Classic Insults From The Reformer

Classic Insults From The Reformer

Sometimes the classics like “Thou whitewashed tomb, oh sepulchre!” or “You brood of vipers, making for yourselves disciples twice as fit for Hell as you yourselves already are!” just lose their cutting power. Luckily for us, as Protestants at least, we can look back to the wit and wisdom of the saints that came before us to find newer, sicker burns, just listen to this…

“Your words are un-Christian, antichristian, and spoken by the inspiration of the evil spirit.”-From Defense and Explanation of All the Articles, pg. 83 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 32

Ouch! You kiss your mother with that mouth? This rare gem, and thousands of others, have been collected and curated for us in the hallowed pages of  I keep the page pulled up in my browser on my smartphone so when some bonehead cuts me off in traffic I can whip out…

“You are the most insane heretics and ingrafters of heretical perversity.”-From Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses, pg. 88 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 31

pure satisfaction

the hell there isnt….

“She thought she could get well again if children believed in fairies…

Peter flung out his arms. There were no children there, and it was night time; but he addressed all who might be dreaming of the Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think: boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their baskets hung from trees.

“Do you believe?” he cried.

Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate.

She fancied she heard answers in the affirmative, and then again she wasn’t sure.

“What do you think?” she asked Peter.

“If you believe,” he shouted to them, “clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.”

Many clapped.

Some didn’t.

A few beasts hissed.”- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Chapter 13: Do You Believe in Fairies?

Of course, none of us desire for there to be a literal, Biblical place of eternal torment where “the worm does not die, and the flame does not go out”, a “lake of fire reserved for the devil and his angels” Our consciences are singed at the very thought of an all loving Father, for whom even His very own Son was considered an available sacrifice to take away the sins of the world, sending some individuals into the outer darkness, perpetually separated from His love, and where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. My heart’s desire is that, when the final trump(!) is sounded, that this all encompassing loophole of God’s compassion, this universal salvation of substitutionary attonement would grant that every human ever created would willingly bow the knee and slip gracefully into the bosom of Abraham. But in 2000+ years of orthodox saints, sages, writers, luminaries, and other professional thinking persons it seems like the view of an all encompassing salvatory experience that does away with the necessity of Hell is a disesteemed position to take, if not completely nonexistent.

While we could all sit around reading and debating the works of the early church fathers, the apostolic fathers, Irenaeus of Gaul, Arnobius of Cicca, Athanasius, Origen, Augustine, Rohr, Bell, and all the rest, personally I am more persuaded by looking at the teachings of Jesus Himself. The Greek word “Hades” appears a limited number of times in the mouth of Christ, either in the gospels or accredited to Him elsewhere (in John’s Apocalypse for instance), and unfortunately He never sits the apostles down for a heart to heart about the specific mechanism, function, and even relationship between His uses of this term for the Greek otherworld reserved for tortured souls of the dead, the outer darkness, the lake of fire, and all of the other phrases He turned to describe the final judgement.

What was Jesus trying to teach when He scolded “That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”?  When He implored that it was better to go on with ones right eye, right hand, or various other limbs willfully plucked off rather than risk hell’s chastisement?  When He exhorted Peter as the scaffolding on which the church would be built, against which the very gates of hell would not prevail, or chided the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees for making their disciples twice the children of hell as they themselves already were?

The closest I think Jesus comes to a clear explanation of the existential divide between hell and “the bosom of Abraham” (whatever the heck that is) is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.  As with all His other parables it’s important to look at the intended audience of the fable.  Obviously the original listeners would already have had some experience with this explanation of the afterlife, with their own preconceived notions about who, what, when, where, and how which we twenty-first century westerners have regrettably little connection with.

The “Tinkerbell Effect” is an expression which reveals that people expect existence based solely on other people’s belief. I think it’s patently clear from this rambling response that I have absolutely no idea about the nuts and bolts beneath the surface of this great mystery, but I think it’s extremely important for us to listen to each other’s (sometimes opposing) viewpoints on what is obviously an incendiary topic of debate within our faith. And to extend to each other the same measure of grace we would desire for ourselves, not as a free pass that allows us to throw off all restraint under the guise of Christ, but as an offering of love and peace within the family of His church.

Musings on Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward

“My eye fell upon my hand. Now the hand of Henry Jekyll was professional in shape and size: it was large, firm, white and comely. But the hand which I now saw, clearly enough, in the yellow light of a mid-London morning, lying half shut on the bed clothes, was lean, corded, knuckly, of a dusky pallor and thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair. It was the hand of Edward Hyde.” Robert Louis Stevenson


I’ve been reading Falling Upward by Richard Rohr as part of a book club on Facebook.  The dismissal of the “Loyal Soldier” motif in Chapter Three of Rohr’s book seemed particularly resonant to me, at this particular season of my life as my Lenten abstinence has focused on trying to control my unruly tongue which always seems to lash out with some clever comment in any situation before giving my brain a chance to ponder. This knee-jerk and instinctive reaction, an instantaneous retort from the shadows of the subconscious, has been my constant companion and frequently prime motivator into action for most of my life.  I have relied upon this “gift” as a means of being the source of mirth and entertainment, even (especially) in the face of otherwise uncomfortable or awkward social situations, and when faced with sudden unexpected conflict my tendency is to smirk and spout off some one-liner.  This personality has served me admirably in the past, a pretty obvious defense mechanism against laying my ego bare in front of a cold and disinterested audience, but I have noticed that these barbs (witticisms and charmingly ironic quips though they sometimes are) are frequently the source of emotional pain in the folks that I care about.

I’ve always joked that growing up in a German family of origin, we showed affection through insulting and making fun of each other, and no doubt I’ve inherited this personality quirk in spades from my father who experiences the same tendency towards verbal diarrhea. And as a young man, this ability to reach lightning fast decisions and opinions in real-time and ahead of my companions has certainly been a great boon. But as I age, perhaps even occasionally growing in depth of spirit and relationship with Christ as well as greyness of beard, I have come to the startling conclusion that these first rapier quick reactions to situations and ideas are generally wrong!  If I allow myself time to think, to chew on the reasons behind the curtain, to pray for Godly wisdom in how I should proceed, I generally am convinced of the opposite line of action than my initial reactive mouthing-off would exhibit.

The travelogue host, occasional celebrity chef, and general sage Anthony Bourdain says “I understand there’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy.” I can totally relate.  My personal “Loyal Soldier” has bamboozled me more often than not, and yet despite the destructive nature of his personality I cling to these vestiges of my old personality through my own sense of loyal desperation to the framework I have built.  Like Henry Jekyll I enjoy keeping Mr Hyde about, as he offers an excellent scape-goat, a means of denying responsibility for the monstrous emotional sins I commit against my family and loved ones. I think perhaps we enjoy the company of monsters too much to slay them outright, or like the baby elephant that is taught from youth that the slender rope is proof against his escape, as we grow into a titanic mastodon we believe that frail tendril will still hold us tight against our escape from its bondage.



How Easter Killed My Faith in Atheism

How Easter Killed My Faith in Atheism

Lee Strobel

Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection

Earlier this week, humorist Ricky Gervais presented his arguments for atheism and why he thought he was a better Christian than many Christians. In this follow-up essay, writer Lee Strobel offers his defense of Easter.

It was the worst news I could get as an atheist: my agnostic wife had decided to become a Christian. Two words shot through my mind. The first was an expletive; the second was “divorce.”

I thought she was going to turn into a self-righteous holy roller. But over the following months, I was intrigued by the positive changes in her character and values. Finally, I decided to take my journalism and legal training (I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune) and systematically investigate whether there was any credibility to Christianity.

Maybe, I figured, I could extricate her from this cult.

I quickly determined that the alleged resurrection of Jesus was the key. Anyone can claim to be divine, but if Jesus backed up his claim by returning from the dead, then that was awfully good evidence he was telling the truth.

For nearly two years, I explored the minutia of the historical data on whether Easter was myth or reality. I didn’t merely accept the New Testament at face value; I was determined only to consider facts that were well-supported historically. As my investigation unfolded, my atheism began to buckle.

Was Jesus really executed? In my opinion, the evidence is so strong that even atheist historian Gerd Lüdemann said his death by crucifixion was “indisputable.”

Was Jesus’ tomb empty? Scholar William Lane Craig points out that its location was known to Christians and non-Christians alike. So if it hadn’t been empty, it would have been impossible for a movement founded on the resurrection to have exploded into existence in the same city where Jesus had been publicly executed just a few weeks before.

Besides, even Jesus’ opponents implicitly admitted the tomb was vacant by saying that his body had been stolen. But nobody had a motive for taking the body, especially the disciples. They wouldn’t have been willing to die brutal martyrs’ deaths if they knew this was all a lie.

Did anyone see Jesus alive again? I have identified at least eight ancient sources, both inside and outside the New Testament, that in my view confirm the apostles’ conviction that they encountered the resurrected Christ. Repeatedly, these sources stood strong when I tried to discredit them.

Could these encounters have been hallucinations? No way, experts told me. Hallucinations occur in individual brains, like dreams, yet, according to the Bible, Jesus appeared to groups of people on three different occasions – including 500 at once!

Was this some other sort of vision, perhaps prompted by the apostles’ grief over their leader’s execution? This wouldn’t explain the dramatic conversion of Saul, an opponent of Christians, or James, the once-skeptical half-brother of Jesus.

Neither was primed for a vision, yet each saw the risen Jesus and later died proclaiming he had appeared to him. Besides, if these were visions, the body would still have been in the tomb.

Was the resurrection simply the recasting of ancient mythology, akin to the fanciful tales of Osiris or Mithras? If you want to see a historian laugh out loud, bring up that kind of pop-culture nonsense.

One by one, my objections evaporated. I read books by skeptics, but their counter-arguments crumbled under the weight of the historical data. No wonder atheists so often come up short in scholarly debates over the resurrection.

In the end, after I had thoroughly investigated the matter, I reached an unexpected conclusion: it would actually take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus.

And that’s why I’m now celebrating my 30th Easter as a Christian. Not because of wishful thinking, the fear of death, or the need for a psychological crutch, but because of the facts.

Lee Strobel wrote “The Case for Easter: Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection“; his first novel, “The Ambition,” releases May 17.

Songs We Love: The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus

Songs We Love: The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus

The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus in a rare performance at the 2014 Wave-Gottik-Treffen festival in Leipzig, Germany.

In sacred music, there really has been nothing like The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus. Once a mystery with a fluid, unknown line-up which rarely performed live, the Liverpool-based band released only two albums — The Gift of Tears (1987) and Mirror (1991) — that were unburdened by sound or doctrine. The members not only pulled from various global folk traditions, weaving these around electronic and experimental music, but also from the traditions of the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches. This is worship music which atmospherically and lyrically understands that Christianity has no bounds — and, more significantly, that even the surest of faith, encompasses doubt and darkness.

Beauty Will Save the World. i

Beauty Will Save the World, the first Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus [RAIJ] full-length album in over two decades, not only identifies key players for the first time — Paul Boyce, Jon Egan and Leslie Hampson — but also invites new, younger collaborators to the Army. There are moments on the record that sound like if Godspeed You! Black Emperor had scored The Last Temptation of Christ, but mostly, it actively seeks and creates beauty in order to heal.

Closing the album, “Before the Ending of the Day” begins with a bell, each reverberating tone like a solemn prayer. Originally authored by St. Ambrose with translations by Anglican priest John Mason Neale and Roman Catholic advocate Robert Campbell, it is a hymn that asks the Creator to “be our guard and keeper now.” In some church traditions, “Before the Ending of the Day” is sung in the final service of the day called the Compline, its name derived from Latin, meaning “completion.” It’s an opportunity to reflect, to give some or all that uncertainty to God, to pause the noise in life.

Droning keyboards brush thick textures across the rippling bell, as guest vocalist Jess Main offers St. Ambrose’s plea over field recordings of rumbling waves:

Before the ending of the day,

Creator of the world we pray,

That with thy wonted favour thou

Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our eyes,

From nightly fears and fantasies;

Tread underfoot our ghostly foe,

That no pollution we may know.

O Father, that we ask be done,

Through Jesus Christ, thine only Son;

Who, with the Holy Ghost and thee,

Doth live and reign eternally.

This is the unquiet heart burdened with the pangs of day, swollen with sweeping cellos, droning harmonium and far-away voices that grow with desperation. The meditative repetition recalls Gavin BryarsThe Sinking of the Titanic, undulating melancholy to the point of peaceful supplication. This is soul-cleansing music guided by faith, but offered with open arms.

Members of RAIJ collectively wrote via email about their return, and how beauty is “not created, it is discovered and restored.”

“Before the Ending of the Day” is such a humbling close to a powerful record. What is the story behind its creation and themes?

The piece is a setting of a 7th century liturgical prayer which is traditionally chanted during Compline which is the last of the canonical hours (daily prayers) of the Western Church. The prayer is a call for Divine protection from the dangers and perils of the night and prefaces the beginning of the “Great Silence” within monastic communities.

In an ordered, intelligible and reassuringly man-made world, where we have banished the sacred and lost contact with the ineffable and the numinous, this is a text that still has the power to invoke a sense of enveloping mystery, as well as underscoring our dependence and poverty. From the outset we knew it was the concluding piece for the album, the point at which beauty leads to the threshold of eternity and where music begins to delineate the contours of silence.

After so many years away, what does the act of making music mean now to RAIJ?

The impetus for getting back together was initially external: an invitation from the French label Infrastition to re-release our back catalogue, so there was no conscious premeditation involved. Having come together, there was a powerful sense that this was the right thing to do, and the right time to do it. There was a very clear sense of purpose, and a strong unspoken desire to create a new album, but meaning is a much more difficult thing to pin down. It’s probably more accurate to describe our music as the pursuit of meaning rather than having a meaning. Truth is always elusive and we are still searching.

Faith is a thread that runs through RAIJ, from its striking name to the samples woven into the songs – it’s never been something you have shied away from. Do you consider this sacred music?

We have always been concerned with the sacred or — perhaps more accurately — the loss of the sacred. We are searching for its echoes and traces which are scattered and hidden in surprising and forgotten places.

We have spoken in the past about the theology of Icons in the Eastern Church. They are fragments of a restored creation; elements of nature that have been transfigured to create images of heavenly glory. We are not claiming that our music in any way realizes this ideal, but it is an idea that has influenced us almost from the inception of RAIJ. It has been an even more explicit inspiration for this album and its title, Beauty Will Save the World, which is a quote from Dostoevsky, a writer steeped in the Orthodox tradition.

In the Western tradition, art is illustrative and beauty is an aesthetic concept whereas to the Eastern Church art is sacramental and beauty is the pursuit of divine truth, so questions about the sacred and the beautiful necessarily converge.

What role does beauty take in RAIJ’s music? Are we responsible for creating the beauty that will save the world?

Sometimes it feels as though our work is less about creation and more about investigation and excavation. We borrow, gather and unearth material from different sources — not all of them obviously sacred or spiritual — but we are looking for the connecting thread and evidence of what Thomas Merton called “the hidden wholeness.” Beauty is there. It is not created, it is discovered and restored.

So much of what we know of RAIJ has been cloaked in mystery, and suddenly with Beauty Will Save The World, names of the members are printed on the sleeve and there have been live performances. What led to opening up the world of RAIJ?

We never set out to be elusive and enigmatic. We were happy to allow our work to speak for itself and wanted to avoid having to explain and justify what we did. There was always a concern that explanation would inevitably diminish and trivialize. However, in retrospect, our reticence inevitably led to misapprehension and unhelpful categorization into the neo-folk genre, an association that has probably created a barrier for many people who might otherwise have listened to and enjoyed our work. We have never believed our music was obscure, difficult or experimental; it is merely hard to fit into any convenient pigeonhole.

In a similar way we were not trying to cultivate anonymity, it was just that the RAIJ was always an inclusive project. There was no definitive line-up; it was permeable, open and evolving. The collective was true identity. Now we have coalesced into a smaller and more definite entity, albeit one that is enriched by some extremely talented collaborators. What once seemed honest and appropriate would now feel a bit contrived and affected.

Beauty Will Save the World is out now on Occultation and Bandcamp.

Doing church….

first century churchI realize it’s been a while since we’ve tried to get organized and do anything together.  It’s not you, it’s me.  All we’ve wanted these past few years out of a community was to find a group of people who looked like the picture of the church we see in the first century, a healthy blend of loving, apocalyptic, apostolic, persecuted, worshiping, liturgical, disorganized starry eyed believers.  They’re not  necessarily a group of people I’d feel really comfortable being around for an extended period of time, me with my 21st century American privileged lackadaisical attitude towards spiritual matters with a proclivity towards personal comfort and privacy.  Its not that the churches around here are wrong, there is some really extraordinary ministry going on, and there’s some of them whom we love deeply and already have great relationships with.  But, especially after the arrival of our daughter, I’ve been very picky about what I want to see modeled for her, and what I want her to experience is something as close as we can get to what we read about in the book of Acts, a first century church experience.  Personally, I prescribe to the theory that nothing significant happens to a person developmentally after the age of four, and if thats the case I’ve really felt like we had to get on the ball and find the right place for Séraphine before we miss that window.  Our list of demands is exhaustive and exhausting, and tends to fluctuate from week to week about what is really important, and as we’ve traveled and visited an extraordinary cross section of churches, small groups, Bible studies, fellowships, missional communities, and the like, we’ve seen nearly the same template in place in each.  Once again, I reiterate, it’s not that the 21st century church model is wrong, it just doesnt resemble anything that I see demonstrated in the documents we have describing the Church in the first century.  That ragtag group of multicultural hunted families with their revolutionary beliefs who met in each others homes, shared meals, and provided for each other, prayed for miraculous outcomes, and saw their monumental faith rewarded didn’t have a building with a lighted marquee, electrified bands on stage with amplified preachers, youth group leaders, “worship” teams, boards of directors, powerpoint presentations, and a “big show” on Sunday mornings.  The first century church had what I want, an authentic relationship with the maker of the universe, and a peculiar notion that the empire they resided in was not their home.  Maybe i’ll find that at one of the mega churches popping up like Starbuck across the street from every McDonalds, but there are a lot more of them i’ll need to visit first.  Until then, I might have to just try and do it myself, as flawed and disorganized as I am.  So we’ll meet again this Sunday, May 10 from 1:00pm to 2 pm at the Nature Park on 270 1220 Egret Bay Blvd., N., League City, TX 77573, and we’ll have the opportunity to do it all wrong together.


Unicorns in the BibleWhat? Unicorns in the Bible? Yes, they are mentioned nine times.

Could it be unicorns really existed?

A 1967 hit song by the Irish Rovers tells a fanciful story of how Noah couldn’t persuade any “silly” unicorns to get on board the Ark since they wanted to play in the rain.

But, what does the Bible say about the antediluvian days? Were there really unicorns in the Bible?

The word “unicorn” appears in the King James Version nine times – in Numbers 23:22 and 24:8, Deuteronomy 33:17, Job 39:9,10, Psalms 22:21, 29:6 and 92:10 and in Isaiah 34:7.

What was this biblical unicorn? And why don’t later translations of the Bible contain the word?

Numbers 23:22 in the King James Version reads: “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”
However, the New International Version says: “God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox.”
The New American Standard Bible reads: “God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox.”
And the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible says: “God hath brought him out of Egypt, whose strength is like to the rhinoceros.”
Well, which is it? Unicorn? Ox? Or rhino?
The original Hebrew is the word re’em. What was a re’em? Scholars cannot agree. In the late Jewish author and skeptic Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, he offers this:

“The Hebrew word represented in the King James Version by ‘unicorn’ is re’em, which undoubtedly refers to the wild ox (an urus or an aurochs) which is ancestral to the domesticated cattle of today. Re’em still flourished in early historical times and a few existed into modern times, although it is now extinct. It was a dangerous creature of great strength and was similar in form and temperament to Asian water buffaloes.”

Biblical scholar Bert Thompson, Ph.D., agrees. “When the first Greek translation of the Bible was prepared about 250 B.C., the re’em was already rare in the long-settled areas of the Near East. The Greeks, who had no direct experience with it, had no word for it.”

So, in their Septuagint translation of the Hebrew, they used the Greek word monokeros, which means “one-horned.” When the Bible was translated into Latin by St. Jerome, he used the Latin word unicornis — which means “one-horned” – but does not necessarily mean a horse with a single horn.

In 1611, rather than speculate, the King James Version scholars just made up a new English word ”unicorn,” in the Bible rather as they did with baptismo, Greek for full-water immersion. In that case, rather than offend King James I, who had been sprinkled, they invented a new English word, “baptism” which could mean “sprinkled, poured or immersed.”

“Some people claim the Bible is a book of fairy tales because it mentions unicorns,” writes Bible scholar Dr. Elizabeth Mitchel. “However, the biblical unicorn was a real animal, not an imaginary creature. The Bible refers to the unicorn in the context of familiar animals, such as peacocks, lambs, lions, bullocks, goats, donkeys, horses, dogs, eagles, and calves (Job 39:9-12.1).

“In Job 38-41, God reminded Job of the characteristics of a variety of impressive animals He had created, showing Job that God was far above man in power and strength.

“God points out in Job 39:9–12 that the unicorn, ‘whose strength is great,’ is useless for agricultural work, refusing to serve man or “harrow (plow) the valley.”

That might explain why some translators believe that the Hebrew word “re’em” actually was describing a rhinoceros — an incredibly moody and unpredictable animal that, unlike buffaloes, elephants or horses, defied any domestication.

“Modern readers have trouble with the unicorns in the Bible because we forget that a single-horned feature is not uncommon,” writes Dr. Mitchel.

She points out the rhinoceros has one horn. But so does the swordfish.

So does the rhinoceros beetle and the narwhal, is a marine arctic relative of the dolphin.

But the bottom line is that we just don’t know what kind of animal the re’em was.

“The absence of a unicorn in the modern world should not cause us to doubt its past existence,” notes Dr. Mitchel. “Think of the dodo bird. It does not exist today, but we do not doubt that it existed in the past.”

Archeologist Austen Henry Layard, in his 1849 book Nineveh and Its Remains, sketched a single-horned creature from an obelisk in company with two-horned bovine animals. He identified the single-horned animal as an Indian rhinoceros. The biblical unicorn could have been one of those.

“Assyrian archaeology provides another possible solution to the unicorn identity crisis,” writes Dr. Thompson. “The biblical unicorn could have been an aurochs (a kind of wild ox known to the Assyrians as a rimu). ”

Humans fighting rimus was a popular sport for Assyrian kings. On a broken obelisk, for instance, King Tiglath-Pileser I boasted of slaying rimus in the Lebanon mountains.

Extinct since about 1627, aurochs were huge bovine creatures. Julius Caesar described them in his account of the Gallic Wars as: “a little below the elephant in size, and of the appearance, color, and shape of a bull.

“Their strength and speed are extraordinary; they spare neither man nor wild beast. Not even when taken very young can they be tamed.”

There is an account of a 1791 unicorn hunt in Africa, recorded in the 1832 revised edition of Calmet’s Dictionary of the Holy Bible, edited by Edward Robinson. He wrote:

“Dr. Sparrmann, the Swedish naturalist, who visited the cape of Good Hope and the adjacent regions, in the years 1772-1776, gives, in his travels, the following account: Jacob Kock, who had traveled over the greater part of Southern Africa, found on the face of a perpendicular rock a drawing made by the Hottentots, representing a quadruped with one horn.”

“Hottentots” referred to African bushmen who live in South Africa’s Kalihari Desert. They reportedly told Dr. Sparrmann that the animal was “very much like the horse on which he rode, but had a straight horn upon the forehead. They added, that these one-horned animals were rare, that they ran with great rapidity, and were also very fierce.”

Robinson goes on to say that a “somewhat more definite account of a similar animal is contained in the Transactions of the Zealand Academy of Sciences at Flushing (published 1792). The account was transmitted to the society in 1791, from the Cape of Good Hope, by Mr. Henry Cloete.

“This animal resembled a horse, and was of a light-gray color, with white stripes under the lower jaw. It had a single horn, directly in front, as long as one’s arm and at the base about as thick. Towards the middle the horn was somewhat flattened, but had a sharp point; it was not attached to the bone of the forehead, but fixed only in the skin.

“The head was like that of the horse, and the size also about the same. The hoofs were round, like those of a horse, but divided below, like those of oxen. This remarkable animal was shot between Table Mountain and Hippopotamus River, about sixteen days’ journey on horseback from Cambedo, which would be about a month’s journey in ox-wagons from Capetown.

“Mr. Cloete mentions, that several different natives and Hottentots testify to the existence of a similar animal with one horn, of which they profess to have seen drawings by hundreds. He supposes that it would not be difficult to obtain one of these animals, if desired. His letter is dated at the Cape, April 8, 1791.”

In the Book of Job, God’s list of impressive animals goes on to discuss peacocks, ostriches, horses, hawks, and eagles. God builds up to a crescendo, commanding Job to look at the behemoth (Job 40:15). The behemoth’s description seems to match that several species of dinosaur.

The list concludes with the leviathan, a powerful sea creature.

So, are unicorns in the Bible really mentioned?

Yes. The King James Version uses the term nine times.

Were they horses with single horns coming out of their foreheads?

Probably not.

But the fact is we really don’t know — and neither did the translators.

On this day in 1994, a Jewish settler from New York entered the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron with an automatic weapon and killed twenty-nine Muslims during prayer, which has become known as the Hebron Massacre. This massacre has been a landmark in the conflict in the Middle East, which is so often fueled by religious extremists reacting to other religious extremists. It is a reminder that extremists of all faiths have distorted the best that our faiths have to offer, and it is our prayer that a new generation of extremists for love and grace will rise up.

How to fail at church

A self-righteous hypocritical guide to failing as a cell church

Following our simple method will ensure sporadic attendance, lack of discernable growth, and poor discipleship retention.  Failing at church can be FUN!  I know I know, every church is just a little dysfunctional in some way, if you ever found the perfect congregation you would run away screaming lest you infected their edenic beauty.  As we come up on Easter and near the anniversary the first FSRCotH meeting so long ago, I am suddenly given pause to take a critical look at our progress over the past couple of years and take stock of some of the things that we got absolutely wrong.  Maybe its nostalgia, maybe its indigestion, who can say?


  • Have an enigmatic name which could be easily misinterpreted by traditional Christians and non-believers alike.  If you name your fellowship “Texas Avenue Baptist Church” and you happen to be a Southern Baptist church whose building is located on Texas Avenue then people driving by can rest assured in the knowledge that they can reasonably expect to know what’s going on behind closed doors.  If you name your fellowship “Star Spawn of Unknown Kadath” then you should expect a certain amount of uncertainty and confusion revolving around what you and your parishioners are up to!
  • Don’t have a building.  There’s nothing like a lack of stable routine meeting location to disrupt attendance.  People enjoy the established reliability of showing up at the same place every week, they like their personal parking spaces, sitting in their assigned seats, being surrounded by a comfortable private environment engulfed in their unvarying ugly wallpaper and stained carpet left over from the 1970’s.  If you really want to turn people off, meeting in public parks, private lesson studios, Vietnamese coffee houses and Islamic Indo-Pak cuisine serving restaurants is a great way to fail to meet potential attendees’ expectations for bland predictable permanency.
  • Meet at on a different day, and if possible at a different time every week.  We love out habits.  We enjoy the expectation that at 7:30 on Wednesday evening our favorite comedy television troop will invariably display their quirky lives to us in the privacy of our comfortable living rooms. Most of us are pretty busy too, and having the threat of some unknown scheduling conflict lurking within the voluminous folds of our Google calendar app is generally enough to dissuade even the most resolute saint from penciling the service into their calendar.  Oh yeah, and to double the deterrent effect, only post your meeting location on a select few electronic venues and text messages within 48 hours of the actual service, that’s usually the icing on the cake!
  • Invite people of varying faiths and worldviews, and engage each of them in loving dialogue opening the floor for each to express him or herself to the group in honest conversation.   This is especially effective if you can ensure that you’ll have at least one member of two conflicting political persuasions who feel vocally vehement, loudly denouncing the opposing leaders, spokespersons, economic practices, or pants.  On rare occasions, if you have the misfortune of actually achieving some sort loving environment where your group members actually communicate with each other and somehow manage to build relationships outside your church meetings, rest assured that they will eventually offend each other on Facebook somehow, and then neither one will ever attend again for fear of running into the other.
  • Lack a firm repetitive structural component which dictates the order of service. We all know that effective discipline can only occur when church services are very precise about having a 30-45 minute slick radio-friendly pop music performance, followed by a short welcome by the pastor, who then invokes several more lower energy contemplative songs, which usher in a 20-40 minute long socially relevant sermon presentation, followed by a PowerPoint barrage of pictures of starving African children and plaintive pleas for cash, culminating in several more joyful up-tempo rock inflected praise choruses.  This exact progression IS the essence of CHURCH, it’s in the Bible, look it up! In addition to avoiding all of the above displays of religious devotion, I heartily recommend that you utilize some sort of outdated and frumpy looking liturgy as your guide for whatever scripture readings you feel like incorporating into the service.  Despite the obvious facts that historically orthodox believers have been using liturgy for centuries to teach and explain the mysteries of scripture, let’s face it liturgy just sounds old and smacks of your great aunts mothball scented services you were forced to attend at Christmas and Easter when you were a child. On no account should you actually allow people to talk freely or openly discuss either the contents of the liturgy, or any unrelated personal trials or questions they may have.
  • Set aside part of your time for prayers for each other.  This is a great way to force people to prove their spirituality by making them speak their petitions to God aloud and in public, preferably sitting around holding hands with closed eyes in the middle of a crowded Middle Eastern restaurant during Ramadan.  Glare at people who don’t participate in this vocal exercise (for whatever reason) and welcome long-winded rambling prayers covering blessings for personal material wealth for each individual member of the petitioner’s family.  You might get lucky and have the prayer time last longer than the entire rest of the service, and especially lucky if one of your members spontaneously remembers their gift of tongues/prophecy/Taylor Swift songs in the middle of their benediction.


Once again, good luck in your efforts!  Attempting to apply even a couple of these methods should be enough to disrupt your services, and if you can manage to incorporate all of them at once then failure is practically guaranteed.   Once we can remove our pride and worldly view of success from the way that we attempt to “do” church, then we open our community up to the movements of the Holy Spirit and allow God to have His way with our fellowship, shaping it and growing it in the way that He has intended rather than according to our plan.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


a brief Self Righteous history

a couple years back, Alicia and I toiled at Anchor Baptist church in Kemah as “worship leaders” which I guess is how you say ‘musician’ in the modern sacred vernacular, frustrated with our attempts to bring our friends into contact with Christ through the “traditional” (read 20th century American) church model. That missional minded loving and relational evangelism stuff worked just fine up to a certain point-but when it came time for our fresh doey eyed disciples to ask about attending church with us we would always involuntarily cringe. We never knew when our pastor (intelligent and loving fellow though he was) would launch into some hard core Republican rhetoric or Zionist or anti Catholic ranting mixed in with his teachings from the gospels. Bringing folks to visit church with us frequently seemed to alienate both our friends and sometimes our yoke-fellows at Anchor as the loud tattooed foul-mouthed beer swilling biker smoking at our annual “friends of policeman” crawfish boil made for quite the spectacle. We wanted some safe haven where we could bring seekers to introduce them to the body of Christ, not the appearance of a sterile superficial edifice to further entrench their beliefs that all christians are Republican right wing conservative self-righteous hypocrites, and so when Anchor Baptist folded (as many small congregations today are wont to do) we decided to strike out on our own and try and create the church we so desperately wanted to attend. So now we meet in parks, coffee shops, and music studios- late in the afternoons on Sundays or Mondays, with small numbers of people, and try and keep it as close to authentic first century Christianity as we can muster. Minus the beheadings and the public burnings of course, hey lots of popular things suck, I’m not arguing with that. But there’s no reason to be smug and pat yourself on the back for hating a popular thing, whether it sucks or not.