Zeitgeist the Movie: Slick Propaganda

Zeitgeist the Movie is a conspiracy genre documentary made in 2007 which shows, among other things, that Jesus never existed (he was supposedly copied from archetypes found in ancient pagan religions), that 911 was an inside job by the US government, and that a group of elite financial bankers hold the reigns of global power. 

I was shown the first 25 minute portion (over religion) here at Nir Oz because several people thought I would find it interesting – and I did. 

Let me say that I like to think of myself as a truth-seeker:  I’m not afraid of the truth, or of facts.  If someone can show me what I believe to be false, I’ll change my beliefs because I don’t want to believe something that is not true.  Who does?

But about the religious segment of Zeitgeist, here is my opinion: it was total hogwash – But wait! let me explain that statement….

I didn’t know it was hogwash before I watched it, I went into the viewing with an open mind, saying I was willing to have my beliefs questioned (and I am).  I didn’t know what to expect, but I was prepared to face serious allegations against my faith. 

There are serious allegations that can be leveled against Christianity, such as the problem of evil in this world, among others.  These issues are ones which – I believe – must be wrestled with by every believer.  I believe these hard issues have answers, but they aren’t necessarily easy answers.

SO, after I was done watching the 25 minute movie, I still didn’t know it was total hogwash (though I was beginning to suspect it).

Here was what I thought after watching Zeitgeist, “Hmmm, I didn’t know there were so many similarities between ancient pagan deities and Jesus.  I’ll look into this.”

Honestly, the only deity I had knowledge of that they mentioned in the movie was Krishna (because I’ve studied Hinduism at a cursory level) and I knew they were taking some things out of context with him, because Krishna isn’t much like Jesus at all.  For starters, he’s mythical, whereas Jesus is historical.  And Krishna had serious moral issues – that are embarrassing to even read about – that don’t fit Jesus in the least.

But anyways, I went online and began looking into the claims of Zeitgeist and found out their information was misleading at best, and openly deceptive at worst.  The more I looked into it, the angrier I got. 

Turns out the religious segment from Zeitgeist was not even a serious attack against Christianity, but merely propaganda for the masses.  I went into watching it with a serious mindset, but instead of giving me something of substance to chew on, it was simply a litany of untrue statements, easily shown false.

What’s crazy is that it works: people watch this film and think, “Oh, so that’s the deal with Jesus, he’s just the most recent copy in a long list of ancient pagan gods that were all the same,” and move on with their life, swallowing the message.  Pretty sad.

So if you want, you can watch the religious portion of Zeitgeist online here.

But more importantly, watch the movie below, which is a reasoned rebuttal to the claims made in Zeitgeist, put together by Chris White.  I highly recommend it.

Begin listening at minute 31:00 for Chris’s refutation of the material.  The first 31 minutes are about the history of the Jesus Myth and not so much about Zeitgeist. However, the content after that point is quite interesting, especially Chris’s discussion on whether Jesus existed or not (which starts at minute 31).

If you want to watch the movie directly to see it in full screen, go here.

The second part of Zeitgeist, about 911, is also pretty controversial, but since you can find most their claims debunked at the million and one September 11th websites, I won’t touch on that here.

I tried watching the third part about banking while at the same time reading a more reasoned commentary over what I was hearing, but after awhile it became evident nearly every statement Zeitgeist was making was either a twisting of the truth or an open mis-representation, so I just began skimming the the online transcript with embedded rebuttal.  You can read that here.

Does God Intervene in Daily Life?

During the dead-locked Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, Benjamin Franklin had this to say:

"The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth:
‘that God governs in the affairs of men.’  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Whilst hiking up Masada, I got to chatting with some fellow sojourners: a local Israeli girl and her Dad.  It came up I was a Christian, and the girl was immediately intrigued by this, asking me questions.  (the girls’ Dad, who seemed to be an atheist, was annoyed at his daughter for her questions)

One question she asked me was regarding prayer, “When I need help – say I’m looking for a parking spot in my car – I pray to God, but do you pray to Jesus?”

I tried explaining to her I believe in only one God, the Creator God, same as her.  Yet I also believe God incarnated himself into a human: the man Jesus. 

What struck me most about that question though was her mentioning praying for a parking spot.  While that may be an appropriate prayer, it comes across (at face value) as just turning to God like a genie when we need a favor.

But the question arises, DOES God intervene and intercede in every day events? Perhaps even in the example of a parking spot?

I’ve been hitch-hiking around Israel with my Polish friend, and he will refer to “luck” or “chance” as factors in us getting a ride.  I told him I don’t believe in luck. 

“So what do you believe in, Destiny?” 

“No,” I tell him, “Providence.” 

Which, admittedly, I define as a mixture of chance and Godly intervention.  I don’t believe God intervenes every time (though he could), but rather when He wishes.  The rest of the time he lets thing take their natural course.

Does this really happen?  Does God really intervene in the lives of men?  I think so.  Let me share a quick story.

It was Friday after work three weekends ago and I wanted to go to Tel-Aviv to visit a church in Jaffa (that met the next morning on Saturday).

I was planning to leave the Kibbutz by bus after lunch, but while eating lunch someone informed me the last bus to Tel-Aviv was right THEN! 

There WAS a later bus out of Nir-Oz, but it could only take me to Be’er Sheva (wrong way), not Tel Aviv, because bus lines were shutting down for Shabbat on longer distance trips.

Later… back in my room in the volunteer house I had an inner debate over what to do.  Should I try hitch-hiking to Tel-Aviv by myself?  I didn’t want to hitch-hike alone (though others here do it and it seems to work fine).

So I prayed and asked God what I should do.  I remember asking Him, and then suddenly the issue seemed quite clear: “I should go” because it was important I meet other Israeli believers, and God would watch out for me. 

Having made that executive decision, I was getting ready to leave when a fellow volunteer (my British compatriot) walked up and said, “Hey! I hear you’re planning to go to Tel-Aviv and missed the bus – I was going to too, but also missed the bus.  Do you want to hitch-hike together?” 

Aha!  This was a relief – I wouldn’t have to hitch-hike alone.

But the story doesn’t end there…. so the two of us caught the last bus out of Nir Oz and got off a few miles down the road at a nearby hitchhiking junction. 

Walking up to the junction, Danny put his hand up and (I kid you not) the FIRST car pulled over.  I haven’t hitch-hiked a whole lot, but that was the first time I’ve gotten a ride so quickly.  (for comparison, during this past weekend I caught a total of ten rides, each one I had to wait wait from about 10 to 45 minutes)

But back to the story (it’s not over yet).  We asked the Good Samaritan where she was going and guess what she said?  Yep, Tel-Aviv.  How about that? 

(after an hour ride, she actually dropped us off just South of Tel-Aviv as she was going to a suburb, but we were able to catch a taxi in for the last bit without trouble)

What’s also interesting is that this lady told us she usually never picks up hitch-hikers, but since she was in the boonies and right by a Kibbutz, she decided to pick us up figuring we were probably from the Kibbutz and safe.

So that’s the story, and of course it could easily be explained as coincidence, chance, luck, what have you, and maybe it was (I have no way of proving otherwise). 

But personally, I choose to believe some Providence was at work. 

Especially in light of how my time with the folks at the Jaffa assembly was so productive.  It was there I found out about the Christian Retreat happening the next weekend.  And it was at the Christian Retreat I met believers from a nearby church to Nir-Oz (where I was invited to come and even offered free translation services) and also invited to attend a local Bible study in Be’er Sheva (which I’ve done).

Differences

Pop cans here in Israel are made from thicker aluminum than I’m used to. 

This makes them heavier – this MEANS I always think there’s more pop in my can than there really is.  I’m continually disappointed as I go for that laast sip and… nothings there.  The can has tricked me again. 

That’s not the only thing weird about Israel.

Though they drive on the right hand of the road, there traffic is still a bit weird in that the middle lines dividing flows of traffic are WHITE, not yellow like they’re supposed to be.  Talk about confusing, especially in town.

While I’m on the issue of roads, someone here didn’t get the memo Jumbo Sized roads are best.  In fact, many roads here are so tight it’s absolutely ridiculous.  There have been times my driver has had to literally stop in the middle of the road and back-up to let another car pass.

Here’s another difference: some places (like the barn I work in) have the hot water knob on the right side instead of the left.  But I think that’s just because whoever made that barn was in a hurry and hooked everything up backwards.  Everywhere else it’s normal.

And here’s another thing: we don’t wash dishes here with dish rags, but rather with a sponge.  I have yet to see a dish rag in any home, apartment, barn, eating establishment, or anywhere else in Israel.  Sponges are in.

Here’s a difference I find odd: I work with cattle, but there is exactly zero “Country Western” attitude in the Israeli cattlemen (and cattlewomen).  No one wears cowboy boots or big belt buckles, and the radio isn’t tuned to Country (hey, what’s Country? no one even knows who Taylor Swift is). 

Instead, we’re tuned in to Galgalatz radio, a pop music station here operated by Israeli Defense Forces Radio. 

The song I here over and over again a ka-jillion times every day is called אביב גפן ושרון ליפשיץ – נוסטלגיה  Obviously I have no idea what the title is or much less the lyrics, but I put it below so you can hear it.  It’s not so bad the first thousand or so times:  (if I hear it one more time I might scream or go pyscho)  [audio:http://simplefollower.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Israeli_Song.mp3]

While we’re speaking of Differences, let’s talk food.  First, the food here is good, don’t get me wrong.  I like tomatoes and cucumbers, I really do.  Here at the Kibbutz I have them for part of every meal (breakfast, lunch, and supper).

At first I thought tomatoes and cucumbers were a Nir Oz thing, then I went out in the “Real World” like Tel Aviv and guess what every market sells?  Yep, tomatoes and cucumbers.  But that’s fine for me because I love tomatoes and cucumbers.  Here they frequently put them in pita bread with humus and falafel.  But I (being American) think “sandwiches.”  I put my tomatoes and cucumbers on my egg sandwich (in the morning), my chicken sandwich (at lunch), and my tuna sandwich (at supper). 

Ok, enough differences, I’m going to bed.

36 Hour Countdown

Feel like I’m about to go over a waterfall.  Can see the drop-off ahead and hear the booming water, but where I am now is still calm and tranquil.

Not sure if everything is going to fit into my backpack.  Guess I’ll find out tomorrow when I try stuffing it all in.

Lot of little details coming together.  Miss just one of them and they might turn me around at the border of some country.  For instance, yesterday I got a Yellow Fever shot (live vaccine) and round three of Hepatitis B.  Pretty much caught up on shots now.  I think.

A friend of mine (who is a world traveller) told me often on the night before he leaves on a big trip he lays awake in bed wondering if it’s all going to come together.  I know how he feels now, there’s a lot of unknowns in travelling.

Probably humans in general dislike unknowns, but I think it comes even harder on Americans as we’re so used to living lives of control.  Push a button and our garage door opens, push another to electronically set the temperature.  Want coffee?  Set the timer, it will be ready in the morning. 

All my machines do my bidding, I run a tight schedule, and often feel dependent on no one but myself.  This is an illusion of course, but adds up to me not always being happy when things are going on outside of my control.

But I think being in situations where I have to rely on others is healthy, even though scary. I think it’s healthy because it gives me practice in trusting God, which is also scary. Trusting God with the big, important things in life (like my life) is gosh-awful scary. I think the scare factor alone is why most people don’t do it (myself included many times).

Ok, enough soliloquy for tonight, I’m crashing. 

Christmas, Birth and Death

Boxing up all the stuff in my apartment.  The death of one phase, the birth of another. 

Contemplating.

Listening to Christmas music on the radio while working. 

Loved Michael Buble’s rendition of, “All I Want For Christmas.”  I know it’s sappy lovey-dovey, but I like it anyways ‘cus it reminds me the most important things in life are the relationships I have and not the stuff I’m given.

[audio:http://simplefollower.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Michael_Buble_All_I_want_for_Christmas_is_you]

In between songs a lady called in to answer the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” 

Her answer was this, “That I could have just one more day with my husband.  He recently died of heart illness.  We had been married 41 years.” 

I stopped packing to listen.  Through the static I could hear her get choked up.  She paused and I could tell the radio announcer was caught off guard too. 

She continued, “I never knew how it would feel to be a widow.  Now I do.  No matter what, you’re never prepared for this.” 

I looked down at the box I was putting stuff in and thought about how I was carefully preparing for the next few months of my life in Israel.  By next Saturday everything will (hopefully) be prepared. 

Preparation. 

Our family is big on preparation.  But I was struck with the thought, “Am I prepared to die?  Am I be prepared for the inevitable death of my family members someday?  If I get married, would I ever be ready for her death?”

She went on, “I miss my husband.  If I could have just one wish come true this Christmas… it would be to have another day with the man I loved.”

Death.  It comes to each of us.  Even Jesus experienced death.

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit… the earth shook and the rocks split.” (Matthew 27:50-51)

The sting of a loved ones death was also felt by Jesus:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled…

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

(John 11:33-36)

Christmas time is a season of hope as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, but no doubt also the season of most loneliness. 

A good friend of mine told me a co-worker (whom he had trained) ended her life earlier this week. 

Loneliness. Tragedy.  Where is the light in this dark world?

“…the people living in darkness
       have seen a great light;
   on those living in the land of the shadow of death
       a light has dawned."
(Matthew 4:16)

As I thought about the lady who was now a widow I remembered that for a Christian there is future hope of seeing believing loved ones who have died. About this hope Paul said:

“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…”  (2 Cor 1:9-10)

But it seems to me life can be lived superficially with no thought to eternal matters; to life and death; to what is truly important.  It is possible to live for today, for my own gratification.  And frankly it is possible to live as if I will never die.  I do it all the time.

Yet I don’t believe living that type of life of apathy regarding my impending future is best.  There are important things to live for.  As a believer of God’s promises, my citizenship is no longer in this world and I should be living as a stranger, not as one engrossed in its’ wares.

Life is too short to spend on trivialities. Life is serious and not all fun and games. 

“It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.”
(Ecc 7:2)

Listening to this lady’s emotion on the radio touched a nerve, and I indeed took to heart that death is the destiny of every man.

My good friend Chad recently came out of a deep illness.  In allusion to Pilgrim’s Progress I told him he’s been through a dark valley.  He rejoined with, “Well, it sure wasn’t Vanity Fair.”

Yet how often do I find myself caught up in this world, in Vanity Fair? 

I was reading 1 John the other day and hit between the eyes by this statement:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

Jesus’s birth pointed straight towards his death.  Yet I think it is amazing how His death is what secured life for those who believe.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

There isn’t much point to this post, other than reminding myself and others to try not getting caught up in the craziness of December and the materialism of this Vanity Fair we live in. Savor the relationships.

“Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

I step back and think, “Without the birth of God incarnate there could never have been the death of God incarnate.  And without the death of God incarnate there never could have been the option of life for sinners like me. There never would have been hope.” 

We serve a great God. There is hope.