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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Biblical Margins-- New Takes on Old Myths' LiveJournal:

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Friday, August 5th, 2005
11:14 am
Sign broken.
The church up the street from us has had the marquee "Sign broken-- get message inside" for a couple of weeks now.

I'm amused in a way, but in a way, I'm not.

There are about a skillion church signs out there. And they pick this one?

It's pretty typical of a lot of folks-- want to see our religion? Come to where we practice it!

The thing is, though-- Christianity ought to be practiced outside the church, in all senses. God doesn't say "love your neighbor when they come to services." He doesn't say "feed the hungry when they show up." He says to do it unconditionally.

"Church" doesn't just mean the building where services are-- most Christians know that "the church" refers to the people, as well. But there's a third meaning; Jesus said "this temple" to refer to His body, since that was the Jewish name for a place of worship. What would He say today? "This church"!

You as an individual Christian are a church-- do people have to open the door and peek in to find out what you believe inside, or does it shine through the windows? Is it on your sign for all to see?

What's on YOUR sign?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005
2:32 am
On a stack of Bibles
When I was younger, the two common ways of insisting one was telling the truth were:
"Cross my heart and hope to die, if I should tell a big fat lie," and
"I swear on a stack of Bibles."Read more...Collapse )
Friday, June 24th, 2005
10:33 pm
Golden Rule...whose bright idea was that?
Just saw a paraphrased version of the Golden Rule in a friend's LJ and it sparked a few thoughts; since I've done a number on the Wiccan Rede occasionally, it seemed like about time to talk about one of those moral rules that's part of Christian faith.

Matthew 7:12 has what's known as the Golden Rule: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (New International Version)

Really, there are versions of a similar rule dating back well before Christianity, except that most citations of the rule refer to NOT doing to other people what you would NOT want done to you. Many Christians mention this as a moral advance of Christianity-- it's a lot easier to simply NOT do unwanted things to others than it is to actively do things you assume they'd want.

Isn't it?

But let's look at that phrase "what you would have them do to you." Even if you do what you consider to be a perfectly nice action, like say surprising a neighbor with homemade cookies anonymously the person may not like it at all!

So, one interpretation of this rule is that you should do things for other people that you might like, whether they end up liking them or not. If they don't like them, it may be because they're cold-hearted bastards, and it's no fault of yours then. If they sue you, just turn the other cheek.

Another interpretation is that you should do something thoughtful that would make them as happy as an analogous thoughtful action would make you. For instance, if you are a single young man and would like very much to meet a single young woman who was friendly, sweet, bright, and in the mood to marry and have children, introducing such a young woman to your married friend who really only wanted to meet someone who could play guitar for his band... well, it's not going to do him a lot of good. Unless she can play guitar. But would introducing him to a guitar player be exactly the equivalent of introducing you to someone you'd like to marry?

Is there any exact equivalent between thoughtful good deeds? Because if not, then "what you would have them do to you" has no more meaning than "what others would like done." What if they'd like you to trot out and find them a supply of drugs? Or cover for them while they commit adultery? Is that really what you ought to do? Or is the rule, when you get down to it, "do what you think God would wish you to do, out of love for God and your neighbor"?
Thursday, June 23rd, 2005
10:00 am
Saturday, June 18th, 2005
3:32 pm
"Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger" - a complicated God.
"Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath!"

So says the Lord through Isaiah. I still remember reading this for the first time, and realising that there must be more to God’s justice than meets the eye.

When people wonder why there is no justice, they look for instant, uncomplicated and one-sided justice in their favour. How this inter-relates with mercy is not necessarily considered; we decide in our minds who and what we think should have mercy, and who should have ‘justice’, and what should be done, and then wonder why God is not doing what we think he ought to be doing. But in that one sentence, the Lord blows such simplistic notions to pieces.

God clearly says that he is using the Assyrians to bring about his purposes. And yet, at the same time, he condemns them. How can that be?Collapse )
Friday, June 17th, 2005
2:19 pm
TO: odin@valhalla.net.hv
CC: zeus@olympus.net.hv; anubis@thenile.net.hv; (snipped)

For the spiritual year ending Easter of the common era 2005.

It's been a productive year here folks, and I'd like to go over some of the most recent successful projects we've had in Christianity.

My operatives have been spreading the word-- or should I say the Word? I find it entirely amusing how certain Biblical passages, through Divine design to make them applicable to nearly any situation, can also be misinterpreted to keep entire groups of people from feeling at all comfortable within the faith! The ideas we've focused most on are:
*Enjoyment of sexuality within marriage
*Acceptance of sexual feelings outside of marriage
*Non-heterosexual feelings or desires

We've been quite successful at keeping not only the "gays" but many happily married heterosexual people out of church entirely, based only on their discomfort with hearing the activities of their marriage bed denounced from the pulpit.

Another project I'm quite proud of here. Of course, it doesn't seem to work on those who've actually read the New Testament with all that message about loving one's neighbor, but the run-of-the-mill churchgoer can easily be encouraged into hating those who are different from him (or her), and as soon as the Others start protesting the unfair treatment they receive as a result, you've got the makings of a NICE little dispute brewing. (See attached images/files re: nationwide armed conflicts, hateful treatment of those who serve in them, etc.) I've actually managed to turn around entire congregations, driving out the tolerant peace-seekers, leaving only an untrained militia aching for war. Then I like to bring in the "persecuted Christians" speeches and set them loose on the world in general.

Isn't it great how, no matter how many metarules you lay down about treating people equally, and all being spiritual equals, as soon as you set up one tiny rule that's easier for one person to follow, they start feeling superior to the rest of the "flock"? If you play your cards right (That saying just makes me all tingly! I mean, to bring skill into a game of chance, and pretend it's all your own doing when you win? Hee hee!) you can even get people to start resenting God for being better than them, and for having expectations and rules that they can NEVER live up to-- and get them to stop trying! Not, of course, that they'll stop expecting it of their neighbor.

Anyways, folks, it's been a GREAT year here, and huge numbers of people have been driven out of the Christian church. Are there any plans for the Old Gods to pick any of these people up? I'm sure they'd be a fine addition to your temples, or circles, or groves, if you could offer them something "better" than the hoax I've made Christianity into-- but I haven't heard anything of the sort yet.

I almost dare wonder-- are these people for me? All for ME?

Gleefully rubbing my hands together,
Sunday, June 5th, 2005
2:26 am
For some reason, today I was thinking of St. Simon Stylites, who lived on top of a pillar for many years, to get away from people.

Possibly part of the reason was my explaining to the Raven about the care and feeding of kiztent, one of the most solitary people I know.

The article linked above says, "There is also another sort of isolation that often occurs. It is that of the person who does not fit in the world. Such a person is misunderstood and not well-accepted by his relatives, acquaintances, and colleagues, and consequently becomes isolated. He may complain that his situation is unjust, etc...Quite often such a person doesn’t see that this involuntary isolation can be a gift..."

I've always felt that the two commandments "greater than any other" that Jesus gives in Matthew 23 (love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself) imply that not only do we as Christians have a responsibility to devote ourselves to God, we have a responsibility to reach out to our fellow human beings. "Wherever two or more of you are gathered..." makes a church; those who accept Christ but never act or speak to another human being as if they had, do poor justice to Him.

Is there a Biblical emphasis on fellowship between Christians for a reason? What's the role of solitude in the life of a Christian?

Saturday, May 28th, 2005
10:31 pm
The abandoned Father
And if you think that autism is far
From any thoughts or moods yours ever are,
Remember this and wonder at the love
Of Him who waits so patiently above;
For even single words our lips could bring
Unto the far remoteness of the King.
Ignored all day as children of the wolf
Ignore their family across a gulf;
Long wond'ring why these people ever ask -
Communication seeming such a task -
Why want we this? Autism asks us why -
To talk, to laugh, to look us in the eye?
All that is meant by worship ever is
To look with longing, and to turn to kiss.

by which he means to say?Collapse )
Friday, May 27th, 2005
12:44 am
A message from Magdala
“What do you wait for, Mary,
Among the graves of men?
Why do you linger long here,
And not go home again?”

Mary's answerCollapse )
Tuesday, May 24th, 2005
5:35 am
Why are there so very many jokes about Christianity?

Is it my perception as a Christian, or someone who lives in a predominantly Christian society? Are there really hundreds of jokes I don't know about the various pagan faiths?

Or is there something inherently funny in Christianity-- the sheer amount of myth? The contradictions here and there? The nudity, sex, violence, war?

Does it have something to do with the Christian view of sex-- have we, more than other faiths, sublimated our bodily desires into laughter?

Of course, I simply have to add an example.

What is the dumbest thing that the Blessed Mary ever said to Jesus as a young man?
"Close that door, son, were you born in a barn?"

Monday, May 23rd, 2005
9:29 am
Cross posted from my journal - at last, the Spirit comes!
:: Briefly, my ex wife has been causing real trouble for me and my children. But that's just background to the story. Sorry if it doesn't come across to those who don't know me well ::

I have had a remarkable week since I spoke of the trouble with Elizabeth (on my friends list). Now there is nothing to tell you all of except the deepest things; and I have wondered where to start.

As I turned to the matter, the words 'Psalm 77' came into my mind. I open up my Bible, and here it is; the story of the last ten years of my life.

So if you wouldn't read this as the Bible, but want to know how my life has been, read it for that reason instead. I'm alive again, for the first time in ten years. After the quote, what it has meant to me, all under the cut.

To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.Collapse )
Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
10:00 pm
What’s the use of theology?
We have the Bible (in various forms), and we try to understand it. Some see it one way, others another; but as long as we desire to be taught what it means by the author, I’m convinced we will get there in the end.

Where does theology come from?Collapse )
Monday, May 16th, 2005
12:40 am
Christian Unity
( This was originally written in response to two people: one who suggested Christians could unite only to try to force conversions, or for witch hunts, and another suggesting Christians need to unite in order to convert and save more people... by any means necessary, including driving in the fear of Hell)

What would be the point of Christians uniting? To make the church a socially responsible place where the needs of the community are met perhaps. The Bible talks about MANY responsibilities. Some Christians seem to forget all of them accept witnessing. Love, charity, aid to the poor... responsibilities that go back even to Jewish times, and are reemphasized in the New Testement.

What Jesus said about those who remembered the responsibility of Witness, and continued to judge, while forgetting these other responsibilities... was some of his most pointed criticism.

Read Matthew 23... try to look past the term Pharisee... to see the KIND of people he's describing, not the specific religious faction.
All verses from Matt 23 from here on, PLEASE read the full version as well, I'm not trying to take out of context, just to highlight. And I'm cutting the 'Woe unto you' bits to let this fit LJ comment length:

1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples
2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat

Which basically means they have set themselves up as the interperters, arbitrators, and controllers of religion... basically placed themselves in charge and judge all others wrong.

4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments

They expect alot out of other people.. but so long as they go through the motions... feel like they are righteous... this is like going to church every sunday doing nothing else, and figuring that means you're a good Christian

8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

The obvious message is that Jesus is the final ruler for all Christians. But, the idea of brethren also... importantly.. brings out an idea of community, cooperation, and equality.

11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

This is not JUST the blessed are the meek speech from Matthew 5 repeated, this also emphasizes that the Christian must serve.

15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

If you travel far and wide to win converts.. if you make witnessing your great struggle.. but neglect the rest of Christianity in order to do this.. your converts will not be true.. nor will you. "Twice the child of Hell" is probably not the sort of convert you want to win.

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Again, remembering the outward forms can let you forget the core teachings of the religion. Your 'obligations' can supplant matters of the heart, and of treating others well.

27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
28Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Those who appear outwardly the most religious of men (and women and children), may be spiritually empty inside, hypocrites who have forgetten the true message.

So Matt 23... though describing Pharisees outwardly, also gives us a picture of two types of Christians.

There are those who are united in a community, which while it does witness, also cares for the poor, shows mercy, love, and kindness, and remains social responsible, and benefits the community.

And there are those who put on religion for show, seek converts eagerly... wear all the trappings.. and forget what the religion is really about. Yes a Christian has a duty to save others. But no, that doesn't mean just witnessing. Show Christians tend to set up little competitions anyway, they lack brotherly unity.

So, to repeat, I am a commited atheist, and I would LOVE to see Christian unity. I think real Christian unity would TERRIFY some Christians, since it would also require Christian responsibility.

Tithe your love, tithe your mercy, tithe all the fruits of the spirit.
Sunday, May 15th, 2005
2:45 pm
Crucifying the Truth
John 18:38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked.

We are living amongst contempt for the very idea that there is such a thing.

"And what is truth?" says Pilate, for the State;
"The truth must be subject to many eyes.
Pers'nal opinion reigns; there are no lies
And thus no truth. We find these things innate.
I shall not judge betwixt the many claims
But call them all the same - that is, all void.
Only when men agree is strength deployed.
(Agree against the truth, and gain your aims).
'Justice' is but a tool to serve an end;
Honesty but the penance paid by fools.
Grievances - equal, all; they are the tools
With which the State's great strength will make men bend."
The King returned no answer, for His word
Will stand; for mercy, judgment is deferred.
Wednesday, May 11th, 2005
1:43 am
Bouncing off of hewet_ka_ptah's essay on gnosis:

"it can be dangerous, a reliance only on personal experience with deity. I say this because I have seen many people who have become lost. "Hecate says that everything will work out fine and I shouldn't do anything." So, they do nothing, believing that they have been given permission for their paralysis and thing do not work out fine and it turns out that, yes, they should have acted. "Isis says I should start a temple!" Only the person has talked about starting one for ages, wanting desperately to see a sign, gets one, and the temple is a complete failure...

There is a line between ecstatic communication with the gods (or god) and delusion. I am incredibly cynical about my own experiences. I do look for backup and when I get it, then I feel that I can trust what I experienced. "

This brought up some thoughts for me.

Once I had felt the presence of the Divine, it became easier for me to have faith that He was present the rest of the time, whether I could feel Him or not. (It didn't hurt that I had the Bible backing that idea up.)

So, if the Divine presence is there whether I can feel it or not, what does it mean when I can feel it? What exactly is happening? When that happens, it is as if God is choosing to speak to me, or to bring something to my attention (like a teacher pointing out a line in a book).

If I misunderstand what He is trying to say, where is the fault? Or, more neutrally, what is causing me not to understand? I feel that it's not any defect in what He is saying, but more in my ability to understand the language He uses.

How exactly do I learn to understand what He is saying? The same way I'd learn any other language-- by reading books written about it (and in it); by speaking to others who speak that language, and by listening to them in return.

Arguing that personal-emotional-spiritual experiences with the Divine are more, or less, important than one's studies is pretty pointless. They're two parts of the same thing, and each is less powerful without the other. You might as well argue over whether the left pages or right pages of a book are more useful.

Sunday, May 8th, 2005
2:21 am
A little boy sits down with his crayons one day and says, "Mom, I want to draw a picture of God. Is God black, or white?"

"Well, we don't actually know, but probably God is not really either one," she replied.

"Is God a man, or a woman?"

"We don't really know, but probably not either one."

"Is God a grownup or a little kid?"

"Not really either one or the other."

"Oh!" he says. "God looks just like Michael Jackson?"

So, one of the big arguments I've heard, from quite a few pagan women of the Goddess-worshipping sorts, is about the incredible idea of having a Deity who is like themselves-- female. I've also seen several big discussions about what exactly the color of Jesus' skin was, and what ethnic group He would fall into, with special attention to the "Jesus was black" idea. The latter, of course, along with being a theological discussion, is also a historical discussion and perfectly legitimate on those grounds.

For the most part, those arguing that they feel closer, better able to understand, God as female, are women. Those arguing that they feel closer and more in tune with a black Jesus are, for the most part, black. You could say that after a lifetime of trying to fit into other people's worlds, into a world made for and ruled by people NOT of your image, that it's nice to let your hair down and just talk to God like one of the girls, or like a brother, someone like yourself.

But maybe, just maybe, that's not the point; when you see yourself as created in the Divine image, and need justification of that by matching your skin tone, or your lower bits-- when you need to fit the Divine into a role you feel comfortable with, then maybe you're not stretching yourself, your mind, your soul to encompass all that you can. Don't just imagine yourself as the image of God-- imagine your neighbors. Especially that one with the loud-bass stereo. Imagine the new employee at work. The guy who cut you off in traffic. The lady ignoring her toddler having a fit in the shopping cart at the store, because she's tired and has listened to it all day. All of you are images of the same Being.

Imagine a God you're not entirely familiar with, and then move to knowing the Being you aren't entirely comfortable with. God can be comforting, but sometimes not; the ultimate Good, for those of us who know we aren't always the best people we can be, is intimidating. Or, as C. S. Lewis said, "He's not a tame lion..."

Friday, May 6th, 2005
1:01 am
Priests, or, how we lost 90% of them at Laodicea.
Thanks to kagomeshuko for raising the issue.

I am with you in saying that there is no reason to think women inferior to men; just different. Those differences have profound effects; in considering them, no denigration of women may be entered into, however.

The most profound area of misgiving is when one talks about 'priests'. For heavens sake, we are all priests whether we want to be or not! The situation we have today comes from a council at Laodicea in the 5th century (I think), the result of which was the restriction of giving communion to those designated priests, and defining priests as those with a specific job. The latter is blatantly wrong, and the former then becomes the means for instigating the thought police; placing the priest between God and man, where they can contribute nothing and take away almost everything by becoming the focus of the believers' attention. Then one can have the sacrament withheld, and the poor sinner must confess to the priest, else they might not get what they have been told saves them; sacerdotalists, controlling the poor, wearing the name of priest without contributing a single thing but tyranny to the kingdom of God.

Therefore the real question, is how did anyone becomes so presumptuous as to invent the role of priest in the first place, when it is opposed to the Bible? The result is a manageable, controllable church; but managing and controlling it is not a job that was given to those with earthly authority in the kingdom of God. Their authority was to lead by example and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The result was that the apostolic era came to an end. Once you have sidelined the efforts of 90%+ of believers and made them go through someone who has chosen to live a life that brings them between God and his children, you have invented the most effective obstacle that has ever been raised against the Gospel.

Hence the question should not be 'should women be priests' but 'why on earth do we have priests' ? No, women should not be 'priests' as we have them. Neither should men.

Well if we are all priests, what are we arguing about? The question is not about priesthood, so in what I say next, please forget all reference to struggling over who should be priests.

The question is about who should be in positions not of power, but of responsibility.

Responsibility is a different thing. I've mentioned this at length previously. In any pairing of two people, one must have responsibility; sharing it is called a fight. It does not work in any field of life. Responsibility is not an ego trip, absolutely the opposite. When it is treated as such, that shows that it is being used inappropriately.

I argue that responsibility is a burden that God placed on men in marriage, and that this is to be exercised through dying love. When things are wrong, a man should resort to love, a woman to obedience; not because these are things we should do in our strength, but because they are in both cases Gods channel to enter into the situation by the power of His Holy Spirit. And if we deny Him that, what is the use of our efforts?

More can be said about the nature of the woman's 'desire' in Genesis 3, but I'm not repeating my whole article.

There is no reason for calling men better than women, though I think St Paul should be heard. I do not think that his comments are born of his community, rather born of God. They should be considered carefully rather than as a means for jumping to conclusions. But until this nonsense about priests is done away with, Paul can be misread. Take it away and we are left with a very different situation.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005
3:48 am
Thoughts on religious books.
First, my confession.

I am a HUGE Mercedes Lackey fan.

If you're not sure who she is, she's a fantasy writer who lives up by Tulsa, about an hour and a half from me. I know some folks who are reasonably good acquaintances with her (name drop, name drop) and they insist she's just as sweet in person as her essays and interviews make her sound. She's probably best known for her Valdemar series, which begins with Arrows of the Queen, a tale about a poor abused little girl who gets chosen by a magical white horse to come and be part of the Heralds, who are all good and kind and fair, and be advisor to the Queen of the land.

After a few of these books, in which she covered progressively darker subjects, she branched out into some books set in something close to the real world, in present-day America. Three of these were horror books starring Diana Tregarde, witch, magic-user, and Guardian. It's very specifically stated in all three books that the magic Diana uses is not real, and that the religion she follows is equally not real. (In fact, Lackey has written a frothing rant about people who insist that it IS real and do stupid things in the real world because of it, here: "The Last Straw").

So, on the one hand, we have books like Lewis's Narnia series and the Space trilogy, where the plot has fantastical elements but a very real Christianity, compared to books where any religion described is as fake as the characters' names. Is there one you'd prefer to read? Any examples other than Lewis of books where the basics of Christianity are treated truthfully? (Orson Scott Card comes to mind, as some of his books about the Latter Day Saints involve non-religious magic.)

P.S. Fair warning, I feel a part 2 to this coming on, about religion and faith in the Harry Potter books.
Monday, May 2nd, 2005
12:50 am
Faith in the Now
I think the best way to begin what I want to say is with the following story (from this site about medieval religious plays)

In medieval times, someone who had a lot of debts could seek sanctuary in a church. One such debtor did, in the town of St. Ginar, outside Seville. He stayed in the church for some time, because if he left the church he would be likely to be arrested for his debts.

It came the time to put on the yearly play about Jesus' life, and since our debtor was a fine-looking man, he was approached to play the part of Jesus. Read more...Collapse )
5:59 am
Surgical precision?

It is because the nature of the world that we live in and the relations that we have as men and women are so accurately explained, that I find Eden too true not to believe. I have already said that there is no reason in the Word to suppose a 168 hour first week, and that even in the English translation, let alone the Hebrew, that this is not the idea that is being conveyed. Laying that aside, at some point mankind was given a choice. I believe that this is the most helpful way of presenting what happened from a spiritual viewpoint, and that other considerations, in a spiritual book, are secondary, indeed barely important. But I also believe there was a factual set of events which led to how we are today. They took place somewhere that we can no longer go, and we are in a world that is utterly ruined as a result; therefore we cannot go seeking a place called Eden to find justification for this; we can seek a place called Eden in ourselves; and if we look for it, we will find that it describes everything that is wrong with us; because it begins with the decision not to believe a loving God who gave us the world out of love.

Some thoughts on Genesis 2 and 3Collapse )
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