Archive for the ‘American Baptist Churches USA’ Tag

On the Pride and Fall of Nineveh   Leave a comment

Above:  Nahum

Image in the Public Domain

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READING NAHUM, PART IV

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Nahum 3:1-19

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I recommend reading the Book of Nahum aloud.  Choose a translation or translations with fine literary quality, O reader.  Why should the Bible not function as high literature, as well as scripture?

The vivid imagery of Nahum 3:1-19 is disturbing.

  1. It describes the massacre of civilians in Nineveh.  The targeting of civilians in warfare should disturb anyone.
  2. The cultural lens of mysogyny in verse 13 (“Truly, the troops within you are women….”) would do more than raise eyebrows in more churches if the Revised Common Lectionary included Nahum 3:13.  Without being a cultural reactionary and a mysogynist, I read such passages through the lens of historical analysis.  A given text includes the words it includes, in a particular set of contexts.  I interpret within those contexts.  Ancient texts may not reflect contemporary sensibilities.  I cannot change this reality.

I can and do read through ancient mysogyny and the explicit metaphors of sexual shaming.  They exist throughout the Bible.  I argue with those cultural assumptions, but I do not alter the texts to suit my sensibilities.  I take greater umbrage to the slaughter of civilians.  Nahum 1-3 tell us that God approved of the slaughter of civilians in Nineveh in 612 B.C.E.  I accept that the texts tell me this, but I disagree with the texts.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a theology professor, a minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, and the author of Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire (2011), made a cogent point during an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio years ago.  Knust spoke of perceiving an unfortunate tendency in some of her students.  They affirmed ideas they would otherwise consider repugnant if they did not believe that the Bible supported these ideas.

High regard for scripture is fine, abstractly.  It can be fine in application.  High regard for scripture can, however, easily turn into a slippery slope toward disobeying the Golden Rule.  Consider the long and shameful historical record of parts of the Church quoting the Bible to bolster slavery, racism, racial segregation, economic exploitation, mysogyny, nativism, xenophobia, and homophobia, O reader.  Sadly, much of this remains in the present tense.  Many devout Christians justify the unjustifiable partially out of high regard for scripture.

Sometimes the faithful response is to argue against a text.  Does this passage violate the Golden Rule?  If so, how should one, the Church, whatever–interpret this passage?

The Book of Nahum concludes on an ironic note.  “Nahum” means “comfort” or “consolation.”  Yet there is nobody to console Nineveh (3:7).  3:19 offers no pity:

There is no healing for your hurt,

and your wound is fatal.

All who hear this news of you

clap their hands over you;

For who has not suffered 

under your endless malice?”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Nahum.  I invite you to continue with me as I move along to my next destination, the Book of Habakkuk.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 362

THE FEAST OF BLISS WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR, ARRANGER, AND HARMONIZER; AND HIS WIFE, MILDRED ARTZ WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF MAURICE BLONDEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER AND FORERUNNER OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

THE FEAST OF ORLANDO GIBBONS, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; THE “ENGLISH PALESTRINA”

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The Beginning of the Hasmonean Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Mattathias and the Apostate, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XV

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1 Maccabees 2:1-70

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How much is too much to tolerate?  When must one, in good conscience, resist authority?  The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are books about resistance to tyranny and about the political restoration of Israel (Judea).  These are not books that teach submission to all human governmental authority, no matter what.  The heroes include men who killed imperial officials, as well as Jews who ate pork–

death over a ham sandwich,

as a student of mine said years ago.

Mattathias was a Jewish priest zealous for the Law of Moses.  He and his five sons started the Hasmonean Rebellion after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E.  Mattathias, having refused an offer to become on the Friends of the King, launched the rebellion.  (Friend of the King was an official position.  Also, there were four ranks of Friends:  Friends (entry-level), Honored Friends, First Friends, and Preferred Friends.)  The sons of Mattathias were:

  1. John Gaddi–“fortunate,” literally;
  2. Simon Thassis–“burning,” literally;
  3. Judas Maccabeus–“designated by Yahweh” or “the hammerer,” literally;
  4. Eleazar Avaran–“awake,” literally; and
  5. Jonathan Apphus–“favorite,” literally.

The rebellion, under Mattathias, was against Hellenism.  Under Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion became a war for independence.

Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E.

The farewell speech in 2:49-70 contains references to the the following parts of the Hebrew Bible:

  1. Genesis 22 (Abraham; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:19-21, also);
  2. Genesis 39 (Joseph);
  3. Numbers 25 (Phinehas; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 45:23-26, also);
  4. Joshua 1 (Joshua; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:1-10, also); 
  5. Numbers 13 and 14 (Caleb; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:7-10, also);
  6. 2 Samuel 7 (David; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:2-12, also);
  7. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2 (Elijah; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:25-12, also); 
  8. Daniel 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); and
  9. Daniel 6 (Daniel).

The point is to remain faithful to God during difficult times.  I support that.  On the other hand, killing some people and forcibly circumcising others is wrong.  If I condemn Hellenists for committing violence, I must also condemn Hasmoneans for doing the same.

The text intends for us, the readers, to contrast the death of Mattathias with the death of Alexander the Great (1:5-6).  We read:

[Alexander’s] generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The agenda of 1 Maccabees includes the belief that renewal of Jewish traditions followed the death of Mattathias , however.

I have a habit of arguing with scripture, off-and-on.  I may recognize a text as being canonical yet disagree with part of it.  Arguing with God is part of my patrimony, inherited from Judaism.  Sometimes I seek to adore and thank God.  Arguing with God (as in Judaism) contrasts with submitting to God (as in Islam).  Perhaps the combination of my Protestant upbringing and my inherent rebelliousness keeps showing itself.  If so, so be it; I offer no apology in this matter.

As much as I engage in 1 and 2 Maccabees and find them interesting, even canonical–Deuterocanonical, actually–they disturb me.  Violence in the name of God appalls me, regardless of whether an army, a mob, or a lone civilian commits it.  I may recognize a given cause as being just.  I may, objectively, recognize the historical importance of certain violent acts, including those of certain violent acts, including those of rebellious slaves and of John Brown.  I may admit, objectively, that such violence may have been the only feasible option sometimes, given the circumstances oppressors had created or maintained.   Yet, deep down in my soul, I wish I could be a pacifist.

So, the sacred violence in 1 and 2 Maccabees disturbs me.  I understand the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The violence against civilians in 1 and 2 Maccabees really offends me morally.  These two books are not the only places in the Old Testament I read of violence against civilians.  It is present in much of the Hebrew Bible proper, too.  I object to such violence there, also.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a seminary professor and an an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, wrote Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (2011).  She said in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio that she has detected a disturbing pattern in many of her students.  Knust has said that many of her pupils think they must hold positions they would otherwise regard as morally repugnant.  They believe this, she has explained, because they interpret the Bible as supporting these positions.

As Mark Noll (a historian, a University of Notre Dame professor, and a conservative Presbyterian) has written, the U.S. Civil War was a theological crisis.  The authority of scripture was a major part of proslavery arguments that quoted the Bible, chapter and verse.  The counterargument was, therefore, allegedly heretical.  That argument rested mainly on a few verses–the Golden Rule, mainly.  And the abolitionist argument was morally superior.

I encourage you, O reader, to go all-in on the Golden Rule.  Questions of orthodoxy or heresy be damned.  Just follow the Golden Rule.  Leave the rest to God.  Do not twist the authority of scripture into an obstacle to obeying the Golden Rule.  I do not believe that God will ever condemn any of us for doing to others as would have them to do to us.

I offer one other thought from this chapter.  Read verses 29-38, O reader.  Notice that even those zealous for keeping the Law of Moses fought a battle on the Sabbath, instead of resting on the day of rest.  Know that, if they had rested, they may have lost the battle.  Know, also, that relativizing commandments within the Law of Moses was a Jewish practice.  (Remember that, so not to stereotype Judaism, as in stories in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath then faced criticism for having done so.)  Ideals clash with reality sometimes.

To return to Knust’s point, one need not believe something one would otherwise consider repugnant.  One need not do so, even if one interprets the Bible to support that repugnant belief.  The recognition of the reality on the ground takes one out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical.  May we–you, O reader, and I–properly balance the moral demands (real or imagined) of the theoretical with those (also real or imagined) of the practical.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANNY THOMAS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ENTERTAINER AND HUMANITARIAN; FOUNDER OF SAINT JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTO TO ALTOMUNSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF BRUCE M. METZGER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN TIETJEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORFIRIO, MARTYR, 203

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Sharing With Others   Leave a comment

Above:   The Traditional Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

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For Sharing Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Years 1 and 2), according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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As you have given yourself to us, O God, help us to give ourselves to one another in perfect charity.

Thank you for men and women who work for the welfare of others.

Fill them with energetic love to show friendship and compassion with no strings attached,

so that men may be believe you care; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 194

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Isaiah 52:7-10

1 Corinthians 16:1-9

John 6:1-15

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“Sharing Sunday” has had different meanings, according to chronology and geography.  In the United States of America, since 1950, it has been the occasion in various denominations for taking an offering for global relief efforts.  The counterpart in The United Methodist Church since 2017 has been UMCOR Sunday.  (“UMCOR” is the abbreviation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.)  The Fourth Sunday in Lent, set aside as One Great Hour of Sharing in 1950, has remained that occasion for the following:

  1. the American Baptist Churches USA,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Church of the Brethren,
  4. the United Church of Christ,
  5. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  6. the Cumberland Presbyterian Church,
  7. the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and
  8. Church World Service.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada observes Presbyterian Sharing Sunday each September.  Presbyterians Sharing is a denominational fund to support domestic and international ministries.

Regardless of when a denomination or congregation gathers funds for relief and related ministries, the assigned readings are appropriate for the occasion:

The setting for Isaiah 52:7-12 is the impending end of the Babylonian Exile.  Those about to depart for a ruined homeland in which they had never lived needed all the help they could get.

St. Paul the Apostle was collecting funds for the church in Jerusalem.  This offering was a gesture of goodwill from mostly Gentile churches in Jerusalem, per Galatians 2:1-10.

One of the enduring lessons of Jesus feeding multitudes (as in the 5000 plus, reported in all four canonical Gospels) has been that no gift is too small in God’s hands.

Many people think that they have nothing–at least of consequence–to offer.  Yet all that we have comes from God.  Nothing that comes from God is inconsequential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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This is post #1950 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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