Wednesday, May 08, 2019


Just checking

Is this thing still on?

Monday, October 01, 2018


Testing ... testing ... carburetor overhaul under way

Cough. Ahem. Is this thing on? --ER

Saturday, January 16, 2016


2015 did not exist

I did not post one single blog in 2015. Wow. We will see whether there is still a place in my life for ER. Hmm ... --Rev. ER

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Parentheses begone!

No more "(M.Div.)" in the header -- just "M.Div." baby! And: approved for ordination with call. Took just five years! What next? Hmmm ... --ER


I ... am ... ALIVE!!!!

E.R. lives!

Sunday, August 05, 2012


Wow! This thing still works!

I do miss bloggin'. Having to quit, for lack of time, is among the unforeseen costs of seminary! --ER

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Stayin' alive, stayin' alive

Still alive. That is all. --ER

Thursday, November 17, 2011



Come Dec. 9, I will be halfway finished with a Master of Divinity.


Marshall Art's rises again

Here. Asserting God's maleness. I'm sure God is amused.


Sunday, July 17, 2011


Ark of the Covenant: God-in-a-Box

Feodor, long-lost pal, said this would preach.

We'll see. I'm preachin' on it in a few weeks -- it will be my second time to preach, ha, three days before my first homiletics class! Hoo boy. :-)

Suggestions welcome.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011


'God's promises revealed in Torah, Bible, Qu-ran'

"The Qu'ran mentions the Bible twelve times. The verses call upon the people of the Bible - Christians - to follow what God revealed to them in the Bible: to be better Christians."


Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Triune God knows best

UCC goes Father-free in tweak of bylaws.

I understand why some people think this is a big deal -- and it is: What is gained is a big deal.

What is lost is not.


Monday, July 04, 2011


'You will only be as free as you let other people be'

From a great 1971 flick: "Angel Unchained," which pits hedonistic bikers, defending peace-lovin' hippies agin' a bunch of dumbass rednecks. What an artifact of history!


Sunday, July 03, 2011


Smokin' freakin' h-o-t HOT

It's 102.

I had all I can stands, I can't stands no more.

So, I am fixin' to go get in my smoke-friendly pickup with a stogey and drive the back way to Oklahoma City and back, smokin' it.

Yes, I am pitiful.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


Happy He Done Got Back Up Day, Easter 2011


"Lord of Life, this is the morning that changed the world. This is a celebration of our joyful refusal to give death the last word. This is the power of life to swallow up death, of hope to triumph over despair, of presence to provide its own proof. This is the moment when we trust beyond our own capacity that the long arc of history bends towards justice, not hatred. This is the day for turning our faces toward the light. and for hearing the ancient promise that we have inherited. He is risen! And that means we must rise also. Easter is not a spectacle. It is an assignment, calling us to be Easter People. In the name of the risen Christ we pray, all of us running frightened from the empty tomb. Amen." (Mark 16: 1-8)


Sunday, February 20, 2011


On Spiritual Practices, a Dream Journal, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Things Left Unfinished and Hermione Granger in a Porn Flick!

Homework last week in my seminary class on the history of Christianity gave me the option of keeping a dream journal as an experiment in a spiritual practice.

(Other options were "communal worship" [what other kind is there? LOL, the idea here is to be intentional and deliberate in worship, rather than just showing up at church], fasting, a retreat, and meditation).

I kept a dream journal: "Over time, with the help of an experienced spiritual director or a therapist, see if you can understand yourself better and understand what God is saying." -- Bradley P. Holt, in Thirsty for God: A Brief History of Christian Spirituality, 2d ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 77. ("ER Recommended")

My journal! My report to the class follows.


Thursday night
Don M. and I are at the Daytona 500. We are as close as you can get to the track without being on it, standing against a rail. We can see only the straightaway in front of us and the first turn, to our right. The cars are lined up at the starting line. I looked behind me; we are on the ground, under some grandstand seating; there is nowhere to sit where we are, just people standing around. I see a friend of mine from my undergrad days at Oklahoma State in the 1980s.

(For years, I have wondered about him; we were not best friends but pretty good buddies; I can’t remember his name! I keep meaning to get an old yearbook out and see if I can find him. He grew up in Stillwater and could still have family there, if he is not there himself).

He sees me and I want to speak to him but just then the race starts and the cars are roaring by, so I can’t. The race goes into caution before all the cars make the first turn, which is just to the right of where Don and I are watching the race, when one of them spins out and scatters the pack, with cars bumping into one another. The car that spins is an old ... Oldsmobile or something, and I notice that the cars are not modern NASCAR race cars but street cars. ...

My old friend is suddenly at my side. He has barely changed, just a little fading to gray of his red hair and mustache. I just soak in the fact that there he is for a minute.

(It hits me just now: I think his name is Don ... he was my first introduction to mainline churches; he attended a United Methodist Church; I went with him a few times; it was the first time I had heard the doxology, first time I had experienced corporate reading of a written-down prayer, first time I had heard any hymns not in the Broadman Hymnal or a country gospel songbook. One of my favorite memories is of us good-naturedly arguing over infant baptism; I grew up Southern Baptist. Once, when I honestly thought I was giving in considerably, I said, “Well, I guess it really doesn’t matter if you’re sprinkled or baptized.” It was a long time before I realized why he was still so exasperated with me.)

With the cars quiet, I tell him, “I just wanted you to know, I’m going to Such and Such United Church of Christ, I’m a former deacon. My Southern Baptist and (can’t remember what I said) days are behind me.” I let him know that I had wanted to get in touch with him for years. He mentions two females’ names. “They were in my book. I wrote a book and gave you a copy,” he said, as he starts to walk away, back to where I first noticed him under the grandstand.

I’m thinking: What? When did you give me a book? “I wrote a book,” he said again. I turn and look toward the track. The race never restarts. People in the seating above us are throwing trash and emptying ice chests onto the track, and some people on odd-looking machines are riding them around the track cleaning it; they remind me of Shriners on their four-wheelers in a parade.

Suddenly the place where Don M. (he is gone now from the dream) and I are is airborne, and it’s cool; I hear a helicopter and I realize that it is carrying us; it flies around the track; I can see the rest of the track, the garage area and two places that look like small strip centers with gift shops, bars and restaurants. The cars are off the track, parked on some grass; the drivers are standing around in twos and threes; but Dale Earnhardt Jr. is by himself, looking through some tall hedges toward one of the strip centers.

The helicopter starts to fly faster and I am clinging in a panic to the rail in front of me, I am afraid I will be slung off. The helicopter lands at the strip center that is closest to where the dream began. I walk into a couple of the bars but nothing interests me. I get back on the ... whatever it is the helicopter is carrying us in. Off we go again, around the track, and again it starts going so fast, I am afraid for my life, clinging to the rail in front of me.

We land again, at the other strip center, close to where the drivers and their cars are. I walk into a restaurant and to the back, looking for a restroom. I guess I’m going into the kitchen, though; a kitchen guy stops me, and turns me around and pushes me out toward the restaurant. I walk through the place and outside and back onto the thing. There are several guys already there, drinking beer. Off we go again, into the air. The dream fades.

Friday night
I am escorting two young women to the last apartment I lived in in Texas. There is nothing suggestive. I don’t know who the women are, in the dream; they were indistinct, in casual dress, adults, but younger than me. We enter the apartment; one of the women goes to the right and sits on a couch in the living area. I take the other one into the kitchen to show her something, then back to a bedroom that I use for storage and an office.

Then I wake up, in the dream. I immediately go to the dining table and sit down with a notepad and pen to right down my dream — which is everything above: I dreamed that I was dreaming and woke up. I write down one word (can’t remember what), and at the second word my pen runs out of ink. I find another pen and the same thing happens.

Then my dream starts to fracture and lose coherence, but through it all until I really wake up, I am trying to write down my dream and being thwarted — and then I really wake up, and it takes me a few minutes to realize that no, I do not have to jump up and find a paper and pen to write down the dream. In my dream. But actually, I do — because that’s the assignment, although I type it up in Word rather than write it in a pad with a pen. But in the dream, I never got to write about my dream.

Saturday night
I’m tidying an apartment with a plain-Jane 1970s décor, but it is spotless, so I’m really just fussing around with things: moving a lamp here, scooting the couch over a foot there. I am getting the place ready for a party where Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the guest of honor.

No guests have arrived and Earnhardt hasn’t arrived either and is late. I call the airport to see if his flight has been delayed, but can learn nothing. I call someone else, and am saying “Earnhardt said (can’t remember)” and “Earnhardt did (can’t remember)” -— and out steps Earnhardt from the kitchen. He says, “I said what? I did what?”

I grab him and “man hug” him and thump him on the chest and say, “Do you know how much you look like we could be kin? I mean, to part of the family?” I tell him about the branch I’m talking about, which is my older sister and her sons, all of whom have the reddest hair in the family (Earnhardt is a redhead); her sons, my grown nephews, also have light complections, like Earnhardt. Earnhardt and I talk and cut up for a few minutes and the dream fades, no one ever having arrived for the party.

Another dream Saturday night: My nephews and maybe some others are at a lodge; our room is one of several along the exterior walls of the lodge building, opening up to a large central common room/restaurant. The place is packed. We put our names in for a table. We wait in our room to be called and told our table is ready; it actually isn’t a “room”; the beds and furniture are open to the common area.

We just hang out, each of us lounging on a bed. On the far wall of the restaurant is a TV; I spend quite some time making my way through the crowded restaurant, easing by tables and dodging wait staff, to get close enough to the TV to see what’s on. It’s Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and the other girls from Hogwarts, in a porn movie! I am shocked and return to our “room.” I must have fallen asleep, in the dream, because I wake up, my nephews are asleep on their beds, and the restaurant is dark. We never got called for our table.


This will go long because, frankly, I don’t know how to relate anything of substance about three seemingly lengthy and complex dreams. So, apologies in advance for the length of this post.

I kept a dream journal, which I found inviting since I regularly have provocative dreams (which I usually attribute to eating spicy food too late at night). I’m glad I did, because maybe I have picked up the habit now of writing dreams down. I wrote down a description on Friday (851 words), Saturday (258 words) and Sunday (395) mornings. I did so on my laptop computer, not a notebook, which seems odd — but I take notes on paper; I do not write in longhand, and I saw this exercise as writing from notes in my head.

(A seeming aside, but not really: Dale Earnhardt’s death at the Daytona 500, which was 10 years ago, Friday, Feb. 18, hit my immediate family hard; he truly was our family hero; his death and this weekend’s Daytona 500, and Dale Jr. have been on our minds this week as our grief has rekindled during this anniversary.)

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the racecar driver, had a cameo in my dreams Thursday night, which, although it had a race track for a setting, was very specifically about my return to church, seven or so years ago, my leaving the Southern Baptist Convention and falling in love with the United Church of Christ and joining a UCC church in 2005. In the dream, I told an old college friend who initiated my first exposure to mainline churches (United Methodist) back in the 1980s, and who I have not seen or heard of since although I miss his friendship, about it all. Key to this dream, as it turns out, I think, is that the race never finished because it never restarted after a wreck sent it into caution in the first lap.

Friday night: In a nutshell, I dreamed that I had awakened from a dream and had sat down to write it out — and my pen ran out of ink. I spent the rest of the dream trying, and failing, to write down the dream in my dream! In other words, I never finished.

Saturday night: In a nutshell, I dreamed that I was supposed to host a party where Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the guest of honor; he was late, but finally showed up; I told him I thought we could be kin, and why; but then no one else ever showed up for the party. In other words, I failed as a host. Another dream Saturday night: In a nutshell, waiting for a table at a lodge restaurant, then falling asleep and finding the restaurant closed; we never got our table, something else left unfinished.

So, there is a theme, and I did not set out looking for one, to these dreams: Failure, or at least not finishing. A lot to mediate on.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


No, heh-heh, ER did NOT ...

... defend the medieval worldview of the Great Chain of Being in a seminary class, History of Theology, led by a lovely but squishy po-mo-post-colonial-feminist prof of the female persuasion.

Did not. Did not, did not, did not.

But might a come close. ;-)

"Appalling," she said.

"Well, yes, by our own standards. But every level was responsible for, not just 'over,' the levels below him," I said.


Sunday, February 13, 2011


What I HAVE gotten myself into

Settling down amid storms as they rage.

My prayer is for the peeps that I have so angrily tangled with here, and probably will again at times, the past SIX years -- and for myself.

Peace! If not that, then there is NOTHING.

PTS rocks.


Monday, January 31, 2011


God spoke to me in the nick of time!

And God said:

Settle down.

More anon.


Saturday, January 22, 2011


Just in the nick of time

I'm getting my seminary groove back. Classes for me resume Monday online and Tuesday in person.

History of Christian Spirituality, online.

Introduction to Theology, in person.

Resurrection in Early Christianity, weeklong seminar in March.

The last three weeks or so have been hell.

Dr. ER fell and buisted her head and got a moderate concussion.

Almost 50 people got downsized at work, including a friend and cubical neighbor. The last time, less than a year ago, I said I could feel the hot breath of the beast on my neck. This time I got blood on me.

And I lost an online friend -- and this is not an attempt to repair, if he happens to be lurking.

All in all, the suckiness has been especially sucky lately.

I NEED school to keep my mind occupied!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


F--k self-righteous pricks

That is all.


Thursday, December 23, 2010


No, ER, did *not* go a month without blogging!

Just barely. Whew.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

What I'm reading between semesters in seminary!

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, by Jane Leavy -- a Xmas gift from Dr. ER.

The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness, by Karen Armstrong.

The Acts of Jesus: What did Jesus Really Do? by Robert Funk, the Jesus Seminar et al.

The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, by Karen L. King.

The Trouble with Resurrection: From Paul to the Fourth Gospel, by Bernard Brandon Scott.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Luke, womenfolk and my suspicion of hermeneutics of suspicion

From an online discussion ...


A number of you have remarked that Luke is a gospel that is especially friendly to women. That is a very commonly perceived notion. Jane Shaberg, a respected Lucan scholar and feminist, challenges this view. Below is her summary of her own argument. Read it and consider it and then let's discuss it.

Quote is from Jane Shaberg's introduction to her commentary on "Luke" from The Women's Bible Commentary, Newsom, Carol A., and Sharon H. Ringe, eds. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992.

"Warning: The Gospel of Luke is an extremely dangerous text, perhaps the most dangerous in the Bible. Because it contains a great deal of material about women that is found nowhere else in the Gospels, many readers insist that the author is enhancing or promoting the status of women. Luke is said to be a special 'friend' of women, portraying them in an 'extremely progressive' and 'almost modern' fashion, giving them 'a new identity and a new social status.' But read more carefully.

"Even as this Gospel highlights women as included among the followers of Jesus, subjects of his teaching and objects of his healing, it deftly portrays them as models of subordinate service, excluded from the power center of the movement and from significant responsibilities. Claiming the authority of Jesus, this portrayal is an attempt to legitimate male dominance in the Christianity of the author's time. It was successful. The danger lies in the subtle artistic power of the story to seduce the reader into uncritical acceptance of it as simple history, and into acceptance of the depicted gender roles as divinely ordained. ...

"The author of Luke is interested in the education of women in the basics of the Christian faith and in the education of outsiders about Christian women. The Gospel attempts to meet various needs, such as instructing and edifying women converts, appeasing the detractors of Christianity, and controlling women who practice or aspire to practice a prophetic ministry in the church. One of the strategies of this Gospel is to provide female readers with female characters as role models: prayerful, quiet, grateful women, supportive of male leadership, forgoing the prophetic ministry. The education that the study of Luke offers today involves a conscious critique of this strategy. It is not at all the education Luke had in mind!"

Questions to consider:

1) Why does Schaberg take this position?
2) What is her evidence for her position?
3) How do you evaluate her position?

Let's examine a particular text as a starting point.

Open Kurt Aland, Synopsis of the Four Gospels, to #306, "The Anointing in Bethany." This is a very interesting pericope because it appears in all four gospels, something that is very unusual. Use this text to answer Schberg's challenge.


1) Why does Schaberg take this position?

Because hers is a hermeneutic of suspicion; she is suspicious of the author; she suspects he is being sneaky with the way he tells his story. The mere prominence of women in Luke gives Luke cover for persisting in portraying woman in subservient roles.

2) What is her evidence for her position?

The roles of women in Luke are subservient, it seems, so Shaberg has a point.

3) How do you evaluate her position?

As a hermeunetic of suspicion, Shaberg's perspective needs to be held to the same light she holds Luke to: Luke had motives; so does Shaberg. Neither is necessarily "bad"; each deserves to be aired out.

My own take: To portay women so prominently, even in non-leadership roles, does go a long way, in my view, toward the "restorative" kind of mission Luke seems to embody generally; readers and hearers of Luke surely were surprised, given the patriarchy of the time, to hear and see so many woman in the Lukan stories; but whether they were pleasantly surprised or shocked is another question. It makes sense to me that Luke, perhaps, was writing to encourage his readers-listeners to continue in the restorative mission, in the face of social reluctance or outright opposition.


ER, I'll respond with italics.

1) Why does Schaberg take this position?

Because hers is a hermeneutic of suspicion; she is suspicious of the author; she suspects he is being sneaky with the way he tells his story. The mere prominence of women in Luke gives Luke cover for persisting in portraying woman in subservient roles.

The way you write that it looks like you think Schaberg started with her conclusion ~ her hypothesis is that Luke is sneaky. No. Her methodology is sound. She examines the evidence and arrives at her conclusion.

She brings her question about women to the evidence, not the other way around. Asking about women is her question... a fairly new question.

2) What is her evidence for her position?

The roles of women in Luke are subservient, it seems, so Shaberg has a point.

Her evidence is how Luke modifies his sources.

3) How do you evaluate her position?

As a hermeunetic of suspicion, Shaberg's perspective needs to be held to the same light she holds Luke to: Luke had motives; so does Shaberg. Neither is necessarily "bad"; each deserves to be aired out.

My own take: To portay women so prominently, even in non-leadership roles, does go a long way, in my view, toward the "restorative" kind of mission Luke seems to embody generally; readers and hearers of Luke surely were surprised, given the patriarchy of the time, to hear and see so many woman in the Lukan stories; but whether they were pleasantly surprised or shocked is another question. It makes sense to me that Luke, perhaps, was writing to encourage his readers-listeners to continue in the restorative mission, in the face of social reluctance or outright opposition.

Your conclusion is interesting. I see ambivalence in what you wrote, and that is probably smart. Yes, Luke moves women down from his sources, but when you compare it to later texts he looks much more favorable to women. Did he have a specific agenda in relation to women? If so, it is difficult to pin down with precision. He does include more female characters in his gospel, but portrays most of them in ways that might not threaten his dominant culture. It looks to me like a skillful move to take a "movement" toward an "institution." (My categories, not Luke's)

Luke is not imagining a full fledged institution, but he does move in a culturally conservative direction.

What do you think?


I confess to being suspicious of hermenuetics of suspicion, and I do not quite understand the difference between looking for something in the text and starting out with certain questions that frame a text in a way to be able to draw certain conclusions about a text. And so, I am ambivalent in my conclusions.

But my best guess is that Luke struggled with the roles that women played in the Jesus movement, and the best he felt he could do in light of his own present circumstances -- under strain with both Rome and the synagogues, which would tend to solidify tradition suspend innovation -- was put a lot of women in his story to give women the attention he thought they were due, but circumscribe their actual roles, again, because stress and strain and sturm und drang are not the best times to give rein to insurgent freedom.


Fair enough. Let me see if I can help.

Scholarship always builds on the findings of previously accepted work. So, Schaberg begins by accepting the scholarly finding that Luke uses Mark and Q as sources.

Now, she is asking new questions. She is interested in women. So, she gathers evidence. She looks carefully at a Synopsis, and notes everything she can find about women. Are their differences among the gospels in how women are portrayed? How many women are named in each gospel? How many female characters appear in each gospel? How does each gospel use its sources? Can a trajectory be traced in how older texts are adapted and modified as they are used in later texts?

See? She is asking new questions of the text, using accepted scholarship and basic methodology. You can't ask those questions of Luke unless you already accept Mark as a source for Luke. The methodology is already there. She just brings a new question to it.

The evidence leads to her conclusions. She can see that Mary never has demons in any source prior to Luke. That is a Lukan idea.

Look at how Schaberg writes up her conclusions about Luke. She admits to the whole of the evidence. Luke has more mention of women than its sources, but it moves them out of positions of prophecy, and into more traditional roles. So, the evidence speaks through the methodology.

Schaberg does not start with a bias against Luke. She starts with a question about how women are presented in the gospels. Then, she gathers the evidence. Then, she examines the evidence carefully and notices movement.

Let's look at your question again: " I do not quite understand the difference between looking for something in the text and starting out with certain questions that frame a text in a way to be able to draw certain conclusions about a text."

Did I help sort that out? The questions one brings to a text are open questions. Schaberg did not bring the question, "What evidence can I find to support my hypothesis that Luke was anti-women?" And, she did not manipulate an interpretation to support a pre-conceived hypothesis. Rather, she asked the open question: Are there differences among the gospels? Answer, yes. What is the movement? Answer: toward less authority for women in Luke than in one of Luke's sources, Mark.

It makes no difference to the researcher which way the evidence points. He or she simply seeks to examine the evidence on its own terms. The only way her questions shaped her conclusions is by causing her to notice women in the text. If her question was about bread, she would have noticed every mention of bread in each gospel, and would have looked for movement in how the various authors dealt with bread. See? It isn't possible to know the outcome until the research is done. And, independent researchers will discover the same evidence. The argument, then, is in how to interpret that evidence.


Excellent explanation. I tend to see what historians call "presentitis" in some ideological hermeunetics, but this very thoughtful explanation helped a lot, especially this: "The only way her questions shaped her conclusions is by causing her to notice women in the text. If her question was about bread, she would have noticed every mention of bread in each gospel, and would have looked for movement in how the various authors dealt with bread." I get that. In my history studies and research, I try to emphasize Native American viewpoints -- and so I see Native Americans, and consider them, where some others don't when they consider U.S. history. Same thing, I think. Many thanks.


I don't see an agenda w/ Schaberg and i wonder if that's because I bring a female perspective to it. For me, it's an "of course that's what it says." And the same w/ the text. It's not that she has a pre-proven point that she wants to make and she searches until she proves it. I wonder if there was another sub-set of people that was looking at the text if an agenda would be assumed or is an agenda assumed because Schaberg is described as a "feminist"?


Re, "I wonder if there was another sub-set of people that was looking at the text if an agenda would be assumed" -- yes, or, what I mean is, that is my kneejerk reaction. ... The whole post-modern thing seems to have swept in just after my undergrad years, and that, I think, has something to do with my default position regarding objectivity. But I am learning to relax my knees. :-)


Sunday, November 14, 2010


Call me 'preacher,' for I have praught!

And nobody was harmed. But I did make an older lady cry. ... It was a pretty dark sermon until about three-fourths way through.


Monday, November 08, 2010


FLASH! I'm preachin' next Sunday

Early service. First time. Maybe the last! Who knows?



Saturday, October 30, 2010


All Hallow's Eve Eve

It's already Halloween Night in Oklahoma, thanks to the declarations of the Oklahoma City Council and other local authorities out to keep Sunday sacred.

What the hell. Here's a Halloween rerun!

My ghost story.

Happy Halloween Eve!


Thursday, October 14, 2010


Travelin' mercies!

For the next week, Oct. 15-22, I'm going here (Nogales, Mexico) and here (Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation) with these guys (Borderlinks).

Keep me in yer prayers, y'all.


Friday, October 08, 2010


The Canon is as dated as the slide rule

The historical fact of Constantine's forced creation of the biblical Canon was rocked by the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts, especially the complete Gospel of Thomas, and is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

I did not say the contents of the closed Canon are becoming irrelevant, just the "closing" of it.

Recent acquisitions:

"The Trouble with Resurrection," brand new, by Bernard Brandon Scott.

"Q, the Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus," by John S. Kloppenborg, a textbook for my Intro to New Testament class underr Bernard Brandon Scott.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Resurrection, resurrection, the Body of Christ and the Body of Christ.

From my seminary discussion board for Intro to the New Testament ...

On the different concepts of resurrection from Paul in 1 Corinthians (the community is the Body of Christ, that is, the community IS Christ, resurrected, metaphorically, and the resurrection of individuals is in the future in spiritual bodies, like Christ's) and pseudo-Paul in Colossians and Ephesians and 1 Timothy (where Christ, in heaven, is the head of the Body of Christ remaining on earth, but the resurrection of individuals is seen variously as already having occurred, thus members of the community already have resurrected, spiritual bodies).

Why the differences between Paul and pseudo-Paul, a generation, perhaps, or less, later? Paul wrote in the 50s. ...

Me: Colossians and 1 Timothy were written after the fall of Jerusalem (circa 70 A.D.), which had to have affected not only their sense of timing for the end, but their theology.

If resurrection is future, and God saving them from Rome was future, then both gave them hope. With Jerusalem having been sacked, and Rome, presumably, cracking down in general, and the end having been delayed and Jesus having not returned, it makes sense to me that in their making Paul's practical plans into something more abstract, seeing themselves as having already been resurrected with Jesus would be a source of hope for strength, or perserverence or something, for the long haul.

(Later) Strike my reference to 1 Timothy, which does not see the resurrection as having occurred. My bad.

Perfesser: You are right in seeing Colossians and 1 Timothy as different. And you're also right to focus on the post destruction of Jerusalem situation. The delay of the parousia clearly impacts the belief in both cases. The question is how and why?

Me: The parousia has not just been delayed, but has been delayed through and past the fall of Jerusalem. So the apocalyptic Christians find themselves living in a post-apocalyptic world -- one that would be dark and grim and would require some fundamental rewiring of assumptions. Being the Body of Christ is one thing when living in hope. But once hope was dashed, they had to have been fairly determined to shore up their theology; envisioning Jesus in heaven as head of the body extends them into the cosmos, and into a reimagined future, in a way that mere metaphor couldn't after the end of their world as they knew it. Or something like that.

Perfesser: Makes sense. What is interesting about apocalyptic is that it appears to have died down after the destruction of the temple, but then flaired up again at the end of the first century. And it has continued the flair up over and over again in the history of Christianity.



Friday, September 24, 2010


Paul, the apostle: Called, not converted

The idea that Paul was "called" rather than converted is exciting to me because it helps some things make more sense.

That puts Paul in the line of Old Testament prophets whose aim was to correct or redirect Israel/the Israelites/Judaism back to God's first intentions for them as the firstfruits, but just the firstfruits, of the Promise of Abraham to become the father of all nations; it helps tie Paul's emphasis on community more directly to Sinai and the law's emphasis on neighborliness and "love God and love neighbor as yourself."

It helps explain the earliest conceptions of the Jesus movement as a new expression of, or new direction (or a return to an old expression of, or redirection) of Judaism, and not a new religion.

It reduces the need to "explain" how Paul was not a Christian but can be said, but only by people looking back to him, to have been the "founder of Christianity."

It helps make the Hebrew Bible much more relevant to me personally to see the Jesus movement more as a prophetic movement within Judaism in which Gentiles have been enveloped rather than as a "break" with Judaism or as "Part 2" of the story.


Monday, September 20, 2010


What is justice? What guides your ethical choices?

From an online discussion board for my seminary class, Contemporary Issues and Biblical Intrerpretation (an upper-level Hebrew Bible class).

What is justice?

What guides your ethical choices.

It's a discussion board (one of two for classes, which is the main reason I don't blog much right now), but these are just my contributions:

On justice ...
At the society level, I guess I'd say that justice is a moving target, but it consists of people trying to maintain a balance among liberty, order and equity among themselves and their communities and deliberate associations.

At the community level, I'd say justice seeks an environment where different groups of people have the freedom to define themselves and seek their own destinies using their own sets of norms, without encroaching on the liberties of those within the group or the freedom and rights of other groups to establish or recognize their own norms for individual members.

At the individual level, I'd say justice is closer to prevailing when laws, or rules or customs of my communities and society are applied to me and my communities without denying me either my rights as a free person or ignoring my responsibilities as a member of my communities and societies -- and the same for others.

Boy, that's awful thick, I know.

Oh, and on an economic note: Justice is closer to prevailing when more people have at least enough -- of whatever, food, other resources for living and for seeking success in life (however that is defined), regardless of the social delivery systems, be it this theory of economics or that one, or this form of government or that one.

On ethical choices ...

Funny that on the notion of "justice," I thought from the outside in, from society to communities to individuals. On notions of ethics, I do the opposite. Justice, to me, is something outside of myself; ethics starts with me -- but with me informed by the environment in which I grew up and it's notions of right and wrong.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church in a small town, and I think I slipped in just under the fundamentalist wire. My earliest experiences in church were the late '60s and early '70s. (I'm 46). And what I got from the pulpit, and from Sunday school, and from my extended family who also were part of that church, was good old-fashioned l-o-v-e, Love.

God loves me. Jesus loves me. Somehow Jesus helps me get to where I can hang out with God. And so, they said, I should love others. The first verses from the Bible that really sunk in for me were Romans 8: 38-39: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That truly was the foundation of my Christian education. It's fairly fearless.

It kept me in the face of peer pressure, distant from the resurging Klan, of all things, when in the late '70s-early-'80s David Duke was making his hateful noise -- but titillating some of us Southern boys who hadn't learned yet to tell the difference between regional history and family heritage and the historic evil of slavery. I rejected it because I could not square those kinds of things with what I had heard from the pulpit, and in Sunday school.

It made me a bleeding heart, a liberal, in the '80s in college when the country and its government turned so conservative and selfish. It got me in trouble in the '90s, when an unwillingness to judge the behaviors of others caused me to stop using judgment for myself, which led to some poor decisions. It remained in me, latent, as an "unchurched" man, until 2005, when a combination of things came together to awaken in me a love for others that had grown dormant from 20 years of seeing people as characters in news stories (a self-defense mechanism of sorts) rather than real people.

And it informs my thinking now, as I sort through what it means to be a biblically literate midlife seminarian liberal/progressive/whatever Christian amid Christians who are mostly biblically illiterate and intolerant of others -- the exact opposite of what I get from the Gospel and what I rertained from my own earliest exposure to it. Can't live with 'em; can't shoot 'em.

All of which is to say: Love God, love others, love myself, is where I do try to start when making ethical decisions. Of course, the devil, so to speak, is in the details, and so it's usually a matter of balancing conflcting values (within myself, I mean), rather than a clear-cut decision.

I end with this, from Frederick Buechner, as a possible way to demonstrate Christian ethics in an extreme example:

"Principles are what people have instead of God. To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God's or your neighbor's sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there's no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child."

On justice versus love ...

So, I’m reading “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and read this passage this morning. It’s a good juxtaposition of “justice” and love. It’s Kazantzakis’s version of the story of the Centurion of Capernaum (Matt 8: 5-13, Luke 7: 1-10, John 4: 46-54) and the healing of his servant/son/slave, which Kazantazakis depicts, actually, as a daughter.

The centurion complains that his daughter’s paralysis is “unjust.” (I’ve italicized the parts I think are salient to my point).


“No just!” Jesus contradicted him. “Father and son are of the same root. Together they rise to heaven, together they descend to hell. If you strike one, both are wounded; if one makes a mistake, both are punished. You, centurion, hunt and kill us, and the God of Israel strikes down your daughter with paralysis.”

“Son of the Carpenter, those are heavy words. I happened once to hear you speak in Nazareth, and your words then seemed sweeter than what would be suitable for a Roman. But now ...”

“Then the kingdom of heaven was talking, now the end of the world. Since the day you heard me, centurion, the Just Judge seated himself on his throne, opened his ledgers, and called for Justice, who came, sword in hand, and stood next to him.”

"Is yours, then, one more God who goes no further than justice?” shouted the exasperated centurion. “Is that where he stops? What then was the new message of love you proclaimed last summer in Galilee? My daughter doesn’t need God’s justice; she needs his love. That’s why I’ve moved every stone in Israel to find you. Love — do you hear? Love, not justice.”

“Merciless loveless centurion of Rome: who puts these words into your savage mouth?

“Suffering, and my love for my child. I seek a God who will cure my child, so that I may believe in him.” ...


Justice speaks to systems, or groups of people, I think. Love starts with the emptying of oneself in the admission of need, and continues with the emptying of oneself for another or others.

Now, the $64 million question: Could self-emptying love, the love of a Creator emptying His/Herself, the self-emptying love of Christ, ever be the basis of justice in any community or society? Probably only within the "community of the beloved," if even there, which would make the church so different from the greater society it would be constantly at odds with it.


Saturday, September 11, 2010


Piles of scales

I'm gonna have to vacuum up all these scales falling from my eyes as I read "Mandate to Difference: An Invitation to the Contemporary Church," by Walter Brueggeman.



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