The Bible misunderstood
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
The Bible is, without a doubt, the most misunderstood book ever printed. It is not a scientific book or an accurate historical book, even if some try to make it so.
It does contain some science and some history, but not much. Most of it was written more than 1900 years ago. The writers saw the world as everyone at that time did. The world was flat. Travel was by foot, slow boat or by donkey.
Most people didn’t live beyond forty years. Jesus was an old man at age 33, when he died. Education was limited to a very few.
In my opinion, the biggest misunderstanding is in believing the Bible is humorless, joyless and without laughter. Nothing can be further from the truth.
To prove my point I will site the Bible itself and Elton Trueblood’s book, “The Humor of Christ.”
Laughter is a result not the cause of a humorous event. An absurd event, a ridiculous event, a contradictory event. Or an imaginary humorous event that memory has resurrected from the past.
A case of absurdity is evident in the life of Abraham and Sarah. They were told by an angel they would have a baby. He is 100 and she is 90 years old. The absurdity of such an event causes both to laugh. By the way, they name the baby Isaac; which means laughter.
The Bible doesn’t always reveal the cause of laughter, only that laughter occurred. In Psalm 126:2, it says, “our mouths were filled with laughter.”
Child psychologists tell us that babies laugh between 20-30 times an hours. It is the result of pleasure, happiness and contentment. It is reasonable then to presume that whenever these emotions are present in all instances by all people, laughter will naturally follow.
There are three basic elements, one of which is usually present in humor: absurdity, hyperbole (exaggeration) imagination. Remember the very popular sit-com a few years ago-MR. ED?
It was about a talking horse. Absurd to be sure. But it’s right out of the Bible. Numbers, chapter 19. The Scripture is about Balaam and his donkey. The donkey talks and berates Balaam. A laugher to be sure. Absurd? Absolutely.
Use your imagination about these stories. Noah and the Ark. Bill Cosby made it great with his interpretation. Imagine all the animals defecating. What a mess. Or Jonah living in the stomach of a great fish. Or a kid (David) stoning a giant with a slingshot and then cutting off his head.
There are scores like these in the Bible that are built for laughter.
What about Jesus? In the book, “The Humor of Christ,” written by Elton Trueblood, he laments the “widespread failure to recognize and appreciate the humor of Christ.” He further criticizes the admirers of Jesus as well as his critics in his lament.
It is important to recognize His use of paradox and irony, along with satire in His humor. Jesus’ use of humor was more in the style of Mort Sahl than that of Bob Hope. At times he was very caustic. Trueblood was stimulated to write the book after witnessing his young son crack up laughing. “He laughed because he saw how preposterous it was for a man to be concerned about a speck in another’s eye and ignore the beam in his own eye.”
His son knew the human eye was not big enough for a beam. It was absurd. The same goes for the ridiculous idea of a man going through the eye of a needle.
The “whited sepulchers” jab by Jesus toward the Scribes and Pharisees is extremely humorous. Many of the parables are filled with irony. Trueblood points out the use of hyperbole in many of the miracles: feeding thousands with a boy’s lunch or Peter sinking in the water because he didn’t know where the rocks were.
In my view, a great example that Jesus was often humorous and funny was the attraction of children to Him. He demanded that children be allowed to be close to Him.
Also an interesting Scripture describes Jesus as fraternizing with low lifes. (publicans and sinners) Also His enemies called Him a “wine-bibber.” That’s like making Jesus an alcoholic. Now use your imagination. Whenever a group of men get together, with a few drinks, they swap stories, humorous ones and laugh uproariously.
That’s true in Highland, L.A., New York or Jerusalem. Today, last year or 2000 years ago.
These are but a few samples of Jesus’ use of humor. To display Jesus’ serious side and ignore His humorous side is to ignore a large part of the Gospels.
Amen Selah. So be it.
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
For the past decade and a half Iraq has been in the news. Mainly because of the two wars fought with the USA. Evidence now reveals that we wanted their oil.
The reason Washington used was the lie that Saddam Hussein had WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Previously the oil industry had been nationalized. After the military victory, that was changed. So that private oil companies-like Halliburton-could own the oil.
The 36 million people in Iraq are basically Muslim. Sixty three percent are Shiites, thirty-four percent are Sunnis and three percent are Christians and Jews. Most of the Christians speak Aramaic, which was the language that Jesus spoke.
There are almost 3 billion Christians in the world today. There are 2.09 billion Muslims. The latter is divided into Sunnis and Shiites. Their schism dates back to the 7th century disagreement over succession after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D.
The Shiites followed the Prophet’s family and the Sunnis honor Abu Bakr a close companion of the Prophet. That holds true today.
Historians call Iraq “the cradle of civilization.” Bible scholars believe the Garden of Eden was in the southern part of the country. Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Muslim came from the land of Ur, also in Iraq.
Nineveh, made famous by Jonah is in the north. The Bible speaks much of the Babylonians, the Assyrians and the Persians. All three dominated Iraq at one time or another. Israel was wiped out by them in 722 and 582 BCE.
Ten thousand years ago Iraq was called Mesopotamia; which lasted until 334 BCE when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.
The first dominate people of the area were Sumerians. They go back before the Egyptians. They began as a primitive people who were primarily hunters and gatherers.
From them came the very beginning of civilization, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon-one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Many of history’s greatest developments took place in the Sumerian dynasty. By the year 4000 BCE the people had developed villages and towns and the city of Ur in 3500 BCE. The Sumerians were dominating until 2000 BCE.
They had developed the first writing system, the first code of law (the Code of Hammurabi), farming techniques like crop rotation and had developed a system of mathematics including the use of the “zero.”
They also were the first ones to use a “wheel.” They also developed the hoe, the rake, the shovel. Trade was established with nomadic tribes. They also had a system of irrigation canals and dikes.
They were the first to use copper and bronze; maps and calendars. They built carts, made pottery and were the first people to develop a written language.
Literary experts describe the famous Epic of Gilgamesh as, “a collection of folklore, stories and myths which was the most famous literary achievement to come out of Mesopotamia.”
Many Egyptian, Greek and Jewish stories are based on it. For example the Epic and the Bible have parallel stories: Adam and Eve, Noah, the flood, Tower of Babel, Jonah and Job.
The Sumerians were also the first people to establish schools, writing and an accounting system. They built a system of pyramids, which the Egyptians copied.
Sumerian culture also established monotheism rather than worshiping many gods. They developed the use of iron and were the first to have iron weapons of warfare.
One writer categorically says that the greatest contribution to come out of Mesopotamia was, “the concept of time. They were the first to establish 24 hours in a day, each hour into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 second.”
The bitter fighting in Iraq today is between the Shiites and the Sunnis. They are both Muslim. They are similar to the attitudes between Catholics and Protestants, 100 years ago. Hopefully their differences will be resolved. Amen.
Selah. So be it.
Bennett, Religion, Science
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Tony Bennett is unquestionably one of the greatest singers of all time. He is currently 88 years old. Frank Sinatra referred to Tony as, “The best singer in the business.”
He has sung for ten Presidents. A noted painter, he has three of his paintings in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute. His albums of songs number in the millions.
He was in World War II and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. When he had to kill a young German soldier at close range, it affected him so much he became a committed pacifist.
Bennett has strong beliefs regarding racism. He is an avowed liberal, often marching in favor of civil rights.
In a recent interview he was asked what he considered the greatest issue of today.
His answer involved an incident about himself and Ella Fitzgerald. They were good friends and often their families spent holidays together. He quotes her saying, “Tony, we are all here.”
What she meant, he says in the interview, “We are all here on the same planet. No matter what our race, religion, culture or ethnic background is. We are all humans sharing the same space in the universe.”
He concludes with his affirming his belief is what she said. He continued by saying, “Until we realize it we will never truly reach our goals as human beings.”
Tony Bennett is not only a great singer, he is a great person.
A CHANGE OF EMPHASIS
There is a major conflict between religion and science that has been going on for several hundred years. The issue revolves around the beginning of the universe and more specifically our planet and still more specific—us, you and me. A belief of many fundamentalists Christians endorses the view of Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656) that the first day of creation was October 23, 4004 BCE. Obviously this has been discredited with scientific discoveries.
Science, in general, contends that “chance” is the source of everything. In Christianity there are as many different views as there are denominations. However, the commonality is an acceptance of a Creator, reflected in such phrases as “Intelligent Design: or “Random Designer” or “Theistic Design.”
William Paley was born in 1743 and died in 1805 (62). An Englishman he taught natural theology and philosophy of religion at Christ’s College in Cambridge, England.
His viewpoints are in line with Plato, Galileo, Copernicus and Newton regarding the order and dependability of the universe. He would have endorsed Albert Einstein’s statement in 1954, “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos.”
All of these men would challenge the view of many scientists and atheists who believe that the universe is the result of CHANCE.
The bottom line is Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Back to William Paley. I find his analogy of the watchmaker very credible. A paraphrase will suffice.
Suppose several hundred years ago you had never seen a watch. You were walking through a forest and see your first watch. You’ve never seen one before and have no idea what it is. You pick it up and examine it.
It has a leather case and a small dial. It has a spring and makes a ticking sound. There are two hands on the dial moving in a predictable pattern.
You do not say, this thing is merely the product of pure chance, coming from all over and fitting together to produce structure, symmetry and order. It needs a maker-a creator.
The universe is made up of laws. The speed of light, the Big Bang-13-15 billion years ago, the law of gravity, etc. Neil Armstrong would never have made it to the moon without the predictability of the universe. Not chance.
Using your process of logic and deductive reasoning, you know that to have order there must be a creative mind and a maker. This principle is also applicable to building a house-it need an architect. An airplane needs an engineer; a song needs a composer; a German Chocolate Cake needs a baker. Any creation needs a creator.
The Bible in Genesis 1:1 says it all: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And I might add, and all within it, including you and me.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
Home is where they know us at our worst and still love us
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
There are many events and experiences in life that bring pleasure and joy to us. Being born in this great country should never be discounted.
The freedoms we have provide untold opportunities. Included are the chances to learn, to worship, to work and to have fun.
We who are so fortunate should remember the less fortunate in our thoughts and prayers.
But of all the blessings of life, it seems the most glorious is our homes. Robert Frost expressed it best in his poem, The Death of the Hired Man; “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they take you in. I should have called it, something you somehow don’t have to deserve it.”
Not to have been born in a caring, loving home is a tragedy beyond expression. However, it can be safely said that family abuse is of epidemic proportion.
Every day the news media gives evidence to that. The causes are as varied as there are instances.
Often the abusers were victims themselves. That’s all they know. Physical abuse. Alcohol is often the trigger. It causes lack of control and undisciplined behavior.
Statistics indicate that economic problems often drive abusers to the use of alcohol.
Psychologically the frustration of not having a way out of problems, particularly financial, will precipitate abusive behavior.
A corollary to abuse is delinquency among children. School teachers report that students are often more rebellious after violence is portrayed on television or in times of war.
The mayhem in sports, movies, video games all contribute to an atmosphere of violence. This is transferred to home abuse.
Emotional and mental abuse is equally devastating as physical abuse. And often more so. It seldom leaves outward scars, only inward. A classic example is the husband who avoids speaking to his wife for days on end, but would be lovey dovey at social events. It leaves the wife a mental and emotional basket case.
You would think that the better the education and the richer the family is, would lessen the instances of abuse. But that is not so. Pressure on the job is the curse. It causes stress that needs to be released, and too often abuse is the way out.
What can be done to defuse the tension in a dysfunctional family? Is termination the only recourse for the responsible members? Of course, in the extreme the authorities should be notified. When worst comes to worst they can protect the victims. And certainly erase the cause for abuse.
Intervention on the part of concerned family members, or a neighbor, a minister, school teacher, a doctor, or a therapist, may alleviate the abuse when the abuser is confronted by the concerned.
Mental illness like bipolar or clinical depression can be helped with medication. Both of these illnesses can lead to family abuse.
Other organizations may be useful like Alcoholics Anonymous and a church. Religious involvement can be an invaluable help in all kinds of abuse. The churches have always been in the reclamation business. Never underestimate their message of redeeming the lost and needy.
Often the victims are seniors that are physically harassed and abused by their children or other relatives. It is a growing social embarrassment. Seniors are also often abused simply by neglect.
Someone has said that all families are dysfunctional in one way or another. That doesn’t negate the potential for change that makes families functional.
William Barclay was one of the greatest Bible scholars of all times. He wrote over 50 books. In one of them, he said, “Home is the place where you don’t need to be brave. Home is the place where they know us at our worst and still love us. I believe in home—I believe in marriage—I believe in the family, for I could not have lived without them.” ME TOO.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
A little bit about Sam Snead
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
To me, the game of golf is the most fascinating sport there is. It combines the maximum of physical skill and a great amount of mental planning, plus creative thinking. It is a combination of brains and brawn.
My favorite senior pro golfers are Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, and Tom Watson, followed by Fred Couples and Phil Mickleson.
Among the younger players today, I like Rory, Bubba, Adam, Tiger and Sergio. But my all-time favorite is SAM SNEAD. In my mind he was head and shoulders above all the other golfers in his time or any other time.
Samuel Jackson Snead was born on May 27, 1912 in a small town-Ashwood, Virginia. He died on May 23, 2002-4 days before his 90th birthday. He died of a stroke.
Sam’s wife, (Audrey Kames) and he were married in 1940. She died in 1990. They had two sons, Sam Jr. and Terrence. They also had two grandsons.
Sam was always active in sports. During high school, playing football, basketball and running track. In fact, he ran the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds flat. He was in great health most of his life: 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing an average of 185 pounds. In his eighties Sam was so limber he could touch the top of the average door jam with his foot.
He was the youngest of five brothers and was inspired to play golf by his oldest sibling. Sam made his first clubs from saplings from the trees. He walked the course in his bare feet and would practice hitting rocks.
In fact, when he was having problems with his game, he would often take off his shoes and sox. In one of his Master’s win, that’s what he did. He went barefoot. And won the tournament.
Many golfing authorities see him and Ben Hogan as the two greatest golfers of all time. The interesting thing about their competition, Sam beat Ben every time they had a playoff.
While his contemporaries do agree he was great, they also agree that he was cantankerous. He was strong willed and always voiced his opinions. He was also humorous.
Sam always had a joke and most of the time they were suggestive or downright dirty. Two of my favorite humorous stories, that are not dirty, are about two other golfers.
The first one is about Ben Hogan. Sam challenged the view that Hogan never talked. Sam said, “That’s not true. He always talks to me. He says, ‘Sam, you’re away’.” That means Hogan was closer to the hole than Sam.
I really love this one. It concerns a young (25) golfer that was pretty good. He and Sam were playing on a good course-with a side bet-and they came to a 450 yard, dogleg to the right, about 250 yards from the tee. At the turn there was a group of trees about 70 feet tall, and they were out of bounds.
Sam says to the young golfer “When I was your age I could hit the ball over those trees onto the green.” Not to be outdone, the golfer tried it himself and it landed right in the middle of the out-of bound trees.
Sam laughed uproariously. “Of course, when I was your age those trees were only 10 feet tall.” Sam was 70 years old at the time.
Sam became famous for using the word “yipps,” when his putting was bad. It was the shakes. So he started putting like someone playing croquet, straddling the ball. Unfortunately the PGA outlawed the technic.
He never wore a golf cap. Only a broad brimmed hat. He never took it off because his hair was gone. Did you know he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II?
Perhaps you are questioning my view that he was the greatest golfer ever. I back up my opinion with these statistics.
He played professionally from 1934 until he retired in 1987. A total of 53 years. In that period of time he won 82 PGA sponsored tournaments. He was the winner of 162 professional tournaments. No one is even close to the latter number. Only Tiger may win more PGA tournaments.
For several years he was the PGA’s leading money winner. It should be remembered that he competed the highest ranked players for 50 plus years like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
A famous statement of his describes him to a tee. “Keep close count of your nickels and dimes, stay away from whiskey and never concede a putt.” Finally, Sam Snead was a great golfer and a penny-pinching hillbilly from the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Amen. Selah. So Be It.
Living life to the fullest
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Over the past 34 years I have written hundreds of articles for various newspapers. The subjects have been eclectic. However, I’ve focused more often on seniors, our country, travel, aging, people places and things.
Like Horatio Alger, many of my people articles have been “rags to riches” in emphasis. Or, overcoming handicaps like Helen Keller.
Consider Renee Bondi. She wasn’t always a quadriplegic, as she is now. Recently I heard her sing and heard and saw her interviewed. Her singing is smooth and melodic. She also has a wide range from low alto to high soprano.
She and her husband Mike have been married 25 plus years and have a son, Daniel, who is 18. They live in San Juan Capistrano. 1988 marked a drastic change in her life. A devout Roman Catholic, she was recognized as one of the best Gospel singers in the USA, on a par with Sandi Patty.
In May of 1988, she fell out of bed and severed her spinal cord.
The pain was severe and in the ICU the doctor informed her that she was a quadriplegic and would never walk again or ever sing again. She was to be married in July to her fiancé.
Against all odds and all physicians prognosis, Renee’s voice was miraculously restored. She has written a book of her life: “The Last Dance Bur Not the Last Song.”
In addition to being a very talented singer and musician, Renee is an emotional public speaker. She has the gift to inspire and motivate the audience. Always she tries to lead the listeners to a higher spiritual Christian commitment.
It is also her personal goal. Her relationship with God has been the source of her optimistic spirit and deep faith. Recently she was confined to her bed for several months, lying on her stomach.
She spent a part of each day memorizing Scripture and meditating on it. Her favorite chapter is Philippians, 4th chapter. It contains such verses as: ”I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” And: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” She would follow Scripture with the memorization of verses of song.
Jason Wolfe is my second important person. Now 45 years old, he says he wondered as a kid if he would ever see adulthood. He didn’t think he’d be alive. Father gone, mother disabled, on welfare, too many children and she sent him to an orphanage, the Milton Hershey School.
It’s the best financed school for impoverished kids in the country with over 7 billion dollars in assets. Currently the school serves 1,925 students-boys and girls. The School owns controlling interest in the Hershey Company and all of its interests.
On April 29, 2014 Jason was named the 2014 Alumnus of the Year. “The standard is amazing. Recipients of the award have demonstrated a human and exemplary service to others. Jason meets all the requirements.”
He is an usher at Orchard Hill Church and participates in a Bible study group. He has been on three mission trips to Haiti. Last year he and his 9 year old son took a van across the country filled with gifts for needy children at Christmas time.
Today he is the owner of Gift Cards. Com that he founded in 1999. Last year it earned approximately 150 million dollars.
He credits his success to the values he learned at the orphanage: hard work, concern for others and being a Christian.
Bob Bell. He was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. In High School he was a football star, coached by Joe Scarborough, of the Morning Joe program on MSNBC.
During his freshman year of college, tragedy hit. In a roughhousing bout with a friend, Bob’s neck was broken and he became crippled. Bob has spent the last twenty-four years as a quadriplegic.
However, anyone who has seen or heard him speak knows that his spirit was not damaged. As one friend says, “His journey since then, both literally and metaphorically has been truly awe-inspiring.
His recent book has a unique title. “Un Moving Four Ward.” Decipher its meaning for yourself. Basically it is for anyone “who has faced, is facing or will face a difficult time in their life.”
Obviously, it is for everyone. It has humor in it, inspiration, informative and is painfully honest.
There is a basic challenge in it. That we should live the one life we’ve been given to its absolute fullest. The book is full of stories and tips for keeping a positive perspective despite life’s problems.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
Ideas and insights
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
This article is a smorgasbord of interesting ideas and insights. Fifteen of them.
Of all the people that graced CBS’ 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney was my favorite. In one of his books he wrote an interesting item about Igor Stravinsky. Born 1882 in St. Petersburg, Russia, he came to the USA in 1939 and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. He died on April 6, 1971 in New York City.
He is considered the greatest composer of the 20th century. One of his best known sayings is, “My music is best understood by children and animals.”
Rooney said that Stravinsky started his career in Russia as a newspaper columnist. However, he complained that the breadth of what he could write about “drove him crazy.” He wanted something that was predictable. He turned to the 7 notes of the scale: do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti; then the octive. He became a composer.
I saw a most interesting statistic recently regarding happiness. The citizens of New York City are the unhappiest in the USA. Maybe it’s because they were not the one in twenty-five citizens of NYC that is a millionaire.
Second unhappiest city is Pittsburgh, PA.; followed by Louisville, Kentucky and Detroit, Michigan.
On the opposite side of the fence, the citizenry of Richmond, VA are considered the happiest people in the USA. Second is Norfolk, VA followed by Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia.
I was saddened to read of the death of Louie Zamperini at the age of 97. The book “Unbroken,” about him, is being made into a movie by Angela Jolie. An amazing hero in World War II, he was to be the Rose Parade’s Grand Marshall on January 1, 2015. In 1960 I had him speak at the church I was pastoring in Cypress, California.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
I like this statement by Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Did you hear about this incident? A Frontier Airliner was stranded in Wyoming. It left Washington, D.C. for Denver. They were kept on the plane for seven hours. The Captain Gerhard Bradner, ordered thirty- five pizzas for them.
While Frontier is known for being cheap, but not so Captain Bradner. He explained, “They were my responsibility.”
Barney and Betty were sitting on the couch watching TV. They were married for 50 years. Suddenly Barney says, “Hon, promise me that if I ever become dependent on just machines and bottled fluids that you will put an end to it.” “No problem, my love,” said Betty. She promptly got up, turned off the TV and poured his beer down the drain.
Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly. Right now.” (John 10:10)
The great boxer Jack Dempsey said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” Obviously the word “champion” applies to all of us, boxer or not.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a great woman. She said, “When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
I really like this comment by George Will. “Pessimism is as American as apple pie-FROZEN apple pie with a slice of processed cheese.”
This thought is almost unbelievable. Do you know if I doubled a penny every day, and continued doubling it daily for a month, the total would be over 5 million dollars?
The word “why” is a great door-opener for information. For instance. Why do ships and aircraft use “mayday” as their call for help? The answer is because it comes from the French word m’aidez-meaning ‘help me-and is pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’
This one will blow you away. The French again are involved. Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’.
The answer involves France because it was the first country to popularize tennis. The round zero on the score board looked like an egg and was called ‘l’oeuf.’ Which is French for “the egg.” When tennis was introduced in the U.S., Americans (naturally) mispronounced it “love.”
One more. Why is someone who is feeling great “on cloud nine?” Because clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. The person on cloud nine is floating well above worldly cares.
Thanks to Warren Mitchell for the “why.” . Amen. Selah. So be it.
Pope Francis continues to make changes
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Pope Francis is on a roll. Not only is he changing the image of a Pontiff, he is radically changing the Vatican and the Roman Catholic’s influence in the world.
With all his activity it is important to remember that he is not a young man. In his teens he played sports and became a world class dancer. His comrades tell of his dancing the night away with a series of beautiful young ladies.
Unfortunately he is vulnerable to pneumonia because of the loss of a lung. Word is that he has also gained 20 pounds. He needs our continual prayers.
Pope John XXIII (23rd) and he have a lot in common. Both have brought great changes to the Church. Both reached out to non-Catholics and leaders of other religions.
Recently he made a trip to Israel accompanied by Jewish, Muslim and Eastern Orthodox leaders. He visited several sacred shrines and consulted with both Israeli and Palestinian political leaders.
His major message was for peace in the Holy Land. He emphasized the primacy of peace in all religions. In no uncertain words he called for unity and tolerance among all countries and religions.
Two subjects have really stirred the ire and vocabulary of the Pontiff: the Mafia and pedophilia among priests. In recent days he visited the region of Calabria. He visited the family of a three year old boy that had been killed by members of the Ndranghera syndicate.
The Pope was so upset that one Vatican writer said, “The Pope gave words of unequivocal condemnation never before issued from the mouth of a pope.”
Before a Mass of 200,000 people the Pope roared, “Those who in their life have gone along with the evil ways, as in the case of the Mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated.”
One writer in Italy interpreted the statement, “Italians who do not follow the church are no longer welcome in it.”
The Calabria Mafia is the power base of the drug trafficking syndicate, making billions of dollars each year. They also extort money from businesses and infiltrate government agencies.
Pope Francis, in his homily, denounced the Mafia for its, “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.” He then went on to say, “The Mafiosi are not in communication with God. They are excommunicated.”
In a special mass to honor hundreds of men, women and children murdered by the Mafia, the Pope challenged members of the mafia to “change their lives. Convert. Stop doing evil. . . There’s still time to stay out of hell. That’s what’s waiting for you if you stay in this path.”
Pope John Paul initially spoke in 1993, when he angrily called the Mafioso to “Repent, because one day you will face the judgment of God.”
In response to those who fear for Pope Francis’ life, he responded, “It’s true that anything can happen. But let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.”
The Pope’s second outburst of anger was directed at the pedophiles in the priesthood. He left no doubt about his feelings when referring to the perpetrators, “I have zero tolerance for them,” he said.
Recently he held a special mass at a small Vatican church, followed by private meetings with six victims of pedophile priests. “He begged for their forgiveness and condemned the Catholic Church’s complicity in covering up despicable actions and grave sins.”
Pope Frances is backing off somewhat of his statement that one in fifty priests is a pedophile. This rate would mean there are 8000 pedophiles in the priesthood worldwide. He described it as “a leprosy in our home,” that infected even bishops and cardinals.
As a corollary “he mused that celibacy for priests was introduced only 900 years after Jesus’ death.” He implied it was time for revision. Incidentally, the Eastern Orthodox churches split with the Roman Catholics over the matter of celibacy: Their priests are permitted to marry.
A recent article from Chicago uncovered thousands of pages of secret church documents revealing that the Archdiocese of Chicago failed to protect children from abusive priests.
The article continued “the Bishops shuttled accused priests from parish to parish. They failed to notify police of child sexual abuses. The ones in authority believed the guilty priest could be cured with counseling. Even the Cardinals were complicit. Over 65 priests were found guilty in the indictments.”
Pope Francis is relentless in defrocking all priests found guilty. Amen. Selah. So be it.