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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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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 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.) 

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 “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.”

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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, with the addendum, “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?

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?

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?