Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Modern mythology

I just finished it. I can literally say that these past four years have been among the best television I have ever watched -- really, among the best drama I have ever watched. It parallels the pivotal story of our time -- of my time -- the story of human civilization in the post-9/11 world -- in a compelling and thought-provoking way. And no matter how much I get teased about it, if people put their prejudices aside long enough to give it a fair shot, there's no way they can miss the allegory.

It truly is modern mythology.

And it is only appropriate that the show should end its final seasons' half-way point with words like these:

"Viatores fatigati
Venientes ad litus longe distantem

Collinae virentes
Superstant nebulam tristem

Dies surgit
Unda matutina

Omnes passi sumus multa
Omnes superviximus
Venimus Terram

Fratres sororesque
Inimici et amici
Osculamini
Domum venimus

Iam plango
Non mortuos
Sed implacatos

Collinae virentes nos excipient
Vento sequente
Caeli aperient
Approquinquantibus"
*

Translation:

"Weary travelers
Approach a distant shore

The sky breaks
Like a wave

We have all suffered
We have all survived
We have arrived at Earth

Brothers and sisters
Enemies and friends
Embrace
For we have come home

Yet I weep
Not for the fallen
But for the unforgiven

Green hills await
With wind at our backs
The heavens part
As we approach" *

If that's not something straight out of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, or Tolkien, I do not know what is.

FEELING: Excited
LISTENING TO: The soundtrack, once more

* Lyrics by Bear McCreary, composer for Battlestar; read more about them and their genesis at his official blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What if Jonah had been sent to the Anglicans instead of the Ninevites?

"Jonah?"

"Yes, LORD."

"It approaches the end of forty days and the Ninevites have not repented. Prepare to leave the city before..."

"Listen, LORD, about that. How hard-and-fast is that forty day time limit?"

"Hard. And fast."

"The Ninevites were wondering if they could get an extension."

"A what?"

"An extension. More time."

"Why?"

"Well, frankly, LORD, and I mean this with the greatest respect, you know that. I mean, anybody that can create a fish just to swallow me up has got it going on, you know what I'm saying? But forty days is nowhere near time enough for Nineveh to repent."

"Help me out here, Jonah. I know that I, YHWH, am only the Creator of the entire universe and everything in it. But it seems to me that if I, YHWH, the Creator of the entire universe and everything in it, tell you to repent, you either do or you don't. Up or down."

"LORD, it's way more complicated than that. Here, it takes a lot longer."

"Once again. Why?"

"For one thing, the Nineveh Commission isn't anywhere close to finishing its work."

"What in the world is that?"

"That's the commission that's going all over Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire getting input from all segments of Assyrian society in order to put together a considered response to your request."

"A considered response!!"

Read the whole thing here.

FEELING: Like that's a sadly accurate portrayal of the Anglican Communion
LISTENING TO: A smelly "representative" from the Democratic National Committee stand in my doorway trying to convince Zach to vote for Obama [on your shoulder] -- no, seriously

Monday, June 16, 2008

The forces of heresy advance throughout the Anglican Communion

With the upcoming Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in shambles (thanks to a rival meeting of orthodox Anglican Bishops in the Holy Land) and with the Church of England's first gay wedding, the victory of the forces of heresy (that word is not used lightly, see an account of the heresies in which Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop believes) are ever more confident in their takeover of Anglicanism.

How confident? Try this:


FEELING: A bit demoralized
LISTENING TO: The BarBri professor drone on about torts

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why alcohol is Biblically-acceptable at public, family events in Rogersville

[Note: the following is written in response to a series of posts on a message board upon which folks from my hometown post regularly about current events in our town.]

In several posts on this forum, folks have posted -- either explicitly or impliedly -- that drinking alcohol is wrong, and that Rogersville officials are evil for allowing alcohol at public events, such as the "Bluegrass and BBQ" event that was recently held on the Courthouse Square.

To me it's very sad that in my hometown, a place that has always seemed very Biblically literate (i.e., people know what the Bible actually says, not what they've been "taught" the Bible says), people are having this argument.

Here is why.

1. BIBLICAL AUTHORITY

Someone mentioned the "KJV," which I'm guessing is their citation of the King James Bible as the only "real" authoritative version of the Bible (which raises a whole host of other issues, such as: what Bible was the "real" version before 1611), so it seems to me that some Scriptural citations -- in the King James Version -- would be appropriate.

Ecclesiastes 9:7-8 says, "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."

Psalm 104:14-15 says, "He," meaning God, "causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart."

John 2:1-11 says, "And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, 'They have no wine.'

"Jesus saith unto her, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.'

"His mother saith unto the servants, 'Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.'

"And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

"Jesus saith unto them, 'Fill the waterpots with water.' And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, 'Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.' And they bare it.

"When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, 'Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.'

"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him."

* * *

2. WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE MEAN?

So clearly, there is a disconnect between what the people on this posting believe the Bible says and what the Bible actually says.

A. Ecclesiastes 9

First, with regard to the Ecclesiastes passage: the author of Ecclesiastes, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has been writing about the vanity of the world. But in his recognition that, outside God, everything is vanity, the author also realizes that God has provided for some happiness in this world. What are among those blessings? The simple ones: "bread of joy" and "wine with a merry heart."

This isn't the drink-wine-because-water's-not-safe (if that were the case, the "thou leadest me beside still waters" doesn't make a lot of sense over in Psalm 23) use of wine; no, here, the Holy Spirit, through the writer of Ecclesiastes, specifically instructs those who recognize that vanity of the world to drink their wine with a merry heart -- and seemingly precisely because it gives a merry heart.

B. Psalm 104

In Psalm 104, the Holy Spirit is even clearer than in the Ecclesiastes passage. Here, the author declares, "He causeth ... wine that maketh glad the heart of man." It's difficult to explain this away (though I'm sure some here will try, giving up a "literal" interpretation of Scripture because it doesn't fit their preconceptions).

What does God cause wine? To "maketh glad the heart of man." Period. Not for health purposes. Not because the water isn't safe. Not because they don't have Coca-Cola. Because it "maketh glad the heart of man." Clearly, then, if God's purpose in creating wine was to "maketh glad the heart of man," can it be against God's purpose for his creatures to use it for that very purpose?

I would argue no.

C. John: the Miracle of the Wedding at Cana

Finally, we come to Jesus. Even if the Old Testament allows a Godly person to drink wine, surely, in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ condemns alcohol use, setting up rules for us to avoid it's "evil" "tempting" power.

In fact, Jesus does the opposite.

First, Jesus is at a wedding. He goes with his mom and his brothers and sisters. At the wedding, there is wine -- and lots of it. There are multiple "casks" (i.e., large barrels) of wine. Does Jesus condemn the wedding-goers? Does he give a parable, explaining to them the evils of alcohol? Does he explicitly say that he won't drink the wine? No. None of the above.

And then, the wedding hosts run out of wine. People have drank so much wine that there isn't any more wine. So Jesus' mom, Mary, comes to him and says, "Son, our hosts haven't planned well enough, and they've run out of wine."

Does Jesus respond to his mother with a rebuke? Does he say, "Well good, woman, because they're all drunk, and they don't need any more wine"? Does he give a parable, explaining why he cannot?

No: Jesus provides more wine. Miraculously. And it's his first miracle! Jesus' first miracle isn't a healing, it isn't raising from the dead, it isn't casting out demons -- instead, he wants people to have fun at a wedding party by giving them more wine!

* * *

3. WAS BEER AT THE DOWNTOWN EVENT OKAY?

People here have stated that the leaders of Rogersville must be reprobate because they had beer at a "family" event. In order to look down on these civic leaders, the people who believe that it was wrong for there to be beer in downtown must set themselves above our Lord Jesus Christ.

For them to hold that position, they have to argue that they're more righteous than Jesus -- that they have a clearer understanding of God's will than Jesus. Because when Jesus was confronted with a joyful, public occasion, involving the whole community (including children and families), not only did he fail to condemn the alcohol use, but instead, he furthered its consumption!

We do see, in the New Testament, examples of people who take God's Law seriously. They take it so seriously, in fact, that they come up with "extra" rules that go above and beyond what God requires. For example, they read in the Law that God requires us to "remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." They want to obey God's law, but they're afraid that they might unintentionally break the law. So what do they do? They come up with extra requirements to help them avoid breaking the law. They come up with all sorts of things that "might" be considered work, and thus breaking the Sabbath. They don't want to break the Sabbath, so they say that these "extras" are also what God was talking about when he hallowed the Sabbath.

Sounds like a good idea, right? After all, we don't want to break God's law -- we want to be holy as He is holy -- we want to be obedient -- we want rules to follow.

But Jesus doesn't agree. Because these people that come up with extra ways, on top of God's law, for being holy? They're called Pharisees. And more than anyone else in the Bible, Jesus rebukes them, mocks them, ridicules them, and calls them names.

I know that the people on this forum who are against alcohol consumption have good intentions in their hearts. They know that alcohol can become addictive, and they know that the Bible does say that it is sinful to become drunk. And so, because they are afraid of that temptation to sin, they decide to come up with extra rules. Instead of what the Bible teaches -- alcohol in moderation is not only acceptable, but within God's very purpose in allowing wine in the first place, they decide that we cannot drink at all -- because the temptation is far too great that we might sin.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the very definition of being a Pharisee: it is putting a human rule or tradition on top and in excess of what God has demanded and required in his law. Jesus calls that sort of activity a sin: pride. And he calls those who commit it to repent.

I am confident that our Lord Jesus, as he looked down upon the Courthouse Square in Rogersville during the Bluegrass event was enjoying the music -- gifts and talents his Father gave to those playing and singing it -- and also laughed along with all those who were partaking of a part of the bounty of his Father's creation -- beer, the fruit of fermented barley -- without excess.

And if Jesus had showed up outside the Hale Springs Inn to enjoy the show? There's a good chance he would have probably had a beer.

FEELING: Hopeful that people will listen to the Scriptures
LISTENING TO: What the Bible says

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Challenging words for a Tuesday afternoon

From the Rev. Matt Kennedy, and his four-part talk, Mere Christianity in a Pluralist World:

"When the apostles preached the gospel they did not sell Jesus. They did not go around begging people to please, please invite Jesus into their hearts because then they would feel a lot better about things and he'd really enhance their career goals or their bottom line.

"The apostles’ message was that the whole world is in bondage to sin but now God has sent his Son to save all those who repent, submit and commit their lives to him. As Paul said to the Athenians on Mars Hill, God now commands all people to repent. Repentance puts everything in the right perspective.

"Jesus is not our co-pilot. He’s not here to take the edge off of life. He is our Lord and King and Savior -- and we are to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him."


FEELING: Challenged, convicted
LISTENING TO: A BarBri lecturer drone on about equitable remedies