Archive for February, 2011

Radical Disciples

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

According to the Oxford (pages 83-86), life in the first century hinged, in part, on the poles of honor and shame. The rich man would erect a monument as a demonstration of his honorability, and as for shame, the social pressure to avoid it governed the people. In such a society, here come the disciples proclaiming a God who made himself nothing – unthinkable – while they themselves rejoiced in moments that tested their resolve to abandon allegiance to their own sense of Read more…


When the Prophets Railed

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I always took the prophets at their word when they denounced the worship of other gods as blasphemy deserving of divine judgement; no, when they implied that monotheism was the unanimous, uncontested religious identity of their people… when they implied a common starting point for debate: “This is who we are. It’s who you are too, O people. You know it. I know it. And you’re breaking the agreement.”

Suddenly I wonder if they were actually acting on premises that weren’t, after all, universally accepted. Like some of our own people calling this a Christian nation (despite what all those atheists say), and holding the atheists accountable to a national religious identity they never accepted. Maybe, when the prophets railed, the people weren’t interested. Maybe it’s not a given that they were supposed to be.

The Whole Tao

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

If the Tao is the way, I don’t know that it’s the whole way. J. D. Salinger, in the voice of Seymour, pointed out that religion hinges on detachment but poetry on passion, and if you want to practice the Tao you have to go beyond poetry – have to accept the bad verse alongside the good, which Seymour for one won’t do. Anyway, I’ve been wondering. The Tao Te Ching gives many directions on being soft, but, thus far in my reading, says nothing on being hard. Is there not a time for everything? And while detachment is positive and powerful, can’t passion be a positive force too? I know that passion is one of the most beautiful things, and I know there’s a time when embracing, flexing, ceding is not constructive. Does the Tao Te Ching account for this? Or is it willing to acknowledge only certain slices of what we humans are? (It must be bigger than that.)

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Writing Naturally

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

In the Oxford articles, they keep stressing that such and such a document is not strictly historical, but carries an ideological purpose as well. Why would they expect the ancients to observe modern rules of historical writing? Why would they assume that people of yore shared our irrational obsession with objectivity? They were telling the story; that’s all. They were reporting and interpreting in the same narrative, just as you and I do all the time. Even today, the average person has to be broken of this tendency if ever they get into writing history by today’s standards. The ancients didn’t share those regulations. They weren’t trying to divorce what they thought from what they saw. They, unlike we, were writing naturally.

Apsu and Tiamat Didn’t Work it Out

February 5, 2011 2 comments

In the beginning there was freshwater Apsu of the abyss and saltwater Tiamat of the deep. When the gods came to exist, Tiamat and Apsu conspired against them, until Marduk, patron of Babylon, fought and defeated them. He cut Tiamat’s body in two. Half of her body became the heavens, and half, the earth. So what began as a world of swirling water ended in a vision of “civilization,” ruled by a champion-turned-king.

Why does the champion become king? Why don’t the people simply Read more…

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We Want a Boys’ Band

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

“Archeology is clearly of enormous value in reconstructing the general biblical world. It is far less secure as a means of validating the specific biblical world. Archaeological evidence is more indirect than direct…. It may indeed be the case, though perhaps less common than we might expect, that archaeological data do confirm individual biblical passages. Yet what is meant by the truth of the Bible is not in fact subject to the kind of confirmation that archaeology can provide” (Oxford Study Bible, page 53).

Here again we return to this phenomenon of information: facts can be verified, but it’s not facts we’re after. What we want is Read more…


The Person They Are

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

I can see why they call it the Tao. I can see why the Bible says God makes it rain on the righteous and wicked alike: everywhere, there is this law, this boarding pass to another way of being, and if you can see it you can have it. I mean, if you do it – if you live by it, touch it, you can rely on it. Is it God? Is it God’s law? Is it one more part of the mysterious fabric of the world we live in – this world that’s so complex and interwoven and teeming with life that there’s no explaining it, no reason it should exist as it does? I know that the Tao is real, that it’s beautiful, and that it transforms things. Maybe I should let go of this idea of God being so… human. Maybe that would help me better understand God for the person they are.