The People Still Run Wild in Miami Beach

It’s so bad that the leader of Miami’s largest Hispanic gay group unloads in the Miami Herald:

It shows our city as nothing short of a warzone – Filthy streets, a drive by shooting, multiple cars crashed in the process, and total chaos on the streets. This is unacceptable and must be controlled before we totally lose our city, tourism & residents. It is not limited to Ocean Drive or Collins – there isn’t a residential street in South Beach not affected by tons of garbage, crime to our vehicles, excessive noise 24 hours a day, and simply a lack of respect for our community, citizens & property. THIS is the image the world see of our “American Riviera”.

I can remember twenty years ago having to explain to a group of Englishmen why people got carjacked and shot after they left Miami airport.  And that’s still going on.  South Florida is still the place where the animals are tame and the people run wild, and that’s been going on for a long time.

But Mr. Sosa asks the key question:

When did perceived political or social correctness override the safety & well-being of a community? This is not a race, economic or ethnic issue, it is an issue of visitors who have a total lack of respect for our community, its property & citizens. I know hotel rooms are filled, but at what price and for how long?

Political correctness drives just about everything in our political life.  The LGBT community has been a prime beneficiary of this, but now we see the blowback to that.

Perhaps if we stop our endless obsession with rights and take a hard look at reality, we’d get somewhere.  Perhaps.

Month of Sundays: Obedience

Is the LORD as delighted with burnt offerings and sacrifices as he would be with your obedience? To follow instructions is better than to sacrifice. To obey is better than sacrificing the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

Management gurus frequently cite the work of Sun Tzu, the Chinese author most famous for his book The Art of War. About 512 B.C., after he wrote the book, he came to the attention of the King of Wu, who decided to put Sun Tzu to the test. So the king called forth his 160 concubines and instructed Sun Tzu to turn them into a drill team.

Sun Tzu organized them into two companies and appointed two leaders. Giving the women spears, he instructed them in how to turn to their left, right, front and back in unison. When he sounded the drums and gave the first command to turn right, the girls burst out laughing.

Concluding that his instructions and commands were not clear, Sun Tzu went through the whole set of instructions once again. He sounded the drums again and gave the order to turn left. The girls once again burst out laughing.

Now seeing that he had a discipline problem on his hands, he ordered that the two company leaders be summarily executed. Ignoring the pleas of the king (they were his favourites,) the two were beheaded and new leaders appointed in their place. The girls got the message: they moved to his commands in perfect unity. And he got the job as the king’s general.

Sun Tzu’s methods are, by today’s standards, harsh. But disobedience to God’s will and Word can have dire consequences for our lives. In the passage partially quoted above, King Saul lost the favour of God by ignoring the divine command, and David—a man after God’s own heart, and a great general in his own right—took his place.

We want the blessings of God for our lives. But are we prepared to be obedient to his commands? Is our first objective to do his will or, as the song said, to do it “my way?” The difference in the results can be dramatic!

Oasis: Smile for the Sun and Promised Land

Oasis was the touring group for Youth for Christ. As a result of that, their line-up was subject to frequent change, but in the course of that change they put out some pretty interesting music. The best known member of the group was the Scottish vocalist (and later co-hostess of the 700 Club) Shelia Walsh, whose own account is below.

Smile for the sun (Dovetail Dove 45, 1977)

The transient (and basically missionary) nature of the group is obvious in that all of the songs on the album (AFAIK) are covers.

In spite of these limitations, the album is better than it should be, with some credible performances and reasonable instrumental backing. (“Lovely Jesus,” for example, has much better vocals than Nancy Honeytree could manage!) “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” has an English folk rendering to it, and a very moving one at that. Most of the songs are in English.

The performers:

  • Heinz–manager, stage sound mixing
  • Fausto–guitar, banjo, flute, vocals
  • Ric–bass, vocals
  • Anke–vocals
  • Diana–vocals, percussion
  • Jürgen–drums, congas, vocals
  • John–guitars, banjo, dulcimer, harmonica, vocals
  • Hansi–Keyboards, vocals

The songs (for individual download):

  1. Teach Me To Love
  2. Who Is This Man?
  3. He Is The One
  4. Quand J’ai Vu Tes Mains
  5. Em Teu Tempo
  6. Happy Road
  7. Smile For The Sun
  8. Lovely Jesus
  9. Gott Ist Tatsächilich Da!
  10. I Heard The Voice of Jesus
  11. Dank U Heer

Promised Land (Dovetail Dove 52, 1978)

Ken Scott’s characterisation of this album as “stunning” is a bit of a stretch, but Promised Land is a major step up from the previous effort. The performances, songs and productions are generally good. Oasis managed to achieve what eluded most groups in the Jesus Music movement: retain the raw emotional appeal of the music while polishing the musicianship and production. (A good example of the contrary from the same native soil is Achor.) There are fewer covers here; one of them is Graham Kendrick’s Peter at the Breaking of the Bread, which is no better than the original (and mercifully no worse either.)

The Songs (for individual download:)

  1. Morning Sun
  2. Gevoel
  3. It Took A Carpenter
  4. As The Wind Blows
  5. Peace
  6. Promised Land
  7. Judas
  8. Smile For The Sun
  9. Peter At The Breaking Of The Bread
  10. Morning Sun (Reprise)

The one thing that makes this album really special is the presence of Shelia Walsh. Before her first husband Norman Miller turned her into Britain’s top Christian punkette, Walsh performed with Oasis for a season, and is featured prominently on this album. She is arguably the best female vocalist to come out of the UK during the “Jesus Music” era, and she is prominently featured here.

Years later she wrote of her experience with Oasis:

Friends of mine lived down in Eastborne in Sussex. They had a very successful recording studio (ICC Studios, where Smile for the sun and many of the Dove UK albums were recorded) and I popped down for a few days to see them. Andy (Kidd), the engineer (on this album), told me about a group had recorded there and were looking for a lead singer. Their name was Oasis and they worked with International Youth for Christ. I said that I’d love to know more and called them for me. The director, Ted Groat, flew over to London to audition me. I was petrified…He was a very tall, skinny man. He sat down at the piano, took my music, and began to play. I gripped the side of the piano till my knuckles were white and started to sing. When he said I’d got the job, I nearly passed out at his feet…

As I sat on a bumpy boat late and night, heading for Holland to join the rest of the group…an uneasiness crept over me. What was the Dutch for ‘I’d like to go home now, please’?…with the break of dawn the old pioneering spirit re-emerged. I met Oasis at breakfast. There were six of them, from different countries, and they had already been together for a year. I felt a bit lonely at first, as the other two girls were both Dutch and were good friends.

The vision behind Oasis was that we should travel all over Europe, singing in schools, clubs, and prisons, ministering as an effective evangelistic team. I asked who the leader was, and Ted said that we had yet to find a leader, but we wouldn’t begin touring until we had. We did! They had a lot of bookings for us and no-one emerged to lead, so we left on our own…

The style of Oasis was folk rock. I worked hard at learning all their songs. We travelled across Holland, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Belgium and England.

Our time in Denmark was really great. We were the first gospel group to be allowed to play in schools and clubs. The situation in that particular country was heartbreaking. May of the guys in the band were approached by twelve- to fourteen-year-old prostitutes. Teenage suicide and drug addiction were so common. I can clearly remember sitting in the stage wings of a Danish club, wanting to go on, and watching people smash beer bottles against our equipment. I remember thinking, ‘Lord, if you’re planning to return any time in the immediate future, this may be an opportune moment!’

It was incredible to see God change people’s lives as, night after night, we threw ourselves on his mercy. To know without a doubt that God’s word is true, that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, the written word becomes life-blood. It seems to me know that the fruit of the Spirit is always produced in a contrary environment–peace in turmoil, joy in sadness, love in a hate-filled world…

In many ways I found my time with Oasis one the hardest periods of my life, having no pastoral leader and no real home. As the months passed and our travels continued, I became very disillusioned. We were always working, so we never got to church, never really took in on a spiritual level, apart from our own hurried quiet times. We usually began our days with a morning concert in a school, another at lunchtime, evening gigs, and eventually fell into bed after midnight…

I decided that I was going to leave. I told my European YFC Director and he was furious with me, but I’d made up my mind. (Sheila Walsh, Never Give It Up. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1986, pp. 27-30)

Why is the Church of God Absent from the Chaplains Endorsers’ Letter re Same Sex Civil Marriage?

Recently twenty-one religious organisations sent a letter to the three Chiefs of Chaplains voicing their concerns about the impact of the repeal of “don’t ask/don’t tell” (DADT) relative to homosexuals in the military, and specifically with chaplains being required to perform same sex civil marriages.  Some of the letter is as follows:

Thank you for your service to our country and our chaplains at this critical time in our nation’s history. We, the undersigned endorsing agents, represent faith groups that have tens of millions of members and who endorse over a thousand military chaplains to provide for the spiritual and moral needs of both the hundreds of thousands of service members who share our faith and those who do not. We know that you are collectively facing many difficult decisions, especially in light of the repeal of DADT. Because these decisions have such potentially far-reaching consequences, both intended and unintended, we desire to make our concerns known to you in light of the recently published Navy Chief of Chaplains revised directive regarding the use of base chapels for same-sex unions and the recent memo of suspension. We have been informed that the Navy’s action was based on legal advice from DoD that was also provided to the other Chief of Chaplains’ offices…

Of equally grave concern is the fact that chaplains are instructors of conscience. Chaplains have a tremendous moral responsibility to insure that when they preach, teach or counsel, they do so in accordance with their conscience and in harmony with the faith group by which they are endorsed. When guidance, however, is forthcoming from senior leadership that implies protected status for those who engage in homosexual behavior and normalizes same-sex unions in base chapels, any outside observer would conclude that both homosexuality and homosexual unions officiated as marriages in base chapels are normative. This creates an environment that is increasingly hostile to the many chaplains—and the service members they serve—whose faith groups and personal consciences recognize homosexual behavior as immoral and unsafe and do not permit same-sex unions.

Some of the “classical Pentecostal” churches represented on this letter are as follows:

  • Foursquare Church
  • Pentecostal Holiness Church
  • Church of God of Prophecy

There were other numerous “full gospel” endorsers represented as well, along with other Evangelical churches and, for my Anglican visitors, the ACNA.  (This was my first awareness that the ACNA endorsed military chaplains.)

Conspicuously absent from this were the Assemblies of God and my own church, the Church of God.  Given the church’s historical position on this subject, embodied in General Assembly resolutions and in its ministerial policies, this doesn’t make sense to me.  Why not?

The comeback that LGBT people would have, of course, to a letter such as this is that conscience shouldn’t be a cover for hate.  That, of course, has as its assumption that people’s objections to homosexual behaviour is based on hatred.  And, if the LGBT community leadership gets the idea we need a draft again, I suppose that the whole concept of conscientious objectors will be out the window, too.

My comeback, as always, is that we don’t need civil marriage.

HT to the Alliance Defense Fund.

The McPherson-Bogard Debate

One feature of Christian life that has either disappeared or morphed (depending upon how you look at it) is the debate.  It wasn’t that long ago (50-100 years) that debates were fairly common between proponents of different types of Christianity (and sometimes they’d get someone from the outside to really make things interesting.)  From an historical standpoint, one of the most interesting of these is the McPherson-Bogard debate “On Miraculous Divine Healing,” which took place seventy-seven years ago today (22 May 1934) at the McPherson Tabernacle in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  It is, AFAIK, the first debate of its kind between a proponent of modern Pentecost and an opponent of same.  (It’s interesting to note that the debate took place the Tuesday after Pentecost Sunday, something that never gets noted in the debate itself, but doubtless Bogard would have proclaimed the liturgical year of the devil, so it’s probably for the best.)

Aimée Semple McPherson was the well-known pastor of the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, CA, and the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church.  She was and is one of the most controversial figures in the early history of modern Pentecost.  Ben M. Bogard was a well known Landmark Baptist church leader and preacher; more on him below.  I’m going to break down the analysis of this from two standpoints: the theological/doctrinal and personal/institutional.

Theology and Doctrine

The McPherson-Bogard debate is one of the least orderly debates in every sense of the word.  McPherson had a crowd of partisans on her side and, in good Pentecostal style, they weren’t shy about showing it either, even though McPherson was further away from her base of operations than Bogard from his.  McPherson was bold in taking on Bogard, a formidable debater who generally saved his skills for Church of Christ opponents.

Both the strength and weakness of McPherson’s case are the same: they rely more heavily on the experience of people touched by the move of God in modern Pentecost than in really trying to figure out how that move worked and precisely related to the original as described in the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters.   That’s significant because many of the woes experienced in the wave of Azusa Street and the other early moves of the Spirit (and again with the Charismatic Renewal in the 1960’s and 1970’s) could have been avoided if that had been understood well.  She allowed Bogard to tie the performance of miracles to the baptism in the Holy Spirit when in fact the former is not dependent upon the latter (as the existence of Old Testament miracles demonstrates.)  She could have put Bogard on the defensive by explaining the baptism in the Holy Spirit in terms of Acts 1:8, but she did not.

With Bogard, it’s a matter of a case that looks seamless enough but is not.  His interpretation of Micah re when miracles ceased is a masterpiece of sensus plenior from someone who championed the literal interpretation of the Scriptures.  And his insistence that 1 Corinthians 3:10 cannot be Jesus Christ himself because of the neuter “it” not only flies in the face of 1 John 1:1, it also represents a break in tying together the written Word and the living One.

But that leads me to a more personal view of Ben Bogard.

Personal and Institutional View

On 15 April 1943 my uncle, Don Gaston Shofner, was killed when his fighter plane blew up over Long Island Sound while he was training to fly for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.  A few days later my grandparents received the following letter:

April 17, 1943.

Dear Brother and Sister Shofner:

No doubt Wendell has explained why I did not write to you immediately.  But I attempted to do so and did not have your initials nor your local address.

I announced the death of your son in our revival services and we had special prayer for all of you.  Our hearts went out in deepest sympathy, yet I doubt if the sympathy is real because no one can sympathize with another unless he has had a like sorrow, and none of us have had such a terrible experience but so far as we can we sympathize with you.  And we have and will pray for you.

Uncle Mac announced the death over the radio and said some very appropriate words concerning it and said he would be at the funeral.  Rest assured that all of us stand ready to do any thing in our power to help you.  But there is one ONE who can really help and I believe that all of you are looking to HIM.

May God’s richest blessing rest upon you and remember that Rom. 8 28 is in the Bible and I believe it fully.  Can you under this strain?  I pray God that you may.

Mrs. Bogard joins me in this letter.

Sincerely,

Ben M. Bogard

For me, Ben Bogard is more than a historical figure most people have forgotten.  He was a family friend.  But some background is necessary.

Bogard was a leader in what we broadly refer to as the “Landmark Baptist” movement, which was initiated by J.R. Graves in the previous century.  The idea was that Baptist churches had strayed and needed to return to their original “landmarks.”  For Bogard the most important of these was the supremacy of the autonomous local church, and the concomitant lack of an overseeing bureaucracy.  In the nineteenth century the most important “overseeing bureaucracies” in the Baptist world were the conventions (state and national) and the Mission Board.  Bogard and others, under the influence of Graves, came to the conclusion that such organisations were unBiblical.  When he got nowhere with the Convention, he organised the largest split to date in Southern Baptist history, and on 22 March 1905 the General Landmark Baptist Association was organised, which in 1924 became the American Baptist Association. (The idea that local churches only should send missionaries, as opposed to denominational mission boards and departments, is one that is gaining currency even in centralised denominations today.)

Churches in the ABA generally refer to themselves as “Missionary Baptist” churches.  My grandparents became a part of this movement and helped to organise the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Morrilton, AR not so far from where the debate took place.   My mother ended up leaving the Baptist world for the Anglican one when she became an Episcopalian years later.

She entered the Anglican Communion at a time of turmoil, the 1960’s and the days of James Pike.  When it became evident that the Episcopal Church wasn’t going to present a viable life game plan, options presented themselves.  One of these was the Baptist way, Missionary and otherwise.  Although it has its strong points, ultimately I found it unsatisfactory.  The Baptist way was a way that combines two things that seem on the surface (especially to Catholics) to be contradictory: decentralisation of authority (the issue Bogard fought with the SBC over was one of degree, not principle) and absolute conformity to a way of life.  It also looks at life in a very closed, set-piece kind of way, which gives a strong sense of direction and structure to life but can be wildly ineffective in times of change and in situations where a more dynamic approach is called for.  For people who are looking for stability after the invasion of Yankees, the Great Depression and two world wars, it’s very appealing, but to move beyond that is a different business altogether.  It’s that closed, set-piece mentality that fuelled (and still fuels) Baptist opposition to any form of Pentecostal and Charismatic worship and theology.

That kind of mentality pervades Bogard’s whole presentation during the debate.  There is a great deal of “either/or” thinking here: either we have the Word or the miracles, but according to Bogard we can’t have both.  Why not?  This is the kind of question Bogard does not answer.  He wants to present a complete, seamless system of life and doctrine, but until the time when we are in communion with our God “beyond the river,” we live in an imperfect world subject to change that demands that we live and present a gospel that can stay ahead of it.

And he never explains one of the mysteries of Baptist life: why do we pray for the sick when we don’t believe in the healing power of God?  Bogard deflects the issue by insisting the McPherson taught we don’t need doctors any more (which she obviously didn’t), but that’s an issue within Pentecost itself.

The digitisation of the debate (which Bogard originally published) presented here is the original 1997 version by David Padfield.

Month of Sundays: Mercy

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

It was an especially difficult Analytic Geometry problem. I knew what I was doing wasn’t going to pan out. But my professor was an ex-seminarian; perhaps there was another way to rescue this situation. So I took the verse at the top, found it in Greek and emblazoned it on the top of my paper.

His response: “No mercy: 8.” Good thing that it was 8 out of 10, which was better than I had expected. So I found more mercy there than I thought I deserved.

Evidently this display of Biblical erudition made an impact, because when he handed back the paper, he patiently reproduced the Greek on the board, pointing out that it had appeared on my paper. One of my classmates asked, “How could he do that?”

His reply? “A very famous man said that.”

The “very famous man” was of course Our Lord Jesus Christ, who put it in the Beatitudes. He was insistent that we, as Christians, exercise mercy and forgiveness to others, as God had to us: “For, if you forgive others their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also; But, if you do not forgive others their offences, not even your Father will forgive your offences.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

We tend to harbor bitterness and resentment at those who have wronged us. But, had God done this, we would all end up spending eternity in hell. It’s great to hope that people get what they deserve…until you stop and think about what you really deserve, because you cannot live up to God’s perfection.

O LORD, who would be able to stand if you kept a record of sins? But with you there is forgiveness so that you can be feared. (Psalms 130:3-4)

For all have sinned, and all fall short of God’s glorious ideal, But, in his loving-kindness, are being freely pronounced righteous through the deliverance found in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

Rowan Williams Forces a Provincial Episcopal Visitor to Bail on the Masonic Lodge

He’s not much on dealing with many heterodoxies in the Anglican world, but Rowan Williams gets tough on Freemasonry:

THE Principal of Pusey House, Oxford, the Revd Jonathan Baker, is to resign as a Freemason after being encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury to reconsider his membership before his consecration as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

It was announced earlier this month (News, 13 May) that Mr Baker would be one of the two new Provincial Episcopal Visitors, to replace Mgr Andrew Burnham, a leader of the RC Ordinariate, who seceded in January…

Mr Baker said that he had reviewed his priorities. “Archbishop Rowan had invited me in discussion to reconsider, amongst other com­mitments, my membership of Freemasonry.” He had decided to resign “because of the particular charism of episcopal ministry and the burden that ministry bears”.

Although this on its face is the right thing to do, given the way he’s messed around with TEC’s follies, it doesn’t make much sense.

The relationship between the Lodge and the Anglican/Episcopal world is more complicated than the latter would like to admit.  Ever wonder why both Lodge and Episcopal churches (and now North American Anglican ones) have Senior and Junior Wardens?  (I had some fun with this issue a while back here.)  And at least one of Williams’ predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury (Geoffrey Fisher, who crowned Queen Elizabeth II) was very enamoured with Freemasonry, along with other prelates of the Church of England.  In a day when denying the basics of Christianity is the stock in trade of many ministers in the Anglican Communion (especially in the “North”) why Rowan Williams has given a pass to so much while attacking this is another mystery.

The core problem with Christians of any kind being in the Lodge is that Masonry is syncretistic.  It teaches that a) all religions have basically the same goal and b) that Masonry itself is a kind of “super religion” which transcends the rest.  (That applies to Anglophone Masonry; Continental Masonry is atheistic.)  It denies the unique nature of the salvation of Jesus Christ.  This is no different than many of Katharine Jefferts-Schori’s pronouncements on the subject, and one should recall that GC2009 voted down a resolution affirming the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as our road to God.

“You blind guides, to strain out a gnat and to swallow a camel!” Matthew 23:24, TCNT.

Achor: A Door of Hope, The Wine of Lebanon, and End of My Day

Achor was a church-based group from London. They produced (AFAIK) three albums, all of which are available on this page.

A Door Of Hope (Dove 18, 1975)

The first of the albums, a very folksy production more in line with the Fisherfolk/Word of God axis. Part of that includes singing in the Spirit, which one can hear on “Holy Father.” Their adaptation of American music styles sometimes borders on the hilarious, but overall it’s a very nice production.

The songs:

  • Valley of Achor
  • Jesus, How Lovely You Are
  • Father I Place
  • He Alone
  • We Are Never Alone
  • Great Grace
  • Make A Joyful Noise
  • Father, Your Love
  • Fear Not
  • Come Walk With Me
  • Lord I Feel
  • Holy Father

Download the entire album

The Wine of Lebanon (Dove 46, 1976)

For this John Pantry production Achor centred on the vocals while getting some assist from others in the instrumental backup, which does give the album a lift.

The songs are uneven; some are very good while others uninspiring. But the “cockney” rendition of John 17 on “Lord Please make your people one” is absolutely priceless.

The performers:

  • Vocals: The group Achor, consisting of Claire White, Sue Martin, Irene Wilkie, Mavis Ford, Ann Smith, Chris Head, Alan Woodruff and Martin Lever
  • Acoustic Guitars: Chris Head and Claire White
  • Electric Guitar: Mo Witham
  • Chris Head and Gerry Page
  • Drums: Keith Entwhistle
  • Congas: Bernard G. Shaw
  • Flute/Clarinet: Robert McKay
  • String synthesizer/piano: John Pantry
  • Synthesizer: Joe King
  • Flute/Clarinet arrangements: Joe King
  • Vibes: Fred Chedgey

The songs (which can be downloaded individually:)

  1. Wine of Lebanon
  2. I will never leave you
  3. Changing
  4. Ask and it shall be given unto you
  5. Holy Nation
  6. I am completely discouraged
  7. Lord Please make your people one
  8. Fallow ground
  9. The House of Jacob
  10. You can hasten
  11. Father the time has come

Download The Wine of Lebanon

End of My Day (Cedar 1) 1978

Is this the best or the worst of the Achor albums? That’s a matter of perspective. Certainly it’s the most polished of the three in terms of its production, instrumentation, etc. Vocals don’t necessarily follow; they don’t much have the hang of multi-part harmony. Somehow, it falls flat overall, it’s not a bad album, but it lacks the spontaneity and freshness of the earlier works while not quite advancing the quality of the music or lyrics as far as one would like.

The songs (which can be downloaded individually:)

  1. Have You Read The Papers
  2. His Kind Of Love
  3. Love Has Taken Me
  4. There Are Moments
  5. You Are The Christ
  6. Poem
  7. Misty Morning
  8. The End Of My Day
  9. Vision Of Your Kingdom
  10. I’m The Person-Father’s In His Sanctuary
  11. His Glory

Download the entire End of My Day album here.

For more music downloads click here

Month of Sundays: Love

“Teacher, what is the great commandment in the Law?” His answer was: “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the great first commandment. (Matthew 22:36-38)

Jean du Vergier de Hauranne, Abbé de Saint-Cyran was a French monk who made a most unusual protest. The powerful Cardinal Richelieu, both spiritual director and prime minister to King Louis XIII, had told his troubled sovereign that it was only necessary to fear the punishment of hell in order to be pleasing to God. The Abbé de Saint-Cyran, well versed in the Scriptures, objected to this publicly. For his defiance, Richelieu had him thrown in prison, where he remained for most of the rest of his life.

How many of us would go to prison for proclaiming that it was necessary to love God to go to heaven? We speak very freely that it is necessary to have faith in order to be saved, and we say that those who don’t have this faith are destined to be lost forever in hell. But loving God was Jesus’ first commandment. Beyond that, he was only repeating that commandment from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Judaism’s most sacred declaration, which his Pharisee opponents hung from their foreheads and wrists!

Loving God is central to our relationship with him. It is the response to God’s love for us, in sending his Son Jesus Christ to die and rise for us. If we want a religion where the fear of hell is the dominating force of our faith, we should turn to Islam: “Every soul shall taste of death. And you shall be paid in full your rewards only on the Day of Resurrection. So whosoever is removed away from the Fire and is made to enter Heaven has indeed attained his goal. And the life of this world is nothing but an illusory enjoyment.” (Sura 3:185) Every Muslim is thus told that they must pass through hell to get to paradise!

God loved us. It must be our first desire in life to love him!