faith

A Case For Charity

So on the way home from work this afternoon, there were two people on two different corners asking for help.  The first one was your basic down-on-their-luck looking person, with a sign that was basically illegible. The second guy though had a great sign, “I need a beer” was all it said. Now that is a concept I can get behind (although I am currently on day 6 of no beer while I try to get my cholesterol and triglycerides under control, again).

I don’t bring these encounters up lightly. I take the homeless problem seriously. Especially among my fellow veterans. But today, I couldn’t help these folks. I have basically stopped carrying cash.  Not that I’m afraid of getting mugged, but because an ATM card is just too convenient. There really isn’t any reason to carry cash. Or is there?

This reminded me of an encounter Wifey® and I had outside a local store a week or two ago. As we were leaving the store a young man with his family, significant other, and two small children were asking passers-bys for help.  The gentleman was wearing a clean Subway restaurant shirt and hat leaving to believe that he had a job. Of course, Subway, and similar fast food jobs are usually part-time minimum wages deals. And we all know that a single person, let alone a family can’t live off of minimum wage. I guess it’s obvious I support the $15 an hour minimum wage initiative.

As usual, neither of us had any cash and told them we couldn’t help them. But as we were pulling out of the parking lot I realized I did have a credit card for that store. I could have taken them into the store and bought them at least something that would satisfy at least part of their need. I will admit that I was almost in tears because I failed to help another fellow.

And that leads me to another story (yeah I know, shut up already).

Many years ago, when I did call myself a “Christian”, which I no longer do, this happened at the church we attended.

It was while I was setting up for a Wednesday evening Bible study/reflection time (I was on the soundboard as usual) when a down-on-his-luck gentleman approached me asking for money.  Well, this time I did have some cash on me. I gave him all I had, a whopping $5. After the guy left one of the members of the church, a deacon no less, said to me “Why did you give that bum money? You know all he’s going to do is buy beer with it!” My reply and one I still use to this day when I asked the same question was “Well, what the hell did you think I was going to do with the money?” Basically, I gave the guy my beer money, but I knew I had some more beer at home.

And if I had any beer at home today, I would have given the guy with the beer sign a beer or two. Share and share alike!

I’m sure some folks reading this (there is somebody reading this right?) will disagree with my view on helping folks that are not as fortunate as themselves. And while, as I said, do not call myself a Christian, I believe the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels (and I don’t think they are exact quotes, or if the human Jesus even said anything close to the words) are a good guideline for behavior towards our fellow humanity. Especially in regards to what is usually termed the “least of these”. To me, that means anyone on the fringe or outskirts of society. From what I’ve read of the New Testament, they tend to use the terms widow, orphan, poor, and occasionally refugee. In today’s world that would mean (to me at least) the homeless, the LGBT people who have been rejected, the refugees that have come to live with us (in or from ANY country, of ANY race, creed, color etc.), the indigenous peoples and ALL the other people of color, women, I could go on. But that’s another post.

My dear-ol-mother used to try to stop me from helping folks when I was younger.  Her favorite phrase was “Charity starts at home”. But then the question becomes; “define HOME”.  Going back to the Bible, even Jesus was asked a similar question, “Who is my neighbor?”, his response was the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you don’t know that parable click here to read it.  Of note on that parable is the Jesus Seminar released a book several years ago Sayings of Jesus” where they examine the sayings attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels. This parable was one of the few that all the participants agreed was a very probable saying from Jesus. (OK, I promise no more Bible references. I’m not a Bible scholar.)

No matter your belief system, I bet in some “holy” book you will find a varient of the “Take care of the ‘least of these'” command. I know you will find it in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qu’ran because I’ve read all three.

So what are your thoughts on helping today’s “least of these”? I’m not just talking money. It could be time spent with people in the hospital or an assisted living facility. Or visiting people in jail. Helping at a homeless shelter, a food bank, the list goes on. I admit, that I fall very short in this area. I try but fail. So for me, it’s usually a monetary donation. But when I was underemployed, it was time.

So do you do anything to help? Even if you don’t (no judgment here), leave a comment on your views on this subject. I welcome any open and thoughtful discourse. However, I do reserve the right to delete any derogatory comments.

Peace,
B

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A Bit Of Culture & Some Bad Theology

On Easter Sunday NBC aired “Jesus Christ Superstar Live!”. This past weekend Wifey® and I finally had a chance to watch it (thanks to the modern-day miracle of DVRs). I am quite familiar with this rock opera, having “stolen” the concept album (released in 1970) from my sister. I listened to it constantly. I could sing every part, yes, even Mary Magdalene’s  “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” (I figured if Judas reprises the song I could sing it too).

I have to admit that I am very partial to this version of the opera. With Ian Gillian (lead singer for Deep Purple) as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary (this pre hookup with Eric Clapton), the power of these voices far outshines most the follow-up versions. John Legend did a very nice Jesus in this version and Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas and Sara Bareilles as Mary were exceptional.

The 1973 movie adaptation was terrible. Ted Neely, who was the understudy to Jeff Fenholt as Jesus in the original Broadway cast, just didn’t have the voice to carry the part. The 2000 movie version had cool costumes but still lacked the “power” behind the voices.

The choreography in the “Live” version was exceptional. As was the instrumentation. The blending of the 70’s era rock with the traditional orchestra instruments may be the biggest reason this opera has stayed with me for so long.  I loved the way the electric string instruments came running in with the chorus (they go by the name of Choir! Choir! Choir!), and the violins and either a bass or cello,  were seen in several scenes on stage playing. I can’t imagine the conductor keeping all these musicians spread across the stage in time with each other. A very impressive feat.

Since this opera debuted in the 70’s its theology is a bit dated. One of the most glaring problems is that it casts Mary Magdalene as a “woman of loose morals” to put it politely.  I know there are still some folks who believe that Mary was of a questionable background. But I can’t find anything in the Bible that says she was a prostitute. All I can find is that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (if anyone has any reliable proof of this assertion, please pass it along). My thought (just my opinion), is that folks tend to combine Mary with “the woman caught in adultery” story that’s found ONLY in the gospel of John (and many modern biblical scholars claim that the story is not found in our earliest copies of the gospel. The current thought is that it was added much later by a scribe!).

The other bit of “culture and bad theology” I’d like to talk about is “Godspell”. I believe this would be a musical as opposed to a rock opera as JC Superstar is. I was lucky enough to see Godspell on stage at the Coconut Grove Playhouse way back when 1976. It was very close to the movie version. Wifey® and I have watched this musical several times at some local churches. It’s usually performed by traveling college groups and are usually very good performances.

Godspell is supposed to be based on the gospel of Matthew. And just like “JCS” it takes some liberties with the gospel. Since are both products of the 70’s, taking liberties wasn’t uncommon, especially for anything having to do with the Bible. And that doesn’t bother me at all. I do believe that the Bible is a good thing to read and understand, but then we should also read the Qur’an, and books of other religions, as well, but I do not subscribe the “inerrant” view of the Bible.

One of the major controversies of Godspell is that Jesus is wearing clown makeup. Again, not a problem with me. It doesn’t portray Jesus as a clown, he just has a clown face on. It sets him apart from the rest of the cast, just as Christians have set the historical Jesus apart from the rest of humanity.

Needless to say, both of these shows played a major part of my theology growing up. It wasn’t until much later that I came to realize just how bad their theology was. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying them though. To me, it’s just artistic license. And as long as they keep cranking out quality shows, like the Live show, I’ll keep watching them.

Have you seen either of these shows? Tell me your thoughts if you did!

Peace,
B

P.S. I went looking for a video of both of the shows on YouTube and there were too many to pick from. So it’s up to you to check them out.

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Some Resources

If you read my post yesterday, I’ve Been Tagged, (If you didn’t why not? Go read it now dammit!) One of the questions I was asked was “If you could befriend any author in real life, who would it be?”. I had several on my list, but number one with a bullet (sorry a throwback to my DJ days), is Dr. Bart D. Ehrman.

Dr. Ehrman is a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, the college I wanted to go to when I graduated High School way back when. My SAT score was even #1 for the school that year, so I feel that despite my mediocre grades (I’m sure my grades would have been much better if I had only shown up for more classes than band – yes I was, and still am a band geek), I would have been accepted. No financial assistance or anything, but I could have gone. But my mom said it was out of the question since it was a “party school”. How the hell did she know? Did she read the Playboy Party School articles? I know that’s how I learned which were the biggest party schools (it was always some little college in San Diego that took top honors, I forget the name). My reason for going there was at the time, the Dean of the medical school was a Dr. Issac Taylor. Probably better known as the father of musical genius James Taylor. I was just hoping that James would make a spontaneous appearance or two while I was there. I didn’t know he and his father were not exactly on speaking terms.  So I joined the military instead.  That’ll show ’em I thought. Screw college.

So that was a long paragraph with very little about Dr. Ehrman.  This is a link to his Amazon Author Page. I tend to buy Kindle books, simply because I don’t like killing trees. Although I admit, I do sometimes miss being able to just flip back to a section to quote something online. But you can highlight in the Kindle app, and that works for me.

Dr. Ehrman’s books are simply amazing. As a preeminent professor of the New Testament, despite not being a Christian, his views will quite often fall outside the “accepted norm”.  But, many times his writings have become the “accepted norm”.

He has a blog.  It’s not free, which at first disappointed me. I was like, “I’m already paying for your books, why do I need to pay to read your blog too?”.  But after reading a little deeper, I found that all proceeds from the blog go straight to several charities in and around where he lives. That made all the difference to me. I immediately signed up and paid my “dues”.

One of the benefits of this blog is his almost daily postings on various biblical topics.  They have covered topics such as “Paul’s View On Women”, “Were Cut & Paste Jobs Common In Antiquity” (which was actually a guest post). Along with “Is Paul Given Too Much Credit”, which is today’s post, asks some great questions about why the early church fathers don’t use Paul’s teachings. His series on “Was Jesus Given Special Treatment” (a series on whether or not Jesus was allowed to be taken down from the cross the day he was crucified or not). Is especially interesting (and I agree with Dr. Ehrman). It also has a quote that sums my belief in the person we call Jesus Christ;

He is important to us.  For Christians, he is their Savior.  For those of us who are not Christian – at least for me – he is the most important figure in the history of civilization.  I spend my life thinking about him, reading about him, researching about him, teaching about him, and writing about him.  I *do* give him special treatment.  Did PILATE give him special treatment?  I just can’t believe he did.

Another resource I’d like to pass along is called “The Great Courses“.  They have courses in just about anything you can think of, from cooking to religion to photography to languages. They are currently running an 80% off special through February 8th, so check them out soon. I bought the combo set of the “Old Testament” taught by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine and the “New Testament” taught by none other than Dr. Ehrman. You can get DVD’s, video downloads (my choice – don’t even own a DVD player anymore). Also available are complete transcripts (in paperback dead tree versions) of the videos so you can follow along while watching the videos or for later reference, but there is an extra cost for these. I plan on watching the first Old Testament video today during lunch.

I realize this isn’t living up to my “goal of having a humorous blog” as I said yesterday, but I wanted to pass this along before I forgot about it.

Go check these resources out and let me know what you think!

Peace,
B

I’ve Been Tagged!

My friend Kiersten over at Once Upon A Spine tagged me as part of the “Unique Blogger Award”. I have no idea what makes my blog unique, as it tends to meander its way around various subjects without ever really coming to any conclusions.

But anyway, first thanks for the tag Kiersten (and you folks should go read her blog. Some excellent books reviews that my Wifey® has found helpful.)

Here are the “rules”;

  • Share the link of the blogger that has shown you love by nominating you.
  • Answer the questions.
  • In the spirit of sharing, nominate 8 – 13 people for the same award (not sure I know that many bloggers).
  • Ask them 3 questions.

Onto the questions I was asked!

First – If you were to choose a different topic/theme for your blog, what would it be?

Since this blog has no theme or topic (hence the name Random Ramblins’), this is a bit tough for me to answer. When I first thought of coming back into blogging I knew I was not going to go back to the old technology blog I had years ago. Things have changed so much, I couldn’t keep up with it. My next thought was something about faith and my struggles with mainstream Christianity and why I’ve left it. But that was boring. And lots of people can explain it better than I. Then I thought food, who doesn’t love food? I love to cook and eat, but then health issues got in the way and I’ve had to change everything there, so that went out the window. How about mental health? I do have Bipolar Disorder type 2, some anxiety and social issues, but compared to what I’m reading on other blogs, mine is rather mild, or maybe my meds are just working better I don’t know. But again, better things are being said already.

But what I’d really like to do is humor. Back in the day (as in pre bipolar meds) I had a knack for telling the right joke at the right time. I could cheer someone up (even when I was struggling) with just a little humor. I had a flair for what my Soon-To-Be-Wifey® called “Gonzo Journalism” (a term stolen from the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, one of my favorite authors of all time). But since I’ve been on the meds, it seems my creativity level, my Gonzo if you will, has left me.  Maybe the meds are doing too much, or not enough, I don’t know.  But humor is what I’m shooting for.

Second – If you could befriend any author in real life, who would you choose? Why?

Another difficult question mainly because I feel I could do better with a really good copy editor than with an author. Come on, you’ve tried to read some of my stuff and just had to shake your head because it made no sense what so ever. Between the typos and the left out words…

But to answer the question, finally, I would choose Dr. Bart D. Erhman. From his Facebook page (easier to copy and paste – still looking for an editor you know) – Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, Jesus, Interrupted and Forged. I have read many of his books and I think his reasoning for leaving the Christian faith very closely echoes my reasons. Find him here. A close runner-up would be Dr. Pete Enns. I don’t have all his details, but he is an Old Testament professor. Find him here. One more to add to list is Dr. Amy-Jill Levine. A Jew who teaches New Testament. Such an oxymoron that I love it, plus she has a great sense of humor. Alas, she has absolutely no web presence.

Third – What’s the weirdest blog post you’ve ever written?

A long time ago (thinking about 2002) I wrote a post on my original website about my somewhat dysfunctional family. Nothing out the ordinary, just questions like “How did you get mashed potatoes on the back of your head son?”.  That site is long gone now, couldn’t find it on the “Wayback Machine” either. So for this blog, I’ll have to go with News You Can Use…No Not Really.

Questions for my nominees:

  • What is the one subject you wish you knew more about? A course you wish you had taken even just a seminar or such? And why.
  • Anybody alive or dead you’d love to have dinner with, and what would you talk about?
  • And since I ask this every time I get to sit on an employment interview committee; Star Fleet Academy or The Vulcan Science Academy and why? You’d be surprised how many supposed IT Geeks don’t understand the question.

Now I have to nominate folks… I don’t have many followers so I’ll only add these;

Sorry I don’t have more to add, but feel free to join in even if you’re not listed.

And free feel to send along any cheap copy editors, Wifey® says she won’t do it anymore. Well not really, she just can’t do it while she’s at work, and then I’d probably forget to post anything by the time I got home and she could edit it for me.

Peace,
B

P.S. Thanks again Kiersten!

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

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

GENERATIONAL GOD: a wild goose poem

Source: GENERATIONAL GOD: a wild goose poem

The beautiful poem comes from my Twitter friend Kaitlin Curtice.  This was written and read during this years Wild Goose Festival, an art, music and story-driven transformational experience.  We really wanted to go, but it just wasn’t in the budget.

You may also read Kaitlin’s blog here.  She also writes for the Patheos network under the Progressive Christian Channel.

This poem is posted with her permission.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Peace,
B