Monday, October 12, 2015

A desperate remedy

What am I doing with the Bible? I did not write it. In many ways it was foisted upon me by tradition, whatever that is, a combination of wisdom and ignorance.

I added a note re consistency to my previous post on this project. When I lost several of my database entries (only partially since I am protected by some redundancy I have built in) it drew to my attention that I had been a little inconsistent in a few places.

As I dreamed the cause of my bug and saw its silver lining, I asked myself why I was bothering with this project at all. There is an answer. The Bible is important to my social history. It has determined literature, music, theology, and history especially since the New Testament was written. Without the Bible, there would have been no fifth evangelist, J. S. Bach.

I am not alone in these questions. I have my copy of Sartre's Being and Nothingness in front of me. I recall reading and remembering only one line in that book, "The problem is that something is". The problem is that the line is not in the book, only in my memory! I bought the book over 50 years ago in my teens. I never read it. But I know it deals with all that I intuited about negativity and consciousness at that time. (Hah! You never read it and your memory of never reading is flawed. Who can trust you?)

Well you should laugh at me. The problem is that I am reading the Bible. It is my book. It may not be a love letter, but it is an art song, and the response to the history of Israel in the Old Testament, my history whether by association or inheritance, is responded to in the New with what one could just call the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (And just what is that?)

That gospel, flesh, (the two words are homonyms in Hebrew), the good news, is that God is in this awful mix of being and nothingness with us, that tension between self-protection and vulnerability, between love of self and other, between good and evil - and these three are not in parallel but exist all together. That tension is resolved in the life of Jesus, whom "God made to be sin that in him we might become the righteousness of God".

The problem is not that something is. The problem is that we are. And we are trouble. Trouble to ourselves, trouble to the other, trouble to the earth. We need this confrontation that Yahweh God set up in the garden. How will we draw good lessons rather than evil from the face-to-face struggle?

It is not possible to get the NT without the Old. It is possible (though difficult) to read Gospel in the Old even without the New. It is also possible to intuit the whole without having read it even with faulty memory.

The problem is that if we read it to misread it, we become those of whom Qohelet says, "they haven't a clue that what they do is evil!" (That's for the religious in case you hadn't noticed.) I've noted it before at the border between chapters 4 and 5.
Keep your footing as you are walking to the house of God, and more ready to hear than to give an offering among the dullards,for they haven't a clue that what they do is evil.
People need the love letter - but they need it not for self-centered indulgence, (something I have accused myself of at times) but for correction, for chastisement, to change from being sin to being righteous - and not just right in one's own eyes or in the eyes of one's own tradition.

If there were no such reading we would need to invent it. Tribalism is not exactly dead in our time.

Maybe I should read Sartre.

concurrently,
Doug Chaplin is musing again on the Articles of the Book of Common Prayer. He begins with article 1 on God.
Energion discussion network on I'm right and you're wrong.

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