Monthly Archives: July 2024

On “Dissin’ the Prez” – 2024

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Would King Solomon update Exodus 22:28, given changes to the Divine right of kings?

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

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. That includes the often-overlooked “mystic” side that answers the question, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance.(John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. (As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”) The fourth theme – another one often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did.(John 14:12.) 

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

July 16, 2024 – This year’s presidential election is less than four months away, meaning it’s time to re-examine Exodus 22:28. One translation reads, “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” In 2014 I took that to mean “don’t diss Obama,” who served as president at the time. But that situation changed after the 2016 election. It raised the question, “Does that apply if ‘the other side’ has disrespected ‘your’ Leader?”

I examined those issues in two previous posts, May 2014’s “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!,” and on November 13, 2016, An update on “dissin’ the Prez.” The 2014 post addressed those who disrespected Barack Obama. The 2016 post wondered if his supporters then had to respect Donald Trump, given Trump and his supporters showing little respect for Obama. And come next January 20, 2025 we may face the same issue yet again.

The 2014 post noted the Apostle Paul standing trial in Jerusalem before the Sanhedrin – the Hebrew “Supreme Court” – for preaching about Jesus. When he said he was just doing God’s work the high priest – Ananais – told a guard to “strike him on the mouth.” That’s when Paul made his rash comment, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit here to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck.”

Those standing nearby said, ‘Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.”’

Which to me brought up the irony of Conservative Christians who say the Bible must be interpreted literally, yet from 2008 to 2016 felt free to “speak evil” of Barack Obama.

In 2016 the tables got turned, or at least raised an interesting question: “Since conservatives spent the last eight years ‘cursing and reviling’ [Obama], are liberals – not to mention the majority who voted for Hillary Clinton – now free to do the same with Donald Trump?” All of which raises more questions. “Do we interpret 22:28 strictly or liberally?” Put another way, have there been changes since Moses wrote 22:28, changes that may affect how we interpret it? Put a third way, is there “something new under the sun” that could affect the interpretation?

That “something new under the sun” is a twist on Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” And if that’s true we need to interpret the statute literally, to say it’s wrong to disrespect any president.

But is it true that there’s “nothing new under the sun?” Let’s dig deeper.

We could check Ecclesiastes – Wikipedia, which talks about a man known by various names: Koheleth, Qoheleth or Qohelet, the “unnamed author [who] introduces ‘The words of Kohelet, son of David, king in Jerusalem.’” One thing seems certain, that many people disagree about the book’s message, whether it’s “positive and life-affirming, or deeply pessimistic; whether it is coherent or incoherent, insightful or confused, orthodox or heterodox.”

That doesn’t help much, but another article said the phrase (1:9) is “used as a world-weary complaint against life’s monotony. When Solomon wrote the statement, he was emphasizing the cyclic nature of human life on earth and the emptiness of living only for the ‘rat race.’” (Which seems true enough.) But see What does it mean that there is nothing new under the sun?

To say there is nothing new under the sun does not ignore inventions or advances in technology; rather, these innovations do not amount to any basic change in the world. In Solomon’s time, many advances took place in society, but, from the larger perspective of life, human nature has remained and always will remain the same.

Which seems to indicate some wiggle room here, which I suppose could come from a more “liberal translation?” (Since there have undeniably been been both new inventions and advances in technology.) And with that in mind, can we say that the President of the United States is a “leader of the country” as that term was interpreted when Moses wrote?

In plain words there have been big changes to this idea of “leader” since Moses wrote Exodus 22:28. See e.g. Divine right of kings, the idea that a king is not accountable to any earthly authority (such as a parliament) “because their right to rule is derived from divine authority. Thus, the monarch is not subject to the will of the people.” (Wikipedia.) But for one thing, “Catholic jurisprudence holds that the monarch is always subject to natural and divine law, which are regarded as superior to the monarch.” For another, starting in the 1500’s “both Catholic and Protestant political thinkers alike challenged the idea of a monarch’s ‘divine right.'”

Then there were things like the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence, which held that governments get their power “from the consent of the governed.” And that when any government “becomes destructive of these ends” – the right to life, liberty and pursuing happiness – “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” And finally the Preamble to the United States Constitution, starts with “We the People of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

See also Constitution 101: “the federal government was never meant to serve as anything more than an agent, exercising the specific powers delegated by the true sovereign – the people.”

Under the intended constitutional system, “we the people” hold the top position of authority… When an 18th century British king issued a grant, his name always appeared at the top in the same fashion. The framers merely replaced the king’s name with “We the People…” So, the ultimate and final authority always remains in the people.

So here indeed is “something new under the sun,” Qoheleth notwithstanding. 

Back in Bible times there was no such thing as voting and no such thing as an election, where ordinary people chose who would hold temporary power to serve their interests. Back in Bible times a leader held ultimate power, including the power of life and death over any and all of his subjects. Such a leader was a king or other dictator who served for life – or until a stronger king bumped him off. But in America the president is more like a plumber. He’s a hired hand who can serve the Sovereign People for no more than eight years. 

Which means what? Does Exodus 22:28 still apply, and if so “to whom?” One thing we do know, the Sovereign American People have the power to criticize and maybe even “diss” any president or other politician they have voted into temporary power. But what happens once they’ve made that choice, through a free and fair election? Once “the Sovereign has spoken?”

I’d say those January 6 rioters may well get pardoned by some earthly power in the coming days, but I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes when they meet their Maker

(“Let the reader understand.”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Ecclesiastes – Wikipedia: “‘King Solomon‘ in Old Age by Gustave Doré (1866), a depiction of the purported author of Ecclesiastes, according to rabbinic tradition.”

As to the headline see What Does Diss Mean? – Meaning, Uses and More – FluentSlang. One example: ““I don’t like him because he always disses me for expressing my opinion.” Also:

The term diss is slang that is used to insult, disrespect, or disregard someone. It can also be used as a noun to refer to receiving a “diss.” The word originated as a shortened version of “disrespect” and is commonly used in casual conversations and online interactions.

The Book of Common Prayer reference: The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Feast days” are designated days on the liturgical (church) calendar “set aside to commemorate events, saints, or doctrines that are important in the life of the Church. These can range from Solemnities, which are the highest-ranking feast days like Easter and Christmas, to optional memorials that celebrate lesser-known saints.” Feast Days: Celebrating the Church’s Calendar.

Re: Paul’s “whitewashed wall” comment and how he got out of it. In verses 6 and 7, he turned the tables: “Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.’ When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.”

The lower image is courtesy of Judgment Day … Image Results.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…  (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” 

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

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

Re: “mystical.” Originally, 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!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

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

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Other notes on the topic include two new gems from Commentaries on Exodus 22:28. One reads, “The gods of the heathen were uniformly, and with the utmost scorn. ‘reviled.'” Another Comment said the rule applies “even to all dignified persons, who ought not to be spoken ill of, and to be abused in the execution of their office, and especially when they perform well.

And as to a president serving no more than two terms, one earlier post had this: “Possibly less, if he ends up impeached and convicted. See AU Professor Predicts Trump’s Impeachment.”

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July 4, 2024 – and a “What would have happened?”

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One time when Moses almost got stoned. (Imagine if he’d had to run for re-election…)

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July 6, 2024 – For this post I’m going back 10 years, to the 2014 holiday just past, and The Bible readings for July 4, 2014. Also, from two days later, For Sunday of the July 4th weekend.

The morning of July 4, 2014, I sat “in a McDonald’s on Concord Pike northeast of Wilmington Delaware. (They have free Wifi.)” Later that day I posted, and the post mentioned – among other things – that “when any government or majority tries to influence the religious beliefs of others, they only ‘beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.'” My comment, “Sounds like it was written yesterday!” (The post also mentioned a note that it was “wrong for ‘fallible and uninspired men’ to try and establish their own view of religious truth as ‘the only true and infallible.'”)

Two days later I found myself riding a train north from New York City to Montreal. “That means I had to find my passport, and in the process I found [it] makes for some interesting reading.” That led me to what Steinbeck said about Freedom: (You know, the kind for everybody?)

…this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.  And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.  And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.  This is what I am and what I am about.

In other words, looking back ten years I remember the good things that happened.

But that process also brings up some questions: “What will life be like from now? In 2034, what good things will I recall about 2024?” There’s a lot we can hope for, but if past is prologue I’ll probably remember the good things and – hopefully – not think so much about the bad things. Which is pretty much how the Children of Israel thought about their time back in Egypt, when they were miserable slaves. And that brings up this question: “What would have happened if the ancient Hebrews had The Vote back when they were wandering in the Wilderness?”

One thing we know, they did a lot of complaining.

One example, Exodus 16:3, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Another? Numbers 11:5, “We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.” And also Numbers 16:13, “Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? Must you also appoint yourself as ruler over us?”

As such those ancient Hebrews may have been the first – in recorded history anyway – to fall prey to the Golden Age Fallacy. “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present.” And who falls prey to that fallacy? People who “find it difficult to cope with the present.”

And who was the “who” those people complained about? Moses, the agent of God who delivered them out of slavery. And here’s the thing: They did not sit around pots of meat and eat all the food they wanted in Egypt. And they did not eat freely of fish, along with cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. They were slaves, and they were given slave rations; just enough to keep them functioning, barely. As such they initially reveled in being set free, but then found out they couldn’t handle it. Being “free” was harder than they thought.

So they blamed Moses and looked back at a Golden Age that never was. As for “what if they could have voted,” we know they were ready to stone him. (Not in a good way.) That’s Numbers 14:10, “The whole assembly talked about stoning them.” And so if they had the choice they would have voted Moses out of office and gone back to a time they remembered as better.

But a free people doesn’t go back in time, and especially not to a “better time that never was.” Which brings up that passport and a quote I found on pages 16-17, attributed to Teddy Roosevelt:  “This is a new nation, based on a mighty continent, of endless possibilities.” Get that? “Endless possibilities.” (Including the possibility that being free is sometimes hard work.)

But to get to that land of endless possibilities, our ancestors – the people with gumption and nerve – had to leave behind the old and corrupt ways of where they came from. (Another way of saying “conservative types,” but that’s a subject for later posts.) Which brings up the last quote, on page 28 of my passport, from the late astronaut Ellison Onizuka:

Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds . . . to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.

But to me that’s just another way of saying, “Sing to the Lord a new song,” not a stale rehash of times past. A way of saying you can’t “live up to, fulfill or implement” the promise of the American Dream if you interpret the Constitution – or the Bible – in a closed, narrow, or “strict” way. The bottom line? Our duty as Americans – especially Christian Americans – is to foster those endless possibilities of freedom, even if they also benefit some people we don’t especially like. Let’s not go back in time, so we can look forward to a Happy July 4th in 2034…

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 Ellison Shoji Onizuka, American astronaut – and philosopher…

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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, 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 BotticelliSistine ChapelRome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia

The Book of Common Prayer reference: The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Feast days” are designated days on the liturgical (church) calendar “set aside to commemorate events, saints, or doctrines that are important in the life of the Church. These can range from Solemnities, which are the highest-ranking feast days like Easter and Christmas, to optional memorials that celebrate lesser-known saints.” Feast Days: Celebrating the Church’s Calendar.

“What Steinbeck wrote.” See Quote by John Steinbeck. (It wasn’t in the passport.)

Re: Golden Age Fallacy. See also Good old days – RationalWiki, on “remembering only the positive aspects of times past while sweeping concomitant negatives under the rug.”

On Moses’ unpopularity, see On Moses getting stoned, from January 2016. And one possibly-relevant observation from the past, from a book I’m reading now, “it’s a truism in politics that early front-runners are more vulnerable to slipping…” To Rescue the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876, by Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney, Chapter 10, “The Bitter Divide.”

As to singing a new song to the Lord, see for example Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.

Re: Lower photo, Ellison Onizuka (1946-1986) was an American astronaut “from KealakekuaHawaii, who successfully flew into space with the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-51-C. He died in the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger, on which he was serving as Mission Specialist for mission STS-51-L. He was the first Asian-American to reach space.” See Ellison Onizuka – Wikipedia. His image is courtesy of that article. 

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