Monthly Archives: August 2015

Poverty? Where? I can’t See It.

The most vulnerable Americans are being crushed by the grip of poverty, from the deserts of the Southwest through the black belt in the South, to the post-industrial, rusting factory towns that dot the Midwest and Northeast. – MSNBC, Poverty in America.

Where?

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in the Bible Belt. Perhaps they don’t pray enough. Or something. Very Republican, too.

Blissful Ignorance in the 21st Century

Who knew? Who knew that an entire clutch of Christians knew so little about their sacred texts? For the past week I did battle with a dozen or so Lutherans on a Patheos blog on the Evangelical Channel. Missouri Synod Lutherans.

My main interest was finding out why Lutheranism has remained so little changed from the time of Luther. I wondered if there were any doctrinal issues that were in need of addressing- as Luther had done back  in the 16th century. Or was that church fairly well content after the Reformation to this very day?

My intrusion into the blog was not met with welcome. Many figured that I was an atheist and leveled me so. They began guessing my religious background. One declared me to be a Jew. Clearly, I could not have been a Christian- especially not their ‘version’ of one!

Somewhere during all of that mud slinging, something stuck. And shocked me. These people had no idea about the New Testament beyond the literal words on the page! It was as if they had never grown since their Sunday school days. Worse yet, one claimed to be an active minister in the Lutheran Church..

What was going on here, I thought? Each one believed, for example, that Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were the apostles who walked the dusty roads of Judea along side of Jesus. That these men not only took great notes, but that they were gifted writers- writers who wrote Koine Greek.

I wonder if these bloggers ever wondered why, with the exception of John, these names never appeared on that inner circle about which we read- Peter, Andrew and James. Shouldn’t these men have written the stories due to their close relationship with Jesus? Maybe they didn’t know Koine Greek?

The bloggers were outraged when I suggested that the authors put words onto the lips of Jesus. Oh no! Blasphemy!

Apparently adult education classes in their churches never talked issues like the authorship of the Gospel writings. One can only speculate why.

Undaunted by facts, the mud-flinging intensified and I unplugged. Whew! To be ignorant is one thing. To remain ignorant is quite another concept altogether.

Biblical Authors: Faithful Frauds?

Who penned the Bible? Exactly! Nobody knows yet the Judeo-Christian world surely gives a hunk of credence to these unnamed men living in the arid hills of Judea in the late Neolithic Age. In the book, How the Bible Became a Book,  biblical scholar William Schniedewind, the Kershaw Chair of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies at UCLA,  muses, “So how and why did such a pastoral-agrarian society come to write down and give authority to the written word?.” How indeed?

There is the rub. Further, why do people living 28 centuries later ‘give authority’ to that written word? Faith, many say. Yet how can we ‘believe’ that these writers weren’t shysters? Knowing what we know about televangelists and a clutch of exposed and shamed preachers and pastors, how do we know the same isn’t true of the biblical authors?

Believers do not ask nor answer such questions because of their ‘faith.’ Good for them, yet that answer will not suffice any longer in this post-modern era.

Schniedewind states, “In ancient Palestine, writing was a restricted and expensive technology. Writing was controlled by the government and manipulated by the priests. Writing was seen as a gift from the gods. It was not used to canonize religious practice, but rather to engender religious awe. Writing was magical. It was powerful. It was the guarded knowledge of political and religious elites.

The word ‘magical’ strikes a cord. Magic was powerful in that world of myth and spirits and, as a result, magic assumed credence. It is no wonder, then, that the “Word” which was printed became sacred to the Israelites. “Biblical literature became a tool that legitimated and furthered the priests’ political and religious authority,” says the author. Authority and power.

During the Babylonian Captivity, the author states, “the priests who took over the leadership of the Jewish community during this period preserved and edited biblical literature. Biblical literature became a tool that legitimated and furthered the priests’ political and religious authority.” During this confusing and dark time, it was the priests knowledge of the writing that gave both the priests and the writings exceptional importance.

The result of all of this brings into focus the question: What did these authors and priests really know about God, the Creator of the Universe? This group of scribes didn’t even know that the Earth revolved around the Sun, didn’t know the Sun was a star, didn’t know of galaxies, dark matter, black holes or even that a comet was an ice and rock cluster. Yet these men with their late Neolithic, nomadic minds wrote about something that they could never have known- the Creator of the Universe.

it had to be fiction, pure guessing. And what was the result? Who did this “God” become? ‘He’ became human-like filled with human emotion, wrathful, vengeful and loving and protective. He was, for lack of a better term, Superman Dad