Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Word Worship, Kevin Shrum, Rob Bell

I just read an article against Rob Bell by a Pastor Kevin Shrum regarding Bell's upcoming book - Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I have a few things to say and comment on.

I think Shrum unfairly mislabels Pastor Bell as a Universalist and then tries to morph him into this supposed Universalist monster as the basis for his argument to shun him and his ideas. This, as well as to cut off all dialogue and understanding, to build a wall against his sharing with us all the message of Jesus and God's love towards creation.

Worship of a book can be idolatry. Indeed from a distance my perception of Islam is that it worships the words of the Koran. It is to me an idol. I have met few Muslims and have never gotten into a discussion with them about their religion. So in a way if I assume their worship of the words of Mohammed alledged to be the words of God/Allah is idolatry, that is a really big assumption on my part?

I read parts of the Koran and couldn't make heads or tails of it. After I gave the book away, I found out that it was supposed to be read out loud. I also have recently read that the King James Version of the bible was also written with the intent that it be read aloud. That modern translations of the bible block richness of language as well as meaning and connotations of verbal and oral history. If the literature that is the bible is now meant only to be read and not spoken, it is a great cultural loss to us all I fear.

Indeed the Reformation was formed out of the magic creativity of the human mind but more importantly out of machinery, the printing press. The signifigance of that invention and blood spilled in those days about over who understood the words of the bible better than your own translation or perception of such, the energy of anger, of that blood spilling and fire burning enthusiam still exists in the fundamamentalist quarters of Christiandom to this day IMHO.

In my youth and before the ultimate failure of Vatican II, my personal life was peppered with the left over resentment and hatred of that printing press revolution and the wars over words, that centuries old religion power struggle. Yes, words can kill and generations later the collateral damage of mere words, or the worship of such, can still be felt in some quarters.

In my search for spirituality and tainted by the Roman paganism of my youth and that name brand of Christianity, I have found many things and many words and many thoughts that suggest to me that the Jewish holy man Jesus is believable in some of his alledged teachings. I say alledged because scholars over at the Jesus Seminar have among other groups analysed the imperfections of the man made document called the NT – New Testament. Science, linguistics, historic research can shed new light on what I think some think is a perfect object worthy of worship – an idol so to speak - aka the bible.

Anyway, I ran into this article condemning a fellow Christian Rob Bell to some sort of shunned place though in fact I think some wish him a place in hell. My dear fellow Christians, hell is upon this earth and the fundamentalist business of saving souls by cracking men over their heads for not conforming to an imperfect book is like so medieval and archaic. The truth will make you free. Seek and you shall find etc.

I only just became aware of this Rob Bell fellow through the blogosphere and his unique approach to reaching out to humanity beyond his immediate circle at Mars Hill. I found Rob's You Tube on Resurrection and I loved the energy. For the first time in years I could connect with the concepts of the NT and that guy Jesus, and fully imagine that anything he said or did was, or could be, relevant in this modern age.

These rants in the fundamentalist blogosphere about Rob Bell are spilling over to people like me. I want to buy his book now. Free publicity like that some people have to pay for.

I did some research and came to the conclusion that Bell has a brilliant gift to take the rawness of Christianity and commmunicate it to others. His style is modern which is why I think some are jealous of him. He is no rock star but his style is definitely M-TV.

As far as I know Pastor Rob Bell is still a literalist fundamentalist Christian. While some of it works for me in some of his video ministry, it is still just at some level a hook to bring people into his mega-temple. Business is business. Consumers have to be made to want to consume. Etc. Competition is tough these days.

While most atheists are purported to be anti-God, they are in fact in my opinion just anti-religion and based on past and bad experiences of such. The Christian faith is fighting for market share in a dwindling or dying market. I think Pastor Bell is reaching out to some lost sheep. Pastor Shrum seems to be cutting off his own nose to try and smite Rob Bell's success. Pastor Shrum is, to paraphase the famous Ronald Reagan adage, breaking the eleventh commandment of Christian fundamentalism and speaking ill of a fellow fundamamentalist. Naughty. Naughty. He should know better.

Getting back to Pastor Bell:
Don’t you realize that the beach of universalism on which you’re stepping has been tried before and that, just as before, a tidal-wave of biblical truth and historical/theological consensus will sweep you away? You will become a footnote in the history of the church as just another well-intentioned ‘theologian’ who tried to spit into God’s powerful whirlwind of truth. Rob, I’ve never met you, but please, get off the beach before your stellar career is swept away.”
I have read of many so-called heretical beliefs in the past of Christianity. They have been killed off, murdered off literally, and swept into the dust of history. But seemingly they, the logic of these questioning beliefs, from reading the bible, they keep resurrecting themselves. Shrum starts his critique of Rob Bell accusing him of Universalism, which I don't honestly completely understand, as if that is enough to throw the first rock so to speak at a dissenter, a “heretic”, amidst their own fundamentalist ranks.

I have watched the hypocrisy of religion parasiting itself onto our government in my lifetime with its limited world views and cash grabs for “charity”. I have also seen the decline of morality in this nation and in particular the government at a rate to equal the march backward in time toward a Christian theocracy which I think is what fundamentalists want.

Looking at the fundamentalism of the Iranians and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I fear a rule by people who worship words in books and claim to be the same as God almighty which is blasphemy in my point of view.

Did “family values” make honest men of Wall Street bankers? I don't think so. Quite the opposite I think. There is something wrong with any fundamentalism . It lacks heart and soul too. It is do as I say and not as I do little sheeple.

Well anyway the thing in this article against Rob Bell that inspired me to write this is below:
But, Rob, I have more questions. If universalism is true, I’m going for the best of what both worlds have to offer – eat, drink, and be merry in this life for tomorrow I will die, and when I do die I get heaven no matter what happened this side of eternity. And what’s my reward? I get away with it! Fantastic! Again, please don’t tell me that I should still follow Jesus in this life because it will make my life better. Are you kidding! I’m a ‘stinkin’ sinner’ who is already uninterested in and struggling with changing my ways, so if I don’t have to and I can still get heaven and if thumbing my self-important finger in God’s face has no eternal consequences, this is awesome and I for one am all about it...
I am reminded of Jesus' parable about the workers in the vineyard and the same wages paid to those who toil all day or for just one hour. When confronted by dissatisfaction from the day long workers, the owner of the vineyard invokes the golden rule of buisness – he who has the gold makes the rules.

Where do these self-hating, word worshipping fundamentalists get off telling people what God can dole out in terms of salvation? Who are they to say that they are the only 100% kosher Christians on the block?

“God rules the world!” Not you. God saves whomever he wants to. No matter what your so-called rule book says.

Bell in an interview denies being so-called Emergent. What I have learned from e-mails and internet articles about the Emergent church movement, is that it is in theory trying to get above the heavy gravity of the poorly translated inspired word of God. That if a congregation is to remain a vital part of any community in this secular godless global world, it needs to reach beyond those poorly man translated words to the heart of matter, to the heart of Jesus and his message of universal love of creator to its creation – all of his, her creation, not just a chosen few in the bible belt.

Let me be prophetic here too Kevin. Christianity must change or die. The global reality is indeed secular and godless and it is a drug that destroys humanity and men's souls. That if you cannot get to the heart of Jesus' message of love, understand and plant its seeds, then all is truly lost in this world and the next.

Allegory of Peter thrice denying Jesus

I have to wonder if the story of Peter denying Jesus three times in all four gospels – if it is not an allegory of sorts. It struck me like a lightning bolt just a few hours ago of my writing this.

I am using a time line to look at the development of the four gospels. I had the thought some weeks ago that maybe the meeting of Peter, James and Paul in Acts was merely a hypothetical event reconstructed from the histories of Josephus Flavius that mention the death of one James the Just, a brother of Jesus, a fairly common name back then.

I am not trying to be a heretic here. But with that thought of some weeks ago, I have done some research and found that others also think that maybe Josephus is the source material on this so-called brother of Jesus called James as well as other bits and pieces of the NT.

I have already written here that I think (I feel with my heart) that Acts is a bridge document to fill in some historical gaps not available to scholars after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.. The fall of Jerusalem is like the destruction of the city in a fire. Like in the middle of a struggle between life and death, do you save the local library or do you save yourself and your family? Good question.

Around this time, the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls seemed to have been hidden away. But speculation on who wrote them and why they got hidden could go on for decades. Interesting tangent though.

I recently got into some genealogical research on the internet trying to piece together some oral family history with real dates and places.

Alas, the only major help out there on the internet are copies of the U.S. Census. There is a privacy thing meaning that you cannot get to the 1940 census yet. So you pretty well have to look up your grandparents and great grandparents starting with the 1930 census and before. I lot of what I am looking for, need, is probably on hard copy at Philadelphia city hall in the form of deeds, marriage certificates etc.

And then there is the hassle of trying to get copies of birth certificates from the states. More privacy issues and cost to obtain computer printouts of a certificate if still on file over a hundred years later etc.. A lot of leg work is still necessary to figure out my family history before 1850.

There is also a great big gap in the middle of my family research. The U.S. Census of 1890 was destroyed in a fire. So you have a twenty year gap in material available if the census is the only reliable documents available. This at a critical juncture of my research. Oh well.

Still, it gives me pause to think. I am trying to fit oral history into historical fact. Still can't find the link that puts me as a supposed distant cousin of W.C. Fields. There is that 1890 historical gap and a lot of Smiths to look up etc. There are a lot of Smiths, even back then. But I keep trying.

It is strange but the hundred and fifty or sixty years that I am looking at is extremely limited, is awfully limited if you do not have family bibles or letters or photographs to go along with the oral history. The maiden name of women in the family tree are not so easy to find. Not mentioned on the census.

You can juggle the names around to fit your oral history exactly. You can also imagine what it was like for eleven people to live in a three bedroom Philly row house etc..

People on the internet site have constructed family trees that overlap with mine and list questionable names and dates. A lot of people go to the first Mike, Mary or Patrick and assume that that is their great grandparent. It is because I have written records from the national archives to contradict this - what I see is that some of these trees are sloppy, unprofessional genealogy. People believe what they want to believe and move on.

If you look at the hundred or so odd years between the life and death of Jesus in first century Palestine and consider that in that time Jerusalem disappeared and the Jews got dispersed several times, thrown out of Judea, you have to wonder where the historical paperwork for the four gospels came from. They probably did not get written in anything like the lifetime of any eyewitnesses of Jesus or his ministry.

Off on another tangent, I run into the fact or the supposed fact that depending on which ancient writings you read or interpret, that Linus was the “first” bishop of Rome from about 67-79 C.E.. If this is true, when and where does Peter the first pope come onto the time line.

The myth of Peter in Rome is found in the Acts of Peter, an apocryphal book that has talking dogs and Peter being crucified upside down after he gets the “quo vadis” line from the lord on the Appian Way when he tries to escape imminent arrest and death in Rome.

I do not want to make light of Peter, but this “first” pope Linus is supposed to have been made bishop by Paul. There was no doubt a possible Peter and Paul fight in the beginning of the church or was there such a fight or did either Peter or Paul really exist in the form as we traditionally visualize them in Rome at all.

Or was the Paul wing of the Christian church too powerful a thing to fight in the early days of the church? Did the follow up bishops or popes have to put the Paul wing of the party in its place. Did the gospels finally show a figure of Peter as more powerful than the Paul wing and its agenda?

Did the written gospels show Simon now called Peter in the gospel of John rewriting the first three synoptic gospels? Peter is proclaiming love for Jesus three times in the last chapter of that strangely written gospel to negate his three denials.

I always thought that this last appearance of Jesus to Peter in John was somehow a political statement.

You have Paul under house arrest at the end of Acts and nothing mentioned of Peter in Rome yet. Chapter 21 of the Gnostic style gospel of John is a bridge chapter, document to connect Peter directly to Jesus over the questionable self appointed, after the fact, apostle of Paul aka Saul of Tarsus. Enough of opinion.

Now for speculation on a time line.

Since I feel that the four gospels are written near the beginning to the middle of the second century, a time line about the final break of Jews and Christians is complete with not one but three so-called Jewish -Roman revolts in 66-70 C.E., 115-117 C.E., 132-136 C.E..

That if there is symbolism or hidden meaning of Jesus written into the official boiler plate gospels, it is perhaps this. That the three denials of Peter towards Jesus in the early hours of the first Good Friday in the four gospels are an allegorical reference to the denial three times by the Jews - in hope of independence, justice and a messiah - and in direct rejection three times of Jesus as that messiah.

Simon the Jew becomes Peter the Roman. This is the symbolic break in writing with the Jews.

That after Hadrian's final solution and holocaust of the Jews in Palestine in 136 C.E., Jews and Christians were separate political and religious entities from that time forward.

That even then, in a symbolic sense, Peter is somehow mythically transported to Rome and the “first” bishop in opposition to Paul's literate scholarly mission of faith. Paul and his writings won't get a thorough going over for another fourteen hundred years, not until the Reformation. Until then nothing but Roman pagan traditions, rituals and myth to hide the true social message of Jesus.

The Christians that count in 150 A.D., the Christians in Rome, anoint Peter in post apocalyptic literature as the chief honcho, the first pope, retroactively, into the imperial capital and center of the world. Great script writing. Fade to black. The end.