Religion

So This Is Christmas…

So, is this Christmas? Maybe for the folks that insist on saying “Merry Christmas” and throw a fit if you respond with any other reply other than “Merry Christmas”.  As with most Christian holidays, Christmas is just another pagan holiday that was renamed and re-purposed (i.e. stolen) in an attempt to convert more of the local “peasant” type of folks to Christianity. Easter and All Saint’s Day are two other examples.

But Christmas isn’t the only religious celebration that happens around this time of year.

happy_holidays

Picture source: Unvirtuous Abby on Facebook, but I’m sure others have posted it as well, so I have no idea who originally created it

And despite what my credit card statements say, “Christmas” (and yes that’s the term I use for this holiday) doesn’t start for me until I randomly hear John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas (War Is Over)” played in a random store while, usually, standing around waiting on Wifey® to find “just the right color”, or something like that for someone in the family. My brother and I are the kind that will walk into a store and buys the first thing we see that suits us. Fini! Done! Let’s go have a beer! None of this going into every store in the mall only to go back and buy the thing you saw in the first store.

Plus now with online shopping, other than some clothes, that’s my preferred method of shopping. The holidays bring on enough anxiety as it is.  The stores are usually so crowded I can’t stand it.  The boys, Wifey®, and I went to the mall last night and thankfully it was damn near empty.

Christmas shopping brings on its own kind of  “performance anxiety”. When are enough presents just right?  Not worried about the boys (they’re adults now), but the little girls always make it difficult. They want everything they see on TV, especially if it’s electronic. I don’t want to get them too many things, not only does it promote over-consumption, I don’t want them thinking that I’ll buy them any and everything (even though I probably will – that’s what PaPa’s do). But at the same time, too few gifts under the tree leaves them open for ridicule from classmates and such.  It’s a fine line. Much like my credit line.

1203171715.jpg

We support the artificial tree industry by buying a new tree every two years on average. We only buy pre-lit trees (because I’m lazy) and they seem to burn out quickly. Can’t use real trees as the “fresh pine scent” aggravates my COPD (Pine-Sol does it too).

The girls wanted an “Elf On A Shelf”.  They named her Ginger (I wanted to spell it Gynger – so it sounded more like a stripper name). We know it’s a female elf because it has earrings, which of course means nothing anymore. Plenty of very “manly men” have pierced ears, but the box was labeled “female”, so that settled it. But I would still like to get away from labels.  That’s Gynger, I mean Ginger sitting on the hearth watching the girls put up the Christmas tree.

We figure since we only have the girls on the weekends, Ginger must be an apprentice elf. Since she only has 2 – 3 days to watch the girls, she gets bored sitting around the house.  But that will be the subject of another post, later in the season….  Keep watching this space!

So even though I still haven’t heard “So This Is Christmas” yet (I have at least two more shopping days planned – so get your requests in early), there is still a chance to hear it.  And even though my dear ol’ brother doesn’t like the song, he says the “war is over” should have been left out, but I disagree. He was never in the military (declared medically unfit for service during the Vietnam era).  As a vet, I heartily agree with the sentiment.

So here is the original video of the song.  As since I’m just posting the link, I don’t get to hear it. So if I haven’t randomly heard it by the 20th or so, I’ll come back here and listen to it.  Then, maybe Christmas will begin for me.

Please enjoy the video!

Peace,
B

EDIT:  My brother texted me (why he didn’t leave a comment is anybody’s guess), and corrected me. He does like the song, it’s just the “Merry Christmas” part doesn’t mix with the “war is over” part. He agrees with me that we wish all wars would end. 

Allhallow’s Eve

So tomorrow is Hallowe’en. But since it’s on a school day again this year I’m not sure when the trick or treating will be. The ancient Celts would celebrate Samhain (see my post here), on the full moon nearest what we would call October 31st (in the times before the Gregorian calendar when it was a lunar based calendar). For us this year, that will be Saturday, November 4th at 1:23 AM. So that would make Saturday the day for trick or treating.

And of course, that would be one of the nights that the veil between the worlds would be thin, allowing all sorts of creatures, both good and bad, to visit our world from the “underworld”. Scholars point to this fact as the beginning of our Hallowe’en costumes.

“Trick-or-treating is a modern incarnation of old Irish, Manx, and Scottish practices that sometimes occurred over multiple nights leading to Samhain. In Ireland, the poor went door-to-door “mumming” or “souling.” They offered songs and prayers for the dead. As payment, the owners of the homes visited gave them soul cakes, cookies with a cross drawn on top, representing each soul detained in purgatory. Some saw the soulers, who often carried turnip lamps as they went about their rounds, as enacting the role of the dead souls seeking their food offerings. The regions that called this practice “mumming” were also referring to a type of folk theater called “Mummer’s Theater.” These often involved loose, strange plots involving stock characters. Saint George and the Doctor was a common play used at Samhain. In Somerset, children went door-to-door on October 30, called “Punkie Night.” The colloquial name “punkie” referred to their turnip (or beet) lanterns. On this holiday, children begged their neighbors for money to pay for fireworks used on the next night, called Mischief Night. The locals considered it unlucky to refuse— the children carrying the punkies represented the souls of dead children. Some regions came to call this door-to-door collections practice Halloween rhyming. Often children sang a song to the people who answered their doors and soul cakes or soul meat was part of an expected exchange. Mumming in Ireland gave way to going door-to-door, saying, “Help the Halloween party! Any apples or nuts?” In France, the tradition differed slightly. Rather than demanding food, children collected flowers from their neighbors, so that they might decorate graves of family members the following morning.”

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 296-309). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

Observing Samhain, or Hallowe’en, on Saturday also makes sense this year as the following Sunday would be All Souls Day (All Saints Sunday in the Christian Churches). A time of remembrance of those that have passed on the year before.

“Eventually both All Saints’ and All Souls’ became distinct holidays unto themselves, with All Saints’ an observance for souls believed already ascended to heaven, and All Souls’ as a day to honor souls possibly still working out some issues in purgatory. In Ireland, these days marked a time for family reunions after cow-milking season finished.”

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 176-178). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

So what are you going to do for Hallowe’en, Allhallows Eve or Hallowmas, whichever name you wish to use? We don’t have many children in our neighborhood, so Wifey® and I usually leave the house and turn off all the lights. But this year may be different, our old dog (who was more than a bit aggressive) has passed on, so it’s safe to open the door to little children again. We’ll have to see.

Leave a comment on your plans!

Peace,
B

New Moon Rites

According to the Lunar Phase app on my Android phone, the new moon will October 19th at 0312 EDT. Since I hope to be in bed asleep at that time (but there is no guarantee of that) I will celebrate around sundown tonight on the 18th.

To interpret the flow of terrestrial magnetism— the dragon current, the serpent path— it is also necessary to watch the night sky. Night, to ancient people, was not an “absence of light” or a negative darkness, but a powerful source of energy and inspiration. At night cosmos reveals herself in her vastness, the earth opens to moisture and germination under moonlight, and the magnetic serpentine current stirs itself in the underground waters— just as the thick, snakey spray of stars, the Milky Way, winds across the night sky. Moon phases are a part of the great cosmic dance in which everything participates: the movement of the celestial bodies, the pulse of tides, the circulation of blood and sap in animals and plants. Observation of the night sky, of the stars, and especially of the moon, was the beginning of mathematics and science.

Sjoo, Monica; Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (p. 139). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The ancients viewed the time of the new moon as a time that the Goddess went to the underworld to be with her “other half”, usually depicted as a son and/or lover.  It was not a time to be feared, but a time of fasting and introspection to be ready for when the moon Goddess reappeared in the sky. Some saw the moon as a male entity.

The timing of the new moon, usually a two to three-day event, has been echoed in almost every major religion;

In later Neolithic times some cultures saw the moon as male, as the son/ lover of the Goddess. As the vegetation deity died once each year, to fertilize the crops with his blood, so the male Moon God died each month. He disappeared for three days, locked up in her underworld. This myth was continued in the ritual of Christ being closed up three days in the tomb. In Polynesian belief the dying moon journeyed to a faraway paradise where it bathed in waters of immortality, and restored to vigor, returned in three days.

Sjoo, Monica; Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (p. 177). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The next full moon will be November 4th, at 0123 EDT. Again I hope to be sleeping, but for me, that is when I will celebrate Samhain. The ancient Celts, like most of the ancient world, were a lunar based society.  The Celts were not afraid of lunar eclipses. We celebrated them. It wasn’t until about 5000 BCE and the coming of the Druidic age that they turned to a “sun god”.

Avebury, on the Wiltshire Downs in the south of England, was the sacred center of megalithic culture in Britain. Avebury’s stone circle is the largest yet found in England. It dwarfs Stonehenge. (There are seventy-seven other stone circles, or henges, dating from the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age.) Avebury was built by pre-Celtic people, living in a farming community circa 2600 B.C. For thousands of years before its construction, the entire landscape of the surrounding area, stretching for about 37 miles, had been seen as the outline of the body of the Goddess. Every hill, mound, stone, and long barrow was believed to form part of her maternal body. The three stone circles at the “causewayed camp” at Windmill Hill nearby predated Avebury by more than six hundred years. The Avebury monuments, which include Silbury Hill and West Kennet long barrow, form a “condensed sequence of visual sculpted images within the center of the larger and more ancient presence. They express together journeys of cosmic range and the entire yearly agricultural cycle within the space of three fields.”

Sjoo, Monica; Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (p. 133). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Does anyone else have any moon rituals they celebrate? Leave a comment if you do!

Peace,
B

Samhain

(This isn’t an anti any religion post. Your beliefs are your beliefs. I’m not trying to push any of my beliefs on you, please don’t try to push yours on me. This is here to show the history of one of my favorite holidays.)

The season of Samhain (pronounced SOW-win) is upon us. The greatest of the ancient Celtic fire festivals, it is usually celebrated on October 31st or the full moon closest to that date (November 4th at 1:23AM this year).  It is from this ancient festival that we believe the modern-day Halloween comes from.

To the ancient Celts, Samhain marked the most important of four Celtic fire festivals. Located halfway between an equinox and a solstice, it is one of four cross-quarter festivals. Every year on the first frost after the full moon in October, families allowed their hearth fires to burn out. At this time, they brought back herd animals from grazing and completed gathering the harvest. After the fires died, they gathered with the rest of their tribe to observe the Druid priests relighting the community sacred fire using friction. The priests induced friction with a wheel and spindle: the wheel, representing the sun, turned from east to west and lit sparks. At this time, they made prayers and offerings or sacrifices related to their needs. The Crom-cruach came out: this was an emblem of the sun, and scholars are uncertain whether it represented a Pagan god or symbolized an aspect of nature embodied in a stone pillar. The villagers left offerings of food at the edge of their village for wandering spirits and faerie folk. There was also a sacrifice of a black sheep, a black sow, or cattle. At the end, every person returned home with a brand lit from the sacred fire, which they used to relight their own hearth and then to light bonfires or to set torches at the edge of their fields. These ancients considered it a sin to relight the hearth fire any other way. To the ancient Celts, Samhain marked the completion of the harvest and called them to put their energy into preparing for the coming winter. It also betokened a day when their ancestors would come to visit, followed across the veil by all sorts of creatures both good and bad that moved freely in the mortal world on Samhain night. Since faeries were often unfriendly, the Celts dressed themselves as animals or as other fearsome creatures as a way to prevent kidnapping by faeries and later by witches.

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 154-168). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

Not only did this festival mark the end of the harvest, it was a time the “veil between the worlds” thinned. This “thining of the veil” was of great import to the ancient Celts. (And it’s pronounced Kelts, with a hard “C”).  It was a time to welcome lost family members back to ask questions of them, or just sit in remembrance of them. It was also a time that creatures of all sorts, good and bad could cross between worlds. I would like to think that when I’m gone, on this day I will be able to stand at the veil and watch my family. To see how they’re doing and maybe, somehow, let them know I’m thinking (if that’s the right word) of them. John Lennon (he of Beatle fame) is said to have told his son Julian that if he can communicate from the other side he will float a white feather in front of him. That would be cool.

In today’s world “fairy” brings up images of “Tinkerbell” and other cute little sprite-like creatures. That was not the thinking in the 3rd – 5th centuries CE. In more ancient times (maybe as far back as 30,000 BCE) these fairies and sprites were looked upon as belonging to the Mother Goddess (Cerrwiden for most of Isles) and were usually benevolent. It wasn’t until the coming of the Celtic Christians (which was separate from the Roman Catholics) that these fairies were taught to be mischievous at best, evil at worst.

Most of the “Old Gods” of the Druids (which were stolen by the patriarchal religions) were manifestations of the matriarchal religions’ Mother Goddess (or Mother Earth). To try to convert the pagans of the British Isles, the priests either turned these old Gods and Goddess into saints, as in “Saint” Brigid or claimed they were evil and cast them to live in the hills underground.

 

IMG_20141026_191733430.jpg

Our Jack o’Lanterns from 2016

 

So the Catholic church tried to change all the pagan holidays, Samhain being only one, into a Christian holiday. They didn’t invent these “holy days” so much as usurp them from the pagan calendar.

When Christianity spread throughout Europe, the church officials went about converting the area heathens by converting their holidays. Sometimes church officials did this by scheduling an observance for a different time of year. Other times, they simply renamed the old Pagan holiday for a saint’s day. In the fifth century, Pope Boniface attempted to repurpose the ritual of honoring otherworldly spirits and the dead, identifying it as a day to honor saints and martyrs, and moving the holiday to May 13. When the late October/ November fire festivals continued anyway, in the ninth-century Pope Gregory decided to move the saints and martyrs day back to the same day as the secular festival of the dead. In the case of Samhain, rather than negate the festival of the dead, the church resorted to declaring November 1 All Saints’ Day, alternatively called All Souls’ Day. Later the church added All Souls’ Day on November 2, possibly because All Saints’ Day failed to displace the Pagan rituals. Eventually both All Saints’ and All Souls’ became distinct holidays unto themselves, with All Saints’ an observance for souls believed already ascended to heaven, and All Souls’ as a day to honor souls possibly still working out some issues in purgatory. In Ireland, these days marked a time for family reunions after cow-milking season finished. Over time the night before November 1, called among many names Hallowe’en, Allhallows eve, or Hallowmas, became the repository for most of the original Pagan practices.

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 169-179). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

As you can see, it didn’t really work. We pagans are a stubborn bunch. But I have to admit, that when I did call myself a Christian All Saint’s Sunday was an especially meaningful day for me. To hear the names of the “saints” that had left us the previous year and to have a bell chime for each name was very moving.

Despite the best efforts of the ninth century Christian Church, Samhain did not so much return as it remained. That, alongside Halloween, speaks to humanity’s enduring need to acknowledge fear, death, uncertainty, and loss. Samhain offers a chance for renewal and a chance to connect lovingly with the dead again. Halloween offers a release from the norm— often exactly what people need after enduring powerful grief. Pagans celebrate life, and with Samhain they do so by revering the dead, celebrating the chain of lives that brought us all together.

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 423-427). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

I have quoted extensively from Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween. This book is part of a series “Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials”.  While I couldn’t find a link to the entire series (there are several books) this particular book can be found here on Amazon. From there you should be able to find the rest. While I found the “recipes & crafts” section rather boring, you may enjoy that kind of stuff. The rest of the book was quite interesting to me.  If you buy it I hope you enjoy it!

Peace,
B

P.S. Long live the Celts!

Saint Columbus? Not A Chance

Christopher Columbus, the explorer, the great navigator, the man who “paved” the way to the new world, governor of Hispaniola, cruel dictator.  And not the first European to sail to what is now America. The Vikings beat him by years. He was just the first to go back and bring news of a “New Land” even though he still thought he had made it to Asia.

Growing up in Miami, with Christopher Columbus High School right down the street, we were taught what a great man he was. There was never any mention of how he decimated the native Taino people of Hispaniola.

From his Wikipedia article:

Columbus’s soldiers killed and enslaved with impunity at every landing. When Columbus fell ill in 1495, “what little restraint he had maintained over his men disappeared as he went through a lengthy period of recuperation. The troops went wild, stealing, killing, raping, and torturing natives, trying to force them to divulge the whereabouts of the imagined treasure-houses of gold.” According to Las Casas, 50,000 natives perished during this period. Upon his recovery, Columbus organized his troops’ efforts, forming a squadron of several hundred heavily armed men and more than twenty attack dogs. The men tore across the land, killing thousands of sick and unarmed natives. Soldiers would use their captives for sword practice, attempting to decapitate them or cut them in half with a single blow.

Columbus was bent on nothing more than a quest for gold, land and power. He was not an explorer, he was a conqueror. Who claimed he did it all in the “Name of God”. What a load of crap.

And worst of all he opened the door for the rest of the European nations to cross the sea and colonize the New World. The atrocities that have been visited upon the natives of the Americas have been brutal. Between disease (which I think even if the white man only came to trade, the disease they carried would have killed many of the natives. Not as many as history tells us, but still some) and the basic murder of the people and rape of the land, the white man’s legacy, my legacy, is shameful.

We look at the “evil” people of history, Hitler, Stalin, Caligula etc.. and say that’s not us. But if you look, really look, at the near, if not complete, genocide the white man brought upon the Indigenous Peoples of the western world, it is us.

And of course, the colonization of Africa was no better. Again the so-called “Civilized” man needs to bring the “savages” (and by savage I mean someone who doesn’t believe like I do) under control. No different from Rome trying to wipe the Picts off the map (but they didn’t succeed, we were much too different than anyone they had faced before, they could figure us out).

The white man and his “privilege” continue today. Just look at the percentage that a person of color (Black, Native American, any Refugee) has of at the least, of going to jail, at the worse being killed, by an authority figure and you’ll understand.

My “Internet Friend” Kaitlain Curtiss is half Native American (Potawatomi) and a very strong Christian (I am neither). Her insights have led me to become more interested in the indignities that Native Americans face on a daily basis. I say “become more interested” because I have absolutely no Native American in my DNA. Despite the fact that one of my sisters would tell me we were part (insert tribe here – it changed every time). And she couldn’t even get the tribe names right, one time it was Blackfoot (not the correct Blackfeet). I could have understood the Cherokee, mom was from the Carolinas and dad just a bit north in Pennsylvania (but that would probably have been part of the Iroquios Confederacy). I would strongly recommend you follow her a learn a little more about what it’s like growing up as a Native American.  You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.  I also would recommend Indian Country Today on Twitter (don’t know if they have a Facebook presence).

So that was a lot of words to basically say, let’s get rid of “Columbus Day” and rename it “Indigenous Peoples Day” or “Native American Peoples Day” (mainly because if it wasn’t for spellcheck I would get Indigenous wrong every time).

Peace,
B

More End-Of-The-World Craziness

This morning over on Twitter (@beachdaze if you want to follow me), Emily Miller (@emmillerwrites to follow her) of RNS (@RNS to follow them) posted the daily Slingshot. It’s a short roundup on interesting religious articles. I usually find at least one, if not more articles that I find  more than amusing.  Today’s was about Nibiru or Planet X as it’s been called.  Supposedly this “Planet X” is going to collide with earth on September 23, 2017. Yes friends, we have but days, no, just hours to live! Why were we not informed of this earlier? Surely NASA (more likely Elon Musk) could have come up with a rocket to whisk at least a remnant of humanity away to safety.

But no. And why? Because it’s all BS anyway.  David Meade, the crackpot behind all this is using numerology to decipher the dates.  Numerology? And the number 33 specifically. I just can’t make this up!

Read the entire article here.  Make up your own mind. I’m pretty sure come September 24th, around 5:30PM, I’ll be opening a craft beer as usual. Feel free to join me.

And of course there’s a video for you too.

Peace,
B

Anger & Resentment

I have just come from two doctors appointments today.  The first was with my primary care physician (actually her Nurse Practitioner) to find why after more than 18 months of dieting and exercise (including the cutting out of all alcohol, watching my carb intake, both Paleo & Keto plans) I have continually gained weight, without adding any noticeable muscle mass. In my Army career (and honestly my entire life) upper body strength has always been lacking. Push-ups, pull-ups and such were so tough I usually only made the minimum to pass.  Sit-ups weren’t so tough, but still not easy.  And I won’t even go into the 2 mile run.

This afternoon I meet with my respiratory doctor. I know have an official diagnoses of COPD/Emphysema and now need a nebulizer four times a day, along with 2 daily inhalers and a rescue inhaler.  I’m turning into my dad. He had emphysema and used a nebulizer for years. But he smoked 2 – 3 packs of cigarettes a day for many years. I have smoked maybe 10 cigarettes in my life.  I would say it’s not fair, but then no one ever said life would be fair. How I came to have the lungs of a 2 pack a day 20 year smoker is beyond faith.

Let’s talk about my mind/brain. I’m bi-polar type 2. Have been all my life. There is a good possibility that all of these conditions can be blamed on the fact that my mother smoked and drank while she was pregnant with me.  Not that I blame her. In 1958 it was par for the course, doctors didn’t know any better. so nothing was said.

So who can be blamed? Some might say, the sins of the fathers have been passed down. I don’t believe that, since I don’t exactly belive in the Christian God. At honestly, at times like this my belief drives me further away from a “true and just God”.

While I admit I never was one to “treat me body like a temple”, the  military made sure I was in the best shape I could be. I know my body has broken down over the years, I’m 58 now, not the 17-year-old kid who first enlisted. But dammit, I’m still too young for this shit!

I want to see my granddaughters graduate high school. Maybe get married and give me great grand children. Now I’m not sure I’ll make it to retirement. Wifey® and I want to buy an RV and travel the country. For all I know, I’ll never leave this house again.ZXZZZX

I go see my psych doc near the end of the month. I want to talk cannabis oil with him. It has to be oil, since my lungs are so fucked up I can’t smoke a joint. I’m hoping it will alleviate some of the bi-polar problems so I can deal with these other issues with a “sane” mind.

But for those that hold to the maxim that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” I say bullshit.  It’s not in the Bible. I’ve looked, Wifey® has looked, and my seminary friends have confirmed this fact. And I have to ask why was I born broken? What sin did someone in my family do that caused me to be the scapegoat? It couldn’t possibly be for the Messiah to prove his claim.

I am ready for it to end. I am not contemplating suicide, so don’t go calling anyone. But I wish it was over. And as I’ve said before, it would have better if I had never been born. As my sons like to say “No good can come of this”. I truly hope that when I die my conscience doesn’t go somewhere, that I just get reabsorbed to the universe and hopefully stay there. maybe become the “star-dust” of another spirit, maybe on another plane of existence. But not to come back to this hell on earth.

I never wanted this to become a “whiny” blog, so I’ll stop here. But I will say again. There is no “True and Just God”. Someone prove me wrong.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep looking for sign from Brigid, maybe she’ll bring me peace.

Peace,
B

Random Thoughts….

When the wifey and I left the world of structured Christianity and started reading other sources, I dropped most the Christian authors and pastors from my Twitter (which by the way is @beachdaze if you want to connect with me).

I started reading books like;

  • “Did Jesus Exist?”, “Lost Christianities”, and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman
  • “The Future of God” by Deepak Chopra
  • “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Irish Paganism” by Morgan Daimler
  • “Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess” by Courtney Weber
  • “The English Translation of the Qur’an” by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan

And many more mostly on ancient history. I seem to be drawn to stories and information of the first century CE.  Basically the beginnings of the Christian church. For too long I had been told that the bible was inerrant, so it contained no mistakes and no contradictions. Well that didn’t last long. Even as a child I had trouble believing in the flood story.  I knew that almost every race of people on the planet had some kind of flood story. Especially in the Mesopotamian area. And I won’t even get started on “Jonah and the whale”.

I have started again reading books from what would best be called “Christian authors”;

  • Rob Bell – “Velvet Elvis”, “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” and my favorite of his “Love Wins”.
  • Pete Enns – “The Sin of Certainty”, “The Bible Tells Me So”, and “The Evolution of Adam”.
  • Sarah Bessey – “Jesus Feminist”.
  • Marcus Borg – “The God We Never Knew” and “Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time”.

Mixed in with all these are Hunter S. Thompson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Hiaasen to name but a few.  Many baseball books, some books on the ancient Picts (still looking for books on the Dal Riadia) and even “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” by Amy-Jill Levine, an atheistic Jew that attends a conservative synagogue.  If you want to learn about the anti-Semitic views in the New Testament, this is a good place to start.

Gone are the old school folks – Max Lucado, John Ortberg, Phillip Yancey and Beth Moore.  Oddly, I still rely on Bishop John Shelby Sprong and the late Phyllis Tickle. We meet Ms. Tickle at a UMC event some years ago. My favorite quote of that event was hers;

“The best thing about being Anglican is where ever there’s three or four of us, there’s bound to be a fifth!”

But to get back to the original idea of this post; Twitter followers.  Since the election I have found myself gravitating backs towards the “Christian” authors and pastors I dropped long ago. I find my social justice and political views aligning back to that compass point. My faith hasn’t changed, I’m still very agnostic and maybe even more so as I age. But it’s these faith leaders that I find on the front lines, at least electronically, that stir my heart and soul (if there is such a thing).

I won’t call these folks out by name. I know that don’t do these things for any kid of recognition, they do it because their faith calls them to do it. I admire that. I wish I had that kind of faith. Some are folks everyone has heard of, others are just friends and family that only know by a few. Some are near, others I’ve never met, but hope to some day (we’re going to make it to The Wild Goose festival one of these years).

So for all the unsung heroes who blog, tweet, facebook, snapchat or otherwise call out those that need calling out (and there’s lots of them there folks these days), thank you.

I got your back.

Peace,
B

Jesus and Me

(This is gonna be a long one.  Grab an adult beverage of your choice and maybe a snack… Also I am not a bible scholar, but I do read many books about the bible and ancient history. I will include some links at the end of the article.)

Before I start, I want you to know that I am an Agnostic.  By that I mean I do believe in a higher power, not necessarily a sentient being, but a creator of sorts.  It may be the Judaeo/Christian God (YHWH, Jehovah, Elohim or just God). It may be the Muslim Allah. It may have no name, gender or form. I really don’t know.  But I do believe that this universe didn’t happen by chance. That’s just too many coincidences for me.

When I was a little kid my parents (mom specifically) would drop me off at church every Sunday morning whether I wanted to go or not.  My older siblings, nor my parents had to go but I did.  I would attend Sunday School and then meet with my age appropriate group afterwards.  As I’ve said before, I’m rather introverted so this was very difficult for me, especially during those all important middle and high school years.

During these times, I had much trouble with the usual bible stories. A man swallowed by a fish and lives for three days? A “loving” god drowns the entire earth except for one family, that just happened to build a boat big enough to hold an enormous cargo of all types of animals? And why are there two different creation stories? If this bible is inerrant it doesn’t live up to its billing. And what’s up with heaven and hell?  Again, how could a loving god condemn the majority of planet earth to hell just because they didn’t believe or understand a message?  If god’s grace is unconditional, then it just doesn’t make sense to me.  And there are many more questions where that came from.

The little UMC church I was forced into, early on was more on the liberal side than most. The pastor was well-known in the community as an outspoken critic of Vietnam, and when his daughter came out as gay he immediately started marching for gay rights. (He also had a very pretty wife that I admit I had a school boy crush on). He welcomed my questions and doubts and answered them as best he could. But unfortunately, his activism cost him his position in our church and he was moved elsewhere as Methodists tend to do.

But I continued to ask my questions. And by the age of 17 I was basically told that I don’t belong here, please leave before you corrupt any of the other youth.  By then my parents didn’t seem to care if I went or not, so I stopped going.

Fast forward to 2001.  My wife was attending a CBF Baptist church (mostly to appease her parents) but I didn’t go (she was raised in a very fundamental SBC church). The music minister and I somehow became acquainted and knowing that had I been a former radio DJ, asked me if I could help run the sound board for worship services.  And for whatever reason I agreed.

Then we were asked to go on a retreat of sorts.  This particular one was “The Walk To Emmaus” (other denominations have the same basic retreat under different names such as Tres Dias and Cursillo). I found the walk interesting and more what I thought a church (the people not the building) were supposed to be like.  My wife and I got heavily involved in the local group.

Until (there’s always an “until” isn’t there?  My wife posted a poem on Facebook that was attributed to Brigid of Ireland (before the Catholics took her out of pagan lore and made her a saint).

I should like a great lake of beer to give to God.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be tippling there for all eternity.
I should like the men of Heaven to live with me, to dance and sing.
If they wanted I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make men happy for their own sakes.
I should like Jesus to be there too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women of God,
There by the great lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever,
And every drop would be a prayer.

Next thing you know my wife is getting assailed from a member of the community (a pastor’s son no less) about “heathen” posts.  You know when a post starts out “Don’t take this the wrong way…” you’re going to take it the wrong way.  That started the decline. (Wifey wrote a very polite rebuttal that basically told him to mind his own business. My reply would have been much more crude.)

Right around this time I was laid off from my job.  At 50 years of age, with no real IT certifications (but 20+ years of experience) to my name it was very difficult to find a job.  In fact I was out of regular work for about three and half years.  During this time, no one in the community ever offered any kind of help for us.  Although they were planning all kinds of fund-raising activities for other folks (including the person that was against the Brigid post). But all we received were well wishes, good luck!

“If one of you says to them, “Go In peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? ~ James 2:16 NIV

By this time I was pretty much done with this organization.  I no longer attended the monthly gatherings, and politely turned down any requests to serve on the weekend teams.  My faith was quickly returning the 17-year-old me.

So now, the Jesus and Me part (sorry it took so long – but I did warn you).

There are enough extra-biblical sources to convince me that there was a historical man named Jesus that lived in first century Palestine and was crucified by the Romans under orders from Pontius Pilate. Was this man the “son of god”? I don’t think so.  I’ve read several books on the historical Jesus, authors such as Bart D. Ehrman, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  All have different views as to the divinity of Jesus (I tend to think Ehrman is closest to my beliefs).

I also don’t believe that the words attributed to Jesus can be considered actual “quotes”.  Scholars today agree that the first gospel written was “Mark” (the names on the gospels are not believed to be the actual authors of the writings. They were given these names centuries later). Mark’s gospel was written about 50 – 60 CE. Almost 25 – 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  I seriously doubt anyone could remember the exact words that were said that long ago.  Hell, I have trouble remembering what anyone told me yesterday!  Not to mention that the trial before Pilate, there was nobody else in the room!  So how did the dialog come about? If Jesus’ disciples (and probably himself) were from a backwater town like Nazareth it is highly doubtful they were literate.  Considering the gospels were written in Greek, and a very “formal” version of Greek, it’s a long shot that any of the gospels were actually written by a follower of Jesus.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t think the bible is a falsehood.  As another of my favorite authors, Pete Enns says, you have to take the bible in context of a first century Jew. Remember who they were writing for and why.

To me the words of Jesus (the “red-letter” words) may not by historical, but they are important.  The gospel writers got the gist behind the stories and parables that Jesus may have said, that’s whats important. I think the teaching of Jesus, as recorded in the bible are relevant for today as much as they were for when they were written.

A pastor once slammed his bible on a table, pointed at it and said:

“This can be summed up as such: “Love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your heart.  And love your neighbor as yourself”. 

That still resonates with me, even as I struggle to define “God”.

So all this to say, I believe in a creator (close to a pagan/Native American belief), a “Mother Earth and Father Sky” if you will.  Jesus was historical, but not divine. But he was very in tune with this “creator” and was a very moral and wise teacher.  His teachings have impact on the world today as much as they did some 2,000 years ago.

Maybe it’s my Pict roots that are calling me back to nature god/goddess pattern, I don’t know.  But I will continue to search and learn.

Hope you will too.  And please leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts and if you agree or disagree with me.  I do believe we’re all in this together, and we need to be here for each other.

Peace,

B

Links (in no particular order) go to the authors page on Amazon.

Bart D. Ehrman   I especially liked his “Did Jesus Exist”, “Misquoting Jesus” and “Lost Christianities” but I have several others as well.

Rob Bell  His “Love Wins” is an exceptionable book on why there is no Hell. “Velvet Elvis” was the first of his books I read.

Pete Enns  “The Sin of Certanity” and “The Bible Tells Me So” really sparked my interest in going deeper into the history of the Bible.

John Shelby Sprong  “The Fourth Gospel: Tales Of A Jewish Mystic” and “Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy” are both excellent reads.

Brian D. McLaren  “A Generous Orthodoxy” – probably the book that started it all for me.

Books:

“Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess” by Courtney Weber

“Our Great Big American God: A Short History Of Our Ever Growing Deity” by Matthew Paul Turner