Category Archives: Not your daddy’s Bible

A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

http://cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review

A good “soldier of Christ” starts in boot camp, then moves to Advanced Individual Training

*   *   *   *

Graham in a suit with his fist clenchedI’ve been 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 skipped the early parts, about Graham when he was young and full of himself.  And way more conservative than he was in later life. 

Which is another way of saying that  – as he grew in age – Billy Graham “also grew in grace.”  See e.g., 2d Peter 3:18.  In fact, Graham eventually grew in grace so much 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.’”  On that note, see not only Deuteronomy 19:16-19, but also the Pulpit Commentary for 2 Peter 3:18, cited above:

Growth is necessary for steadfastness;  we cannot persevere unless we continually advance in faith (comp. 1st Peter 1:5-71st Peter 2:2).

Which is pretty much the main theme of this blog:  That open-minded growth is a necessary part of any good Christian’s journey through life. See also 1st Peter 2:2:  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”  Which is another way of saying that too-conservative Christians seem happy to stay “newborn babes,” Biblically speaking.

And incidentally, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says if you accuse someone of a crime and he’s not guilty of it, you are punished as if you committed the crime yourself.  (So if you accused someone of being “Antichrist” and he’s not, then you would be punished as if you were real Antichrist, shown at right.)

Which brings us back to Billy Graham, who started out himself as a Bible literalist.  That led to an early confrontation with fellow evangelist Charles Templeton.  Described at pages 2-4 of The Preacher and the Presidents book, you can see it online at Billy Graham and Charles Templeton:  The Sad Tale of Two Evangelists.  Basically, Graham said, “When I take the Bible literally … my preaching has power.”  The thing is, Moses likely said the same thing when he started telling the Hebrews in the Wilderness how they got there and where they were going.  And had to “dumb it down.”

All of which led me to the following thoughts:

In Conservative Christian – “Career buck private,”  I noted what Paul said in 2d Timothy 2:3-4 “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (Emphasis added.)  And I agreed that the best place to start “Bible training” is to take it literally:

Just like Army Basic Training, the best place to start is with the fundamentals:  “This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier…”  But no good soldier wants to be stuck as a buck private [during] his whole time “in service.”  (Although there are some few [“soldiers of Christ”] who enjoy having no additional responsibility…)

In turn I concluded that this blog is for and about those Christians who want to develop into something “more than just someone who knows the bare ‘fundamentals.’”

See also Spiritual boot camp, which said that with the right way of Bible study we get “more adept at living life in all its abundance,” as promised in John 10:10.  And that you could say it’s a bit “like spiritual boot camp (but with ‘humor and compassion’).”

Which brings us back to Billy Graham and Charles Templeton.

For one thing, Templeton said, “Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe” the Bible account of creation.  But Templeton overlooked that Moses didn’t write the Creation account – and the rest of the Torah – for modern scholars.  See Moses and Paul “dumbing it down.”  That post noted that if Moses had said things like “the earth we live on actually revolves around that ‘big bright thing in the sky’ … he would have gotten stoned, burned at the stake or worse.”

Templeton also overlooked that when Graham preached the Bible literally, he wasn’t trying to recruit generals.  (To use the soldier metaphor.)  He wanted to recruit people for basic training, where they could go and “learn the fundamentals.”  In plain words, Graham was recruiting Army “privates,” many of whom would choose to stay privates in the Army of Christ.

So I was wrong in saying there are “some few ‘soldiers of Christ’ who enjoy having no additional responsibility.”  As in any army, “privates” make up the bulk of personnel, not “some few.”  That is, I’ve reconsidered “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  (Including the image at right.)  Because whatever the branch of service there are far more “privates” than officers or other advanced personnel.

Depending on the branch, the ratio of officers – who you could say did “Way Advanced Individual Training” – can range from 4.1 to one (Air Force) to eight to one (Marine Corps).  But regardless of the differences, each service depends more – numerically – on its enlisted personnel, including “career buck privates.”  For one thing, they help recruit other career privates and so keep the army – here, the “Army of Christ” – functioning at a high level.

And so with the Army of Christ.  It – like our other armed services – could well be based on a having most soldiers choosing not to go much beyond “learning the fundamentals.”

And if all that’s true – and I believe it is – then this blog is designed for those Soldiers of Christ wanting to advance beyond basic training, beyond learning the fundamentals and beyond being a “career private.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s wrong to claim that’s the only way to succeed as a Soldier of Christ.  Some of us want to explore our full potential.  Some of us want to develop our talents.  Some of us want to explore life “to the full,” and so go…

*   *   *   *

The upper “boot-camp” image is courtesy of cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review.

The Antichrist image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Luca Signorelli‘s 1501 depiction of the face of antichrist, from the Orvieto Cathedral.”  The term is “usually seen as marking out a certain category of persons, rather than an individual.”  Compare the “similar word ‘pseudochrist’ (Greek pseudokhristos, meaning ‘false messiah’).” 

Continuing the soldier metaphor: After Basic Training, the good soldier – and by extension the ‘Good Soldier of Christ’ – has a chance to go on to Advanced Individual Training, ‘where new soldiers receive specific training in their chosen MOS.’  For example, a new soldier could go to the Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill Oklahoma.  (With all of the Freudian implications appertaining thereto.  Or to the Aviation School at Fort Rucker Alabama.  Or even to the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.”  Or perhaps even go off to Officer Candidate School

Re:  The ratio of privates to officers, etc.  See What is the typical ratio of officers to enlisted soldiersWhy are the Ratios for officers and enlisted so different, and In the US Navy, what is the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel?

The “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian … image at right” had the caption, “Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?”

The lower image is courtesy of To Infinity And Beyond – Image Results.

Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”

In the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” Jesus rejected conservatism in favor of grace

*   *   *   *

I originally called this post “Jesus was a liberal.”  But after further review I narrowed the scope, something appeal-courts often do.  That made the question far less broad and so easier to answer.  Thus the limited question:  “Did Jesus interpret Scripture ‘liberally?”  Or as one legal site said, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

And that’s just what Jesus did.  (And His disciples.)  For starters, there’s Mark 2:27 where Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”  That is, under the old law – the “conservative law” – of Exodus 23:12, any work on the Sabbath was forbidden:

For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your maidservant may be refreshed, as well as the foreign resident.

Philippe de Champaigne - Moses with the Ten Commandments - WGA04717.jpg(See also Deuteronomy 5:12, and 5:14.)  But to Jesus, circumstances had changed since Moses made that rule.  (Right after he brought the Israelites out of captivity.)  Which meant the “old law” needed updating.  (Mostly because Conservatives had elevated form over substance, as they are wont to do.)  So Jesus went back to the original words of the rule to fully implement its true intent.  

So again, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

Which seems to be just what Jesus had in mind:  Make the Gospel apply to more people.

Then too – as if that isn’t enough to give a Southern Baptist apoplexy – many if not most of His disciples also interpreted Scripture “liberally.”  (Thus making the “Good News” apply to more things and in more situations – and to more people – than could be the case under strict construction.) 

Which brings up the fact that last June 29 was the Feast Day for both Saints Peter and Paul.  The Daily Office Readings for that day – Friday, June 29 – included Acts 11:1-18.  That’s one place where the Apostle Peter “went all Liberal.”  He did that in response to the Conservatives among early Christians who criticized him.  See Acts 11:1:  “Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.”

Which didn’t suit them at all.  See Acts 11:2:  “So when Peter” – at left – “went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers” – that is, the Conservatives – “criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’  But as it turned out. those Conservatives had open minds.  That is, after Peter explained his “vision,” they actually changed their minds.  (Something today’s Conservatives rarely do.)  See Acts 11:18:  “When they heard these things they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'”

That is, under the Old Law – the Conservative, “Jeff Sessions” law – the Path of Life was limited to Jews, and only to Jews.  That’s pretty much what Jesus said – at first – in Matthew 15:27.  That’s where Jesus set out the Conservative view that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  (With the children being the Jews – and only the Jews – while the “dogs” are uncircumcised Gentiles.)  Yet Jesus – with His open mind – got “persuaded” to change His mind.

And – by the way – that turnabout came through a woman who was a bit smarmy:

With a woman’s ready wit, quickened by urgency and affection, she seizes the opportunity, and turns Christ’s own words against himself.  Thou sayest truth, she means;  the Jews are the children;  we are the dogs;  and as dogs we claim our portion.

Paolo Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.(From the Pulpit Commentary for verse 27.)  Then there was the case of Jesus healing the bleeding woman.  But His having anything to do with such an impure woman was contrary to the conservative “old” law of Leviticus 15:25-27:

“If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness.”

(See also Leviticus 15:19-23, regarding a woman’s regular monthly “Curse…”)

And finally there was the case of the Apostle Philip “liberally” dealing with an untouchable eunuch.  See On Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members.”  That is, as a eunuch the Ethiopian eunuch was untouchable under the Old Law, the Conservative Law.

That’s because of Deuteronomy 23:1, and the New Living Translation is pretty specific:  “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”  The King James Bible – the one that God uses – put the matter more delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”  Yet Philip too turned “all Liberal,” and in doing so followed in the footsteps of Jesus.  That is, he interpreted the “Good News” so that it would apply to more things, more situations, and more people than was possible under “strict construction.”

(For more on whether Jesus was a “liberal,” see On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?)

Of course some conservatives – Biblical or otherwise – may disagree, which is of course their right.  But personally I’d like the Good News to apply to more people.  For one big thing, there’s Matthew 7:2:  “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”  For myself, when my time comes I want whoever – Jesus, St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, whoever – to “turn all liberal” when He or they are reviewing my life.

Then too, the definition of conservatism includes a disposition “to preserve what is established,” and/or a “tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.”  So all I can say is, “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative!”  I’m glad He made some changes.

The bottom line?  All I can do is give you “just the facts.”  You decide for yourself…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of The Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt) – Wikipedia:

It is among the Dutch master’s final works, likely completed within two years of his death in 1669.  Depicting the moment of the prodigal son‘s return to his father … it is a renowned work described by art historian Kenneth Clark as “a picture which those who have seen the original in St. Petersburg may be forgiven for claiming as the greatest picture ever painted.”

See also Parable of the Prodigal Son – Wikipedia, which indicated that the older son – who stayed behind with his father – represented more “conservative” values.  That is, the older son  “seems to think in terms of ‘law, merit, and reward,’ rather than ‘love and graciousness.’  He may represent the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus.”  See also “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  

The initial first paragraph:  “It seems that if you want to start an argument these days, you could say something outrageous like ‘Jesus Was A Liberal.’  So here goes!  For starters, if you Google ‘jesus was a liberal’ you’ll get about 100,000 results.  (Which actually isn’t that many…)”   Also, the full title of the “Jesus-liberal” link is Jesus Was A Liberal: 20 Quotes GOP Christians Will Hate.  For an opposing view, see Was Jesus a Liberal? The Myth Debunked! » Louder With Crowder.  Or for a more balanced view, see Is Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative? | Meet The Need Blog.

Re:  The Sabbath.  See United Church of God – “The Sabbath Was Made for Man,” etc.

Re: Peter and Paul.  See also On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”

Re:  Turning “Christ’s own words against himself.”  See also On arguing with God.

The “bleeding woman” image is courtesy of Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.

 BTW:  The complete Daily Office Readings for St. Peter & St. Paul are:  AM Psalm 66Ezekiel 2:1-7Acts 11:1-18;  PM Psalm 97138Isaiah 49:1-6Galatians 2:1-9.

The lower image is courtesy of Just The Facts Ma’am – Image Results.  But see also Joe Friday – Wikipedia, which noted that Detective Friday never actually used the phrase:  “A common misattributed catchphrase to Friday is ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ In fact, Friday never actually said this in an episode, but it was featured in Stan Freberg‘s works parodying ‘Dragnet.’”  See also FACT CHECK: Dragnet ‘Just the Facts’ – snopes.com.

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

Image may contain: one or more people

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

Talk about moving mountains

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Millstone – Image Results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

Then Jesus “opened their minds…”

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

Christians aren’t negative, self-righteous, sanctimonious or hypocritical.  Real Christians work every day to make the world a better place, plowing ahead, while the pharisees get all the negative press…  Which of course leaves the rest of us with a heavy cross to bear.

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

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

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

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

Which would be the greater miracle?

*   *   *   *

“Feeding the multitudes,” by Bernardo Strozzi….

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

*   *   *   *

A dear friend recently directed my attention to this article:

After NPR’s Embarrassment It’s Clear:  We Need More Christians in Media.

I’ll get to the gist of the article in a moment, but first I’d like to note a reader comment.  It came below the article’s text and said, “We need more serious Christians – not Trump-humping evangelicals – in media.”  Which led to this response, by Patriotmom:  “The serious Christians I know would not call someone a ‘Trump-humping evangelical.'”

Which is probably true.

“Patriotmom” probably doesn’t associate with anyone in her inner circle who would “call someone a Trump-humping evangelical.”  But that doesn’t really answer the question:  Could any serious or “true” Christian use the phrase “Trump-humping evangelical?”

For myself, I must confess – I do not deny, but confess – that I was very taken by the term “Trump-humping.”  As a writer, “Trump-humping” strikes me as a great example of the literary device of assonance(I.e., the “repetition of similar vowel sounds within a word, sentence, or phrase.”)  Simply put, “Trump humping” rolls trippingly off the tongue.

And according to the Bible, I do qualify as a serious or “true” Christian.  That’s according to Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  And I have said and believed…

(See also 1 Corinthians 12:3:  “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”)

So anyway – and to cut to the chase – here’s the conclusion of NPR’s Embarrassment:

What is needed more than anything in the world of mass media today is a substantial influx of new reporters, journalists, and anchors who can speak intelligently about Christianity…

I couldn’t agree more.  But more important, we need good Christians who can conduct spirited debate on the fundamentals of the faith – but without using the “roast in hell” card.

That’s also a Bible concept, based in large part on Ezekiel 3:16-19 (characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman“):

 [T]he word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…   When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.   But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

Which led to the original title of this post:  “Good Christians SHOULD argue with each other.”  (That in turn is based on the very-American concept of the adversary system – a basic tenet of our legal system – as the best way of arriving at “the truth.”)  And the reason that good Christians should be able to argue with each other – without resorting to the “you’re going to roast in hell” card – is based on Deuteronomy 19:16-19:

If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time.  The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party

In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  Of course I don’t particularly care if a “Trump-humping evangelical” roasts in hell for eternity.  But it’s my duty – and my CYA – to warn him of the danger.  (Per Ezekiel 3:16-19.)

Thus this blog-post.

But getting back to reporters “who can speak intelligently about Christianity:”  I’ve noted before – in offerings including The Scribe – that about “12 years after I started practicing law, I went back to school and got a Master’s Degree in Journalism.”  And for that degree program I had to do a course project, the functional equivalent of a Master’s thesis.

The title of my 2003 Course Project?  “A Reporter’s Guide to Religion.”

But I doubt if it’s the kind of “reporter’s guide” that Patriotmom has in mind.  For one thing, it started out quoting H. L. Mencken, saying a reporter’s job is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  That sentiment – I wrote – was mirrored by Russell Baker “in a 1999 speech at Harvard.”  Which – as it turns out – is also the job of a good Christian, “according to the likes of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1861-1918) and Baptist minister Walter Rauschenbusch.”

Which in turn is based on James 4:6:  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Put another way, it might be best to paraphrase another quote from Mencken and say that the job of both reporters and Christians is to “challenge the prevailing quacks.”

 (See also “From Yahweh to Yahoo,” a post discussing the 2008 book by Doug Underwood, providing a “fresh and surprising view of the religious impulses at work in the typical newsroom.”  

I hope to write more about these topics – and more about my “Reporter’s Guide to Religion” – in future posts.  But for now it’s enough to say that, it seems to me anyway:

Trump-humping evangelicals are the “prevailing quacks” these days…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “1978 postage stamp issued by the U.S. Post Office to commemorate Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.”  The image was also featured in the January 2018 post, “From Yahweh to Yahoo” – and the Great Dissenter.”

Re:  Trippingly off the tongue.  See eNotes Shakespeare Quotes, which indicates that the phrase – from Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 1–4 – was originally “trippingly on the tongue.”  See also Wordnik: rolls-trippingly-off-the-tongue, about words that are just “fun to say.” 

For a critical view of the adversary system as a search for truth, see Adversarial Inquisitions: Rethinking the Search for the Truth.  (NYLS Law Review.)

The Ezekiel – Wikipedia image caption:  “Russian icon of the Prophet Ezekiel holding a scroll with his prophecy and pointing to the ‘closed gate’ (18th century, Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Russia).”

For more on the Mencken-Baker thought, Google “comfort the afflicted afflict the comfortable.”

Re:  “Patriotism.”  See Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel:  Samuel Johnson, and also (False) Patriotism Is the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel.

The lower image is courtesy of The Atlantic Magazine (April, 2018) How Evangelicals Lost Their Way – And Got Hooked on Donald Trump.  For another take, see Frances FitzGerald on how evangelicals lost their way, and/or How Christianity Lost Its Voice in Today’s Media Driven World.

The Bible’s erotic love song – from last year

King Solomon – shown visited by the Queen of Sheba – wrote the Bible’s “erotic love poem…”

*   *   *   *

I’ve gotten to the point – in writing this blog – that I’ve covered most of the feast days and Bible readings.  So now I’m free to go back and re-visit “this time last year.”  And, when necessary, review what I wrote, then update based on what’s happened during that last year.

Or I can go back to those lessons that need repeating:  Such as Jesus giving a simplified, “Cliff’s Notes” summary of the whole Bible, noted below.  (He “boiled the whole Bible down to two simple ‘shoulds.'”)

But first, let’s go back to February 15, 2017, when I posted The Bible’s “erotic love poem.”  That referred to the Song of Songs, also called the “Song of Solomon,” since he’s the one who wrote it.  (According to tradition.)  And incidentally, according to 1st Kings 11:3, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, so he knew “whereof he spoke.”

And the Bible’s erotic love poem – also called the Song of Songs – including this passage:

Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.  Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.  Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.  Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.

Which made me wonder:  Why don’t Fundamentalists interpret the Song of Songs literally?  Why don’t those Bible Literalists adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” of this book, like all the others in the Bible?  Could it be a matter of selective interpretation?

Isaac.Asimov01.jpgHere’s Isaac Asimov‘s answer: “Because of the erotic nature of the book, it has been customary to find allegorical values in it that would make it more than a description of bodily passion:”

Jews would have it speak of the love between Yahveh and Israel; Catholics of the love between Christ and the Church;  Protestants of the love between God and man’s soul.  However, if we simply accept the words as they stand, the book is a human love poem and a very beautiful one.

Which is fine, but why not be consistent?  Or – in the alternative – why reject a spiritual, or even (gasp!)liberal interpretation of the Bible, in favor of only a literal interpretation?

Which brings up the whole point of this blog:  That if you limit your Bible study to a purely literal interpretation, you’re robbing yourself of at least half it’s value.  But if you look at the Bible with an open-minded spiritual interpretation, your study can take you to exotic adventures and explorations that you couldn’t have dreamed of before.

Or as Paul said, God made us “servants of a new covenant not based on the letter [of the law] but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (2d Corinthians 3:6.)  Or see Luke 24:45, where Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”  Put another way, if Jesus had been a conservative – or a literalist – we’d all still be Jewish.

And besides, by taking that “open” approach you won’t have to find a non-erotic literal-but-pure meaning of “your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand…”

*   *   *   *

Now, back to that “Cliff’s Note.”  See “Bible basics” revisited,” citing Matthew 22:37-39:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ said:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Which means that whenever you read something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, or might mean two different things, or seems contrary to “common sense,” you have this Summary to fall back on.  (It also works when a slick-haired televangelist says what just doesn’t sound right.)

In other words, don’t take an isolated passage from the Bible out of context and have your whole life revolve around.  Don’t be like “Stumpy” – the snake handler below – based on a too-literal interpretation of Mark 16:18.  Use a little common sense!

Or at least be consistent.  If you interpret Mark 16:18 literally, do the same for Song of Solomon 7:1-3:  “Your rounded thighs are like jewels…  Your two breasts are like two fawns…”

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Solomon – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon,’ oil on canvas painting by Edward Poynter, 1890.”

Note also that aside from The Bible’s “erotic love poem,” posted about this time last year, I also posted On the “creepy” end of Isaiah and The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras, which I may explore further in a near-future post.

The lower image is courtesy of Snake handling – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Snake handling at Church of God with Signs Following, Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky 15 September 1946 (National Archives and Records Administration).  Photo by Russell Lee.”

 

On the beginning of Lent – 2018

The Temptation(s) of Christ – during His 40 days of wandering – which Lent seeks to emulate…

*   *   *   *

I confess – I “do not deny but confess” – that I have been lax in posting new essays for this blog.  One excuse is that I’ve been focusing more on my art.  (For one thing, I’ve finally gotten to the point – after 66 years of this incarnation – that I actually feel like I know what I’m doing.)  Be that as it may, it’s high time to finish another post, especially since Lent began a week or so ago, with Ash Wednesday.

If nothing else, I may need to do penance for my sins…  (The image at right is “‘La Penitente’ by Pietro Rotari.”)

Which relates to the kind of Wandering in the Wilderness that many of us seem to have to go through.  (That is, before we “reach a certain age” and – for example – feel like we know what we’re doing.)

So anyway, this whole idea of Lent as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness started back with Moses.  And with his leading the Children of Israel during the original Exodus, as recited years later by Nehemiah, at 9:12-21.  Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way.  But we do have the example set by Jesus.

Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, On Ash Wednesday and Lent, and also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.

So the “40 days of Lent” are supposed to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent “wandering in the wilderness.”  (And being “tempted.”)  In turn, that act by Jesus mirrored the 40 years that the Hebrews – led by Moses – also spent “wandering around.”  But as it’s evolved, most people today equate Lent with “giving up something they love.”  Which may miss the point entirely.  (See e.g., Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

For me it seems more appropriate to remember that “while the Promised Land is wonderful, we learn our greatest lessons on the journey along the way.”  That’s from the “mini-Wandering in the Wilderness” link above, posted by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman back in 2011.  His article is called “What We Can Learn from Wandering in the Wilderness,” and it contains some valid points for this Lenten season.  Points like this:

Life can be hard, and the world can be scary.  If we learn to accept that, and not expect the world to revolve around us, we can discover the myriad ways in which we can make a difference, and invest our energy in those tasks.

So the Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or “full-scale practice.”  (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)  

Another lesson:  It can be “fun, natural and even important to explore uncharted territory [during Lent].  After all, we never learn or grow if we stay in the same place.”  Which is why – two years ago – I chose a different course.  See My Lenten meditation, from February 14, 2016:

I’ve always wondered just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)  So I’ve decided that – aside from Bible-reading on a daily basis, which I already do anyway – I’ll spend this Lent “meditating” on this topic.  More precisely, I plan to spend this Lent contemplating on how and when Moses wrote those first five books.

Which turned out to be pretty enlightening.  For example, Moses probably knew the earth revolved around the sun, but couldn’t share that information with the primitive, illiterate tribes he led.  (He would have been stoned to death for heresy.  See On Moses getting stoned.  And as an aside, the same thing almost happened to Jesus.  But in Luke 4:21-30, Jesus wasn’t threatened by stoning, as Moses was.  Instead, “the people” wanted to throw Him off a cliff, as shown at left.)

For another thing, four of the five books of the Torah were “pretty much autobiography.”  (That is, Moses wrote about his life, and his role in leading the Hebrews out of slavery and into their Promised Land.  And in doing so he referred to himself in the third person, a literary device called illeism.  See also On Moses and “illeism.)  But in writing Genesis, Moses had to go back to the origins of time itself.  He had to go back to the Creation of the World itself.   And in doing that, he almost certainly had to rely on oral tradition.

Then there’s the question whether “writing” had been invented by the time of Moses at all.  All of which are fascinating questions, but certainly beyond the scope of this post.  (Maybe later?)

So I’ll end the post with this BTW:  There are actually 46 days of Lent;  46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.”  But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.”  That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which just goes to show that – sometimes at least:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

*   *   *   *

40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Temptation of Christ – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Temptations of Christ, 12th century mosaic at St Mark’s BasilicaVenice.”  

The “Penitente” image is courtesy of Penance – Wikipedia, which adds this note:

The word penance derives from Old French and Latin paenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven (in English see contrition). Penance and repentance, similar in their derivation and original sense, have come to symbolize conflicting views of the essence of repentance, arising from the controversy as to the respective merits of “faith” and “good works.”  Word derivations occur in many languages.

Re:  Phrase “reach a certain age.”  The allusion is to “women of a certain age.”  That phrase was “repopularized in a 1979 book by the psychotherapist Lillian B. Rubin, ‘Women of a Certain Age:  The Midlife Search for Self,’ in which midlife spanned 35 to 54.”  The 1995 New York Times article noted that – at the time it was published – Ms. Rubin was then in her early 70s.  It then added:

[T]he phrase … “has a long history in French, where it refers to women of fortyish and thereabouts who are able to initiate boys and young men into the beauties of sexual encounters.  The early use in English seems to be about spinsterhood, but the French meaning has nothing to do with marriage…”  In French, the phrase has erotically or sexually charged overtones.  [Naturally.]  “It comes from a society where sexuality is freer,” Dr. Rubin notes, “and more understood as an important part of human life…”  The phrase in French is femmes d’une certaine age.  The term, however, can apply to either sex.

To which I add my own hearty Amen.  (“So be it.”)  And note that as I’ve said before, one of the pleasures of blogging is that you can learn so many interesting new things…

The “giving up” image is courtesy of Diary of a Sower (“Giving up – or adding something – to Lent”).

Re:  Prior posts on Lent.  See On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.

Re:  “Sundays off in Lent.”  See How Are the 40 Days of Lent Calculated? – ThoughtCoFast during Lent – EWTNIs There Really a “Sunday Exception” During Lent?

The lower image is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) – IMDb.

Was “Abraham” a pimp?

“A painting of Abraham’s departure” – which happened beforeAbram” became “Abraham…”

*   *   *   *

I was reading the DORs for last Saturday morning – January 20, 2018 – starting with the Old Testament reading, Genesis 12:9-13:1.

It told about “Abram” – before he became Abraham – going down to Egypt “to reside there as an alien.”  (Which raises whole ‘nother train of thought, vis-à-vis aliens in the Bible.  And which explains why I put “Abraham” in quotation marks in the title.  When he “pimped” he was still Abram.)

So anyway, “Abram” went down to Egypt to escape the famine – “severe in the land” – that was afflicting Shechem in Canaan(“Shecem” was a village roughly 70 miles north of modern Jerusalem.)  But Abram had a problem.  His wife “Sarai” – before she became Sarah – was extremely beautiful.  (As seen above left.)  So here’s what he did:

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’  Then they will kill me but will let you live.  Say you are my sister [ – as illustrated below right – ] so that I will be treated well for your sake…  And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.  He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

That’s according to Genesis 12:11-16.  But then Pharaoh suffered a series of plagues or mishaps, and he finally figured out it was because Sarai was Abraham’s wife, not his sister.  But somehow God turned that to Abram’s advantage, and so he left Egypt a much richer man than when he first arrived.  (In much the same manner of the Children of Israel, as Moses led them out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery.  See Exodus 3:22, “and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.”)

But Abram ended up a much richer man because he gave his wife to another man.  So  when I read that I thought, “Was Abram a pimp?”  Then I wondered if I was the first person that thought had occurred to.  (“To whom that thought had occurred,” to be grammatically correct.)

But no…  I Googled “was abraham Bible a pimp,” and got 8,210,000 results.  Most were from sites like Intelligent Blasphemy or The Heretic’s Bible.  But aside from heretics and infidels, the same thought seems not to have occurred to many Christians.  (Gee, I wonder why?)

But the question does bear consideration.  And the answer I came up with is that many times you definitely don’t want to interpret the Bible too literally.  And this is a prime example.

That is, if a “good Christian” takes the Bible too literally – and uses the plain meaning rule – the only logical conclusion is that Abram did indeed “pimp out his wife.”  (Like the heretics and infidels say.)  But that would miss the whole point of Abraham’s story.  That story is not about Abraham pimping out his wife, any more than the Book of Jonah is about a stinkin’ whale!

https://mediamythalert.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/braburning_atlcty_1968.jpgSee On Jonah and the bra-burners (with the image at left):

My point was that the “attention-getter” in Jonah – the whale – got in the way of the real message.  So the Book of Jonah was just like the “bra-burners” at the 1968 Miss America pageant, where that real message got lost too.  The real message of Jonah is:  God’s love is universal…   (It ain’t about no ^%$## whale!!!)

Thus the problem of using an attention-getter (Like burning bras.)  Sometimes it gets in the way of the real message.  And so, “Ever since the Book of Jonah was written (it seems) Bible-readers have ‘picked up on the whale part.’  In doing so they’ve ignored the real message behind the book.”  The same thing could happen here.

Maybe the real message of the Abraham saga is that he was a human ^%$# being, just like us today.  He was not some “goody two-shoes” bent on preserving his “virtue.”  And there’s another thing that Abraham was not.  He was not a conservative.  For example, notice that when God changed the names of both “Abram” and “Sarai” – to Abraham and Sarah – He expanded their horizons.  (Just like it says at the top of this page.)

But imagine if Abram and Sarai had turned too conservative…  For one thing, Abram would never have left Ur of the Chaldees.  “I can’t do that!  I’m too afraid of an unknown future!

Also, note that the saga kind of concluded with this morning’s reading, Genesis 18:16-33. That’s where Abraham did another thing that “conservative Christians” would never think about doing.  See On arguing with God.  That post includes a section on Abraham “arguing:”

Take Sodom and Gomorrah…  “Please!”   That is, see: Genesis 18:16-33.  That’s where Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy Sodom.  (And quite frankly, he was kind of a pain about it, haggling with God not to destroy the city if there were 50 good people in it, down to as few as five good people…) 

Anyway, the point of all this is that with a true Christian – a real Christian, not a too-conservative “Pharisee” – God changes people.  And you won’t accept that change if you’re too conservative.

God changed Abram from an old man with no sons – from Sarai anyway – to Abraham, the “father of a multitude of nations.”  God changed Sarai from a barren, childless old hag to Sarah, “the mother of the Church.”  And God changed Jacob – who also wasn’t afraid to argue with God – to Israel,  “Patriarchof the Israelites.”  The lesson:  Don’t be too conservative – too “literal” – in reading the Bible.  Let God change you – for the better…

*   *   *   *

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpg

Jacob wrestling with the Angel” – as a result of which his name got changed to Israel

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Abraham – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár.”

The “Sarai” image is courtesy of tâniarubiminenglish.blogspot.com.  (“Women in the Bible in real times,” and/orhttp://2.bp.blogspot.com/_W0RrCetBQQ0/TGoAWj…s1600/Bia49.jpg.”  Or you can just Google “sarah Bible image.” 

The image of Abraham counseling Sarai – “ Say you are my sister [ – as illustrated below right – ]” –  is courtesy of Abraham – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘Abram’s Counsel to Sarai’ (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot).”  Note that – according to the Bible (Genesis 17:17) – Abraham was ostensibly 10 years older than Sarah – but he looks much older in the picture.

Re:  “Abram to Abraham.”  See the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary to Genesis 17:5:

In Eastern countries a change of name is an advertisement of some new circumstance in the history, rank, or religion of the individual who bears it.  The change is made variously, by the old name being entirely dropped for the new, or by conjoining the new with the old;  or sometimes only a few letters are inserted, so that the altered form may express the difference in the owner’s state or prospects.,,  In dealing with Abraham and Sarai, God was pleased to adapt His procedure to the ideas and customs of the country and age.  Instead of Abram, “a high father,” he was to be called Abraham, “father of a multitude of nations.”

See also Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, which explained that at first “he was the father of Aram, and therefore his name was called Abram, but now he is the father of the whole world, and therefore called Abraham.”  As for his wife’s change of name – from Sarai to Sarah – see Genesis 17:15:  “God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai;  her name will be Sarah.'”  The notes indicate that the name “Sarai signifies my princess, as if her honor were confined to one family only,” while the name “Sarah” indicates a change of status, from a “princess,” to something more.  That is, “whereas formerly she was Abram’s princess only, she was henceforth to be recognized as a princess generally, i.e. as the mother of the Church.”  So God expanded her horizons.

The full Satucket readings for Saturday, January 20, were:  “AM Psalm 30, 32; PM Psalm 42, 43,” along with Genesis 12:9-13:1Hebrews 7:18-28, and John 4:27-42.  The full readings for Sunday, January 27, 2018, were:  “AM Psalm 55; PM Psalm 138, 139:1-17(18-23);  Genesis 18:1-16Hebrews 10:26-39; and John 6:16-27.  The Gospel reading included John 4:32, where Jesus said to His disciples – who had urged Him to eat – “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  That’s another indication that God didn’t intend the Bible to be taken too literally.

On that note, see also John 2:13-22, one of the recent Daily Office Readings:

The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’   Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’   The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The point there is that in saying “destroy this temple,” Jesus didn’t mean to be taken literally, but figuratively.  And that pretty much goes along with the major theme of this blog.

Re:  Genesis 18:16-33. That’s where Abraham was a real pain to God:

Abraham came near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?   Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’   And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.’  Abraham answered, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.  Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ And he said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’   Again he spoke to him, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’   Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.’ He answered, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’  He said, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’   Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’

The line – “Take Sodom and Gomorrah…   ‘Please!’” – harks back to a classic Henny Youngman one liner.  See Comedy Classics: Henny Youngman – “Take My Wife. Please.”

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.