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A National Call for Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Lately my editor, David Swindle, has been encouraging me to develop a series describing my own out-of-the box Jewish faith. It’s this mish-mosh of Biblical proverbs, Torah adages, stories and songs tightly woven together by my American colonial heritage and intense Zionist pride. There is no one perfect word to describe my Jewishness beyond Biblical in nature. Orthodox, Conservative, even Reform I am not. Reconstructionist or Renewal? Forget it. But I find commentary from all denominations (“streams” we call them in Judaism) interesting and acceptable in a “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” kind of way that gives me the liberty to define my Judaism in a way most of my compatriots are simply afraid to do. Which is probably why David finds my approach so fascinating. It’s rare to find a Jew who isn’t somehow fettered by the chains of guilt.

So I begin at the beginning, with Thanksgiving, the quintessential Jewish and American holiday. Traditionally Jews celebrate the idea roughly 1-2 months earlier during Sukkot, a festive fall harvest holiday in which we humble ourselves before the God who brought us out of bondage, not because we are perfect, but because He loves us and wanted to dwell with us. (Sukkahs, as in “tabernacles” as in “the Lord tabernacles with us”.) When you understand the story of God and Israel as a passionate love story, the struggles are contextualized as are the prophecies, into tough tales with happy endings. When you understand the metaphor of God and Israel as a greater metaphor of God’s love for humanity (we’re just the physical reminders) you open your heart to the immense, overwhelming love of God. And there is nothing more you can do as a human being than reflect on that truth with awe-filled gratitude.

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The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:

This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.

In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.

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Louie Gohmert Blasts Obama for Cherry-Picking Bible Verses

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert joined Sean Hannity on Thursday to discuss President Obama’s speech announcing his executive action on immigration. Rep. Gohmert took issue with Obama’s use of a verse from Exodus to defend his actions:

“Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too,” Obama read in his prime time speech, quoting Exodus 22:21.

Gohmert said that people here illegally are not legally allowed to work. He said the president is flaunting the law, which is an offense to the Constitution and to African Americans and Hispanic Americans who have an enormously high unemployment rate. Gohmert said Obama is “going to leave five million people out in the cold” when their jobs are taken by illegal aliens who now have the ability to work here.

Gohmert then pulled out his own well-worn Bible. “But I also want to point out he quoted Exodus 22:1 here. But if you just go over to the next column,” Gohmert pointed to a page heavily highlighted in in yellow, “maybe he hasn’t seen these verses, Sean.”

You must not spread a false report. Do not join the wicked to be a malicious witness. You must not follow a crowd in wrongdoing. Do not testify in a lawsuit or go along with the crowd to pervert justice. Do not show favoritism to a poor person in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:1-3)

“This man is showing favoritism and he is lying about Congress,” Gohmert said. “And I’ve seen this in another politician that I went up against who would call you everything in the book and would say, ‘Now we’re going to be gentlemen. We’re not going to talk bad about each other.’ Try to keep you from defending yourself. But we’re going to defend ourselves.”

Now, obviously Gohmert engaged in the same kind of cherry-picking that Obama did when he cited a verse that he liked from that same passage of Exodus. I suspect that Gohmert was trying to point out the absurdity of taking one verse out of context (though I wish he had taken a few seconds to explain that).

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Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See Part 1 of Susan’s ongoing series analyzing the connections between ABC’s Scandal, current events, and Western values: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.

Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.

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5 Reasons You Should Leave Your Church

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Paul Cooper

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There are many really bad reasons to leave a church. Some common but silly excuses for leaving a church are the following: somebody hurt your feelings, the church is getting too big, and you aren’t getting your way on some issue. There are some reasons one should prayerfully consider leaving a church. But how does somebody know when he should definitely leave a church?

Church membership and attendance should not be taken lightly. We enter into a family relationship when we join a church. It is the body of Christ. We should take joining and leaving a church very seriously, but sometimes circumstances leave no doubt that it’s time to go.

As a regular church attendee my entire life, and as a pastor who has been in some form of ministry leadership for over 15 years, I have some experience with church-attendance issues. I offer 5 reasons that a church member most likely should exit his place of worship and find another one.

5. Members (especially leaders) in the church are in grave sin but no one is holding them accountable.

All of us sin; that includes leaders in the church. We all mess up. We all fall short. But the Bible makes it clear that the immediate response to sin is repentance.  And if we do not repent then we need discipline. So if church members are living in blatant sin, and especially if its leaders are involved (who are held to a higher standard), there needs to be quick repentance — or discipline if there isn’t.

Let me be clear: I’m not telling you to only attend perfect churches where no one sins. If you join that church then you will immediately mess it up. But the name of Jesus is destroyed by churches that refuse to deal with rampant sin. Simply read the news to hear about church after church that ignored or covered up sin and are now facing lawsuits. Church members and leaders should be quick to admit wrongdoing and quick to try to make things right.

The Bible is filled with teachings on holiness and repentance when we mess up.  And the Bible takes sin in the church seriously. It’s so serious that if people refuse to repent then the worst-case scenario is to remove them from the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-12). However, if your church is refusing to deal with sin in the camp, then you must leave the camp. You cannot associate with a church that refuses to repent and seek Christ.

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What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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My editor, David Swindle, has a penchant for assigning me to review what I’d consider some pretty nasty stuff. It started with HBO, Girls in particular. He tried getting me into Game of Thrones, but after the whole Red Wedding thing I just couldn’t take it. Now, David has me watching Scandal. It’s more palatable in the network sense (nowhere near the gratuitous nudity and graphic sex levels of HBO), but it’s still as dark. Nothing beats watching a show about a team of lawyers who don’t care a whit about the law. In fact, they go to great lengths to break the law in order to serve the gods of public opinion.

Only four episodes in, I consulted with my PJ colleague April Bey, a big fan of the show, for her opinion. “Everyone is evil, but that’s okay because we’re all evil,” she explained. Her observation was ironic, disturbing, and thought-provoking. Despite an apparent thread of cynicism regarding religion and morality, the struggle between good and evil remains the stuff of blockbuster hits like Scandal. Because our stories reflect our cultural psyche, it should come as no surprise that the word “evil” is beginning to carry serious weight in intellectual circles. Ascribed with more power than a petty adjective (i.e. early 2000′s “evil” George W. Bush), evil is now being discussed as a theory and a reason for contemporary political, legal, military and indeed cultural failings.

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8 Reasons Why Jews & Christians Should Re-Think Celebrating Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.

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The Feminist Lesson in Mom’s Night Out

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Twenty-four percent of married couple families with children under 15 have a stay-at-home mom. Ninety-nine percent of stay-at-home moms in the movies get a really bad rap. Search “Best Movie Moms” and you’ll get lists that include Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Shelly Duvall in The Shining, and more than a few mentions of Psycho. The majority of movie mothers are either widowed or divorced, careerists or working class, alcoholics or impregnated by UFOs. The closest you’ll get to a stay-at-home mom in post-1940s cinema is Kathleen Turner playing the psychotic Serial Mom or Michael Keaton taking on the role so his wife can pursue her career in Mr. Mom.

In fact, outside of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side there hasn’t been a truly admirable middle-class, white, stay-at-home mother on the silver screen in over 50 years. Which is probably why Mom’s Night Out received such a negative critical reception when it premiered last spring. We have been acculturated out of believing in the power and purpose of stay-at-home moms. Yet, the criticisms leveled at Mom’s Night Out for its “depressingly regressive” spirit and “archaic notions of gender roles” were not applied to a similar film about a stay-at-home mom released only two years prior. This Is 40 received mixed reviews, but praise for yielding “…some of [Judd] Apatow’s most personal observations yet on the feelings for husbands, wives, parents, and children that we categorize as love.”

So, what made This Is 40 palatable in a way that Mom’s Night Out wasn’t? Is there, perhaps, a culturally acceptable way to be a stay-at-home mom?

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What 2 Retired Whores Can Teach Slut-Walk Feminists

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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A story about two old Jewish ladies is making the rounds in the Jewish press, but not for the reasons you may think. Sure, they’re bubbes. They’re children of a Holocaust survivor to boot. But the real reason they’re attracting so much attention is that they happen to be retired professional whores.

Dutch twins Louise and Martine Fokkens (probably not their real last name, since “Fokken” is a Dutch term for “old whore”) have become international celebrities since the 2011 release of their biographical documentary Meet the Fokkens. Women’s magazines like Cosmo picked up on their story shortly after the film’s release, publishing quick little details like:

Louise and Martine (mothers of four and three respectively) became prostitutes before the age of 20 in order to escape violent relationships.

It’s an interpretation that, at best, qualifies as a half-truth. Louise was forced into the sex trade by an abusive husband. Martine, however, became a prostitute out of spite:

Martine followed her sister into the trade, working first as a cleaning lady at brothels before she began turning tricks herself. “I was angry at how everybody around us shunned Louise,” Martine said. “I did it out of spite, really.”

Both women eventually divorced their husbands, whom they now describe as “a couple of pimps.” But they continued working in the district “because that had become our lives,” Louise said.

“Our life in the business became a source of pride, a sport of sorts,” Louise added.

In retrospect, both women say they regret becoming prostitutes.

Reading their story, one can’t help but wonder if mainstream feminist advocates for slut walks and “Yes Means Yes” legislation would condemn the pair for regretting the life they chose. After all, their body, their choice, right? They took control of their bad marriages, divorced the husbands they referred to as “pimps” and chose, fully of their own volition, to remain in the sex trade after their exes were fully out of the picture. Martine and Louise, it would seem, are the originators of the Slut Walk.

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Is Medical Greed Leading to D.I.Y. Deaths?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

My PJ colleague Walter Hudson published a compelling argument regarding physician-assisted suicide in response to the ongoing dialogue surrounding terminal cancer patient Brittany Maynard. His is a well-reasoned argument regarding the intersection of theology and politics, written in response to Matt Walsh’s Blaze piece titled “There is Nothing Brave About Suicide.” Both pieces are a reminder that, in the ongoing debate over whether or not Maynard has the right to schedule her own death, little has been said regarding the role the medical profession plays in the battle to “Die with Dignity.” Walsh argues:

None of us get to die on our own terms, because if we did then I’m sure our terms would be a perfect, happy, and healthy life, where pain and death never enter into the picture at all.

It’s a simplistic comment that ignores a very real medical fact: Death can come on your own terms. And that doesn’t have to mean suicide.

My mother was a nurse for 20 years. During that time she worked in a variety of settings, from hospitals, to private practice, to nursing homes. Much like Jennifer Worth, the nurse and author of the Call the Midwife series, my mother practiced at the end of Victorian bedside nursing and the dawn of Medicare. As a result, the abuses she witnessed in the name of insurance claims were grotesque. For instance, if a patient required one teaspoon of medication, an entire bottle would be poured into the sink and charged to that patient’s insurance company. This was just the tip of the iceberg of unethical practices that would become priority in the name of the almighty “billing schedule.”

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Ross Douthat Loves Lena Dunham for All the Wrong Reasons

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has declared his love for Lena Dunham. It hardly comes as a surprise that a New York Times writer, even one who dwells to the right of the aisle, would find the Girls prodigy appealing. What makes Douthat’s devotion disturbing is that he has managed to transform a goddess chained to a slew of liberal causes into a sacrificial lamb for conservative culture. In his struggle to do so, his misses the mark in what could have been one of the most culturally relevant critiques of Girls to date.

The critic defends Dunham’s showpiece Girls, writing,

She’s making a show for liberals that, merely by being realistic, sharp-edge, complicated, almost gives cultural conservatism its due. 

It’s a seemingly ironic observation, based in the idea that Girls “often portrays young-liberal-urbanite life the way, well, many reactionaries see it…” That is, a subculture on the verge of self-destruction due to excessive amounts of what sociologist Robert Bellah dubbed, “the view that the key to the good life lies almost exclusively in self-discovery, self-actualization, the cultivation of the unique and holy You.”

In other words, as Gawker so simply put it:

He likes watching the show because it allows him to feel superior to Dunham and her fellow sluts.

By employing a rote, traditionalist perspective, Douthat argued himself into a hole, turning his love into judgement and burying his point in poorly-worded theory and equally bad theology.

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A Special Dispensation if You’re Thinking of Seeing the New Left Behind Movie

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

If you’re a Bible-believing Jesus-loving American like me, I hereby officially absolve you from the guilt of staying as far away from the theater as possible during the inevitably short run of the new adaptation of Left Behind.

I also grant a special dispensation, if you’ve already seen the movie, from any inner compulsion you feel to “say something nice” as a passive way of encouraging Hollywood to make more “Christian” or “Biblical” or “values-based” films, or for fear of being judged by those who thought it was “awesome and super-Biblical.”

I further grant you absolute forgiveness for your previous Facebook posts in which you gushed about your eagerness to see Nicolas Cage in Left Behind, and speculated about his spiritual condition.

How can I grant such merciful forgiveness? I have personally borne the burden for you, and by my $10.25, you are saved… from spending your $10.25.

Unlike you, Left Behind remains unforgiven.

While the movie purports to be about “the rapture” — the sudden vanishing of all Jesus-believers from the face of the earth (and the cabins of aircraft) — I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching another Zucker & Abrahams Airplane movie. I kept expecting Leslie Nielsen to pop into the flight deck to deadpan, “I just want to tell you both, good luck. We’re all counting on you.”

If I were more faithful to the doctrine of Frozen, I would merely let it go…let it go. But I feel mystically drawn to record my impressions here — drawn as a moth to the Mothra.

Here’s the problem: Left Behind is a bad movie.

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The Battle Against Israel’s Orthodox Patriarchy

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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I didn’t fully appreciate how spiritually free I am as an American woman until I set foot on an El Al plane.

“Do you speak Hebrew?” the fretting woman in front of me asked.

“No, not really.”

“It’s okay, I speak English,” she hurriedly replied, obviously looking for a friendly face. “These Orthodox,” she motioned to the people sitting next to her, “they don’t like sitting next to women.”

“Well, that’s their problem.” My response was pointed, matter-of-fact, American.

She smiled as if a light bulb went off in her head. “You’re right!” Her expression grew cloudy. “But what if I take off my sweater? They won’t like that I expose my shoulders with my tank top.”

Again, I simply replied, “That’s their problem.”

She smiled, empowered. Removing her sweater, she took her seat and stood her ground.

And at that moment I thanked God I was raised in pluralistic America, and realized, oddly enough, that the Holy Land was giving me my first chance to practice the biblical feminism I’ve preached.

Israel is a Western nation in that women have equal rights by law. Israel is also a confluence of religious and ethnic cultural attitudes, not all of which are friendly to women. Two days into our trip to Jerusalem, a family member who also happens to be a retired journalist explained the latest story to hit the nightly news. A man accused of spousal abuse was released to return home. Later that evening, police found his wife had been shot dead. The husband confessed to the murder. Apparently, domestic violence and death is a relatively small but significant problem in Israel. When I asked my former journalist why, he pointed to the influence of Middle Eastern (both Arabic and radical Islamic) patriarchal culture as the primary source.

Yet, even religious Jews in Israel (and around the world), despite their insular nature, are far from immune to sexual abuse. Sex scandals among the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) show up frequently on the evening news. In this case it’s not the Arab/Muslim influence, but perverted behaviors that arise from rabbinic abuse of biblical teachings. How do you expect a man to relate to a woman sexually when he’s not even allowed to look her in the eye?

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10 More Movies Projecting the Jewish Experience on Film

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Daniel Deronda

A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.

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5 Idols that God’s Followers Allow to Get in the Way of Their Relationship with Him

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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These days we don’t really talk much about idols, at least not in the literal sense. We talk about American Idol and teen idols and that sort of thing, but the idols that represent serious sin go unmentioned.

Throughout the Bible, we see the evidence of the damage that idol worship does. After the Exodus, when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the impatient Israelites made a golden calf to worship. For the people of Israel, it was just downhill from there, as idol worship and the unfaithfulness toward God that such worship represented led to a world of trouble for them, including the exile to Babylon.

In the New Testament book of Acts, Jesus’ apostles encountered idol worshipers when they went about spreading the Good News of the Messiah. These worshipers of other gods — and even some of the craftsmen who made the physical idols — stirred up all sorts of strife for the followers of the one true God.

So what relevance does idol worship have for us today? These days, the idols that Jews and Christians follow aren’t graven images per se, but followers of God do allow certain ideas, preferences, and opinions to become idols that get in the way of their relationship with Him. Many of these idols come with the best of intentions, yet they impede the ability to truly follow God.

In the following pages, through an inter-faith dialogue with one of my favorite colleagues here at PJ Lifestyle, Susan L.M. Goldberg, we’re going to look at five idols that God’s followers allow to get in the way of their relationship with Him. Hopefully naming these idols will get some Christians and Jews to think about how they may affect their own relationship with God.

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11 Lessons About Religion I’ve Learned from Pop Culture Polytheism

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.

Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.

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Will Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings Be As Overrated & Lame As His Previous Films?

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

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Why Was Jesus Born Jewish?

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Myra Adams

Jesus was Jewish and that is a fact – NOT my opinion.

About a decade ago at a friend’s party I began chatting with another guest who, in the course of our conversation, informed me that he was an Orthodox Jew.

This information gave me an opening to ask my favorite question, “Why was Jesus born Jewish?”

His answer was memorable, “Jesus wasn’t Jewish,” he replied.

My jaw dropped and I was almost speechless. Initially I thought he was kidding until realizing he was not.

Then, after a short conversation volley he said, “Well, that’s your opinion.”

Years later I have never forgotten that incident because the fact (not opinion) that Jesus was born, lived and died a Jew is one of the few universally accepted Biblical “facts.”

As one who was born and raised a Jew — but since 1975 has believed that Jesus was and is the Messiah — I have made a hobby out of asking traditional Jews, “Why was Jesus born Jewish?” The reason I continue asking this question is because the answers or I should say non-answers are always so intriguing.

Here are three examples (but you will have to read to the end for the most recent and intriguing example of all.)

A fews months ago, I posed “the question” to an old friend who is a secular Jew, not religious, but very proud of his heritage. His replied, “I don’t know. I guess Jesus had to be born of some religion so it just happened to be Judaism.”

My husband loves to tell this true story he calls, “How Myra Accosted a Rabbi at a Bar Mitzvah.”  A few years back we attended a Bar Mitzvah of a friend’s son. Afterwards at the reception, using my sweet, inquisitive voice I asked the Rabbi, “Why was Jesus born Jewish?”  My husband describes the Rabbi’s face as looking like he had just encountered Satan. After gaining his composure the Rabbi answered, “No one has ever asked me that question,” as he quickly excused himself and dashed to the opposite side of the room.

Then there was the time I was having a heated argument with my non-religious Jewish father (now deceased) about Jesus and my conversion to Christianity. My father had great disdain for ALL religion because he strongly believed that religion was the root cause of every war in human history. During the course of our discussion I asked him, “What was the religion of Jesus?” He replied confidently,  “Jesus was Catholic.”

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Jane the Virgin: The CW’s Take on ‘Immaculate’ Conception

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The CW is planning to add Jane the Virgin to its fall lineup. Based on a Venezuelan telenovela of the same name, Jane the Virgin is about an intentionally virginal girl who is “accidentally artificially inseminated” by her OB-GYN:

Jane stars Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown) as a hard-working, devout Latina who is kind of hoping her boyfriend proposes — though she’s a little worried he’ll get down on one knee so she’ll finally agree to do the deed. When a mix-up at the OB-GYN leads to that artificial insemination plot line, Jane must choose whether to keep the baby — and whether to let the handsome father into her life.

Aside from containing a number of Spanish stereotypes, including the paranoid grandmother putting the fear of God into her pre-teen daughter (“Once you lose your virginity, you can never go back!“) to a cast of overtly sexualized Latinas, the show appears to be a platform for some long overdue, serious conversation regarding abortion. However, the show sounds eerily like one of the most famously influential and revered plot lines in the West’s repertoire, leaving one to wonder how a primarily Protestant audience might handle a story that’s been a hit in a Catholic country.

When it comes to the primarily pathetic representation of Latinas on television (does Sofia Vergara have to do it all?) at least Jane the Virgin appears to lack the typical trashiness of Devious Maids.

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10 Quotes on Faith and Freedom from Eric Metaxas’ Hillsdale Commencement Address

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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We had the honor of attending our son’s graduation from Hillsdale College last week on a picture-perfect May day with chairs lined up in tight rows on the east lawn of the beautiful campus. In addition to the joy of watching our eldest son walk across the stage to receive his diploma, we were blessed to hear the insightful commencement address from author Eric Metaxas. In addition to sharing stories from his youth and his faith journey, Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spydiscussed at length the connection between faith, virtue, and freedom. You’ll find the video of the speech at the end of this post.

Here are ten incisive quotes from Metaxas’ address, “The Role of Faith in the Story of Liberty”:

1. Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state.

Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state. It’s something that either be encouraged and smiled upon or discouraged and frowned-upon. Or, simply crushed, as it has been in every Communist country…Religious freedom, which was at the very heart of the Founders’ vision for America, cannot be compromised without all our liberties being compromised and America as we know her being redefined into non-existence.

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Matt Walsh Demonstrates Why Christians Need Biblical Feminism

Sunday, May 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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In an entry titled, “Christian women: feminism is not your friend” published on his popular Matt Walsh Blog in April, the conservative Christian commentator concluded that Christian “women (and men)” needed to stop identifying with feminism because the movement is essentially all about abortion.

Embracing the stereotypical liberal definition of feminism as a movement dedicated to starting and waging the War on Women, Walsh discussed the feminist fight for equality:

This is a pretty convincing indication that feminism has, at the very least, outlived its good. There is nothing surprising about that, because feminism, unlike Christianity, is a human construct. It’s an ideology. It’s a political theory. It’s a label. It is not eternal, it is not perfect (there’s the understatement of the decade), and it is not indispensable.

Feminism, like ‘liberalism,’ like ‘conservativism,’ like the Republican Party, like the Democrat Party, is a finite thing that exists and serves a certain purpose in a certain set of circumstances. When the times change, and the circumstances change, it will either die or its purpose will change.

Walsh then dug into medieval history, noting that women were given “equal standing” in certain English trade guilds in the Middle Ages, contrary to the following:

“The fact that guilds seldom permitted women to become masters did in the end relegate them to the least-skilled and certainly least-remunerative aspects of the trade”. This statement shows that the fact that women were not openly admitted to the professional guilds led to the downfall of the woman’s status as a worker during this time period. Since “[m]ale masters displayed no eagerness to train young women, and with few or no women recognized as masters, the guilds did contribute to the narrowing opportunity for women”.

Along with neglecting these facts, Walsh also did not note that neither the Christian Church, nor political leaders who identified with Christianity, demanded that equal professional or political rights be given to women (let alone non-Christians) on either side of the Atlantic.

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A Moment of Prayer on the Campaign Trail

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Yesterday I volunteered at the campaign headquarters for a candidate who is running in the the Republican primary for the 14th congressional district seat in Ohio. State Rep. Matt Lynch is challenging Congressman Dave Joyce, who replaced Steve LaTourette (of Mainstreet PAC fame). Lynch’s campaign has an uphill battle against incumbent Joyce, who is being heavily funded by LaTourette’s SuperPAC (more than $80,000 to date). In fact, Lynch only decided to run against Joyce when LaTourette’s daughter, Sarah LaTourette, filed to run against Lynch for his seat in the Ohio House, ending the Ohio Republican Party’s de facto ban on challenging incumbents. (Yes, these Mainstreet folks really are working that hard to eliminate conservatives).

I had never met Lynch but showed up at his campaign headquarters today after seeing a plea on Facebook for help to get a huge mailing out. I decided to help with the campaign after listening to the Plain Dealer editorial board’s interviews with Joyce and Lynch.  A devout Christian and running on a platform of “Faith, Family, and Freedom,” Lynch sounds less like the preachy moral majority candidates of the past and more like Mark Levin with a bit of a religious bent. Dave Joyce sounds like President Obama with a Republican bent. I enjoyed spending time with an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were committed to the conservative movement.

At lunchtime Rep. Lynch showed up with pizza and asked one of the volunteers if he would bless the food. The man recited a quick prayer he had memorized. Lynch held up his hand and said he would like the opportunity to pray for all of the volunteers. It was clear that he is a man who is no stranger to prayer. He prayed naturally and from the heart. After we all said, “Amen,” a man in a uniform (who had stopped by on his way to work) put his arm around Lynch and said he would like to pray for him. So we all prayed again. Lynch was obviously touched by the gesture.

It was such a natural, spontaneous moment. It wasn’t scripted, but everyone seemed to know what to do and it wasn’t a bit awkward. And yet, as I consider the current environment in this country with religion (and in particular, Christianity) under attack, it was in some ways a remarkable moment. Here was an elected official taking time from the heat of the campaign trail to seek God. No “Freedom from Religion” bigots could stop that prayer and certainly, no government official could censor it or demand that it be religiously “neutral” (as if such a thing were even possible).

While we’ve always had one form or another of a civil religion in America, the true heart and soul of our country has always been individuals and groups praying quietly in their homes, churches, and other meeting places. James 5:16 says that “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” God takes no pleasure in coerced prayers or prayers led by those who are not his true followers. In Proverbs 15 King Solomon writes, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.”

We don’t need to demand prayer in schools or in city council meetings — or even in Congress — to find God’s favor. Indeed, in this modern era of “Coexist” it’s likely that such prayers would be offensive to God and would make things worse. We simply need men and women, boys and girls — and elected officials — who are committed to praying and honoring God in their private lives. Such a commitment to private prayer and faith will naturally flow out of the homes and into the public square and in doing so, will positively influence public policy as Americans are drawn closer to God.

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Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge, Part 2: Getting to the Heart of Social Justice

Friday, April 25th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Editor’s Note: See the introduction here and Part I here to this ongoing series explaining the insights of Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest ranking defector from the Soviet bloc

Most East European governments concealed their road to Communism by posting innocuous nameplates at the door, such as People’s Republic or Popular Republic.

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa

“People’s Republic” is such a chummy term. In fact, Marxism in general, with all it’s “redistribution of wealth” sounds so compassionate, at least to a Western, Judeo-Christianized mind. A Chinese mind familiar with Mao’s Great Leap Forward, for instance, may have a different take on the benevolent-sounding idea of a “People’s Republic” given the facts:

“State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.”

Mao couldn’t lie his way past a free press in the West. Nor could Khruschev, as Pacepa explains,

The 1963 missile crisis generated by socialist Cuba gave the socialist mask of Marxism a dirty name in the West, and few Marxists wanted to be openly associated with socialism anymore.

But, socialism is still hot. China is still The People’s Republic and “we’re all socialists now,” right? The last installment ended with the question: How have intellectual Wizards manipulated Marxism to acculturate the American mind leftward? Pacepa answers:

[Marxists] therefore began hiding their Marxism under a new cover called “economic determinism,” …a theory of survival rooted in Marx’s Manifesto (another theory of survival), but it pretends that the economic organization of a society, not the socialist class war and the socialist redistribution of wealth, determines the nature of all other aspects of its life.

The goal remained the same; the players simply put on a new mask. China has managed to be a People’s Republic that justifies murdering millions of its own people. Likewise, Marxist movements in the West masquerade under the guise of political generosity, often changing their names to suit the cultural climate:

When economic determinism lost credibility because of the devastating economic crisis in Greece, our Democratic Party began replacing it with “progressivism,” which has become the latest cover name for Marxism. …Today’s Progressive Movement was born in New York’s Zuccotti Park. It was first known as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which advocated the abolition of “capitalist America.”

Marxists in the West successfully propagate progressivism under the guise of “social justice“ that demands the redistribution of wealth to the less fortunate. Ironically, most people of the Judeo-Christian West accept this Marxist notion out of the goodness of their hearts. However, putting faith in the Marxist lie that human beings don’t have a heart (and therefore are incapable of compassionate decision making) requires handing over all financial power to the Marxist Wizards who proceed to dole out your funds as they see fit.

This speaks to the heart of the question, but how have the Marxist Wizards rendered us so seemingly brainless? 

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Strong Religious Beliefs Can Shape How Women View Homeschooling

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Marcia Clemmitt, a social policy researcher and former high school teacher, recently published an extensive report on homeschooling at CQ Researcher. In “Homeschooling: Do Parents Give Their Children a Good Education?“ Clemmitt discusses the research of Jennifer Lois, a sociology professor at the University of Western Washington, in Bellingham, and author of the 2012 book Home Is Where the School Is, who described some of the differences between those who homeschool for religious reasons and those who do it for more “pragmatic” reasons, such as safety or educational benefits.

Jennifer Lois said that although homeschooling parents generally acknowledge that “there’s potential for a lot of conflict and emotional button-pushing” between home-schooling parents and their children, she notes that “conservative Christian and other home-schooling mothers generally describe such problems quite differently.”

Lois said that “non-evangelical” mothers are more likely to remark that “we’re not meant to be together all the time; we’re not well matched for that.” In her study of homeschoolers, Lois discovered that these mothers were more likely to spend only a few years homeschooling their children and they were also more likely to complain about the children’s fathers not contributing enough to the homeschooling effort.

Clemmitt explained that women who homeschool for religious reasons are more likely to stick it out for the long haul. “By contrast, most evangelical Christian women whom Lois studied made very long-term home-schooling commitments, often lasting from preschool through high school,” Clemmitt said.

Women who view homeschooling as an integral part of their faith also view the inevitable family conflicts differently than their non-religious counterparts. “Evangelical mothers tended to describe conflicts less as problems and more as opportunities ‘to figure out ways to make their relationships with their children grow,”’ Lois says. Evangelical moms viewed the conflicts as opportunities for relationship building.

No word on how the dads view these issues (at least not in this study).

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