Monday, June 29, 2009

The Company You Keep

[Sanford spiritual advisor, Warren "Cubby" Culbertson] thinks Sanford was simply caught off guard by "the power of darkness."
"I would consider him a spiritual giant," Sanford said, breathing heavily to stifle his sobs. "And an incredibly dear friend."
When Sanford cited the example of King David's infidelity and fall during a meeting with his cabinet on Friday, he was also drawing on the Culbertsons' sessions.

If this is the kind of advise Gov Sanford is getting it's no wonder this guy is in trouble. Comparing himself to David? Nice ego.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wait 'Til Your Abba Gets Home

This is amusing!

If true this says volumes about the mis-education of the American Christian.
It is traditional that I bring up the common myth that the Aramaic word "abba" means "daddy" around this time of year, but I must admit that this is the first year in a long time that sightings of that anecdote among the blogs are few. (So either, there isn't as much interest this year, or people are actually doing their research. :-) )

Steve Caruso

Oops! He Did It Again

My minister once preached a sermon in which he explained thoroughly that we don't really know what happened to the disciples - specifically that the stories of their individual martyrdoms were likely legendary. Then he preached a sermon on the martyrdom of the disciples!

This time, he preached on Matthew 17:14
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."

"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
The minister very carefully and explicitly pointed out that the additional verse
"But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting"
is not found in our best manuscripts; experts believe it not to be original; blah blah blah - essentially that this verse is spurious...

...wait for it...

... and then preached an entire sermon on this very verse!!!!

I heard Dr Bart Erhman shift some of the blame for this disconnect between what seminarians learn about the nature of the Bible and what is actually taught to the congregations but I am coming to the conclusion that this misinformation is taught willfully. Our pastor is a very well educated, highly intelligent man. Why would he pull stunts like this? Is it that the the message is more important than the 'truth"? What about the people in the pews? Is it that the congregation is too dense to notice the switcheroo? Given the quality of Sunday School teaching perhaps it really does just go over their heads. Or is it that they just don't give a rip?

I harbor a slender hope that one young person, maybe even 19 or twenty, will hear these side comments a?." Then she will pick up a book by Burton Mack or, *gasp*, Bart Erhman and who knows what might happen next ...

Sunday School Theology

Sunday School Theology! Arrrrrggghhhhh!

Our Sunday school heeded the invitation of another class to share their lesson. In the course of the lesson we learned that Righteousness is the same as Innocence! Huh?!?!?!

Then we were treated to a discussion of the work of Walter Wink in which offering the other cheek is an act of social defiance...

Well at least the perpetrator of the second point had read something and challenged themselves (although I suspect he was attracted to this interpretation by his existing views). I swear the former made it up or is reading some really bad sh*t. Churches routinely hand adult education over to those who should be on the receiving end of the lesson. Certainly, seminary graduates can not be found to teach every class and at least avoid the howlers. What are we to do? Allow the vast majority of the congregation to wallow in the theological mud?

QOD - John Hodgmans

There is talk in some states of even decriminalizing evolution

John Hodgman - Radio & TV Dinner 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

QOD - Michael Spencer

Increasingly, the only theology that matters is the kind we cook up to justify whatever circus we are trying next.

Michael Spencer at iMonk

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Belated Book Meme

Here is the imfamous Book Meme

The rules: boldface the books on this list that you've read, and italicize books you started but never finished. (My score: 28 out of 100, 23 of my own volition)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (on tape)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte~
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee~
6 The Bible - God
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte~
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens~
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - Oh, come on. How many people have read "Two Gentlemen of Verona?"
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks - dude, I've never even heard of this!
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot~
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald~
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Unknown Unknowns

Bart Ehrman was not the first to point this out: the Bible as we know it has been altered, purposefully. The woman taken in adultery did not always sit at John 7:53. In fact, it is well known that this pericope was not originally in the last gospel. The same applies to the ending of Mark. No one knows what the original ending was, if there was one at all. These issues are not controversial. When approached on this conservative Christian apologists will nod their heads and try to change the subject with an argument like, "No point of teaching is affected by these minor changes." Minor changes? I would not consider adding a guarantee that believers can safely handle poisonous snakes a minor change but maybe that is just me.

So, Biblical Inerrancy (whatever that means these days) is defended by claiming that "minor" changes do not affect the Faith. Then we have this from good ol' Ken Schenck:
The NIV is a wonderful example of the "say one thing, do another" dynamic I see necessary for this hermeneutic to sustain itself.

Say: We are listening to the Bible. Our interpretations come from the plain sense of the text. We are under the authority of the text and not letting the Church have a higher authority.

Do: Let's translate "form of God" as "very nature God" so the full divinity of Christ is not in question (Phil. 2:6)--is "shape" really the same as "very nature"?! Let's translate "firstborn of creation" with "firstborn over creation" (Col. 1:15) so there is no question of whether Jesus is created or not. Let's add a word out of nowhere to "did not give" so it reads "did not just give" (Jer. 7:22), even though there is no such word in the Hebrew--we don't want to leave any question about whether Leviticus was written at the time of the exodus. Let's add another word out of the blue so that "to the dead" reads "to those now dead" so there is no room for the dead being saved (1 Pet. 4:6)--Protestants don't believe such Catholic ideas. Again, let's add another word that isn't there in the original so that "is not concerned" reads "is not just concerned" so we give no room for allegorical interpretation in 1 Cor 9:9-10.

Most of these moves have no clear basis in the text and seems in each case to be motivated overwhelmingly to maintain the perspective of the neo-evangelical tradition, thus deconstructing the fundamental claims of this hermeneutic. When push comes to shove, those of the Chicago Statement approach consistently trump the most obvious meaning of the Bible with evangelical tradition, in my opinion.
Today's translator has taken the place of the ancient copiest. In Ken's example only very "minor" changes are being introduced but with an eye to shore up a specific theological stance to protect readers of the original text. Who, without access to the original manuscripts (here the sources used for the NIV), would notice these "fixes?" Now, if the authors of the NIV made idealogically driven changes to the clear reading of the text that are almost impossible for the uninformed to detect, why assume that similar, lexically small yet significant changes [don't] exist in our extant manuscripts that shut down interpretations that would be plausible in the original manuscript.

That is the essential point of those of us who look at the known alterations and wonder about the ones we can't know. Conservatives are forced to take an odd position: "I acknowledge those little, itsy, bitsy changes over there, put those are the only ones. There can't possibly be any others!"

update: Fixed a spelling error and a missing "don't" in the second to last paragraph...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Holy Crap!

From the Washington Post
An al-Qaeda associate captured by the CIA and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques said his jailers later told him they had mistakenly thought he was the No. 3 man in the organization's hierarchy and a partner of Osama bin Laden, according to newly released excerpts from a 2007 hearing.

"They told me, 'Sorry, we discover that you are not Number 3, not a partner, not even a fighter,' " said Abu Zubaida, speaking in broken English, according to the new transcript of a Combatant Status Review Tribunal held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

We waterboarded this man 83 TIMES! This is the man for whose torture we were not supposed to feel remorse because he was the worst of the worst, a dangerous terrorist mastermind who knew where the "ticking timebombs" were. Turns out they've known for some time he was nothing of the sort.

Is Dick Cheney even capable of shame? I suppose he says to himself, "Well, he could have been a terrorist." So could Colin Powell. Wait a minute, Cheney probably already bugged his phone...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Historical Dynamics

"History teaches that global economic order is difficult to establish and maintain in the absence of a dominant economic power. The interwar period, which suffered from a similar crisis of leadership, produced not only a collapse of globalization, but a devastating armed conflict on a global scale.

So the stakes in righting the world economy could not be higher. Mismanage the process, and the consequences could be unimaginable."

Dani Rodrik

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ask, Tell

According to a Gallup poll, 69% of Americans favor allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the US military.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

JOD - Joke of the Day


You have just received the Amish Virus!

Since we do not have electricity nor computers, you are on the honor system.

Please delete all of your files.

Thank thee.

Episcopal Humor and Christian Jokes

QOD - Gustave Flaubert

The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeois.
- Gustave Flaubert

Monday, June 1, 2009

SJOD - Sermon Joke of the Day

I'm sure this is a classic:
A United Methodist minister is in the middle of his sermon when one of his parishioners keels over. The paramedics arrive and carry out 50 people before they find the dead man.