Category Archives: Books

On Garry Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant…”

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison – would a Close-minded Christian follow Matthew 25:36 like this?

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Two months ago, on a Tuesday morning, I was driving to the gym. On the way in I listened – again – to an audio version of the book What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills. (I had listened to it, repeatedly, on CDs from the local library, but then finally broke down and bought the complete 4-CD set. That’s because I plan to keep listening to it, over and over again, “into the future.”)

That long-ago morning I heard a favorite section of Wills’ book. It was about a favorite topic: Close-minded people who call themselves Christian, but have little or no concept of what The Faith is all about. Like what that great philosopher Johnny Cash once said:

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

(See Johnny Cash – Man in black with lyrics – YouTube.) But getting back to What Jesus (Really) Meant. The section of the book that I really like talks about how some modern-day Christians selectively interpret the Bible to suit their own conservative political agenda.

Like the hateful claim that God hates fags!

Garry Wills provided a perfect answer to such haters. (Who are certainly not Christian. And that answer came at pages 34 and 35 of the 2006 Penguin Books edition.) Unfortunately Wills wasn’t sure of the source of the clever riposte. Then too it was quite a long passage, so I wasn’t crazy about having to type it all out myself. But fortunately I finally found a transcript that I could cut-and-paste into this post. It’s from It’s the Law, Kid – Jane Tawel.

The anonymous author – who Tawel quoted – first gave a tongue-in-cheek “thank you” to a man who cited Leviticus 18:22 as proof that homosexuality was a sin. But he was curious about some other passages from Exodus and Leviticus. Mostly he was curious about how the people who violated those passages should be killed.

In one example he cited Exodus 35:2, which says “Whoever does any work” on Sunday, the Sabbath, “is to be put to death.” Which led to the question: “Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?” Then came a question about Leviticus 24:10-16. (Blasphemer put to death.) “My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19,” as does his wife. (For wearing clothes made out of two different kinds of thread.) “He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.” Which led to the question: Was it necessary to get the whole town together to stone them both to death? “Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair?”

Then came questions about social protocol. For example, he cited Leviticus 15:19-24, which prohibits any contact – “period” – with a woman during her menstrual period. “The problem is: how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.” (Indeed.) And finally, Exodus 21:7 allows a man to sell his daughter into slavery. “I would like to sell my daughter into slavery… In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?”

You can see the full set of tongue-in-cheek questions in the notes, but here’s the point. Many so-called Christians are guilty of selective perception. That’s the process by which “individuals perceive what they want to in media messages while ignoring opposing viewpoints.”

In other words, some so-called Christians use selective interpretation to promote an “earthly” political agenda. But Jesus was above politics, much like Johnny Cash, and much like Billy Graham became in his later years.* (So much so that some “conservative Christians” called him Antichrist. See for example BILLY GRAHAM: SERVANT OF CHRIST OR OF ANTICHRIST.)

Which is just another way of saying that “Christianity has been twisted and warped to such an extent that not even Jesus would recognize it now.” And the main reason Jesus wouldn’t recognize Christianity today – according to Wills and others (including Yours Truly) – is the way it’s been warped and perverted. So much so that it’s been used to promote so much hate.

But for Johnny Cash, Billy Graham and Garry Wills, Jesus was all about love. And that’s not to mention the Apostle Paul, who gave us 1st Corinthians 13:4-7….

The main theme of Wills’ book is that Jesus was “radical” in his love for all people. (Even – gasp – for liberals! And for that matter, even for those people who should know better but are a real pain in the ass.)

Wills noted that Jesus spent little time with the well-to-do, and seemed to prefer the company of whores, lepers and outcasts of all types. As Wills put it, Jesus “walks through social barriers and taboos as if they were cobwebs.” Which is pretty much the Christian love of Johnny Cash.

See Johnny Cash’s Religion and Political Views | Hollowverse, whose author wrote, “I like to think that Johnny was above politics and more about people and peace and happiness and cooperation.” Or as Cash’s daughter Rosanne said, her father “didn’t care where you stood politically.” He could “love all stripes, and that’s why all stripes claim him.” Even people in prison.

Which is a pretty radical proposition indeed. (Can you say great minds think alike?)

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And by the way, the next major feast day – after the last June 24 and June 29 days for John the Baptist and Peter and Paul – is on July 22, 2021, for Saint Mary Magdalene.

Something (better) to look forward to…

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The upper image is courtesy of Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison – Image Results. Note that my original caption asked whether “a Conservative Christian would follow Matthew 25:36″ as Johnny Cash did at Folsom Prison. But to be a bit less confrontational I changed the wording to “Close-minded Christian,” since it is possible that some Conservative Christians are open-minded, while it is also possible that some Liberal Christians are close-minded.

And before I get into extensive notes further explaining the main text, the lower image is courtesy of wiki/Penitent_Magdalene_(Titian,_1565).

And note the full “God hates fags” link, Is there any truth to the ‘God hates fags’ slogan? Which noted in part that “the Bible tells us that those who pervert the Gospel and teach it falsely are ‘anathema’ which means ‘eternally condemned’ (Galatians 1:8-9). Jesus was called a ‘friend of sinners’ but He saved His words of condemnation for the religious leaders of Israel whose teaching was making it impossible for people to know, trust, and follow God (Matthew 23:1-36). If there’s anybody that God hates, it’s false teachers.” See also Westboro Baptist Church – Wikipedia, and Fred Phelps – Wikipedia.

Re: Billy Graham in his later years. See A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!” From October 2018, based on my listening to the book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. (Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.) I noted that Graham eventually grew in grace so much – as he got older – that he came to say that God loves all people – even Liberals.  Which led some Fundamentalists to criticize him for his ecumenism, “even calling him ‘Antichrist.’” 

The quote “Christianity has been twisted and warped” is from Nonfiction Book Review: What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills.

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At any rate, the “image results” photo atop the page came with an article, The REAL Story Behind Johnny Cash & Folsom Prison Blues. The link in the captionJohnny Cash … at Folsom Prison – added this little bit of history:

In the midst of depression and a steep decline in his musical career, legendary country singer Johnny Cash arrives to play for inmates at California’s Folsom Prison on January 13, 1968. The concert and the subsequent live album launched him back into the charts and re-defined his career.

So maybe that “Jesus Guy” knew what He was talking about. (In other words, “Maybe there’s an object lesson there?”) As to the caption itself, the full text of Matthew 25:36 reads, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Also Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those in prison as if you were bound with them, and those who are mistreated as if you were suffering with them,” and Matthew 25:39-40, “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.’”

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And here’s more information on Will’s book and that “favorite section. See What Jesus Meant: Wills, Garry: 9780143038801: Amazon.com: Books. See also Garry Wills – Wikipedia, about the “American author, journalist, and historian [b. 1934], specializing in American history, politics, and religion, especially the history of the Catholic Church. He won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1993.

The following is the full section, courtesy of the “Tawel” blog, which began by saying not to read the Bible if you don’t want to contemplate mystery, confront hypocrisy or get a sense of “God’s humorous humbling of us.” Ms. Tawel then provided a complete transcript:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination – end of debate.  I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians.  Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is: how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor to the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11;10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?
  7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
  9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton-polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev. 24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.  Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging (34-35 Garry Wills, What Jesus Meant. New York: Penguin, 2006).

On “weathering the storm” – from May 2020 to now…

In part, this post takes a look at how we’ve “weathered the storm” over the past year or so…

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Happy “First day of May, 2021!” Among other things, May 1 is the Feast Day for St Philip and St James, Apostles. (Or see Saint Philip and Saint James, from the Satucket website.) I last covered this feast day in St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. I posted it on May 7, 2020 – almost a year ago – and noted that “we are now in the eighth full week of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

I also noted this bit of wisdom on how to “weather the storm,” advice from the 16th century:

“Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” Which as a result of the European wars of religion [in the the 16th century] created a figure new to Europe but “familiar in the great ages of China: the intellectual recluse.” (Which at this point evokes – to the writer anyway – the old Maynard G. Krebs repeated line, “You rang?“) 

The point being that one way to weather a storm – like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – is become a kind of “intellectual recluse.” (Which brings up again Maynard G. Krebs‘ “You rang?“) 

I’ll write more on last year’s post further below, but first I wanted to note some more “wisdom.” This from a post I did in February 2015, The True Test of Faith. Here’s how I summarized that “true test” in my 2018 E-book titled, “There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian:”

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True Test of Faith talked about two Christians who die, then find out there is no God, no heaven, no afterlife, no reward for good behavior. The first one is outraged. “What? You mean I could have spent my life partying? Boozing it up? Chasing women, loose and otherwise? Boy am I mad, when I think of all those fun things that I could have been doing!”

The second Christian is a more thoughtful. He thinks of the path he’s followed. He thinks of his reading the Bible on a daily basis, thereby finding comfort and inspiration. He remembers how this process led him into some unexpected life breakthroughs, and on many true-life adventures. He thinks of all the “testing adventures” he’s had; some he passed, some he failed. 

And after all this thinking about his life, his faith and his Bible-reading, the second Christian ends up saying, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.” 

That’s the kind of faith I’m trying to develop. Of course, I do believe in God, and in Jesus. I also believe that “if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, emphasis added.)  I’m just saying, that’s the kind of faith I’m trying to develop. 

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And that could be the kind of faith that’s been tested – for a great many people – over the past year or so. Which may be why last year’s St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020 went off on so many tangents. (Looking for answers.) Like one answer from the 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. (In French, “il faut cultiver notre jardin.”) Or to simply “persevere,” meaning to persist or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.

Which includes “the discipline of continuing our Daily Bible Reading.” Like honoring and remembering feast days for Saints like Philip and James the Lesser. (Together with the reason the two are remembered together.*) All of which reminds us of God’s love for all mankind as being universal. (Capable of “reaching even those beyond the pale – if not untouchable.”)

 In other words, the point of Acts 8:26-40 – Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – is that God’s Love is Universal. (See also Jonah and the bra-burners.*) So here’s to “Philip and James – Saints and Apostles,” and their Feast Day.

And furthermore, here’s to a loving God whose love is so universal that He is ready and willing to accept anyone. (Who turns to Him. See John 6:37.) Happy St. Philip and St. James day!

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Saints Philip and James the Lesser – together in the “Basilica of the 12 Holy Apostles…*” 

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The upper image is courtesy of Weather The Storm Images – Image Results. It accompanies an article “How does climate change affect weather? – new briefing paper and podcast,” a 12/19/18 post from the Royal Meteorological Society, “UK’s Professional and Learned Society for weather and climate.”

Re: Saint Philip and Saint James. The full Daily Bible readings for the day include “AM Psalm 119:137-160, Job 23:1-12John 1:43-51[;] PM Psalm 139,” along with Proverbs 4:7-18 and John 12:20-26.

Re: Last year’s post, St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. While the instant blog platform listed the publication date as May 8, 2020, I actually posted it late on the previous evening, May 7, 2020.

Re: The 16th century. The quote in the main text is from historian Kenneth Clark‘s 1969 book Civilisation, “about what some people did during a time of great upheaval. (Like today’s.)” And as quoted from last year’s post on Saints Philip and James. See also Wikipedia, on that 16th century.

Re: Recluse, intellectual or otherwise. See Wikipedia, which noted “We live in a society that stigmatizes seclusion, yet has an almost rabid fascination with it at the same time. A survey of history shows that some of the most brilliant thinkers, writers and artists turned their backs on society to embrace a life of voluntary seclusion.”

Re: Why Philip and James are remembered together. See New Daily Compass:

The two apostles Philip and James the Lesser are remembered with a single liturgical feast because their relics, transferred respectively from Hierapolis and Jerusalem, were placed together in the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles [“Santi Apostoli“] in Rome.

The lower image is courtesy of Saints Philip and James – Franciscan Media. Caption: “Image: Detail of reredos | Polytych by Maestà | Wikimedia.”


On “Zen in the Art of College Football…”

The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen” – on Easter Day – by Rembrandt

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Today is Palm Sunday, and next Sunday is Easter. That’s the “Christian festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.” (And thus the end of Lent, that 40-day period of “fastingprayer, and penance.”) I’ve written about Easter Sunday in Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter” – including the image above – and Happy Easter – April 2020!

The post from last year – 2020 – said that “clearly this Easter is different, mostly because of the current coronavirus pandemic.” Which led me to this observation:

Back on March 12 [2020] – what seems so long ago, and in light of the pandemic just then making headlines – I checked out two books from the local library. (Not realizing the libraries around here and the country would be closed, “for the duration.” And that I wouldn’t be able to return them for that “duration.”) One book was The Plague, by Albert Camus.

Fortunately the libraries are back open and we’re starting to get a handle on this “COVID” thing. (I get my second vaccine shot this upcoming Wednesday, March 31, down in Barnesville.) Which is a good reason to be especially thankful during this Holy Week, 2021.

For more on past posts on Palm Sunday and Easter you can check the notes, but for now I want to go back to my last post, Romans 11 – and “What happened to FSU football.” Because: If you looked at that post you may have noticed a quote that seems unexplained.

It’s concerns the fictional hero of my newest novel. (I named him “Nick,” in homage to the fictional character created by Ernest Hemingway.) It’s ostensibly about a book that he – Nick – wrote back in 1994. As in, “He went on book tours , and in one such tour personally handed a copy of ‘Zen Football*’ to Bobby Bowden.” (At right.) But I ended up doing too many updates – after publishing the post – and so couldn’t update the post one more time, in a way explain that asterisk.

Here’s what happened…

As noted, I’d already done a boatload of updating, and apparently there’s a limit on how many updates you can do with this platform, after you’ve published the post. (I kept getting “update failed, update failed.”) So I’ll try to explain the asterisk here, and in that process I’ll elaborate on that 1994 book, “Zen in the Art of College Football.” (Subtitled, “Pondering the Metaphysical Mysteries of Major College Football.”)

To review, that last post had a footnote about my fictional hero, Nick:

In 1994 “he” published a book which he titled “Zen in the Art of College Football,” about the events leading up to FSU football’s 1993 national championship. [It’s first of three.] He felt that at the time the method of choosing which two teams would play for a national championship “sounded a lot like Zen. A lot of double talk that really doesn’t make a lot of rational sense.” (Or words to that effect.)

So here are the precise “words to that effect.”

To find them, I had to go back to the original paperback.* The main title is, as noted, “Zen in the Art of College Football.” The title page says it’s a novel “Based on the Florida State Seminoles’ Seven-year Quest to Win a National Championship.” (Which they finally got in 1993.) And there’s the alternate subtitle, “Pondering the Metaphysical Mysteries of Major College Football as a Path to Enlightenment and/or Salvation.”

Which is quite a mouthful.

As for the “words to that effect,” they – and the idea for the book – came as a result of my getting an audio version of Zen in the Art of Archery. (This was around 1992 or early 1993, referring to the 1948 book by Eugen Herrigel.) I’d tried to actually read it – in book form – before that time, but always got bogged down. (In that way it was kind of like trying to read the Book of Leviticus.)

So instead I listened to the audio version on a weekend road trip down in Florida, early in the 1993 college football season. Then a few days later, “as if in a flash, I got the idea of connecting Zen in the Art of Archery with ‘Zen in the Art of College Football.'”

At the time I was – in a sense – doing research on that first novel. Specifically, I was trying to figure out why FSU’s football team had so often gotten snookered out of a shot at the national title game, year after year. (With a reference to the Greek god Tantalus, whose story gave us the word tantalize, as in “to tease or torment by or as if by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach.”)

That in turn involved the method by which the two teams – back in 1993 and before – got picked to play for the national championship. I wrote at the time that it all sounded very “Zen” to me. As in, “if it’s full of contradictions, sounds like double-talk, and really doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s probably Zen.” Which led to this:

Seen that way, Zen becomes remarkably similar to major college football, especially in the 1993 season. There are lots of similarities between “Zen” and how a national champion is picked:* both sound like double-talk, both are full of contradictions, and neither really makes a whole lot of sense.

Now about that last asterisk. Strictly speaking, the similarities were not between Zen and “how a national champion is picked.” Instead they were between Zen and how the ostensible “top two teams” who would play for the national championship got picked.

Which is another way of saying that even after all these years, I’m still finding things I need to correct in that paperback book I published back in 1994, “a long time ago and [what seems like] a galaxy far away.*” (See Star Wars opening crawl – Wikipedia.)

So right about now you may be asking, “What the heck does ‘Zen’ have to do reading the Bible?” The answer? It has to do with reading the Bible “with an open mind.” And that brings up Thomas Merton, along with the next book I wrote. (In 1995, a year after “Zen Football.”)

I called it Jesus Christ, Public Defender. (Subtitled, “and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers.”) And unlike Zen Football, it’s actually now available in E-book form.*

As I wrote in “JCPD,” Merton (1915-1968) was a Catholic (Trappist) monk. In his later years he found a lot of similarities between his “orthodox” Christianity and the exotic Eastern alternatives – like Zen – that were so popular back in the 1960s. But dallying in these exotic Eastern spiritual disciplines didn’t weaken Merton’s Faith; if anything, they strengthened that faith. As one biographer wrote: 

[B]y approaching the spiritual quest at unexpected angles, they opened up new ways of thought and new ways of experiencing that invigorated and released him

Of course there are those who disagree.* Like the woman in 1989 who said the goal of Zen is to “obliterate rational thinking.” A note: This same woman said Mormonism is a cult and that practicing Hatha Yoga will turn you into some babbling zombie. (Or “words to that effect.”) And just so you know, I’ve been practicing Hatha Yoga for 50 years now. (Since the late 1970’s.) Without a guru and without shaving the hair off my head. (That came with the passage of time.)

Also, 45 years ago – when I started doing yoga – I was a typical child of the 1960s. As I wrote in JCPD, in those younger days I turned my back on the Established Church and “tried different ways of Coming to Terms With Life.*” But then in middle age I found myself coming back to The Church of My Youth. This was despite my misgivings that it was “full of hypocrite fat-cat conservatives, intolerant, self-righteous, narrow-minded.” At this point I could say “some things never change.” However, I’ve come to realize that the Christian Church in America has lots of good, faithful Seekers After Truth. (But still way too many of “that other kind.”) The point being:

Between 1987 and 1993, I went through a life-changing transformation. As I once wrote, “In 1987 I was a godless heathen dirt-bag, but by 1993 I was a church-going pillar of the community.” How did that come about?

As to how that change came about, part of it was listening to that audio book, Zen in the Art of Archery. Then making the connection between Zen and FSU’s football team. And from there – having been “invigorated and released” – going on to see the connection between Jesus Christ and the public defending that I was doing at the time. And from there continuing my Bible studies and serving in my local church, both in Florida and now up in “God’s Country.” (The Atlanta metropolitan area.) And serving in various capacities, including chalicist and Vestry member.

And now for a moment of zen. “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.” And if you think that sounds non-Biblical, see Philippians 2:7, where Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” But why?

This is harder than you might realize. By the time we reach adulthood we are so full of information that we don’t even notice it’s there. We might consider ourselves to be open-minded, but in fact, everything we learn is filtered through many assumptions and then classified to fit into the knowledge we already possess.

That’s all from Empty Your Cup, an Old Zen Saying. Another old Zen saying is that a child looks at a mountain and sees a mountain, an adult looks at a mountain and sees many things, a Zen master looks at a mountain and sees – a mountain. Which seems to mirror what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So becoming like children again means – among other things – looking at a mountain and seeing … a mountain. Not to mention cleaning those “assumption filters” on a regular basis. (See Dirty Air Filter – Image Results.) And that involves dropping layers of life-long preconceptions, loosening up spiritual “hardened arteries,” and opening up to the majesty of God’s creation and His gift of Jesus. In other words, be open minded, opening up to God. (Like it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”)

The same can apply to our Bible study. Which means in part both reading the Bible itself and getting feedback from other people, other teachers who can help explain how deep the Bible is.

There is a choice, “But as for me and my house,” I choose the life of abundance in John 10:10.

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The upper image is courtesy of “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen” – Art and the Bible.  See also Rembrandt – Wikipedia, and/or Rembrandt van Rijn: Life and Work.

Re: “Past posts on Palm Sunday and Easter.” For Palm Sunday see 2015’s On Holy Week – and hot buns, and – from 2018 – Palm Sunday: To “not sin,” or to accomplish something? For Easter, and aside from the links in the main text, see On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor. Note that the post from last Easter – 2020 – included the image at right, captioned “Which would you prefer: Let the Plague ‘wash over you,’ or be ‘passed over?’”

Re: The quote comparing Zen and major college football in the years leading up to 1993. It’s on page 4 of the 69-plus pages of the original paperback. I.e., there was a “scandal” involving FSU football after the 1993 season, but before publication. So I had to add a “(Post Scandal) Post-Script,” on two additional un-numbered pages.

Re: Tantalus. See Wikipedia, noting that he was a Greek god “famous for his punishment in Tartarus… He was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink.”

Re: Reading Leviticus. See Wikipedia, and also – for example –Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die | Stray Thoughts.

Re: “Unlike Zen Football, it’s available in E-book form.” As noted, I published ‘Zen Football’ in 1994. This was before print on demand, so I had to order – and pay for – a thousand copies of the paperback. And to this day I still have 700-800 copies, in boxes strewn around my four-bedroom house in the piney-woods. (So maybe when I die they’ll be worth a gazillion dollars.)

Re: Thomas Merton. In “Jesus Christ Public Defender” I added:

Near the end of his life, Merton traveled to India and Tibet, and at one point interviewed the Dalai Lama.  As described in a biography, Merton and the Dalai Lama discussed in part that condition in meditation where “the mind becomes so absorbed in concentration that it forgets itself in ecstasy.”

Re: Merton’s being helped in his spiritual quest by both his Christian mysticism and “a wide knowledge of Oriental religions.” Later in life Merton became fascinated with Zen Buddhism and the Zen writer D. T. Suzuki (q.v.). He studied Taoism, “regular” Buddhism and Hinduism.

Re: “Those who disagree.” In JCPD I cited the 1989 book, Another Gospel: Cults, Alternative Religions, and the New Age, by Ruth Tucker. (See also Wikipedia.) As to Zen, Tucker said it was so “utterly esoteric” that it couldn’t be “rationally understood or explained through language.” She said the goal of Zen is to produce the frame of mind to “obliterate all rational thinking and dependence on language and knowledge in preparation for satori,” ultimate insight or enlightenment. Tucker also characterized yoga, Zen, and most non-Christian religions as cults or false religions, including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Tucker also said Yoga – for example – can only be practiced with a “guru,” and its religious nature is disguised; “individuals frequently practice the exercises without, they claim, becoming involved in the actual religion.” She cited an authority who said that as time passed, people doing Hatha Yoga “gradually and imperceptibly begin to accept other concepts which involve definite religious convictions,” and that “yoga cannot be practiced in isolation from other Indian beliefs” like reincarnation...

And just for the record and as noted, I’ve done Hatha Yoga for 50 years now. (Since the 1970’s.) Without a guru, without shaving my head and without becoming a Hare Krishna, thank you very much.

And a side note: Tucker’s 1989 book is not to be confused with the 2020 book, Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, by Alisa Childers.

Re: “Child on the 1960s.” The link is to Flower child (or “children”) – Wikipedia, which one philosopher “viewed in Jungian terms as a collective social symbol representing the mood of friendly weakness.” Or those who reject established culture and advocate “extreme liberalism.” (Free Dictionary.) Little of which applied to me, at the time or since.

Re: “As I wrote in JCPD.” Notes and quotes are in Chapter 4: “A brief digression – about the author.”

Re: Moment of Zen. See also 5 Inspirations for Being in the Moment – zen habits zen habits, which talks about “living in the moment.”

The lower image is courtesy of Life Abundance – Image Results.

On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

To see more images of the “meanest 33 miles in history,” go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results

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The next major feast day is Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 26. For a look at some past posts on the subject see the Notes. In the meantime I have something to be thankful for.

I just published a new E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(“Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”) It’s published under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” The cover photo – at right – shows me in Jerusalem in May 2019, wearing a “shemagh.” Also called a keffiyeh, I got it at Ranger Joe’s in Ft. Benning before leaving for Israel. (To “blend in.”) I’m wearing it over my black Atlanta United ball cap, thus “blending in” the best of the old and new.

In the blurb I wrote for Amazon Kindle eBooks, I said this book should be timely – “in the middle of our Covid-19 pandemic” – because right now “lots of Americans can only dream about visiting such exotic locales in the future, when the crisis passes.”

I compared it to the 1920s and ‘30s, when so many Americans were fascinated by Hemingway’s books on France and Spain. (Like “The Sun Also Rises ” and “A Moveable Feast.”)

I’m guessing part of it was that back then most Americans could only DREAM of travel to such exotic places. (Like today with Covid…) Then too it may be because Hemingway gave all those exotic street names and local pubs and restaurants. Like my finding the “BEERBAZAAR,” in Jerusalem, in May 2019. Which makes me think I should have written down way more information when I was “over there.” Then I could do more what Hemingway did, vivid description. But I have something Hemingway didn’t have. GOOGLE MAPS!

Then too – aside from my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel – the book includes chapters on hiking the Chilkoot Trail in 2016. (“Meanest 33 miles in history,” exemplified by the top photo.) Or hiking the Camino de Santiago, twice. The first time was in 2017. I met my brother in Pamplona – home of Hemingway’s Café Iruna – and together we hiked (and biked) the 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. (He flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees, but the Chilkoot Trail had cured me of any such wishes to go hiking over mountains again so soon.)

Incidentally, the last two chapters of the book are based on the last two (of three) posts I did in a companion blog: Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!” That “They sell beer” post was really long – “Word count 3450” – mostly because I had a lot to fit in. But, to balance things out I’ll make this post shorter.

The upshot is that I wrote about a lot of great adventures, but still had more to write about. Plus those I did cover I didn’t do full justice to. I did include one great memory from Israel:

May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv. The night before I fly home from Ben Gurion. Sitting at the bar in the basement of the Abraham Hostel, Levon St. 21. To my left, two travel buddies, Sam and Katie. Katie on my immediate left, Sam one seat over. To my right a young man who turned out to be a law student from Quebec. We got to talking, and I asked his name. He said “Silas.” So I started singing “Two was a-Paul and Silas!” Katie chimed in, “One was a little bitty baby,” then we both sang – in harmony – “Born, born, born in Bethlehem!”

(That was part of the chorus from “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” As I wrote in the book, “for a kick-ass a cappella version, see the one by Little Big Town.)

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There’s more on all that later, but first a couple production notes on the E-book. First off, you’ll notice that on page 6 of the Introduction – right after the paragraph beginning “May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv” – the line spacing goes all kerflooey. From justified it goes to non-justified text, and the line spacing gets wider. It goes back to normal for the next one-line paragraph – “Then the COVID hit” – but the text stays non-justified through near the  middle of the next page. (It says page 6 again; there are apparently two “page 6’s.”) Then it goes back to justified text.

I tried correcting it, uploading a second and ostensibly-corrected Word document, but it stayed the same, kerflooey for a page or two. Another note: I had the “Observations” at the end of many chapters in italics and non-justified, as well as the notes at the end of the book. The program made all those justified type. And for the paperback version the publishing program required a minimum of 100 pages, so I had to add four pages to the original 96.

So I’ll try to upload a corrected version, with the additional four pages and with a proper note at the very end as to where to buy a paperback version. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Meanwhile, back to the subject of the book not doing justice to all my adventures…

For one example, as to the Portuguese Camino hike: I only got “us” as far as the Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima. That’s only about a third of the way up to Santiago de Compostela. Then too I could only provide limited coverage of my pilgrimage to Israel, which I last covered in This time last year – in Jerusalem, in May 2020. And by the way, that post has a lot of those “image may contain” boxes, that used to be pictures I posted, to make the posts more interesting. And which in turn is a problem I address in the book. And that’s why I now use lead captions like “To see more images of the ‘meanest 33 miles in history,’ go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.” That makes it much easier to transmogrify these blog-posts into future picture-less book chapters.

And about that Jerusalem trip. I described the Leonardo Moria Hotel, a short walk from St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House, with a lounge sometimes functioning as a piano bar. (Once even having a yarmulke-topped pianist playing the Chicken Dance.) That turned out to be a favorite watering hole, not just for me but eventually many of my fellow pilgrims at St. George’s. (One night, for a birthday, “we” had 17 pilgrims there. I should have gotten a commission…)

So one point of this “limited coverage” is that in the future I’ll have to do at least one Sequel. (Tentatively titled “(More of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) In it I hope to add more oversea-travel adventures, including a return to St. George’s in Jerusalem. (Once we kick COVID’s ass.)

Stay tuned!!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results. See also Explore the Chilkoot Trail – Klondike Gold Rush. The lower image is courtesy of St George’s College Jerusalem – Image Results

Re: Past posts on Thanksgiving. See On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, On Thanksgiving – 2017, and On Thanksgiving 2019. (Did I skip 2018?)

“If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem…”

By the waters of Babylon,” in exile, where a Hebrew Remnant finalized the Old Testament…

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As noted in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’ll be flying to Jerusalem for a two-week  pilgrimage (As part of a local church group.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to a series of lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

And in the process of doing this post, I stumbled on a Jerusalem Post article that tied in to a point the professor made in Lecture 2, “By the Rivers of Bablyon – Exile.”  The article:  If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which ties in with frequent themes of this post.  (That the “spiritual path” has more to offer than the “literal path.*”)  But the point here is this:  The title of that article is from Psalm 137:5-6:  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version; the Bible God uses.)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel Lecture 2, described further below.

See also Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, which described “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.”  That ended up with the people of Judah being “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon,” in 539 BC:

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, Professor Cynthia R. Chapman began by focusing on Psalm 137 as the story of how the final version of the Old Testament got made up by that Hebrew Remnant – those people in exile.  In other words, something very good – the final version of the Old Testament – was the result of something very bad happening to “God’s Chosen People.”

According to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history, and also the very middle of Bible itself.*  And Psalm 137 came at precisely the time when the books of the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came about because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

That is, the Old Testament as we know it didn’t exist before 586 B.C., the year many Judeans were taken from their homeland.  (After the horrors of the Babylonian conquest.)  Then they went through a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon, during which many of the Remnant died along the way.  (Those who weren’t executed during the post-siege “mop up.”)  After those horrors – and the shame of this national disgrace – they compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library.”  A library that connected them to their homeland.

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.”

Eadwine psalter - Trinity College Lib - f.243v.jpgThat idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity, at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

The link-article went on to say the period of exile “was a rich one for Hebrew literature.”  For example, the Book of Jeremiah 39–43 saw the exile “as a lost opportunity.”  Also, the “Priestly source, one of the four main sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the Bible, is primarily a product of the post-exilic period,” while also “during this Persian period, the final redaction of the Pentateuch purportedly took place.”

I’ve written before about Moses writing the Torah – the first five books of the Bible – during and right after the 40 years of “wandering in the wilderness.”  (See e.g. On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down,” and My Lenten meditation.)  Which would mean those first five books of the Bible were written some time before 1,400 B.C., about the time Moses died. (What year did Moses die – answers.com.)  But it was only some 800 years later – and the product of a humiliating national disgrace – that the final version of the Old Testament as we know it came into being.

I’ll be writing more about Psalm 137 and “On to Jerusalem” in a later post.  In the meantime, here’s wishing you a happy Easter.  And a reminder that that joyous occasion could only come about after 40 days of Lenten “doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.”  Not to mention a humiliating death on the cross.

You know, I’ll bet there’s a lesson that can be gleaned from all this…

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James Tissot, “The Flight of the Prisoners,” from Jerusalem and on into exile…

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “By the Waters of Babylon, painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

About the photo to the right of the paragraph beginning, “As told in ‘On to Jerusalem:'”  From the Wikipedia article on Jerusalem, the caption reads:  “Israeli policemen meet a Jordanian Legionnaire near the Mandelbaum Gate (circa 1950).”

As to the “Great Course,” see also The World of Biblical Israel – English.  Other books I’m reading for the upcoming include Entebbe: A Defining Moment In the War On Terrorism, by Iddo Netanyahu.

As to the “piritual path being better than the literal path.  See John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  (See also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which noted of God that “His will has been expressed in the seeking.  But His very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual.”)  And of course 2d Corinthians 3:6, saying the letter of the law kills, “but the Spirit [of God’s law] gives life.”

Re:  Psalm 137:5-6.  See also Psalm 137:5 Commentaries: If I forget you…, and Psalm 137 – Commentary in Easy EnglishAlso, “137” is an Imprecatory Psalm See Wikipedia, on those  invoking “judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.”

Re:  “Babylon.”  See Wikipedia:  “The remains of the city are in present-day HillahBabil GovernorateIraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.”  There’s probably a lesson there too…

Re:  Psalm 137 as “the very middle of Bible itself.”  In my Good News Bible, Psalm 137 folds out pretty much right at the middle.  Also, it’s on page 687 of a combined 1,395 pages.  (1,041 for the Old Testament, 354 for the New Testament.)  The precise mid-point page would be “697.5.”

About the image to the right of the paragraph, “That idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity.”  From Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, it’s captioned “Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century).”  

The lower image is courtesy of the Babylonian captivity link at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “James TissotThe Flight of the Prisoners.”  That article added these notes:

In the Hebrew Bible, the captivity in Babylon is presented as a punishment for idolatry and disobedience to Yahweh in a similar way to the presentation of Israelite slavery in Egypt followed by deliverance. The Babylonian Captivity had a number of serious effects on Judaism and Jewish culture.  For example, the current Hebrew alphabet was adopted during this period, replacing the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.

This period saw the last high-point of biblical prophecy in the person of Ezekiel, followed by the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as Jewish leaders (see Ezra). Prior to exile, the people of Israel had been organized according to tribe.  Afterwards, they were organized by smaller family groups.  Only the tribe of Levi continued in its temple role after the return.  After this time, there were always sizable numbers of Jews living outside Eretz Israel;  thus, it also marks the beginning of the “Jewish diaspora,…”

Also, as to Hebrews killed during the post-siege mop-up, see 2d Kings 25, verses 8-12:

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard … came to Jerusalem.  He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.  Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon.  But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

Also verse 18-20, describing the number of prisoners taken, mostly high-ranking officials.  And verses 20-21:  “Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.

Announcing a new E-book…

The book cover:  “Jacob wrestling with the angel”  – God – and being “transformed…”

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Remember when Rick Santorum said “there’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian?”  There’s a new e-book out to challenge his claim.  Which is another way of saying I just published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.”  (Subtitle: “And Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”)  Just check out the Amazon Kindle Store (Under the nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Fesoj - Papilio machaon (by).jpgIn one sense it talks about being transformed.  As in, transformed by reading the Bible on a daily basis.  (And maybe faithfully reading this blog?)  In turn, the King James Bible Dictionary says that term means to “change the form of;  to change the shape or appearance;  to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”

(To “metamorphose” means in pertinent part to “change into a different physical form especially by supernatural means.”)

But as the book notes, way too many way-too-conservative Christians don’t want to change.  They don’t like the idea of being “transformed,” as Jacob was.  They prefer staying “caterpillars,” Biblically speaking.  They’d rather stay in their cocoon of literalism.

You can get more juicy details at the Kindle Store site, by typing in the title’s key words.  There too you can read the 600-word “blurb.”  Also – for reference – the chapter titles are listed in the notes below.  For one example the book talks of the difference between Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ.”  That last post – from November 13 – became Chapter 27, the end of the book.  Other chapters include “The Bible’s erotic love song.”  (“From last year.”)

I figured that’d get people’s attention, but the chapter also asks questions like:  Why don’t Bible Literalists interpret the “Songs of Songs” literally?  Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

To compare, some literalists are “snake handlers,” based on a literal translation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.”  (Taken out of context, I’d say.)  But the “love song” chapter says,  “Be consistent.  If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3:  ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels…  Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

Moving on – and as noted in the e-book “blurb” – the book’s  title is a twist on Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008, “There’s no such thing as a liberal Christian.” (In a kind of “Bizarro” turnabout-is-fair-play.  Or some well-deserved “busting of conservative chops.”) 

But the journey that led to the book started four years ago.  It just ended, with a realization that there ARE conservative Christians  However, they both definitely short-change themselves and drive away converts “in droves.”  (With their narrow view of the Bible.  Then too, another conclusion the book came to was:  They’re more like “hang around the fort” Christians.*)

But the book – and this blog – gives potential Bible students a more challenging alternative to the “limited Army career options” offered up by conservative Christians.  (That’s a metaphor based on Paul’s saying in 2d Timothy 2:3,  “Join with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”) 

And in the U.S. Army for example, you do – at first – go to boot camp to “learn the fundamentals.”  But conservative Christians “never go beyond boot camp.”  They never go beyond the fundamentals.  They’d rather stay “career buck privates.”  (See Chapter 16.)

But as the book notes, a true Soldier of Christ WANTS to go beyond the “safety of the fort” – or the cocoon – and wrestle with God.  Of course God will win every ‘match,” but in the process YOU get stronger and stronger – spiritually – as discussed in Chapter 5.  (“On arguing with God,” which includes the idea that your Bible journey calls you “to vigor, not comfort.”)

In the meantime, since publishing the book I found what might be a better metaphor than arguing with God or “wrestling with God.”  Back in the 1970’s I had a book, The Inner Game of Tennis.  As I remember, one passage talked about how a good player should compete with a not-so-good player.  So the better metaphor could be “playing tennis with God.”

I’ll try to develop this theme later on, but the point is pretty simple.  When you “play tennis with God,” He plays you in a way that will help you develop.  He doesn’t just try to beat the tar out of you, to humiliate you, like so many “human” players do.  I put more thoughts on this in the  notes, but the point is that if you challenge God – if you “argue” with Him – you usually end up a stronger person for it.  (Though there will be “disasters” from which spiritual growth comes…)  

The bottom line?  We’re all Soldiers in the Army of Christ, conservative, liberal and moderate.  But we don’t all have to “hang around the fort.”  Some Christians choose the option for some “Advanced Individual Training” – like the U.S. Army – and go out beyond the fort.  AND have some adventure in their lives.  Or as Jesus promised in John 10:10 to live life “in abundance.”

That’s from the Afterword, which adds that the book “can get you started doing that.”

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“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]

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The upper image is courtesy of Jacob wrestling with the angel – Wikipedia.  See also On arguing with God and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.

Re:  Santorum on liberal Christianity.  There’s some debate whether he actually said that about “liberal Christians,” but not that some conservative Christians truly believe it.  Some indeed have called liberal Christianity a “heresy,” notwithstanding the warning of Deuteronomy 19:16-19.  See for example The ‘Bizarro Rick Santorum’ says, which became Chapter 21.

Metamorphosis Re:  Butterflies and cocoons.  See also How caterpillars gruesomely transform into butterflies, at left.

The image below the “erotic love song” passage is courtesy of Song of Songs – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Song of Songs’ (Cantique des Cantiques) by Gustave Moreau, 1893.”

Re:  “Hang around the fort” Christians.  As the book notes, I’ve used a number of metaphors to describe such too-conservative, too-literal followers-of-Jesus.  Boot camp Christians, carbon-copy Christians, career buck privates – Biblically speaking – and the like.  But after further review, the term “stick in the mud Christians” deserves further exploration.  For example, there’s a lady in my church choir who is conservative, and a Christian, but she does things like “shotgun” competitively and go to Las Vegas on a regular basis to play poker; also “competitively.”  And she drives a racy big-engine sports car, and for all that is definitely not a “stick in the mud” Christian.  See ‘Stick in the mud’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase, referring to a “narrow-minded or unprogressive person;  one who lacks initiative.”  The Free Dictionary said the term is based the idea of someone “content to remain in an abject condition.”  Or there’s the generic “person who is dull and unadventurous and who resists change.”  (Yup, that sounds about right…)

The full title to the “tennis” book:   The Inner Game of Tennis:  The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.  As to the author, see Timothy Gallwey – Wikipedia:

The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations.  If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.

Which sounds a bit like the blog-post On sin and cybernetics, which forms Chapter 6 in the book.

The lower image is courtesy of the Amazon.com Kindle Store

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I wrote the following after getting my copy of “Inner Game” from the local library.  The full chapter-title list comes below these “rough notes for possible future use:”

The easiest way – used by most “better players” – is just to beat the tar out of a lesser opponent.  But the worthier – more challenging – way is for the “better” to play just good enough to win.  In that way he challenges the lesser player, and forces his own “self” to stretch and become better.  His primary goal is still to win, but to win in such a way that both players grow.  (E.g., the lesser player feels good because he “hung in there” with a better player.)

So  today I went to the library and got the 2008 Random House paperback edition.  (“Foreward by Pete Carroll, head football coach, USC.”)  I found what I think was the remembered passage.  From page 121, Chapter 9 (The Meaning of Competition), it talked about the way that God – in my remembrance – gives you the chance to “find out to what heights [you] can rise.”  Then the author wrote about concluding that “true competition is identical with true cooperation:”

Each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in … true competition no person is defeated.  Both players benefit by their efforts [and] both grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other…  You tend to build confidence in your opponent…  Then at the end you shake hands with your opponent, and regardless of who won you thank him for the fight he put up, and you mean it.

So from God’s point of view, “He makes it more challenging for His opponent.”  God makes it more challenging for us when we argue with, wrestle with, or play tennis with Him, instead of just meekly accepting a narrow, limited version of how conservatives see the Bible.

So it seems to me that God wants us to “challenge Him,” to ask questions, to go beyond a mere literal acceptance of what somebody else has said the Bible means.  Like Buddha said:

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations. . .     Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests.  After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.

But the Apostle Paul said pretty much the same thing in First Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”   And First John 4:1, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.”  And also Philippians 2:12, where Paul added, “Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.”  (Borrowed from The Christian repertoire…)

I’m not sure how I got to quoting Buddha, but it’s from another e-book I’ll be publishing soon…

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The following is the list of Contents in the “NoCon” book, Chapters 1 through 27.  Also, a Preface and an Afterword.  For some practice using the search engine at the upper right of the main page, just type in the key words.  And as noted above, the last chapter – 27 – comes from the November 13, 2018 post, On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ:” 

Preface

Chapter 1:  “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other

Chapter 2:  Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000

Chapter 3:  On three suitors (a parable)

Chapter 4:  On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

Chapter 5:  On “wrestling” with God

Chapter 6:  On sin and cybernetics

Chapter 7:  On reading the Bible

Chapter 8:  On the Bible and mysticism

Chapter 9:  The True Test of Faith

Chapter 10:  On singing a NEW song to God…

Chapter 11:  On WHY we’re getting “less Christian”

Chapter 12:  Was Moses the first to say, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

Chapter 13:  “Bible basics” revisited

Chapter 14:  On Moses getting stoned…

Chapter 15:  My Lenten meditation…

Chapter 16:  Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”

Chapter 17:  On snake-handling “redux”

Chapter 18:  The latest from a “None…”

Chapter 19:  Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”

Chapter 20: On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

Chapter 21:  The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Chapter 22:  “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Chapter 23:  The Bible’s “erotic love song”

Chapter 24:  Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!

Chapter 25:  Did Jesus interpret the Bible “liberally?”

Chapter 26:  Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

Chapter 27:  On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

What’s a DOR?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-kIgeIQBgTsw/TpjvtkuO5-I/AAAAAAAABLQ/rejqM5r-X7E/s1600/MonksChoir.jpg

You don’t have to become a monk to do the Daily Office

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As noted in The Scribe – above – “DOR” stands for Daily Office Reading.

That’s where the “DOR” in “Dorscribe” comes from.

The Daily Office is a two-year cycle of Bible readings.  (Thus, “Daily Office Readings.”)  That means that if  you follow the full set of readings,  you’ll get through virtually the entire Bible one time in two years.  (And the psalms and Gospels three to four times.)

Then there’s the Revised Common Lectionary.  It’s the one that sets out the Bible readings for Sundays, and it follows a three-year cycle.  That in turn means that if you attend an Episcopal church each Sunday for three years, you’ll hear virtually the whole Bible read to you, “once in three years, and the psalms and Gospels three to four times.”

See also Canonical hours – Wikipedia:

The canonical hours mark the divisions of the day in terms of periods of fixed prayer at regular intervals…   In western Catholicism, canonical hours may also be called offices, since they refer to the official set of prayer of the Roman Catholic Church…   In the Anglican tradition, they are often known as the daily office (or divine office), to distinguish them from the other ‘offices’ of the Church, i.e. holy communion, baptism, etc.

Wikipedia added that the practice of making such daily prayers “grew from the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at set times of the day,” as for example in the Book of Acts, where “Peter and John visit the temple for the afternoon prayers (Acts 3:1).”  (E.A.)

See also Psalm 119:164, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”

This practice came down through the centuries, and began with the Apostles.  Then – later – as monasticism spread, monks – like those seen in the top image – developed standardized hours and liturgical formats for daily prayer.  (And – presumably – for daily Bible study.)

“Already well-established by the ninth century in the West, these canonical offices consisted of eight daily prayer events: lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline, and the night office, sometimes referred to as vigils.”  The canonical hours article added:

By the time of the Roman Empire, the Jews (and eventually early Christians) began to follow the Roman system of conducting the business day in scheduling their times for prayer.  In Roman cities, the bell in the forum rang the beginning of the business day at about six o’clock in the morning (Prime, the “first hour”), noted the day’s progress by striking again at about nine o’clock in the morning (Terce, the “third hour”), tolled for the lunch break at noon (Sext, the “sixth hour”), called the people back to work again at about three o’clock in the afternoon (None, the “ninth hour”), and rang the close of the business day at about six o’clock in the evening (the time for evening prayer).

As a side note, that method of telling and relating time is shown in Mark 15:33 and Matthew 27:45, telling of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.  (An update on that theme is shown at right.)  Those passages referred to the sixth and ninth hours of the day:  “Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice … and breathed His last.” 

Thus the “darkness” at issue started at noon and lasted until 3:00 in the afternoon.  “Canonical hours” concluded:

The traditional structure [of the Daily Office today] reflects the intention by the reforming Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, to return to the office’s older roots as the daily prayer of parish churches…   Like many other Reformers, Cranmer sought to restore the daily reading or singing of psalms as the heart of Christian daily prayer.  Since his time, every edition of the Book of Common Prayer has included the complete psalter, usually arranged to be read over the course of a month…   The daily offices have always had an important place in Anglican spirituality.

(Emphasis added.)  In other words, over the centuries the practice of daily Bible reading and prayer seven times a day became too onerous for us working-class folk.   So Thomas Cranmer started the present system of studying the Bible at most twice a day.

Or you could do what I do.  For an example, go to NRSV, which shows the daily readings for the week beginning August 30, 2015.  (For a “look back in time.”)

For each day’s readings – in such a Lectionary – you’ll see two sets of psalms, “AM” and “PM.”  (In other words, one set for morning prayer and one for evening prayer.)  But given the difficulty most people have in setting aside two times a day for Bible reading, you could just read both sets of psalms at one time, which for me usually happens first thing in the morning.

See also The Daily Office | From the Diocese of Indianapolis, also known as “dailyoffice.org.”

The Daily Office is an ancient way to pray.  There are many ways to pray, including your own cries to God of joy and sorrow and need.  Such prayers are intensely personal, while the Office gathers up all our prayers so that we can pray together.  From monasteries to churches to private homes, people have been praying the Daily Office for thousands of years.  Why?  Because it brings us closer to God.

(Emphasis added.)    The article noted “a fellow named Thomas Cranmer.”  (Seen at left.)  He’s the one “who compiled the Book of Common Prayer,” in 1549.  He’s also the one who simplified the Bible-based – and long practiced – seven prayer services a day into two.  (Morning and evening prayer.)

That is, “He simplified Christian practice into a discipline ordinary people can keep.  Pray once in the morning and once at night and you’ll invariably draw closer to the Holy One.”

So there you have it.

The Daily Office provides a way for ordinary people to read and study the Bible, and pray as necessary.  The Anglican Daily Office provides a way for ordinary people to read and get through the Bible in as little as two years.  (And not get bogged down somewhere in Leviticus, like what usually happens when you try to read it from beginning to end, like a novel.)

And just for the record, note the changeover from “Year Two, Volume 1.”  That happened back on Pentecost Sunday.  (That is,  May 15, 2016.)  With that changeover I began my 12th trip through the Bible, as well as some 33 to 40 times through the psalms and Gospels.  (For what that’s worth, but at least it means “I’m familiar…”)   See On the changeover to “Y1V1″.”

Unfortunately, it would be impossible to highlight the Daily Office on a regular basis in a blog like this, so I’ll be focusing mainly on the weekly Sunday Bible readings.  That in turn means my Blog-handle probably should be “RCLscribe,” but somehow it just doesn’t have the same ring.

And who knows?  By consulting this blog – and reading the Bible yourself “for clues” – you might end up solving your own life’s fascinating detective story, like Sean Connery.

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of New Parson’s Handbook: Two Ways of Praying: Psalms and Daily Prayer, which added, “the Daily Office or Liturgy of the Hours (Morning and Evening Prayer, for most Anglicans) has itself a rich and varied tradition, and its celebration can take varied forms.”   The article gave even more reasons why the Psalms are essential to daily prayer, and spiritual growth.  

The canonical hours image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Anglican Rosary sitting atop The Anglican Breviary and The Book of Common Prayer.”

The crucifixion image is courtesy of that Wikipedia article.  The caption:  “Poster showing a German soldier nailing a US soldier to a tree, as American soldiers come to his rescue.  Published in Manila by Bureau of Printing (1917).”  In other words it’s an update on the “crucifixion” theme.

The lower image is courtesy of The Name of the Rose (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  See also The Name of the Rose – Wikipedia, which referred to “the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco.  It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327.”  The book revolves around the canonical hours during the visit by “Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and his novice Adso of Melk,” to a “Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy to attend a theological disputation.”

Those canonical hours were:   1. Matins (at sunrise);   2. Prime (first hour of the day);  3. Terce (third hour of the day);   4. Sext (sixth hour of the day or noon);   5. None (ninth hour of day);   6. Vespers (end of day, sunset);  and  7. Compline (before retiring);   8. Vigils (during the night).   As the book also indicated, the monks in a monastery normally went to bed around 6:00 p.m. and got up at 3:00 a.m.  See also Vigiles – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, about the Vigiles Urbani (“watchmen of the City“) or Cohortes Vigilum (“cohorts of the watchmen”), the “firefighters and police of Ancient Rome.”

As to the simplification of that complicated and – for “ordinary” and/or working people – unworkable system of canonical hours, see Intro to Prayer Book | The Daily Office, which once said: 

Cranmer and the English Reformers were committed to:   1. Bringing the complicated and extensive prayer system out of the monasteries and convents to the common people, and   2. Necessarily, simplifying it all and putting it in their common language.  This meant Morning and Evening Prayer and the Eucharist would accessible to all who could read.

(Emphasis added.)  In other words, from 1549 on, reading and interpreting the Bible was no longer the exclusive province of the clergy, with “ordinary people” having to depend on such “rehashes.”

 *   *   *   *

One final note:  To increase your ease in “reading” the Daily Office, Church Publishing Incorporated (formerly known as Church Hymnal Corporation) offers a four-volume set, Daily Office Readings, as shown below.  Each volume includes “Lectionary texts for reading the daily office using the Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible.”  See Welcome to Church Publishing (E.A.).

As noted in the Introductions to each volume, there are two volumes for each year of the Daily Office, “in strict accordance” with the Lectionary set out in the Book of Common Prayer, at pages 936-1000.  (See also Daily Office Lectionary.)  The Introductions add:

Because of the importance of the Daily Office in the Anglican tradition … these volumes will make the Offices easier to recite [sic], aiding the use of the Office for private or public prayers.  [They] eliminate the need to find three readings for each day in the Bible and to track down those readings which skip around within a given passage.   DOR should make it more possible for the laity and clergy alike to develop the habit of reciting [sic] the Offices by eliminating much of the work involved.  They are also invaluable for those who are traveling.

Note the word sic, “inserted immediately after a quoted word or passage, indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous or archaic spelling, surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might otherwise be taken as an error of transcription.”  Sic – Wikipedia.

In this case the “sic” refers to the word recite, which in turn normally refers to the act ofreciting from memory, or a formal reading of verse before an audience.” See definition of recitation by The Free Dictionary.  But as used in the Divine Offices, “recite” seems to be a term of art:

[T]he canonical hours stemmed from Jewish prayer.  During the Babylonian Exile, when the Temple was no longer in use, the first synagogues were established, and the services (at fixed hours of the day) of Torah readings, psalms, and hymns began to evolve.  This “sacrifice of praise” began to be substituted for the sacrifices of animals…   When praying the Hours privately it is not a requirement to ‘sing’ a hymn.  You may simply pray
the verses provided.

See How to Pray the Office (emphasis added), and also More on the Divine Office: Private Recitation by the Laity.  Or you could just Google “reciting the daily office” for other sources, the gist of which seems to be that you can simply “read” the Office, as for example from the volume shown below:

For yet another take see How to Pray the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer, and also note The Daily Office – Mars Hill Bible Church:  “The Daily Office is a set rhythm of reading the Scriptures, singing, and prayer.  Sometimes called the Liturgy of the Hours, it originally developed when early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reciting prayers and songs at certain hours.  Priests, monks, and followers of Jesus the world over observe the Daily Office, even today.”

In sum, you don’t have to “sing” or recite; you can just read…

For a book version…

“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]

 

 

 

Here’s a news flash:  I just published a new e-book, “’There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian:’  and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”

It’s now available at the Amazon Kindle Store (With the cover at left, with my “nom de plume.”)  I’ll be writing more about it in my next post, “Announcing a new book.”  But first a word about that cover:

It shows Jacob wrestling with the angel, from Wikipedia, which is a reminder that’s something that all real Christians are called on to do (they’re not too conservative):

The bottom line?  We’re all Soldiers in the Army of Christ, conservative, liberal and moderate.  But we don’t all have to “hang around the fort.”  Some of us have the option to go on to some “Advanced Individual Training,” then go out beyond the fort to develop our talents to the full.  (And have some adventure [in our lives].)

And now back to a note from 2015, the last time I published a book (“e” or otherwise):

*   *   *   *

On October 29, 2015, I published The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes, a collection of posts from a second blog, Georgia Wasp.  That’s a bit more worldly, but just as entertaining.  (I hope.)  And back on March 3, 2015 – I published Volume 3 of my collection of these blog-posts.

That means the e-book Volumes 1 through 3 are available through Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks.  (The image at right shows the “e-cover” for Volume 2.)  Aside from the “Kindle” edition, these three volumes are also available in an old-fashioned paperback version, as seen below.

Volume 1 included 13 blog-posts, up to “Titanic” and suspending disbelief.

The DOR ScribeVolume 2 began with On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

It went on for a total of 12 posts and ended with On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher and On the readings for June 1.   (That last one was subtitled “On liberally interpreting ‘Sabbath day’s journey.’”)

To see more about Volume 3, check the post, Reflections on Volume 3.

In terms of formatting, the goal for the book version “post collections” is now to have about 72 pages, in the paperback format.  Another note:  While the e-book version will feature full-color images – like those in the Blog – the paperback’s images will be in “grayscale,” to save money for both author and reader.

And due to the difference in publishers – Kindle and Lulu – the paperback and e-book versions tend to have different covers.  For example, the paperback version of Volume 2 – seen above left – has a different cover than the dove-on-a-blue-background seen above right, but the contents of the two versions are pretty much the same.

So:  To get an e-book go to Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks: Kindle Store and type in “T. D. Scribe” (the Scribe’s nom de plume).    To order a paperback, go to Shop Books – Lulu, and do the same.

Finally, and in the interest of completeness, here’s a “poster for the U.S. release version, Spitfire,” featuring Leslie Howard.  (Aka “Ashley Wilkes.)  Which may have contributed to the Nazis in Germany to think that Howard was a British spy.  And to “his” commercial airliner being shot down over the Bay of Biscay early in World War Two.  (Oops, gave way the ending…)  The image is courtesy of The First of the Few – Wikipedia, referring to the British title of the film.

*   *   *   *

On “Job the not patient” – REDUX

Ilya Repin: Job and his Friends

Job and his friends, by Ilya Repin (1869). . .

 

I spend a lot of time driving.  A lot of it I spend visiting Mi Dulce, who lives three counties over.

The point is that to help pass the time I’ve gotten the habit of listening to “lectures on CD.”  I’m now listening to Hebrews, Greeks and Romans:  Foundations of Western Civilization, by Professor Timothy Shutt.  The other point is that in this lecture, Professor Shutt gave the best analysis of the Book of Job I’ve ever heard “in all my born days.”

Some think Job is a great book, but not me.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson loved it; “the greatest poem of ancient and modern times.”  But to me it’s always been greatly depressing and impossible to understand.  In that spirit I posted Job, the not-so-patient last August, which ended:

For just that reason, guys like John R. W. Stott took issue with literalists who say the Bible should viewed as “inerrant per se.”  Instead – he said – the Bible should be viewed as inerrant “in all that it affirms.”  As applied to this case, Stott would say that the “plain meaning” of the Book of Job should not be seen as affirming suicide…   But since we’re running out of space and time, Stott’s views will be explored in a future post.

This then is that “future post…”

The point of Job the not-patient was that there are some parts of the Bible you really don’t want to take too literally.  Another case in point is Mark 16:18, part of the Great Commission of Jesus. That’s where He said of His disciples, “they will pick up snakes with their hands.”  But as noted in Snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide, Mark 16:18 is a verse that can definitely be “taken out of context.”  (That would be Part I and Part II, with the  “Stumpy” photo below left.)

But to get back to the depressing part of Job… 

Verses 1-22 of Job, Chapter 3 are a good example of passages from the Bible that should both be approached with great caution, and not taken too literally.  Put another way, Job 3:1-22 itself could definitely be taken out of context:

Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth…   “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb [or] hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day…  Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?”

Emphasis added.  Thus as Wikipedia noted, the Book of Job addresses the ongoing theme of “God’s justice in the face of human suffering – or simply, ‘Why do the righteous suffer?'”  (See also When Bad Things Happen to Good People, a book by Harold S. Kushner.   Or just Google the words “why do bad things happen to good people.”  I got some 170,000,000 hits.)

But getting back to Professor Shutt, he noted that Job was written – or at least came to light – just after The (First) Destruction of the Temple.  (I.e., the first time it was destroyed, around 586 B.C., and not to be confused with the second great destruction of the Temple, in 70 A.D.  See  Siege of Jerusalem (AD 70) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Needless to say, the destruction of their Holy of Holies provoked a crisis of faith in the Jewish people.  (Not unlike the one after the Holocaust, 70 years ago and seen at right.) That in turn led to the question:  How could God let this happen to His Chosen People? 

Or as put above, Why do bad things happen to good people?  To that there are two main answers.  First, God was not who the Hebrews thought He was.  Second: There Is No God at all.  But as Professor Shutt said:

Even in the most hopeless days of the Babylonian exile, though [roughly the 70 years from 605 to 539 B.C.], another answer seems to have been possible, and we find it formulated most powerfully, if not, perhaps, most clearly, in the Book of Job.

That’s the conclusion in Track 7, Disc 1, of Hebrews, Greeks and Romans: Foundations of Western Civilization, and/or pages 24-27 of the Course Guide (“CG”).

But wait, there’s more!

As Professor Shutt put it, God’s covenant started out with the Hebrews as His Chosen People, which carried with it an implied promise.  (If not an “implied contract.”)  That promise – quite simply – was “obey and prosper.”  But the Job examines what happens when good people do “obey God” and don’t prosper.  The short answer – the one given repeatedly by Job’s friends – is that he had to have done something wrong.  (A fallacy that continues “even to this day.”)

Put another way, many a person thinks that if he or she lives a good life, God owes me!   

But as we all know, life doesn’t work that way.  No one has found the magic formula to change God into a “magic genie” who will cater to our every whim.  (See “O Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,” by Janis Joplin, at left.)

The upshot of that is that – for better or worse – we are simply incapable of ever fully understanding God.  As Professor Shutt put it, we can’t “put God in a box.”  But that’s exactly what many people still try to do.

Even though we can’t make sense of it, there’s a presence out there, somewhere.  A presence that we can “feel,” even in our darkest hours.  “We can’t put it in a box, we can’t tie it up in a ribbon,” as Shutt put it, but it’s there.  Yet many people still try to put God “in a box” or “tie Him up in a ribbon.”  We always tend to commit the error of “making a god of our idea of God.”

And that’s the ultimate lesson of the Book of Job:  “We can make a god of our idea of God.”  We keep trying to conceptualize God.  We are always trying to make some sense of “Him” (anthropomorphism), which is of course only right and natural.  But the key to remember – as Shutt noted – is that “we have to sit on the conceptualizations lightly.”

All of which may be why God chose to bring Jesus into the world.  Because without that image of a “finite” human being to focus on, our poor little pea-brains simply couldn’t even begin the process of bringing The Force That Created the Universe into any kind of focus at all.

Shutt noted that in approaching God, it’s all “about contact and experience.”  It’s not about finding persuasive “courtroom evidence.”  It’s not about finding the actual Noah’s Ark in Turkey to prove – once and for all – that God does indeed exist.  And it’s not about finding the one true passage from the Bible that will bowl over all doubt.  The covenant – as Shutt put it – is “the face of our interaction with God.”  In other words, God can’t be “proven,” only “experienced.”

So since it all comes down to personal experience – but mostly just because our minds are so limited – “we cannot ever fully know the nature of God.”  We can never fully either understand or explain “God.”  Yet that’s just what Job’s friends did.  Their solution was to “make a god of their idea of God.”  They tried to put God into a “conceptual box.”

So in Shutt’s final analysis, “God’s answer to Job is, again, no answer.”  Which is just another way of saying that – in that final analysis – we are simply not up to the task of fully understanding God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload.  We are no more prepared to comprehend an answer than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus.  It’s just not in our nature.

But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to go on.  Even if we can never fully understand God, we can – from time to time – ” feel His presence.”  We can have that experience of God.

Our view of the tree in the yard is not the result of logical calculation…  So too in a way, and so too surprisingly, our sense of God’s presence, should we feel it.  Even if we obey and don’t prosper, the covenant somehow seems still to hold.  Or so in any case the ancient Hebrews seem to have decided.

Or as Isaac Asimov put it, “At the end of God’s speech, Job realizes divine omnipotence and understands the folly or trying to penetrate God’s plan and purposes with the limited mind of a human being.” (487)   And that’s a lesson we need to keep on learning…

 “Job and his friends…”

 

The upper image is courtesy of Job and His Friends – Ilya Repin – WikiArt.org.  See also Ilya Repin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, on “the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, when his position in the world of art was comparable to that of Leo Tolstoy in literature…  His method was the reverse of impressionism.  He produced works slowly and carefully.  They were the result of close and detailed study.  With some of his paintings, he made one hundred or more preliminary sketches.  He was never satisfied with his works, and often painted multiple versions, years apart.”

As to the “redux” part of the post-title.  It’s an allusion to the 1971 book by John Updike, Rabbit Redux.  This was the second of five “Rabbit” books about an aging high-school basketball star – Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom – as he went through five decades of life.  The series began with Rabbit, Run (1960), when Harry was 26.  The five books feature “recurring themes of guilt, sex, and death.”  See, Wikipedia.  The article added that the word redux means “brought back” or “restored,” and that other works of literature with the title-word include John Dryden‘s Astraea Redux (1662), and Anthony Trollope‘s Phineas Redux (1873).  Wikipedia also noted, “Rabbit Redux led to a redux in popularity of the word redux,” for example, in Rabbit At Rest itself.  Updike had Harry Angstrom notice a story in the local paper, headlined “Circus Redux:”

He hates that word, you see it everywhere, and he doesn’t know how to pronounce it.   Like arbitrageur and perestroika…”

Re: Professor Shutt.  See also Tim Shutt · Kenyon College.

Re: the Great Commission of Jesus.  “According to some critics, in Mark”  –  the first Gospel to be written  –  “Jesus never speaks with his disciples after his resurrection.  They argue that the original Gospel of Mark ends at verse Mark 16:8 with the women leaving the tomb (see Mark 16).”

Re: bad things happening to good people.  See also When Bad Things Happen to Good People – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted: “Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi”  addressed “one of the principal problems of theodicy, the conundrum of why, if the universe was created and is governed by a God who is of a good and loving nature, there is nonetheless so much suffering and pain in it – essentially, the evidential problem of evil.”  Note also that in the NRSV, Job 3:22 speaks of those who are bitter of soul, and “rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they find the grave…”

Re: Professor Shutt’s conclusion on Job.  See pages 24 and 25 of the Course Guide.

The Janis Joplin photo is courtesy of The story behind Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” which noted of the original recording session:  “she begins to sing, exercising soulful control over her enormous, whiskey-soaked voice…  ‘Mercedes Benz’ is a lonely blues tune about the illusory happiness promised (but rarely delivered) by the pursuit of worldly goods…”

The “God in a box” image is courtesy of www.bransonparler.com/blog/what-we-talk-about-when-we-say-you-can’t-put-God-in-a-box.  See also Relevant Bible Teaching – Don’t Put God in a Box.

As to Isaac Asimov on Job, see Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), beginning on page 474, up to the “not-so-patient” quote on page 480, on to the “folly or trying to penetrate God’s plan and purposes with the limited mind of a human being,” at page 487.  

The lower image is courtesy of Bildad – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaBildad, from the Hebrew meaning “Bel has loved, was one of Job‘s three friends who visited him Book of Job:

He was a descendant of Shuah, son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:1), whose family lived in the deserts of Arabia, or a resident of the district.  In speaking with Job, his intent was consolation, but he became an accuser, asking Job what he has done to deserve God’s wrath.

See also Job and his three friends Drawn by Gustave DoreGetty images.

For more on this topic, see When Bad Things Happen to Good People – My Jewish Learning.

Reflections on Volume 3

https://tmrichmond3dotnet.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/picture1_0.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I just published Volume 3 of my collection of blog-posts.  It begins like this:)

 

In the 15th and 16th centuries, superstitious people might have warned an explorer, sailing west from Europe, that he was doomed to fall off the edge of the world.  At the very least, they might have said, the explorer and his sailors would suffer horribly and never be seen again…   For all the grim warnings, nobody could have predicted that the explorers would not sail off the edge of the known world, but into an entirely new one. (E.A.)

Track 1, Disc 1, The Modern Scholar: Journeys of the Great Explorers.

 

That’s what this blog is all about.   Finding that entirely new world

I’m not saying that the Bible is just another set of superstitions, or a handbook on methods of social control.  And I’m not saying that after you read the Bible, you’re supposed to shape yourself into another “carbon copy Christian.”  (Or “just another brick in the wall.”)

There are a lot of people who seem to use the Bible for just those reasons, but I’m not one of them.  I see the Bible more as a tool of liberation.  I see the Bible as a “pair of spiritual wings.”  (See Isaiah 40:31.)  It’s a set of spiritual wings that can take you to wonderful places and experiences that you’ve never dreamed of.

So the idea behind this blog is:  Reading the Bible can lead you into that Whole New World.

Or as I said in the Intro page, you might consider the Bible as a vast, unexplored, new continent.   Just like the one Lewis and Clark opened up, starting in May 1804.

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As noted, I just published Volume 3 of my collection.   (To order a copy, see For a book.)

Now, about the image above.  I got it – and the “15th century” text – from The Blog.  That page talked about blogs in general, including a citation to Blogging For Dummies.  “BFD” said that at its most-basic level, “a blog is a chronologically ordered ordered series of website updates, written and organized much like a traditional diary.” (Emphasis added.)

This blog – my own diary – has grown and expanded since May 2014, when I first started.  It’s been a learning experience, but that’s not surprising.  After all, the Bible is “the most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world…”

I published Volume 2 of this book-collection of blog-posts back on August 16, 2014.   Volume 1 included my first 13 posts, up to and including On “Titanic” and suspending disbeliefVolume 2 began with On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?   It went on for a total of 12 posts and ended with On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher and On the readings for June 1, subtitled “On liberally interpreting ‘Sabbath day’s journey’.”

Since publishing Volume 2 last August, a lot has happened.  For one thing I’ve clarified that long-sought “true test of faith” that I’ve been looking for.  Under that true test of faith, even if I get to the end of my life and find out that my faith is based on a hoax, it won’t matter.

Unlike the false Christian, I hope I wouldn’t be outraged.  I wouldn’t say, “You mean I could have spent my life partying?  Boozing it up?  Chasing women?  Boy am I angry…”   I hope to say – if I learn my faith is some kind of cosmic practical joke –  “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.”  (See also Why I’d Still Believe In God Even if the Bible was a Fairytale.)

I wrote about that “wouldn’t change a thing” revelation in the post-column, Ash Wednesday and a True Test of Faith, posted on February 20.  In turn, I wrote that column in response to a reader comment on Oscar Wilde and Psalm 130.

One reader – “Harpo” – quoted Oscar Wilde:  “People fashion their God after their own understanding.  They make their God first and worship him afterwards.”  Harpo went on to say there are “thousands and thousands of Gods, and nearly as many religions.”  He then said the fact that “an adult would continue to hold on to this last childhood fable [God] when there is no more evidence [of God’s] existence than the other [fairy tales], bewilders the thoughtful and scientific mind.”    I responded, in pertinent part:

I agree that there are way too many so-called Christians who use the Bible and their faith as an excuse to close their minds…  I’m working on a new post, “The true test of faith” (or some title to that effect).  The punch-line will be how two different Christians might respond if they died and found out – as you say – that there is no God and no after-life.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .

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As noted, I ended Volume 2 with a post on a liberal interpretation of the term “Sabbath day’s journey.”  That is, I noted that “from the time of Joshua to the time of Jesus, the distance a devout Hebrew could travel on the Sabbath was gradually and continually expanded.”  See The readings for June 1.  I wrote that to counter the idea you must read the Bible conservatively.

I began Volume 3 with On Jesus in Hell

 

Continued in Reflections on Volume 3 – Part II

 

File:Christ's Descent into Limbo by Dürer .png

The upper image is courtesy of tmrichmond3.net/2014/02/07/here-be-dragons, a blog where the blog-bio notes:  “I am the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon.  I believe that faith should be able to sustain us, not oppress us.”  (Emphasis added.)

The lower image is “Christ’s Descent into Limbo, woodcut by Albrecht Dürer (circa 1510),” courtesy of  Christ’s Descent into Limbo by Dürer – Wikimedia.

A  full citation:  Aladdin – A Whole New World (HQ 1080p HD) – YouTube.

Re: “Social control.”  See Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which added that the term is defined as “the regulation of individual and group behavior in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group.”

A full cite: Lewis and Clark Expedition – WikipediaSee also National Geographic: Lewis & Clark:

When Thomas Jefferson dispatched Lewis and Clark to find a water route across North America and explore the uncharted West, he expected they’d encounter woolly mammoths, erupting volcanoes, and a mountain of pure salt.  What they found was no less surprising.