Saturday 30 December 2023

If you want to know more about Early Christianity and more, I recommend



And NO, I am getting any remuneration for the recommendation. 

They are very accessible even for someone who has no real understanding of Christianity. 

I would also recommend them for Christians who think they know about early Christianity.

I used his introductory textbook when I was teaching early Christianity - the first addition decades ago - these courses are not expensive and worth every penny, as far as I am concerned!!

Sunday 10 December 2023

New Covenant Theology: The continuing dissemination of Christian antisemitism

 Prologue to the review:

Why I ended up reading this book: These are two comments that I received from a reviewer regarding an abstract for a book that I was proposing to write dealing with the issues of the Christian Bible and Rape Culture.  

Sentence from my abstract: This  monograph looks at the structural aspects of for Rape Culture in Christianity from the perspective of children who have been sexually abused within its environments.

Comment 1: What about those who argue the opposite? E.g. Helen Paynter in 'The Bible Doesn't Tell Me So'? [today's response from me: in an abstract??]

Comment 2: How can you adopt this perspective? What is your legitimacy or authority in doing so? [today's response from me: have you not read my dissertation? or some of my published articles? again: in an abstract? and furthermore, Helen Paynter is legitimate and has authority because why????? she's a Baptist pastor???? she has a PhD in biblical studies???]

Since I hadn't read what Helen Paynter says in her 2020 book, The Bible Doesn't Tell Me So: Why you don't have to submit to domestic abuse and coercive control, I decided that I would look at it. It was not available through Interlibrary Loans, so I stuck it in my shopping cart. However, the book that is being reviewed below, God of Violence yesterday, God of love today?, was available through ILL, so I ordered it. I was horrified at its implicit/explicit antisemitism. I have since removed the 2020 book from my shopping cart. If it is available through ILL at some point, I will order and read it and answer the first question, specifically.

TitleGod of violence yesterday, God of love today?: Wrestling honestly with the Old Testament

Author: Helen Paynter

Publication: Eugene OR: WIPF & Stock, 2019

The Rating System: Not really applicable to this book since it does not deal with intimate partner violence, rape culture or with sexual violence of any sort. However, I have serious reservations about this book that will be discussed below, so I thought that I might as well discuss it.

The Review:

First, as the author makes clear "This is a Christian enquiry into the violence of the Old Testament." [p. 16, italics in the original] 

This book reeks of new covenant theology and this was the starting point for Christian anti-semitism beginning in the "New Testament". I doubt that the author would consider herself an anti-Semite but that is the implication when the "God" of the Old Testament (and no, she does not use Hebrew Bible) is the flawed understanding of God that has to be explained and it is only through Jesus that we can clearly see the good God. The heading for this section of her book reads: The Fullest Revelation of God is in Jesus.

To quote: "We begin with the presupposition that we know God is good because we have seen him revealed in Jesus Christ." (p. 16)

To quote: "If we have not formed an opinion of God that is shaped by the biblical testimony that he is altogether good, then such texts do not present a conundrum. But because we have encountered Jesus Christ and studied his words and life and death, they cause a difficulty." (p. 17)

The assumption here is that if you only read the "Old Testament", your view of "God" would be flawed. Does this not imply implicitly, if not explicitly, that anyone who is a practicing religious Jew has a flawed religion or a flawed understanding of the revealed "god"? Of course it does!

There are two sections at the end of the book under the heading, Interpreting these texts today (pp.154-155). The first points out "that when we  attempt to teach them [that is, children] within the fuller context of scripture , where God is clearly not always on Israel's side, and that we do not encourage children to roll in the blood, as it were". (quotes Is. 9:5 at the end of this sentence) The second segment warns "readers not to equate "ancient Israel" with "modern Israel". Now, since she has been proof-texting throughout her book, I will offer only one text in rebuttal: Gen. 15:17, which reads: "... On that day, Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphra'tes, the land of the Ken'ites, the Ken'izzites, the Kad'monites, the Hittites, the Per'izzites, the Reph'aim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Gir'gashites, and the Jeb'usites. (RSV)" The following is a link to a map with discussion that charts this verse: Greater Israel map. This is what "text-proofing" gets you! If you are a biblical fundamentalist, then the only answer to Gen. 15:17 is that of new covenant theology!

The book is full of texts proving that the violence in the Christian Bible has a purpose in God's plan. As I read it, she must believe that by quoting violent verses/passages from the "New Testament", as well as the "Old Testament", she is showing a balanced view to help questioners realize that the "Bible" must be seen as a whole (because, of course, it is God's revelation to human beings).  

I could match Paynter prooftext for prooftext but I won't. I was partially raised religiously in a fundamentalist Baptist environment (preached a sermon at Galilean Bible camp on hiding your candle under a bushel and played the piano for services, attended  DVBS,  was a member of ISCF, YFC (our team made it to the Ontario championships for a memorization of Scripture competition ("New Testament"). Mind you, this means that, rather ironically, when scriptures come to the forefront of my mind even today, they are first and foremost in the form of the King James Version) and various revival meetings). My parents didn't see the harm in it, I suppose. However, as soon as the United Church opened a summer camp, that's where my sisters went.

Concluding Remarks: This book contains many of the problems that I believe are, at their core, harmful to a healthy Christianity. There are other issues that I could bring up but I am only concerned with antisemitism as the substrata to the whole book. The problem is that what this book brings to the table is a rather skillful intertwining of the Christian Bible, Baptist theology and its form of new covenant theology. And this is how Christian antisemitism continues to be disseminated.


New Covenant Theology: This is Christian theology - direct from the pages of its primary text. It is embedded in most forms of Christianity whether acknowledged any longer or not. It says that all of the previous covenants that Yahweh/God had with the ancient Israelites that one sees in the "Old Testament" (testament being another word for covenant) are superseded by the "new covenant" that Yahweh/God instituted by the death of Jesus (var. his Son, God himself incarnate. etc.) dying for our sins. And the "New Testament" is where we find this! It is not "new" as some of the Internet links suggest but that is neither here nor there. There are various forms of this. However, in none of them do the Jews come out well. [It can get very complicated but this is the gist of the belief.]

DVBS: Daily Vacation Bible School

ISCF: Inter-School Christian Fellowship, an organisation for high school students within the school

YFC: Youth for Christ

Thursday 7 December 2023

Séminaire de Chambly: un autre supérieur oblat dénoncé

 Yet another one!

For those who read French. This is an interview with one of my closest friends in this fight to rid Christianity in all its forms of the scourge of the theologies that allow this type of child abuse to flourish.

Sometimes it feels like a lonely fight; sometimes we get really, really tired of the fight. Nevertheless, we continue to trudge on through the swamp.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Proof-Texting: Everybody Does It!!

 First let's look at two definitions of proof-texting.

"Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing. ... Yet, while the method of proof texting can be problematic, nevertheless theology must still maintain a thoroughly biblical character." (Theopedia) [Missing text is an example of the worst of proof-texting according to the author of this post] Emphasis mine. This post leads to a myriad of explanations about the different problems - there seems to be an agenda behind all of the links, but it still has a lot of useful information about the problems of proof-texting.

"proof text is a passage of scripture presented as proof for a theological doctrine, belief, or principle. Prooftexting (sometimes "proof-texting" or "proof texting") is the practice of using quotations from a document, either for the purpose of exegesis, or to establish a proposition in eisegesis (introducing one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases). Such quotes may not accurately reflect the original intent of the author, and a document quoted in such a manner, when read as a whole, may not support the proposition for which it was cited. The term has currency primarily in theological and exegetical circles." (Wikipedia) I would add the exegesis is far from "value free". 

This is a predominantly Christian issue at this point in time, although in the future, I can see it being applicable to the scholars from other religions who are parsing their own religious texts. From the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal, Christian theologians, pastoral counsellors, biblical scholars of all genres, as well as pastors can be accused of proof-texting. It is the nature of the primary text - The Christian Bible (which includes The Hebrew Bible and The Jesus (et al) Bible, as well as the Apocrypha in some forms of Christianity) that causes the problem, of course. It contains myriads of contradictory statements because the texts are from different genres, different time periods, different theological points of view, all of which can create very different understandings of the texts themselves and allow for radically different understandings of the core message of Christianity (if there can even be a core message).

These contradictions have been a problem from the beginning of Christianity. The church fathers were wrestling with this problem. They truly believed that all of the texts were divinely inspired and ultimately determinative for understanding "god's will" for believers. And that all the Scriptures could be harmonized. This was the assumption of Saint Augustine of Hippo, and moving forward to the Reformation period, Jean (John) Calvin to name two theologians who gave it a try. From a humanistic point of view, some of their solutions are dreadfully awful. Just saying!

The problem as I see it is that any "proof from the text", whether regarding "domestic violence" or whether Jesus was "a prophet, an apocalyptic, a fundamentalist, socially progressive or prosperity gospel supporter (see Matt. 25:14-30)" can all be proved and disproved by scriptural texts. Hence the dilemma that Christians find themselves in, particularly those who are trying to change things in the realm of violence - sexual or physical, systemic (war) or individual (gender issues). As long as The Christian Bible is considered to be "the revealed word of god" and it just has to be interpreted correctly, proof-texting will remain the bug-a-boo of Christian theology.  

Here are three of my posts that address this issue in one way or another.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Tangential Issues #3: Five Essential Questions from "Christianity, Patriarchy & Abuse"

 I have decided to focus on book reviews for the next little while. Yes, I am back writing the blog with more consistency. I have created a "dismantling rape culture" rating system to use as I analyse these books. More about that in the next post. 

Some questions that will be in the back of my mind as I write my reviews come from the book where my first ever published article appeared. That article is still close to the most downloaded and quoted work that I have published over the years. It vies with "Remember the Good, Forget the Bad".

In 1989, five essential questions were put to readers of Christianity, Patriarchy and Abuse: A Feminist Critique (p. xv) that are still relevant. They are as follows with my comments as of the day that I publish this blog post:

1.        1.  Is patriarchy inherent in Christian theology? My Comment: Can we replace patriarchy with "rape culture", which is what I am primarily concerned with? The latter term is even more of a red flag. Whatever you call it, my answer would be yes - even today. [This was published three years before Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza coined the term, "kyriarchy" in 1992.]

2.        2.  Can we call our “corrected” Christianity Christianity? My Comment: Many of the articles in the original book offered alternatives to the prevailing theologies on whichever issue about which they were writing. Today we can read “queer theology”, “feminist theology”, "biblical feminist scholarship", and “liberation theology” to look for examples of  "corrected Christianity". The question is still relevant and as of my readings to date, it is hard to find anyone who really deals with that question. The problem implies questions of definition, essential beliefs, foundational texts, etc. or "who owns Christianity?".

3.       3.  Is there an essential message of liberation in Christianity that runs counter to patriarchal oppression? My Comments: This is the question that was and still is addressed by liberation theology. If this question left out the word, essential, then I would probably answer, yes. Certainly, this is a debatable issue. My question is: "What happens to the dispossessed when they become the possessors of the power that oppressed them?" The problem hasn't been, and I would argue, won't be solved by giving women positions of power in any of its institutions, although that is a start. The patriarchal structure of the texts is so embedded in Christianity that even the liberation theology message is bounded by the will of its god who "giveth and taketh away(KJV)" (adapted from Job 1:20-22 NRSVUE).

4.      4. Why do we struggle so hard to remain within the tradition? My Comments: This is so easy to answer. The existence of the Christian God is embedded in children from the day that they are born. The monotheistic Christian god, no matter what denomination or interpretation has one quality above all else that makes it hard to leave the tradition: that god is personally involved in their lives. Furthermore, if the first twenty years within the system was not blighted by abuse, then  one's community was critically important to shaping your life. Thus, challenging your community is like challenging your whole life. As those who read my blog know, this is a struggle that I have had to work through all my life (still working on that one!). I can only say that being raised is the United Church of Canada was a godsend, whether I knew that at the time or not.

5.   5. Is there anything worth saving in the Christian tradition? My Comments: I am sure there is. Which parts are worth saving is a debate that has been ongoing since Christianity's beginnings. The problem is the Christian Bible itself. If there is no Christian Bible, does Christianity even exist? Well, of course not. The problem is that these texts are foundational - but are they revealed by the deity? And what does "being revealed" even mean? Few of the answers to the latter two questions are as clear as the 1992 statement from the United Church of Canada: "The Word of God, in every case, is larger than the text of the Bible." There is also this from the 2023 UCC website. Their statement of faith with respect to the Bible says: The Bible is the shared standard for our faith, but members are not required to adhere to any particular creed or formulation of doctrine. It's a beginning.

Thursday 26 October 2023

Tangential Issues 2: So Just What are Triggers? Listen to this podcast!

So here is an example of how "Triggers" work from our Profiling Criminal Minds podcast. We had decided to watch Spotlight about the Boston Globe's role in highlighting the Roman Catholic response to child sexual abuse by priests. I had seen it before, no problem. This time - probably because there were other things going on in my life - about 2/3 of the way through I was a mess. I called Dan and suggested that we just do the podcast then and there, so people could actually hear one example of a trigger and its impact. So I worked my way through the trigger and the memories it had evoked with my co-host, who happens to also be my son. Listen with caution, I suppose.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Occupied City: Remember, Please Remember

Under the category of "my life", as I remember what my mother and her family in Amsterdam went through. Some day I may write about that part of my history. I will watch this with tears in my eyes. 

Wednesday 28 June 2023

So, parsing Pope Francis on sin and homosexuality.

 I seem to have missed putting this on the blog. Pope Francis says that homosexuality is not a crime but it is still a sin.

Then he needed to clarify what he meant by that: he meant sin as in "any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin". Pope Francis clarifies comments on homosexuality: One must consider the circumstances

What does this really mean? That if homosexuals get married with the church's blessing (holy sacrament of marriage), then homosexual acts are not a sin?

There are problems with the questions from Outreach, in the first place. Question 2 is problematic and I quote: ""Being gay is a sin," which, of course, is not part of church teaching." Say what? Has Humanae Vitae been struck down? Has the longstanding position that marriage is "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" disappeared? I think not.

An interesting blog post comes from New Waves Ministry (Building bridges between the LGBTQ ministry and the Catholic Church since 1977). I just add it here because it shows just how difficult this issue is within Christianity, much less the RCC. "50 Years Later, Lessons from "Humanae Vitae" Debate readily Applicable to LGBT Issues". And this also highlights just how divided the Roman Catholic Church is on this issue.

Pope Francis is doing his best, I think, to change the channel on LGBTIQ issues but he needs to do a lot more and he doesn't have much time. The next Pope could well reinstitute reactionary thinking on this subject. If fact, if history tells us anything, then that is what will happen.

Friday 21 April 2023

Like all good stories, this one has a twist!

It is now time to tell the story of why it took me so long (the full 7 years) to finish my PhD. It is not every jot and tittle about my journey researching, analysing and writing the dissertation - that was never the problem as we shall see. 

In 1985, I finished my Master's on a high - Joachim Jeremias prize for best student article coming out of the MA (published in Second Century a few years later). For reasons unrelated to this story, I couldn't leave Ottawa. There was no possibility of doing a PhD in Intertestamental in either university in Ottawa, so I switched gears.

For the PhD, I was going to look at physical child abuse and Christianity. As I started the research, Phillip Greven's book, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse came out. While I was unimpressed with his Freudianism, the book said everything that I was going to argue in my dissertation. Switch gears!

I decided to focus on the sexual abuse children in Christian environments. "A blessing and a curse!" The kindest thing anyone said was "Go ahead but I don't think there is anything there!" This was the chair of our department at the time (Dr. Roger Lapointe), who was gracious enough to say, "Well I guess you're on to something." when the Mount Cashel scandal broke.

A couple of years in, I had finished course work and needed to do a colloquium about my topic, my hypothesis, etc. The room was packed. One of my professors (New Testament from my MA - a different horror story for another blog) stood up and gave a diatribe about how there was nothing there and I couldn't prove anything, and how did I every think there was a dissertation here. My flippant reply was "Well, if there isn't a dissertation, there'll be a damn good book!" My dissertation supervisor was not very happy with that reply, of course. Other than that, there were positive responses and questions.

Note: everyone including my dissertation supervisor had been trying to get me to do something else, something more palatable, I suppose.

Note: I had already delivered a paper at the AAR and it was published in Patriarchy, Christianity and Abuse: A feminist critique in 1989 prior to the next step. I had also published papers in Second Century and Women at Worship.

The next step was my comprehensive exam. This is where the real problem began. First, you need to understand that I had no say in the composition of my PhD committee, nor would they be readers of my dissertation. It was composed of  a Roman Catholic priest, Rev. (Dr.) Norman Pagé (the chair), an ex-nun, Dr. Elisabeth Lacelle (a Roman Catholic theologian), and Dr. Robert Choquette (ex- RC military chaplain and Canadian religious historian). I submitted the first proposal, then a second one, then a third one. All were rejected by the committee with various unhelpful comments which I followed as best I could. After the third rejection, on the advice of my supervisor, I tried to have a meeting with the chair of my committee. He wouldn't answer emails, phone, etc. I went to see Elisabeth (who was now Chair of the Department). Her response was that she didn't know but Dr. Pagé said it wasn't good enough (and basically that was good enough for her). So I went to see Dr. Choquette. His first response when I asked what was wrong with my proposal, was "Don't know, looked good to me". Then he sort of backtracked and said maybe I didn't show that I knew the difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics well enough. My response was, if I didn't know that, I shouldn't be in this program. He laughed. So no satisfaction.

I then decided that I was handing in no more comprehensive proposals until someone could tell me what was wrong with the preceding three. My supervisor was not happy but I stood my ground. So I continued to write the dissertation, pay my fees, raise my children, interact with my husband and my friends, work in the AIDS hospice, teach part-time, in other words, live my life.

In the 7th year (1993), I let it be known around the office that I was considering suing the department. Lo and behold, I received a letter from the Chair (still Elisabeth) with the date for my comprehensive exam, the names of my interrogators (LOL) and could I please send them in a proposal, which I did. The exam went off without a hitch, I handed in my dissertation with the required 5 copies in August 1993. Then my mother took me on a trip to Israel. When I got back, it seemed that my dissertation had got "lost in the mail" (of course, I had handed it in to the department in person). Never mind, they sorted it out, I got feedback from a couple of readers before the defense. At my defense, I had a psychologist, an anthropologist, a sociologist and a feminist theologian. Highlights were when the psychologist said that she had never thought of it like that but when she started to look at her childhood, she found other examples, like St. Agnes. The anthropologist and the sociologist got into an argument about my analysis of Leviticus on incest prohibitions and blood rights. The feminist theologian was the hardest on me. She said that my theology was all over the place - what could I say, I was raised in the United Church of Canada noted jokingly by all my colleagues as the home of the "bouncing ball of theology". And any specific form of Christian theology was not the point. It was more complicated than that, of course, and my defense of my position was obviously satisfactory.

The decision was that I had to expand my conclusion (which had been deliberately perfunctory for reasons too long to put in this blog) and the PhD was mine. I expanded the conclusion and I received my PhD in 1994. Burnt out was the only way to describe my state of mind. I wanted little to do with formal academia ever after.

Then 11 years later almost to the day of my defense....


Priest charged with sexual assault [1976-2002 Page] - RCC. Boys. Canada flag; Mooney's MiniFlags
CANADA - The Ottawa Citizen by Dave Rogers Saturday, April 09, 2005
A former high-ranking official in Ottawa's Roman Catholic archdiocese charged with sexually assaulting boys has been sent for a psychiatric examination after he grinned and giggled in Gatineau court yesterday.
Police arrested Rev. Norman Page, 73, at his Chelsea home on Thursday. He faces two charges of gross indecency, two counts of sexual assault and two counts of attempted sexual assault on juveniles between 1976 and 2002.
Sgt. Manuel Bandeira, of the Municipalite Regionale de Conte des Collines police, said yesterday the alleged sexual assaults involved boys between the ages of 14 and 18, and took place in Chelsea, where the priest lives, and in the Laurentians.
Before his retirement, Father Page was director of the Office of Liturgy for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa.
He also taught religious studies at the University of Ottawa, lecturing on the history of religious architecture and sacred art, from 1965 until his retirement in 1997.

Yes, it's true. The Chair of my PhD committee was a child (juveniles) sexually abusing priest. My best friend notified me of the arrest. My supervisor emailed that it must be nice to be vindicated. Really! Too little, too late! She hadn't been overly supportive of my work (again, another story - won't make it onto a blog though).

I will leave the reader to come to their own conclusions. For me, I had my explanation.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

On More Thing: Did that little boy have the option to say "no"????

 The previous post is relatively without comment except by implication.

I have friends who think that this man is the next best thing to "god". I hope they don't ask my opinion; I really don't want to lose friends. 

But then again, there are always new friends to be made, I guess.

Wrong is Wrong : A few comments re the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama apologizes after video shows him kissing boy, asking him to 'suck my tongue'

 I can't make this an "I told you so" post because this blog has been focused on the religious culture that that I was raised in. I come from the belief that you clean up your own house (Christianity) first before you try to change other people's houses (every other religious system in the world). Divine sanctions and such!

Just a few things to say: 

1. No religious system is devoid of the abuse of children - physical, emotional and sexual. Power makes a person think that they are above the norms of the general populace - that they are exceptional. 

2. Religious systems are set up to make "worldly abuse" something that people have to accept - it will be better in the next life - or worse. 

3. Remember "Don't buy Thai". (this Wikipage is in desperate need of amplification but I don't have time to do it at this point) You probably don't. But I do because I was a voracious reader and fan of the writings and activism of Andrew Vacchss. Here is a link to his official website, The Zero. Thailand, a devout Buddhist country was (is?) the accepted hub of child sex tourism.

Oh no, my class on the History of Religion is going to be so much fun in the fall (irony, sarcasm and all that).

Monday 10 April 2023

Tangential Issues 1: Groundhog Day anyone!

 Backgrounder to this label. A few months ago, I was asked if I wanted to put together a book proposal and I said yes very quickly. My response rather surprised me because I had, to a large extent, decided that I really had little more to say that I hadn't already said - either academically or in this blog. When people ask why I wasn't still writing, presenting or at least researching in the area of Christianity and child sexual abuse and all the issues surrounding that focus, I said "why bother", nothing has changed, not really. And I don't need the grief! However, I said "yes" to creating a book proposal. I have begun to do my reading  (there is a lot to catch up on) - classes are done, only marking which is not as consuming as teaching. What I have found so far is that, in the end, I was right, nothing much has changed where the big issues are concerned. Things are more informed about "sexual abuse" and "domestic abuse" issues (we can thank #MeToo for that), but I feel like I am Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Been there, done that and it is once more into the breach.

I have found a few things that give me some hope that there will be a shift a-coming but I doubt that I will see it. I figure that I have about 20 years left - give or take - and as long as "the Alzheimer's" doesn't get me, I will still be doing this and hopefully, die with "my boots on".

 I am not talking about what I will propose because it is very specific; so the purpose of this label is to write about things that come up that are related to the topic but are really tangential because, if I don't, they will drive me crazy. 

This morning I woke up to a wonderful email from a student in my class who thanked for me everything that they had learned over the term. It was quite lengthy and brought tears to my eyes. The course was on the history of women in the pre-industrial world and focused on the "creation of patriarchy". Emails like this are one of the things that keep me going and make me realize that yes, what I am teaching does have an impact that changes things, even if in very small ways for one person. That is all I can ask for. 

1. Tangential issues are not triggers. They are issues that are coming up as I read these academic tomes (books, articles, blogs, podcasts, etc.) that are not clearly germane to the topic that I want to address in my book proposal. They just make me angry or sad.

2. Need for external support systems. I have found a therapist to replace Neville who died a few years ago. He will now be my "on-call" support system should I run across triggers related to my childhood sexual abuse as I am doing this work.

In future posts, there are already topics that have come up that I want to write about. "Vicarious trauma" and "Witnesses" the latest buzz words for avoiding pain (I'm such a cynic!); "Triggers" and "Trigger Warnings" - I have a draft post that needs to be finished and will come under this label - for example, I will write about how I deal with those in my classroom; "Theory" - how that box is a real problem; and finally "Stigmas", which will be a re-visitation of my very first post. Maybe I will start another "label" called "They mean well, but..." 

Once more, into the breach!

Sunday 9 April 2023

Sacred Witness 2: Unfinished but a few more thoughts on this book

This is the second part of a book review that I published on October 20th, 2012. Given the research that I am engaged in now, I thought that I would just publish this part as well. It has been in draft mode since November 14th, 2017. There was more that I wanted to say but I am "frying other fish" right now. However, this latest research and writing is definitely related to the problems that I have with this, and many other books. I cannot do a third reading, it would be too depressing. She has written another book called The Bible as Political Artifact: On the Feminist Study of the Hebrew Bible (2017) and article (2019) that I will take a look at over the next couple of weeks.  

Book Review:  It Means What I Say It Means - SO THERE!!

Author: Susanne Scholz
Title: Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible
Publisher: Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 2010
Details: 279 pages; solid notes for the most part; no bibliography but index of authors, index of bible and other ancient texts and index of subjects. Nonetheless, a bibliography of cited sources would have been helpful.

With apologies to Lewis Carroll, my main complaint with Scholz' book is like Alice's puzzlement - in this case, texts not words:

"When I use a word [read text]," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean— neither more nor less."
    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words[read texts] mean so many different things."
    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master that's all."
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

I will begin with some of the assumptions that are a given in this book.

Assumption 1: the Bible is the sacred word of God, that is, the Bible is still being privileged

This is a facet of Assumption #2. I read this (and many other works) as trying to "save the bible" by arguing that the reader can determine what the text says and what the text means - this way, one can avoid the necessity of dealing with the god that is created in these texts and by these texts.

Assumption 2: the reader's interpretation has primacy over anything else.

Example (I had more examples but see the prologue above):
Page 112: "he [Harold C. Washington] succumbs to an empiricist-scientific epistemology as if readers were not in charge"

To say this in other words, we can carve out our own meaning whenever and however we want to, and to hell with the consequences to the text, to the reader, to the believing community, to the world at large. The ultimate historical "sitz im leben" has no relevance; theological presuppositions have no relevance. And we wonder why people no longer have any idea what is in the Bible or where it came from.

Why this dismissal of all previous research?

Why is this a problem?

Consequence 1:

Proof-texting becomes the sine qua non of biblical interpretation.

Consequence 2:

History be damned. 

Consequence 3:

If we take the "text" out of its historical structure, the destructive social system of patriarchy cannot be held accountable. Why? Because there is no historical social system that matters. If one can make the text say anything that I want it to say, then ultimately it becomes irrelevant. The story of a people's and an individual's grappling with trying to find meaning in the world is undermined to such an extent that it has little to really tell us.

Consequence 4: The biggest consequence of all is that it changes nothing.

Since the reader's interpretation takes priority over everything else, we have reached the apex of individualism.

Let me lay out a couple of things.

First: Anyone who read any part of the "My Story" sequence will have some understanding of where I am "coming from". How they interpret that is out of my control.

Second: I do not believe that the reader's interpretation of a text should hold precedence over historical/cultural/societal readings.

Third: A reader is free to do what they want with a text. However, they should be aware that there are not only consequences for themselves, but for the community of believers as well. It is now broken down into distinct entities - all of whom will - inevitably - want to argue that their understanding is correct. That, in the end, subverts the healing power of community.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Told You So! It's about time some part of this church was acting with some level of moral integrity.

Jesuits of Canada release names of priests 'credibly accused' of sexually abusing minors

We could now check out how many are already on the website. I won't do this but it could be done. I only wish other parts of the Roman Catholic Church would this as well. At least somebody over at the Jesuits of Canada has a conscience. 

It is still so so very heart-breaking. It has been so destructive for our whole society, much less the Roman Catholic Church. The only thing that could make this list better would be if the Jesuits had put the dates of each pastoral assignment on the list. Are the assignments listed in chronological order? Just asking.

Sunday 26 February 2023

Introducing "The Shiloh Project Blog" to my readers

The Shiloh Project: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

From the Blog's About Tab:

The Shiloh Project is committed to fostering research into the phenomenon of rape culture, both throughout history and within contemporary societies across the globe. In particular, it will investigate the complex and at times contentious relationships that exist between rape culture and religion, considering the various ways religion can both participate in and contest rape culture discourses and practices.

It will also explore the multiple social identities that invariably intersect with rape culture, including gender, sexuality, race and class.

Our name, Shiloh Project, refers to a story replete with rape in the closing chapters of the Bible’s book of Judges. Judges is rife with brutalities and recounts a time of military skirmishes, preceding yet more organised warfare in the days of monarchy. The book ends with events at Shiloh and comments, on a closing note, that in those (chaotic and violent) days there was no king, so each man did as seemed right in his own eyes.

Saturday 21 January 2023

Words of Hope: The Rev. William J. Barber II

In keeping with a number of other things that are giving me the urge to again begin to write. Hopelessness is such a horrible thing.

Good old-fashioned Christianity: Just in case you thought things were going to change

Pope Francis used an offensive slur for gay men during a discussion with bishops, sources say. ope The Vatican apologized Tuesday “to those ...