Friday, March 18, 2005

Maria's Oprah Drawer

My wife Maria loves her "Oprah Drawer."

An Oprah Drawer is for women only, though I don't really know why it should be.

For those of you who don't know, an Oprah Drawer is a spare drawer in a bureau or chest that a woman commandeers for stashing her loot - odds and ends of things she buys in the mall or when out and about, or receives as gifts. It's not for ordinary things, but rather for things she really likes, way down in her secret heart.

And it's all brand-new.

The reason for the Oprah Drawer is to replace the givingness of an attentive husband. It was invented by Oprah Winfrey, who, as we all know, has no husband to give her sweet, intimate loot of the kind that women like. Besides, most men are not sensitive enough to what titillates a woman's fantasies and fancies, so they would never be competent, unless they are gay, to buy the right loot for that drawer.

So, the woman buys it herself, stashes it, and then when she's feeling ignored, diminished, ill-treated, down, blue, lost and isolated in the universe, or specially deserving for, she treats herself to a pre-known gift from that special drawer. Suddenly, her day is brighter, her night more romantic, and a smile graces her inner heart of hearts. She knows she is loved and dear to someone - herself. And, she knows something else: she really doesn't need a man to bring her little gifts that lift her spirits and make her happy.

Leave it to a filthy-rich single black female super-TV-Daytime-Talk-Show-Star to come up with such a gimmick.

I have to admit the Oprah Drawer is practical. It's great for a woman to stash received gifts she won't use right away. It's wonderful to know a gift is handy if the husband or boyfriend forgets to buy her one. And it serves the woman well when she's too rushed to go out and buy a gift for another woman.

There is a certain diplomacy and politic associated with the Oprah Drawer. It's perfectly okay for a man to look in it and see what's there. It might give him gift ideas by showing him what not to buy for the woman. It's considered "bad form" for a man to sneak a gift from the drawer and hand it to her as though he just bought it. But hey, it's not such a bad idea, if you can get away with it.

Since I'm a man, I don't feel a bit jealous of the booty Maria keeps in her Oprah drawer, nor of the fact that she didn't commandeer and stock with loot an Oprah drawer for me. Men aren't that interested in that kind of drawer. And, making an Oprah Drawer is an individual's own responsibility because no one will do it for you.

Besides, men far prefer to have sharpened knives, oiled and cleaned guns, ammunition, trinkets and doodads from the past, old pre-marriage wallets with the condom imprint in the worn, misshapen leather, some wrist watches that are too good to throw and too old to give away, a deck of cards or dice he used to gamble with, a little humidor with a few prized cigars he might get to smoke on the back porch when the wife's not around, or a smutty photo or two from an old flame to remind him he used to be really attractive to women.

Men might prefer it, but they almost never commandeer a whole drawer for such things, not as long as there's a woman in charge of the household. Instead, they rathole their loot in the back of their underwear or sock drawer, at the back of the nightstand drawer, high up on a closet shelf the wife's not likely to reach, or in a special trunk or cardboard box tucked away in the attic, basement, garage, or tool shed. If men have loot, it is in an out-of-the-way place, away from the wife's prying fingers and scrutinous, judgmental eyes. For men know the wife's likely to snatch, toss, or "lose" the man's cherished booty, especially if she sees it every time she opens a drawer that's as boldly comandeered as her Oprah Drawer.

Back to the subject, Maria's Oprah Drawer (I just looked) is loaded to the brim, and I fully expect her to commandeer another as a companion to the first one. On a cursory look, I found several glossy Victoria's Secret gift bags, some designer soap I bought for her at a craft show, a whole stack of t-shirts, a bottle of perfume, a teddy bear bean bag, an address book with a cover made from a giant leaf, and an assortment of tidy bundles in plastic, tissue, or bags of some kind that I didn't have the patience to explore. Oh, and I caught a glimpse of the red Chinese brocade jewelry pouch I made for her. Bottom line, the drawer has lots of nice things in it, as it should have.

Frankly, I'm glad Maria has an Oprah Drawer, and I recommend it for all women. It's an extension of her "nesting" nature, and it does nurture her as much as anything inanimate can. Plus, I love to see the look of serene contentment on her face when she treats herself to something from the Oprah Drawer. I notice that sometimes when I'm busy with something that does not interest her, she goes back into the guest room and reorganizes the drawer, carefully removing everything, laying it out on the bed, grouping the items, unwrapping them, feeling them, smelling them, occasionally showing an item to me with a happy smile on her face, and then just as carefully re-wrapping, organizing, and snugly stashing her loot back in her Oprah Drawer.

Oprah Drawer. It's a good thing.

# # #

My Sewing Adventures

Elegant Bridal Satin and Chinese Brocade Jewelry Pouch with Nylon Drawstring, Perfect for Pearls - $25 While Supply Lasts

I don't exactly remember how the bug bit me, but it bit hard, the sewing bug did. That was last summer, 2004. It started when Maria bought some cute jeans that were too long and asked me to hem them.

Just a few days before, our next door neighbor Margaret had moved to Atlanta and abandoned a lot of her household stuff to the Salvation Army. The army was a week late getting there, so the scavengers beat them to it. I was one of the scavengers, and my choice of the pickings included an old steel White brand straight-stitch sewing machine, the kind my mother had when I was growing up in Houston. Margaret was old enough to be my mother, so it figures she'd had that machine for at least 50 years. Now it was mine.

So I hopped to the task, setting up the machine on the floor of the guest room and hemming Maria's pants beautifully. Her delight encouraged me. I broke one of the two needles in the process.

A week or so later I was browsing through Wal-Mart, thinking I needed a new needle for backup. Lo and behold I spied a computerized Brother CS150 (150-stitch, including zig-zag) sewing machine for $240, about $100 off. I snapped it up, along with a few pieces of fabric and some needles and spools of thread, and lugged my booty home. Maria was surprised, pleasantly. She knew I would be doing all the sewing, and so far, she's right.

My first project was to make some draw-string bags from the feed-sack fabric my Aunt Wilda had given me in August 2004 when I visited her in Houston. I thought they were nice, but would be much nicer made from satin.

I asked sister Debbie to send me her little Chinese Jewelry pouch as a guide, and when it arrived, I decided I could re-engineer it and make something much nicer. After thinking it over and drawing and cutting some patterns, I headed to Jo-Ann's Fabrics and bought some beatiful, heavy white bridal satin, and some red Chinese brocade with golden trees and dragons woven in, along with matching thread.

I cut out a bunch of bags and started sewing. Maria snagged the first couple for her "Oprah Drawer," and another for her personal use. Immediately she stuffed her pearls in the personal one, and I liked the combination so well that I took a few pictures like the one above. You can see more at

If you like the looks of the bags, let me know. I have a few left. They are for sale at $25 each. If you prefer something custom, I'll be happy to accomodate you. I enjoy making the bags, and I've never seen any that are nicer.

Pouch Ties Snugly Shut with Drawstrings, Keeping Jewelry Protected. Email me if you want it for a loved one or your own Oprah Drawer.

# # #

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Why Florida Schools Suck, and How to Fix Them

I am completely incensed over the handling of public education in general, and politicos don’t seem to have their acts together on the subject. Constitutional amendments regarding voluntary free pre-school for 4-year-olds or reducing class sizes don’t solve the problems in any way. All are completely missing the point.

Florida public schools are ineffective, and are turning out graduates who are barely literate. If you ask a typical school child what he learned in school, he does not know and cannot explain it. The fact is that if a child cannot explain what he has learned, then he has not learned it, does not know it, and cannot use it, so his "education" was both faulty and wasted. The reasons for such an ineffective educational system are not class size or insufficient pre-school. They are partly the incompetence of teachers induced by principles of tenure, and the fact that students do not spend enough hours per day receiving instruction and studying, or enough months per year learning how to prepare for adult life in the outside world.

Florida public schools do, however, turn out millions of children every day at 2 PM to run the streets, go home unsupervised, and get involved in drugs, sex, and street crimes. Why? Because for the preponderant majority of students there are no parents waiting at home to greet them - those parents have to work for a living and simply cannot be home at 2 PM.

To make matters worse, parents of families in which all adults work must pay exorbitant fees to day care centers that send their kids to school for them, pick the kids up from school for them, and take care of them till parents get home. The fees are around $75 per week during school months, and $140 per week during non-school months. A parent can easily drop $4500 per year to keep a child in day care throughout the year. Most single parents cannot afford that hefty "working parent tax". And that is why there are so many derelict kids running the streets of Florida.

Let us assume that there are 1 million kids in Florida whose parents work, and each parent pays around $3000 year for child care during school months. That means $3,000,000,000 (3 billion) is being spent to take care of kids. That money should be going to the school system instead of to baby sitters, and those kids should be getting a better education for that money.

Am I claiming that schools are nothing more than a baby-sitting service? Yes, I am. Let's face it. If all parents could do a superlative job of educating their children at home, there would be no need for a public education system. And, it is necessary to observe and supervise children in the process, imposing discipline and ensuring the children do not cause or receive injuries. So, being a baby-sitting and education service go hand-in-glove - they are the warp and woof of our system of public education system, and the only real purpose and function of that system.

Therefore, I have a simple proposal for improving the education system that none of the candidates or school boards seem to have any inkling about -

Extend the school day to 11 hours - 7 AM to 6 PM, and do all homework, study, band, football, intramural activities, teaching, eating, rest, and play needed by healthy children during that time. This will abolish "home work". It will allow parents who work the opportunity to be home to send their kids to school, and receive them back from school. And, it is a GOOD idea because if the daily schedule is orchestrated correctly, children will not get bored or over-worked, and they will learn more. School administrators will work teachers 12 hours per day 3 days per week, and two shifts will teach the students. This will give teachers plenty of slack time during the week.

Extend the school week to 6 days, Monday through Saturday. Children do not need an extra day at home to goof off and be useless.

Extend the school year to 11 months, with all schools being closed during the month of August. This will allow parents and children a full month of vacation opportunity, and provide ample time for school renovations if needed. It will also keep the kids occupied gainfully during the months of June and July which are now wasted as far as education is concerned.

Require all teachers to take a sabbatical - a year off every 7 years to learn new techniques new facts about their subjects, tour the world, work some other kind of job, or just get a breather.

Require all teachers to teach students to teach other students, and require all students to pair up with and teach junior students the materials they have already mastered. This will dramatically reduce the work load on teachers, reduce the number of actual teachers needed, and get the kids used to the fact that it is their responsibility to help those younger or less able than themselves, a characteristic badly needed in our communities.

What cannot be seen cannot be controlled. The general public has no idea how well students in classroom, school, or district lots, are doing. That is because their statistics are not broadly visible, and those that are visible are impossible for the typical parent to understand. Thus, the public cannot evaluate or correct teacher and student performance. To fix this, change teacher compensation so that base pay is barely enough for subsistence, and bonuses are earned by statistical results demonstrated by the kids they teach. Each child should be tested for knowledge BEFORE learning a subject, and AFTER learning it. The results should be charted and visible for all to see. If the kids show that they are learning and CAN USE the material in practical ways, then the teachers get a higher rating and earn their bonuses. This system will quickly weed out the incompetent teachers without bias, prejudice, or politics, and tenure will not protect a bad teacher. This educator's pay system will attract the more excellent teachers from other states, for bonuses should bring them $50,000 to $100,000 annual compensation for their skills. Let's be frank about this: schools exist for the students and the society, not to be a convenience for teachers. Public schools should challenge the best teachers to compete hard for the opportunity to teach, and the dregs should be summarily thrown out. With this system, the dregs will leave of their own accord because they simply cannot compete. The entire system will stimulate all teachers to give their jobs the best they have to offer.

Include free school breakfast and lunch for all students, and use only fresh, uncooked, organic nuts, fruit, berries, grains, and vegetables. Instead of paying for expensive cooking equipment, use natural uncooked preparation techniques, and dehydrators to make "unbaked" cookies. Such a diet will not be offensive to any religious or cultural group, for it is the common denominator of all human racial, religious, and cultural groups, and it is HEALTHY. Do not serve meat at schools, but provide vegetable protein sources. Schools can outfit their kitchens with large commercial juicers and feed the children rations of fresh raw organic fruit, berry, vegetable, and nut milk juices twice a day. Meals can included whole bulgar grains that have been soaked overnight to soften them suitably for eating, fresh sprouts, and nuts. The benefits of this kind of food are lowered expense of equipment, improved health, vitality, alertness, and mental acuity of children, and lowered medical bills. Once the system is well established, food costs will normalize to be a little higher than they presently are, but that cost will by far be offset by reduced preparation and healthcare costs. It is important for schools to feed the children and not to allow parents to send food to school with the kids, not to allow the kids to eat at outside places like MacDonald's, for any foods other than the above will be relatively deleterious to the child's health and ability to learn. Furthermore, unless a doctor's statement specifies otherwise, all children should be required to consume one ounce of pure water per two pounds of body weight during the school day. This will help children to remain alert, and it will make them healthier and less susceptible to disease while it improves alimentary functions.

Correct the unsightly appearance of school children by establishing and sticking to high standards of grooming and attire: no long hair, moustaches, or beards for boys, and no baggy pants, short shorts, untied shoes, low-cut or revealing blouses, unnatural hair colors, "weird" hairdos, or visible body piercing other than ear rings. I am not suggesting children be "uniform", but that they be "united" in looking and dressing attractively rather than like ghouls, skateboard bums, or people "on the make". They are being prepared for life "out in the world", and they should be expected to dress and look in school similar to what is acceptable in the business world, and pleasing to prospective employers. Their fashion should not be a source of distraction to other students. If students want to "stand out and be noticed", then they should do it with scholastic (academic, sport, etc) performance, not by acting or looking salacious, gothic, beachy, and so on. Aside from practical rules like these, teachers have iron-fisted control over whether a student is allowed in class with a particular "look", and the school should provide smocks and hair coverings that students who come to school with unacceptable clothing are required to wear. All unacceptable items of jewelry (nose, eyebrow, and other piercings) that are visible should be confiscated and destroyed, as a matter of both policy and practice. The state should supply standard uniforms and haircuts to any students whose parents cannot or will not send their children to school looking decent.

Allow all students to participate in ongoing school projects that are commercial enterprises geared toward raising money to defray school expenses. Examples are for-pay services that really do compete against similar services in the community that might cost more money. This allows the community itself to benefit from and inexpensive source of labor. It also allows the students to deploy their talents, education, and group skills in serving "customers", thereby preparing them for a "real" job outside of school. And, just as important, it actually will reduce taxes while it does good for the community. The schools should also involve students in similar, balanced group projects that provide charitable services for the needy in the community. This will teach students to have a life balance between self-maintenance, self-improvement, and helping others. School children should spend part of their educational time getting real-life work experience under school supervision in areas of manufacture (making their own computers and furniture), farming (producing the food served at school), and business arts. School factories, farms, and workshops will be an enormous boon to American society, economically and socially.

Stop putting stupid or misbehaving students in the same schools and programs as the smart students. Take a hint from the highly successful classical education system in Germany, and direct stupid students into vocational schools rather than academic schools. When children misbehave incorrigibly and cannot be corrected early, they should be sent to schools for misfits so they won’t sap the supervisory and teaching resources the better students so desperately need and will more prodigiously and beneficially use. City schools should not have “honors” classes. The entire school should be devoted to “honors” or advanced academics, and the students who don’t qualify for honors classes should be sent to completely different school intended for the lower achievers. This will allow the brighter, better-behaved students to get a better education, and the relatively stupid or miscreant students to get an adequate education.

It does not take a genius to see the benefits of the above plan. Children will be healthier, smarter, better balanced, more presentable to the community, and better prepared to enter the work force. Because they will learn so much more in less calendar time, they will be able to graduate from what we consider to be "high" school by the age of 14. This will chop 3 years of expenses off the state-sponsored "free" public school education students now get, a savings of about 25% of the present cost Furthermore, it will let the students become adept at training their juniors, a skill much needed in industry.

Personally, I think students should graduate at 14 and then be forced to choose either an apprenticeship program (if academically inept) or an academic program of 2 to 4 years to prepare them for university or a school of special skills like computer programming, lab technician, and so on, and that these also should be state-sponsored, but allowed to earn money in competition against normal commercial businesses. This will drive up the levels of expertise employers have reason to expect from graduate job applicants, and it will lower the cost of lower skill activities. It will demand that the work force in the state be elevated in skill level and make them far more competitive and effective at their jobs.

After all, isn't that what school is all about?

Why Christianity is Becoming Pagan

This response is a little late, but it will always be timely. The article rightly complains that demons of the left and in the USA government are destroying the God orientation of American Christians and reducing their religions to Paganism.

The real complaint seems to be that the governments of the world pass laws outlawing expressions of devotion to God in association with government sponsored gatherings (like roll-call at schools), while they ban expression of revulsion at such blatant immorality as government-sanctioned gay unions, or being Gay at all.

Meanwhile, what society offers is: witchcraft, New Age theology, Gothic paganism, Satanism, Green-religion ecology, and every weird cult of religion-like expression imaginable, to supplant the waning Christianity.

I believe the author of WND's article is correct. These horrific things ARE happening, and most people don't know or care, or openly advocate them. I have not read the Whistleblower article that explains the way back, but I have my own views on the subject.

First of all, let us define "pagan". From Webster and New World Dictionary.


adj : not acknowledging the God of Christianity and Judaism and Islam [syn: heathen, heathenish]
n : a person who does not acknowledge your God [syn: heathen, gentile, infidel]; heathen; idol-worshiper.
Usage: Pagan, Gentile, Heathen. Gentile was applied to the other nations of the earth as distinguished from the Jews. Pagan was the name given to idolaters in the early Christian church, because the villagers, being most remote from the centers of instruction, remained for a long time unconverted. Heathen has the same origin. Pagan is now more properly applied to rude and uncivilized idolaters, while heathen embraces all who practice idolatry.

Clearly, a Pagan is not monotheistic, or does not believe in a single great god of truth, beauty, and goodness. Consequently, non-pagan religion must be monotheistic, and it must see its single deity as supreme over all other powers, and as the creator of all things including human life, and the bestower of human mind, personality, and "spirit".

Therefore, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all non-pagan religions, and for the most part, all other world religions are pagan.

A non-pagan religion can have pagan roots. For example, before Melchizedek appeared to found Salem (present day Jerusalem) and cultivate his relationship with Abraham, the people of Palestine were pagan. They worshiped multiple deities, idols, and fearsome anomalies of nature. They sacrificed human beings and animals to appease their gods. They paid tribute of livestock, crops, and money to have priests act as intercessors and save them from the wrath of their gods for their wrongdoings and shortcomings. They thought they could "buy" God's favor. After Melchizedek (the "angel of the Lord" made his covenant with Abraham, Abraham founded a new monotheistic religion, the beginnings of what is now called Judaism, and the root religion of both Christianity and Islam.. However, all three religions retained the pagan roots inherited from the extant religions of their day in that area of the world.

You might say that evolved religion (incorporating worship of objects and anomalies of nature, idols, multiple gods, and sacrificial activities to appease those deities) ALWAYS has a deleterious effect on revealed religion, and that eventually they homogenize into some worldly religion that embodies both truth and falsehood. Sometimes the resultant religion is far from of the original revealed religion, so much so that members of the resultant religion will utterly reject, and even murder, a new revelator who comes from Heaven to set things right again. That is what happened when Jesus arrived to straighten the world (and Judaism) out.

A non-pagan religion can and does, therefore, keep elements of its pagan ancestry, giving it all the earmarks of paganism, but still remaining monotheistic. That is what happened to Judaism (which miraculously has dropped the practice of animal sacrifice, but still does not see God as our loving Heavenly Father), and Christianity (which kept the pagan ritual of sacrifice but transferred all its weight to the relevance of the death of Jesus), and Islam (which for the most part embraced the gospel of Jesus, but retained the early Hebrew notions of God as being a powerful and vengeful deity who somehow still loves his earth children, but punishes them harshly for wrongdoing - still not a loving Heavenly Father).

So, why would anyone say Christianity is becoming more pagan? Perhaps it is because the religion is not gratifying, and, knowing no better, people seek gratification in other corners.

When a religion is gratifying intellectually and spiritually, people generally do not seek religious expression elsewhere. It is obvious that many people do not see Christianity as gratifying. As a result they do not teach their children to be Christians, and they do not "practice" Christianity themselves.

There are many reasons Christianity is not gratifying to actual and would-be Christians:

1. Its plan of salvation is the only real reason most people would be interested in a religion. Unfortunately, it is insulting to intelligent truth-seekers, and it has been for nearly 2000 years. It requires that a person profess belief that Jesus is Lord and that Jesus died as a human sacrifice to atone for our sins. There is nothing wrong with seeing Jesus as our creator or universe sovereign, but the idea of sacrificial atonement is purely pagan.

a. The principle of atoning sacrifice was certainly never taught by Jesus himself (anyone who studies the four gospels hard will find no direct teaching of Jesus to support such a fallacy).

b. The principle is insulting to the concept of a Loving Heavenly Father - no loving father would condemn his own son to death, particularly not when that son was both humanly perfect AND a divine being nearly the Father's equal.

c. No sacrifice of any kind, particularly not a human sacrifice, could possibly buy the favor of a just God. A just God, if he punishes anyone at all, punishes people only for their own sins, not the sins of someone else. The idea of sacrifice is a pagan concept that one can live an unrighteous life, and then pay a bribe of some kind to the gods in order to purchase atonement for the unrighteousness. Even the most backward of Americans recognize the criminality of the attempt to bribe a government official. There is no higher government official than God himself. Thus, offering a sacrifice is an affront to God because it is an attempt to bribe him.

d. God certainly would not issue commandments and then expect his children to live by them while he openly flouts them. An order to murder Jesus so as to atone for the sins of others in an open flouting of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill".

e. The roots of sacrificial atonement go back to pagan practices that began way before Abraham, or even Adam and Eve. Even Abraham, as enlightened and intelligent as he was, nearly murdered his first-born son, Isaac, as a human sacrifice. It took 500 years before Moses abolished that absurd Hebrew practice and replaced it with ransom payment to the priesthood. It took another 1500 years before Jesus abolished all forms of sacrifice with his bread and wine sacrament, a substitute for murdering sacrificial creatures. Christianity seeks to perpetuate the belief in a pagan ritual of sacrifice, and that is both an insult to God and to those who would believe in his sublime goodness.

f. In reality, God has never required a sacrifice so that people can atone for their sins, and the reason is that no sacrifice can or could suffice as a bribe that God would accept in lieu of righteousness. One could reasonably assert that the only sacrifice God will accept is the sacrifice of giving up unrighteous behavior. To many people that is indeed a demanding sacrifice, but that is only because they are not familiar with the purity of joy in righteous living. Jesus brought orders directly from God to man when he said "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect". That command implies perfection is possible (otherwise, why bother commanding it?) for every normal minded human being, to the extent of one's perfection capacity. God's capacity for perfection is limitless, but ours is profoundly limited. As we grow intellectually, physically, and spiritually, however, our capacity increases as we exercise sincerity. In other words, we can be relatively perfect - relative to our capacity therefor. While we might not always know what is right, as long as we sincerely attempt to think, say, and do what is right, we are being relatively perfect, and our path will lead us ultimately toward absolute perfection. A relatively perfect person, although sinless, might still make honest mistakes. If we were to define "evil" as "mistaken" we might say Man has an evil nature, but not a sin nature. One purpose of human life is to come to terms with that and strive to be perfect.

2. Christianity is A religion ABOUT Jesus, not THE religion OF Jesus. As such, it can be considered another errant cult among the many that assert they teach the absolute truth while nearly completely sidestepping it. According to the bible:

a. Above all, Jesus lived and taught a perfect religious life, and became the inspiration for all people who suffer and desire to know and live the truth. His life therefore, is an example of living the truth to all people on all worlds. He was courageous, cheerful, poised, well-balanced, unified, and consummately devoted to doing the Father's will: pursuing truth, beauty, and goodness in thought, word, and deed. He lived his "religion", just as he taught it.

b. Jesus taught that people should love God, and love, forgive, and unselfishly serve our fellow humans. He taught that if we do these things, we will live forever, have our sins forgiven, and have a high estate in Heaven. He demonstrated a profound and living faith in the goodness of God and confidence in man. His exhortation to be of good cheer, to be perfect, to be sinless, to forgive others without limit, and to be devoted to a relationship with God, showed faith in the effectiveness of the supreme human desire to be like God. He indicated that any one who sincerely approaches God in this way will not be disappointed. That is his personal plan of salvation.

c. Jesus asserted that he brought new truth to the world. Even before ordaining his apostles in his Sermon on the Mount (turn the other cheek, carry the burden an extra mile, let your light so shine that others know you are his followers), he went about teaching the above "Gospel". But what could that Gospel be? If you ask the typical Christian today what the "Gospel" was, you do not get 2b above as the answer. Because the four gospel records of his life and teachings do not specifically enumerate the above points of Gospel, preachers and teachers are left to construe the writings of the followers of Jesus as though they have equal or even superior weight to the actual teachings of Jesus himself. The brilliantly classic example of this is the atonement doctrine. It could not have been part of the Gospel Jesus taught because Jesus never mentioned his death to the apostles until upwards of three years into his public ministry. Even 8 months before his death, when descending Mount Hermon after the transfiguration, the apostles were dumfounded at his pronouncement that he was going to be killed by the Jews. Clearly, neither his death nor the significance thereof, had anything at all to do with that Gospel.

d. Just before disappearing from view for the final time (ascending into Heaven), Jesus delivered his "Great Commission" to his apostles and to all who would call themselves his followers. He told them to go into all the world teaching all he had commanded. In other words, he told them to spread his religion - the religion OF Jesus. Fundamentally, that religion is outlined in 2 b above (complete references to scripture are available on request). And yet, just a few hours later, after Jesus' personal spirit presence, the Spirit of Truth, the "comforter", was "poured out on all flesh", Peter enthusiastically rallied his hundred or so associates in the upper room, took them down to the Temple Court, and preached his unforgettable and fiery sermon on the "risen Christ". In one sweeping episode, he swept aside the gospel Jesus had inculcated into them and taught for 4 years both directly and in parables, and supplanted it with a new religious cult based on the resurrection of Jesus, not on the Gospel itself.

e. The apostle Paul followed suit. In spite of his repetition of the platitudes of loving and being good to others, he submerged the actual gospel of Jesus beneath his personal religious philosophy, partly Jewish, partly Mithraist, partly Greek Philosophy, partly Jesusonian, and with the keystone of a plan of salvation based on the sacrificial death of Jesus to atone for man's sins due to the sin nature inherited from Adam and Eve. The codification of this cult belief in Paul's letters and the book of Hebrews completed the suppression of the Gospel Jesus lived and taught, and it is the backbone of Christianity today.

3. Although the Gospel elements that are residual in Christianity are the reason it has grown to the extent it has, Paulist cult beliefs and practices are holding Christianity back from proper expansion in the modern world.

a. Most unbiased, intelligent truth seekers recoil at the atonement doctrine as being illogical and portraying a picture of God as being mean, unjust, vindictive, unforgiving, and anything other than the God of Love both Jesus and Isaiah taught about.

b. When they challenge fundamentalist Christian preachers and theologians on the irrational atonement doctrine, they receive the response that the atonement doctrine must be true because the whole bible is true, and that is because the bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

c. After hearing this, they protest that the bible is loaded with errors, not the least of which is the creation story - no way was the universe of universes created in 6 earth days.

d. Then they receive a barrage of attacks such as accusations that they are trashing the bible, that they are disputing God's word, and often even worse. Those in a congregation who question it are often given the cold shoulder, accused of being heretics, and excommunicated or ostracized. Such behavior toward them is anything but Christian.

e. In other words, Christians can only maintain the atonement doctrine is true if they maintain the whole bible is true, and that alone is enough to drive unbiased, intelligent, educated truth-seekers into a tailspin. Christians themselves have a hard time with their own tenets, a fact that has produced upwards of 400 different denominations and sects.

4. As if that were not enough, Islam is alive and well, outgrowing Christianity both in the USA and internationally, and many of its proponents are deadly intent to eliminate all religions on the planet aside from Islam. Islam represents an enormous threat to Christians and Christianity because both are strongly based in hard-sell recruitment for garnering new members, and because Islam is militant to the point of being a direct enemy to all other religions.

a. In some ways, Islam is more loyal to the gospel teachings of Jesus than is Christianity. It makes devotion to God (praying 5 times a day) one of its main principles. It extols the virtue of brotherhood with fellow believers much more than does Christianity. It makes caring for the poor and orphans one of its main tenets. It provides social regulation that upsteps more primitive cultures. And it is highly moral, in spite of the primitive methods of many groups of its adherents in enforcing that morality. For these reasons Islam is attractive to converts seeking discipline in a religious practice, and appeals to downtrodden people and prisoners who desire strength and safe havens among a community of fellow believers...

b. True, there are many problems with Islam. It is still struggling with its 7th century roots and it is being dragged kicking and screaming in protest into the modern world. It promotes holy wars, offering heavenly rewards to those who die in combat against injustice. It offers no concept of God as a Heavenly Father, but sees him as a tyrant who is benign to those who do his will and viciously mean to those who do not. It demeans women and makes them second class citizens. Its social regulations are grossly out of date and do not serve a modern world adequately - many if not most of the regulations are the province of government rather than a religion. It is oppressive to women and non-Muslims. Many of its adherents are openly militant toward non-Muslims and non-Islamic governments. For these reasons Islam appeals to violent people and finds its fastest rates of conversions in prisons and among primitive peoples in strife-torn lands.

c. In the Qu'ran, Muhammad recants much about Jesus and Mary, and even elevates Jesus above Muhammad in terms of divine characteristics, claiming that Jesus was perfect, a creator, and born from the spirit of God himself. Although Muhammad rightly complains that Christians had not been true to the teachings of Jesus, he blatantly warns Muslims that they are to adhere to the Gospel of Jesus or suffer severe chastisement. Muhammad does not attempt to iterate the tenets of the Gospel, and so most Muslims wrongly tend toward the belief that the Qu'ran's teachings are a restatement of the Gospel.

5. Both the Bible and the Qu'ran contain the seeds of the salvation of Christianity, and that is the Gospel message Jesus taught and lived.

a. All Christians need to do in order to resurrect the esteem they once had in the minds of average citizens of America is to become what they never have been: devoted practitioners of the religion OF Jesus instead of a religion ABOUT him.

b. Jesus did command his followers to teach his commands to all nations. It is time for Christians to start doing that. The actual Gospel is so simple, sweet, logical, and fun that people of all races and creeds will have little if any trouble accepting it... if only the purported followers of Jesus will learn it and start teaching it as Jesus commanded.

c. All Muslims need to do in order to get their own religion on the right track is to discover the Gospel of Jesus as outlined in the biblical records of his life and teachings, and set them as supreme over all their other beliefs. After all, Muhammad did command them to do it, and promised painful punishment to those who resist it.

When Christians start becoming followers of Jesus, students of his teachings, and adherents to his personal religion of devotion to God's will, love for God, love for fellow humans, and delivery of unselfish loving service to others, then will they find themselves friendly to all other religionists, particularly to Muslims, and then will the lives they live become clarion calls for truth seekers and beacons of golden light in the new-age pagan darkness for those seeking peace of mind, spiritual tranquility, and harmony of relations among peoples.

The Gospel of love, forgiveness, and service is positively irresistible, and the vestiges of that gospel in Christianity and Islam are the only reasons people anywhere find either Christianity or Islam remotely acceptable as bona fide religions. Christians will do well to note that religion means "devotion to supreme values", and that the pursuit of greatest value in the universe is the quest to know, love, and be like God. That value pursuit is the core of the religion of Jesus. Refocusing on the religion OF Jesus will bring converts to a transformed Christianity in droves, and new-age paganism will die the quick death it deserves.

# # #