Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Break...from blogging

Things are super-busy for me right now and probably won't let up until the after the New Year.

So, I am simply going to take a break from reading, commenting, and blogging for the most part.

Be well and have a Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Soccer Pics

The Rationalist is the furthest kid on the left in the orange Jersey. His team was so evenly matched with the opposing team that the entire game went by with no goals on either side.....several near misses for both teams...but no points. They each had good goalies defending the goal.

The Rationalist, while being much smaller than everyone else on his team, always makes a few good strategic moves in getting the ball away from the opposing team. He is a good support member and always gives it his best shot.

The Intuitive got to try his hand at being goalie for the second half of his game. His team is a lot like the Bad New Bears of the soccer league.

However, even though his team lost by several points, The Intuitive did make several important saves that kept the defeat from being even worse.

He was very pleased with himself.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Fourteenth Apostle

I have become convinced that as far as Evangelicals are concerned, C.S. Lewis is officially the Fourteenth Apostle of the Christian church, St. Paul being the thirteenth.

Countless conversations that delve deeply into theology that I have been involved in will inevitably have someone bring Lewis into the picture, with a quote from one of his essays, or more commonly a reference to one of his novels, be it the space trilogy, or the Narnia series, or The Screwtape Letters.

He has affected the way modern, Protestant, Christians think and express themselves so deeply that most don't even realize the debt that they owe him.

Most interesting to me is the way that Lewis' stories have resonated with Christians and, sometimes, seem to carry a general authority in their portrayals. Conversations about hell will have someone quoting The Last Battle or The Great Divorce. Discussions about temptation or spiritual warfare will have someone referring to Screwtape and Wormwood.

Lewis' work has become so absorbed that there is no self-consciousness in even mentioning it within the context of theology and practical church matters. No one seems concerned with the fact that these concepts come from fictitious fantasy novels.

My point is not demote the stories' importance....but to turn that observation to something else.

Lewis' work successfully captures the imagination because he has taken our sacred stories and made them bigger . He has expanded ideas about God, mankind and salvation and sewn them into other dimensions and worlds. He has left the door open for a future that might indeed be perplexing to us; worlds with sentient, alien life, worlds with talking beasts, and dimensions of a reality just outside of our senses.

Whether those worlds do, or even could, exist is irrelevant. What is relevant is that he provides a way for us to imagine how it might be, or could be...and that speaks to people in powerful ways.

Jeff Dunn, over at internetmonk.com, has a post up about his disappointment with the newly released Voyage of the Dawn Treader. His disappointment is almost completely tied into his assessment that the theology of the book was somehow lost in translation in the making of the film. In a strange way his severe reaction highlights the weight given to Lewis' work, because although most book-lovers are frequently dissatisfied with movie renderings, few are so upset at the loss of meaning that he attributes to the rendering. He even goes on to discuss how a portrayal from the book has changed his life, or given him hope.

This jogged my memory of another post at internetmonk in July in which a father recounts reading a passage of Lewis to his children, barely able to keep from breaking down at the emotional impact it had on him after he had received bad news about his daughter's health. His post so closely identifies Jesus with Aslan, that I found it startling.

Part of my former evangelical self read his post disapprovingly. The more liberal part of me recognized that what this man was doing was what all people in all times do...they use the stories that convey deep meaning to their lives...stories that may, or may not, be literally true, factual stories.

This is a strange mixture of things. In circles in which people feel the necessity to defend the literalness of the biblical stories, there are also people who are incredibly touched by a modern fictitious story which they know is not true, but which has been equated as a valid representation of the sacred story.

This is how cultures incorporate and systematize their symbols, through the broad acceptance and reliance on particular distillations that speak to a particular group.

In my fanciful moments, I wonder if 500 years from now,--after more authors have continued to study and read Lewis and write books about him, and his influence continues to grow within Christianity--Lewis' work and symbols will be so ubiquitous that Jesus will be represent as a lion with a full mane.

And...I wonder what future generations would think of such a development.

Friday, December 10, 2010

DH's Links

DH sends me links all the time. I keep telling him he needs his own blog to feature the things he sends me...but he hasn't taken me up on the idea.

Here are a few links from him:

Dr. Seuss animates Star Wars

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tax Cuts and Unemployment

So...let me get this straight. Republicans and Tea Party members who were overwhelmingly elected on a platform of cutting spending because of the doomsday scenario of our debt and deficit....are OK with extending unemployment benefits with money that we don't actually have.

And...Democrats are willing to not raise taxes, or revert them back to pre-Bush era rates, even though they know there is no way to dig ourselves out of debt until we bring in more income into the government in order to pay for things that we have already bought.

This is the worst of both worlds and part of why our country is so screwed up.

Politicians are not capable of unflinchingly doing what needs to be done. Either keep the tax cuts and don't continue to spend money we don't have....or spend money to alleviate the financial woes of the citizenry and raise taxes to help pay for it.

This makes Republican leaders look bad because it seems as if they are really only concerned with saving people within their own tax brackets from paying into the system.

It makes Democrats look bad because it seems like they are willing to just spend and spend and spend money that we don't have.

I don't think this is what "bipartisanship" is supposed to look like.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Instinctual Response


Today, as I was walking to pick up the kids from school, I encountered a little, blond hellion of a boy who had just spit on another child and was inciting general violence. It wasn't his first time. I've caught him kicking and hitting at the same group of kids in the past as the sidewalk streams with kids on their way home.

This afternoon, without thinking, I caught him right after he had spit on another child and was dashing away.....and by "caught" I mean that I swooped my arms out and physically stopped him.

Automatic reflex. I didn't even think about it.

He began talking about how the other kids had said something mean to he and his sister on the "first day"...whatever that meant. I replied that it's not OK to spit on people, or hit them, or kick them just because they say mean things. I told his sister, who was older, to take him home and make sure that he stayed away form the other group of kids.

They left, and I finished walking to the school thinking to myself that I had done a really stupid thing by physically stopping the boy. I didn't grab him, or roughly handle him, but I did stop him. And....it's never a great idea to touch another person's child, no matter how completely awful they're being or how gentle the touch.

As I wondered whether or not I had made a huge mistake in intervening in the situation, I figured that I had better talk to one of the teachers and let them know what has been going on for some time.

This is when things get slightly worse. I approached the PE teacher, "Coach", and asked if he knew these children, who I described as a short, little, blond boy and went on to describe his older sister as taller, with blond hair and who is a little bit chubby.

Let's see...how could this go wrong?

Well, in the midst of my description, I hear a woman from about 5 feet away say, "Those are my children!"

Open mouth, insert foot. I hadn't said anything horrible, but who wants their child described in terms of being a "little bit chubby"?

I told the mother what had happened and she left pretty quickly, saying that she was looking for her children anyway.

Later, I went to the office and spoke with the Assistant Principal and told her about the escalating incidents and she took some notes and said that she would work on it.

Now I am sitting here wondering if this is all going to backfire on me and if I am going to have an irate mother in my face tomorrow.

Hopefully, she won't spit in my face and run away.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Meaning of Jesus..some thoughts

I finished reading The Meaning of Jesus; Two Visions, by Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright.

Readers will remember that this was one of four books that I added to an impressive reading list. I have yet to finish, or even start, the other three, though I did renew them. Hope springs eternal, I guess.

The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions is a point/counterpoint book compiled of essays from Borg and Wright addressing Jesus' view of himself, his birth, his death and resurrection, the Second Coming and what it means to live a Christian life.

They mostly disagree, except when they don't. ;-)

I should end the review thusly.

Except, I won't because although the point/counterpoint did get a little tedious and bogged down sometimes, the book provoked several reactions in me.

I will admit that I am generally sympathetic to Borg's views and I anticipated that I would read his thoughts and find what I was looking for, a way to keep Jesus even as more and more of what I used to think of as literal truth seems to be slipping through my fingers. For the most part, I liked what he had to say, though there were times when even I couldn't take the vague, wishy-washy stances that would pop up. Even as I drift toward Progressive(?) or Liberal(?) Christianity, I still get irritated at the lack of conviction and certainty that I encounter. It's part of my make-up. I want to know what THE TRUTH is and plant my flag there. However, everyone has a different map and idea about where that location is, so I just wander around hoping that I am at least in the general vicinity.

It bugs me to no end.

I had previously tried to read N.T Wright's Surprised by Hope, but could never get past the first few chapters. He simply couldn't hold my interest in that book. I think that was partly due to the fact that I was very busy during the time that I was trying to read it. One other reason was that I couldn't read Wright without hearing C.S. Lewis. I've already read much of Lewis' work, so the unmistakeable voice echoing in Wright was quite familiar. The points about "chronological snobbery", the criticism of Enlightenment thinking, the reliance on Lewis' apologetic moves, they all seemed to be Lewis simply refitted and fine-tuned. I guess that's fine, but if I wanted to hear Lewis' point of view, I would read Lewis.

Curious if I was spot-on in my estimation of Wright, I decided to see if I could find out more about whether Wright credits Lewis as an influence and came across this article in which Wright both praises and criticizes Lewis. (I'm always surprised when I am right about something that I guessed intuitively.)

After finishing the book, I pondered an idea that has occurred to me before but I have had difficulty formulating into words.

Wright works mightily to put Jesus in a historical, literal, very Jewish context. He attempts to situate Jesus as a faithful Jew going against a corrupted form of Israel and Jewish religion. His interpretation is that Israel's desire for a national redemption, not unlike previous ones they had experienced through exile and return, was the wrong desire. Then, he claims that Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom of God were meant to portray a new way for Israel to "be Israel".

As Wright goes through his argument, I feel this version of Jesus who is concerned about "Israel" and who is trying to get Israel to become the light of the world by supplanting the current Temple and its administration with subversive truths, to be lacking appeal and cohesion for me, personally.


A Jesus who is trying to get Israel to "be Israel" in a new way, or what I think Wright implies, in the real way it was always intended to "be Israel", is a Jesus who ultimately failed. After the first wave of Jewish conversions, Judaism and Christianity split apart and Israel, as a historical, physical people, does not decide to take Jesus up on his offer.

Wright's literal, historical, mostly orthodox view of Jesus completely undermines any sense that Jesus accomplished what he wanted to accomplish.

In addressing the divinity of Jesus, Wright writes:
I do not think Jesus "knew he was God" in the same sense that one knows one is tired or happy, male or female. He did not sit back and say to himself,"Well, I never! I'm the second person of the Trinity!" Rather, as part of his human vocation, grasped in faith, sustained in prayer, tested in confrontation, agonized over in further prayer and doubt, and implemented in action, he believed he had to do and be, for Israel and the world, that which according to scripture only YHWH himself could do and be.
This ties in with my previous thought. Does presenting a Jesus who doesn't "know" that he is God help or hurt Wright's orthodoxy? I mean, he's presenting a Jesus who seems to be interested in getting Israel to behave and act in a certain "true" way, one which is quite different than the way Israel had seen itself throughout Scripture and history, and yet he seems to not "know" that he is God in the trinitarian sense with which many orthodox Christians are familiar.

It's unsettling.

Borg, on the other hand, presents Jesus as a Jewish mystic who was more connected with God than the average person, while simultaneously denying the literal resurrection, as it is normally understood and presented. Borg's Jesus seems bigger than Wright's Jesus even though Wright represents traditional Christian doctrine far more closely than Borg.

It has a strange effect upon me, this idea that tying Jesus into a very specific, historical mode, complete with a representative, 1st century mindset, somehow makes him less "real" to me than Borg's ethereal, metaphorical understanding of Jesus.

I'll post more on this later because I'm not quite done thinking it through.

Leaked Cables

Perhaps this is premature, because there is no telling what else is going to come out on Wikileaks, but I am completely underwhelmed by the leaked cables. Some of them are nothing more than pointed snark and gossip and the type of "inside" comments and politics that most of us suspect goes on, but never see publicly proclaimed.

Surely we don't believe that diplomats around the world play "nice" in everything they say and do.

Ahmadinejad — who was referred to as Adolf Hitler in one of the cables, just one of many slights made against him by other leaders in the region — called the documents “worthless” and an act of “mischief” by Iran’s enemies, an attempt to undermine Iran’s relationship with its Arab neighbors.

“They’re so worthless I don’t even want to waste time talking about them,” Ahmadinejad told an audience of journalists at previously scheduled press conference in Tehran on Monday.
Interesting response from a usually over-the-top personality. Maybe the realization that it's not just the US who has been against him, his regime, and the possibility of a nuclear Iran has shaken him up a bit.

It's never pleasant to find out what your "friends" and "neighbors" really think of you.

I think some of these revelations might actually help US foreign policy move forward. When the US is dealing with countries like Saudi Arabia who don't want to make their stances known publicly, it makes it seem as if the US is acting out of its own limited zeitgeist, rather than moving forward at the prompting of other nations.

The flip side of all of this is realizing how other countries can influence the US without the general citizenry knowing about it. When the Middle Eastern countries acknowledge that they lie to each other, what does it mean about the things that they say to us? And....if Saudi Arabia is so concerned about a nuclear Iran...why does it try to make the US do its bidding? They get to keep their hands clean and their money secure in a set-up like that, while the US continues to go bankrupt trying to police the world.

We have put ourselves in the position of "holding a wolf by the ears" in the Middle East. We can't let it go, and we can't keep holding it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

TSA Promotional Bumper Stickers

So bad...so funny!

Blogging Advice

James F. McGrath has pointers on how to know if you have a blogging problem, and how to know if you are a responsible blog owner.

Prescient points for all of us bloggers.

Your readers know that you blog in your underwear...right?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010!

So much to be grateful for...Family, Friends, Good Health, Being Employed, Not Suffering Any Imminent Disasters....it's all good for right now.

Our family is celebrating small this year, having already had an early Thanksgiving Day this weekend with the rest of our family.

For our small, family dinner we are breaking tradition and having ham instead of turkey...though we're still making orange/cranberry relish...because we like it!

The kids have already helped make a pumpkin pie, discovering along the way that putting undiluted ground ginger powder in your mouth is not a great idea. ;-)

I hope you all have a wonderful day of good times, fellowship and eating....maybe a few board games after everyone recovers from stuffing themselves.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Having cancer at a relatively young age changed me in several ways. One of the things that it did was that it revamped the seriousness with which I viewed my health choices and the power I had, and didn't have, to control my body.

In many ways, I had no control over what happened to me. There were probably thousands, hundreds of thousands, of 33 year old women who were about the same height, weight, and had the same health status(no known health issues) as I did when I developed cancer...and yet they didn't develop it and I did.


Genetics, maybe? Environmental circumstances or exposure to unknown factors, perhaps? A failure of my immune system to kill developing cancer cells, possibly? Bad luck?

Who knows?

However, having been through treatment and researched the disease extensively, I came to realize that even though I may not have ever been able to completely prevent myself from having cancer, I could have an effect on my chances of recurrence, or at the very least, in delaying a recurrence.

You fight the type of cancer I had by fighting it one day at a time over a very long period of time. Chemo is not highly effective against this particular type of cancer, because it is slower-growing and relies on the natural hormones that a normal woman's body produces.

The most effective strategy is to starve any unidentified cancer cells that might exist by taking an anti-hormonal treatment in pill form, once a day, for five years. That's 1,825 pills.

Another effective strategy is to engage in physical exercise for at least 3-4 hours every week consistently, for the long term. Studies have shown that this can reduce recurrence rates by another 30%-50%.

This is why I run, and also why I have lost about 25 pounds over the last 2 years...with unfortunately much more to go.

It has been a long, slow process to get into well enough shape in order to be able to run 3-3.5 miles several times a week. My weight loss has also been painstakingly slow. I will go through weeks and months sometimes without losing a single ounce, but because the exercise is useful in fighting off recurrence, even without losing weight, I persevere through the discouragement of working so hard and not seeing the scale move.

Inevitably, what happens is that after a couple months of no real progress, I will lose several pounds in a week, or my running time will dramatically get better even though I am simply doing the same things I have been doing for the last two years.

The progress comes in fits and starts after long periods of never-ending plateaus.

It has taught me something that I always knew, but never fully appreciated; great things are done in small, consistent steps over long stretches of time.

There are no shortcuts to anything worthwhile in life.

Want to be a good parent? Show up every day for 18 years.

Want to become a great musician? Practice every day and make a point to learn more every day.

Want to have a good relationship? Continue to consistently try to care for and support the other person/friend/spouse.

One or two impressive incidents don't take the place the of consistently trying, or faithfully working at something.

The same holds true for finances. After my dad passed away, we had hoped that we would be able to sell his house and use that money to become debt-free and save the rest. That dream was quickly dashed. Now, as we rent out he house, even that has turned into a long-term investment, not a huge money-maker, especially after taxes, insurance and normal repair costs. Yet, over the course of 5-10-15 years, the house has the potential to provide a huge cumulative profit.

Slow and steady. Bit by bit.

That is how a life is built. That is how hard tasks get done. That is how health is reclaimed.

Endless toil without many immediate results.

Very exciting, no?!

No, not exciting, but true. And, it has never been more true to me.

If there is something that you want to change in your life, or a goal you want to accomplish, you must simply take a step toward it, even if it is a small step.

Live your life. Enjoy it along the way.

Just be sure to take the one, little, daily step in the middle of everything else.

Eventually, it adds up.

Even DH has become proof of this. He started his Master's degree at the end of my cancer treatment, and right before my father died. It was chaos for him those first few semesters while I was still recovering and we were dealing with my father's death and lawyers and fixing a termite destroyed house on the weekends in our "spare time".

And yet, he still took classes and did the work and two years have passed.....leaving only this last one before he will have completed it.

Day in, day out, and before you know it...he'll be done.

That's my self-help advice for today. Don't use it all up at once.

False Security

If I hear one more person say, "Well, as long as it makes us safer.." in regard to full-body scanners and invasive security pat-downs, I think my head will explode.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Wrong, because there is no proof that these methods are making us safer. Wrong, because people with medical conditions or prostheses or ostomy bags shouldn't have to go through further humiliation and extreme screening, something I posted about ages ago. Wrong, because children, elderly people, those trying to avoid extra radiation, and the religiously modest should not have to be subjected to these tactics.

These latest security developments are an illusion. They make us feel as if the government is proactively protecting us. Unfortunately, the government can't protect us from crazy people; people who would plot and scheme and attempt to kill themselves and others at the command of a leader who is no doubt safely hiding in a cave somewhere. There is no protection against the highly motivated killer.

That is why we are so terrified by serial killers, and random acts of violence from lone gunmen, and school shootings...because we know that we have almost no control over them. Death can come for us unexpectedly and without cause.

America...you have temporarily lost your senses!!

Freedom has a cost....and the cost is not invasive governmental intrusion...the cost is the risk that someone, somewhere, might do something bad that harms you, might make a choice that is not beneficial to you.

If you are not willing to assume that risk, then you are not willing to live free.

When we were discussing this, DH said to me, "Just imagine how much worse it would be if a terrorist incident actually occurred."

"How could it be worse?" I replied.

Seriously, what would be the next step? Cavity searches?

When the next level involves actual nudity, instead of virtual nudity, it's a sign that the train has gone off the rails.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brand New Key--The Original Song

Stream of Consciousness Post...because I'm too lazy to organize a real post.

JS Allen has a post up about Moral Intuitions with some interesting studies, which he refers to in the context of a discussion about PST.

The post made me wonder if one of the defining characteristics of human nature is the ability to make choices, to live beyond mere instinct. In many ways, that reflects a very Genesis-like thought. The Human story doesn't quite take shape until the humans make a choice. And that choice leads them to the ability to know more than they did beforehand and to make more choices, good and evil choices. And that is then broadened to humanity, in general.

For some reason, when I was asking myself this, the story from Jubilees that portrays the animals in the Garden of Eden as possessing speech, before The Fall, popped into my head. Maybe because I was thinking about what it was that made humans more than merely animals. Speech came to mind.

Something else that occurred to me....that humans care, emotionally speaking, for animals. Do other animals care for animals outside of their species? Animals that seem to express caring for other species are usually animals that have been habituated by humans, dogs especially.

Although KoKo, the gorilla, comes to mind because she was allowed to have cats as pets, which, as far as I know, she never harmed. She also was being taught how to communicate with humans....so maybe language acquisition and inter-species emotional bonds are connected?

Or maybe I am grasping at straws.

Still, the point is that Genesis, even for someone like myself who no longer thinks that Adam was a literal person but was a metaphor for humankind, is full of the very same questions and theories that we pose to ourselves, or at least that I pose to myself, today.
Just posting this because The Rationalist thinks it's hilarious....and I can't stop singing the song.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

More Blogroll Additions

Like a Child--A mom of two writing about her doubts and beliefs and science background and how they're interacting in her life.

Lower Wisdom--JS Allen's blog about mainly religious ideas and epistemology.

Think and Wonder. Wonder and Think...--Another mom, and also a psychologist, working through her religious and scientific thoughts

He's a Good Blog--jackscrow's blog on mostly political themes

Dr. X--Dr. X's blog on Psychology and other interesting topics

I'm always open to blog linking. Sometimes I just get too lazy or forgetful to update my list of blogs that I frequent, or interact with. If I missed anyone who wants a link...leave a comment.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Grammar, Shmammar

"From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put."

-Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paul and Adam Redux

While responding to a comment on my Adam post a few weeks ago, I was reminded that I wanted to say something more about Paul and his use of Adam theologically.

Most of what I have to say is pretty obvious....but I never let that keep me from talking! ;-)

In trying to understand why Adam seems to be absent from the Old Testament, outside of Genesis, I realized a very obvious thing....Israel didn't care about theological issues that encompassed the entire world. They weren't trying to find a way to make everything fit together, to understand what God was going to do with everyone else on earth.

That wasn't their concern.

Their primary goal was to uphold their particular chosen tribe in what they saw as the ways of God. Because their religious narrative involved God choosing Abraham and blessing his physical descendants, or at least those descended from Isaac, they had no reason to worry themselves about pagans, Gentiles, or outsiders.

This shows up in their slavery laws and in their wars with surrounding nations.

God had made his choice. The other nations were only receiving whatever judgement they deserved. Israel was God's path to blessing or cursing the nations according to many of their Scriptures.

As a result, tracing all of humanity back to a literal Adam would have been relatively meaningless for their theological perspective.

What Paul does with Adam is actually quite ingenious. By bringing Adam into the picture and making his comparison to Jesus, Paul declares a new creation that resets humanity back at an equal starting place. Suddenly, being Jewish holds no special privileges. Anyone can be accepted by God and equally receive his favor.

In Romans, Paul equivocates, speculating that God's promises to Israel which have been extended to all, might be even greater if Israel, as a whole, accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Even Paul is not willing to completely close the door on Israelites. So, while developing a theology that is wide open to pagans and Gentiles, he still hopes that Israel will have a special place with God.

However, the point is that Paul uses the figure of Adam in a way that permits everyone to participate in the Kingdom of God.

This is always Paul's mission--to bring the Gentiles in, to declare that all are welcome.

Paul uses the same technique in Galatians when he turns the idea of Abraham's seed completely on its head and gives it a novel interpretation:
7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
He's doing the same thing he did with Adam, taking a figure from the Scriptures and using it to persuade others that God really did want everyone on board.

I'm left with the feeling that I usually have for Paul, annoyance that he so boldly moves forward in new directions, with what I would think are less than pure exegetical moves, and admiration that he could find a way to make it work and admiration for the general thrust of trying to open the doors as wide as possible for everyone.

The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Sarah Palin.

Why are you so obnoxious? I mean, in a country where almost 20% of children ages 6-11 suffer from obesity, not from being overweight, but from being so overweight as to be classified as obese, what will it take for people to realize that we need institutional change?

Oh. It's so much more fun to be a smartass, and dismiss the serious problems our children are facing by making snide comments and using a proactive solution as a platform for you to amuse yourself and get a few laughs.

Absolutely Hilarious.

Or, at least, you think you are.

I would just like to say that school board members and state representatives are elected by the people to represent us. And that it isn't nanny-state officials trying to control every aspect of our children's lives that would love to see schools outlaw the excess sweets.

Supposedly, parents should decide what their kids eat. And that is completely correct.

And yet, most parents send their kids off to school and have no way to interrupt the constant stream of cookies, cakes and candy fed to our children while they are at school.
Having had a child come home frequently having been given candy as a reward for academic achievement, having eaten a giant sugar cookie from his classmate's birthday celebration, and also having had a piece of cake served to him at lunch, because every time a teacher has a birthday the whole lunchroom gets a piece of cake made by the lunch ladies, I can say that limiting sweets given to our kids at school would not limit my control as a parent but would strengthen it.

Not to mention the school selling lollipops to kids as a way to raise money.

One more thing. Parents do decide these issues....by voting for people who they think represent their opinions.

That is what representative government is all about. We elect who we want. We give them the power to enact our wishes. We have the opportunity to speak out. We have the opportunity to elect someone else.

Actually, taking a local, state issue and trying to use for your "national" platform just shows that you don't really believe that local parents and communities should have the power to set their own standards.

/rant over

Good-Bye Imagined Coolness

I now officially qualify for the term "soccer mom".

Well, I was never very cool to begin with.

Both the boys had a lot of fun. The Intuitive's coach was laid back and said he was more interested in the kids having fun. He was good with the kids and has his own son on the team. Many of them are like The Intuitive, and this is their first soccer experience, so he was appropriately gentle with them.

The Rationalist's coach was tough. It's an under 12 team, an older group than The Intuitive's, and they were all business. The coach wasn't mean, but he worked them really hard.

The Rationalist is going to be sore today!

Once I learn how to take better pictures at night, I'll post something that isn't incredibly blurry.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Everyone knows that you don't go grocery shopping when you're starving. You wind up with a cartload of cookies, chips, and the trimmings for a five course meal followed by dessert.

It's a bad idea.

I realized the other day that I hadn't actually read a book in a few months. I still do quite a bit of reading online, blogs, news, and online magazines, but those are temporary bites and not a full cohesive meal.

During our weekly trip to the library, this is what I picked out:

Doubt, by Jennifer Michael Hecht (Michael as a woman's middle name?)

Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

Jung, A Biography by Gerhard Wehr

The Meanings of Jesus; Two Visions by Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright.

I'm not sure what I was thinking. I must have imagined that I was some dusty, old Englishman holed up in a study overflowing with books, and dominated by a mahogany desk full of important papers with a strategically placed desk light illuminating all that I cared to read.

I am not an Englishman, and I have neither desk, nor desk light.

Never go to the library looking for a good book to read that will stretch your mind.

Or else you'll wind up like me, preparing to run a mental marathon when I'm only in 5K shape.

Plus, it makes you realize what a complete and utter affecting person your are. I mean, who does this? Who so overestimates their mental capacity and commitment to learning that they actually take several minutes to consider what they are picking out to read and thinks to themselves,"Yeah...I can totally do this!"

I do get some sort of credit just for checking them out, right? Like, there must be some sort of mental osmosis of knowledge that come from merely handling books like these and reading the dust jacket, right?


Monday, November 01, 2010

The Haul

Agents Ninja Storm and Boba Fett suited up and headed out to expedite the assigned mission of accumulating the proper nutritional and energy sources for the next six months. In order to be independent of the influence of the sugar-producing conglomerates planning to take over the world, it was essential that the agents secure supplies for the foreseeable future.

Our agents were highly successful.

They will continue to be used in the field once they have recovered from Sugar Intoxication Syndrome.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Recent Comments?

Hmm...my recent comments widget seems to only be displaying not-so-recent comments. I've found that a little delay is normal on blogger blogs, but some of the comments are almost a day old.

Any advice out there?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ai can haz minipulations pleez?

I don't quite remember where I found this because I was hop, skip and jump-ing through the blogosphere. I can't help but marvel at the shamelessness with which this speaker advocates manipulating Amazon reviews of liberal books to be low and conservative books to be high....along with movie reviews that may have political influence.

Rotten to the core is this kind of activity....says Yoda.

A good reminder not to believe everything you read or see on the internets.

The Tower of Babel

Random thought.

How insightful was the author of Genesis to make the observation that humans with the ability to communicate and be understood by one and all could be stopped by almost nothing?

In thinking about the story of the Tower of Babel, it occurred to me that the author is not only offering an explanation for how there came to be different languages and cultures, because God made it happen that way, but why there came to be different languages, because God was afraid that nothing would be able to stop humanity.
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
It's interesting that God is depicted as a character who willfully causes confusion rather than one who brings clarity to humanity. It's almost a back-handed compliment to humans that God would care about what they could achieve.

I am rather enchanted by the idea that whoever wrote this bit of Genesis saw the potential humanity had and the power it could wield if it were able to work together with a common language and culture.

Not too shabby of an insight for an ancient!

***updated miscellaneous thought****

There always seems to be a trace of this "God against Humans" tone in many of the Genesis stories, with the implication that God has something to fear from us. Maybe that's a subtle way for the author/authors to soothe themselves with the image of humanity as God's rival? Maybe that makes living in an imperfect world in which humans have little control a little easier?

Because...if God is actively thwarting us because He's trying to keep us from becoming too powerful, then we are simultaneously validated in our sense of worth, while also being relieved of the ability to make things perfect.

Who can win against God?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Paul and the Book of Jubilees

This isn't as much of a post as a quick note to myself and solicitation to others who might know more about the subject.

In the midst of reading a blog post and its comments which are tangentially related to my Adam post, I went off searching for an online version of The Book of Jubilees so that I could understand one of the commenter's comments.

After reading just a little bit of it, I thought to myself,"Gosh...this seems awfully familiar to me." Besides the fact that it is simply rehashing parts of Genesis and Exodus into a single coherent narrative, I realized that some of the things that I had been taught about Genesis and Moses came from The Book of Jubilees. For instance, earlier in my Christian college days, I was taught that Moses wrote all 5 books of the Pentateuch, receiving Genesis as a divine revelation, just as it is depicted in Jubilees.

I had also heard frequently that Cain's wife was his sister, and that all of Adam and Eve's children married each other. That's also from Jubilees:
And Cain took Awan his sister to be his wife and she bare him Enoch at the close of the fourth jubilee. [190-196 A.M.] And in the first year of the first week of the fifth jubilee, [197 A.M.] houses were built on the earth, and Cain built a city, and called its name after the name of
10, 11 his son Enoch. And Adam knew Eve his wife and she bare yet nine sons. And in the fifth week of the fifth jubilee [225-31 A.M.] Seth took
Azura his sister to be his wife, and in the fourth (year of the sixth
12,13 week) [235 A.M.] she bare him Enos. He began to call on the name of the Lord on the earth. And in the seventh jubilee in the third week [309-15 A.M.] Enos took Noam his sister to be his wife, and she bare him a son
14 in the third year of the fifth week, and he called his name
Kenan. And at the close of the eighth jubilee [325, 386-3992 A.M.] Kenan took Mualeleth his sister to be his wife, and she bare him a son in the ninth jubilee,

But that's not all...while reading chapter 3 of Jubilees, I realized that much of what Paul says about Adam and Eve and the theological implications of their Fall comes from Jubilees:
It is not
5 good that the man should be alone: let us make a
helpmeet for him.' And the Lord our God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him, and he slept, and He took for the woman one rib from amongst
6 his ribs, and this rib was the origin of the woman from amongst his ribs, and He built up the flesh in its stead, and built the woman. And He
awaked Adam out of his sleep and on awaking he rose on the sixth day, and He brought her to him, and he knew her, and said unto her: 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called
7 [my] wife; because she was taken from her husband.' Therefore shall man and wife be one and therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they shall be
8 one flesh. In the first week was Adam created, and the rib -his wife: in the second week He showed her unto him: and for this reason the commandment was given to keep in their defilement,
9 for a male seven days, and for a female twice seven days. And after Adam had completed forty days in the land where he had been created, we brought him into the garden of Eden to till and keep it, but his wife they brought in on the eightieth day, and after this she entered into the garden
10 of Eden. And for this reason the commandment is written on the heavenly tablets in regard to her that gives birth: 'if she bears a male, she shall remain in her uncleanness seven days according to the first week of days, and thirty and three days shall she remain in the blood of her purifying, and she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor enter into the sanctuary, until she accomplishes these
11 days which (are enjoined) in the case of a male child. But in the case of a female child she shall remain in her uncleanness two weeks of days, according to the first two weeks, and sixty-six days
12 in the blood of her purification, and they will be in all eighty days.' And when she had completed these eighty days we brought her into the garden of Eden, for it is holier than all the earth besides and
13 every tree that is planted in it is holy.

This passage reinforces the idea that Eve is somehow less than Adam in the way that it emphasizes that Eve is made from part of Adam and is "his" wife. It also, interestingly, ties in the idea of a "period of defilement" for both male and female, thought at this point in the story both Adam and Eve are supposed to be innocent and perfect.

Later, when Eve eats the forbidden fruit, it is cast in a more deliberate, accusatory tone. In this version Eve eats the fruit and has enough time and forethought to clothe herself with fig leaves and then go out and find Adam in order to entice him to eat the fruit also.
And the woman saw the tree that it was agreeable and pleasant to the eye, and that its fruit
21 was good for food, and she took thereof and eat.
And when she had first covered her shame with figleaves, she gave thereof to Adam and he eat, and his eyes were opened, and he saw that he was
22 naked.
And he took figleaves and sewed (them) together, and made an apron for himself, and23, 24 covered his shame
The version in Genesis is more generous. In that version, Adam and Eve are together and both of their eyes are opened at the same time. They are co-conspirators, not predator and victim.
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
The Book of Jubilees is usually dated somewhere around the 2nd century BCE, quite some time before Paul and his use of Adam and Eve as theological sources. By the time it's been around for a couple of hundred years, it no doubt has authority for Paul and was something he would have been familiar with. It isn't much of a stretch to see how he would/could incorporate the underlying attitudes about Adam and Eve into his epistles and teachings.

Which makes for an interesting conundrum. What do we do with Paul's Creation Theology if it is based almost entirely on the slant of a particular ancient text which is not considered authoritative in either the Catholic, or Protestant tradition?

I do have to revise some of what I wrote yesterday. I wasn't thinking outside of the Old and New Testaments, when I said that Adam was absent. Because, although he is completely absent in what the constitutes the authoritative, Christian, Old Testament canon, that doesn't mean he was absent from the general thought-life of 1st century Judaism.

So...perhaps it isn't that Paul drags up a long-lost relative, creating a relatively novel theology. Maybe, instead, he is simply incorporating what he has been taught about Adam and Eve through texts and traditions outside of what we think of as authoritative Scripture.

Humanities in the Real World

HT: from DH's reading of InsideHigherEd

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adam, the Long-Lost Relative

In one of my recent posts I glancingly refer to Genesis and evolution and the theological impact that is implied by reading the Creation Story through literary lenses. If evolution is true, then viewing the story of Adam and Eve as a documentation of literal, historical people and events can send us in a completely different trajectory than if we read it as a primeval morality tale.

One of the main objections that Christians have in eliminating the historicity of Adam is the resultant chaos it would cause with many of our most ingrained Christian doctrines; total depravity, the dominance of men over women, the condemnation of creation and the introduction of death and sin into the world. These themes are omnipresent, in one way or another, throughout orthodox, Christian theology.

So...if there is no Adam...there is no need for Christ...if there is no need for Christ..then there is no need for Christianity.

But how did we get here, theologically-speaking? Before Paul's exposition of Jesus as the new/last Adam inaugurating a new creation and a new paradigm and remaking the cosmos, where was Adam? He is absent from almost all of Old Testament scripture outside of Genesis. There are no veiled references to him. There are no Psalms that mention him. There is no hint of him anywhere, and there is even less of a hint, if it were possible, of Eve's existence.

Every once in a while, Eden gets a mention as a comparison to the good life in the prophets, but other than the brief invocation of a beautiful garden, the events that took place in the story and the main characters within it are largely absent.

That may not seem like a big deal. After all the Israelites had the book of Genesis, why do they need to keep referring to Adam and Eve? Well, it creates a void of religious thought in regards to human origins in Judaism.

The Creation is frequently referenced through the Sabbath, mirroring the tale in Genesis of God's six-day work week, with one day off to rest and enjoy his work, so there is always an echo of the Creation Story in the rhythm of Israelite life, but it is an echo that provides structure to life and to a theology of God as Creator of Life. There is no continuing echo from Adam in the Scriptures.

This seems strange when one considers how often Abraham, Jacob, and Moses find their way into the prophets, the psalms, and the histories in the Old Testament. How did someone who became so important to Christian theology fall through the cracks of ancient Jewish theology?

The answer is found in Paul. It isn't until Paul enters the scene that the Creation Story gets a fleshed-out theological treatment. Paul either believed in a historical Adam, or at the very least believed in the force of the image of a historical Adam, and that is where things get dicey, because Paul is the great explicator of Christian theology. If it weren't for Paul, there would be no direct comparison of Jesus to Adam and no theological dilemma in viewing Adam as a figurative person.

As a matter of fact, the only other source that links Adam and Jesus is the gospel of Luke, which ends Jesus' genealogy with "Adam, Son of God". This is also the same Luke who, according to Acts, traveled extensively with Paul, so we can't take Luke's reference as independent theologizing about Adam, and Adam's ties to Jesus, because it is likely that he received the idea from Paul, not from general Jewish consensus at the time.

Jesus refers to Creation in Mark 10:5-9:
5"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Other than that, there is no overt reference to the Creation Story and Adam and Eve.

There are frequently people who emphasize that Paul was not moving away from Judaism when he converted to Christianity and began his ministry as an evangelist and apostle. Yet, in the context of what Paul says about Jesus being the last Adam and that those who follow Jesus will be part of a new creation that supersedes the old creation and the old covenant, he is making a striking break with Judaism, because Judaism never believed that there was a need for a new creation. Their hope for a Messiah was firmly rooted in a hope for a historical solution to their persecution under the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans.

In many ways, Paul is making a theological end run on Judaism. He doesn't need to answer their criticisms, or justify Christianity in terms of Mosaic Law or Tradition, because he has already declared that the old world and the old way of life are dead, pushed aside by Christ; the new and perfect Adam. And we see Paul use this tactic in removing the commands of the Mosaic Law in Galatians and Romans. He declares that those ways are the old ways which have served their purpose, but which are no longer relevant.

Paul has found a long-lost relative in Adam, and a useful illustration for what he views Christianity to be about, a completely new age initiated by God.

I might add more to this later.....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Knowing Where You Come From

Back in July, I posted about a letter written by Benjamin Franklin to an unknown recipient, but which had been commonly claimed to be written to Thomas Paine in reference to Paine's Age of Reason. I never quite got back to to that letter, though I had meant to blog about it at the time.

It came to my mind recently in the middle of a particular blog conversation.

Here's the letter:
I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For, without the belief of a Providence that takes cognisance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion that, though your reasons are subtle, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind spits in his own face.

But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantage of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.

I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a great deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?

Franklin's argument against the viability of the recipient to change men's minds about religion doesn't hold much sway with me. If ideas rise and fall only according to their ability to convince others to agree with them, then our successful ideas are only forms of pre-approved conclusions that won't upset the apple cart.

I think history proves that ideas which might seem unconvincing and insignificant at first to mankind can slowly start to brew and gain strength. In fact many movements start relatively small, with a handful of thinkers and proponents.

Yet, even though I would disagree with the motivation behind some of Franklin's comments, he does strike at my heart with this comment; "And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself."

It is a truth that I can't deny.

Since our great church shopping adventure began towards the end of the summer, we have semi-regularly landed in an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) church. And, I have been pleasantly surprised by it. Not having much experience with Lutheranism, other than a few visits here and there in the course of my life, and also being aware that the ELCA is the more liberal version of Lutheranism, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

What I have found has been peaceful and refreshing to me. The service has contemporary music, but also follows the traditional liturgical forms, with specific acknowledgments of the readings, confessions of the congregation, recitation of The Lord's Prayer through song, and culminating in communion. There is something powerful in the entire congregation lining up and one by one receiving communion form the pastor and his lay helper. For one brief moment, every congregant is being acknowledged and participating in a meaningful ritual.

And so...what do I ponder with all my doubts as I sit in the pews and here a sermon from the gospels and sing along to a creed of which I am not completely certain? Do I feel like a hypocrite? A liar? A great pretender?

No. I don't. I don't feel like that, at least not at this point.

You see, I recognize what Franklin says, I owe much to my religious education. It has made me who I am. And, not only has it made me who I am, but I need it to continually remake me. I need the encouragement that I have felt from this local congregation. I need to be reminded to appeal to the better angels of my nature because I don't get that anywhere else. There is no encouragement form the world at large for me to strive to be a better person, to encourage me when I fail, to tell me that there is a better way to live life. Whether or not I intellectually assent to every orthodox doctrine, I have not arrived and I still need that emotional connection with something other than myself.

And the stories and words and parables that have moved me for almost 20 years.....they still move me. They still have the power to speak to me, even in my skeptical state, though the mode of operation differs.

You Won't Be Assimilated

I started this a while ago and never finished it. More random rambling.

James had a post up a few weeks ago ,which I wanted to link to and discuss, asking himself why he is so mad at Evangelicalism. It was up about the same time as AVI's Evangelical Suspiciousness post and the two posts together were swirling in my soupy brain for awhile, but I didn't have time to properly put down my thoughts. Here's a sample from James:
So I’m not much of a conservative evangelical these days. Do I have to be upset at evangelicals? Can’t I move on and live my spiritual life in peace? What’s keeping me from doing so?
First, go read James' post because it covers a lot more of his feelings than what I'm addressing.

When I was commenting on AVI's post, making somewhat slightly negative comments about evangelicals, I had to apologize for those comments and in the process, I listed myself as a former(?) evangelical, just like that....parenthetical question mark and all. I was unsure about the designation, because although the late Michael Spencer/Internetmonk seems to have popularized the term post-evangelical, I am not really sure how accurate the term is.

Evangelicalism, while holding a relatively set collection of religious ideas and doctrines, isn't defined by those beliefs as much as it is defined by the reactions to those beliefs. The most prominent personality characteristic of Evangelicalism is that we must do something about what we believe. Enter any evangelical church on a Sunday and you're going to hear "6 ways to follow God", or "how to be a godly wife, husband, leader, citizen..etc.", or "how to put your beliefs to work in the mission field, or on the political scene, or glorifying Christ though poster making", or "what you should do in response to this sermon".

It doesn't matter what the application, the point is that there is always an expected application.

Perhaps this isn't an exclusively evangelical trait. Maybe it's more a manifestation of the American character. Regardless of where it comes from, it inhabits my personality.

And that is what frustrates me.

You see, sometimes when I am reading a particular blog or article from the evangelical side of things, or from people I would label intellectual Christians, I get a little impatient. I will read something that makes me think and wonder upon a particular point, and that sends my mind going in a new direction only to have the author shrink back from the logical conclusion at the last moment.

I find this quite frequently in discussions of evolution and Genesis. Many thoughtful people will speculate that Genesis is not literally true, and that evolution is probably true, even if it is only serving as a divine tool of God. And, after getting to that point of accommodation to modern scientific theories about life, they will immediately revert to using Genesis as literal truth in all other theological aspects. They won't go on to the next step.

I come across this even more frequently whenever the subject of Hell comes up. Well-meaning Christians will agonize over the concept of eternal torment or separation, yet when confronted with the slim biblical evidence for the concept, and when offered valid interpretive alternatives that eliminate Hell in its current incarnation, they will refuse to abandon the idea. No matter how unappealing Hell may be, and how much they say they hope it doesn't exist, they will nevertheless fall back from those feelings and intuitions, throw their hands up and say "It is a mystery. Only God knows what comes after."

While that may be true, it isn't God who is perpetuating the concept and keeping it alive in the spirits of mankind. It's us. We hold on to Hell, because it is hard to let go of the familiar, even when we don't particularly like the familiar.

It's almost as if these types of discussions are nothing more than intellectual exercises, playing at the fringes of one's faith in order to make oneself feel very brave and daring while never taking any true risks. And, the people who go that next step and begin to ask how this new view should affect our faith, or what it means for certain doctrines...well they usually get labeled as heretics or "liberals". The kiss of death in an evangelical setting.

I walk between two worlds right now, because I can emotionally identify with Evangelicals in many ways, and yet they would probably never claim me as one of their own. Still, walking into any contemporary, evangelical church can feel like home to me, not only because it is familiar, but because even though my theology is different, the pathos is the same. Some of the core values remain, even though the reasoning behind them is quite different for me. These are people that I am comfortable with because I understand them, which also means that I know what they would think of me and my doubts and my endless theological tinkering.

And that is why it is so easy to be angry at evangelicals even after you have stopped considering yourself one....because you feel the perceived rejection of a group which you wanted to be a part of and still value in some ways and yet which refuses to accept you.

Perhaps only the Borg can assimilate everyone successfully.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


We were out of town this weekend, up visiting my in-laws, throwing a Birthday Party for DH.

He's ancient now; out of his youthful thirties and plunging headlong into his forties. His sister, her husband and I are all turning/have turned 37 this year, so we joke that he is now officially the old man of the group. I'm the youngest by about 5 months, so I get to harass them about their advanced ages slightly longer than everyone else.

That cake in the picture was a Blackout Cake from The Cheesecake Factory and could have fed 50 people. Chocolate cake, chocolate icing, chocolate chips, and covered in crushed almonds, it helped ease the pain of DH's inevitable decline.

This past week was also our 13th wedding anniversary. I told DH that we don't need to be superstitious about the number 13 because we had technically just finished our thirteenth year and were starting our 14th year together.

Feels like the 41st....but totally in a good way! ;-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Permission to be Free

A short meditation...

Nowadays, I do a lot of my religious meditation/thinking by looking past the historical/literal sense of things and trying to see the concept behind it. This helps me come to grips with the doubts that have plagued me lately and gets me past trying to figure out what is historical and literal, and helps me look for what the point is behind any particular doctrine.

In doing this, I reached a point where I realized that the message that we call "the gospel" is, at its core, an affirmation for humanity.

Imagine being part of a religion in which the level of commitment and requirements are high, so high that the average person probably can't meet them financially, or morally. Imagine being part of a culture that describes itself in terms of being "chosen" and yet your history and Scriptures are full of stories that record your failures, every exile, every instance of rebellion, every rash decision by your group's important leaders, and every threat and warning delivered by prophets threatening God's judgement.

That's your identity...being part of a people crushed under the Roman boot probably because it's punishment for a large-scale spiritual failing. After all, that is the way that every national calamity has been portrayed for the last 800 years or so.

Now imagine that someone appears with a message, and the message is that none of that matters. That God accepts all those who want to be accepted. That God is not angry, but wants relationship with people. That the burden of commitments and requirements and meeting all of God's expectations is no longer carried by you and your nation.

Christian doctrine places all those burdens on Jesus pretty early in its development, making him the bearer and fulfiller of commitments and requirements, but just think about what it means for the people of that time and place and with that history to be given this message.

Now, imagine for a moment that someone comes to you personally and says,"I know all the times you have blown it and screwed up and been less than you should be....but I just want you to know that you, and your life, have value and worth and acceptance in my eyes."

That is a powerful, life-affirming message. And that is what Christianity provides whether or not we believe in all the literal arguments put forth by Christian apologists.

Somehow, this message gets lost in some of our incarnations of Christianity. The message becomes one that was for "those people" in the first century; Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and lawyers. Yet, we are the same as "those people", we have only exchanged the Jewish law and pathos for our own law and pathos.

So what were "those people" waiting for? They wanted vindication, a messiah that would prove that God ultimately hadn't abandoned them, that they still were His "chosen" people, his beloved Jacob.

That is exactly what the story of Jesus provides, permission to feel free. Permission to feel loved. Permission to feel forgiven, even if you hadn't met the expectations that you, yourself, hold.

The permission to let go of what you thought had to be.

The permission to move forward, in a different direction.

And that's powerful.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shopping Signs

Overexposure to the Son
Prevents Burning

Nice way to attract visitors, right? Threaten them with Hellfire in a cute, punny way.

What's funny is that we actually visited this church, which happens to be a Disciples of Christ church. If you follow the link to the Wikipedia page you'll find a mildly propagandistic summary of the Disciples of Christ:
For modern Disciples the one essential is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and obedience to him in baptism. There is no requirement to give assent to any other statement of belief or creed. Nor is there any "official" interpretation of the Bible. Hierarchical doctrine was traditionally rejected by Disciples as human-made and divisive, and subsequently, freedom of belief and scriptural interpretation allows many Disciples to question or even deny beliefs common in doctrinal churches such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, and the Atonement.
Beyond the essential commitment to follow Jesus there is a tremendous freedom of belief and interpretation. As the basic teachings of Jesus are studied and applied to life, there is the freedom to interpret Jesus' teaching in different ways.

As would be expected from such an approach, there is a wide diversity among Disciples in what individuals and congregations believe. It is not uncommon to find individuals who seemingly hold diametrically opposed beliefs within the same congregation affirming one another's journeys of faith as sisters and brothers in Christ.
Ahem...now who was looking for an example that Wikipedia articles might be biased and written by agenda-driven individuals? Exhibit A has been provided above, though it is hardly sinister in its intent, most likely having been written by an ardent, devoted Disciple of Christ.

From their own literature, the only thing that the Disciples of Christ claim to cling to tightly are baptism and communion. Everything else is up for grabs.

One would think that with a description like the one from the Wikipedia article that a Disciple of Christ church might not be very conservative, especially when it comes to invoking the image of eternal fiery torment. I guess that it's OK to be unorthodox as long as you still believe in Hell!

When we visited the church in question we got to hear our first female pastor preach. Personally, I thought her message was OK, though DH found her completely boring and incomprehensible, probably because she said a lot without really saying anything, going back and forth about various opinions on the Scripture reading without proffering an interpretation of her own

We gave this church a try out of my desire to try a more liberal stripe of church. After reading tripe like the Wikipedia article and the Disciples of Christ own webpage, I thought it might be a place that I could feel comfortable as I continue to figure out what's going on with me.

What I found was not what I had thought that I would find. The general atmosphere seemed cloying and very reminiscent of my early Christian faith. The congregation was almost exclusively Southern in origin, or feel; humble people trying to follow Jesus in a very traditional way, in terms of Southern Protestant Christianity.

It's difficult to convey what I mean if you've never lived in the South. The women wore too much perfume and dressed in floral prints, but they were quick to introduce themselves and point out to the congregation that you were visiting...whether you wanted to be recognized or not. The men had mustaches and wavy hair, combed back in Billy Graham-ish style, and sat dutifully next to their wives in their blue jeans and plaid short sleeve shirts (This is Florida. Nobody dresses up in "Sunday clothes".)

Despite the writings I had encountered, the church did not feel very untraditional, or innovative, or liberal...or any of the things I thought might lurk inside a denomination that seemed to define itself so loosely. No, it felt culturally confining and closed off, mostly based on intuitive impressions, the way things were done, the tone of the sermon, the discussions between the congregants. It wasn't bad or wrong, it just wasn't what I was looking for, or expecting.

I realized later that visiting it had helped me discover that part of what I was/am looking for in a church is one that is heavy in the intellectual/thinking area. I didn't feel comfortable in the Disciples of Christ because that particular congregation was practicing a very simple, cultural form of their faith. They didn't attend that church looking for in-depth conversations. They attended because it was a simple way to practice their faith. By allowing such an open-ended doctrinal spectrum, yet keeping the important rituals of baptism and communion, discussion of anything else becomes extraneous.

It served up a strange combination to my senses.