Monday I will head to Indianapolis to attend a training session put on by the United Way of Indiana to help Long Term Recovery Committees. I think that we will have six or so from LARRI coming for the event. After it is over, I am going to try to take Jessica out for a quick dinner --- she has a commitment that night, and then load up some of her stuff, since she will be moving out on the 21st. Next semester Jessica will be in Australia. Must be nice to be a student today!
I have a few books to share with you. A few weeks ago I finished Who Were The Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William Dever. Not a book that I imagine that many of you will run out and buy, but I really enjoyed his analysis of the development of the Israelite people. His view runs counter to the view of Finkelstein, whose book I had read earlier. I would have to say that Dever's suggestion seems to make more sense. Of course, like many archaeologists Dever questions the historical accuracy of the Biblical story. From my experience in Israel and my reading, again I would have to agree with his position. The final chapter of the book does an excellent job in explaining why he questions the value of the bible as a "history book", but also why it has value despite it's flaws. If you want to really dig into a book that goes into explaining how archeology works and why it is important --- I would recommend Dever's work.
I just finished on Monday, John Dominic Crossan's newest book God & Empire. This is a powerful book. The writing style left something to be desired, but the content is very important! Crossan argues how civilization and violence go hand in hand. The norm for civilization is Peace through Victory. That victory may come by me conquering you, or by my dominating your life. If one thinks about it, this argument is very true. Whether we are talking about the Monroe Doctrine or the Bush Doctrine. Peace in the United States of America is sought through coercion --- or at the end of a gun.
Crossan suggests that Jesus offers to us another way of seeking peace. Not through Victory (or violence) but through Justice! Crossan then goes through the biblical stories (as only he can) identifying what most likely goes back to Jesus and how his life was all about seeking Peace through Justice until the Romans (civilization) decided to seek their Peace through Victory (ie. killing Jesus and many others on a cross).
The most interesting part of the book was when Crossan worked through Paul, and John of Patmos and their understandings of Jesus. Paul, Crossan argues, was on the same page with Jesus and sought Peace through Justice. Wait a minute you are saying, isn't this the same guy who told women to shut up. No, Crossan argues, it is not the same guy. He goes through the 13 books attributed to Paul (1/2 of the New Testament books) and divides them three ways --- those certainly written by Paul --- 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon (7 books) those probably not from Paul --- 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians (3 books) and those certainly not from Paul --- 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (3 books).
In these books, Crossan argues that Paul moves from the Radical Paul (who agreed with Jesus) to the Liberal Paul and then to the Conservative or Reactionary Paul. His arguments make great sense. But I could never articulate them here. But let me say this, after reading Crossan's analysis I can say something I never thought I would say before --- If Crossan is correct -- I really like the Radical Paul! Yes, I really said that.
This part of the book is worth the difficulty in reading it!
The last section he looks at John of Patmos --- maybe his chapter title says it all "Apocalypse and the Pornography of Violence." Crossan walks through how we turned the Prince of Peace into an avenging God seeking to destroy the world. WOW! Being someone who by nature is a pacifist his analysis struck home with me. Jesus did not come to destroy --- we chose to "re-invent God" so that his great clean up would get rid of all those people we didn't like.
This is a powerful book that is work the effort it will require to read.
Crossan asks: "The fundamental question is whether we Christians imagine our God as violent or nonviolent." Well, how do you view God?
In the epilogue he asks three questions:
How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in the American Empire?Tough questions! He answers himself by saying: "It is the radicality of God's justice and not the normalcy of civilization's injustice that, as a Christian, I find incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth." Me too!
How is it possible to be a nonviolent Christian within a violent
Christianity based on a violent Bible?
How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American Empire
facilitated by a violent Christian Bible?
If anyone wants to read this book and sit down and discuss it --- count me in!!