On a better way to spread the Gospel…

“I Want to Be like Mike” – An idea that just may be the key to spreading the Gospel better…

*   *   *   *

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

NOVA: The Bible's Buried SecretsThe other night I watched The Bible’s Buried Secrets.  That was the NOVA program that aired on PBS in 2008, and explored the historicity of the Bible.  In other words, it explored whether the Bible was “factually accurate,” or history as we understand it.  According to Wikipedia:

The producers surveyed the evidence and [took] positions that are mainstream among archaeologists and historians, although they continue to raise objections among both Christians who believe in the bible as either literal or historical truth and minimalists who assert that the Bible has no historical validation.

Which I thought missed the whole point.

That is, among other findings the program said there was “no archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  That finding led the conservative American Family Association – promoting “fundamentalist Christian values” – to issue an “online petition urging Congress to cut off federal funding for PBS.”  The petition said that “PBS is knowingly choosing to insult and attack Christianity by airing a program that declares the Bible ‘isn’t true and a bunch of stories that never happened.’”

Which I thought – again – misses the whole point of the Christian faith.

My theory is that you can’t “prove” the Bible-faith by scientific or courtroom evidence.  You prove the validity of that faith by your own experience walking with and/or working with God.  Like the man with the legion (demons), as told in Mark 5 (18-20):

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.   Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…”   So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  And all the people were amazed.

In other words, the demon-possessed man could care less if archaeologists found Noah’s Ark in Turkey, or whether there was “archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  He cared about what Jesus did for him.  Or as it says in Psalm 66:16:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me.”

Which is – to me – the far better way of spreading the Good News of Jesus

Getting back to the Gerasene demoniac, the man with “legion” told people in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him “and all the people were amazed.”  And – no doubt – many of them tried out this “new faith” for themselves.  Or as applied today – when few of us seem so possessed – we start by reading the Bible and applying it to our lives, then “proceed on:”

[Like the Bible, e]very martial art – judo, kendo, aikido, etc. – has its own forms, actions, procedure.  Beginners must learn the kata and assimilate and use them.  Later, they begin to create out of them, in the way specific to each art.

Jesus Christ, Public Defender: and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers by [Ford, James B.]That’s a thought from my e-book “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Near the end of Chapter 8, I wrote about the early years, when I’d just started daily Bible readings and applying them to my own life.  (And in particular to my own “obsession,” college football.)

“In the process, something seemed to happen that may be like what happens to a student of an eastern martial art.”  I also noted that maybe the Bible student – like a good karate student – first struggles to learn the basics, and then – after he learns the fundamentals – he can start to use them in his daily life:

Finally, after the student has been at it long enough, he can begin to “create” out of those Bible readings, and in the process create something new out of something very old, or as the Bible says, “sing to the Lord a new song.”  As time passes the student can “create” something new, giving a new meaning to the “old” Bible message…

The result could well be a “new song to the Lord,” as illustrated and updated in the student’s own life.  And incidentally, that theme of singing a new song to the Lord – and not just another stale, old “conservative” or literalist rehash – is repeated again and again in the Bible.  Like in Isaiah 42:10, and Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, and Psalm 144:9.

So what’s all this about a “better way to spread the Gospel?”  We can start with one basic assumption and one big question, two points common to all the world’s religions.

The basic assumption is:  “You’ve been given a gift.”  The big question is:  “What are you going to do with it?”  You can say you’ve been given the gift of “salvation through Christ,” which basically means that you’ve gotten the gift of a “new”  bridge to God.  Or for that matter you can say you’ve been “gifted” the road to a more spiritual life, through Islam, Buddhism or one of many other spiritual paths.  (Though I believe all those others will eventually “lead you to Christ…”)

Or you can just say that you’ve been given the gift of life, by whoever or whatever gave that gift to you.  (Possibly even some generic Higher Power.)

Luther's roseBut the big question remains:  What are you going to do with that gift?  Or in Christian terms, “How are you going to help spread the Gospel?”  (The Good News or “the message of salvation, justification [illustrated by Luther’s rose, at right], and sanctification.”)  That’s the question raised by the Great Commission, as detailed notably in Matthew 28:16–20:

 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Of course one method – so favored by conservatives – is to browbeat people, telling them that they’re going to hell if they don’t listen to you.  Or you can become a parrot, spouting out random Bible verses, generally full of hell and damnation, fire and brimstone.

Or you can be “like Mike.”  You can be the kind of person other people want to emulate.  You can lead the kind of life that makes people look at what you’ve accomplished, and say, “That’s what I want!  I want what he’s got!”  Or done, or accomplished.  In other words, you – “like Mike” – could be a walking advertisement for the kind of Bible faith that potential converts want to imitate.  (See 1st Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”)

Like – for example – my being 67 years old and keeping fit by stair-stepping an hour at a time, wearing a 25-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights.  Or having a series of “adventures in old age,” like Mike.  Or like successfully hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), or canoeing 440 miles down the Yukon river (in 12 days), or canoeing 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, primitive camping for eight days on offshore islands (and an occasional salt marsh), or hiking and biking 450 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

As detailed in the notes, and which incidentally will be the focus of my next blog post…

*   *   *   *

And no, at 67 “I’m not too old to have some adventure in the time I have left…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of I Want To Be Like Mike – Image Results.

Re:  “Be like Mike.”  See Be Like Mike – Wikipedia, about the “Gatorade commercial featuring American professional basketball player Michael Jordan that originally aired in 1992.”   See also “I Want to Be like Mike” – Josh.org:  “A MAJOR SPORTS-drink company once ran an ad campaign encouraging people to ‘be like Mike,’ as in NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan. The phrase, ‘I want to be like Mike’ was everywhere.  Kids said it.  Adults sang it.”

The “buried secrets” image is courtesy of Amazon.com: NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets.

Re:  The Bible’s “historicity.”  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, which noted, “The Bible is not a history book in modern sense, of course, since its writers lacked the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, did not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and was not significant in history.”  (Avenel Books edition, 1981, page 7.)  Of course Asimov is “probably going to hell too…”  (Kidding!  See Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)

Re:  “Insult and attack Christianity.”  I’d respond that the PBS Nova program didn’t insult my Christianity.  Or as I’ve said before: “It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture.”  See “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re: “Proceed on.”  The link is to “We proceeded on” : Lewis & Clark – oi – Oxford Index Home.  It spoke of a concluding chapter in a book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition:  “This concluding chapter presents the perspective of a documentary filmmaker who traveled the entire length of the Lewis and Clark trail.  It looks at the inspiration he derived from the unofficial motto of the expedition—’We proceeded on.’—and observes that the phrase is frequently used in the Journals.” 

Re:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God…”  Note that in the Revised Standard Version of the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer, the verse is 66:14.

Re:  “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Available at Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks.  Just type in the title and look for the 4th Edition, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch on the cover.

Re:  Sing a new song to the Lord.”  See On singing a NEW song to God.

Also re: the Nova program The Bible’s Buried SecretsSee Wikipedia, which noted what the Biblical Archaeology Review wrote: “The producers have done a magnificent job summarizing over a century of biblical archaeology and biblical scholarship in two hours.  The film strikes a balance between the old-fashioned biblical archaeology approach, which tried to prove the Bible’s historicity, and the extreme skepticism of some minimalists, for whom the Bible contains little factual history.”  Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz wrote: “Conservative Judaism is fully accepting of the type of scholarship featured in this documentary.”  And Rev. Kenneth Himes, OFM Professor, wrote:  For some, the ideas presented may seem novel or surprising, but this is material that is being discussed in the theology courses found at many Catholic universities.”  

See also Historicity of the Bible – Wikipedia.  But again, my theory is that to focus on the Bible’s “historicity” is to miss the point of the faith entirely.  The question is:  Having accepted God and/or Christ, what now do you do with your life?  How will you live out the life you’ve been given?  What will you accomplish with that life?  How are you going to make this world a better place?

Re:  “Walking advertisement.”  The cite-link is to Human billboard – Wikipedia.

Re:  Some of my adventures in old age.  See for example – from my companion blog – Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”  Also, Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.)  That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015As to the Yukon River trip, see “Naked lady on the Yukon.”  As to hiking in Spain, see “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.  Another “incidentally:”  Future pilgrimage-trips include two weeks in Israel, and another hike, this time on the “Camino Portugues.”  Also, I’ve written about some overnight adventures into the Okefenokee Swamp in several posts:  Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17).

And of course, those “adventures in old age” necessarily include writing this thought-provoking blog.  

The lower image is courtesy of happyotter666.blogspot.com.  See also Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Wikipedia, which provided the following “cornered” quote, which was in turn part of a blog-comment about the second day of my “adventurous” hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad – crossing that “swinging bridge” the first day on the Chilkoot Trail – as it was for Indiana Jones in the photo above.  (For example, we hadn’t been “cornered by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river.”)  But that second day on the Trail was pretty &^%$ bad

See specifically On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.

*   *   *   *

For further review you may wish to consult the following, some or most of which I’ve read for “Deep Background:”  What the Gospels Meant, by Garry WillsHow to Spread the Word of God: 7 Steps (with PicturesWhat is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.orgWhat is Christian mysticism? – fRimMinMysticism – Wikipedia; and/or Christian mysticism – Wikipedia

*   *   *   *

As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”   

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

“The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019

At the Presentation of Our Lord (February 2) – “Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord Jesus…” 

*   *   *   *

Saturday, February 2, is the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpgCounting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

In other words, the day celebrates “an early episode in the life of Jesus,” His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  It’s celebrated by many Christian Churches, and is also known as Candlemas(As shown above right.)  

There’s more later, but first a word about one of the Daily Office Readings for this February 2 Feast.  Those readings include 1st Samuel 2:3, “For the LORD is a God of knowledge.”  Which – taken together with Isaiah 27:11 – means that “therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge.”  And that’s a bit of Bible law that may well affect the many today who label anything they disagree with – or that contradicts some cherished beliefs – as “Fake News.”

Which brings up another Daily Office Reading for the Presentation, John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Something to think about…

And which also ties in with the fourth great theme of this blog, citing Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

*   *   *   *

Getting back to the February 2 Feast Day, I wrote about it in 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, in 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, and 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord…”  The 2015 post gave some background on what was involved.

It noted this episode was described in the Luke 2:22–40, which said “Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem … to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth.” They were there “in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15.”

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

Yegorov-Simeon the Righteous.jpgThe 2017 post also expanded on Exodus 13:2.  That’s where God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male.”  It also noted “the old-timey, ‘once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.’”  That quaint custom came to be called “the churching of Women,” and it started – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages.  Though rarely used today, “that quaint practice took place in ‘the good old days when giving birth was a time of real and great danger for all mothers.”  (As illustrated at left.) 

Fortunately, these days there isn’t such a great need for a blessing “given to mothers after recovery from childbirth,” including “thanksgiving for the woman’s survival of childbirth.”

And finally, the 2017 post pointed out this “First Presentation of Jesus” foreshadowed what might be called the “Second Presentation,” on Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified(As illustrated in the image below.)  “The point being that from the time He was first ‘presented’ at just over a month old, Jesus’ life was one long journey to the Second Presentation.”  (On the eve of His making another ritual sacrifice, one that would literally change history…)

*   *   *   *

Which brings up a more current event.  This very morning I was listening to the audio version of Garry Wills‘ 2008 book, What the Gospels Meant.  In it Wills – this morning – discussed the “Antitheses” in Matthew Chapter 5.  Also the chapter which included The Beatitudes, after which Wills went on to discuss the topic of Murder.  As Wills translated it, “anyone who calls his brother ‘idiot!‘ will be subject to the Sanhedrin.”  (For the offense of de facto murder, according to the interpretation of Jesus.)  And of course that Sanhedrin included “the final authority on Jewish law, and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death.”

Which brings up my experience with Facebook, where a lot of people these days are calling a lot of other people “idiots,” and worse, for the simple fact of disagreeing with them, or holding a view contrary to their own “cherished beliefs.”  (See also ad hominem- Wikipedia.)

As another aside, the president of the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ time was CaiaphasHe was the one who accused Jesus of blasphemy, “a crime punishable by death under Jewish law.”  And thus of him it was said, “Not interested in the truth, Caiaphas preferred to destroy this challenge [of Jesus] to his beliefs instead of supporting it.”  In other words, if he lived today Caiaphas would probably say the Good News presented by Jesus was just “More Fake News.”

Which led me to Matthew 5:22 itself: “If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Something else to think about…

*   *   *   *

Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (1).jpg

This could be called the “Second Presentation” – Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Simeon And Anna Recognize The Lord Jesus – Image Results.  See also Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus – Rembrandt, and the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation, or at “Rembrandtonline.”  For another interpretation, see “Simeon the Godreceiver by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”

Re:  “The Lord is a God of Knowledge.”  See Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

A God of knowledge. — The Hebrew words are placed thus:  A God of knowledge is the Lord, The Talmud quaintly comments here as follows: — Rabbi Ami says:  “Knowledge is of great price, for it is placed between two Divine names; as it is written (1Samuel 2:3), ‘ A God of knowledge is the Lord,’ and therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge; for it is written (Isaiah 27:11), ‘ It is a people of no understanding, therefore He that made them will not have mercy on them.'”

Re:  “The truth will set you free.”  See again Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

Here, as in John 17:17, truth and holiness are spoken of as correlative.  The light of truth dispels the darkness in which lies the stronghold of evil.  Sin is the bondage of the powers of the soul, and this bondage is willed because the soul does not see its fearful evil.  When it perceives the truth, there comes to it a power which rouses it from its stupor, and strengthens it to break the fetters by which it has been bound.

Re:  Garry Wills.  See also The True Test of Faith, and On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.  The latter blog-post cited a New York Times review of Wills’ book What the Gospels Meant:

Yet the paradox of modern Christianity is that the growth of biblical scholarship … has done so little to affect the mass of biblical illiterates who proclaim their convictions about what Jesus would do while knowing precious little about what he actually did or, more important, what he meant…   In this sense, Wills is a dangerous man. (E.A.)

Wills’ discussion of the “Antitheses,” Matthew Chapter 5, The Beatitudes and murder can be found in the 2009 Penguin Books paperback version, at pages 81 and 82. 

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

A review of Ric Burns’ “Pilgrims” DVD…

“The actor Roger Rees renders [William] Bradford beautifully,” in Ric Burns’  “The Pilgrims…”

*   *   *   *

To preview what’s coming up in the Church Calendar for 2019 –  including a continuation of the Season of Epiphany – see Happy Epiphany – 2018.  Among the Feast Days coming up are the Confession of St Peter, Apostle, on January 18;  the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle, on January 25; and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, on February 2.

Crossofashes.jpgThat all leads to the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, March 3, and that takes us to the beginning of Lent.  And Lent – a season of “penancemortifying the fleshrepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial” – begins with Ash Wednesday, symbolized at right.  This year it falls on March 6.

Meaning Easter Sunday will be pretty late this year, on April 21.

“In the meantime,” again, I offer this review of a DVD I just finished watching:  American Experience: The Pilgrims, a documentary film by Ric Burns.  (Available at Amazon.com.) 

I must say that – overall – I found the tone pretty depressing.  I wrote before – in Thanksgiving 2015 for example – that of the 102 Pilgrims who landed in November 1620 at Plymouth Rock, less than half survived the first year.  (To November 1621.)  And of the 18 adult women, only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World.”   (Illustrated at left.)

I just hadn’t appreciated the extent of that loss on an emotional level.  Another way of saying that – just as at Jamestown, started in 1607 – there was a whole lot of human suffering:

The major similarity between the first Jamestown settlers and the first Plymouth settlers was great human suffering…  November was too late to plant crops.  Many settlers died of scurvy and malnutrition during that horrible first winter.  Of the 102 original Mayflower passengers, only 44 survived.  Again like in Jamestown, the kindness of the local Native Americans saved them from a frosty death.

In Thanksgiving – 2016, I wrote that the “men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.”  But the Ric Burns film brought that suffering home in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before.

And by the way, the full caption for the picture at the top of the page reads, “The actor Roger Rees renders Bradford beautifully;  it was among his last performances before his death in July,” 2015.  Which could be both prescient and ironic.  That is, while Rees died at 71 – when life expectancy today is about 78 – William Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that.

There’s more about that at the end of this post…

But what I found most fascinating was how Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, proved the truth of the old adage, “Everything perishes, save the written word.*”  For starters, here’s what Wikipedia said about Plymouth Colony in general:

Despite the colony’s relatively short existence, Plymouth holds a special role in American history…  The events surrounding the founding and history of Plymouth Colony have had a lasting effect on the art, traditions, mythology, and politics of the United States of America, despite its short history of fewer than 72 years.

And what gave “Plymouth” such a special place in American history?   Bradford’s journal,  Of Plymouth Plantation.  (Which proves again, “Everything perishes, save the written word.”)  And which brings up another thing that I hadn’t realized:  That the book was almost lost to history.

That is, the original manuscript was left in the tower of the Old South Meeting House in Boston during the American Revolution.  But after British troops occupied Boston, it disappeared “for the next century.”  The missing manuscript was finally re-discovered, “in the Bishop of London‘s library at Fulham Palace,” and printed again in 1856.  It was only after much finagling – including a verdict ultimately rendered by the Consistorial and Episcopal Court of London – that the manuscript was brought back to the U.S. and given to Massachusetts in 1897.

That’s one of several points noted by the New York Times’ In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking (Including the Plymouth “Signing of the Mayflower Compact.”)

Mr. Burns’s most inspired touch is to end not in the 1600s, but two centuries later, by following what happened to Bradford’s journal.  It disappeared during the Revolutionary War, then was rediscovered in the mid-1800s…  The Mayflower passengers suffered terrible hardships, and from the Indians’ point of view their arrival was ultimately a dark day.  But not on Thanksgiving.  “There’s been a tremendous amount of memory produced around the Pilgrims, but there’s also been a lot of forgetting,” the literary critic Kathleen Donegan notes, adding later: “We don’t think about the loss.  We think about the abundance.”

Or consider this, from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving.  “The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day.  ‘It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,’ Bradford wrote.”

But the Pilgrims were “inventive enough” to conceal their losses from the Indians:  “inventive enough, as Donegan notes, to prop up sick men against trees outside the settlement, with muskets beside them, as decoys to look like sentinels to the Indians.”

The point is this:  Our “Forefathers” – and Foremothers as well – suffered greatly to come to America, and usually much more than we appreciate.  More than that, from the beginning they were “aliens in a strange land.”  Which brings up Deuteronomy 10:19, where God said to the Children of Israel:  “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”  And that’s a point worth remembering these days…

But let’s close with a note of hope and cheer, at least for me.  That is, rumor has it that William Bradford was one of my long-ago ancestors.  If that’s true, I hope I inherited his longevity gene.

That earlier “Bradford” lived to a ripe old age of 67.  That was at a time when life expectancy for that time and place was about half that long.  See for example, life expectancy in America in the years 1750-1800.  That is, the life expectancy a century after Bradford’s time – he died in 1657 – was 36 years.  So if that “1.86 factor” applied to me today – with a  male U.S. life expectancy of 76 years – I should live to be 141.  (Giving me another 74 years.) 

And who knows, I might end my years with the old-age benefits of King David:

King David was old and advanced in years;  and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.  So his servants said to him, ‘Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king, and be his attendant;  let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord the king may be warm.’  So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.  The girl was very beautiful.  She became the king’s attendant and served him, but the king did not know her…

(In the biblical sense.)   On the other hand, King David didn’t have all the “better living through chemistry” advantages we have today.  And that will no doubt increase by, say, 2080?

Something to look forward to…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Review (NYT): In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking.

Re:  “Everything perishes save the written word.”  The quote is from Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness, by Leon Surmelian.  Surmelian cited Plato as saying the poet – including but not limited to the writer of fiction, and maybe of such essays as these – creates “not by science or technique, not by any conscious artistry, but by inspiration or influence of some non-rational, supernatural influence.”  Which could apply to the writers of the Bible, which Surmelian implied by saying a true writer “is the medium of some higher spirit that gets into him.  He is literally inspired.”

But – Surmelian continued – the writer needs more than mere inspiration, by and through “what mysterious power dwells within him.”  (The “madness” in the book title.)  He needs “measure:”

Through measure a story is given the structure and style that snatch it from the chaos of reality and fix it in the memory of man.  We remember through measure.  We move from the unrealized to the realized through measure.  Through measure writing resists the ravages of time.  Everything perishes save the written word, says an old eastern proverb.

From the 1969 Anchor Books paperback edition, at pages 242-44, emphasis added.

The image to the right of the paragraph ending, “Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that,” shows the “Coat of Arms of William Bradford.”

Also from (New York Times) Review: In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking:

The Pilgrims and their fellow travelers weren’t terrorists, of course (despite an instance of putting the severed head of a perceived enemy on a pole), but they and those who followed certainly did effect a cultural conquest.  Some versions of their story play that down, partly because a plague resulting from earlier contact with Westerners brought widespread death to coastal Indians in the Northeast just before the Mayflower arrived. God, it seemed to some, killed off the Indians to make way for the whites, a view this program corrects.

 Here’s more from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving:

It draws on the unique, nearly lost history, Of Plymouth Plantation, written by William Bradford, the new colony’s governor for more than 30 years, whom the late actor Roger Rees portrays from a script derived from Bradford’s book.

Right from the start, the death rate was awful. Mortality had been enormous at the Jamestown colony, where by 1620 nearly 8,000 people had arrived, although the settlement was struggling to keep its population above a thousand. Bradford’s history recalled the Pilgrims’ anticipation of “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” Ferrying in supplies from the ship meant wading through ice-cold water, at one point with sleet glazing their bodies with ice. The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day. “It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,” Bradford wrote…

See also PBS Documentary “The Pilgrims”: A Review.

The lower image is courtesy of King David Abishag – Image Results.  The painting may actually show Bathsheba, see Moritz Stifter Bathsheba – Image Results, and/or Bathsheba Painting – Image Results.  The “Abishag” connection was gleaned from “Interesting Green: Reflection – King David and Abishag,” from veryfatoldmanblogspot.com.  But see also Is Veryfatoldman.blogspot legit and safe?  (Review).

 

On the 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019

The “nativity of Jesus” – a.k.a. Christmas – marking the birth of a new way to get to know God… 

*   *   *   *

A Twelfth Night Feast: 'The King drinks'The last post I did was on December 14, 2018.  (My excuse is the rush of the holidays.)  So here goes:  The first post of 2019.

On that note, the full 12 Days of Christmas just ended this past Sunday, January 6:

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season [including “Twelfth Night,” shown above left] beginning on Christmas Day … that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God.  This period is also known as Christmastide…   The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January [and] celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus.  In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.

See also Happy Epiphany – 2018, which noted this Feast Day has a number of different names.  Like Epiphany proper, which “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”  It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  (Again, just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is called Twelfth Night.)  But wait, there’s still another name for January 6.   It’s also known as Three Kings Day (As in, “We Three Kings of Orient are…”)

For more on these topics, check Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  The “Three Wise Guys” posted noted that in its original sense – circa 600 A.D. – the term Magi meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.”  Also, the consensus that there were three kings started because they brought three gifts:  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And while a literal view of the Three Wise Men story has them getting to the manger-scene just after Jesus was born, the truth seems a bit harder to pin down.  Some say they arrived the same winter Jesus was born, while others say they came two winters after his birth.  That would explain Herod’s order – noted in Matthew 2:16–18 – that his soldiers kill “all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under.”   (Known as the “Massacre of the Innocents,” illustrated at right.)

On a more cheerful note, we’re familiar with the three wise men largely thanks to a Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”  (For an “old-timey” version see Kings College Choir, Cambridge.  Another note:  The “3 wise guys” post went into great detail on the circumcision of Jesus, leading one authority to call January 1st the time “when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.”  And about the practice dating back to ancient Egypt, whose “Book of the Dead describes the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself.”  (That “Ra guy had to be “One Tough Monkey!”)

And finally, To Epiphany – “and BEYOND” explored the issue of “sin” as sometimes held out:

[T]he concepts of sin, repentance and confession should be viewed as “tools to help us get closer to the target.”  In other words, they help us grow and develop, and are not to be used as a means of social control…  Note also that the “Biblical Greek term for sin [amartia], means ‘missing the mark,’” and implies that “one’s aim is out and that one has not reached the goal, one’s fullest potential.”

And that – after all – is what the true Christian should be working for, during these alternating seasons of celebration and reflection:  To reach his or her full potential…

*   *   *   *

But the main thing to remember here is that this whole season celebrates the idea that Christmastide celebrates the birth of “something new under the sun.”  It celebrates the birth of a new – non-conservative – way of thinking about God.  It celebrates the birth of a new – and far easier – way to approach God.  And it celebrates the birth of a new way to get closer to God.

But as noted in Announcing a new E-book, some say conservatives are the only real Christians.  And such stick-in-the-mud Christians will likely object – e.g. – to calling the Old Testament the “Conservative Testament.”  (That Jesus had to change, to bring up to date; see the notes.)

So – just in case some conservative Christian says anyone who believes in such things is “going to hell” – we can just quote 1st John 4:15:  “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”  Also, as I’ve indicated before, in prior blogs:

If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all be Jewish!

*   *   *   *

jesus 88

An image from “Discovering the Jewish Jesus…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Christmas – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ (1622) by Gerard van Honthorst [which] depicts the nativity of Jesus.”

The “Twelfth  Night” image is courtesy of A Twelfth Night Feast: ‘The King drinks’ c.1661 – rct.uk.  The full blurb from the Royal Collection Trust (RCT) read:  “JAN STEEN (LEIDEN 1626-LEIDEN 1679)  A Twelfth Night Feast: ‘The King drinks’ c.1661 … Oil on panel | 40.4 x 54.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 407489.”

Re:  Christmas as “the birth of a new way to get closer to God.”  You might even call the birth of Jesus the start of a whole New Testament, and thus what might be called the Liberal Testament.  That is, the newer Testament designed “to attain the objects for which the instrument is designed and the purpose to which it is applied.”  Which would be the Bible, and it’s goal of “saving” as many people as possible.  See for example, 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think.  Rather, he is patient for your sake.  He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.”

That would be as opposed to the Old Testament, or what might be called the “Conservative Testament.”  See for example Strict constructionism – Wikipedia, which noted in part that “strictly literal interpretations” can lead to logically-deduced absurdities.  (Leading in turn to the “doctrine of absurdity, which holds that  common sense interpretations should be preferred over a “literal reading of a law or of original intent.”)  On that note see Isaiah 66, “Whoever kills a bull is like someone who kills a person.”  How many Bible literalists would support that interpretation today?  Which leads us back to the standard notes (below), holding that “this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.’”

Re:  “If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all be Jewish.”  See Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?  To which might be added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  See The Outing (Seinfeld) – Wikipedia, on the 57th episode of the sitcom, and it’s “popular catchphrase among fans.”

Re:  Christmas as “something new under the sun.”  That’s a reversal of Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;  there is nothing new under the sun.”  Which could be an apt metaphor for the whole idea of the Old Testament being conservative and the New Testament being liberal.  Then again, it would be safe to say there has never been a president like Donald Trump.  In case I’m being too subtle, he too is “something new under the sun…”

The lower image is courtesy of Discovering the Jewish Jesus – Israel – Jerusalem Post.  The article – originally dated December 7, 2005 – began:  “Jesus Christ is the most famous Jew of all time, but is today remembered as a Christian.”  The article later added:

How odd that the Jews would accept a Christian version of one of their brethren rather than seeking to discover the man entombed beneath the myth.  Like a mummy whose bandages must be removed, 2,000 years of Christian gauze must be stripped away so we may discover the Jewish Jesus.  We may do so by reading the original story of Jesus in the New Testament, before it was modified by Pauline and Lucan editors…   These Christian editors hid the real Jesus’ message of political revolution against Rome, thereby transforming him into a sound-bite-speaking do-gooder who loved the Romans and hated his people.  THE REAL Jesus was a deeply religious Jewish patriot who despised the Romans for their cruelty to his people and for their paganism.  He never once abrogated the laws of the Torah, and expressly condemned those who advocated doing so (Matt. 5:18).

See also Jesus – Wikipedia, which noted the Islamic view of Jesus:  “A major figure in Islam, [He] is considered to be a messenger of God (Allah) and the Messiah (al-Masih) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (Bani Isra’il) with a new scripture…  Muslims regard the gospels of the New Testament as inauthentic, and believe that Jesus’ original message was lost or altered.”  And finally, “Belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is a requirement for being a Muslim.  The Quran mentions Jesus by name 25 times—more often than Muhammad.”  The image at left reads:  “The name Jesus son of Mary written in Islamic calligraphy followed by Peace be upon him.”

Santa saves three men, and “Doubting” shows the way…

The REAL Saint Nicholas, in the process of saving “three innocents from death…”

*   *   *   *

As noted this time last year, “Christmas is only a few days away.  But first comes the Feast day of Thomas the Apostle, on December 21.  And Thomas – in [a] way – serves as a metaphor for all us ‘Doubters.'”  See On “Saint Doubting Thomas” – 2017.  From December 22, 2017.

That Feast day came after last December 6 – about a week ago – which was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  See There really IS a “Saint Nick” (Virginia), from December 9, 2017.  But first another “but first:”  Not only did I just publish a new E-book, there’s now a paperback version.  It’s available from Lulu.com(Under the Shop link, and under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Which is another way of saying that last Thursday, December 6, was the Feast day for Nicholas of Myra, in the Daily Office lectionary.  Then the upcoming Friday, December 21, is the Feast day for St. Thomas, Apostle(And of course the 12 Days of Christmas are coming up as well.) 

Which brings us back to last year’s posts from about this time:

Wednesday, December 6 [in 2017], was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  He was Saint Nicholas of Myra, and he lived from 270 to 340 A.D.  So when Dr. Philip O’Hanlon told his daughter, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” he was telling the truth…  Or at least the truth as that term is defined in today’s politics.

Location of Demre in Antalya province, Turkey.You can see more about this prototype in There really IS a “Saint Nick.”  That Real St. Nicholas saved three innocent men – shown in the painting at the top of the page – who’d been wrongly sentenced to death by a corrupt official.  That corrupt ruler of Myra – today’s DemreTurkey – accepted bribes to sentence the men to death.  But this first St. Nick was not to be intimidated by the “power of others, especially the power of the corrupt.”  He “stormed into the prefect’s office and demanded that the charges against the three men be dropped:”

That corrupt official eventually “confessed his sin and sought the saint’s forgiveness.  Nicholas absolved him, but only after the ruler had undergone a period of repentance.”  Which leads to this thought:  “Boy, we could sure use him today!!!

Other stories told of Nicholas of Myra’s “love for God and for his neighbor.”  Like providing dowries for three poor unmarried daughters.  (Thus saving them from a life of prostitution.)  Or of three children killed and “pickled” by a butcher – during a time of extreme famine – who planned “to sell them off as ham.”  But Nicholas of Myra both “’saw through the butcher’s horrific crime’ and resurrected the three children from the barrel.”

That brings us to the feast day for the “original Doubting Thomas,” a term which refers to a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”  But as noted last year, that’s exactly what going to church and reading the Bible is supposed to provide:  An opportunity for a direct and personal experience with the Force that Created the Universe.  See also The Bible and mysticismwhich said Christianity is all about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.”

So a mystic and a Christian both seek a “direct personal experience with God.:

In plain words there are two sides of the Christian experience:  The “corporate” or business side, and the “mystical” side.  The problem is that so many Christians get hung up on the “business side” of the Christian faith.  Mainly because it’s so much easier…  But it’s only the mystical side that can lead to a direct personal experience with God, and Thomas the Apostle is a reminder that – hard as that may be – it can be done….

So here’s wishing you a happy “real St. Nick” and “first Doubting Thomas” Day…

*   *   *   *

Thomas the Apostle, as envisioned by El Greco (in about 1612…)

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Saint Nicholas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death (oil painting by Ilya Repin, 1888, State Russian Museum).”   See also St. Nicholas Center … Saint Who Stopped an Execution.

The lower image is courtesy of Apostle St Thomas by GRECO, El – wga.hu.  For more on Thomas and his missionary journeys, see Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”

Announcing a new E-book…

The book cover:  “Jacob wrestling with the angel”  – God – and being “transformed…”

*   *   *   *

Remember when Rick Santorum said “there’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian?”  There’s a new e-book out to challenge his claim.  Which is another way of saying I just published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.”  (Subtitle: “And Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”)  Just check out the Amazon Kindle Store (Under the nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Fesoj - Papilio machaon (by).jpgIn one sense it talks about being transformed.  As in, transformed by reading the Bible on a daily basis.  (And maybe faithfully reading this blog?)  In turn, the King James Bible Dictionary says that term means to “change the form of;  to change the shape or appearance;  to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”

(To “metamorphose” means in pertinent part to “change into a different physical form especially by supernatural means.”)

But as the book notes, way too many way-too-conservative Christians don’t want to change.  They don’t like the idea of being “transformed,” as Jacob was.  They prefer staying “caterpillars,” Biblically speaking.  They’d rather stay in their cocoon of literalism.

You can get more juicy details at the Kindle Store site, by typing in the title’s key words.  There too you can read the 600-word “blurb.”  Also – for reference – the chapter titles are listed in the notes below.  For one example the book talks of the difference between Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ.”  That last post – from November 13 – became Chapter 27, the end of the book.  Other chapters include “The Bible’s erotic love song.”  (“From last year.”)

I figured that’d get people’s attention, but the chapter also asks questions like:  Why don’t Bible Literalists interpret the “Songs of Songs” literally?  Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

To compare, some literalists are “snake handlers,” based on a literal translation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.”  (Taken out of context, I’d say.)  But the “love song” chapter says,  “Be consistent.  If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3:  ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels…  Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

Moving on – and as noted in the e-book “blurb” – the book’s  title is a twist on Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008, “There’s no such thing as a liberal Christian.” (In a kind of “Bizarro” turnabout-is-fair-play.  Or some well-deserved “busting of conservative chops.”) 

But the journey that led to the book started four years ago.  It just ended, with a realization that there ARE conservative Christians  However, they both definitely short-change themselves and drive away converts “in droves.”  (With their narrow view of the Bible.  Then too, another conclusion the book came to was:  They’re more like “hang around the fort” Christians.*)

But the book – and this blog – gives potential Bible students a more challenging alternative to the “limited Army career options” offered up by conservative Christians.  (That’s a metaphor based on Paul’s saying in 2d Timothy 2:3,  “Join with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”) 

And in the U.S. Army for example, you do – at first – go to boot camp to “learn the fundamentals.”  But conservative Christians “never go beyond boot camp.”  They never go beyond the fundamentals.  They’d rather stay “career buck privates.”  (See Chapter 16.)

But as the book notes, a true Soldier of Christ WANTS to go beyond the “safety of the fort” – or the cocoon – and wrestle with God.  Of course God will win every ‘match,” but in the process YOU get stronger and stronger – spiritually – as discussed in Chapter 5.  (“On arguing with God,” which includes the idea that your Bible journey calls you “to vigor, not comfort.”)

In the meantime, since publishing the book I found what might be a better metaphor than arguing with God or “wrestling with God.”  Back in the 1970’s I had a book, The Inner Game of Tennis.  As I remember, one passage talked about how a good player should compete with a not-so-good player.  So the better metaphor could be “playing tennis with God.”

I’ll try to develop this theme later on, but the point is pretty simple.  When you “play tennis with God,” He plays you in a way that will help you develop.  He doesn’t just try to beat the tar out of you, to humiliate you, like so many “human” players do.  I put more thoughts on this in the  notes, but the point is that if you challenge God – if you “argue” with Him – you usually end up a stronger person for it.  (Though there will be “disasters” from which spiritual growth comes…)  

The bottom line?  We’re all Soldiers in the Army of Christ, conservative, liberal and moderate.  But we don’t all have to “hang around the fort.”  Some Christians choose the option for some “Advanced Individual Training” – like the U.S. Army – and go out beyond the fort.  AND have some adventure in their lives.  Or as Jesus promised in John 10:10 to live life “in abundance.”

That’s from the Afterword, which adds that the book “can get you started doing that.”

*   *   *   *

“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Jacob wrestling with the angel – Wikipedia.  See also On arguing with God and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.

Re:  Santorum on liberal Christianity.  There’s some debate whether he actually said that about “liberal Christians,” but not that some conservative Christians truly believe it.  Some indeed have called liberal Christianity a “heresy,” notwithstanding the warning of Deuteronomy 19:16-19.  See for example The ‘Bizarro Rick Santorum’ says, which became Chapter 21.

Metamorphosis Re:  Butterflies and cocoons.  See also How caterpillars gruesomely transform into butterflies, at left.

The image below the “erotic love song” passage is courtesy of Song of Songs – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Song of Songs’ (Cantique des Cantiques) by Gustave Moreau, 1893.”

Re:  “Hang around the fort” Christians.  As the book notes, I’ve used a number of metaphors to describe such too-conservative, too-literal followers-of-Jesus.  Boot camp Christians, carbon-copy Christians, career buck privates – Biblically speaking – and the like.  But after further review, the term “stick in the mud Christians” deserves further exploration.  For example, there’s a lady in my church choir who is conservative, and a Christian, but she does things like “shotgun” competitively and go to Las Vegas on a regular basis to play poker; also “competitively.”  And she drives a racy big-engine sports car, and for all that is definitely not a “stick in the mud” Christian.  See ‘Stick in the mud’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase, referring to a “narrow-minded or unprogressive person;  one who lacks initiative.”  The Free Dictionary said the term is based the idea of someone “content to remain in an abject condition.”  Or there’s the generic “person who is dull and unadventurous and who resists change.”  (Yup, that sounds about right…)

The full title to the “tennis” book:   The Inner Game of Tennis:  The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.  As to the author, see Timothy Gallwey – Wikipedia:

The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations.  If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.

Which sounds a bit like the blog-post On sin and cybernetics, which forms Chapter 6 in the book.

The lower image is courtesy of the Amazon.com Kindle Store

*   *   *   *

I wrote the following after getting my copy of “Inner Game” from the local library.  The full chapter-title list comes below these “rough notes for possible future use:”

The easiest way – used by most “better players” – is just to beat the tar out of a lesser opponent.  But the worthier – more challenging – way is for the “better” to play just good enough to win.  In that way he challenges the lesser player, and forces his own “self” to stretch and become better.  His primary goal is still to win, but to win in such a way that both players grow.  (E.g., the lesser player feels good because he “hung in there” with a better player.)

So  today I went to the library and got the 2008 Random House paperback edition.  (“Foreward by Pete Carroll, head football coach, USC.”)  I found what I think was the remembered passage.  From page 121, Chapter 9 (The Meaning of Competition), it talked about the way that God – in my remembrance – gives you the chance to “find out to what heights [you] can rise.”  Then the author wrote about concluding that “true competition is identical with true cooperation:”

Each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in … true competition no person is defeated.  Both players benefit by their efforts [and] both grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other…  You tend to build confidence in your opponent…  Then at the end you shake hands with your opponent, and regardless of who won you thank him for the fight he put up, and you mean it.

So from God’s point of view, “He makes it more challenging for His opponent.”  God makes it more challenging for us when we argue with, wrestle with, or play tennis with Him, instead of just meekly accepting a narrow, limited version of how conservatives see the Bible.

So it seems to me that God wants us to “challenge Him,” to ask questions, to go beyond a mere literal acceptance of what somebody else has said the Bible means.  Like Buddha said:

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations. . .     Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests.  After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.

But the Apostle Paul said pretty much the same thing in First Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”   And First John 4:1, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.”  And also Philippians 2:12, where Paul added, “Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.”  (Borrowed from The Christian repertoire…)

I’m not sure how I got to quoting Buddha, but it’s from another e-book I’ll be publishing soon…

*   *   *   *

The following is the list of Contents in the “NoCon” book, Chapters 1 through 27.  Also, a Preface and an Afterword.  For some practice using the search engine at the upper right of the main page, just type in the key words.  And as noted above, the last chapter – 27 – comes from the November 13, 2018 post, On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ:” 

Preface

Chapter 1:  “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other

Chapter 2:  Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000

Chapter 3:  On three suitors (a parable)

Chapter 4:  On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

Chapter 5:  On “wrestling” with God

Chapter 6:  On sin and cybernetics

Chapter 7:  On reading the Bible

Chapter 8:  On the Bible and mysticism

Chapter 9:  The True Test of Faith

Chapter 10:  On singing a NEW song to God…

Chapter 11:  On WHY we’re getting “less Christian”

Chapter 12:  Was Moses the first to say, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

Chapter 13:  “Bible basics” revisited

Chapter 14:  On Moses getting stoned…

Chapter 15:  My Lenten meditation…

Chapter 16:  Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”

Chapter 17:  On snake-handling “redux”

Chapter 18:  The latest from a “None…”

Chapter 19:  Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”

Chapter 20: On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

Chapter 21:  The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Chapter 22:  “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Chapter 23:  The Bible’s “erotic love song”

Chapter 24:  Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!

Chapter 25:  Did Jesus interpret the Bible “liberally?”

Chapter 26:  Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

Chapter 27:  On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

*   *   *   *

(Here’s a news flash:  I just published a new e-book, “’There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian:’  and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”  It’s now available at the Amazon.com: Kindle Store.  I’ll be writing more about it in my next post, “Announcing a new book.”  And here’s a clue:  This post comes at the end of the book, as Chapter 27, followed by an “Afterword.”

And now back to the meat of this post, on Garritroopers … in the “Army of Christ.”)

This is an allegory.  (The kind Paul used in Galatians 4:24.)

Suppose our all-volunteer Army had only one option for a new soldier:  The chance to be a “Grunt” his whole career.  Or worse, a career doing only KP duty.  (Shown at left.)  I’d bet they wouldn’t too get many recruits.  And as to that first term:

“[G]runt” is slang for an infantryman or foot soldier.  It is thought that this term arose during the Vietnam War [in 1969.  But since] around 1900, “grunt” has been a word for a low-level worker or laborer.  This is the likely origin of the term “grunt work,” referring to a job that is thankless, boring and exhausting but necessary.  There is no record of how this word became applied to infantrymen though it is indisputable that infantrymen often engage in grunt work.

As to “KP,” that refers to work “assigned to junior U.S. enlisted military personnel.”  Such work includes tedious – but necessary – chores like “dish washing and pot scrubbing, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping tables, serving food on the chow line.”  (On a related note, see Acts 6:2:  “The Twelve Disciples summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, ‘It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.'”)

But “waiting tables” – or doing Grunt Work – are just about the only career options offered up by conservative Christians – in their “Army of Christ.”  (As in 2 Timothy 2:3:  “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”)  Or Christian Fundamentalists, who arguably spend their “Army careers” going over and over the same basics they learned back in boot camp.  (See also Oxford Dictionaries, defining a grunt as a “low-ranking or unskilled soldier or other worker.”)

But there is an alternative.  When you join the real “Army of Christ” you don’t have to spend your  career going over the basics, going over the “fundamentals” again and again.

In plain words you don’t have to stay a “Fundamentalist.”  You aren’t locked in to re-learning the Five Fundamentals over and over.  Instead – just like the U.S. Army – after boot camp you have the option to go on to “Advanced Individual Training.”  And some of those “advanced jobs” are pretty exciting.

Like training at the U.S. Army Airborne School, as shown in the photo at the bottom of the page.  From there you can go on to training that is exciting – if not dangerous –  like learning to “guide troops through hostile territory.”  And what hostile territory we Christians face these days.  (Not least of which, danger from those who are supposed to be fellow Soldiers of Christ.)

You can see more about these exciting alternatives in the INTRODUCTION above.  About how reading the Bible with an open mind can open up “a whole new world” – or a whole new continent – like what happened after Lewis and Clark opened up the American West:

 “So, are you ready for your own Great Exploration!!??”

Which brings us back to real soldiers in the Army of Christ, as opposed to “garritroopers.”  An example of such a soldier is shown at the top of the page, drawn up by Bill Mauldin during World War II:  “Too far forward to wear ties an’ too far back to get shot.”  But “getting shot at” – metaphorically or otherwise – is just what a real Soldier of Christ signs on for in his career.

On that note see what is a garet trooper? | Yahoo Answers (on an alternative spelling):

“He was the guy with spit polished boots and clean fatigues that never left the base.  Never at risk, never responsible for his decisions, always looking good and then went home and claimed heroic actions anyway.”

And in yet another spelling, the word “Garrett” – as in “trooper” – is said to come from an old army word for barracks.  So a “Garrett trooper” is one who hangs around the barracks.

I’ve used various terms to describe this type of too-literal Christian. (Not always charitably.)  I’ve called them Boot-camp ChristiansComfort Zone Christianscareer buck privates, and/or Carbon Copy Christians (“Mass produced carbon copies of each other.”)  But for this post the best term could be “hang around the fort Christians.”  They’re the Soldiers of Christ who literally “hang around the fort.”

However – since “hang around the fort” has a negative connotation – the better term could be “hold down the fort Christians.”  Which is of course a highly necessary task.

Someone has to do it.  Or more precisely, some soldiers of Christ are properly charged with maintaining “a secure position,” or maintaining the “proper functioning of some situation or place … typically during someone’s absence.”  But such soldiers err greatly when they say all Soldiers of Christ must be exactly like them.  When they say that all Christians must focus exclusively on “holding down the fort,” rather than getting away from the fort and getting on with the job of a real soldier:  “One who fights as part of an army.”

And as to those soldiers who insist on focusing only on “holding the fort,” see Wikipedia:

In most armies use of the word “soldier” has taken on a more general meaning due to the increasing specialization of military occupations that require different areas of knowledge and skill-sets.  [For examples, see the notes.]

On that note see Ephesians 4:11, where God gave different gifts to different people:  He “appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers.”  Or 1st Corinthians 12:28:  “God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, and those with gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various tongues.”

In the same way, God seems to have appointed some too-literal Christians to “hold down the fort,” while others He appointed as rangersscouts, “recon,” or perhaps even Pathfinders:

The modern U.S. Army Pathfinders are an elite force making up less than .01% of the total Army.  Their primary mission is to infiltrate areas and set up parachute drop zones and helicopter landing zones for airborne and air assault missions.

So there you have it.  Just as “Not all Christians are ‘Trump-humping evangelicals,'” so not all Christians are required to either “hang around the fort,” or “hold down the fort.”

As a good soldier in the Army of Christ, you do have the career option of expanding your horizons, and/or testing your limits.  And who knows?  You might even find yourself jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.  (Metaphorically or otherwise…)  

*   *   *   *

Flickr - The U.S. Army - First jump with the new T-11 parachute.jpg

Trainees at Army Airborne School – on the way to not becoming garet troopers

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Garret Trooper Bill Mauldin – Image Results.

The KP duty image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A U.S. Navy sailor working in galley duty aboard the USS Saratoga in March 1986.  (In a bit of artistic license.)

Re:  “Soldier of Christ.”  See also 2 Timothy 2:4.  In the King James Bible – the one God uses – “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life;  that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  Likewise the “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” quote is from the King James Bible.  And see Ephesians 6:11, vis-a-vis the Armor of God, explained in Wikipedia:  “This armor seems to be in direct correlation of that of the Roman Empire‘s soldiers,” at the time.

Also, I originally thought to compare non-conservative Christians – like me – to officers in the Army of Christ, but that was too much of a stretch.  (Given the present plethora of bishops, priests, deacons, and of course a Pope whose authority few Protestants recognize.)  Then too there was the matter of “thinking too much of yourself,” contrary to the authority of Luke 14:9-11:

“When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor.  Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host.  Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place.  The place of honor belongs to this man.’  Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.  When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place.  Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’  That will give the dinner guests something to talk about!  What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face.  But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Re:  The phrase “hang around the fort” having a negative connotation.  If you start typing in “hang around the fort,” you will probably get the suggested phrase “hang around the fort Indian.”  See for example, Who are hangs around the fort people – Answers.com, referencing the Lakota tribe:

These bands [of Native Americans] lived next to the agencies and tried to live like members of the dominant [white] culture, [and] were rewarded by receiving the best and most of government aid…  Those who were adopting the dominant culture’s ways became the “hang-around-the-fort Indians,” and that term became a contemptuous epithet used by those who were trying to live the traditional ways of the Lakota culture.

See also Irony – Wikipedia, and George Blake, Hang Around the Fort Injun:  Re the term “used among Indians during the Reservation Era to refer to those who were perceived as spending too much time near military encampments, pandering to the U.S. military and becoming involved in white affairs.”

Re:  Army “skill sets:” Artillerymanparatrooperrangersniperengineersappermedic, or gunner.

Also, re: “rangersscouts, ‘recon,’ or pathfinders:”  See U.S. Army Rangers – WikipediaCavalry scout – WikipediaBlack Seminole Scouts – WikipediaReconnaissance – Wikipedia, and/or US Army Pathfinder School – Wikipedia.  The “Follow me” image is courtesy of US Army Follow Me Insignia – Image Results.  See also, United States Army Infantry School – Wikipedia.  

The lower image is courtesy of United States Army Airborne School – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Students jump from a C-130 using T-11 parachutes during the Airborne School’s final week of training.”  Located in Fort BenningGA, this jump school “conducts the basic paratrooper (military parachutist) training for the United States armed forces.”

On Jesus “cracking wise”

 The “Laughing Jesus…”

*   *   *   *

https://mediamythalert.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/braburning_atlcty_1968.jpgFirst a note:  I originally posted this on January 23, 2015.  But yesterday, reading over some old posts, I noticed the bottom picture in this one was missing.  Or more precisely there was a box with some information written inside, probably “URL” information or the like.  So I decided to re-post this one, and may do the same with others, like Jonah and the bra-burners, first posted on January 19, 2015.  (And leading with the picture at left.)

So here’s a “new improved version” of Jesus “cracking wise.”

*   *   *   *

The Gospel reading for January 18[, 2015] was John 1:43-51.  It told of Jesus meeting Philip and Nathanael.  An earlier post (Bible readings for January 18) told of a commentator saying Nathanael  was a bit of a “wiseacre.”  Commentator also suggested that Jesus greeted Nathanael with a sarcastic joke, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom [there] is no guile!”   This was after Nathanael was reluctant to “come and see” the man Philip thought was the Messiah.

The idea of this “sarcastic joke to Nathanael” came from a Sacred Story article.  The article said the Israel Jesus referred to “was the new name of Jacob, who was well-known as a deceitful trickster who fooled both his father and brother.’  I also noted some contrary, “more traditional” interpretations, such as John 1:47 When Jesus saw Nathanael:

[Jesus] is described as knowing what was in man…  He makes use of his Divine prerogative [and] penetrated the surface to [Nathanael’s] inner motive and heart.  Behold, an Israelite indeed; one who fulfils the true idea of Israel, a prince with God, a conqueror of God by prayer, and conqueror of man by submission, penitence, and restitution…  In whom is no guile; i.e. no self-deception, and no disposition to deceive others.

So the Pulpit Commentary on John 1:47 had Jesus saying Nathanael was not a deceitful trickster.   Rather Jesus was saying Nathanael was a true “prince with God,” a penitent man with “no disposition to deceive others.”  And Gill’s Exposition of John 1:47 interpreted the phrase “behold an Israelite indeed” as meaning “a true son of Jacob’s; an honest, plain hearted man.”

So which was it?   Was Jesus saying Nathanael was an “honest, plain-hearted man,” without guile or deceit, “just like Jacob?”  Or was Jesus being sarcastic, “cracking wise?”

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgWe can start with the fact that the name “Israel” referred to a man who literally wrestled with God.  (See On arguing with God, with the image at right.)  That’s how Jacob got his name changed to Israel.

(That post also said maybe we too should wrestle with God:  “that’s how we get spiritually stronger, by ‘resistance training,’” not “passively accepting” everything in the Bible.)

But we also know that Jacob was shrewd, starting from the moment of his birth.  Jacob and twin brother Esau literally “wrestled in the womb.”  And while Esau was born a few seconds before his brother, “his heel was grasped by the hand of Jacob.”  The name Jacob – Ya`aqovin Hebrew – literally translates to “heel-catcher,” “leg-puller,” or “supplanter.”  See Jacob – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and also Genesis 25:19-28.   (Verse 28 also notes that while the father Isaac loved Esau – his first-born son – Rebekah the mother loved Jacob more.)

Isaac Asimov added that since Esau was born first, he was entitled to inherit the first-born’s “main portion of his father’s property.”  (Such a blessing had “great legalistic value in the society of that time.”)  But Jacob outmaneuvered his older brother, getting his birthright in exchange for some “pottage,” when Esau was starving.  See Genesis 25:27-34, “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”  So this was when Jacob “fooled his brother,” as noted in Sacred Story.

Then – as Asimov noted – came a “second successful deceit on the part of Jacob.”

Years later, as Isaac lay “blind and awaiting death,” he wanted to give Esau his final blessing. (That also had “great legalistic value”).  But Jacob fooled his father by dressing up in Esau’s clothes and putting goatskins on his arms “to imitate Esau’s hairiness.”  (This all happened as Esau was out hunting, at his father’s request, to prepare one last time the “savory food” his father Isaac loved so much.)  The story in Genesis 27:1-45 goes on to tell of Esau hating and planning to kill Jacob, because of his trickery.  (The blind and “tricked” Isaac gave Jacob his final blessing, not Esau.)  Genesis 27 also told of his mother’s scheme to save him.  So here we’ve seen the story of Jacob fooling “both his father and brother.

But wait, there’s more!

Rebekah sent Jacob to stay with her brother Laban.  Laban ended up as Jacob’s father-in-law, after first tricking him – Jacob – to marry Leah, his first-born daughter.  (See, Jacob really loved and “bargained for” Rachel, but Leah had to get married first, by the law of the time, so he ended up marrying both of them.)  Which led to yet another bit of “guile” on the part of Jacob.

He wanted to return home – with wives Rachel and Leah – but he also wanted compensation:

Laban was reluctant to release him, as God had blessed his flock on account of Jacob.  Laban asked what he could pay Jacob.  Jacob proposed that all the spotted, speckled, and brown goats and sheep of Laban’s flock, at any given moment, would be his wages.  Jacob placed peeled rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut within the flocks’ watering holes or troughs…

See Jacob(With the image of him and his mother Rachel, at left.)   See also Genesis 30 … Bible Gateway, verses 25-42, titled “Jacob Prospers at Laban’s Expense.”  Briefly, Jacob agreed to be paid by taking only the “speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats.”  But then he made the peeled rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut noted above, and put them in front of watering holes.  According to the Bible, that’s the trickery that made Jacob rich:

[S]ince they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted…   Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding Jacob laid the rods in the runnels before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there; so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.  Thus the man [Jacob] grew exceedingly rich…

So Jacob grew exceedingly rich at the expense of his father-in-law.  He bargained for “only” the speckled and spotted sheep, then took steps to make sure that most of the sheep and the strongest of the sheep turned out to be “speckled and spotted.”

In the fullness of time, Jacob went on to “wrestle with God” and become the patriarch Israel,as told in Genesis 32:22-32.  He fathered 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes of Israel:  “The children named in Genesis were Reuben (shown at right), SimeonLeviJudahDanNaphtaliGadAsherIssacharZebulun, daughter DinahJoseph, and Benjamin.”  (See Jacob, which also indicated daughter Dinah didn’t count as a “tribe.”)

Which gets us back to the question:  When Jesus greeted Nathanael in John 1:47 – Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom [there] is no guile!” – what was He really saying?  Was He saying Nathanael was a “prince with God,” a penitent man with “no disposition to deceive?”  Or was He “cracking wise?”  (Or maybe He was quoting Psalm 32:2, “Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile!”  Which still doesn’t solve the question.)

John 1:43-45 described Philip meeting Jesus, then going to find Nathanael and tell him the news; “Jesus of Nazareth was the one foretold in the scriptures as the savior of his people.”  As the Sacred Story article went on to say, “Nathanael listened, and made a wise-crack – ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?‘”  (See John 1:46)

So the question is:  Did Jesus respond to Nathanael’s sarcastic comment – under the fig tree – with a sarcastic comment of His own?  Did Jesus laugh, make jokes, be sarcastic?

That’s ultimately for you to decide, but I’ve said all along that God has a sense of humor.

Aside from making Mick Jagger a grandfather, there’s also Psalm 2:4, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.”  Psalm 37:13 says, “The LORD laughs at the wicked, because He sees that their day will come.” (That’s Psalm 37:14 in the BCP Revised Standard version.)   Then there’s Psalm 59:8, “But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.”  And finally see Psalm 104:26, “there is that Leviathan, which you [God] have made for the sport of it.”  (Psalm 104:27 in the BCP RSV.) 

In turn I’ve done many posts on the subject.  Just type in “God sense humor” in the search-box above right.  Those posts include On Robin Williams’ “Top Ten,” in memory of man who “had a gift for turning tragedy into something we could laugh at – and with.”

But don’t just take my word for it.  There’s also the site Who was Canadian behind iconic image of “Laughing Jesus?”  That’s where the image above came from, but there’s some debate about who actually created the original.  Be that as it may, it’s popular:  “One of the most popular images of Jesus today is a painting of him laughing.”

Unfortunately, time and space – not to mention the reader’s “attention span of a gerbil” – are running out.  That means it’s time to wrap this up.

We can close by noting there’s also some question about who this sarcastic Nathanael really was.  The consensus is that he was actually Bartholomew the Apostle, “one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified with Nathanael (alternatively spelled Nathaniel).”

See also Nathanael – Believed To Be The Apostle Bartholomew:  “Church tradition says Nathanael carried a translation of Matthew’s Gospel to northern India.  Legend claims he was crucified upside down in Albania.”

Which means there’s enough tragedy to around, as if we didn’t know that already.  (Crucified upside down in Albania, indeed!)  In turn it would be nice to think that Jesus, like Robin Williams, “had a gift for turning tragedy into something we could laugh at – and with.”

*   *   *   *

Leviathan, which God made “for the sport of it…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Laughing Jesus – Image Results.

The full citation for the “Sacred Story” article is sacredstory.org/2012 … nathanael-and-the-fig-tree.  From the Sacred Story home page:  “Do you wonder about your life as a spiritual journey?  Do you have questions about the Bible?  Are you interested in conversations about God?  Then this blog is written for you – not as an easy source of authoritarian answers, but as a shared exploration of the questions.”   Ditto!!!

The lower image is courtesy of Leviathan – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “‘Destruction of Leviathan,’ 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré.’”

See also Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia, “He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’”

The post Bible readings for January 18  included notes on the term wiseacre, variously defined as:  1) a person who possesses or affects to possess great wisdom;  2) a wise guy;  or 3) “Old person speak for smartass.”  Dictionary.com added the term is “often used facetiously or contemptuously.”

On the THREE days of Hallowe’en…

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”

*   *   *   *

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (“Who comes to Him.”  See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgMost people think Halloween is one day, October 31st.  But there are actually three days of “Hallowe’en.”  Or more precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.”  (In the alternative Allhallowtide.) 

And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”

In turn the word “hallow” – in both “Hallowe’en” and “Allhallowtide” – came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.  That eventually became “hallow.”  (Maybe because it was easier to say.)  Which led to November 1 now being called All Saints’ Day.  But to the Old English, “All Haligs’ Day” – November 1 – eventually became “All Hallows Day.”  Then the “eve” before that Feast Day – October 31 – became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that shortened to “All Hallows E’en.”  And later still it shortened to “Hallowe’en,” then just plain Halloween.

Wikipedia said this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead, including martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.”  The main day of the three is November 1, now called All Saints Day, but previously referred to as Hallowmas.  It was established sometime between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”

Put another way, November 1 honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  In other words, special people in the Church.  (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”)  On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks (Those of us who have died, that is.)

So back to Halloween:  It all started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter.  The “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was build bonfires, literally bonefires.  (That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)  The original idea was that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  But that evolved into this:  The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”

There was another old-time custom, that if you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches

Then there were the pumpkins.  Apparently some other old-time people set out carved pumpkins on their windowsills, to keep “harmful spirits” out of their home.   But yet another tradition said  jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory.”  And while today jack-o’-lanterns are made from pumpkins, but were originally carved from large turnips.

In turn, both the jack-o’-lantern and Will-o’-the-wisp – at right, in a Japanese interpretation – are tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That refers to the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.  It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and “especially over bogs, swamps or marshes – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom…

Finally we get to the third of the three-day holiday – November 2 – All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below.

“Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives” on November 2.  The custom began in the sixth century with a Benedictine custom of commemorating deceased members of a given monastery at Whitsuntide.  (Or “Whit(e) Sunday,” also known as Pentecost, held 50 days after Easter Sunday.)  That changed in the 11th century when Saint Odilo of Cluny chose the day after All Souls Day to commemorate “all the faithful departed … with alms, prayers, and sacrifices for the relief of the suffering souls in purgatory.”

On that note, here’s the Collect for All Saints Day, from the Lectionary Page website:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:  Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

So there you have it.  In closing, here’s wishing you a happy three days of Hallowe’en. 

*   *   *   *

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

The “Three Days of Halloween” end November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

The image of the jack-o’lantern is courtesy of Halloween – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A jack-o’-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween representing the souls of the dead.”

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – Wikipedia.  The caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”   See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia.

*   *   *   *

As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men…

A colorful Japanese illustration of the parable of the Blind men and elephant… 

*   *   *   *

In the meantime:

October 23 is the Feast Day for James, the brother of Jesus.  About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part.  He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

According to Wikipedia – and other sources – “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  On the other hand the Feast Day for James the Greater is on July 25.  See On “St. James the Greater,” posted July 24, 2014.  Among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”  Seen at left, he is “depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

And incidentally, in that July 2014 post I got these two Jameses mixed up, which is apparently not that uncommon.  See for example The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study.  That site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude.

So anyway, this particular “James” is considered to be the author of the Epistle of James.  And according to his Wikipedia article, “As many as six different men in the Bible are named James.”  All of which makes for more than the usual amount of confusion.  For example:

Roman Catholic tradition generally holds that this James is to be identified with James, son of Alphaeus, and James the Less.  It is agreed by most [Catholics, apparently] that he should not be confused with James, son of Zebedee.

Saint James the Just.jpgBe that as it may, here’s what the Wikipedia article said about this particular “10/23” James – whose “icon” is shown at right:

The Pauline epistles and the later chapters of the Acts of the Apostles portray James as an important figure in the Christian community of Jerusalem.  When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9, Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

Another note:  The Gospel for this Feast Day is Matthew 13:54-58.  It tells of Jesus returning to His home town and teaching in the synagogue.  As a result, the locals were “astounded” at His teaching, and started asking, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”

But wait!  There’s still more confusion!  This time as to James’ death:  “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.”  But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.'”  All of which brings up the “parable of the Blind men and elephant.”

I discussed this parable in Reading the Bible (July 2014), On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel” (June 2015), and On snake-handling “redux” (May 2016).  I added a new wrinkle to the “Seven Blind Men and the Elephant” with the April 2018 post, “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other(Including the image at left.)

The gist of that post was that Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other – in the good sense.  (The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

The gist of that post was also that in doing so, such “Good” Christians can fulfill their duty as “Watchmen of Christ” for each other, pursuant to Ezekiel 3:16-19 (“Task as Watchman“):

 [T]he word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…   When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.   But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

So if one good Christian sees another one in error, he is duty-bound to discuss that potential error.  And from the resulting “spirited debate,” both Christians may get ever closer to “the Truth.”  As Wikipedia noted, the parable can be used to “illustrate a range of truths and fallacies.”  For example, “one’s subjective experience can be true, but [is] inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”

At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, [as well as] the need for deeper understanding, and respect for different perspectives on the same object of observation.

Of course such “persuasion” can only work with Christians willing to admit they don’t have all the answers, or that anyone who disagrees with them is “going to hell.”  (From the “very-American concept of the adversary system – a basic tenet of our legal system – as the best way of arriving at ‘the truth.’”)  And which is actually based on the Bible, like in Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

The point of the parable was that each blind man, “in his own opinion,” thought the elephant was “like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they had touched.”  Which led to this “Moral,” from the poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887):

So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!

And if such disputes can arise over a “mere elephant,” it’s no small wonder how many heated arguments have come over the full depth and meaning of God, a God “not one of them has seen!”  Or as Apostle Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12.”

And if the Apostle Paul can admit that even he could see “only in part,” who are we to say we know “everything there is to know about God,” or dare to tell other people how to live?

All of which brings up what the great philosopher Charlie Chan once noted:

“Mind like parachute; work best when open.”

*   *   *   *

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51smUOfD0aL.jpg

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Blind men and elephant – Wikipedia.  The ull caption: “Blind monks examining an elephant, an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).”  This parable has “crossed between many religious traditions and is part of of JainBuddhistSufi and Hindu lore.”  (Wikipedia.)  In the Buddhist version, “The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king.  The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views.”  See also Matthew 13:34 (ESV):  “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.

The lower image of Charlie Chan is courtesy of amazon.com/Charlie-Collection-Honolulu-Treasure.  See also Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan, which included the Home-page quote, “Mind like parachute.  Work best when open.”  See also THE BASICS, above.