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On “Comfort Zone Christians…”

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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:

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…”

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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.

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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 “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?”

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

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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…

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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.]

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“Saints Peter and Paul,” by El Greco

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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

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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.”

On Saint Dunstan – May 19

St. Dunstan “shoeing the Devil’s hoof” – thus creating the Lucky Horseshoe superstition…

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May 19 is a Feast Day.  (Albeit a “minor one.”)  It celebrates St. Dunstan, who died in 988.

Among other things, Dunstan originated the Good Luck Horseshoe superstition.  For another, he created the British coronation ceremony that continues “even to this day.”  And finally, he once aroused such jealousy that he got beaten up, tied up and thrown into a cesspool.

But ultimately, he became popular.  Or as Wikipedia noted, “Until Thomas Becket‘s fame overshadowed Dunstan’s, he was the favorite saint of the English people.”  Which means that for a long time – back in the days of Merrie Olde England – St. Dunstan was “more popular than Richard Burton.”

(Burton played Becket in the 1964 film of the same name.  Peter O’Toole played King Henry II, on whose orders Becket was killed.)

So anyway, over a thousand years ago St. Dunstan rose through the ranks of the then-Catholic Church in England, and eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury.  And some centuries later – after King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic church – the Archbishop of Canterbury became the “senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England,” and also the “symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

Which means that for a long time – a thousand years ago – Dunstan was pretty important:

His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church…  Dunstan served as an important minister of state to several English kings.  He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, [including] those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the devil.

As shown in the image at the top of the page…

The story there is that one day the Devil asked Dunstan – skilled as a silversmith and metalworker – to shoe his horse.  But instead, Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof.  “This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door.”

Which led to the Lucky Horseshoe Superstition.  (There’s an ongoing debate on whether the shoe should be hung “up” or “down,” detailed in the notes.)

Now about that being “beaten up and thrown into a cesspool.”

When he was young – and after first entering the service of the Church – he got appointed to the court of King Athelstan.  (Circa 894-939.)  He soon became a court favorite, which made the other “favorites” jealous.  They accused him of witchcraft and black magic and – after the king ordered him to leave – his enemies attacked him, beat him severely, tied him up and threw him into a cesspool.  (A modern version of which is seen at left.)  

Ironically, that experience may have led him back to the priesthood.  That is, after he managed to get out of the “muck” – literally – he made his way to the home of his  uncle, Ælfheah, Bishop of Winchester.

Uncle Ælfheah tried to persuade Dunstan to become a monk, but he had his doubts.  (Which isn’t surprising.)  For one thing, he wasn’t sure he had the “vocation to a celibate life.”  For another, there was that experience in the court of King Athelstan.  However:

The answer came in the form of an attack of swelling tumors all over Dunstan’s body. This ailment was so severe that it was thought to be leprosy.  It was more probably some form of blood poisoning caused by being beaten and thrown in the cesspool.  Whatever the cause, it changed Dunstan’s mind.

And ultimately led him to be named the Archbishop of Canterbury

But wait, there’s more!  That is, for more on this saint, see St. Dunstan, at the Satucket (Daily Office) website.  It noted a contest of wills between Dunstan and the newly-crowned King Eadwig. (Also spelled “Edwy.”)  The new king was 16 years old at the time, and when he reacted like a normal 16-year-old – newly freed from all restraint – Dunstan “rebuked [him] for unchastity.”

That led to Dunstan’s being exiled and a near-civil-war.  However:

When the dust settled, Edwy was dead, his brother Edgar was king, and Dunstan was Archbishop of Canterbury.  The coronation service which Dunstan compiled for Edgar is the earliest English coronation service of which the full text survives, and is the basis for all such services since, down to the present.

Or as  Wikipedia, put it:  “This service, devised by Dunstan himself … forms the basis of the present-day British coronation ceremony,” as shown in the photo below.

And finally, there’s a connection to Ascension Day, which we just celebrated:  “On Ascension Day in 988, he told the congregation that he was near to death, and died two days later.”

So here’s to Dunstan, who gave us the Lucky Horseshoe, created today’s British coronation ceremony – and even survived being beat up, tied up and thrown into a cesspool

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The upper image is courtesy of Dunstan – Wikipedia.  The full caption said that Dunstan was “shoeing the Devil’s hoof, as illustrated by George Cruikshank.”  

The “Richard-Burton-as-Becket” image is courtesy of Becket (Blu-ray) (1964) … oldies.com.  See also Becket (1964 film) – Wikipedia and Becket (1964) – IMDb.  Note also that the phrase “more popular than Burton” is an allusion to the “More popular than Jesus” hubbub in 1966.  (At which time yours truly was a mere 15 years old.)  The “hubbub” arose from a comment by John Lennon:

During an interview, he argued that Christianity was in decline and that it may be outlived by rock music, explaining … “Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary.  It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”  The comment drew no controversy when originally published in the United Kingdom, but angry reactions flared up in Christian communities when it was republished in the United States five months later…  Shortly after the controversy broke, Lennon reluctantly apologised for the comment, saying “if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it.”  [E.A.]

Re:  The “horseshoe debate.”  See Horseshoe Superstition … Hanging Over Doorway.

The lower image is courtesy of Coronation | The Royal Family, which noted:

The coronation ceremony, an occasion for pageantry and celebration, but it is also a solemn religious ceremony, has remained essentially the same over a thousand years.  For the last 900 years, the ceremony has taken place at Westminster Abbey, London.  The service is conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury…

 

Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds…”

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

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The next major Feast Day commemorates the Ascension, and this year comes on May 25.  This Feast commemorates the “bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven,” and is “ecumenical.”  (That is, it’s “universally celebrated.”)  In terms of importance it ranks up there “with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter, and Pentecost.”

It’s always celebrated on a Thursday, the 40th day of Easter.

More precisely, it’s celebrated on the 40th day of Eastertide, the 50-day church season running from Easter Day to Pentecost Sunday.

On that note, last year – 2016 – Ascension Day was celebrated on May 5.  (See Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, a post featuring the image above left, with the caption:  “Before Jesus could Ascend into Heaven, He had to Descend into Hell….”)

Which is another way of saying that since Easter Sunday is a moveable feast – a “liturgical event that comes on a different date each year – all the other feast days measured after Easter get shifted around too.  (Like Ascension Day and Pentecost.)  And all that’s not to be confused with A Moveable Feast.  That’s the title of Ernest Hemingway‘s memoir – published posthumously in 1964 – about his years as a struggling young writer in Paris in the 1920s.

And just as an aside, the title of Hemingway’s memoir was a “play on words for the term used for a holy day for which the date is not fixed.”  (Like Christmas, always celebrated on December 25.)  Which is as good a definition as any, but we digress!!!

More to the point, you can see the full Bible readings for the feast at Ascension Day.  Or you could check out two other prior posts, On Ascension Day 2015 and – from 2014 – On Ascension Day.  (That year it was celebrated on May 29.)  

The event itself was described in Luke 24, which starts with the first Easter day – “the women” finding the empty tomb – followed by the Road to Emmaus appearance.  That’s 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.)

On that note see Luke 24:45, which – BTW – pretty much sums up the main theme of this blog.

And finally, Jesus led the disciples out of the room and on out of Jerusalem.  See Luke 24:50-51:

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgAll of which may be pretty hard to believe, but that’s also addressed in 2014’s On Ascension Day.  It talked about things like Arguing with God – which included the imag at left – and the First law of thermodynamics.  (Which is – I argued – proof positive that the human soul – a definite form of energy – is neither “created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.”)  

The point being that there are some Christians who definitely believe you shouldn’t argue with God.  And there are lots of other people out there who don’t believe the whole idea of life after life – or after death – or for that matter the “bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven.”

Which brings up Robin Williams’ “Top Ten…”

To explain:  If you type “ascension day” in the search box above right, that Top Ten post will be the fourth post down.  (Right before Jesus in Hell.)  Specifically, the list at issue is Robin Williams’ Top 10 reasons to be an Episcopalian.  (Which is definitely one of the “believer” groups.)

One of the key points of Williams’ list:  Stop worrying so much about trying to understand the hard-to-understand parts of the Bible.  (Like the bodily Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.)

Instead, focus on our own “life’s journey, leaving our destination to a ‘Higher Power.’”  That is, “celebrate life as a pilgrimage as the basic metaphor of Christian life.”  Which is one way to turn tragedy into something to laugh at, and so deal with much better.  And so enjoy the pilgrimage:

I have a feeling that somewhere, somehow – “even as we speak” – the spirit of Robin Williams is making some being – some entity – laugh his or her spiritual butt off.

And the key to that approach is reading the Bible with an open mind.  In turn, if anyone objects, we can say we are simply following the example of Jesus as told in Luke 24:45:

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

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Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. . .

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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 lower image is from Channel 4 News apologises for Robin Williams gaffe.  The “gaffe” came after Williams‘ death-by-suicide on August 11, 2014:  “Broadcaster criticised after tribute to late actor features ‘get a rope and hang me’ quote from Good Morning Vietnam.”  The Gaffe post added this:

Channel 4 News has apologised after airing a clip of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam saying: “Get a rope and hang me,” a day after the star’s suspected suicide. . .  Channel 4 came in for criticism for the gaffe.

On Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members”

Rubens apostel philippus.jpg

Philip the Apostle – the saint we know is being celebrated on Monday, May 2…”

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Monday, May 1, was the  Feast Day of and for Saint Philip and Saint James.  I covered these two saints in last year’s Philip and James – Saints and Apostles.

That post included the painting of St. Philip at the top of the page.  (Along with the “quotated” caption discussed further below.*)  It also included the photo at right – of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry – along with the mock caption:

“So, punk, do you feel like getting chastened and liberated?”  

(The post talked about the kind of ritual – religious and otherwise – that should “pervade a healthy society.”  It also noted that a good pilgrimage – a kind of religious ritual “on the move” – can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of human experiences.)

But we digress…   The point of the caption at the top of the page is that we know who the “Philip” is that we celebrate on May 1.  We’re not so sure about the “James…”

According to the Satucket (Daily Officearticle on Philip and James – there are eight possible “Jameses” who could be celebrated on May 1.  These include but not limited to:  1) James the Greater (or “James, son of Zebedee”);  James the Less (“either the younger or shorter of two”); and/or James the Just (also known as the brother of Jesus).  At any rate, the full list of eight is included in the notes below.  (And incidentally, that “James the son of Zebedee” is the patron saint of pilgrims and pilgrimages.  See e.g., On “St. James the Greater.”)

But again, even though we don’t know exactly which James is being celebrated on May 1, we do know which “Philip” is being celebrated.

This Philip was the Apostle described in Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40), and the Wikipedia article on Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. (As shown at left.)   And speaking of last year’s post – Philip and James – Saints and Apostles – it noted that as a eunuch the Ethiopian was an untouchable, at least from a Christian fundamentalist standpoint.

That’s because of Deuteronomy 23:1.  On that note, the New Living Translation is pretty specific (if not graphic):  “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”  The King James Bible – the one that God uses – puts the matter more delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD:”

Yet Philip, guided by God’s Spirit, does not hesitate to share the good news of God’s love and salvation with this less than whole Ethiopian and to baptize him into the faith, to welcome him into the life of the Christian church.  This new faith is for all, God’s love is for every human being no matter what disability or disease or affliction has come our way.

(See “Wesley Uniting Church.”)  In other words, the point of Acts 8:26-40 – and the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – is that God’s Love is Universal.  

Which is – I suppose – just another way of saying that God will accept anyone.  (As described in John 6:37, where Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”)  Or see On total love – and “the Living Vine.”  The point of that post as well was, first, that God’s love is universal.

The second point was that we as Christians should try to imitate that all-encompassing love.  Or as Jesus aptly – and succinctly – put it in his summary of the entire Bible:

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.

That’s from Matthew 22, verses 37-40, emphasis added.  In plain words, our goal in life should be to “live in full communion,” with both God and even our most obnoxious neighbor.  And be good stewards of nature besides.  (On that note, Earth Day was last April 22.)

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Earth Day Flag created by John McConnell…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Philip the Apostle – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “St. Philip, by Peter Paul Rubens, from his Twelve Apostles series (c. 1611), at the Museo del Prado, Madrid.”  That article added:  “In the Roman Catholic Church, the feast day of Philip, along with that of James the Just, was traditionally observed on 1 May, the anniversary of the dedication of the church dedicated to them in Rome (now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).”  A note:  “James the Just” is third on the Satucket list, just below James the Greater and James the Lesser.

Re:  “Quotated.”  The reference is to part of the lyrics from Alice’s Restaurant.  See also Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant lyrics | LyricsMode.com:  

And I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it
Down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the
Pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the
Other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on
The other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the
Following words:

(“KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?”)

Re:  The full list of eight possible “Jameses” celebrated on May 1:

(1) JAMES THE GREATER: James the son of Zebedee, called James the Greater or James Major or James the Elder, was one of the Twelve Apostles, and also, along with his brother John and with Peter, belonged to what seems to have been an inner circle of Three. He was killed by order of King Herod, as reported in Acts 12:2. (See M 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; P 1:19,29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:2; 10:35,41; 13:3; 14:33; L 5:10; 6:14; 8:51; 9:28,54; A 11:13; 12:2)

St. James Minor, from a 1708 Book of Common Prayer(2) JAMES THE LESS: James the son of Alphaeus (Alpheus) appears on lists of the Twelve Apostles (usually in the ninth place), but is never mentioned otherwise. He is called James the Less, or James Minor, or James the Younger. (See M 10:3; P 3:18; L 6:15; A 1:13)

(3) JAMES THE JUST: James called “the brother of the Lord” appears in Acts 12:17 and thereafter (A 15:13; 21:18; 1C 15:17; Ga 1:19; 2:9,12) as the leader of the Jerusalem congregation. He is counted by later Church historians as the first bishop of Jerusalem, with Simeon (described as also a kinsman, something like a great-nephew of Joseph) as the second. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James was put to death by order of the high priest during an interval between Roman governors, over the protests of the Pharisees, who thought him an upright man. He is known as James the Just or James of Jerusalem or James Protepiscopus (first bishop).

(4) JAMES THE WRITER: One of the New Testament Epistles is written by a James. (See Jas 1:1)

(5) JAMES THE SON OF CLEOPAS:
John (19:25) lists the women standing by the cross of Jesus as “his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” If this list mentions only three women, then Mary the wife of Clopas is presumably a sister-in-law to the Virgin Mary.
The Synoptists give lists of women apparently at a distance.
Matthew (27:55f) lists as “looking on from afar” some Galilean women “among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
Mark (15:40f) lists “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses, and Salome… and also many other women.”
Luke (24:10) lists “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them.”
By “mother of James…” do the Synoptists denote the mother of Jesus? It seems odd that they would omit to mention her if she were there, but odder yet that they would identify her as the mother of James and Joseph (Joses), but not as the mother of Jesus. Besides, we note that Matthew and Mark are speaking of women who stood at a distance, while the Virgin was close enough to hear her Son speak. I therefore assume that Mary the mother of James etc is not the same as the Virgin Mary, and is either not mentioned by John at all or is identical with his “Mary the wife of Clopas,” who is probably the sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary. Conclusion: James the son of Clopas was perhaps the nephew of either Mary or Joseph, and so would have been known as the first cousin of Jesus.

(6) JAMES THE NAZARENE: The residents of Nazareth speak of brothers of Jesus, including one named James (M 4:55 = P 6:3).

(7) JAMES THE KINSMAN OF JUDE THE APOSTLE: When Luke lists the Apostles (L 6:16; A 1:13), he has, in places 9 thru 11, “James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas of James.” [This is not Judas Iscariot.] Now, “Judas of James” would ordinarily mean “Judas son of James,” and so the RSV translates it. However, the KJV renders is as “Judas the brother of James,” and some suppose him to be the brother of James the son of Alphaeus, so that we have no fewer than three pairs of brothers among the disciples: Peter and Andrew, sons of Jonas; James and John, sons of Zebedee; James and Jude, sons of Alphaeus. This seems unlikely, since (a) if Luke had intended us to understand that the two were brothers, he would have written them together instead of separating them by Simon the Zealot (but note P 3:16-18); and (b) if he had meant us to understand “brother of” rather than the more usual “son of”, he would have said “brother.”

(8) JAMES THE BROTHER OF JUDE THE WRITER:   The author of the Epistle of Jude calls himself the brother of James. Presumably this James would be someone well-known to his readers, otherwise why bother to mention him?

Here are the full Daily Office readings for Saint Philip and Saint James “AM Psalm 119:137-160Job 23:1-12; John 1:43-51, PM Psalm 139Proverbs 4:7-18; John 12:20-26.”  For yet another take, see Daily Office update (and “scapegoating.”

The lower image is courtesy of Earth Day – Wikipedia.  See also Remembering the Purpose of Earth Day, and from last year, Pope Francis Urges All People to Protect the Earth On 45th Anniversary of Earth Day.  (For a contrasting take on the “politics” of Pope Francis,” see On the “Gospel of Marx.”)

 

On “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017

“Martyrdom of St. Thomas” – the original Doubting Thomas – on the Malabar Coast of India…

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Resurrection (24).jpgToday is officially the Second Sunday of Easter.

Note the “of,” rather than “after.”  That’s because Easter is “not just one day, but an entire season.”  It’s a full season of 50 days – called Eastertide – that runs from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. (See Frohliche Ostern, which includes the image at left.)

So while today is technically the first Sunday after Easter, it is better known as the Second Sunday of Easter.  Actually, it’s really better known as Low Sunday.  That’s mostly because church attendance falls off so drastically that first Sunday “after.”  (Compared with the high attendance of Easter Day.  See also “CEOs;”  i.e., Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.)

You could also call this day the “Sunday of Many Names.”  For example, it’s known as “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”  That’s mostly because the Gospel lesson always tells the story of the disciple Thomas.  (See e.g. John 20:19-31, “which recounts the story of Christ appearing to the Apostle Thomas in order to dispel the latter’s doubt about the Resurrection.”  Which made him in essence the original – the prototype – Doubting Thomas.”)

And today is known as the Octave of Easter.  (In this case the Octave in question is the eight-day period “in Eastertide that starts on Easter Sunday and runs until the Sunday following Easter.”)

Finally, it’s known as “Quasimodo Sunday.”  But that’s not because of Quasimodo, the guy – shown at right – who is better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame:”

Instead, the name comes from a Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2 , a traditional “introit” used in churches on this day.  First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…”  [Or, “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”]  In Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes…”    Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”

Since “geniti” translates as “newborn” and the translation of “infantes” seems self-evident, the “quasi modo” in question roughly translates, “As if in the manner” (of newborn babes)…  And incidentally, that character in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was named after the opening words of First Peter 2:2.  (See The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary, and also First musings – The readings for “Doubting Thomas” Sunday, both from April 24, 2014).

As Wikipedia noted, a doubting Thomas is “a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience, a reference to the Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.”

Aside from the posts noted above, I’ve written about this disciple in Doubting Thomas – and Peter Restored, and Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”  The “Passage to India” post noted that according to tradition, Thomas became a  missionary who traveled to India.  That is, he sailed to India in the year 52 AD, to spread the Christian faith:

According to tradition, St. Thomas was killed in 72 AD[, possibly] at Mylapore near Chennai in India…  This is the earliest known record of his martyrdom..   Some Patristic literature state[s] that St. Thomas died a martyr, in east of Persia or in North India by the wounds of the four spears pierced into his body by the local soldiers.

Which is what the painting at the top of the page shows.  Put another way, in his travels Thomas “ultimately reached India, carrying the Faith to the Malabar Coast” – shown at right in red, on the southwestern coast of India – “which still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas.’”

On the other hand, the Peter Restored post addressed the question:  If you doubt and question your faith – like Thomas did – will that faith actually grow stronger?

In other words, how do we as Christians deal with our doubts?

The theme of this post is that – for boot-camp Christians – the answer is simple:  You shouldn’t have any doubts.  In other words, you should “blindly believe.”  But for the rest of us there’s another answer, and that answer ultimately provides a stronger Christian faith:

Remember Thomas, the disciple, who wouldn’t believe in Christ’s resurrection until he put his hand into Jesus’s wounds.  He went on to die spreading the gospel in Persia and India.  God gave us free choice, He doesn’t want us to be robots, He could have made us like that, but wanted us to choose for ourselves.  You learn and grow by questioning. (E.A.)

And by doing that you’ll probably end up – spiritually anyway – like the kindly, gentle, learned disciple shown in the painting below.  (Another view of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens.)  And that’s the kind of disciple who could convert people to Christianity even in a continent made up of Hindus and Muslims; that is, an otherwise unfertile continent for conversion, yet “which still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas.’”

Which brings up The True Test of Faith.  Somehow Thomas seemed to have the kind of faith that – even if he ultimately found that the whole “Jesus thing” was a hoax – he’d still end up saying, at the end of his life, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas

St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens

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The upper image is courtesy of Thomas the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Martyrdom of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens.”

Re:  “Low Sunday.”  See Why Attendance Will Be Low This Sunday, and also Low Sunday | Article about Low Sunday by The Free Dictionary.

The Wikipedia caption for the image of Quasimodo reads:  “Esmeralda gives a drink to Quasimodo in one of Gustave Brion‘s illustrations.”

Re Introit.  Merriam-Webster defines it as either “the first part of the traditional proper of the Mass consisting of an antiphon, verse from a psalm, and the Gloria Patri,” or a “piece of music sung or played at the beginning of a worship service.”  The Gloria Patri generally goes like this:  “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

Re:Both from April 24, 2014.”  I apparently published two separate posts on the same topic.

The lower image is courtesy of Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas – Art and the Bible