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

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a great American who “challenged the prevailing quacks…

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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 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:

A dear friend recently directed my attention to this article:

After NPR’s Embarrassment It’s Clear:  We Need More Christians in Media.

I’ll get to the gist of the article in a moment, but first I’d like to note a reader comment.  It came below the article’s text and said, “We need more serious Christians – not Trump-humping evangelicals – in media.”  Which led to this response, by Patriotmom:  “The serious Christians I know would not call someone a ‘Trump-humping evangelical.'”

Which is probably true.

“Patriotmom” probably doesn’t associate with anyone in her inner circle who would “call someone a Trump-humping evangelical.”  But that doesn’t really answer the question:  Could any serious or “true” Christian use the phrase “Trump-humping evangelical?”

For myself, I must confess – I do not deny, but confess – that I was very taken by the term “Trump-humping.”  As a writer, “Trump-humping” strikes me as a great example of the literary device of assonance(I.e., the “repetition of similar vowel sounds within a word, sentence, or phrase.”)  Simply put, “Trump humping” rolls trippingly off the tongue.

And according to the Bible, I do qualify as a serious or “true” Christian.  That’s according to Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  And I have said and believed…

(See also 1 Corinthians 12:3:  “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”)

So anyway – and to cut to the chase – here’s the conclusion of NPR’s Embarrassment:

What is needed more than anything in the world of mass media today is a substantial influx of new reporters, journalists, and anchors who can speak intelligently about Christianity…

I couldn’t agree more.  But more important, we need good Christians who can conduct spirited debate on the fundamentals of the faith – but without using the “roast in hell” card.

That’s also a Bible concept, based in large part on Ezekiel 3:16-19 (characterized as “Ezekiel’s 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.

Which led to the original title of this post:  “Good Christians SHOULD argue with each other.”  (That in turn is based on 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 the reason that good Christians should be able to argue with each other – without resorting to the “you’re going to roast in hell” card – is based on Deuteronomy 19:16-19:

If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time.  The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party

In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  Of course I don’t particularly care if a “Trump-humping evangelical” roasts in hell for eternity.  But it’s my duty – and my CYA – to warn him of the danger.  (Per Ezekiel 3:16-19.)

Thus this blog-post.

But getting back to reporters “who can speak intelligently about Christianity:”  I’ve noted before – in offerings including The Scribe – that about “12 years after I started practicing law, I went back to school and got a Master’s Degree in Journalism.”  And for that degree program I had to do a course project, the functional equivalent of a Master’s thesis.

The title of my 2003 Course Project?  “A Reporter’s Guide to Religion.”

But I doubt if it’s the kind of “reporter’s guide” that Patriotmom has in mind.  For one thing, it started out quoting H. L. Mencken, saying a reporter’s job is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  That sentiment – I wrote – was mirrored by Russell Baker “in a 1999 speech at Harvard.”  Which – as it turns out – is also the job of a good Christian, “according to the likes of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1861-1918) and Baptist minister Walter Rauschenbusch.”

Which in turn is based on James 4:6:  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Put another way, it might be best to paraphrase another quote from Mencken and say that the job of both reporters and Christians is to “challenge the prevailing quacks.”

 (See also “From Yahweh to Yahoo,” a post discussing the 2008 book by Doug Underwood, providing a “fresh and surprising view of the religious impulses at work in the typical newsroom.”  

I hope to write more about these topics – and more about my “Reporter’s Guide to Religion” – in future posts.  But for now it’s enough to say that, it seems to me anyway:

Trump-humping evangelicals are the “prevailing quacks” these days…

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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.”  The image was also featured in the January 2018 post, “From Yahweh to Yahoo” – and the Great Dissenter.”

Re:  Trippingly off the tongue.  See eNotes Shakespeare Quotes, which indicates that the phrase – from Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 1–4 – was originally “trippingly on the tongue.”  See also Wordnik: rolls-trippingly-off-the-tongue, about words that are just “fun to say.” 

For a critical view of the adversary system as a search for truth, see Adversarial Inquisitions: Rethinking the Search for the Truth.  (NYLS Law Review.)

The Ezekiel – Wikipedia image caption:  “Russian icon of the Prophet Ezekiel holding a scroll with his prophecy and pointing to the ‘closed gate’ (18th century, Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Russia).”

For more on the Mencken-Baker thought, Google “comfort the afflicted afflict the comfortable.”

Re:  “Patriotism.”  See Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel:  Samuel Johnson, and also (False) Patriotism Is the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel.

The lower image is courtesy of The Atlantic Magazine (April, 2018) How Evangelicals Lost Their Way – And Got Hooked on Donald Trump.  For another take, see Frances FitzGerald on how evangelicals lost their way, and/or How Christianity Lost Its Voice in Today’s Media Driven World.

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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?

Palm Sunday: To “not sin,” or to accomplish something?

Is this the face of a prophet?  He did say to mind your own business, just like Jesus did…

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Two mornings ago I was reading the DORs for Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018.

For some reason Psalm 103 struck a chord, but not in a good way.  It seemed to focus on “sin,” in the manner of so many “busybodies” who masquerade as “good Christians.”  (Illustrated at right.)  See for example 2d Thessalonians 3:11 … Bible Hub, and the citations therein.  And see also – from the Palm Sunday readings –  Psalm 103, and especially Psalm 103:3 and Psalm 103:10.

All of which led to this question:  What does God want us to actually do with our lives? 

Should we focus on trying not to do anything wrong?  Or should we focus more on actually doing something with our lives?  Put another way:  Should we focus on developing the talents and gifts that God gave us?  Or – as some Christians seem to imply – “We have to focus on staying ‘sinless,’ and thus on staying Simon Pure?”  (A term which can mean either “genuinely and thoroughly pure,” or “superficially or hypocritically virtuous.”  The problem?  Too many so-called “Conservative Christians” seem to fit the latter meaning…)

http://www.releasetheape.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/arrow-target1-890x556.pngMy theory is that God would prefer that we actually do something positive with our lives, and not worry so much about not making mistakes.  See for example On sin and cybernetics, which noted “You can’t hit the target without ‘negative feedback,’” shown at left, and also that:

Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us get closer to the target next time out, even if we never become “perfect.”

And which also leads to the Biblical concept about Minding Your Own Business.  There was a variation on that theme by Hank Williams.  (“Hank the Elder.”)   It has the standard chorus, “If you mind your business then you won’t be minding mine.”  And it closes by saying, “if you mind your own business you’ll stay busy all the time.”  You’ll be so busy, in fact, that you won’t have time to be telling other people how to live their lives.  (I.e., being a “busybody.”)

Which is actually Biblical.  See Matthew 7, and especially 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye:”

Here the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount … gives a new motive to the work of self-scrutiny and self-reformation…  When we have wrestled with and overcome our own besetting sins, then, and not till then, shall we be able, with the insight and tact which the work demands, to help others to overcome theirs.

See also On “holier than thou,” for more on the Parable of the Mote and the Beam (In which Jesus warns His followers on “the dangers of judging others, stating that they too would be judged by the same standard.”)  That post also presented an easy test:  “Being aware that you may be self-righteous – or have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude – is a strong indication that you probably don’t have either problem.”

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And speaking of Palm Sunday, it’s that time of year again.

We are now in the midst of Holy Week.  On that note, see the following posts:  From 2015, On Holy Week – and hot buns;  from 2016, On Holy Week – 2016; and from 2017, Psalm 22 and the “Passion of Jesus.”  The latter post included the image below, with the note about Good Friday, to wit:  “Here’s a spoiler alert:

There is a happy ending, and we get to find out all about it next Sunday…”

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Thepassionposterface-1-.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Hank Williams – Wikipedia:  “Hank Williams in concert in 1951.”

The complete set of Daily Office readings for Palm Sunday:  “AM  Psalm 24, 29Zech[ariah] 9:9-121 Tim[othy] 6:12-16;  PM: Psalm 103Zech[ariah] 12:9-11,13:1,7-9;” and Luke 19:41-48.

The “masquerade” image is courtesy of Drama – Wikipedia:  “Comedy and tragedy masks.”  See also Definition of two-faced by The Free Dictionary.

The lower image is courtesy of Passion of the Christ – Wikipedia.  It was also used in the 2017 post, Psalm 22 and the “Passion of Jesus.” 

A “creepy end,” and a new beginning…

A sentiment from Isaiah 33:6  –  that is not to be interpreted too literally or “fundamentally…”

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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:

My last post was on the Bible’s erotic love song – from last year.  In it I noted that writing this blog has become simplified.  (When necessary.)  For example, I can go back and re-visit “this time last year,” as I’ve done recently.  Like in Erotic love song, where I went back to February 15, 2017.

(Which included “Stumpy,” at right, who took the Bible too literally…)  And in the footnotes of that post, I said that also about this time last year, I posted On the “creepy” end of Isaiah and The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras(Which I said “may be explored in near-future posts.”)

Or you could just call it tweaking previous posts, as in “to adjust” or “fine-tune.”

So anyway, in the post “Creepy” end of Isaiah, I talked about the controversial end of John Steinbeck‘s 1939 novel, Grapes of Wrath (Where the character “Rose of Sharon” takes pity on a dying old man, “and offers him her breast milk to save him from starvation”):

At the time of publication, Steinbeck’s novel “was a phenomenon on the scale of a national event.  It was publicly banned and burned by citizens, it was debated on national talk radio; but above all, it was read.”

I added that one big reason the novel got banned and burned was its “surprise ending.”  Which – as it turned out – was simply a variation on the theme set out in Isaiah 66:10-11:

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her;  rejoice with her in joy … that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast;  that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.

The point of that post was that the Book of Isaiah has a great reputation.  In fact, some have called it “The Fifth Gospel.”  But it didn’t earn that reputation by being too conservative.   Put another way,  the Book of Isaiah – “and indeed the Bible as a whole” – was written and designed to give us all a “rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”  (Thus it is not to be taken too literally, unless of course you’re in boot-camp or simply “sticking to the fundamentals.”)

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Another post I wrote about around this time last year – March 20, 2017 – was On my “pain in the back.”  In it I wrote about tweaking my back, as in “injuring it slightly.”  I was training for my upcoming hike on the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, and decided to try a “forced march.”  (Also known as a “loaded march.”)  So for six miles I hiked-and-ran with a 22-pound weight vest.

To make a long story short – I overextended.  There were warning signs of course, like the fact that it hurt to breathe during those minutes I was jogging with the weight vest on.

Unfortunately, I succumbed to the temptation to “Walk it offNancy!

Bad move!

But there was a happy ending.  Or more precisely, a New Beginning.

MISSIONACCOMPLISH George W. Bush White House IraqThat is, on September 8, 2017 – the day I flew from Atlanta to Madrid – I posted On a pilgrimage in Spain.  Then, on October 25, 2017, “Hola! Buen Camino!”  That one marked a Mission Accomplished, and here’s what I wrote about that pilgrimage in Spain:

Well, we did it.  My brother and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday, October 12.  This was after hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago…   Along the way I occasionally listened to my iPod Shuffle – to help pass the time – and one of my favorite songs was It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.  Except in my mind I had to change the words to “It’s a long way to Santiago!”

In other words, in the September 8 post I talked about an upcoming project, and in the October 25 post I celebrated the accomplishment of that projected pilgrimage.  But of course that wasn’t the end of the story.  Which brings up a good question.

That question is:  “How long do I have to keep up with this Christian pilgrimage?  How long do I have to keep on reading and studying the Bible, and applying it to my own life?”

To paraphrase the answer from an old Zen master, “Until the day you die!”  In other words, the pilgrimage continues.  In further words, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over!”

Or to put it a third way, Every day is a new beginning!

Even if you do end up riding your metaphoric bicycle into a ditch every once in a while…

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The upper image is courtesy of Rockefeller Center – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The detail over the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza showing the biblical verse Isaiah 33:6.”  The quoted translation is from King James Bible:  “And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation:  the fear of the LORD is his treasure.”

Also this time last year, I posted On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down” (March 27, 2017), which – along with The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras – “may be explored in near-future posts.”

Re:  The paraphrased answer from an old Zen master:  See On Saint Teresa of Avila, which included the following notes on “Deshimaru’s The Zen Way to Martial Arts:”  

The full title of the Amazon book is The Zen Way to Martial Arts: A Japanese Master Reveals the Secrets of the Samurai.  The quote itself is from the 1991 Arkana Books edition, translated by Nancy Amphoux.  Also on page 3, Deshimaru told of a student who asked, “How many years do I have to practice Zazen?”  (The meditation technique used by Zen masters.)  His answer, “Until the day you die.” 

The “Mission Accomplished” image is courtesy of Mission Accomplished | Know Your Meme:

“Mission Accomplished” is a catchphrase … from the infamous banner sign displayed in the background during former President George W. Bush’s 2003 speech onboard USS Abraham Lincoln, where he announced the end of major military combats in Iraq.  Already facing global anti-war protests and unstopping insurgency, photographs of President Bush delivering his speech in front of the banner soon became a target of online parodies and symbol of public skepticism towards the Bush administration’s handling of the war.

But see also, George W. Bush Reportedly Sounds Off On Trump: ‘Sorta Makes Me Look Pretty Good.”

Re:  “It ain’t over til it’s over.”  See Yogi Berra’s ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over’ true in baseball as in life,” which offers a thoughtful analysis of that and other “Yogi-isms.”

The lower – “bicycle in a ditch” – image is courtesy of Cyclist falls into ditch at opening of new safer bike path …telegraph.co.uk.  I used it in the post “Hola! Buen Camino!”  

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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?

The Bible’s erotic love song – from last year

King Solomon – shown visited by the Queen of Sheba – wrote the Bible’s “erotic love poem…”

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I’ve gotten to the point – in writing this blog – that I’ve covered most of the feast days and Bible readings.  So now I’m free to go back and re-visit “this time last year.”  And, when necessary, review what I wrote, then update based on what’s happened during that last year.

Or I can go back to those lessons that need repeating:  Such as Jesus giving a simplified, “Cliff’s Notes” summary of the whole Bible, noted below.  (He “boiled the whole Bible down to two simple ‘shoulds.'”)

But first, let’s go back to February 15, 2017, when I posted The Bible’s “erotic love poem.”  That referred to the Song of Songs, also called the “Song of Solomon,” since he’s the one who wrote it.  (According to tradition.)  And incidentally, according to 1st Kings 11:3, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, so he knew “whereof he spoke.”

And the Bible’s erotic love poem – also called the Song of Songs – including this passage:

Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.  Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.  Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.  Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.

Which made me wonder:  Why don’t Fundamentalists interpret the Song of Songs literally?  Why don’t those Bible Literalists adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” of this book, like all the others in the Bible?  Could it be a matter of selective interpretation?

Isaac.Asimov01.jpgHere’s Isaac Asimov‘s answer: “Because of the erotic nature of the book, it has been customary to find allegorical values in it that would make it more than a description of bodily passion:”

Jews would have it speak of the love between Yahveh and Israel; Catholics of the love between Christ and the Church;  Protestants of the love between God and man’s soul.  However, if we simply accept the words as they stand, the book is a human love poem and a very beautiful one.

Which is fine, but why not be consistent?  Or – in the alternative – why reject a spiritual, or even (gasp!)liberal interpretation of the Bible, in favor of only a literal interpretation?

Which brings up the whole point of this blog:  That if you limit your Bible study to a purely literal interpretation, you’re robbing yourself of at least half it’s value.  But if you look at the Bible with an open-minded spiritual interpretation, your study can take you to exotic adventures and explorations that you couldn’t have dreamed of before.

Or as Paul said, God made us “servants of a new covenant not based on the letter [of the law] but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (2d Corinthians 3:6.)  Or see Luke 24:45, where Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”  Put another way, if Jesus had been a conservative – or a literalist – we’d all still be Jewish.

And besides, by taking that “open” approach you won’t have to find a non-erotic literal-but-pure meaning of “your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand…”

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Now, back to that “Cliff’s Note.”  See “Bible basics” revisited,” citing Matthew 22:37-39:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ said:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Which means that whenever you read something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, or might mean two different things, or seems contrary to “common sense,” you have this Summary to fall back on.  (It also works when a slick-haired televangelist says what just doesn’t sound right.)

In other words, don’t take an isolated passage from the Bible out of context and have your whole life revolve around.  Don’t be like “Stumpy” – the snake handler below – based on a too-literal interpretation of Mark 16:18.  Use a little common sense!

Or at least be consistent.  If you interpret Mark 16:18 literally, do the same for Song of Solomon 7:1-3:  “Your rounded thighs are like jewels…  Your two breasts are like two fawns…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Solomon – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon,’ oil on canvas painting by Edward Poynter, 1890.”

Note also that aside from The Bible’s “erotic love poem,” posted about this time last year, I also posted On the “creepy” end of Isaiah and The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras, which I may explore further in a near-future post.

The lower image is courtesy of Snake handling – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Snake handling at Church of God with Signs Following, Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky 15 September 1946 (National Archives and Records Administration).  Photo by Russell Lee.”

 

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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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.

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.