Thursday, September 01, 2005

hallo spaceboy

my friend bigbro fired an interesting email my way...

Jollybeggar, old buddy, you got to tell me something about theology here, and all I have to do is ask. Right?

Okay, why is it that you avid readers of the New Testament in the Gideon's Bible left in the nightstand at the Motel 6 have this image of God as riding on a camel or a donkey, but you just can't visualize God riding in a space ship?

It's almost like you envision God having wrapped up the universe in six days about six thousand BC, and then God never celebrates a New Year's Eve after, oh, about the time Jesus dies.

Nothing has changed for God since Jesus died? God doesn't even know how to drive an automobile? And you'd think that with God's pull he could cut through the bureaucratic red tape of waiting in line at the DMV to get his driver license and a license would miraculously appear in God's wallet (oh, okay. God doesn't have a wallet. He has a goat skin pouch...whatever)

aaah bigbro, sometimes you do a pretty flashy job of missing the point. i can't help but smirk at the way you turn your head while turning a clever phrase. you're always fun to read (except maybe when you start getting all cynically flippant and condescending about what people have and have not to learn about this and that- life is about living the adventure, not just reading things and then quoting them... that kinda gets old.)

anyway, since you asked, here i go quoting things that i've read. the new testament of the gideon bible stashed in the drawer of the night table at the motel 6 has some pretty great stuff that many have likened to space travel- just read it closer. i mean, matthew 24.30 speaks of Christ coming 'on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory' and luke 24.51 speaks of Christ being 'parted from them and carried up into heaven.' acts 1.9-10 relates the same scene in greater detail (although still pretty vague, leaving much to the imagination) describing Christ being 'taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight.'

with all this clouds opening and shutting stuff and people (not just Jesus- remember enoch and elijah and their chariots of fire?) being taken up, or transformed/ transfigured into glowing faces with eyes like fire and robes of white and all that, it would appear that, for anyone awaiting the 'return of the king' from the mothership there is plenty to feed a starving imagination looking for imagery that begs for literalist interpretation.

however, be warned: there is nothing new under the sun- von daniken and hal lindsay have already taken the images in apocalyptic scriptural literature to extremes. really, if you're longing for Gods that drive spaceships, just go rent 'the fifth element' and oggle leeloo for awhile. the new rereleased edition has a whole bunch of extras that you probably haven't seen yet anyway, so have a great time.

the problem with this whole 'alien/God' thing for me is that it still stalls on the idea that 'the supreme being' (re: terry gilliam's time bandits) is a physical being who has evolved to a greater degree than we and is therefore fallible simply by virtue of the fact that perfection cannot spring from imperfection- perfection is necessarily flawless in every way including history.

an alien God is just not big enough for me to either care about or feel cared about by.

we can choose to believe our imaginings and our own little explanations as to whether prayer is simply telepathic contact with aliens who no longer need to bother with radio waves, and whether mystically spiritual experiences are simply attempts to share some form of cosmic endowment with benevolent extraterrestrials, but in the end it feels like reaching out to touch the face of a god who is too close and too small to be of any real use anyway.

a god that waits in line at the dmv? really- donkey or pinto... who cares?

the only way that the image of God driving anything is useful to me is in metaphor, but even metaphors are culturally biased and therefore fall short.

i was reminded of this as i was preparing a talk for a church service that i was invited to be part of in colombo. having never been through the streets there in a three-wheel 'auto, ' i was amazed at how the drivers were able to navigate these hopped up golf carts through the traffic anarchy of the sri lankan capital city in the throes of a civil war assassination-induced state of emergency on a saturday afternoon. i did not, however, need to even think twice about the calamity that surrounded me because my driver knew the road and his helmsmanship would ensure my safe arrival at my destination... although we were travelling the road that I needed to travel in order to see the purposes of my journey realized, HE was the one who was ultimately in charge of getting me where i needed to be.

well, i thought- nice little analogy about faith. however, when i shared the idea with my friend who would be interpreting into tamil, he stared at me blankly and made it very clear that this comparison would only be meaningful to westerners because the sri lankans weren't aware that there was anything 'unusual' about the way they drive. this analogy would only underscore the cultural differences between me and the people that i was intending to encourage. good to know- idea scrapped.

so my point here is that if we draw great personal delight from the notion that God is somehow incapable of doing this or driving that or revealing himself another way, the delight will be as temporal as we are- it will not survive us. we can enjoy the laugh; we just mustn't kid ourselves about who laughs or cries last at our faithlessness.

sorta like the old email signature that reads:

"God is dead." (Nietzsche)
"Nietzsche is dead." (God)

remember, when you are abducted by aliens, don't confuse them with God... although they probably enjoy all of the notoriety in the greek and roman mythologies, you're fooling yourself if you think that worshipping them will somehow save you from the anal probe!

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Blogger dans_inferno said...

Poison Kool-Aid and the Biblical Answer to New Orleans

Now I understand what is happening with all this finger pointing about how is at fault that the entire city of New Orleans disappeared overnight.

New Orleans will be featured in the Rapturite Bible of the future. You know that old story about the old cities that disappeared overnight, like Sodom and Gomorrah and whatever towns and villages that were washed away in forty days and forty nights of rain. Well, that’s going to be New Orleans in the far future editions of the Rapturite Bible.

When the hell do these Rapturites all rapture and get the hell out of our hair anyway? They keep promising they are going to be whisked up into heaven. So go already, will ya!

Here’s the plan for future demolitions of cities slated to end up as footnotes in future bibles, when a natural catastrophe is coming your way, throw a party. Die with a smile and a glass of wine in your hands. It’ll be as close as you can come to dying in your sleep.

As for un-natural disasters that are manmade, like a dirty bomb explosion in your city or the city downwind of you, where there is no warning as there are with hurricanes, hell, just party all the time. Sooner or later your city will be next on the list.

Think poison Kool-Aid when all else fails……….bigbro

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"When the hell do these Rapturites all rapture and get the hell out of our hair anyway? They keep promising they are going to be whisked up into heaven. So go already, will ya!"

ha ha! the rapture seemed to be evangelical christianity's biblical answer to the cold war in the mid 70's. i grew up in such fear of the rapture- so afraid that somehow i wouldn't make the grade or something and would instead be stuck here in a world of lawless bastards once all the nice people had gone... but then a bit of cynicism crept in through the back window and i found myself wondering why so many of the people that thought they'd be flying weren't particularly nice anyway!

as time passed, the whole 'Jesus is coming- it may be tomorrow so ya better be ready' thing gave way to 'nobody really knows how long anybody has, so let's make sure we live the love Jesus died to inspire in the meantime.'

every new moment is the rebirth of a new eternity with a new trajectory based on the decisions of that moment.

anyway, your theory on what people get when they mix natural disaster with faulty theology and quirky ethnocentric notions of causality is reminiscent of the crazy superstition of feudal europe during the one hundred years war and the black plague, when it seemed that the figurative 'four horsement of the apocalypse' were indeed riding across the known world.

it is so like people to require someone to blame... if they can't blame God then the next best thing is to find someone that God might blame and blame them for God's wrath.

judgement serves as a nice blanket against the bitter chill of the possible reality that painful things just happen... but i think i've been saying this kinda thing a lot lately so i won't repeat myself further.

an interesting discussion opened up on two other blogs, shortcutted here for anybody's consideration

Blogger jollybeggar said... responded via email:

"Something I still haven't found an answer for. Like most non-Temple sects, the Nazarenes/Nasoreans etc did not accept the Hebrew Bible and all New Testament quotes come from the Septuagint and that is what Jerome translated into the Vulgate. They say it was a bad translation. I doubt that, it doesn't make sense, thre was no rift between the Greek and Latin users and most educated people knew Greek. So how is it that come the Reformation, they suddenly decide to switch to the Hebrew OT so that even the NT quotes don't match any more? And it'sfrom this lot that the Fungies come, quoting an OT that Christians had no time for!"

i think that the original question had to do with space-ships and the inability of bible-believers to picture God riding anything but a donkey. probably the reason for that is that we have a tough time picturing God at all until Jesus came, giving God physical actions and, as philip yancey coined, a face.

(sideways note: kinda frustrating that no one seems to be able to sort out what is up with that whole shroud business... although i liked the film, the face on the shroud in mel gibson's movie seemed to be about as touching and spiritually relevent as the t-shirt smiley face in forrest gump)

up until that time the picture of God revealed in the old testament is for the most part an inaccessible one- and people still leap comfortably to the projection of every 'officious, ill-tempered old man' they've ever known or heard of... i'm surprised that someone hasn't yet tried to make a case for the vogonity of God. might douglas adams have been slipping that one in between the lines too?

the revelation of God as presented in the bible begins with externals and moves closer in. God outside- overpowering...God beside- empathic... God inside- empowering.

still, to say that the OT is ignored by christians is a bit of a conclusive leap in and of itself. in my view, the problem for most western believers (if i may speak for them, being one) is that the western mind can be a mildly lazy and intolerant thing. the stories and accounts in the OT are so deeply laced with symbolism and back-story that, apart from sunday school morality, westerners have a tough time knowing what to do with them.

the NT, however, reads more logically direct, being first written in greek, and so gets more air-time. there is the opinion that somehow the OT is important to knowing who Jesus is, because it outlines the identity journey of israel, the culture from which Jesus rose. however, even some of Jesus' parables freak western minds out because they seem to be somehow circling the main idea rather than going directly there, and we are 'cut to the chase', fastfood consumers. the trick (?) for me is to keep studying and keep trying to grow, rather than presume that there is nothing left to learn, and that the journey is not part of the course.

i don't know- i think that i'd have a bit of a time reading the latin vulgate anyway... much less the greek septuagent or the aramaic torah et al.

one of the advantages of living at a time when there are numerous translations which do, in fact, go back to the original languages rather than just simply paraphrase the king james version (the way the 'living bible' did back in the early 60's) is that we are becoming used to the colourature of language and, as a result, are becoming less reliant upon exact quotation in favour of essence. the danger in this, of course, is that eventually you can have all the flavour without the fact, so to speak. however, to literally interpret everything read is to presume that the bible is all fact with no flavour, which is also off.

human beings are emotional readers and writers of poetry as well as pronouncement, and i guess that the whole notion of faith is that God is big enough to lead those who seek his face while redirecting those who are seeking something else and using his word as a vehicle to get there.

the other thing that appeals to my occasional flippancy, is the idea that perhaps during the reformation the original languages were consulted because the vatican had the latin version behind those 36 inch walls in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign reading 'beware of the leopard'

gosh i miss doug some days...

Blogger dotbar said...

Thanks for the comment. Now I have to search for those "level-headed comments" you spoke about...are you sure it was me??? Anyways, sorry you live in Regina! And I really, really mean that, coming from someone who suffered many years in Saskatchewan from the cruelly inhuman weather, mosquitos, lack of fun, lack of culture, lack of, well, just about everything except for affordable housing.


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