Sea monsters, giants and angels, oh my! Why you should study the Bible’s scary, surprising monsters

William Blake, who is best known for his poetry, drew pictures of scenes described in the Bible. In this illustration, Satan afflicts Job with sores and boils.

By Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Still searching for a spooky Halloween costume? Try reading the Bible for inspiration. Old and New Testament stories describe sea monsters, giants and avenging spirits that are just as scary as the vampires or zombies we see on TV, according to religion scholars. People of faith just don’t retell these tales very often, preferring more comforting religious messages.

“A lot of people don’t have a way of knowing that there are monsters throughout the Bible because so many of them have been tamed or domesticated,” said Esther J. Hamori, an associate professor of the Hebrew Bible at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Take cherubim, for example. Today, we think of them as “happy, fat angel babies,” but in the Bible they’re winged guardians who sometimes have the body of a lion, Hamori noted. “That’s always a slight shock to my students,” she said.

By redesigning or ignoring biblical monsters, we miss out on more than great costume ideas, Hamori and others explained. We miss a chance to have deeper conversations about why bad things happen and how God wants us to respond. Continue reading

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In-N-Out celebrates 70 years of Tastiness

“No Microwaves, No Freezers, No Heat Lamps.” Happy 70th anniversary to my beloved In-N-Out. While I happily live in Whataburger territory, I’m an unrepentant hustler for the Animal Style Double-Double. So was the late Anthony Bourdain. He described the Double-Double as a “ballistic missile … a perfectly designed protein delivery system.”

Look, debate amongst yourselves all you want: McDonalds vs. Burger King, Shack Shake vs. Five Guys, Wendy’s vs. Jack In the Box. Leave me out of it. In this debate, I’m a lover, not a fighter. Just get me to In-N-Out, my Southern California comfort food feeding trough. When I fly home to Orange County, my first stop from the John Wayne Airport is In-N-Out. Go ahead, ask my mom and dad.

In-N-Out is owned by the descendants of its founders, Harry (1913-1976) and Esther (1920-2006) Snyder. It does not franchise – no matter what the offer. The company is worth about $3 billion and CEO Lynsi Snyder is the 36-year-old granddaughter of the founders (most recently on the cover of Forbes). The company routinely gets offers to go public or sell. “We’ve had some pretty crazy offers,” Snyder told Forbes. “There’s been, like, princes and different people throwing some big numbers at us where I’m like, ‘Really?’ ” The plan never changes. “We will continue to politely say no to Wall Street or to the Saudi princes. Whoever will come,” says In-N-Out. Continue reading

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At charity dinner, Nikki Haley takes jabs and makes a serious point

During a host of one-liners in her 17 minute speech at the 73rd Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, she poked fun at her boss and a gaggle of other politicians from both parties. In the midst of the laughter, however, she also made a serious point about our severely polarized political culture.

“In our toxic political environment, I’ve heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil,” Haley said. “In America, our political opponents are not evil. In South Sudan, where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war — that is evil. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons to murder innocent children — that is evil. In North Korea, where American student Otto Warmbier was tortured to death — that was evil.”

“In the last two years, I’ve seen true evil,” Haley continued. “We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil. They’re just our opponents.”

To read the entire article, click HERE

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‘Sesame Street’ wanted an ornery character like Oscar the Grouch

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch at the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in New York in April 2006. (Brad Barket/Getty Images)

As a kid, Oscar the Grouch was my fave Sesame Street character. Here’s the low down on the origins of the character from Travis Andrews from the Washington Post.

“He’s green, he lives in a trash can and he’s always waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

“His name is Oscar the Grouch, and even people who watched “Sesame Street” as kids might find him a bit confounding. Why is he green? How did he choose his home? And why’s he in such a bad mood? The answer lies with Caroll Spinney, the performer behind the roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, who announced his retirement from the show Monday after almost 50 years.”
*** Continue reading

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Politics Can’t Solve Our Political Problem

By Ben Sasse, Wall Street Journal

Humans are social, relational beings. We want and need to be in tribes. In our time, however, all of the traditional tribes that have sustained humans for millennia are simultaneously in collapse. Family, enduring friendship, meaningful shared work, local communities of worship—all have grown ever thinner. We are creating thicker, more vehement tribes around our political differences, I believe, because there is a growing vacuum at the heart of our shared (or increasingly, not so shared) everyday lives.

Loneliness is everywhere in the U.S., across every sector of society. A survey of more than 20,000 American adults conducted earlier this year by the health insurer Cigna and the market research firm Ipsos found that a majority of us are lonely, based on responses to the UCLA Loneliness Scale. The highest scores were reported by the youngest adults, ages 18 to 22. The researchers describe it as a “loneliness epidemic.”

None of this should surprise us. Americans today have fewer shared projects than our parents and grandparents did, and we belong to fewer civic groups. Because we change jobs more often, we have fewer lasting work friendships. We delay marriage, have fewer children and live in larger homes, more separate from those of our neighbors. We move from place to place for relationships, economic opportunity and better weather—and we end up with economic opportunity and better weather. Continue reading

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Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture

By Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic

On social media, the country seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resentful. Team Resentment is manned—pun very much intended—by people who are predominantly old and almost exclusively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and predominantly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their dutiful part). These teams are roughly equal in number, and they disagree most vehemently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as political correctness.

Reality is nothing like this. As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest—including a general aversion to PC culture. Continue reading

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Oscar Romero, Martyr and Saint

Mural of the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in Panchimalco, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Photograph: Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters

Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, First Things

As the disciples were on their way to the Mount of Olives after the Last Supper, Jesus told them, “All of you will be scandalized because of me this night, for it is written in scripture, I will smite the shepherds and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” Some two thousand years later, on the evening of March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero began to say Mass at the chapel of Divine Providence Hospital in San Salvador. As he finished preaching the homily and turned toward the altar, he was shot. The day before, the archbishop had called for the Salvadoran army to refuse to carry out any more extra-judicial killings ordered by the Junta. Earlier that month, he had anticipated the consequences of this public act. “You can tell them, if they succeed in killing me, then I pardon them, and I bless those who may carry out the killing.”

Romero’s death, like that of Christ, remains a stumbling block. The gospel is not a tidy theory that explains the world, a spiritual technique for facing life’s challenges, or a program whereby mankind can redeem itself—by violence or by peace. No, the Cross contradicts all who attempt to decipher the world without God or to submit it to human control. It urges us to place our trust in him to whom we owe our life and being. That the Innocent One should suffer and die for the guilty is the ultimate scandal of human history. God’s grace alone frees us from sin and enables us to collaborate in building his kingdom.

To read entire article, click HERE.

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Chris Pratt on faith with the Associated Press

AP: At recent awards show appearances, you went out on stage and talked publicly about your faith. Is it an especially important time to do that?

Pratt: I don’t know that I am so much more motivated by where the world is or if it’s just what I’m feeling called to do right now. I think it’s a combination of both things. … That kind of a message, it might not be for everybody. But there is a group of people for whom that message is designed. And nothing fills my soul more than to think that maybe some kid watching that would say, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve been thinking about praying. Let me try that out.’ That’s like the only way I feel like I can repay what has essentially been a giant gift in my life.

AP: Does it feel like a risk sometimes in Hollywood?

Pratt: No, not at all. … I think that there’s this narrative that exists out there that Hollywood is anti-Christian or anti-religious, but it’s just not the case. They are kind of not anti-anything. They are kind of pro whatever is authentic to you. And I like that. Because it’s authentic for me to be pro-Christian, pro-Jesus. That’s my thing. I like it. And I’ve never had anyone try to shame me, to my face. Maybe they go say it behind my back. But if that’s the case, go ahead. You can say whatever you want about me – to my face or behind my back. I’m not going to change.

To read entire interview, click HERE.


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Lauren Daigle wants to break down walls to Christian music

Lauren Daigle’s new album debuted at Number Three on the charts, ahead of major rappers and pop stars.
Photo: Jeremy Cowart

Lauren Daigle’s album, “Look Up Child,” debuted this month at No. 3 on Billboard’s all-genre album chart and had the best first week sales of any Christian album in nearly nine years, according to Billboard. Daigle, who is performing at this year’s Dove Awards on Oct. 16 and is nominated for an American Music Award, talked with The Associated Press about why she likes Chance the Rapper and breaking down the walls to Christian music. ***

AP: You have a song called “Losing My Religion,” tell me about the meaning of that song.

Daigle: I had realized there are so many moments where I let that expectation dictate my ability to perform, my perfectionism. And as much as we want to create a white picket fence, it’s not real. It’s a facade. And I think the sooner we realize that people can be messy and people are fragile, the more we actually start to see through the eyes of God, or the God that I know. We experience kindness for humanity. We experience joy for humanity. And we run toward them instead of building all these barriers. And so that’s what “Losing My Religion” is. It’s taking down all the boxes, taking down all the fences, and it’s living as pure and as whole as possible.


AP: Do you want to change people’s understanding of what Christian music can be?

Daigle: Chance the Rapper got to do stuff with all these gospel artists. So profound. I love that, right? And that was something I wanted to bring in as well. Like elements where people who weren’t necessarily church people, or Christians, or whatever the title is, who don’t really dive into that kind of music can hear something and it be compelling enough and it be strong enough to where they are drawn in and feel welcomed and invited.

Read entire story HERE

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The Unlikely Endurance of Christian Rock

Larry Norman, the founder of Christian rock, never entirely endorsed the genre. Illustration by Bráulio Amado; photograph by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

By Kelefa Sanneh

The New Yorker

In 1957, less than a year after the end of the Montgomery bus boycott, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., took a part-time job as an advice columnist. His employer was Ebony, and his ambit was broad: race relations, marital problems, professional concerns. In the April, 1958, issue, King was asked to address one of the most polarizing issues of the day: rock music. His correspondent was a churchgoing seventeen-year-old with a musical split personality. “I play gospel music and I play rock ’n’ roll,” the letter read. Its author wanted to know whether this habit was objectionable.

King’s advice was characteristically firm. Rock and gospel were “totally incompatible,” he explained: “The profound sacred and spiritual meaning of the great music of the church must never be mixed with the transitory quality of rock and roll music.” And he made it clear which he preferred. “The former serves to lift men’s souls to higher levels of reality, and therefore to God,” he wrote. “The latter so often plunges men’s minds into degrading and immoral depths.”

Randall J. Stephens, a religious historian, views the relationship between Christianity and rock and roll as a decades-long argument over American culture, sacred and profane. In “The Devil’s Music,” released last March, Stephens reconsiders the judgments of King and other Christian leaders who viewed rock and roll with alarm. He points out that many pioneering rockers, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Jerry Lee Lewis, came out of the Pentecostal Church; for some preachers, he argues, rock and roll was worrisome precisely because its frenetic performances evoked the excesses of Pentecostal worship. In a sermon given in 1957, King, a Baptist, urged his fellow-preachers to move beyond unseemly displays: “We can’t spend all of our time trying to learn how to whoop and holler,” he said. Stephens wants us to think of rock and Christianity not as enemies but as siblings engaged in a family dispute.

Rock’s reputation quickly improved: less than a decade later, King’s protégé Andrew Young declared that rock and roll had done “more for integration than the church.” And by the end of the sixties a small but growing number of believers were helping to invent a style that King might have viewed as a contradiction in terms: Christian rock, which became a recognizable genre and, in the decades that followed, a thriving industry.

Read rest of essay HERE

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