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God of Geld

Published on August 4, 2013, by in Humor.

Enjoy this delightful comic (author):

JimBentonGodCartoon

New Blog on New Testament/Early Christianity

The delightfully clever Shaily Patel of UNC Chapel Hill has a magical new blog on magic called Vox Magica. Free amulet with new blog subscription.* Take up thy RSS reader and follow her.

 

 

 

 

 

*The amulet is imaginary. You have to use the magic of imagination to receive it.

Jarring Juxtapositions: The Hypocrisy of the Religious Right

The good old Religious Right, RR for short, has been getting on my nerves a lot lately. Politically, I am not a leftist in the slightest, but my politics are based on pragmatic views which I willingly allow to be subverted by the Bible. That means that I might think a given economic system works the best, but the ethical demands placed upon me by God supersede the pragmatic foundations of my economic theory. In other words, a just economic system has a higher moral value than say having the smoothest or most stable economy. This puts me in a weird place where the injustice of our current system makes me look–I believe under the guidance of Scripture–much more “liberal” than I probably really am. This half-way an outsider perspective has helped me look closely at the Religious Right/Evangelical Conservatives in a way that I feel was impossible a few years ago.  What follows is simply an unorganized list at the most galling hypocrisies that I have noticed.

 

RR on Guns: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Inanimate objects can’t cause people to do things, it is the sin in their heart.

RR on Contraception in Schools: ZOMG, the condoms and birth control will make all the children instantly break out in orgies. Save the children! Abstinence education only.

Conclusion: Inanimate objects can only make people have sex.

 

RR on women: God really wants a woman to stay home and take care of the kids. That’s her highest calling.

RR on poor women: Why should I pay anyone to sit on their butts? Those lazy whores need to get to work.

Conclusion: If white women stay home, they are doing God’s work. If black women stay home, they are lazy (and probably promiscuous).

 

RR on tiny humans: Life begins at the moment of fertilization. Every embryo is a gift from God. God loves life and demands we protect it.

RR on big humans:  Incarcerate everyone and load the system with mandatory minimums. Execute as many criminals as possible. Preserve American hegemony through armed conflict on the thinnest of pretexts.

Conclusion: God loves babies. Screw everybody else.

 

RR on regulations: The government needs to stop intruding in the lives of its citizens. It just needs to leave me alone.

RR on gay marriage: Marriage is a religious institution that the government needs to regulate to save it from all the queers.

Conclusion: Government intrusion in the lives of sinners is always acceptable

 

RR on evolution: Teach the controversy!

RR on homeschooling/private schools: Don’t teach the controversy! Evolution-free zones!

Conclusion: Darwin is the Schroedinger’s Cat of RR education policy

 

RR on Israel: God gave them that land! Those Arabs and Terrorists, but I repeat myself, need to GTFO.

RR on Tattoos/Pork/Mixed-fiber clothing: That’s OT stuff and purely ceremonial.

Conclusion: All that stuff God said about foreigners and strangers was ceremonial.

 

RR on Ford: You are covered in gay cooties and we won’t buy your cars until you’ve had a shower and said you are sorry for offending us.

RR on Chick-Fil-A: Freedom of Speech! Saint Cathy of the Chicken Sandwich has been persecuted and is being led to Fowl Golgotha!

Conclusion: Freedom of Speech means agreeing with the RR.

 

I have more, but you get the idea. These shenanigans are tiresome, and I don’t feel like holding back my mockery any longer.

 

 

 

 

 

Primary Source Saturday: Martial

Martialis (source: Wikipedia)

Martial (source: Wikipedia)

Who: Marcus Valerius Martialis was a Latin poet born between 38 and 41 CE and who died between 100 and 104 CE.

What: His literary legacy is comprised of books of epigrams, that is, short witty poems. Some of them are quite beautiful, describing the deaths of friends or reflecting on the grace of the hare as it swiftly flies across the arena, but the majority are focused on the lives of Rome’s elite offering praise and scorn (mostly the latter). He has a reputation for writing explicit poems, but most of the time he is simply rude rather than ribald.

Why: Like Lucian, who was discussed last week, Martial is an important source of information on the social engagements of the Greco-Roman world. Several epigrams speak directly both to the conditions Martial endured as a client to a wealthy patron and Martial’s expectations (often unfulfilled) of the benefits he would reap from the arrangement. Since Martial often situated his epigrams within the daily affairs of affluent Romans, he provides insight into a wide variety of subjects. For example, his epigrams describing the arena offer interesting background relevant to the Christian martyrs. He describes instances where prisoners are made to dress up as figures from myth or from theater and act out the stories for the amusement of the crowd. Martial describes a prisoner forced to play the part of a robber, Laureolus, about whom there was a popular mime:

As, fettered on a Scythian crag, Prometheus fed
the untiring fowl with his too prolific heart, so
Laureolus, hanging on no unreal cross, gave up his
vitals defenseless to a Caledonian bear. His mangled limbs lived, though the parts dripped gore, and in all his body was nowhere a body’s shape. A punishment deserved at length he won he in his guilt had with his sword pierced his parent’s or his master’s throat, or in his madness robbed a temple of its close-hidden gold, or had laid by stealth his savage torch to thee, O Rome. Accursed, he had outdone the crimes told of by ancient lore ; in him that which had been a show before was punishment. (On the Spectacles, VII)

This habit of using the arena to play out legendary stories may be behind an enigmatic passage in 1 Clement:

 1CL 6:1 To These men with their holy lives was gathered a great multitude of the chosen, who were the victims of jealousy and offered among us the fairest example in their endurance under many indignities and tortures.

2 Through jealousy women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae, suffering terrible and unholy indignities; they steadfastly finished the course of faith, and received a noble reward, weak in the body though they were. (Lake)

“Danaids” probably refers to the fifty daughters of Danaus who were forced by their uncle to marry their fifty male cousins and who subsequently murdered their husbands on their wedding night. How the women were made to play out this story is hard to decipher, but the other example, “Dircae,” requires little imagination. Dirce was killed by being bound to the horns of a bull.

Martial also sheds light on another difficult historical subject: the development of the codex form of the book. It will not be news to most of you that books used to be written on scrolls, but you might not know that the transition from scroll to bound leaves is not well understood. From what we can tell, the success of the book as we know it today is largely due to the influence of Christians. It is clear that the codex format had predecessors in the wax tablets and parchment notebooks used by businessmen and government officials to take notes and compose documents. Less clear is how we got from these reusable notebooks to papyrus codices. Given the scant nature of the evidence, it is somewhat surprising that Martial contains one of the only explicit mentions of the use of a codex for a literary work in the first century CE.

You, who wish my poems should be everywhere
with you, and look to have them as companions on a
long journey, buy these which the parchment confines
in small pages. Assign your book-boxes to the great;
this copy of me one hand can grasp. Yet, that
you may not fail to know where I am for sale, or
wander aimlessly all over the town, if you accept
my guidance you will be sure. Seek out Secundus,
the freedman of learned Lucensis, behind the entrance
to the temple of Peace and the Forum of Pallas. (Book I, II)

So early is Martial’s reference that the Latin word “codex” was apparently not yet in use. Instead, Martial uses the phrase “membrana tabellis” translated somewhat loosely above but literally meaning parchment tablets. The reference to grasping one-handed amply demonstrates that Martial describes a small codex. In addition to this helpful clue about the development of the codex, Martial also sheds light on the book trade in general. Notice in the above quote he directs readers to a book seller in Rome. The normal method of book propagation involved borrowing a copy from a friend and hiring a scribe to produce a copy, so it is interesting to get a peek into the world of book dealers. (See Harry Gamble’s recent article in Hill and Kruger (eds.), The Early Text of the New Testament) Martial is an important source for both Roman life and for the development of the codex, one of Christianity’s most enduring legacies. Not bad for a bawdy poet who spends most of his time gossiping about his peers.

Primary Source Saturday: Lucian of Samosata

Who: Lucian of Samosata was a satirist writing during the “Second Sophisitc” born around 125 CE and died circa 180 CE.  A.M. Harmon, the translator of most of the Loeb volumes concerned with Lucian describes him in this manner:

Rightly to understand and appreciate Lucian, one must recognise that he was not a philosopher nor even a moralist, but a rhetorician, that his mission in life was not to reform society nor to chastise it, but simply to amuse it. He himself admits on every page that he is serious only in his desire to please[.]

What: The bulk of his work is comprised of satirical dialogues. My favorite, “Philosophies for Sale”, has been quoted on the blog before. In addition to these satirical dialogues, he has written the  novel “A True Story” that is widely believed to be the first science-fiction novel ever written. He also wrote essays addressing popular figures of his day and dealing in an amusing way with contemporary issues.

Why: So, why should a New Testament/Early Christianity person read Lucian? There are a couple of good reasons. First, some of Lucian’s pieces shed an incredible amount of light on second century Greco-Roman culture. As an example, consider his essay called “On Salaried Posts in Great Houses.” Lucian humorously exposes the difficulties that face rhetoricians seeking to gain from the patronage of the wealthy. In the process, he reveals a great deal about the duties of clients to their patrons, the nature of feasts, and generally provides an interesting window into the politics of patronage. More directly relevant is a hilarious narrative called “The Passing of Peregrinus” that tells the true story (no pun intended) of a philosophical wanderer who tried on various lifestyles, including Christianity, before settling on Cynicism and committing suicide in spectacular fashion on a great pyre just after the Olympics. The story is interesting because Peregrinus’ Christian years bear a startling resemblance to the imprisonment and martyrdom of Ignatius. The parallels are so interesting, that Lightfoot even argued some sort of literary dependence on the letters of Ignatius. While Lightfoot certainly demands of the text more than it has to offer, it is striking that Peregrinus is arrested in Asia Minor for civil unrest related to his Christianity, transported to Rome for trial, and ministered to by delegations from churches in Asia Minor. Ultimately, Peregrinus renounces Christianity and is spared the mill that would make him into the wheat of God. While no thought of a literary relationship can be defended, the “Passing of Peregrinus” does demonstrate that the situation of Ignatius was common enough or at least well-known enough to function as a literary trope. Lucian explicitly declares that the sending of delegations and the ministry to those imprisoned was the common custom of the Christians. It is also interesting because Lucian implies that Peregrinus’ rise to leadership was somehow tied to his arrest. This could support the theory that the government, which engaged in no widespread persecution until Decius in 250 CE, had a policy of targeting leaders. That does appear to be the case with Ignatius, since the movements of his coreligionists seem to be unimpeded. All in all, Lucian’s “Passing of Peregrinus” offers a fascinating window into both philosophical conversion and the practice of the Church in the case of imprisonment. The text can be read for free by downloading the relevant Loeb volume here. (N.B. While Lucian provides interesting information about the customs of the church, it is clear he is completely unreliable as a source of its doctrine.)

Martial: My Favorite Epigrams – Book I

Those that made me laugh aloud:

XIX
If I remember right, you had, Aelia, four teeth:
one fit of coughing shot out two, and another two
more. Now in peace you can cough all day: a third
fit has nothing left there to discharge.

XXVIII
He who fancies that Acerra reeks of yesterday’s
wine is wrong. Acerra always drinks till daylight.

Warning – this one is a little ribald:
XXXV
That I write verses little squeamish, and not such
as a schoolmaster would dictate in school, is your
complaint, Cornelius; but these poems cannot please,
any more than husbands can please their wives,
without amorousness. What if you bade me indite
a marriage song not in the words of a marriage
song ? Who brings garments into Flora’s festival,
and permits prostitutes the modesty of the stole ?
This is the rule assigned to jocular poems, to be
unable to please unless they are prurient.
Wherefore lay aside your squeamishness, and spare my
pleasantries and my jokes, I beg you, and do not
seek to castrate my poems. Than a Priapus as
Cybele’s priest nothing is more disgusting.

One of my favorites:
XLVII
Lately was Diaulus a doctor, now he is an undertaker.
What the undertaker now does the doctor
too did before.

XCIX
Lately you did not possess a full two millions, and
yet so profuse and open-handed, and so large in entertainment
were you, Calenus, that all your friends
wished you ten. The god heard our vows and prayers,
and within, I think, seven months, four deaths gave
you this sum. But you, just as if nothing had been
left you, but rather your two millions robbed from
you, came down – wretched man! – to such starvation
parsimony that those more sumptuous banquets which
you provide just once in the whole year you now
set out at the squalid expenditure of dirty coppers;
and we, your seven old comrades, cost you only a
half-pound of bad silver.  What reward for merits
like those should we pray for? We wish you a
hundred millions, Calenus. If this sum fall to you,
you will die of hunger.

CX
You complain, Velox, that I write long epigrams,
you yourself write nothing. Yours are shorter.

My favorite serious epigram:

LXXVIII
When wasting disease choked his guiltless throat,
and o’er his very face crept black contagion, Festus,
dry-eyed himself, spake to his weeping friends,
and purposed to pass to the lake of Styx. Howbeit
he marred not his righteous face with secret poison,
nor with slow starvation tortured his sad fate ; but
his sacred life he closed by a Roman’s death, and
set free his soul by a nobler end. This death may
Fame prize more than great Cato’s doom : Caesar
was this man’s friend.

When Dead Men Make You Laugh

The following is taken from Lucian’s Philosophies for Sale:

BUYER
What else can you do fairly well ?
SCEPTIC
Everything except catch a runaway slave.
BUYER
Why can’t you do that?
SCEPTIC
Because, my dear sir, I am unable to apprehend
anything.

Hilarious!

I’ve arrived in Chicago for SBL

I’m here in Chicago waiting for the fun stuff to start. If you see me on the book floor, do stop and say hello. I’d love to hear from you.

Ironic Quote of the Day: Dinesh D’Souza

The following quotation comes from D’Souza’s website in response to an article in World magazine which has revealed sexual impropriety on the part of D’Souza.

 Ultimately this is not just about Olasky or even World magazine. It is also about how we Christians are supposed to behave with one another. And the secular world is watching. Is this how we love and treat fellow believers? If my conduct was improper, wouldn’t it be the decent and charitable thing to approach me about it? Instead, here is a clear attempt to destroy my career and my ministry. This is viciousness masquerading as righteousness. And this is the behavior that is truly worthy of Christian condemnation.

It is incredible that a depraved propagandist would whine about not being treated with brotherly love. I doubt D’Souza agonized over his decision to make things up about his brother in Christ Barack Obama. “Viciousness masquerading as righteousness” is an apt description of D’Souza’s whole “ministry.”

Tenuous Tenure: My thoughts on the Rollston debacle

A lot has already been said about the ongoing drama at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, but given the recent article in Inside Higher Ed (which I was directed to by Dr. Cargill) I thought it might be appropriate both to lend my support to Dr. Rollston and to add a few brief comments. The part of the article that has energized the discussion is this particular passage quoting the president of the seminary:

“At a time when Emmanuel is under severe financial stress, we have some potentially significant donors (one of whom is capable of regular gifts in the six-figure range) who refuse to support Emmanuel because they regard your influence as detrimental to students,” Sweeney wrote.

As an admitted cynic, I am in no way surprised to discover that money was yet again the root of an evil. That is not to say that I am not sympathetic to the situation ECS is in. Keeping a seminary running probably takes an almost soul-crushing level of pragmatism, and choosing your battles is probably an important part of keeping the cogs turning. When I was at Fuller, I was bothered to learn that the seminary had received substantial donations from a business mogul who had an unsavory reputation as a budget clothier. The backbone of his early business model was the exploitation of poor immigrant workers in the greater LA area. Did the fact that he had cleaned up his act recently make up for the fact that he built his empire on the raw hands and bowed backs of the poor? It is easy to reflect on the bitter irony of leaving my fantastic class on Luke where I learned that in the third Gospel losers become winners and God is on the side of the poor to go home to an apartment complex named for abusers of the poor.  It was in many ways disappointing, but I understand that without those donations there would not have been an affordable place for me to live. Perhaps in such situations a consequentialist approach is permissible and we might hold our noses and carry on.

In the case of Rollston though, much more is at stake than a slight whiff of hypocrisy. Here, the very soul of ECS is at stake. This is where an organization with integrity digs in its heels and decides to ride out the consequences. The point of any educational institution worth its salt is to provide a quality education, but how can such a mission be accomplished without academic integrity? If even the curriculum is for sale to the highest bidder, then ECS has fundamentally betrayed itself. Why? Because tenure is a promise. The whole point of tenure is to protect intellectual exploration from the ravages of political concerns. If ECS tosses aside Rollston, it has tossed aside its promise to provide a quality education. The wealthy already festoon their names upon the buildings, rooms, and benches (pretty much any surface you can attach a plaque to) of our seminaries and colleges, but in a way Sweeney is considering letting the wealthy place their stamp on the curriculum itself. The courses would not be titled “Wealthy Donor’s Introduction to the Old Testament” or “Hebrew Poetry presented by Wealthy Donor.” No, their mark would be invisible, but the situation would be no less insidious or real for it being done in secret.

If the wider academic world comes to believe that ECS is an institution that doesn’t respect its promises and is for sale to any “orthodox” donor with a big enough checkbeck, then ECS will have bigger problems than low enrollment. If Rollston is actually dismissed, I suggest that a formal complaint be filed with the ATS on his behalf. Because of the nature of ATS’s complaint policies (quoted below), it would be necessary for Rollston or a colleague to file the complaint.

The Commission has an obligation to the various publics it serves to give responsible consideration to complaints that may be made against any accredited school. The Board of Commissioners maintains policies and procedures for reviewing and responding to complaints. The complaint must be filed in writing, together with substantial documentation, as appropriate for the circumstance. The Board of Commissioners will determine if the complaint has standing with reference to any membership criterion or accreditation standard of the Commission. If the complaint has standing, the Board of Commissioners will conduct an investigation.

I do not make this suggestion out of malice, rather I see accreditation as the next line of defense for academic integrity. If the system of tenure has failed, then perhaps a revocation of accreditation is necessary.

Whatever happens in the case of Dr. Rollston, I think we can all agree that we have a larger problem. The heresy hunters have always railed against academia, but now the economy sucks and they wield six-figure clubs. We have seen a string of high-profile cases in the last couple of years. We have scratched our heads at the treatment of folks like Pete Enns and Anthony LeDonne who are, after all, clearly people who care about being faithful believers. Though we scratch until we are bald, I am starting to believe the causes are rather simple. The ugly foundations of inerrancy and associated outmoded readings of scripture are crumbling, and the conservatives are circling the wagons. Their insular orthodoxy must be protected, and if that means dismissing a competent academic then so be it. Exclusion and separation are ever the tools of the weak minded, and the sad truth of it all seems to be that the conservative evangelical reading of scripture is so weak it can’t stand up to scrutiny. Rather than protecting their community from the heretical incursions of “theological liberals,” they demonstrate the sad fact that a tenuous tenure is a sure sign of a tenuous orthodoxy.

© Jeremiah and Ashleigh Bailey 2012