Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stuff Happens

Here'a a link to my piece "Stuff Happens" for Episcopal Cafe. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Holy Land Experience (Being A Sausage)?

From the Sydney Morning Herald comes an article by Michael Challenger who visited the Holy Land in Orlando, Florida. Yikes! Without smells, it isn't close to being authentic. This year's AAR/SBL meeting is in San Diego, thank goodness (we were once in Orlando). Never again.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Let's Read Mark 17

A new technique of getting people to read the bible outside church is reported from an Anglican Church in Uganda in AllAfrica by Paddy Nsobya Kampala.

"The priest asked the congregation to revise St. Mark 17 and master it, so that they could discuss it the next Sunday.

On the D-day, he started his sermon by asking those who had read the chapter to raise their hands. He then asked them to stand up for recognition saying they were God's chosen."

You know what happened next, right?

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Religious Right is turning Green

Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports for NPR that the death of Jerry Falwell marks a changing of the guard. A generation gap is emerging:-

For years, Falwell, Robertson and Dobson dominated the Christian message. But now, some younger evangelicals are complaining that the old message focuses more on what Christians are against than on what they are for.

I got a sense of this at Northland church, talking with Robert Andrescik, 35. He observed that Jesus spoke far more of helping the sick and the poor than he did of sexual morality. And the people Jesus rebuked were not the sinners, but the religious leaders.

"The message there is, if we're living it, and we are compassionate ourselves, that will draw people unto God more than these vitriolic sort of attacks," he said. "If we're going to be like Christ, we have to embrace these compassion issues."


And of course all of this has political implications. James Dobson, one of the old guard, has declared that he will not necessarily vote in 2008 (thank you Julie for the link).

In a piece published on the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily, Dobson wrote that Giuliani's support for abortion rights and civil unions for homosexuals, as well as the former mayor's two divorces, were a deal-breaker for him.

"I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. It is an irrevocable decision," he wrote.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Life in Derry, Northern Ireland

(London)Derry, Northern Ireland is where Bloody Sunday occurred in 1972, the place where the troubles began and continued in the 1990's, and its now the place of new hope. The Apprentice Boys (part of a Protestant minority with only one youth club, one school left in the Fountain estate--Protestants have moved out to other parts of the city) are launching a new Museum stressing preservation of the past and facing the future by remembering it. They have invited all groups to the opening of the Museum at the end of April and in so doing they are selling an image. But the past is no longer so destructive.

Marches through the city, always a marking of territory, are carefully negotiated. Cross community projects take years to bring about but around and outside the city walls new shopping centers have sprung up. Tourism is an industry.

In Bogside, the center of Nationalists in Derry, a mural known as "the death of innocence," a butterfly, once a single color, now is painted in full color. The murals have been a place of change and healing. As a quote (adapted from Archbishop Tutu) on the website says:-

"A wound must be cleaned out and examined before it will heal. It is the unexamined wound that festers and finally poisons. Our murals shows the wounds. It is true public art, an open book to be seen and read."

The Museum of Free Derry offers a different perspective on history but this diversity of museums is a good thing to remember a divided past. Lord Saville's Bloody Sunday Inquiry initiated under Tony Blair has yet to make its final report.

There's a new Polish community in Derry. 1000 have applied to join the new police force. A new ferry (2002) links Greencastle across the Foyle with Northern Ireland and it has brought a new connections. Protestants see the southern ecomony as impressive and they envy it. No longer is it seen as "a priest ridden banana republic" as Ian Paisley once described it. Families speak openly of their relatives in the republic.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pope Benedict on Jesus (an excerpt)

This is commencement week and there's no time to blog. In case anyone missed it, here's an excerpt from Newsweek (a "web exclusive") on Jesus' baptism which I haven't read. Lisa Miller opines on the book itself. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Chelsea, New York City



And that's our sitz im leben (better view by clicking on the photo)!

EBooks: Shape of the Future?

Andrew Marr of the Guardian tries one out for a month. Here's his conclusion:-

Overall, I am reluctantly impressed with my ebook. Yet I write this on a busy table crammed with books - mostly for my Radio 4 programme Start the Week, as it happens. There's a brilliant new biography of the young Stalin, John Major on the history of early cricket (fascinating plates in both), Mark Tully's new book on India, and Timothy Phillips's book on the Beslan massacre, which is really a book about Russia and the Caucasus. Over there is a picture book on war graves (very moving), and a book from the 1930s about Walter Raleigh for a radio project. And at any minute, the doorbell will go and the very first bound copy of my own new book, a history of modern Britain, will arrive - I hope. And the truth is that all of these give me pleasure of a kind I won't find on a screen. All my life I've somehow assumed that simply owning books like Tully's, or the Stalin biography, made me a better person. Well, that didn't work, but the instinct remains.

Meanwhile, my advice to the makers is to refine the page-turning just a little more, offer a battered blue cloth-bound wallet and, above all, make it smell - just a little musty, please. Or dank. You could offer a choice. But it's clear enough that after all the waiting and the over-hyping, the ebook is arriving. Before long you are going to see them being carried nonchalantly around. And after that some of you, at least, are going to buy one.

Herod's Tomb

Several days after Ehud Netzer's announcement in Haaretz of the discovery of Herod's empty tomb, I have to say that the thing I like best about this is that its an exciting archaeological discovery by an archaeologist who has spent much of his life looking for this tomb and its an excavation into which ordinary people can stumble. Its not a media controlled event. Unlike Bruce Feiler, I think that the discovery of a tomb likely to have been Herod's raises interesting questions about the relation of Matthew's account to what we know of Herod from Josephus and other sources. In the meantime here's an excellent series of slides from Yahoo of the Herodium, Herod's fortified palace built south of Jerusalem and destroyed by the Romans in c70CE .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Giuliani Family Values

I've been waiting for a public discussion of Giuliani's "family values"and here comes one from Slate (posted yesterday) by Emily Bazelon that concludes:-

A past like Giuliani's betrays a level of self-indulgence that, if nothing else, suggests that more fireworks are in store and that the show will be long-running. We'll all be strapped into front-row seats. Giuliani's psychodramas may or may not tell us about the sort of leader he'll be, but we've already been forced to think enough about the sort of man he is. (The prospect of President Hillary Clinton and four more years of her marriage leaves me with a similar sense of dread.) All elections are trade-offs. But when a candidate starts off with a loutish and loathsome past, chances are good that his time in office will be marked by missteps and distraction and that he'll be more irritating and less effective as a result.

Just how much weight do we give to the personal lives of candidates running for public office?

Miracle in Northern Ireland

Seamus Heaney said it best:-

"So hope for a great sea-change on the far side of revenge/ Believe that a further shore is reachable from here/Believe in miracles and cures and healing wells."

Here's the Independent today on "The Miracle of Belfast" and some local reaction from the Belfast Telegraph.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Peace in Northern Ireland

A new day has dawned! Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist party leader and Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, joined together today to assume office as first and deputy first minister at the head of a new power-sharing government.

Mr Paisley declared: "In politics, as in life, it is a truism that no one can ever have 100% of what they desire. They must make a verdict when they believe they have achieved enough to move things forward.

"I can say to you today that I believe Northern Ireland had come to a time of peace, a time when hate will no longer rule. How good it will be to be part of the wonderful healing in this province today."

A participant in the peace process says that understanding the enemy is the key to peace. And here's Kenneth Kearon's take on the relevance of this day for the Anglican church: its at the local level.

“The Irish experience would say that at the heart of reconciliation is engagement and conversation,” he said. However, the intent to talk is not enough, for “real reconciliation is very, very difficult. The sort of listening that enables you to enter into the experience of the other person and begin to see through their eyes.

“It takes courage” and requires “significant and symbolic gestures,” he said, and demands that one “accept things that you would have found offensive in the past.”

Although the rhetoric was worrying, Canon Kearon said he was encouraged by the conversations underway “where people have been engaged in dialogue in a public way across what looked like an irreconcilable divide.”

Saturday, May 05, 2007

(A new?) Essentialism on why women should not be ordained

Dott.Pia di Solenni argues that the discussion of ordaining women to the priesthood has been a sort of "overemphasis of the masculine."

"No doubt," continued de Solenni, "women need a voice in the Church, but it must be an authentic voice and not their voice made to sound like a man's."

Women, she stated, have a unique role in the Church and in society and that role should not be forced into masculine paradigms. "To do so," she said, "runs the risk of losing what is truly feminine -- not the femininity of fashion, but the varied femininity of women saints, whose personalities and strengths span just as far as those of men saints … if not more."

Letter to the Church Times (UK) regarding N.T.Wright's rhetoric

Dear Editor,

In the May 4th edition of the online Church Times, "Using Judas To Push an Agenda," Robin Griffith-Jones uses the word "handbagged" to describe N.T.Wright's rhetorical approach (to Gnosticism) in a review of his book, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus. I confess to feeling both "sandbagged and hornswoggled" reading N. T. Wright but not actually "handbagged" (yet).

Deirdre Good

Parts of Jewish Christian and Muslim Sacred Texts on line

A link to images of 67 sacred texts from the British Library exhibit is here showing examples from the Dead Sea Scrolls, early Codices, a 9th century Torah Codex, etc. The images are excellent. However, information about the Gospel of Thomas is incomplete since the chart refers only to the papyrus known as BL 1531 (P. Oxy. 654) and the Coptic text of Thomas. Unmentioned are P. Oxy. 1 and P.Oxy 655, the other papyrus fragments of Greek versions of Thomas that can be dated after 200CE and 200-250 CE respectively. Thus the dating in the chart of 3rd Century is for the BL papyrus (P. Oxy. 654) only, not for the text of the Gospel of Thomas as seen by the (unmentioned) papyri above. One should use the dates on the chart with caution.

Visit to the Greek and Roman Galleries at the Met








We began with the Etruscan chariot (see picture) in the galleries above the atrium. Then we descended to see the bust of Constantine (below) which is one of the few explicitly Christian items on display. We moved on to the classic image of Herakles (top) in the atrium near the central fountain and thence to contrasting examples of Hellenistic interest in different types of humanity such as older and younger humans (the Old Woman is Roman, Julio Claudian 14-68CE and a copy of a 2nd Century BCE Greek statue, image thanks to the Met). We then crossed the atrium to the two small statues in a corner of the atrium devoted to intellectual pursuits of the Hellenistic age (bust of Herodotus and a seated philosopher). In a reconstructed night room (cubiculum nocturnum) just off the central atrium at the Greek and Roman exhibit yesterday we form a group picture. This room is Roman of the late republic ca. 50-40BCE from the villa of P. Fennius Synistor at Boscoreale, near Pompeii.Then we went to the treasury with its spectacular Hellenistic gold armbands of the 2nd Century BCE with triton emblems and the veiled the veiled masked dancer of the same period possibly from Alexandria. We finished with a funerary relief of a reclining married couple of the late Republic.

In the whole exhibit, there is an enormous amount of material that one has to make intentional efforts to comprehend. I tried to move chronologically from the Etruscan through the Hellenistic to the Roman. To do this one has to avoid entering the central hall at the beginning. However since the hall is the natural focus point perhaps the focus shouldn't be chronological. If the Etruscan material is away from the main focus, it is seen as separate from the atrium. All of this indicates challenges the exhibit poses. From the photo however, you see we had a good time.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

New Archaeological Discoveries on display in Rome

As I prepare to visit the new Greek and Roman galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art tomorrow with 30 students, here's information about a new exhibit in Rome (thanks to Martin Conde):-

From December 2006 to July 2007, the exhibit Roma--Memorie dal sottosuolo. Ritrovamenti Archeologici (1980-2006) is at the National Museum of Rome. On display are 2000 or more archaeological artefactsun earthed in Rome from 1980-2006 in the areas of the Colosseum Valley, the Palatine hill, the recent Metro "C" archaeological surveys, and in the neighborhoods including the ancient roads of the Via Aurelia, Via Nomentana, Via Ostiense etc. A link to color digital images of newspaper reports of and artefacts from the exhibit has been made available by Martin G. Conde here, courtesy of Dott. ssa Sara Gavanovich, Rome (March 2007).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A personal note: Chemotherapy and the Brain

On April 29th, Jane Gross published an article in the NY Times on "Chemotherapy Fog", a kind of "coming out" for those of us who have had chemotherapy (in my case for colon cancer) and live with side-effects. Today there are 7 published letters in response. What are the alternatives?

Someone I know who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer withdrew from a chemotherapy protocol including oxalyplatin halfway through the treatment preferring to take her chances after surgery. The side effects of the protocol were intolerable. Would it not be better for someone to undergo a regimen that was tolerable and effective, given that any regimen is likely to have side effects?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jesus in Jewish Culture

Adam Kirsch reports for the New York Sun on a recent conference at the Center for Jewish History on "Jesus in Jewish Culture" featuring Susannah Heschel, amongst others. The sub-title was "What's He Doing Here?"

From the article:-

Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the New Republic, resisted a too easy identification of Jesus as a Jew. During a dialogue on messianism with the Catholic historian James Carroll, Mr. Wieseltier insisted that Jesus was not the most famous Jew in history, but the most famous ex-Jew; and that it was precisely his transformation into the Christ, the Messiah, that marked his divorce from Judaism. In mainstream Jewish teaching, Mr. Wieseltier said, the Messiah is not the apocalyptic figure that he becomes in Christianity, the herald of a new heaven and a new earth. "For Jews," he argued, "redemption does not mean the transformation of the world as we know it;" it is rather a criticism and improvement of the world. Quoting several medieval Hebrew texts, Mr. Wieseltier offered definitions of the Messiah as a worldly reformer and political leader, rather than a divine savior. He underscored the point with a contemporary image: "When the Messiah comes, he will be on CNN all day long."

By using Jesus to investigate what is distinctively Jewish about messianism, the dialogue between Mr. Wieseltier and Mr. Carroll offered the best answer to the conference's title question.

Meaning of Life by Robert Rosenthal

"Everything I’ve done or hope to do is because I hate persecution. A human being has to look out for other human beings or there’s no civilization.” Read more in the obit section of today's NY Times.