Archive for the ‘Faith and Media’ Category

Second Maccabees: Two Letters   Leave a comment

Above:  Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART II

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2 Maccabees 1:1-2:18

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The Second Book of the Maccabees is, according to scholarly consensus, inferior to the First Book of the Maccabees.  1 Maccabees, like any legitimate work of history, has a thesis.  History, by definition, is interpretation of the past, based on written sources.  1 Maccabees, therefore, is not objective.  It is, however, a legitimate work of history.  Its thesis is that the Hasmonean Dynasty was, by right, the ruling family of Judea.

The Second Book of the Maccabees also has a thesis:  Egyptian Jews ought to celebrate Hanukkah, the feast of the rededication of the Temple on Kislev 25 (December 14), 164 B.C.E..  The author of 2 Maccabees is anonymous.  Scholars refer to him as the Epitomist.  In contemporary analogy, 2 Maccabees is the Reader’s Digest condensed book form (from circa 124 B.C.E.) of a five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene.  The longer, original work is lost, unfortunately.  x

I wonder if the condensation is the major reason for problems with 2 Maccabees.  Perhaps the following analogy is crass, but it is the best one I can muster.  Consider, O reader, one of the three Flash Gordon serials:  Flash Gordon (1936), Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938), and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).  Neither one is Shakespeare, obviously, but each one is, within the context of its complete run, intelligible.  Then consider, in contrast, the condensed version of one of those serials.  The pacing makes no sense.  Plot threads dangle.  Certain scenes make no sense, given the editing.  This is not the optimum way to watch the story; one should watch the full serial.

As in 1 Maccabees, the dates are according to the Hellenistic/Seleucid calendar.  Therefore, the year 169 equals 143 B.C.E.  As an attentive student of history should know, the C.E/A.D.-B.C.E./B.C. scale did not exist until our 500s C.E./A.D.

Today’s portion of 2 Maccabees consists of two prefatory letters from the Epitomist.  The first one, in order, spans 1:1-10a, and dates to the year 188 (124 B.C.E.).  This letter refers to events from the year 169 (143 B.C.E.).  In the first reign of King Demetrius II Nicator (145-139/138 B.C.E.) of the Seleucid Empire, “we Jews” had written of previous perfidious acts by the High Priest Jason (2 Maccabees 4:7-22; 5:1-14).  Jason had led his followers in rebellion against the covenant (therefore God) and the Seleucid Empire.  Jason was also responsible for a fire at the Temple and the slaughter of his own followers.  The first letter mistakes Hanukkah (in Kislev–that is, November-December) for the Feast of the Tabernacles (in Tishrit–that is, September-October).  This error makes sense, for the length of Hanukkah is, on purpose, the length of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The theology of the first letter is clear:  God is faithful.  Be reconciled to God.

The second letter (1:10b-2:18) predates the first one.  The second letter dates to 164 B.C.E.  This letter, also addressed to Egyptian Jews, also encourages these Jews of the Diaspora to celebrate Hanukkah, then a new feast.  Hanukkah was so new that the very old Torah did not command keeping it.  But the victory of Judas Maccabeus was for all Jews, even Jews of the Diaspora.

This second letter contains references that require explanation.

  1. “King Antiochus” was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163 B.C.E.) of the Seleucid Empire.  He was an extremely bad man.
  2. “King Ptolemy” was Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 80-145 B.C.E.) of the Ptolemaic Empire.
  3. Aristobolus was a Jewish philosopher in Alexandria, Egypt, and a teacher of Ptolemy VI Philometor.
  4. Nanaea, also known as Aniatis, was an Elamite goddess equivalent to and associated with Diana/Artemis.
  5. “Friend of the King” was an official position.  There were, in fact, four ranks of the “Friends of the King.”  Those ranks were:  Friend, Honored Friend, First Friend, and Preferred Friend.
  6. Antiochus IV Epiphanes seemed to enjoy invading and defiling temples of various religions.  He did not die (Sorry, 2 Maccabees 1:16), just yet–not until 2 Maccabees 9.

In the second letter, we read a summary of part of Ezra-Nehemiah, followed by a story (2 Maccabees 1:18-36) absent from Ezra-Nehemiah.  The point of this account is to emphasize the continuity of worship from one Temple to the next one.

The story in 2 Maccabees 2:4-8 is false at worst and unlikely at best.  (See Jeremiah 3:16.)  Besides, 2 Maccabees 2:7 contradicts Deuteronomy 32:49, where the place was known.

Jews of the Diaspora were family of the Jews of Judea.  Jews of the Diaspora were insiders, not outsiders, despite their distance from Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

That inclusive attitude is admirable.  It is one to emulate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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The Tears of the Christ   1 comment

Above:  Jesus, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964)

A Screen Capture

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 13:1-16 or Ezra 1:1-7; 3:8-13

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Revelation 7:9-17

John 11:1-3. 16-44

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Jesus wept.

–John 11:35, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears like their eyes.

–Revelation 7:16-17, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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I could take so many paths through the assigned readings for this week.  These readings are rich texts.  I will take just one path, however.

Before I do, here are a few notes:

  1. Abraham waited for God to tell him which land to claim.  Abraham chose well.
  2. Lot chose land on his own.  He chose poorly.  However, at the time he seemed to have chosen wisely; he selected fertile land.
  3. I agree with Psalm 136.  Divine mercy does endure forever.
  4. The chronology of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah weaves in and out of those books.  I know, for I blogged my way through them in chronological order at BLOGA THEOLOGICA last year.

For the record, the chronological reading order of Ezra-Nehemiah follows:

  1. Ezra 1:1-2:70; Nehemiah 7:6-73a;
  2. Ezra 3:1-4:5;
  3. Ezra 5:1-6:22;
  4. Ezra 4:6-24;
  5. Nehemiah 1:1-2:20;
  6. Nehemiah 3:1-4:17;
  7. Nehemiah 5:1-19;
  8. Nehemiah 6:1-7:5;
  9. Nehemiah 11:1-12:47;
  10. Nehemiah 13:1-31;
  11. Nehemiah 9:38-10:39;
  12. Ezra 7:1-10:44; and
  13. Nehemiah 7:73b-9:38.

I take my lead in this post from the New Testament readings.  Tears are prominent in both of them.  Tears are on my mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They are also on my mind as I continue to mourn the violent death of my beloved.  Her departure from this side of the veil of tears has left me shaken and as forever changed me.

The full divinity and full humanity of Jesus are on display in John 11.  We read that Jesus wept over the death of his friend, St. Lazarus of Bethany.  We also read of other people mourning and weeping in the immediate area.  We may not pay much attention to that.  We may tell ourselves, “Of course, they grieved and wept.”  But two words–“Jesus wept”–remain prominent.

There is a scene in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964) that fits this theme.  At the time, Hollywood studios had recently released technicolor movies about a Jesus who had no tear ducts yet had an impressive command of Elizabethan English while resembling a Northern European.  Yet Pier Paolo Pasolini, who committed about half of the Gospel of Matthew to film, presented a Jesus who had tear ducts.  Immediately after the off-camera decapitation of St. John the Baptist, the next shot was a focus on Christ’s face.  He was crying.  So were the men standing in front of him.

Jesus wept.

We weep.  Jesus weeps with us until the day God will wipe away all tears of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/devotion-for-proper-19-year-d-humes/

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Character, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Samson

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Judges 13:1-5, 24 or Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Psalm 92

Romans 3:1-10, 23-31

Luke 10:1-24

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All people are sinful, we read.  Societies and institutions are sinful.  The icing on the cake is the depressing reading from Jeremiah.  That is almost as somber as a movie by Vittorio De Sica.  Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), and Umberto D. (1952) are realistic and depressing works of art.

There is good news, however:  God can work through us.  God worked through the conventionally pious Psalmist, the frequently oblivious Apostles, and that idiot, Samson.  God worked through Jeremiah and St. Paul the Apostle.  God can work through corrupt institutions.  God can work through you and me, O reader.  God is sovereign.

That settles one question, but not another one.  No excuses for bad character and institutional corruption are valid.  Being an instrument of God does not exempt one from moral obligations.  Yes, God can work through scuz buckets, but being being a scuz bucket is still wrong.

May we, by grace, be the most moral instruments of God possible.  May our public and private morality be as close to the divine ideal as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR 

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-c-humes/

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Obliviousness, Deliberate and Otherwise   3 comments

Above:  St. Philip the Deacon and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 8:26-40

Psalm 22:22-31

2 Peter 2:12-22

Mark 12:18-27

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Ignorance is a lack of knowledge.  Ignorance of scripture is a matter in Acts 8:26-40, in which St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle) evangelized a man on the path to finding faith in Christ.  That pericope fits well with the assigned portion of Psalm 22, with its global emphasis.  Ignorance of scripture is also a matter in Mark 12:18-27, in which Jesus fielded another in a series of trick questions–this time, about the resurrection of the dead, of which the Sadducees rejected.  Apostasy–rejection after acceptance–not ignorance–is a matter in 2 Peter 2:12-22.

The readings from 2 Peter and Mark point to deliberate obliviousness.  We human beings are deliberately oblivious to much.  This is not always negative, for we have finite time, and we need to choose where to focus.  I am deliberately oblivious to almost all television, the majority of movies, and bad (that is to say, nearly all) music.  I am also a Western classicist, and I enjoy many old movies.  The three and a half hours required to watch Lawrence of Arabia (1962) are always time spent well.

When we are oblivious to God, however, we occupy the realm of the negative.  When we seek a proper path, we need reliable guides.  May we walk in faith and, when God calls upon as to do so, may we function as reliable guides, so that all the nations of the earth will serve God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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A Question of Balance   Leave a comment

Above:  Balance Scale

Photographer = Andreas Praefcke

Image in the Public Domain

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[Jesus] called the people to him and said, “Listen, and understand.  What goes into the mouth does not make anyone unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes someone unclean.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I remember a single-cell cartoon depicting a man standing before St. Simon Peter at the Pearly Gates.  The caption reads,

No, that is not a sin either.  You must have worried yourself to death.

Recently I have renewed my interest in Scandinavian-American Lutheran history.  I have therefore been reading in that field.  These volumes have covered topics including Pietism, complete with its condemnation of indulging appetites and engaging in “worldly amusements,” such as dancing, drinking tea, playing cards, playing chess, attending plays, attending fairs and circuses, and reading works of fiction.  I have remembered an old joke:

Q:  Why don’t fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

Pietism and Puritanism are two unfortunate -isms that overlap with regard to denunciations of “worldly amusements.”  Pietism, which originated within Lutheranism then spread beyond it, dates to the 1600s, as a reaction against excessively abstract theology in preaching.  Pietism rejects the definition of the church as the assembly of hose called by both word and sacraments and redefines the church as the gathering of the spiritually reborn.  Pietism also de-emphasizes doctrine and stresses deeds–many of them laudible acts of charity and general decency and honest piety.  Unfortunately, Pietism also bends toward legalism and de-emphasizes the sacraments and rituals (referring scornfully to “externals”), tends toward serial contrarianism with regard to “the world,” and is Donatistic.  A Pietist contrasts deeds and doctrines.  I rebut that deeds reveal doctrines.  As we think, so we are.  That which we are inside cannot help but be evident outside.

I affirm the following statements:

  1. What we do matters.
  2. What we do not do matters.
  3. What we believe (give intellectual assent to) matters.
  4. None of the above can save any of us from the consequences of our sins.
  5. Faithful response to God is vital.
  6. Legalism is spiritually detrimental.
  7. Salvation is a gift.  It is free, not cheap.

The allegation of works-based righteousness is a cudgel many Protestants use against Roman Catholicism.  This reality indicates a misapprehension of Roman Catholic theology.  Yes, many Roman Catholics have a sense of works-based righteousness, but so do many Protestants.  I, who grew up a United Methodist in the South Georgia Conference, recall some children’s sermons delivered by laypeople whose theology included works-based righteousness.  I know well that the doctrinal standards of that denomination reject works-based righteousness.  For many Protestants of various theological categories affirming orthodoxy becomes a means of salvation.  Salvation from damnation therefore becomes a matter of knowledge.  This is an error–a sort of Gnosticism, to be precise.  Furthermore, an obsession with personal peccadilloes becomes an excuse for giving short shrift to or ignoring collective responsibility for societal and social ills.  So yes, one might cheat one’s employees and oppose policies that would penalize one for doing so and prevent one from doing so, but one rarely uses profanity and never cheats on one’s spouse.  The Bible says more about the exploitation of people than about sexual activities, however, so such a one needs to rethink one’s priorities.  Anyhow, even the most moral life, measured by kindness, cannot save one from damnation.

In both Judaism and Christianity the law of love is paramount.  So, O reader, leave the world better than you found it.  God will save it, but your faithful response is to act positively.  Also, go ahead and enjoy your life.  Enjoy a good dance, if you wish.  Watch movies, from harmless popcorn flicks to profound art films.  (Italian Neorealism has enriched my life recently.)  Why not relish a well-written novel or short story?  Lose yourself in a symphony or other work of great music.

Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire–and whatever is good and praiseworthy.

–Philippians 4:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The “worldly” in “worldly amusements” is not necessarily negative.  Yes, one should avoid much that one can find to amuse oneself, but many of the options are laudable.  Playing chess is beneficial for one’s mind.  Antioxidents in tea are good for us.  Idle hands are not necessarily the Devil’s workshop, for we need to rest and play as well as work.  God has given us life;  may we enjoy it and thank God frequently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Oh Fudge! Regarding Coarseness in the Mainstream of Society   Leave a comment

pdvd_000

Above:  Ralphie and a Bar of Lifebuoy Soap, from A Christmas Story (1983)

Screen Capture Taken by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The tongue is a flame too.  Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world:  it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation.

–James 3:6, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Coarseness in society is as old as society.  All one has to do to document this fact is to read history, regardless of one’s society or nation-state.

In 2009 the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, founded in 1979, announced that it was changing its name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, due to many bloggers and online critics behaving as they did because of the initials “WTF.”  The expression for which those letters stand has existed since at least 1985 and become increasingly commonplace via changes in technology.

I have noticed increasingly frequent coarseness in the mainstream of my society in the United States of America.  For years I have become offended at needless profanity in movies, podcasts, YouTube videos, and Facebook memes.  I recognized degrees of curse words.  “Hot damn,” for example, is an expression that does not bother me.  Likewise, Rhett Butler not giving a damn in Gone With the Wind (1939) carries the appropriate weight in that scene.  If he did not give a darn or simply did not care, that would carry too little weight.  Likewise, I can think of several things he might not have given that would have ruined the scene by being needlessly profane.  Recently, while watching X-Men:  Apocalypse (2016), I noticed young Magneto’s F-bomb when he met Apocalypse.  That word did nothing to improve the scene and actually detracted from it.  Yet, at the end of The Front (1976), when Howard Prince, the bookie who fronted for blacklisted screenwriters in the 1950s, tells a Congressional committee to do something physically impossible, that language fits the context nicely.  Those witch hunters, who trampled upon civil liberties, deserved such contempt.

My social ethics, being rooted in the Old and New Testaments, emphasize building up the common good.  I do not seek a society in which all content is G-rated, but I do desire a society in which profanity is scarce.  This is a matter of a revolution of moral values, of people thinking about others more often.

Furthermore, needlessly profanity indicates linguistic laziness.  One can make potent points using words repeatable in polite society. Doing so might even be eloquent.  Among my favorite movies is The Brothers O’Toole (1973), an underrated gem.  In one scene Michael O’Toole, portrayed by the great John Astin, wins a cussing contest he never entered.  He wins without using one curse word:

I have, in my time, visited three political conventions, four sessions of congress, and two homes for the criminally insane. I have known army generals, steam doctors, vegetarians, prohibitionists, and a female suffragette. But never, even in an Orangeman’s Day parade, have I seen such pure and stainless brainlessness as I now behold in you. The Almighty, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has given the worm enough sense to turn with, and the barnacle can grasp whatever happens to be standing by. But you are equipped with a mental capacity smaller than you were born with. Here we are, benighted in the middle of a nowhere named Molly-Be-Damn – a dreary little rookery, Timothy, a squalid sty, a festering pustule on the face of the western slope. Bless the town and bless the people! Look at them – the rabble of this cantankerous community! Knaves and fools, louts and lardheads, the least of all God’s creatures, without enough push to pick the fleas off each other, abiding in putrefaction and inertia, curled up comfy in it like hogs in a mud hole! And while I, of all people, fret and sweat for a way to pull these Simple Simons out of the bog, you stand around making flatulent noises for the titillation of the vulgar mob. And while he’s bubbling himself, what are you doing, you pusillanimous pack of popcorn pickers? You clattered clutch of clucks? The town dilapidating around you, coasting downhill in a handcart to Hell while you stand about gaping for flies and going patty-cake with your hands!…All right, all right, all right! Fine! Keep it, and treasure it the way it is! For when all this trash has collapsed into one pile, and the howling wilderness has claimed its own again, I want you hicks to be happy, belching and spitting, laughing and singing, swinging from tree to tree, with your friend Soapy Sam here, the Uriah Heep of the hookworm belt, standing around below waiting to steal anything that falls to the ground. If a nut should drop and fall – leave it lying there. It’s probably my little brother Timothy.

That is much better than swearing frequently and publicly, is it not?

The coarsening of the mainstream of any society is detrimental to that society.  It lowers the bar and harms the morals of people.  This coarsening degrades the sense of public and private decency.  This is reversible, fortunately.  After all, society is people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Things to Come   1 comment

Judgment Bus

Above:  Judgment Day May 21 Vehicle

Image Source = Bart Everson

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Judgment_Bus_New_Orleans_2011.jpg)

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 65:17-25 and Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6)

or 

Malachi 4:-1-2a and Psalm 98

then 

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Luke 21:5-19

The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Links:

Proper 28, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/proper-28-year-a/

Proper 28, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/proper-28-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Isaiah 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-22/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/fifteenth-day-of-advent-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-thursday-year-2/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-third-day-of-lent/

Malachi 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/week-of-proper-22-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/devotion-for-september-26-and-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

2 Thessalonians 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-forty-eighth-and-forty-ninth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/week-of-proper-29-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-year-2/

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thingstocome_wells_onset

Above:  A Scene from Things to Come (1936)

Image Source = http://markbourne.blogspot.com/2010/11/things-to-come-1936-hg-wells-explains.html

H. G. Wells (1866-1946) wrote The Shape of Things to Come (1933), a story about the destruction of civilization in a long, global war and the rebirth of civilization afterward.  Three years later audiences had an opportunity to watch the film version, Things to Come, complete with allegedly futuristic costumes.  (Apparently fashions will be very bad in the future, according to many movies.)

Proper 28 is the penultimate Sunday of the Western Christian church year.  The next Sunday will be Christ the King Sunday, followed a week later by the First Sunday in Advent.  So it is appropriate that apocalyptic readings occupy part of our time this Sunday.  Before God can create the new heaven and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17f)–paradise on earth–God must destroy that which is in place already and works against the goodness which is waiting to dawn upon people.  That current darkness will not go gently into the good night, so those who follow God must prepare themselves to lead spiritually disciplined lives and to suffer persecution, although the latter is not universal; the former is a universal mandate, though.  And, when, God destroys the old and evil in favor of the new and the good, God will deliver the faithful.

These events have yet to occur.  Examples of failed predictions of their timing range from the first century CE to recent years.  Something about the End Times grabs holds of many imaginations, frequently with idiotic results.  One who predicts the Second Coming of Jesus by a certain time might acknowledge the previous failed prophecies yet think that he could not possibly join the ranks of false prophets–until he does.  My library contains a 1979 book and a thrift store find, Christ Returns By 1988, by Colin Hoyle Deal.  And how can I forget the failed prophecies of the late Harold Camping?  The passage of time has rendered its verdict on both men.

May we leave End Times to God alone and lead spiritually disciplined lives by which we affect each other positively.  May our spiritually discipline compel us to leave our portion of the world better than we found it.  May we live for God’s glory and the benefit of others first, for our Lord and Savior came to serve, not to be served.  May we follow Jesus while we have breath.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/proper-28-year-c/

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Metropolis (1927)   Leave a comment

metropolis-1927-shift-change

Above:  Shift Change from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture I Took

METROPOLIS (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Thea von Harbou

To say that Metropolis is a classic and influential film is to understate reality greatly; immediately I recognize echoes of it in the works of James Whale (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein), George Lucas (Star Wars, sequels, and prequels), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner).  Scholars of cinema can and do create long lists of influences and subsequent homages.  And to state that those who butchered the movie (even destroying cut scenes) shortly after the movie’s debut were blooming idiots is to claim the obvious as true.  Fortunately, a nearly complete restored version (finished in 2010) is available.

There are versions of the movie available for home viewing.  I have the 2001 restored version (with about 3/4 of the movie present) and the 2010 restored version (with 99% of the footage included).  Alas, two scenes are, to the best of current knowledge, beyond salvage, so intertitles summarizing them will have to suffice.  Each of these versions–the Restored Authorized Version of 2001 and the Complete Metropolis of 2010–has different and helpful special features, so I recommend owning both if one is a cinephile.  The commentary track on the 2001 version is quite informative, for example, as is the documentary included with the 2010 edition.

This is a religious blog, so I choose to leave most aspects of the movie to already extant websites (such as http://www.metropolis1927.com/ and http://www.filmsite.org/metr.html ), which cover that ground quite well as I ponder some of the movie’s spiritual connections.  A film in which a city leader rules from the New Tower of Babel (a reference to Genesis 11:1-9), people read from the Book of Revelation (with references to the Whore of Babylon from chapters 17 and 19), and the leader’s son must serve as the mediator between the head (the ruler) and the hands (the oppressed workers) calls out for theological analysis.

Thea von Harbou’s story is set in an unnamed European city in 2026.  Urban elites live in skyscraper penthouses and play in the Eternal Gardens.  Meanwhile, those who built the city and who keep it functioning live hard lives, work ten-hour shifts, and occupy subterranean homes.  Joh Fredersen, the ruthless industrialist who governs the city, considers this arrangement just; the workers are, he says,

Where they belong.

His son, Freder, is naively unaware of the plight of the “other half” until Maria, the prophet of the working class, brings some of the workers’ barefoot children, clad in rags, to the Eternal Gardens and shows them their

brothers and sisters.

The butler shoos them away, of course.  But Freder begins to search the city in search of the woman with whom he has just fallen in love.  He does find her eventually, but not before he witnesses and experiences the harsh industrial conditions.  And he begins to realize his destiny to function as the mediator who will avert the violent overthrow of his father’s regime and who will create justice for the workers.

Some characters are inexact analogs for biblical figures.

Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure.  Not only is he the mediator, but he is crucified on a clock in one scene in which he takes a worker’s place.

If Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure, his father Joh is the YHWH figure.  If one reads the Hebrew Scriptures closely, one realizes that YHWH is not always nice.  Joh does approve of the workers’ rebellion so that he can crush it, eliminate troublemakers, and rule with an even more iron fist; he is an unsympathetic character.  Meanwhile, back in the Old Testament, depictions of YHWH are sometimes unpleasant; YHWH does send plagues and pestilences upon innocent populations more than once.  (See Exodus 7:14-12:32 and 2 Samuel 24:10-17, for example.)

Above:  Rotwang shows Joh Frederson the “Machine Man”

Rotwang, the inventor and prototypical cinematic mad scientist, is the Satan figure.  He pursues his own agenda and desires to undermine Joh.  Rotwang almost succeeds.

The movie portrays inhumane industrial conditions as idolatry.  In one scene Freder witnesses an industrial accident which claims human casualties.   He imagines the machine as Moloch/Molech, the Ammonite deity mentioned in 1 Kings 11:7 and 2 Kings 23:10, and experiences a hallucination of the machine consuming willing and unwilling human sacrifices.

Alas, the film’s conclusion does seem like a too-convenient deus ex machina, one which leaves the oppressive Joh Fredersen in charge.  But perhaps he will change his ways; nobody is beyond repentance and redemption, right?

Metropolis, despite its inconsistencies, is a staggering achievement and a masterpiece, one worthy of thoughtful appreciation and analysis beyond its obvious technical excellence.  This is not a story of the violent overthrow of the dictatorial and insensitive regime. Rather, the aborted uprising is the work of Rotwang, the Satan analog, who seeks to overthrow Joh, and of Joh, who wants to use the opportunity for his own purposes, only to find that they backfire on him.  So the politics of the film are inconsistent.  One might guess, based on the early scenes, that the ending might be different:  Freder and Maria overthrow Joh, with the screenwriter’s approval.  But no!

Yet the movie is what it is.  And the theme of social justice, especially that of the economic variety, is consistent with the ethos of the Hebrew prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

Liberation from Television   1 comment

Above:  Library Books

Image Source = Joe Crawford

I have, for the last few years, lived happily without television.  My local cable television company keeps sending me mail in vain attempts to persuade me to purchase what they offer.  And the corporation from which I buy DSL service tells me that I am such a good customer that I qualify for a low price on a package which includes television service.  I say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Once, many moons ago, I liked very much to watch great amounts of television.  Television shows and commercial jingles from the late 1970s to the early 2000s fill my memory banks.  Yet, as time wore on, approaching the present day, I wanted to watch increasingly less television.  Much of what networks offered was vacuous.  There were videos, of course, and they were more interesting.  Or I might prefer to listen to the radio, read a book, or take a walk.  Nevertheless, I could not, for a long time, imagine living without television service.

Now I think differently.  When I want to watch something (which is less often that was true even a year ago), I can use a DVD player or go to a variety of websites.  I watched one network series last year, and NBC cancelled it.  All I had to do to  watch new episodes was wait less than one day from the initial broadcast time then visit Hulu.  I have, in fact, replaced most of the time I would otherwise spend of the passive activity of watching something on a screen with other activities, such as reading, writing, researching, and listening to BBC World Service and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio online.  Melting into symphonies has become a more frequent hobby, and blogging is an inherently creative activity.

I do, from time to time, watch television–just not at my place.  Such times can prove entertaining and informative, but I still have no regrets about not having cable television service.  I do not want to return to my old television ways, for the sound of television has become mostly annoying, especially when I do not choose the programming.

I invite you, O reader, if you have not done so already, to liberate yourself from television.  Discover what more active and productive things you might do with much of your valuable time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

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A Related Post:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/noise-pollution/

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Adapted from this post:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/liberation-from-television/

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Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Faith and Media

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