]  

     Thus, it is indisputable that Islam believes that the consumption of alcohol is an evil abomination and the handiwork of Satan. The same ascetic views were prevalent in Judaic society in the first century from Pythagorean and Gnostic sources within Cabbala. These same ascetics penetrated Judaism, Heathenism, and later Christianity. These were the same Pharisees that called Christ a glutton and a wine-bibber because he drank with publicans and sinners (Mat. 9:10-11; Mk. 2:15-16 reference: ( see "Wine in the Bible", edition 1.1 19970104-19990109, Christian Churches of God, PO Box 369, Woden, Act 2606, Australia, Copyright 1997,1999, Wade Cox).
     This text confirms that Christ sat at meat and that he was with publicans. We see that he drank wine with them. Matthew 11:19- "The son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds." (RSV ibid above). To suggest that Christ drank grape juice while the publicans drank wine in the normal sense, yet was condemned for drinking with them, is ludicrous. These same publicans and harlots believed and were converted.

     Thus, the first serious expression of the "spirit of the antichrist" co-opted by the Pharisees was to slander Jesus for drinking wine while he was trying to reach the lost. Once co-opted and acted upon this evil spirit was fed and grew in strength until the compulsion by the Pharisees to plot, implement and kill Jesus was carried forth. 
     This raises the obvious question: Was drinking wine prohibited by the Jewish faith and tradition? Unfortunately, for the Pharisees the law gives the right to any form of alcoholic beverage and not just wine. Deuteronomy 14:22-26 says: "Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall chose to place his name there, the tithe of the corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or the place be  too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall chose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath beseeched thee: Then shalt  thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household".
     Thus, far from being prohibited wine was used in celebrations and considered "one of the good things... for good people" (Ben Sirach, Ecclus. 39:25-26). 

     The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, in its article on wine says that from ancient times Syria-Palestine was famous for the quantity and quality of its wine (vol. 4, p. 849). In fact there are at least eight Hebrew words translated as wine in the bible (yayin, mishrat anavim or expressed grape, tirosh a poetical expression for ritual wine, chemer a form of red wine, shekar or strong drink, asis or sweet wine of the vintage year, sob'e a source of drinking to excess or adulterated wine (Isaiah 1:22), mamsak or spiced wine (Proverbs 23:20), shemarim or old wine, 'ashishah or flagon of wine, KJV (2 Samuel 6:19: "And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So, all the people departed every one to his house (KJV)". 

     Condemning Jesus for what the law allowed was heresy and an attempt by the spirit of the antichrist to turn something good (the drinking of wine) into evil. Jesus considered the Pharisees self-righteous in their own eyes and justified by their own behavior and for this reason said: "Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you", Matt. 21:31.
     The concluding statement from "Wine in the Bible" (ibid, above) states in part: "To suggest that wine was non-alcoholic grape juice when spoken of in a positive sense in biblical literature is an insult to the intelligence of the average bible student. Rabbinical authorities regard it as absurd. ... It is, however, a heresy that has been rejected by all other forms of Christianity because of the perversion of the scripture." 

     Thus, to slander a brother or sister for consuming alcohol under appropriate conditions is heresy and co-opting the sprit of the antichrist. It acts to condemn the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians and others for drinking wine during Holy Communion. This is an unbiblical position and a mind set and blind spot that co-opts the same evil spirit of the Pharisees and that fosters misunderstanding, division and separation within the "Body of Christ".  
     When discovered to exist, it should be rejected and corrected and replaced with a spirit of tolerance and acceptance of diversity amongst different denominations more reflective of Christian and Canadian values. Moreover, to act in a negative or heavy handed manner against an individual  brother or sister who sits and drinks with sinners he or she is trying to reach for Christ is to insult the actions of Jesus and is to take a heretical world view and position more in line with fanatical religious cults than mainstream Christianity.

[Roger W. Hubbard, Ph.D is a Consultant and Formerly Directorate Director, Environmental Pathophysiology Directorate, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA. In addition to other education credentials, he attended Brown University in Providence RI in 1966 and earned a Ph.D. in (Biology)-(Physiological) Chemistry. He is retired and spends time as a Bible teacher at his local church in Nova Scotia, and hunting and fishing with his family.]

Due to several weeks of being burdened with the flu, I'm extremely grateful to my "guest" writer friends for filling in the gap. Special Thanks to God's servants and dear friends such as Dave MacPherson and Roger Hubbard. Click here>Joe Ortiz for more information.
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