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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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The Word of God?
"This is the word of the Lord"
That is the liturgical phrase used in Christian churches to mark the end of a reading from the Bible. It is a strange, even a misleading, phrase. Yet Sunday after Sunday it is repeated, reinforcing in the psyches of worshipers a rather outdated attitude toward Holy Scripture.
In many of its details, the Bible is simply wrong! Epilepsy is not caused by demon possession. David did not write the Psalms. The earth is not the center of the universe. On other issues of great public concern, the Bible is no longer even regarded as moral. Its verses have been used to affirm war, slavery, segregation and apartheid. It defines women as inferior creatures and suggests that homosexual persons be put to death.
Church people try to ignore or suppress these biblical deficiencies, but when the Scriptures are read to a listening congregation the response is increasing incredulity. Still they respond, "This is the word of the Lord."
Outside the church, this presumed authority of Scripture is generally ignored. Secular people live in a post-religious world where the idea that a literary work, written between 1000 B.C.E. and 135 C.E., can be "the Word of God," is simply too far-fetched to believe. This obvious ecclesiastical power play is no longer even passively accepted as benign. One has only to chart the evil and pain that many people have endured in history because someone regarded the Bible as the "Word of God." That claim is no longer regarded as valid.
In a series of essays that will appear periodically over the next few months in this column I will examine some of the more frightening examples of these tragedies. My purpose will be quite specific. I will be seeking to call the Christian Church in all of its forms to look closely at what it is, overtly and covertly, teaching its people about the Bible and at the enormous gap that exists between what biblical scholars know and what the leaders of the churches actually say to their congregations. If our clergy do not really believe what they are saying, and if our liturgies affirm things that the scholars universally reject, then something is clearly amiss in contemporary Christianity that does not augur well for a Christian future.
First, we need to state some basic biblical facts.
The people who wrote the books in the Bible did not think they were writing "The Word of God." That is a quite elementary but singularly important place to begin.
In regard to the first five books of the Bible, called the Torah or the Books of Moses, scholars have known since the 19th century, that they are not the work of a single hand. They are rather a compilation of at least four strands of Jewish writing that were composed over a period of some 500 years. Those strands were first, the Yahwist document, written in the tenth century B.C.E. and sometimes called the Hebrew Iliad, which reflects the national history of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The second was the Elohist document, written in the 9th century B.C.E. and sometimes called the Hebrew Odyssey, which reflects the national history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. After the fall of the Northern Kingdom to the Assyrians in 721 B.C.E., these two national stories were woven together into a single narrative. The third document was the product of one known as the Deuteronomic writer, composed in the late 7th century B.C.E., and consisting of the book of Deuteronomy and a general editing of the newly merged national Jewish story. The fourth source of the Torah was not so much a document as it was an expansive editorial commentary applied to the entire faith story by those called the Priestly Writers and written during the Babylonian Exile somewhere between 586 and 450 B.C.E. That is the process, briefly described, that produced the oldest part of the biblical story.
One can identify the places where these versions of the story were woven rather inexactly together, producing many of the conflicting details in the Torah itself. The Sabbath day law, for example, developed during the Exile, is read back into the manna in the wilderness story to make sure that the miraculous food was not gathered on the seventh day in violation of the Sabbath. The ritualistic laws governing sacrifices were used to alter the Noah story so that during the 150 days on the ark, Noah could offer the proper sacrifices without destroying that species.
Finally, there are three versions of the Ten Commandments in the Torah. The oldest one, from the Yahwist document, is found in Exodus 34. The version with which most of us are familiar, found in Exodus 20, comes from the Elohist document but was significantly doctored by the Priestly Writers. The third version is in Deuteronomy 5 and though close to Exodus 20 has some revealing differences. The Deuteronomic version of the 4th Commandment makes the reason for rest on the Sabbath, not that God rested from the work of creation and thus hallowed that day, but that the Jews should remember that they were once slaves and that even slaves need a day of rest. The seven-day creation story, with which the Bible now opens, was written by the Priestly Writers well after the Deuteronomic document had been completed.
The idea that the Bible came into being in some sort of miraculous way and is either the literal dictation of God or even the "inspired message of God" is simply not supportable on its face. The Bible is a profoundly human, deeply flawed, tribal history that has created as much pain as blessing in our world.
Moving on to the Hebrew prophets, this analysis produces a similar difficulty. The prophets tended to explain every disaster that befell the chosen people as the direct result of their laxity in obeying God's laws or in their inability to worship God properly. God seemed to have little more to do than to organize the whole universe so as to teach the chosen people how to be faithful or to demonstrate the dreadful price that unfaithful ones would have to pay. When we turn to the first part of the New Testament to be written, we need to register the fact that Paul's letters were just that, letters. They are time bound and time specific. They express irritation at and praise for the behavior of the actual recipients. They were composed in a dialogical manner in order to address real issues bothering real people in real time. When Paul wrote in anger, "I hope those who bother you will mutilate themselves," was that the Word of God? Surely it was nothing more than the word of Paul!
Similarly, when Paul suggested that a woman's head must be covered in public worship, he was expressing a cultural norm not a universal principle. When Paul said, "I forbid a woman to have authority over a man" or when he suggested that those who do not worship God properly would have their sexual identities confused, does one really want to suggest that this badly dated bit of human ignorance is to be reverenced as the voice of God?
Later the Gospel writers would violently twist out of context the writings of the prophets to prove such things as the literal accuracy of the Virgin Birth or to demonstrate that the ancient prophets supported the doctrinal and creedal development of the 4th and 5th Centuries of the Common Era. Jerry Falwell, in a published book, has suggested that the divine nature of Jesus is "proved" by the fact that he fulfilled in a very specific way, the messianic expectations of the prophets. That attitude, however, has been revealed by modern biblical scholarship to be nothing less than profound ignorance. The idea that a God, living somewhere above the sky, would drop hints into the texts of writers, some 800 years before the birth of Christ, determining exactly what Jesus would do in the 1st century, is fanciful enough. But when one adds that God would need to guard these divine hints through the centuries when these texts were copied by hand, protect them from destruction in war and guide the minds of Jewish decision makers centuries later to include these prophetic works in the Jewish Canon of Scripture, the elements of miracle and magic become heightened to incredibly superstitious levels.
Next, one needs to understand, that contrary to the way Christian theology has interpreted the Gospels from the 2nd century on, Jesus did not miraculously live out these prophetic expectations. It was exactly the other way around. The story of Jesus was crafted some 40 - 70 years after that earthly life came to an end, to make it conform to the biblical expectations! Micah, for example, did not predict that the birth of Jesus would occur in Bethlehem. That was the way that later Christians interpreted Micah. Jesus' birth, which probably occurred in Galilee, was shifted to Bethlehem in order to make the birth of Jesus fulfill this expectation.
The story of Jesus' crucifixion was, likewise, deliberately and liturgically shaped by their authors who had Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 in front of them as they wrote the passion narrative. We forget, conveniently I would suggest, that the earliest Gospel, Mark, says that when Jesus was arrested, all of the disciples "forsook him and fled." Jesus died alone with no eyewitnesses. The Gospel writers later wrote the story of his death to "reveal the fulfillment of Scripture." A great part of the crisis in faith today derives from the fact that the authority once claimed for the Bible cannot and should not be sustained in the light of modern knowledge. How important then is this traditional view of the Bible to the future of Christianity. Can this view of Scripture be abandoned without Christianity, as we have known it, not also collapsing? That question remains to be answered but it will be the present in the background of many columns written during the coming year. Stay tuned!
— John Shelby Spong
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I started to open the package, gingerly...
Here's a close-up of one of the weapons, & the raw material:
Isn't it PURTY?? :)
My Assassin is the BEST - she also sent me UK Chocolate!! She's in England, BTW...but I forgot to take a pic of the KitKat, as I tucked it right in the fridge - it was in the 90's here yesterday, and the package sat in the mailbox all day!
Now, I must go package up my target's socks and mail them to my Assassin's Assassin - Funnily enough, MY Assassin just got knocked off, herself - and HER assassin is in Saudi Arabia. :-) I get to mail my socks to SA so they can be finished and mailed to AZ! I finished the first sock, and did the cuff on the 2nd sock - but then, life got in the way, as it often does. :) NO matter, I had a BLAST, and will do it again next year! I'm already signed up for Glove Wars in September. :)
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Day: Sunday, the 17th of May
Status: Just finished Pattern Repeat #2 of 3 on first Barcelona Sock. Pattern going smoothly, some counting is necessary, but not outrageous. Food & Drink readily available, child & husband still able to amuse themselves and if not, each other. Looking Good so far!
Pictures taken approx. 7:30am Eastern Standard.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Just scanning the TV listings since Boo asked to watch some this morning...and after much laughter & discussion & me mis-reading the listings, Edwin declares that he wants to watch what's on MY TV Schedule: 'Breakfast Parades' on the Travel Channel ("Breakfast Paradise"), and then 'Wild Wild West Tech' on the History Channel ("Wild West Tech"). :) I need new glasses.
Off to knit some more - then we'll go see Star Trek as a family - THEN I'm going to audition for a friend's movie this afternoon. It's a small, YouTube production, but he's got a degree in filmmaking, and he's actually quite talented at it. Wish me luck here, too!
I shall leave you with a shot of Ma Boy yesterday afternoon - he was very happy to have me home after a long, lonely Friday:
Yes, he often lays like that in my arms - Edwin says Murph Loves Me...I hope so! :)
Friday, May 15, 2009
(Originally written January 26, 2009)
You may remember, back in May of the past year, I became involved in a knitting competition/swap called "Sock Wars III". I finished my socks and mailed them off to my "target", and that was the last I heard. Oh, she got them, and loved them - Yay! However, I never got MY socks. I contacted the 2nd organizer - because the first organizer? She decided that a month later she'd declare a winner by asking folks to send her postcards - and the first one she got would win the competition. She also refused to answer emails, and seemed to wash her hands of the whole thing. The yarn company "Southwest Trading Company" was a co-sponsor, and they really picked up the slack. They were AMAZING, and really tried to be available for any & all emails, etc. I asked the 2nd organizer (not the SWTC people yet, but a woman who took up the email lists) if I could get a pair of socks from those who had volunteered to knit for those who had been flaked out on. I was told that they were done knitting, and that was that. Of course, if I WANTED them to, they could ask around till they found someone willing to knit me some socks.
No, thanks - don't put yourself out.
So, I ended up with a bad taste in my mouth, and cold feet. Cut to last week, when I saw a post on Ravelry about SWIII, and an exhortation from Jonelle at SWTC to "Get ready for Sock Wars IV!!". I emailed her, and told her I was very happy that SWTC was now fully sponsoring the competition, however, I was not going to participate because I'd never gotten any socks out of the last one. She asked for my sock size and address, assuring me that she had 70 pair at the warehouse for JUST THIS occurrance. I was intrigued, and gave her the info.
Look what I got in the mail on Saturday!
...with this note:
They. Are. BEAUTIFUL. And they FIT!!
I love 'em. I also love Jonelle and Southwest Trading Company, and recommend them to ANYONE interested in a beautiful, quality product and excellent customer service. Go! Find and buy and KNIT/Craft with the stuff!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Thank you, I feel better now. I've been having computer issues, which is why I haven't been able to update lately. Okay, "able" isn't the right word, but it's not been convenient - that's the truth. My PC has been overheating regularly, and even after taking it apart and cleaning it out, it still did the overheating thing. My husband is my HERO, tho, because he fixed the bugger! He took out something inside... (near the?) Heat Sink? Sinque? I dunno, and he's at work, so I can't ask him. Anyway, he took it out and cleaned inside it - and said that he's SURE that was the issue. So far, so good - and that was DAYS ago! Everything else was nice & clean, where I'd taken it apart...but I had no idea that the Green Thingie came out, too. *Grin*
Sock Wars III is still running, and oddly enough, I'm still alive! I think I'm the slowest knitter in all of Sockdom (said in the Juan Mouse voice), and although I HAVE been knitting, I've also let some days go by where I haven't touched them. I'm into the foot on the 2nd sock, so it's not like I'm just past the cuff or something...but still. I wanted to be done by now - BUT THE IMPORTANT THING IS, WE'RE ALL HAVING FUN!
Indeed. There have been some...interesting twists in The War, and I don't know if I'll sign up again, unless & until there are major organizational changes. However, I am looking forward to Hat Attack 2 starting up this summer, and a Sock Scarefest that I just read about on Ravelry. I do love some socks, so hopefully by the end of this year, I'll be even faster with them.
If I may digress for a moment...I do have a sick cat that I'd like to request prayers for, if anyone has the energy - Onyx.
He's had an upper respiratory infection for about 2 weeks now...and for a while, he'd disappeared from the daily life of the house. I went & found him where he was sleeping, and started him on Amoxicillin. That helped a little bit, but he's not very interested in food - and he's lost weight. He will lick a bit of tuna juice, or sauce off of wet cat food, but that's all I've seen him do. Once the Amox was done, I decided to start him on Clavamox. I also did the same thing we usually do at this point, got him a B-vitamin injection (which I did at home, after getting it from my vet) and gave him subcutaneous fluids, as he was getting pretty dehydrated. I've given him the fluids three nights in a row now, and he's looking better - but his aspect is still worrisome. Edwin wants to test his blood sugar, because in the years he lived away from us, he had needed insulin at one point, we were told. Thank you for any prayers or good thoughts or even advice/suggestions you can spare - we love our furry family members very much.
One other story to share right now, from the other night...my daughter Boo sat up mumbling a in the middle of the night, and then got quiet. I asked her if she needed to use the potty, and she nodded, eyes closed. I am in the habit of walking her there, sometimes carrying her if she's still very sleepy, so I did tonite. She takes care of her clothes, the toilet, etc by herself...but we have a little routine since she was just starting to use the toilet, and I just realized tonite that I really love this routine, as strange as it might seem to someone else. The first Winter she was using the toilet, she was also wearing one-piece pajamas often. This necessitated taking the entire thing off (except for the lower legs & feet) to sit on the potty, and she would shiver, complaining of being cold. Of course she was! She'd just woken up and was toasty warm...then had to strip - I felt bad, and so I knelt down in front of her, and wrapped myself around her upper body as she sat on the toilet. She relaxed into my warmth, and let herself do what she needed to do. The few times I forgot, she'd say, "Momma, it's cold" and I'd remember. I don't forget anymore, it's almost reflex...but I noticed this time, even with a long sleeved pajama shirt on, I reached in and wrapped my arms around her - and she slumped against me, rested her head on my shoulder - and I, my chin on hers - and relaxed enough to do what needed to be done. I smiled, and decided that I felt good about this strange little routine, and hoped it would be something she always remembers.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Here's sock #1 as of yesterday:
My cat Murphy is a big help in "modeling" the sock in progress. ;) He's a good sport, hey?
Home sick today, so I'm gonna get back in bed & get knitting. Happy Hunting, Sock Warriors!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
My Knitting/Weapons bag:
I finished Boo's socks on Thursday night, so I could "fight" unencumbered...I didn't take a pic of the pair finished yet, but when they come out of the wash, I will. In the meantime, I have this of when the 2nd was still in progress:
They came out very nice, and she wore them for 1 1/2 days before I demanded they get put into the wash. We gardened today, so it was an easy argument, truthfully. ;)
On another front, we were all farmers today. I dropped Boo & Edwin off at our Community Garden plot this morning, on my way to work. I was at work for about an hour, then went to join them. We raked the straw off of the plot, broke the crust on the dirt a bit, and then Edwin went to get snacks. Around 12:30p, he came back with a Farmer's lunch: Loaf of crusty bread, water, some cheese, and a cup of pineapple. I asked him where the red onion was - after all, a true "ploughman's lunch" is a slab of bread, slab of cheese, and slice of red onion. :) It was tasty, and we took a break to eat.
We found that the plot was roughly 36' x 36' - in other words, Huh-YUUUGE! We had a flat of plants: Sweet 100 tomatoes, Old German heirloom tomatoes, Roma Plum tomatoes, Cherry Bomb hot peppers for Edwin, Sweet Red peppers and Cubanelle (Italian Frying Peppers, also sweet) for me, Lettuce (I forget which kind), Eggplant, Yellow Summer Squash, Zucchini...and I think that's it for the seedlings. We also had Peas from seed - and we still need to put in Carrots, Beets, Cucumbers, Green & Wax beans, all from seed.
I REALLY need to sit up & knit my weapon....but I'm EXHAUSTED! Hubs & Daughter were at the plot from 10am, and I got there at 11:30am. We worked all day - raked, dug, planted, carried water - until 2:45p, and I am amazed that I forgot what a workout just PLANTING the damn things is. Seeing as how tomorrow is Mother's Day, and I've asked my Husband for a day where I do NOTHING but knit, watch my Discovery Channel Marathon and drink tea - and he's acquiesced, I may just sleep now and try to catch up tomorrow. Since there's no post tomorrow, I really shouldn't have too many worries.
ROFL - Watch, that'll be the line on my Obit!!
Friday, May 09, 2008
What with family & life, I have only now managed to cast on for my first sock; it was pointed out on the Ravelry group for SW that I really only need my "target's" sock size for the length of the foot. Thus, I can cast on and knit through the heel & gussets...that is, as long as I don't get killed first.
I'll check in when I get another chance; tomorrow morning it's work, and then some more knitting. I go see my Mom for mother's day tomorrow rather than Sunday, because I'm supposedly going to get a day where I don't have to do anything or go anywhere...after church, that is...so that means, I go to Mom's tomorrow instead. I wanted to do this - for once, I've stood up for myself and what I wanted to do with my family. I'm nervous, but I think it'll be okay!