The Play's the Thing | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Play's the Thing

For an agnostic, he sure does talk about God a lot.

pic Lapwing and I have been having a conversation about faith, off and on, for about seven years. Without saying anything that he has not already made public knowledge under his current persona, I can reveal that he's a longtime Roman Catholic whose name has, for several decades, semi-regularly shown up in print in Catholic circles. But he has recently become unhappy with the church and, in his opinion, lost his faith; the clergy abuse scandal, which convinced him that even clergy don't really buy into the fundamental doctrines of the faith, was the last straw.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, saith the preacher.

Not that he didn't always have an agnostic streak. Both of us, for that matter. If you've spent as much time talking religion as we have, you've learned the one-two punch that a really good, intelligent atheist will confront you with. And if you haven't, you should--better to read it in a blog like this than to have it sink in for the first time when you're at your most vulnerable:

1. Isn't it mighty strange that the world you believe in is exactly the world you would invent, if you had the option? Where everything is fair, and an all-powerful being who loves you as an individual is in charge of it all?

2. Isn't it mighty strange that the observable universe, with all of its blind indifference, is exactly what we would expect to see if there were no God?

Compelling points. Anybody who calls atheism an intellectually dishonest position, an immoral position, a position that doesn't stand up to scrutiny, will have to argue with me. I respect honest atheism. You can't look at scientific naturalism eye-to-eye and not come away realizing that it's sensible, that the evidence supports it, that people who buy into it have good reasons to buy into it.

And let's face it: There's a distinct problem with philosophical theism. If there was no such thing as vision, how in the world would we prove the existence of the color blue? Imagine two people, blind since birth, arguing about this: "What's it like?" "Well, I don't know. But it's present in some things and not in others. I reckon it's caused by the reflection of light waves." "That doesn't make any sense." "No, it makes perfect sense. My people have taught that the color blue is real for thousands of years." "Yeah, but your people have taught a lot of things that turned out not to be true. Why should I buy into this one? Give me some reason to believe."

That's basically where we are on matters dealing with the fundamental nature and origin of the universe. Show me somebody with ironclad proof of God's existence and I'll show you a raving nut.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, saith the preacher.

I'm not going to tell you what to believe. But for me, faith is not a proposition. Faith is not an assertion. Faith is not an argument. Faith is not provable. Faith is not itself proof. Faith is not what you believe. Faith is putting one foot in front of the other. Faith is not our predictable response to being provided with the meaning of life; faith is our decision to charge life with meaning. Faith is not a personal status; it is a relationship with what is.

The earliest followers of Joshua the Nazarene did not call his religion Christianity; they called it "the way" or "the path." Why? Maybe because you walk on it.

But all of those propositions, all of those assertions, all of those confident doctrines and airtight arguments and those concepts of God that stand in perfect alignment with a given philosophy, to any given understanding of the universe--they're comforting. They make us feel better. They give us security. Except, of course, when we need it the most. Then they tend to fall apart like the idols they are.

I like the way W.H. Auden put it:

O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart.

So all I can say, Lapwing, is that I think what you're describing is real faith. For what it's worth coming from an equally clueless fellow-traveler, I think that, far from just living on inertia and social conditioning (as you might suspect you're doing), you are taking a very real religious journey: To be faithful. To reject ornate certainties, and to pray only at altars of rough-hewn stone. And to refuse to worship any and all Golden Calves, no matter how many years you have to wander in the desert.

Can the Roman Catholic Church use people who share your doubts? Yes. If it is to have any credibility in the secular world, the Roman Catholic Church needs people who share your doubts--now more than ever.

Previous Comments

ID
103316
Comment

This is almost funny its so timely for me. I'm a "recovering Catholic" who used to have so much disdain for the church that I refused to enter its doors for the past ten years. I blamed it for stifling me. I figured out very young that church "buildings" were just stupid. God doesn't want all those BUILDINGS. He never really fought for ten million dollar churchs with TV screens and child care. In fact, to me the people who built that church have LOST THE POINT...and have done it in a stupendous and very expensive way. Most people think I don't believe in God. I do. I also think Jesus was a cool guy who said some cool things. I have no issues with him. Just like I have no issues with Buddha. He was a cool guy that said some cool things. In fact, almost the SAME things that Jesus said...hmmm...imagine that.... But, isn't it funny that Jesus HATED the temple? That he preached outside? Maybe because he knew anything that was run by men was going to be corrupted. I also have issues with the feminine being removed from the church....and demonized. And, the complete lack of reverence they hold for the Earth is just BEYOND me. I can't figure out when the SUV drivers going into that ten million dollar building are going to GET THAT POINT. I don't know. All of this stuff has been floating around in my head recently. Mainly because of the hypocrisy of it all. But, last week, I did a coping group with some church clergy that made me, once again, understand that it isn't the PEOPLE I dislike...its the organization. My argument isn't for or against "God". Because I don't have an image of God as most people do. My argument is against the fact that people seem to think in order to properly "worship" him you must do it in front of three thousand others wearing your best clothing. That isn't God. That isn't even an IDEA of God that I've seen anywhere in the Bible (when I've looked). So, that's why I crank on the Christians so bad. I should probably come up with a new name for "them" as I have met some REAL "Christians" here lately who don't personify those beliefs at all. Maybe the Cranky Christians. The idea of Jesus has been used to hold this country hostage long enough. At the end of the day, that isn't what he was about. I'm for anyone who takes the time to figure out what they REALLY believe. What is REALLY true for them...(and that was my point, I think);) And please, if there are any Christians out there who are going to try and convert me...or fight with me. Don't. I no longer feel the need to defend this position. It just IS.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T06:20:25-06:00
ID
103317
Comment

Ali, well said. When I showed up at belhaven for the first couple days i was floored by it all. I had not taken part in religion for quite some time, now all of a sudden I was immersed in it. To be honest all the home schooled kids without social skills pushed me away from religion. Other things have brought me back to it, but everytime someone raised a question about bible stories, jesus,god the answers from the professors were not intelligent very often. At least the ones who had seen the "other side" sex, drinking, drugs, were the well versed unrehearsed answers that could convert someone of doubt. Although i never attempted to argue the adam and eve story, and we won't here for the sake of time. Not to poke fun but it seems the pentecostals and baptist are having a contest to see who can build the biggest churches (see tower of babel). Although Christ united and the NE jackson crowd are ahead in the contest at the moment while the others adjust to high gas prices for the SUVs we all have come to know and love. To continue the point you made Tom the people who do encounter atheist for the first time yet defend it the most enthusiastically are the people who do not know that much of their religion. Most baptist are baptist because everyone else is and it is more of a fashion show where you get yelled at. Their is no substance to them, and faith does not need that going against it as well.To all the baptist I am sorry i have a bad taste in my mouth from childhood. The progressive churches in Jackson are filling a niche to the people who want to come in jeans and show up for more noble reasons. Journey, St. Andrews is laid back along with Galloway. To agree with your point about churces Ali the context is in the bible as well, and forgive me for not knowing the verse, but the jist of it is "you will not find me in houses of marble and stone, move a piece of wood and you will find me, lift a stone and i am there." I will find it tonight. At the risk of looking like an idiot I hope that was it. Interesting to see where this thread goes.

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-10-26T08:13:42-06:00
ID
103318
Comment

Interesting conversation. Ssome of this is reflective of much of my own (protestant) history. But I do want to ask Ali where she gets the idea that ìJesus HATED the templeî? Iíll agree that Jesus had serious issues with the hierarchy and actions of the priests, Pharisees and Sadducees, and Sanhedrin. And they certainly had issues with Him (based on the threat He posed for their authority) but He did not hate the templeóthe outward symbol of Godís revelation to and presence with man prior to His own life on earth. It was very common for Jesus to go to the synagogues and the temple (when in Jerusalem). In fact, He preached and spoke at synagogues and the temple nearly as often as He did outside. The outdoor sermons were more a result of the crowds following Him everywhere expecting a sermon and miracles, not because He said ìnoî to the temple or synagogues. See for example: Matthew 4:23 - And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Matthew 9:35a - Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagoguesÖ Matthew 26:55b ñ I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. (See also Luke 22:53) Mark 1:21 - Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. Mark 11:11 ñ And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 12:35 ñ Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, ìHow is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? Luke 2:22, 27 ñ Now when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. Ö So he [Simeon] came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the lawÖ Luke 4:16 - So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. Luke 13:10 - Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. Luke 19:47-48 ñ And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him. John 5:14 ñ Afterward Jesus found him [the cured lame man] in the temple, and said to him, ìSee, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.î John 7:14 ñ Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. John 7:28 ñ Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, ìYou both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. John 8:20 ñ These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come. John 8:59 ñ Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. John 10:23 ñ And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomonís porch. John 18:20 ñ Jesus answered him, ìI spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T09:46:32-06:00
ID
103319
Comment

Jesus even returned to the temple the day after (Matt. 21:18, 23 & Matt. 24:1; Mark 11:27) cleansing it of the thieves and moneychangers (Matt. 21:12 & 13; Mark 11:5-17). Too many people think that Jesus had no use for organized religion. They're wrong. Jesus had no use for a religion that was organized for the benefit of a privileged few. That was one of the worldly reasons behind His crucifixion - the reason the priests and Romans wanted Him dead. But Jesus was all about the church meeting together (wherever three or more are gathered...) and being a unified, organized body to do His service on earth.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T09:47:46-06:00
ID
103320
Comment

all the home schooled kids without social skills Now I think this is pretty funny, but I suspect that not all participants here will agree with me . . .

Author
allred
Date
2005-10-26T10:40:00-06:00
ID
103321
Comment

Jesus had no use for a religion that was organized for the benefit of a privileged few. Rex, this was my point. This is what churches have turned into. The same thing Jesus hated about the organization is WHAT IT HAS BECOME. And the "hated the temple" thing was the ONE thing I remembered about Jesus cleaning the temple of money lenders and thieves. For future reference, don't quote the Bible at me. It makes me want to hunt you down and beat you about the face and neck with it. Seriously. Just don't do it. You could have made the point without it, and I would have believed you. Simply because I'm Catholic...therefore I know NOTHING about the Bible. I have read it once. Yes, the whole thing. And, there isn't ONE part that I can really remember. Although, I have read a lot of philosophy CONCERNING the Bible and I remember that a lot better. I have a tendency to be better with abstract thought...more so than quotes. ;) I say that about the Bible because I think its flawed. It was ALSO put together by men and I do not believe it to be the "inspired word of god". I think its a great little collection of stories that are used to make a point. There are historical references in it that are true. I'll give you that. But, with the current version/translation/retranslation and the Canon that included and excluded books that were from the same time period based upon what "the church" (HINT: MEN) wanted to portray in the world makes it useless to me. This is why I don't debate Bible scripture. I don't know it, have no use for it, and it contradicts itself at every turn. Allred- I thought that was funny as well. I have one home schooled friend whom we tease mercilessly. Especially when she doesn't know things that EVERYONE should know...like "Ferris Bueler's Day Off". Its OBVIOUSLY because she was home schooled by the Amish. Yes, THE AMISH. No, she is not Amish...she's not even religious. This might be one of the reasons I love her so much.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T11:58:11-06:00
ID
103322
Comment

Those who know just know. Some will be wondering. But if you have been around enough of them you can kind of pick them out of a crowd. Good points rex, i am surprised bible.com didn't point you to where Jesus teaches at the temple when he is young.

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-10-26T12:03:47-06:00
ID
103323
Comment

i am surprised bible.com didn't point you to where Jesus teaches at the temple when he is young. Not familier with Bible.com, but Jesus didn't teach in the temple when he was young (with apologies to Ali): "Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions." Luke 2:46 He wasn't teaching so much as holding a philosohical discussion. Tom would have been proud.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T12:16:40-06:00
ID
103324
Comment

As for the Amish... There's a lot to be said for their lifestyle and faith, regardless of discomfort and impracticality.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T12:18:38-06:00
ID
103325
Comment

An excellent conversation...intelligent, with different shades on the topic with, yes, different views but presented in a civil way. We need more of this... I too share a serious disdain for the "Cranky Christians" as Ali has called them, as well as those many Methodist, Baptist, and Presbytarian clergy who used Scripture to justify slavery pre-Civil War and, later on, to enforce an oppressive way of life for African-Americans post-Reconstruction. The same mental illness that used Christianity to justify burning women alive ("witches"), slaying indigenous people around the globe, as well as slavery is still alive and well today as cultural phemonenon today. Despite its radical distortion of the original tenets of the Christian faith it is a reality, but it certainly isn't Christianity. On the other hand I have a profound respect for those authentic practitioners of contemplative Christianity -- among them Father Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, Episcopal bishop Spong, Parker Palmer (Quaker), John O'Donohue, and Matthew Fox, whom I know and had the good fortune of teaching with once. From the likes of them, and others, I have at least been able to see that there is a "possible Christianity" that doesn't express itself in rabid materialism, bigotry, or violence. Regarding the giant hotel-like churches that modern Christians build: My disdain for "The Crankers" on this level is also deep, but I have also slowly but surely developed some level of compassion for them because whether Cranky Christian or non-religious secular person, ours is a brain-washed culture in the arena of consumption of goods and materialism and we've come to associate -- rather addictively -- "things" with "well-being." On that level, I would venture to say that MOST people are caught in this trap, even those who espouse the alternatives. It is my perception that most people are simply very conditioned, and very unaware, and uneducated, specifically about the level to which they have been brain-washed around materialism, so it now makes sense to me why this same aspect or quality would also become enmeshed with a religious tradition expressing itself through its modern architecture. In the old days of Chartes Cathedral, the Abbey at Iona (Scotland), or the Cambodian Buddhist temple Angkor Wat...I think such architecture represents an acknowledgment of sacred space. These days, however, the mega-churches seem to express very well the differences outwardly of the interior experience. Most churches today (not all) seem like a big Radisson or a Hilton. In my own journey around the wounding I experienced at the hands of the Church (or rather from some of the people within the Church), I've come to a point of thinking on these things with the distinction of two labels: Churchanity (the popularity club of the Crankers) and Christianity (those Pathwalkers of the Way, who authentically embody the tenets and practice of their faith). At the end of the day, I can only hope that the Pathwalkers will begin to reclaim the voice of their tradition from the Crankers, but it isn't my fight. chronos --a Zen Buddhist--

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-26T12:30:29-06:00
ID
103326
Comment

chronos, your description of the material influence on what is supposed to be spiritual relationships also explains why there's a lot to be said for the Amish. I have problems with the modern church building mentality as well. Ali might say the whole bigger-is-better mentality is due to the churches' (hint: male) insecurities and I wouldn't necessarily disagree. But then I did max out as Orthodox Quaker on the belief net survey link earlier...

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T12:43:04-06:00
ID
103327
Comment

Good posts, all of you. Rex, we need to remember that what got Jesus in trouble was saying that he could tear down the Temple and rebuild it in three days--and driving moneychangers from the Temple, armed with a whip. Moneychangers accepted a commission which went towards the Temple funds. It would be like chasing off the usher with his/her offering plate. You're right about the trees, but Ali's right about the forest. There were basically two schools of thought in first-century rabbinic Judaism: the Pharisees, who emphasized personal conduct, and the Sadducees, who emphasized worship and sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. Although Jesus condemned the Pharisees more harshly than any other group, he had basically a Pharisee's outlook--his use of parables demonstrates this. But his background was probably with an Essene group led by John the Baptist, very similar, in many respects, to...the Amish. And they were VERY anti-Temple. I was a homeschooled kid, then did all of my degrees by distance learning. Never went to Belhaven, but my nephew (also homeschooled) did. He graduated at 18 and went on to medical school, which he graduated from in June at the age of 23. Now my 24-year-old nephew answers to "Doctor," and will have a "Mrs." in a few months. The key is to give the kids social outlets; you have to program that in just like any other part of the curriculum. As a kid, I spent many hours a week at the state street YWCA (which has since become the Old Capitol Inn); lots of race and class diversity (I've still never seen a better-integrated place), and the opportunity to become a really good swimmer. Then when I hit my late teens, I made a rule of spending 4-6 hours every week just sitting outside at the Cups in the Rainbow Plaza and, if people I knew weren't already there, striking up conversations at my favorite open tables, or with any lonely-looking total strangers. The holy roller from RTS, with his student papers on hermeneutics and eschatology. The bawdy motorcycle chick with nine visible piercings and more tattoos than the guy on Prison Break. Any member of the clergy was always good for a chat. The hippies, of course. The goths. The slick lawyers in suits. The AA group, the NA group, the S&M group. If they were there, I talked to them. That's the way you do it. I don't drink*, smoke, snort, inject, gamble, or screw. And now I'm also a vegetarian. But I'm not totally divorced from my body; I'm a (bad) dancer, an (off-key) singer, an (asphyxiating) hugger, a (so-so) contemplative. And for some reason, I never get butterflies speaking before a group--large or small. So my social skill set is different from a lot of people's social skill sets, but I'm pretty happy with the overall package. I'm basically who I'd want to be if I had the option of choosing. (* Except for ONE, and only one, glass of wine--socially. If you're trying to pick me out at the bar, I'm the guy ordering the Diet Sprite.) Thoroughly enjoying this thread. So I've got a question for all of you: When did you start doubting? Were you born that way? I read a lot of skeptical stuff when I was a kid--Camus and Sagan, especially. Strong interest in science, especially astronomy (I wanted to be an exobiologist--a term, I later realized in the course of editing my university press book, that Sagan coined in an almost tongue-in-cheek way). But it all came to a head when I was 13 or 14, and spent a winter wondering if I'd go to hell for not believing. Then I discovered C.S. Lewis and Carl Jung, and that delayed the inevitable for a few years. 2001 was the biggie for me; I spent the first half of that year TOTALLY confused, and very unhappy, on all faith-related matters. Being confronted with uncertainty was not a pleasant experience. But now I've learned to live happily with that uncertainty, something I didn't believe I'd ever be able to do at the time. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T13:14:48-06:00
ID
103328
Comment

Actually, I coudl be COMPLETELY wrong myself but I think that part of what you are talking about with that quote is actually in the Gospel of Thomas? Does someone know? There is alledgedly a Gospel of Thomas that was not included in the Bible for its very "naturalist" view of God...as him being in nature everywhere. But, that is from a memory of something I read long, long ago. For the first time ever, please someone correct me if I'm wrong. ;) (Write that down....its the only time I'll ever invite correction)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T13:23:11-06:00
ID
103329
Comment

The Gospel of Thomas is pretty interesting, but I'm not a huge fan. Way too esoteric; way too focused on knowing the way it is. Plus almost certainly written much later than the three synoptics. Though maybe not much later than the Gospel of John, which is actually similar to Thomas in many ways--including the image of a Jesus who walked around proclaiming his own divine nature all the time. Hmmm. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T13:27:57-06:00
ID
103330
Comment

Oh, Tom... Did Jesus really say He would tear down THE temple? Or was that how the Pharisees and Sadducees interpreted it after what He really said filtered through a number of gossiping bystanders? (Matthew 26:60-61; Mark 14:57-58) Even when He admitted that He would raise "the temple" in three days, He never said He would be the one to destroy it (John 2:18-20). When did I start doubting? Not sure I like the term. I "questioned" things from a very early age, but then there was a little bit of a traditional of that in my family in spite of being Christian. While my parents took some things on "blind faith" they weren't about to let the pastors declare something they could find no Biblical treatise for. From that, I concluded that if the Bible didn't specify a stand on an issue (in it's original discussion or as close and translations could get) then God was giving me the option to use science and any other means to understand his universe. As a Christian believing the fundamentals (yeah I know, bad connotations for that word) as espoused by the gospels and epistles, I see no direct quarrel between my faith and science. My own affinity for "Blind Faith" was kept in a very narrowly defined area of Clapton-worship. (Sorry. I couldn't help it.)

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T13:38:48-06:00
ID
103331
Comment

Ok. Grammar and typing leave a lot to be desired. Time for a coke.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T13:42:11-06:00
ID
103332
Comment

Saying that "he" would be the one to tear down the temple is a symptom of my own One-of-Those-Days Syndrome (my brain had one image of how the sentence was supposed to be, and my fingers had another), but you know what I'm driving at. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T14:14:52-06:00
ID
103333
Comment

"Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there" Ali you actually got it right, my quote was a little out of context.

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-10-26T14:16:37-06:00
ID
103334
Comment

Well, I'll be. The reference you cite in Mark calls the claim "false testimony." I had gone by the Matthean account, which left its veracity in question. Duly noted, and thanks. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T14:24:57-06:00
ID
103335
Comment

oh crap...Tom, I was talking to 'No Name" WE HAVE GOT TO GET HIM A NAME! When he quoted the part about "lifting a rock..." ....I thought that was very "Thomas"

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T14:25:37-06:00
ID
103336
Comment

Agreed. The Gospel of Thomas definitely has its moments! I was a little harder on it than I really meant to be; I still do go back and read it periodically. I've always had a taste for Gnostic literature, despite its flaws; with apologies to Peter Gabriel, "it's only knock-and-know-all, but I like it." Re No Name: I think this would be a great poll idea; No Use contributes some consistently good posts, and it's about time s/he had a name. Let's run a contest! Choose three names for No Use. Winner gets a no-prize. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T14:32:22-06:00
ID
103337
Comment

I agree. Can we all just vote on a name for "No Name" and be done with it? Jeez, Leweeze. "Thomas" could be good, or maybe "Tommy" to show our affection for him. Others?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-26T14:34:49-06:00
ID
103338
Comment

Hmmm. Maybe "Tommy Didymus"? Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T14:40:43-06:00
ID
103339
Comment

I'm agreeing on the name thing. Here is my one suggestion. 1) Thomas Christ Superstar Now, you can see why I'm not great at naming things. ;)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T14:41:19-06:00
ID
103340
Comment

Chortle. Let's just shorten it to "Superstar." BTW, no name, it's not up to you, so live with it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-26T14:43:32-06:00
ID
103341
Comment

"Superstar" reminds me of the Molly Shannon movie (tee hee) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167427/

Author
Steph
Date
2005-10-26T14:52:17-06:00
ID
103342
Comment

In light of the topic change I will change "no name" provided it is all in good humor, no "wears thongs in the cold" or "short girly man in askirt" etc. So have at it. We can have fun with this, it should be interesting. Does anyone at the JFP have the savieness to a poll? It seems that is one of the things not present on the JFP. Or is this an informal thing? I know todd isn't liking the bandwidth bill but at this point come on. Even the LEDGE has polls, I leave it to you to determine whether that is a good or bad thing.

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-10-26T15:08:41-06:00
ID
103343
Comment

Since he has "No_use_for_a_name," I vote for Sergio Leone's Drifter

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T15:14:14-06:00
ID
103344
Comment

I'm likin' Superstar. ;) No name...you might have to just get used to it. 'Tis a heavy moniker with which to be saddled, but I'm quite sure you can live up to it.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T15:15:43-06:00
ID
103345
Comment

"Suuuperstaaar, Suuuperstaaar, do you think they're who you saaaayyy you aaaare?" I love it! Thanks for being such a good sport about this. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T15:19:19-06:00
ID
103346
Comment

I would be gracious enough to extend to "no name" the temporary use of my erstwhile moniker "Suspirium Puellarum."

Author
allred
Date
2005-10-26T15:32:05-06:00
ID
103347
Comment

I must admit...Superstar holds a place close to my heart as I once ACTUALLY DID play the part of Mary Magdelene in the "rock opera". I can still sing the ENTIRE SCORE from memory. STILL. Ten years later. It just bores into your brain. Allred-I can't even SAY that, much less spell it. ;)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T15:34:12-06:00
ID
103348
Comment

I don't do latin allred, and Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex. Celadus the Thracier makes the girls moan! (C.I.L. IV, 4397; in the barracks of the gladiators) Is flattering but... The anonimity appears to be losing it's edge. I have been here enough and everyone wishes for a face to place the post to. HMMM decisions decisions. When is the deadline for this poll anyways?

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-10-26T15:42:22-06:00
ID
103349
Comment

allred-- my erstwhile moniker "Suspirium Puellarum." Parond my ignorance... "sighing at girls"?

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T15:42:54-06:00
ID
103350
Comment

Show-offs. And I think we've derailed Tom's thread. Feel free to yell at us and get it back on track, Master Head. (snicker)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-26T15:44:24-06:00
ID
103351
Comment

BOO BOO! you changed it without me haha FINE

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-10-26T15:44:41-06:00
ID
103352
Comment

Just flexing my authority. ;-P

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-26T15:45:38-06:00
ID
103353
Comment

I LOVE IT! Now, let's all talk about Jesus.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-26T15:47:34-06:00
ID
103354
Comment

Jesus is just alright with me Jesus is just alright oh yeah Jesus is just alright.... Wow. Suddenly I feel like a doobie...

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-26T15:54:53-06:00
ID
103355
Comment

One toke over the line, sweet Jesus...

Author
Rex
Date
2005-10-26T15:55:59-06:00
ID
103356
Comment

Ah, ha...now for a little Zen. Whose line? And who really drew it?

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-26T15:59:46-06:00
ID
103357
Comment

Literal translations vary, but it is generally "The heart-throb of the girls."

Author
allred
Date
2005-10-26T16:08:20-06:00
ID
103358
Comment

I don't mind derailed, as long as the train keeps moving. :P I wonder how folks here would score on the Sea of Faith quiz. It differs from the Belief-O-Matic in that it more or less looks at you on the doctrinalist:agnostic spectrum, rather than the conservative:liberal spectrum. I got a 45. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-26T22:09:08-06:00
ID
103359
Comment

BTW- Ali, I remember that line from one of your first few JFP articles: "The closest I got to feeling unfairly treated was when I played Mary Magdalene in 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and was called a whore every day by the rest of the cast. I was the only Mary Magdalene in history that spent most of her time off stage left moaning, 'Why donít they like me? I just washed his feet.'" Months later, that still cracks me up. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-27T00:50:27-06:00
ID
103360
Comment

Would now be an appropriate time to bring in the davinci code? haven't read it, sounds crazy, but mary was probably only made out to look like a whore. Didn't they kill her or did she fade into obscurity? People are afraid of powerful driven women at that time and the bible has been at best "edited". I have been told by a rather evangelical man to use the bible as guidance, draw most of your own conclusions and if you spend all your time trying to prove or disprove theories, whether they are yours or someone else. Then by the time you "figure it out" you probably still won't. What we need is to talk to a dead person who can tell us some of the answers, or maybe jesus will come back next year. Who would believe the guy who said he talked to a dead person anyways/ or God for that matter ?How do we know we haven;t killed Jesus again already or maybe he's in iraq. Who would we have to be mad at if the americans bombed jesus? Even the jews would turn their backs, unless they called it even and still needed us to buy guns from. Only americans think that Jesus or God would come to america, would you want to come to a country you've never seen and try to get around speaking aramaic? Cabbies have a hard enough time i'm sure. The 24hr news networks would not cover it anyways if it did not directly affect the US. I would have better luck seeing it on the daily show. or reading it in the JFP because we know the Planet doesn't have any articles.

Author
*SuperStar*
Date
2005-10-27T07:31:18-06:00
ID
103361
Comment

People forget rather quickly that The DaVinci Code is FICTION. However, I think the reason there has been such a hullabaloo about this work of FICTION is that poking up through the concretized structuring of the institutional church, most especially the papacy, there was -- in this work of FICTION -- permission given to a much wider audience to actually ponder the potential falsehoods propagated by the institution. I know several very well educated theologians, as well as nuns, who absolutely loved The DaVinci Code as a suspense novel but even more so because of its sub-text...a sub-text that says: It's okay to really pull back the covering and ponder the shadow side of the Church, as well as to open oneself to the deeper Gnosis of the tradition -- which often clashes with the formal organized aspects. Why else would church officials attack a work of FICTION. Same thing happened to Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. It is delicious book that addresses a variety of female archetypes, utilizing various stories. Sounds innocuous enough, but Pope John Paul II (who I think of using his Star Wars nickname: J2P2)....was apparently threatened by these "stories" enough to call for a ban of the book. I think it boils down to a phenomenon that the "neat and tidy", pre-packaged, cellophane-wrapped versions of Christianity just aren't ready for what's actually stewing in the deeper shadow layers of itself. To look starkly and truthfully at that (whether individual or institution or nation-state) takes courage, vulnerability, and a willingness to trascend the ego-dimensions of self and institution which incessantly reifies itself to serve its need to present a spotless, faultless image. Three books which side-step that process and really dive into a compelling investigation of all of this might be of interest: 1. The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus Really Based on a Pagan God? 2. Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians 3. The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom all by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy I've read the majority of each of these books, the last of which I thought was an excellent treatment of the falsehoods but also deeper truths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. But, prepare yourself. Where the DaVinci Code is a good story, with some speculations pondered here and there, the above works are actually exhaustively researched by these scholars and the story ain't all pretty. If you're really ready to peel back the cover and look into the guts of the situation then you'll really enjoy them.

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T07:56:20-06:00
ID
103362
Comment

Same thing happened to Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book, Women Who Run With the Wolves My mother bought me this book when I was 21. Interesting.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-27T08:14:25-06:00
ID
103363
Comment

Well, you better watch yo'self with that book missy...or ol' Pope Benedict is going to send the dark-suits after you....I mean, really...we can't afford women to actually to start exploring empowering images and stories, right? Get your ass back in the kitchen, Ali, and do those dishes!!

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T08:17:02-06:00
ID
103364
Comment

Get your ass back in the kitchen, Ali, and do those dishes!! Have you been to my house? ;) The dishes are WAY out of control. Superstar- your comment about Mary. Yes, I think they "made her out" to be a whore. The two easiest ways to discredit a woman is to call her a "whore" or a "biotch". (In case you havent noticed). I credit this to the fact that most men noticed that women were ultimately more perfect creatures and could whip their butt given half a chance and the slightest provacation. ;) I also know that in earlier translations of the Bible the pronoun that was translated as "He" when speaking of God originally meant "he/she/it/us/they/we". There was no word for it. It meant "All". I would love Tom's take on that.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-27T10:07:48-06:00
ID
103365
Comment

Yeah. I was less than pleased when Cardinal Palpatine got elected pope. Good book ideas, chronos-dude. Not familiar with the author you cited, but very familiar with many of the Jesus Seminar folks--Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan are two well worth reading. Robert Funk's The Complete Gospels is also a really good resource to have, but this website is the next best thing. I love Women Who Run with the Wolves. A little Jungian for me, but it did the job. Estes is something like a hero to me because she did her Ph.D. by distance learning, which was very rare at the time she did it. The book is actually a retooled version of her doctoral dissertation. Ali, good question on gender references to God. It's tricky because Hebrew and Greek are both gendered languages, where masculine nouns and pronouns can indicate either male or neutral/indeterminate gender. So it is that a group of Elohim--"lords," which is used both to refer to the heavenly host in the creation account, though here I refer to the more mundane usage of the term to refer to false gods--included both the male Baal and female Ashtoreth, even though Elohim is very much a masculine plural pronoun. "Adonai" is male, but again, gender neutral when it is not specifically identified as female. I have never been able to ascertain the gender of "Yahweh." In Greek, we have the same problem with gendered vs. non-gendered usage. So my answer to that is both yes and no; yes, the language is gender-neutral, but yes, the language is also masculine. But there is a long bit in Proverbs that refers to the spirit of Wisdom as "she," which is remarkable. You're not going to hear much about that from Bennie and company. The strongest argument against God's masculinity, IMHO, is that it's internally consistent. If God has no body, God has no genes; if he has no genes, s/he can have no gender in any sense that we understand the term. What on earth would he do with a penis if he had one? So I use "he" as the default most of the time simply because that's what most people are familiar with, but God is just as much of a "she" for me. Maybe more "she" than "he." For me, God is the original transgender person--the only logical conclusion one can make if one concedes (as Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all traditionally have) that God has no body. The irony is that, in spite of Bennie, the Roman Catholic Church still includes most of the best biblical scholars on the planet. He hasn't managed to excommunicate all of them yet. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary is the single best one-volume historical-critical commentary on the Bible you will ever read, and the late Fr. Raymond Brown the best and most detail-oriented secular scholar you'll ever find on the Gospels. He can't seem to get rid of the thoroughly awesome Sister Chittister or Sister Prejean either, though lord knows he's probably trying to find a politically acceptable way to do that. I never read The Da Vinci Code, but I found it remarkable that the pope seems to believe it's necessary to appoint a special cardinal just to respond to a novel and admitted work of fiction on a full-time basis. Sounds like it's pretty easy to get under this boy's skin. If I keep getting hits like I've been getting them, maybe I can have my own oppositional cardinal, too. Personally, I'm waiting for the cardinal responsible for responding to Smokey and the Bandit. Will he get a sheriff's badge to go with his vestments? Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-27T14:03:24-06:00
ID
103366
Comment

(The "p****" there refers to male stuff, not female stuff. Is it just me, or has pMachine's profanity filter gotten a little more attentive over the past few weeks? :P)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-27T14:05:48-06:00
ID
103367
Comment

"...is that it's internally consistent..." should read "...is that it's internally inconsistent..." Internal consistency is not usually a dealbreaker for me. Bah. I slept too late today. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-27T14:07:17-06:00
ID
103368
Comment

You do know that Sister Prejean is going to be in Jackson next month giving a talk and I"m going. For anyone that doesn't know she's the "Dead Man Walking" nun.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-27T14:14:39-06:00
ID
103369
Comment

Okay...this is going to be a long post. But, I thought given the nature of this thread it might stir some stuff up -- in a good way. In essence, this is my review of The Laughing Jesus.... MOST mainstream Christians will attack this book. MOST mainstream Jews probably will too. And, I predict the authors will be probably be denounced by Islamic clerics at some point for their treatment of the religious personality Muhammad (which is very illuminating). Freke and Gandy, working on the premise that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were all originally Gnostic (deep wisdom) traditions, completely pick apart the Literalist streams of each tradition, and their scholarship totally slams the self-serving ego-driven political shenanigans of each of the faiths as well--again, specifically in their Literalist forms. The Jewish Fantasy Factory: The section on the Jews is absolutely fascinating and asserts from the historical record how a monism of Jewish identity as a people is a problematic idea; the authors suggest multiple sources for the Jewish ethnic roots, and go on to suggest -- again from archaeological evidence and the historical record -- that their mythic odyssey out of Egypt, and the Israeli claim to Jerusalem, is a complete fabrication, driven, in essence, by a religious and cultural identity crisis of sorts that still fuels the conflicts of today and is driven by Literalist interpretations of what was originally a myth-line -- a myth-line, interestingly enough, largely influenced by the Greeks. In short, the Jews felt the need to be Greek-like. A number of the formative myths in the Jewish tradition, the authors assert, are actually derived and inspired from exposure to Greek tradition, while they go through the Tanakh/Torah (the Old Testament) with something of a fine-tooth comb and, in a truly riveting manner, show how its authors were essentially attempting to synthesize a number of competing desert Pagan traditions in the region. --to be continued--

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T14:30:42-06:00
ID
103370
Comment

The Most Famous Man Who Never Lived: The premise of the section on Christianity I was already familiar with, having read one of their other equally powerful and controversial books, Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians. But, again, I found myself truly fascinated to learn that certain books that comprise the "universally agreed upon" Christian canon (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts--renditions of Peter and Paul) were not originally emphasized until one Bishop Irenaeus, whose word-sculpting was, quite intentionally, attempting to suppress and debunk the Gnostic stream of Christianity (which relates to the Jesus myth more as a personal initiatory, archetypal, and transformative process rather than a literal historical set of events involving a quasi-divine/human person). Freke and Gandy articulate with a real shine how Irenaeus was simply attempting to compete for followers in Rome at a time when it had become a spiritual marketplace of sorts. Irenaeus sought to establish a viable tradition in Rome, and in time, thanks to Constantine, it worked, for the Literalist version of Christianity was offered political support by the state of Rome and all other versions were declared as heresy (funny, isn't it; heretics declaring those following the path closer to the original essence as heretics?) Almost with the same deftness of a detective story one finds in such fictional works as The Da Vinci Code (only this book is real), The Laughing Jesus unveils how the theme, archetype, and imagery of: 1) the virgin birth, 2) the idea of the Son of God, 3) the murder/crucifixion of the "godman", and 4) the resurrection, are all connected to a number of Pagan myth lines (worked with symbolically in various Mediterranean mystery schools for thousands of years) that actually pre-date Christianity (and its myth formation) by 1,000 years. Going through each tradition and their version of "Godman" -- Egypt (Osiris), Greece (Dionysus), Asia Minor (Attis), Syria (Adonis), Persia (Mithras), and Alexandria (Serapis), to name only a few -- Freke and Gandy articulate how the myth-formers of Christianity, in essence, borrowed (plagiarized) from these earlier compelling themes, which has led Christians of today of the Literalist stream to believe in an historical Jesus, when there probably wasn't one individual, but possibly a number of wise teacher figures. They also clearly assert that such myth-forming and myth-following is not a threat in the Gnostic Christian context, whereas in the Literalist vein everything is, well, taken quite literally -- and therefore poses a real threat to the authority upon which the Church bases itself. Muhammad: From Mystic to Mobster: Pardon my French, so to speak, but Muhammad [The Religious Figure] in the book gets a serious ass-whipping. One senses the disappointment in the authors that such a beautiful tradition as Islam could fall prey to the clutches of the individual ego of Muhammad later on in his life (as he turned military war-lord), and then --really by example-- be hijacked by Literalists within the Islamic tradition to assert their own political goals, but the authors also reiterate that it was predictable; that it happened with the Christians and Jews as well. --to be continued--

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T14:31:28-06:00
ID
103371
Comment

They describe Muhammad as someone who was profoundly influenced by both Jewish and Christian thought (and culture), and -- as a response -- initially began a powerful process of bringing forth a mystical path of Gnosis for the Arab world. However, they then describe, again drawing straight from the historical record of battles, and from lines within the Qu'ran, how, after having been snubbed by both Jews and Christians (not acknowledged as a prophet), Muhammad began to interpret his divine mission as one of imposing Islam on the world (not at all different in tone from the early Christian Church's Inquisition, or the evangelizing, missionizing, and proselytizing of a great many Literalist Christians today). The chapter on Muhammad, which does give a nod to the Gnostic Sufis within the cultural milieu of Islam, is a compelling read that requires that we look at the personality and full psychological range of Muhammad. I also found it personally very interesting that such Islamic customs as ordering women to wear veils actually was derived from early Byzantine Christian practices. The first half of The Laughing Jesus is a radical debunking of all Literalist interpretations of each of these traditions. The second half of the book is dedicated to exploring Gnosis in the present day, as educated people, what the authors suggest certain Christians, Jews, and Muslims *knew* and *know* was the truly transformative core of the traditions but which were hijacked by political agendas. The fact that the real spiritual essence of each of these traditions was overcome by Literalist propaganda shouldn't cause a person to lose sleep at night. The fact that the holders and followers of each of these Literalist traditions hold the seats of power in global politics, however, is disturbing. This book touches on how this reality is a phenomenon that is dictating decisions that determine what is happening to our economy, foreign policy, and the environment (note: Armageddon-minded Christian Literalists don't really care about global warming or the financial viability of future generations if they believe it's all going to end up in a fire ball in the end anyway; why concern ourselves with sustainability, environmentally or financially?). On the one hand, I find such a book promising. It can potentially shock some people out of religious apathy and/or cultural sleepwalking, or out of the absurd cultural monism and religious conditioning that leads toward the huge barriers to interfaith dialogue. On the other hand, I find some of my own personal conclusions that I derived from the book to be troublesome; that given the particular ideologies that are running this country (Christian Literalists), and the particular ideologies that are *required* to oppose the West (Islamic Literalists), we could be barreling full steam ahead toward a much more prolific global clash than the likes of 9/11 or the Iraq war (note: the President of Iran, still considered a member of the U.N., just declared that Israel needs to be wiped from the map). That won't sit too well with Jewish Zionists. This aspect is probably one of the clearest articulations in the book of all -- that the environmental crisis, as well as the conflict in the Middle East is all tied to Literalist propaganda, not just by Islamic Literalist/Fundamentalists, but also by Jewish Literalists and Christian Literalists/Fundamentalists alike. --to be continued--

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T14:32:13-06:00
ID
103372
Comment

They describe Muhammad as someone who was profoundly influenced by both Jewish and Christian thought (and culture), and -- as a response -- initially began a powerful process of bringing forth a mystical path of Gnosis for the Arab world. However, they then describe, again drawing straight from the historical record of battles, and from lines within the Qu'ran, how, after having been snubbed by both Jews and Christians (not acknowledged as a prophet), Muhammad began to interpret his divine mission as one of imposing Islam on the world (not at all different in tone from the early Christian Church's Inquisition, or the evangelizing, missionizing, and proselytizing of a great many Literalist Christians today). The chapter on Muhammad, which does give a nod to the Gnostic Sufis within the cultural milieu of Islam, is a compelling read that requires that we look at the personality and full psychological range of Muhammad. I also found it personally very interesting that such Islamic customs as ordering women to wear veils actually was derived from early Byzantine Christian practices. The first half of The Laughing Jesus is a radical debunking of all Literalist interpretations of each of these traditions. The second half of the book is dedicated to exploring Gnosis in the present day, as educated people, what the authors suggest certain Christians, Jews, and Muslims *knew* and *know* was the truly transformative core of the traditions but which were hijacked by political agendas. The fact that the real spiritual essence of each of these traditions was overcome by Literalist propaganda shouldn't cause a person to lose sleep at night. The fact that the holders and followers of each of these Literalist traditions hold the seats of power in global politics, however, is disturbing. This book touches on how this reality is a phenomenon that is dictating decisions that determine what is happening to our economy, foreign policy, and the environment (note: Armageddon-minded Christian Literalists don't really care about global warming or the financial viability of future generations if they believe it's all going to end up in a fire ball in the end anyway; why concern ourselves with sustainability, environmentally or financially?). On the one hand, I find such a book promising. It can potentially shock some people out of religious apathy and/or cultural sleepwalking, or out of the absurd cultural monism and religious conditioning that leads toward the huge barriers to interfaith dialogue. On the other hand, I find some of my own personal conclusions that I derived from the book to be troublesome; that given the particular ideologies that are running this country (Christian Literalists), and the particular ideologies that are *required* to oppose the West (Islamic Literalists), we could be barreling full steam ahead toward a much more prolific global clash than the likes of 9/11 or the Iraq war (note: the President of Iran, still considered a member of the U.N., just declared that Israel needs to be wiped from the map). That won't sit too well with Jewish Zionists. This aspect is probably one of the clearest articulations in the book of all -- that the environmental crisis, as well as the conflict in the Middle East is all tied to Literalist propaganda, not just by Islamic Literalist/Fundamentalists, but also by Jewish Literalists and Christian Literalists/Fundamentalists alike. --to be continued--

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T14:32:31-06:00
ID
103373
Comment

The conclusion of Part One of the book (called The Bathwater), which I completely agree with, is that all of this is a formula for disaster if the leaders of these faiths, the practitioners of these paths, and the larger society as a whole does not find its own authentic Gnosis. This is where Part Two of the book (called The Baby) comes into play...which I won't comment on because it would be like telling you the end of a really good movie. Summary and Conclusion: Practicing Christians, Jews, and Muslims definitely need to read this book. Everybody else probably should too, because much of what it describes assists greatly in understanding what is both truly redeeming in each of these wisdom traditions, while also helping to paint a clear picture why each of these traditions are also being hijacked by a narrow-but-widening band of religious psychopaths who could end up making Armageddon a self-fulfilling prophecy. --Frank MacEowen, M.A. http://sacredmarkings.blogspot.com

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T14:32:53-06:00
ID
103374
Comment

...sorry about that I double-posted two paragraphs in the last two sections...that's what I get for posting a dissertation! ;) apologies.

Author
whateveryouwant
Date
2005-10-27T14:41:44-06:00
ID
103375
Comment

Ali, I'd already reserved time on my calendar for Sister Prejean. Hope we cross paths there--it would be great to meet you in person! chronos, I like the posts. Reply of longer than four words to follow later tonight. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-27T16:36:06-06:00

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