Did You Know… Most Famous Folk Hymn Written By Slave Trader

One of the most sung and recognizable Christian hymns in the world was written by a former slave trader. “Amazing Grace” was written by English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807) in 1779. He wrote the words to the hymn based on his personal experience while Captain of a slave ship. In 1748, a violent storm battered his ship off the coast of Ireland so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion.

Amazing Grace

Credit Pinterest

After the storm, while his boat was being repaired, he wrote the first verse of “Amazing Grace.”

He did however, continue his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1764.

“Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music written with the verses. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today.

Amazing Grace,” with it’s message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, is one of the most famous folk hymns in the English-speaking world.

Enjoy this great version by Judy Collins. It gives me the chills every time I listen to it.

 

 

Fundamental Facts About Christianity, Judaism, and Islam

There is an old adage out there that says “You shouldn’t discuss religion or politics at work or with friends.” However, in our society today both of these topics have become mainstream and not just private or casual discussions. Why is that? Because both politics and religion have gotten more “in your face.”

When it comes to politics, the country is more divided than ever. People have become so fanatically obsessed with their particular brand of politics that they can’t have a civil discussion with anyone that doesn’t agree with them. Even worse, they refuse to listen to the opinion of others. Unfortunately, their knowledge and opinions, if they have one, tend to be based on tidbits or talking-points they see on television and/or hear from a friend, neighbor, or relative without doing their own homework. They either lack the intellectual curiosity to find out for themselves, or they have become intellectually lazy.

*Click here to read my blog on this topicAmericans Have Become Intellectually Lazy

Along this same vein of thought, there are those that form their religious opinions, not necessarily their religious belief, in the same manner. Their opinions, if they have one, tend to be based on what their pastor says at church or they hear from friends, neighbors, or relatives, again without doing their own homework. They also lack the intellectual curiosity to find out for themselves, or they have become intellectually lazy.

Intellectual curiosity means you want to know more than the basics or the common knowledge. It is the desire to invest some time and energy into learning more about a person, a thing, a way of life, or a concept. Basically, it is the desire to learn more.

For a long time now I have watched, listened, and participated in discussions with others about religion and other non-Christian faiths, etc. What I have found is most of these people really don’t know much about religions other than their own. As I mentioned above, they are just intellectually lazy.

So, in attempt to help those that won’t help themselves, I have assembled a basic primer on the following religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. While this comparison of commonalities and/or differences is not all inclusive, it does provide a basic set of knowledge of each that I believe all will find helpful. By the way, it did not take long to put this together. Just a little intellectual curiosity…

Religion Comparison ChartRegardless of your religion, we have to acknowledge the fact that at some point in history, each religion has been misaligned by extremists.

Point of Interest:  I just finished reading a book about King Richard the Lionheart and the Crusades. Ironically, both sides, the Christians and the Muslims, believed God/Allah was on their side and each considered the other to be infidels.

Sources:

ReligionFacts.com

A History of God | by Karen Armstrong

Pope Francis Warned Christians Against Turning Their Faith Into a Rigid Ideology.

PopePope Francis warned Christians against turning their faith into a rigid ideology.

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology,” he said, according to Radio Vatican. “And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.

“And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people,” Francis added. “But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

He said Christian ideology was the result of a lack of true prayer.

 

Source: Rawstory.com | by Eric W. Dolan | October 21, 2013

 

Do You Want to be Made Well?

Jesus - Do You Want To Be Made WellNow in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids — blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a very long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” (John 5:2-7)

The poor man had been ill for 38 years. He obviously had some kind of paralysis. Hebrew tradition has it that every once in awhile an angel would descend from heaven and stir up the waters. The first person to make it into the waters before they stopped churning would be healed.

From time to time this man would have someone bring him on a mat to lie by the Sheep Gate, and maybe because he was leprous or possibly had a contagious disease, there was nobody who wanted to be around to help him be the first one in the water. Or maybe the temple authorities were just too busy with their religious duties to help him. Then Jesus came along, and well, he healed the man and the rest of the story is there for you to read.

When I think about this passage I’m immediately reminded of the Conservative Christian attitude towards universal heath care. Millions of people are finding that their insurance won’t cover certain illnesses. Millions more can’t afford insurance at all. Children and the elderly are hit the hardest, two particular stages of life when lack of adequate and quality health care can be a traumatic blow.

Yet Republicans and conservative Christians believe that we should not bother helping the poor man get into the pool before everyone else so that he can be healed. As a matter of fact, don’t help any of them in because they all don’t deserve it. “How did they end up there in the first place?” Like Pharaoh said of the Israeli  slaves, “They must be idle. Give them more work to do.”

Aside from important church state issues, I don’t understand how the Right can refer to our country as “Christian.” We spent trillions of dollars on two wars that were initiated on lies. After being bailed out, CEOs from our largest mega corporations continue to make 300 times more than their average employees. The rich still get richer, the middle class is disappearing, and the poor get poorer.

Yet television evangelists continue to ask people to send money in to their “ministries,” and while we have the greatest medical technology on the face of the earth the Right complains about who will foot the bill for universal health care.

When their Savior loved them so much he died on a cross for them, and while he was here on earth with no strings attached healed and fed hurting and hungry people, I am continually amazed that people of a “Christian” nation would so tenaciously cling to the Social Darwinist “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” philosophy.

I sincerely don’t believe that the Christian Right’s fear of government is so deeply entrenched that they won’t even consider that same government providing health care for its citizens.  I think it boils down to fear and greed masquerading as a pseudo morality. Why else could the late Jerry Falwell confide to his congregation that he likes what Rush Limbaugh has to say, when Limbaugh is a man who constantly maligns the homeless as people who deserve what they get. Why else would a rich politician named Michele Bachmann call herself a Christian and have town hall meetings advocating the denial of universal health care to our poorest because she thinks it will lead to “socialism?” And how else could the “Reverend” Pat Robertson call natural disasters punishment for those who are sick, have lost family members, or have lost their homes?

These are the religious people of Jesus’ day here on earth who would not have helped the lame man get into the pool as the waters churned. Their civil self-help religion would tell them to pass the man by because chances are that he did something evil to deserve his condition, and besides, he can get a job and work so that he can afford insurance.

We have an opportunity through our government  to stop and help and not pass by the lame man; To help one another carry him in to the waters when the angel descends to stir them up; To get him back on his feet and praise the Lord, because god can do miracles through government too.

So if conservatives really believe they are followers of Christ, if we ourselves really believe that we are so, then we should all keep protesting and pushing for universal health care. I’m not talking about reform. Chances are that today’s insurance industry would have denied coverage to the lame man at the Sheep gate because of the preexisting condition of “invalidism,” and despite Obama’s reform, they would hire the best lawyers to locate loopholes for denial of coverage. We need to bypass the insurance industry altogether. It is rich enough for it’s employees to be well remunerated until they find other jobs to do.

Shout it from the house tops that free universal health care is a God given right for every man woman and child. That God is not so lacking in omniscience that he can’t use government to help us. If he used the state of the art highway system and government structure of the Roman occupation to advance the gospel and spread civilization in the first century, then today he can use our modern “secular” government to help us with our health care and provide us with coverage. After all, this is a big part of the good news, or gospel. The lame man at the Sheep gate shouldn’t have had to wait 38 years for someone to come along and help him. Neither should we.

By Keith Goss, for The Christian Left

Hey Mister… Are You Jesus?

Jesus holding lady in tears“Are you saved?” “Are you born again?” “Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?” These are the formulaic ways that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians will ask you if you are “right with God.” But I have to say that I become uncomfortable when someone uses these phrases as a thermometer to gauge my spiritual temperature. Not only does it seem to be very self righteous, but I start to think that what they really mean is that if I haven’t come to God by one of these particular processes, then I might not be a Christian.

Not to mention that usually in today’s America when a conservative Christian approaches you with such phrases, there is much unspoken baggage behind them. Such as: When you are saved or born again, you will want to become a Republican Conservative. You will want to be very patriotic because this is a Christian Nation. You will want to be for the death penalty and against all abortion. You will want to speak out against homosexuality and lesbianism . You will want little or no government intervention in your life. You will loath separation of church and state. And you will go to war if that war is “just,” etc.

But I don’t like it when people put God in a box. I would like them to throw their formulas away.  If I know anything about God I would say that he is very creative and omniscient, and he can bring people to him in many mysterious, joyful and loving ways. It’s like Forrest Gump said when asked if he found Jesus: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him.”

Alter calls and “witnessing” campaigns are not for me. The early church met at one another’s houses. When the people around them watched them live their daily lives, they said, “See how they love one another?” That’s how we should be. I don’t think there is one perfunctory formula or living arrangement  that we are to pursue to get people to “come to Jesus,” or “get right with God.” As a matter of fact I believe that wherever we are, we “flesh out Jesus.”  We show by our actions that  Christ lives in us. It’s as simple as that. I don’t believe that we are supposed to get a beatific smile on our faces or have our eyes become glazed over.

We don’t have to speak in tongues or have some kind of carnival show. I have known when I am around a Christian. They don’t  have to say anything. They don’t sound like they are on drugs and smile at me like a moron. They don’t keep saying “Praise the Lord!” Praise the Lord! They do praise the Lord by the way they naturally act in love. They are human. They are compassionate. The difference is that they are genuine. You can just tell. I think they have authentic love because they follow Christ and have him and his love living inside of them. They “flesh him out.”

That’s how I would have felt around Martin Luther King. That’s how I would have felt around Gandhi or Mother Teressa. And I’m sure that’s how I would feel if I met Jimmy Carter. There is just something about people who walk in God’s love. You like to be around them. They love you unconditionally and accept you as you are. They don’t judge you.

I think conservative Christians like pat formulas because, in our commercialized world, they have turned Christ into a commodity, something to sell to people. Jesus used various phrases in the Bible to teach people what it’s like to know God or understand his love. He didn’t mean for us to make an idol of them and turn his love into mathematical formula.

There is a story about a business man who was frantically rushing through an airport lobby because he was late for a flight. A little boy was walking along with a puzzle that he had just put together. The businessman smacked into the boy and the pieces of the puzzle, along with the boy, went flying everywhere. The man sat down on the floor beside the boy to see if he was okay. He was going to miss his flight. While he was on the floor with the kid he put the pieces back into their proper places and handed the puzzle fully intact back to the child. The little boy smiled with surprise and said, “Hey Mister. Are you Jesus?”

By Keith Goss, for the Christian Left

My Mother’s Angel

Angel Pic 3

I was the youngest of three boys and a daughter, and I had a very good relationship with my mother. I was the only one of the kids that actually moved away from our home town. My family and I lived several hours away and didn’t get to go visit too often, but we typically talked on the phone every weekend (after all, I was the baby).

During one of those calls, she told me there was something she wanted to tell me. This is the story she told me…

A few days earlier, she was feeling tired and decided to lay down on the couch, not to sleep, just to stretch out and close her eyes for a few minutes. Her couch, recliner, and TV were in the den, and on the wall behind the couch was the typical collage of family pictures, showing all of us at different ages and stages of our life.

As she lay there with her eyes closed, she became aware of something, a glow maybe. As she opened her eyes, she realized there was a “being” standing over her, looking down at her. As they gazed at each other, she noticed it appeared to be tall, slightly illuminated, all light-colored like a pearl, with smooth flawless features, and not distinctively male or female.  It appeared to have on a gown-like robe, also pearl-white, but it just seemed to be part of the whole; not distinctive; blended. She did not feel threatened. She wasn’t scared.

As she continued to lay there, it bent over her, and looked at the family pictures on the wall. Looking back to her, smiling, it told her that she obviously loved her family, and because of her, she did not have to worry about her family, they will all be saved. Then it was gone.

She shared the story with my oldest brother, who was living with her at the time, then with my sister. Then she called me on the weekend.

She relayed the whole story to me.  Of course, like most, first I queried whether she was sure she hadn’t dozed off to sleep and had a dream?  She adamantly responded “no.”  She explained that she had just laid down when it happened. Next, I asked if any of her medications may have been a factor. Again, a resounding “no.”  Now, my mother wasn’t a liar and wasn’t prone to hallucinations, etc. We discussed it numerous times after that and I have shared her story with many others. I still get goose-bumps when I’m telling it. When I discussed it with my oldest brother, whom I don’t ever remember going to church except to get married, he believed. Obviously, there are some that believe, and some that don’t. That’s okay. I believed her. Still do.

She had told me numerous times before that she knew that a guardian angel was watching over her, and she shared with me several occurrences that led her to believe that. Again, I believed her.  Still do.

Now, let me clarify that my mother was not a religious fanatic. She was a believer in God, read the bible, and believed we would all be judged in the end for the life we lived. And like most of us, her religion and spiritual beliefs were private to her. She didn’t push them on anybody.

My mother passed away a few years after that. I still think about her story occasionally, and I still get goose-bumps. Last night I was thinking about it again, and I decided it was time to share her story with others via my blog. So, being an early riser, I started writing this morning. I called my sister, told her what I was doing, and asked if she remembered anything that I missed. I actually had more details than she, because I had more in-depth discussions with my mother about it than she did. However, she did provide me with the epilogue for her story.

My mother had multiple health issues that kept her from attending church, but she had kept her friends from church, they talked all the time and they would come by to visit. After this happened, she eagerly shared her story with them. However, none of them believed her. Nor did others from the church. As a matter of fact, she lost all her friends as a result.  They stopped calling her; they stopped coming by to see her; they literally stopped having anything to do with her.

My mother passed away on April 7, 1998, and never shared this final part of her story with me. And knowing this now, just breaks my heart.

So rest-in-peace dear Mother, because I’m sharing your story with the world. 

I believed her then. Still do.