Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating!

May Macy's Day Parades with big balloons and cameo performances, may Turkey however you make it (fried, broiled, or, as we are doing it this year, grilled...and I cannot forget my Tofu Turkey readers), may napping, may game playing all fill your day! In sum, may the warm glow of food and fun envelop your day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Would Jesus Buy? (A New Documentary)

I just discovered this new documentary coming out this holiday season called "What Would Jesus Buy?" on consumerism in America for the Christmas season.

Beware the Shopocalypse is coming!

See the preview here.

I like the part where they exorcise the demons out of the Walmart sign.

Monday, November 24, 2008

SBL 2008

I just returned to my apartment from SBL in Boston. I had a fantastic time! I probably wore myself out more than usual, giving three presentations (two official and one in a closed session). All three went well, and I received substantive suggestions, and two of the sessions even went into all-out brainstorming sessions from the papers. It was an exhilarating and exhausting time.

I also got to meet in person several bloggers. I now have a face and body in mind for Ken Schenck at Quadrilateral Thoughts, James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix, and I met John Hobbins from Ancient Hebrew Poetry.

I will try to report more in depth at a later date (perhaps during the Thanksgiving weekend).

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Praise of Eccentricity

I was checking out Wade G's blog, Evolution of a Mystery, married to April D. of Forbidden Gospels fame, tonight. And much to my surprise and delight I found this description of myself on his blogroll:

Antiquitopia - A blog by a Columbia grad student whom took classes from April when she taught at Illinois Wesleyan University. A smart fellow and an eccentric blog. (I am a big fan of "eccentric."

I had NO CLUE that I was least that my blog is eccentric. I do wonder...of what does its eccentricity consist? In what does it inhere? Eccentric compared to what? What is centric anyway?

Thank you, Wade, for the compliment as I continue to cultivate my academic eccentricity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Managing the Meme

In a strange variation of forwarded emails but only using links on blogs, Ken Schenck of Quadrilateral Thoughts, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Indiana Wesleyan University, fellow Hebrews enthusiast, and a man with a recent unhealthy obsession with the anti-Christ (he's just not going to call back; give it up!), has "memed" me with the following rules (which I just copied and pasted from his site):

1. Link to the person who tagged you (check, see above).

2. Post the rules on your blog (making this line a post within a post).

3. Write six random things about yourself (see below).

4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them (further below).

5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog (if I ever get around to it).

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up (if it ever is).

Six wonderfully random or randomly wonderful things about me:

1. I get a sparkle-in-the-eye enjoyment out of telling my students that Monty Python's Life of Brian is completely historically accurate.

2. I have a certain degree of intellectual ADD: I can't read more than about ten pages of a book without getting bored and starting to read another book. (I do finish books, but I am generally reading about ten at the same time).

3. I always blog when I am avoiding grading: right now I am avoiding grading papers I just received on deceptive, cunning language in ancient Greek literature.

4. I have a slight obsession with Ben Franklin. I wrote my undergrad senior honors thesis on his female pseudonyms (yes, he had female pseudonyms). Did you know he invented the public library? Of course, the follow-up question is, how did I end up in ancient religion?

5. I absolutely LOVE Starburst candy...and popcorn...and ice cream....

6. I paint. And my favorite painter is Van Gogh. And I just saw a wonderful exhibit at MoMa of Van Gogh's night paintings. Ah, I miss the stars at night ever since I moved to NYC.

Any surprises?

So....whom to tag? I will tag a certain anonymous blogger at Cohort 12 Fellow, Justin Dombrowski at Ad Fontes (although he rarely maybe he won't read this), Jodi and Maccabee at Curdistan, Liam at Sententiae et Clamores, Wade at Evolution of the Mystery, and April at Forbidden Gospels. I'll try to get around to letting you all know you've been memed by me! Muahaha!

Quote of the Day: Symposium 175E

With little need of introduction, here's Socrates!

My own wisdom is of no account--a shadow in a dream.... (Plato, Symposium 175E)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Glimpsing Utopia?

This elaborate hoax, a leftist parody of the NYTimes depicting a liberal utopia, was distributed on NYC subways this morning and established a website as well.

The Times, not to be outdone, did a piece on the parody.

Ah...utopia...both the good place and no place at all. A phantom trace of a hoped-for future. Dare to dream!

Obama Victory Catalyzes European Racial Introspection

After Obama's victory, different European countries are now facing a grim fact: that they, themselves, are far away from a French or an Italian Obama-like figure; that they, themselves, have deep-seated problems with racism and can no longer claim that at least they are better about it than the U.S.

Or, so says an article from the NYTimes.

"Render unto Caesar": Socialist Impulses in Luke-Acts (Part 7)

It has been a while since I have posted in this ongoing series on the biblical socialism of Jesus and the Jerusalem Church as presented by or produced by Luke-Acts. Yet now I want to look at a slight digression. While Zacchaeus seemed a departure, but ended up being more of a compromise to illustrate a larger point as well as a clear breakdown in logical consequences of Zacchaeus's actions--that he could not become rich by the actions he took--today I would like to look at a another passage about taxes that may present a challenge: the "render unto Caesar" passage of Luke 20:21-26.

So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?" They said, "The emperor's." HE said to them, "Then give to the emperor the thigns that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were not able in the presence of the peopel to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent. (NRSV)

This is one of a series of "entrapment" questions. The next one is by Sadducees trying to find a logical problem in the resurrection based upon levirate marriage. But this current passage on the denarius is often discussed in terms of whether Christians should pay taxes or not, and they read it as a ringing endorsement. I am not so sure. The most interesting part of this passage to me is that Jesus had to ask for a denarius. Did he not have one himself? In the progression of the story of Luke-Acts, probably not! Jesus, we have seen time and again, has insisted that to become his follower, you must sell all that you own and give the proceeds to the poor. In that instance, they have nothing to "render unto Caesar." In fact, only his opponents have the coin with the figure of the emperor on it. This, in fact, is double-trouble. 1) as noted, as a follower of Jesus, you wouldn't have any money, you cannot follow Jesus and keep your property, you cannot serve both God and Mammon, but 2) it has an IMAGE on it. Images of human (and animate) figures are prohibited in this period as an "engraved image." Jews at different times and places have interpreted this strictly and loosely. In a few hundred years from Jesus' time, synagogues would pop up with clear figural representations of biblical figures and even a Helios (sun-god) image in zodiacal mosaics! But in Jesus' time, it seems this was more strictly kept. Even Herod's palaces keep to geometric and floral designs and does not have any engraved images of animate figures. To be carrying around engraved images (on coins) may have been a problem. Even so, Jesus doesn't make a big deal over this point so much in Luke-Acts (perhaps because Luke's largely Greek audience wouldn't care), but the emphasis is placed upon not having a coin to pay to the emperor.

But this does return us to the serving God versus Mammon. This Mammon, this money, has a face, the face of an emperor. In the eastern Mediterranean, more so than the western portion, emperor worship was prevalent. It was not "enforced" as it was in later centuries, but present nonetheless. In the "emperor cult" would one offer worship, perhaps light some incense, or whatever, to an image of the emperor and a female goddess, Roma, the representation of Rome.

Jesus, however, does not have this coin. Or ANY coin for that matter. Jesus and his followers will not be paying taxes to the emperor, because they do not have anything with his image. This passage, it seems, is meant to complicate, or confuse the question posed. He shifts the grounds of debate, throws the issue right back at his questioners. The result is amazement. In short, much like Socratic method, he has reduced his interlocutor to aporia. They are without recourse. Indeed, for shame! They actually have a coin to give as taxes! Instead, Jesus has recused himself from the entire economic apparatus of the imperium. Just imagine if everyone did that? Perhaps the kingdom of God would break through.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Posting by David Ker at Lingamish about American Politico-Biblical Stupidity

I have seen references to this posting for a few days now and I finally got around to reading it. You can see the full post by David Ker at Lingamish.

It is scathing, and it is right on the money for the most part.

Here is a sample of his righteous ranting:

The dust has settled and the earnest sister who believed that Mike Huckabee would score a divine victory on Tuesday has now switched her sights to the book of Revelation and Obama’s landslide as definitive evidence of the beginnings of the Great Tribulation.

On our trip out to Wyoming I listened to the program on Crosstalk Radio where they allowed callers to tell who they were going to vote for and why. Almost every single one said, “I’m voting for McCain because I’m a Christian.” Well guess what, folks, I voted for Obama because I’m a Republican and a Christian. The most hilarious caller was a rabbi from New York who really let loose with one of the funniest fuselages of rhetorical afflatus that I’ve ever heard including the cry, “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and “in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice” (Gen. 21:12). So it’s not just Christians who can be stupid.

Then the announcer plays a “very interesting” eleven second recording in which Obama says, “My Muslim faith.” And the saints all nodded their heads and said, “See?”

My brethren, stop being so stupid. Stop forwarding half-cocked emails based on bad logic and spite. A British journalist about choked on his microphone when the seemingly intelligent general manager of an ethanol plant in Missouri started talking about how he could never vote for Obama because he’s scared and in Revelation 13 it says that an olive-skinned Muslim will trigger the Armageddon.

We don’t just look like a bunch of kooks. We are a bunch of kooks. I’d be willing to put up with Christians speaking out on the election if they displayed the slightest semblance of a biblical worldview and a marginal ability to exegete a Biblical text. But they don’t. The eschatology of someone who can find “an olive-skinned Muslim” in the Book of Revelation is that of a deluded moron.

Not only that, our Biblical rhetoric thinly veils a Republican partisanship that is downright idolatry. Bible-Thumpers across the spectrum reveled in the lurid missteps of Clinton. But when Bush showed the militancy of a Caligula we were the first to bow before his throne and overlook war crimes, trampling of civil rights and the most disgusting waste of America’s bounty on bombs rather than bread. We’re not a city on a hill. We’re temple prostitutes at the altars of materialism and neo-imperialism.

Yes, these Christians have drifted quite far from the message of the Galilean peasant who preached Love God, Love Neighbor, Help the Poor. All the rest is commentary.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Quote of the Day: Walter Benjamin

For some diversion and pleasure as I am furiously busy, I am reading Michael Wood's The Road to Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles. In it he quotes Walter Benjamin:

A philosophy which does not include and cannot explain the possibility of prophecy by means of coffee grounds cannot be a true philosophy. (Walter Benjamin, Letters in Michael Wood, Road to Delphi, 20).

Maybe he used the "Christ the Magician" coffee mug!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reactions from around the World

Here are some headlines from papers around the world, beginning with an article in the New York Times about the reactions from around the world! ;)

"Election Unleashes a Flood of Hope Around the World" (NYTimes)

The London Times speaks of America's capacity for self-renewal in "Barack Obama's Victory is Head-Spinning Stuff"

Le Monde reports: "La victoire de Barack Obama porte un nouveau rêve américain" (Barack Obama's Victory bears a new American Dream).

You can go to these sites and see the many other articles and reader responses from the other side of the pond.

What happens to Obama's and Biden's Senate Seats?

One thing I didn't know, but starting checking out on the web, is a governmental question about what happens to a Senate seat if the Senator becomes President or Vice-President?

It turns out that if a U.S. Senator wins the Presidency or Vice-Presidency, the governor of their home state appoints someone to fill their seat. The appointee will fill out that term. So, for example, Obama's seat is up in two years. So, his replacement will have the Senate seat for two years. Biden, by the way, was up for reelection and won his Senate race, so his replacement will last the full term of six years.

Evidently, the governor can choose someone from any party and does not have to replace the Senate seat with someone of the same party.

Considering that both Illinois and Delaware currently have Democratic governors, this probably will be less of an issue, but the potential is there. If there is a party-change in the governorship, the President or Vice-President-elect can resign their seat and have a replacement appointed before the governor's term is up. Or they can wait (all the way up until being sworn into office), if they are waiting for a new governor.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

le reportage europeen sur les elections americaines: Le Monde de Paris

Continuing our coverage...ou le reportage de les elections americaine...of the American elections by European newspapers...les journaux are some headlines from Paris's Le Monde:

"Les démocrates espèrent, mais n'osent pas y croire" or "The Democrats hope, but dare not believe it." This article, which is really an interview between various figures (actually a few questioners and one expert) explains to the European audience, for whom the nation is the state, the difference between nation and state in U.S., for which there are really 51 small elections making up the larger national election...or "Les différences entre sondages nationaux et sondages locaux sont très claires." Mostly, they are trying to understand American polling and the issues that might affect a person voting: age, the "Bradley Effect," etc.

The following on possible voter fraud in U.S. elections and the problem of various voting methods caught my attention:

Mr_Schrepel : Pensez-vous que des fraudes électorales soient encore possibles dans ce pays, symbole mondial de la démocratie ?

Philippe Chriqui : Oui. Il y en a toujours eu dans de faibles proportions au niveau local. Il n'y en a pas qu'aux Etats-Unis.
La difficulté ici est que l'organisation du vote ne relève même pas des Etats, mais des comtés. D'où l'incroyable diversité des modes d'élection, source d'erreurs et de fraudes.

Also the question on how the mixture of Hispanic votes divided between Catholic and Protestant affiliations might affect the vote is a particular interest of mine: : En quoi les votes évangélistes et catholiques (nombreux Hispaniques) peuvent-ils faire pencher l'élection en faveur de McCain ?

Philippe Chriqui : Dans la communauté hispanique, dont on pouvait s'attendre à ce qu'elle soit dominée par les catholiques, l'électorat protestant est effectivement en forte progression. Plus d'un tiers des Hispaniques sont protestants. Ils sont naturellement moins tentés par Obama que ne le sont les catholiques.
Cependant, les quelques indications que nous possédons montrent qu'ils n'inversent pas la tendance : les Hispaniques dans leur ensemble votent à 60 % pour Obama et 40 % pour McCain.

With so many shifts in voting patterns, the electorate, and voting models, the article does posit the suggestion of a new "sociologie" of voting to develop new models of polling.

The article is quite long, and, for French readers, you can find it here.

You can find the homepage here, which shows a substantial amount of material about the American election.

I think the minute-by-minute...minute par minute...comments are interesting...their titles are certainly wittier:

"John McCain ne baisse pas les bras" In this play on words, "John McCain doesn't lower his arms." It pokes at the well-known knowledge of McCain's limited arm use in that he cannot lift his arms, literally, but, metaphorically, it refers to his unremitting optimism.

Or the notice that "Bush n'apparaîtra pas" or "Bush will not appear." Since that would actually damage Republicans.

By the way, a big thank you to Karen Sundberg, my former French tutor.

European Coverage of the US Election: London Times

Since we are electing someone to basically the most powerful position in the free world, the entire world is watching. It is informative to see things from their perspective.

So, from around the world, let's start with English-speakers in the London Times:

The Times has several articles to read...almost as many as the NYTimes on the election. Interestingly, they have ranked all of the U.S. Presidents in order of greatness. Check it out here. Being from Illinois, I was happy to see that they placed Lincoln in the number 1 spot, followed by Washington and then FDR. Virginia's Jefferson, whom they refer to as the political philosopher, takes spot 4.

I'm sure some are wondering who is at the lowest spot. Surprisingly, it is not George W. Bush, who tied for 37th spot with Nixon. The lowest spot goes to Buchanan, under whose watch the country disintegrated and who failed to prevent the Civil War.

They also have an interesting post on humor...or this election.

You can find the most recent article on the voting so far here.

Marxist Criticism of the Bible

I have really enjoyed reading the comments to my series about the Socialism of the Bible, particularly focusing on Luke-Acts. In fact, I usually just do not receive this much attention...perhaps that's why I have continued to post on it. Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity. Anyway, I am hoping all of this posting will lay the preliminary study to something more systematic in the future.

I do not really think, at least in these posts, that I am saying anything new or original. Perhaps something lost or intermittently forgotten. In fact, it is interesting to note among the more positive responses to my postings, the backgrounds of people who have posted have ranged quite a bit: youth pastor in what seems to be a more conservative or at least moderate church (correct me if I'm wrong), a Christian who is trying to create the communist vision of Jesus on earth, and, although not responding here, I have been pointed to other scholars saying similar things in these passages and other passages of the Bible.

This gets me to the title of this post. I do not really claim to be doing a Marxist reading of Luke-Acts. Why not? I have only hinted at issues of modes of production, ideological relations (Althusser), or anything like hegemony (Gramsci). I just have not read enough Marxist critical theory, at least not yet (or I do not feel I have). I do think there is room to think about these issues in terms of Jesus' Kingdom of God vis-a-vis a certain utopian vision/critique found in Marxist studies. That Jesus' call to radical wealth redistribution, although it is hardly a call for "workers of the world unite," does undermine the current reigning ideology with an alternate economic vision that has religious and political implications (and literary since Luke-Acts is itself an ideological product promoting a communalist ethic). And perhaps reading more carefully in these forms of critique is what is necessary before doing something more with these preliminary observations. Indeed, it is one thing to say Jesus was socialist (or sort of), and quite another thing to do a thorough Marxist critique of Luke-Acts of Jesus' economic vision in terms of issues of ideological relations. I think, though, there is a lot of room in spatial theory in conjunction with utopianism to discuss these issues as well. That would fold quite well in my current interests in "space-time" of holiness and heavenliness (itself a type of utopianism).

And so, while I am working through Luke-Acts (I am currently predicting a total of 10 posts on it, to keep the posts at a short, readable length), I am reading with great intellectual pleasure Roland Boer's book, Marxist Criticism of the Bible. Boer blogs at Stalin's Moustache. His book focuses on reading passages of the Hebrew Bible in conjunction with a particular Marxist theorist. It has been quite illuminating and enjoyable. I have read the first two chapters, at least, with great interest. And I am highly looking forward to the chapter on Henri Lefebvre and the production of space in 1 Samuel (since space, or space-time, production is a lot of what I do). I do not currently plan to review the book here, but I do highly recommend it. It, in fact, is a good primer of different intellectual currents in Marxist studies and the types of critique they open up or allow. It would be nice to have a book like this for New Testament / Early Christian Studies.

Gay Science and Christians

N.T. Wrong posted this educational video from a documentary called For the Bible Tells Me So, which, as Wrong explains in the comments section of her/his blog, tracks four or five conservative evangelical families with their gay children. In this bit, "Christian" learns about some of the latest scientific research into homosexuality. I am sure many of you already know about it from her/him, but I thought I would "spread the wealth" of knowledge.

The studies, as you might note, focus on male homosexuality. And so, as usual, they need to do more studies for women.

Presidents and Literary Preferences

Jon Meacham has a nice article in the NYTimes about what different Presidents in the past have preferred for their reading material. What fiction and non-fiction literature they prefer.

While some of the titles differ and some of the same between Obama and McCain, Meacham notes a similarity between their choices in terms of a "tragic sensibility." I was happy to see some titles from Columbia's Core Curriculum, in which I teach Literature Humanities, on Obama's list...such as King Lear, which definitely fits that "tragic sensibility."

See the article here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Biblical Socialism Continued! Luke-Acts (part 6): Zacchaeus were are up to the sixth installment of biblical socialism, or, to be more accurate, the question of biblical socialism in Luke-Acts.

Until now, we have seen a rather radical redistribution of wealth by Jesus (and in Acts) in which to follow Jesus and ultimately enter into the kingdom of God (or to create the kingdom of God), one must sell everything and give all of the proceeds to the poor. In Acts, this shifts to giving all the proceeds to the community, a clearer version of communalism rather than merely radical redistribution of Jesus (which presumably included any poor person, whether an insider or outsider).

But now we come to a different story, the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19:2-10:

And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, "He has gone in to be a guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half o fmy goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."

This account appears to depart greatly from Jesus' previous pronouncements of selling ALL you own and giving it to the poor. Why does he not ask the same of Zacchaeus, who, like the rich young ruler (from the preceding chapter!) or the rich man who died and went to Hades, should have sold everything and given everything to the poor? Zacchaeus is, as the passage points out right at the beginning, very rich.

Much hinges upon Zacchaeus' position as a tax collector. It is this position that makes him a "sinner." Tax systems in antiquity worked differently than today. Political leaders would "farm" out the tax collection to "tax farmers." These farmers would compete for the ability to collect taxes by saying they could collect so much. The winner got to collect the taxes. Any additional amounts the collector got over and above the amount promised, he could keep. If he came up short, he would have to pay out of his own pocket. Thus, you can see how gouging, or in terms of the passage defrauding, could occur. Even though the tax collector was of the same background (in terms of ethnicity, religion, etc.) of the people he would extort, this position and the tendency to gouge, built into the system itself, would lead people to think he was not on their side, was a lackey for the government (in Jesus' time, the Romans), and, thus, a sinner.

Jesus says he has come to reach the sinners rather than those who do not need extra assistance. His is a message for outsiders. Yet, the shock of this passage is that, although Zacchaeus is rich, he is already, on his own, starting the way down Jesus' economic distribution program. The startling reversal of expectations is Zacchaeus' fair dealing! It would be more shocking than an honest politician! Zacchaeus, without Jesus asking him to do so, already gives HALF of everthing to the poor. And instead of extortion, if he has dealt with anyone unfairly, he gives them four times the amount he over-taxed. This is, in fact, quite startling. If anyone was the greedy money-hungry capitalist in antiquity, it would be these tax collectors. That such a person gives away half his money and is so honest is quite shocking for an ancient audience, a shock perhaps lost on modern audiences. Another question arises, though. How capitalist is Zacchaeus? How, in fact, does he make money? If he collects taxes, and his revenue is based upon collecting more than promised, and he never collects more than expected, he cannot make any money! His giving half of everything to the poor and paying back four-fold any defrauding holds the system in tension: it reinforces the system by participating in its taxation policies, but undermines its logic of tax farming to gain a profit at the same time.

Be that as it may, by only giving HALF of everything to the poor and doing the reverse of extortion (meaning not only will he not make money, but he may lose some by giving back four times the amount of extortion or defrauding), he still is not as radical as Jesus is earlier. That Jesus announces that salvation has come to Zacchaeus' house for this on the one hand seems a slight departure, or at least variation, on his earlier message of selling everything and giving it to the poor. Indeed, the mention of "son of Abraham" immediately evokes the earlier story of the rich man who went to Hades while the poor Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham. Has Zacchaeus taken (only?) the first steps toward Jesus' vision of the kingdom of God? Or does Jesus compromise his earlier vision for some reason? On the other hand, what terminology is missing here? Precisely the terminology of the kingdom of God, which picks up again in the subsequent parable. Yet he receives, or his house receives, salvation nonetheless.

Is this a departure of the earlier message of giving up everything, or is giving half of everything just another variation of the theme of the radical economic redistribution program of the Lukan Jesus? In fact, how might Zacchaeus square up to Annanias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who sold their land and held back part of the proceeds from the community, and died for it? Inconsistency in the Lukan narrative? Or is something else at work here...a commonality of redistribution in general and disrupting the logic of the economic system itself?

The Apumpkin's Creed

Last night's Treehouse of Horror was hilarious, especially, I think, the spoof on Peanuts' Great Pumpkin. In the middle of it, Milhouse expresses his devout faith in creedal form for the "Grand" Pumpkin, who was "crustified under Pontius Pie-plate":

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New GI Bill

I guess as the economy slumps, there may be a new injection of students into colleges and universities through the new G.I. Bill that goes into full effect August 2009.

There is a very nice, but really long, piece in the NYTimes here.

Is the Bible Socialist? Luke-Acts (part 5)

When I first made some notes regarding Jesus' economic redistribution program, I never thought I would continue to post on it. And, after four posts, I STILL have not discussed the story of the rich young ruler, which is perhaps the place where most people would start. It shows just how much material there is, just how radical this redistribution policy is...and, in fact, to a large degree how consistent:

And a ruler said to him, "Good Teacher, waht shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said, "All these I have observed from youth." And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through teh eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:18-25)

Once again, Jesus, as he consistently says, tells the rich young ruler to sell everything he owns and give the proceeds to the poor. This is the prerequisite for him to have treasure in heaven--the very thing we spoke about in an earlier post regarding Luke 16:1-13 (I think it was part 3) in which one extricates oneself from the monetary system of borrowing and lending altogether in order to have treasure (and friends) in heaven. This also highly resembles the story of the rich man and Lazarus (part 4). The reason the rich man ended up in Hades was that he was rich in this life. What his brothers needed to repent of was their wealth...not merely failing to give scraps from their table--that was my interpretation at least. That interpretation, in fact, falls into place quite well with these verses. The rich man may be a good guy . He may follow all the commandments well. He may do everything else well. BUT he has no place in the kingdom of God unless he sells everything he owns and redistributes it to the poor. Perhaps this is harder for him to do than for Jesus' immediate disciples, who were commanded to do the same, because they were poorer. But Jesus demands this redistribution of everyone for the kingdom of God. Perhaps that is the kingdom of heaven: when everyone sells everything they own (doing away with private property) and redistributes it to the poor so that none are without need. It is a hard sell...that's why the kingdom of God as a whole has never broken out into the world and remains only within individuals.

Oh, and once again, perhaps an ironic theological comment that undermines later Christian message. I am curious about how post-Nicene Christians dealt with Jesus saying he was not Good and that only God is Good, which, of course, suggests Jesus is not God from Jesus' own perspective! In Christological parlance, a very low Christology. This line also, incidently, reminds me of the purported origins of the term "philosopher" with Pythagoras. The story goes that someone referred to Pythagoras as "sophos" (or "wise") and he said that none is "wise" except God alone, but he was merely a "philosophos" (a lover of wisdom / lover of the wise).