On Independence Day, 2018

A turtle biting a man carrying a barrel to a waiting ship

Thomas Jefferson‘s Embargo had many Americans “declaring independence” – from him!

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

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

The fourth – and most overlooked – is the need to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

A lot has happened since June 22 and my last post.  But to cut to the chase:  The caption for the image at the top of the page is:  “A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the ‘Ograbme,’ which is ‘Embargo‘ spelled backwards.”  As noted below, President Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807 was “one of the most self-defeating laws ever passed in American history.”

For an explanation of the symbols in the cartoon, see the notes.  But the point is that even a smart guy like Thomas Jefferson could have some really stupid ideas.

And all of which also goes to show that this whole idea of independence – whether national, secular or religious – can be messy.  (If not “revolutionary.”)

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So again, a lot has happened since June 22.  Among other things, we as a nation celebrated Independence Day, July 4th.  I did a post two years ago on the holiday – Independence Day, 2016 – that went into great detail on Thomas Jefferson.  And his writing the Declaration of Independence.

And about some of the “ramifications thereof.”

One ramification is that “independence” – freedom, if you will – can be really messy.  Which brings up Wikipedia on the touchy subject of winning – and keeping – “independence:”

Whether the attainment of independence is different from revolution has long been contested, and has often been debated over the question of violence as legitimate means to achieving sovereignty.  [Emphasis added.]

In other words, the ideas of independence and revolution have long been “inextricably intertwined.”  And that idea troubles many conservatives, Christian or otherwise.

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One big reason freedom – for all people, including those “not like us” – is that so many other people seem to make so many stupid choices.  See the Prayer Book‘s Outline of the Faith:

Q.  Why then do we live apart from God and out of harmony with creation?  A.  From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choicesQ.  Why do we not use our freedom as we should?  A.  Because we rebel against God, and we put ourselves in the place of God.

Which I suppose is just a way of saying freedom means the ability to make stupid choices.  See also Living Stingy:  “You can’t have freedom, unless you have the freedom to make bad choices.”

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Which brings us back to President Jefferson‘s Embargo Act of 1807.  As Wikipedia said:

”Widespread evasion of the maritime and inland trade restrictions [of the Act] by American merchants, as well as loopholes in the legislation, greatly reduced the impact of the embargo on the intended targets in Europe.”

Among other results, Great Britain gladly took over the trade routes America gave up – and lost – by and through the Embargo.  In plain words, the Embargo cost a lot of American jobs.

Another author said the Embargo Act was “one of the most self-defeating laws ever passed in American history.”  Mostly because it “took no account of economic realities.”  (Which Jefferson-supporters might have called “fake news.”)  But in the end:

The legislation was unenforceable:  goods were taken Canada and then quietly brought across the border, or smuggled in by fishing boats…  But industry and trade still suffered:  New York came close to seceding, such was the crisis it was undergoing…

All of which sounds vaguely familiar, somehow.

But getting back to the focus of this blog:  We should note July 4th is not just a secular holiday but a religious feast day(As noted in the link Independence Day.)  And speaking of unpleasant reality:  The first Bible reading for July 4 includes Deuteronomy 10:19:

When you have entered the homeland that God gives you, serve Him faithfully.  Deal generously with the alien and the homeless, for you were homeless aliens in the land of Egypt.*

Which goes to show today’s so-called “Conservative Christians” – who support the present hard-line on immigration – are arguably acting “contrary to Scripture.”

Which is why we have Ezekiel 3:16-19 (“Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman“).

As detailed in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other, Ezekiel says that our duty as Good Christians is to warn each other.  To “argue” with each other and thus – in the process – arrive at a better understanding of “the Truth.”  (And not just yell “fake news” to any information we disagree with or can’t handle.  Or pull the “you’re going to hell” card.)

As Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (Which means those people who yell “fake news” are arguably also acting “contrary to Jesus.”)

But getting back to Thomas Jefferson and his role as Founding Father.  Although he made mistakes, he also did a heck of a lot of good for this country.  As noted on his tombstone:

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.

So Jefferson himself considered his writing the Statute for Religious Freedom just as important – if not more important – as his writing the Declaration of Independence.

But there’s one other big thing he did.  He took a chance and doubled the size of the then-existing United States.  He did this by the Louisiana Purchase, “one of his greatest contributions to the United States.”  (And by far “the largest territorial gain in U.S. history.”)

Which goes to show that Thomas Jefferson was not a conservative, Christian or otherwise…

He wasn’t afraid to take a chance, and he wasn’t about to be bound by “conservative strictures.”  And because of this trait, Americans had a whole new territory to explore.

Or as noted in the INTRODUCTION, the Bible itself opens up a whole new world!  (Not the crappy Old World best left behind.)  Or a “new continent opening up after Lewis and Clark:”

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

(That is, “Get out there and use your freedom – properly – to explore your God-given destiny…”)

Which is another way of saying that real freedom – real independence – is so exciting and rewarding precisely because you always take the chance of falling flat on your face.

Like Thomas Jefferson.

And most “conservative Christians” are afraid to do just that…

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Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase – in white – doubled the size of the existing United States… 

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The upper image is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the “Ograbme”, which is “Embargo” spelled backwards (1807).”

As to the symbols in the cartoon, see “O Grab Me” Political Cartoon – Embargo of 1807:

Man to the far Left is a British man who is upset because Americans cannot and will not sell goods to the British.  The Turtle represents the American government, which is making sure that the American does not sell goods to the British.  The man carrying the barrel represents an American who wants to sell goods to make money but cannot due to the Embargo Act.

(*)  The quote for Deuteronomy 10:19 is from the “religious feast day link Independence Day.”  But see also cross references to Leviticus 19:34 – “You must treat the foreigner living among you as native-born and love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” – and Ezekiel 47:22:

You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners who dwell among you and who have children.  You are to treat them as native-born Israelites; along with you, they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.

It should be noted that officially the “prayer book” referred to is the Online Book of Common Prayer. (At page 845.)  See also Wikipedia, referring to the “short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion … and other Anglican Christian churches.  The original book, published in 1549 in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English Reformation.”  

Also re:  The Embargo Act of 1807.  See Wikipedia:

Most historians consider Jefferson’s embargo to have been ineffective and harmful to American interests[, and] as Jefferson’s “least effective policy…”  [Historian] Joseph Ellis calls it “an unadulterated calamity…”  Jefferson believed that the failure of the embargo was due to selfish traders and merchants showing a lack of “republican virtue.”

There’s that darn independence again… 

Re:  “Inextricably intertwined.”  See also Evidence legal definition – Quimbee.

Re:  “Another author wrote.”  The quoted portions are from Dark History of the American Presidents (Power, corruption, and scandal at the heart of the White House), by Michael Kerrigan (Amber Books, 2013 edition), at pages 41-41.

The lower image is courtesy of Louisiana Purchase – Wikipedia.

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I should also note:  The Bible readings for July 8th – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost include 2 Corinthians 12:2-10.  I described the reading in 2017’s Paul describes an out-of-body experience:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.  And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

Just in case you were interested in such things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Jeff, here’s your millstone!” (And Sarah too…)

Image may contain: one or more people

Matthew 18:6, on Jesus and His heavy millstone for those who “offend these little ones…”

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

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

The fourth – and most overlooked – is the need to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

The Gospel reading for Monday, June 18, included Matthew 17:20.  That’s where jesus said this:

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed [as seen at left], you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I wanted to connect that verse to John 14:12, noted above.  That’s where Jesus said He expected His disciples to perform greater miracles than He did (And how no Christian can hope to do that by reading the Bible in a cramped, “strict” or literal way.) 

But first a word about the Trump Administration’s “Koncentration Kamps for Kiddies.”

For starters, officials including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited the Bible to support such separation camps.  Specifically, Romans 13, vis-a-vis Submission to Governing Authorities.  But that in turn sparked a backlash.  See for example The Bible verse Jeff Sessions used to defend immigration crackdown once also defended slavery.  And, more recently, A Brief History of People Using Romans 13 to Justify White Supremacy, and The Real Story Behind the Nazi Establishment’s Use of ‘Romans 13.’

(And by the way, the Conservatives now in power seem to have forgotten all about  Romans 13 when Barack Obama was president.  And they were “failing to obey” him.)  

Meanwhile, Monday on Facebook I cited some other quotes from the Bible.  They included Luke 18:16 and Matthew 18:6 (And – in a potential “Sign from God” – it turned out that Matthew 18:6 was part of the Gospel reading for Wednesday, June 20.) 

In Luke 18:16, Jesus said, ”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  More to the point, Matthew 18 starts with this:

[T]he disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Which just goes to show that Jesus – unlike too many officials in the current Administration – had a special place in His heart for innocent, unspoiled children.

But wait, there’s more!  Jesus went on to give an even more specific warning.  (Like maybe for some who purport to follow Him, but who are in fact “slow learners?”)

For example, in Matthew 18:5 Jesus said, “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”  Which seems pretty clear.  But just in case there are some really slow learners out there, Jesus went on to add this proviso, in Matthew 18:6:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

And by the way, that’s from the King James Bible (You know, the one God uses?)

Further – since we’re dealing with slow learners here – let’s point out that since most of the children now in “tent cities” in the Southwest come from Mexico, they are almost all both Christian and Catholic.  (See Religious Beliefs In Mexico – WorldAtlas.com: “More than 90% of Mexicans identify as Christians, and more than 90% of those Christians are Roman Catholic.”) 

Therefore, we can safely deduce that the overwhelming majority of those children now being separated from their parents qualify under Jesus’ “little ones who believe in me” proviso.

So, in the manner of Bill Engvall and his “Here’s Your Sign” comedy routine:  To Jeff, Sarah (and others in the Administration), “Here’s your millstone!”

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Meanwhile, back to Matthew 17:20(And moving mountains with faith the size of a mustard seed.)  Thanks to such “flaming liberals” as Franklin GrahamLaura Bush, and Orrin Hatch – along with 12 other Republican Senators – Donald Trump just signed an executive order ending family separations.  In other words, enough people from both parties got together and got Donald Trump to change his mind, and maybe even to see the light!

Talk about moving mountains

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The upper image is courtesy of Millstone – Image Results.

The “mustard” image is courtesy of Parable of the Mustard Seed – Wikipedia.

The complete Daily Office Readings for Monday, June 18, are:  AM Psalm 78:1-39; PM Psalm 78:40-72Numbers 11:1-23Romans 1:16-25; and Matthew 17:22-27.  The full Readings for Wednesday, June 20, are: AM Psalm 119:97-120; PM Psalm 81, 82 Numbers 11:24-33 (34-35)Romans 1:28-2:11; and Matthew 18:1-9.

Re:  “Romans 13, vis-a-vis Submission to Governing Authorities.”  Jeff and Sarah also apparently failed to recognize that in America, “We the People” are the governing authority, not some temporary office-holder.  See also Preamble to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia.

The “Luke 18:16” image is courtesy of Luke 18 16 – Image Results

Re:  Donald Trump’s executive order ending family separations.  See also Trump caves, signs executive order, and Trump’s immigration reversal creates its own chaos (CNN).

The lower image is courtesy of Jake Blues Sees Light – Image Results.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth

The FSU Women’s first CWS title:  A recent example of the Law of unintended Consequences?

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I’m working on a new post on my “practice of religion.”  (My ritual sacrifice, if you will…)

That practice – obviously –  involves reading the Bible on a daily basis.  (Starting back in 1992.)  But it also involves my exercising seven hours a week, in an ongoing “search for the functional equivalent of Moses holding his hands up at Rephidim.”  Which is another way of saying Moses may well have been the first man to say “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”  (Or see God’s Favorite Team” – Part III” – with the image at right – for a fuller explanation of my ‘mystic quest.”)

Also – in my mind anyhow – that practice also recently helped FSU‘s Women’s softball team – seen celebrating at the top of the page – win their first-ever national championship.

I’ll be writing more on my Ritual Sacrifice in a later post, but for now:

Let’s focus on the Gospel lesson for todaySunday, June 10

That would be Mark 3:20-35, where Jesus was “accused by His family and by Teachers of the Law.”  First, His family accused Him of being  crazy.  (“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”)  Second, the so-called “teachers of the law” insisted that Jesus could only cast out demons because He was possessed by demons Himself.  (“He’s possessed by Satan…  That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”)  

Which led to this judgment by Jesus, found in Mark 3:28-29:

“Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;  they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

For a fuller commentary on that “eternal sin,” see Mark 3:29 Commentary (Bible Hub).  But – as one of my former priests once summarized – the concept behind this passage is pretty simple: “If you’re afraid you might have committed this ‘eternal sin,’ you probably haven’t.”

That’s another way of saying that if you insist that you’ve never sinned, you could be in big trouble.  Or that it’s only the sin you’re not aware of – or refuse to consider – that can really get you in trouble.  But in church this morning, during the sermon, I had another thought.  Mark 3:29 could be a classic example of Jesus applying Deuteronomy 19:16.

I explored that “Deut. 19:16” concept in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  Posted last April 8, that post explored the idea of people making false accusations:

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.

(BTW:  The full cite would be Deuteronomy 19:16-19.  Which could really get a lot of people in trouble these days.)   So basically the so-called “teachers of the law” accused Jesus of being  “possessed by Satan, the prince of demons.”  Which in turn meant that they were liable to end up being punished as if they were in fact “possessed by Satan, the prince of demons.”

TimeWhich is not a pretty picture – or subject – to contemplate.  And this is my point:  Like Tom Cruise in the film A Few Good Men, all real and true Christians simply Want the Truth.  They want and need to find out things as they really are, mainly in their own self-interest.  As noted, the only real “unforgivable sin” is the one you’re not aware of.

For other relevant summaries, see The Truth of God – Bible Hub, and/or Truth – Wikipedia.  Then there’s John 14:6: Where “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’”

Which brings us back to my theory that – since 1992 – my ongoing ritual sacrifice has helped some of my favorite teams, including but not limited to teams from FSU (Where I graduated law school in 1984.)  For starters, since 1992 the FSU football team has won three national championships.  Also, “my” Tampa Bay Bucs won a Super Bowl.  “My” Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.  I got “my” L.A. Dodgers to Game 7 of last year’s World Series.

(Somehow I have to figure out how to get the Dodgers over the hump.)

This year I got “my” FSU basketball team to the Elite 8.  FSU’s Mike Martin became the winningest coach in college baseball history.  And of course the FSU Women’s Softball team won it’s first College World Series title.  The strange thing is that I was sorely disappointed when the FSU men’s baseball team got eliminated in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.  And that’s where the Law of unintended Consequences may have come in.  Or put another way:

God answers our prayers, but not always the way we expect.

So I prayed and “sacrificed” for the FSU men’s baseball team to win a national championship, only to have the Women’s softball team win their first national championship.

Which means this Eternal Search for Truth is an ongoing process.  Again, I hope to explore this process in future posts, but in the meantime I’ll go on following my own particular “practice of religion.”  For one thing, I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere.

For another thing:  So far the results haven’t been too bad…

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Like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, all true Christians simply “Want the Truth!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Florida State wins 1st softball national championship.  (News4Jax | Jacksonville, Florida News, Weather, Sports.)

Re “Unintended Consequences.”  The link is to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.  But see also Unintended consequences – Wikipedia, which distinguished an unexpected drawback and/or “perverse result” from an unexpected benefit, to wit:  “A positive unexpected benefit (also referred to as luckserendipity or a windfall),” as in the Florida State earns first Women’s College World Series title example.  (Of which more in a later post…)

Re:  It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”  The link is to On “God’s Favorite Team” – Part III.  See also Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  (In my companion blog.)

Re;  My ritual sacrifice.  You could also call it a kind of “mystic quest,” if not a “canary in a coal mine” protocol:  “The phrase ‘living like a canary in a coal mine’ often refers to serving as a warning to others.  The actual canary had little control over its fate, but it continued to sing anyway.  In one sense, living this way indicates a willingness to experience life’s dangers without compromise.”

The “is truth dead” image is courtesy of Time Magazine Asks ‘Is Truth Dead?’ in Trump Era – TheWrap.

The lower image is courtesy of Tom Cruz I Want Truth – Image Results.  

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On another note, tomorrow – June 11 – is the Feast Day for Saint Barnabas:

The apostle and missionary was among Christ’s earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church.  Though not one of the 12 apostles . . . he is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ and [the] most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves.

 See On St. Barnabas, posted in June 2014, on this “Apostle of Second Chances.”

The Trinity – Jefferson’s “3-headed monster…”

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800).jpg

As smart a guy as Thomas Jefferson couldn’t understand the Doctrine of the Trinity

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pentecost copyLast Sunday, May 20, 2018 was the Day of Pentecost (illustrated at left by El Greco.)  It’s also called Whitsunday.  This Sunday, May 27, was the First Sunday after Pentecost It’s also known as Trinity Sunday.

There’s more on the Trinity below – along with the “Three-headed Monster” – but first:  For more information on May 20 and Pentecost, see Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016Mary’s Visitation – and Pentecost – 2017, and Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Before the events of the first Pentecost … there were followers of Jesus, but no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.”  Thus … Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.  This is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it.  Thus Pentecost is the church’s birthday.

Pentecost also marked a big change in the idea of “Ministry.”  In the Old Testament, “the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings.”  But starting with Pentecost, God recruited “all different sorts of people for ministry.”  That is, the Holy Spirit – the spirit of ministry – now became available to anyone and everyone:  “All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.”

Thus the first Pentecost was indeed a “momentous, watershed event.”

Incidentally, the word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek for “the 50th day,” and it’s always celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday.  (That’s “seven weeks plus one day.”) 

For more information on May 27, 2018, see On Trinity Sunday, 2015, and On Trinity Sunday (2016) – and more!  For starters, Trinity Sunday is always the Sunday after Pentecost, and  celebrates the idea of the three Persons of God:  Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

Trinity Sunday … is one of the few celebrations of the Christian Year that commemorates a reality and doctrine rather than a person or event…   The Trinity is one of the most fascinating – and controversial – Christian dogmas.  The Trinity is a mystery.  By mystery the Church does not mean a riddle, but rather the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol, and faith.  It has been said that [this] mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.

(Emphasis added.)  In other words, the Trinity as a concept is so difficult to understand that even a smart guy like Thomas Jefferson couldn’t do it.  But while Jefferson referred to the Doctrine of the Trinity as a “Three-headed Monster,” I prefer the metaphor of “an ocean in which to swim.”  (For a long, long time – and ultimately the rest of your Christian pilgrimage on this earth.)

It also seems to me that – while Jefferson was really smart – he fell into the “common error of thinking that he could ever really understand everything there is to know about God.”

But as noted above, “the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension.”  It’s a reality that we can only begin to grasp.  The same seems to be true of much of the Bible, and especially the “mystical” parts.  (Which may be why some choose “literalism.”  It’s ever so much easier…)

That brings up the Gospel for May 27, John 3:1-17.  There Jesus had a talk with a “Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews” who was really a “Christian,” but secretly.  And even a smart guy like Nicodemus – shown at right talking with Jesus – didn’t understand the idea of being “born again.”

His problem?  He took Jesus’ words too literally:  “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old?  Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
…  If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Which goes to show that reading the Bible too literally can only take you so far in your spiritual journey.  As Jesus Himself noted, the Bible includes many realities that are simply above our human comprehension:  “How can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

See also the end of John, John 21:25, which said there were many other things Jesus did, “which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”  (Also there’s Ecclesiasticus 42:17, the Old Testament DOR for the Eve of Trinity Sunday:  “The Lord has not empowered even his holy ones to recount all his marvellous works.”)  Which just goes to show there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.

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The artist He Qi‘s interpretation of The Holy Spirit Coming down…  

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The upper image is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Thomas Jefferson, Official White House Portrait, by Rembrandt Peale, 1805.” 

The full set of readings for Pentecost Sunday (5/20/18):  Acts 2:1-21, or Ezekiel 37:1-14Romans 8:22-27, or Acts 2:1-21John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15, and Psalm 104:25-35, 37.  The full set of readings for Trinity Sunday (5/27/18):  Isaiah 6:1-8Psalm 29Romans 8:12-17, and John 3:1-17.

Pentecost is also called “Tongue Sunday,” for the “tongues of fire” that appeared that day, as noted in Acts 2:3.  Also for “speaking in tongues” – also known as glossolalia – noted in Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Third, Pentecost marks the beginning of “Ordinary Time” – as it’s called in the Catholic Church – and shown in the chart at left.  Such “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church year.  In the Episcopal Church – in the Anglican liturgy  – the Season of Pentecost begins on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and goes on “through most of the summer and autumn.”  It may include as many as 28 Sundays, “depending on the date of Easter.”

As to Whitsunday: The name is a contraction of “White Sunday.”  In English “the feast was always called Pentecoste until after the Norman Conquest, when white (hwitte) began to be confused with wit or understanding.   [In] one interpretation, the name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens, those expecting to be baptised on that Sunday…  A different tradition is that of the young women of the parish all coming to church or chapel in new white dresses on that day. 

Re:  “Ecclesiasticus.”  That book – not to be confused with Ecclesiastes – is also called the Wisdom of Sirach And the “book itself is the largest wisdom book from antiquity to have survived:”

Sirach is accepted as part of the Christian biblical canons by CatholicsEastern Orthodox, and most of Oriental Orthodox. The Anglican Church does not accept Sirach as protocanonical, and says it should be read only “for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

Note that the link in the main text provides the King James translation of Ecclesiasticus 42:17.  The quote as given in the main text is from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The lower image is courtesy of The Good Heart: Holy Spirit Coming (Painting by He Qi):  

“A genuinely good heart is a heart that is open and alight with understanding.  It listens to the sorrows of the world.  Our society is wrong to think that happiness depends on fulfilling one’s own wants and desires.  That is why our society is so miserable…”

See also He Qi « Artist:  “One could say that among other things his paintings are a celebration of colour.  The style of his work is iconic, and [his] images are strong but gentle.”

 

The “stick figure” parable…

Image titled Draw a Stick Figure Step 7

This is the faith of a boot-camp Christian.  (Who never goes “beyond the Fundamentals…”)

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The “stick” drawing above is a kind of parable.  That’s the kind of story that Jesus used to tell:

Jesus’s parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, often with imagery, and all convey messages.  Scholars have commented that although these parables seem simple, the messages they convey are deep, and central to the teachings of Jesus.

In doing so, Jesus followed Psalm 78:2:  “I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things…”  (See also Matthew 13:35:  “So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:  ‘I will open my mouth in parables;  I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.'”)

And incidentally Psalm 78:2 was one of the Daily Office Readings for May 8, 2018.

So here’s the point:  If you stay a boot-camp Christian – if you never go “beyond the Fundamentals” – your life and your faith will look like the stick-figure drawing at the top of the page.  But, if you read the Bible with an open mind – if you follow Luke 24:45 – your life and your faith will more closely resemble the much more in-depth oil painting at the bottom of the page.  Full of depth, full of life, and much more pleasing.  So much more pleasing in fact that other people around you may want to imitate what you’ve done, and follow your path.

Which is – after all – the whole point of evangelism.  Making the Faith attractive, not driving potential converts away “in droves.”  (See Perverting “Fundamental” – ism.)  

Or as the old idiom says: A picture is worth a thousand words

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Now about that idea that you need to read the Bible with an open mind:  The Pulpit Commentary for Psalm 78:2 said the “facts of Israelitish history are the ‘parable,’ the inner meaning of which it is for the intelligent to grasp.”  (Emphasis added.)  See also Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Psalm 78:1-8:  “These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into.”  (Emphasis added.)

The latter added: “Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy” (sic).  (“Apostasy” is the “abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person,” but that’s all a whole ‘nuther story altogether.)

Anyway, there are problems interpreting “the law of the Bible.”  And that’s especially when that “law” comes in the form of a parable.  See On three suitors (a parable):

Jesus taught primarily through  parables.  When Jesus spoke in such parables, they were “very much an oral method of teaching.”  That method of teaching left it up to the listener to decipher the meaning of the parable, to him.   Or as Jesus said on several occasions, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  [See Matthew 11:15 and Mark 4:9.]

The commentaries on Matthew 11:15 add that interpreting such a parable requires “more than ordinary powers of thought to comprehend.”  And that God asks “no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us.  People are ignorant, because they will not learn.”

The commentaries to Mark 4:9 indicate that – in reading the Bible with an open and discerning mind – the words of God to Ezekiel (33:32) are fulfilled, “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice.”  Or for that matter, “A very lovely work of art.”

The problem came when these oral-tradition parables were finally written down.  (At least 20 years after the fact, as in Mark, “the first gospel.”)  In translating the parable from oral to written form, an interpretation had to be added to it.  In Hebrew the word for such interpretation is mashal, or allegory.  In the alternative the word is nimshal, in  the plural, nimshalim:

The essence of the parabolic method of teaching is that life and the words that tell of life can mean more than one thing.  Each hearer is different and therefore to each hearer a particular secret of the kingdom [of God] can be revealed.  We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves.

Which raises a good question:  How do you “literally interpret” a parable?

Or a work of art, for that matter?  In turn the question becomes:  How do you interpret that parable – or work of art – in such a way to develop your own talents?

One answer is that you can. (Literally interpret.”)  But if you do that, your “faith” will more closely resemble the primitive, undeveloped stick-figure drawing at the top of the page…

You make the call!

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6 Ways to Create Depth in Your Landscape Painting

This represents the faith of those who read the Bible with an open mind

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The upper image is courtesy of How to Draw a Stick Figure: 7 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow.

The image to the right of the paragraph beginning “The ‘stick’ drawing above” is courtesy of Parables of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Parable of the Prodigal Son by Guercino.”

Re:  Oil painting being like reading the Bible.  See Copying a masterpiece … Fine Art Painting:

Studying a master’s work by copying it can have beneficial effects on our own work.  It can help us through a tough time, like when we’re not sure where our art is going.  It can inspire us to get to that next level!  It can help understand about the painting process he or she used, the palette and color mixes.  Learning by copying was done throughout the history of art.

In this case, the “master’s work” we copy is the Bible, with its stories written by men and women in the long-ago past who managed to forge a relationship with the Living God.  “Copying” their work “can have beneficial effects on our own work.”  I.e., our own work learning to sing a NEW song to God…

Re:  Problems interpreting the Bible.  See also in On three suitors (a parable):

[Then] there’s the Hebrew style of writing;  in Hebrew there are no vowels, and the letters of a sentence are strung together.   An example:  a sentence in English, “The man called for the waiter.”  Written in Hebrew, the sentence would be “THMNCLLDFRTHWTR.”  But among other possible translations, the sentence could read, in English, “The man called for the water.”

The full title of the last-noted blog-link is Develop your talents with Bible study.  That post discussed Matthew 25:14-30, with the Parable of the talents.  There, the “slothful” servant didn’t “develop his talents.”  He just buried the money in a hole.  So metaphorically, he – that slothful servant – “fit his talents into a pre-formed, pre-shaped cubby-hole.”

The lower image is courtesy of 6 Ways to Create Depth in Your Landscape Painting. The painting is by Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947), “an American Western landscape painter and muralist.”  See Wikipedia:  “Payne is most remembered for his work of American Indians of the Four Corners area, and, of course, the paintings of his beloved Sierras.  In the Sierras, high up in Humphrey’s Basin, you will find the lake named for him, Payne Lake.”

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

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus might have added, “Go beyond the “fundamentals…”  

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Narrow Is the GateThe Daily Office Readings for Saturday, May 5, 2018, included Matthew 7:13-21.  Specifically, they included Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

But what did Jesus mean when He said that?  Just what is the “narrow gate?”

The traditional view is that getting through the narrow gate means you should spend your life “staying pure.”  Or spend that life focusing on staying “sinless.”  That view in turn implies that no matter how much suffering is going on in the world, no matter how many millions of people are starving, or are oppressed, or are otherwise being killed off or maimed, none of that matters to God as long as you – yourself – stay “sinless” and “pure.”

Which sounds to me – after 13 trips through the Bible – like a crock.

It seems to me – after a lifetime of experience, and going through the Bible 13 times now – that there’s a better, more accurate answer.  That answer is:  “Forget about staying pure:  Do something with your life!”  In other words, God probably couldn’t care less how “pure” you stay, if you do nothing to help make the world a better place.  If further words:  Don’t turn too “conservative!”  See for example How narrow is the narrow gate? – GotQuestions.org.

The gist of that post is that “many will follow the broad road.”  And that’s what we have in America today.  The “many” are following the broad road of so-called “Conservative Christianity.”  (Which to me is a classic oxymoron, or more precisely, a contradiction in terms.)

That is, there are a great many so-called Conservative Christians in America today, and they are the “many” who showed their power by helping elect Donald Trump.  Then too, they are the “many” who are driving other Americans away from the Christian Faith, “in droves.”  See No wonder there’s an exodus from religion, which began with this:

Do you wonder why the proportion of Americans declaring themselves unaffiliated with organized religion has skyrocketed in recent decades?  This trend is especially pronounced among adults under 30, roughly 40 percent of whom claim no connection to a religious congregation or tradition and have joined the ranks of those the pollsters call the “nones.”

The article noted the “partisan irresponsibility” creating a powerful skepticism among young Americans “about what it means to be religious.”  (Largely due to “Trump-humping evangelicals.”)  In plain words, young Americans increasingly see a strong connection between organized religion and conservative politics.  To them, conservative politics and organized religion stand together, and they are leading us “toward the right in the culture wars.”

Which is bad news for those of us striving to be “Real Christians.”  (And for the Faith itself.)  See No wonder:

If a chaplain could be rebuked for voicing [a] simple and undeniable truth, what’s the point of the “religious liberty” that Trump and his GOP allies celebrate?  And when will those who advertise themselves as religion’s friends realize they can do far more damage to faith than all the atheists and agnostics put together?

The “chaplain” was Reverend Pat Conroy, Chaplain to the House of Representatives, just fired and “re-hired” by Paul Ryan.  And the long and short of the story is that House Republicans were more inclined to fire their chaplain than “impose accountability on a president who is a proven liar and trashes the rule of law for his own selfish purposes day after day.”  In other words, they were more inclined to “comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.”

But we digress.  The point of this post is that becoming a “conservative Christian” is taking the easy way.  And that’s because it’s so much easier to be a “literalist.”  You don’t have to think, you don’t have to take chances, you never have to worry about falling on your face because you made a wrong decision.  In other words, you never truly “live,” and you will certainly never, ever get to the point where you can perform greater miracles than Jesus, as He commanded.

You want proof?  Check out the Wikipedia article on the Beatitudes:

Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result.  In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation

http://cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-reviewIn other words, if Jesus had been a conservative, we would never have the Beatitudes.

In further words, it’s the Christians who choose to remain conservative – who choose to never graduate from spiritual boot camp (at right) – who are the “many” taking the broad, easy road.  It’s only we – striving to be “real Christians” by following Luke 24:45 – who will get through that narrow gate.  And on that I am literally betting my life…

So what could happen if you do turn too conservative?  You could end up a Pharisee:

Because of the New Testament‘s frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers … the word “pharisee”… has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit.

In other words, the Pharisees were a “plague unto Jesus” in His own time, and they remain so “even to this day.”  (Indeed, perhaps more so.)  And that is leading to what Paul noted in Romans 2:24:  “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

In plain words, those “Trump-humping evangelicals” are failing in their duty to God…

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 The ongoing “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees….”

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The upper image is courtesy of Sermon on the Mount – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Sermon on the Mount’ by Carl Bloch.”  The article noted that this Sermon is best known for the “Beatitudes,” which “present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction;  they echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion.” 

The complete Bible readings for Saturday, May 5, 2018 are: “AM Psalm 75, 76; PM Psalm 23, 27 Lev. 23:23-442 Thess. 3:1-18Matt. 7:13-21.”  The full set of Bible readings for Monday, May 7:  “AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 77, [79] Lev. 25:35-55Col. 1:9-14Matt. 13:1-16.”

See also the Bible readings for Friday, May 4, which include Matthew 7:1-2:  ““Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  That’s another Bible passage “more honored in the breach” by today’s “Trump-humping evangelicals.”  See also On “holier than thou”,” about Jesus’ Parable of the Mote and the Beam)  The full readings for Friday, May 4, 2018:  “AM Psalm 106:1-18; PM Psalm 106:19-48[;] Lev. 23:1-222 Thess. 2:1-17Matt. 7:1-12.”

Re:  Comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.”  As noted in “Trump-humping,” the real job of both Christians and reporters is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  See also James 4:6:  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

The lower image is courtesy of Pharisees – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Gustave Doré:  Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.”  As to placing the letter of the law above its spirit, see 2d Corinthians 3:6.

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Re:  The number of times I’ve read through the Bible.  See Reflections on a loss:

I started my spiritual journey that led to this blog back in the summer of 1992.  That’s when I started reading the Bible on a daily basis – using the DORs – and also started fine-tuning my exercise “ritual sacrifice.”

Re:  “Blasphemed among the Gentiles.”  The quote is from the English Standard Version.  See also the New Living Translation: “No wonder the  Scriptures say,  ‘The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.'”  This follows Romans 2:23:  You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law?  See also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

From the LXX. version of Isaiah 52:5…  The Apostle [Paul] is not careful as to the particular context from which he draws.  He knew that he was giving the substance of Scripture, and he takes the aptest words that occur to him at the moment. Translated into our modern modes [it] amounts to little more than “in the language of Scripture.”  The intention, as so frequently with St. Paul, seems, as it were, to be divided between proof and illustration.

Then Jesus “opened their minds…”

 “Jesus’ ascension to heaven,” by John Singleton Copley – after He “opened their minds…”

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The Gospel lesson for Sunday, April 15, 2018, was Luke 24:36b-48 (According to the Revised Common Lectionary, for Sunday Bible readings.)  That Sunday reading included Luke 24:45:  “Then he” – that is, Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Which is precisely the point of this  blog…   Opening your mind when reading the Bible.

I wrote about Luke 24:45 last May in Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”

(A note:  Last year Ascension Day was on May 25.  This year it’s coming up on May 10.  That’s because it’s always “celebrated on a Thursday …  the 40th day of Eastertide, the 50-day church season running from Easter Day to Pentecost Sunday.So anyway, here’s the point I was trying to make:

Luke 24 [included] the Road to Emmaus appearance.  [Shown below.]  That [was] followed in turn by the last of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.  The two disciples at Emmaus had gotten up and “returned at once to Jerusalem.  There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together.”  Jesus then appeared in the midst of all of them, and taught them things;  i.e., He “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (E.A.)

1602-3 Caravaggio,Supper at Emmaus National Gallery, London.jpg

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Put another way, the key point was that some people may object to reading the Bible with an open mind.  But if they do, we can always say we’re “just following the example of Jesus as told in Luke 24:45.”  See also “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  That post noted the difference between real Christians and “Pharisees.”  (Conservatives posing as Christians):

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 speaking of reading the Bible with an open mind, consider the “Daily” readings for Sunday, April 22, 2018.  Those Daily Office Readings included Mark 6:30-44.  That Gospel reading included the story of Jesus feeding the multitude(In this case, about 5,000.)

I wrote about that episode in April 2014’s Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  That post explained the difference between the traditional – or narrow-mindedinterpretation of the story, and one more in line with reason and experience.  That is, in the narrow-minded view, Jesus performed a fairly-routine magic trick.  (A “pure miracle, plain and simple.”)  The miracle can’t be explained rationally and was never meant to be understood rationally.

But there is a non-traditional view, and it’s based on the idea that some people in Jesus’ time never left home without taking a spare loaf of bread – or some other food – stashed somewhere in the folds of their robes.  Under that theory, Jesus started off with faith, and in turn got other people to act on that faith, and share what they had.  I ended the post this way:

Suppose the lesson Jesus intended to teach us was that – by His example – He got a bunch of normally-greedy people to share what they had.  That by His example, Jesus got those normally-greedy people to share so much of their own stuff that no one – in the crowd of “5,000 plus” – went hungry.  And more than that, there was even a surplus.  The question is:

Which would be the greater miracle?

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“Feeding the multitudes,” by Bernardo Strozzi….

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Ascension of Jesus, with the full caption:  “Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775.”   

The full set of readings for Sunday, April 15, 2018, were:  Acts 3:12-19Psalm 41 John 3:1-7, and Luke 24:36b-48.  The full set of “Daily” readings for Sunday, April 22, 2018, were “AM Psalm 63:1-8(9-11), 98; PM Psalm 103;” along with Exodus 28:1-4,30-381st John 2:18-29; and Mark 6:30-44.

And incidentally, April 25, 2018 was the Feast Day for St. Mark, who wrote the first and shortest of the four Gospels.  For more see On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.”  That is, at one point Mark’s was “the most ‘dissed‘” of the four Gospels:  For example, St. Augustine called Mark “the drudge and condenser” of Matthew’s Gospel.  The “Cinderella” angle started with serious Bible scholarship in the 19th Century, which noted that “the other three Gospels all cited material from Mark, but ‘he does not do the same for them.’”  The conclusion?  “Mark started the process and set the pattern of and for the other three Gospels.  As a result of that, since the 19th century Marks’ “has become the most studied and influential Gospel.”  See also More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.  Or you can type in “St. Mark” in the search box above right for more on this saint.

The “shown below” image is courtesy of Supper at Emmaus (Caravaggio, London) – Wikipedia:

The painting depicts the moment when the resurrected but incognito Jesus, reveals himself to two of his disciples…  Cleopas wears the scallop shell of a pilgrim [and] gesticulates in a perspectively-challenging extension of arms in and out of the frame of reference…  The painting is unusual for the life-sized figures, the dark and blank background.  The table lays out a still-life meal.  Like the world these apostles knew, the basket of food teeters perilously over the edge.  [E.A.  Talk about Deja Vu All Over Again…]

Re:  “Which would be the greater miracle?”  That is, which would be the greater miracle, the Almighty Son of God performing a fairly routine magic trick, or a religious leader getting “normally greedy people” to share what they had?  I’m guessing the latter would be the greater miracle…

The lower image is courtesy of Feeding the multitude – Wikipedia The full caption:  “Jesus feeding a crowd with 5 loaves of bread and two fish,” by Bernardo Strozzi, circa 1615.

 

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

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

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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.

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?