Category Archives: Not your daddy’s Bible

“There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?

*   *   *   *

It came most recently from Rick Santorum.  In 2008 he supposedly said, “There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.”  And although some debate whether he actually said that,* his sentiment is hardly new.

There was for example the 1952 song by the Louvin Brothers, “That word, ‘broad-minded’ is spelled s-i-n.”  (As shown in the image at the bottom of the page.)

One strange thing?  Ira Louvin was “notorious for his drinking, womanizing, and short temper.”  (Or maybe it wasn’t so strange after all.)  Ira ended up getting married four times, and his third wife Faye ended up shooting him six times.  (Four times in the chest And that was after one time he allegedly beat her up.  See On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n.”)

And then of course – more recently – we’ve seen the saga of Judge Roy Moore.

But we’re digressing here.  The point is that in the interest of turnabout is fair play, it’s time for someone to say, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

*   *   *   *

As noted previously, my brother and I recently hiked the Camino de Santiago(From September 13 to October 12, 2017.  See “Hola! Buen Camino!”)  And one thing you definitely have time for – on such a long and arduous pilgrimage – is a lot of thinking.  (In mile after  mile of hiking.)  And one thing I definitely thought about was:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle!

As in:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle about what this particular blog is all about…

Which brings up the question in the caption above:  Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God … and risk being transformed (See also On arguing with God.)

(In Jacob’s case he got transformed significantly,  He had his name changed – from Jacob to “Israel” – and then became “Father of the 12 tribes of Israel.”  See Genesis 32:22-32.  If he’d been a conservative, Jacob would probably have been content to stay Jacob…)

William TyndaleSo anyway, the answer is probably not.  (A conservative Christian wouldn’t think of wrestling or arguing with God.)  But an FYI:  The link to the definition of “transformed” in the caption above leads to the King James Dictionary (And you can’t get any more “old school” than that.  As I’ve noted, the King James Version is the “Bible God uses.”  See Bill Tyndale [left] – who[se] Bible you could actually READ!)

In turn, the King James Dictionary defines “transform” – in one sense – as “to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”  Using that definition, it would seem most so-called conservative Christians would prefer to stay caterpillars.

Another definition is in the field of theology, where it means to “change the natural disposition and temper of man from a state of enmity … into a disposition and temper conformed to the will of God.”  (The KJ Dictionary even provided a Bible quote, from Romans 12:2:  “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”)  And that leads to another observation:  That one thing conservative Christians hate – and/or can’t handle – is change.

Which raises a question:  “Is God really a bloated, sanctimonious old white guy in a pin-striped suit?”  And that leads to another definition of “transform” from the KJ Dictionary:

Among the mystics, to [“transform” is to] change the contemplative soul into a divine substance, by which it is lost or swallowed up in the divine nature.

And if there’s another thing so-called conservative Christians hate, it’s the term “mystic.”  (Or mysticism.)  Which led me to note previously:  “The terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”

All of which leads to the question:  Should “real” Christians be narrow-minded or broad-minded?  To me, the best answer to that question comes from Luke 24:45:  “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Which brings up the Daily Office Readings for Monday, November 13.  They included Matthew 15:1-3:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,  “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”  He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

And incidentally, the image at right is by Gustave Doré, “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.”

Another note:  The “DORs” are the Daily Office Readings.  (See What’s a DOR?)  And that brings up the DORs for this morning, Thursday, November 16.  They included Matthew 16:12:  “Then they understood that he” – Jesus – “had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees.”  And that’s a problem we’ve had ever since…

That is, at least initially the “relationship between Early Christianity and Pharisees was not always hostile.”  (Paul the Apostle was a Pharisee, at least initially.)  But as the term has evolved – and as it is now used in the lower case – the term pharisee has come to mean a “sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.” 

So it seems to me that a lot of “Christians” who say they’re conservative are actually pharisees.

For example, when I just Googled the phrase “negative Christians,” I got over 500,00 results.  And when I Googled “hypocritical Christians,” I got 189,000 results.  But to me, real Christians aren’t negative, self-righteous, sanctimonious or hypocritical.  Real Christians work every day to make the world a better place, plowing ahead, while the pharisees get all the negative press.

Which of course leaves the rest of us with a heavy cross to bear.  And that leads to a final note:

“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…” 

And that’s another problem that we’ve had since the time of Jesus…

*   *   *   *


Would the Louvins let Jesus “open their minds,” per Luke 24:45?

*   *   *   *

The upper image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.  For more on the idea of “struggling with the idea of God,” see On arguing with God (posted May 2014) and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella (posted April 2016).

Re:  Rick Santorum.  See also The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to debate about Santorum’s supposed comments, see e.g. Liberal media shamelessly twists comment from Rick Santorum.  And aside from the Louvin Brothers’ sentiment, see also The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:

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

And an FYI:  I Googled the phrase “there’s no such thing as a conservative Christian” and got some 17,500,000 results, including the following:  Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian.  His name was Jesus (HuffPost), Rick Santorum In 2008: There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal ChristianNo Such Thing As A Liberal Christian –, and Article on: There is no such thing as a conservative-Republican Christian: Jesus is a small-c communist.  Thus it seems the title was designed to be deliberately provocative, as was this thought in the main text:  “consider now that you have been led to associate ‘Jesus’ with the views of those who are not really Christians.”  Which is pretty much the theme of both this blog and this particular post…

Re:  “Conservative Christians” and mystics:  See The Bible and mysticism, or The Christian repertoire.

Re:  Jacob being transformed.  See 9 Famous Fathers in the Bible, and also Genesis 32:22-32:  

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,  because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Re:  “Narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading.”  See On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

The lower image is courtesy of The Louvin Brothers – Wikipedia.  


Perverting “Fundamental” – ism…

Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 1865

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

On “Comfort Zone Christians…”

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…


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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Bible’s “erotic love poem…”

*   *   *   *

Antique Valentine 1909 01.jpgToday is Valentine’s Day, which makes this a perfect time to explore the Bible’s “erotic love poem.”  And besides, Lent is coming up.  (It starts on March 1, with Ash Wednesday.*)  And that means 40 days of “penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial.”

So now is the perfect time to live it up a little…

Anyway, Valentine’s Day started off as a purely “Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus.”  And several “martyrdom stories” circulated about various Valentines connected to February 14, the most popular being Saint Valentine of Rome.  He was imprisoned for – among other things – “ministering to Christians,” and according to one account, he healed the daughter of his jailer.  Then – shortly before his execution – he “wrote a letter [to the daughter] signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell:”

The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.  In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other…

Which brings us to the Bible’s own love poem, the Song of Songs.  (Aka, “Song of Solomon.”)

Isaac Asimov wrote of the “Song of Songs” in his Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One.  He used five pages to cover the book,* first noting that this was the “third of the canonical books to be attributed to Solomon.”  (Shown at left, he was the son of Israel’s King David who became widely known for his wisdom, as well as for his habit of acquiring “foreign wives,” as shown below.)  Asimov added:

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

(See for example, 1st Kings 11:3:  “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray,” which sounds about right…)

And here are some highlights.  For starters, the poem features a back-and-forth exchange between a man and woman.  (Together with “Others,” acting as a kind of chorus.)

It starts off with the woman saying, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (1:2, and in verse 3, she adds that “virgins love you.”)  In verse 1:13 the woman says, “My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts.”  Moving on, in 4:5 the man tells the woman: “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies.”

In Chapter 7, verses 1-3, the man adds these observations:

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

Which raises an interesting question:  Why don’t Biblical Fundamentalists interpret the Song of Songs literally?  That is, why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” of this book?  It also brings up the matter of selective interpretation.

On that note Asimov added, “Because of the erotic nature of the book, it has been customary to find allegorical values in it that would make it more than a description of bodily passion.”  Thus:

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

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

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

Or as St. Paul said, God made us “servants of a new covenant not based on the letter [of the law] but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (2d Corinthians 3:6.)

Put another way, if Jesus had been a Biblical conservative and/or literalist, we’d all still be Jewish.  And besides, by taking that “open” approach you won’t have to find a non-erotic literal-but-pure meaning of “your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand…”

*   *   *   *

“Solomon sinned by acquiring many foreign wives…”

(Which made him well-versed in the “Art of Love.”)

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Valentine’s Day – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “An English Victorian era Valentine card located in the Museum of London.”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Asimov using “five pages to cover” the Song of Songs:  The reference is to the 1981 Avenel Books edition of his Guide to the Bible, at pages 518-23.

Re:  Canonical “Solomon” Bible books.  He is said to have written Proverbs, “a collection of fables and wisdom of life;”  Ecclesiastes, a book of contemplation and self-reflection, and Song of Songs.  The black-and-white image to the left of the paragraph about him is captioned:  “An engraving, ‘Judgment of Solomon,’ by Gustave Doré (19th century).”

The “Weird Tales” image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Isaac Asimov.  The caption:  “The novelette ‘Legal Rites,’ a collaboration with Frederik Pohl, was the only Asimov story to appear in Weird Tales.”  The article noted that in addition to his interest in science and history, Asimov was “also a noted mystery author and a frequent contributor to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  He began by writing science fiction mysteries … but soon moved on to writing ‘pure’ mysteries.”

The lower image is courtesy of Solomon – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Solomon sinned by acquiring many foreign wives.  Solomon’s descent into idolatry, Willem de Poorter, Rijksmuseum.”

Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”

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

*   *   *   *

This year’s Super Bowl has come and gone, which means that some of us still haven’t recovered.  (The First Super Bowl is shown at right.)  Which is another way of saying that – with the New England Patriots’ win over the Atlanta Falcons – the 2016-17 NFL season has come to an end.

That in turn means that among Patriot fans, there are some who think their team won because of something they did.  The flip side is that among Falcon fans, there are some who are asking, “Why did my team lose?   What did I do wrong?

In my case, my sweetheart and I deliberately did not watch the first three quarters.  And all during that time the Falcons did quite well, thank you very much.  (We went to a movie, then went to dinner, though we did occasionally check the score.)  First it was the Falcons leading 7-0, then leading 20-3, then 28-9.  By that time we were home and decided to play cards.

Then Sweetheart decided to watch the fourth quarter, and things went downhill from there.

Despite my begging and pleading, she continued to watch the game.  Finally I got up and left, first driving around the neighborhood, then walking around the neighborhood.  And I kept waiting for the set of loud cheers – from all the Super Bowl parties around the neighborhood – that would signify the Falcons had finally pulled through; finally pulled it off.

It didn’t happen…

But the worst part was the way that “Sweetie” denied my urgent pleas for us to turn off the TV and go back to playing cards.  For one thing, she said “I’m invested now.”  (Which made about as much sense as saying she didn’t want to stop pounding herself over the head with a 2×4, for the reason that she was equally “invested.”)  But  the worst part was when she said, “You don’t  seriously believe that us turning off the TV would change the outcome of the game, do you?”   

Which brought to mind – eventually – what Moses did at the Battle of Rephidim.

I’ve written about that in posts like On football, Moses and Rephidim, and – from this blog – On the Bible and mysticism, and Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of the episode in the Bible – at Exodus 17:8-16 – was that Moses “helped his team win:”

Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.  As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.  Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. [E.A.]

So what do you suppose would have happened if Aaron and Hur refused to hold Moses’ hands up?  Or what do you suppose would happen if the wife of Moses – or his Sweetheart for that matter – had come up the mountain and said, “Moses, you look ridiculous.  Do you honestly think that holding your hands up like that is going to change the outcome of the battle?”

65068339I’ll tell you what would have happened.  Chaos: Israel defeated.  No Moses, no Bible, no Jesus and His teachings to temper the inherent greed and cruelty of humans.  Which of course would make some people happy. (As shown at right.)

Those people who think life would be ever so much better without religion.  (As shown in the image at right.)  Such people seem to think life today would be a matter of the sun perpetually shining down on a literal Paradise on Earth, complete with people of all nations and cultures frolicking happily around in a circle dance.  Baloney!!

(We saw plenty of “life without religion” in The Holocaust…)

Put another way:  To that I’ll give the same answer my Dad gave me after Watergate and Nixon’s resignation in 1974.  I asked him if it wouldn’t have been better if George McGovern had been elected instead of Nixon.  His answer?  “Things would have been worse, much worse!”

I don’t know if the country would have been better without the constitutional crisis of Watergate, but I do know history would be way different – way worse – without the tempering effect of religion.  Without the host of Men – and Women – in Black, keeping us on course:

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town…  [F]or those who never read, Or listened to the words that Jesus said, About the road to happiness through love and charity, Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Hey, “Johnny Cash said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

But we seem to be ranging far afield here.  The point of all this is that if Moses had listened to pure logic and reason – as opposed to instinct and intuition – the world would have been much worse off.  If nothing else, with the Amalekites defeating the Children of Israel, world history would have been a much different, and “worse, much worse.”  For one thing, Moses would never have gotten the chance to write – or at least finish – the Bible, that “most influential, most published, most widely read book in the history of the world.”*

I figure that in all of this there is “some kind of object lesson…”

*   *   *   *

J. R. Cash

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett MillaisVictory O Lord! (1871).”    As to previous posts on Moses at Rephidim, those posts noted that devoted sport-fans love to think if their team wins, they – the fans – helped out.  (Through their rituals, “lucky shirts” and the like.)  See for example “God’s Favorite Team” – Part II:  “It’s a natural tendency for people to make connections between events.  ‘When I do this, that happens…’  Primitive people [and perhaps modern football fans] developed superstitions in similar ways:”

Superstition is a large part of a fan’s repertoire these days, especially when the home team is in Super Bowl XLVIII today…   Kenny Shisler has similar superstitions.  The lifelong Broncos fan said he will wear Broncos gear all week long, but refuses to do so on game day… “Like the Bud Light commercials [say], ‘It’s only weird if it doesn’t work…’”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the Bible being the “most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world,” see Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at page 7.  

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

As to the Bible being the most influential and most widely read book, Asimov added:

No other book has been so studied and so analyzed and it is a tribute to the complexity of the Bible and the eagerness of its students that after thousands of years of study there are still endless books that can be written about it.

The “world without religion” image is courtesy of Date: July 4, 2016 Author: bige1972 … Commentsbigguycollege.  But see also Science without religion is lame. Religion …  “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

Re:  “Johnny Cash said it, I believe it…”  The allusion is to the phrase “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”  BTW: Googling that phrase got got me 4,280,000 results.

The lower image is courtesy of Johnny Cash – Wikipedia.  See also Man in Black (song) – Wikipedia

An update on “dissin’ the Prez”

Donald Trump Obama

Will the man on the left get the respect due him by Exodus 22:28?   (As the man on the right didn’t?)

*   *   *   *

Saint James the Just.jpgThis morning’s Daily Office Readings include Joel 3:10, and a reading from James, the brother of Jesus.  (Shown at right.)  And James 2:6-7 said this:

Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?  Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

As to Joel 3:10, it says  “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.”

Both of which seem strangely appropriate after last Tuesday’s election.

Which brings up this subject:  Are good Christians – both liberal and conservative – duty-bound to honor and obey the newly-elected “leader of our country,” Donald Trump?

In May 2014, I posted On dissin’ the Prez.  Mainly it was about Exodus 22:28, and how – at that time – it seemed “more honored in the breach.”  That is, Exodus 22:28 clearly commands:  “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.”

And that’s where honored in the breach* comes in.  Since conservatives spent the last eight years “cursing and reviling” the ruler of our people, are liberals – not to mention the majority who voted for Hillary Clinton – now free to do the same with Donald Trump?

The thing is, the people who interpret the U.S. Constitution “strictly” or “literally” are – generally speaking – the same ones who say that the Bible must also be interpreted literally.  But if those Conservatives – Christian or otherwise – had truly followed the letter of the Bible, they wouldn’t have “cursed and reviled” President Obama over the last eight years:

To sum up: Conservative Christians can avoid getting into trouble for violating the letter of Exodus 22:28, but only by using a liberal interpretation.  They can criticize the President all they want, as long as they don’t criticize “the Sovereign People” who elected him.  (A subtle distinction to be sure.)   Put another way, conservative Christians only avoid the penalty for violating the strict letter of Exodus 22:28 by using a liberal interpretation [of the Bible].’s where the closing “Oh, the irony” in that post came in.

On dissin’ the Prez also went into great detail about the differences between strict construction, as opposed to the rules of liberally interpreting the Bible.  (And on such topics as Biblical inerrancy, or what I call being a boot-camp Christian.) 

But in one sense those pointy-headed liberals may not need to interpret Exodus 22:28 “in a fair and reasonable manner in accordance with the objects and purposes of the instrument.”  (The Bible.)  That’s because in America the “leader of the people” is The People.  As in the Sovereign People or the “We the People” that start the Constitution.

In other words, the President of the United States is not a “leader of the country” as that term was interpreted at the time the Bible was written.  (See also On “originalism.”)

Back then a leader was a king or other dictator, who served for life – or until a stronger king bumped him off.  But these days a president is more like a plumber.  He’s a hired hand who serves the people of the United States for no more than eight years.  (Or less if he ends up impeached and convicted.  See AU Professor Predicts Trump’s Impeachment.)

Therefore, since we Americans follow majority rule, and since Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote, it would seem that Americans everywhere are free to “curse and revile” Donald Trump as much as they want – according to the Bible.

But as Paul noted in 1st Corinthians 10:23:  “Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.”

Ikone Athanasius von Alexandria.jpgThen too, that brings up what I wrote last January.  I posted On Hilary – 1″L,” and HE was a bishop.  Saint Hilary – shown at right, and who died in the year 367 – served as bishop in Poitiers, a city in France.

But he served at a time of a great early-church conflict, and perhaps not unlike the conflict we just went through.  (In St. Hilary’s case, the one pitting Athanasius against Arius, for whom Arianism was named.)

Basically it was a struggle for the “soul of the Church,” much like this last election was part of a “war for the soul of America.”  (And by the way, Googling “war for the soul”  got me 13,400,000 results.)

The thing is – during that earlier “war for the soul” – Saint Hilary had to serve a term in exile. (Too?)  In 356 he backed the wrong horse, and was sent into exile by Constantius II.  (Who  found the Arian position persuasive enough to banish Hilary to Phrygia.)  However:

Hilary put his four years in exile to good use.  He honed his arguments so well that they ultimately acquired the force of (church) law.  In essence he was a “Great Dissenter…”  Which is another way of saying “Athanasianism” ultimately won the day.

And who knows?  Maybe the same will happen with today’s Hillary…

And finally, it is within the realm of possibility that that consummate Showman – Donald Trump – actually “played those far-right conservatives like a piano.”  That is, it’s possible that Trump is the “New York Liberal” that Ted Cruz said he was.  (Or at least more of a moderate than he let on, either of which – liberal or moderate – would have doomed his Republican nomination.)

At the very least it’s looking like Donald – like life itself – is like a box of chocolates.  And as that great philosopher Forrest Gump observed, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

*   *   *   *

“Are you telling me Donald Trump just got elected president?”

*   *   *   *


The upper image is courtesy of Trump and Obama meet at the White House to begin transition.  

The full Satucket Daily Office readings include:  “AM Psalm 87, 90; PM Psalm 136,” along with Joel 3:9-17; James 2:1-13; Luke 16:10-17(18).

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this, the “notes” section.  Thus, as to “more honored in the breach:”  The quote is from Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 7–16.  And something I didn’t know:  As properly interpreted the saying means to ignore a bad custom or rule, rather than a “good custom … often breached:”

Hamlet means that it is more honorable to breach, or violate, the custom of carousing than to observe it.  So the phrase is properly applied to a bad custom or rule that should be ignored.  Instead, we and others frequently use it in almost the opposite sense…

See Mangled Shakespeare – The New York Times, and – for more on the context – More honored in the breach – eNotes Shakespeare Quotes.

The latest from a “None…”

Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb

Many times Moses almost got stoned to death – for not “dumbing down” the Torah enough…

*   *   *   *

I finally got to read the September 26, 2016, edition of Time magazine.

(I get the magazine hand–me–down from my sister-in-law.)  Page 63 had an essay:  My Life As a ‘None’ and Tales of Being Unaffiliated, by Susanna Schrobsdorff.  (Which included the image at right.)  

The essay had a subhead, saying that Nones – Americans not affiliated with any religion – now make up almost a quarter of the population.

Schrobsdorff began, “Like a lot of women of a certain age, I’ve taken up yoga.”  Then – for reasons not quite clear – she apparently gave up on yoga, then went on to question her “casual pursuit of spirituality:”

I’m agnostic about God, and there’s just a smallish space where faith might fit into my life.  So I check the “spiritual but not religious” box…  I’m just the kind of person that author and pastor Lillian Daniel has aptly mocked, writing, “You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating.”

She added that people like her are “on the rise,” followed by a wealth of statistics showing that in a few years, “the largest ‘religion’ in the U.S. will be None.”  (Emphasis added.)

I wasn’t sure if she was bragging or complaining.

But then she started the second half of her essay.  She noted she grew up in a mixed-faith family.  Her mother Mary Anne “was a Catholic until she eloped with my atheist German father…   We’d ask her about God and all the miraculous stories from the Bible, and she’d say:

Don’t take everything so literally.'”

(Which is pretty much the whole point of this blog:  That if you read the Bible too literally, you’re only cheating yourself…)

And yet – she wrote – that same mother was both certain that God existed and seemed to pray fervently as she approached death.  (From the emphysema that would “kill her at 73.”)

That is, shortly before she died, the mother, her atheist-husband and her None-daughter stopped at the church where – years before – Mary Anne had taken First Communion:

I don’t know if she prayed.  But I do know that my mother had the certainty that she would go “home,” as she called it, where her long-gone parents and my sister were.

Ihs-logo.svgShe closed by saying that she longed for the kind of faith her mother had.  She also noted a Jesuitical proof that “God does exist:”

We have innate cravings for food and sleep and love, and so perhaps a desire to identify with a higher power…  That built-in yearning is there because there’s something worth yearning for.  It’s the kind of logic that my mother, the student of Jesuits, would have loved.

 *   *   *   *

So:  Where to begin?  How do I respond to what seems to be a cry for help, a pleading for some proof that you don’t have a to be far-right conservative to be a “real Christian?”

(Or as it says in Mark 9:24, “Lord … help thou mine unbelief!”)

For starters,  I wrote about “Nones” in the May 2015 post, On WHY we’re getting “less Christian.” (Which noted in part that it was “hard to imagine Jesus ever saying ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.'”)  See also The Blog – above – where I wrote out some of my goals:

Another thing I’m trying to do is reach out to Nones and others turned off by “negative Christians.”  See “Nones” on the Rise and The Growth Of The “Nones.”  (About the rise of the “religiously unaffiliated.”)

So this is a perfect chance to make this a Teaching – or “Teachable” – Moment.

For starters – again –  The Blog said reading the Bible can lead to “an entirely new world.”  It also said that reading the Bible doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to shape yourself into a pre-formed “carbon copy Christian.”  (Or just “another brick in the wall.”)

Which seems to be the goal of those boot-camp Christians who get all the media attention.

A drill sergeant posing before his companyThose boot-camp Christians – discussed in the notes – are the Bible literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” And they are generally perceived to be extremely negative.

(Googled “negative Christians” and got 12 million hits.)

But in John 10:10, Jesus was anything but negative.  In saying He wanted His followers to live abundantly, His goal was for you to grow and develop into all you can be.  (And not stay a “career buck private,” never going beyond the fundamentals.)

I’ll be writing more on Ms. Schrobsdorff‘s essay in a later post.  But I want to close this post by noting something that most people don’t factor in when they read the Bible.  (And especially the first five books, the Torah.)  That factor is:  Moses had to “dumb it down” enough that he wouldn’t get stoned to death, as noted in last January’s On Moses getting stoned:

In plain words, “Moses was forced by circumstance to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand…'”  And to the extent he was writing for a future audience, he probably expected that future audience to understand those circumstances, and take them into account.

That is, if Moses had written in the Torah that the earth was billions of years old – or that the earth revolved around that “big bright round thing in the sky” – he probably would have been stoned to death as a heretic.  (By the people he was leading – “those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert” – as nearly happened several times in his account in those first books of the Bible.)

That post also ended with this note:

“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 the Scripture…”

 *   *   *   *

Galileo facing the Inquisition, for saying the earth revolved around the sun…

 *   *   *   *

 The upper image is courtesy of Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb | Byzantine | The Metroplitan Museum of Art.  (It’s a mosaic from the 5th century.)  See also Stoning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which includes another painting of the incident. The caption to that painting, under Punishment of the Rebels:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia

The “stoning” article said this of the “Korah” painting:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the [left] the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raised the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?’”

 *   *   *   *

Re: Ms. Schrobsdorff, who wrote the “Nones” essay.  She is the “Chief Strategic Partnerships Editor and a columnist for TIME.”  She is also 53 years old as of this writing, and began her essay:  “Like a lot of women of a certain age, I’ve taken up yoga.”  Just as an aside, I – the “Scribe” – just turned 65 and have been doing yoga since the mid-1970s.  That’s over 40 years, which means I started yoga when Susanna was about 12 years old.  The point being that while some people – including conservative Christians – see yoga as a “cult,” there are Christians who are open-minded.  

File:Picswiss UR-28-18.jpgA side note:  Ms. Schrobsdorff seems to have gone to a trendy-slash-upscale yoga center, of the kind catering to the “norm for self-centered American culture.”  My point being:  There have always been those who take a good spiritual discipline and twist it to their benefit. See e.g., The Bible as “transcendent” meditation, which said back in the 1970s you could pay a week’s salary to a TM center – of the kind that made Maharishi Mahesh Yogi rich enough to buy this “headquarters” in Switzerland – or buy an under-two-dollar copy of Lawrence LeShan‘s book, How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery.  (Which would require a bit of self-discipline…)  

And finally – on a related topic – see 2d Corinthians 2:17.  In the NIV:  “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.”  The NLT version reads:  “You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit.”

 Re:  “Nones.”  See also Irreligion – Wikipedia.

The image to the left of the paragraph – “But then she started the second half” – is courtesy of Atheism – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “1929 cover of the USSR League of Militant Atheists magazine, showing the gods of the Abrahamic religions being crushed by the Communist 5-year plan.”

The image to the right of the paragraph including “She also noted a Jesuitical proof,” is courtesy of Society of Jesus – Wikipedia.  (“Jesuitical” is defined in pertinent part as of or pertaining to Jesuits, or as applying to those who practice “casuistry or equivocation,” and/or those who use “subtle or oversubtle reasoning,” or those who are “crafty; sly; intriguing.”)

The lower image – Cristiano Banti‘s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition” – is courtesy of the article, Heresy – Wikipedia:

Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.  He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions. (E.A.)

Note that Galileo almost got burned at the stake – for saying the earth revolved around the sun – almost 3,000 after Moses was trying to lead his people to “the Promised Land…”

On snake-handling “redux”

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

*   *   *   *

I just went back over some posts from last year around this time.  I found this post, still in draft form.  So for the past couple days I’ve been updating it to this final form. last year at this time I did WHY we’re getting “less Christian.”

Posted on May 23, it included the ironic image at right.  Then there was The wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel,” posted on June 2, 2015.

So this post will review those two from last year, plus the original On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide – Part I and Part II.

Part I noted that a small group of rural Christians practice “snake handling” as part of their religion. And that they do that based on a passage from Mark 16:16-18, part of Jesus’ “Great Commission:”

 And [Jesus] said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation…    And these signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will cast out demons;  they will speak in new tongues;  they will pick up serpents with their hands;  and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them;  they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (E.A.)

On the other hand there was an article, Snake-Handling Pentecostal Pastor Dies From Snake Bite.  (Which arguably showed that “such a practice may not be such a good idea.”)

Then came the meat of the post, that the Bible is both “simple” and “deep:”

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

Part II went on to discuss what many say is the proper way to read, study and interpret the Bible.  It also discussed both the topics of “Biblical inerrancy” and Fundamentalism.

I said the business of “requiring every word of the Bible to be inerrant” reminded me of what Jesus said in Matthew 23:4.  He was talking about the Pharisees of His time, and noted that they tended to “make strict rules that are hard for people to obey.  They try to force others to obey all their rules.  But they themselves will not try to follow any of those rules.

Which brings us to WHY we’re getting “less Christian.”  That post noted a study: Americans Less Religious Than Ever Before.  The gist of the article was that a then-recent poll found Christianity is on the decline, especially among the young.  And here are some of the reasons:

Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative.  Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) – representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. (E.A.)

And finally, note The wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel.”  That post led off with the fable of the Blind men and the elephant.

The moral of that story?  That each man ended up with a good idea of part of the elephant.  But each went on to “err greatly” – as Jesus might say – by mistakenly assuming that his view was the only accurate picture of the whole elephant.

(Or as Wikipedia said, “the parable implies that one’s subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”)

That in turn brought up Virgil, and his views.  That is, throughout history most people have seen religion “in terms of black or white:  ‘our attitude toward the possibility of divine control of things tends to be all or nothing.'”  But Virgil’s view seemed more practical.

His view was that – despite our best efforts – some of what happens to us may make some sense.  But then again “some of what happens seems to make pretty much no sense:”

There is, in other words, an overarching order at work in the world, a final coherence in the way that things work.  But it remains out of human reach, and despite our efforts, we can merely come to know it only in part

Which could be just another way of saying that when you become a Christian, God doesn’t become your personal servant, willing and able to cater to your every whim.  Or as one Christian mystic once said,It is to vigor rather than comfort that you are called.”

Or here’s another way to put it.  (In case I’m being too subtle.)  In plain words, God doesn’t owe you a thing.  (See Luke 17, verses 7-10.)  In still further words:

…way too many people think that getting good stuff from God – The Force that Created the Universe– is somehow easier than trying to shoot the head off a match stick…

Which means there are a some important lessons for our spiritual quest.  One is that we shouldn’t expect God to cater to our every whim, like some glorified butler.  (Maybe we should learn to say, “It’s hard as hell, but now and then I’ll do it just right…”)  And maybe we should start worshiping – not to get anything – but rather “asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.”

All of which could lead to a far more accurate picture of that “elephant as a whole…” 


The parable of the “Blind men and the elephant…” 

*   *   *   *

The upper image was featured in On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide – Part I.

For some background on the “redux” part of the title, see On “Job the not patient” – REDUX.  It’s an allusion to the 1971 book by John Updike, Rabbit Redux.  That book-title in turn “led to a redux in popularity of the word redux.”  So much so that in a later book, Rabbit At Rest, Updike had his hero – Harry Angstrom – say he “hates that word, you see it everywhere, and he doesn’t know how to pronounce it.   Like arbitrageur and perestroika…”

Re: Draft form.  See also Writing Rough Draft of Research Paper – Duke of Definition.

Re: “vigor rather than comfort.”  The quote is an allusion to the book Practical Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, as discussed in On the Nativity of John the Baptist:

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement . . . and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.  Do not suppose from this that your new career is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move.  True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock.  It is to vigor rather than comfort that you are called.  (E.A.)

Ariel Press (1914), at page 177.  See also Evelyn Underhill – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Blind monks examining an elephant, an ukiyo-e print byHanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).”  (See also Stay tuned, for future reference.) 

St. Joseph and the “Passover Plot”

Guido Reni - St Joseph with the Infant Jesus - WGA19304.jpg

Saint Joseph – his feast day is coming up on March 19 – “with the Infant Jesus…”


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

This blog has three main themes:  1)  That God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  2)  That God wants us all to live a life of abundance.  (John 10:10.)  And 3)  That God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  And here’s a fourth theme:  That the only way to achieve those last two goals is to read the Bible with an open mind.

In plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Bibiical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible offers so much more than that…  (Unless of course you want to stay a Biblical buck private all your life…)

There’s more in the notes below.  Or – to expand that mind – see the Introduction.

In the meantime:

Here’s a spoiler alert:  Saint Joseph – earthly “father” of Jesus – has nothing to do with The Passover Plot.  It’s just that this post is about both St. Joe and the book by Hugh Schonfield.

(The thesis of that 1965 Schonfield book:  The Crucifixion was a “conscious attempt by Jesus to fulfill the Messianic expectations rampant in his time,” but His plan “went unexpectedly wrong.”)

Resurrection (24).jpgThen too, a discussion of The Passover Plot seems especially appropriate because Easter Sunday – March 27 – is now less than two weeks away.

But first, about St. Joseph.  Last year at this time I posted On St. Paddy and St. Joe.  There I noted the unusual situation in March – of most years – where a minor feast day is celebrated more than a major feast day.

That is – in a liturgical sense – the “earthly father[figure] of Jesus” outranks – by far – Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

(As noted in St. Joe, when it comes to the list of important Bible figures with feast days, St. Joseph “comes in third only to Christ the King and Mary.”)

St Patrick's DayNevertheless,  St. Patrick’s Day – March 17 – is celebrated far more widely than St. Joseph’s Day.  (March 19.)  On the other hand, this year’s Lectionary Page does list St. Joseph’s Feast Day, but it doesn’t list St. Patrick’s Day.

That’s because this year Easter comes way earlier than usual.

In other words, for this year – on what would normally be St. Patrick’s Day – the Lectionary Page has March 17 officially listed as Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent.  But of course that won’t change the fact that “St. Paddy’s Day” will be the more widely celebrated…

For more on St. Paddy and St. Joe, see last year’s post.  It included a section on How the Irish Saved Civilizationand on how the Irish went from widespread ridicule to acceptance:

Facing nativist detractors who characterized them as drunken, violent, criminalized, and diseased [ – as illustrated at right – ] Irish-Americans were looking for ways to display their civic pride and the strength of their identity…  [They] celebrated their Catholicism and patron saint … but they also stressed their patriotic belief in their new home.  In essence, St. Patrick’s Day was a public declaration of a hybrid identity [with] a strict adherence to the values and liberties that the U.S. offered them.

And that seems to be an object lesson we could re-learn today…

But back to The Passover Plot.  As noted, the thesis of Hugh Schonfield‘s 1965 book was that the Crucifixion was part of a “conscious attempt by Jesus to fulfill the Messianic expectations [but] that the plan went unexpectedly wrong.”  On a related note, here’s something I didn’t know before:  The book was made into a movie in 1976.  That is, it was made into a:

Dramatization of the controversial best-seller that posits an alternate version of the birth of Christianity.  In this version, Jesus planned for His crucifixion by taking a drug that would simulate death.  After His unconscious body was placed in the tomb, a religious sect known as the Zealots would secretly steal Christ’s body from the tomb, then spread the rumor that He had risen, thus fulfilling Biblical prophecy.

The one thing I do remember is that the book was so fascinating it made me miss a plane to Key West.

This was in the days before cell phones.  (In the late 1980s or very early 1990s.)  My late wife was working as a traveling sales-lady, for a company that did church directories.  So when she got posted down to Key West, I planned to fly down for the weekend.  (From Tampa Airport.)

I brought along a copy of Passover Plot.  I got checked in and seated in the waiting area, then started reading.  When I looked up from the book – finally – I saw that my “flight had flown.”

I ended up getting to Key West on a later flight.  I also ended up disagreeing with many or most of Schonfield‘s conclusions.  But I found his methodical research enlightening.  (In much the same way that I found Last Temptation of Christ enlightening.  There too, I didn’t agree with all the premises of the movie, but I did feel it showed the conditions in which Jesus lived, far more accurately than the typical Hollywood “blonde, blue-eyed Jesus.”)

Then too, I’ve always felt that personal faith is not a matter of scientific proof.  (Like those “boot camp Christians” who look so assiduously for proof of Noah’s Ark in Turkey, on or near Mount Ararat.)    To me, faith is more a matter of that ongoing interactive walk to Jesus.

(See also GIST of the matter, and Why I’d Still Believe In God Even if the Bible was a Fairytale.)

Hugh J. Schonfield.But we were discussing Passover Plot.  I’ve included some excerpts in the notes, but first a couple reviews.  For one, Goodreads also called the book fascinating, as well as “lucidly written and carefully documented.”  At the same time it acknowledged “probably no other figure in modern Jewish historical research” was more controversial than Schonfield.  (At right.)

Tim Chaffey said the book “created quite a stir.”  He also questioned the author’s claims of objectivity:  “it is easily demonstrated that his bias and philosophy overrule any attempt at objectivity.”  And Stefan Zenker got to the crux of the matter:

[T]he discussion of Jesus’ faith and objectives was not what made the book controversial.  The part that created an uproar was Schonfield’s claim that Jesus painstakingly built his own legend without actually performing any miracles.  In particular, the greatest miracle of all: resurrection after death, had been carefully staged.

But Zenker also acknowledged that this “unusual book … read[s] like a thriller.”

And finally, there’s a review with a title that sounds a bit like a country-western song:  “Pass Over ‘The Passover Plot’.'”  But this review by the Christian Courier does provide one very valid reason for reading the book:  “The Passover Plot  illustrates every argument that tries to naturally explain the empty tomb.”  (Emphasis in the original.)

And if that is true, then the Courier’s take on the matter almost makes The Passover Plot a bit of  “required reading.”  After all, Jesus Himself said in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves:  be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Other translations of Matthew 10:16 tell us to be “cunning as serpents,” or “crafty as snakes,” or “shrewd as serpents.”  And since the serpent is a metaphor for the Devil, what Jesus seemed to say in Matthew 10:16 was that we should be “wise as hell” or “wise as the Devil.”

In plain words, Jesus was saying, “Know your enemy.”  (A shrewd bit of wisdom officially attributed to Sun Tzu.)  So for whatever reason, it might be “wise” to read The Passover Plot.

Unless of course you never made it beyond Bible boot-camp. . .

 *   *   *   *


The upper image is courtesy of Saint Joseph – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which also noted that the “Pauline epistles make no reference to Jesus’ father; nor does the Gospel of Mark.”    The caption for the painting:  “Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635).”

The plot summary of the movie version of Passover Plot was written by Mike Konczewski.

The Schonfield image is courtesy of the zenker review.

The lower image is courtesy of The Passover Plot – Wikipedia:  “First edition (publ. Hutchinson).”

*   *   *   *

The following excerpts are from the 1967 “Bantam Books” paperback version of The Passover Plot.  

1)  At pages 17-19, Schonfield described circumstances “making the Messianic Hope the powerful influence it became in the first century B.C.,” one of which was a “change of attitude towards the Bible.”  The Hebrew Bible had three divisions, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings:

The Law, as consisting of the five books of Moses, had binding force by the fifth century B.C., or not much later.  The Prophets did not acquire their force until about the third century B.C….  The effects of the recognition of the Law and the Prophets … as a corpus of sacred Scriptures were far-reaching.  It opened the way for a new development, the treatment of these books as the Oracles of God.  They became subject to all kinds of interpretation to draw out of them hidden meaning hidden meanings and prognostications.

This and other factors – including occupation by foreign armies – led to an increase in both religious devotion and “messianic thinking and prediction.”  As a result, from “160 B.C. we are in a new age, an age of extraordinary fervour and religiousity…  The whole condition of the Jewish people was psychologically abnormal.”  At page 23 he added, “A whole nation was in the grip of delirium.”

2)  And speaking of Palm Sunday – coming up next week – at pages 114-15, Schonfield wrote of “the brilliant move on the part of Jesus” to enter Jerusalem openly, and with great fanfare.  “There had been no attempt  to sneak into the city unobserved.”  That brilliant move also kept the members of Sanhedrin from “molesting” Jesus.  And speaking of being “wise as a serpent:

He had finally allowed Himself to be acknowledged as the Messiah; but the clever way in which He had done this secured Him for the present complete freedom from molestation.  They had to recognise that they were up against a man of courage, cunning and ingenuity.

And finally,  3)  At pages 179-80, Schonfield noted the love and compassion of Jesus, but “united with commitment …  the emphasis is on deeds as the proof of faith and love.”  He then indicated – in an offhanded way – that we too could fulfill John 14:12 by performing as great or greater miracles than Jesus.   (Okay, that last was a bit of artistic license on my part.)  He concluded Part I with this:

The Iron Chancellor Bismarck, with reluctant admiration, once said of Disraeli, another famous schemer, “The old Jew, there is the man!”  Seen in the Messianic light of the Passover Plot we can with more wholehearted approbation say of jesus, “The young Jew, there was the Man!”

All of which leads to a key observation.  It was apparently only from the fifth century B.C. on that the Hebrew Bible achieved “binding force.”  It was also at that “original” time that the Scripture “became subject to all kinds of interpretation to draw out of them hidden meaning hidden meanings and prognostications.”  In other words, it appears that as originally intended, there were no “boot-camp Hebrews.”  Then too, it can be said that in his book Schonfield greatly admired Jesus, even if he didn’t recognize Jesus as “the Messiah.”  But as noted above, while I disagreed with much of what Schonfield wrote, I found his research enlightening.  That is, giving “spiritual or intellectual insight.”

*   *   *   * “Boot-camp Christians.”  See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of which is that starting on the Bible is like Army Basic Training.  You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you’ll want to move on to more Advanced Individual Training

Also, and as noted in “Career buck private,” I’d previously written that the theme of this blog was that if you really wanted 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 also Slogans of the United States Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image above left is courtesy of: “”

*  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?