In Praise of Megumi Kon born 1930 and Bill Kikuchi born 1942

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My 2017 interviews with larger than life heroes Megumi Kon and Bill Kikuchi, as supplements to my earlier tribute to freedom fighters Nadia and Maria from Russia  —

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Megumi Kon look-alike (Megumi as a young man)

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I just read negative role model/self-aggrandized Rick Tsujimura’s autobiography  https://www.amazon.com/Campaign-Hawaii-Inside-Politics-Paradise/dp/1935690825

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and positive role model/altruist Fred Koehnen’s autobiography   https://www.clarkhawaii.com/blog/2015/09/fred-koehnens-autobiography-a-delightful-look-at-growing-up-in-hilo/

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and I was moved to note positive role models/longtime political pundits Megumi Kon and Bill Kikuchi   —

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In reflecting back over the past 112 years of Hawai’i County government’s chief executives, Fred Koehnen (named above) and Megumi Kon stand out as our greatest managing directors who served their chief executives  (Fred served under our most idealistic mayor, Shunichi Kimura, and Megumi served under Kimura’s successor, investment advisor Herbert Matayoshi).  Coincidentally, both Fred and Megumi built their homes in the same neighborhood, and Fred and Herb Matayoshi worked for the same investment company in Fred’s family’s building block on Kamehameha Ave. in Hilo.  “Geographical or interlocking power block?” No, just coincidence. None of these fellas was an egomaniac.

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Megumi grew up in sugar plantation village Pu’unene, Maui, and Megumi would’ve led a nondescript unassuming life if not for his unique mom, who was 1) raised among ethnic Hawaiians in rural Pu’ukoli’i Maui (on the way to Lahaina)(Hawaiians/Polynesians are among the friendliest peoples worldwide), she 2) of rural Hiroshima Honshu Island Japan site ancestry (Westernized Hiroshima descendants are commercialized — e.g. Hilo’s Bobby Fujimoto of HPM Bldg. Supply and Barry Taniguchi of KTA Stores) 3) as a second generation (“Nisei”) Japanese American, marking Megumi as an unusual third generation man via his mom, in that Nisei were born up to 1935 (Megumi was born in 1930) — making Megumi more Americanized/Westernized a generation sooner than Megumi’s peers.  Understandably,  learning curve leader Megumi professionalized as a licensed civil engineer, and possessed the empathy (ethnic Hawaiian influence via Megumi’s mom) and social skills (Hiroshima backdrop)(Megumi’s common laborer dad was of Niigata Honshu Japan site origin, rice country, among the few Niigata immigrants to the Hawaiian Islands, and Niigata immigrants as a site source minority were more goal-oriented to survive, vs. the profuse Kumamoto/Fukuoka immigrants from Kyushu Island, Japan; Kiyo Okubo of Hilo’s Japanese Immigrant Museum and Kea’au notable Richard Imai of Kea’au Hongwanji church are Niigata descendants)   — to excel in the cauldron of politics, which Megumi never foresaw as Megumi’s destiny, Megumi strictly schooling as an operations engineer.

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Nonetheless, when Gov. Jack Burns confidant Blackie Yanagawa of Hawai’i Housing Authority had Megumi come to Hilo to head the Kaiko’o Redevelopment Agency (to rebuild Hilo after the 1960 tsunami), Megumi was embraced by Gov. Burns strategy ace Scrub Tanaka of Hilo (Scrub of the famed 442 Military Intelligence Service along with eventual Hawai’i Supreme Court justice Masaji Marumoto of Capt. Cook, Kona, our nation’s 1st ever Japanese American supreme court justice)  —  and 442nd Bronze Star awardee Willy Okino Thompson, hydrology engineer (Willy’s uncle Tom Okino was a legislator and Harvard-trained circuit court judge, and chief 442nd recruiter in 1942-43), not to mention Megumi serving under age peer Mayor Shunichi Kimura (1930-2017).   Megumi’s patience, empathy, and great listener talent/blessing all projected Megumi to the top of the “in demand” political charts.   Megumi’s understated vision and “prophetic” gifts benefitted us all via responsible and prudent city planning and  implementation.

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Megumi’s name comes up frequently in regaling over previous government leaders and executives over the past 112 years, based on Megumi’s immense cognition (trained as civil engineer, but with the wisdom “of the ages” in common sense like his Hawaiian-influenced mom and survival-oriented dad), pure heart (compassion and humble nature like his mom and dad), and great patience/listener/empathy gifts/skills (the ethnic Hawaiian in his mom’s Pu’ukoli’i roots).

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When one is blessed (often the luck of the draw/crapshoot) with positive leaders/mentors, society as a whole benefits, as we see with Megumi’s impact on us all.   It’s important to remember Megumi’s own understated influences (both positive as mentioned above, and negative — how not to be, e.g. cronyist politico Richard Jitchaku, or grandstander Bill Kawahara), or for that matter, Megumi’s forebearers’ own mentors, subconscious or otherwise!   Willy Thompson’s 442nd genro (old leader) was Chaplain Hiro Higuchi of Hilo’s Holy Cross Japanese church, nearly 20 yrs. Willy’s senior (reprise the 442 holy trinity of Chappies Hiro, Chicken Yamada of Hilo and Kaua’i, and Stateside’s Israel Yost), and Willy’s sempai (older brother) was my dad, 12 yrs. Willy’s senior (my dad was awarded the Silver Star for retrieving his mortally wounded CO and his fellow rifleman in an ambush/firefight  https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/music-a-bridge-from-abandonment-and-brokenness-to-wholeness-and-freedom/).

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Choose happiness, baby!!          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0unT_Urh7E

 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willy_DeVille#Death_and_legacy

Visionary Willy De Ville who did his “New” based on the “Old”   —

Thom Jurek wrote about De Ville  after his death, “Willy DeVille is America’s loss even if America doesn’t know it yet. The reason is simple: Like the very best rock and roll writers and performers in our history, he’s one of the very few who got it right; he understood what made a three-minute song great, and why it mattered—because it mattered to him. He lived and died with the audience in his shows, and he gave them something to remember when they left the theater, because he meant every single word of every song as he performed it. Europeans like that. In this jingoistic age of American pride, perhaps we can revisit our own true love of rock and roll by discovering Willy DeVille for the first time—or, at the very least, remember him for what he really was: an American original. The mythos and pathos in his songs, his voice, and his performances were born in these streets and cities and then given to the world who appreciated him much more than we did.

Singer Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band said about him, “He had all the roots of music that I love and had this whole street thing of R&B — just the whole gestalt… He was just a tremendous talent; a true artist in the sense that he never compromised. He had a special vision and remained true to it.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal about the posthumous release of DeVille’s Come a Little Bit Closer: The Best of Willy DeVille Live (2011), Marc Meyers declared, “There was creative heat and pain in Mr. DeVille’s eerie, edgy look and sound. While his punk-roadhouse fusion sailed over the heads of many at home, his approach inspired many British pop invaders of the 1980s, including Tears for Fears, Human League and Culture Club… He was a punk eclectic with a heart of golden oldies and Joe Cocker‘s pipes. A seedy sophisticate, Mr. DeVille was decades ahead of his time.”

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Bill Kikuchi look-alike

Hiroyuki Sanada 2013 (cropped).jpg

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Bill Kikuchi’s template is quality of life  —  that no matter what creature comforts we afford, “peace (of mind) and quiet(ude)” still are distant goals.   E.g., our lives center on the automobile, and thence geographically we are separated from work, play, school, and home  — essentially losing our sense of “place”  —  factoring toward uncontrolled development, the unaffordable cost of living, and disappearing agricultural “preserves.”   Former Honolulu mayor Jeremy Harris enunciated these issues during Mayor Harris’ tenure 1994-2004.  Bill’s (and Jeremy Harris’) vision and wisdom partly owe their existence to genealogy ancestors (in Jeremy’s case the social contract precept of serving others for the good/wellbeing of all).   Bill’s past is exemplified by Bill’s Americanized/Westernized paternal grandpa who served in the U.S. Navy, by Bill’s paternal kazoku/family schooling roots at Hilo Boarding School and Oahu’s Mid-Pac High School (elite Japanese American upward mobility prompt — Bill’s dad graduated in 1938), by Bill’s paternal Niigata Japan roots (minority immigrant settlers — self-reliant & goal-oriented), and by Bill’s Frank Arakawa heritage (Arakawa kazoku/family prominence in engineering/architecture/retail/education).  It’s no coincidence that Bill’s and Jeremy’s backdrops emerge “outside the box” via macro (vs. micro) analyses and imagination/creation/innovation (Bill from esteemed Oahu’s Academy of Arts & Jeremy via population/urban ecosystem graduate degree via high caliber UC-Irvine).  Bill’s immersion in politics, starting with Bill’s participation in Mayor Shunichi Kimura’s “Gateway to Excellence” meme half a century ago, and continuing through Bill’s tenure as U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye’s Hawai’i Island liaison 1982-2005, steeped Bill in political and social networking, experience, and wisdom.   Till this day, Bill promulgates common sense and empathy as Bill’s twin towers of life.   Truly, Bill’s service to all is emblematic of Bill’s love and compassion for everyone and everything.

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And in praise of courageous freedom fighters from Russia   —

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See premier visual arts (filmmaking) icon David Lynch’s affirmation of Pussy Riot’s significance    —   timeclock 6:00 minutes

Nadezhda “Nadia”  Tolokonnikova
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Pussy Riot) at the Moscow Tagansky District Court (crop).jpghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadezhda_Tolokonnikova

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News Photo: Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina arrives to the… http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/pussy-riot-member-maria-alyokhina-arrives-to-the-cinema-for-news-photo/468309611

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Maria Alyokhina  — For me, this trial only has the status of a “so-called” trial. And I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of lies and fiction, of the thinly disguised fraud in the sentence of this so-called court. Because you can only take away my so-called freedom. And that is the exact kind that exists now in Russia. But nobody can take away my inner freedom.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Alyokhina

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pussy_Riot

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They drew a circle that shut me out —

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took them In!

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlgregg/2014/03/a-journey-with-four-spiritual-guides-krishna/

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/morgan-guyton/why-my-heart-is-turn-betw_b_4828605.html

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One of the most important foundations of my Christianity was my experience being bullied in late elementary and middle school.

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I have always self-identified as an outsider.

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I am attracted to the outsiders, and I have the audacity to say that Christianity is supposed to be religion of outsiders,

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even though Christianity has spent most of its two millennia developing a triumphalist tradition post-Constantine in which it has catered to czars and emperors and had its theology shaped almost exclusively by social insiders, whose infallibility is acclaimed by the insiders of today.

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When I see Jesus say “Take up your cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34) to a group of people who could only understand a cross as the most brutal, dehumanizing object in the Roman Empire, he’s not talking about spiritual discipline; he’s talking about utterly your renouncing social status by becoming a despised one (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:28), homo sacer , a proletarian.

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So when the women of Pussy Riot stand up for the people who don’t fit into their “Father Putin knows best” paternalistic society,

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they’re expressing a side of Jesus that has been lost to the Russian church.

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As much as I grimace at the thought of disrespecting the beautiful sanctified space of a cathedral (in a protest song which sent them to prison for two years),

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it was right for them to call out Russian Orthodox officials for their fawning praise of Putin’s dictatorship.

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They are not rebels without a cause.

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They have a very precise understanding of what they are doing, as expressed in Pussy Riot member Nadia Tolokonnikova’s letters from prison to radical theorist Slavoj Zizek:

We are a part of this force that has no final answers or absolute truths, for our mission is to question. There are architects of apollonian statics and there are (punk) singers of dynamics and transformation. One is not better than the other. But it is only together that we can ensure the world functions in the way Heraclitus defined it: “This world has been and will eternally be living on the rhythm of fire, inflaming according to the measure, and dying away according to the measure. This is the functioning of the eternal world breath.”

 
 

Heraclitus? WHAT?!! (She’s not typing this on her wifi laptop in an academic library, but hand-writing quotes of ancient philosophers from memory in a cold Siberian prison).

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And is this not the same vision that Christian naturalist Alexander Schmemann has?  I hear Jesus talking about the same “eternal world breath” when he says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

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How does the liberated wind that Jesus speaks of look anything like a church that considers change itself to be a sin?

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A church that hates people whose crime is their complication of anthropological categories?

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Most people in Russia hate Nadia and Pussy Riot. They are extremely unpopular in opinion polls. They represent the infiltration of our disgusting Western culture that I hate no less than Russians do. (Some actually accuse them of being CIA agents!) I honestly think that what most Russians hate about feminism, homosexuality, and even basic concepts of democracy like freedom of speech is that it all looks like Miley Cyrus’s wrecking ball to them. But Nadia is no trashy Western hedonist. This is what she tells Zizek about her prison experience which wasn’t quite like the old GULAG, but was still physically brutal:

You should not worry that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the “real hardship.” I value the strict limits, and the challenge. I am genuinely curious: how will I cope with this? And how can I turn this into a productive experience for me and my comrades? I find sources of inspiration; it contributes to my own development.

 
 

In other words, she interprets the hardships of prison ascetically, like a Russian Orthodox monk would. It may be outrageous of me to say this, but I think Nadia Tolokonnikova and Pussy Riot are one of God’s most important gifts to the Russian Orthodox Church right now.

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Even if the scowls at First Things will sneer at me for my inconsistency, I will persist in my unsubmissive Protestant priesthood of the believer, holding in one side of my heart the liberated eternal world breath of the balaclavaed anarchists from Pussy Riot, while in the other side, I feast on the beautiful eucharistic vision of Alexander Schmemann.

 

And if you ask me how I can do this, my answer will probably be incomprehensible to you: it’s because I fear the God whose ancient truths are also always new since the church has ever conquered them. Jesus said, “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). I dare not submit to any Father less than He.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/western-religion-breeding-ground-neurosis

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When it comes to the question of the usefulness of guilt in shaping and inspiring a thriving human identity, I would say Western religion is, at once, beautiful, nutty and (potentially) pathological. Healthy religion knows these dangers. And psychologically healthy pilgrims embrace what is beautiful while keeping a keen watch on what is nutty or pathological.

Guilt is beautiful, holy, vital and important when it is healthy guilt. And healthy guilt is nothing more or less than the name of the grief we feel when we abandon our own values. The grief of estrangement and alienation. Healthy guilt, however miserable it feels, contains within itself a holy longing for reconciliation. (One prayer during the rosary, for example, is asking God to “give me a contrite heart.” Meaning, “Please give me the courage to let my heart break over the ways I have hurt others, etc.”) Catholicism — its rites, rituals and symbols — bears much beauty into the world to facilitate the blessings of healthy guilt, healthy shame.

The nutty or potentially pathological side of guilt happens when people, families or institutions (especially the church) peddle guilt to us with darker, perhaps unconscious motives. If you, for example, are threatened by another’s genius, gifts and “light” (envy!), then one way to dodge the threat is to instill in that person a grave, crippling self-doubt. An anxious, paralyzing self-consciousness forcing a default posture of apology to the world for daring to be him/herself.

Or, people/institutions instill guilt because they are projecting sadism. That is, they are reveling in the humiliation of sinners. Yes, some of our accusers are having a grand time!

Control, humiliation, hierarchy, authority, power — when discussions of guilt bear these darker motives, run away quick!

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-backman/how-human-was-jesus_b_4834086.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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“Do you also wish to go away?” — John 6:67

The Christians of my teen years were big on optimism at all costs, and they used verses from the Bible to support their claim. A girlfriend once interrupted my confession of weakness with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Others asserted that “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). In our Pentecostal church, we boldly sang –complete with hand gestures — that “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

None of these proclamations cited the Jesus of the gospels — especially not the Jesus who asks the haunting question above.

I have read this question many times and, in each reading, have seen it as a simple setup for the punch line: Peter’s robust declaration “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” It is a ringing affirmation of what most Christians believe about the triumphant Christ.

Dwell on the question by itself, however, and something else emerges. Jesus had just finished the most controversial discourse of his ministry to date, calling his followers to eat his body and drink his blood (a precursor of the Christian Eucharist). He had already upset the religious authorities, but this was different: many of his own disciples now “turned back and no longer went about with him.”

If the tone of his question is any indication, he was rattled.

Other gospel passages echo this vulnerability. Here and there in the gospel of Mark — what I call the “cranky Jesus passages” — the Lord of life appears exhausted, insecure and even hungry. He travels to a foreign city possibly to recharge his batteries (7:24); while there he calls a Canaanite woman a dog (7:24-30). He sighs with what appears to be frustration and exhaustion (8:11-13). When famished in the morning, he looks for breakfast on a fig tree and, finding no figs, curses it (11:12-14): if it were me, I’d call this a classic case of low blood sugar. And from the midst of it all arises his poignant question (8:27): “Who do people say that I am?” As editor Cullen Murphy wrote in the Atlantic:

This is one of the most resonant questions in the whole of the New Testament. It is the question, it seems, of a man who wishes to disturb but who is also himself disturbed; of a man who has somehow found himself in deeper waters than anticipated; of a man at once baffled and intrigued by a destiny that he may have begun to glimpse but of which he is not fully aware…. It is an affecting and very human moment.

Other explanations for these passages are more commonplace in various Christian circles. Jesus curses the fig tree to make a point about faith. He expresses anger with his followers, but their lack of understanding is at fault. In calling the woman a dog, he was testing her belief in his ability to heal. Indeed, testing is a common explanation for many of his obscure questions.

These interpretations may well be correct. But I cannot read them anymore without wondering whether they gloss over something at once simpler and more profound — a Jesus who was more human than we have ever imagined.

And oh, is this good news. If Jesus can be this human, so can we. By living into all the facets of the human spirit, including the less attractive ones, Jesus invites us to do the same.

This may not be a new idea to the parts of today’s Church that de-emphasize guilt and judgment. But it is still radical to those who, because of their experience with generations of Christian legalism and struggle mightily with their “sins.” It is radical for the millions of us who do not experience the required optimism of the church of my youth — who do not enjoy sound mind, who endure weakness rather than wield power and who feel ashamed of their agonizing doubt. When God incarnate lives with feelings and mindsets like these, they become not failings or sins, but elements of being human. The more we live into them, the more human we become.

Yes, a treasure of the Christian faith is the hope it gives. Christians are called to that hope, as the optimists might remind us. But Jesus also issued an invitation to “all you who are weary and heavy laden.” Just as compelling, he lived into that weariness and, by example, shows us how to do the same.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_gospel

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Churches in which the prosperity gospel is taught are often non-denominational and usually directed by a sole pastor or leader, although some have developed multi-church networks that bear similarities to denominations.

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Such churches typically set aside extended time to teach about giving and request donations from the congregation, encouraging positive speech and faith.

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Prosperity churches often teach about financial responsibility, though some journalists and academics have criticized their advice in this area as misleading.

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Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, as well as other Christian denominations. These leaders maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to scripture.

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Some critics have proposed that prosperity theology cultivates authoritarian organizations, with the leaders controlling the lives of the adherents. The doctrine has also become popular in South Korea; academics have attributed some of its success to its parallels with the traditional shamanistic culture.

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https://peteenns.com/remember-to-hold-your-beliefs-lightly-the-bible-says-so/

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Here’s the point I want to make today: Being deeply challenged in our faith is not a “threat” or “attack” that should be fought against. Rather, these moments play an important and necessary role in our spiritual growth.

Nothing has helped me see more clearly the positive spiritual value of having one’s faith tradition challenged than reading the Bible.

Over the last 30 years or so, I have come to see that the Old Testament writers and editors are not conduits of timelessly inerrant information, but as ancient theologians who deliberately, consciously, recontextualized their past to suit the needs of present communities of faith.

The reason we see such flexibility and movement in the Old Testament is this: The final editors of the Old Testament, not to mention many of the writers, experienced and had to account for the crisis of exile, a failed monarchy, and, the survival of 1 tribe out of 12, Judah, among all the countless children of Abraham that were to have filled the earth.

Hold your beliefs lightly

“So what?” you might ask. Here’s the “so what”: It looked like God was changing course. What they were sure that God was doing needed to be adjusted in the face of their changing circumstances.

For example. Is it not curious that the Old Testament narrative explicitly focuses on and exalts the tribe of Judah, beginning at least as early as way back in Genesis 49:8-12 (Jacob’s farewell speech)? The Judahite winners/survivors who wrote/edited the story wove their own experience into the ancient Patriarchal tradition. It is hard to escape that conclusion.

Indeed, the traditions of Abraham and the other ancestors in Genesis are shaped to “anticipate” scenes in the united and divided monarchies.

  • For example, God makes with both Abraham and the Judahite King David an “eternal covenant.” The Abrahamic tradition is recast to support the Davidic line.
  • Or Isaac gives his leftover blessing to Esau, telling him he will first serve his brother but then break loose and break the yoke from his neck (Genesis 27:39-40). That scene is played out the national level when Edom rebels against Judahite rule in the days of King Jehoram in 2 Kings 8:20-22. The Patriarchal narratives may not have been created during the divided monarchy, but these old Patriarchal traditions were reworked to speak to a later time.

Perhaps more clearly, the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles are nothing if not a significant, deliberate, conscious theological reshaping of Israel’s earlier history (the Deuteronomistic History) by late postexilic theologians for a late postexilic audience.

  • Manasseh, for example, the utterly corrupt and idolatrous king of Judah and the cause of the exile according to 2 Kings 21—so wicked that even Josiah’s thorough sweeping reforms could not stay God’s wrath (2 Kings 23:26-27)—this Manasseh becomes in 2 Chronicles humble and contrite, a repentant sinner who is then blessed by God (33:10-17) The Chronicler recasts tradition and reshapes Manasseh as a model of repentance to motivate his Persian era Judahite readers.

Or consider Nahum’s late 7th century gloating over the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the wicked Assyrians, in 612 BC, which gives way to Jonah’s postexilic claim that even the Ninevites have a place in God’s future—indeed, they convert en masse. This reshaping of the past reflects the sobering cosmopolitan experience of the exile.

https://read.amazon.com/kp/card?preview=inline&linkCode=as2&ref_=k4w_oembed_w6wgdt3w5rgQOA&asin=B00H7LXHJQ&tag=inspirandinca-20And of course we have the lament psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Job, which famously take to task the conventional theology of divine retribution championed in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History (for example, Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

The Old Testament does not work well as a historically accurate record of the ancient past, a foundation of historical certainty upon which to build an unchanging, firm, and true tradition. But it does work very well as something entirely different, the value of which no contemporary person of faith should underestimate:

The Old Testament models an intentionally innovative, adaptive, and contemporizing theological dynamic—a recasting of the past to speak to the changing present and for a vision for the future.

The authoritative texts and traditions of the past were not simply received by the faithful but were necessarily adapted and built upon.

And I say “necessarily” because as circumstances change (like the exile), rethinking tradition is never far behind. In fact, adaptation of tradition is necessary in order to stay connected to the tradition—which is to say, in order to keep it alive.

We also see this pattern in the New Testament.

The Synoptic Gospel writers were in some way dependent on each other, but rather than an “accurate use of sources,” they willingly—and with apparently little reservation—“rewrote” earlier versions of the life of Jesus to suit the theological needs of their communities.

Paul profoundly and of theological necessity recontextualized, reshaped, and thus reinterpreted Israel’s story around the unexpected circumstance of Jesus of Nazareth.

The tectonic shift of a crucified and risen messiah, not to mention a major shift in how one conceived of Gentile inclusion in the family of Abraham (Acts 10 and 15), required a profoundly creative re-engagement of Israel’s story, to which the NT bears clear and consistent witness.

https://read.amazon.com/kp/card?preview=inline&linkCode=as2&ref_=k4w_oembed_xYb4mNdnp4i9gX&asin=B00XHQA8P6&tag=inspirandinca-20This pattern of adaptation also plays out, perhaps unwittingly but also unavoidably and necessarily so, throughout the history of Christianity, beginning with the reshaping of the ancient Semitic story of the Old and New Testaments in Greco-Roman philosophical categories, giving us ancient church creeds (Nicean, Chalcedonian).

This dynamic of adaptation of the past is present thought the biblical period and thereafter.

Through the entire history of the church, then and now, the faithful cannot help but ask the very same question asked by biblical authors like the Chronicler and Paul: how does that back there and then speak to us here and now?

Answering that question is a transaction between the believer’s present and the scriptural past, which always involves some creative adaptation.

Here’s an irony. Those who claim to be the most scrupulous of “Bible believers,” who say they will “follow Scripture” wherever it leads, should be the most open to theological change.

What I find curious is that, more often than not, the very opposite is the norm. Those most “biblical” are most resistant to having their belief systems challenged.

Take Scripture “seriously” by embracing what Scripture itself models—a moving rather than static theological process.

After all, the question has never simply been, “What did God do then?” but “What is God doing now—surprisingly, unexpectedly, counterintuitively, and in complete freedom from our traditions?”

If you want to read more on how I explore how the Bible models theological flexibility, check out The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014) and  The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne, 2016).

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Great man of wisdom George Will (steeped in history with flourish of contempo investigation/research)   —

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/16/AR2008061602041.html

The day after the Supreme Court ruled that detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo are entitled to seek habeas corpus hearings, John McCain called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” Well.

Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps?

Did McCain’s extravagant condemnation of the court’s habeas ruling result from his reading the 126 pages of opinions and dissents? More likely, some clever ignoramus convinced him that this decision could make the Supreme Court — meaning, which candidate would select the best judicial nominees — a campaign issue.

The decision, however, was 5 to 4. The nine justices are of varying quality, but there are not five fools or knaves. The question of the detainees’ — and the government’s — rights is a matter about which intelligent people of good will can differ.

The purpose of a writ of habeas corpus is to cause a government to release a prisoner or show through due process why the prisoner should be held. Of Guantanamo’s approximately 270 detainees, many certainly are dangerous “enemy combatants.” Some probably are not. None will be released by the court’s decision, which does not even guarantee a right to a hearing. Rather, it guarantees only a right to request a hearing. Courts retain considerable discretion regarding such requests.

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As such, the Supreme Court’s ruling only begins marking a boundary against government’s otherwise boundless power to detain people indefinitely, treating Guantanamo as (in Barack Obama’s characterization) “a legal black hole.” And public habeas hearings might benefit the Bush administration by reminding Americans how bad its worst enemies are.

Critics, including Chief Justice John Roberts in dissent, are correct that the court’s decision clouds more things than it clarifies. Is the “complete and total” U.S. control of Guantanamo a solid-enough criterion to prevent the habeas right from being extended to other U.S. facilities around the world where enemy combatants are or might be held? Are habeas rights the only constitutional protections that prevail at Guantanamo? If there are others, how many? All of them? If so, can there be trials by military commissions, which permit hearsay evidence and evidence produced by coercion?

Roberts’s impatience is understandable: “The majority merely replaces a review system designed by the people’s representatives with a set of shapeless procedures to be defined by federal courts at some future date.” Ideally, however, the defining will be by Congress, which will be graded by courts.

McCain, co-author of the McCain-Feingold law that abridges the right of free political speech, has referred disparagingly to, as he puts it, “quote ‘First Amendment rights.’ ” Now he dismissively speaks of “so-called, quote ‘habeas corpus suits.’ ” He who wants to reassure constitutionalist conservatives that he understands the importance of limited government should be reminded why the habeas right has long been known as “the great writ of liberty.”

No state power is more fearsome than the power to imprison. Hence the habeas right has been at the heart of the centuries-long struggle to constrain governments, a struggle in which the greatest event was the writing of America’s Constitution, which limits Congress’s power to revoke habeas corpus to periods of rebellion or invasion. Is it, as McCain suggests, indefensible to conclude that Congress exceeded its authority when, with the Military Commissions Act (2006), it withdrew any federal court jurisdiction over the detainees’ habeas claims?

As the conservative and libertarian Cato Institute argued in its amicus brief in support of the petitioning detainees, habeas, in the context of U.S. constitutional law, “is a separation of powers principle” involving the judicial and executive branches. The latter cannot be the only judge of its own judgment.

In Marbury v. Madison (1803), which launched and validated judicial supervision of America’s democratic government, Chief Justice John Marshall asked: “To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained?” Those are pertinent questions for McCain, who aspires to take the presidential oath to defend the Constitution.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/frederick-douglass-a-champion-of-american-individualism/2018/01/31/8698e452-05f1-11e8-8777-2a059f168dd2_story.html?utm_term=.6836b02a5417

It was an assertion of hard-won personal sovereignty: Frederick Douglass, born on a Maryland plantation 200 years ago this month, never knew on what February day because history deprivation was inflicted to confirm slaves as non-persons. So, later in life, Douglass picked the 14th, the middle of the month, as his birthday. This February, remember him, the first African American to attain historic stature.

In an inspired choice to write a short biography of this fierce defender of individualism, Washington’s libertarian Cato Institute commissioned the Goldwater Institute’s Timothy Sandefur, who says that Douglass was, in a sense, born when he was 16. After six months of being whipped once a week with sticks and rawhide thongs — arbitrary punishment was used to stunt a slave’s dangerous sense of personhood — Douglass fought his tormentor. Sent to Baltimore, where he was put to work building ships — some of them slave transports — he soon fled north to freedom, and to fame as an anti-slavery orator and author. His 1845 “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” is, as Sandefur says, a classic of American autobiography.

Abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison said there should be “no union with slaveholders,” preferring disunion to association with slave states. They said what the Supreme Court would say in its execrable 1857 Dred Scott decision — that the Constitution was a pro-slavery document. Douglass, however, knew that Abraham Lincoln knew better.

“Here comes my friend Douglass,” exclaimed Lincoln at the March 4, 1865, reception following his second inauguration. After the assassination 42 days later, Lincoln’s widow gave Douglass her husband’s walking stick. After Appomattox, Douglass, who had attended the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention on behalf of women’s suffrage, said: “Slavery is not abolished until the black man has the ballot.” If so, slavery ended not with the 13th Amendment of 1865 but with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Douglass opposed radical Republicans’ proposals to confiscate plantations and distribute the land to former slaves. Sandefur surmises that “Douglass was too well versed in the history and theory of freedom not to know” the importance of property rights. Douglass, says Sandefur, was not a conservative but a legatee of “the classical liberalism of the American founding.” His individualism was based on the virtue of self-reliance. “He was not,” Sandefur says, “likely to be attracted to any doctrine that subordinated individual rights — whether free speech or property rights — to the interests of the collective.”

Although Douglass entered the post-Civil War era asking only that blacks at last be left to fend for themselves, he knew that “it is not fair play to start the Negro out in life, from nothing and with nothing.” A 20th-century Southerner agreed. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said: “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. knew: In 1965, he met Alabama sharecroppers who, having been paid all their lives in plantation scrip, had never seen U.S. currency. Peonage had followed slavery in sharecropper society.

By the time of Douglass’s 1895 death, the nation was saturated with sinister sentimentality about the nobility of the South’s Lost Cause: The war had really been about constitutional niceties — “states’ rights” — not slavery. This, Sandefur says, was ludicrous: Before the war, Southerners “had sought more federal power, not less, in the form of nationwide enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act and federal subsidies for slavery’s expansion.”

Nevertheless, in the South, monuments to Confederate soldiers were erected and Confederate symbols were added to states’ flags. In the North, the University of Chicago’s Charles Edward Merriam, a leading progressive, wrote in a widely used textbook that “from the standpoint of modern political science, the slaveholders were right” about some people not being entitled to freedom. As an academic, Woodrow Wilson paid “loving tribute to the virtues of the leaders of the secession, to the purity of their purposes.” As president, he relished making “The Birth of a Nation,” a celebration of the Ku Klux Klan, the first movie shown in the White House.

Douglass died 30 years before 25,000 hooded Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. That same year, Thurgood Marshall graduated from Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School, en route to winning Brown v. Board of Education. Douglass, not Wilson, won the American future.

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Hawaii’s Greatest Revivalist  Titus Coan was mentored by America’s greatest revivalist Charles Finney.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Finney

Charles Grandison Finey
Charles g finney.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Coan

Titus Coan
Titus Coan.jpg

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Great Waikoloa Bible scholar Cliff Livermore born 1941 is descended from Charles Finney.

Cliff Livermore look-alike

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Like Coan & Finney, brother Cliff Livermore  emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus from newly styled (yet genesis/original) ‘non-denominational’ churches and ‘community faith centers.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Great_Awakening#New_religious_movements

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Brother Livermore heralds a charismatic awakening via the Pentecostal movement that places emphasis on experiencing gifts of the spirit, including speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy — not to mention strengthening spiritual conviction through these gifts and through signs taken to be from the Holy Spirit.

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Brother Livermore accordingly advocates via Scripture a reduced emphasis on institutional structures and an increased emphasis on lay spirituality — that Jesus saw no separating wall between clergy and laity.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_war#Battleground_issues_in_the_.22culture_wars.22

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-dannemiller/christians-should-stop-saying_b_4868963.html

When I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers.

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Second, and more importantly, nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.

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If we’re looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,

2 And He began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 
 

I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. That’s where the disciples responded by saying:

12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about “blessed art thou comfortable,” or 12b “blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?”

12c And Jesus said unto them, “Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut.”

So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word “blessed” to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith.

And we have to stop playing that game.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It’s beyond comprehension. But I certainly don’t believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It’s not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don’t believe Jesus will call me blessed.

He will call me “burdened.”

He will ask,

“What will you do with it?”

“Will you use it for yourself?”

“Will you use it to help?”

“Will you hold it close for comfort?”

“Will you share it?”

So many hard choices. So few easy answers.

So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It’s not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living.

No.

My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us.

And for this blessing, may our response always be,

“Use me.”

Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, “I’m grateful.”

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https://peteenns.com/creative-interpretation-bible/

People ask me all the time—well, actually, they hardly ever ask me because who really cares about me and my life, by let’s keep up the facade—people ask me all the time what has been the most challenging thing I learned about the Bible, especially in graduate school.

My degree is in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and the usual suspects for challenging one’s views of the Bible are:

  • The creation stories in Genesis 1-3 are myth
  • So is the flood story
  • Abraham, etc., were not historical people but created by Israelites much later to explain where they came from
  • Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch, Isaiah didn’t write Isaiah, and Daniel didn’t write Daniel
  • Archaeology casts serious doubt on the historical nature of the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan

But none of those did the trick. They were easy.

My uh-oh moment had to do with, of all things, the New Testament—the Jesus part of the Bible—and how the New Testament handled the Old.

Much of my coursework, in addition to “normal” Old Testament stuff, was in Jewish biblical interpretation in the centuries leading up to the New Testament period. And Jews during this postexilic period (5th century BCE and onward) had very creative ways of handling their Bible as they sought to apply the Bible to their own changing circumstances.

The New Testament, in its handling of the Old, fits nicely into that world of postexilic Judaism. A lot of creativity going on.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

The real monkey wrench that was thrown into my theology wasn’t how the New Testament writers creatively handled the Old. It was how they simply accepted, apparently without batting an eyelash, the creative interpretations of their Jewish predecessors.

To put it bluntly: The New Testament writers had a habit of saying things about the Old Testament that are not in the Old Testament but are in these creative, Jewish writings of the period.

three kings as creative interpretation in the New Testament

If I may give a modern example that will ring a bell, I’m sure:

You’ve probably heard of the “three magi” who came to visit at Jesus’s birth (at least according to Matthew’s Gospel). This idea of three magi is readily accepted by most people, seeing that it is repeated again and again in church Christmas pageants, Christmas cards, Christmas specials—and even canonized in Christmas carols (“We Three Kings of Orient Are. . . . “).

But the idea of “three” is not in Matthew’s Gospel or anywhere else in the New Testament. It is an “interpretive tradition” (as scholars call it) that got attached to the biblical story, and not without reason. After all, the magi bring three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What could be more “logical” than to say there were also three magi, each carrying one of the gifts?

These interpretive traditions were created often to address some ambiguity or problem in the text, and so it’s no wonder they caught on. But to see the New Testament doing things like this seemed to fly in the face of everything I had ever been taught in conservative circles about how the Bible is supposed to work.

Here, briefly, are some examples.

Creative Interpretation: “The Rock was Christ”

Some early Jewish interpreters said that a supply of water in the form of a rock accompanied the Israelites during their period of wandering in the desert. They said this, apparently, to account for the fact that the Israelites get water from a rock at the beginning of the 40-year wilderness period (Exodus 17) and then at the end (Numbers 20). So they reasoned, “Maybe those two rocks are really one and it followed the Israelites around to supply then with water?” As silly as that may sound, Paul incorporates this interpretive tradition, with apparently no hesitation or even awareness, in 1 Corinthians 10:4: “For they [the Israelites] drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.”

There is no “accompanying rock” in the Old Testament.

Creative Interpretation: Noah is a Herald?

Some early Jewish interpreters thought of Noah not simply as the builder of an ark, but as a kind of prophet proclaiming to his contemporaries the coming wrath of God. After all, building a boat year in and year out on dry land would have roused some curiosity among the neighbors.  Second Peter 2:5 picks up on this tradition in referring to Noah as a “herald of righteousness.”

Noah doesn’t utter a peep to his contemporaries in the Old Testament.

Creative Interpretation: Cain’s Daddies

Some early Jewish interpreters said that Cain’s father was an angel Sammael [=Satan] to explain what made him into the first murderer. First John 3:12 gladly transmits the same tradition: “We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother.”

In Genesis, Cain’s father is clearly Adam, and not some supernatural being.

Creative Interpretation: Names from Nowhere

Some early Jewish interpreters gave names to otherwise unnamed biblical figures. One example is naming the magicians in Pharaoh’s court who opposed Moses, Jannes and Jambres. We find this tradition in in 2 Timothy 3:8: “As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth.”

These names are found nowhere in the Old Testament.

Creative interpretation in the New Testament

Creative Interpretation: Satan vs. Angel

Some early Jewish interpreters thought that Satan and an angel fought over the body of Moses after his death in Deuteronomy 34. This tradition seems to have arisen to account for a curious comment in Deuteronomy 34:6, that “to this day” no one knows where Moses’s body was. Jude 9 repeats this tradition: “But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses. . . . ”

The Old Testament knows of no such battle (and the mystery of where Moses is buried has more to do with when Deuteronomy was written—many centuries later—long after the Israelites had left their desert wanderings behind).

There’s more where these came from, but these will do.

Isn’t this fun?

Maybe you can feel my pain as a graduate student. These New Testament writers, who were supposed to be perfect, seemingly without thinking transmitted these interpretive traditions (some of which are quite bizarre, like the “rock that followed them”).

But it’s all good, for this was my first deeply felt lesson about a basic property of the Bible: it is relentlessly connected to its time and place.

I think to be troubled by this phenomenon we are looking at today—though understandable—betrays a misunderstanding of the heart of the Christian faith—not a “perfect book” or a God who keeps a safe distance from the human drama, but a living faith that reflects the untended contextual messiness of those who wrote about their experiences.

As we see so often, watching how the Bible behaves is a theology lesson in and of itself.

If you’d like to read more about these “interpretive traditions” of Judaism, I can’t recommend highly enough the work of James Kugel, especially How to Read the Bible, The Bible As It Was, and Early Biblical Interpretation. I’ve also written on this issue quite a bit on this blog, and in Inspiration and Incarnation and The Bible Tells Me So.

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One Response to In Praise of Megumi Kon born 1930 and Bill Kikuchi born 1942

  1. Bruno says:

    “If Jesus can be this human, so can we.” – I’m totally on this wavelength. Even if there wasn’t a (single) man called Jesus, the gospel stories can be interpreted as the life of a man discovering his humanity. If only we are willing to find this humanity, we are on a path similar to his, yet headed for discoveries similar or dissimilar to his depending on the environment we find ourselves in. We will discover what humanity is to us and we have the opportunity to answer to that insight with the means we have at our disposal, to be honest to ourselves first, to have an open mind, doubt what we are sure of for it closes our mind to better alternatives.

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