"Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world." - Todd Littleton
"I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see." - Anon
"Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all." - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
"Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut
"Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals." - Jim Forest
"People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." - Anon
"... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all." - R.E. Slater
"An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst." - R.E. Slater
"Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics." - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
"Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated." - Emil Brunner
"Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pew Research | Global Attitudes Project - "Humanity's Greatest Threat"

Nuclear weapons, disease and inequality: What poses the greatest threat to humanity?

By Oliver Duggan
2:24PM BST 22 Oct 2014

More than 48,000 people in 44 countries were asked by Pew Global to list their
greatest fears for the human race. Click on each coloured country below to see a
breakdown of what each country considers the biggest threats of 21st century

From nuclear weapons and environmental disasters to income inequality and communicable diseases, there is no shortage of threats facing the world's 7.1 billion inhabitants.

Now research compiled by the Pew Global Attitudes Project has revealed how each of humanity's biggest threats are perceived in 44 countries.

Click on the map above, created by The Telegraph, to see how more than 1,000 people in each country responded to the question "Which one of these poses the greatest threat to the world?"

Nearly 50,000 respondents were given an option of AIDs and other diseases, religious and ethnic hatred, pollution and the environment, nuclear weapons and inequality.

The results show that most Middle East countries are primarily concerned with religious and ethnic hatred, while the majority of European and North American citizens fear inequality.

But the data also reveals the impact of local and historic conflicts on individual perceptions of global threats.

More than a third of the 1,600 people questioned in Ukraine, where conflict with Russia continues despite a supposed ceasefire, said nuclear weapons were the biggest concern.

But in China, the largest producer of carbon emmissions in the world, the majority of people said pollution and the environment were the biggest threats.

Similarly, the population of countries with the most developed economies, where the gap between a large income gap exists between rich and poor, cited inequality as their biggest fear.

"Across the nations surveyed, opinions on which of the five dangers is the top threat to the world vary greatly by region and country, and in many places there is no clear consensus," the report concluded.

"With growing conflicts engulfing the Middle East, people in the region name religious and ethnic hatred most frequently as the greatest threat to the world.

"Moreover, publics across the globe see the threat of religious and ethnic violence as a growing threat to the world’s future."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

OCTOBER 16, 2014
Middle Easterners See Religious and Ethnic Hatred as Top Global Threat

Europeans and Americans Focus on Inequality as Greatest Danger
With growing conflicts engulfing the Middle East, people in the region name religious and ethnic hatred most frequently as the greatest threat to the world. Moreover, publics across the globe see the threat of religious and ethnic violence as a growing threat to the world’s future. But in Europe, concerns about inequality trump all other dangers and the gap between the rich and the poor is increasingly considered the world’s top problem by people living in advanced economies, including the United States.
Middle Easterners Fear Religious/Ethnic Hatred; Europeans, Americans Inequality

Elsewhere, Asians and Latin Americans are somewhat divided about the world’s greatest danger, but pollution and environmental problems as well as the spread of nuclear weapons are high on their list of threats. African countries see AIDS and other infectious diseases as the most pressing issue in the world today.1
These are among the findings of a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted in 44 countries among 48,643 respondents from March 17 to June 5, 2014.

Greatest Danger to the World

Across the nations surveyed, opinions on which of the five dangers is the top threat to the world vary greatly by region and country, and in many places there is no clear consensus.
Around a quarter of Americans say the growing gap between the rich and the poor (27%) is the greatest threat to the world today, with 24% saying this about religious and ethnic hatred and 23% expressing concern about the spread of nuclear weapons. Fewer say pollution and other environmental problems (15%) or AIDS and other infectious diseases (7%) are the world’s top problems.
Greatest Danger to the World
Europeans generally agree that inequality is the top threat to the world. A median of 32% across seven EU nations say the growing gap between the rich and the poor is the top threat and inequality is rated the number one danger in five of these countries.
Inequality is cited as the top problem by 54% in Spain and 43% in Greece, countries where the effects of the Eurocrisis have been especially severe. Somewhat fewer in Germany (34%), Italy (32%), Poland (32%) and France (32%) name the growing rich-poor gap. In the United Kingdom, ethnic and religious hatred (39%) is considered the greatest threat, followed by inequality (25%).
In Russia and Ukraine, both surveyed after the Russian annexation of Crimea but before months of fighting in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces, nuclear proliferation is the number one danger. More than three-in-ten say this in Ukraine (36%), while 29% hold that view in Russia.
Five of the seven Middle Eastern countries surveyed identify religious and ethnic hatred as the top threat to the world, with a median of 34% across these seven countries saying this, despite the fact that the survey was administered before the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) took over large portions of Iraq and Syria and the recent military conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
In Lebanon, 58% identify religious and ethnic hatred as the top threat, the highest level of concern in any surveyed country. Religious hatred is the top concern among Lebanese Christians (56%), Shia Muslims (62%) and Sunni Muslims (58%) alike. But concern about this threat is also prevalent in the Palestinian territories, Tunisia, Egypt and Israel.
Opinions about top dangers are more mixed in Asia. Three-in-ten or more Thais (36%), Filipinos (34%), Chinese (33%) and Vietnamese (32%) see environmental issues as the main danger to the world. Religious and ethnic divisions rank highest in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India. In Malaysia, Muslims (35%) are more concerned than Buddhists (22%) about religious and ethnic hatred.
Top Threats across the World
In Japan, which remains to this day the only population to experience a nuclear attack, 49% say the spread of nuclear weapons is the world’s greatest threat, the highest rating for this issue across the 44 countries surveyed. Three-in-ten in Pakistan, which borders nuclear rival India, say the spread of those weapons is of paramount danger, garnering the highest spot. In South Korea, the gap between the rich and the poor is the largest issue (32%), mirroring findings from many of the other advanced economies surveyed.

Latin Americans express mixed views about the top threat facing the world today, but many people in the region name nuclear weapons and environmental issues. Around three-in-ten in Chile (30%), Venezuela (29%) and Brazil (28%) identify the spread of nukes as the world’s top danger. About a quarter in El Salvador (27%) and Mexico (26%) also say this, though in Mexico an equal number name pollution. Colombians, Peruvians and Nicaraguans assess environmental problems as the greatest danger. In Argentina, more say inequality (32%).
Africans are generally united in the view that AIDS and other infectious diseases are the top threat to the globe. Africa has the highest rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the worldand the recent Ebola outbreak has spread in the continent’s west. Ugandans are the most worried about AIDS (44%), followed by Tanzanians (41%), South Africans (35%), Kenyans (29%) and Senegalese (29%). In Nigeria, where Boko Haram terrorists in the restive north of the country are creating havoc, 38% say religious and ethnic hatred is the biggest problem for the world.

Increasing Concerns about Religious and Ethnic Hatred

Taking the median percentages across the 28 countries surveyed in both 2007 and 2014, there has been a shift toward concerns about religious and ethnic hatred as the world’s top problem, especially in the Middle East. Meanwhile, in Europe, more publics now see inequality as the world’s top problem compared to seven years ago, before the Great Recession and Eurocrisis.
Since 2007, More Concern about Religious and Ethnic Hatred
Overall, in the 28 countries surveyed in 2007 and 2014, religious and ethnic hatred, along with inequality, are seen as the most pressing issues for the world, with the spread of nuclear weapons not far behind. Fewer people within these countries say pollution and AIDS are the biggest threat.
Inequality a Growing Concern in Europe and U.S.; Religious & Ethnic Hatred Worries Increase in Middle East
However, there have been substantial changes in the top choice within some countries over the last decade. For example, in the U.S., when the question was first asked in 2002 just months after the 9/11 attacks and discussion of the spread of WMDs in the lead up to the Iraq War, a third of Americans said nuclear proliferation was the greatest threat to the world. In 2007, after years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, religious and ethnic hatred became the top concern (28%). And now, six years after the Great Recession, with abundant debates about the growing gap between the rich and the poor, inequality is considered the greatest danger.

Europeans have seen a similar progression. Four of the European countries surveyed in 2007 named religious and ethnic tensions as the greatest threat, but in 2014 all but one say inequality is the top issue (France is split between the two). In Spain and Italy, worries about inequality have doubled since 2007.
Meanwhile, Middle Easterners have become more worried about religious hatred. In 2007, a regional median of 24% across six countries named religious prejudice as the greatest danger. By 2014, a median of 32% across those same Middle Eastern countries said this. And in Lebanon, the percentage choosing ethnic hatred jumped 19 points since 2007, while concern has more than doubled in Egypt.

Age and Ideological Differences

Generally, there is little variation by age in views about the top global danger.
But in Japan, 18-29 year olds are less concerned about the spread of nuclear weapons than those 50 and older, possibly due to the fact that people under 30 were born at least four decades after nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Meanwhile, young people in Kenya and South Africa are more concerned about AIDS & disease compared with their elders.
Republicans See Religious & Ethnic Hatred as Top Threat; Democrats Say Inequality
In the UK, people on the ideological right of the political spectrum voice greater worries about religious and ethnic hatred, while those on the left are more concerned about inequality. Similarly, in the U.S., Republicans are much more likely to name religious and ethnic hatred as the greatest threat to the world (35%) than are Democrats (15%) and independents (23%). But Democrats are more concerned about inequality (35%) compared with Republicans (21%). Democrats and independents are also more concerned about pollution and other environmental problems compared with Republicans.

  1. The survey was administered before the Islamic State (“ISIS” or “ISIL”) took over large swathes of Iraq and Syria and posted prisoner executions online and before the Ebola outbreak in West Africa became a high-profile international story.

7 Habits of Natural Leaders

7 Habits Of Natural Leaders

by Carolyn Gregoire
Posted: 10/20/2014 8:28 am EDT Updated: 10/20/2014 8:59 am EDT

Successful leadership, like happiness, is one of those things that everyone claims to have the "secret" to. There are more than 27,000 leadership books on Amazon, thousands of seminars on leadership skills held in conference rooms across the country, and countless articles in business magazines and websites pruning leadership lessons from CEOs and corporate movers and shakers.

But leadership isn't just about sitting at the top of the corporate ladder and running the show -- it's a way of engaging with your social network, community, colleagues and employees to share a vision and unite people in pursuit of a common goal. Good leadership brings out the best individual qualities of everyone participating.

So what does it actually mean to be a good leader? There are many different ways of leading, but great leaders have a few important habits that anyone can cultivate in themselves.

Here are seven habits of natural-born leaders.

They dare to fail.

"The difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing," Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter wrote in Harvard Business Reviewlast year.

Resilience -- the ability to effectively cope with losing, failing, and not getting what you want -- is an important quality for anyone to cultivate in order to achieve success and well-being, but for leaders, it's essential. To lead well is to risk failure, and resilience helps leaders to bounce back from the inevitable hardships and setbacks that risk necessitates.

Failure can work powerfully in either one of two ways: It can be the greatest teacher and motivator for future success, or it can keep you from ever taking a risk (and hence achieving something great) again. Great leaders know this well, and they've learned to use failure, as Arianna Huffington puts it, "as a stepping stone to success."

Huffington, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, says that great leaders "dare to fail" -- just read the biography of any leader you admire, and you'll find a story of failure.

"When I ran for governor of California in 2003, it was a failure--but I learned a tremendous amount about the power of the Internet," Huffington said in a conversation with Inc. "I also learned a lot about myself, about communicating, being able to touch people's hearts and minds, and listening. All the things that were ingrained in me during the campaign definitely had an impact in forming The Huffington Post."

They follow their purpose.

"Apple's core value is we believe that people with passion can change the world," Steve Jobs said at a 1997 internal meeting on Apple's "Think Different" ad campaign. "And that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do."

Watching Jobs address employees, it's impossible not to feel his intense passion and purpose. The ad campaign, which celebrates people throughout history who have expressed that same drive and passion, "touches the soul of the company," Jobs said.

"I don't think there is another company on earth that could have done this ad," he added.

Purpose drives the greatest leaders, like Jobs, to create a meaningful product or accomplish a goal that transcends the company's bottom line -- and to think of the company as having not just a bottom line, but also a "soul." In doing so, they inspire their employees to work to their highest potential to fulfill their larger vision.

"Purpose leaders don’t manage; they mesmerize. They don’t execute initiatives; they lead crusades. Their brands are not labels but flags that should evoke the kind of patriotism we have for the countries we live in," Joey Reiman, CEO of BrightHouse,wrote in The Story of Purpose: The Path to Creating a Brighter Brand, a Greater Company, and a Lasting Legacy. "These leaders want to change the way the planet works -- or as Apple’s Steve Jobs is widely quoted saying, 'to make a dent in the universe.'"

They give.

There are three types of people in this world, according to organizational psychologist Adam Grant: Givers (those who prioritize helping others), takers (those who help themselves) and matchers (those who seek equal benefit for self and other). After investigating years' worth of psychological studies as well as conducting his own research, Grant concluded that givers are the most successful.

"Givers bring out the best in others," Grant told Business Insider in April. "One big part of that is seeing more potential in people than they see in themselves. Givers are often looking at the people around them as diamonds in the rough, investing in such a way that they're able to allow these people to achieve greater potential than they thought possible."

Givers also become role models and change behavior norms for the group, Grant explains, making others more likely to help each other and share knowledge -- which can ultimately contribute to an environment of greater creativity and innovation.

They give themselves a break.

What do Marissa Mayer, Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama have in common? These highly successful leaders all insist on taking regular vacations. Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior -- who oversaw more than 22,000 employees in her previous role at Cisco -- makes time for meditation every day, and does a digital detox every Saturday so that she comes back to work every Monday feeling ready to tackle the week ahead with a sense of calm clarity.

Great leaders have ambitious goals, and they work hard to achieve them. But they also know that workaholism and burnout won't get them very far, so they take time to rest and recharge in order to boost their creativity and mental sharpness. It's difficult to be an effective leader when you're burnt out, sleep deprived, and addicted to your smartphone. Taking regular personal time -- whether it's a daily yoga practice, Saturday tech sabbatical, or twice-annual vacation -- keeps leaders mentally sharp and ready to take on new challenges.

For some leaders, like Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, vacations can even provide an unexpected source of business inspiration.

"When you go on vacation, your routine is interrupted; the places you go and the new people you meet can inspire you in unexpected ways," Branson told Entrepreneur. "As an entrepreneur or business leader, if you didn't come back from your vacation with some ideas about how to shake things up, it's time to consider making some changes."

They really listen.

Bill Clinton has a startlingly simple secret to success: the former president gives everyone he meets his full, undivided attention. Countless anecdotes about Clinton suggest that his legendary charisma stems from the full focus he gives to every person he meets, and it's made him one of the greatest political communicators in recent history.

Clinton was known, during his early career, for connecting with the people he was leading, looking them in the eye, and listening to what they had to say. He embodied an important trait of great natural leaders: They genuinely care about others, and no matter how busy they are, they always give people the time of day.

"All my life I’ve been interested in other people’s stories," Clinton wrote in his autobiography My Life. "I wanted to know them, understand them, feel them."

Clinton's superior powers of attention only highlight to our larger cultural "attention deficit" that can have a significant negative impact on the way we communicate and interact with others. Paying attention to people might not sound too difficult, but consider how often we actually do this. Technology has contributed to a decline of eye contact, and multitasking has become so much the norm that we often check our email or text while conversing with others. Even when we're not multitasking, research suggests that we only give people roughly a third of our attention -- but a great leader knows that everyone they work with deserves more than that.

They seek out new experiences and ways of thinking.

In a competitive and rapidly changing world, creativity is an increasingly important quality for leaders to cultivate to keep their businesses or ventures ahead of the curve. A creative leader is one who keeps an open mind.

Openness to experience -- one of the "big five" domains of personality in psychology, a trait characterized by intellectual curiosity and an intense drive for cognitive exploration -- is the personality trait most associated with creative achievement.Research in organizational psychology has also found that it's one of the personality traits most associated with leadership, trumped only be extraversion and neuroticism.

Leaders need to have a flexible and fluid mindset to adapt to changes and new challenges, which is fostered by being open to new perspectives and ways of doing things. This is one of the reasons Silicon Valley entrepreneurs love Burning Man so much -- the annual art and counterculture festival in the Nevada desert is a breeding ground for unusual ideas and experiences.

But great leaders don't have to hit the desert to keep coming up with innovative ideas and strategies. They simply make a practice of keeping their minds open and explorative, or as Steve Jobs put it, making their "bag of experiences" as large as possible.

They empathize with others.

We don't often think of empathy as being a characteristic of the American workplace. But leaders who are kind and empathetic -- who truly care about the people who work for them -- are some of the most effective managers out there, inspiring others and naturally drawing people to their side. A leader who displays empathy is better equipped to connect with others and understand their perspectives. In turn, they are able to call on these relationships for support when they need it.

Jayson Boyers, vice president of continuing professional studies at Champlain College, goes so far as to argue that empathy is the single strongest force that moves businesses forward.

"Successful people do not operate alone; each of us needs the support of others to achieve positive results that push us toward our goals," Boyers writes in Forbes. "True empathy combines understanding both the emotional and the logical rationale that goes into every decision."

If you're a leader looking to develop your emotional intelligence skills, Google's Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute offers some exercises for cultivating kindness and empathy in the workplace.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Debating Hell or Promoting an Insurrection of Heaven on this Good Earth

Becoming Unbound

Reading through Time Magazine's article on Hell below curiously provoked a positive response in me and not a negative one. Though hell is not here denied at Relevancy22 its purpose has been questioned in relationship to its usage by Christian communities. Especially as it relates to the kind of message or attitude that those Christian communities wish to communicate about God, the Bible, themselves, and ourselves.

Personally, I have moved to a position of annihilation theory rather than the stricter concept of a tortuous eternity of hell for reasons heretofore explained in past articles over the years. Reasons which are generally brought out by the Anabaptist writer in his article which basically says that hell - as we Westerners typically conceive of it - is antithetical, or non-sensical, to God's incarnated presence amongst us.

A presence that infills this sinful world with His holiness. A world that has not been abandoned (as generally pictured by Jesus' resurrection FROM this world) but embraced all the more tightly because of God's resurrection INTO this world. A world NOT to be burned up to a cinder at some future judgment day, but loved all the more fiercely. A world to be died for a million times over if need be to complete a heavenly redemption begun at Calvary's hill at the behest of a Redeemer God whose passionate heart was overcome with His divine creation.

Mostly, the Christian message should lead out with "God's love first. His divine justice second." That"Justice is not just unless love is its basis. For without love there can be no just justice or just judgment." This is the truer Christian message. Not one of hate, and wrath, and hell.

Those church communities which place the doctrine of Hell "front and center" to the Gospel message of salvation display a strong belief in a future time of justice when God pours out His divine wrath upon all sinners failing to repent of their sins. It will be a time of soulful judgment. A terrifying time. An awful event.

Whereas those communities which lead out with God's message of love and forgiveness tend to talk less of hell and more of God's love here-and-now in a heaven which is presently invading our earthly experience. Of a Kingdom eschatology which is "present but not yet." Of a heavenly kingdom in deep tension with unredeemed earthly kingdoms of our own making.

Though not necessarily denying hell's doctrinal place in the bible these latter type of churches comprehend this future time of judgment as a present time of reality requiring repentance of sin in this life. And in the repentance to rapidly make things right before God and man while we yet have life and breath in our mortal bodies rather than simply awaiting for death's "mercies" to come and remove us from our present contexts.

For these churches then, their leading message is one of God's grace. But for the former churches their leading message is one of God's judgment and law. Each tell of God's grace and forgiveness. Each tell of a heaven and a hell. But the emphasis is different. The pronunciation of the word "salvation" has been differentiated according to how each community might envisage God's gospel message here on earth.

For some, it is the waving of caustic banners decrying the sins of the world in loud voices of vindictive judgment and rapturous doom. For others, it is stripping off one's everyday clothes to be adorned with the woes and suffering ills of this world. To make this hard world a better place to live rather than a time to be bitterly endured until our Lord's "heavenly" return (though my argument here is that God is here now with us. That His return has already commenced at Calvary's tree).

Living United

Essentially, it's how we stress the syllables of the word "salvation." How we pronounce it to one another in our community circles and fellowships. How we see the world within the concept of the word itself. Whether it is one of positive action or negative reaction.

Causing us to either wear blackened glasses seeing only mankind's sin and judgment all around us. Or, by throwing those darkened glasses underfoot to wear rose-coloured tints emblazoned with Jesus' empowering ministry and incarnated resurrection in our midst here-and-now.

To see a world through God's own lenses of love, presence, forbearance, longsuffering, patient, and faithfulness. Spirit-glasses that refuse to let hell win here on earth while working hard to bring a bit of peace and healing to the brokenness and pain displayed around us.

To stand convinced that heaven doesn't come if God remains shut-up in His heavens until we show our Lord a majesty of glory to the very humanity He Himself ministered to and died for. To let our Lord's Calvary become our own Calvary's.

To bring God "down" to mankind through our own personal testaments of commitment, community, and service to mankind like as He once did.

To be the catholic hands-and-feet to a dusty gospel. And not simply be the "pro-tes-tant" to life's sins and ills to an unearthly gospel awaiting redemption that is not busy itself with redemptive work.

Is there a heaven and hell?

Perhaps it is more here on this good earth than in the sweet by-and-by of our too heavenly dreams of leaving a world bound and broken to the callous hands and hearts of our biblical doctrines.

Our agony should be God's agony. That it was but "hell to leave and all-of-heaven to stay." Though leave He must to infill, empower, and enact a church incarnated with His gritty gospel of healing and salvation to all men and women whoever they be. Wherever they be. Whenever they be.

And by these holy acts incarnate a heavenly insurrection fraught with Spirit-led redemptive power met with multitudinous blessings. This is the kind of gospel that wars against hell's reign here on earth usurped by God's reign through Spirit-works of love, charity, forgiveness, and peace.

R.E. Slater
October 23, 2014
edited October 24, 2014

* * * * * * * * * *

France, Haute Savoie, Saint-Nicolas de Véroce.
Hell painting in Saint-Nicolas de Véroce church,
Fred de Noyelle - Photononstop | RM/Getty Images

5 Reasons Christians Are Rejecting the Notion of Hell

More and more Christians are beginning to reject the traditional view of hell which states the unjust will experience “eternal, conscious torment”. Perhaps you’ve seen this change in the Christian landscape and grown confused as to why so many of us are experiencing shifting beliefs. While my Letting Go of Hell series goes further in-depth on many issues surrounding hell, here are 5 key reasons to help you understand why we are rejecting the notion of “eternal, conscious torment”:

1. Something in our spirit tells us that torturing people is morally wrong.

During the historically recent debates over whether or not it’s okay to torture people, it has only been the most sick and twisted minds among us who have defended torture as being anything less than morally reprehensible. In fact, we know that torturing is such an egregious offense to morality that we even have laws against doing it toanimals. The assertion that God himself would not only torture people but take great pleasure in it, is something that many of us in Christianity are finding utterly offensive.

2. The concept of eternal, conscious torment runs contrary to the whole testimony in scripture.

Part of the reason why a growing number of us are rejecting the traditional view of hell, is that we’ve actually re-read the scriptures without our prefabricated evangelical filter, and find scripture describe something different than a traditional hell. Yes, there are some verses that seem to hint or describe eternal torture, but like many issues, the Bible is inconsistent on the matter. However, when we look at the entire testimony of scripture, we most often see the disposition of those who refuse to enter into God’s love described as a “second death”. Traditional hell isn’t death at all; traditional hell is instead an eternal life of torture. This simply isn’t what the Bible describes when taking into account the entire testimony. Instead, we find that those who ultimately reject God– the one who sustains life– to be granted their wish: their names are blotted out of the book of life and it is as if they never existed.

3. The final judge of each individual is Jesus, and torturing people seems contradictory to his character.

We believe in a coming judgement, and believe each one of us will have to stand before the “judgement seat”. However, we often forget that this judge will be Jesus! Most of us still affirm those who refuse to be reconciled to God’s love through Christ will ultimately be eternally lost, because we believe love must always be chosen– it cannot be forced. However, the idea that the end result of rejecting God’s love will be a slow-roasting eternal torture session with Jesus at the controls, is almost asinine. This isnot the Jesus we find in the New Testament. The Jesus we find in the New Testament is loving and just– but not dementedly cruel. In fact, in the New Testament we see a Jesus who notices suffering all around him and repeatedly states “I have compassion for them”. That compassion consistently moves Jesus to action, often breaking the taboos of his day to alleviate their suffering. The Jesus of scripture is hardly the type of person who’d enjoy torturing people.

4. Jesus would become a hypocrite, demanding that we nonviolently love our enemies while he does the complete opposite.

Remember, Jesus is the ultimate judge of humanity so anyone who ended up being tortured in hell would only go there by the decision of Jesus himself. This is the same Jesus who pointed out in the Bible of his day the permissiveness of using a tit-for-tat system of justice (an eye for an eye) in dealing with enemies as being wrong. Instead of affirming we should follow this part of scripture, Jesus taught his disciples to no longer obey this part of their Bible– instructing that they should become nonviolent enemy lovers instead (Matthew 5:38). In fact, Jesus goes as far as telling them that loving enemies is a requirement of becoming a child of God. If Jesus commands that we love our enemies, refuse to use violence, and that we actually do good to those who hate us yet– eternally tortures his own enemies–he’s guilty of hypocrisy. I don’t believe this is the case– I believe Jesus commands we love our enemies because he loves his enemies… and torture is never loving.

5. We simply can’t get past the idea that we are more gracious and merciful than Jesus himself.

This is the key area I cannot reconcile with eternal torment: I have been wronged by a lot of people in my life, but I have absolutely zero desire to torture anyone. I could never make the call to sentence one to torture or “pull the switch” to commence torture, because seeing people suffer is something that disrupts my spirit. I want no part in the causation of suffering, but instead want to be an agent who helps to relieve suffering. Furthermore, the longer I follow Jesus the more and more I desire that people be shown mercy. If I were to sit on the judgement seat (something I never will), there’s just no possible way I could ever sentence people to eternal torture– especially for things like being born into an Amazonian tribe who never heard the message of Jesus. If I were judge, I would always lean on the option of radical mercy.

The question then becomes: am I, a hopelessly flawed and sinful human being more merciful and compassionate than Jesus? There’s no possible way that is true, which tells me there might be more mercy than I can even fathom dished out at the final judgement.

As more and more Christians return home to a radical faith centered squarely on Jesus, we will continue to see a growing number of bible believing, soundly orthodox Christians, reject the evangelical concept of “eternal, conscious torment”. This should be viewed as a beautiful thing, not a travesty, as we rediscover that God actually is altogether wonderful, altogether lovely, and altogether like Jesus.

Benjamin L. Corey is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. His first book is Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus (Release date, August 2014).

Be a Superhero to Someone today!

Meet Typewriter Artist Paul Smith

Typewriter Art by Paul Smith

It Looks Like A Normal Painting. When I Saw The Truth, I Was Blown Away!

September 15, 2014

Paul Smith is an incredible artist who creates amazing pieces of art using only a typewriter. Unfortunately, he was born with cerebral palsy, a severe disability that affects motor abilities and strength. At an Oregon nursing home, he tirelessly types away using only 1 finger. Once you see what he’s creating, you’ll notice his artistic abilities are really extraordinary. The bottom line is.. never let anything stop you from pursuing your passion.

Typewriter Artist Paul Smith

Christian Music Group - The Soil and The Sun

The Pressure To Look Good - Trends in Cosmetic Surgery

Anne Robinson: “Anything that allows women to feel better about themselves is worth the money” Photo: BBC

What has she done to herself? The trend for cosmetic surgery

As the breast implant controversy reveals the sheer number of British women undergoing
cosmetic surgery, it's us all who should all take a harder look in the mirror

By Judith Woods
7:30AM GMT 04 Jan 2012

Is there a woman alive over 40 who hasn’t stood in front of the mirror and pulled her brow upwards, her cheeks sideways or her décolletage inwards and wistfully admired the fleeting transformation, before gravity takes hold again?

It used to be a potent combination of common sense, cost and social stigma that stopped femmes d’un certain âge turning cosmetic surgery fantasies into reality. But no more.

An estimated million-plus women are resorting to medical procedures in a bid to, if not turn back time per se, then at the very least suspend it, one unnervingly immobilised wrinkle at a time.

The controversy over the removal and replacement of sub-standard breast implants has thrown a spotlight on to the extent to which women in Britain have come to rely on the surgeon’s knife for their sense of personal worth or professional marketability.

It wasn’t always so; I vividly remember the first time I broached the subject of cosmetic surgery in an interview. I was sitting in a hotel garden with Helen, now Dame, Mirren, in the mid-1990s and, as a star-struck twentysomething, felt so mortified to be raising the subject with her that I blushed to my roots.

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She laughed throatily, drily pointed out several unenhanced physical attributes and sensously took another mouthful of single malt. These days, such enquiries – and surgical interventions – are so commonplace, that actresses half her age don’t bat an eyelid at Have you? Could you? Would you? Instead, the pat response from these fresh-faced ingenues, with their milkmaid cheeks and unfurrowed brows, tends, alarmingly, to be “never say never”.

When music svengali Simon Cowell, he of the megawatt smile and that notorious drooping eyelid, observed that Botox was “no more unusual than toothpaste”, he was summing up a modern mindset where health and beauty have, appallingly, cataclysmically, parted ways. Add incredibly: the hyper-inflated collagen lip implants of Leslie Ash back in 2003 failed to become a cautionary tale.

Along this road to perdition masquerading as a quest for physical perfection, we have forgotten – weirdly, given the terrifying name – that Botox derives from a toxin in the bacterium responsible for botulism, that lumps of cheap silicone do not belong in the human body and that breasts aren’t supposed to protrude pneumatically from the recumbent female form.

Recent years have seen a dismally retrograde return to a preoccupation with taut, tanned, cartoonesque cleavages, aided and abetted by the plunging pornification of fashion; hooker heels and porn boots, curve-accentuating bodycon dresses, skirt lengths leaving little to the imagination and even less to modesty.

It is a phenomenon that has crept up on us, as documented by Natasha Walter in her scathing analysis Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. Modern feminism is in a crisis as female empowerment has come to mean the right – in some quarters, the obligation – to dress tartily, moonlight in lapdancing clubs to pay Oxbridge fees and conform to an unrealistic ideal of plasticised pulchritude.

“Barbie isn’t just back – she has taken over the world,” is the crisp analysis from Dr Alessia Ciani, consultant psychiatrist at the independent Capio Nightingale hospital in London. “Women are predisposed to feeling conscious about their appearance; since earliest times, men’s power has resided in money, women’s in their appearance, and as we all live longer, there’s a great pressure on women to maintain a stereotypical image of youthfulness.”

This perceived need to annihilate crow’s feet and maintain a perky embonpoint at all times, has created a booming plastic surgery industry. Some, like Weakest Link host Anne Robinson and Sky presenter Kay Burley, are upfront. Last year, at the age of 50, Burley treated herself to a facelift, while Robinson has said: “Anything that allows women to feel better about themselves is worth the money.” Nor are such insecurities confined to women of a certain age: 23-year-old Strictly Come Dancing contestant Chelsee Healey recently admitted to regretting having breast implants at the age of 18. Amanda Holden admits she quit her Botox habit after seeing the effects it had on the rich and famous in Los Angeles.

Others, such as Kylie, attract whispers for their preternaturally youthful appearance. Tory MP Louise Mensch, not usually backward at coming forward, is more reticent about this subject. When asked by an interviewer whether she had had a facelift, Mensch replied: “Without denying it, I’m going to refuse to answer your question because, as soon as I do that, you will end up becoming the minister for mascara.”

According to the most recent figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (felicitously known by the acronym BAAPS), women underwent 34,400 procedures in 2010, the most popular of which was breast augmentation (9,400), up 10 per cent from the previous year, followed by blepharoplasty (eyelid lifts: 5,127) and face and neck lifts (4,493).

Men accounted for 3,860 procedures, the most popular of which were rhinoplasty (3,860) and breast reduction (741), an increase of 27 per cent. While diet and exercise can go a long way towards banishing moobs, the quick fix – however invasive – remains more attractive than expending effort and energy.

Add non-surgical procedures, such as laser treatments for skin and eyes, and the overall figure soars to around 1.3 million procedures, figures from market researchers Mintel show. It’s so widespread that it’s rare for the topic of cosmetic surgery to rise an eyebrow (and not just because it’s been paralysed by Botox). But there are dishonourable exceptions.

Last June, Sarah Burge, 50, a mother from Cambridgeshire, gave her daughter, Poppy, a £6,000 breast-enhancement voucher for her birthday. Her seventh birthday. Yet, instead of being placed in care, the beaming child was photographed in the national press, along with her mother, who has spent £500,000 on plastic surgery for herself. While we can only hope that social services read Closer magazine, elsewhere a stand is being made.

In August 2011, Kate Winslet announced in these pages that she refused to be bullied into surgery, however career-enhancing studio bases might consider it. Her sentiments were echoed by fellow British actresses Rachel Weisz and Emma Thompson, and they declared it time to establish the British Anti-Cosmetic Surgery League.

It was an admirable stand, particularly for an A-list Oscar-winner who is no stranger to airbrush controversy, but begs the question of what, exactly, constitutes surgery.

I know of at least one female broadcaster, whose features are known to resemble melted cheese, who dismisses the suggestion she’s had work done. She’s not dissembling, it’s just that she – and a generation of starlets and presenters – don’t consider lunchtime procedures such as Botox, dermal fillers and chemical peels, to be “work”.

We are losing any connection with our bodies; by gorging ourselves on food, we have achieved the unenviable distinction of being crowned Europe’s fatties. Self-pity and self-indulgence have been rebranded as self-determination and self-fulfilment, and a well-trodden route to happiness that leads straight to the surgeon’s door.

“Human beings strive to fit in, and cosmetic procedures are now so widespread they are accepted as the norm,” says health psychologist Kerri McPherson, based at Glasgow Caledonian University. “Because we live in an image-conscious age, we are expected to look after our appearance and failing to doing so would raise many more questions than going to extreme lengths.”

Another factor is the rise of Facebook and other sites where our photos are on display, and the rise of anyone-can-be-a-celebrity culture.

“We used to admire celebrities from afar, now we compare ourselves to them. We see the girl next door becoming a star and having a makeover, and that glamour and success and perfection seems much more attainable to us.”

Blame Barbie, blame the tacky profusion of tabloid magazines, the lowest-common-denominator television encapsulated by The Only Way is Essex and the overtly sexualised gyrating on Strictly and The X Factor, where contestants must undergo obligatory teeth whitening before their talent can be exposed.

At some point the buck stops with us. We must ask ourselves what has made us so uncomfortable in our skins that we crave – and, crucially – have normalised, dermabrasion and liposuction, scalpels and trout pouts. And where seven-year-old girls from Cambridgeshire dream of the day they can cash in their boob job vouchers.

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Four4Four: Renee Zellweger’s face-change shocker

Renee Zellweger: what has happened to her face?

Renee Zellweger attended a Hollywood ceremony looking unrecognisable,
prompting fans to ask what she has done to her face

By Anita Singh, Arts and Entertainment Editor
1:48PM BST 21 Oct 2014

Renee Zellweger was once one of the most recognisable actresses in the world.

Ten years on from her last outing as Bridget Jones, Zellweger, 45, appears to have an entirely new face.

Fans expressed bafflement at the actress’s appearance when she was pictured at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards.

While many Hollywood stars show the tell-tale signs of facelifts, Botox and fillers – wrinkle-free, hamster-cheeked and looking a couple of decades younger than their actual age – Zellweger simply looks like a different person.The Oscar-winning star now bears a passing resemblance to fellow actress Robin Wright Penn, with a hint of Daryl Hannah and Cameron Diaz.

Zellweger attended the event with her boyfriend, Doyle Bramhall II.

On Twitter, the writer Viv Groskop said: "Renee Zellwegger: this is not Botox or even surgery it's a MISSING PERSON ENQUIRY"

The actress recently raised the prospect of returning for a third Bridget Jones film, saying the idea "would be fun".

After several hours of speculation, Zellweger responded by issuing a statement to People magazine, saying her new look was the result of leading a more "peaceful" and "creative" life.