Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Hi all! Sorry I haven't posted anything about Vern -- quite a cliffhanger, isn't it??? But I am tied to a chair working on grad school applications due Dec 1st.  The circus is definitely in town.

Just wanted to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving.  The New York Times did a fantastic piece a week ago about the craziness of family around Thanksgiving. Thought everyone would enjoy the laugh. Here's an excerpt:
It gets rude in there. Just how rude is exemplified by the story of a teacher from the Midwest who was pregnant with her first child when she attended a large Thanksgiving celebration at the home of her husband’s parents. 
For months, the teacher’s mother-in-law had been saying that she wanted to be in the waiting room when the teacher went into labor, and the teacher, who recounted her story on the Mothers-in-Law Anonymous section of, had been politely rebuffing her. 
So at Thanksgiving dinner, with the family gathered around the table, the mother-in-law (referred to on this site as “MIL”) took the matter into her own hands. 
“MIL announced to me and the entire family the following,” the teacher wrote. “ ‘I WILL be in the waiting room while DIL is in labor, and all of you are welcome to come too. MY SON will come and give me updates every hour on the hour.’ ” 
The teacher told this reporter, “I wanted to scream: ‘Are you serious? I’ve told you that I don’t want anyone there and you invite the entire family! Who do you think you are, taking over my first birthing experience?’ But what could I say and remain tactful?” 
Her violent impulse is not uncommon at family holiday gatherings. Indeed, there are those who claim that there exists, in the archives of The Saturday Evening Post, a Norman Rockwell painting that is entitled “Throttling Granny,” in which a New England farmer has one calloused hand on the throat of a gray-haired lady whose grandchildren cheer him on.
 Click here for the full article.

Starting Dec 3rd, I'm going to try and post a short spiritual reflection every day during Advent.  I know, I know, can he do it -- actually post two days in a row! I'm going to try.

Gobble gobble.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Written by God, best selling author of all that you behold."

So, when we're talking about the authorship of the Bible, an obvious answer that you hear a lot is  -- well, God.  We do consider the Bible the word of God, after all.  So, uh... duh.

Now, there's something important in that answer.  But let's start with the problem. God, as far as we know, is not corporeal.  Or if he is, he's really sneaky, because as far as I know, he's not ever been identified walking down the street.  Until Jesus, anyway, and he wasn't an author. Our savior, yes; a writer, no.

Another way of putting this might be that the whole corporeal category doesn't fit for God.  Like most categories for God, really.  I heard someone give a talk recently where they said, you can't say God exists.  Not because he doesn't, but because that whole idea of exists/doesn't exist is too small and limited for God.  It's a category for us, for the created, not the creator.

Have I got your head spinning?  Sorry.

Back to God as author.  So -- if we agree that he has no body in the way that you and I do, he can't literally be the guy who wrote the text.  He needed someone else to do it for him.  So he had human author or authors.

But maybe those human authors were really just God's mouthpieces?  In the Catholic church we say the texts were divinely inspired, and this is a common interpretation of that -- certain people (i.e. my neighbor Vern, whom we'll talk about in the next post) sort of channelled God.   They received his dictation.  And therefore, every single word in every single text is actually literally word for word what God intended to say.

The problem is -- well, let me give you two.  First, have you ever played telephone?   You see where I'm going...  even if someone listens really really well, eventually, they miss a word or two here or there. Unless, God actually "takes over" the person, makes them the "vessel" of what he wanted to say.  Which sounds like a lot of creepy movies, yes?  Talk about head spinning...

Now, maybe we'd say, hey, if Linda Blair was writing hopeful words instead of levitating and groaning, we'd be good with that.  But either way, you're talking about an end to free will, and that is not really the way we believe God works.

Sorry, Linda.
(And Lord, put something on those pores, you're really breaking out.)

So, what we're talking about ultimately is some sort of a collaboration between God and human beings.  God, maybe understood best here as the Holy Spirit, inspiring the skills and imagination of human beings in such a way as to create these rich, spirit-filled stories.   And this can take different forms, hence on the one hand the relative dictation of the 10 commandments to Moses to the songs King David creates out of devotion to the Lord, which we call the Psalms.

All of which leads us to Vern.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Together Again -- Who Wrote the Bible?

So... I'm Back! It's been a whole month since my last post, and really longer still since anything regular. And I can't really guarantee this will be much more regular, either. I really want to share things from China, and Halloween, too, but I have a lot on my plate right now. Hopefully soon.

But something happened yesterday, and it's been driving me batty, so I decided I better write about it. I was at a movie screening for a new film called "Oh My God". "OMG" is a documentary of a semi-agnostic filmmaker wandering the world asking people "What is God" and the answers he got. The film is in some ways very provocative; one way or another it asks all the big questions, from what is God to why do religious people kill so many people to why does God allow horrors like war and sick kids. It offers no answers of its own, either, but rather allows other people to talk about how they see things.

And afterwards I was on a panel to talk about the film. And someone asked the filmmaker, in your travels did you discover who wrote the Bible? Because I've always wondered that.

In the conversation that followed this is how I felt:

Yes, I felt like a crazy bearded muppet.  It's not the first time.  Grade school hero:

Come on, he could fly and had a cool helmet.  Plus -- he's cute, too.

What drove me crazy in a sense was the question.  Dozens of books, written over centuries, but we're looking for "the" author... trust me, I've ridden that merry-go-round, and it'll only get you dizzy.   The fact that our filmmaker responded by saying that "the Bible" was written hundreds of years after Jesus was also somewhat less than pleasing...

So, inspired by that question of the pretty lady in the fifth row with the big smile, here are my answers to, Who Wrote the Bible?

1)  God (sort of but also not really).
2)  That guy Vern who lives down the street (and a hundred others like him).
3) (see, it's even still available)!

And if that piques your interest, come back tomorrow and I'll tell you more.