Thursday, December 28, 2006
as Americans worry about the weakening role of fatherhood in today's culture, Joseph is attracting renewed interest. But how did Joseph evolve into a modern-day hero, a model for men and families?
The article explores first patristic and then medieval interpretations of Joseph from Augustine who describes Joseph as Jesus' spiritual father to 12th Century descriptions of Joseph as a father through love and service.
The article concludes:-
"Many men have experienced an absent or emotionally distant father," says Steve Wood, founder of the St. Joseph Covenant Keepers, a men's group based in South Carolina. "St. Joseph is that tangible role model that fathers can have for parenting and protecting their own children, for faithfulness in marriage and for a being a pure man, morally and sexually."
Ultimately, Joseph's story is one of a lengthy transformation from the shadows of Christianity to its forefront, from an uncertain status to a majestic position as the protector and nurturer of Jesus, Mary and Christian believers.
What the article fails to note however (possibly because the author is a newly minted dissertation writer and not a New Testament scholar) is that the gospel writers never call Joseph Jesus' father. Matthew, for example, consistently describes Joseph, Jesus and Mary in narrative as "Joseph, the child and his mother." No attempt to rehabilitate Joseph can fail to come to terms with this fact.
What the article in fact attempts to do (in line with patristic and medieval interpretation at least as far as the citations go) is to rehabilitate Joseph by giving Joseph (and Jesus) a respectable if not biological family of origin. But this isn't based on an interpretation of the text of the New Testament or Christian tradition. What gospel writers like Matthew are doing in fact is articulating a respectful distance between Joseph and the child with his mother in the context of a gospel in which Jesus teaches the disciples to pray: Our Father, the one in the heavens. In fact, Pseudo-Matthew and other late biblical paraphrases articulate Matthew's carefully worded distinction. For a detailed discussion, see chapter two of Jesus' Family Values.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
This Christmas we bought a version of the Messiah performed by the Dunedin Consort directed by John Butt. (I know that the Messiah was not originally performed at Christmas but who can think of Christmas these days without it?)
According to the notes from Linn Records, distinctive to the 1742 June performances was Handel's inclusion of one lyrical alto aria in each of the three parts to Mrs Susannah Cibber, sister of Thomas Arne. Cibber was best known as an outstanding actor, but had recently undergone the scandal of an extra-marital affair, the details of which had been described in court in astonishingly unambiguous detail. Her appearance in Dublin marked the beginning of her return to public life at a safe distance from London; although by no means expert as a singer, her performances brought a quality of expression that was clearly outstanding. The aria ‘He shall feed his flock’ in Part 1, originally cast for soprano in Bb major, was therefore transposed down to F major to suit Mrs Cibber. The aria from Part 2 (‘He was despised and rejected’ – and, as it happened, a particularly prescient text for the singer concerned) was already in the correct range and, in Part 3, Handel transposed the aria ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ from G minor (soprano) to C minor, thus giving Mrs Cibber the final aria, conventionally reserved for the leading soloist.
Handel's fascinating deployment of these arias to rehabilitate Mrs Cibber is a concrete use of text and music. I will never hear these arias without thinking of her.
People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is -- quite sadly -- absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Here is Bach's interpretation of the 1723 Magnificat in D Major (you'll need RealPlayer to listen):-
1. “Magnificat anima mea” (Luke 1:46)
2. “Et exultavit” (Luke 1:47)
3. “Fecit potentiam” (Luke 1:51)
4. “Deposuit potentes” (Luke 1:52)
Compare these excerpts with Arvo Part's Magnificat.
I'm no music critic but one can hear Bach's attention to individual words. Listen to the descending notes of the "Deposuit" to articulate the "casting down" of the mighty from their thrones. Commenting on the "Esurientes" of Bach’s Magnificat, for example—the passage proclaiming that the poor have been filled with good things and the rich sent away empty, Edward Tatnall Canby says the music "is both wistful and sly, as if in satisfaction at the justice of it all; note the curiously missing final note to the flutes’ ornamental melody, perhaps ‘taken away’ as from the rich!"
Part concentrates instead on syllables of words. Listen to the word "misericordia" in which each of the syllables is articulated but not all are given different notes. Individual words may not differ from other words. Paul Hillier says that Part's Magnificat is "one of the happiest meetings of tintinnabuli technique and words of a non-penitential character," conveying "the uplifted, tender joy of the Virgin Mother"; a "little masterpiece" that shows tintinnabulation "at its most supple and refined."
Hillier quotes Part:
Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers—in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises—and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. Here I am alone with silence. I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Saturday, December 16, 2006
The preacher in a pulpit announces, "And lo, miraculously, the Virgin Mary was with child!" A woman in the pews remarks to her husband next to her, "I was wondering how the religious right would handle Mary Cheney's pregnancy."
Thursday, December 14, 2006
One such copy of a New Testament History Bible dated August 23, 1440 from South Germany exists today in the New York Public Library (NYPL SP 102). Alongside material from the New Testament are expansions of Matthean material from Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew relating the journey of Joseph, “the child and his mother” in Egypt. This particular Bible can be read in vernacular German.
A section from Pseudo-Matthew records that on the third day of their journey, overcome with heat, Mary indicates to Joseph that she wishes to rest in the shade of a date palm. Joseph accedes and helps her get off the donkey. Noticing the tree full of fruit, Mary declares: “I wish someone could get me some of the fruits of the palm-tree.” Joseph responds: “I wonder that you say this; for you see how high this palm-tree is, and (I wonder) that you even think about eating of the fruits of the palm. I think rather of the lack of water, which already fails us in the skins, and we have nothing with which we canrefresh ourselves and the animals.” Jesus, however, commands the tree to bend down its branches and refresh his mother with its fruit. The tree obliges and, at a further command from Jesus, opens a vein of water by its roots in the form of a fountain that refreshes the thirst of human and animal alike. On the journey through Egypt, according to Pseudo-Matthew, it is the child Jesus rather than an unsympathetic Joseph who responds to his mother Mary’s needs. This detail serves to interpret the distance between the child and his mother and Joseph.
This story from Pseudo-Matthew has much in common with the well-known Cherry Tree Carol, which is frequently described as having derived from Pseudo-Matthew.
Here's one version:-
A my swete husbond, wold ye telle to me
What tre is yon standynge upon yon hylle?
Joseph Forsothe, Mary, it is clepyd a chery tre,
In time of yer ye myght fede you y on yo fylle.
Maria Turne ageyn husbond and beholde yon tre,
How yt blomyght now so swetely.
Joseph Cum on, Mary, yt we worn at yon cyte,
Or ellys we may be blamyd I tell yow lythly.
Maria Now my spouse, I pray you to be hold
How ye cheryes growyn upon yon tre,
For to have y of ryght fayn I wold,
& it plesyd yow to labor so mech for me.
Joseph Yor desyr to fulfylle I shall assay sekyrly,
Ow to plucke you of these cheries it is a werk wylde,
For ye tre is so hyg it wold not be lyghtly,
Y for lete hy pluk yon cheryes be gatt you wt childe.
Maria Now good Lord I pray the, graunt me yis boun,
To have of yese cheries, and it be yor wylie,
Now I thank it God, yis tre bowyth to me down,
I may now gadery anowe & eten my fylie.
Joseph Ow, I know weyl I have offended my Gid i trinyte,
Spekeyng to my spowse these unkynde wurdys,
For now I believe wel it may now other be
But yt my spouse beryght ye kyngs son of blys, etc.
Here's a more modern one.
The differences are significant, however. The date has become a cherry, which Joseph will not pluck for Mary. Joseph, in fact, responds in the Carol in a way that impugns the purity of Mary, ("let the one who got you with child, pluck you the cherry") casting himself in an ungenerous light, where in Pseudo-Matthew Joseph is concerned with more serious needs, and Mary's craving may seem frivolous. The Carol is set before the birth of Jesus, and the cherry is provided by God's intervention with the tree, justifying Mary to Joseph. The carol and Pseudo-Matthew may in fact date from a similar time, in which case it is hard to determine which version of the story is original, and which the response. Is Pseudo-Matthew painting Joseph in a more favorable light in correction of the carol, or is the Cherry Tree Carol elevating Mary in response to Pseudo-Matthew? Both texts presume tension between husband and wife. In this regard, they reflect Matthew's account of Jesus' origins.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Levine takes on some major misconceptions about Jesus and Judaism held by Christians of all kinds, he notes. From her experience she knows that these impressions can be springboards to deeper conversation and insight.
"Jesus of Nazareth," she writes, "dressed like a Jew, prayed like a Jew, (and most likely in Aramaic) instructed other Jews on how best to live according to the commandments given by God to Moses, taught like a Jew, argued like a Jew with other Jews, and died like thousands of other Jews on a Roman cross."
"The Misunderstood Jew" serves as Levine's attempt to foster conversation between Christians and Jews around the person of Jesus. Grounded in solid scholarship, yet accessible to the general reader, this book is an invaluable resource for pastors, teachers and adult church school classes.
Levine guides readers of the New Testament to see the diversity and complexity of the Jewish community at the time of Jesus. She outlines some of the groups, beliefs and divisions present in the Judaism of Jesus' day, and she helps us understand why some Jews saw Jesus as the Messiah, while others did not.
I'm off to find a copy in a Nashville bookstore :)
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The sarcophagus, which dates back to at least A.D. 390, has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project's head said this week.
Two ancient churches that once stood at the site of the current basilica were successively built over the spot where tradition said the saint had been buried. The second church, built by the Roman emperor Theodosius in the fourth century, left the tomb visible, first above ground and later in a crypt.
When a fire destroyed the church in 1823, the current basilica was built and the ancient crypt was filled with earth and covered by a new altar.
"We were always certain that the tomb had to be there beneath the papal altar," Filippi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Filippi said that the decision to make the sarcophagus visible again was made after many pilgrims who came to Rome during the Catholic Church's 2000 Jubilee year expressed disappointment at finding that the saint's tomb could not be visited or touched.
The findings of the project will be officially presented during a news conference at the Vatican on Monday.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Practically speaking, Kraus is arguing for reading Alter or Fox's translations alongside the NRSV. Of course. But missing from the book is a discussion of what drives many publications of modern translations whether by committees or individuals, whether more formal or dynamic in approach, namely, profit.
Bible sales today represent a large market—estimated, PW tells us, between $425 million (by Harper San Francisco) and $609 million (by Zondervan), with relatively stable sales. Today's Bibles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: portable (Tyndale just released Veritas, a handbag with a special pocket on the outside for a coordinating compact New Living Translation Bible), fashionable (Zondervan's Italian Duotones with two-color leather-look covers with visible stitching; four colour printing on bible paper without bleeding in the Holman Illustrated Study Bible), and downloadable (Broadman and Holman's "Build a Bible" lets the buyer assemble a selection of three translations, several cover styles and colours from distressed leather to hot pink). In November, Nelson's "Redefine Biblezine" for babyboomers provides a download of the complete text of the New Testament with feature articles on health, travel, Bible promises and essentials, dealing with an empty nest, life fulfillment, finances, second careers, and many other topics.
There is no end to the shape and style in which you can encounter the Bible. And get ready for more: todays inbox brings a note that HarperSanFrancisco, a division of Harper Collins, has secured a ten-year exclusive license to manage the New Revised Standard Version text from the National Council of Churches. They feel this translation has been under supported in terms of editions and features, as well as marketing and promotion. "As we get ready to release new editions of NRSV text Bibles and develop other special editions of the Bible, we would like to “relaunch” the NRSV to the public," they add. For what we are about to receive...
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Has anyone noticed that the people here trying to converse about explosive topics, clenching teeth and agreeing not to leave the room and even just agreeing to disagree whilst living together in the Middle East CoExistence House, are women?
Thursday, November 30, 2006
At or near the end of June the Gay Police Association (GPA) in the UK placed this advertisment in The Independent newspaper just before the Europride Gay and Lesbian parade in London. Apparently they have recorded a 74% increase in homophobic incidents, where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator.
In July the BBC reported that the GPA was being investigated by Scotland Yard on the basis of this claim.
The issue has now been swept up into discussions about the scope of the Commission on Equalities and Human Rights which is germane to that context. But what of yours and mine?
There's no doubt in my mind that the Bible can be used to rationalize many viewpoints including homophobia but regardless of your reaction to the advertisment, the issue of hate crimes is very much with us.
Data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on hate crimes reported in the United States for 2005 makes it clear that sexual orientation remains the third-highest recorded bias crime in our country, which underscores that anti-gay hate crimes are a very real problem nationwide.
On Wednesday October 18th a statement was released by HRC (Human Rights Campaign) President Joe Solmonese on the hate crime against New York resident Michael Sandy, a young gay African-American man from New York City.
“The Human Rights Campaign mourns the death of Michael Sandy, a member of our community, and our condolences go out to his family for their loss. We have been following the developments of the attack to learn more about the case and we will continue to work with the local organizations involved.
“This senseless attack comes on the heels of the annual FBI report on national hate crime statistics — which indicates that crimes against GLBT persons continue to be a serious problem for our communities and our nation. It is even more sensitive when it is of a dual nature of race intersecting with sexual orientation. It is ironic that this year’s FBI report did not include crimes committed in New York and many other jurisdictions. With sexual orientation remaining among the most common bias crime categories in the United States, it is critical that state and local jurisdictions address these crimes and report them to the FBI.”
Hate crimes affect not just the individual but the whole community by sending a message that persecuted groups will not be tolerated. This is more than just a matter of enforcing legislation: it is a matter of community ethos and personal relations.
Here's an example from Matthew Shepard's father Denis Shepard from the Matthew Shepard Foundation website home page. You'll need Quick Time to view it. He concludes:-
"Your son is your son and your daughter is your daughter regardless of whether they are straight or gay."
Friday, November 24, 2006
The Pope says:-
I have come to the book on Jesus, the first part of which I now present, following a long interior journey. In the period of my youth -- the thirties and forties -- a series of fascinating books were published on Jesus. I remember the name of some of the authors: Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, Franz Michel Willam, Giovanni Papini, Jean Daniel-Rops. In all these books, the image of Jesus Christ was delineated from the Gospels: how he lived on earth and how, despite his being fully man, at the same time he led men to God, with whom, as Son, he was but one. Thus, through the man Jesus, God was made visible and from God the image of the just man could be seen.
Beginning in the fifties, the situation changed. The split between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith" became ever greater: One was rapidly removed from the other. However, what meaning could faith in Jesus Christ have, in Jesus the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so different from the way he was presented by the evangelists and the way he is proclaimed by the Church from the Gospels? Progress in historical-critical research led to ever more subtle distinctions between the different strata of tradition. In the wake of this research, the figure of Jesus, on which faith leans, became ever more uncertain, it took on increasingly less defined features.
So much for beginnings...now to methodology:-
I have felt the need to give readers these indications of a methodological character so that they can determine the path of my interpretation of the figure of Jesus in the New Testament. With reference to my interpretation of Jesus, this means first of all that I trust the Gospels. Of course I take as a given all that the Council and modern exegesis say about the literary genres, the intention of their affirmations, on the communal context of the Gospels and its words in this living context. Accepting all this in the measure that was possible to me, I wished to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the true Jesus, as the "historical Jesus" in the true sense of the expression.
As I already mentioned at the beginning of this Preface, the interior journey to this book has been long. I was able to begin work on it during my vacation of 2003. In August 2004, Chapters 1 to 4 took their final form. Following my election to the episcopal See of Rome I have used all the free moments I have had to carry on with it. Given that I do not know how much time and how much strength will still be given to me, I have decided to publish now as the first part of the book the first ten chapters that extend from the Baptism in the Jordan to Peter's confession and the Transfiguration.
And the one "modern" scholar mentioned in the press release is Schnackenburg whose books are not recently published.
What can we expect? A confessional Jesus, to be sure, and in a format designed to be both academic and accessible. Does a movement from baptism to Peter's confession suggest a Matthean outline since only Matthew preserves the Petrine confession?
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Bioarchaeological evidence from Qumran reconfirms the “Essene hypothesis” by showing the presence of unusual and extreme toiletry and hygiene practices in the ancient community. The evidence points to the Qumran inhabitants’ detailed obedience to unique, rigorously demanding precepts that are specified in Dead Sea Scrolls texts and also documented in a Roman-era descriptions of the Essenes.
Alas it seems the purity regulations shortened the life-span of the Essenes. Had the waste been dumped on the surface, as is the practice of Bedouins in the area, the parasites would have quickly been killed by sunlight. Buried, they could persist for a year or longer, infecting anyone who walked through the soil.
The situation was made worse by the fact that the Essenes had to pass through an immersion cistern, or miqvot, before returning to the settlement. The water would have served as a breeding ground for the parasites.
Highlights of our tour led by a docent included:-
* Leaves from three of the six oldest surviving Hebrew codices.
* The oldest known manuscripts of the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.
* The opening page of the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas from the Coptic Museum in Cairo.
* The oldest dated parchment biblical codex in the world from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.
* A page from Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest Bible from the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai.
The exhibit opens with a dramatic photograph of Solomon Schechter in the bowels of Cambridge U Library surrounded by fragments of the Cairo Genizah. It appears to have been staged as the docent assured us that no one went near the fragments to work on them without a mask. Its not a photograph that entices one to consider a career in manuscript identification or paleography. But it does visualize the discipline and dedication required to work in the field.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Posted on November 17, 2006
By The Universe (Catholic Weekly Newspaper): An Anglican priest who is to front a new BBC series examining the Gnostic Gospels and early Christian texts that were omitted from the New Testament has said that while some people may get “defensive” about the issues contained in the ancient texts, study of them reveals many relevant issues.
While filming The Lost Gospels, which will be screened in early December, Rev Pete Owen-Jones, travelled through Egypt and the former Roman Empire and met with archaeologists, New Testament scholars and papyrologists to discover why early Christians put stock in the gospels of Peter, Mary Magdalene, Philip and Thomas.
“The programme will look at all the gospels and letters that were left out of the New Testament following the meltdown of the Council of Nicaea, and all those that the Church decided were not applicable or in need of refinement,” said Rev Owen-Jones.
“It was meant to be an authentic journey of discovery and in many ways that’s what it was.
“It made me realise the extent to which the Church we have now is shaped by the Gospels, but if we go beyond that there is a much broader picture to see.
“The issues the early Church was struggling with then; the role of women in the Church, the authority of Bishops – are still very much live issues.”
He added that although some of the issues contained in some of the texts were highly contentious, he didn’t think that there would be too much criticism from the either Catholic or Anglican authorities.
He added: “It is easy to fall into the conspiracy theory trap, but we must remember that these were men and women earnestly trying to reach the truth, and we must respect that.”
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The levels of local and national intensity surrounding this mid-term election are hard to describe. Conversations and emails are only on this topic. It will be relief to wake up tomorrow and be about more ordinary things.
Monday, November 06, 2006
To make the case Irwin reprises a history of Orientalism from antiquity to modern times including profiles of individual scholars including an evaluation of their accomplishments. Each description is a refutation of Said's thesis, according to Ormsby. Instead of condescension and bias ("we" Westerners and "they" the Orientals) we see scholarly scrupulousness. Said's argument sacrifices scholarly achievements for the generalizing thesis. Irwin tracks every logical fallacy, error, inconsistency and falsehood in Said's book Orientalism. Said's description of Muslim armies conquering Turkey before conquering North Africa "really does suggest a breathtaking ignorance of Middle Eastern history."
Ormsby concludes that Irwin provides a nuanced critique of Islamic studies that Said failed to deliver. Just plain curiosity about others is alive and flourishing in a history of Middle Eastern scholarship.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Filmed in GTS' Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Bishop Schori, who is to be installed this weekend in Washington DC, addressed questions about connections between science and religion and controversies surrounding her election. Pressed on what issues behind these controversies are, she opined at least two: what it means to be made in God's image and what it means to live faithfully in community.
Worth a look (and GTS also looks good in the background)!
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Found in 1742 near Royston, Cambridgeshire, and open to the public, this cave shows signs of being a secret meeting place of the Knights Templar in the 1300's. According to an article in the Cambridge Evening News, every inch of the wall space is filled with carving, from finely-wrought images to rough graffiti. Various figures and symbols are clues to the cave's history. There are the saints - Christopher, Catherine, George. There's Jesus and his disciples. And there's a shrine to a heretic, being burned at the stake. This could be Jacques de Moray, the Templars' last Grand Master.
The original entrance was through a long, thin shaft, through which the knights climbed, using a series of toe-holes.
"The top would have been hidden inside a safehouse," explains Peter Houldcroft, whose archeological survey revealed that the cave is orientated to the East - to the point at which the sun rises on the saint's day of John the Baptist, the patron of the Templars.
The Templars extended the cave, decorated the walls with symbolic carvings and erected a wooden platform, half-way up the wall, to act as both a stepping platform (down to the cave floor) and a waiting area for the uninitiated.
When life as a Templar (even a secret life as a Templar) became too tough, in the late 1340s, they abandoned the cave, scratching out some of the most incriminating carvings and filling it in with earth. And so it remained, unchanged and undisturbed, for 400 years.
Monday, October 30, 2006
In Romans 16:7 Paul says: "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles and they were in Christ before I was."
Against the argument that Junia was a prominent woman apostle before Paul (an argument that has patristic traction as well as the support of modern translations like the NRSV) is Southwestern Baptist Theological President Paige Patterson.
Pederson quotes Patterson as saying, "I'm not arguing that Junia isn't a woman. It is very possible she was, but it can't be proved. Even if it is a girl's name, it doesn't mean it's a girl. I was placed in a girl's dorm because my name is Paige, just like a boy named Sue. ...But the point is there is no way to establish that Junia was in fact a female. The attempt to make her one of the apostles, based on a suspect text...is an agenda looking for a reason."
Not content with an argument based on his own experience of having a gender neutral name, Patterson added in an email to the article's writer that "apostle" has both generic and specialized meanings: "Even if Junia were female, which cannot be demonstrated, the text in question would still not establish that she functioned as Peter or Paul, a position of apostolic authority. The word 'apostolos' means 'one who is sent' and whether Junia is male or female, the text means only that that individual had a calling from God to share the Gospel. Evangelicals have always argued that women can and should do this."
1) Since the name Junia appears widely on gravestones, inscriptions and in ancient writings as a woman's name, isn't it likely that Junia is a woman in Romans 16:7? The contrary argument is that the form in Rom 16:7 "Junias" is not an accusative but a diminutive of the name "Junianes." Dimunitive forms of this male name occur far less frequently in ancient texts.
2) Arguments from modern gender-neutral names like Cooper, Paige, and such are irrelevant to study of ancient names. Shouldn't a seminary president know this?
3) There's no evidence that I know of to distinguish between generic and specialized meanings of the term apostle in ancient texts. This is the kind of separate but equal argument used to deny a class or group of people access to priviledge or power. It is a modern rather than an ancient interpretative tool.
All of this goes to show that interpreting the roles and offices of women in the NT still has existential relevance.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Scroll down on the left side to the advertisment...(it comes and goes, to be sure, along with other books).
Thanks to Reverend Dr Mom for a fabulous weekend in the rectory at Barnstable on beautiful Cape Cod going back and forth to St. Mary's for talks with parishioners about the origins of the Bible and a book signing for Jesus' Family Values!
Saturday, September 23, 2006
The SNTS conference in Aberdeen was excellent: outstanding presidential address from Sean Freyne on litererary and archaeological material from 1st C Galilee and good papers in sessions I attended. I was able to work in the UL whilst in Cambridge. And I was able to visit the Chester Beatty Library and manuscripts in Dublin.
Everyone should have a sabbatical. This fall I am learning Spanish and writing.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Monday, June 26, 2006
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further
Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
The debate on this issue has been reported extensively at ENS and elsewhere. Bishop Gene Robinson has written an open letter in The Witness to lbgt people in the aftermath of GC alluding to the debate. He makes the point that it was the appeal of Presiding Bishop elect Katharine Schori that tipped the opinions of many to vote in favor of the resolution at great personal cost.
Let's remember that a statement of dissent from B033 on the basis of conscience has already appeared from Bishop Chane supported by Bishops from dioceses including Vermont, Chicago, Newark, Northern Michigan and Rochester. This is an indication of principled support for the nominations of glbt clergy to the episcopate, recognizing ministries of glbt folk in the Anglican communion and condemning the coersive elements of the debate in the House of Deputies.
B033 is of course a response to the Windsor report. Passing B033 is a way of making sure that Presiding Bishop-Elect Schori gets invited to Lambeth. One could say that Bishop Schori's election guarenteed the passage of a resolution like B033. The question is whether the compromise that B033 represents (and with which no one is happy) is worth it.
I am reminded of Paul's attempt to coerce the Corinthian body by arguing against women prophets in I Corinthians 11 finally from custom and with all the weight of his personal authority that such a custom isn't recognized and just isn't done in the churches. This kind of argumentation tells us far more about how Paul uses his personal authority in the service of community order to coerce women prophets and far less about women prophets in the Corinthian community. And so it seems to be in the debate about B033. It is entirely up to dioceses to raise up candidates for episcopal office and I trust that this will continue without an eye to resolutions like this.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The NY Times profiles her today and calls her family of origin "staggeringly competant." If her press conference after the election is anything to go on, she is capable of handling barbed questions and critical remarks well either in English or Spanish.
The duties of the PB include: the charge to be chief pastor and primate, to provide for episcopal oversight in the absense of a diocesan bishop, to take order for the consecration of bishops when duly elected and from time to time assemble the bishops to meet as a house or council, to preside over meetings of the House of Bishops, and to call a joint session of the Houses of Bishops and Deputies at General Convention. Any new bishops will be consecrated by Presiding Bishop Schori.
Thanks to the Diocese of Nevada for providing the whole church with Bishop Schori. Brave new world indeed!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Larry King Live at 9pm Eastern Time tonight (Thursday) has an exclusive interview with Bishop Gene Robinson who was one of the speakers last night.
Perhaps indeed what we are watching is a struggle between two different definitions of what it means to be Anglican. Bishop Sauls describes it thus:-
The constitutional issue we face is between two competing visions of what it means to be an Anglican. One vision has its roots in the English Reformation, particularly something known as the Elizabethan Settlement with its key principles of (1) common prayer as the broadly inclusive framework of unity holding together a diversity of doctrinal belief on even fundamental issues and (2) local leadership of the local church. This vision of Anglicanism seems to me particularly well-suited for a world endangered by rising and intolerant fundamentalism, coping with globalization, and struggling with an ever-increasing rate of significant change and its resultant discomfort.
The alternative vision sees our roots in the English Reformation as fatally flawed. Dean Paul Zahl of the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry states, “This whole crisis has revealed a very serious deficiency in the character of Anglicanism. It’s a severe deficiency in Anglicanism because there isn’t really a church teaching in the same way there is in the Church of Rome…. I would say there is a constitutional weakness, which this crisis has revealed, which may in fact prove to be the death of the Anglican project—the death, at least in formal terms, of Anglican Christianity. We’ve always said that we’ve had this great insight, and I used to think that we did” (New Yorker, p. 63).Its interesting to ask who has a stake in this struggle: not many women and minorities judging by people who spoke last night.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Walking by the State House this morning, I saw the very moving AFSC exhibit of boots commemorating the Iraqi and US dead (2497 soldiers and God known how many Iraqi civilians). To see the laid out boots and shoes brings the dead home.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Friday, June 09, 2006
It was a wonderful occasion for cross-disciplinary discussion and interfaith reflections some of which we got into after the presentations. Elizabeth Johnson, for example, proposed that traits of Mary are attributed to the Holy Spirit by Protestants. Carol Meyers argued that the term "coming/going out" describes the action of women musicians celebrating miraculous events such as deliverance at the Red Sea (Miriam), celebrating David's victory after killing the Philistines (I Sam 18:6), and Mary Magdalene who went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord" (John 20:18).
The Smithsonian specifically asked that we make power point presentations with handouts. Mine used music and images from the Biblia Pauperum to show the expansion of dialogue between Jesus and MM at the tomb in John 20 by incorporating material from the Song of Songs. Since the technical people could not get either Carol Meyers or my power point presentations to work at the outset, we reversed the order of presentations to finish with material from the Hebrew Bible. By 11.00am order was restored and Carol presented. I was reduced to using handouts alone although they did manage to play my music. It was hard to concentrate on content and points of dialogue when worrying about delivery.
All of this goes to show that having plan B is essential and that plan B must not mentally be second best. Perhaps practising a day ahead is optimal. I did appreciate the simplicity of Elizabeth's lecture and handout presentation :)
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
According to Wills, Jesus was not a social reformer. His kingdom "is not of this world." Jesus came "to instill a religion of the heart, with only himself as the place where we encounter the Father." In the reign of heaven, "love is everything." But this love "is not a dreamy, sentimental, gushy thing. It is radical love, exigent, searing, terrifying." Yet it would appear to be domesticated love without teeth since it is apolitical and pacific. How can Jesus or followers of Jesus speak truth to power about civil rights or slavery?
Wills' has been accused of having Anglican sympathies by his fellow Roman Catholics especially in light of his earlier book, Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit? In What Jesus Meant, Wills opines that Jesus meant for women to be ordained, for clergy to be married, and he recognizes that in Jesus' time there was no hierarchy--no priests, bishops and certainly no Pope. Doubtless, Wills is reinscribing separation of church and state. Jesus isn't a Democrat or a conservative Republican.
The trouble with this approach is that it makes no sense of the ways in which Christians (including those on the right and left today) have understood Jesus to speak truth to power. It makes no sense of the context of nonviolent retaliation as Matthew describes it on Jesus' lips in the Sermon on the Mount. Further, the context of Jesus' death makes no sense unless he is seen as a political threat as Mark's gospel makes clear in its account of the crucifixion. The most that can be said about Wills' book is that it shows that contemporary Roman Catholic interpretations of Jesus by Republicans are by no means monolithic.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Using ivisit, an audio video chat program, students can participate live by logging in or access the recorded files of each chapter at their leisure. We have just finished prepositions. Its a fascinating learning experience :)
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The movie has a breathless quality as we follow Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sophie Neveu (Audry Tatou) from the Louvre to the French residence of Sir Leigh Teabing (Sir Ian McKellan) to an airport in Kent, to London and Westminister Abbey (actually Lincoln Cathedral) and finally to Rossyln Chapel just south of Edinburgh.
Flashbacks show Langdon (a professor of symbology?) lecturing on symbols at Harvard, doing a book signing for a book on feminine symbols, and almost drowning in a well as a child. Sophie's own trauma of the car crash that claimed the lives of her entire family including her brother fail to show in what ritual she saw her grandfather take part. We do see unexplained masked figures in a circle. There are flashbacks to the Council of Nicea (looking like an agitated question time in the House of Commons) and people killing each other from the early days of Christianity.
As anyone who has read the book knows, Langdon and Neveu race across Europe in the company of Teabing (a grail fanatic) to interpret codes left for them in various places by Sophie's grandfather having to do with a secret kept alive by members of the Priory of Sion, namely, that Jesus' bloodline, established through Mary Magdalene (the holy grail), lives in their descendent, Sophie herself. They are chased by a Parisian chief of police, an albino monk and a secret Roman Catholic enclave of Bishops, all members of Opus Dei, who torture and kill or simply shoot at any who might stop them from preventing the disclosure of this secret. We see the monk's murder of a sister at the church of Saint-Sulpice because she attempts to contact members of the Priory during his visit to the church. We see his self-flagellation and use of the celice on more than one occasion. Teabing murders his former butler. In the end, the chief of police realizes that he has been lied to and used by one of the Bishops and he turns on his former allies, freeing Langdon and Sophie for their last journey to Rosslyn.
Sr. D'Arienza (in the NY Post) noted the film's unrelieved brutality and compared it to "The Passion of the Christ" in this regard. I agree. Teabing, the chief of police, the monk, and Bishops of Opus Dei (how they are described in the film) are fanatics whether religious or not. Early Christianity is described as a series of power struggles and wars mirrored in the present. Mary Magdalene escapes from the crucifixion scene and flees to France to preserve her life and child. Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu look askance at the brutality on both sides.
I would like to think that religious traditions are open to intelligent debate and discussion about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and human sexuality but the only Christians in the movie are religious fanatics.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Some consensus exists among bird watchers that numbers are generally down this year, alas.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Its good to get out of the city!
Thursday, May 11, 2006
On our way home, a charming man turned towards us as we went by saying, "Look! A Tennessee Warbler!" If we'd stayed, we would have seen even more.
Monday, May 08, 2006
State Department contact information:
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard: 202-647-4000
Site with information on contacting your congressional representatives (in
The contact information for the Egyptian embassy is below:
The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Phone (202) 895 5400
Fax (202) 244 5131
(202) 244 4319
I write regarding the reports that Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El-Fatah was arrested at a demonstration in Cairo on May 7th, 2006. I understand that he and other protesters were demonstrating peacefully to support the Judiciary's struggle for independence.
Allegations in these reports are alarming. I am a professor at an Episcopal seminary in the USA and an American Citizen. My doctorate from Harvard University Divinity School was on two Coptic Gnostic texts and my research into Christian Origins includes teaching the Coptic langauge and past visits to Egypt. In light of your recent actions however, I will not visit your country and in addition I will warn my colleagues, students, friends, and blog-readers to stay away.
I urge you to release Alaa Abd El-Fatah immediately, along with the other activists arrested with him and to drop charges against them, by means of which you show respect for his right to protest.
Professor of New Testament
General Theological Seminary
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Has anyone ever had the sense when talking to certain kinds of religious people that God is in the room much in the same way that a bottle is the the room when you converse with an alcoholic? How do we guard against a commitment to God that becomes substance abuse?
Use of God to avoid personal relationships would seem to be an exploiting of religion. When people put God in place of kindness and generosity, are they not making an idol of God?
Grey's Anatomy on Sunday night had an example of this. A husband is unwilling to limit his child breeding acitivities with a fecund wife who has already been hospitalized twice for exhaustion and who has now entered the hospital for a cesarean section delivery of their 7th child. The wife persuades the ob-gyn to tie her tubes during the c-section but to do it in a way that will not show up on insurance records so that her husband cannot fault her. She insists that he will not participate in her plan and that he will reproach her on the evidence of his past behavior. The husband learns what has happened and proposes to sue the hospital.
The husband places his relationship to God ahead of his wife and family. The wife places her relationship with her husband ahead of her own integrity. She jeopardizes the livelihood and ability of a doctor (her gynecologist) to serve a whole host of other women. The husband's selfish concern for his own salvation is placed ahead of any other consideration: the health and well-being of his wife and her ability to care for their children, the ability of the hospital to serve others, the costs incurred by any suit that he might bring against the hospital etc. All in the name of God...
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Anything I have published has been far better for critiques. There's also a more important point: the notion that success lies in failure. Wisdom from the desert fathers and mothers puts it this way:
One day the devil appeared as an angel of light to a monk in his cell. "I am not worthy to receive an angel of light" said the monk. And the devil departed, overcome by the monk's humility.
Monday, May 01, 2006
My approach is simple: what about each of the resurrection accounts is consonant with the gospel, epistle or text in which the account emerges? The method indicates distinctions and emphases. Where it breaks down, e.g. in Paul or John's gospel with the appearance of Jesus to Mary in the garden, Pauline or Johannine themes are evident (interior revelation; seeing/perceiving, touching and hearing the voice of the shepherd) even if Mary appears only at the cross. Unless of course one understands Jesus' mother to be the recipient of the resurrection appearance in John 20. Paul's silence after the revelation of Jesus "en emoi" i.e. "to or in me" (Gal 1) is striking.
That said, I am taking Monday off (as working clergy tend to do)...Happy May Day!
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Perhaps this is the occasion to announce an A&E program on the DVC movie to be shown on May 18 including interviews with Elaine Pagels, Diane Apostolos-Cappadona and yours truly?
Speaking of help, has anyone noticed an exclusive interview Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold gave to the Guardian last Friday ? It seems not to have caught the attention of Anglicans on line last Sunday. I quote the opening paragraph which I do not think violates copyright:-
"The leader of the US Episcopal church, which is in danger of being expelled from the worldwide Anglican communion for its election of an openly homosexual bishop, has warned parishioners of the diocese of California that they would widen the confrontation it they chose another gay bishop...."
Griswold then goes on to say that he hopes the diocese of California will exercise caution in the forthcoming election, adding that it will then be up to the House of Bishops to give or withold their consent. The interview concludes by observing that perhaps it is the work of the Evil One to make us fixate on sexuality rather than more urgent matters like poverty, disease and civil war.
A quick perusal of the nominees from the website of the Diocese of California indicates a broad range of people from many different backgrounds with good experience. Let's pray that the Holy Spirit will blow on and around the election in a couple of weeks as it falls under a media microscope.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Yesterday we noticed that a pair of Mourning Doves had built a nest just outside our kitchen window on the fire escape.
This morning I saw a changing of the guard as a dry parent changed places with a wet one from the morning rain. The weekend forecast is more of the same so neither will stay dry for long.
In the changeover I saw two eggs in a rather threadbare nest. The site however is somewhat protected by a window screen haphazardly balanced on the last step of the fire escape. And we offer nyger seed in our feeder from the same window so there is a fairly regular food supply. Its not half as exciting as Pale Male of course, but its a lot closer. Perhaps I'll finally be able to tell one mourning dove from another (including male from female).
Friday, April 21, 2006
For several weeks now, a wild turkey has been happily ensconsed in the grounds of our seminary eating grass seed. She is impervious to passing dogs, children, construction crews, scaffolding, and other challenges. The picture above is of an early siting. She has been named "Glorvina" by seminarians after the sister of one of our most munificent benefactors, Dean Hoffman. The picture below is taken today. If I'm not mistaken and its the same bird, she is growing wattle.
Another wild turkey has recently been released in Morningside Park according to news reports. Her name is Hedda Gobbler.
Glorvina is a reminder for me of the transient nature of our comings and goings in educational institutions. How she arrived is a mystery. How long she will stay is unknown. Yet there she is each day going about the business of survival causing interest and delight as one of God's beautiful creatures.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
For this and reasons of justice, a divine mandate, I joined thousands of people at City Hall on Monday of this week to encourage congress now in recess to consider legislation that will recognize the civil rights of illegal immigrants and others to the US economy rather than separation of families and criminalization. Eleven milllion undocumented immigrants should not be deported.
We heard from Rep. Charles Rangel and Senator Hilary Clinton in support of the legislation. We heard from a Rabbi who reminded us of the season of Passover and a nation of slaves. A Buddhist leader spoke. Everyone was waving American Flags and shouting in pauses between speeches, "We March Today, We Vote Tomorrow!" (Hoy marchamos, manana votamos!) or "Si se puede!" (Yes we can!). Amongst the thousands I saw Irish groups, Asian groups, and religious coalitions from the UMC, and Judson Church. Beliefnet comments on participation of religious leaders across the country. People power indeed!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
The hype surrounding the Gospel of Judas in the week before Easter is remarkable. Few people attend to reading and interpreting other non-canonical gospels also situating themselves in the week before Easter. The second-century Gospel of the Savior, first published in 1999 by Charles Hedrick and Paul Mirecki, languished in a Berlin library for 25 years before Paul Mirecki noticed it in 1991. Perhaps dependent on oral traditions in the gospels of John and Matthew, the Gospel of the Savior knows an oral tradition of Revelation and material that ended up in The Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of the Savior takes place between the Last Supper and the handing over of Jesus in the garden. The Savior converses with the disciples. The scene shifts to prayers in Gethsemane which take place on a mountain within the divine throne room. There a dialogue between God and the Savior occurs witnessed by all disciples who are in no danger of falling asleep. Jesus' predicts his resurrection in language from the gospel of John.
Let's read and evaluate all gospels pertaining to Holy Week not just one that National Geographic wants to promote.
Friday, April 07, 2006
A first reading indicates that this is a straightforward Coptic Gnostic gospel in which Judas is the recipient of special teaching just as Thomas is in the Gospel of Thomas and Mariham in the Gospel of Mariamme.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I'm thrilled to see from participants' comments in the article that my two-fold approach in the talk seems to have been successful. First, through a handout with expanded paragraphs from the Gospels of Philip and Mary describing the relationship of Jesus and MM, one can see what the implications of Dan Brown's shorter paragraph choices are. That doesn't mean that we need to abandon investigation of the relationship between Jesus and MM.
So I turned to a presentation and discussion of medieval typological depictions in the Biblia Pauperum of MM at the tomb in John 20 through the lens of the bride searching for and finding her lover in the Song of Songs. Its easier to look at illustrations from the Bible of the Poor than it is to read interpretations of MM at the tomb as the bride in the Song of Songs searching for and finding Jesus in writings of Cyprian or other church fathers. Besides, a picture speaks a thousand words.
No one seems to have found this discussion undermined their faith. And it enhances appreciation for questions raised by the DVC.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
open until March 26th at the New York Historical Society.
From the 1600's to 1827, it reconstructs the slave trade and its impact first on the Dutch in New York, and then the British, arguing that as many as 20% of New Yorkers were enslaved African-Americans. During the colonial period, 41% of the city's households had slaves, compared to 6% in Philadelphia and 2% in Boston. Only Charleston, South Carolina, rivaled New York in the extent to which slavery penetrated everyday life. By 1775, in New York there were 3,100 slaves, accounting for 30 percent to 40 percent of the city's workforce. While the exhibit does not clarify this statistic, the website notes that each slaveholding New Yorker usually owned only one or two persons. Its also important to note slavery was less central to the economy and social order in New York than it was in Virginia or South Carolina (let alone Caribbean colonies such as Jamaica or Saint Domingue, where the vast majority of the population was enslaved). Thus, it was easier to abolish slavery in New York than it was in the South: in the wake of the American Revolution, every state north of Delaware initiated the abolition of slavery, whereas none of the Southern states did.
One other quibble: the introductory video included a quote from Aristotle about slavery being normative. But slavery in classical Greece was not at all the same thing as slavery in the New World. It would have been good to clarify different kinds of slavery.
The New York Times review notes that the exhibit tends to overlook this broader context. However, the exhibit is provocative, the information is new, and no one comes away unaffected.
We were able to hear the Abyssinian Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir (director Dr. Jewel T. Thompson) perform spirituals including "Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham." For the first time I heard it as an interpretation of the Lucan parable of Lazarus and the rich man from the point of view of slaves. I'll never hear it in the same way again.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Paragraph 217 clarifies that DVC as a novel is a work of fiction that uses verifiable material such as Da Vinci's paintings, the Gnostic Gospels and Hieros Gamos. These facts are interpreted by fictional characters in DVC in ideas that Brown believes have merit but the reader is encouraged to come up with opinions about religion and faith assessing the evidence for themselves.
An opinion piece by Viv Groskop in the Observer for March 19th makes the point that critics of Brown are having a field day since revelations of the trial like Brown's witness statement above make it fashionable to sneer at popular money-making novels. Groskop rightly notes that all this is beside the point. I agree and in public always say that anything that promotes discussion of ancient Christianity or ideas in the DVC such as recognizing male bias in ecclesiastical tradition is all to the good. No matter that DVC rests on our fascination with conspiracies. The timing of its phenomenal success has to do with, I believe, the scandal of pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church that is far from over.
Religious leaders need, for example, to take note of widespread interest in the argument of DVC that the church has suppressed the feminine whether in ecclesiastical imagery, theology, or office holders. What is the evidence? How might it be interpreted? The argument of the Catholic League that Ron Howard should add a disclaimer at the beginning of the DaVinci Code that the movie is fictional rests on the notion that we faithful cannot think for ourselves. Religious leaders have yet another opportunity to discuss many issues the book raises including the sources of women's spiritual authority when the movie is released in May.
The paragraphs from the Gospels of Mary and Philip cited in the DVC need to be read in context of the gospels from which they derive. Not even gospel writers thought that Jesus' cursing of the fig tree (reported in Matthew and Mark and interpreted in Luke) had anything to do with a fit of pique. The notion of a kiss in the Gospel of Philip, for example, is that it is the means by which "the perfect" conceive and give birth. Perhaps this is the way initiates join a community of "perfect" in Philip: initiates come into being through the generating activity of that community whether by sacramental acts or other types of initiating rites. Any interpretation of a kiss in the Gospel of Philip must start with its notion of sacramental reality.
Of course its not easy to understand ancient texts like Philip and Mary especially since they stand outside a 2000 year old tradition of interpretation. But new editions and interpretations of these texts and others like them are published all the time!
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Those of us who are well off might consider a donation to worthy causes. One of mine is news about women around the world including cheers and jeers of the week.
This month on March 21st at the seminary Prof. Amy-Jill Levine from Vanderbilt lectures on "Jesus and Judaism: the Connection Matters." From the point of view of historical accuracy, what could be more important? Amy-Jill is always lively and engaging so come along! Its free!
Other things to do:-
- ask your local place of worship to hold an event featuring a woman speaker
- ask your local bookstore to feature women authors signing books
- ask your community center to host an event celebrating women in the local community
- write a letter to the editor of your local paper explaining why its important to mark this month
Joan Acocella in “The Saintly Sinner” reserves to the gospel of John the spiritual implications of Mary’s encounter with a gardener/resurrected Jesus. But Mary’s fragmentary vision of the ascent of the soul in the Gospel of Mary is woven of the same cloth: death, despair and weeping followed by revelation and commission. This vision clearly pertains to the “matters of the soul” Acocella prefers to attach to John. But the issue is not which text contains more spirituality. The issue is why Mary’s vision in John comes to represent gender conflict. This is not a Gnostic problem. There’s more to Mary Magdalene’s story than a pitch for the priesthood of women based on authority in matters of the soul; what’s at stake is the authenticity of all women’s religious vision, in every religious tradition.
Happy Women's History Month!
Saturday, February 25, 2006
is more often than not rather furry. We live in seminary housing in the middle of Chelsea with our two dogs Diamond and Reuben, and our two cats Fishy and Mouflon. Reuben and Fishy get on well (as you see) but alas, the same cannot be said of Mouflon and Fish. Mouflon seems to think of himself as something other than a cat (a dog perhaps?) and prefers to relate to people.
Living in a household wherein only two occupants communicate by words makes one pay attention to NVC: canine gestures, movements, expressions; feline presence and sounds (Fishy is part siamese) all play a part of daily routine. Laura Hillenbrand describes Tom Smith, Seabiscuit's trainer: "Perhaps Smith spoke so infrequently because he was listening so hard. Horses speak with the smallest of motions; Smith saw and heard everything." When the grooms walked horses round in circles to cool them down, they'd see him "squatting on the floor turning the horses over in his mind." "He lived by a single maxim: Learn your horse. Each one is an individual, and once you penetrate his mind and heart, you can often work wonders with an otherwise intractable beast."
We got Reuben as an eight week old puppy. He was off leash on 10th Avenue following an older dog and a young man. Julian said to the young man, "If you love your dog, you'll keep him on a leash as 10th Avenue is very busy." When the young man announced that he wanted not to keep but to sell him, Julian said, "Done!" Reuben arrived in our house after a quick checkup at the local vet, and the first thing he did was rush to hide behind Angus, our old shepherd, who was lying down. Angus, being rather old and mellow, offered Reuben the puppy a safe warm vantage point from which to take in the lay of our apartment. Negotiating Diamond, our female shepherd (who is rather tempramental due to her unstable upbringing before we got her) and with whom he grew up as a sister/mother substitute, is one of Reuben's skills.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Apparently, museum administrators opine that people today have a harder time connecting their own lives with living history sites like Williamsburg. They feel that recreations of distant events with live actors will help today's multicultural audiences do just that.
The Virginia Pilot article reports that in the mid-eighties 1.2 million paying visitors a year kept local restaurant and hotels busy. When I visited in 1976, it was thriving. I enjoyed every minute of my visit. So what happened to imagination? I don't know about you, but once I see a recreation of an event or a book as a movie, its likely that images from the movie replace what I once imagined as the battle of Culloden and the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie, or a tea farm in Kenya where Karen Blixen once lived at the foot of the Ngong hills (about which I know a tiny bit having grown up near Kisumu). Imagination not only liberates our minds and hearts but it creates possibility and vision. It is polyvalent and not uniform: no images need be set in stone.
Recently I revisited the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. My acoustiguide allowed me to access three kinds of information: descriptions of art works, assessments of the religious significance of various pieces and short pieces of music thought relevant to the piece. With imagination and emotions kindled, I can still see and hear a painting and accompanying music from that visit. If my critical imagination abandoned painting descriptions or thought another piece of music more suitable to a painting or sculpture, so much the better.
I've been to Gettysburg. The field where Pickett's charge took place and the setting for President Lincoln's Gettysburg address live in my imagination aided by a few photographs of the time. I am alas, sceptical that recreating events from the period of the American revolution will heighten my engagement with the period. I'm glad I went to Williamsburg a long time ago.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Prof. Wilson once told us at St. Mary's a wonderful story about material being prepared for a two volume work on NT Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha he translated into English. Some of the material was given to a typist who happened to be a friend of Prof. Nisbet's daughter. Prof. Nisbet recounted that his daughter came to him wondering (on behalf of her friend) about Prof. Wilson's interest in ghosties. "Oh, its not ghosties Prof. Wilson is interested in," he replied, "Its Gnostics."
Yesterday was given over to a celebration of Prof. Wilson's 90th birthday as reported by Jim Davila in Paleojudaica (from whom I have appropriated this picture). It was through Prof. Wilson that I became interested in Gnosticism and it was thanks to him that I ended up studying with George Macrae at Harvard.
We last met in 2000 at the SNTS meeting in Durham (see below). Perhaps my favorite memory of him was from an academic meeting in Rome in 1974. He kindly took me under his wing as it was my first visit to "the eternal city." One afternoon, his hearing aid failed as we set out on a guided tour of the catacombs. He simply turned it off and enjoyed the tour with the rest of the group.
Here's to you, Robin! Lang may your lum reek!
Friday, February 17, 2006
Text of letter from the Dean of Emmanuel College Cambridge The Revd Jeremy Caddick
6th February 2006
The Rt Revd Dr Anthony Russell
Bishop of Ely
The Chapel Committee here recently met and considered, among other things, what should be the response to requests for services following the registering of Civil Partnerships. The Committee looked at the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement issued last July.
I am conscious that the Colleges do not see themselves as falling within the formal jurisdiction of the Diocese of Ely, but I thought it important to write to you as the nearest member of the House of Bishops to tell you about the outcome of those discussions, and also to put on record my own dismay at the damage that is being done to the Church’s standing by the handling of this question. I am aware that your ear will also be being bent by those who take a very different view from my own!
The advice of members of the Chapel Committee and of the College Council, who also considered the matter, was that we would not wish to close the door to having services for members of the College community who requested them. They left it to the Dean to judge what form of service would be appropriate. (I recognise that there will be complex issues to be talked through in relation to each request that is received. None have been so far.)
The House of Bishops statement came in for considerable criticism. In particular people were not convinced by the distinction between not offering a blessing on one hand and encouraging clergy to respond sensitively to requests for services of prayer on the other.
In a community such as this one people know that there is considerable diversity in human sexual relationships, and, in general, see the importance of affirming and celebrating those that are faithful and life affirming. People look to college chapels as offering resources and support in doing that, and this is part of the ministry here that I continue to find rewarding and encouraging.
I appreciate the political considerations that propel the House of Bishops to begin the statement with quite such a vehement reaffirmation of the teaching that, “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (emphasis added). However such a starting point would seem to fly in the face of pastoral experience. To put it bluntly, what planet is the House of Bishops on? I cannot recall the last time I presided over the marriage of a couple who were not already sleeping together. I have no intention of turning such couples away and rather than taxing them on the subject of their sleeping arrangements, I find it much more productive to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to draw their attention to the grace-charged and God revealing aspects of the relationship that they are in the process of making.
I am concerned that in setting its face so publicly against gay relationships the Church imperils, perhaps terminally, its standing to speak authoritatively on the subject of relationships generally. There is no shortage of people who wish to portray the Church as reactionary and irrelevant. To be blunt again, I am dismayed that the House of Bishops statement plays into their hands.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Monday, January 23, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
is going to be seven on January 30th 2006. Here's a picture of her taken by my partner Julian on Dec 22nd, 2005 on a Duck Tour with her parents and my parents in London. Duck Tours operate in several cities in the US with rivers as well as in London. By means of an amphibious vehicle, tourists are taken on a guided city tour on land and sea.
The recently released movie Narnia offers its own interpretation of a book I enjoyed as a child, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. For many, the appeal of the movie will be because it is Christian. But for me its appeal lies in the way a Christian author takes another reality seriously by asking what redemption might look like in that other context.
The book is set in post-war Britain. A cup of tea is the elixir of life. Fathers are absent because they’ve gone off to war or killed. Separation from parents is normal and brings about closer sibling relations. The movie opens with the bombing of Britain and closes with the battle between the armies of the White Witch and Aslan in which gryphon-like creatures drop large rocks on the enemy. The Pevensie children, forced to hide in the middle of the night from German bombs, will in the end fight and win against the enemy with the weapons of children: swords, bows and arrows. Both worlds center on children, particularly boys. Battling the enemy is the way Peter becomes a man. Aslan tells Peter never to forget to wipe his sword. But “Battles are ugly when women fight” says Father Christmas to Lucy. In the movie, Lucy’s friendship with the faun Tumnus is the only real relationship. C. S. Lewis lost his mother to cancer at the age of eight. Since his father was consumed by grief, he and his brother Warren (Warnie) grew up together in a world of their own.
There are some other strange features of characters in the movie and the book. Aslan is not a human. He is not a divinity who has become flesh. Thus, he has no intrinsic connection to the children. He is neither a father nor a brother; he is present to them one moment and absent from them the next. Their “conversion” from fear of him to affection and loyalty is on the level of sensation: “his voice was deep and rich and somehow took the fidgets out of them.” The White Witch, however, looks human. Ann Peacock, the movie’s screenwriter, emphasizes the White Witch’s maternal sentiments when she first meets Edmund. “I have no children of my own,” she says as she wraps her fur around him, feeding him with Turkish Delight and notions that he might succeed her. To be sure, in C. S. Lewis’ book the White Witch utters these same words, but to Edmund abject at her feet, not nestled next to her in the sledge. In the movie, sitting next to him, the White Queen caresses Edmund’s face. Next time they meet he will lie in shackles at her feet imprisoned in her castle in order to lure his siblings to her but their first encounter is all cuddles and maternal care. Father Christmas appears in a world where there is no Christmas simply to hand out presents and (in the book) a tea-tray with hot tea for the children and beavers.
It is not surprising that there are these anomalous features of the Christianity of Narnia. C. S. Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to ask “Suppose there were a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing and the Son of God (or the “Great Emperor oversea”) went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, have been like?” (8 June 1960, Letter to Patricia). Viewers of Narnia and readers are invited into the same imaginative exercise not just in imaginary worlds but also in our world.
Aslan’s breath re-creates Narnia and restores the dead to life. What involvement in a world does the creation of (or giving birth to) a world imply? What might the creative and redemptive roles of animals in our world or other worlds be? Lucy finds the way to Narnia first. Are there other prophetic roles children and women play in our world or other worlds? In Narnia, the betrayal and treachery of siblings is the greatest sin. However, Edmund repents and is forgiven. This is not the same thing as the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. For one thing, Edmund is a child. In other religions and other worlds there may be different and greater sins. In Narnia, the world is in thrall to winter of the White Witch. What if the world were not viewed as “enemy-occupied territory?" While Lewis might be thought to articulate the worst of Christian triumphalism and exclusivity, if one takes his explanation of what he intended to do in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe seriously, consideration of how the triumph of love might work in our world and other worlds to defeat evil in fact respects diversity and religious pluralism.
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