29 September 2010

Reflection: 09-10 (Part 1)




This month’s reflection marks a first for me. It is the first time that I have used an e-reader. Specifically, I have the nook from Barnes & Noble. It was a birthday present. There are a couple of reasons that I wanted this. First, I wasn’t really an e-reader kind of person. I didn’t really see the point. I’m a book guy. I love the smell of books. I love the feel of books. I just never thought that I would be happy with an e-reader. But, when the Lindisfarne Community published it’s prayer book for nook, well, I took another look at the idea. What I found out was very intriguing and brings me to my second point.

For those who don’t know, the nook is based on Google’s open source Anroid Operating System (OS). That is the same OS that runs many phones (including my own) and tablet PCs. That was a huge plus for me! As many of you know, I’m a big open source supporter. The fact that the nook runs on an open source platform was icing on the cake.

Because I knew that I was getting a nook for my birthday, I looked through the reading list to find books that we available for the nook. I actually went through each item looking to see if there was an ‘eBooks’ edition available. This changed my reading list dramatically, as one can imagine! All of this leads me to this month’s reflection.

God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality was written by Phyllis Trible. In it, she explores the view of God male and female within the the Bible, ‘a pilgrim wandering through history to merge past and present’ (pg. 19). She comes at the text from a feminist perspective claiming that this perspective does not

. . . dominate the scriptures. Instead, I have accented what I consider neglected themes and counter literature. Using feminist hermeneutics (the art and science of biblical interpretation - J+), I have tried to recover old treasure and discover new ones in the household of faith (pg. 16).

She does this by showing how ‘stylistic and rhetorical features of the language illuminate its interpretations’ from the text itself (pg. 17). She then sets out by focusing on three separate account: the creation accounts in Genesis (and, if you haven’t ever noticed, there are two different stories there!); the Song of Solomon; and the book of Ruth. This book was a joy to read! Her approach was very scholarly and thorough and her exegesis was remarkable. It led to such new insights that I want to try and see if I can use this way of seeing within other parts of the biblical text. But I will leave that for another time. We will begin where she began - Genesis and the creation of what she calls the ‘earth creature’.

In Genesis 1, after creating everything else, God stated that human kind would be created in the image of God:

‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1.26-27).

What has been in the forefront of a lot of peoples minds of late is that fact that both ‘male and female’ are the ‘image of God’ - not just the male. As Rosemary Raford Ruether put it, ‘If women cannot represent [God] then [God] cannot represent women’ (quoted by Ann Loades in Feminist Theology: A Reader, pgs 140-141, see my reflection here). But according to Trible, metaphor best describes ‘the poetic mode of Genesis 1.27’ (pg 33). And poetic language is the key to understanding Genesis 1.27:

A sensitivity to poetic language is basic to an interpretation of Genesis 1.27 . . . poetry is “like a finger pointing to the moon” . . . To equate the finger with the moon or to acknowledge the finger and not perceive the moon is to miss the point (pg 32).

She expounds,

In Genesis 1.27 the formal parallelism between the phrases “in the image of God” and “male and female” indicates a semantic correspondence between a lesser known element and a better known element. In other words, this parallelism yields a metaphor. “Male and female” is the vehicle; “the image of God,” its tenor (pg 33).

That is, God is the ‘lesser known element’. But we can get a better understanding of God by looking at people - ‘male and female’, the ‘better known element’. Or, as she states on page 36, ‘In other words, “male and female” is the finger pointing to the “image of God”.’ And yet, it has not been until recently that the idea that ‘female’ can be seen as, indeed is, an image of God. Especially from those who view the Bible as a legal document or a constitution (see Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christianity, and my reflection of that book here). Such people are quick to point to the ‘Fall’ and ‘curse’ upon women in Genesis 3 and state that women are now ‘in subjection’ to men. But, as Trible points out, this is a picture of a broken relationship, not a healthy one. And it most certainly was neither the way it was intended nor created. And I wholeheartedly agree. The idea that women are ‘subject’ to men has been ‘over-turned’ by Christ. According to the fleshing out of that story we call the New Testament, God’s reconciliation and restoration project - the New Creation - began at Christ’s resurrection. Throughout the New Testament we see this idea that ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us’ (Galatians 3.13, TNIV). Furthermore, because of this ‘redemption’ ‘[there] is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female (Galatians 3.28, emphasis added). In other words, all cultural divisions, social divisions, and gender divisions have been removed because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Although this is not a reality for all parts of the world (or even in our part), it is becoming this way. More and more people are breaking down the walls that separate humanity because of what Christ has done (see Ephesians 2.14). As Carlos Santana once put it, ‘There are not different races. There is only the human race with many different cultures’ (in his speech after winning a Grammy for his Supernatural album).

But change has not been easy. We see this too often in the one place where people should be seen as equals - the churches. Here in the U.S. the struggle for inclusion has been tough. For a long time women have been able to do all sorts of things - except be clergy. But that, too, is slowly changing. Some churches, like the Episcopal Church, have women in their highest offices. And more and more are ‘allowed’ to hold these offices in their local communities. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Secular society has ‘allowed’ women to hold high offices for a long time but some churches are still having trouble with this idea. And it’s no surprise that this is still a struggle in most of those places where the Bible is seen as a constitution. It makes one wonder what those people think about women superiors in the workplace!


~~~
This ends Part 1. Part 2 can be found here.

Jack+, LC

Reflection: 09-10 (Part 2)


[This is the conclusion of a Reflection on God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality by Phyllis Trible. Part 1 can is here.]

~~~

Back to Trible. Her exegesis is amazing! I had never noticed that ‘gender’ or sexuality had not been introduced until Genesis 2. She makes careful observation in that, with the animal creation, neither gender nor sexuality is even mentioned (though, I would state that the animals can’t ‘produce offspring of the same kind’ without it, so it seems implied to me at least). However, with the creation of the woman, the ‘earth creature’ declared that itself was a ‘man’. Here, Trible believes that sexuality was introduced and along with it, sexual love, since it wasn’t just ‘male and female’ but ‘man’ and ‘women’. She makes the case that it is when the ‘man’ is ‘united with his woman’ that the image of God is seen in fullness. But, she is also quick to point out:

Unity embraces plurality in both the human and the divine realms.  But sexual differentiation of humankind is not thereby a description of God. Indeed, the metaphorical language of Genesis 1.27 preserves with exceeding care the otherness of God (pg. 37).

While we see God in both male and female people, if we only see one or the other we get a lop-sided view of God even metaphorically and subconsciously. And that is what a lot of the biblical story tells us. She has to dig to find the female image of God within the story. But find it she does! In chapter two, Journey of a Metaphor, Trible explores this ‘female’ image of God by focusing on the most notable female image of all - the womb.

The foundational story for her investigation is the story of two women and their children. As the story goes (1Kings 3.16-28), two prostitutes ( ‘an identification - not a judgement’, pg, 48) lived alone in the same house and each gave birth to a son within three days of each other. One night, one of the women accidentally smothered her child while sleeping with it. Before the next one woke up, she swapped her dead son with the other woman’s live son. In the morning, the woman awoke to find the dead child, and at first, thought it was hers. After a while, she suspected what happened and the women went to King Solomon to settle the dispute. Upon hearing the story and the women arguing over whose son the living child really was, Solomon decided to split the child in two and give a half to each woman. Upon hearing his ruling, the child’s mother pleaded, ‘Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!’ while the other woman stated, ‘All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!’ Because of this, Solomon determined that the first woman was really the child’s mother and awarded the child to her.

From this story, Trible goes back to the Hebrew of the text and picks up on the word racham in verse 26 which means ‘compassion’ and ‘womb’. From this, she states ‘Motivated by compassion (racham), this women is willing to forfeit even justice for the sake of life’ (pg. 49).  Further, ‘According to the story, the presence of a love that knows not the demands of ego, of possessiveness, or even of justice reveals motherhood’ (ibid.).   Continuing further,

The motivational clause, ‘because her racham [compassion] yearned for her son’ (v. 26), provides the key word. Difficult to translate in the fullness of its imagery, the Hebrew noun racham connotes simultaneously both a mode of being and the locus of that mode. In its singular form the noun rehem means ‘womb’ or ‘uterus’. In plural form, racham, this concrete meaning expands to the abstractions of compassion, mercy, and love . . . Accordingly, our metaphor lies in the semantic movement from a physical organ of the female body to a psychic mode of being. It journeys from the concrete to the abstract. ‘Womb’ is the vehicle; ‘compassion’, the tenor. To the responsive imagination, this metaphor suggests the meaning of love as selfless participation in life. The womb protects an nourishes but does not possess and control. It yields its treasure in order that wholeness and well-being may happen. Truly, it is the way of compassion (pgs. 49-50).

Her investigation continues with the finding that, while ‘womb is an organ unique to women, men also participate in the journey of this biblical metaphor’ (pg. 50). And from there, she leads us through various passages until  we eventually end up with God having racham. Trible quotes Psalm 103.13:

As a father shows compassion [racham] upon his children,
So Yahweh shows compassion [racham] upon those who fear him.

This appearance of divine compassion signals another semantic movement for our metaphor: the journey from the wombs of women to the compassion of God (ibid.).

She then continues with several more examples and passages that we won’t get into here (for this is quite long already). Suffice it to say, Psalm 103.13 is telling. The fact that the poet used the word form for ‘womb’ shows us that God’s compassion is deeper than we imagine. This shows us that a deep ‘womb-like’ compassion is not only something that women feel, but men and even God feels as well. I want to press this a little bit further.

The NETBible translates this word rasham in 1Kings 3.26 as ‘motherly instincts’. Now, if we supply that translation to Psalm 103.13, we get both men and God having ‘motherly instincts’. What I’m driving at is that these so-called ‘motherly instincts’ are not gender specific. And that means, like Trible clearly shows in her book, that God has womb like compassion for creation. Something that goes beyond what a lot of men can comprehend let alone grasp. This would explain to me, experientially, why there are more women in spiritual practices than there are men (at least here in the U. S.). To put it as plainly as possible, God has very deep feminine characteristics that have, up until recently, been covered up for whatever reason. The fact that the word racham has multiple meanings shows us that there is a deeper connection here that we are just now beginning to realize. And this is just one attribute! I’m sure that there are many more of the ‘best in women’ that we can look into that would help us get a better image of God. At the very least, we should look deeply at our Daughters, Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, and Wives and see God within them and experience new ways of seeing God because of them. When we do this, I’m certain that we will find God showing Herself to us in new, life-giving ways.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,
Jack+, LC

26 September 2010

Collect for the Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

O God, you declare your all loving power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

19 September 2010

Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

Grant us, Loving God, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

12 September 2010

Collect for the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

08 September 2010

WWJD?

I don’t know if any of you have seen this news story, but it’s one of the saddest things I have ever read. Basically, a pastor of a church in Florida is planning on burning copies of the Quran in a protest on 11 September 2010. I understand the man’s point but I feel he is wrong. But it doesn’t matter what I think. As a representative of Christ, the one question any one of us should be asking ourselves is ‘How would Jesus act in this situation?’ or ‘What would Jesus do (WWJD)?’ I think that the answer is pretty obvious.

Taken from the article:

‘When do we stop?...How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?...Instead of us backing down, maybe it’s time to stand up. Maybe it’s time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior.’

I believe that Jesus responded to this question. In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’ He then goes on to tell a story about the Reign of God and how people are supposed to live and act and be within that realm. This Reign of God is now. Not sometime in the future, but right now. The pastor’s question of ‘How many times...’ has been answered by the One he follows. The meaning of the story Jesus told is that those of us in the Reign of God are to be people of forgiveness. That is to be our creed; our modus operandi  - to forgive. In other words, the answer to ‘how many times’ is ‘infinitely’.

Forgiveness is an important aspect of the Realm of God. One could even say that it’s one of the foundations. When asked about how to pray, Jesus responded with a simple prayer that has come to be known as the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ or the ‘Jesus Prayer’. In that prayer, Jesus said, ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’ (Matthew 6.12). Apparently this is just as shocking to the disciples as it is to us because he goes on to explain himself. ‘If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins’ (vv 14-15).

In another place, Jesus said, ‘Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven’ (Luke 6.37).

Finally, in John, Jesus told his followers, ‘If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven (John 20.23). To be given the authority to forgive someone’s sins is a huge responsibility. For in the doing of such, one is acting on the behalf of God toward that person. Furthermore, not forgiving someone is also acting on the behalf of God. And none of us knows the heart of a person, only God does. Therefore, we must always forgive.

In the Lindisfarne Community, our ‘motto’ is, ‘To Love. To Serve. To Forgive.’ I think this is just what the ‘world’ is looking for right now. Not more violent extremism. That only perpetuates the problems. Violence only begets more violence. All of creation, not just the people, ‘is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who [God’s] children really are...with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time’ (Romans 8.19-22). What Jesus tells us about living within the Realm of God is that we have to act like the ‘children of God’. And what he means by that is that we must be those who ‘work for peace, for they will be called the children of God’ (Matthew 5.9). To live that way, to live like Jesus, is to live in the extremely unpopular way of loving others - even our enemies; of serving others - even those who hate us; and of forgiving everyone - even our enemies ‘for they don’t know what they’re doing’ (Luke 23.34).


~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack+, LC

05 September 2010

Collect for the Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Grant us, O God, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy, through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

01 September 2010

Closed Open Source




This is going to be a technology rant. I’m just warning you.

Apple is streaming today’s meeting. To quote Apple:

Apple® will broadcast its September 1 event online using Apple’s industry-leading HTTP Live Streaming, which is based on open standards. Viewing requires either a Mac® running Safari® on Mac OS® X version 10.6 Snow Leopard®, an iPhone® or iPod touch® running iOS 3.0 or higher, or an iPad™.

This really, really, irks me! What get’s me is that line that Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming ‘is based on open standards’ but one is required to use an Apple product to view the stream! So, once more, Apple takes open standards and puts their own spin on it and then requires people to use only their products. In other words, the close the ‘open’ standards and make them proprietary! So, they have cut out all Windows users and all Linux users that don’t have iPads, iPhones, or iPod Touches.

Now, one solution is to just not view the event. And that’s true. I know I won’t be. But that’s not the issue. The issue is about closing ‘open standards’. Just like Apple’s issue with using Adobe Flash on the iPad (that it’s not open), and now they close other ‘open standards’. If that is what Apple is going to to with open source, I wouldn’t open it up either! If they are just going to take others property, that has been freely offered to the community with the stipulation of it being free, and then spit shine it and charge people for using it, then I would just keep my stuff to myself (if I was a developer). In fact, their whole OS is based on open systems (UNIX and FreeBSD). Once more, they take free, open source systems, throw out the very essence of what ‘open source’ stands for, package it with their own technology, and then sell it and whine and complain that Microsoft is evil for doing what exactly? Oh! That’s right. The exact same thing! Sheesh! ‘Hello pot! This is the kettle!’

This is not just limited to their OS, but some of their apps on the server use Open Source (the ‘Open Directory’ is based on OpenLDAP ‘the most widely deployed open source LDAP server’) and then, you guessed it, put their own spin on it, and want people to pay for it. Now, granted, they charge a lot less than Microsoft, but it’s still more expensive than free.

I used to be a huge Apple fan. I have sold their products to many people. At one time I thought their stuff was the best on the planet. But the fact that they take open source, tweak it, and then charge for it is appalling.

I guess I’m just too far in the Linux camp. I like the whole community feel of Linux. I like the whole ethos of Linux. The idea that the whole is better than the single. That if one suffers, we all suffer. That takes all of us to move forward. That if one of us succeeds, we all succeed. I love the fact that Linux OSes are built in just this way. They take technology freely given to the community, tweak it, and freely give it back to the community! Whether this is Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, etc. Now, I know that some of those distributions have commercial paths (Fedora = Red Hat; openSUSE = SUSE) but they still have the free versions available. What is mostly sold in those versions is support. This is especially important if you area business looking at long term goals. Furthermore, I don’t have a problem with this. Support is an essential part of any tool (and that is what technology is). If something breaks down, you want to be able to contact someone for some help.

I have found that the biggest hurdle that Linux has going for it is familiarity and investment. That is, sometimes, a Linux OS takes some getting used to (but, who are we kidding? If some people are coming from, say, Windows 98SE to Windows 7, there will be a huge learning curve). But for the average person, this really isn’t an issue. It just takes a week or two and the person is fully capable of using it.

What I mean by investment is just that - hard earned money spent on applications or data (music, movies, games, etc.) that can only be played through, say, iTunes or Windows. That’s a huge issue. But, again, when it comes to upgrading from one OS to another (say from Windows XP to Mac OS X 10.6), those Windows apps will not work on the Mac. And vica versa. Your Windows formatted iPod will not work with your shiny new Mac. You will have to reformat the iPod and loose all of the data stored on it because Apple doesn’t keep your music on their servers so you can sync it. That’s only done through iTunes.

Now, there are work-a-rounds for both of those issues with a Linux OS. For Windows games and other apps, there are a couple of great apps - Play on Linux or Wine. Neither of these solutions work a hundred percent of the time, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Concerning the iPod issues, the Windows formatted iPod will work on a Linux OS ‘out of the box’, as the saying goes. However, music purchased through iTunes won’t work. It’s locked down through Apple (In fact, it’s not really even your data. You are limited to how many computers that can be ‘authorized’ to play them). The only way around this is to burn the songs onto a CD in the cda format through iTunes. This format makes your music capable to be played on any CD player. But you lose all of the metadata - no titles, no artists, no album art, etc.! You will then have to import them to your Linux (or other OS) system and rename them all (if that’s as important to you as it is to me).

The best way around this last issue is to purchase your music from somewhere like Amazon.com or 7digital.com. Both of those places allow you to purchase music in mp3 format. This allows you to play them on any operating system, music players, and (most) smart phones. And it’s your data. You can put it on as many systems and players as you want.

This last episode from Apple just furthers my growing disdain for them. I try and steer people away from them as much as possible. But, given that the other alternative that most people know about is Microsoft, Apple is the lesser of two evils.

Okay. I’m better now. Thanks for listening.


~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack+, LC