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  • Ben Sixsmith just published an article in The Spectator titled "The sad irony of celebrity pastors":

    When I was a young attendee of a Charismatic Christian church, people were very keen to make themselves look ‘cool’. There was Christian rock. There was Christian rap. There was something called The Street Bible, which reframed Biblical stories through a modern lens.

    I don’t want to be too mean about this stuff. Some of the Christian rock was pretty good. The Street Bible had a sense of humor about itself. Even the rap wasn’t that bad. (I say that because I know what you are imagining. ‘My name is Ben and I’m here to say/Worship God and don’t be gay.’)

    Hillsong, at the time, was a very cool church. They had enormous services, and hit songs, and pastors who looked as if they had walked out of daytime television. Founded in Australia in the 1980s, Hillsong branched out across the globe, from the US, to Russia, to Israel, on the back of glossy marketing and guitar-driven worship songs. In the 2000s, Hillsong achieved more recognition through its close relationship with mainstream celebrities. Justin Bieber, Chris Pratt and Kevin Durant are all members.

    Bieber was an especially notable catch. The young singer was drifting towards a life of dissolution when he made a sudden recommitment to his faith under the guidance of Carl Lentz, lead pastor of Hillsong Church NYC. Lentz, who resembles an aging boy band member clinging on to a solo career, was seen with Bieber all over the place.

    It would be spiteful to suggest that Lentz and Bieber were not true friends — but also silly to suppose that the lead pastor would have made as much time for someone without Bieber’s cultural cachet. Well, a church has to make itself known. But at what cost? Hillsong NYC put celebrities front and center, which, as one churchgoer told the New York Times, ‘doesn’t feel like something Jesus would do.’

    Lentz turned himself into a brand. His Instagram is full of photos of his sharp suits, hipster glasses, rippling biceps and mid-life crisis jackets. Even when he addresses social causes, he is self-involved, in the classic manner of the modern ‘influencer’. One post halves the faces of the late Ahmaud Arbery and Lentz’s bespectacled young son in an attempt to make a point about ‘white privilege’ that ends up reeking of narcissism and exploitation.

    One problem with turning yourself into a celebrity is that your failings become scandals. Lentz was fired from Hillsong in November for cheating on his wife. His mistress, seeing the chance to get her 15 minutes, sold her story to the press. Other women have come forward with claims about sexual relations with Lentz, and Hillsong have announced that they have decided to appoint a third-party legal team to ‘conduct an in-depth review and investigation into all concerns and any wider cultural issues’.

    Lentz’s actions are a matter for his family and his faith. There is an irony, though, in how whenever Christians seem to attach themselves to mainstream culture, with all its vices, in the hope of drawing people towards God, they seem to get drawn towards vice. Jerry Falwell Jr was a similarly public, if ideologically different, evangelical who acquired fabulous wealth and fame before being swept off by an avalanche of accusations of sexual impropriety.

    Making yourself a very public representative of God, rather than a humble messenger, is a dangerous business when you are — like all of us — a very flawed human being. When you add in all the sweet temptations of wealth and fame, that becomes especially true. If you put yourself up on a pedestal you have further to fall, and when you are a religious authority, unlike an artist, or an athlete, or even a politician, your rectitude is your only excuse for being there.

    This case also asks questions about the church itself. I have no doubt that Hillsong NYC, under Lentz’s leadership, enriched thousands of lives. Even young Mr Bieber has avoided legal controversies and settled down with his wife since joining Hillsong. Good luck to him! Still, it seems to represent what I call the ‘…with a twist of Christianity’ trend. There is mainstream culture, celebrities, fashion, music, modish political activism and a message of self-love, but with a twist of Christianity. Most people stick with mainstream culture because they can have all those things and pre-marital sex.

    We can see the ‘…with a twist of Christianity’ trend elsewhere. Falwell was representative of the right-wing, business-oriented evangelicals who offer capitalist self-enrichment and hubristic jingoism…with a twist of Christianity. Then there are progressive Christians of whom Nadia Bolz-Weber is an extreme example, who promote the usual left-wing causes…with a twist of Christianity. While different in beliefs, such people share patterns of thought: the former believe secular individualists mysteriously share God’s wishes for what should be done with money while the latter think that secular progressives mysteriously share God’s wishes for what should be done with bodies. So, if Christianity is such an inessential add-on, why become a Christian?

    I am not religious, so it is not my place to dictate to Christians what they should and should not believe. Still, if someone has a faith worth following, I feel that their beliefs should make me feel uncomfortable for not doing so. If they share 90 percent of my lifestyle and values, then there is nothing especially inspiring about them. Instead of making me want to become more like them, it looks very much as if they want to become more like me. That, sadly, appears to have been true of Lentz and his celebrity acquaintances.

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    • ... as soon as you see someone putting oneself "out there" in any form of self-orientation, you know that following that person is the wrong path.

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      • Whiskeyjack (and others): To someone who has experienced real trauma and loss and is questioning their faith, how would you best answer this question:

        Why do bad things happen to good people?

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        • "And Jesus said to him, Why call you me good? none is good, save one, that is, God." There is none essentially, entirely, absolutely good but one, that is, God. Therefore seek after him, love him, imitate him. He alone can satisfy your longing desires, as in this life with his grace, so in the life to come with his glory.

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          • Looking at James 1:2-3, which reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” we are given one reason why God allows bad things to happen.

            As trials come (as they do for us all), they test the strength of our faith. This process can be likened to a silversmith who refines silver. As the heat intensifies, dross rises to the surface and is removed to make the silver pure. So it is with our faith, that in every trial, we are tested, refined, and made stronger than before.

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            • Originally posted by tussin View Post
              Whiskeyjack (and others): To someone who has experienced real trauma and loss and is questioning their faith, how would you best answer this question:

              Why do bad things happen to good people?
              Christians have always struggled with theodicy. A few points to keep in mind:
              • Our lives here on our earth last but the blink of an eye compared to eternity. St. Paul likens it to race we must run to obtain a great prize. As time-bound corporeal creatures, our ability to grok heaven and eternity is very poor, so it's easy to focus on present suffering and forget/ discount the value of what awaits us. Faith is the only way to counter that tendency.
              • God permits evil because he's capable of drawing an even greater good out of it than if it had not happened at all. Again, it can be hard (if not impossible) to see that the in midst of a trial. But it happens all the time.
              • As dad4aa alludes to above, trials are intended to make you stronger. But you have to trust in Providence, which isn't possible without grace. Faith (along with Hope and Love) is one of the theological virtues, so it is only obtained as a gift from God. It's not like the cardinal virtues that can be obtained and strengthened simply through your own will and personal effort. So if you're struggling with Faith, the first thing to do is pray for help with that specifically. Mark 9:23 is a good place to start: "I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief."

              Please feel free to DM me if you'd like to discuss any of this more privately.

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              • Originally posted by Brother_M View Post
                "And Jesus said to him, Why call you me good? none is good, save one, that is, God." There is none essentially, entirely, absolutely good but one, that is, God. Therefore seek after him, love him, imitate him. He alone can satisfy your longing desires, as in this life with his grace, so in the life to come with his glory.
                True, no one who lives is truly good. I hate evil and wish to be rid of it and wonder why it exist. But then when I look at my own heart and actions I am fallen. I want someone else's wrongs to cease but never call God to smite my own sin. Free will enters the world and sin and brokenness arise everywhere. We're not robots. Suffering sucks and watching people die is horrible (been there several times). But that does not disprove God.
                There can be no objective evil if there is no objective good.

                On my phone so I hope this makes some sense.

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                • Great stuff fellas -- appreciate the posts. Threads like this are what make this football forum special.

                  Maybe I'll post on 247 and compare responses.

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                  • This was well done:

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                    • In this world you shall have tribulation but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world. Those who want evil to suddenly go away have not accepted Christ the Way the Truth The Life. They are infatuated with a faux Christ a weak non Christian amalgam of Santa the Tooth Fairy and the Make a Wish Foundation. Wanna follow Christ? Then take up thy Cross.......

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                      • My Tuesday group has been reading Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence https://tanbooks.com/sanctification/...and-happiness/

                        Pretty good stuff, but hard to accept.

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                        • Originally posted by gkIrish View Post

                          The point about the Catholic Church being obsessed with sex was interesting. I don't know the facts behind his accusation about contraception/Africa, but if true, that's pretty bad.
                          The source of the problem is Paul.

                          Riddle me this: How many times did Christ mention circumcision?
                          How many times did Paul?

                          Paul, simply, was concerned with his peepee.

                          and Oh, Yeah,
                          I am working on a book that should be ready in the Second Half of '22

                          "the Excommunication of St. Paul"

                          It blends the Catholic system of Excommunication with the errors of Paul.

                          There are two paths:
                          Follow Christ OR
                          Follow OT, Paul and Revelations

                          I have a simple litmus test to identify charlatans and grifters, and sadly, the errant, the misguided.

                          If 80% of their references are to
                          Paul/OT/Revelations

                          then they are not JESUSCHRISTIANS

                          when you get that, the fog lifts.

                          Christ
                          89 Chapters
                          Easy to read

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                          • You might wanna sit this one out, chief

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                              • Originally posted by Whiskeyjack View Post
                                Whiskeyjack absolutely bodying clowns. I'm here for it.
                                Based Mullet Kid owns

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                                • Originally posted by zelezo vlk View Post



                                  Heresy aside, I don't care for the song's melody.

                                  Unpopular opinion: don't care for Silent Night either.
                                  Hans Kung and I disagree on the Immaculate Conception, and I am merely the fly on the elephant's back here, with the late great Kung the elephant.
                                  Sometihing about the immaculate Concenption didn't ring true when I was at a weekday Mass and some priest (overweight, alcoholic-ruddy face) went into a black rage about the immaculate conception, equating faith not with Christ as Way Truth and Life, but with drinking the Immaculate Conception koolaid.

                                  I walked out mid homily.

                                  About five years later, I found Hans Kung's stuff about the Immaculate conception./

                                  I felt better, less isolated.

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                                  • Is it accurate to declare that
                                    Every Orthodox Jew, by definition, is a Messiah Denier, specifically that Jesus, later the Christ was neither the Messiah nor the Way, the Truth, the LIFE?

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                                    • Question for the theology minds: what is the current thought in the religious community regarding the Parasite Stress theory of values as articulated by Randy Thornhill? Particularly with regard to religiosity and infectious disease?

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                                      • Originally posted by Valpodoc85 View Post
                                        Question for the theology minds: what is the current thought in the religious community regarding the Parasite Stress theory of values as articulated by Randy Thornhill? Particularly with regard to religiosity and infectious disease?
                                        I will defer to others on your specific question.

                                        But I believe Christ would expand it to all stress, beyond bodily ones.

                                        "Take up thy cross..." seems an invitation to embrace adversity

                                        for Christ it was Pass Through, not Pass over

                                        "In this world you WILL HAVE TRIBULATION, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome"

                                        But my constant concern is that faith and walk and belief are FREOCIUSLY individual
                                        Group don't matter
                                        cohort doesn't work

                                        And if merely OBSERVE how christ worked, he focused on one individual at a time.

                                        But thanks for your post and I hope you draw some informed commnentary, or, minimallyh, heartfelt passionate commentary.

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