Category Archives: History

An Epiphany

Edward Burne-Jones - Scanned from Stephen Wildman,Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, ISBN 0870998595
Edward Burne-Jones – Scanned from Stephen Wildman,Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, ISBN 0870998595

Matthew included a scene in his Infancy Narrative that was probably based on an actual event in history… arranged to make the point that Jesus came for all people, not just Jews. The Magi were an ancient sect in Persia, scientific thinkers, observers of the heavens, trusted with the task of reading the signs and identifying, as a child, the next King of Persia. That tradition lives on in Tibetan Buddhism in fact, where a similar process is used to identify the next Dalai Lama. So Magi showing up, following a star, to bring the gifts that designated royalty would, to his readers, helped them understand Matthew’s answer to Who do you say Jesus is?”

Matthew is clearly answering, in context of the entire Gospel, “The new Moses, God’s chosen leader, for the whole world.”

There were three Buddhist missionaries in Judea who brought ideas like the Golden Rule and Love is the highest commandment. Traditionally they were named Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar. The ancient Church used those names for the Magi of Matthew’s story. In that conflation it becomes Three Wise Men (Matthew doesn’t number them). Balthasar is an Arabian name. Melchior is Persian and Gaspar is Indian.

Today it is conflated into the season and day of Epiphany (the Magi followed and saw the Light). But that is another layer of meaning in the conflation. The Epiphany at this season was, in Northern Europe, the day folks realized that all human hierarchy, in families, between men and women, in the economy between owners and servants, lords and tenants, in government… all of it is just an invented institution. On Epiphany our ancestors woke up basking in the realization that goodness and provision are gifts none of us owns nor earns.

No matter which layer of the story appeals to you; men on camels, the magical recognition of the next King, Eastern wisdom showing up in nascent Christianity, or pagan traditional world-upside-down celebrations, the meaning is about the same. We are loved by the Author of Love, gifted resources to spread that love to the whole world as a bright star, a light that leads others to truth, forgiveness and healing.

Summer Reading to Reset Christianity

Instead of complaining about “them” I suggest we learn from these great thinkers and historians, perhaps to change and grow personally and in community. I am reading some of these, will try to read the rest. Nearly all beg for group discussion. Thanks to everyone who suggested reading material, listed in alphabetical order by title.

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Mike

April 30, 2016

My thoughts as I read “Left Wing Jesus” by Rev. Rich Lang:

Historical terms

“Left Wing Jesus?”

Left Wing” and “Right Wing” came into our vocabulary from just before the French Revolution in the late 18th Century. The National Assembly in Paris was divided into supporters of King Louis XVI and the “Ancient Regime,” men who sat to the president’s right. The supporters of the revolution were thus forced to sit to on the left. The Catholic Church supported the status quo and the Divine Right of Kings. The Deists and Protestants supported the French Revolution.

Right Wing” has thus taken on “conservative” and “support the old system” and “back the elites of power and wealth” associations. Those people honestly believe we already have the system that’s best for everyone and it should not be changed.

Left wing” as taken on “liberal” and “enlightened” and “back the people against economic oppression” connotations. Those people honestly believe that our system is corrupt and unjust and that things need to change.

American Political terms

The groups considered to be “Right Wing” are Fascists, Capitalists, Conservatives (both social and fiscal), Nationalists, Neoconservatives, Neoliberals, Reactionaries, Imperialists, Monarchists Libertarians, Authoritarians, and Religious Fundamentalists. These tend to gravitate into the Republican Party.

The “Left Wing” includes Anarchists, Communists, Socialists, Religious Progressives, Populists, Democratic Socialists, Social Liberals, and Green Party / Ecological Conservationists. These tend to associate with the Democratic Party.

Oddly, Conservationists are considered “Left Wing” but they are trying to conserve the planet. To do that they must challenge the political and economic system, thus leftists. Libertarians self-associate with the “Right Wing” even though they espouse Anarchy. They are Anarchists who have read Ayn Rand so want to be called Conservatives (they’re not), thus righties.

Economic terms like “Fascism” (big businesses and the wealthy run the government) or “Communism” (the workers own the means of production) are often misused, a legacy of World War II’s propaganda. Any of these positions can devolve into Totalitarianism due to Fundamentalist thinking (being sure you are the only one who has things perfectly correct and it’s your duty to force it on everyone and that those who oppose you are evil).

Religious terms

“Who Was Jesus?” How do we read the Bible and try to understand the answers given (always politically charged) by the authors and translators and scholars over the centuries to that question? Would Jesus sit on the Right or the Left in the French Assembly?

My pastor gave me an essay entitled “Left Wing Jesus” by Rev. Rich Lang. I’ve read it 1.5 times now. I wish he didn’t use the term “Fascist” in this context. Overall, I think he’s saying that we need to respect each other and value both “Right Wing” and “Left Wing” views of Jesus.

He’s up against Fundamentalism and “Right Wing Jesus” however. He should know about that imbalance of power. He’s the clergyman who stood with the Occupy Seattle folks and ended up getting pepper sprayed. His gentle words and thoughts, alone, are not going to rescue Coexist Jesus, no matter how important he is to the world we all occupy together.

Rev Rich Lang, author of Left Wing Jesus

The American Taliban

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L) gives a thumbs-up after introducing former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) to speak to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, March 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3F2ZKBefore September 2001, Americans mostly ignored the Taliban. A few noticed when they blew up two colossal statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan province, but otherwise we used them to weaken the Soviet Union.

There’s a similar religious organization in the US. The destruction of religious and cultural objects is one aspect of its agenda called “strategic level spiritual warfare” (SLSW).

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Ecclesia semper reformanda est

ML95The German theologian, Karl Barth, first declared “the church is always to be reformed” in 1947, but the idea goes back to the great Reformers; The Wesleys in the middle 1700s… Luther and others in the 1500s following the availability of printed Bibles. I, too, believe the Church needs to be constantly reforming itself back to First Principles and constantly adjusting itself to the dynamic world. Semper Reformanda Est.

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Random Causes

11407116_10206986064073429_2789644011656026944_n“Hail the size of grapefruit, heavy rainfall, and multiple tornadoes caused damage and flooding across …”

Weather news is always followed by clear examples of the human need to pretend we know cause-and-effect. Some decry Global Climate Disruption. Some preach a modern version of Ba’al who punishes nations with storms if they don’t conform to ancient moral standards. Some point a distrusting finger at Government, the military, or blame the greedy for paving Paradise to put up a parking lot.

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What’s in a name – Part 2

yhwhMoses didn’t make it to the Promised Land and his ideas didn’t work after Joshua conquered the place. Judges were needed and kings were demanded. Israel understood YHWH as their God, one of many in the world. Some people covered their bases and also joined neighbors and families to call for Ba’al to come in the Spring with his rains or attended parties to Astarte or El or others.

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What’s in a name?

yhwhRead these marks right-to-left. They are consonants from early Hebrew. They didn’t write down vowel sounds, not even the later invention of “points.”  These consonants might sound like Yahweh or Jehovah or Yehova. Jews were and are forbidden to say it aloud. We’re told that is out of respect.

History doesn’t support that theory, nor does the often stated translation as “I Am.”
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All things in common?

The ancients had a literary form and a language for it we call Apocryphal. Sadly, we’ve lost the skeleton key to decode that language and that literary form.  I wish we could discover the actual deeper levels of meaning, too.

The first three chapters of the Revelation of St. John seem to me a little Gnostic, but are otherwise pretty clear. John writes to Seven early Christian communes. People have tried to read something into that: are they seven real communities, seven stages all churches go through, seven eras of history, seven levels of personal faith journeys, or something else? Continue reading

New Age

Götterdämmerung Act 3A lot of opera happens before the final scene in Act 3 of Götterdämmerung, Richard Wagner’s Opera that unties the complex knotted themes and ideas in his Ring Cycle.

The powerful female lead is Brünnhilde (Burning Hella). She’s based on the Norse mythology that gave us Beauty (Bella) in Beauty and the Beast, is Peter Pan’s Tinkerbelle friend, Cinder-Hella reduced to cleaning ashes and hoping to get the attention of Prince Mankind, and her soul-recycling volcano fire gave us the Medieval Catholic concept of “Hell.”

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