Saturday, July 12, 2008

Garden Party for Christ

I feel certain when the vested academics and theologians get together over tea in a regional convention, they use four and five syllable words to describe the latest titter tatter in the news.

The latest recycled tourist thing unearthed in Jordan is a stone tablet with ink on it, faded ink, which presumably science cannot read every word missing in a 2100 year old historic relic. Of course, there is a story that there was a different variation of the Messiah theme before Jesus and yes, now, Christianity should just shrivel up and die. The other shoe has fallen so to speak (again).

Which brings me back to the polyglot language of the academics and vested types whose careers, pensions and present standing in the titter tatter club of floating conventions. Excluding the general population is a general theme in Christianity since Constantine.

A major portion of the general christian population of the roman empire were women. In fact the primitive christian church was an institution nurtured by women and the hearth as the apostles and disciples and converts began to travel all those well built avenues of communication also known as roman roads.

I have seen the title “primitive” and Christian put together on the name of churches. Many of these protestant sects are aiming for simplicity, something that the reformation started but never quite finished as the schism institutionalized itself into yet another bureaucratic entity.

So beside the title of cultural or secular Christian, I drive past the label of primitive and settle on another layer of description, and arrive at pre-title-ist Christian.

The way I see it, Jesus and the Apostles started the church, the people of God, along those information superhighways, roman roads, before Constantine and his personal glory agenda hijacked the whole show or in reality part of the show.

The title-ist church, the Constantine catholic church, latin and greek divisions, happened when the General handled over the title of deed to basilicas to the males of the then primitive, pre-title-ist church. Women were completely wiped out of the equation or more accurately the equation got rewritten by the golden rule. The golden rule? “He who has the gold (and or army)makes the rules”.

And if you have any understanding of real estate or legal terms, you understand that celibacy has to due with clear title on a property and nothing to due with chastity etc.

If you understand the flow of society through the standard cookie cutter roman city, the basilica is the quasi all purpose building, open on many sides, where the general business of the city was conducted.

On one day, the magistrate sits and hears petitions and conducts trials. On another day, the produce market comes indoors out of the rain or the snow. On Sunday, the church service is conducted. On most other days, the building is an army recruitment and induction center.

Sounds cynical of me. There are however a few grains of truth in what I say. To say that Christianity has been totally sidetracked for 1700 years is a bit bizarre even for this mad hatter.

I look at the Lambeth Garden Party, see quite another perception, and consider how lawyers and chartered accountants and priests are all gathered in titter tatter as to who, male or honorary male, hold the deeds of title to some real estate plums around the globe.

Are we about to witness a bona fide restoration of the rights and dignity of women after 1700 years of shamful neglect in the Christian church?

Is this groundbreaking or is it just another tired Vatican II PR type ploy?

The Pope is praying for an all boys team to lead the Anglican church.

Is all this Jesus? I don't really know.

Then again, I am primitive or is it pre-title-ist. And I do not like or know too many words with more than two or three syllables. Please forgive my humble ignorance of these multi-syllable church matters.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

General Faith

I find great energy in the Acts of the Apostles. This account written to “Theophilus” (a lover of God) is the root of my reassuring my faith in the beliefs of Jesus and his message.

It is difficult sometimes to have faith in what others say they have seen or witnessed. It is difficult to believe when so many before have accepted faith blindly and not questioned it. There are many twists and turns in the road of life. So too, a road to faith, has it ups and downs as well as twists and unexpected turns.

For a renewal of faith, for a renewal of energy, in the belief that Jesus is the unique messenger sent by God to bind all nations and all times in some common belief system, I turn always to Acts. If you struggle that hard for something as in those pages, maybe there is something worth struggling for.

What first century Christians believed in is perhaps much different than what third or fourth century Christians believed in. Much different than what I in my heart might believe in. My beliefs are not that important. They are many times shifting with the trends and winds of man. I look to Paul and his cronies and I see a very human church with many everyday problems in an everyday world - foundation stones of a new and future global faith.

Paul and Peter and the other apostles could get that old chi-ro mojo going via the Holy Spirit and work a few real miracles amidst both believers and non-believers alike. It has always been a group effort thing. Grace flows more freely when all present are asking for the same thing or acting in concert with one another and in the name of the Almighty.

The biggest problem, in those early years, was probably crossing the “t”s and dotting the “i”s. This in terms of remembering what the Master said and what he meant and throwing in a little basic Psalms and Isaiah to plot the story and the vision and be able to live with the current mission statement of the new cult.

It was viewed as a cult. Paul and his avenging horsemen going up to Damascus was about wiping out a nest of these new believers and heretics of the old faith.

I mentioned this energy thing and Acts to a friend in his house some ten odd years ago. He was also a recycled R.C. who had found a place in the comfort of the local congregation. He mentioned how christianity keeps splitting up into cults and sects. I had to think about that a bit. Of course when does a splinter group become a cult and how many does it takes to become a sect etc.?

Out of those thoughts came the thought that faith in another’s faith is perhaps extraordinary faith. I look at Paul to try and see the global gentile view of any matter at hand.

What we see today as a break down of old time culture is perhaps the way that people in the emerging global culture embrace materialism without question. There is no old fashioned sense of a balance of things. You probably should give up something when you embrace something else. If you do not do this then perhaps you have no concept of the value of things real or spiritual. Few, I think have dedicated time or energy to these concepts.

The electronic comfort bubble of cell phones, virtual reality and 24/7 sensory overload or addiction make many blind to the outside the door decline in the quality of life. The selfish lifestyle within that doorway can be had at the push of a button and the use of plastic. A person’s home, once his castle, can be a prison as well without one necessarily being aware of it

The breakdown in religious observance and or religion and God as the center of the culture is something I see in flux as a new global pagan god of materialism emerges. This new selfish thing makes people not wanting to seek the comfort of the concept of God or even to explore spirituality within. This new selfish thing ignores the soul of self and does not recognize the existence of or dignity of the soul within one’s neighbor.

When you can reduce people to numbers, they can be dismissed as statistics and factored out of any equation, political and or economic. Hitler, Stalin and Mao amassed many statistics to their credit in their evil little inhuman lives. And then there is Wall Street...

Which brings me to an observation. What we in the west as Christians have been told -what christianity is about - for 1700 years – is what the civil authority says it is - since General Constantine started his own designer religion to facilitate his ambitions of blood and conquest.

I think that the needs of Constantine the Great are a bit different than what our spiritual needs are today. Some church councils endorsed some obsolete and archaic concepts in the past as pillars of faith. Perhaps some new honest and human councils can start plotting 21st century spiritual priorities for a new global faith of all nations.

The words of the peasant and prophet and a true son of God in the form of Jesus are greatly ignored or misunderstood these modern days. Why is that my dear brothers and sisters?

There is a basic historic model. That the spiritual needs of the population should be addressed after General Moses or General Constantine or General Mohammed have set up the civil state. I believe that the sacred and the secular should be separate as much as possible in society.

The civil discourse and the commerce of nations is important but “what does it profit a man or woman if he or she gain the whole world and suffer the loss of their immortal soul?”.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Balancing Historic Equations

The equation does not balance. Or it does not always balance for me.

The consensus on the writing of the four gospels goes something like this. Mark is written around 70 A.D.. Matthew and Luke, being somewhat embellished copies of the “Q” standard set by Mark, get published around 80 A.D.. John gets published around 90 A.D..

Wow! The Christians got their stuff all together before the Jews did in 90 C.E. (A.D.). at the “Council of Jamnia”. How convenient!

Q? an abbreviation of the German word quelle meaning source. There was some German scholar in the nineteenth century who went through the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) line per line and concluded that there must have been a lost source document for similar quotes and a similar story line in each of these three gospels.

Of course you can reinterpret it as the smallest and the oldest document of Mark got tacked onto at later dates. I do not find anything wrong with that. That each of these synoptic (similar point of view documents) were regional base documents. Oral tradition among Hellenistic Jews and now Christians in Alexandria in Egypt and Pagan converts in Asia Minor (Turkey) had different oral traditions and got them put down on parchment at some point in time.

More is better or is less better?

I am not disputing validity of text. I am questioning timelines. I question academic theory as a basis for history. Is history in a pundit’s realm? Is history fact? Or is history merely an opinion?

Mine is not an original idea that Mark is the foundation of Matthew and Luke. It is just that if you read other historic documents such as Josephus Flavious’ histories, different things get said of the events of that era. In modern desktop publishing, words like “cut and paste” mirror manual techniques going back thousands of years. You got a parchment and you are an historian, you cut the scroll and glue in a new paragraph or two. You do not change the story or the message as much as your regional version overlaps, sometimes duplicates or addresses a singular subject only once without further backup documents.

You have to glean through the gospels to get a sense of the story of Jesus and his message that is sometimes clouded in poor, blurred, many times edited, copy.

I think that the first two gospels have one angel at the empty tomb of Jesus. Luke and John must be more accurate with two angels each protecting the empty tomb of the risen Christ.

The gospels are human documents. They are not necessarily false. I can see why over the years the R.C. church has avoided putting them at the forefront of their sacred tradition and ritual based religion. I can also see why after the Protestant Reformation, how with so little to work with, the northern countries of Europe lost the richness of religious tradition and started to ban stained glass and music for a time – but only for a time.

Stained glass and music work in the house of God much better than undefined echoes heard or shadows spread bluntly through an empty warehouse of a building. They work better to touch something spiritual, in the way of adding atmosphere and encouragement, to a place for prayer or meditation.

I do not know when the sacred scriptures of Christianity were written. I do not know how many people have handled the product throughout the early centuries of Christianity.

Jesus’ message does come through to me through all the paperwork. That message speaks of love, and caring and refined social interface. It speaks of justice and the possibilities of man as God’s creation to be able to reach for the stars.

Jesus' message also reflects the responsibility of the human race to manage well the gifts and resources given in abundance from above and as part of God’s ultimate plan, whatever that may be.


Monday, June 23, 2008

The Other Shoe

I make this observation. I remember in my youth of some thirty to forty odd years ago when you could not get any Jewish people to even mention the name of Jesus. This, in public, the newspaper, media etc. Now it would seem that Jesus is accepted as an historic figure in the Holy Land. It is good for tourism, so many can budge a little on traditional thinking.

I mention the other shoe. I refer to the other shoe dropping in historic, academic and religious realms. Without quoting specifics, I have felt that I have observed the fact that Christian scholars are always looking over their shoulders at archeology and the mother lode of written documents, the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1947.

Now there is little or nothing about christianity in the Dead Sea Scrolls but there is by deference a healthy fear or respect to a whole new body of historic footnotes to be gleaned from these documents.

And it took time to archive, preserve, catalogue and finally publish text beyond the very tight knit world of academics and religious scholars regarding the D.S.S.. Only highlights and new theories and new carbon dating systems have earmarked tidbits of journalistic items filtering into the general knowledge of the population over decades.

Behind the Jewish scrolls and less noticed and less publicized over the years are the early christian writings also known as the Gnostic Gospels, unearthed in 1945. These writings are a mixture of many things and little except one or two documents comes close to anything like what we might call gospels from a Greek Testament frame of reference.

In either case, both separate and distinct sets of documents got lost because some sincere scholars and believers cared. These treasures got lost and buried because they threatened religious or political agendas of centuries past. Luckily we have them today as part of the human race’s heritage.

Over the decades when I have been attending church services, I have observed that the christian minister is more often than not doing a homily based on Hebrew Testament passages. It is perhaps coincidence but maybe a lot of christian ministers want to hedge their bets in case some new archeological discovery and texts come to light that would despoil the old party line of old time christian religion.

That, or nobody wants to dissect Jesus or his message, his raising a sword for justice etc. Political correctness has seemingly reburied Jesus long ago and in his own so called church.

I do not know or care about the preaching. I care about the doing. I care about any congregation and what it does in the community. Does it have daycare, a K-8 school, does it give food to the hungry, visit the elderly and shut-ins?

To me, the social agenda of any church, synagogue or mosque is to be judged on how it treats its own, is a part of the greater community and functions in a way that Jesus would recognize or appreciate.

So, I always eagerly await news in the papers about new archeology and insights to the cultural christian bounty that is ever growing. I draw my own conclusions.

I do not have to look over my shoulder to see if another shoe in history or theolgy is about to drop and rock the boat and spoil any professional meal ticket christian bubble.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A House of Prayer

From a journal – May 2003

...Rushing to my express bus on Fifth Avenue I glanced up the steps into an unused entrance to Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, a structure I have mentioned before in this journal – (a place where I have gone to pray and mediate and admire the unique massive stone altar piece and stained glass)...

I saw a Muslim engaged in his 4th (?) prayer of the day. He was shoeless – white socks on gray stone – I had seen something like this before, at this same spot, on a cold dark winter night at 5:30 P.M. last winter or one winter ago – one loses track of time here in New York –

...glanced before, at that time, and did not pay much attention to that scene – (did not wish to stare or to intrude on prayer which can be both a public or a private thing). (I was also in a hurry to catch my bus). Later I tried to recollect the scene, reconstruct the scene – but the memory did not fit. Was not reminded of it again until today.

I thought that there were stone saint icons on the side of that locked wooden door area. Today, in less darkness, I noticed the angle of the pray-er’s focus. That focus was not in the direction of the stone statues but on stone support columns – round pillars rising up to typical gothic angle – an arabic angle? – a muslim angle? Which came first, the gothic or the...-

Does not matter. I am reminded of this pray-er and Isaiah’s words. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” Those words more than ever are needed today in this world.

God be praised!...

Friday, June 20, 2008

That old XP (chi-ro) Mojo

With a global war of perceptions of what the human race is about, what it believes and how it goes forward into the future are great macros to be identified, refined and on occasion dissected.

Macros and labels and sound bites do not really matter at my level of things. All politics and spiritual beliefs are not only local, they many times represent a majority opinion of one within.

There are a whole lot of people who claim the title of Cultural Christian. Some perhaps want a term to throw our there so that the listener may not understand and so long as it has the Christian as part of the label, it must in some social way be okay. Many Cultural Christians have beliefs that might range from atheism or agnosticism and every where in between. In any case, all of us outside and looking in, are all brothers and sisters in some human belief system.

Early Christianity was about a lot of ideas and cults and merging of ideas and semantics. It was a search for a common ground.

Basic Judaism as we know it today got forged after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. . There is labeled something historically as the Council of Jamnia, around the year 90, where the declining Jewish population in Palestine, - without the Temple, amid zealots that kept stirring the fire of revolt against the Romans, and all sorts of Jewish based cults that were tearing away at the basic questions of – Who are we as Jews? – What are the basic beliefs of Judaism?

Now there are modernist and minimalist historians and their opinions as to whether there was a sit down council or whether the Hebrew Testament took shape into its present recognizable and written form at this specific period at the end of the first century of the common western era. Before this there was the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament and a lot of scattered written and oral accounts and prophecy floating around the ether.

In either case, the Jews did not split with the Christians; the Christians now needed their own hardcopy Testament – a manifesto of history and beliefs. Many diverse and not necessarily Jewish groups who followed the teachings of Jesus needed a user manual of sorts - to tap into that basic XP (chi-ro) mojo.

If time travel were possible, I know in my heart of hearts that if I went back to first century Palestine, I would be in total culture shock and probably would not recognize Jesus in outward appearances if I was face to face with The Man.

I have spent a lot of years researching the early Christian era. I have found that the official road maps of the vested organized religions are a waste of time. It’s better to take the trip and ask directions along the way. The real Jesus, the man, is his message and not a reflection of his bank accounts or stone palaces.

I am waiting hopefully and with great eagerness for a supplemented Gospel of Thomas to be unearthed in the decades to come. Perhaps there will be real time Jesus quotes about how “Heaven can wait”. Or something like “Here on earth, God’s work must be truly our own.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On the Road of Life

Some strange guy once waved to me in a nearly empty parking lot at the Mall in Arizona. Hey I do go to the mall sometimes.

I did not know the guy. He started to give me the spiel that he waved to me because he thought he knew me. I looked like someone he knew. Well not actually.

“Are you a Someway salesman?” I asked. “No.” he replied. This had happened to me before. People who sell some really junky soap powder for your clothes want to sell the same crappy soap suds to you and your friends and then start selling everything imaginable from their little catalogue. Sounds like a good deal. Cheap soap and its gets cheaper as you build a network of buyers for the products.

After a few more questions I hit pay dirt. I did not know the right questions. Then I switched the nouns or the verb tense and finally I got a “Yes, I am with Someway but I am not a salesman. I am a distributor.”

The guy was Hindu. I did not mention it sooner because it might have triggered a cultural reaction in you and ruined my intended line of thought and writing. He was dark skinned and before he spoke too much, I thought he might have been Mexican American. After all it was southern Arizona near the border. I didn’t know he was Hindu until he spoke with a slight accent.

Well I am a curious fellow and I like to chew the fat like anybody and in spite of the blazing hot summer sun, I continued in conversation. In a few more lines of conversation, I was asking him cultural questions about being Hindu. I was curious about their religious feasts. And the best I got out of him was yes he had a lot of relatives and yes they had holidays but mostly Hindu families like to get together to eat and eat and eat.

In many ways, this distributor was not much different that anybody else I knew here in America. I think of that random meeting in a parking lot and of course he gave me his card in case I changed my mind or if my brother in law wanted to sell suds.

I harken back to an earlier time when a man is standing in front of a synagogue and is engaging strangers in chit chat and conversation. This man is a stranger in town. Until he speaks, the natives have no clue who he is or where he is from. His dress is quite common for this town along a Roman road in Asia Minor, the country of Turkey in today’s geography. His accent is a little strange but you can’t quite put a finger on its origin. The man is Jewish in outward manners and wants to talk about some local gossip or a phrase that the local rabbi dropped in the synagogue on Sabbath.

Paul calls himself an apostle. He talks about having been a tentmaker. Do you have any tents that need repair? He could do it very cheaply. He had learned the trade when he spent two years in the far away exotic place of Arabia. He disclosed this without much explanation. The Arabia thing goes over most people’s heads. If they had ever heard of Arabia they knew that is was outside the realm of Roman control. Pirates abound in the waters off this exotic sounding country. If anything, a man or two of the world might think of that destination as the end of the line in terms of caravans snaking their way all around the Middle East and all the way to even more exotic sounding places like India or China.

“You say you studied Mosaic Law under the great Gamaliel?” Paul was forever careful. There were spies everywhere. With a simple question and a simple answer he might be labeled a trouble maker and thrown into a Roman jail but only after the locals had beaten him up. He was a Roman citizen. That was enough most of the time to get a Roman soldier or magistrate to give him the edge and the benefit of the doubt in any local dispute with natives that did not have the same rights of a Roman free man.

“I heard him talk a number of times. He is a brilliant man, a great scholar and a true man of the Almighty.” In truth he had not studied for long at the Temple. He had heard of Gamiliel and his defense of the new cult of Jesus before a local Temple administrative hearing.

“And now I tell you: Stay away from these men, and leave them alone. If their plan comes from human authority, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them. You might even be fighting against God himself!” Acts 5:38-39

“I am busy right now Paul from Tarsus. I have errands. Come to my house later. We will talk. Join me and my family for an evening meal.”

“Thank you kind sir. Thank you. I will come to your house”.

Paul was relieved. He was also hungry. He had not eaten for two days. Fasting is good for the spirit but it wrecked havoc on his stomach. Maybe tonight he would just talk about Gamiliel. The conversion would always somehow turn to Jesus and what he thought he had to say.

In a way of atonement, this man had many debts to pay back to men, to Jesus and his followers and to God himself.

Having been young and fanatical and vested with papers that gave him and a bunch of hired thugs authority, he had set forth to Damascus to bring some men to Temple justice. Talking with his fellow traveling companions, he realized that any prisoners this well spoken, well educated Jew could manage to get arrested, those men were not likely to live to see Temple justice.

As if in imitation of the energy of that blinding light and a realization, along with his anger and his hatred of the people he set out to get and in anger and disgust of the people he had once traveled with, he could reflect on many things, and look into the dark caverns of his soul.

At the end of a long day of trying to find people who were willing to listen to his messsage, he could relax a bit. He could look into a mirror in a darkening room at twilight and see his face in guilt reflecting the life he set out to build and he could also see the face in the mirror of the man he had become.

Redemption for him was to continue the mission of people like the stoned and martyred Stephen. He saw that young man killed for his beliefs. Jesus in a direct and indirect manner had set in motion a whole new life for this sinner now known as Paul.

Beware of the strangers you meet on the road of life. Some might actually change your life for the better and forever.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cult of Fear and Entertainment

One learns with a newborn baby that it does not come with an instruction book. Some things you learn on your own. Some things are common sense. Some things are instinctual. Other things you learn from people who have lived through the experience. Life is a 24/7 learning experience.

I will not learn about what happens after I die until I die. As I was told once by someone, the end of the world can also be stated as the end of your world. Death is death. Life after death is another matter.

Of late, I do not hear many TV evangelists talking so much about Jesus these days as they are talking about the end of the world. It all seems to be tied into millennium fever what with Jesus turning 2000 years old and all that. I hear much too much with this new cult of the end of the world consuming and wasting so much Christian energy. The enigmatic Book of Revelation supposedly backs up this current preaching tangent. Last time I looked, that book in terms of a word count only represents 6% of the New Testament.

I don't know what you think you are preaching inside the tent. I seem to have a different perspective looking in from the outside.

Christianity is not about a Saturday matinee at a horror flick. XPistianity should be about the spiritual welfare of people both inside and outside the faith.

The Iranians overthrew the Shah of Iran’s government in the year 1400 of the Islamic calendar. There is an element of expectation and that can turn into self fulfilling prophecy as you approach a rounded off number like 1400 or even 2000. Throw in a little religious fervor and you have a revolution.

Does anybody remember all the hype about Y2K? The old time computer programs were never geared to numbers or date change to 2000 at the turn of a century. Talk, hype, fear had us on the verse of seeing power plants shutting down, losing data on hard drives, society failing and on and on and on. Guess what? Nothing major happened. The secular world did not come to an end or even to a temporary grinding halt.

One of my earliest remembrances, as a child, of a reading of the gospels, had to do with signs in the sun and the end of the world. It is a fascinating subject. It gave me goose bumps.

Like so much in the gospels, what is said in the beginning of a chapter doesn’t always get tied together with the end of the same chapter. Over the centuries, the Sunday gospel reading got chopped up into sound bites. This modern day cult business, or whatever it is, is a tangent that emphasizes fear and talking about extraordinary events to thrill and entertain.

What starts out as a prediction about the destruction of the Temple turns into a discussion about apocalyptic events and then the return of the Son of Man to earth. What I find most important in the twenty fourth chapter of Matthew is that both Jesus and the angels do not know when the end of the world happens along with the return of the Messiah. Only God the Father, knows that date. Christians, don’t sweat the small stuff or the things you have no control over.

If this end of the world cult is about fear, I don’t think that the faith is about fear. The rest of these end times tangents, as they preach it, are not faith to me. This passing historic phase of the faith seems like a sideshow, like carnie entertainment and or some sort of weird mental head game seeking some sort of thrill – the power in knowing what only God knows. Wow! That’s real power dude.

The year 2000 has come and gone. In a secular sense, get a life. In a religious sense, get back to basics. To paraphrase Freud – sometimes a calendar date is just a calendar date.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Consensus Avenue - Global Town Square

Old time religion was about a cohesive social unit. It was not particularly political. The rural past of America and going back to the middle ages centered around the local church building. Families were neighbors and also members of the community church.

The local town square, if the town was big enough for such a thing, was on the secular end of the same avenue facing the local church. Sacred or secular decisions for the community got discussed, a consensus found and decided on Main Street USA.

It is the main street in the Disney theme parks that harkens back to the idealized late nineteenth century era and up until WWI American world. Here, the separation of church and state, more or less worked as a blueprint for the stabilization of the community and the nation. We all have a fixed idea in memory of an ideal setting from youth. Walt obviously had his too.

What does the global town square (G.T.S.) look and feel like? It is as varied and diverse as the Internet is right now. What it stabilizes into, is recognized as, gels into universal perception as, will slowly happen in the next decade or two or three. It will depend on the flow of culture and history in that as yet unpainted future.

The global culture idea is at this moment, and in my opinion, about bogus “global village” concepts, decades old, that put ideas out on the airwaves and onto the Internet. That old time touch me, look me in the eyes, and trade me your horse, town square sense of cohesion is missing or has gaps in it.

Before we in America get to the future, we should more fully understand who we are, consider where we have been and where we are going. We need consensus. We also in many ways need compromise. If we do not know or try to understand our neighbors locally or globally, then we fail as Christians and we fail our community as well.

“We” is the important part of the preceding statement. Nationality may disappear in the next decades in some corners of the globe but geography and local-ness will not.

We either as a group become more local and or more universal. Whatever factor dominates our future thinking needs a balanced approach to dealing with reality. If the local culture is important, then the universal global culture has to be recognized and respected but not necessarily served blindly.

The globalists have to recognize and respect local customs – period! Culture in the global age has to be a two way street.

I may sound more secular than cultural with my Christianity here but look at the world of Jesus. You had the Romans and Herod and the Temple Priests and their politico crony parties. You had the dispossessed in the new Romanization of the Holy Land. It was a global situation and after the time of Jesus, it failed. It failed miserably.

Jesus coped with and inspired a local flock that included all levels of that local and global community. The words, teachings and message of Jesus are now as important as ever. I believe that he among the many facets of his unique character and mission – I believe that he truly was one of the first to act locally and think globally. Turn your cheek, go the extra distance, love you neighbor (even if he is a Roman).

Communication and consensus in local matters and looking over your shoulder at that global thing coming at us is something I as a cultural Christian give consideration to everyday. I hope we all, of many belief systems, are doing the same.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wars of Words and Ideas

Along the road of life one gets a taste for the things that are of interest to oneself. My senses pick up when I see a good anthropology or archeological article in the New York Times.

Dissecting history is an interesting endeavor. These days with speed of light technology, things change too quickly sometimes. Early American history is of great interest to me because I grew up in Philadelphia and I frequently as a youth had the opportunity to visit and revisit sites that most of the rest of you only read about in a history book or see in a video drama.

Historical perspectives of men such as Washington, Franklin or Adams and the whole revolutionary birth period have been revised several times in the last several years. If you think you studied history in high school or college, look up events and people on the Internet and read something quite different than what you thought you remembered.

One thing I have noticed on some cable programming is that history is now entertainment. Even if the program has the word history in the title of the program, you are likely to spot many errors in the so called facts presented.

So too I believe that there is a subtle attack on Christian beliefs going on in terms of the entertainment industry and its presentations. Semantics and or revisionist history seems to have replaced truth and logic in the scheme of things. To be fair, I must also say that not all programs are untrue to Christian history.

Over a dozen years ago I was sitting in my chair on a Sunday morning and I was reading my newspaper. It was Easter Sunday and I had not yet joined the congregation I have mentioned in another article. My son was quite small and not yet in the first grade. The TV was on to a cable program, a kid’s program whose name you would recognize. I am half listening to the Easter story on the kiddie show and half reading my paper. Then I hear something like “oh they started seeing what they thought was Jesus’ ghost and that is why they thought he had risen from the dead”. What? Holy Canoli!

I never let my child watch that program again. You think that politics or religion or strange versions of each would not be pushed onto your child. In this case it was. You start to look at who has what opinions and who owns stock in which communications companies and your start to figure out that certain entertainment companies are owned by certain families who have outward atheistic points of view and agendas and then you start to sound paranoid if you express your theories to whoever may be willing to listen. Etc.

There are extreme points of view in this country where politics and religions and profits mix and quite frankly it is better to read a book than be submitted to unfriendly, unfamiliar propaganda.

I did not grow up with the traditions of Christianity in tents or revivals. There is a whole body of Christianity out there that I as a city boy raised in the R.C. church find strange if not downright exotic. When I hear evangelicals talk about the evil eastern liberal media, I get turned off by it all. I don’t think I was brainwashed by that so called eastern media establishment. Yet there are many grains of truth these days in the things they say.

There is a war out there to control the hearts and minds of people politically, morally and economically. It is too big to describe and dissect and frankly I don’t have the energy at this stage of my life to deal with it. I have to beware, go where I find comfort and stick to the things I learned when younger. Perhaps there is no fool like an old fool. If I turn the TV off then a lot of trash and demons don’t get into my home. Perception is reality in many, many cases. Is the perception correct? Is the reality perceived correct?

As a cultural Christian I try to stay out of the town square when disagreements and fist fights break out. We may be a diverse country but we are much divided over opinions about everything these days.

Sitting there in front of the telly creates a comfort zone and a bubble. It’s like driving a car to work, turning up the air conditioning and playing the radio loud. If we have to take public transportation for a few days, many of us do not know how to deal with other people. Public civility has disappeared from the American Town Square.

Respect for your neighbors no longer exists in many ways that existed in the past. In many ways the new global culture is sterile, antiseptic and not people orientated. The new global culture is profit orientated.

Perhaps like those brave explorers of 1492, a lot of grit and blood and foul intentions have to be worked out before our children or grandchildren get a chance to build a viable, people oriented, user friendly global town square in the future.

To try and understand your neighbor, have empathy and walk a mile in their shoes, to love your neighbor as yourself. The basic teachings of Jesus are as hard today as they were 2000 years ago. The challenge any practicing Christian, cultural or otherwise, is to be aware and be available to the needs of all. The rest is in the hands of God.