Friday, April 10, 2009

Meal Ticket to Heaven

There was a famous BBC documentary series with James Burke called “Connections”. It seemed to ramble all about and show how different historic events, inventions, ideas sometimes came together to form other historic events, inventions, ideas.

I have a similar idea and flow here and it all has to do with food and religion.

Holy Thursday was also in stellar or is it lunar alignment with Passover this year.

As such or by coincidence, the Jewish Seder, or feast meal remembering Passover was held in the White House this year with Jewish staff officiating and the First Family in attendance in the private family quarters. This is no doubt a good political or is it a PC move for a chief executive who last week or in the last few days has mentioned his family links to Islam and in a predominately Muslim country of Turkey. Astute!

Let me go free flow on this. In my article about Saint Paul, I had mentioned my encounter with a Hindu salesman in an Arizona parking lot over a decade ago and his mentioning family and meals as the basis of response for questions I had about his religious background. Perhaps he was secular and did not know or did not want to go into detail with me within the context of a western, predominately in the past, Christian country.

And then there is Mel Gibson, sad soul, a RC traditionalist, that blames the Jews for Jesus’ Jewish mission in life. One of his seeming passions in life is anti-Semitism. That and transubstantiation of the conversion of Bread during the mass into the body of Christ – no satisfactory religious chefs after Vatican II for him. Does he resent the Jewish tradition of Passover or would he rather have had Jesus being secular and eating at Burger King?

Mr. Gibson’s profound anti-Semitism is I think rooted in his Irish Catholic American background not unlike my own. Irish American you say? A side trip to Australia as a young child and into adulthood didn’t much improve his cosmopolitan or lack of it view of the planet. Is it anti-Semitism or a profound lack of the knowledge of Jewish culture?

Moving along, I think of all the nuns who taught me as a child. Was their involvement in the faith profound, spiritual or was it all a meal ticket thing.

Standing behind three nuns in a polling place in the 1976 presidential election, I was surprised to hear that the nuns had legal names and they had to announce them to people running the election polling station. One by one they announced their legal names and one by one I heard the first real name of Mary for each and I don’t remember the other two’s last names but the third one of Mary Clancy – that sure hit a note of recognition of an good sounding Irish Catholic name. Then I thought to myself. All these nuns attached to a religious order that used the name Mary in the title of the order, they were all named Mary as well. Did they choose their vocations or were they steered toward vocations by parents who named them and groomed them for such.

This brings me in thought to Vatican II. I think the lay people did not panic so much then as it was the priests and nuns that jumped ship in droves that began a downward spire in the whole full life RC thing. Perhaps these deserters wanted a whole full secular life thing with sex and all that. Fewer nuns. Lay teachers cost more. Tuition for a RC education and a few decades later no more free Catholic grade schools for the average Catholic.

The priests, after Vatican II, saw the medieval church melt in front of their eyes and standing there Sunday after Sunday preaching the same lame boiler plate religion message just got so unspeakable.

The nuns and the priests for better or worse I classify under the meal ticket thing. That when Catholic families had five, six or eight kids, the parents had to do some futuristic planning about what to do with so many kids. One son for the priesthood and one daughter for the convent took care of two children. The others would marry and reproduce and take care of the parents in old age etc. It seemed like a good plan.

There has always been a percentage of priests and nuns who leave religious orders after their parents die. My aunt who had been a nun for twenty five years gave up the career after her parents, my grandparents died etc. Meal ticket or not, sometimes breathing your own free secular air is what life is really all about.

This brings me to the four gospels and how perception is everything. The Gospel of John seems to have been written by a non-Jew or a profoundly ignorant about his own culture Jew or anti-Semitic Roman Empire type. Only three of the gospels bothers to mentions the traditional Last Supper scene, the Jewish Seder, in the context of the Bread and Wine sacramental thing that has held a great deal of Christianity together for close to two millennia.

If one steps back and looks at these other three synoptic gospels, you realize that the menu is quite sparse there too.

Which makes me think? Did either secularized Jews or Hellenistic Jews write the gospels as “eyewitness” accounts? Or maybe non-Jews wrote them. That or they date further down a timeline well into the second century of the Common Era or got rewritten all the way up until the time of Saint Constantine the Great in the fourth century.

The oldest known existing fragment of the gospels is one page from John and that is in a museum in England and is dated to around 130-140 AD. Those dates triggers off a possible connection to the second Jewish rebellion during which The Third Temple got temporarily dedicated to Yahweh out of the recycled temple stones from Herod's time or the unfinished Temple of Jupiter on temple mount.

Not a lot of recorded history there. Josephus Flavius was dead and Jewish historian types were scarce at the second most total and most long lasting decimation of the Jewish nation in 135 AD. No doubt Hadrian wanted the facts covered up and did not even try the PR thing altogether. The emperor Hadrian has a favored status among most western historians. His collecting antiques and boy toys gets more mention in history books and you have to dig a lot to find his ranking in holocaust standings.

(If Jews want archeology opened up on the noble sanctuary, mention that you are looking for the Hadrian’s whatnot or the Temple of Jupiter, the west will approve.)

The gospels got written most likely by some Hellenistic Jews in Asia Minor (Turkey), a refugee staging area after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the final blow to the nation in 135 AD. That perhaps the anti-rebellion forces within Judaism in 70 and 135 is what laid the basis of anti-Semitism all the way to the present day. The present day anti-Semitism may have its beginnings on a change of internal attitudes and divisions in Judaism and the turning away from the old Judaism, more political than religious, recently passed away in 135 AD.

That said, I do not understand why they tack the Hebrew Testament onto the Greek Testament and have so little, basic knowledge among the common ranks of that long standing world religion and culture of Judaism.

The strength, salvation and possible rebirth of the dying Christian Church lies in the foundation stones of Judaism and Jesus’ (sorry Mel) Jewish mission. Two menus in one restaurant like the Old and New Testament speaks not of good eating but more like competing food court entities at a shopping mall.

Where is the horseradish? Bon appetite.

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