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Archive for January, 2011

Gotta Sink an Anchor

January 29, 2011 2 comments

“In these first centuries of the common era both Judaism and Christianity gave shape to and defined the authority of collections of writings that formed their respective Bibles or canons of sacred writings” (Oxford Study Bible, page 47).

Is this true? I had no idea that Judaism waited so long to canonize its scriptures. It’s strange to think of Christians and Jews on a parallel track to found themselves, to make a way not to forget themselves in a shifting world. It was a time when you could no longer trust culture. Too much was changing; you couldn’t trust yourself to pass the traditions to your children, and you couldn’t trust them either. It was time to textualize: this book, this will tell us what is true and what we are. What a sad time.

And yet, part of what they were doing I hold in common: “engaging the past in search of identity for the present and direction for the future” (ibid.).

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My Faith Must Be of This Land

January 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I paused from my study to read back over these entries, trying to make sense of something that eludes me. It has to do with this subject of lineage and place and how they affect religion.

I think I understand how we got here: how the history of ancient Israel came to be so important to us contemporary American descendants of European pagans. It’s a strange story, but logical enough when you lay it out.

We Americans are just as strange, ourselves. We’re not Europeans (though we each have a nation or two across the Atlantic to claim for a heritage), and we’re not natives (though we were born here). We’re the starling among birds, the rock dove, the non-native blackberry that has become Read more…

Add and Drop

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

“In the pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped” (Tao Te Ching, no. 48).

I study The Oxford Study Bible to add to my knowledge. I return to the Tao Te Ching to drop the extraneous. Adding and dropping the right things, adding and dropping in the right ways; this is my balance; this is my practice. I thank the wind for speaking to me, and the light, and this world.

Stories that Wear the Clothes of My People

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

In exile, the “Jewish heirs of old Israel” came “to perceive that there were other ways to understand the death of their nation…,” to “sing new songs to their God,” whose authority “transcended all national boundaries… to be both Jewish and citizens of diverse nations” (Oxford Study Bible, page 42). It was “a situation in which the struggle for new identities, new forms of religious community, and new ways of being the people of Yahweh, could be explored.” These were the communities of the biblical tradition, those “that produced and treasured it” (ibid., page 41).

I did not produce the biblical tradition, but I come from a community that treasures it. Read more…

Ancient Israelite Activists

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

It may be that ancient Israel was non-ecumenical, actively shaping themselves in contrast to their surroundings, but I suppose this element didn’t come of age until early Judaism when the exiled people were forced to survive without a nation in an alien world. I see them, before then, almost as activists, setting up the rules of their federation in protest against the monarchies and hierarchies nearby (Oxford Study Bible, pages 35-36), visionaries dreaming of some unknown alternative. Yet they were deeply influenced by the givens as well.

Said the Sluice Gate

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Ancient Israel was not ecumenical. Their whole mission was to keep from mixing with their surroundings, to preserve a distinct identity in the midst of shifting political currents, lodged as they were in a geographical corridor that lay between powers, a river of trade and influence whose forces threatened to wash them away.

I am ecumenical. This fundamental difference between me and the writers of my holy book seems just slightly problematic. Read more…

Expansion Angst

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

“The growth of large, multi-national urban centers around the Mediterranean basin” at the dawn of Christianity made it so that “cultural, economic, and religious exchange could flourish” (Oxford Study Bible, page 7). This, with the “new mobility” made possible by the common tongue of Koine Greek, and the “relative stability” of Greek and Roman rule, and the new sophistication in math, science and astronomy spelled PROGRESS in capital letters.

Why then the depth of angst that these people seemed to suffer?

According to their cosmology, God’s address had never before been so far away. As well as being at the center of the universe, the earth was now also Read more…