Living with death: 9-20/21-2008
The life of meaning: 9-23-2008

Commemorating witch trials: 9-22-08


If we look back through religion's checkered past, we find all kinds of dates that live in infamy, and today is among them.

Why? Because on this date in 1692, the final eight of 20 women and men condemned as witches were hanged in Salem, Mass. In all, 13 women and seven men were executed there that year.

In Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity, he writes that "church leadership was discredited by the witchcraft mania at Salem in 1692, and weakened by the powerful backlash of public remorse which followed it."

The Puritans were having a hard time of things just then. The Church of England, to the dismay of the Puritans, had made inroads in Boston. And, to the Puritans, bad times (which included wars with native Americans) were a sign that God was angry at them, so they looked for culprits. Thus, the Salem witch trials. Witch hunts (of which the Salem one was the third and last outbreak) went after the most vulnerable and outcast in society.

Call it Puritan extremism.

In the link I've given you above to information about the Salem witchcraft trials, I especially liked this list of causes, which unabashedly begins with religious concepts. But I do think it's unfair to conclude that each of these concepts automatically lead to abuses, such as the trials. For instance, lots of people have a "strong belief that Satan is acting in the world" and do not, as a result, advocate hunting down women, labeling them witches and killing them.

But I do think it's worth being aware of how some religious beliefs can lead to abuse. That's why we study this kind of history.

(The painting shown here is "Examination of a Witch by T.H. Matteson, done in 1853, and on display at the Peabody Essex Muesum.)

* * *


It's official: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now a religion teacher at Yale. I'd enjoy hearing him lecture about his faith but if I really wanted to study religion, I'd prefer a scholar who has prepared academically to teach the subject.

* * *

P.S.: How brave and bold and counter-cultural is your faith community compared with how brave and bold and counter-cultural it's called to be? Here's a story about a North Carolina church that seems to measure up in this regard.

* * *

ANOTHER P.S.: A group called "Clergy for Obama" has formed. Clergy members, as individuals -- not representatives of their faith communities -- are asked to join up. (If there's a "Clergy for McCain" group, I'm not aware of it.) My question is this: Should clergy do this? What are the advantages? What are the drawbacks?

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.



adam harrison

Approximately 20 people killed.

And it should be remembered. But, oddly enough, the over 20 Million killed in the Gulags by practitioners of an officially atheistic philosophy (see The Gulag Archipelago, three volumes, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn) are almost NEVER remembered in liberal or atheist circles.

Why is that?

(And it's still going on in Tibet and China by practitioners of the same atheistic philosophy.)

Dolores Lear

Did the Salem Witch Hunts teach us anything? Which Flesh Lust Temptation, caused the Killing of Humans? Sex, Lies, Food, Drink, Drugs?

The Pure-bred Perfect Peace Adam and Eve Clones Temptation, of Heterosexual Sex Lust, reproduced Inbred Cain and Abel by Heterosexual Body Birth, and All

Human Peace was lost. Killing and Death began on Earth.

The Original Peace Equal Male and Female Caretaker Helpmeet Species of Humans, became the Unequal Killer Male and Female Mate Species.

This Original Sin resulted in Hate and Killing and War, by Humans born in Sin. No more Perfect Humans were added to the Mix, and many Mixtures of Race and Creed resulted.

Fallen Humans are caught up in Breeding Perfect Animals, but Humans could Care Less about Breeding Perfect Humans. There are a few trying to Clone Perfect Humans, but this is not Man's Work, that is God's Work, after Humans are Dead.

All the Other Reproduced Flesh Lusts, food, drink, and drugs, etc., cause Sickness, and Death to the Person, without Killing others.

The Proof is in the Pudding. The Human Species is Killing All Life on Earth and their Eco System.

They have set Nuclear Bombs on Land and Sea. Fallen Humans have Polluted their Land, Sea, and Atmosphere.

Where is their God of Love and Peace in All this Activity? In Temples Made By Human Hands?

There is No Love of Brothers/Sisters of Life. Our Nuclear Bombs prove this.

Lets get on with our Greed, Pollution, and Killing, Until All Humans Die.

And Go to Heaven, to be with the Lord God and Jesus, or Where Ever Other Humans Go After Death.

God is Up There, Out There. Somewhere. Who Cares about Here? Any Religion? Any God?

Joe Barone

Clergy people should have a right to form groups such as the one you described. Some will choose to take part and some will not. But we don't give up our rights as citizens when we are ordained.

Joe Barone

I have a special interest in the topic of the abuse and neglect of the mentally ill. I can't help but believe that at least a few of those accused witches were simply mentally ill. I'm no expert in mental illness, I just happened to grow up among the mentally ill and so have a strong feeling from those friendships of fifty years ago. When we talk about the Salem Witch trials, we need to remember that our own prisons are filled with mentally ill people who have been denied proper treatment along the way.

Just as Arthur Miller saw relationships between the trials and the McCarthy era, so maybe we should look for connections today.

Dolores Lear

God' Daily Promises, 9/22/08.

"This week's promise: God has conquered all our enemies
How well do you face temptation?"

"Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, "If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, 'He orders his angels to protect you, and they will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on the stone.'" Jesus responded, "The Scriptures also say, 'Do not test the Lord your God.'
Matthew 4:5-7 NLT"

Facing Temptation is Human, not Spirit? Do Humans test GOD or the Devil in their 'Flesh Temptations'. GOD is LIFE. Devil is Death.

Who is Ahead on Planet Earth in the Tests of Temptation, in the Human Race? GOD or the Devil? GOD, nor God, our Human Ancestors, tempt Humans. Devil Male Body Birth, Devil Flesh Lust does. How do Misbred Humans Resist Flesh Lust?

Is it Time to Accept Who Humans are Serving. The Devil's Ultimate Weapon, the Nuclear Bomb, and Killing Laser Technology? Why Kill GODs Planet, and All Life Our Ancestors Colonized on Earth?

The Unknown GOD/LIFE has given the Human Species Free Will, to follow LIFE or Death. The High Tech Science Equal Humans, our Human Ancestors, have chosen GODs Eternal Physical Life, After Equal High Tech Science Birth.

Equal Male and Female Equal Human Clones, took over the Unequal Reproduction of Humans. Ever since Humans began Killing Each Other.

So what are the Results of Sin? A Dead Planet Earth after the Last Days Nuclear 'Arm'ageddon, and the Planetary Judgement Day Fire from our Pollution?

The Human Species do Colonize Planets. We do Know this High Tech today. What exactly is Life After Death in Heaven? Our Decomposed Elements returning to GODs Storehouse, Our Universe?


Joe Barone,

Let's not forget that the Bible is clear that "illness" is sign of evil and is caused because of lack of faith.

There is no other way to interpret it - literally or figuratively. Unless of course, one would imply that people 2,000+ yars ago knew about modern germ theory and genetic mutations which they did not. So, they had to get by with what they knew - "knowledge" of a primitive kind which was the prevalent "scientific" theory then or what we'd call today - religion/Christianity in our case.

To say nothing of natural disasters (which have clearly natural explanation unless of course you are looking in the quantum phisics of things and invoke the Butterfly effect of god pushing a pimple out on his face which causes through some miracle of unviersal constants all these natural disasters)

In the Bible, leprosy is caused by the wrath of God or the malice of Satan. Numbers 12:10

"Thy faith hath made thee whole."
(Illness is caused by sin and lack of faith. Clearly wrong. Medical science is unnecessary.) Matthew 9:22 & Mark 5:34 & Luke 8:48

Jesus cures an epileptic "lunatic" by "rebuking the devil." (Epilepsy is caused by devils.) Matthew 17:15-18 &

Luke - Epilepsy is caused by devils. 9:39

Luke - Illnesses are caused by Satan. 13:11-16

Exceptin to sin/illness reliationship is made so Jesus can demonstrate his powers

John - The disciples ask Jesus about the cause of a man's blindness. Was it because he or his parents sinned? Jesus said neither had sinned. The man was born blind so that Jesus could show off his powers by curing him of his blindness. 9:1-3

2 Chronicles - Asa, when he had a foot disease, went to physicians instead of seeking the Lord. (God disapproves of those who seek medical help rather than "seeking the Lord.") 16:12

Psalms - "The Lord ... who healeth all thy diseases." God heals all diseases. Medical science is unnecessary. 103:2-3
When God gets really angry, he causes earthquakes. Isaiah 13:13

adam harrison

Onlookers will note that KC/Iggy has not even responded to Just Thinking's refutation of his assertions in the LAST column.

He has simply ignored them, and made more assertions, the basis of which was thoroughly refuted by JT.

That said, we can fairly conclude that what he is posting now is simply spam (and misrepresentation and QUOTE MINING of scripture), and demonstrates that not only does he not INTEND to answer the refutations but he is in fact INCAPABLE of doing so.



Bill T. - This comment is a gentle plea from a reader. I oppose discrimination and segregation, yet I would gladly support a decision to impose discrimination and segregate adamh vs under a special heading or link provided for their daily squabble.
It would be best if they simply exchanged e-addresses and dueled privately, but I won't argue with your decision not to censor their presence on your blog. I just think that they could retain access to a public forum on this site, within a link specifically referencing them, for those who want to argue their agenda (perhaps titled Anti-Christian Doctrinist vs. Stalinist Excess Remembrance Extolled by Blind Faith Zealot), while a separate space could be provided for readers who prefer to read opinions from others based on the topic du jour provided by the blog host.


It's hard for me to argue with lsnrchrd.

Just Thinking

Concerning "ANOTHER PS":

I wish that clergy would keep track of the lies being told in this campaign. The clergy could collectively compose and send letters to the offenders, strongly discouraging them from lies and misrepresentations. These letters could be forwarded to the media.

Mistakes can be made, but lies and misrepresentations need to be corrected. The actions of Presidents affect the actions of young people. If lying is okay for the President, then it is okay for anyone else. If sexual activity is okay in the Oval Office based on what "is" is, then it's okay beneath the stairwells of schools. We've seen the effects of that.

Remember Karl Rove? Karl Rove is a spinmeister and "spin" is often just another word for lie. Apparently Karl Rove has some standards when it comes to truth, and apparently McCain violates those standards. Karl Rove has said that McCain's ads don't pass the '100% truth test,' an extremely strong statement considering the source.

If it can't pass the '100% truth test' (clearly a "spin" for "lie") on either side, then it should be exposed. There must be a legitimate way to do THIS from the pulpit. It seems to me that nothing could be more appropriate coming from the pulpit, and it would be a way for clergy to get their heads out of political business and into God's business.

Nothing is more insidious than quoting out of context, trying to deliberately change the meaning by changing the context. In this way, someone can be absolutely convinced that a quote means one thing, but then hear it in context and realize that it says something else entirely. Professional liars learn these techniques. Certain professions attract professional liars. Clergy need to start addressing professional political liars from the pulpit.


Actually, I'm not comfortable with a "Clergy for Obama" group. I disagree with the idea that a clergy person can do something as a clergy person and not be a representative of his or her community. A clergy person can't function without a community, so a clergy person always implies a community.

I can imagine how awkward if I were in a community where the clergy signed on to this group "as an individual." I know that it would affect the dynamic of the community in a different way than if I joined a similar political group. And the change would not necessarily be positive.

Of course, they don't renounce their rights as citizens when they enter the clergy. So let them sign on to a "Citizens for Obama" group. They did sign up to lead a *religious* community when they entered the clergy, so let them keep their political views from affecting their community in a potentially negative way.


JustThinking wrote:
If it can't pass the '100% truth test' (clearly a "spin" for "lie") on either side, then it should be exposed.

JT, you are 100% right on it.
I don't think it has to be preachers exclusively only.

I wonder what would it take if there was a "truth" finding election committee (if all private money is banned from election campaign and it's only funded by public funds). It would be a non partisan group of folks that would review each ad and approve or disappove it and would have some sort of a "Rated Lies" rating.

I doubt this will ever happen, the freedom of speech/lies in American politics is so entrenched that often times politicians have hard time or even willingness to confront it.

Often times I think American electorate has the same problem.

Joe Barone

A brief response: Fundamentalist clergy have no problem taking political stands. Everyone knows where people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren or Dr. Dobson stand. For moderate or liberal clergy to refrain is to cede the field. I very much respect an organization like I hesitated to mention it in my earlier posts because I don't have a similar non-radical conservative site to list. I think the time is past when clergy can just stand above the fray, but the choice should be theirs.

adam harrison

KC/Iggy is not an American citizen, even though he has been here since 92. His knowledge of American history and the Constituton is obviously limited.

Thus, his opinions on the American electorate are, frankly, uninformed and irrelevant.



When these folks talk politics, they do not bring their clergy role to the fore. James Dobson speaks as a psychologist. Pat Robertson speaks as a TV personality. Rick Warren invites both candidates to his church to debate. Jerry Falwell is probably the most politically-affiliated clergy of the group.

When these folks edge too close to the line regarding tax-exempt organization vs. political group, the government gets on their case. I don't think their approach would be good to emulate.

Just because some clergy confuse the gospel with political action, I don't think that's a good reason for more clergy to confuse the gospel with political action. (Christian) clergy preach the Gospel of God's Kingdom. To confuse this role with human politics could lead to scandalizing the clergy's flock. If the clergy member wants to speak as an individual, more power to him/her, but as a clergy person he/she should stay out--conservative or liberal.


Without the "political" influence of the clergy, it is very likely the Revolutionary War would either not have taken place or would have been lost, and we would not live in a country to have this discussion.


I'm not sure if the clergy's opinions were central to the Revolutionary War. What examples are you thinking of? I know, however, that revolutionary wars can occur without any clergy opinion--or against clergy opinion.

Nevertheless, I stand by my view that a (Christian) clergy member's principle job is to teach the Gospel to his or her community. If a revolutionary war comes about as a result, that's secondary. I do not think clergy should be directly advocating a political view, much less a revolutionary--or any other kind of--war. In their free time, let them advocate what they want, but not as clergy.



You say that a "clergy member's principle job is to teach the Gospel." What do you consider "the Gospel"? I would say that a clergy member's principle job is to teach the whole counsel of God; in other words, God's Word. That will certainly involve teaching the Gospel, for that is core to everything in God's Word. But it also instructs on how to live in the fear of the Lord, and the purpose of government and how to interact with government.

I'm not talking about any revolutionary war, I am talking about the Revolutionary War that was necessary to establish this country of the United States. One of the foremost reasons it was necessary to break away from Britain was freedom of religion. And preachers such as Jonathan Mayhew and John Witherspoon and James Caldwell and many others preached from the pulpit and many even put their faith into action by going in to battle.

a theist

So this country was founded to insure religious freedom but religion has nothing to do with the founding principles of this country????

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