Dispensationalism and Primates

One lesson unsuccessful people do not learn is delayed gratification. Unsuccessful people look ahead about 1 day. More successful people can look ahead farther, plan better.

I’m not that good at chess.

We continue to re-learn how to think ahead–as a species.

Some individuals and groups can see and plan for a distant future.

Some of us can’t, but thanks to eschatology we have learned to relax, and trust that someone smarter than us is looking far into the future and looking out for the interests of our great grandchildren far better than we can individually.

My sincere thanks to all the Dispensationalists who continue to nurture our species in its intrinsic ability to trust individual primates who can plan ahead better than most of us.

Long after we have fallen away, our capacity to trust and cooperate with our long-range planners remains intact.

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

Getting Ready for Ebola

Remember, Covid-19 is just practice for the coming Ebola pandemic. The Ebola fatality rate is 66%.

Friends, I’m a bit of a pessimist. Optimism? Well, the Ebola pandemic may not happen in my lifetime, but it might.

Just do your best for the primates you love.

None of us asked to be born, but here we are.

Other primates have undergone struggles like yours (and worse) for, what, over 25,000 years?

And there have always been primates as smart as you, as moody as you, as unappreciated as you.

Your family, your tribe, your clan–your friends–they need you. They may not understand you, or understand how they need you, but your genetic package has a reason for being passed down, generation after generation

I will probably never meet you. But thank you for all the help you are and all the unrecognized good you do.

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

The Stoning of Baruch: A Midrash on Leviticus 20:13

My name is Philemon ben Phalaris. I am a Jew from the town of Elasa. Jonathan is king in Jerusalem.

A fortnight ago I walked out to the barn and saw my son, Baruch, and Nathan his friend, the son of my neighbor, lying together, with their nakedness uncovered.

I shook my head sadly and said, “I am sorry my son, but the Law requires that you must be stoned to death, you and your friend Nathan. Please know that I do not hate you, that I only hate your sin. Neither does God hate you, but only your sin and your evil influence in Israel.”

My son looked at the floor and was silent.

I said, “You know from Scripture that this evil must be purged from Israel.” Baruch nodded.

Baruch was a gifted young man. The favor of the Lord had been upon him from birth. My heart had swelled with pride when he read Torah in his twelfth year, the day he took his place among the men of Elasa and of Israel. He had been zealous for the Lord of the Universe, may his name be praised.

My son had always observed the commandments and the precepts of the Lord. He loved the Almighty with all his heart, soul, and strength. I was sure he would one day sit with the rabbis.

In the town he was not called Baruch ben Philemon, but was greeted with smiles and with honor as Baruch of Elasa.

I summoned my wife Mary, together with my sons and my daughters, along with my neighbors, and the elders and rabbis of Elasa, according to Scripture.

We took my son Baruch and our neighbor Nathan to the outskirts of town that the town might not be defiled by their blood.

It took one-half hour to gather the stones, and it took one-half hour to stone the young men, although it seemed longer.

I confess my arm started to hurt after a few moments, but I was doing what the Lord required. And within two days the pain in my arm went away.

Baruch’s cries and wails were difficult on my ears. I am embarrassed to say I almost stopped. But being a righteous and upright man I did as the Scripture requires. I admit, I threw most of my stones at Nathan, the son of my neighbor. You can understand that. But be sure of this: I loved my son. I still do. But I hate iniquity. We worship a holy and righteous God who requires that his people be holy, righteous, and blameless.

I am proud that my wife and my sons and my daughters helped to purge the unclean thing from Israel. They are strong in the Lord, observe the Torah, and are of godly character. I was surprised that my wife came, heaving the large stones together with the other mothers.

My son cried out to her to stop us. I would have understood if Mary had stayed home. It would have been easier, but I am proud of her. She is a true Mother of Israel.

I have pondered this matter in my heart. I think my family has considered the matter, too. Mary rarely speaks, and has not smiled for a fortnight. My sons and my daughters are never here when I come home from the fields or from the village. I sometimes go out to the barn to look for them.

Baruch and Nathan did not flee, and I know why. They knew their blood was on their own heads, according to the Scripture.

My family is no longer greeted with smiles in Elasa, because the people of the village have seen the hand of the Lord at work and fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. I take refuge in the word of the Lord: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.”

My family, indeed all of Elasa, honored the Lord God of Israel, observing his statutes and precepts, not like the gentiles, who do not know his righteous paths.

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

How Could They?

Evangelical grandchildren, great-grandchildren, will look back at this time and ask, “How could they have supported Trump and the Great Oppression?”

Someone will say, “God gave them over to a great delusion. They actually thought they were doing God’s will.”

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

What the Spirit says to the Churched Today

Hear what the Spirit says to the churched.

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my sisters and brothers who are oppressed, I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come among them to deliver them out of the hand of their oppressers, to bring them up out of their present situation, to a land flowing with milk and honey, a place of security and prosperity. The cry of my brothers and sisters has reachef me, and I have seen the injustice with which the oppressers crush them.”

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Political Reality: The Transition to a Racial No-Majority Political Landscape

Like many people, I’m sometimes in emotional distress from the images on my cell phone and the effectively agitating tweets from the District of Columbia.

Recently I’ve been contacting old college friends from my fundamentalist alma mater Simpson University. My friends reflect the same diversity as white folks nationally, but in different proportions.

One old hall mate astonished me. He was doing a Trumpish, subtle dog whistle number preparing his friends for the coming American Armageddon of anarchy and violence.

He didn’t use such obvious language however. As he was subtly egging on the troops rhetorically, I answered 5 or 6 of his “subtle” provocations with a “subtle” reply.

“Cool heads will prevail.”

Within 48 hours of that engagement he unfriended me.

Yesterday my actual brother unfriended me and cut off my blog notifications.

Both of these (white) men have suffered serious career and life disappointments.

As far as Trump goes, he reflects the sullen, resentful immaturity of his supporters.

He embodies their frightened, petulant “it’s my bat and ball” feelings.

I am very grateful for the restraint and cool heads of the Black Lives Matter leadership as they lead us into our non-white majority future.

I’m grateful for the significant disavowal of the Confederate flag by the military and by NASCAR. They realize that “the times they are a’changing.”

I assume these forward-looking people took notes on the white South African fear of majority Black rule, and the subsequent process of settling into political reality.

In South Africa white rule came to an end, but South Africa still exists. Black parties dominate the politics of the country, but white South Africans still attend school, still own businesses, still have children and raise families.

I’m not too upset about being unfriended. I was about 15 months old when my biological mother died, and grew up as a brainy white kid in the East Oakland ghetto, so I’m used to a certain amount of emotional distance.

With the “Advent of Trump”, after considerable dismay and alarm, I realized that the American People have survived many crises.

We survived the Civil War intact. We survived the Depression intact. We survived WW II, McCarthyism and the Viet Nam War intact. In twenty years the American People will still be here, but headline news won’t look exactly the same.

We will be changed. We will not be the same. Call it a Demographic Evolution.

In 100 years we’ll all be dead. Our grandchildren will be the first generation to grow up in this new political landscape, where no race or ethnicity is the numerical majority.

The traditional majority, white Americans, will find themselves in two basic groups. One group will struggle to keep their position of dominance and control.

The other group of white Americans will work to ease the transition. I imagine that they will take will take some heat from their frightened white brethren.

At least most of them don’t have to deal with having a cousin in prison or another funeral at church for a teenager they know.

The speakers at the Black Lives Matter rally in LaMesa last Saturday were preparing the demonstrators for the transition from White majority dominance of American politics to an actual multiracial politics.

As a white Ally I was told not to negotiate with the LaMesa political establishment on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM is presently the most effective voice for political reality.

Political Reality

They will handle this themselves. I will continue to be welcome to show solidarity, but this is their struggle. They’ve been waiting in line. Now it’s their turn. They can take it from here.

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter

Although Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter are different from each other, they do teach us a common lesson.

What you do or don’t do affects other people.

In the case of Covid-19, if it’s life as usual for you, and you don’t wear a mask and social distance, your friend’s grandmother or grandfather could die.

You may never have met your friend’s grandparents. If you had, you probably wouldn’t have hated them–not enough to kill them. But if you were infected and asymptomatic, you could kill them and never realize what you did.

All because you didn’t inconvenience yourself. You seem innocent, you didn’t do anything obviously hostile, but grandma and grandpa are still dead.

In the case of George Floyd and Alfred Olango, if it’s life as usual for you, and you don’t mourn with those who mourn, but say “I didn’t know”, more unarmed black citizens will definitely die.

You probably never met George or Alfred. If you had met them, you wouldn’t have hated them–not enough to kill them. And since we are infected, and think we’ve washed our hands of our infection, we will kill more of them and never acknowledge that it was our servants who pulled the triggers.

All because we didn’t inconvenience ourselves. We seem innocent. We didn’t do anything overt, but more will die.

What we don’t do has an effect on other people.

Posted in Devotional | 1 Comment

Uncomfortable Conversations and My Own Woundedness

I re-posted an article on FB by a police union representative. He said, “We are not Derek Chauvin. We act with restraint.” I then made a brief mention of complaints regarding fairness, and urged my “liberal’ FB friends to take the cop at his word.

Someone said that I lit the match.

Yes, I lit a match. This topic is incendiary. But the Bible says (to people who take the Bible seriously) that they are to be agents of reconciliation. In order to have reconciliation there needs to be communication between the disputants.

There is a difference between having an uncomfortable conversation and impugning people’s character and motivations.

There are plenty of people whipping up conflict. In this situation each of us needs to ask ourselves, “Am I making it easier to have a trusting conversation, a fruitful and productive conversation, or am I just fanning the flames?”

When I begin typing a sentence and I realize the sentence can only reach the period as blame and criticism, I delete the beginning and start over. There is enough blame and criticism going around.

My mom seemed to specialize in blame and criticism. She’s passed on now. She did her best, but I don’t honor her by emulating her woundedness.

And I used to emulate her woundedness.

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

Yohanan b. Zakkai and the Galilee Persecution

Yohanan b. Zakkai is almost certainly the law enforcement officer involved in the Galilee Episode.

Six years ago I posted about Rabbi Yohanan. You can read that post by clicking https://wp.me/p1biq8-5z2.

Since then I have refined my thesis regarding Ribaz. I now refrain from talking much about a “Q Community” or about an anti-gay “campaign”. Allow me to explain why.

First, I don’t discuss evidence of a Q Community. There probably was something that could legitimately be called a “Q Community”, but that discussion is not my immediate concern.

I also don’t argue that Ribaz waged an anti-gay campaign. He may have waged such a purity campaign, but I only argue the evidence of a single legal case, the case referred to in Luke 17:34-35.

The title of the 2014 post, “A famous rabbi destroys the lesbian and gay Q community”, is only completely inaccurate on one point.

The gays and lesbians among Jesus’ fans were not completely destroyed. The sexually nonconforming gentiles were not seized and executed. Only the Jewish transgressors were subject to Torah, and Philip the Tetrarch recognized the authority of Ribaz to deal with them according to local law.

Frankly, I knew that I would eventually be discussing antisemitism at some point. Whenever you discuss data about which a group has a proprietary sense, you run the risk of being seen as an outsider or intruder.

Fundamentalist Christians sometimes feel proprietary about the Bible. Hence the title, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “You can’t understand this. Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned. When you’re born again, then you can understand.”

One more general principle. The first time we hear an idea that’s new to us, our spontaneous reaction is to say no to it. When you are presenting s new concept (or product) to someone, expect the first response to be “no” and don’t be upset.

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

Human Government in the Five-Fold Replacement of Torah

Paul mentions five sources of guidance that replace the Law. One of them is Love itself. The five sources of guidance are 1) the Spirit, 2) love, 3) human conscience, 4) human government, and 5) scripture. The one he discusses the least in Romans as a source of guidance is scripture. His most controversial substitute for the Law seems to be human government.

Paul coaches us on our attitude to human government in Romans 13:1-7. My modest comments undoubtedly only duplicate what others have written.

Remember that, prior to his name change, Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus. Tarsus was a major city in present-day Turkey, and in the first century was home to stoic philosophers like Athenodorus, Zeno, Antipater, and Nestor, and was a center of gnostic teaching as well.

Saul’s congregation was composed of Diaspora Jews.As I was reading Romans 13:1-7 I realized that Paul probably developed this idea with his Jewish synagogue.  It is not difficult to imagine Jews young and old chafing at laws imposed on them by the magistrates. And who doesn’t resent taxes?  I can hear them now, “The Lord is our God. Why do we have to pay taxes to these uncircumcised dogs? The Lord is our God. When will God deliver us from the hands of this Pharoah?”

And what I also hear is Saul’s reply, consisting of Romans 13:1-7 (NIV).

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

There is nothing especially Christian about the Romans 13 passage. There is no mention of mysteries or revelations or Christ as such.  It could easily have been taught to Jews in Tarsus who objected to paying taxes for building monuments to the gods.

I believe that Saul found himself outside of Palestine, in a context where the Jews were no longer responsible to enforce civil laws like prohibitions against moving boundary markers (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17) or dealing with accidental loss of life (Exodus 21:13, 22; Numbers 35:6, 11, 15). Such cases were addressed in the imperial Tarsus courts, and Saul knew that it was in the best interest of his congregation that, so to speak, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

The apostle Paul is actually an early precursor of the separation of church and state, except that he yielded the authority of his religion’s own sacred book and urged submission to the laws of the state, whether or not the state acknowledged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  

Romans 13 takes the responsibility for meting out punishment for civil offenses and gives it to the state, whether the state is godly or not, whether it adheres to your religion or not. 

Paul’s Five Replacements for the Law’s Guidance

Human government is not the single reliable source of guidance for us. I mention it alongside four other sources. There are five things that replace our reliance on the Law for guidance: 1) the Spirit, 2) love, 3) conscience, 4) government, and 5) scripture.

The question arises, “How can you say human government is a replacement when it was created because of man’s rejection of God?”  

Human government does not completely replace the Torah by itself. It replaces one part of the Torah, those passages which address civil order.

In a world populated with only kind and ethical primates we would not need human government–everyone would act in love toward one another. Unfortunately, we do not live in that ideal world, and primates with the strong drive to protect others, and have the political will to devise the rules by which we referee the game–these people will protect the victims of the strong and write the rules by which we are protected from rule breakers.

Paul’s Eleven-Fold Cancellation of the Law

You might consider reading aloud the phrases and sentences in bold italic text. 

  1. Galatians 3:10— All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
  2. Galatians 3:13—Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
  3. Galatians 3:25—Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
  4. Galatians 5:1—It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
  5. Galatians 5:18—But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
  6. Romans 2:12—All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.
  7. Romans 4:15—The law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
  8. Romans 5: 13—Before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.
  9. Romans 6:14—Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
  10. Romans 7:8b—Apart from law, sin is dead.
  11. Colossians 2:13b-14—He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code,with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 
Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment