Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to Read the Bible, another view

A friend was talking yesterday about inductive Bible study; apparently some people find this a strange concept.

"What?" I squawked in mock surprise. "You mean, like reading the Bible and thinking about what it says?"

"Radical, I know," my friend said. "But sometimes people want to read a commentary..." as though that were the answer key! In some ways that's easier than reading the text for myself and asking, "What is God saying to me here?" This of course brings the question of how the text should be read. Here's a recent quote from a buddy of mine:

We'd be better off if we approached the Bible as fictional masterpiece than as reference manual. The former can shape us, not so the latter.
When this appeared on facebook, some spirited discussion followed, and the original author clarified
I didn't say the Bible is a fictional masterpiece (I don't think it is). I'm merely pointing out the relative personal impact of interacting with these different genres. "The Brothers Karamozov" can change your life and worldview in a way that "The Portable Pediatrician" never will.
I think this brilliant, though 20 years ago I couldn't have appreciated it.

Back then I thought of the Bible more or less as a textbook. But the narratives (Cain and Abel, the Judges, the kings of Israel and Judah) undermined that view, and then, around the time I understood Genesis 1 as a polemic, I began to see the Bible as a record of man's experiences with God -- the people of Israel; and then, starting with Matthew, a particular sect we now call Christians.

Another friend told me that he used to read the Bible as a novel; then he became a Christian and read it as a set of principles. When he had children, he read it as a message from a parent to his children.

But yesterday's discussion also brought to mind Kugel's book, "How to Read the Bible," which I've mentioned before (also here). Professor Kugel has a very interesting view of the Bible, which for him means the Hebrew Bible (what many of us call the Old Testament). As a source critic, he doesn't believe that Moses actually wrote the Torah and so on; yet, as a practicing Orthodox Jew, he believes the text is divinely inspired and seeks divine comfort and guidance from it.

My current view: the Bible ...

  • is not an answer book
  • is divinely inspired but each book is also a product of its time and place
  • is a love letter from God (Genesis 1 vs. the Enuma Elish for example)
  • tells us about Jesus Christ, the hope of the world
  • raises many questions
  • has a lot of wisdom
  • speaks to me differently today than it did a year or a decade ago
Those are some things that come to mind now. More later...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

What is Proposition 16 really about?

There's a lot of confusion lately regarding what Proposition 16 is about. This is understandable, given that PG&E have spent upwards of 40 million bucks (is it past 50 million now?) to create this confusion. So here's an illustration.
Suppose you live in an apartment building. The grounds there are maintained by "Excellent Gardens & Plants." This EG&P gets paid by a fee tacked on to each tenant's monthly bill. You're with me?

You hear from someone who lives in another building across town. They do not use EG&P there; the building managers have their own trucks, their own lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, leaf-blowers, etc., and the monthly fee in your friend's building is quite a bit lower than yours is. You wonder why, and after some research you find out that the boss at EG&P got paid over ten million bucks last year.

"Whoa," you think to yourself, "maybe our building should buy our own trucks, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, and so on." Or maybe hire some other outfit?

Now you can imagine that EG&P doesn't like this idea. They don't want your building managers to buy their own equipment and hire their own gardeners; EG&P want you and all your tenants to keep paying EG&P! Especially EG&P's boss wants you to do that, so he can enrich himself.

What if EG&P were able to make a rule of apartment building management that said, "For any apartment building or condominium management group to invest in their own landscaping equipment, they need to get 2/3 of the tenants to agree to it in a secret-ballot election" -- wouldn't EG&P be happy?

That's what Prop 16 is: if people in your city or county are disgruntled by PG&E's high rates, and you want to buy your own generators or windmills, PG&E wants to force a vote where the answer is "NO" unless over 66% of the voters say "YES". Can you imagine the amount of propaganda that will fill the mailboxes and airwaves in your area if such a vote were proposed? PG&E would use every dirty trick they can think of to muddy the waters, and 34% of your voters would vote NO, and PG&E would continue to "own" you.

And they called Prop 16 the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act." Slimebags.

Please read the Ballotpedia impartial summary, including the donor list; for a more partisan perspective check out this article from The Bakersfield Californian, or my earlier posting, "Proposition 16 -- ebola in sheep's clothing."

Life's little victories
or Praise God from whom all blessings flow

I've got a bundle of little things to be thankful for -- some big things too, that I often take for granted -- but I want to tell you about two little victories. In the past hour or so I lost track of my ATM/debit card. Did I leave it at the grocery store, where I last used it? Did I drop it on the floor at the fish market?

I searched my pockets and the shopping bag multiple times. Looked in the car. Emptied my pockets. Checked in my wallet again. And one last time--whoa! There it was. I was all ready to cycle over to the bank and fill out forms....

For the other, you need to know that we had our kitchen remodeled a couple of years ago. At that time, the contractor removed our insulated aluminum windows and leaned them against the fence in our side-yard. They were in the sills/framing/whatever that I'd slid them into some 20-25 years earlier.

After a couple of years of having weeds grow up around them, we finally got them removed from the frames and cleaned up. The lovely Carol posted an ad on craigslist, and someone took one off our hands. We even got money for it! But the others sat on the patio unloved, until a few days before our Big Trash Pick-Up Day.

I hauled them out to the driveway and left them leaning against "Fred," our 1986 Toyota; the lovely Carol made a "FREE" sign... but still no takers! I had hoped someone would take them and use them.

Finally, the eve of the big pickup, I put them clearly in the "Take Me Away" area and continued to stack stuff. On one of my trips out to the driveway, a fellow stood by his bicycle, talking on the phone and looking at the windows. "Please take them!" I said. I assured him that this was absolutely OK with me, and he promised to come back with his truck in maybe ten minutes.

I continued hauling stuff out, and he was back with his truck. I helped him load up. He took a pressure cooker (with it's old non-gasket) off our hands, too. Now this was what I call a win-win situation; I did not want that stuff to end up in landfill.

Of course there are bigger things to be thankful for too -- gainful employment, a roof and walls, a loving family, the freedoms and abundance we enjoy as Americans, the knowledge that we're already forgiven and the promise that we'll be made perfect. But life's little victories are blessings, too, and I'm thankful for all of them.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Prop 16: the bad guys are probably going to win

The "bad guys" in this case being PG&E. The Mercury News summarize the bill with this headline: "Prop. 16 is PG&E's attempt to prevent other cities from following Palo Alto's energy lead." They (PG&E) are spending tens of millions of dollars to trick people into voting YES on this turkey. Please read the article!

Here's another, from San Diego: Pacific Gas & Electric spending millions to pass California Proposition 16. According to that April 15th article, PG&E had "spent nearly $30 million in an advertising spree to pass Proposition 16."

The sad thing is, their tomfoolery and deceptive wording, plus now over 40 million$, will probably work. We have to remember that the voters in this state voted for Prop 13 back in the '70s, cutting the legs off the elementary and secondary education system; they voted in Arnold, crippling Parks and Rec and who knows what else... and they're quite likely to fall for the deceptive wording of Prop 16 too.

What can we say to all this? Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power he has to subject all things to himself. So although the bad guys sometimes win (and really, this loss is nothing compared to the disaster that Rumsfeld and Cheney created in Iraq), we have to remember too that whether we are awake or asleep, we can be with Jesus.