Blog Archive

2016-12-25

Origins Of Christmas by Rev. J.T. Smith

First let me start of by stating that I am an Ordained Minister of the Christian faith with a degree in archaeology.  Nothing I’m saying here is meant to deny or take away from God.  Rather, it is intended to educate so that our understanding is based on facts rather than misconceptions.

The modern view of Christmas actually isn’t the same now as what it was to begin with.  While the holiday is intended to celebrate the birth of Jesus, it is not actually his birthday.  For starters, in fact, no one knows exactly when he was born.

The modern calendar, the Gregorian calendar, is based around the approximate birth of Jesus; meaning that Jesus was born 2,016 years ago and that 0 AD would be the year Jesus was born.  Unfortunately, it seems that when the original date was being calculated, they mistranslated the Roman numerals and it should have been what is by modern calendars approximately 4 BC.  More recently, some scholars have determined from various references in the Bible that Jesus was born between 7 – 5 BC. 

Then there’s the day itself.  Jesus was not born on December 25.  The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ “birthday” comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs.  The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”  Even looking at the setting of the story, things like the shepherds bringing their flocks in at night, dates between May and October have been suggested.

Even where Jesus was born is somewhat in question.   The Gospels say Jesus was born in Bethlehem, yet Jesus is called “Jesus of Nazareth” throughout the rest of the New Testament.  This small detail is causing scholars to question just where Jesus was actually born.

The term "Christmas" originated from the Catholic Church as “The Mass Of Christ” or more commonly “Christ’s Mass.”  Christ’s Mass was eventually bastardized to become Christmas.  The date of Christ’s Mass was placed on December 25 for two reasons.  The vast majority of Catholic Christian holidays were responses to pagan holidays, primarily in an attempt to “overthrow” older religions and practices.  The first reason Christ’s Mass was originally celebrated in December was to offset the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, also known as Yule.  While we might then logically conclude that Christ’s Mass should also be on the winter solstice as well, the Catholic Church went a step further, which leads to the second reason.  The ancients didn’t have watches, and clocks weren’t ubiquitous like they are now.  As a result, they were more attuned to nature and the changes in the seasons.  The 25th was chosen as the daylight hours were getting longer (they could more readily see that the daylight hours were getting longer immediately after the winter solstice) which came to represent the coming light of the Lord.  Since not only many pagan religions also give presents during the winter celebrations, the story of the Magi in the book of Matthew (for example) also bringing gifts, that practice was also incorporated in the Christian celebration.  The tradition that there were three wise men arose from the fact that the Bible mentions three gifts (see Matthew 2:11), but the Bible doesn’t ever actually say how many wise men made the journey to see the baby Jesus.

In fact, many of the other trappings of Christmas are either borne of older religions or are later additions from cultures that are also not Jewish.  (Always remember that Jesus,
whose name was in fact Yeshua, which translates to Joshua but was such a common name that it was later translated to Jesus to separate him, ignoring that the Hebrew alphabet has no letter J, Jesus/Yeshua was first and foremost a Jewish Rabbi, meaning he would have observed all of the Jewish holidays and customs.)  For starters, the Christmas tree developed in early modern Germany, where it is today called Weihnachtsbaum or Christbaum, with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly 15th century, in which "devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes".

You know the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe?  Well, the use of mistletoe can be traced back to ancient druids who believed it held magical powers, brought good luck to households, and like jack-o-lanterns, ward off evil spirits.  The notion of mistletoe creating love and celebrating with it came from Norse mythology, while kissing under the venerable plant got started in jolly old England.  The original custom of kissing involving mistletoe (now often hanging over doorways and in hallways or being carried by someone who wanted to make certain of getting that kiss) began as something of a game started by such that if someone could pick a berry from the sprig of the plant and there were no more berries, the kissing would cease.

Those are  just some examples.  So much of what’s equated with the Christian religion is really borrowed from or “in answer to” other, most often older, religions.


by Rev. J.T. Smith

2016-12-05

It's Neither A Spoiler Nor A Protest Vote! by Rev. J.T. Smith

For a long time now, the Democratic and Republican parties have effectively controlled American politics between them while blocking out any other parties from truly participating.  And thanks to the cozy nature of the relationships between those two parties and the media, the American public has been told ad nauseum that a vote for any other party's candidate would be waste of a vote.  As a result, people accept this blindly without realizing that the status quo can and will change if enough people say: ''No more!''

Let me be clear, the only way I could vote for Trump is following my lobotomy from the neck up.  And while Clinton is clearly and obviously a better choice, I still cannot in good conscience vote for her.  It's not because of her gender as I am a feminist, nor is it for any of the ridiculous reasons the GOP has been throwing out ever since she was the First Lady.

I have three major problems with Clinton.  First, environmental: She still supports fracking even though it's destroying our potable water and further exacerbating climate change.  Second, financial: Her past and present ties with Wall St., between all those speaking fees and that so much of her campaign contributions come from Wall St., she's not likely to truly bite the hand that's fed her so well and for so long; not to the extent that she needs to for real reforms to start happening.  Third, war: As with her vote to invade Iraq, so it is with her approach to Syria.  Her pushing for military intervention has helped to create the Syrian refugee crisis.  More war does not end nor prevent a war!

For those reasons, and since the Democratic Party conspired to block Bernie Sanders at every turn and make certain he wasn't on the ballot, I voted for Jill Stein.  Regardless, we all need to stop buying into the notion that there are only two parties and maybe we can finally get the change we called so loudly for during the Primaries.  The Founding Fathers were in fact against the concept of political parties. 

Let me clarify one more thing, my reference to the media is about far more than Hillary Clinton.  My reference to the media is in regards to how we've been hearing for decades that voting for a third-party candidate is a wasted vote.  Let's face it, the media is owned by the elites, and the elites are the ones who try to give us only two candidates between two parties every election cycle.  The media has been burying all the various third-parties, and the media has control of the vetted information.  Examples: "Mainstream media ignore third-party Senate challengers", "These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America", "Media Deception: You Are Not Getting The Truth", and "10 Brilliant Quotes by Noam Chomsky on How Media Really Operates in America".  The dual party system as a whole has been sold to you.  Frankly, you do better to stay well clear of American corporate media for your important information.


- Rev. J.T. Smith

Donald Trump Must Never Become President! (Here's why)

Ever since November 8, we are left with a man the media keep incorrectly calling Trump the “President-Elect” (there will be no President-Elect until and unless a majority of the Electors select one when they meet on December 19), a man who lost the election by well over two million votes (a fact that is only very infrequently even mentioned in the media).  Please read these articles: "Hamilton v. Trump: The Case That Could Save America" and "32 Nonpartisan, Non-Ideological Reasons The Electoral College Must Reject Trump (And these are only based on what has happened since November 8th)", and share them far and wide.

Trump must be stopped before he does become President-elect, let alone President!

Rev. J.T. Smith

2016-12-04

A first look at digital security

It's hard to know where to start when it comes to staying safe online. Here's a look at the basics of "threat modeling" -- understanding what you want to protect, so can take the first steps toward keeping safe. Read more...

 Via Access Now

A human rights response to government hacking


What would a human rights response to government hacking look like? Here are Access Now's guidelines, developed under the framework of international human rights law. Read more...
Via Access Now

Dealing With Offense by Rev. J.T. Smith



No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try for otherwise, either you will offend someone or they will offend you. It’s simply a part of this thing we call life. There is one thing to realize and remember: The only way you can be offended is if you choose to be offended.


Ultimately, the best way to deal with it is to surprise everyone and choose to not be offended. Ask yourself why the person is in any way important to you specifically. Also remember that others won’t necessarily share your viewpoint. Sometimes, their view will be both negative to your way of thinking and will seem to be narrow-minded and inflexible. Deciding to be offended will only succeed in giving you extra unneeded “baggage” that will only adversely affect you. You do better to decide to not be offended, try to at least see where their point is coming from, explain your point of view (i.e. have something of a conversation about it), and if you can’t come to a consensus then at most mentally conclude that they’re an idiot and then just go on with your life.


“It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more . . . than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what." [I saw hate in a graveyard -- Stephen Fry, The Guardian, 5 June 2005]”


Getting and/or being offended solves nothing. It won’t actually change anything. Your viewpoints, no matter how well reasoned or even potentially innocent they may be, will still offend someone else. That’s merely human nature. Regardless of what far too many people will tell you, you always have a choice (you simply won’t always like the alternatives). In terms of something, a statement or action that you don’t like for whatever reason, your choices are to be offended or not to be offended. Make your life so much easier by always choosing to not be offended.

by Rev. J.T. Smith