Tag Archives: the Apostle Paul

Approaching the Bible as Literature

The Bible is Holy Writ.  Dismiss it, curse it, scoff at it, take it literally, take it metaphorically, don’t take it at all but it still falls culturally and historically into the category “Holy Writ.”  Therefore, it has value regardless whether or not you think so, though that “value” for you personally is for you to determine.  It might be that you “value” it not at all and if that should be the case you will never find me arguing with you.  I would have at one time but somewhere along the line I managed to “get a life.” In this blog, an evolving enterprise of mine which is gradually taking a different shape, I am exploring what the Bible and the Christian tradition is to me.  This is now a very personal endeavor as I am much less controlled by the “party line” that I was given as a child, this “party line” usually having an important role in the early stages of one’s faith.  But as the Apostle Paul put it, “When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.”

“Holy Writ” falls into the general category of literature.  In my youth to consider the Bible as literature would have been tantamount to heresy as it would have appeared to be presenting it as “mere” human endeavor.  But approaching it as literature reflects the evolution of my alter-ego, Literarylew, which materialized when I came to understand and experience life in fluid, metaphorical terms. This means that I now have the liberty, and the courage, to see Holy Writ…and certainly the Bible…as having layers of meaning none of which necessarily have to be excluded.   Some see the Bible, for example, as a literal historical document in which a literal, concretely existing deity dictated it word for word.  I have better things to do than to quarrel with anyone who approaches it that way but I would encourage them to toy with others.

A literary approach to the Bible facilitates a personal interpretation and application of the truths being presented.  If one approaches what he reads literally, he sees it only as an “owner’s” manual and the God that I see in the Bible is not an “owner” but one who offers a relationship with Him, a relationship which facilitates more open, honest, intimate relationships with our fellowman.  If God is our “owner” then we are a mere object and we will then be inclined to see and feel ourselves only as an object and to subsequently view our world and our fellowman as an object.

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Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Truth as a Dynamic Dimension of Life

Blogging has introduced me to many new friends with interesting and provocative points of view.  This has corresponded with many real-time friends that I have also discovered since my move to Taos, New Mexico three years ago. Adventures into the unknown, via internet or geographical change, always poses the risk that some of our viewpoints will be challenged and we will then have the chance to enlarge our worldview.

I want to share here a blog that I recently came across whose view of life as a dynamic process is something I am learning to understand and experience now that I’m in retirement.  The blog is “godcomesby.wordpress.com” and the author is a Montana counselor-educator, Rita Sommers-Flanagan.  I’m going to share a brief summary of what she is attempting with blogging as it reveals very eloquently her grasp of the subtlety of this mystery we call life:

There are two things you should know. First, these writings are true. They’re so true, they make me sick on a regular basis. In fact, I’m a little nauseated right now. That’s how this kind of truth works. I’m not talking about the fragile, expedient reality we cling to as temporary beings. I’m talking about truths that make your mind fall open and your heart break. Truths that untether you from the nice even surfaces you’ve grown accustomed to and threaten your existence as you’ve known it. These truths come from dreams you don’t remember.

 Second, we are not alone, ever. I can’t explain this, but at the subatomic level, you aren’t alone, you aren’t even you, and we’ve known each other for a long, long time. This explains why you might feel dizzy, exhilarated, sad, frightened, and a little crazy if you let the truth of seep in. I understand. What I recommend is small doses, shy glances, formal handshakes, and laughter. Maybe work up to a daydream with the door open. You can’t imagine how dangerous and necessary this is. Courage, dear ones. Everything that is true is contradictory, indefensible, and utterly holy.

I’ve known for decades that truth wasn’t the static system of dogma that my culture gave me in my youth.  And since that realization began to dawn on me in the early 1980’s, it has steadily eaten away at my soul and facilitated an awakening that can best be described as rebirth…or, I might even use the term, “being born again.”  I appreciate this blogger’s grasp of the complexity of Truth, a complexity stemming only from the insistence of our ego to make the simplicity of life into something it can control.  In her words, “I’m not talking about the fragile, expedient reality we cling to as temporary beings. I’m talking about truths that make your mind fall open and your heart break. Truths that untether you from the nice even surfaces you’ve grown accustomed to and threaten your existence as you’ve known it.”

I was taught that Jesus was, “The way, the truth, and the life.”  I still believe that, very firmly, but now my understanding is totally different as I see beyond the “letter of the law” and interpret Him and his teachings in personal terms.  I no longer look on the surface of things, because my life is no longer a surface phenomenon, my experience is no longer only a cognitive grasp of my life.  Spiritual wisdom must be approached with an open mind…and an open heart…or we will not be open to the layers of meaning that lie there.  And our willingness to venture into that region will require an understanding, and experience, of the “layers of meaning” to our very identity.  We will have to come to appreciate the value of the bumper sticker wisdom, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Believing “everything you think” will not allow the “discerning Spirit” that the Apostle Paul spoke of to ferret out the egotism present in pet theories about life, about God, and about ourselves.

Note also that Truth, when approached as a dynamic quality like she suggested, will not emphasize the differences in life…though they will be present…but will emphasize the commonality of all things and all people.  Though separate and distinct, we have simultaneously a unity with all things though this will make no “sense” to the rational mind.  The rational mind, unable and unwilling to see beyond itself, will prefer to comfort zone of linear thinking which will offer the sweet nectar of certainty. But the spiritual dimension of life, that which underlies and under girds the whole of life, is nothing that “sense” can wrap its head around, try as we may.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Hate Groups Flourish Under this “Dark God” We Empowered.

I received an email yesterday morning after I posted on the notion of Trump as a “dark god,” providing a very relevant story from a year ago which explores the issue more deeply.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gini-graham-scott/is-trump-the-modernday-de_b_9579936.html)  This article explores the history and mythology of evil in various cultures and applies it to what is going on in this present historical moment.

One thing I noted after election is how immediately right-wing hate groups began to announced how they felt validated or legitimated.  Furthermore, when Steve Bannon was appoint to Trump’s staff, the “alt-right” began to crow about its newly found legitimacy. David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, voiced his pleasure with having found a voice for his minions. With Trump’s election a lot of theretofore unsavory dimensions of the American consciousness became “normalized.”

Trump, being the “dark god” I described yesterday, has an uncanny capacity to enthrall people who are unable, or disinclined to apply critical thinking to what he offers.  They would not understood the bumper sticker, “Don’t believe everything you think.”  And, as shared before, I remember early in his campaign as I watched one of his rallies I too felt the lure of this enthrallment though my critical thinking skills allowed me to immediately understand that I was only hearing a long dormant cry from my early youth that found “Make America Great Again” so appealing.

Just yesterday another news story displayed how helpless some very intelligent and powerful people are to this “dark god.”  Congressman Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House committee investigating the Trump campaign, reported important findings of the committee directly to the President even without first consulting with the committee as protocol requires.  By doing this he appeared to have put his credibility under grave question as he had unnecessarily given information to the key figure his committee was investigating.  Nunes is now trying to cover his back side but I really think that it is apparent that he merely succumbed to the lure of this enthralling power that Trump has and curried to his favor at the same time.  And before this day is over, I strongly suspect that Trump’s powerful grip over the conservative voice in this country will prevail and the Republican House will vote to repeal Obamacare even though they appear to be very conflicted about it.

Remember the warning of the Apostle Paul, “ For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  And don’t forget the wisdom of Pogo,“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are: 

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/literarylew

Congressman Steven King Needs a “Damascus Road” Conversion

Steven King, the arch-conservative Republican Senator from Iowa has given us a classic example of unexamined racism.  And, furthermore, racism in its deepest essence cannot be examined by the racist as it is too deep-seated in the soul as described in the post this morning.  To ask King to see his racism is like asking a fish to see water for it is an essential dimension of his spiritual existence in this world.  Let me employ imagination for a moment and pretend someone can reach into King’s heart, wrap his hand around that racist core, and suddenly yank it out into the light day.  King would melt down immediately.  It kind of reminds me of the Star Wars computer, “Hal” being unplugged against his will and against his stern prohibition.  Immediately Hal began to “melt down,” as his voice faltered and broke until there was silence.  I also have the image of the robots on “West World” being unplugged, watching their face begin to show bewilderment, then their lead slumping to the side lifelessly.

Carl Jung would describe racism in archetypal terms.  It is what happens when one’s soul has been captured by a culturally provided demon and the machinations of that demon have been reinforced for a lifetime by one’s community and culture.  Jung would say that the only way to escape this demon is individuation which he describes as the process of “cutting the cord” with the cultural matrix in which was born and raised.  This does not mean the individuated soul will necessarily leave that culture but he will be released from the infantile grip that the culture has on all of us until we dare to grow up.

Several days ago King declared that Hispanics and Blacks will be fighting each other before they will ever outnumber the whites.  This reflects a core dimension of racism, the inability to see that apparent “opposites” can be united in spite of their superficial differences though only if one is able and willing to get out of his little ego and see, and experience, the unity of all things.  But racism for some is so deep-seated, such an intrinsic dimension of his soul, that to let go of this compulsive distinction-drawing, i.e. “judgment”, would threaten him with the risk of what child psychiatrist Donald Winnicott described as a “psychic catastrophe.”  And by the way, I think that might be a way to describe what happened to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road.  All of his certainties suddenly were crushed by the light of the day, i.e. “consciousness” and distinctions which previously were absolute were suddenly not so absolute.  I like the Bible’s way of describing it as a visitation from God.

ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are: 

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/literarylew.wordpress.com