Category Archives: Not your daddy’s Bible

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

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

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

A dear friend recently directed my attention to this article:

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

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

Which is probably true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus this blog-post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that the only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible’s erotic love song – from last year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On the beginning of Lent – 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It pays to read and study the Bible!

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40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was “Abraham” a pimp?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“From Yahweh to Yahoo” – and the Great Dissenter

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – otherwise known as “The Great Dissenter…”

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

It’s Wednesday, January 17, 2017, and snowing in God’s Country(See “Twitter erupts in memes, jokes and snowy scenes.”)

Which means we’re not supposed to leave home – i.e., drive on the roads.  Which also means I have no excuse for not doing a new post.  (The last was Happy Epiphany – 2018, 11 days ago.)

And just to catch you up, last Saturday,  January 13, was the Feast Day for St. Hilary.  See last year’s On Hilary – 1″L,” and HE was a bishop.  An aside: “Hilary’s parents were pagans – ‘of distinction.’  And he was said to have had a ‘good pagan education, which included a high level of Greek.'”  He went on to convert to Christianity, and ultimately became the Bishop of Poitiers(A city 210 miles southwest of Paris.)

But after that Hilary ran afoul of both church and secular authorities.  He backed the wrong side in the Arian controversy, and for that the Emperor Constantius II sent him into exile for four years.  But he put those years to good use.  In fact, his “dissents” became so persuasive that they were ultimately adopted as the “majority opinion.”  (So to speak.)

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr circa 1930-edit.jpgIn that he was not unlike Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., at right.  His “dissents were often prescient and acquired so much authority that he became known as ‘The Great Dissenter.’”

Anyway, Hilary – 1″L” concluded that sometimes God’s work means being “a disturber of the peace.”  (See Pastor denounces Trump’s ‘s–thole’ comments with red-faced Vice President Mike Pence in the pews.)  Which brings up a book from 15 or so years ago, getting my Master’s degree in Journalism:  From Yahweh to Yahoo!: THE RELIGIOUS ROOTS OF THE SECULAR PRESS.  The Amazon review said this:

{The book} provides a fresh and surprising view of the religious impulses at work in the typical newsroom…  Doug Underwood argues that American journalists are rooted in the nation’s moral and religious heritage and operate, in important ways, as personifications of the old religious virtues.

As a quasi-journalist I tend to agree.  And add that the same can apply to bloggers.

Definitions.netOr as has been said before, the job of both reporters and real Christians is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  The link gives a good history of the development of that concept, to wit:  That the job of both reporters and true Christians is to be “watchdogs:”

The “comfortable” were the fat cats in business and politics who were dabbling in crime and corruption behind the scenes.  The journalists saw their dual role in the media as both comforting the victims of corruption and also calling the sleazy fat cats to account for their crimes.

And while the phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible, “the concept of God comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted is thoroughly Biblical.”  See for example, Psalm 18:27, which in the NLT says of God:  “You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud.”

Dooley in 1900.jpgFor another look at the link between reporters and real Christians, see the original “Mr. Dooley.”  He was the “fictional 19th century Irish bartender” created by Finley Peter Dunne.  See Poynter:

“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”

(Emphasis added.)  Dooley was clearly being hyperbolic, but there are similarities.  Which is pretty much what Doug Underwood said in Yahweh to Yahoo!

Which brings us back to today’s Snow Day.  I’d found my copy of Yahweh to Yahoo earlier, and when I picked it up this morning, I found the back flap inserted between pages 276-77.  (A sign from God?)  The first sentence atop page 276:  “Journalists are highly attuned to hypocrisy, and their disgust at the discrepancy between what is preached and what is practiced among [some] religious folk can quite high.”  And note that I inserted the word “some” before “religious folk.”

I did that for a reason, expressed more fully in June 2014’s On “holier than thou.”  The gist of the post:  There are a lot of “prevailing quacks” in the Christian church.  The problem?  Such Bible literalists – who never go “beyond the fundamentals” – are both giving the rest of us a bad name and driving possible converts away in droves.  (Not to mention cheating themselves.)    

And that post included a quote from H. L. Mencken, in his Minority Report:

The only way that democracy can be made bearable is by developing and cherishing a class of men [ – people – ] sufficiently honest and disinterested to challenge the prevailing quacks.  No such class has ever appeared in strength in the United States.  Thus, the business of harassing the quacks devolves upon the newspapers.  When they fail in their duty, which is usually, we are at the quacks’ mercy.

The point of all this is that the right of dissent  – considering different points of view – is crucial to both personal spiritual growth and a healthy democracy.

For example, it was once said to be “contrary to Scripture” that the earth revolved around the sun.  But as I noted in Moses and Paul “dumbing it down,” the dissent finally prevaiied:

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…”

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Gene Kelly as the Mencken-like character in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind

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The upper image is courtesy of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “1978 postage stamp issued by the U.S. Post Office to commemorate Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.”

Re:  Holmes as “the Great Dissenter.”  See Amazon, The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind – and Changed the History of Free Speech in America.  But there are other claimants to the title.  See for example John Marshall Harlan – WikipediaNorman Thomas: The Great Dissenter – amazon.com, and International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame – Thurgood Marshall.  Marshall – the first black Justice – “became known as ‘the great dissenter’ for his vigorous opposition to majority Supreme Court decisions he believed violated human and civil rights.”  As for Harlan:

He was known as “the Great Dissenter” [as] the lone justice to dissent in one of the Supreme Court’s most notorious and damaging opinions, in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.  In arguing against his colleagues’ approval of the doctrine of “separate but equal,” John Marshall Harlan delivered what would become one of the most cited dissents in the court’s history.

The point being that “dissent” is essential to spiritual growth, for both persons and communities.  But see also Right to dissent legal definition:  While some on the Supreme Court have said  freedom of speech is absolute, most Americans agree with Justice Holmes:  The Constitution allows some restrictions under some circumstances.  See Shouting fire in a crowded theater.

*   *   *   *

Returning to the notes:  See the full Daily Office Readings for Saturday, January 13, 2018 on Satucket:  “AM Psalm 20, 21:1-7(8-14); PM Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117;  Genesis 6:9-22Hebrews 4:1-13John 2:13-22,” which includes a blurb on Hilary (of Poitiers).  They include Hebrews 4:1-13 and John 2:13-22.  Hebrews 4:1-13 reads:  “So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;  for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.”  The point there is that after that initial Sabbath-day’s rest – see Genesis 2:2 – God went back to work.  (See Is God at Work in History? – Everyday Theology.)  The logical conclusion is that “in the hereafter,” those who “cease from their labors” for one “Sabbath” in heaven will also likely “get back to work.”  As to John 2:13-22:

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

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

Re:  “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  See also Finley Peter Dunne – WikipediaTo comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortableSermon, Acts 19:1-10; 21-41, Comfort the Afflicted, and/or Who said comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

The lower image is courtesy of Inherit the Wind (1960 film) – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Gene Kelly as Hornbeck.”  The cast list included this note:  “Gene Kelly as E. K. Hornbeck of the Baltimore Herald (patterned after Henry L. Mencken).”  In fairness I add this:

[T]he film engages in literary license with the facts…  For example, Scopes (Bertram Cates) is shown being arrested in class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire-snorting preacher.  William Jennings Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady) is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a “busted belly” while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom.  The townspeople are shown as frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant. None of that happened in Dayton, Tennessee during the actual trial.

*   *   *   *

As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that the only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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…

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File:Louvin.jpg

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

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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 – tgm.org, 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 http://necspenecmetu.tumblr.com/post/15803982029/alexander-louis-leloir-jacob-wrestling-with-the

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…

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Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

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

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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 foundationszfk.ru.  

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…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Bizarro-statue-620

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lower image-slash-video is courtesy of Bizarro Jerry – WikiSein, the Seinfeld Encyclopediaseinfeld.wikia.com.*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  

On the Bible’s “erotic love poem…”

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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.”