Category Archives: Not your daddy’s Bible

On the Book of Job as “Law School 101”

From “Law School: How to Brief a Case” (“case studies”) – A useful tool for Bible study?

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

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us 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 best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: To read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Since the COVID hit – some 27 weeks ago* – I’ve been watching a lot of Great Courses Plus on TV. (Instead of cable TV, which I don’t have, or old DVDs.) One of those Great Courses – the lecture on Understanding the Old Testament – was a real eye-opener.

In Lecture 8 of the course – “The Covenant Code in Exodus” – Professor Robert D. Miller II, PhD cited Raymond Westbrook. Westbrook said the so-called “law codes” of Old Testament times were not – strictly speaking – statutory commands like the ones we know today. Instead they were the equivalent of school texts, “as if you’re teaching someone law.” He noted that in law school, teachers often start with borderline, theoretical scenarios. By starting with such “weird cases,” students can then move on to more-easily solved “ordinary” real-life situations.

One such “weird case” in the Bible – Miller said – was Exodus 21:22. (Basically asking, “how often do ‘men strive’ and injure a pregnant women?” The passage is addressed further below.) Starting with that unlikely scenario, a professor could move on to endless hypothetical examples. And all of them would be ripe with potential of educating people about the law. (Another note: Miller began the segment by saying such ancient Near-Eastern codes – like the Code of Hammurabi, strikingly similar to parts of the Torah – were never intended to be a “binding law code.”)

Miller went on to say that many such ancient law codes look more like a “Babylonian medical curriculum,” in that they were “descriptive, not prescriptive.” And finally he noted that the true meaning of Torah in Hebrew was closer to “instruction” or “teaching” rather than “The Law.” See also Torah – Definition (from Torah Resources International), which notes the “torah is, therefore, in the strict sense instruction designed to teach us the truth about God. Torah means direction,teaching, instruction,or doctrine.”

So instead of “law” as we understand that word today, much of the Torah is – according to Miller and Westbrook – more closely related to “school texts,” “curriculum,” “teaching,” and “hypotheticals.” Which brings up the “weird case” noted above –  Exodus 21:22 – along with Book of Job as a whole.

I mention the Book of Job because – since Thursday, August 20 – I’ve been reading that book as the Old Testament Daily Office Readings (via Satucket). And those rather depressing readings continued until last Friday, September 18. (When the OT readings switched to Esther 1:1-4,10-19, “or Judith 4:1-15.”) Which brings up a problem I’ve always had with Job. (“Imaged” at right.)

I’ve always felt the book is based on an impossible premise. That premise? That Job alone – of all the people in world history, aside from Jesus Christ Himself – is totally without sin. And that’s contrary to a point made repeatedly in the Bible, that no one – aside from Jesus Himself – is without sin. (See 1st John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” along with Romans 3:10-12,Psalm 14:1-3,Psalm 53:1-3, all saying “there is none who is righteous, no not one.”)

In other words, the Book of Job does seem to be a “hypothetical,” as Miller and Westbrook noted. See Hypotheticals – Wikipedia, referring to “possible situations, statements or questions about something imaginary rather than something real.” In other words hypotheticals deal with the concept of “what if?” (As in, “What if there were a man – besides Jesus – who was totally without sin, yet bad things kept happening to him?”) In turn they are important learning tools “because they provide a means for understanding what we would do if the world was different.” 

I’ve discussed the Book of Job in earlier posts, included in the notes, but getting back to the OT reading mentioned above, Exodus 21:22: It too seems more like a possible “hypothetical situation,” of the type law students dissect in their course studies. (Again, asking the question, “how often do ‘men strive’ and injure a pregnant women?”)

Which brings up the case study method that law schools are known for: The teaching method using “decision-forcing cases to put students in the role of people who were faced with difficult decisions at some point in the past.” Put another way, unlike other teaching methods, “the case method requires that instructors refrain from providing their own opinions about the decisions in question. Rather, the chief task of instructors who use the case method is asking students to devise, describe, and defend solutions to the problems presented by each case.”

In other words both Exodus 21:22 and Job seem to be “hypotheticals,” designed to teach students how to work with “the Law,” rather than a set of hard and fast “laws” to be followed literally. (Consider Job 10:18, “Why did you deliver me from my mother’s womb? Why didn’t you let me die at birth?” Taken out of context, or too literally, it could cause no end of trouble…)

Which may be why Jesusopened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

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But getting back to ongoing Bible readings – and the Liturgical year (including feast days): There are three big feast days this month. The first – Monday, September 14 – was Holy Cross Day, one of several Feasts of the Cross commemorating the cross “in the crucifixion of Jesus.”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

See On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.” As another aside, the Feast day for St Matthew, Evangelist is coming up on Monday, September 21, and the Feast of St Michael and All Angels will be Wednesday, September 29. The latter featured a painting (below), “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.” To which I responded:

 “Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

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“Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory . . .”

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The upper image is courtesy of Law School Case Brief – Image Results. It accompanies a video, “Law School: How to Brief a Case – YouTube.”

As to weeks of “the Covid,” see On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. I explained that, to me “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.” For my weekly-quotas, the week from Monday, March 16 to Sunday night, March 22d.

Re: Understanding the Old Testament, Robert D. Miller II, PhD, Lecture 8, The Covenant Code in Exodus. To access more information go to Great Courses Plus – Start Learning Online Today.

Re: Job as “‘imaged’ at right.” Courtesy of the Wikipedia article, the full caption: “Carved wooden figure of Job. Probably from Germany, 1750–1850 CE. The Wellcome Collection, London.”

For more on hypotheticals – in the “law school” sense – see Legal definition of Hypothetical Question:A mixture of assumed or established facts and circumstances, developed in the form of a coherent and specific situation, which is presented to an expert witness at a trial to elicit his or her opinion. (The “coherent a nd specific” errata were in the original.

Further, such a question “contains a mixture of assumed or established facts or circumstances, in the form of a coherent and specific situation, presented to an expert witness at trial to elicit his or her opinion.” And such a question “includes all the facts in evidence needed to form an opinion.” Then, based on the assumption that those facts are true, “the witness is asked whether he or she can arrive at an opinion, and if so, to state it.”

Re: Exodus 21:22: The complete passage goes on to verses 23-25:

 22 If men who are fighting strike a pregnant woman and her child is born prematurely, but there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband demands and as the court allows. 23 But if a serious injury results, then you must require a life for a life – 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, and stripe for stripe.

Note that this “Lex talionis” or an eye for an eye was a rule of limitation. requiring the perpetrator be punished only as much as the victim suffered, as opposed to unlimited or ongoing revenge. “Without it, a wrongful injury might give rise to wrongful retaliatory injuries in excess of the original loss or harm, which, in turn, would be retaliated for, and so on ad infinitum.” The ‘lex talionis’ before and after criminal law. Note too this passage has been used on both sides of the abortion debate. (Google “exodus 21:22 abortion.”)

Re: Earlier posts on the Book of Job. See On Job, the not-so-patient, from 2014, and On “Job the not patient” – REDUX, from 2015. I just reviewed the latter post just before publishing this post, and it’s worth doing another redux in the near future. The ending: “[A]s 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…(This was right after noting an image that humans are no more prepared to comprehend the full measure of God’s power than “cats are prepared to study calculus.”)

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the full caption: “Guido Reni‘s painting in Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636 is also reproduced in mosaic at the St. Michael Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.” See also Purgatory – Wikipedia, about the “intermediate state after physical death for expiatory purification.” In other words, instead of the two “pass/fail” options of heaven and hell, “purgatory” provides a third alternative, a temporary place where one undergoes a purifying “fire” that is “expiatory and purifying not punitive like hell fire.”

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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-on phrase, “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 mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…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

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).


So anyway,
 in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers 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.” And 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

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” 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.*” In 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 image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

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

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

On an old friend – and his “Bible literalism…”

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

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us 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 best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: To read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

I just found out that we don’t have any of the original manuscripts that make up the 27 books of the New Testament. None. No Gospels, no letters or “Epistles,” and not even any of the Acts of the Apostles. None.

What we do have are “copies of copies of copies.”

Which doesn’t make a bit of difference to me. But it should make a difference to someone – like an old friend of mine who I last saw several years ago – who told me that he believed the Bible was literally true, and was thus “without error.” (See Biblical literalism – Wikipedia.)

Now this old friend – let’s call him “Dick” – was a real rabble-rouser when I first knew him, back in the 1970’s. For one thing he was famous for off-color banter. On one weekend camping trip he spoke of hearing “organisms” in the night just past. (Meaning “orgasms.”) And for a while then he drove a hearse, and once – stopped by police for a moving violation – calmly said, as the officer unfolded his ticket book, “Uh, yes, I’ll have a cheeseburger, fries and a coke.”

But times change and so did Dick. Like when I visited him – the last time as it turned out – and he turned from the TV news and said that to me. (About the Bible being “literally true.”) I was totally flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to say then, and it’s bothered me ever since. (Saying “What are you, an idiot” seemed a bit harsh, even with, “BTW, that’s a rhetorical question.”)

What brought all this back was a recent lecture on Great Courses Plus, The New Testament, by Bart D. Ehrman, PH.D. This particular lecture was, “Do we have the original New Testament?” The short answer – and to me the surprising answer – turned out to be, “No, we don’t.”

We can say with some confidence that we don’t have the original text of any of the books of the New Testament. … There is no alternative to this situation and there never will be unless by some unbelievable stroke of luck we discover the original text themselves. We do not have the originals of any of the books that were later canonized into the New Testament. What we have are copies of the originals, or better yet, copies of the copies of the copies of the originals – copies made for the most part hundreds of years after the originals themselves.

(Emphasis added.) Which again, doesn’t make a bit of difference to me.

Personally, I believe the Bible “proves itself” with what I do with it as an individual believer. What I do as a Believer, and how I interact with God in my own life.* In how I have gone through the tests and trials that come to every person, and yet – by and through ongoing Bible study – I came through those trials not only whole, but better for the experience.

And in the way that – through reading the Bible and applying it to my own life in my old age – I’ve ended up feeling alive and cheerful. (Despite having “come to the breaking point – and broken.*”)

Alive and cheerful about where I am and where I’m going, and how I can now be the kind of witness that people will listen to. And about feeling – with Frank Sinatra – The Best Is Yet to Come.

I’ve written on some problems reading the Bible “too literally.” First in 2014’s On three suitors (a parable), and later in 2015’s True Test of Faith. One problem came from the Hebrew method of writing:

in Hebrew there are no vowels, and the letters of a sentence are strung together. An example:  a sentence in English, “The man called for the waiter.” Written in Hebrew, the sentence would be “THMNCLLDFRTHWTR.” But among other possible translations, the sentence could read, in English, “The man called for the water.”

Another problem came from Jesus’ usual method of teaching, parables. (That is, a short story different from a fable, in that fables use animals as characters, while parables “have human characters.”) In plain words He taught by parables, “a type of metaphorical analogy.”

So one question is: “How do you literally interpret a parable?” Then too – according to the book Christian Testament – parables are “very much an oral method of teaching.” Further, in such a tradition, it was up to the listener to decipher the meaning of the parable, to him:

The essence of the parabolic method of teaching is that life and the words that tell of life can mean more than one thing. Each hearer is different and therefore to each hearer a particular secret of the kingdom can be revealed. We are supposed to create nimshalim* for ourselves.

After which I noted such a thought was one “that can give a conservative Christian apoplexy; the fact the Bible might mean different things to different people.” Like my old friend Dick. Which means that – to me – the choice is up to the individual Bible reader. “They” can use a strict or narrow interpretation, “but for me and my house,” I will use the more open-minded or even – gasp! – liberal Interpretationso as to implement the object and purpose of the document

In other words, I’ll use the interpretation of a God who accepts anyone (who comes Him), and who expects us to do greater miracles than Jesus. And who wants our lives to be “abundant.” (Which I’ve heard before somewhere, with Luke 24:45. And that’s not to mention “adventure…”)

Meanwhile, I now have an answer to what my old friend Dick said when I visited a few years back. Thanks to the years I’ve spent working on this blog, I would respond today that – as far as reading the Bible literally goes – “That’s a very good place to start!

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Maria apparently went “beyond the fundamentals” – her “do-re-mi’s…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Flabbergasted – Image Results.

Re: The Bible as “without error and therefore completely true.” See Biblical inerrancy – Wikipedia. and – for a view different than mine – Why is it important to believe in biblical inerrancy.)

Also, vis-a-vis missing NT manuscripts: The night before posting I learned – through another Great Courses Bible lecture – that many “puns” in original OT Hebrew were lost in translation. See for example Bible Secrets Revealed, Episode 1: “Lost in Translation,” and Five Mistakes in Your Bible Translation | HuffPost. From the former, “different copies of the same Biblical books from the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t often match, [so] at the time of Jesus, the Hebrew Biblical texts existed in different versions and traditions that were still being sorted out. What this means is that it is very difficult to argue that the Bible is the verbatim ‘Word of God,’ especially when all of the ancient manuscripts contain different words.” From the latter, “In the original Hebrew, the 10th Commandment prohibits taking, not coveting. The biblical Jubilee year is named for an animal’s horn and has nothing to do with jubilation. The pregnant woman in Isaiah 7:14 is never called a virgin.” Also, “Metaphors are particularly difficult to translate, because words have different metaphoric meanings in different cultures. Shepherds in the Bible were symbols of might, ferocity and royalty, whereas now they generally represent peaceful guidance and oversight.” These may be in a future post.

Re: “My old friend Dick.” It wasn’t just me he “flabbergasted.” A mutual friend said he also cut off all communications with his family, and other old friends, who didn’t share his “conservative” views.

Re: Interacting with God in my own life. See for example On my “mission from God,” and “As a spiritual exercise…”

Re: “Christian Testament.” The full reference is Education for Ministry Year Two (Hebrew Scriptures, Christian Testament) 2nd Edition by William Griffin, Charles Winters, Christopher Bryan and Ross MacKenzie (1991). The “nimshalim” quote(s) are from page 321 of my copy.

Re: Despite having ‘come to the breaking point.'” In one of Garry Wills‘ books he uses a translation of the Lord’s Prayer which – instead of “lead us not into temptation” – reads, “and lead us not to the breaking point.” I’ve always found that translation far more applicable to my life…

Re: Nimshalim. See Mashal + Nimshal = Meaning/Teaching | Discipleship Curriculum: “The teaching method was simply brilliant. A fictional story (the mashal) was created by the Rabbi. This was almost always in response to something going on in their immediate world or an important principle they wanted to teach. The story would be crafted in such a way as to disguise it’s intent but also in such a way as to intrigue.” See also Mashal (allegory) – Wikipedia, about a “short parable with a moral lesson or religious allegory, called a nimshal.” (Nimshalim is the plural form.)  

Re: “Me and my house.” The reference is to Joshua 24:15. In the ESV, “choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The lower image is courtesy of A Very Good Place Start Sound Music – Image Results. See also Sound Of Music – Do-Re-Mi Lyrics | MetroLyrics. The lesson from this metaphoric parable – from The Sound of Musicis that real Christians will go on to read and write great works, and perhaps create great symphonic masterpieces in music, while the “boot camp Christians” will continue on, endlessly going over their a-b-c’s and do-re-mi’s in an ongoing cycle of repetition.

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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-on phrase, “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 mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…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

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers 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.” And 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

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” 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.*” In 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 image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.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?

Happy Easter – April 2020!

Jesus – “kicking down the gates of hell” – with Satan (at bottom) “bound and chained…”

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

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

Today – April 12, 2020 – is Easter Sunday. That is, the …

… festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary [circa] 30 AD.  It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

And incidentally, the painting (icon) at the top of the page shows Jesus as “having kicked down the gates of Hades.”  It also shows “Satan, depicted as an old man … bound and chained.” See On Easter Season – AND BEYOND, and Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!”

Which could lead to one of this morning’s Daily Office Readings, Exodus 12:1-14. Specifically, Exodus 12:13, “I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you.” Which could be a reassuring Easter promise, in this time of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.

For more on more traditional views of Easter, check the two post-links cited above. But clearly this Easter is different, mostly because of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Which leads to this: Back on March 12 – 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  by Albert Camus.

The other book was What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills. I figured it might cheer me up. And it did, but initially I was most struck by this passage:

Christian leaders have often rebuked the rebelliousness of young people by offering them a pastel picture of the young Jesus as a model of compliance and good behavior. They make this mystifying child an examplar of “family values” in the most restrictive and conformist sense. But there are many indications that Jesus was more like those restive and resisting children who have all the idealism and absolutism of youth – young people who chafe against the boundaries of the past and who are panting to explore new horizons

Which is pretty much one main theme of this blog. That the Bible was not meant to stuff you into some cubby hole, or make you just another a “carbon-copy Christian.”

Instead the Bible – and especially the message of Jesus (see John 14:12 and Luke 24:45, above)  – was meant to help people break through the boundaries of the past and “explore new horizons.” Unfortunately – and as Garry Wills noted near the end of his book – many who “call on His name return often to the forms of religion He renounced.” Which brings up an opposing view to his, What Garry Wills Thinks Jesus Meant | Bible Thumping, which said this:

[A]ccording to Wills’ social justice Jesus, if we don’t love everyone, help the poor, and affirm homosexuals, then we will not be saved. But it gets worse… Matthew 25:35-40 does not command Christians to help the poor; it commands Christians to help other Christians – brothers – when they are in need, especially during persecution.”

Which I assume means that in the current coronavirus pandemic, the writer would help only “other Christians,” but not all Christians. Only those who agree with his Wingnut version of Christianity. (And incidentally, a “wingnut” is a person with “extreme, and often irrational, political views, primarily those considered to be right wing.” Which sounds about right.)

At the very least, Wingnut interprets the Bible in a “most restrictive and conformist sense.” 

And that sounds a bit like one headline I read this morning, Trump Reportedly Weighed Letting COVID-19 ‘Wash Over’ U.S. Note the difference – and maybe the similarities – in “wash over” and “pass over.” And how in this case, the latter would be preferable to the former. As in, “Would you rather the Coronavirus ‘wash over’ America, killing millions in the process, or have this latest plague pass over our house and not strike us down. (Or compare this “wash over America” idea with the Conservative Christian health-care plan, which seems to be, “Let ’em die!”)

And by the way, it’s not helping the poor or “affirming homosexuals” that saves you. It’s believing in and following Romans 10:9, “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.” See Do this – “and you WILL be saved!” (Dumbass…)

But seriously, the “wingnut” view is a cross all us real Christians have to bear. And the only thing we can do – to try and “fight the good fight” – is not to refer to such wingnuts as “dumbasses,” tempting as that may be. Instead it’s getting out the real Christianity, the one that follows the Great Commission of Jesus, to wit: Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (See also 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think… God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”)

Or as I’ve said before, “If Jesus was a conservative” – like Wingnut – “how come we’re not all Jewish?” (See “For many are called, but few are chosen.”) But we’re digressing here…

The Good News is that it is Easter, which means we celebrate Jesus – the Risen Messiah – rising from the grave “in a blaze of glory[,] holding the white banner of victory over death.” (Which is – after all – “what Easter Sunday is really all about.” Not Easter bunnies or Easter eggs…)

Which means in part that – as applied to even this latest and most devastating “plague-slash-pestilence” – it can be said, “This Too Shall Pass.” Which among other things means some day – maybe some day soon – we won’t have go around wearing those dorky-looking masks…

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Which would you prefer: Let the Plague “wash over you,” or be “passed over?”

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The upper image is courtesy of Easter – Wikipedia. The full caption:  “Icon of the Resurrection, with Christ having kicked down the gates of Hades and pulling Adam and Eve out of the tombs. Christ is flanked by saints, and Satan, depicted as an old man, is bound and chained.” Used here, an icon is “a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox ChurchOriental Orthodoxy, the Roman Catholic, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. They are not simply artworks but ‘an icon is a sacred image used in religious devotion.'”

Other Daily Office readings for this Easter: “AM Psalm148, 149, 150; PM Psalm 113114, or118[,] Exod. 12:1-14 [AM]; Isa. 51:9-11[PM]; ; John 1:1-18 [AM]; Luke 24:13-35 [PM], orJohn 20:19-23 [PM].”

Re: The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. See the specific Wikipedia article, and Coronavirus – Wikipedia: “The name ‘coronavirus’ is derived from Latin corona, meaning ‘crown’ or ‘wreath,’ itself a borrowing from Greek [for garland or wreath]. The name refers to the characteristic appearance of virions (the infective form of the virus) by electron microscopy, which have a fringe of large, bulbous surface projections creating an image reminiscent of a crown or of a solar corona.”

Re: “What Jesus Meant.” The “Christian leaders rebuked young people quote is from the 2006 Viking-Penguin hardback edition, at pages 7-8. The “near the end of the book” quotes are at pages 137-142. Also, Wills’ original had “his,” referring to Jesus, in the lower case. I capitalized “His name” and “He renounced.” (In an abundance of caution.) On another note, Wills commented – on page 20 – on the accusation that Jesus was “a drunkard and a glutton,” at Luke 7:34. Wills wrote, “For Jesus to be called a drunkard and a glutton was not a light criticism.” In fact, such was a serious violation of Levitical law. See Deuteronomy 21:18-21:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,  his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you.

Re: “This Too Shall Pass.” See e.g., Is the Phrase, “This Too Shall Pass” in the Bible? The answer? Apparently not, or at least not directly. The link-article noted, “In Deuteronomy 28, the phrase, ‘It shall come to pass’ is repeated twice.” I.e., in Deuteronomy 28:1 and Deuteronomy 28:15. The article noted a number of other passages with similar thoughts.

The lower image is courtesy of Plague Doctors Beaked Mask – Image Results. For more on the “beaked mask” get-up, see the notes to On Moses, Illeism – and “10 Plagues.”

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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.”  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

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See 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.*”    In 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 below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.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!”)

On Gun Nuts and bulls goring…

candlelight vigil – for one of the 947 mass shootings in the last two years and 214 days?

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Saturday August 24 is the Feast day for Bartholomew the Apostle. Unfortunately, he may best be known for the famous massacre on his feast day in 1572.  There’s more on that and “St. Bart” below, but speaking of massacres (and some recent responses thereto):

I recently read on Facebook that “when Cain killed Abel, God didn’t blame the rock.”  I then Googled the phrase and saw that it came from a “Top NC Republican.”  See Top NC Republican on Mass Shootings: “Cain Killed Abel.”  (And “God didn’t punish the rock,” to which the article writer responded, “It’s so weird how gun violence has nothing to do with guns.”) 

Which sums up the response of “gun nuts,” and with it the need to clarify.

To me a Gun Nut isn’t the guy who thinks the Second Amendment is perfectly valid – including the “well-regulated” part – and goes along with the idea of responsible gun ownership.  A Gun Nut is the guy who refuses to consider even the most trifling, minimal attempt to “maybe, kinda sorta” try to find some way to cut down the number mass shootings plaguing the nation.

So getting back to that “top NC Republican.” Lt. Governor Dan Forest referred to Genesis 4:8, “One day Cain suggested to his brother, ‘Let’s go out into the fields.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.”  Notice there’s nothing about a rock, which doesn’t speak well of Forest’s knowledge of the Bible. (See also the Titian painting below right.  And for another interesting take see “Cain killed Abel with a rock”? … atheism.)

The point?  Forest seemed to say that – according to the Bible – the “powers that be” in this country have no responsibility whatsoever to correct an ongoing problem resulting in frequent, unnecessary death. His take? If a man kills 40 people with an assault weapon, you hold only the man responsible. You don’t look for “cause and effect,” and you don’t even try to find out if even one person’s life could be saved by some reasonable solution.

Which is of course a gross misinterpretation of the Bible.

For one thing, Forest apparently didn’t read far enough.  In Genesis 4:9 – after the murder, shown at right – God asked where Abel was. Cain answered, “I know not.  Am I my brother’s keeper?” To which God said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!”  (Genesis 4:10, to which the Good News Translation adds, “like a voice calling for revenge.”)  Which leads to this question.  If God could hear the voice of one victim “crying out from the ground,” how could He possibly not hear the voices of 3,788 Americans, victims of mass shootings in the last two years, 214 days (plus)(Conservatively-estimated, as of August 20, 2019.)

Which brings us to another Bible take, on how American society as a whole has a God-given duty to end repeat killings of which there has been ample warning.  See Exodus 21:28-29:

If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death…  But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.

So it may be true that God didn’t “blame the rock” for killing Abel.

But according to the law of Moses – Exodus 21:28-29 – the owner of a bull who keeps killing can’t avoid guilt by saying, “Don’t blame me!  Blame the bull!” According to God’s Word, the owner of a rogue bull is responsible for his failure to keep the second death from happening. (Or the third, or the 3,788th.) As reasonably interpreted, that principle applies to American society as a whole, when it knows the danger of repeated, ongoing mass killing.

On that note, see Dog owner charged with murder after fatal mauling (8/22/19):

The owner of three dogs that fatally mauled 9-year-old Emma Hernandez on Monday has been charged with murder…  Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Thursday that Pierre Cleveland, 33, will face charges of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a dangerous animal causing death.

That  third charge – having a dangerous animal causing death – goes directly back to Exodus 21:28-29 (It was noted at the hearing that members of Cleveland’s family “cried out in the courtroom when [the] prosecution alleged Cleveland knew his dogs were dangerous.”)

So did the pit bulls themselves – alone – “cause” the fatal mauling?  Or was it a combination, of pit bulls being inherently dangerous and the owner’s failure to “keep the dogs in check?”

Some further notes:  The dogs were set to be euthanized (in accordance with Exodus 21:28), on which note prosecutors argued that Cleveland knew the dogs were dangerous. Yet he left them alone, “despite the dogs allegedly having killed a puppy in Cleveland’s home a week before.” Then too “one of the dogs had also killed multiple puppies on July 29.”

So to repeat:  According to  Exodus 21:28-29, Americans as a group – by and through their elected representatives – can’t escape responsibility by saying “blame the rock!”  Which brings us back to the Feast day for “St.  Bartholomew, also known as Bartholomew the Apostle.*”  As to that famous massacre see St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre (8/2017).

More to the point – and as to the Catholic Church’s responsibility for the massacre – here’s what Pope John Paul II said in August of 1997, in Paris, where the massacre took place:

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

So here’s hoping that some day soon we too in America may begin a “fruitful dialogue.”  Like on how to stop the great number of mass shootings that presently plague our nation…

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The Louvre, August 24, 1572: Catherine de’ Medici (in black) considers “her” massacre

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The upper image is courtesy of Mass Shooting – Image Results.  The photo accompanies an article, “Stop blaming the mentally ill for mass shootings.” With a comment by conservative author Ann Coulter: “Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do.” The article noted less than 5 percent of the “120,000 gun-related killings in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.”  Instead, people with mental illness were more likely to be victims. “You’re more likely to be attacked by other people, more likely to be shot,” one professor said. “You’re odd. You’re a target.”  Also, mass shootings are most often attributed to things like disgruntled workers or family disputes. “It’s loss of control by people who are extremely angry.”  Finally the article said efforts to link mental illness and violence are “a political strategy to turn attention away from more serious efforts to restrict access to the means of violence – which is guns.”

The black-and-white image to the left of the paragraph “Saturday, August 24” – “Jesus-and-fig-tree” – is courtesy of Jesus, Philip, Nathanael and the Fig Treesacredstory.org.  

The Cain and Abel image is courtesy of Wikipedia:  “Cain and Abel, 16th-century painting by Titian.”

Re:  The number of “recent” mass shootings.  See An update on “Trump’s” mass shootings, from a companion blog, first posted on May 3, 2019, but updated August 20, 2019.  As of 8/20/19 the number of mass shootings in the last “How long has Trump been president” stood at 947.  The definition of mass shooting – a minimum of four victims – led to the calculation of 3,788.

The image at left of the paragraph with “set to be euthanized (in accordance with Exodus 21:28),” is courtesy of Bull Gore – Image Results. Accompanied by an article, “British student escapes death after being gored by killer bull at Pamplona festival.” Thus note that Exodus 21:28 apparently doesn’t apply to injuries resulting from one’s own stupidity. See also Running of the bulls – Wikipedia.

More about St. Bartholomew: This “St. Bart” is generally identified as the Nathanael Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under a fig tree. As to the way he died, one tradition says that during his last missionary journey he was “flayed alive and crucified, head downward.” 

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

On Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations…”

St. Mary MagdaleneApostle to the Apostles – forgiven despite hersordid reputation…” 

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

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

Tizian 009.jpgNext Monday, July 22, is the feast day for Mary Magdalene.  And as her Collect for the Day says, it was Jesus Christ Himself who “restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection.”  She did, and set an example for us all.

And she did all that despite what was possibly a sordid past – and what was in fact a really lousy reputation.

As to the confusion around that issue, “Mary” was an very common name at the time of Jesus.  This particular Mary was born in Magdala, where her name came from:  “Mary from Magdala,” or Magdalene.  It’s not clear where Magdala is, but most Christian scholars assume it’s “the place the Talmud calls Magdala Nunayya.”  (“Tower of the fishes.”)

I wrote about Mary in Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents,” and Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles.”  The latter noted that Mary’s reputation as a “ho” probably came from a mix-up between Mary from Magdala and the “unnamed sinner who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50.”  (And maybe from male disciples jealous of her showing courage when they didn’t?)

Mary Magdalene, the anointing sinner of Luke, and Mary of Bethany, who in John 11:1-2 also anoints Jesus’ feet, were long regarded as the same person.  Though Mary Magdalene is named in each of the four gospels … none of the clear references to her indicate that she was a prostitute or notable for a sinful way of life, nor link her with Mary of Bethany.

Whatever the answer to that question, it’s clear that Mary Magdalene showed more courage and faith than the original 11 disciples, when push came to shove.  Which is why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.”  See also Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch:

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

mm-he-qiThe one indisputable fact seems to be that Mary Magdalene – seen at right (viaFutureChurch)” – was the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus.  And she one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus.  Which may explain why some jealous male followers tried to sully her reputation.

There’s more in that post on Mary, including an explanation of how the word maudlin – a dramatically shortened version of Magdalene – came to mean “tearfully or weakly emotional.”

Then there’s the post Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents,” from last July, 2018.  It was an early post exploring the idea of “conservative” Christians playing it safe, which then led to the conclusion, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.’”  (Based on the Parable of the talents from a July 2018 DOR, where the “wicked, lazy servant” – given one talent – is the functional equivalent of today’s “conservative Christian,” who feels his job in life is simply to “avoid sin.”) 

Which also brings up a standard conservative – and sometimes “Conservative Christian” – rant that all immigrants must follow all the rules and regulations (Like in a recent response I got on Facebook.)  So one point is this:  Jesus came into the world to save sinners, not those who try to “follow all the rules and regulations.”  (Mark 2:17, and 1st Timothy 1:15.) 

That is, Jesus didn’t come into the world to preach to those people bent on following the letter of the law. (Pharisees and such.)  That was mostly because – as Paul noted in 2d Corinthians 3:6 – “The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”  In other words, if simply following all rules and regulations was enough, there would have been no need for Jesus to come here in the first place.

(Also, Jesus “cast out seven demons” from Mary, then she and other women supported Him and His disciples “out of their own means.” Luke 8:1-3In a similar way, illegal immigrants – who arguably don’t follow all rules and regulations either – paid some 12 billion dollars into Social Security, but most won’t be able to collect a dime.  Trump’s false claim [about] undocumented immigrants.)

To repeat, in a recent Facebook interaction (with a Wall Supporter) I got the response that he was fine with LEGAL immigrants, as long as they followed “all the rules and regulations.”  Which sent me back to my Bible.  AND what it says about “following rules and regulations.” For example, Romans 3:10 said, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'” (Citing Psalm 14:3, “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”)

Then of course there’s JOHN 8:7, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Then too there’s James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all.”  And that’s not to mention Deuteronomy 10:19, “You are to love the foreigner, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  (In the Christian Standard Bible, “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”)

See also Exodus 22:21, “You must not exploit or oppress a foreign resident, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  And Exodus 23:9, ““Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Not to mention Numbers 15:16, above left:  “The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.”  (Mirrored in Leviticus 24:22, “You are to have the same standard of law for the foreign resident and the native; for I am the LORD your God.”

But the kicker came – I said on Facebook – when Jesus said the standard of justice we use against others is the same standard that He and God will apply to us. (Matthew 7:2.)

All of which is another way of saying if you can’t follow the rules and regulations – and the Bible says you can’t, which is why Jesus came the first place – you can’t reasonably expect “foreigners” to follow them either.  (Especially when they’re fleeing corruption, rape and murder.)

Then too, if you go around demanding that your fellow human beings have to abide by “all the rules and regulations” – and especially when seeking asylum from corruption, rape and murder – you can expect precious little mercy and compassion when your time comes.

For myself, I’m inclined to give all people a break and show some compassion. (While trying to find a fair, humane and reasonable solution to the problem, while not advocating “open borders.”)  That way I can expect a break from God when my time comes.  Because – as Napoleon once said – “Men are moved by two levers only:  fear and self interest.” 

Which is a dang good reason to read the Bible…

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Another man wanting to be “leader for life.”  (But who didn’t have bone spurs…)  

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary Magdalene – Wikipedia.  Caption:  “‘Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena’ (1835) by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov.  In John 20:1–13, Mary Magdalene sees the risen Jesus alone and he tells her ‘Don’t touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my father.'”

The first image in the text is courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penitent_Magdalene_(Titian,_1565).

Re:  “Jesus Christ Himself.”  The allusion is to John C.H. Lee, a “career US Army engineer, who rose to the rank of lieutenant general and commanded the Communications Zone in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.”  As one source put it,The biggest jerk in ETO was Lt. Gen. John C.H. Lee … commander of Services of Supply (SOS)…  Lee was a martinet who had an exalted opinion of himself.  He also had a strong religious fervor (Eisenhower compared him to Cromwell) that struck a wrong note with everyone…  He had what Bradley politely called ‘an unfortunate pomposity’ and was cordially hated.  Officers and men gave him a nickname based on his initials, J.C.H. — Jesus Christ Himself.”  (See World War II Profiteers.)  Note that Wikipedia had a slightly different take.  For example, “A man of strong religious convictions, he urged that African-Americans be integrated into what was then a segregated Army.”  As to his “retirement and honors:” 

Lee was made an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion, the II Polish Corps, the Italian Bersaglieri and several Alpini Regiments.  He was declared an honorary Citizen of Cherbourg in France, and Antwerp and Liege in Belgium, was given the school tie of Cheltenham College in England, and awarded an honorary doctor of law degree…  Lee was an Episcopalian and kept a Bible with him at all times.  [Like George Patton, who was also Episcopalian.]  He declined post-war invitations to serve as a corporate board executive, preferring to devote his life to service.  [Unlike some generals.]  In retirement he spent his last eleven years leading the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, a lay organization of the Episcopal Church, as executive vice president from 1948 to 1950, and then as its president.

Re:  George Patton as Episcopalian.  See On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher.

Re: “Ho.”  The link is to Definition of ho – The Online Slang Dictionary.  It was the only one that offered both  adequate background and was “fit for family consumption.”  Plus it didn’t use “cookies.”

Re:  “Rules and regulations.”  I Googled “immigrants must follow rules” and got 53,600,000 results.

The Numbers 15:16 image is courtesy of Foreigners In That Land Egypt – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Napoleon – Wikipedia.  See also Top 10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes | Napoleon, which added, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

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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?

 

On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor

Peter, the one Disciple who actually left the boat and walked on water – for awhile anyway…

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

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

We’re now in the “Week of the Second Sunday of Easter (April 28 – May 4).”  Which makes this a good time to review Easter – the Sunday and the 50-day Season – along with “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”  That’s the Sunday that always follows Easter Sunday itself.

I’ll write more on those topics below, but first let’s get to that “MET-a-phor.”  (Alluding to a line from the musical “The Book Of Mormon.*”)  This metaphor is about Peter, walking on water – and thus taking the “Spiritual Path” rather than the safer, easier but less-rewarding Literal Christian Path.

As noted in If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:  One frequent, ongoing theme of this post is that the Spiritual path has more to offer than the Literal path.  (After noting a quote on “spirituality and mysticism,” and how it explains why devout people of many religions are drawn to Jerusalem.)

In the notes of that post I added some explanation.  For one thing I cited John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  And I noted Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which in turn 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 finally, I cited 2d Corinthians 3:6, which says that following only the letter of the law kills, but following the Spirit of God’s law “gives life.”

Which leads to the original title of this post, “On Literal versus Spiritual Christians.”

To make a long story short, it seems to me that Peter walking on the water is a prime example of one Christian – out of ten – taking the more-difficult “spiritual path.”  The other nine or so “conservatives” took the safer, the easier, the more literalist path of following Jesus.  (The image at right shows the beach of the Sea of Galilee, near where Jesus – and Peter – “walked.”)

The gist of the story comes from Matthew 14, and the high point comes at Matthew 14:29.  Beginning back at verse 25, Jesus told the Disciples to go on ahead in a boat, while He went up to a mountain to pray.  The He – Jesus – “went out to them, walking on the lake,” which terrified them; they thought Jesus was a ghost.  Jesus told them not to worry, leading Peter to say that if it was Jesus, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus did.  Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus:  “Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  But then he started having second thoughts, and started to sink.  He panicked and asked Jesus to save him.

That led Jesus to say, “You of little faith … why did you doubt?”  But it seems to me that Peter was pretty brave in just getting out of the boat in the first place.  It is true that he eventually started to sink, but for “one brief shining moment” he – Peter – actually walked on water.  And as far as we know, he – along with Jesus – was the only person in history to do so.

Which points out a big difference between the Spiritual Path of Christianity, compared with the Literal path followed by some 90% or more of Christians.  Again, it’s true that Peter “fell flat on his face” – at least metaphorically – but at least he took the chance.  And as a result of taking that chance – of exploring his full potential – Peter’s faith grew in ways that the other disciples – who followed the safe path and stayed in the boat – could never experience.

Saint Peter A33446.jpgIn fact his faith grew so much that he became Primus inter pares(“First among equals.”)  Note also the following from Wikipedia, where Jesus advised those who followed Him from Capernaum, “not to seek earthly gains, but aim for a life based on higher spiritual values.”

Which is pretty much the path advocated by this blog.  That is, not being bound by the only-literalist path of following Jesus, but trying to go beyond the merely literal and on to the “higher spiritual values.”

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I’ll be writing more on this “metaphor,” but in the meantime let’s review the past week or so.  I’ve done past posts on Easter – listed in the notes – but for this post I’ll focus on “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017.  That post noted that this “Second Sunday of Easter” could be called the “Sunday of Many Names.”  Among those names are Low Sunday, the Octave of Easter, and “Quasimodo Sunday.”  (But not because of Quasimodo, aka the “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  See the notes.)  But the main question raised by “Doubting Thomas Sunday” is – in plain words – “How do we as Christians deal with our doubts?”

Generally speaking a doubting Thomas is “a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”  Or it can refer to a mere “habitually doubtful person.”  But being such a “doubting person” can actually strengthen your faith.

On the one hand those boot-camp Christians – who take the conservative, literal path – say the answer is simple:  You shouldn’t have any doubts.  In other words, you must “blindly believe.” But for the rest of us there’s another answer, ultimately providing a stronger Christian faith:

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

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

*   *   *   *

Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas

St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens

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The upper image is courtesy of Jesus walking on water – Wikipedia.  The caption: “‘Jesus walks on water,’ by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888).”

The Easter egg image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The  caption:  “Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb, are a popular cultural symbol of Easter.”

Re:  The musical “The Book Of Mormon.”  Which I saw in person on July 1, 2018, at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 230 W. 49th Street, NYC.

Re:  The “Week of the Second Sunday of Easter (April 28 – May 4).”  For the Daily Office readings, click on NRSV or RSV, for the “New Revised” or the “Revised” translations of the Bible.  

Again, some text and images were gleaned from Jesus walking on water – Wikipedia.  As to “how many,” we don’t know for sure how many disciples were in the boat with Peter.  (See How many disciples were in the boat when Jesus walked on water.)  Whatever the number, the ratio of “spiritual versus literal” was very small.  Of the seven, or nine, or 12 disciples, only one – Peter – took the chance, the risk that is part and parcel of the Spiritual Path.  That “other” path is often more frustrating and involves more risk, but it can be far more rewarding than the Literal Path of the vast majority.

The “first among equals” image is courtesy of the Saint Peter link in the Primus inter pares article.  The caption: “‘Saint Peter’ (c. 1468) by Marco Zoppo depicts Peter as an old man holding the Keys of Heaven and a book representing the gospel.”  The article noted that aside from Peter, the term is “typically used as an honorary title for someone who is formally equal to other members of their group but is accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to their seniority in office.”

Past posts on Easter include On Easter Season – AND BEYONDOn Eastertide – and “artistic license,” and Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!”

Re:  Where the name “Quasimodo Sunday” came from:

[T]he name comes from a Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2 , a traditional “introit” used in churches on this day.  First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…”  [Or, “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”]  In Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes…”    Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”

thus – since “geniti” translates as “newborn” and the translation of “infantes” seems self-evident – the “quasi modo” in question roughly translates, “As if in the manner” (of newborn babes).

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

*   *   *   *

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?

 

On the Bible’s “dynamic tension…”

I don’t mean the Dynamic Tension of Charles Atlas.  (It’s about Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel 3…)

*   *   *   *

We’re now well into Lent, 2019.  (As illustrated at right.)

That is, the time in between the holidays of Mardi Gras and Easter.  In other words, it’s a time for “prayer, doing penancerepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  And for many people, Lent means giving up something.  “On the other hand, some people choose to add a discipline ‘that would add to my spiritual life.’  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

For example, last year for Lent I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I’ll be doing the same thing.  (For reasons including that my “discipline” ended up netting the United Thank Offering a little over $25 in penalties.  At 25 cents a violation.)  But this year I feel the need to add something else.

So – for this Lent – I’m going to try mightily to prepare a reasoned, careful, logical blog-post treatise on precisely “why I don’t like Donald Trump.”  (Without resorting to the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks.”)  In other words, I will try – without resorting to name-calling – to present the valid reasons why I think Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate.  (Though not yet on par with the Civil War.  Not yet!) 

Beyond that – for my Lenten discipline this year – I am also going to try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him.  (Without saying, “What are you, dumbasses?”)  And that is definitely going to be the hard part…

(A note:  I firmly believe this “story” will have a happy ending, but that’s for a later blog-post.)

So anyway, that latter part of this year’s Lenten discipline will be so hard in fact – it will take up so much time – that I haven’t a prayer of doing a new post on it within a reasonable time after my last post.  (OMG! Is it time for Lent again?  From March 5, 2019.)  So for now I offer up this in-betweener, which as it turns out is related to unsupported name-calling.

In the lead caption I noted the difference between the Dynamic Tension of Charles Atlas, as distinguished from that “tension” between Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

I wrote about Deuteronomy 19:16-19 – and Ezekiel 3:16-19 – in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  Briefly, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says that if you accuse someone of a heinous crime – like murder or heresy – and it’s not true, you will be punished as if you had committed the crime yourself.  (You can’t blithely make false accusations without penalty.)  For example, if you accuse someone – perhaps even a fellow Christian – of being a “heretic,” and that accusation is false, then you will be punished as a heretic yourself.

See for example The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:  “Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom…  Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin.”  But if that statement is inaccurate – and is tantamount to an accusation of heresy – the person who wrote it faces the prospect of being punished as a heretic himself.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  On that note see Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian.  His name was Jesus.

Or as I’ve noted, “If Jesus was a conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”  See Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”  That post noted that 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 is pretty much what the Apostle Peter – shown at right – said in 2d Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is.  In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”  (Emphasis added, to the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.)

That is, according to 2d Peter 3:9, God seems to want the Bible to “apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”  Which means that the person who wrote “The Heresy of Liberalism” could be in big trouble.

On the other hand there’s Ezekiel 3:16-19, where this prophet wrote of the Christian duty to warn other Christians of the error of their ways.  (I.e., characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman.”)  Briefly, if you don’t warn a fellow Christian to mend his ways, and he keeps sinning, God will punish both of you.  But if you warn him – and he keeps on sinning – you will have saved your spiritual butt:  “they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

So what you end up with is a dynamic tension between Deuteronomy 19:16-19 and Ezekiel 3:16-19.  Note also the twin “16-19s,” which could translate to, “It’s a message from God!”

Which means in turn that if you suspect that being “liberal Christian” is tantamount to heresy, you’re better off saying to such liberals, “Excuse me, but I think you’re reading the Bible in the wrong way.”  In other words, you will want to refrain from mere, unsupported ad hominem name-calling.  That’s because such phrasing could be tantamount to an accusation of heresy, punishable under Deuteronomy 19:16-19.

Because one thing you don’t want to risk is being punished as a heretic yourself…

*   *   *   *

The 1545 “Massacre” where heretics were thrown to their death off castle walls…

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The upper image is courtesy of Dynamic Tension Charles Atlas – Image Results.  See also Dynamic Tension – Wikipedia, and Charles Atlas – Wikipedia.

Re: “Trump-humping.”  On a related note, see On dissin’ the Prez, and also An update on “dissin’ the Prez” – from November 13, 2016.

The “Atlantic – Evangelicals” image is courtesy of 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.

Re:  Liberalism as “heresy.”  See The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says, and “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re:  Ezekiel 3:16-19 (characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman“).  The full passage:

[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.

See also Ezekiel 3 – Wikipedia:  “This chapter contains the call for Ezekiel to speak to people of Israel and to act as a sentry for them.”  And Night-watchman state – Wikipedia, regarding the libertarian political philosophy, which advances the “model of a state whose only functions are to provide its citizens with the military, the police and courts, thus protecting them from aggressiontheftbreach of contract and fraud and enforcing property laws.”

The lower image is courtesy of Heresy – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Massacre of the Waldensians of Mérindol in 1545.”  The article included the following:  That the first “Christian heretic to be executed, Priscillian, was condemned in 386;”  That the “edict of Theodosius II (435) provided severe punishments for those who had or spread writings of Nestorius,” and that those “who possessed writings of Arius were sentenced to death;”  That for some years “after the Reformation, Protestant churches were also known to execute those they considered heretics, including Catholics;”  and that the “number of people executed as heretics under the authority of the various ‘ecclesiastical authorities’ is not known.”  Also:

The Catholic Church by no means had a monopoly on the execution of heretics.  The charge of heresy was a weapon that could fit many hands.  A century and a half after heresy was made a state crime, the Vandals (a heretical Christian Germanic tribe), used the law to prosecute thousands of (orthodox) Catholics with penalties of torture, mutilation, slavery and banishment…  About seven thousand people were burned at the stake by the Catholic Inquisition, which lasted for nearly seven centuries…  Religious Wars slaughtered millions. During these wars, the charge of “heresy” was often leveled by one side against another as a sort of propaganda or rationalization for the unde

On my “mission from God…”

*   *   *   *

Since 1989 or so, I too (along with the Blues Brothers) have been “on a mission from God.”

That is, back around 1989 I started trying to “help” my favorite team win.  The particular team was Florida State University football, and I started by trying to help them win a national championship.  I began with a weekly “ritual sacrifice” of exercise, especially pushing myself to earn more and more aerobic points(Mostly through running, or more like jog-walking.)

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-kIgeIQBgTsw/TpjvtkuO5-I/AAAAAAAABLQ/rejqM5r-X7E/s1600/MonksChoir.jpgThat didn’t work, so in 1992 I added the discipline of daily Bible reading.  (See What’s a DOR, which includes the image at right.)  Then in 1993, the Seminole football team won its first national title.  You make the connection.

Then too, for 14 straight years the Florida State football team went from success to success – with my “help.”  For 14 straight years they finished in the Top 4,* then won another national title in 1999.  (That was – in the words of one writer – “something no other team has come remotely close to accomplishing” and thus was “the greatest run in college football history.”)

Unfortunately, after that things started going downhill.

FSU football went into a bit of a slide, but then again so did I.  Then in 2013 they won another national championship, and along the way I also got my life back in order.

But once again things started going downhill for the Nole football team.  That is, since 2013 there have been, at best, “mixed results.”  And this past football season was especially painful.  In 2018, FSU went 5-and-7, and broke a streak of consecutive post-season bowl appearances.  That “anti-climax” marked their first losing season since 1976 (41 years), and that included the first time they didn’t make it to a bowl game in 36 years.

But the strange thing is, on a personal level I’ve done a lot better.  As a matter of fact, my life is going far better than I could have expected, at any time in the past.  For example, as recently as 2017 I thought I’d spend my last days here on earth still living in a dinky, rented one-bedroom apartment.  But against all odds I managed to get a mortgage – and now have a 4-bedroom home on an acre of woodland.  And in terms of exercise too I’ve done very well indeed.

Going back to the beginning, my mission from God – my “mystic quest*” – started back in Florida, in 1989.  Three times a week I ran outdoors, for an hour or more.  That often meant dodging the daily summer-afternoon thunderstorms, or waiting until 6:00 p.m. or so, for the heat index to get down below 100.

Then I moved from Florida to Georgia, and starting in 2013 added two hours kayaking a week.  And incidentally that year – 2013 – FSU won its third national championship.  I’ve also moved from outdoor running to indoor stair-stepping.  (An hour at a time two or three times a week.)  And near the end of this last (2018) season, I “graduated” to wearing a 25-pound weight vest, along with ten pounds of ankle weights, while doing my hour of stair-stepping.

Then – somewhere along the line – it struck me that at age 67, that was pretty dang impressive.  (Standing by itself, as a “signal accomplishment.”)  But “on-the-field results” for 2018 were exactly the opposite of what I’d hoped for, and come to expect.  Which came to remind me what Lawrence LeShan said of the ideal Zen archer or karate student:  “The real goal is to help you grow and develop as a total human being, not to become a better archer or karate expert.”

So I came to realize that maybe I shouldn’t get too upset because FSU had such lousy football season in 2018.  After all, the real goal in my “mission from God” was to grow and develop as a total human being, not necessarily to have FSU win all the time.

There’s also the fact that the original Children of Israel – whose own quest I tried to mimic – had some pretty lousy seasons too.  They did have the Exodus, along with King David and Solomon, but also years of slavery, exile, and foreign oppression, followed by the Great Diaspora.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of good and fruitful collateral consequences, and not just for me.  Many of my other favorite teams – other than FSU football – have done quite well.  Most recently, my adopted Atlanta United soccer team won the MLS Cup in its second season.  The FSU Women’s soccer won the 2018 National Championship last December, and the Women’s softball team won its first National Championship last June.  Aside from that, my Tampa Bay Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII, to top off the 2002 season, and my Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup.  So maybe I shouldn’t complain too much…

Which brings up this whole matter of sport-superstitions, and “what kind of a moron would really think what he does matters to the outcome of a particular game?”  See for example, “Super”stitions: Fans engage in odd rituals.  But the truth of the matter is that such ‘”weird rituals” go back to the time of Moses, and the Battle of Rephidim.

See for another example, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  You can see the full story at Exodus 17, on the battle that happened some 3,500 years ago.  There, like at Pearl Harbor, the dreaded Amalekites launched a sneak attack on the Children of Israel as they emerged from “the Exodus, at Rephidim near Mount Sinai.”   Verses 8 to 16 – of Exodus 17 – tell of Israel pulling off  an “upset of the season.”  In essence they beat a hated arch-rival, thanks to Moses:

Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Am′alek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

As I’ve noted elsewhere:  “That sounds a lot like a modern-day football fan, watching his favorite team on TV.”  Sometimes he moves around the room, sometimes he stands, sometimes he sits.  Other times he’ll mute the sound on the TV, sometimes he’ll tell his wife to leave the room – because she may be jinxing his team – but he’s “always trying to ‘help his team win.’”

Or by offering a weekly “ritual sacrifice” of exercise – with lots of aerobics – along with a good dose of daily Bible reading.  So just in case you think I’m weird for trying to help my team win – by and through such highly profitable intense exercise and Bible reading – I can only say:

“Hey pal, tell that to Moses!”

*   *   *   *

Moses at Rephidim:  “If I let my arms down, the other team will win!

*   *   *   *

The original post had an upper image, courtesy of Blues Brothers Mission From God – Image Results. On the topic of my “Metaphor” – trying to help my team(s) win through various kinds of Ritual Sacrifice – see also “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”  A side note:  The “unintended consequences” post also pointed out that – “with my help,” metaphorically or otherwise – the FSU basketball team got to the Elite 8 in 2018, and FSU’s Mike Martin became the winningest coach in college baseball history.  See FSU Basketball is true Cinderella of 2018 NCAA Tournament, and Mike Martin is the winningest coach in college baseball.

Re:  Aerobic points.  See also Aerobic exercise – Wikipedia.

Re:  “14 straight years.”  See Top College Football Dynasties of the AP Poll Era:  “Florida State’s 14 year streak of top 4 finishes in the AP poll 1987-2000 is … something no other team has come remotely close to accomplishing.  So I’m calling this the greatest run in college football history.”  (They “dropped to #5 in the fixed poll for 1994,” but ranked #4 in the AP poll.) 

Re:  FSU’s bowl streak.  See Florida State’s Incredible 36-Year Bowl Streak, for more positive spin: “It might be lame, but Dr. Seuss once said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’”

A lot has happened for the Seminoles since 1981, such as three National Championships, 15 conference titles, three Heisman Trophy winners and 35 consensus All-Americans.  Now that the all-time streak has ended, everyone will take shots at FSU, but people should really just appreciate such an impressive feat.  [So] this isn’t the time to be embarrassed as a streak ends.  It is time to celebrate that it happened, and no other program has ever made more consecutive bowl games in FBS football history.  It does suck it was ended by a rival, but the longest bowl streak they [the Florida Gators] ever had was 22 consecutive.

Re:  “Signal accomplishment.”  See How To Answer The Interview Question “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment, and/or What Are James Monroe’s Accomplishments? | Reference.com:  “Monroe’s signal accomplishment was the formation of the Monroe Doctrine.”

Re:  The definition of mystic quest.  In one “worldly” sense it refers to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, “a role-playing video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System,” first released in North America in 1992 and marketed as a “simplified role-playing game…  In the game, the player controls a youth named Benjamin in his quest to save the world.” (Wikipedia.)  My mystic quest – or “mission from God” – was not nearly so grand.  It did however pay great dividends in terms of personal health, especially cardio-vascular, and spiritual development.  (For example, it led me to create my two blogs, including this one, “Daily Office Reading Scribe.”)  As to the more spiritual definition of “mystic quest,” see Mystic | Definition of Mystic by Merriam-Webster (used in a sentence, “She had a mystic vision while praying”);  Mysticism – WikipediaQuest | Define Quest at Dictionary.com (“a search or pursuit made in order to find or obtain something” or “an adventurous expedition undertaken by a knight or knights to secure or achieve something”); and also Quest definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary:  “A quest is a long and difficult search for something.”

 The “only mile” image is courtesy of Running Outdoors The Rain – Image Results The text reads, “The only mile regretted is the one that isn’t run.” I might add that while I no longer run in the rain, as I did in Florida, I do end up kayaking in the rain oftener than I’d like…

Re:  My hour-long stair-stepping with a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.  According to my calculations, that now – at age 67 – helps me earn 155 aerobic points per week, whereas Dr. Kenneth H. Coopers ”’minimum aerobic fitness’ level is 36 points a week.”  See KEEPING FIT; Just How Far, And How Fast, For FitnessSee also Dr. Cooper’s 1977 book, The Aerobics Way, 1978 Bantam Books edition, at page 186, on earning additional points for wearing ankle weights and a 35-pound pack.  (Chapter 9, “The Point Charts.”)  Also see page 245 on “stair climbing,” in the Appendix under “The Point System.”  All of which formed the basis of my calculations…

Re:  Lawrence LeShan on the ideal Zen archer, “to help you grow and develop as a total human being.”  See his How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery, Bantam Edition, 1975, at page 38.

Re:  “Collateral consequences.”  Strictly speaking, such consequences are “additional civil state penalties, mandated by statute, that attach to criminal convictions.  They are not part of the direct consequences of criminal conviction, such as prison, fines, or probation.  They are the further civil actions by the state that are triggered as a consequence of the conviction.”  See WikipediaBut defined more liberally or spiritually, they can refer to additional – but indirectly intended – consequences of a mystic quest or “mission from God.”  Thus they’re distinct from Unintended consequences: “outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action.”  As Wikipedia said, these can come in three forms, including an “unexpected benefit” (also referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall); an “unexpected drawback”  (unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect); or a “perverse result.”  See also “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, about the FSU women’s softball team winning their national title…

The “only weird” image is courtesy of Bud Light It’s Only Weird – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett MillaisVictory O Lord! (1871).”  As borrowed from a post on my companion blog, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  (That companion blog is The Georgia Wasp | A blog of life-reviews by an old guy who still gets a kick out of lifeThe post includes an extensive analysis of such sport-superstitions:

The thing is, this business of “helping your team win” has been around a long, long time.  (Longer even than “Touchdown Jesus,” seen at left, visible from Notre Dame stadium…)  In fact, it may all have started with Moses, back at the battle of Rephidim, noted above.

See also “Super”stitions: Fans engage in odd rituals, and this “bottom line” from the blog-post: “Athletes know it, fans know it, and even Bud Light knows it.  Superstitions are as big a part of the game as anything.  They were there when your parents and/or grandparents first started watching, and they’ll be here long after we’re gone.”  Unfortunately, that last link is “now defunct.”

On a better way to spread the Gospel…

“I Want to Be like Mike” – An idea that just may be the key to spreading the Gospel better…

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NOVA: The Bible's Buried SecretsThe other night I watched The Bible’s Buried Secrets.  That was the NOVA program that aired on PBS in 2008, and explored the historicity of the Bible.  In other words, it explored whether the Bible was “factually accurate,” or history as we understand it.  According to Wikipedia:

The producers surveyed the evidence and [took] positions that are mainstream among archaeologists and historians, although they continue to raise objections among both Christians who believe in the bible as either literal or historical truth and minimalists who assert that the Bible has no historical validation.

Which I thought missed the whole point.

That is, among other findings the program said there was “no archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  That finding led the conservative American Family Association – promoting “fundamentalist Christian values” – to issue an “online petition urging Congress to cut off federal funding for PBS.”  The petition said that “PBS is knowingly choosing to insult and attack Christianity by airing a program that declares the Bible ‘isn’t true and a bunch of stories that never happened.’”

Which I thought – again – misses the whole point of the Christian faith.

My theory is that you can’t “prove” the Bible-faith by scientific or courtroom evidence.  You prove the validity of that faith by your own experience walking with and/or working with God.  Like the man with the legion (demons), as told in Mark 5 (18-20):

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.   Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…”   So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  And all the people were amazed.

In other words, the demon-possessed man could care less if archaeologists found Noah’s Ark in Turkey, or whether there was “archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  He cared about what Jesus did for him.  Or as it says in Psalm 66:16:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me.”

Which is – to me – the far better way of spreading the Good News of Jesus

Getting back to the Gerasene demoniac, the man with “legion” told people in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him “and all the people were amazed.”  And – no doubt – many of them tried out this “new faith” for themselves.  Or as applied today – when few of us seem so possessed – we start by reading the Bible and applying it to our lives, then “proceed on:”

[Like the Bible, e]very martial art – judo, kendo, aikido, etc. – has its own forms, actions, procedure.  Beginners must learn the kata and assimilate and use them.  Later, they begin to create out of them, in the way specific to each art.

Jesus Christ, Public Defender: and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers by [Ford, James B.]That’s a thought from my e-book “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Near the end of Chapter 8, I wrote about the early years, when I’d just started daily Bible readings and applying them to my own life.  (And in particular to my own “obsession,” college football.)

“In the process, something seemed to happen that may be like what happens to a student of an eastern martial art.”  I also noted that maybe the Bible student – like a good karate student – first struggles to learn the basics, and then – after he learns the fundamentals – he can start to use them in his daily life:

Finally, after the student has been at it long enough, he can begin to “create” out of those Bible readings, and in the process create something new out of something very old, or as the Bible says, “sing to the Lord a new song.”  As time passes the student can “create” something new, giving a new meaning to the “old” Bible message…

The result could well be a “new song to the Lord,” as illustrated and updated in the student’s own life.  And incidentally, that theme of singing a new song to the Lord – and not just another stale, old “conservative” or literalist rehash – is repeated again and again in the Bible.  Like in Isaiah 42:10, and Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, and Psalm 144:9.

So what’s all this about a “better way to spread the Gospel?”  We can start with one basic assumption and one big question, two points common to all the world’s religions.

The basic assumption is:  “You’ve been given a gift.”  The big question is:  “What are you going to do with it?”  You can say you’ve been given the gift of “salvation through Christ,” which basically means that you’ve gotten the gift of a “new”  bridge to God.  Or for that matter you can say you’ve been “gifted” the road to a more spiritual life, through Islam, Buddhism or one of many other spiritual paths.  (Though I believe all those others will eventually “lead you to Christ…”)

Or you can just say that you’ve been given the gift of life, by whoever or whatever gave that gift to you.  (Possibly even some generic Higher Power.)

Luther's roseBut the big question remains:  What are you going to do with that gift?  Or in Christian terms, “How are you going to help spread the Gospel?”  (The Good News or “the message of salvation, justification [illustrated by Luther’s rose, at right], and sanctification.”)  That’s the question raised by the Great Commission, as detailed notably in Matthew 28:16–20:

 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Of course one method – so favored by conservatives – is to browbeat people, telling them that they’re going to hell if they don’t listen to you.  Or you can become a parrot, spouting out random Bible verses, generally full of hell and damnation, fire and brimstone.

Or you can be “like Mike.”  You can be the kind of person other people want to emulate.  You can lead the kind of life that makes people look at what you’ve accomplished, and say, “That’s what I want!  I want what he’s got!”  Or done, or accomplished.  In other words, you – “like Mike” – could be a walking advertisement for the kind of Bible faith that potential converts want to imitate.  (See 1st Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”)

Like – for example – my being 67 years old and keeping fit by stair-stepping an hour at a time, wearing a 25-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights.  Or having a series of “adventures in old age,” like Mike.  Or like successfully hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), or canoeing 440 miles down the Yukon river (in 12 days), or canoeing 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, primitive camping for eight days on offshore islands (and an occasional salt marsh), or hiking and biking 450 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

As detailed in the notes, and which incidentally will be the focus of my next blog post…

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And no, at 67 “I’m not too old to have some adventure in the time I have left…”

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The upper image is courtesy of I Want To Be Like Mike – Image Results.

Re:  “Be like Mike.”  See Be Like Mike – Wikipedia, about the “Gatorade commercial featuring American professional basketball player Michael Jordan that originally aired in 1992.”   See also “I Want to Be like Mike” – Josh.org:  “A MAJOR SPORTS-drink company once ran an ad campaign encouraging people to ‘be like Mike,’ as in NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan. The phrase, ‘I want to be like Mike’ was everywhere.  Kids said it.  Adults sang it.”

The “buried secrets” image is courtesy of Amazon.com: NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets.

Re:  The Bible’s “historicity.”  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, which noted, “The Bible is not a history book in modern sense, of course, since its writers lacked the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, did not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and was not significant in history.”  (Avenel Books edition, 1981, page 7.)  Of course Asimov is “probably going to hell too…”  (Kidding!  See Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)

Re:  “Insult and attack Christianity.”  I’d respond that the PBS Nova program didn’t insult my Christianity.  Or as I’ve said before: “It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture.”  See “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re: “Proceed on.”  The link is to “We proceeded on” : Lewis & Clark – oi – Oxford Index Home.  It spoke of a concluding chapter in a book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition:  “This concluding chapter presents the perspective of a documentary filmmaker who traveled the entire length of the Lewis and Clark trail.  It looks at the inspiration he derived from the unofficial motto of the expedition—’We proceeded on.’—and observes that the phrase is frequently used in the Journals.” 

Re:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God…”  Note that in the Revised Standard Version of the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer, the verse is 66:14.

Re:  “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Available at Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks.  Just type in the title and look for the 4th Edition, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch on the cover.

Re:  Sing a new song to the Lord.”  See On singing a NEW song to God.

Also re: the Nova program The Bible’s Buried SecretsSee Wikipedia, which noted what the Biblical Archaeology Review wrote: “The producers have done a magnificent job summarizing over a century of biblical archaeology and biblical scholarship in two hours.  The film strikes a balance between the old-fashioned biblical archaeology approach, which tried to prove the Bible’s historicity, and the extreme skepticism of some minimalists, for whom the Bible contains little factual history.”  Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz wrote: “Conservative Judaism is fully accepting of the type of scholarship featured in this documentary.”  And Rev. Kenneth Himes, OFM Professor, wrote:  For some, the ideas presented may seem novel or surprising, but this is material that is being discussed in the theology courses found at many Catholic universities.”  

See also Historicity of the Bible – Wikipedia.  But again, my theory is that to focus on the Bible’s “historicity” is to miss the point of the faith entirely.  The question is:  Having accepted God and/or Christ, what now do you do with your life?  How will you live out the life you’ve been given?  What will you accomplish with that life?  How are you going to make this world a better place?

Re:  “Walking advertisement.”  The cite-link is to Human billboard – Wikipedia.

Re:  Some of my adventures in old age.  See for example – from my companion blog – Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”  Also, Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.)  That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015As to the Yukon River trip, see “Naked lady on the Yukon.”  As to hiking in Spain, see “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.  Another “incidentally:”  Future pilgrimage-trips include two weeks in Israel, and another hike, this time on the “Camino Portugues.”  Also, I’ve written about some overnight adventures into the Okefenokee Swamp in several posts:  Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17).

And of course, those “adventures in old age” necessarily include writing this thought-provoking blog.  

The lower image is courtesy of happyotter666.blogspot.com.  See also Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Wikipedia, which provided the following “cornered” quote, which was in turn part of a blog-comment about the second day of my “adventurous” hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad – crossing that “swinging bridge” the first day on the Chilkoot Trail – as it was for Indiana Jones in the photo above.  (For example, we hadn’t been “cornered by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river.”)  But that second day on the Trail was pretty &^%$ bad

See specifically On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.

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For further review you may wish to consult the following, some or most of which I’ve read for “Deep Background:”  What the Gospels Meant, by Garry WillsHow to Spread the Word of God: 7 Steps (with PicturesWhat is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.orgWhat is Christian mysticism? – fRimMinMysticism – Wikipedia; and/or Christian mysticism – Wikipedia.

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”