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Friday, September 28, 2007

The Rest of Revelation

So, I'm not going to finish a careful examination of Revelation.

I read through it in one sitting tonight. I am experiencing some troubling times and thought perhaps the theme of trials & tribulation followed by rebirth would be comforting to me. The truth is, it was not. Try as I might to keep focused on this legitimate messages, I could not look past what I think is the real theme of the book: payback.

It is easy to see how a book about the Romans getting theirs would be enjoyed by an oppressed people. Perhaps the reason I found so little inspiration in the book is because I am a citizen of the modern Rome. I think it is more than that.

Sometimes I do feel like I'm living in a world where 1/3 of the seas are turning sour as a result of man's sins. Sometimes I think there may be powerful people deceiving the masses and causing them suffering. But I don't want the Armies of Heaven to come down and devour the flesh of my enemies. Frankly, despite John the Revelator's testimony that it was Jesus speaking to him about these things, it doesn't sound very much like Jesus.

The triumph at the end of the book did not bring me sufficient hopefulness to undo my uneasiness with John's revelling in the death of his foes. If there are others out there who are moved by the work, I'd be very interested to hear their experience. For me, I'm afraid I've moved into the camp that questions its inclusion in the canon. (Although, maybe the cultural spin-offs justify it: grapes of wrath[14:19], lake of fire [20:14], sea of glass [4:6], pale rider [6:8], the alpha and omega [1:8], etc.) Unfortunately, that probably means I'll be doomed to be tormented, wishing for death, but that is only supposed to last five months.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Same or Different

In the comments to the last post Matt challenged the idea that Polygamy as practiced by Biblical characters was differnt from Polygamy as practiced today. I suggested that the realities of the modern world, as well as the cultural context, make polygamy different now. But, that may or may not address Matt's focus on the practice itself.

By way of analogy, consider homosexuality. I have an unresearched notion that homosexuality as practiced by Hellenistic cultures often involved an adult male having sex with a young boy. Assuming that is correct, it would be fair to say the practice of homosexuality today, which is primarily between two consenting adults, is enough different from the pracice during the time the Bible was authored as to call into question the Bible's teachings on the subject. Indeed, that would be true even if God Almighty was writing it. If humans name two distinct practices (exploitive sex with a minor AND consensual sex with a partner) the same thing, it's not God's fault.

So, what about polygamy? There are polygamists today that are all consenting adults and always were. Bill Paxton is surely portraying the good kind of polygamist. But, I think the norm for polygamy in modern America is the Warren Jeffs style, not the Bill Paxton style.

I think the Biblical polygamy is different because it was not a way to oppress the women involved. I also think the cultural context makes it different. If no one was marrying for love, then it is less evil to have a pragmatic loveless marital arrangment. Finally, I think there were situations in which it was pragmatic. Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Polygamy

From CNN: Polygamist sect leader Warren Steen Jeffs was found guilty Tuesday of being an accomplice to rape for using his religious authority to push a 14-year-old girl into a marriage she did not want.

Compare: Jacob married two women, plus two baby mamas. Abraham basically had two wives, Sarah (the good one) & Hagar (the bad one). This passage from Deuteronomy deals with the sticky situation of loving the child of one wife more than the other.

So, am I cherry picking to reject polygamy--clearly accepted by the Bible, there's lots more I wasn't even through the first five books--and accepting homosexuality--again, I think you'll trust me when I say there is plenty of condemnation there?

I think not. Polygamy, like slavery, like homosexuality in the time the Bible was written was a different phenomena than the modern practice bearing the same name. Polygamy exercised by Jeffs and his followers, who are not Mormon BTW, is evil. Some of that is related to the modern values--equality of women, marriage for love--and some of it is related to modern conditions--living long enough to be 30 when you have a family, fewer men killed by bears. But, polygamy is different than it was in the Bible.

If you are a literalist, you may be stuck accepting polygamy. You'd think that would be enough to convert anyone away from literalism.

Teams


This is a picture of the Seaton family. According to the Detroit free press, "For the Seatons, who are both represented by UAW Local 22, the national strike against GM is a family affair because -- like many families in metro Detroit -- they are a union family." When I was in third grade I missed a few weeks of school because my dad was on strike against Indianapolis Public Schools. We have a picture of me at age 9 carrying a picket sign. My grandfather was a shop steward at the rubber plant. So, despite my distinctly management professional history, I strongly sympathize with the strikers. I view them as showing solidarity; I see them enduring hardship now to make a better future for the workers down the road.

Of course, it is possible that management has the best interest of the company in mind. I say that it is possible because I am an analytical person. In my heart, I can't get over my unresearched opinion that corporate executives have not had to sacrifice as auto sales drop, or that many of GM's woes are the result of poor vision on the part of management, and not lack of work ethic from the laborers.

My point today, is that we have to be ever vigilant against blind support of our teams--of the groups with whom we identify. It is in fact another aspect of loving our enemies. It is a necessary step to following the golden rule. It is a crucial aspect of legitimate dialogue.

I'm surely going to still vote for pro-labor politicians. Nonetheless, I think the pause is valuable.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Having Something to Say

A couple of weeks ago there was an article in our local paper about my church. Doug Carroll of the Republic wrote:

Chalice Christian Church doesn't seem to fit in a Gilbert dominated by the Mormon faith and various large non-denominational churches. Chalice, part of the liberal Disciples of Christ, draws about 70 worshipers on Sundays to its temporary location at Imagine Charter Elementary School on Gilbert Road. But only a block south of there near Ray Road, the ambitious church is building a permanent home on 5 acres, where it will continue to make a stand for inclusiveness and social action.
"It's weird to be who we are, where we are," acknowledged Linda Miller, the church's senior pastor who has been with Chalice since it spun off from a Disciples church in Tempe about 10 years ago. "But it was also that way for Jesus. He changed the climate person by person, relationally. He encouraged individual transformation.
"We could have picked an easier place to grow. But Jesus' Gospel was so countercultural that it's still countercultural." . . . Corner said Chalice is about what people don't hear in its preaching and teaching. "They don't hear hellfire and brimstone," he said. "We accept anybody Jesus would have accepted. We see ourselves as an additional effort to make this a better world."
The full article is available on the archives of the Republic, $2.50 for a single article.

NPR has a story about the Democratic base in New Hampshire and they went to a Unitarian Universalist church. Listen here. And, we should not forget the recent discovery that Democratic presidential candidates may be religous. And, maybe there is more to faith than anti-gay and anti-abortion. Discussed here.

So, we--that is, liberal Christians--are starting to get the country's attention. I find that exciting. I hope that we have something to say: A concise message for the uninitiated, for the newcomer. That can be good from a PR perspective, but it can also be good internally. When Chalice developed its most recent tag line (where questions are as important as answers), the process helped us focus on an aspect of our church--curiousity & openness--that was both important to us, and a unique feature of our church. I look forward to the movement doing the same.