Gary Swisher

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Glossing Over Paganism

In Chrisitan Right, Christianity, evangelical on January 29, 2011 at 4:07 am

The History Channel’s “Decoded” series has been rather intriguing I admit, but I’ve wondered if, perhaps, they have their own secret agenda. I’ve watched the better part of four installments of this series, which have addressed hidden symbols in the statue of Liberty, Masonic influence in U.S. government and what happened to the real John Wilkes Booth. Most recently I watched an episode on the Bohemian Grove, a secret retreat of the rich and powerful.

The Decoded team always seems eager to lift the curtain on hidden secrets within American institutions, but I get a feeling they are only entertaining these radical ideas in order to appear to be objective investigators. There seems to be a pattern of glossing over some of the more alarming aspects of their investigations. First, they bait the viewer by raising suspicions of conspiracy and intrigue. But through their investigative process (which seems quite staged) they land on conclusions which rebut the most serious suspicions. By the end of the program they appear to have taken us down a conspiracy theory trail only to debunk the myths and relieve any major concerns. Conspiracy theories aside, there have been some major loose ends left dangling after the team has finished vetting their sources.

My lingering suspicions are not about the points that seem to be based on conjecture, but about facts that are easily verified. One example comes from the episode on the Statue of Liberty. Our famous Lady Liberty has numerous occurrences of number patterns seeming to link it, and its architects, to Free Masonry. The statue itself also has a stark resemblance to some ancient pagan goddesses.

This text appears in the program description on the History Channel website:

“…America’s most powerful icon of freedom might actually be loaded with secret symbols put there by a sinister group bent on world domination. They investigate claims that the Illuminati, a secret European society loosely affiliated with the freemasons, turned every inch of the statue into a coded message, from the torch Liberty holds high, to the rays emanating from the crown, even to the precise height of the statue itself.

The Illuminati became the point of contention in this episode, and a bit of a straw man argument. When the connection between the Illuminati and Lady Liberty was shot down, the Decoded team decided to give her a pass on all the evidence that point to her pagan roots as well.

A very similar situation occurred when the team investigated the Bohemian Grove in Northern California, where it’s long been suspected that powerful private sector and government leaders in the highest positions broker deals and influence the policies of our nation. At the conclusion of this episode, the team decided that it was the right of a private club to hold private meetings, although Brad Meltzer, the show’s host, objected, saying national decisions and policies should not be made in an exclusionary way.

But once again, what they all glossed over is the most bizarre aspect of this annual retreat. It seems well documented, through photographs, literature and video, that the Bohemians engage in a paganish ritual involving the burning of a human form, a child-like doll, on an altar before a towering owl-shaped figure. The ritual ceremony comes complete with priests and pyrotechnics. Interesting point: the horned owl is similar in form to the Canaanite god, Moloch, who was also treated to child sacrifices. Scary… Oddly, none of the Decoded investigators made a big deal about the reference to human sacrifice or a colossal horned owl.

The pagan symbols that adorn the architecture of our government buildings, along with the secret societies and practices that span American history is very unsettling. In my view, that alone, is the story. Whether Lady Liberty is the result of a secret conspiracy, an overt pagan symbol meant to offend Christianity or just a remnant of the pagan culture that reaches into the ancient past, we should sit up and take notice. No matter how you slice it, Satan has marked his territory.

Yet, many Christians come just short of worshiping the USA as God’s holy land. To hear some speak of the birth of our nation you would think it was the immaculate conception. It’s not that I don’t see God’s grace shed on us, but we should be very careful we don’t take on the same attitude of the ancient nation of Israel who claimed God’s favor, based solely on their nationality.

We can make the best of the benefits of this country as sojourners in America, and thank God for our blessings without creating an unholy union between Christ’s church and a worldly kingdom. Yes, we should vote, pay Caesar his due and act as good stewards of this exceptional opportunity, but we should never give our faith the task of providing a political platform to moralize or proselytize, or use governmental power as the vehicle to Christianize. For this reason I would like to get as far away from the Christian Right as possible, even if by coincidence I might frequently vote in accord with them.

Yes, pray for leaders, expose darkness and hope the good elements in our land prevail against evil. But let’s not be surprised or act so naive when a worldly nation, founded in a mixture of Christian precepts and pagan influences shows its dark, deceitful and ugly nature in the policies values and Godless behavior that is just the nature of this world.

Patriotism is not requisite to faith in Christ. The United States is not the Promised Land. It is an earthly kingdom, a world system, every bit as much as Babylon the Great. Our participation in God’s kingdom is no more tied to the United States than it was tied to the pagan Roman Empire of the first century.

© 2011 Gary Swisher. All Rights Reserved

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The Sunday Morning Show

In Christianity, church, edification, evangelical, pastor on January 27, 2011 at 4:48 am

A piece this week in Politics Daily focused on some twilight reflections of, likely, the most famous evangelist of our time, Billy Graham. In the article by David Gibson, Graham expressed regret about becoming entangled in politics. His close ties with U.S. presidents seems to have been the source of this regret, and a rare public falter when he believes he was influenced by the power of the office. At the end of the article Graham is quoted, saying, “[S]uccess is always dangerous, and we need to be alert and avoid becoming the victims of our own success. Will we influence the world for Christ, or will the world influence us?”

The last part of his statement should ring through the ears of any person who has been associated with a mainstream church over the past few decades. If there is one area (and there are truly many) where the church has become more and more prone to please the world, it is in the emphasis on a programmed performance–what most would call a Sunday worship service. In the name of cultural relevance, churches have adopted every element of show business from the broad stage with a complete musical ensemble to the media team that nuances lighting and sound throughout the service and cues the Hollywood-esque videos, complete with sound effects and dramatic visuals designed for maximum impact.

Our generation is so attuned to music and consumed with entertainment that church services have become more like movie trailers and infomercials. Many pastors seek real-life testimonials, human props and optimal audience interaction in order to impact their visitors and members, alike. Church leaders would reasonably argue that they are simply adjusting their delivery to the times. And so they are. Yet there has to be something wrong when you see churches so caught up in show business that they have sound systems that cost a quarter-million dollars in addition to elaborate music and drama teams.

One church in my local area actually had a series in which they created full-blown musical productions with drama vignettes intertwined in an attempt to connect with people based on what their favorite kind of music was! One particular Sunday they had a Rock music production. Another week it was Country Music Sunday and so on. I was able to view this extravaganza on their website. I have never seen anything that more closely resembles a circus atmosphere in a church (the word “circus”, by the way, likely shares a common root with the word “church”).

So am I advocating that churches retreat to monotone preachers and musty old hymnals? If this is the question that really comes to mind I think we are still missing the point. Whether it’s a showy, multimedia extravaganza or dry and lifeless regimen, church goers have long been treated to a systematic program. The trend we see now is very likely a reaction to the boredom many Christians experienced in past decades. It’s as if someone said, “Hey, Christianity should not be characterized as stuffy and boring. Let’s spice things up.”

For a long time now the pendulum has been swinging toward the dynamic and exciting extreme, and we’re talking extreme here! Anytime people are sitting in one place for more than 20 minutes and treated like receptors of information, you will have to employ every possible means to hold their attention and make it “fun”. This is why churches have long sought out dynamic and engaging orators and well-prepared and rehearsed musicians. But the apostle Paul said his speech was not eloquent. His critics complained that his presence was not impressive. When singing and praising occurred in the New Testament assembly, it seems it was very spontaneous and organic; not rehearsed and showy.

So where do we land? I have no doubt that the religious drudgery of the past (past, in some cases) has little to do with what our life in Christ is really about. But neither is the Lord Jesus Christ the true focus of the more modern worship service, even if his name and gospel are mingled into the context. Christ is not to be truly encountered or expressed through a prepared service that relies on performers and an audience.

If you, like me, bemoan the fact that churches today have lost sight of what is important and become very superficial, you might be inclined to go back to the old school, where whispering during the service is frowned upon and all the men wear their best suits. That isn’t the answer either. But the question is not about what type of service or program will put Christ front and center. We should first ask why we tend to rely so much on programs, and why we treat our gatherings as a spectator sport in the first place. And while we’re at it, we don’t need to fool ourselves into believing that God is the audience of our show either. God never required us to put on a performance each week.

© 2011 Gary Swisher. All Rights Reserved

Being Right Misses the Mark

In Chrisitan Right, Christianity on January 25, 2011 at 3:29 am

Last week Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama put his foot in his mouth by publically proclaiming that non-Christians were not his brothers and sisters. I understand that he later apologized. However, to me, this is an all too familiar habit many Christians have of getting the facts right and totally missing the spirit of the matter.

I would assume there are many Christians in America who would give a hearty “Amen!” to the governor’s statement, regardless of its appropriateness for a public address. Technically, he is correct that those who belong to Christ have become related as kin, and those outside of Christ do not share that same relation. That, in and of itself, is not likely to offend anyone who is not a Christian. I would assume Governor Bentley’s critics are not upset to find they have no spiritual relation to him. In fact, they are probably relieved.

Evangelicals often seem to take the stance of trying to get the world to fall in line. While much of this is done from a posture of love in reaching out to a lost world, I think the subconscious source of statements like these is a spirit of legalistic judgmentalism. As if to say, wouldn’t the world be a better place if they would just listen to truths we can share with them. But, so long as they don’t, well… too bad. They aren’t with us and we need to let ’em know! Tell it like it is. That way we’ve done our part.

Is it any wonder Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery? He seemed to have a real complex. Yes, it was true that God had chosen him for a special purpose. His brothers were indeed to bow to his rulership in the future. So why did he have to let everyone know about his special revelation? Joseph may even have avoided a lot of hardship on his way to the Egyptian throne if he would have just treasured these things in his heart and kept them to himself. Then, of course, we would not have been given a key foreshadowing of the betrayal of Christ and his accession to the Father. So God works all things according to his purpose.

When we speak and act according to our own designs we are simply manifesting our carnal nature, no matter how good our intentions or how true our doctrine. That is not the spirit of Christ which binds us to one another as his body. The wrong spirit negates the truth. Being right misses the mark.

© 2011 Gary Swisher. All Rights Reserved