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On a pilgrimage in Spain…

I’m going east to explore Spain.  (That’s where Columbus – center – started west to explore us…)

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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:

In less than 24 hours I’ll be winging my way from Atlanta to Madrid (As in Spain.)  From there I’ll take a train to Pamplonafrom whence my brother and I will hike 450 miles in 30 days.  (On the Camino de Santiago.)

Which brings up the whole “whence we came” thing.  (As illustrated above right.)  That phrase is attributed – variously – to John F. KennedyJames Baldwin, and Jesus.

John F. Kennedy put it this way:  “When we go back to the sea … we are going back from whence we came.”  And James Baldwin said, “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”  Jesus said – in the King James Version of John 8:14 – “I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.”  

But unlike Jesus, many of us have no idea – spiritually – “whence we came.”

Which pretty much sums up the whole idea of going on a pilgrimage.  Put another way, both the Bible and a good pilgrimage can help answer life’s three biggest questions:  “where did I come from, who am I, and where am I going.” (See Where Did I Come From? – Wommack Ministries.)

And one of the best-known pilgrimages involves the Camino de Santiago(As shown at left, in an illustration from a far earlier time.)  Or as Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI put it:

To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history.  To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself…  Above all, Christians go on pilgrimage [for example] to Compostela,* which, associated with the memory of Saint James, has welcomed pilgrims from throughout the world who desire to strengthen their spirit with the Apostle’s witness of faith and love.

The point of all this being that – in hiking Spain – I’ll be going back where the American Journey began.  You could say it began when one Chris Columbus met “Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.”  In another sense you could say I’m heading back to explore “whence we all came.”  (All we Americans that is;  metaphorically anyway.)

Or finally, you could say all this brings up St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.

That is, St. James the Greater – for whom the Camino de Santiago is named – is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.   For example, in the picture at right, St. James is seen accoutred as a pilgrim, complete with the accessories “needed for a task or journey.”  That is, he is shown wearing a pilgrim’s hat and with a walking stick in the background.  See Wikipedia:

pilgrim … is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place.  Typically, this is a physical journeying (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system.  In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (…as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.

See also Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans.  That book noted that all true ritual – including but not limited to religious – “calls for discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.”  It added that a pilgrimage “may be described as a ritual on the move.”  That is, through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep,” we can – on a pilgrimage – quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.

And finally, the book noted that such a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  I’ll get back to you on all that, once I return home from Spain, on or about October 17.  (And no doubt skinnier and more foot sore…)

Between then and now – and in closing this post – I’m not sure when I’ll get to do another one.  (Another post that is, before I get home.)  That is, I’m not sure how safe, secure and user-friendly are the “public” wi-fi connections in Spain.  But in the meantime:

Here’s a map of my proposed route, of some 450 miles…

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My hike will start at Pamplona, at the lower right, for some 450 miles of hiking…

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The upper image is courtesy of Spain – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Christopher Columbus meets Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in the Alhambra.”

Re:  “Whence.”  The Kennedy-quote image is courtesy of To sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we camequotefancy.com.  Kennedy made the comments at the “Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews,” on September 14, 1962.  Here’s the full quote:

I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea.  And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.  We are tied to the ocean.  And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.

Re:  “American Journey.”  See also The American Journey: A History of the United States, the text book, not to be confused with American Journey, the “six-part orchestral composition” composed by John Williams and “commissioned by U.S. President Bill Clinton to accompany a multimedia presentation titled ‘The Unfinished Journey’ directed by Steven Spielberg for the 2000 ‘Millennium‘ celebrations.”

Re:  “Back ‘whence we all came.’”  Yeah, I know, the Vikings Beat Columbus to America, but they didn’t stick around very long.  See Norse colonization of North America – Wikipedia:  

The Norse colony in Greenland lasted for almost 500 years.  Continental North American settlements were small and did not develop into permanent colonies.  While voyages, for example to collect timber, are likely to have occurred for some time, there is no evidence of any lasting Norse settlements on mainland North America.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by reference detailed in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the Christian pilgrimage to Compostela:  In my case, I’ll be hiking the 450 miles from is Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.  My hiking partnet – my brother – will be hiking further.  He’ll hike over the Pyrenees, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, and meet me in Pamplona.  So he’ll do 500 miles and I’ll do 450 miles.  But personally I had enough mountain hiking last August.  See On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Parts One  and Two.)

The St. James image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

The lower image is courtesy of Camino de Santiago 800 PROJECT: Map of the Routesilverarrow18.blogspot.com.  

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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?

On St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre

“One morning [at] the Louvre,” with Catherine de’ Medici – in black – who authored the massacre

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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:

August 24 was the Feast day for St.  Bartholomew, also known as Bartholomew the Apostle.  Unfortunately, he is perhaps best known for the famous massacre on his feast day in 1572:

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre … in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence, directed against the Huguenots…  Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.”  Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.”

This particular massacre occurred during “the French Wars of Religion.”  (Those wars lasted some 40 years – beginning in 1562 – and resulted in the deaths of some 3,000,000 people.)  A more modern illustration of such “mob violence” is shown above left.

And on a personal note:  My French ancestors – who came to America to get the hell away from such religious “conservatives” – were Huguenots.  (“French Calvinist Protestants.”) 

But before talking more about this one massacre, here’s some information on the saint at issue.

See for example the article CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Bartholomew.  (Note the irony.)  It said the name “Bartholomaios” means “son of Talmai” (or Tholmai), but that little else is known about him.  “Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel.”

See for example, John 1:45-51:  “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about…  Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'”

And so our August 24 “St. Bart” is generally identified as the famous Nathanael who Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under the fig tree.

For more see Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  It noted a number of traditions about this saint, including that he went on missionary journeys to India, or in the alternative to “EthiopiaMesopotamiaParthia, and and Lycaonia.”  But the best known tradition is this:

He is said to have been martyred in Albanopolis in Armenia.  According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward.  He is said to have converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity.  Astyages, Polymius’ brother, consequently ordered Bartholomew’s execution.

Which may mean that if you want to convert one king to Christianity – or some other powerful leader of a country – you probably want to convert all his brothers as well.

For the Bible readings for the day, see St. Bartholomew, Apostle.  And there’s a painting at the bottom of the main text – by Michelangelo of Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin.”

Which brings us back to the St. Bartholomew’s massacre.  As Wikipedia noted, in the years since 1572 the massacre “has inevitably aroused a great deal of controversy.”  (Adding that “Modern historians are still divided over the responsibility of the royal family,” including Catherine de’ Medici, seen in black in the painting at the top of the page.)

But perhaps the best answer came from Pope John Paul II.  In August of 1997, and while in Paris,* he issued a statement on the Massacre:

On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns.  I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue…  Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension.  On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.

And speaking of “fruitful dialogue,” the Pope’s comments in 1997 pretty much mirror what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:1-8 – the New Testament reading for Sunday, August 27:

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…

In other words, maybe it’s about damn time that we started celebrating our differences.  As opposed to flaying each other alive.  (Metaphorically or otherwise…)

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“Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin…”

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The upper image is courtesy of St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘One morning at the gates of the Louvre,’ 19th-century painting by Édouard Debat-Ponsan.  Catherine de’ Medici is in black.  The scene from Dubois (above) re-imagined.”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by reference detailed in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the “modern illustration of mob violence,” the image is courtesy of the mob violence or “riot” link in the first indented paragraph.  The caption:  “Law enforcement teams deployed to control riots often wear body armor and shields, and may use tear gas.”

The Jesus-and-fig-tree image is courtesy of Jesus, Philip, Nathanael and the Fig Treesacredstory.org.  

Re:  Pope John Paul II’s 1997 statement.  He issued it on August 23, the eve of St. Bartholomew’s Day, in the city where the massacre took place.  Note also the poignant painting by “Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais,” who…

…managed to create a sentimental moment in the massacre in his painting A Huguenot on St. Bartholomew’s Day (1852), which depicts a Catholic woman attempting to convince her Huguenot lover to wear the white scarf badge of the Catholics and protect himself.  The man, true to his beliefs, gently refuses her.

Googling the phrase “celebrate our differences” got me some 115,000,000 results.

Re:  Being “flayed alive.”  Wikipedia noted that the practice, “known colloquially as skinning, was a method of slow and painful execution in which skin is removed from the body.  Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact.”  The article added this:

Dermatologist Ernst G. Jung notes that the typical causes of death due to flaying are shock, critical loss of blood or other body fluidshypothermia, or infections, and that the actual death is estimated to occur from a few hours up to a few days after the flaying.  Hypothermia is possible, as skin is essential for maintaining a person’s body temperature, as it provides a person’s natural insulation.

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin in Michelangelo‘s ‘The Last Judgment.'”

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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?

Perverting “Fundamental” – ism…

Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 1865 http://necspenecmetu.tumblr.com/post/15803982029/alexander-louis-leloir-jacob-wrestling-with-the

Jacob wrestling with the angel” – or with God – something a Fundamentalist would never do…

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Last Sunday, August 6, was the Feast day for The Transfiguration of Jesus.  And Tuesday, August 15, is the Feast of St Mary, the Virgin.  But first, a word about “perverting Fundamentalism.”

In the religious sense, Fundamentalism indicates “unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.”  Or in the alternative, it indicates a faith “characterized by a markedly strict literalism.”

But the main theme of this blog is that such “markedly strict literalism” results in a closed mind.  And a whole set of Christians who are only cheating themselves.   And a set of Christians who are driving away potential converts “in droves.”

I’ve referred to such close-minded literalists as boot-camp Christians, or as “Comfort Zone Christians.”  Yet another descriptive term could be “half-way Christians.”  As in, Christians who go only half way in building up their spiritual “mansion.”  They put in a foundation, as in “an underlying base or support; especially:  the whole masonry substructure of a building.”

Which makes this a good time to note that the word “fundamental” comes from the late Middle English – Medieval Latin – term fundāmentālis , meaning of or “belonging to a foundation.”

But then these Christians don’t build anything on top of that foundation.  That results – spiritually speaking – in something like the image at right:  A “foundation,” with noting built on top of it.  Or put this way:

The theory or theme here is that people who read the Bible in a strict, narrow or “fundamental” way are only cheating themselves.

(See About the Blog.)  The result is that they have “perverted” the original sense of the word “fundamental;”  they have altered that term “from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.”  Instead of laying a foundation, and then building a spiritual house on top of it, they’re happy living on just the foundation itself.

 And they end up living a barren, “spirit-less” life, contrary to John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  (Not to mention, 2d Corinthians 3:6:  “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”)  Not only that, these too-iiteral fundamentalists end up – spiritually speaking – sleeping, eating and living only on a cold, concrete foundation, and thus effectively in a hole in the ground.  That’s the metaphor for the day anyway…

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On a more positive note:  Last Sunday, August 6, was the Feast day for The Transfiguration of Jesus,  For more on that see On the Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016, and/or The Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World.  One key point is that it’s arguably the “greatest miracle in the world” because – unlike the other miracles of Jesus – this one happened to Him.   All the other miracles involved Jesus doing things for other people.

But the key point there is that the Transfiguration “stands as an allegory of the transformative nature” of the faith of the Bible.  That is, the allegory of undergoing a “marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better.”

But you can’t do that if you read the Bible too literally.

And finally, Tuesday, August 15, is the Feast of St Mary, the Virgin.   For more on her see On St. Mary, Mother, and/or St. Mary the Virgin, and/or Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.

The key point there is that this Mary had to undergo quite a transformation herself…

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Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

“The Virgin Mary in prayer” – by Sassoferrato – circa 1650.

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The upper image is courtesy of Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.  I’ve used the image in previous posts, including On arguing with God and On “originalism.”

The image to the left of the first main paragraph is courtesy of a 2012 post by Peter Enns, the “American biblical scholartheologian, and writer…  Outside of his academic work Enns is a contributor to HuffPost and Patheos,” and is “best known for his book Inspiration and Incarnation, which challenged conservative/mainstream Evangelical methods of biblical interpretation.”  The post is titled Why I Don’t Give up on Fundamentalists (including the not nice ones), and includes these thoughts:   1) “Fundamentalists are human beings and therefore are of infinite worth,”  2)  “Fundamentalists are my brothers and sisters in the faith,” and  3)  “Some fundamentalists are on a journey out of fundamentalism, even if they do not yet know it, and they need a place to land.”

The “‘foundation,’ without anything built on top of it” image is courtesy of Construction of the administrative building foundationszfk.ru.  

Re:  Spiritual “mansion.”  See John 14:2, translated in the King James Bible:  “In my Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

The lower image is courtesy of the Marian perspectives link at Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650.”  (Or in the alternative:  “Jungfrun i bön(1640-1650). National GalleryLondon.”)   Also, for a thorough analysis of how the term has evolved over the years, see What Is “Fundamentalism” and Who Is a “Fundamentalist?”

On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints

Tizian 009.jpg

A “Penitent Magdalene,” by Titian (1565)…

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And speaking of getting back on track,* we just had two major feast days.   Last July 22 – a Saturday – was the feast day for Mary Magdalene.  And last Tuesday, July 25, was the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee.  He was also known as “St. James the Greater.”

mm-he-qiMary of Magdala was “the Apostle to the Apostles.”  (As noted in last year’s post.)  Which she did “despite a sordid past and a really lousy reputation.”  (She’s seen at right, in a modern interpretation.)  But there’s some thought that – in being tagged as a prostitute – she got mixed up with the “sinner who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50.”  (“Mary” was a common name back then.)

Then there’s another thought:  That her lousy reputation was due to “jealous males trying to  sully her reputation.”  Put simply, she showed a heck of lot more courage than all the male Apostles did after Jesus’ crucifixion.

That is, while they cowered behind closed doors, she braved the danger and went out to become “the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus, and one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus.”  That’s one reason that St. Augustine referred to her as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”  But it could also explain other efforts to trash her reputation:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

Guido Reni - Saint James the Greater - Google Art Project.jpgOn a more positive note, July 25 was the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee.  He’s one of several “James” in the New Testament. (“Mary” and “James” were both common names in  New Testament times.)  But this James is also called “St. James the Greater.”  (That post included the image at left, of St. James.)

And incidentally, this St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

See for example, the September 2016 post On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.  The “sluts” in question were mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  (It was considered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” and the inspiration for John Steinbeck‘s 1962 nonfiction work, Travels with Charley.)

The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September:  Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  And in the  Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude:”

The post also said a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  Which occurred after last year’s hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

For my part, I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.(Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too.)  And I had a blister-on-a-blister that got infected – that didn’t fully heal until three weeks after the hike – to further heighten the feeling of getting “chastened.”

Which brings us back to St. James the Greater, who is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

In the picture below, St. James is seen accoutred as a pilgrim, complete with the accessories “needed for a task or journey.”  That is, he is shown wearing a pilgrim’s hat and with a walking stick in the background.  And here’s part of the prayer to St. James:  “O Glorious Saint James … Obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending struggles of this life.”

To which we all might add a hearty Amen, “So be it!

Especially as to those blisters-on-blisters that get infected.  (The two-six-pack cure:  Optional.)

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 St. James the Greater, dressed and accoutred as the quintessential Pilgrim

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The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

That is, Titian did a “racier” version in 1533.  See Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to “getting back on track,” that refers to getting back to the business of Bible-related posts, after “Comfort Zone Christians,” and The “Bizarro Rick Santorum.”

The Bible readings for the two feast days can be seen at Mary Magdalene, and St James, respectively.

The image to the right of the paragraph including “shown at right in a modern interpretation” was originally courtesy of “FutureChurch.”  A re-check of the link on July 30, 2017, showed that it included information on Mary Magdalene, but no longer included the “modern” image.  

The lower image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

On “Comfort Zone Christians…”

*   *   *   *

This post could be titled, “Where the magic happens.”  That is, while listening to last Sunday’s sermon a phrase hit me.  “Comfort zone.”  As in the comfort zone so many Conservative Christians seem to like.  As in “Comfort Zone Christians.”  Which led to the image above.

And led to this thought:  Those too-literal Fundamentalists are “missing out on the magic…”

I’ve used a lot of terms to describe that type of Christian; the kind this blog tries to challenge.  To get them to “explore their full potential.”  I’ve tried terms like Boot-camp Christian.  (As illustrated at left.  That is, the kind of Christian who never seems to want to leave the “boot camp” where he “learned the fundamentals.”)

 I’ve also tried the term Carbon Copy Christians.  (As have others, who describe the Christians who seem to  go to church only to become “mass produced carbon copies of each other.*”)   But Comfort Zone Christian seems to hit the spot.

Like I said in the opening paragraph, God wants us to live lives of abundance.  And He wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  Or as I said in Reading the Bible, “you’re only cheating yourself if you choose to read and study the Bible only in a strict, narrow, or fundamental way.”  Or – finally – as the image at the top of the page indicates, if you’re a too-literal Bible-reader, then you miss out on “where the magic happens.”

For more on this topic, see 7 Reasons Why [the] Comfort Zone is Dangerous.

The article – subtitled Live Life to the fullest – described the term as that “situation where you feel completely secure, comfortable and relaxed to what you currently have.”  Which is one thing many people look for when reading the Bible.  And which is generally a desirable place to be.  However, if you stay in your Comfort Zone too long, you don’t grow.  You stagnate.

Also, being too comfortable – in life or in Bible study – “causes negative mindset and attitude.”  And that – unfortunately – is what many Christians are known for.  (As noted in Latest from a “None,” Googled the term “negative Christians” and got 12 million hits.)

Last of all the article said staying in your Comfort Zone too long limits your chance to “Live Life to its Fullest.”  And that would be a violation of John 10:10.  Then too, if you want to even try to follow the mandate of John 14:12, you need to remember this:  We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.  That is, you can’t come close to doing greater miracles than Jesus if you read and study the Bible only in a strict, narrow, or fundamental way.

Which doesn’t mean you never read the Bible that way.  Sometimes it pays to go back and get a refresher course in the “fundamentals” of the Bible.  The danger comes when you only read the Bible strictly and narrowly.  Which brings up the concept of “mysticism.”

The terms “mystic” or “mysticism” seems to drive Conservative Christians crazy:

Mysticism is when you get into a mystical state and it’s something you cannot understand, you’re out there in “la-la” land, it’s an “oooh” experience and you’re really not thinking.

See What is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.org.  (As the term was discussed in On the Bible and mysticism.  Which post also noted:  “The terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”  

But as first used, the term “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and On originalism.

In other words, mysticism – connecting with God – was “what the Bible was originally about!”  For another example – thinking outside the box – see also The Bible’s “erotic love poem.”  That post discussed the Bible book Song of Songs.  (Also called the “Song of Solomon”):

The Song of Solomon is a love poem, frankly erotic, apparently composed to celebrate a wedding.  This, too, is appropriate, for Solomon had numerous wives and was, presumably, an experienced lover.  (E.A.)

The irony is that Bible literalists and/or fundamentalists insist on not giving the Song of Songs its literal meaning.  Instead, such Comfort Zone Christians read this book – and this book alone – “allegorically, as having to do with God’s love for his people.”  In the alternative, they interpret the book as “treating the love that it celebrates as an analogy for the love between God and the Church.”

In other words, the idea of a “frankly erotic love poem” in the Bible is something Conservative Christians can’t seem to handle.  (Or choose not to, as in “You Can’t Handle the Truth!”)  But the better course – aside from interpreting all the books of the Bible “strictly and literally” – is to treat the Bible as both simple enough for a child and yet “full of mysteries:”

In other words, you could say that the Bible message is both simple enough for a child to understand, yet so full of subtle mysteries that a lifetime can be spent on its study, yet still leave myriads of lessons yet to be learned.  (See 1st Corinthians 4:1:  “This then is how you should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”)

That’s from Snake-handling “redux,” which made the point that the Bible is best approached on two levels:  A literal level where you “learn the fundamentals,” and a more spiritual level “where the magic happens.”  Or as Paul said in 2d Corinthians 3:6, Jesus “made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit;  for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (Which is another way of saying, “If Jesus was a Conservative, we’d all be Jewish.”)

Snake-handling “redux” raised another danger of reading the Bible too literally:  The danger that some people tend to take isolated passages out of context, and way too literally.

Which means that they could end up like “Stumpy” in the picture below…

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The snake handler on the right – “Stumpy?” – is arguably taking Mark 16:18 “out of context…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of comfort_zoneblog.crew.co.  The subtitle is “Why it’s scary and why you should;”  I.e., why you should get out of your comfort zone from time to time.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Carbon copy Christians, see Paul describes an out-of-body experience, which included the link, How to Break the Cookie-Cutter, Carbon Copy Christian Cycle:

Churches, wittingly or otherwise, often taken on the role of mass producing assembly lines. Each Christian is instructed in the same way, given the same set of rules, a particular sanitized clothing lines of music selection, and specific speculative interpretations of scripture which they must abide by.  Churches such as these are not interested in creating unique Christians but mass produced carbon copies of each other.

The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Bizarro-statue-620

Bizarro Santorum – his “mirror image” – says:  “There’s no such thing as a conservative Christian!” 

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Back in 2008, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made headlines for supposedly saying, “There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.

Whether he actually said it is subject to debate.  (See e.g. Liberal media shamelessly twists comment from Rick Santorum.)  But whether he said it or not, the idea seems common among “Conservative Christians.” See for example The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:

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

At this point it should be noted that I beg to differ.

Being a “Liberal” Christian – or, God forbid, a moderate – is simply the opposite of being a boot-camp Christian.  (One of those “Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.'”)  I’d also like to point out that the Apostle Paul was himself accused of heresy.   See e.g. Acts 16:20-21 and Acts 18:13 (Jesus on the other hand was accused of blasphemy, not heresy.)  The point being that the penalty for heresy – or blasphemy – was usually death.

The caption for the image above left reads:  “Massacre of the Waldensians of Mérindol in 1545.”  It shows an alleged heretic – with long flowing hair – being pushed off a castle wall to her death.  That image itself harks back to Luke 4:29.*  That’s when when Jesus was similarly threatened, with being thrown off a cliff:  “Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built.  They intended to push him over the cliff…”

I discussed this whole mess – liberal vs. conservative Christianity – in the May 2015 post, WHY we’re getting “less Christian.”  The post included this, America becoming less Christian:

[T]he single most important reason [is] younger people moving to the left on social issues and the most visible religious leaders moving to the right on that same issue.

That study indicated the biggest reason many young Americans turn away from fmainstream Christianity is negativity.  (“You don’t believe it?  Just Google ‘negative Christians.’  I did that and got almost 12 million results.”)  Ironically, the study noted the “rise in evangelical Christianity is contributing to the rejection of religion altogether by some Americans.”  (Which supports my theory that such literalists drive “potential converts away in droves.*”)

Which brings up the subject of the Bizarro Rick Santorum.  Simply put, Conservative Christians – like Rick  Santorum – benefit greatly from the inherent strength of negativity bias:

…even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things.

ClassicBizarro.PNGWhich is another way of saying the nastier you are, the more you “win.”  It also means a person who is not content with being just a boot-camp Christian needs to point out the downside of “being conservative.”  He or she needs to be – in effect – a Bizarro Rick Santorum.  (But see also Adversary System, below.)

Which in turn means that he or she needs to start arguing – for example – “There’s no such thing as a conservative Christian!” 

The allusion is to Bizarro Superman, seen at right.  More recently, there was a Seinfeld episode, Bizarro Jerry.  The episode showed Jerry, George and Kramer meeting their mirror images, Kevin, Gene and Feldman, as shown at the bottom of the main text:

Kevin [is] Jerry’s opposite since Kevin is reliable and kind, contrasted to Jerry’s forgetfulness and indifference.  Gene is shown to be quiet, courteous, charitable and well-dressed as opposed to George being loud, obnoxious, cheap and slobbish.  Feldman acts generously to his friends…  He also always knocks on Kevin’s door and waits for him to unlock it[, unlike] Kramer, who constantly takes Jerry’s groceries and bursts through his door without warning.

So here goes.  The Bizarro Rick Santorum could say there’s no such thing as a conservative Christian.  He could say “conservative Christian” is a contradiction in terms.  (On that  note, you – or he – could just Google “conservative christian oxymoron.”  I did that and got 3,450,000 results.  But be forewarned, some of those results read Is Liberal Christian an Oxymoron?)

Or he could say, “Where in the Bible does it say you have to be a close-minded right-wing wacko to get to heaven?”  (Remember, this is “Bizarro Rick Santorum.*”)  But finally he might just say:

“If Jesus was a Conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”

*   *   *   *

Kramer, George and Jerry meet their “bizarro opposites…”

*   *   *   *

Notes:

The upper image is courtesy of kotobukiya created a statue that the bizarro version of jerry seinfeld would totally get on board with … dailydead.com:  “Standing eight inches tall, this Bizarro anti-Superman statue is based on DC Comics’ New 52 version of the popular villain and will be released in November [2016].”  (Which is actually kind of appropriate…)

The Rick Santorum image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Santorum speaking in Des Moines, Iowa in 2011.”  (Santorum formally announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination – for the 2012 campaign – “on ABC’s Good Morning America on June 6, 2011.”)  On the other hand, some conservatives think that Santorum himself is “way too liberal.”  See Rick Santorum is NOT a Conservative | Christian Forums.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Luke 24:45, see the “further notes” below the four asterisks.

As to liberal Christianity offering “freedom to sin,” the emphasis was in the original.  And as to Luke 4:29 – where Jesus was threatened with being thrown off a cliff, and before opening his disciples’ minds – see My Lenten meditation, featuring the image at left, along with the note that in Luke 4:21-30, “Jesus wasn’t threatened by stoning, as Moses was.  Instead, ‘the people’ wanted to throw Him off a cliff.”

Note also that I explored the “Bizarro” idea in “Meet Bizarro Trump?”

Re:  Americans becoming less Christian.  See also Study Finds Americans Less Religious Than Ever : NPR, and U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious | Pew Research Center.  But see also, Fewer Americans Than Ever Hopeful for Children’s Future.  (I’m not sure if there’s any connection there.)

Re:  Bible literalists driving potential converts away in droves.  See The Bible’s “erotic love poem:”

The point is that if you limit your Bible-study to a purely literal interpretation, you’re robbing yourself of at least half it’s value.  (And driving potential converts away in droves.)  But if you move on from a purely literal interpretation, to an open-minded spiritual interpretation, your Bible-study can take you to exotic adventures and explorations that you couldn’t have dreamed of before.

Re:  The “old Seinfeld episode, Bizarro Jerry.”  It was the 137th episode, and the third episode for the eighth season.  Originally aired on October 3, 1996, the “title and plot extensively reference the Bizarro (the polar opposite of Superman) and Bizarro-Earth concepts that originally appeared in various comic books published by DC Comics.”

A final note on “Bizarro Santorum.”  As Wikipedia noted, in 2006 – when Santorum sought re-election to a third term as Senator from Pennsylvania – he was “mired in controversy and spent much of his time on the campaign in defense against his own past statements and positions.”  In that re-election bid, “Santorum lost by over 700,000 votes, receiving 41% of the vote to Casey’s 59%, the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent senator since 1980.”  It would seem that a true “Bizarro” would have smoothly cruised to re-election, by Casey’s 59 to 41% ratio.

And one final note on whether conservative or liberal Christians are “always right.”  It could be argued that an American Christian should believe the best method of finding spiritual truth is through the clash of measured, well-thought-out arguments.  That’s the Adversary System, and it’s the basis of both our legal and economic American way of life.  As to the former, “The adversary system is based on the assumption that the truth of a controversy will best be arrived at by granting the competing parties, with the help of an advocate, an opportunity to fight as hard as possible.”  As to the latter see Free market – Wikipedia.

The lower image-slash-video is courtesy of Bizarro Jerry – WikiSein, the Seinfeld Encyclopediaseinfeld.wikia.com.*  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.  

The story of Leah…

*   *   *   *

I recently became enamored of the name “Leah.”

I knew there was a Leah mentioned in the Bible, but couldn’t remember exactly who she was.  (Or more precisely, whose wife she was.)  And how she and her sister Rachel both ended up marrying the same man, and in turn “giving birth” to eight of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

And finally, how one of her “great, great, great” (etc.) grandsons was one Jesus of Nazareth.

For the full story, see the Wikipedia article on Leah:

She and her younger sister Rachel became the two concurrent wives of Hebrew patriarch Jacob.  She had six sons, whose descendants became [six] of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  She also had a daughter, Dinah.

But how she ended up married to Jacob involved a bit of trickeration.  (Described in Genesis 29.)  

Basically, his mother Rebecca sent Jacob to his uncle Laban’s.  She did that so Jacob wouldn’t get killed by his brother Esau.  (In an earlier bit of trickeration, Jacob bamboozled Esau out of his birthright – that is, his favored status as first-born son – and as shown at right.)  

So anyway, Uncle Laban had two daughters, the beautiful Rachel and her older daughter Leah.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel, and in the fullness of time worked seven years for Laban. (In exchange for Rachel’s “hand.”)  But on the wedding night, Laban pulled the old switcheroo:

Laban brought together all the people … and gave a feast.  But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her…  When morning came, there was Leah!  So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me?  I served you for Rachel, didn’t I?  Why have you deceived me?”  Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.  Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years…”

That’s from Genesis 29:22-28 (NIV).  And incidentally, Jacob also ended up having sons by both of Rachel’s and Leah’s handmaids.  (They were named Bilhah and Zilpah.)  First, Rachel gave Bilhah to Jacob because she – Rachel – was barren; she couldn’t have children.  Then – when Leah stopped conceiving after bearing Jacob four sons – she gave her handmaid to Jacob.

O brother where art thou ver1.jpgSo, just to keep things straight:  Zilpah and Bilhah both bore two sons to Jacob.  Rachel also bore two sons for Jacob.  But the “winner” clearly was Leah, who gave Jacob six sons.  (Or, to borrow a phrase from O Brother, Where Art Thou, Leah might well have said, “Ohhhh mercy!  Yes, I  got to beat that competition!”)  And as noted, those 12 sons eventually became  the 12 Tribes of Israel.

Also incidentally, Bilhah later committed adultery with Reuben – Jacob’s “eldest son with Leah” – and as described in Genesis 35:22: “While he was living there [‘beyond the tower of Eder’], Reuben had intercourse with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Jacob soon heard about it.”

But that’s a whole ‘ nother story.

For another take on Leah’s story, see the Jewish Women’s Archive.  It tells the further story of these two “co-wives in competition for status in the household.”  It also tells of Rueben – noted above – finding mandrakes for the two women.  (They were known in the Bible as “love apples,” and were similar to today’s Viagra.)  That’s as described in Genesis 30, and which “mandrakes” led to both Leah and Rachel each bearing two more sons for Jacob.

More to the point of this post, see Leah in the Bible Was an Early Ancestor of Jesus Christ:  “Leah in the Bible is a person many can identify with.”  Or as it says in Matthew 1:2 – part of his Genealogy of Jesus – “Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.”  And Leah was the mother of Judah, and also of five of the other 12 brothers who became the Tribes of Israel.

Thus as noted in Ruth 4:11:  “May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home [Ruth] like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel.”  Which means that there’s probably some kind of object lesson in all of this “spirited competition…”

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And finally, it should be noted that June 29 was the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  It honors “the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul.”  (Seen below, and as noted in last year’s On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)  That post had this point to make (on competition):

Some Christians seem to think they have to be all “nicey-nicey,” all the &%#$ time, with each other and with non-Christians.  But the Feast of Peter and Paul goes to show it’s okay to have differences of opinion, or even “squabble” from time to time.  {E.A.]

*   *   *   *

“Saints Peter and Paul,” by El Greco

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Janette’s Sage: Leah verus Rachaeljanettessage.blogspot.com.

The image to the left of the first main paragraph is courtesy of Israelites – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel, from a synagogue wall in Jerusalem.”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Luke 24:45 – “Then he opened their minds” – see the Intro. (Among other things, as to the possibility of expanding your mind.)

The image of Jacob and Esau is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Esau.  The caption:  “‘Esau Selling His Birthright’ (painting circa 1627 by Hendrick ter Brugghen).”

The lower image is courtesy of Saints Peter and Paul by GRECO, El – Web Gallery of Art:

The two saints[,] the most influential leaders of the early Church[, are shown here] engaged in an animated discussion.  The older, white-haired Peter … inclines his head thoughtfully to one side as he looks towards the text being expounded.  In his left hand he holds his attribute, the key to the kingdom of Heaven.  His right hand is cupped as if weighing up an idea.  Paul presses his left hand down firmly on the open volume on the table, his right hand raised in a gesture of explanation as he looks directly at the viewer.  [E.A.]

The article noted El Greco painted the two together several times “with remarkable consistency.”  Peter always has white hair and a beard, while “Paul is always shown slightly balding, with dark hair and beard, wearing a red mantle…”  

 

Paul describes an out-of-body experience

An irreverent view of an out-of-body experience, described by Apostle Paul in 2d Corinthians. 12:2-4

*   *   *   *

The Daily Office Bible readings for Thursday, June 15 included 2d Corinthians 12:1-10.  That reading included 2d Corinthians 12:2-4.  That’s the passage where the Apostle Paul described an apparent 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.

incidentally, this Third Heaven is a “division of Heaven in religious cosmology.”  The concept is common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and in “some traditions it is considered the abode of God.”  In other views it’s seen as “a lower level of Paradise, commonly one of seven.”

Be that as it may, this business of “third heavens” and out-of-body-experiences is way too complicated for today’s post.  The point I’m making is that there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye, and that you can’t fully appreciate it with a narrow-minded literalist approach.

For one thing, according to Paul the idea of heaven – “third” or otherwise – involves things that “no one is permitted to tell.”  (No one who’s been there anyway…)  Which fits in with John 21:25:

Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

That is, Jesus “did many other things” that weren’t written down in the Bible.  Which leads me to say again:  “There’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.”

Which makes this the perfect time to mention that June 15 is also the Feast Day for Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941).  She’s the English author known for “numerous works on religion and spiritual practice, in particular Christian mysticism.”

Put another way, her main teaching was “that the life of contemplative prayer is not just for monks and nuns, but can be the life of any Christian who is willing to undertake it.”

Which is also pretty much the theme of this blog.

I discussed Evelyn Underhill in the May 2014 post, On a dame and a mystic.  That post in turn was mainly about Dame Julian of Norwich, described as follows:

She was born in 1342 and died “about” 1416.  As Wikipedia noted, she was an English anchoress regarded as an important early Christian mystic.   (That clunk you heard was a Southern Baptist having apoplexy over the word “mystic.”)

Which is another way of saying that the “terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”  See On the Bible and mysticism, and The Christian repertoire.  But the gist of both posts – and this blog as a whole – is that that “there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.”  And also that you “can’t fully appreciate that by using a narrow-minded literalist approach.”

A drill sergeant posing before his companyWhich is another way of saying that in reading the Bible, you don’t want to be one of those boot-camp Christians,” as shown at left.  (That is, the “Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.’”)

On that note, consider what the Apostle Paul said about the “mysteries” of the Bible.  As told in St. Mark’s “Cinderella story,” Christianity has arguably been – all along – a “mystical” religion, full of mysteries; “secret, hidden, not readily known by all:”

For example, see 1st Corinthians 2:7, where Paul spoke of “the word of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom.”  He spoke of the “knowledge in the mystery of Christ” in Ephesians 3:4, and of the “fellowship of the mystery” in Ephesians 3:9.  In Ephesians 5:32 he wrote, “This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  Paul told Christians to “make known the mystery of the gospel” in Ephesians 6:19, and to hold “the mystery of the faith” – or the “deep truths” – in a “pure conscience” in 1st Timothy 3:9.  He said that “great is the mystery of godliness” in 1st Timothy 3:16, and in 1 Corinthians 4:1, Paul said that Christians were to be faithful “stewards of the mysteries of God.”

Which is what makes reading and studying the Bible – and applying it to your own life – so fascinating.  Instead of going to church to become “mass produced carbon copies of each other,” Christians who go beyond the fundamentals find their lives have become a “fascinating detective story.”  (“You’ll be like Charlie Chan, unraveling the mysteries of life…”)  

In other words, the theme here is that the Bible was written to liberate us, not shackle us.  In other words, this blog says you develop more by reading the Bible with an open mind.  And that if you read it too literally, you’re only cheating yourself.  Or as a great philosopher once put it:

Mind like parachute.  Work best when open.”

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51smUOfD0aL.jpgMysticism, one way of “unraveling the mysteries of life…”  
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The upper image is courtesy of Out-of-body experiences are harder to remember | Ars Technicaarstechnica.com.  The article included a discussion of the “region of the brain called the hippocampus,” which “acts as a sort of stenographer, integrating all the goings-on in the brain into a record that can be encoded into memory.” 

The caption for the out-of-body image:  “A 19th-century illustration of Robert Blair‘s poem The Grave, depicting the soul leaving the body.”

The full Bible readings for July 15, 2017:  “AM Psalm [70], 71; PM Psalm 74Ecclus. [Ecclesiasticus] 44:19-45:5; 2 Cor. 12:1-10; Luke 19:28-40.”

Re: Evelyn Underhill.  See also the Wikipedia article on her.

Re:  “Carbon copy Christians.”  See How to Break the Cookie-Cutter, Carbon Copy Christian Cycle:

Churches, wittingly or otherwise, often taken on the role of mass producing assembly lines. Each Christian is instructed in the same way, given the same set of rules, a particular sanitized clothing lines of music selection, and specific speculative interpretations of scripture which they must abide by.  Churches such as these are not interested in creating unique Christians but mass produced carbon copies of each other.

The lower image was borrowed from The basics.

D-Day remembered – June 6, 2017

Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg

Men of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade “into the jaws of death,” on D-Day, 73 years ago…

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On June 6, 2017, it will have been 73 years since the Normandy landings in World War II, otherwise known as D-Day.

And what – you may ask – does D-Day have to do with the Christian faith and Bible reading?  One answer came in On June 6, 2016.  Another answer from On D-Day and confession, from June 6, 2014.  The latter talked about sin, confession, and the kind of “de-briefing” American fliers got during World War II:

Maybe that’s what the [] concepts of sin and confession are all about.  (Or should be about.)  When we “sin” we simply fall short of our goals; we “miss the target.”  When we “confess,” we simply admit to ourselves how far short of the target we were.  And maybe the purpose of all this is not to make people feel guilty all the time, as some seem to imply.

Impromptu pipes and drum on Gold Beach during the D-Day 70th AnniversaryIn other words, the “negative” concepts of sin, repentance and confession are just tools to help us get closer to the target “next time out,” even if we know we can never be perfect.

Then too,  June 6, 2016 – including the image at right – talked about the value of independent judgment rather than a “rigid obedience to a pre-formed set of ‘rules.’”  

(Which seems to be just the approach advanced by boot-camp Christians.  See the Notes.)

The whole point of this blog is that such independent judgment – along with regular Bible reading – is the key to success in life, and especially spiritual life.  And like I mention in the notes – beginning and end – “God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.”

In turn, just like I note in the Introduction, “How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?”

Which brings us back to the value of being able to think on your feet, to be able to adapt, to meet and overcome unexpected obstacles, like our forefathers did on D-Day and beyond:

During World War II, German generals often complained that U.S. forces were unpredictable…  American troops [were] famous for this kind of individual initiative.  It’s a point of pride among officers that the American way of war emphasizes independent judgment in the fog and friction of battle, rather than obedience and rules.  (E.A.)

Which is just the kind of Bible study and interpretation this blog is all about.  (One example:  Before D-Day the Allies’ created the fictitious “First United States Army Group under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, supposedly located in Kent and Sussex.” That ruse was complete with the creation of the shoulder patches seen at right, designed for the units of that fake “army.”)

But to get back on point – and as I noted in DORs for June 6, 2015 – a Bible-approach that emphasizes literalism or fundamentalism simply “stifles the very creativity that is such a big part of interacting with God.”

And all of that brings us back to why we were able to win World War II.  (And on D-Day.)

Like the obstacles our servicemen faced on and following D-Day, life is unpredictable.  And if you approach life by trying to force it – and yourself – into some pre-formed, pre-digested set of cubbyholes, you’re bound to fail.  In turn, that’s exactly the kind of approach you’ll get if you follow the kind of fundamentalist “Bible-thumpers” who advance a way of Bible study-and-interpretation that “rewards conformism and stifles creativity.”

File:David Playing the Harp 1670 Jan de Bray.jpgOn the other hand, the Bible itself tells us many times to “sing to the Lord a new song.”  In other words, you are not – with your life – supposed to sing to God a “stale, warmed-over rehash, like what you tend to get by reading the Bible too literally or ‘fundamentally:'”

How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?   For that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?”   (For example, Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

See On singing a NEW song to God.  And that ties in with one of the Daily Office readings for June 6, 2017, Psalm 45:1:  “My heart is stirring with a noble song [and] my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.”  And just what is the reward for all this “creative” hard work?  The same reward gotten by all those brave American servicemen who died on D-Day, and beyond.

They – and we – will ultimately get to “go where the music is born…”

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 The upper image is courtesy of Normandy landings – Wikipedia.  The caption: “Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944.”  Clicking on the picture in the Wikipedia article will lead to the attribution: “File: Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg.”

Re:  The “DORs” for June 6, 2017.  The full set of Bible readings:  “AM Psalm 45;  PM Psalm 47, 48
Deut. 12:1-12
; 2 Cor. 6:3-13(14-7:1); Luke 17:11-19,” and also Ini Kopuria.

The lower image is courtesy of humanlifematters.org/the-quest-to-express, and was used in the post  On the DORs for June 6, 2015.  That post talked about “the Bible-approach that emphasizes literalism or fundamentalism.  It seems to me that such an approach can comfort some people, like those ‘creatively challenged.’  But more often it just stifles the very creativity that is such a big part of interacting with God.”  As for Bach’s last words, see also Bach’s last words … The World’s Greatest Music:  “‘Don’t cry for me, for I go where music is born,’ Bach said to his wife as he lay on his deathbed.  Or, so the story goes…”

Mary’s Visitation – and Pentecost – 2017

Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

“The Virgin Mary in prayer” – by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato – circa 1650.

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We have two major feast days coming up.  On Wednesday, May 31, we remember the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (As it’s formally known.)  See also Visitation – Wikipedia, and On the Visitation – 2016.  (That post featured the image at left, of Jesus as a young boy, holding a candle for His father, Saint Joseph.)

Then on June 4 we celebrate the Day of Pentecost.  It’s also known as Whitsunday, for reasons explained further below.

Pentecost Sunday is also referred to as the “Birthday of the Church,” for reasons explained in the 2015 post, On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”  On a related note, Pentecost – alias “Whitsunday” and the “Birthday of the Church” – has yet one other name it goes by.  And that name is related to Glossolalia:

Pentecost [as] described in Acts “was a momentous, watershed event..”  For the first time in history, God had empowered “all different sorts of people for ministry.  Whereas in the era of the Old Testament, the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings,” on Pentecost the Holy Spirit had been given to “‘all people.’  All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.”

But aside from empowering “all people” to  be ministers of the Church, that “yet another name” for Pentecost is Tongue Sunday.  For one thing there were the “tongues of fire” that appeared that day, as noted in Acts 2:3:  “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”  Then too there was the “talking in strange languages.”

Congreso Nacional Juvenil3.jpgSome witnesses to that first Pentecost took the talking-in-strange-languages to  be “drunken babbling.”  (On the part of the members of this new sect – the early Christian Church.)  But as Isaac Asimov  made clear, they were speaking “in concrete, known languages.  As a result, people from a host of different nations could understand them.”  Or as told 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.“  

On the other hand, these days “Glossolalia is practiced in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity as well as in other religions,” as shown above right.  On the “other other hand,” some Christians feel this kind of fervor misses Jesus’ point entirely.  (And actually drives potential converts away rather than bringing them into the Church.  See e.g. On snake-handling “redux,” which includes the image below left, with the caption:  “The snake handler on the right” – whose nickname could well be “Stumpy” – “is arguably taking Mark 16:18 “out of context…” )

Or as was stated in Luke 24:45, “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”  (It seems “close-mindedness” is a key part of such a too-literal reading of the Bible, as discussed in the notes.  See too Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”)

But getting back to Whitsunday.  Wikipedia said this alternate term for Pentecost is a contraction of of the term “White Sunday.”  As to why it was called that, one theory says that shortly after the Norman Conquest, the Old English word white (“hwitte”) began to be confused with the word “wit or understanding.”  Another theory says the “name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens,” those to be “baptised on that Sunday.”  Yet another theory:  The young women of England all came “to church or chapel in new white dresses on that day.”

Whatever the reason, “As the first holiday of the summer, Whitsun was one of the favorite times in the traditional calendar and Whit Sunday, or the following week, was a time for celebration.”  As such this religious feast day has been superseded by Memorial Day, which It marks the “unofficial start of the summer vacation season.”  (“Labor Day marks its unofficial end.”)

Either way, the upcoming week is a great time to remember the heroic deeds of the past…

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A typical Western image of the Pentecost. Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308) Tempera on wood.

“A typical Western image of the Pentecost…”

(By Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna, in the year 1308…)

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The upper image is courtesy of the Marian perspectives link at Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650.”  (Or in the alternative:  “Jungfrun i bön (1640-1650). National Gallery, London.”)  It image was featured in On the Visitation – 2016.  As indicated above, for further information on Pentecost see Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016On the readings for Pentecost (6/8/14), and On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Re: Isaac Asimov.  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981). 

Asimov (1920-1992) was “an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.  Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.”  His list of books included those on “astronomy, mathematics, theBible, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.”  He was a long-time member of Mensa, “albeit reluctantly;  he described some members of that organization as ‘brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs.’”  See Isaac Asimov – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Pentecost.  And re:  Duccio di Buoninsegna: Born about 1250 and died about 1318, Buoninsegna was “considered to be the father of Sienese painting and, along with a few others, the founder of Western art.”  As to the year 1308, among the few notable events that we know of:  “January 25 – King Edward II of England marries Isabella of France.  They are both crowned a month later (on February 25).”  And on October 13 – “Walter Reynolds is consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, in England.”