I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the third of a six-part series from about a year ago about the importance of the Bible in my spiritual life. After a ten-year study I finally understand what millions of other have discovered before me…. It’s about Jesus, not the Bible…

 

How Did The Bible Get So Filled…

How did the Bible get so filled with things that have nothing to do with the messages of Jesus? That is one of many questions I have pondered over the last decade.  I want to study more about King Constantine and how the Bible was put together under his watchful eye.2014-02-13_11-37-06 Here is the crux of what I know now.

Constantine was a king during the age where the Roman empire’s power was dwindling. He was losing his grip over his kingdom. Some say that is why he grabbed on to the idea of making Christianity a mandated state religion. I know he was not baptized until soon before his death so that puts his sincerity at question. Was he just covering his bases? There is very little historical text now available that pre-dates the first compiled Bible so we really can’t be sure just what is not in Constantine’s Bible or what was added. These types of questions need to be understood in order to put the Bible in its proper sphere of influence. Was it written by God or redacted to meet the needs of the most powerful world government of the time?

 

2014-02-13_11-39-37I personally take the Jeffersonian stand of Christianity to at least one degree or another. That is Thomas Jefferson’s belief that Paul took the simple message of Jesus and made it complicated. I’m sure he was well-meaning but given his background it was inevitable that he would add rule after rule on being a Christian.  After all he was educated and trained by the Pharisees of his time and if nothing else they were absolutely about rules. Upon serious reading of Paul’s many letter it is surprising how little his teaching overlap with any of Jesus’ word or messages.  In fact he seemed to know very little about Jesus other than his brief personal experience on the road to Damascus.

We know that the documents, particularly the gospel accounts, that eventually made up the first Bible were generally not written until at least forty years after the events took place.  Before that all the biblical stories were likely passed down as was very typical of the time via an oral tradition.  We also know that except for Paul, who was not one of those who sat at Jesus’ feet,  most of the other leaders of the early church were very likely illiterate.  This necessitated that someone else would take their stories and put them into literary form.  For the most part we still don’t know who those scribes or the authors actually were. Under these types of conditions it is very likely that myths and fables were included in the written text.  Thomas Jefferson believed that is how most of the miracles of Jesus were established. It was just overzealous people adding a little bit to enhance a point. Those who study other historical sources know this is a very common thing of human nature.  George Washington was almost a god in early America and many myths were generated  and recorded about him. The most familiar is probably about chopping down a cherry tree.

In closing I am not saying that the Bible is without value simply because human foibles are contained in its text but it is important to understand that possibility when trying to put this document into the proper perspective in today’s church.  The messages of Jesus that are contained within these various writings, even though they were very likely tarnished by human actions,  are what is paramount to our following Jesus.  The Bible itself is just a means to convey those inherent messages.

Peoria…

March 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

Peoria Skyline

Peoria Illinois is a small city in the Midwest where I spent a long weekend a few Decembers ago. They have a December event called “The Festival of Lights”. It is well worth the visit.

Festival of Lights - Peoria IL 2008   Festival of Lights - Peoria IL 2008   Festival of Lights - Peoria IL 2008

2015-03-10_10-32-14Sen. Rand Paul slammed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for hypocrisy on marijuana in an interview Wednesday with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. Responding to recent revelations that Gov. Bush smoked pot during his teen years at Phillips Academy, Paul pointed out the flaws in Bush’s opposition to medical marijuana in his home state.

Sen. Paul, who has hinted about his own wild college days, was quick to clarify that he did not fault Bush for having “made mistakes growing up.” Instead, he took issue with Bush’s inconsistent views on the drug. “If you’ve got MS in Florida, Jeb Bush voted to put you in jail if you go down to a local store or a local drugstore and get medical marijuana … and yet he was doing it for recreational purposes.”

To Paul, it was Bush’s privileged upbringing that spared him the harsh penalties many Floridians still face when they entangle with marijuana. “It was a different standard for him,” the presidential hopeful explained, “because he was from a wealthy family, going to a very wealthy school, and he got off scot-free.”

SOURCE: Rand Paul calls out Jeb Bush on marijuana – Yahoo News.

I must admit that this is one of those times where Rand Paul’s words ring true to me.  But I must always remember that his underlying priority is to basically shut down government and to remove the nation’s safety net and move us to  laissez-faire capitalism or “Everyone for Themselves”.

Now that I have my libertarian rant over lets look at the particulars above. Almost all of our opinions are at least a partial result of our experiences in life.  I guess I, unlike Mr. Ryan and Mr. Bush, wasn’t “hip” in my youth as I never tried marijuana during those years or since.

What I want to concentrate on in this post is the words I bolded in the quote above. It is becoming more and more obvious that it is a very different standard of justice for wealthy families than it is for the rest of us and particularly those of us of color. All these recent reports of police shooting of unarmed black young men and the hugely disproportionate number of minorities in our prison system have brought that fact to light. Now if we can just manage to accept that fact and to do what we are famous for as a country and that is to address these inequalities head on.  Given that money is power in our society there will never be true equality of justice but we should at least try to level the playing field as much as possible.

I will finish this post with a change of heart I have had over the last couple of years. We need to do a lot less jailing of people who primarily only harm themselves with their actions and a big part of that group is marijuana users. If they are not threat to society then we need to seek other means of enforcing our version of morality on them.  Enough said….

As the years go by I am convinced that the most abused thing in this world is the name of God. Everyday it seems that there is another person, group, religious sect that take God’s name in vain. The story below is about Jehovah’s Witnesses sect hiding, even from their own congregations, the child abusers among them.  Here are some of the words from the PBS Newshour report on this subject.  If you want to see the entire interview click on the source below:

2015-02-17_10-53-21Believers are taught to renounce secular society because it’s controlled by Satan, and not to socialize too much with outsiders. But charges of sexual abuse have brought this insular community under greater scrutiny. And now, in this San Francisco courtroom, the first child abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses to go to trial is under way….

The case hinges on letters from Jehovah’s Witness leaders to the heads of local congregations. For almost 20 years, they have ordered them to send reports like this one for every known child abuser, to hide these cases from their congregations, and not to cooperate with law enforcement or the courts, unless instructed to….

They have refused judges’ orders to turn over these abuse reports, so no one knows how many cases like Conti’s are out there….

SOURCE:  Did leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse?.

I must admit that I know very little about the Jehovah’s Witnesses other than the fact they often do door-to-door solicitation to get new members. I was not aware that they think the world outside their organization is controlled by Satan and that they alone are the only true followers of God.  For that reason they keep pretty much to themselves. They are for the most part probably told what to believe and what to do in almost every life circumstances. They simply do what their leaders tell them to do. But then again this same thing to one degree or another can be said for many other organizations who espouse to have all the answers about God.

There are so many today that mourn the shrinking number of those who claim to be religious. But who can blame the young person, both outside and even within these religious sects for having doubts. Just look around the world today and it is easy to see that most of the wars and killings are done in the name of God, all thousand versions of him!  How can that not be a turn-off for people beginning their life’s spiritual journey?

One of the best things about our country’s constitution and one of the worst things is the right to believe spiritually what you want to believe. It is definitely a double-edged blade. Yes, it does keep us from persecuting others who have different beliefs from us but it also allows the very groups that are being protected to strike out against everyone else. It protects us from the abusers but also protects the abusers.

There are so many different versions of God around today it would seem almost impossible for a young person not to be turned off by the totally different views of God. I have my own personal beliefs about God but I am not going to try to force those beliefs on you.  If only all religious institutions would agree to coexist with each other the world would be a much better place…

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Walking The Plank…

March 25, 2015 — 4 Comments

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I dread to think about how our totally politicized Supreme Court is going to rule on the latest attack on affordable healthcare for almost ten million of us.  Will they essentially make those folks walk the plank as Steve Sack shows in this editorial cartoon. It is widely known that most of the yahoos on the court vote primarily on their political alignment. The law and original intent just doesn’t seem to mean much to them.

 

Military SpendingI also see where the Republicans have recently come out with their budget proposals for the coming year. Take a look at that very little orange slice of the current budget pie to the right. That shows our current food stamp allocations. It seems that tiny slice is where they want to do the severest cuts. Part of their budget is to increase the dark blue area even more! They don’t think it is big enough yet.  Please tell me how anyone can actually believe that they are serious about their budget proposal when they take the elephant in the room off the table for cuts???

Why does it seem that we are living in an upside-down world right now???

 

This is a continuation of the post about two distinctive worldveiws so prevalent in our society today. Let me say up front that even with violating my self imposed 500 word limit on posts this will only very lightly touch on the matter of good or evil. Lets pull a couple of quotes from yesterday’s post to concentrate on here.

Still, the distinction is real and important — and its implications touch on areas of our cultural life far beyond criminal justice. It helps to explain, for example, the very different ways that Platonic liberals and Pauline conservatives approach sex — with the former willing to trust in the power of rational sex education to help shape behavior, and the latter much more concerned about their children succumbing to sinful temptation no matter how many rational arguments they’re exposed to. 

SOURCE:  The real fault line in the culture war isn’t race or sex. It’s sin..

Different worldviews depending on whether you are a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative is an interesting concept.  I don’t necessarily agree with the liberal/conservative tags added but be that as it may. I will acknowledge that most people can probably be classified as one or the other of these groups. And then there are people like me, and I hope many others, who might look at it from a different angle.

As I always like to point out this issue is not black/white, Plato/Paul but instead shades of both. As the quote from yesterday said it is too simplistic that one view holds people as good and the other as people are evil because they are always sinful.  Let’s look at Paul and his teaching first.

In order to understand the words of Paul so dominant in the Christian bible you must look at his life’s experiences to see how his philosophy was shaped. Paul was first and foremost a Jewish scholar. He was all about rules. Rules on how to live, what to eat, how to pray, rules about everything. These rules are to keep you from sinning. Paul’s education and everything about him was jewish. When he saw his vision on the road to Damascus it made him realize that he had part of  it wrong. But only part. Since he was a very educated man he wrote much about his new-found faith but intertwined it with his jewish beliefs of rules and sin. I am one of those who align with Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts that Paul took the simple messages of Jesus and made them complicated.

Plato on the other hand generally believed in the goodness of man. He believed that this innate goodness came from our creator and was deeply embedded in us. He was more about shedding off faulty traditions than about rules. Plato was a very complicated guy but for this discussion his idea of innatism is at the center.  Innatism is a philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a ‘blank slate’ at birth and that knowledge is generally about wanting to become one with your creator. Therefore he, unlike Paul,concluded that man is at his foundation good as it comes from God who is good.

Plato or Paul?  To me these are two different interpretations of how to live our lives. I personally gather some insight from both but probably align more with Plato. As my Quaker friends say I believe that “there is the light of God in all of us” and that light was given to us by our creator. But I also recognize that temptations are always there. So am I a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative?  I am a shade of grey somewhere in between.