Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Meaningful Enlightenment

Is what Andrew Cohen calls for in a blog entry posted 2/15, read here.

I think the ideas being pointed to in it are so profoundly important. I also think it sad that the initial responders (in the form of the comments) are absymally pathetic.

Cohen begins:
My latest passion—what I not-so-humbly like to call the third significant phase in the evolution of my teaching—is what I have been referring to as the integral manifestation of enlightenment. I’ve borrowed the term “integral,” used by my friend Ken Wilber and many others back to the great Sri Aurobindo, because there is simply no other word that is able to capture the four-dimensional, multileveled expression of enlightenment that I am striving to make manifest. I’ve just come out of an intensive weekend retreat with my core group of students from around the world, in which I began to share with them this emerging edge of my own thinking.
I actually think integral is not the word Cohen wants. For my reasons why (here, here). But focusing for a second on the notion of a third phase of his teaching. My summary of the three phases.

Phase 1: Traditional Nondual Advaita. Book titles like Enlightenment is a Secret, My Master is My Self, Who Am I, etc.

--In this phase (from awakening til mid 90s I think) traditional Nondual Advaita in the lineage of his teacher Poonja-ji. You are the SELF, You Are THAT. I AM THAT ONE. Traditional nondual state-stage awakening.

Phase 2: Evolutionary Enlightenment. Titles like Living Enlightenment, Embracing Heaven and Earth.

--In this phase the shift was to the Authentic Self (Soul as opposed to Spirit in Phase 1) combined with Evolutionary Creation Story. Overview here. Along with Enlightened Communication, intersubjective nonduality, beginning awareness of states versus stages and the move towards higher stage/structures of consciousness.

Now Phase 3: No Name yet. Some quotations concerning Phase 3 (my emphasis)....

It was a few weeks ago that this all started to come together in my mind’s eye. I even got very excited about the possibility of developing and publishing measurable, objective criteria for demonstrating the results of evolution beyond ego, both individual and collective, and how it directly relates to the way in which we are actually living...Of course, there have always been spiritual teachers talking about many of these things as a means to develop and attain higher potentials, but what I’m talking about is something different. I’m talking about using these concrete examples as windows through which to discern and dare I say judge the degree of an individual’s or a collective’s actual attainment, in such a way that has the potential for making the usually intangible, inner, subjective experience of enlightenment or consciousness beyond ego meaningful for our own times...But this is the first time I’ve tried to make it concrete in such a way that objective observers would be able to appreciate. I’m sure the rest of my life will be dedicated largely to this endeavor, together with others who are committed to making enlightenment really mean something in the twenty-first century!
What I feel Cohen has hit upon and annunciated in a far clearer manner than I ever could but had been intuiting (which is why I had not been writing specifically integral posts of late) is that it has to move into what he is calling measurables.

From my side in the more philosophically camp, questions like:

How do we actually ground truths in a post-postmodern world without returning to fundamentalisms, naive modernity, relativistic nihilistic postmodernism? Since consciousness and interiority has been so trashed for so long now and those who have returned to some form of phenomenology have usually done so in terms of states---all of the mysticism & phenomenology prior to Aurobindo it could be argued is states no stages and even with Aurobindo, they are stages already set that must be brought down and embodied not that are really evolved as we go along--what of stages?

Minus the kind of exploration I hear Cohen calling for, there will be the common focus on outer actions and policies: politics, social-cultural morals, movies, ideologies, etc. I think those modes of discourse are the only ones that allow us to begin to talk about qualia without ever really having to enter into its mystery or question the very ground we stand on.

I'm not saying those are bad conversations or that intelligent and thoughtful things aren't said in them. What I am saying is that by themselves I find them incomplete. To me that is what the post-metaphysical turn to the perspectival is about...inquiring into the ground/position of our experience simultaneous to elucidating our points of view. Learning to not only speak from a position, clarify that position, defend it, find the flaws in it, but janus-like with two heads, have one head focused on that while the other is always focused on learning the contours of where one is standing and how one arrived there. Both are equally important. Not a form/content thing, but a form-content/perspective dyad if you like.

But this actually has to be grounded in some way that creates this subjectivity (sing. and collect.) in objective (sg. and pl.) networks. Otherwise it is literally all just in the head.

As to the argument that what we should be focused on now is practical problem solving my answer those answers, a 3rd way radical center approach is already out there on any number of issues.

--Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawkins and Amory Lovins. Be green and economically competitive.
--The 2% Solution. Matthew Miller
--The Radical Center. Lind and Halstead
--Pentagon's New Map, Blueprint for Action. Thomas Barnett. Mark Satin
--Bjorn Lomborg
--America as Empire. Jim Garrison.
--John Petersen

The Wilberian-only frame of integral has suffered, in my book, because it has locked itself into being teal (yellow in Spiral colors), which is totally unnecessary. Spiral already does a better job of that. The criticism is right that something more than a basic spiral-like one line value system is what is needed for many of the problems.

Cohen is talking in spiritual terms, not the academic-philosophic ones I referenced above. But they are related.

In spiritual communities, where intersubjectivity is coming to the fore in a way not previously seen (I would argue), the question of how we figure out who is right becomes acute.

In traditional spiritual communities there typically was no such discussion. The Guru, the Abbot, the Roshi's word was law. When that model came via Eastern religion to North America (and Europe) in the 60s, the word is law did not line up with the traditions of democracy, liberty, individual thought/expression, social pluralism. A detente was established to varying degrees (except for very strictly controlled sometimes cultish groups) whereby the guru/roshi dealt with states and the individual was in charge of his/her own life.

This situation, whether it was the best that could be done or not, has massive structural flaws. The biggest being the question of authenticity (a buzzword of Cohen's): how do we know who is legit and not in all this particularly as major money, consumerism, and the multitude of paths and approaches took off?

More traditional North American faiths like Judaism and Christianity mostly stayed out of the spirituality issue and were more concerned with church/synagogue membership numbers, social actions, congregationalism, politics, fundraising, etc. There was a healthy move in the Abrahamic faiths to return to their own mystical sources and some major fruits have come out of that (Renewal in Judaism, Centering Prayer/Christian Meditation in Christianity). But it too has become cheapened in many ways, fadish, and still mostly in the head or temporary experiences.

Particularly with these all being (as they must) voluntary organizations. We don't know how to be together. The model of course can not be abbatial or worse totalitarian statist. But the current North American style of individual spiritual choice and authenticity meaning being whatever you are fully---even if that is an arrogant, ignorant ass--fails as well. Again there are individuals and individual groups who do amazing things, experienced amazing conversions. I'm not wanting to disregard that element, but on a large scale, thinking imagining on a wide wide crazy scale, I believe a major change has to take place.

It's not happening overnight. Perhaps Cohen is beginning to see that--as a self-avowed revolutionary he has been in my mind too naive about how difficult transformation truly is--as in the line about the rest of his life will be devoted to this new phase. That could conceivably be quite a long time. Dude is only 52 or so.

I also think one difficulty faced is that technology is not yet (but perhaps will be in 20-30 years) strong enough to help the grounding process of these more (socalled) evolutionary edge meditations/pushes.

I would go so far as to say that given the history of spirituality as in large measure a state-only phenomena we do not yet have any idea how to do stage transformation. Not that stage transformation is everything. It is not, not even remotely so. But it is part and parcel. It becomes a minimum standard (which is putting the bar quite high I realize) now that we are aware of it. We can't go back as it were. That is why the above is not some self-serving criticism of earlier spiritual systems to de-legitimize them. It is that we are judged given what is possible (i.e. what we know is possible and can reasonably be held accountable for), a canon I believe has held from day 1 and will continue for future generations.

As regards Schelling, Aurobindo, Plotinus in relation to their spiritual systemization only (their kosmology as it were) I agree with Wilber's analysis that they with plenty of reason projected out into the future the same process that had experienced by ascending the chain to the point they did.

The metaphor is an art gallery. All of the paintings are already complete. You walk through the halls and they begin to get more and more glorious until you reach a pure light room, then darkeness, then walk back through all the floors noticing a common essence to all. Or if Aurobindo you have already glimpsed the high level paintings and your job is to bring their truth down into the paintings to the lowest floors.

But the paintings, the rooms, the situation of you walking and observing only, that is already all set and forever so in this model. If you stick to that model, then perhaps the guru model only is the answer. Because one person could then abstracted from the paintings (in theory) carefully and perfectly remember all of them and memorize the path through the gallery and led you to the exact same places him/herself.

But when the rooms are more like sand dunes, changing daily, when the paintings are being composed (in part) as we walk in the rooms, as the building itself grows like a plant, does this model make sense (alone) anymore?

If that is the case, as I'm saying. If following the analogy, the paintings are being drawn, more to come, if the building is shifting, growing, if rooms are appearing as if out of nothing.

In that image then how do we declare what is about anything? How do we express that truth in action? And how do we know when we are doing and when not? And who decides and how when there is (as there will) sincere genuine disagreement from roughly equally brilliant and equally flawed beings?

I'm interested to hear if anyone has been thinking about these things, come up with any ideas, etc.

Gore the Neocon wet dream?

So says Eli Lake, NY Sun neocon in this Blogginghead (video here). Never thought of that before. Why? Because Gore's plan to green would bankrupt "the enemies of Zionism" (i.e. Saudi financed jihadism).

A couple of thoughts on that assertion.

--If memory serves me right the Palestinians get very little in aid from the House of Saud. They are broke and even broke can kill Israelis. So can Hezbollah.
--The plan only works if India and China are brought on board too because the US going green alone means, Iran and Saudis just sell their oil to the Chinese and Indians.
--As even Lake notes, Gore's mechanism for going green involves alotta anti-business measures. It would require a more Schwarzenegger like pro-business, pro-investment green strategy.

What occurred to me is that politically this is a golden strategy for Rudy. He should run on this get us off of Middle Eastern oil to defeat terrorism.

While I'm definitely in favor of moving to a post-oil future, this argument is not very good. Not altogether bad but however nice at first blush but there are problems with it. We get very little of our oil from the Saudis or the Middle East more generally. It is certainly true that oil/natural gas tends to correlate with authoritarian governments (Russia, Venezeula, Iran, Saudis). But bankrupting the Middle East does not sound like a good idea. If it is this violent now with oil money but none of it flowing down, imagine what happens if the elites there were to panic and the minuscule amount that does flow down stopped. And this scenario would be a good idea for Israel off all people?

The idea is not thought through as I said, but it instinctively appeals across the board (the Friedman Doctrine it should called). If Rudy calls this policy out as a/the major position now, he preempts Clinton and/or Obama instinctively it appeals to both security hawks and doves/enviros.

And oh randomly, as I noted before (via Dick Morris) Gingrich is surging over Romney for the conservative vote. Shhh, don't tell Hugh Hewitt, nary a Gingrich word on his site I can locate. Even HH has moved to promoting both Rudy and Mitt.

Gingrich is smart to wait it out if he is going to announce. Tony Blankley explains why here--hat tip Mickey Kaus. Gingrich could become VP Kingmaker--don't think he wants to be VP himself. Is Jeb Bush off limits for that nomination? Eleanor Clift thinks not. Not sure yet what I think.

Pro-Con Bible & Gays/Lesbians

Cal Thomas piece in WaPo arguing homosexuality is a sin. Now I know he is not a professional theologian, but his arguments are fairly mainstream within this position.

Thomas writes:
Does one believe that the Bible is God's Word and that He gets to set the rules for those He wishes to speak for Him; or does culture, political correctness and "the times" allow us to make up, or change, or obliterate the rules whenever it suits us? I choose the former, believing that the God who created us gets to set boundaries inside of which we are to live for our benefit and for His glory. Imagine a sports contest without boundaries and rules? Life lived without boundaries is chaotic, full of disappointment and despair.

First off, I often question such strict binary thinking. Why does one have to choose between believing the Bible is God's word setting the rules AND culture? Why not both?

His argument is undermined by his lack of historical thinking. The Bible has no explicit support for the abolition of slavery. Some point to the Letter of Paul to Philemon, which is not an argument for the end of slavery, but Paul wanting a master to give up one slave to him Paul so he (Paul) could gain from his (Philemon's slave Onesimus) help.

The Bible, both Old and New Testaments support---or at least assume and do not criticize--the institution of slavery. Full stop. What abolitionists, who were evangelical Christians btw, is work from their own reason and their reading of the main themes (God is Love, Jesus' work among the poor) to make the case against slavery.

Was that "political correctness", changing the rules and obliterating God's rule? If it was, then it was good they did because I do not want to worship such a vile deity. Better the atheism of Harris if that were the case.

I agree with Thomas that there are boundaries, that we do need them, but I think this specific issue in the post-industrial world mind you (gay/lesbian rights & responsibilities and acceptance in monogamous relationships in church) is one where we have set the boundary too sharp and that boundary is now working as a wall to keep people out of the kingdom.

So a brief run down of the Biblical citations against homosexuality.

First The Book of Leviticus 20:13

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”

Pretty straightforward. Now this section of the Book of Leviticus comes from the Priestly worldview/theology (known as P Source in Lit.). The Priestly worldview is based on the idea that the world is created into holy/unholy and transgressing the bounds into unholiness requires varying degrees of cleansing--from the minimal ritual bath for a woman just out of her menstrual cycle to the ethnic cleansing of land by killing non-believers (Book of Joshua) or in this case homosexuals.

In this view the world is made into natural modes, prototypes if you will and those that deviate from that pattern are unclean. So this theology/worldview is the one that gives the Jewish dietary kosher laws. A shrimp is unclean because it lives in the water and yet is not a fish. A pig is unclean because it has cloven hoofs which means it should be a mountain animal (like a goat) but lives on the land.

Men should penetrate women and if instead a man lies like a woman--i.e. he is penetrated--then he is unclean.

So what is the problem with this for Gentile Christianity? Gentile Christianity, i.e. Pauline Christianity (as opposed to Jews for Jesus), one of the key revolutions of Christianity was that it did not enforce Judaism on Gentile converts to Jesus. Whether or not it should have is a different question, but it did.

Hence this selective reading of Leviticus is a non-starter. Unless Cal Thomas is suggesting (as some have to their credit) that Christians should "re-Judaize" themselves as it were. Also it means the US should, if one is being consistent, attempt to enact legislation for public execution of homosexuals in the United States. Of course that's ludicrous--but is that because are standards have changed like on slavery?

So Leviticus is out. Because reading back into the Old Testament what one has already decided is right from the New is a heresy known as Marcionism. I don't think Thomas is meaning to promote heresy. Christians affirm that the God of Jesus Christ is the God of the Hebrews and that given the eschatological understanding of the kingdom in and through Jesus different choices are now open. Jesus was himself very anti-nomian (anti-law): e.g. stories of him healing on the Sabbath, allowing women to touch him, calling the kingdom a mustard seed (an unclean seed), etc.

Which leaves Paul, where the argument for/against homosexuality must take place for the Christian.

Now sociologically Paul was from traditional patriarchal society. Both his Jewish and Greek influences were opposed to homosexuality. The Greeks had an acceptance of young male love as well as raping slaves/war captives, but a proper Gentile man was never to be the "receiver"--i.e. in their minds be a woman. Paul also accepted slavery as normal and assumed a woman's place was in the home. Traditional patriarchal views, both good and bad. He did however make the insane statement by those days standards that a man should love his wife. And that he belonged to her.

The 10 Commandments recall prohibited coveting your neighbor's wife and coveting your neighbor's possessions--i.e. your neighbor's wife was his possession. That backdrop is in Paul, even though he did make the radical jump to saying the Gentiles no longer had to hold the Jewish Law.

The mediate position, so says the Book of Acts between those who said no Jewish law for Gentiles and those who did was to get rid of the Holiness Code in things like diet, circumcision, but keep basic moral not kill, steal, murder, sexual morality.

Paul also believed the end of the world was coming in his lifetime so that it was better people not marry in the meantime if they were still single at the time of his preaching. So worth keeping this all in mind.

Moreover we know that contrary to arguments made by conservative Christians (and others) the acceptance of monogamous gay & lesbian relationships is nothing approaching this shattering social revolution they claim it is. The real change was moving from arranged marriages and in many cases polygamy to monogamy and more importantly the choice of the young people themselves as to their partner would be based on love. That marriage was about love. Hear echoes of Paul? This only took place in the Western world on a social wide scale in the 19th century among the middle classes mostly.

Those who pushed for those standards were for that day and age "liberal". The conservatives back then argued this would ruin the institution of marriage (heard that statement before?) because marriage was an economic property arrangement not considered the way of finding true happiness. In that way they were much smarter than many of us today in North America.

But once the move went from marriage as arranged, alliance, economics to based out of love then the momentum is heading inexorably I would argue to homosexual monogamous relationships. Conservatives by todays standards look back to the 1950s which is when for a moment the two tensions of marriage for love and male-female patriarchal values were held together. Of course the 60s revealed from their children the multitude of dark sides and lies that existed behind the closed doors of the Ozzie and Harriet home.

Which is why conservatives today in North America are not in favor of polygamy and arranged marriage and are therefore social revolutionaries when they head as missionaries to other parts of the world where original conservatism still holds sway--and in other cases even they have realized that one must make compromises with local culture but just won't admit that for the West. It also explains their bind--they are promoting this tension filled 50s ideal and yet trying to hold back the momentum of which they clearly are a part against gays, divorce, etc.

So back to Paul.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites....none of these will inherit the kingdom of God."

Notice again the issue of male homosexuality. Male prostitutes (do the female ones not inherit the kingdom either?) and sodomites. Again the emphasis is on being, as they say it, "like a woman".

The other key passage is Romans 1:24-29. Again the passage begins with idolatry interestingly enough. God, Paul says, because of the sins of the Gentiles (he is speaking of here) gave them up to "unnatural intercourse". So homosexual and lesbian activity was then seen as a punishment for the prior sin of idolatry.

So although Paul has jettisoned the dietary laws, you still see the influence of the Priestly view upon him. As a modern example of how this passage could still challenge us. Or bathhouses or truck stops where anonymous sex takes place.

I think the real alliance should be between traditional (so-named) gay/lesbian and straight, monogamous, children, Godfearing, and those of a more tribal and/or narcissistic elitist godless sensibility. For there the effects of idolatry are as Paul named.

But there is nothing in any of this about committed partnerships. I'm not for free love--the other word Paul uses is porneia, as in pornographic. And does it make sense given what we are learning through biological studies as well as the experience of such committed partnerships to talk about natural and unnatural--remember the whole issue of Judaism/Gentile started because the Jews experienced holy Gentiles coming to faith in Christ without being Jews.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

gg unit

A good post by Glenn Greenwald criticizing the tactic of quoting anonymous blogger comments on left-wing sites (e.g. HuffPost, Kos) as indicative of liberals in general and hence to declarations that all liberals are unhinged, deranged, etc.

The specific claim is in reference to anonymous blog comments that lamented the fact the suicide bomber in Afghanistan didn't get VP Cheney. But compare that to Ann Coulter publicly stating she was sad Tim McVeigh did not blow up the NYTimes building.

Greenwald correctly notes you are just as likely to find vile hatred in anonymous right-wing blogs (although most right-wing blogs smartly do not allow posts). This is why I'm against anonymous comments. Such views are correctly rejected by mainstream left, right, center, up and down.

No doubt Greenwald is totally one-sided in his blog, in his outlook, but he is very good in puncturing many of the other side's myths (especially when it comes to the left-wing media).

Bout Friggin' Time

Syria and Iran are invited to a regional dialogue on Iraq. Heard this one before? Thank God Condi might actually be holding Cheney back--and as much as I disagree with the man that people are cracking jokes about the bombing in Afghan. is sick.

They could still pull a rabbit out of this violent hat.

Iran is some years away from a nuclear weapon, even a low grade North Korea style one. As best as we know now. I'll admit the intelligence here has to be questioned in light of its misuse during the Iraq leadup. Regardless, the reform and conservative elements in Iran are starting to stare down the prospects of more sanctions and the opposite reaction that is the Saudis. The hardliners in Iran led by the President are in spewing more vitriol by the day. The Americans have to strip the conservatives (Khamenei and Rafsanjani) off from Ahmadinejad. To do that requires more than just co-operation on Iraq. They co-operated on Afghanistan and got zilch in return. It would have to be an all out diplomatic push that would give them assurance of their long term stability of their regime (off the Axis of Evil, off sanctions, into WTO).

The elements there now the American occupation is coming to end but they also fear the chaos/vacuum to be created. This is the US' last chance to achieve part of Bush's vision of a different Middle East. It is not going to be the one he wanted/dreamed up for sure, Syria and Iran are going to be there to stay. Hezbollah, Hamas, these dudes aren't going away. But the key is to tamp down the growing Shia-Sunni split, create a borderland bulwark (i.e. Syria) to prevent this, so that the big economic push and marketization of the Middle East which the despots I think can no longer hold back, particularly stemming eventually out of Kurdistan and Shia Iraq, takes off. That is the legacy Bush could offer. Not without blood, huge mistakes, and the rest.

So I'm hoping (though not without reservations given the past mo of these guys) this could be the first step in the massive diplomatic offensive that must take place. Condi has to really step it up, but Cheney looms in the background wanting to widen the war into Iran, leave the Iraqi government isolated and de-legitimized more than it already is, and re-entrench the Sunni autocrats.

Anglican Crisis

As someone studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church, I've been very silent about the furor in the Anglican Communion. I've mostly wanted to stay out of it for personal reasons--I'm still pretty sore after having gone through Roman Catholic seminary during the sexual abuse crisis--and because I wasn't sure which way things were headed and constant focus on the matter was bringing me down. I didn't find it healthy for my spiritual life.

But this last week there has been a major shift and I need to work through my thoughts and emotions on this subject.

For those not familiar, I can't (and you wouldn't want me to) go into a whole background on the thing. My readers from integral world are not in large measure Christian much less Anglican, which is a distinct denomination within Christianity.

If interested, there are some very good blogs. Here, here, here, and this one from the so-called traditionalist side.

But a little background is necessary. The Anglican Communion is a Communion of National Churches--The US Episcopal Church, The Church of England, The Anglican Church of Nigeria, The Church of Canada. The Anglican Communion grew out of the Church of England and the English Reformation (Henry VIII, Elizabeth I) and the attempt to create a National Reformed Catholicism. In some ways a middle or third way between Roman Papal Catholicism and more Calvinist-Puritan forms of Protestantism.

The Anglicans worked out a system of maintaining both bishops (like Catholics) and synods (like Presbyterians, Reformed Churches). The US Church is called Episcopalian precisely for this reason--they have bishops (episkope in Greek) and are Protestant, i.e. not Roman Catholic.

With the expansion of the British Empire, clergy followed and Anglican branches were set up in British colonies. Since de-colonialization there has been a move to independence in church matters--hence there is the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Kenya with African bishops not missionary English-Scottish-Irish bishops in these countries.

So after the Anglican Church grew out of the British Isles in the mid-19th century the Anglican Communion was created. All these national churches (currently I think there are 38) chose to be in communion with each other. But each national church is in charge of its own affairs. Unlike Roman Catholicism where the Pope and Vatican enforce rules upon the diocese worldwide.

The manner of keeping common order and communion in Anglicanism is through common worship. The word orthodoxy literally means right worship or praise not right doctrine. Hence Anglicanism is known for its theological wideness but everyone prays from the Common Book of Prayer. Emphasis on Common.

So for example with bishops and synods, the US Episcopal Church has three houses--House of Bishops, made up of all American Bishops; house of clergy, representatives of priests and deacons; and house of laity, representatives of the laity.

For any motion to pass it must pass through all three bodies at once every 3 year meeting called the General Convention (or General Synod in Canada). Somewhat like the US federal system, each house can veto the other. If one of the three bodies does not pass a measure, the measure fails. Must have all 3 houses vote for a measure. It is democratic, if you like, within each house simple majority for most issues, 2/3 majority for extremely important ones.

Now the US and Canadian churches with strong traditions of democracy and liberal government have strong lay and clerical synodical traditions. Missionary churches in sub-Saharan Africa with tribal identities where the bishop is seen more as a chief do not. So bishops there tend to have serious control/power.

The Anglican Communion was nearly rent in the 60s/70s over the issue of women's ordination. So when these issues emerge the question is always who is to decide when national churches argue with each other--unlike Roman Catholicism there is no higher court of authority.

There is the Archbishop of Cantebury who symbolically represents the unity of the Communion. But he is more like the Captain of a soccer squad than the CEO. He is not the Pope and he has no power to force any national church to do anything. There is also the Lambeth Conference--Lambeth is the Cantebury palace, again notice the pull towards wanting to be a Pope--which meets every 10 years.

It was decided after some serious wrangling and near splitting that national churches could decide either to ordain women or not and that both were acceptable and churches would accept each other. Many of the Churches in the Anglican Communion to this day still do not ordain women. Even in the US Episcopal Church which does ordain women, some local dioceses do not.

In 1998 the Lambeth Conference, which is only made of bishops---i.e. only 1/3 of the whole body--came up with a report on the topic of homosexuality. It was an advisory report that passed but with nothing approaching unanimity. It stated that homosexual acts were incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It also however urged the creation of a listening process (very Anglican) to listen to the experience and spiritual reflections of gays and lesbians within the communion. It also stated that the church must provide spiritual care for people and to work to protect the rights of individuals in free societies (i.e. stop gay discrimination).

Again notice that is was a recommendation of the House of Bishops as provisional in 1998. Now those with an agenda against what they perceived to be the falling away from true Christianity by a liberal agenda in the Church took this as the "standard" of teaching of the Communion. Which clearly historically and numerically it was not. It was a recommendation by a majority though not 100% of the House of Bishops. Those bishops constituting but 1 of 3 legs of the authority.

And it existed on an international basis, not the local national churches as with women's ordination for example. As long as it was that--a recommendation--it was fine. It needed to be examined, listened to, but was one of a number of outlets for reflection on the matter.

The notion of Lambeth being the standard of the communion took hold in the conservative wings of the Communion.

In 2003 the Episcopal Church (USA) ratified at General Convention the election of Gene Robinson to be bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is an openly gay, in a committed relationships, divorced man. Robinson had been elected in the proper course by the local synod in New Hampshire, (clergy and laity). There is a myth propagated by opponents of the election that a liberal cabal with an agenda manipulated the scene to get him elected. This is not true. People knew who he was, he had been in that diocese for a long time, they simply felt he was the right person for the position.

[There is also the matter of same-sex blessings in the Canadian Church, but I'm going to leave that out for the moment].

This election caused a firestorm of controversy. And occurred just as the new Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was barely settled in. Williams himself is a theological liberal and as a professor had written it seems in favor of homosexual inclusion in the Anglican Church. But his role as Archbishop is a different one--at least as he sees it.

At the point of Robinson's consecration, member churches of the Communion separated. Not formally but in the sense that they would not take eucharist with one another at meetings of the head of the national churches.

The US Church after 2004 (and the Canadians) put a self-imposed hudna-like moratorium on blessings and ordinations of gays & lesbians. This came as a result of requests from the House of Bishops (worldwide) in the Windsor Report. In the meantime local churches in the US who were angry by the ordination of Robinson threatened to leave. Although there is absolutely no rule by which they can do this. To complicate the matters African bishops, particularly from Nigeria and Rwanda, created missionary churches within the US. Ostensibly to reach out to Nigerian, Rwandan, African immigrant populations in the US, but it became a insurgent church. They wanted to create an alternate Anglican Church in the US, hoping the Episcopal Church would get booted out by the Communion, making them the official Church in the US.

At the same time other US dioceses wanted the Archbishop of Canterbury--not African bishops--to take them on and appoint a vicar to oversee their grievance against the national church and its leadership.

Then in 2006 at the next General Convention the Americans elected the first woman head (primate) in Anglican history. Remember a great number of the other national churches, specifically the ones that tend not to favor homosexuality, do not accept women as priests, live in patriarchal societies where women do not hold typically public office, much less are bishops, heads of national churches.

Since then some US churches, notably in Virginia have seceded and the church property is in litigation. Not good.

The Archbishop of Canterbury proposed a Covenant, which has no juridical basis in the canons of the Church, to restore communion. The Covenant presumably would create a two-tier level of membership, those who want to stand by Lambeth 98 and those who don't. The churches who do not (US and Canada) would have non-voting seats in the International House of Bishops (Anglican Consultative Council).

But notice the problem with all this--all of these recommendations come from bishops.

Now this week, the US church has been given an ultimatum by the other Primates (heads of national churches) that by Sept.30th they must clarify their position on authorization of same sex blessings and ordinations. The communique from Dar es Salaam Tanzania is found here.

The consequences of not obeying the demands are not spelled out, which is unfortunate. That is bad law and bad theology in my opinion. The US Church technically can not achieve this, though a meeting of US bishops is set for March. The General Convention of all three houses does not meet until 2009, after the deadline of the next Lambeth Conference 2008. All three houses: bishops, laity, and clergy, would have to vote on this measure.

The Canadian Church is not mentioned at all which is very mysterious. All of the blame is laid at the foot of the Episcopal Church, which is not true. The move towards episcopal dominance started at Lambeth 1998 took the Communion down a road it should not have gone. If I wanted to be Roman Catholic, I would have stayed Roman Catholic. They are much better at being papal and imperial than these wannabe African and British clowns.

My own opinion, if I had been a voting member, would have been for Gene Robinson to voluntarily step down and not accept the ordination after the anger arose. But having said that, once the rules were followed, I think the Communion should have moved more in the direction of our tradition--with divorce, women's ordination, etc.--to find a way for member churches to have different opinions and live in communion.

The difference it is argued with homosexuality as opposed to women's ordination is that women's ordination is not a matter of doctrine and is not condemned in the Bible. The argument has always been about this really, not gays and lesbians--how do we understand the authority of the Bible and who has the authority/power to make those decisions? I'm sad that gays and lesbians have been dragged into this and are the match that ignited this pre-set to explode tinder.

This latest communique is a sad expression for me of Christianity. Or rather un-Christian. The Covenant is not necessarily in all ways a bad idea, but its imposition by bishops is without the vote of the clergy and laity. Again Roman Catholicism already exists for that. In the meantime, it has been assumed that the US is the source of all the crisis (read the conservative blog and see how giddy they are at this latest communique for proof) and that the fly-over bishops creating church guerrilla campaigns is only out of their deep charitable love and care for the poor ones. They certainly love those people and have care for them and also want a pound of flesh for the others. The rhetoric is brutal.

As one sad piece, the Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola, the head of the anti-American alliance, is proposing legislation to make homosexual acts punishable by five years in prison in Nigeria. How's that for also being against discrimination from Lambeth 98? His American supporters have said that he is actually (get this) a hero for homosexuals because sharia Islamic law in Northern Nigeria promotes public execution of homosexuality. Five years apparently is a great humanitarian deed as opposed to death.

Rowan Williams has sacrificed his own principles for the role it seems to me. He is just trying to buy time to get the Covenant in place. But all the momentum suggests he is being outflanked on his right by Akinola who wants them cut out. To be fair, Williams got the language in the latest communique put in at the last minute that the US Church had in good faith responded to Windsor Report but it was still unclear. Akinola was not happy with that. But Williams has not taken one iota of account of laity and clergy--other than the floods of nasty letters he gets (funneled to him by his staff who are holdovers from the regime of the previous Archbishop who supported the African bishops) against the American Church. They are funded by right-wing American political interests--including a few rather extreme characters who do advocate for public execution of homosexuals in America!

At stake as Williams sees it I'm sure is that the Churches in Africa are growing while England and US are shrinking. Also no one as LBJ said wants to be remembered as the guy who lost Vietnam. No one wants to be remembered as the guy who was Archbishop when the Church split. But it may come to that.

I don't know what the American church will do. This was my fear with Robinson accepting the ordination, that it would bring this issue to light and cause steps back for gays and lesbians in the church. On the other hand, at some point it has to be pushed above ground. Like with women, like with civil rights/apartheid/slavery, etc. I don't know that there ever is a good time to do it.

The American church on the whole, though not without exceptions, does not accept the Windsor Report as the standard teaching. For better or worse I just don't see it. To me at the last General Convention the Americans went as far as they could without giving up their basic intuition/belief in being a church called to do this (plenty of self-righteousness no doubt but also plenty of honest sincerity in my view as well). It's far too easy to just write it off as liberal agendas and so forth. Both sides are human beings. Both sides have had failings, which is why I do not accept the latest communique which puts all of the cause of brokenness at one participants doorstep, which is a way to shame and guilt and create fear, to have power over. This is not the message of Jesus Christ, who said we must serve and not seek to lord power over each other like the heathens. Like going to godless secular courts to handle church affairs for example.

In a later post I'll deal more specifically with the theology pro/con concerning homosexuality. Where there is no way God makes a way so goes the saying. That is my hope. Humanly with all these machinations I can not see or feel such hope. But as Paul said, Christian hope is "hope against hope", hope against optimism or hope in human sinful beings.

Resurrection III

This piece focuses on The Gospel of Mark, the first of the Gospels historically and the one upon which the other three, to varying degrees, are based.

Starting in Ch.16. Mark says that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (Jesus' brother James? ie. his mother?), and Salome go to anoint the body. Now remember Paul said that Jesus appeared first to Peter.

Mark has used a literary device here. Earlier in the Gospel Jesus had taken three close male disciples--Peter, James, and John--away and was transfigured on the mountain. The disciples (both male and female, there's gender equality for you) are the models of how not be for Mark. They are stupid, weak, ignorant characters. Again both sexes.

So these three women then think to themselves along the way, "Who will roll the stone away for us?" probably something they should have thought of prior to leaving (not very swift) but anyway, they get there and the rock is already rolled away and a young man dressed in white robe tells them (v.6-7)

"He [Jesus] has been raised; he is not here....But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is gong ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him just as he told you." Unfortunately v8 states "So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid." (16:8).

Now in your Bible you will find both what is called a shorter ending and a longer ending following. The shorter one simply states the did as they were commanded and told Peter and the disciples. The longer version includes, as I will show editing from the later stories created by Matthew and Luke.

In other words, the women running away scared and telling no one is the original ending of the Gospel. There is a rumor of resurrection by the young man in white (who may represent a newly baptized catechumen) and that resurrection/appearance is in the Galilee. Peter is mentioned by name which may link back up with Paul's statement about Peter being the first to see. Maybe.

So Mark's Gospel has an empty tomb, a rumor, and no actual appearance, and the women acting as cowards. The later versions were put in because it didn't look good I suppose to not have the disciples respond as God commanded.

So why would Mark have the women disobey out of fear? Mark was written during the persecution and terror of the Jewish War against the Romans 67-71 CE. The Romans destroyed the Temple and sacked Jerusalem. The Wailing/Western wall where orthodox Jews pray at today in Jerusalem is the only remnant of that very temple.

Mark's community suffered persecution. Not only is there is Resurrection appearance of Jesus there is also no triumphant Ascension of Jesus into heaven in Mark either. Because for Mark the discipleship of Jesus is marked from now until the end of time by suffering and the cross. Therefore fear is the great enemy of the Way of the Cross and Suffering. The disciples are who not to be.

All we will ever hear in this world is a rumor of Resurrection. It is an "amazing" claim that calls for faith or fear & running away. Faith means living the life of death and pain that is the Christian way. To me that is a profound meditation, which is why I tend to connect more with Mark's Jesus and theology than some of the other gospels--on this point anyway.

So notice in Paul, the first, there are appearances (Jesus being revealed to) a number of people. Paul's main emphasis in that is declaring apostolic authority not what the appearance was like. Now Mark who has only a rumor of resurrection, an empty tomb, and disciples who run away scared.

Not exactly a lot to go on so far. Matthew and Luke, who I'll cover next (keeping in chronological order) I think were embarrassed by some of Mark and sought to fill in some of the details.

Biden Op-ed

A very important op-ed from Joe Biden in the Boston Globe.

Biden I think is the smartest voice in American political discourse on Iraq. Far smarter than either the Bush Administration or the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination who at this point are all simply focused on getting out and have no thought of the aftermath (as Republicans rightly criticize them for).

Biden makes three points:

1.Congress should repeal the War Authorization of 2002 given that there were no WMDs discovered and Hussein is dead.

2.Pass a new authorization that limits the US presence to Iraqi troop training, protecting the borders, fighting any possible al-Qaeda transnational terrorist bases. All troops out by early 2008.
--I would add also a clause for making preparations a la Kenneth Pollack for humanitarian/refugee crisis that will certainly take place once the US troops begin drawdown.
These are the outlines of the Baker-Hamilton Plan.

3.Begin the process of a federalized political settlement. Plan here.

--This is the key element that Biden and Gelb have offered. Roughly based on the Dayton Accords regarding the former Yugoslavia, which while far from perfect (see here) has managed to hold a peace a decade on, even with Kosovo still in flux. The new draft oil law is a step in the right direction. The Kurds will be forced to deal with the PKK (Kurdish Terrorist Organization) residing in their territory launching attacks on Turkey, so the Turks get on with accepting the coming Kirkuk referendum to the Kurds.

--What this does is does not get into the waters of cutting the funds for troops and the ignorant Murtha plan. It still puts pressure on the administration and forces them to make a decision, a decision that could evoke a real constitutional crisis. The Republicans will of course not let this come to a vote which only further isolates their party for '08. In this sense from a political point of view Biden is light years out ahead of the rest of the Dems. Biden recall began the push for a non-binding resolution which was scoffed at as ineffective, but as he notes if it was so ineffective why did/does the administration push so hard to block it?

--More importantly, it puts the argument exactly where it should be, where Baker Hamilton knew it should go.....the strategy and the goal are failures, changing tactics does not matter in that case. The Republicans have of course tried to make it all about the surge and if you don't accept the surge you are for defeat, being for the surge is being for victory. Which of course assumes that being for victory is a strategy, as if just mentally creating our own reality will make this happen. Or more practically, it assumes that the American military can win this issue without any different political option.

Biden blasts Bush & his followers from here to kingdom come (and knowing Biden he'll definitely say it again and again and again and again) on this point. Being for victory, having websites devoted to Victory does not a victory make. Biden realizes this is a sectarian conflict, civil strife, insurgency, not a traditional military army versus army affair. Hence no such victory is possible, websites and radio interviews to the contrary.

The rest of the Democrats have so stupidly fallen into Bush's trap by focusing only on getting troops out. Biden has not. Biden has offered a real alternative to the failed strategy and goal---a unified central democratically-elected non-ethnic government of Iraq. Surge or no surge Maliki is not a statesman nor a strongman. He is a partisan politician, just as if every other man in the Green Zone. Give them their slices so the bloodletting can abate. There is no buy in for the Sunnis with this central government democracy format. It's over. Only Bush has not realized this and even he is showing signs of coming around.

It goes: Goal-->Vision, End Outcome Desired
Strategy-->Policy Implemented to Achieve Said Goal
Tactics-->The Means Used to Promote the Strategy

The surge option is tactical. They are very good tactics, better than the ones we done earlier. That is for fighting an insurgency. Which is only one of the many wars going on there right now. But the strategy and the goal is unachievable. They are failures. So what will better tactics give? No supporter of the Administration has answered this question other than by saying it will be worse if we leave, which is to admit (I think) there is no answer. It will be worse for a time, that is the cost of a failed goal and strategy. That is the failure of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party--from the US side that is. Better tactics does not make a failed strategy and goal achievable.

That is why Biden is right. That is why the Democrats either get on board with what he is saying or watch Rudy be the next president of the US and enjoying controlling Congress as a consolation prize.

Iraq Oil Law

The Iraqi Cabinet approved a draft on oil to be sent to the Parliament for final authorization next month. Story here. Once again the US Ambassador Zalmy Khalilzad, one of the few wise people this administration has, was key to getting the Kurds on board.

As of now it appears the measure will pass Parliament.

The real question mark will be whether the lines will be secure enough to be tapped. Oil wells, workers, their equipment are vulnerable, very vulnerable targets to insurgents.

Monday, February 26, 2007

New Poll Numbers

In the last 10 presidential elections the Republican Party 7/10 times picked the front runner in their party's nomination process. The other 3? The incumbent or sitting Vice President (George HW Bush '88).

The Democrats did not (surprised?) follow such a trend. I think 5 times picked the leader.

New polls out (very early) from Zogby support this trendline:

i.e. Giuliani is pulling out ahead and has all the mo'.
Obama in a head to head with McCain and Giuliani wins, whereas Clinton doesn't.

Clinton still leads by a slimmer margin (8 points) over Obama in the Democratic Primary race.

The David Geffen episode has hurt Hillary it seems more than Obama. As Maureen Dowd correctly noted (did I just write that?), Hillary's so-called inevitability is based on her fundraising status, which Geffen called into question. He raised I think legitimate issues, especially for me do we want another 4-8 of a dynasty plus the ideological revup of the far right base? I don't. Also Sen. Clinton's answer to the question of how to deal with criticism--"deck your opponent." It spoke of a strain of vindictiveness and the worst of the Clinton years. Again her line: I know how to beat them.

I don't doubt she would make a decent manager--like I said I think she should be Senate Majority Leader, she'd be one of the best ever likely in that role--but the power hunger, the triangulation, the persona, it just totally turns me off.

I think all trends point to Rudy getting the Republican nomination. I don't think Newt or Mitt (what's with these four letter first name Rep. candidates?---Newt, Rudy, John, Mitt) can give the strong right push to topple Rudy. The only man who could've would have been the Bush son who probably should have been President, i.e. Jeb. No chance of that this time around. Although as bad as it is now for the Bush Dynasty, I would never count Jeb out for 4-8 years down the line. He is an extremely sharp politician.

The Dems are wide open and I'm not making any predictions. I still think its 50/50 that Gore jumps in. But the Clinton camp should look at these numbers and be worried in my view. Democrats are not going to like seeing her polling below John McCain not to mention Rudy in a general. That has always been the question mark with the Sen. from New York--is she actually electable. She's sharp, but her personality is so divisive. Edwards has got to get out so the showdown between Obama and Hillary takes place. The longer Edwards stays in the better that is I assume for Clinton. For what it's worth, I think Edwards is a flake.

I'll empathize Hillary for a sec. If she comes off tough for national security she gets the bitch label. If she sits on the couch and invites everyone to a conversation it's pure cheese and looks so faked/polled. If she admits she was wrong on the Iraq War, she gets called a flip flopper in the General. If she doesn't admit she was wrong (which it is way too late to do now) I think she will lose the Democratic Primary.

Does an Obama Richardson ticket make sense? Probably not--too racial I suppose. Maybe not. And on the issue of barrier breaking possibilities, I still think the US electorate is more willing to elect a black man than a white woman. That's just a hunch, no scientific research on that point. Just a gut intuition.

Obama needs a foreign policy guy for VP---Biden? Webb? Richardson has strong foreign policy cred, effective governor, could pull a state or two in the Southwest, the Democrats did well in the Mountain West. But I just wonder if a Black and Latino is too Rainbow-Coalitiony sounding.

Update Tuesday 27th, see other sets of poll numbers with Giuliani ahead of Obama here.

Arnold's Center

It's quite a wacky world when in my mind the sanest sounding US politician is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's really laying down some domestic policy blueprints for either party and certainly for Governors across the Union. He has no foreign policy cred to be sure, but sane centrist pragmatism looks so good to me compared to both parties.

Some quotations from the Govenator himself:

"Politics is about compromise. It is about give-and-take. Doesn't anyone here in Washington remember that chapter from their civics book?" the Republican governor said in a speech to the National Press Club. You can't catch a socially transmitted disease by sitting down with people who hold ideas different from yours," said Schwarzenegger, a moderate who has frequently split from his party.

Resurrection II

I'll start with the first Biblical reference to Resurrection historically. It comes from Paul's Letter to the Corinthians. Paul wrote in the 50s, 20 years after Jesus. The earliest Gospel Mark comes from the year 70, Matthew and Luke the 80s-90s, and John around 90/100, a full seventy years after Jesus' death.

The backdrop to this part of Paul's Letter is that the Corinthians being Gentile pagans do not believe (or have questions) about the resurrection, particularly whether Jesus' resurrection has any relation to theirs. Also in the backdrop is the increasing distance between the worlds of matter and spirit in Greek philosophy and religion---part of the move to Causal State-Stage in Axial Age--resurrection then would have almost surely hit the Corinthians as a gross concept, mixing spirit and matter in that Hebraic way.

Hence Paul's whole emphasis in the Letter on the folly of the Cross, the weakness of the way of Christian discipleship versus the powerful way of the world. Death is the doorway, only then does Resurrection make sense. Only if Christ is the first of many.

So in Ch.15:3 Paul says, "I handed on to you what I turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter...."

The key word is appeared. He appeared to Peter, the Twelve, to 500 brothers and sisters, and lastly to Paul. In all references Paul uses appeared. The word appeared is more literally translated as "was revealed to". Jesus was revealed to Peter, the disciples, the apostles.

Now this story does not line up well with the resurrection stories in the Gospels. In the Gospel traditions it is the women who are either told the news and/or see Jesus first. Paul says Jesus appeared first to Peter (Cephas).

Now the other key element is that Paul is handing on to the Church what he received. The word "hand over" is literally tradition (traditio). The phrase "in accordance with the scriptures" is key as I showed in the last post. 20 years in (and earlier if Paul is getting it from others) they have already created theological meaning. This is what John Dominic Crossan calls "prophecy fulfilled" versus "history remembered." The Hebrew Bible passages themselves did not refer to Jesus in any way. They are we understand today written for their own day. But that does not mean Christians could not later re-interpret them for their contexts guided by the Spirit (God it would be assumed is always revealing). The problem becomes when prophecy fulfilled and later made into the world of narrative becomes identified with historical reporting and theological supersession of Judaism. And thence to the gas chambers.

The number of days....3. On the third day, not after 3 days. Friday he's killed (day 1), Sat. (day2) and "rises" on Sunday (day 3). Not by the Roman counting of 24 hours past the execution date (Friday afternoon as it were).

Prophecy being fulfilled is not prophecy in the sense of fortune telling or predicting the future, but relaying a/the word of God. And that prophecy is fulfilled retroactively--hence human time conceptions are already out here. Which should make us suspicious of taking on the third day literally.

Check out this passage from the Prophet Hosea (8th c. BCE):

Come let us return to the Lord;
for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
for he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (6:1-2)

Is that in accordance with the Scriptures? Note the parallelism of Hebraic poetry. Elements paralleled are emphasized. He has torn, he will heal/he has struck down, he will bind up.
After 2 days revive (Sat./Sunday), on the third day (Sunday) he will raise us up.

Is that what Paul meant? The two days/on the third day has a meaning of very soon in Hebraic thought. Paul believed strongly that he was living at the end of time--did he have this in the back of his mind. Was the very soon to be the coming "raise up" to heaven so that we might live before God?

And what of appeared? What does being revealed to or appeared mean? Paul has no mention of a corpse revived out of a grave, no empty tomb, no hands in the side, no eating fish or walking through walls.

There are later accounts in the Book of Acts about Paul falling off his horse and hearing a voice, seeing a light, but those are the creation of Luke (author of Acts) not Paul himself. He makes no such mention only that he had an experience of the Risen Christ. Again no explication of what that experience entailed.

As I will argue in later posts, I think the empty tomb, apparitions and so forth are later theological-narrative placements--which all originally stem from the author Mark. Note the tradition: he was killed, buried, and rose.

Burial does not automatically mean empty tomb. More importantly there is reason to doubt even the claim of burial. [See John Dominic Crossan's Who Killed Jesus for these ideas] There is another possibility from what we know of Roman executions--the bodies were left to rot on the crosses and be eaten by the vultures/dogs. This was part of the Roman brutality of wiping a man's name out, his memory--no tomb, no sarcophagus, no inscription. Total annihilation in the face of the Roman imperial counter-god, idol of death. The other way to do this was to feed people to the lions as a spectacle, something the Romans knew full well.

Jewish law (Deuteronomy) stated that a body was not to be left hanging upon a tree else the land would be violated and made impure. But as Crossan shows there is no clear evidence that practice was actually followed. It is not impossible that a family member could have pleaded/bribed an official to get a relative's body down from a cross. But the outsider Jesus movement would not have had such contacts one would suppose. Hence the creation of the figure of Joseph of Arimathea--is he or isn't he a member of the Sanhedrin? is he or isn't he a disciple of Jesus? Watch how the Gospels play with his image. The story doesn't make a lot of sense.

And yet the tradition says he was buried. So I don't know. The tradition is quite early and comes not from Paul but precedes him so that should be taken into account as well.

Theologically I think the notion that Jesus' body was eaten by the birds and left to total dismemberment is better. In the sense that he gave up everything to God and to creation, like a Buddhist monk in Tibet who are left to be eaten by the vultures. Also it more fully expresses the true hope and radical faith of resurrection against the imperial powers of godliness and the folly of the Cross to see his body as so totally devoured.

None of which still tells us what the appearance/revelation of Jesus to these people was. In the ancient Greek world gods were climbing and descending the cosmology all the time. Heaven was then depicted as above the sky although it was becoming increasingly way above the key even in a different realm by Paul's day.

We no longer live in a three-storied universe: hell, earth, and heaven. So the notion of being raised up doesn't make a whole lotta sense by today's standards. Resurrection could but flying up not so much.

I'll continue this exploration, but again some part of must always be mystery. Even however the meaning of what they are trying to convey is more difficult than other parts of the New Testament, seems to me.

Oscars Laugh

Resurrection I

Follow up on the Cameron controversy over the Resurrection. Go the theology and the texts themselves.

From a theological point of view---that takes into account modernity--the primary issue is the theological and literate framing of the stories about the Passion and Resurrection: the two form a unit which of course Da Vinci and Cameron-like analysis misses.

I'm not going to cut and paste long Biblical quotations. I'll just cite chapter and verse. I use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) which you can read here.

The Gospel of Luke starting 24:13 has two disciples walking along sad and dejected after the Crucifixion of their leader. A stranger approaches them who is the risen Jesus in disguise, catch the symbolism of that, (i.e. he wasn't wearing a Groucho Marx mustache) and then "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (Lk 13:27)."

In other words, literate Christians have re-read the Jewish Scriptures--the reference to Moses means the first five books the Pentateuch anciently ascribed to Moses and the Prophets are the Hebrew Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, etc--and found within them the meaning of the event of Jesus' death (and resurrection?).

Now at this point there are choices to be made. That prior understanding can be and is accepted by both of the two camps I'm about to delineate. One camp says that on the third day the resurrection happened--for the moment ignore what that was, a trance? a vision? a body?--which caused the re-thinking. The other group (more theologically liberal) would say no such event need necessarily be postulated.

The meanings and themes that were discovered in the Hebrew text are the themes of the suffering innocent servant of God, the faithful loving-kindness of the Lord, and the vindication of the righteous.

One of the most important passages from the Book of Maccabees concerns a woman who watches the horrific murder of her seven sons because they will not break Jewish kosher laws and eat pig while under military occupation by the Gentile Syrians. The sons cry out that they will be resurrected and redeemed.

The Hebrew Bible is filled with the dyad of God punishing and yet never abandoning, healing after the pain. That is God always maintain covenantal relationship. The punishing and the re-receiving are simply different moments of the journey with God.

Adam and Eve eat the apple and are banished from the Garden and yet God sews fig leaves to cover them. Cain murders his brother and is sent to wander the earth but is given a mark by God so that he will not be harmed by others.

God allows Jerusalem to be sacked by the Babylonians and the leaders to be sent into exile only so that they may be restored to the land and chastened.

Now that set of images of second set of images doesn't exactly work because Jesus is thought to be innocent. But the dialectic between persecution and vindication are kept. The Maccabees story gives an innocent suffering.

The Psalms are replete with images of the individual feeling abandoned by God only in the end to call in praise upon God. Jesus specifically states in Mark's Gospel "My God my God why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34) which is an exact quotation of Psalm 22:1. The Psalm begins with lament and despair and ends with trust in God. See how the theme is more important than the question of whether Jesus said those exact words are not--which is undecidable anyway. Crucifixion=despair, trust in God=Resurrection/Redemption.

So we know that such involved theological reasoning could not happen in 2 days. Much less the taking of what are those theological themes/ideas and translating them into narrative format. The question then remains--was that thinking triggered by an actual resurrection event or not?

I think that question is actually unanswerable and doing a more genetic analysis there is a tendency from positions to go from: yes (traditional), to no it was symbolic (liberal), to maybe the question is the wrong question wrong way of broaching the issue.

And the yes can be either as "a real body" or as a mystical experience/vision. The liberal position would be something more like the memory of Jesus is held by the people and for them they believe he is redeemed and Lord but no objective referent/event.

I've held all of those positions at one or another point in my life. I believe in Resurrection, even the Resurrection of Jesus still; I just don't get hung up on the mechanics anymore. I wouldn't say I know for sure some such event did not take place nor do I know that one did.

I guess if pushed I would hazard a guess that its seems more likely than not that there was a vision type experience but my faith does not rest in that. My faith rests in the experience of being able to commune with the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ today. That signifies to me that there is a resurrection, that his spirit remains active in this world. That position is not accepted by a large number of Christians. That's fine for me.

But whatever one's opinions, I'm not advocating for mine really, I'm more interested in exploring the meaning and the texts. More to come on that front.

Radical Capitalists

An interview from CSpan BookTV with Brian Doherty author of the new biography of modern libertarianism Radicals for Capitalism. Fascinating interview and fills a vacuum in the literature. Whatever one's views on the subject matter, he does a very good job of informing--Doherty himself is a libertarian so his views are shaded in that direction. But overall I think he does a fair job--I definitely want to give the book a read.

No way to cover all of libertarianism, but just a few thoughts. I come at this topic more from the political philosophy than economics side, but with libertarians the two are always mixed. They certainly are an interesting bred, given that they don't fit very well into either established political party. The recent argument for Liberal-tarians I think is not going much of anywhere, but major new right conservatism is not all libertarian either.

Doherty begins by stating that libertarianism is the foundation of the American way. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Interestingly, always pursuing happiness is from the spiritual point of view meditation upon the fact that one is unhappy. As long as one is pursuing happiness, one will never actually be happy. Sadly, says a lot about our country.

But anyway, I would basically agree with Doherty's point. His reading of everything following from New Deal to Bush Republicanism then is a move away from the foundation. I think that some such evolution is inevitable, bringing both positive and negative consequences. Libertarianism then for me as a political philosophy is more a tonic to cleanse the mind from falling into the traps of reliance on institutions. But given human nature (and here I'm more a traditional conservative than libertarian I suppose) there is a need for these necessary evil beasts known as governments, particularly after the rise of modern technological and human population expansion.

That is not to say I agree with any and all such government oversight. I didn't go to public school (not until college anyway), so I don' t support teachers unions, public schools as they currently exist. I've talked numerous times about a middle way on prayer in school, etc. I'm for getting a check and forced to have health insurance (definitely not a libertarian there) a la Charles Murray. I'm for consumption-only taxation or flat tax.

Where I start to get concerned is things like the outsourcing of prisons to private industry as is occurring in spades in the US. I think government has some role in such oversight--common interest--and not just defending private property and the free market.

The American experiment and Founding doctrines could be libertarian (by our standards that is) because it was an elitist project. Elitist is not necessarily bad in my book, but an elites project it was. Concomitant with the libertarian founding is another American mythic dream, world power. Libertarianism sides with only one side of the American mytheme over the other. The other, the world power theme, brings with it aggregation of power. Period.

And as a return to the American foundation, libertarianism is an individualist modern venture. As someone who believes individuality only arises in intersubjectivity (not from) then this view is handicapped though in ways very valuable.

Take the school example--let's say private schooling or business-sponsored schools take off. I'm not necessarily opposed to that. But what about the protection of the children? Is a business economics model the proper lens through which to see these issues? The working assumption, and I would question it, of libertarianism is that such issues would be taken care of better than by government regulation.

As Doherty points out we have grocery stores that work without government boards why not schools? But are grocery stores and storeowners have the sufficient power to stop say child abuse? I say this as someone who went to Catholic school and knows the Catholic Church used it position of social respectability and government non-interference to hide its sins under the rug. Why would charter schools be any different? Why would the grocers not protect their own? Again this is my conservative side and working thesis of evil in humanity promoting me to some more show of strength.

In other words, libertarianism as Doherty points out grows out of the fields of economics. I think the automatic linkage of economic market theory to how governments should run (key on should, value judgment) is problematic. I'm not saying there aren't ways in which the two do line up, but the radical-ness (or I would say absolute-ness) of that linkage for a libertarian is what I find wrongheaded. Because every step then is one slippery slope closer to totalitarianism. Trans-fat bans (which I really could care less about) becomes as one libertarian wrote the jack-boot on the throat. Really? In a world where our government is sending people to Egypt and prisons in Eastern Europe to be tortured outside government regulation (there's a piece of evidence against libertarianism) people who want to eat trans-fats are co-martyrs with innocent people tortured?

When the ideological element of that is cut away, the movement can claim some major social achievements. e.g. Milton Friedman was a major force behind ending the military draft and moving to an all volunteer army. Note the emphasis on individualism.

Again my position is of the middle. I believe in a compulsory draft but not to the military. I believe in 1-3 years post college graduation commitments to things like Peace Corps, humanitarian reconstruction, inner-city education if one is not inclined to military armed combat. And I mean only if that safeguard were actually meant. Currently I do not trust this administration to be able to abide by that safeguard so I can't advocate for at the current time.

--Other random notes I took while listening to the interview:

Hayek: Ignorance. Hence no Central Planning. Socialism/centralization of Western democracy. In this regard, they actually link up with the Frankfurt School in their criticism of both Soviet and Western totalitarianisms.

Misses: without free market, no state socialism. Libertarians did not support the right-wing McCarthyite, National Review Buckley, domestic repression of marxism with massive military-industrial complex buildup and mythicization of Communism.

Hayek-Misses: utilitarians not libertarian rights (non-Americans). prove from economics.

Dateline Iraq

A very tense week in Iraq.

--The Shia Vice President Abdul Mahdi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.
--Shia Parliament and SCIRI Leader Abdul Aziz al Hakim also was targeted this week after the Americans arrested his son.
--Moqtada al-Sadr finally broke his silence and issued a statement calling on the Shia not to support the new security plan as linked to the Americans. He argued (not without reason) that the push against the Shia militias has left them vulnerable to attack. The Sunni insurgents are too effective for the Americans with their numbers to stop. Plus the Americans are foreigners. They can't detect like only a native could, the signs and cues the differences, the ground, the people, etc.

As the AP correctly notes (linked via NYTimes):

A return to the streets by the Mahdi Army forces could effectively end the security effort and raise the chances of Baghdad falling into sectarian street battles -- the apparent aim of Sunni extremists seeking any way to destroy the U.S.-backed government.
This is the Abu Musab al Zarqawi policy (among others). The Shia have to be pulled into reprisal killings and the civil war igniting further in Baghdad. The Sunni are aiming to make the Shia believe they can not rely on the Americans nor the government in Baghdad, which is further mired in nonsense and backbiting (taking a cue from US Senate apparently). Sadr perceives this fact and gains his credibility from his anti-American, anti-"Sunni extremist" position.

This division I think is fundamentally what the President and his plan do not take into account. You can't be fighting both these forces simultaneously. As I said before, the learning curve for the insurgents shrinks the longer the occupation lasts. We have seen this before, a new plan is introduced a relative calm settles for a few days then the violence returns. A horrific bombing a school again this week. So sad.

I know many will argue and perhaps they are right, that the majority (by whose definition?) of Iraqis want peace and stability. That may be. I assume that, don't know it, not particularly convinced commentators here do I either. Regardless, these extremists on either side are substantial enough, armed, connected, are the powerbrokers, that an occupation and a non-political settlement can not work.

The prime reality I think is de-centralized expansion of power and violence. Bush is going against this grain with his attempt towards greater centralization, which can only mean Shia centralization which automatically means Sunni resistance. This is Joe Biden's point time and again and he's right in my opinion.

To show how out of it this administration is as all of the above is transpiring the Americans raid a Shia weapons cache and say Aha the Iranians are behind this. First of all weapons are being traded across that border all the time. It's called the Black Market. The Iranian government hardly needs to personally deliver these things--there are ways and means. Secondly, of course they are, their cousins are getting slaughtered. Why the hell wouldn't they be giving them help? What is this administration thinking? What the hell war do they think they are dealing with? This has gone to the levels of absurdity.

Civil Wars end one of three ways (as Biden correctly noted on Face the Nation a week ago)

1.A Strongman introduced---which is not going to happen, Hussein is dead.
2.An occupying power--which the US does not have the capacity to be. Even with a surge.
3.A Federalized political solution--a la Dayton Accords.

1 and 2 are impossible in Iraq. Maliki for all his ambition and bluster is not a strongman. Only Sadr could be but he wants a Hezbollah-like group, which exists first and foremost for his cadre, his people, and then only thirdly use of centralized political power.

1 and 2 are not going to happen in Iraq. Nothing else matters, surge or no surge. And 3 is not going to work with just Iraqi participants. Everybody, I mean everybody Syria, Iran, Saudis, Jordanians, Turks have to be in on this.

So instead of that, more press conferences about the Iranians in Iraq. As the President correctly reminds us repeatedly, Iraq is only one stage in the GWOT. As such, this President's policy for the long term viability of the GWOT has to be opposed. His diplomatic isolation, his attempts to widen the conflict (ally-less) into Iran, his incredibly short-sighted policies against Russia and China, and his no policy policy in Iraq.

Although props to the VP (might never say that again) for poking the Pakistanis. What are the chances anything will be done is my question. As weak as some of the Democrat positions on national security are, the appeal to focus on fighting groups that will actually attack our country--in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and possibly Iraq (although again they are a local AQ group not trans-national)--starts to look more attractive I imagine for the American public.

Future of Nation of Islam

Interesting piece by Neil MacFarquhar in the NYTimes on the retirement of Louis Farrakhan and the future, if there is to be one, of the Nation of Islam.

The general thinking is that the group will have to move to Sunni Islamic orthodoxy.

Elijah Muhammad the founder of the Nation of Islam considered himself to be the Mahdi, the final prophet (sometimes it was claimed he was God incarnate) and that humans used to live on an alien planet where an evil scientist bred what was originally a good and pure black race into evil white people who enslaved the blacks, came on spaceships down to Earth. Those spaceships or others like them--not really sure--are going to play a role at the end of days when their laser beams or whatever will fry the evil doers. So, no exactly Islamic orthodoxy.

After the death of Muhammad, the assassination of Malcolm X (who was already pushing to a post Nation of Islam-black Islam) one of Elijah Muhammad's sons (and he had many by many different women) Warith Deen led a community to mainstream Sunni Islam, though still a Black American version of it. Farrakhan continued the Nation of Islam strain but has used the language of de-colonialization as a way to create unity between himself and Arab Muslim leaders.

In the process Farrakhan has not spoken up against the Arab Muslim led genocide against African Black Muslims in Sudan. As the article points out he blames all violence in Iraq on America saying the Sunni and Shia never fought one another prior to the Americans. Mr. F might read a history of 20th century Iraq, the 1920 Brigades, Saddam's policies against the Shia and Kurds, the uprisings during the First Gulf War.

It would be a good thing to see the Black American community move towards Sunni Islam, in my view. When Malcolm X went to the hajj in Mecca it changed his mind and heart--he saw brown, white, black, "yellow" (as they used to say in the 70s for Asians), all humbled and equal in simple white clothing before the one God of the Universes. Black American identity can and should be maintained but it could fit within the larger sphere of Islam.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

the iceberg of jesus' reported body

James Cameron, the Terminator and Titanic Director, known in Hollywood as not the most humble of people and not the wisest of theological minds I imagine (although props for The Abyss dude) is going to put out a documentary that will "prove" Jesus did not die and had children with Mary Magdalene. [Cameron is producing not directing. The director worked with Cameron on this documentary which was by all accounts (never seen it, seems fascinating) on three generations of inter-religious marriage].

The two also worked together claiming they had proved the location of Mt.Sinai where God reportedly gave Moses the 10 Commandments. I s--t you not. Story on Jesus doc here. Before I do my spare another useless non-debate between fundamentalists and secularists--and how they are both wrong--I'll try and be as fair as I can.

Cameron's evidence (from time article):
Let's go back 27 years, when Israeli construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb. of Jerusalem. The earth gave way, revealing a 2,000 year old cave with 10 stone caskets. Archologists were summoned, and the stone caskets carted away for examination. It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua...But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.
One should be hear giant alarm bells going off in one's head when "Biblical studies" are mentioned--to say nothing of DNA tests? Whose DNA?

Finding a crypt with the names Jesua (Joshua), Joseph, Mary, Matthew, Jofa and Judah is like finding a cemetery with the names John and Sarah Jones and their children Bill and Susie. Or like the saying, "any Tom, Dick, or Harry." In the ancient Jewish context literally that would have been any "Jesus, Joseph, or Mary."

Worse still tomorrow Cameron is having a press conference where he will publicly display three coffins: Jesus, Mary (his mother), and Mary Magdalene--or so he claims. I feel wrong even publicly criticizing this view thereby giving it some measure of something even possibly approaching the fringe of the realm of some respectability.

And to note, my negativity is not because Jesus had to rise from the grave.

Rather it is because (full story here):

But prominent Jerusalem archaeologist Amos Kloner, who officially oversaw the work at the tomb, dismissed the claims. "It makes a great story for a TV film," the professor reportedly told The Jerusalem Post. "But it's impossible. It's nonsense."

But it does give me an excuse to deal in a couple of posts with the issue of the Resurrection, one of the more controversial of New Testament subjects.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Treasure of the HeartMind

5)Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman.
6) Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.
7) Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.
8) And she began to speak to them these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me,
9) Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure. --Gospel of Mary Magdalene Ch.5

In the canonical gospels, this saying is: where your heart is, there also is your treasure.

Whether one emphasizes more consciousness or light/love as the two sides of the mystery, either way the process is the same: where your depth is focused there lies your treasure.

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is a Gnostic text. For the Gnostics (usually) the treasure was the deep Causal/Nondual beyond creation, space-time, division. Often this created a new duality between the eternal and the time-bound, the holy aeon of purity and truth and the fallen world of materiality. Versus the duality of the orthodox churches (God/human, God/creation).

The treasure is your god, your worldspace, your everything. It is not a judgment so much as a simple statement of fact, that anyone who undertakes a path of depth will realize. Where your focus and identity is, what you seek and desire, there is your treasure.

I meditate on what it would for my treasure to be nothing but sacrificial love--the eucharistic praise of suffering and thanksgiving-filled praise? No states, no gods, no absolutes, or Absolute, no evasion from this, no evasion from not-this or the Ground of this, that which is beyond this.

Here there are no masters, for Jesus laughs at the piety and well-meaning contractions of the earlier stages of the journey (see Gospel of Judas). What if I were to laugh at the laughing Gnostic Jesus?

Surge? Working or Not? Or Both?

A piece from the Townhall Forum by Patrick Ruffini that says the surge is quietly working.

Pieces of evidence in the surge's favor:

--Violence in Baghdad down 80%
--Sadr and the Mahdi Army have dissolved.
--Only one brigade has been added--3/4 more to come.
--Frederick Kagan one of the minds behind the surge against his initial thinking is now (magically) in favor of entering Sadr City. [How seriously are these guys to be taken, if their minds flip flop this often?].

Pieces of evidence against this opinion:
(these are not mentioned by Ruffini, although to be fair he is cautiously optimistic and of course plays the "the MSM is against the war so this gets no coverage line")

--At every phase off the GWOT....the recent Somali operations, Iraq, Lebanese-Israeli war, Afghanistan...the enemy learns to disappear and let the large top-down traditional military win the "war" phase only to emerge in jihadist-guerilla campaigns.

The Mahdi Army is doing this right now and the Mahdi Army members the US is cracking down have been sold out by Sadr as part of the 1/3 of his militia he can't control. i.e. We are cleaning up his organization for him. They plan by all measures to follow Hezbollah's gameplan, lie low until the Americans leave, get highly weaponized and stringently loyal and launch and all out attack possibly against the Iraqi gov't, Sunnis, anybody, who knows. On a larger note, the Sunnis will begin swarming techniques on the American troops--American casualties will increase (are inc'ging).

--The plan takes no account of Diyala, Kirkuk which is beginning to see major Arab-Kurd violence, with Turkey this week calling for a postponement of the Kirkuk referendum. The insurgents and militia members simply go where the US is not.

--The Iraqi Army is still not up to snuff. If the US Army can not prevent a fullblown, highly effective insurgency, a rag tag army will not either.

--The Insurgents have figured out how to take down helicopters and to use chemicals stored in trucks and blow up the trucks creating a mini-dirty bomb device.

--The British drawdown in Basra/S.Iraq signifies a new onset of Shia-Shia violence. Unclear whether S.Iraq could become a new staging ground for attacks in Anbar, W.Baghdad by Shia on Sunni. Or reverse.

--The surge is an anti-insurgency strategy and generally a good one. But the insurgency is only one of the four wars currently occurring: (intra Shia, Kurd-Arab, insurgency, Civil War/sectarian Shia-Sunni conflict). No doubt the Sunnis are the ones killing the most Americans, which is why this latest round of blaming Iran and their backing Shia militias is a non-starter. But fighting a counterinsurgency in a civil war is to be a pick a side--no matter how much incursions into Sadr City happen and some Shia death squad leaders are arrested--and in this case it is the Shia. Which means in the Arab world the US is seen as promoting ethnic cleansing.

--The question remains, violence has gone down in Baghdad for now but how long can this be sustained and what happens when the US leaves? There is no political strategy affixed to this better military plan. That has been my critique not of the surge but of the surge minus a changed political vision. In that sense, the "good news" that populations have returned to Baghdad who were previously run out is I think worrisome in the long run.

Do the Sunnis trust the Maliki gov't? Allegations by two Sunni women of rape by Shia police does not help--particularly when PM Maliki's comment was to say the woman was a liar, promote the alleged rapists and their bosses, and fire the Sunni's who made the claim.

I predicted the surge will temporarily help with the violence in Baghdad, violence would erupt in other places, the Shia would melt away (in this case the Mahdi Army), the reconstruction is too little too late although it should be done and will have some (I hope) success, and the lack of regional engagement is the real flaw in this whole plan. I stand by those predictions. I don't see a lot in the way to dis-verify those assumptions: especially on the political front. Decreased violence is only one measure--decreased violence in Baghdad that is. The pro-administration voices continue to fall for this line of decreased violence in the short term means victory. I wish that were the case, but I'm skeptical.