On the beginning of Lent – 2018

The Temptation(s) of Christ – during His 40 days of wandering – which Lent seeks to emulate…

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

This blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us all to live lives of abundance (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (See John 14:12.)

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

I confess – I “do not deny but confess” – that I have been lax in posting new essays for this blog.  One excuse is that I’ve been focusing more on my art.  (For one thing, I’ve finally gotten to the point – after 66 years of this incarnation – that I actually feel like I know what I’m doing.)  Be that as it may, it’s high time to finish another post, especially since Lent began a week or so ago, with Ash Wednesday.

If nothing else, I may need to do penance for my sins…  (The image at right is “‘La Penitente’ by Pietro Rotari.”)

Which relates to the kind of Wandering in the Wilderness that many of us seem to have to go through.  (That is, before we “reach a certain age” and – for example – feel like we know what we’re doing.)

So anyway, this whole idea of Lent as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness started back with Moses.  And with his leading the Children of Israel during the original Exodus, as recited years later by Nehemiah, at 9:12-21.  Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way.  But we do have the example set by Jesus.

Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, On Ash Wednesday and Lent, and also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.

So the “40 days of Lent” are supposed to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent “wandering in the wilderness.”  (And being “tempted.”)  In turn, that act by Jesus mirrored the 40 years that the Hebrews – led by Moses – also spent “wandering around.”  But as it’s evolved, most people today equate Lent with “giving up something they love.”  Which may miss the point entirely.  (See e.g., Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

For me it seems more appropriate to remember that “while the Promised Land is wonderful, we learn our greatest lessons on the journey along the way.”  That’s from the “mini-Wandering in the Wilderness” link above, posted by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman back in 2011.  His article is called “What We Can Learn from Wandering in the Wilderness,” and it contains some valid points for this Lenten season.  Points like this:

Life can be hard, and the world can be scary.  If we learn to accept that, and not expect the world to revolve around us, we can discover the myriad ways in which we can make a difference, and invest our energy in those tasks.

So the Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or “full-scale practice.”  (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)  

Another lesson:  It can be “fun, natural and even important to explore uncharted territory [during Lent].  After all, we never learn or grow if we stay in the same place.”  Which is why – two years ago – I chose a different course.  See My Lenten meditation, from February 14, 2016:

I’ve always wondered just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)  So I’ve decided that – aside from Bible-reading on a daily basis, which I already do anyway – I’ll spend this Lent “meditating” on this topic.  More precisely, I plan to spend this Lent contemplating on how and when Moses wrote those first five books.

Which turned out to be pretty enlightening.  For example, Moses probably knew the earth revolved around the sun, but couldn’t share that information with the primitive, illiterate tribes he led.  (He would have been stoned to death for heresy.  See On Moses getting stoned.  And as an aside, the same thing almost happened to Jesus.  But in Luke 4:21-30, Jesus wasn’t threatened by stoning, as Moses was.  Instead, “the people” wanted to throw Him off a cliff, as shown at left.)

For another thing, four of the five books of the Torah were “pretty much autobiography.”  (That is, Moses wrote about his life, and his role in leading the Hebrews out of slavery and into their Promised Land.  And in doing so he referred to himself in the third person, a literary device called illeism.  See also On Moses and “illeism.)  But in writing Genesis, Moses had to go back to the origins of time itself.  He had to go back to the Creation of the World itself.   And in doing that, he almost certainly had to rely on oral tradition.

Then there’s the question whether “writing” had been invented by the time of Moses at all.  All of which are fascinating questions, but certainly beyond the scope of this post.  (Maybe later?)

So I’ll end the post with this BTW:  There are actually 46 days of Lent;  46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.”  But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.”  That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which just goes to show that – sometimes at least:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

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40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

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The upper image is courtesy of Temptation of Christ – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Temptations of Christ, 12th century mosaic at St Mark’s BasilicaVenice.”  

The “Penitente” image is courtesy of Penance – Wikipedia, which adds this note:

The word penance derives from Old French and Latin paenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven (in English see contrition). Penance and repentance, similar in their derivation and original sense, have come to symbolize conflicting views of the essence of repentance, arising from the controversy as to the respective merits of “faith” and “good works.”  Word derivations occur in many languages.

Re:  Phrase “reach a certain age.”  The allusion is to “women of a certain age.”  That phrase was “repopularized in a 1979 book by the psychotherapist Lillian B. Rubin, ‘Women of a Certain Age:  The Midlife Search for Self,’ in which midlife spanned 35 to 54.”  The 1995 New York Times article noted that – at the time it was published – Ms. Rubin was then in her early 70s.  It then added:

[T]he phrase … “has a long history in French, where it refers to women of fortyish and thereabouts who are able to initiate boys and young men into the beauties of sexual encounters.  The early use in English seems to be about spinsterhood, but the French meaning has nothing to do with marriage…”  In French, the phrase has erotically or sexually charged overtones.  [Naturally.]  “It comes from a society where sexuality is freer,” Dr. Rubin notes, “and more understood as an important part of human life…”  The phrase in French is femmes d’une certaine age.  The term, however, can apply to either sex.

To which I add my own hearty Amen.  (“So be it.”)  And note that as I’ve said before, one of the pleasures of blogging is that you can learn so many interesting new things…

The “giving up” image is courtesy of Diary of a Sower (“Giving up – or adding something – to Lent”).

Re:  Prior posts on Lent.  See On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.

Re:  “Sundays off in Lent.”  See How Are the 40 Days of Lent Calculated? – ThoughtCoFast during Lent – EWTNIs There Really a “Sunday Exception” During Lent?

The lower image is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) – IMDb.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that 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?

Was “Abraham” a pimp?

“A painting of Abraham’s departure” – which happened beforeAbram” became “Abraham…”

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I was reading the DORs for last Saturday morning – January 20, 2018 – starting with the Old Testament reading, Genesis 12:9-13:1.

It told about “Abram” – before he became Abraham – going down to Egypt “to reside there as an alien.”  (Which raises whole ‘nother train of thought, vis-à-vis aliens in the Bible.  And which explains why I put “Abraham” in quotation marks in the title.  When he “pimped” he was still Abram.)

So anyway, “Abram” went down to Egypt to escape the famine – “severe in the land” – that was afflicting Shechem in Canaan(“Shecem” was a village roughly 70 miles north of modern Jerusalem.)  But Abram had a problem.  His wife “Sarai” – before she became Sarah – was extremely beautiful.  (As seen above left.)  So here’s what he did:

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’  Then they will kill me but will let you live.  Say you are my sister [ – as illustrated below right – ] so that I will be treated well for your sake…  And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.  He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

That’s according to Genesis 12:11-16.  But then Pharaoh suffered a series of plagues or mishaps, and he finally figured out it was because Sarai was Abraham’s wife, not his sister.  But somehow God turned that to Abram’s advantage, and so he left Egypt a much richer man than when he first arrived.  (In much the same manner of the Children of Israel, as Moses led them out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery.  See Exodus 3:22, “and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.”)

But Abram ended up a much richer man because he gave his wife to another man.  So  when I read that I thought, “Was Abram a pimp?”  Then I wondered if I was the first person that thought had occurred to.  (“To whom that thought had occurred,” to be grammatically correct.)

But no…  I Googled “was abraham Bible a pimp,” and got 8,210,000 results.  Most were from sites like Intelligent Blasphemy or The Heretic’s Bible.  But aside from heretics and infidels, the same thought seems not to have occurred to many Christians.  (Gee, I wonder why?)

But the question does bear consideration.  And the answer I came up with is that many times you definitely don’t want to interpret the Bible too literally.  And this is a prime example.

That is, if a “good Christian” takes the Bible too literally – and uses the plain meaning rule – the only logical conclusion is that Abram did indeed “pimp out his wife.”  (Like the heretics and infidels say.)  But that would miss the whole point of Abraham’s story.  That story is not about Abraham pimping out his wife, any more than the Book of Jonah is about a stinkin’ whale!

https://mediamythalert.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/braburning_atlcty_1968.jpgSee On Jonah and the bra-burners (with the image at left):

My point was that the “attention-getter” in Jonah – the whale – got in the way of the real message.  So the Book of Jonah was just like the “bra-burners” at the 1968 Miss America pageant, where that real message got lost too.  The real message of Jonah is:  God’s love is universal…   (It ain’t about no ^%$## whale!!!)

Thus the problem of using an attention-getter (Like burning bras.)  Sometimes it gets in the way of the real message.  And so, “Ever since the Book of Jonah was written (it seems) Bible-readers have ‘picked up on the whale part.’  In doing so they’ve ignored the real message behind the book.”  The same thing could happen here.

Maybe the real message of the Abraham saga is that he was a human ^%$# being, just like us today.  He was not some “goody two-shoes” bent on preserving his “virtue.”  And there’s another thing that Abraham was not.  He was not a conservative.  For example, notice that when God changed the names of both “Abram” and “Sarai” – to Abraham and Sarah – He expanded their horizons.  (Just like it says at the top of this page.)

But imagine if Abram and Sarai had turned too conservative…  For one thing, Abram would never have left Ur of the Chaldees.  “I can’t do that!  I’m too afraid of an unknown future!

Also, note that the saga kind of concluded with this morning’s reading, Genesis 18:16-33. That’s where Abraham did another thing that “conservative Christians” would never think about doing.  See On arguing with God.  That post includes a section on Abraham “arguing:”

Take Sodom and Gomorrah…  “Please!”   That is, see: Genesis 18:16-33.  That’s where Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy Sodom.  (And quite frankly, he was kind of a pain about it, haggling with God not to destroy the city if there were 50 good people in it, down to as few as five good people…) 

Anyway, the point of all this is that with a true Christian – a real Christian, not a too-conservative “Pharisee” – God changes people.  And you won’t accept that change if you’re too conservative.

God changed Abram from an old man with no sons – from Sarai anyway – to Abraham, the “father of a multitude of nations.”  God changed Sarai from a barren, childless old hag to Sarah, “the mother of the Church.”  And God changed Jacob – who also wasn’t afraid to argue with God – to Israel,  “Patriarchof the Israelites.”  The lesson:  Don’t be too conservative – too “literal” – in reading the Bible.  Let God change you – for the better…

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File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpg

Jacob wrestling with the Angel” – as a result of which his name got changed to Israel

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The upper image is courtesy of Abraham – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár.”

The “Sarai” image is courtesy of tâniarubiminenglish.blogspot.com.  (“Women in the Bible in real times,” and/orhttp://2.bp.blogspot.com/_W0RrCetBQQ0/TGoAWj…s1600/Bia49.jpg.”  Or you can just Google “sarah Bible image.” 

The image of Abraham counseling Sarai – “ Say you are my sister [ – as illustrated below right – ]” –  is courtesy of Abraham – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘Abram’s Counsel to Sarai’ (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot).”  Note that – according to the Bible (Genesis 17:17) – Abraham was ostensibly 10 years older than Sarah – but he looks much older in the picture.

Re:  “Abram to Abraham.”  See the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary to Genesis 17:5:

In Eastern countries a change of name is an advertisement of some new circumstance in the history, rank, or religion of the individual who bears it.  The change is made variously, by the old name being entirely dropped for the new, or by conjoining the new with the old;  or sometimes only a few letters are inserted, so that the altered form may express the difference in the owner’s state or prospects.,,  In dealing with Abraham and Sarai, God was pleased to adapt His procedure to the ideas and customs of the country and age.  Instead of Abram, “a high father,” he was to be called Abraham, “father of a multitude of nations.”

See also Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, which explained that at first “he was the father of Aram, and therefore his name was called Abram, but now he is the father of the whole world, and therefore called Abraham.”  As for his wife’s change of name – from Sarai to Sarah – see Genesis 17:15:  “God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai;  her name will be Sarah.'”  The notes indicate that the name “Sarai signifies my princess, as if her honor were confined to one family only,” while the name “Sarah” indicates a change of status, from a “princess,” to something more.  That is, “whereas formerly she was Abram’s princess only, she was henceforth to be recognized as a princess generally, i.e. as the mother of the Church.”  So God expanded her horizons.

The full Satucket readings for Saturday, January 20, were:  “AM Psalm 30, 32; PM Psalm 42, 43,” along with Genesis 12:9-13:1Hebrews 7:18-28, and John 4:27-42.  The full readings for Sunday, January 27, 2018, were:  “AM Psalm 55; PM Psalm 138, 139:1-17(18-23);  Genesis 18:1-16Hebrews 10:26-39; and John 6:16-27.  The Gospel reading included John 4:32, where Jesus said to His disciples – who had urged Him to eat – “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  That’s another indication that God didn’t intend the Bible to be taken too literally.

On that note, see also John 2:13-22, one of the recent Daily Office Readings:

The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’   Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’   The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The point there is that in saying “destroy this temple,” Jesus didn’t mean to be taken literally, but figuratively.  And that pretty much goes along with the major theme of this blog.

Re:  Genesis 18:16-33. That’s where Abraham was a real pain to God:

Abraham came near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?   Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’   And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.’  Abraham answered, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.  Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ And he said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’   Again he spoke to him, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’   Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.’ He answered, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’  He said, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’   Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’

The line – “Take Sodom and Gomorrah…   ‘Please!’” – harks back to a classic Henny Youngman one liner.  See Comedy Classics: Henny Youngman – “Take My Wife. Please.”

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.

 

 

“From Yahweh to Yahoo” – and the Great Dissenter

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – otherwise known as “The Great Dissenter…”

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

This blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us all to live lives of abundance (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (See John 14:12.)

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

It’s Wednesday, January 17, 2017, and snowing in God’s Country(See “Twitter erupts in memes, jokes and snowy scenes.”)

Which means we’re not supposed to leave home – i.e., drive on the roads.  Which also means I have no excuse for not doing a new post.  (The last was Happy Epiphany – 2018, 11 days ago.)

And just to catch you up, last Saturday,  January 13, was the Feast Day for St. Hilary.  See last year’s On Hilary – 1″L,” and HE was a bishop.  An aside: “Hilary’s parents were pagans – ‘of distinction.’  And he was said to have had a ‘good pagan education, which included a high level of Greek.'”  He went on to convert to Christianity, and ultimately became the Bishop of Poitiers(A city 210 miles southwest of Paris.)

But after that Hilary ran afoul of both church and secular authorities.  He backed the wrong side in the Arian controversy, and for that the Emperor Constantius II sent him into exile for four years.  But he put those years to good use.  In fact, his “dissents” became so persuasive that they were ultimately adopted as the “majority opinion.”  (So to speak.)

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr circa 1930-edit.jpgIn that he was not unlike Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., at right.  His “dissents were often prescient and acquired so much authority that he became known as ‘The Great Dissenter.’”

Anyway, Hilary – 1″L” concluded that sometimes God’s work means being “a disturber of the peace.”  (See Pastor denounces Trump’s ‘s–thole’ comments with red-faced Vice President Mike Pence in the pews.)  Which brings up a book from 15 or so years ago, getting my Master’s degree in Journalism:  From Yahweh to Yahoo!: THE RELIGIOUS ROOTS OF THE SECULAR PRESS.  The Amazon review said this:

{The book} provides a fresh and surprising view of the religious impulses at work in the typical newsroom…  Doug Underwood argues that American journalists are rooted in the nation’s moral and religious heritage and operate, in important ways, as personifications of the old religious virtues.

As a quasi-journalist I tend to agree.  And add that the same can apply to bloggers.

Definitions.netOr as has been said before, the job of both reporters and real Christians is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  The link gives a good history of the development of that concept, to wit:  That the job of both reporters and true Christians is to be “watchdogs:”

The “comfortable” were the fat cats in business and politics who were dabbling in crime and corruption behind the scenes.  The journalists saw their dual role in the media as both comforting the victims of corruption and also calling the sleazy fat cats to account for their crimes.

And while the phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible, “the concept of God comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted is thoroughly Biblical.”  See for example, Psalm 18:27, which in the NLT says of God:  “You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud.”

Dooley in 1900.jpgFor another look at the link between reporters and real Christians, see the original “Mr. Dooley.”  He was the “fictional 19th century Irish bartender” created by Finley Peter Dunne.  See Poynter:

“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”

(Emphasis added.)  Dooley was clearly being hyperbolic, but there are similarities.  Which is pretty much what Doug Underwood said in Yahweh to Yahoo!

Which brings us back to today’s Snow Day.  I’d found my copy of Yahweh to Yahoo earlier, and when I picked it up this morning, I found the back flap inserted between pages 276-77.  (A sign from God?)  The first sentence atop page 276:  “Journalists are highly attuned to hypocrisy, and their disgust at the discrepancy between what is preached and what is practiced among [some] religious folk can quite high.”  And note that I inserted the word “some” before “religious folk.”

I did that for a reason, expressed more fully in June 2014’s On “holier than thou.”  The gist of the post:  There are a lot of “prevailing quacks” in the Christian church.  The problem?  Such Bible literalists – who never go “beyond the fundamentals” – are both giving the rest of us a bad name and driving possible converts away in droves.  (Not to mention cheating themselves.)    

And that post included a quote from H. L. Mencken, in his Minority Report:

The only way that democracy can be made bearable is by developing and cherishing a class of men [ – people – ] sufficiently honest and disinterested to challenge the prevailing quacks.  No such class has ever appeared in strength in the United States.  Thus, the business of harassing the quacks devolves upon the newspapers.  When they fail in their duty, which is usually, we are at the quacks’ mercy.

The point of all this is that the right of dissent  – considering different points of view – is crucial to both personal spiritual growth and a healthy democracy.

For example, it was once said to be “contrary to Scripture” that the earth revolved around the sun.  But as I noted in Moses and Paul “dumbing it down,” the dissent finally prevaiied:

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 the Scripture…”

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Gene Kelly as the Mencken-like character in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind

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The upper image is courtesy of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “1978 postage stamp issued by the U.S. Post Office to commemorate Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.”

Re:  Holmes as “the Great Dissenter.”  See Amazon, The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind – and Changed the History of Free Speech in America.  But there are other claimants to the title.  See for example John Marshall Harlan – WikipediaNorman Thomas: The Great Dissenter – amazon.com, and International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame – Thurgood Marshall.  Marshall – the first black Justice – “became known as ‘the great dissenter’ for his vigorous opposition to majority Supreme Court decisions he believed violated human and civil rights.”  As for Harlan:

He was known as “the Great Dissenter” [as] the lone justice to dissent in one of the Supreme Court’s most notorious and damaging opinions, in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.  In arguing against his colleagues’ approval of the doctrine of “separate but equal,” John Marshall Harlan delivered what would become one of the most cited dissents in the court’s history.

The point being that “dissent” is essential to spiritual growth, for both persons and communities.  But see also Right to dissent legal definition:  While some on the Supreme Court have said  freedom of speech is absolute, most Americans agree with Justice Holmes:  The Constitution allows some restrictions under some circumstances.  See Shouting fire in a crowded theater.

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Returning to the notes:  See the full Daily Office Readings for Saturday, January 13, 2018 on Satucket:  “AM Psalm 20, 21:1-7(8-14); PM Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117;  Genesis 6:9-22Hebrews 4:1-13John 2:13-22,” which includes a blurb on Hilary (of Poitiers).  They include Hebrews 4:1-13 and John 2:13-22.  Hebrews 4:1-13 reads:  “So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;  for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.”  The point there is that after that initial Sabbath-day’s rest – see Genesis 2:2 – God went back to work.  (See Is God at Work in History? – Everyday Theology.)  The logical conclusion is that “in the hereafter,” those who “cease from their labors” for one “Sabbath” in heaven will also likely “get back to work.”  As to John 2:13-22:

The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’   Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’   The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The point there is that in saying “destroy this temple,” Jesus didn’t mean to be taken literally, but figuratively>  And that pretty much goes along with the major theme of this blog.

Re:  “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  See also Finley Peter Dunne – WikipediaTo comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortableSermon, Acts 19:1-10; 21-41, Comfort the Afflicted, and/or Who said comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

The lower image is courtesy of Inherit the Wind (1960 film) – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Gene Kelly as Hornbeck.”  The cast list included this note:  “Gene Kelly as E. K. Hornbeck of the Baltimore Herald (patterned after Henry L. Mencken).”  In fairness I add this:

[T]he film engages in literary license with the facts…  For example, Scopes (Bertram Cates) is shown being arrested in class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire-snorting preacher.  William Jennings Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady) is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a “busted belly” while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom.  The townspeople are shown as frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant. None of that happened in Dayton, Tennessee during the actual trial.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that 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?

Happy Epiphany – 2018

The “Adoration of the Magi” – by El Greco – celebrated on January 6 as part of Epiphany

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Saturday, January 6 , is the Feast of the Epiphany.

In the Christian church, that day “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”   But January 6 goes by other names as well.  For one thing, it’s known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas(And just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is known as Twelfth Night.)  Yet a third name for January 6 is Three Kings Day.

There’s more about the Three Kings later, but first note Satucket on Epiphany:

“Epiphany” is a word of Greek origin, related to such English words as “theophany,” “phenotype,” and “phenomenon.”  It means an appearance, a displaying, a showing forth, a making clear or public or obvious.  On this day, Christians have traditionally celebrated the making known of Jesus Christ to the world.

(See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”)

Here’s Matthew 2:1-12:  “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’” 

That news – of a “new-born king” – scared the heck out of Herod the Great.  (The “Roman client king of Judea.”  His “fright” led to the December 28 “feast” for the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - Adoration of the Magi - Google Art Project.jpgBut back to the Three Kings:  As Wikipedia noted, solid facts are hard to find:  “Though the event is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, there are no further details given with regards to their names, the number of Magi that were present or whether they were even royal.”  But for some solid theories see Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys.”  (Which includes information on the famed Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”)

Note also that the word originally used to describe the Three Kings was Magi, which gave rise to the current word “magic.”

Crossofashes.jpgFor more on the Season of Epiphany, see To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  That post notes that the full season runs from January 6 to – and through – the Last Sunday after the Epiphany.  This year, 2018, that date is February 11.  The following Tuesday, February 13, we celebrate Mardi Gras (A.k.a. Fat Tuesday.)  The day after that – February 14 – is Ash Wednesday, illustrated above right.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .

Getting back to the “eve” of January 6 as “Twelfth Night:”  That night is a “festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany.”  But as with some “holy-days,” that festival has gotten known for too much celebrating – if not debauchery – as shown in the painting below.  In fact, “Twelfth Night in the Netherlands became so secularized, rowdy and boisterous that public celebrations were banned from the church.

In other words, it became yet another occasion for “licentious, wild, and wanton partying [and] riotous pagan holiday spirits.”  (See Happy New Year – 2018?!?)  And that tradition goes back to the time before William Shakespeare. (1564-1616.)  See also Twelfth Night – Wikipedia:

“Twelfth Night” [in the play] is a reference to the twelfth night after Christmas Day, called the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany.  It was originally a Catholic holiday but, prior to Shakespeare’s play, had become a day of revelry.  Servants often dressed up as their masters, men as women and so forth.  This history of festive ritual and Carnivalesque reversal, based on the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia at the same time of year (characterized by drunken revelry and inversion of the social order; masters became slaves for a day, and vice versa), is the cultural origin of the play’s gender confusion-driven plot. [E.A.]

See also On coming home from a pilgrimage and the coming holidays.

So what’s the point?  One point could be that people love to party, and have since the beginning of time.  But another point could be that – also since the beginning of time – other people have found all that partying a bit too much.  As Wikipedia noted of Saturnalia:

Pliny [ – the lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome – ] describes a secluded suite of rooms in his Laurentine villa, which he used as a retreat: “…especially during the Saturnalia when the rest of the house is noisy with the licence of the holiday and festive cries.  This way I don’t hamper the games of my people and they don’t hinder my work or studies.”

Or as I noted in Happy New Year – 2018, “the web article on ‘The Truth About New Year’s‘ may convince you to stay home this New Year’s Eve…  But heck, I was going to do that anyway.  (Stay at home…)”  Not that I’m comparing myself to Pliny, but see also “great minds think alike.”

So – however you celebrate it – have a Happy Season of Epiphany, starting this January 6th.

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Twelfth Night (The King Drinks) by David Teniers c. 1634-1640.”

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘Adoration of the Magi‘ by El Greco, 1568, Museo SoumayaMexico City.”  See also Epiphany, from the “DOR” site.

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “Back to the Three Kings” is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘The Adoration of the Magi‘ by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

The lower image is courtesy of The Twelve days of Christmas.  See also the January 2015 post, On the 12 Days of Christmas, which noted, “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.”

 

 

Happy New Year – 2018?!?

“In Christendom … New Year’s Day traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ…”

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Just in case you were wondering, Christmas is not just one day, it’s a whole season.  Not a long season, just 12 Days (Which 12 days of Christmas have been immortalized by a “host of songs and spin-offs,” including one ending with “some parts to a Mustang GT.”)  And that 12-day Season of Christmas  ends on January 6, a day known in some quarters as “Plough Monday.”  

Plough Monday was the traditional start of the English agricultural year.  That was the time when people quit partying during the 12 days of Christmas and got back to work.  (See “Here’s to Plough Monday!” – 12/28/2015.)  Of course in our present day we get “back to work” on January 2.  That’s after we’ve spent New Year’s Day watching college football and/or recuperating from all the partying we did on New Year’s Eve.

But naturally that’s not how we celebrate New Year’s Day in the Universal Church (That is, the undivided church of the followers of Jesus, including Catholic and Protestant denominations.)  In that undivided church, January 1 is known as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus(See also The Holy Name, for one set of Bible readings for the day.)  But there’s another name, for the less squeamish:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ.  Since we are more squeamish than our ancestors,* modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older.  Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life,* and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.  [By and through the aforementioned circumcision, as illustrated above left.]

See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys.”  (From 1/4/2016.)  That post from last year at this time explains about Epiphany – the “Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as human in Jesus Christ” – celebrated on January 6.  It also explains that January 6 too has an alternate name:  “Three Kings Day.”  And we’re familiar with those three wise men today largely thanks to a Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”  (For a live “old-timey” version see the Kings College Choir, Cambridge.)  And just as an aside, they were also known as Magi, and in its original sense the term meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.”

But we’re digressing here…

Buzz Lightyear.pngFor more on the upcoming seasons of the church, see To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  (From January 14, 2017.)    The title of that post refers to Buzz Lightyear and his catch-phrase, “to infinity, and beyond!

The point being that practicing Christians also work to go “to infinity – and beyond!”  Or in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, to “live with confidence in newness and fullness of life,” and to await “the completion of God’s purpose for the world.”

But we were talking about New Year’s Day – and Eve – and the consensus seems to be that the origins of that time of celebration – if not debauchery – go back to pagan antiquity.

Back in 2,000 B.C. – 4,000 years ago – people in Mesopotamia – modern Iraq – started the practice of celebrating the new year.  But they partied hardy “around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March.”  The early Roman calendar too designated March 1 as the new year.

But then came the Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar.  It added ten days to the prior 355-day year, and had the New Year start on the first day of January.  (Named for Janus, the “two-faced” god of gateways and beginnings.  Another BTW:  We now use the Gregorian calendar, which started in 1582.)  And finally, for a really in-depth analysis of New Year celebrations going back to “pagan antiquity,” see The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration:

New Year’s Eve has become a time for people to wallow in excesses of liquor! The modern attitude seems to be, “have a wild time on New Year’s Eve, and turn over a new leaf on New Year’s Day!”  Most people seem to have convinced themselves that God is out of the picture for good. That God is not concerned with their modern revelings, drunken parties, promiscuous behavior!  

Be that as it may, the web article on “The Truth About New Year’s” may convince you to stay home this New Year’s Eve.  (For reasons including but not limited to New Year’s Eve being “noted for its licentious, wild, and wanton partying [and] riotous pagan holiday spirits – for the most part emanating from liquor bottles – all the while calling it “Christian!”)

But heck, I was going to do that anyway.  (Stay at home this evening that is…)

Have a Happy – and Safe – New Year! 

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“New York’s famed Times Square at midnight, December 31…”

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The upper image is courtesy of New Year’s Day – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “In Christendom, under which the Gregorian Calendar developed, New Year’s Day traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, which is still observed as such by the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church.”  Text and/or images for this post were gleaned from New Year’s Day – WikipediaThe History | Origin of New Years Day / December 31stThe Ancient Origins of New Year’s Celebrations, and/or The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration.  The latter article includes a sub-article on “The Modern Attitude of Compromise,” accepted by many ostensible Christians, with the comment that “Excessive drug use has become common at New Year’s Eve events.”

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference further explained in this “notes” section. Thus as to the definition of squeamish – as to the full meaning of January 1 in the Christian calendar – the term means “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things.”  The painting to the left of the paragraph in question is courtesy of Circumcision – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “The Circumcision of Jesus Christ, by Ludovico Mazzolino.”

Also, as to every Jewish boy being circumcised “on the eighth day of his life,” modern readers are sometimes confused by the Jewish method of counting days.  To us, the eighth day of Jesus’ life would be January 2, by starting the count on December 26.  But the ancient Jews – in effect – counted “inclusively,” meaning they started their eight-day count on December 25.  The main reason for such counting-of-days was that they had no way of determining “midnight” with any precision.  (The first “clocks” as we know them didn’t appear until the 1400s.)  Thus the Jewish day started “with the onset of night,” or dusk, or the setting of the sun.  See e.g.  Jewish Time – simpletoremember.com.

Note also:  This is why the Bible says Jesus was raised from the dead “on the third day,” Sunday, when He’d been crucified the previous Friday.  (See e,g, Acts 10:40.)  According to modern time, Jesus was raised on the second day, but that method is different from “Bible time.”  

As to the web article, The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration:  I’m pretty sure the authors of that site don’t agree with the premises of this blog, to wit:  That God will accept anyone;  That God wants us to live lives of abundance;  That God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus; and:  That the “only way to live live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is to read the Bible with an open mind.”    

The lower image is courtesy of The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration.  The full caption:  “New York’s famed Times Square at midnight, December 31, as thousands gather to usher in the pagan Roman New Year.  The undampended [sic] spirits of the crowd bring to mind the ancient Roman Saturnalia.”  Also note, “Photo by Countdown Entertainment LLC.”

 

On “Saint Doubting Thomas” – 2017

Thomas the Apostle, as envisioned in El Greco‘s “dramatic and expressionistic style…”

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The year 2017 is rapidly drawing to a close.  At the same time, Christmas is only a few days away.  But first comes the Feast day of Thomas the Apostle, on December 21.  And Thomas – in his own way – serves as a metaphor for all us “Doubters.”

(At least until we saw the light that is, and came to Jesus…)

Incidentally, after his “doubting episode” with the risen Jesus, Thomas traveled at least as far as India in his missionary journeys.  (The image at left shows the “Shrine of Saint Thomas in Mylapore,” where legend has it that he was martyred.)

You can read more about Thomas at St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas,” and On “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017.  The latter post noted that basically this “Saint Doubting Thomas” has two special days:  One in December right before Christmas, and one on the Sunday right after Easter.  That is, the first Sunday after Easter – officially the second Sunday of Easter – is known as  “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”  (In 2018, it falls on April 8.)

That Doubting Thomas Sunday – in Easter – is so called because it always features the Gospel reading from John 20:19-31:

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

But the second Sunday of Easter is also called the “Sunday of Many Names.”  Those names include the “Octave of Easter,” and “Quasimodo Sunday.”

(The “octave” in question is the eighth day of Easter, or Sunday right after Easter Sunday.  And “Quasimodo” doesn’t refer to the guy shown above right, better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  It refers to the Latin for the beginning of First Peter 2:2, also read that day.  In Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes.”  A rough translation:  “As if in the manner of newborn babes…”)

But we’re digressing here…

The point is that according to Wikipedia, the term Doubting Thomas refers to a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”

But that’s exactly what going to church and reading the Bible is supposed to provide:  An opportunity to have a direct and personal experience with the Force that Created the Universe (See Develop your talents with Bible study and The Bible and mysticism, which said Christianity is about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.”) 

The latter post on mysticism included the definition of a mystic as “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute…”  In other words, a person who seeks a direct personal experience with God.

The post also included a reference to page 339 of the Book of Common Prayer, which says that “by sharing Holy Communion we are assured ‘that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son…’”  (Emphasis added.)

Which – to my way of thinking – is what Christianity is all about:  Obtaining a mystical unity with God, through Christ, by and through direct personal experience,  just like “Doubting Thomas.”

So 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 to work on.

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….

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The “Mystic marriage of Christ and the Church…

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The upper 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.”

For more on “Quasimodo Sunday,” see The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary.

Re: I Saw the Light.  According to Wikipedia, this was a “country gospel song written by Hank Williams.”   While Williams’ version “did not enjoy major success during its initial release,” it was “soon covered by other acts and with time became a country gospel standard.”

The lower image is courtesy of Christian mysticism  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  

There really IS a “Saint Nick” (Virginia…)

The REAL Saint Nicholas – of Myra – “saved three innocents from death.”  (“Inter alia…”)

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Virginia O'Hanlon (ca. 1895).jpgAside from the ongoing Season of Advent – from December 3 to 24 – there’s another Feast day to celebrate in early December.  Wednesday, December 6, 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 Virginia – at left – “Yes, there is a Santa Claus,” he was telling the truth.

Or at least the truth as that term is defined in today’s politics.

But seriously, on December 6 each year Nicholas of Myra is celebrated as a friend of children, giver of gifts and climber of chimneys.  (“Etc.”)  And as noted in the painting atop the page, he was brave enough to “save three innocents from death.”

Nicholas was visiting a remote part of his diocese [when he heard of the “three innocents.”  He set out for home and] found a large crowd of people and the three men kneeling with their arms bound, awaiting the fatal blow.  Nicholas passed through the crowd, took the sword from the executioner’s hands and threw it to the ground, then ordered that the condemned men be freed from their bonds.  His authority was such that the executioner left his sword where it fell…

Location of Demre in Antalya province, Turkey.Incidentally, the three innocent men had been sentenced to death by the ruler of Myra – today’s city of DemreTurkey – “the corrupt prefect Eustathios [who] had accepted bribes to bring about the deaths of three men.”  This first St. Nicholas “was not one 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!!!

Then there were the stories of Nicholas of Myra’s “love for God and for his neighbor:”

The best-known story involves a man with three unmarried daughters, and not enough money to provide them with suitable dowries.  This meant that they could not marry, and were likely to end up as prostitutes.  [This was in “the good old days.”]  Nicholas walked by the man’s house on three successive nights, and each time threw a bag of gold in through a window (or … in colder climates, down the chimney).  Thus, the daughters were saved from a life of shame, and all got married and lived happily ever after.

Another story was more gruesome, but also had a happy ending.  During a time of famine, a butcher “lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning 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.

And it was from that “first St. Nicholas” that the jolly old elf at right evolved from.  (Even if some stories about him may lessen your appetite for pickled goods this holiday season…)

But then there’s the question:  “Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25, if St. Nicholas Day is December 6?”  There are a number of theories, but the most reasonable says that December 25 is nine months after March 25, by tradition the date of The Annunciation(I.e., the date of the “announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.” See On the Original St. Nicholas.)

You can see more at St. Nicholas [the] Saint Who Stopped an Execution, and Celebrating St. Nicholas: the Story of the Three Condemned Innocents.  Or from this blog, On the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick,” and On St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas.”  But in the meantime you can meditate on the image below of St. Nicholas “transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus…”

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St. Nicholas … “transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus…”

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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 upper image is courtesy of saint nicholas church st nicholas church is the most outstanding … tourmakerturkey.com, which added:  “The protective personality of St. Nicholas and desire of helping children in difficult situations have been transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus … appearing on Christmas Eve to make everybody happy.”

On St. Andrew, Advent, and “Prosperity Theology”

Artus Wolffort - St Andrew - WGA25857.jpg

St. Andrew – the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle” – brought his brother Peter along with him…

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Thursday, November 30, is the Feast day for St. Andrew.   And:  “Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year.”

Advent2007candlelight.JPGWhich brings up that Liturgical (church)  year that begins with the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas….”  The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah…  (E.A.)

As Wikipedia also noted, the church calendar “divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their own mood, theological emphases, and modes of prayer.”  Put another way, “Advent” begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and/or “the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day (30 November).”  So this year the First Sunday of Advent falls on December 3.  (Which is also the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s day.)

Incidentally, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmas Eve Day (Which is cutting it really close.)  

And which brings us back to St. Andrew.  As noted in St. Andrew, the “First Apostle,” Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know very little about him.   Which is another way of saying that he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four…   That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[.  In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

All of which means that if it hadn’t been for Andrew – dragging his brother along – we might never have had a St. Peter.   Also incidentally, St. Andrew ended up crucified on an x-shaped cross, as illustrated above left.  (Which will be tied in a bit further below…)

Andrew chose that method – according to tradition – because he  “deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been.”  And that x-shaped cross –  a saltire or crux decussata – is now commonly called a “Saint Andrew’s Cross.”  (Which appears on a number of flags and emblems, including Great Britain’s Union Jack, seen at right.) 

And that raises the question, How Did The Other Apostles Die?

Short answers:  Peter and Paul died in Rome around 66 A.D.  Paul was beheaded – an “honor,” because he was a Roman citizen – while Peter chose to be crucified upside down.  (Like Andrew, he “did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.”)  Matthias – who replaced Judas Iscariot – died by burning.  Thomas was “pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.” Philip was “arrested and cruelly put to death,” for converting the wife of a Roman proconsul. And James was said to have been “stoned and then clubbed to death.*”

And all of that brings up the hoax – if not heresy – of “prosperity theology.”

Briefly, prosperity theology “is a religious belief among some Christians [which] views the Bible as a contract between God and humans:  if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.”  Which brings up the question:  Didn’t the Apostles have faith in God?

The short answer is yes they did, but they certainly didn’t end up secure and prosperous.  They ended up with something far more precious, despite their gruesome deaths  See 1 Peter 1:6-7:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Then too, as Jesus Himself said in Matthew 6:24:  “No man can serve two masters…  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  (In the King James Version, the Bible God uses.  “Mammon” is illustrated above left.)  And speaking of a “contract,” according to the Wex Legal Dictionary it is an “agreement between private parties creating mutual obligations enforceable by law.”

So, if Mr. Prosperity Theologist feels like he isn’t getting all he “deserves” from God, in what court will he file a lawsuit?  (See e.g., You Can Sue God, But You Can’t Win.  For one thing, “There could never be service effectuated on the named defendant…”)  But we’re digressing here.

The point is that mixing up the worship of God and Mammon has been around since the time of Jesus.

The same could be said of “peddling God’s word,” along with other forms of hucksterism.  That’s also been around for some 2,000 years.  See for example, 2 Corinthians 2:17.  In the New Living Translation it reads, “You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit.”  Or in the New International Version:  “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.”

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You can read more on the upcoming Season of Advent in the following posts:  On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent(11/30/16.)  On Advent – 2015(11/30/15.)  And An early Advent medley (12/4/15.)

As to all of which a follower of prosperity theology might simply say, “Why bother with all that Advent rigamarole?  I’ve got a contract with God.  He owes me!!

In the meantime, the rest of us can enjoy the upcoming “time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  And also the calling of St. Andrew, who – along with his brother Peter – were two of the preeminent Apostles

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Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew,” by Caravaggio

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The upper image is courtesy of Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Saint Andrew the Apostle’ by Artus Wolffort.”  Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section. 

Thus as to how other Apostles died:  Of the rest of the 12, some accounts say Matthew “was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.”  There are various accounts of how Bartholomew “met his death as a martyr for the gospel.”  Simon the Zealot was said to have been “killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.”  Only John was “thought to have died a natural death from old age,” after writing the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.  But an early tradition had him “escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil.”

The “snake oil” image is courtesy of Patent medicine – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew – Art:

A beardless Jesus gestures Peter … and his brother Andrew to follow him…  Caravaggio gives his own interpretation.  Because of his prominence, the man on the left is thought to be Peter…  One of the details that shows this work must be the original is a carving in the ground layer under Peter’s ear.  Caravaggio often used such incissions [sic]…

See also, The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew – Wikipedia.

And finally, a distinction between “prosperity theology” and lives of abundance, per John 10:10:

“Abundant life” is a term used to refer to Christian teachings on fullness of life…  For a Christian, fullness of life is not measured in terms of “fun” and “living large”, or in terms of wealth, prestige, position, and power, but measured by fulfilled lives of responsibility and self-restraint, and the rewards and blessings that accrue over a lifetime of pleasing God. According to the abundant life interpretation, the Bible has promises of wealth, health, and well-being, but these promises are conditional promises.  

In other words – Mr. Prosperity Theologist – lots of luck in that lawsuit where you start off, “I’ve got a contract with God.  He owes me!!

On Thanksgiving – 2017

The “First Thanksgiving at Plymouth,” as envisioned by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

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I posted the painting above at the end of On the first Thanksgiving – Part II, in 2014.  (And an FYI:  I included a footnote – featuring Dirty Harry – which asked the rhetorical question“So, punk, do you feel like getting chastened and liberated?”)

Which had to do with pilgrimages in general.

And which seems especially appropriate, given my own recent pilgrimage to Spain and the Camino de Santiago.  (See “Hola! Buen Camino!”)  And incidentally, the “Santiago” in that pilgrims’ route refers to “St. James the Greater.”  He in turn is thepatron saint of pilgrims and pilgrimages.”  Further on, the post on St. James included this:

“In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”

I don’t know about that “state of beatitude” at the end of my Camino trip.  However, I do know that I was pretty darned happy to be back in the ATL and “God’s Country.”  Anyway, I ended the St. James post with this:   “you could say that – in a sense – we’re all Pilgrims

File:Louvin.jpgWhich brings us back to that First Thanksgiving…  And which ties in to my last post, “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Bear with me.

As noted,* the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock suffered greatly for their faith.  49 of the original 102 died between 1620 – when they landed – and that First Thanksgiving in 1621.  Of the 18 adult women, only four survived that first winter.  And they did all that  just to get the hell away from “conservatives” back home!

And incidentally, the word “pilgrims” – applied to passengers of the Mayflower – first came from the pen of William Bradford (Of whom it is said the author is a distant relative.) 

In his book, Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford wrote about whether they should return to England, from their stay in Holland.  He noted that he and his compatriots “had the opportunity to return to their old country but instead longed for a better, heavenly country.”

In other words, they wanted to get the hell away from “conservatives” back home!  (Conservatives, how about “Make America Better!”  It never stopped being great, fool!”)

Anyway, Bradford also wrote about conditions that made that decision easier:

[The “Pilgrims” in England] were hunted & persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them.  For some were taken & clapt up in prison, others had their houses besett & watcht night and day, & hardly escaped…

See Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony) – Wikipedia.  That site also said Bradford used the imagery of Hebrews 11 – “about Old Testament ‘strangers and pilgrims'” – to make his point:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning;  they were sawed in two;  they were killed by the sword. 

And all of which – arguably – came at the hands of conservatives.  The same “conservatives” who threatened to stone Moses, who insisted the world was flat and threatened anyone who disagreed, and burned people at the stake in the form of the Spanish Inquisition

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Of course some of the foregoing is mere hyperbole:  “exaggeration as a rhetorical device… In poetry and oratory, it emphasizes, evokes strong feelings, and creates strong impressions.  As a figure of speech, it is usually not meant to be taken literally.”

The problem is that today’s conservatives – in both politics and religion – have used hyperbole so long and so often that they do take it literally.  They ignore the fact that “If Jesus was a Conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”  (See The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says.)

Which leads to this thought:  It’s time for all of us to take a long pilgrimage away from our gross overuse of hyperbole – to the point where far too many people take it far too literally.  Enough of “strong feelings” and “strong impressions.”  Let’s all tone it down a bit.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…

That’s from Isaiah 1:18, in the King James Version(You know, the one God uses…)  And that seems to be a Bible passage that today’s “conservative Christians” seem to ignore.

Meanwhile, those of us who  aren’t “conservative Christians” still have reason to give thanks on this holiday.  Those of us who dare call such conservatives to account aren’t “hunted & persecuted on every side,” we aren’t “taken & clapt up in prison,” and we aren’t “put to death by stoning,” “sawed in two,” or “killed by the sword.”   (Not yet anyway…) 

*   *   *   *

As to the phrase “whole new world” in the caption below:  It’s “a nod to the song by that name in the movie Aladdin.”  See A whole new world … YouTube.  and Whole New World Lyrics:

“A whole new world,  A new fantastic point of view,  No one to tell us no,  Or where to go…  Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feeling, Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling, Through an endless diamond sky…”

All of which could describe the feelings of any pilgrim setting out for any “new world.”  But finding that New World necessarily entails getting the heck away from the conservatives!

But finally, to all y’all out there, liberal, conservative, and way too “moderate and nicey-nicey:”

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Or as it says in Deuteronomy 26:11, “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.”  But of course, the “emphasis” brings up a whole ‘nother subject entirely…

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 Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving conservatives back home, looking for a “whole New Wo-o-o-orld…*”

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The upper image is courtesy of Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, caption: “Jennie Augusta BrownscombeThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.” 

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the phrase “As noted,* the Pilgrims:”  This year’s post was gleaned – in reverse order – from past posts:  On Thanksgiving – 2016On Thanksgiving 2015On the first Thanksgiving – Part I, and On the first Thanksgiving – Part II.

Re:  William Bradford‘s use of Hebrews 11.  Wikipedia said he “used the imagery of Hebrews 11:13–16.”  The passage about people being sawn in two (etc.) is from Hebrews 11:35-37.

The caption for the map to the right of the paragraph beginning “See Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony) – Wikipedia,” is captioned:  “Samuel de Champlain‘s 1605 map of Plymouth Harbor, showing Wampanoag village Patuxet, with some modern place names added for reference.  The star is the approximate location of the 1620 English settlement.”

 The lower image is courtesy of Pilgrim Fathers – Wikipedia:  “Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.”  

“There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?

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It came most recently from Rick Santorum.  In 2008 he supposedly said, “There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.”  And although some debate whether he actually said that,* his sentiment is hardly new.

There was for example the 1952 song by the Louvin Brothers, “That word, ‘broad-minded’ is spelled s-i-n.”  (As shown in the image at the bottom of the page.)

One strange thing?  Ira Louvin was “notorious for his drinking, womanizing, and short temper.”  (Or maybe it wasn’t so strange after all.)  Ira ended up getting married four times, and his third wife Faye ended up shooting him six times.  (Four times in the chest And that was after one time he allegedly beat her up.  See On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n.”)

And then of course – more recently – we’ve seen the saga of Judge Roy Moore.

But we’re digressing here.  The point is that in the interest of turnabout is fair play, it’s time for someone to say, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

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As noted previously, my brother and I recently hiked the Camino de Santiago(From September 13 to October 12, 2017.  See “Hola! Buen Camino!”)  And one thing you definitely have time for – on such a long and arduous pilgrimage – is a lot of thinking.  (In mile after  mile of hiking.)  And one thing I definitely thought about was:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle!

As in:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle about what this particular blog is all about…

Which brings up the question in the caption above:  Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God … and risk being transformed (See also On arguing with God.)

(In Jacob’s case he got transformed significantly,  He had his name changed – from Jacob to “Israel” – and then became “Father of the 12 tribes of Israel.”  See Genesis 32:22-32.  If he’d been a conservative, Jacob would probably have been content to stay Jacob…)

William TyndaleSo anyway, the answer is probably not.  (A conservative Christian wouldn’t think of wrestling or arguing with God.)  But an FYI:  The link to the definition of “transformed” in the caption above leads to the King James Dictionary (And you can’t get any more “old school” than that.  As I’ve noted, the King James Version is the “Bible God uses.”  See Bill Tyndale [left] – who[se] Bible you could actually READ!)

In turn, the King James Dictionary defines “transform” – in one sense – as “to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”  Using that definition, it would seem most so-called conservative Christians would prefer to stay caterpillars.

Another definition is in the field of theology, where it means to “change the natural disposition and temper of man from a state of enmity … into a disposition and temper conformed to the will of God.”  (The KJ Dictionary even provided a Bible quote, from Romans 12:2:  “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”)  And that leads to another observation:  That one thing conservative Christians hate – and/or can’t handle – is change.

Which raises a question:  “Is God really a bloated, sanctimonious old white guy in a pin-striped suit?”  And that leads to another definition of “transform” from the KJ Dictionary:

Among the mystics, to [“transform” is to] change the contemplative soul into a divine substance, by which it is lost or swallowed up in the divine nature.

And if there’s another thing so-called conservative Christians hate, it’s the term “mystic.”  (Or mysticism.)  Which led me to note previously:  “The terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”

All of which leads to the question:  Should “real” Christians be narrow-minded or broad-minded?  To me, the best answer to that question comes from Luke 24:45:  “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Which brings up the Daily Office Readings for Monday, November 13.  They included Matthew 15:1-3:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,  “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”  He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

And incidentally, the image at right is by Gustave Doré, “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.”

Another note:  The “DORs” are the Daily Office Readings.  (See What’s a DOR?)  And that brings up the DORs for this morning, Thursday, November 16.  They included Matthew 16:12:  “Then they understood that he” – Jesus – “had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees.”  And that’s a problem we’ve had ever since…

That is, at least initially the “relationship between Early Christianity and Pharisees was not always hostile.”  (Paul the Apostle was a Pharisee, at least initially.)  But as the term has evolved – and as it is now used in the lower case – the term pharisee has come to mean a “sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.” 

So it seems to me that a lot of “Christians” who say they’re conservative are actually pharisees.

For example, when I just Googled the phrase “negative Christians,” I got over 500,00 results.  And when I Googled “hypocritical Christians,” I got 189,000 results.  But to me, real Christians aren’t negative, self-righteous, sanctimonious or hypocritical.  Real Christians work every day to make the world a better place, plowing ahead, while the pharisees get all the negative press.

Which of course leaves the rest of us with a heavy cross to bear.  And that leads to a final note:

“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…” 

And that’s another problem that we’ve had since the time of Jesus…

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File:Louvin.jpg

Would the Louvins let Jesus “open their minds,” per Luke 24:45?

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The upper image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.  For more on the idea of “struggling with the idea of God,” see On arguing with God (posted May 2014) and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella (posted April 2016).

Re:  Rick Santorum.  See also The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to debate about Santorum’s supposed comments, see e.g. Liberal media shamelessly twists comment from Rick Santorum.  And aside from the Louvin Brothers’ sentiment, see also The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:

Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom.  Freedom from tradition, freedom from institutions, freedom from authority, freedom from dogma.  The freedom to be and do as you choose…  Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin.  In short, it is anathema to God and should be recognised and treated as such by all who consider themselves Christian.

And an FYI:  I Googled the phrase “there’s no such thing as a conservative Christian” and got some 17,500,000 results, including the following:  Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian.  His name was Jesus (HuffPost), Rick Santorum In 2008: There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal ChristianNo Such Thing As A Liberal Christian – tgm.org, and Article on: There is no such thing as a conservative-Republican Christian: Jesus is a small-c communist.  Thus it seems the title was designed to be deliberately provocative, as was this thought in the main text:  “consider now that you have been led to associate ‘Jesus’ with the views of those who are not really Christians.”  Which is pretty much the theme of both this blog and this particular post…

Re:  “Conservative Christians” and mystics:  See The Bible and mysticism, or The Christian repertoire.

Re:  Jacob being transformed.  See 9 Famous Fathers in the Bible, and also Genesis 32:22-32:  

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,  because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Re:  “Narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading.”  See On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

The lower image is courtesy of The Louvin Brothers – Wikipedia.