Truth of Mythic Proportions

One of the problems I’ve had in the past with my Christian faith was myth. This is because I had always been unconsciously credulous in accepting the common wisdom that myth equals lie. And further that people who believed myths were credulous fools. Modernity is, after all, dominated by scientific (materialist?) rationalism. It made the myths of my faith occasions for scorn and even anger. Who could believe such drivel? The ancients were barbaric, backward fools! Why should we listen to anything they had to say? Even apologetic attempts to justify these myths by fundamentalists betrayed the insecurity these myths produced because of their lack of rationality and adherence to scientific truth. And so the indoctrination went.

Well, no longer.

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Prove It

(Version 1.1)

[This post has been updated to reflect how people abuse the idea of “burden of proof” and for clarity.]

Evidence is powerful in our society. We live in a postmodern world that practically worships it. We exalt science, where material evidence is the sine qua non, as a major source of truth in our world. It is necessary, more or less, in our American justice system to convict a person of a crime.  But evidence is not the equivalent of truth. It points to truth.

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Figure Out What You Think About Wikileaks

TNC on Figure Out What You Think About Wikileaks:

“I just closed the thread on Peter King, because I think–in terms of this community–I jumped the gun. It became clear in comments that there are a number of us who would actually like some space to sort out what we  think about Assange. In all honesty, I started a post on Wikileaks on Monday and deleted it, because I felt my thoughts weren’t focused. Peter King’s idiocy is a much easier target. It’s always a mistake to avoid the hard questions, in favor of the soft ones.

My rather muddled thoughts are as follows: I do think the American public is served by knowing that the U.S. forces killed civilians and reporters, and evidently tried to cover it up. I do not think it serves the American public, or those of us who prefer diplomacy over armed force, to basically allow no anonymity for diplomats. Much of the recent Wikileaks dump just struck me as the kind embarrassing gossip that exposes no cover-ups, but could make diplomacy harder.
Having said all that, I’m not sure that all of these question are even relevant. What responsibility does Assange have to this country? Does American media exist to serve the immediate good of the American public? Or is there some longer, greater, good in disclosing these dispatches? Is information, in and of itself, good?
It strikes me that there’s a lot of discussion about Assange. I’m much more interested in why an Army Pfc. was so easily able to access such sensitive material.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Not much expertise here. I’m still trying to figure it all out. But I think we’re better served talking about this, as opposed to the easily dismissed rantings of Peter King.

(Via Ta-Nehisi Coates :: The Atlantic.)

So how do we keep editorial judgment in the public interest?

Is It Live Birth or Is It Memorex?

Last week I had a disagreement with my pastor over the nativity stories and their veracity as history at Bible study (a story for another day) that got me to thinking about nativity scenes and the old and tired battles about truth and the Bible. However, it never ceases to amaze me how people avoid facing facts in service to what they believe (and this includes you athiests out there, perhaps especially so given recent events). I think it has to do with our need to order our world and make it comprehensible, predictable in some way. I’m not judging whether this is bad or good, just the way it is often discussed in a less than honest fashion IMHO. So back to the nativity.

The discussion at Bible study turned to Christ’s birth and I remember Father speaking of eyewitnesses, etc. I objected to this because there are lots of problems with claiming the birth stories together are eyewitness accounts and are therefore history, at least history of a sort. Even our understanding of the nativity as an amalgam of Luke and Matthew has issues. In the end, magi offering gifts to a babe laid in a manger is not a scriptural scene. In other words it’s not in the Bible. Yet we see nativity scenes in front of plenty of churches and have kids play out Christmas plays every year, traditions that I think speak to a deep need to make the separate stories in Luke and Matthew make sense together and support our faith in a modern world.

And I’m OK with that as long as we are honest and up front about it. When a believer goes into spin mode in an attempt mask the simple fact that Jesus’ birth is a historical mystery beyond the tradition that holds that he was born of a virgin in Bethlehem of Judea a little over two millenia ago, it’s worse than an outright lie, it’s a con job: an attempt to fool another person ( or oneself!) through trickery.

I know such language is harsh and unforgiving but we all know whose game lies and trickery is. It’s important we don’t succumb to such temptations to speak in half truths which are whole lies. It besmirches the Gospel which is so dear to us.

Out of Context

My Mom and I were talking this morning about the Bible, of which I am proud to say she has become quite the student. We got on about how people interpret it and the necessity of knowing the context of Scripture in order to truly understand it. We also spoke ruefully how people will refuse to do that homework, esp. if it might threaten their understanding of Scripture. I found it is ironic that my Mom learned this from a converted Catholic biblical scholar.
I related to her how that argument plays out among my Protestant friends: not well. I’m frequently told that because I take the time to understand its socio-historical context, I might know about the Word but I don’t know the Word. In other words, don’t let the context change the “true meaning,” i.e. their understanding of its meaning of Scripture. My challenge to that is this: how can you understand anything written or said when it is taken out of context? If you are incredulous, just look at the healthcare “debate” and those infamous death panels.

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The Truth about Santa Claus

Over the years, I’ve been given to expressing an increasingly strong conviction of mine about the Bible as it relates to the Word of God. I’ve often expressed it as simply that the two are not one and the same, specifically that the former is a reflection of the latter. Simply said (perhaps overly so), “The Bible is not the Word of God,” any more than I am Jesus Christ. The Bible being faulted, limited, human while the Word of God is Truth transcendant and divine. This has gotten me in no little trouble with my fellow Christian brothers and sisters, esp. of those given to more fundamentalist leanings.

In trying to explain my point of view, I’ve noticed that I’ve had trouble conveying my thoughts, beliefs, and convictions because when I speak with my brothers and sisters in Christ we often use the same words to name very different perspectives on things. Today I was inspired by remembering a personal story that I think does justice to explaining where I’m coming from. It shows how I can disagree with my fellow Christians about the Bible’s ontological nature vis-á-vis the Word of God, yet agree to its Truth.

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