Of being a former Pentecostal/Charismatic preacher

The price to pay for being a former Pentecostal preacher is often high and it comes in all sorts of currencies. People often look upon you as “a little of that, but not much of that other” as in “too Pentecostal for the Calvinist and too Calvinist for the Pentecostal”, a phrase that causes a few to laugh but that it is a huge roadblock if one wants to change his image into a reasonable and well balanced Christian. Bearing in mind that if you are a Christian many will find you unreasonable anyway is not something that soothes the pain of being stuck with a label that is not only slanderous but it is also an impediment for any progress in the denominational circles in America Evangeliville. There is one softer side, however, which often assuages one’s ire of such unfair state of affairs, though: That’s when people still look upon you as a superstitious Pentecostal (if there is any other kind…), and when they meet you in a public place, as a restaurant, for example, they feel that they should come to you and tell stories upon stories that are completely insane, to say the least, that cannot be substantiated, that, if true, the whole world would have known, believers and unbelievers alike, the latter, a kind that would be nothing but extinct if these stories could have been validated and authenticated. Indulge me in presenting to you a recent event and the way it ended so, perhaps, I can contribute to your day laughing quota.

Here it goes:

I am sitting in this rather popular restaurant chain and all of sudden I am reminded of what a teacher told me once about undesired encounters: “You turn on the lights and you won’t be able to control what kind of bug crawls or flies in.” A person who recognized me as a former Pentecostal preacher, but who knows how diametrically opposed I have become on the superstitious nature of Pentecostal/Charismatic faith and felt that they have to “witness” to me a few things that are happening in their hallucinating world. Needing a few inward laughs in that busy and hard day, I gave ears to the story about a certain preacher whose name I will leave off the story, in whose services God is doing something that unquestionably He is capable of doing, but one can hardly find a purpose for Him to doing it and also the results whereof, should He have really done it. “Oh, and God is filling tooth cavities in those services; the anointing (as they call not knowing that references to “anointing” in the Bible are references to the Anointed One), is so heavy that some people had their cavities filled! Isn’t that wonderful? (Expecting me to respond…) Since my silent is deadly, they continue: “Oh, and there was a diamond rain in the service! The Lord poured down a rain of diamonds in that service”. What a wonderful thing the Lord is doing through the ministry of (names the person). Now, at this point it is useful to mention that the person relating these purported Godly feats to me is doing so as if “it” was there in person (I don’t want to reveal whether “it” was a man or a woman); in other words, I was made, by the emphasis and detailed exposition of the facts that this person was there and saw the tooth fillings and the diamond rain, perhaps having picked up some gems, and all the other miracles that “it” mentioned to me and that I don’t mention here because they are common in Pentecostal/Charismatic conversations.

The Truth Comes Out

Well, still being warm-hearted to this person, I preamble a question and then asked it as so: Wow, how interesting. Listen I write in a blog in the Internet with a certain degree of readership and it wouldn’t be wonderful if I could meet some of these people with tooth fillings, obviously with their dentist records that the tooth was unfilled so as to avoid the mockery of skeptics (heh heh), and interview them, and also have someone show me one of those heavenly diamond rocks, or dust, or whatever, and photograph it since I think it would be such a blast to have these great things published and allow the public to know of them and of your preacher?. Silence! Total silence! One can expect the other to be in awe at these stories or object to them, but, ASKING EVIDENCE??? O, no, that is unusual and in the Pentecostal/Charismatic circles it is the same as “persecution and unbelief”. After all you don’t question miracles do you? Well, I don’t question miracles; I just want evidence because the miracles in the Bible had evidence that others, including unbelievers could verify!

Then, after the silence, the truth comes out: O, brother, I am sorry if I gave you the impression that I was there… that was related to me my so, and so, daughter. Okay, I continue my pursuit of authentication, and say: My I have an address, a name that I can search of this person so I can verify these miracles and publish them? A few seconds of the same silence as before and then… “Well, I don’t know if “their” daughter was there, I think someone who was there told her. But why in the world do you want to publish this?” Well, beloved, (see I am nice), don’t you think that if God is doing these things today they shouldn’t be in the papers, on TV, on Bill O’Reilly, Oprah, so the world could know what a mighty God we serve (alluding to one of their chorus)? Don’t you think that would be good for people seeking God to “seek him even harder”? (I am NOT entrapping anyone… I am looking for authentication). O, brother, (here we go again), unfortunately I can’t tell you because it is something that I heard from a very good person who is really a powerful sister in the Lord… (and then the illogical challenge): “Why do you want to see proof anyway; don’t you believe that God is capable of doing these things?” I have a prepared answer for this kind of question that I used to Mormons when they ask me if I doubt that Jesus had power to come to the Americas and present the Gospel to natives): “O, I believe He has all the power, He is all powerful, including the power to end the world right now and kill us right now, but, is He doing it or has He done it already?” Usually I get silence, but what I got was a shift on the conversation to the political situation in this country…

How it spreads and become believable?

What I am trying to relate here is a true fact. People will relate these things to others of the same like faith (or what they call faith) and it will spread as uphill fire or and downhill water, just as fast and deadly. People who believe as this person does will never challenge anything and will hurry in relating to others the same story and always presenting it as if they were physically in the place where these events took place. As such, these stories spread and the breath, width, heights that they go are now damaged by something involving the name of God and the faith of Christians that cannot be substantiated by facts and not supported by evidence. What they really want, as all sycophants want, is to convey the idea of familiarity with the minister in whose services these things are happening and find a social acceptance among those who believe the same way they do… As dogs sniffing the other dogs backside, these people use these stories to find their pack (no offense to the dogs).

How it ended?

I could finish my meal with the certainty that such person would go home and reflect on the meaning of evidence as I enjoyed my so much needed inward laugh aware that I was laughing at a tragedy and not at a comedy; the tragedy of misplaced faith and the deceitfulness in the ministry; I was also aware that I was mocking and mocking is a often a sin and took the opportunity to pray for that person, asked forgiveness for mocking, as I thanked Him for exclusively by His Grace, removing from the circles where people think that God needs to endear Himself with miracles so people can believe Him, and that the message of the Gospel, in its less adorned and sugarcoated way is not enough for Him to do His work in saving those whom He will save, and that I am no better than that person other than the Grace that God bestowed upon me saving me when I was a disgraceful sinner occupying His pulpit! While I chewed another bite of a baked salmon, since God doesn’t mind me speaking with my mouth full, I prayed for the story teller in front of me and I prayed for me that I would never feel compelled, by any situation in my life to go back to the vomit of Pentecostal/Charismatic superstitions.

Laughed with me?

If I really contributed to your laughing quota of the day, I have also contributed to your need to pray for yourself as it happened to me; so use this post as an opportunity to do so.

Of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and Matthew 6

icebucketbreeBy now everyone knows and many have participated in the so called “Ice Bucket Challenge” with the intent to help charity.

It is absolutely wonderful that someone helps charities and, often, the motivations and ulterior motives for one doing so, are ignored on behalf of the end result of an act of charity, regardless as to whether such act is sincere or just a stunt.

One of the greatest marketing campaign in my opinion, in the field of charity as a skillful way to make people publicly demonstrate their charity by using the proverbial “blowing the trumpet” through getting an icy self inflicted shower, this cleverly planned campaign made people who otherwise are not attracted to charitable giving finally show some interest in altruism.

Now, even if one for the gift sake, or the cause it benefits, may ignore the fact that self-serving, opportunistic giving is not “real” giving, I really can’t say that the benefits of genuine Christian charity can be ascribed, to those who participated in such a public manner. Jesus told us to practice our charity in private. As God privately rewards those who pray in private, He will reward those who give in private; as men reward with accolades and recognition those who do it all in public, no reward will be left to those who find public approval and acceptance.

I know that, for many the Bible is a book to be questioned, ant it is only a part of other sources of religious authority, but, if these apologists of plurality of Christian authoritarian teaching could tell me, I would like to see any of their own para-sources of authority that teaches that our charitable acts should be practiced in public… Oh, but it is all for fun, intended to combine charity with fun… I’d say that I own a company, inactive at this moment, called “FunRaisers” whose slogan is “We put the FUN on FUND RAISING”, so, I am for having fun in giving, but, when the fun of giving becomes a buffoonish way of being ostentatious about your giving and attracting the attention to you more than to the cause you’re giving, then, YES, giving can become and exercise in the futile violation of Matthew 6.

Am I splitting hairs? Am I being demanding and legalistic? Well, saints, the little foxes spoil the vines, and often the things that we consider to be unimportant, and faddish, perhaps even innocent, but massively practiced, are the ones that will ultimately water down and dissolve good and traditional Christian teaching and trivialize the cause of those who truly depend on charitable donations. It will be not so far fetched for me to say that henceforth it will be very hard to motivate people to give to a great cause without somehow affording them some type of public recognition even if it includes something as innocent and clownish as wasting cold water! It is already happening! People get naked in the streets for the protection of animals, radio stations offer donations for each cockroach one can eat (as it happened in So. America) etc. So, where is the good old secret and worshipful giving?

I congratulate all of those who risked so much with a bucked of iced water being poured over their bodies, specially in summer, who sacrificed so much for the cause of charity. I give you my recognition and so do many Facebook and Tweet readers and the overwhelming majority of the population. Now with mine and the world’s recognition, plus the thrill of the cold water suddenly changing your body temperature, “you have received your reward”; expect none other!

I.R.S. to monitor sermons now? Yoohoo, they may be saved!

Read here

If the article linked is true there will be many interesting and rather unexpected results. The immediate one is that some black churches will be hurt the most as they are the ones who invite candidates that not necessarily share their faith,  but promise (and never fulfill) to fight for what African Americans consider to be their issues. However, if this becomes a manner in which Pastors will dedicate their very short time with their congregation to the exposition if the Gospel exclusively, it may not be such a bad thing. The problem is that most pastors who resort to political speech from their pulpits often choose to do so because of their lack of theological preparation to do anything other than to rant on Sunday mornings against issues that are not exactly leading to “eternal life”, and do not pertain to “life and Godliness”.

The poster of the article on Facebook, makes the following pertinent comment, to which I agree:

This whole article is based on the assumption that 501c3 is even necessary for churches. As the author noted but didn’t fully explain, churches are automatically tax exempt. But they don’t need to file for 501c3 status. The disadvantages are they there is not certain “liabilities protection” that come with the 501c3 status since they would not be a “non profit organization.” The other disadvantage is there is no “tax exempt number” to allow the churches to not have to pay sales tax on purchases. Everything else is the same including the right for congregants to deduct their tithes and offerings if they qualify for itemizing on their annual tax returns.”

I decided that my church that I pastored in the past would not apply for a 501(C3) because I felt that the government has no right to “recognize” an organization as a church when the people who congregate together calls their congregation a church; I also believe that the only motivation for a Christian to give to the work of the ministry must be exclusively the love and interest for the work of the ministry. Do not give to my church expecting a tax exempted letter at the end of the fiscal year. I also believe that it is not the role of the government or the I.R.S., or through the I.R.S. or any other governmental organism to police and censor what is said by a group when they decide to assemble enjoying the constitutional right to assemble. So, I have mixed feelings about this measure (if proven true, again I say) since I think that God prompts men to enact certain laws and rules when He feels that it is necessary to keep His people within the boundaries of that which they are called to do. Not everything that man does that appears evil is evil resulting… remember the story of Joseph… but let’s wait and see. What thinketh Thou?

 

Taking a tip from the left, Christians created the “P” word.

The left-wing in this country has been very clever in creating what I call “buzzwords” whose purpose is to intimidate people from voicing opinion on almost anything. For example we have the “R” word so that when one voices any opinion of disagreement with the White House, the left automatically raises the “R” word for racism, meaning that, if you keep disagreeing with the most disagreeable policies of the man who occupies the White House, then you will be labeled, zeroed in, attacked, slandered and ultimately ostracized as a racist only by being so bold as to speaking out your conscience.

The same is done with the “H” word, or homophobic even if you accept the legal right for gays to marry in the legal system but you oppose their intolerant persistence in destroying those people whose professions involve a service that, once performed, implies a personal endorsement of the persons or events in which the services will be used, such as photographers and bakers, oh, if you say that these professionals should be left alone, along with churches and ministers who prefer not to bless a gay marriage, and that there are plenty of ministers and churches that would, then you are labeled with the “H” word, and then all the process used for the “buzzwords”, that is, labeling, zeroing in, slandered and ostracizing, commences.

How about the P.C. (political correctness) buzzword for any attempt to point out that which is, in your opinion, an opportunity for societal revision? Try that one and you would suffer the same process of influence murder (because this is what it is) even if you present the most reasonable of all reasons. After all there is nothing you can explain to people who refuse to understand. Well, Christians, since it has worked so well for the left-wing, decided to take a stab on creating a buzzword of their own,  and they decided that perhaps, because of all the historical implications, the past examples, and recent events in the Middle East, the word “persecuted” with its initial “P” would be a great idea and cause the same deadly impact of the left-wing buzzwords. So, if anyone levels even any childish opposition to any of the, so called, Christian symbols, as Santa Claus, for example, Christians will immediately scream “bloody persecution”, and label the opponent as a “persecutor” because, after all, Christians in America are persecuted.

 Trust me here, but He didn’t mean persecution by having your opinions and childish symbols questioned in the public arena, but that you would be persecuted by being in the arena with ravenous animals.

Fellow Christians, allow me to point a few things to you so you would veer off the path of using the left wing method of influence murder:

First, The Man to whom you credit for founding that which you call Christianity, told you that, by following Him, which supposedly is what the word Christian should mean, you would be persecuted. Trust me here, but He didn’t mean persecution by having your opinions and childish symbols questioned in the public arena, but that you would be persecuted by being in the arena with ravenous animals. Even if some of the claims that this ever happened in great scale may be doubtful, but if they are true, having your neighborhood oppose to your Christmas decoration, having a rock with the Ten Commandments removed from a Court House, having pundits mocking you on television, having the government interfere with the free practice of your religion, is far, far, far, may I say, far, better than to be martyred and genuinely persecuted, whether it be in the Roman Arena or in some town in the Middle East. There is a Brazilian saying, obviously inherited from our Portuguese ancestors that says that “hot pepper in the other fellow’s eyes, refreshes the eye of the beholder.” That means, in other words, someone else’s suffering and agony can often make us feel comfortable and blessed! Yes, Christians today should look upon genuine cases of persecution and martyrdom and quit the stupidity and the laughable use of the “P” word and enjoy their very real peace they have in America.

Second, I have said many times, I believe that those who are opposing to what is labeled Christian symbols today are unknowingly doing God’s work because it is past the time that Christians would stop cheapening the message of the Gospel attempting to tell its story with nothing but nursery rhymes as if everyone was in the toddler Sunday School class of a small church where the Sunday School teachers are as trained in what they do as the toddlers they teach. Christianity should stop developing public displays of faith so as to replace their inability to reasonably do what one of their leaders of the past said that they should do which is “be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in you”.

Oh, Christians today have had it easy in America; no one for ages questioned them “Christian what you believe?” The overwhelming majority of Christians cannot provide a public profession of faith that will give them some credit for thinking and believing the way they do. The opposition to high Christian education is rampant among some Christian circles, the opposition and the name calling of theologians who attempt to train Christians and to equip them with “intellectual ammo” (to parody a known Christian Web Site), is so fierce that, a few theologians of whom I know will refuse invitations to speak in Churches, which is the very place they should be! So, you are not being persecuted; you are just not being persuasive enough about your faith.

Well, I know that many will disagree with me and say that Christians do not have to explain anything, that this is the role of something questionable called “apologetic” and that I am saying the things that I say because I am myself a liberal (thus labeling me and drawing slanderous conclusions abut me as well), therefore I think the way I think and write these things here. I know that persecution must come for the reason I mentioned above, namely, Jesus Christ said they would! But we are far from there yet! We are still feeling that sense of comfort as we gaze upon the visual effects available in art which depict the real result of persecution in the past. It is not because one is liberal or conservative that they will call balderdash the exaggeration of that which Christians call persecution; it is because, simply, by the “standards” of persecution, no one yet is being persecuted!

Perhaps, at this point, to be fair, I should say that I am fully aware when things go against my ways and the ways of those who write mocking, or fairly warning, Christians for their persecution complex, we will raise the same banner of the “P” word, but until then, allow me to create my own “P” word, but rather than persecution, let that “P” word be a few other good “P” words: Perseverance, Persuasion, and Patience.

What motivated to write this? Well, there is a movie, supposedly a Christian movie (what is a Christian movie anyway?)  called “Persecuted” a name that, for the reasons expounded in this piece, I refuse to go see! From this right-wing perspective Christians should be imitators of Christ and not imitators of the methods of those who prefer to shut the opposition up by emphasizing words whose purpose is none other than to shut up open and salutary discourse.

What Is Expected And Reasonable?

Reason has more than one side. That which is reasonable and fair has to have other considerations than simply an “imposition” which is what “reasonable” is when it is one sided. A very poor constructed sentence, but it depicts exactly the mistake many are making today when they claim that “modern changes in societal rules and even laws” cannot be challenged by those who have benefited for centuries by the old ways even if it has been proven for centuries that the old ways have worked well and may not require changes.

Christians, and all kinds of conservatives, or other derogatory names one wants to use for this group not only have the right, but the duty to, and in fact, are doing society a favor, when they contest, protest and manifest against the rapid changes in society today because some of these changes have no track record of benefiting humanity. It seems that scholars and scientists will always appeal to history, evidence and a track record of fact to ascertain that whatever issue they are attempting to establish is feasible and that its implementation will be of a benefit to all. Except when it comes to issues where religion and/or tradition is involved. Then, who needs evidence, who needs history, who needs facts? It is almost as if they have made up their minds: “If it is religiously or traditionally prescribed, then it is wrong; let us change it”, even when in fact, there is history, a time span as old as history itself, that the old ways have worked so far.

No, this is not to say that we should not change and modernize society and make if fairer and comfortable to all! This is simply to say that it is fair for Christians and all kinds of conservatives to struggle with the idea of change for “change’s sake” in that which they perceive to be a threat to what they have known as the best for humanity in general. Not always stating that something is wrong is purely a religious exercise. Although I acknowledge that more frequent than not it is a religious exercise, some are sincerely concerned whether the recent changes in society, such as marriages, rules about “respecting other cultures to the point of surrendering to them” may not be solely basing their concerns on religion. People can protest for other reasons and it is fair and good that they do so when changes are in the process of proving itself as useful to society as it is for a group within that society, who, because of factors beyond our understanding, decided to impose their view of society upon all others.

I am a firm believer that one cannot legislate religious beliefs, no matter how well intended they are. Equally, I am a firm believe that one, or a group, cannot legislate their religious unbelief on others. In both counts protest is fair and acceptable. A great scholar is all over social media spreading the notion that Christians are attempting to legislate their beliefs upon society. Well, the facts belie such a scholar, who is not and cannot be a scholar in predicting the future consequences of changing society on society itself! Non-Christians are indeed imposing their beliefs, rather, their unbelief upon Christians with the aggravating circumstance that they practice such imposition against the will of the people of the community they choose to impose their unbelief. I am fully aware that we have to check if an acceptable degree of legal fairness is being afforded to all citizens and not only those who would prefer that tradition would remain as it has been for ages. However it is not by winning in courts that the imposition occurs; the imposition occurs when business, people who exercise their individual conscience, religious or not, have to comply with the peripherals of their victory and now have to act totally contrary to what they have held as truth functioning and comfortable to their own life styles all these years. So, by imposing, forcing, people to comply with their wins, those who win by the act of a single often non-elected office of the court, with his own biases and prejudices, reverse the issue of unfairness and begin themselves to act unfairly. Again, the facts have proven that Christians and other conservatives are adapting to the world that now surround them, but they should not have to live as a blind man by the road side taking whatever others dish out to them; they can rightfully establish limits. Certain services and profession when exercised to a person or group imply endorsement of that group or person. If you do not understand that you have never been in business, and your position is fully understandable. The refusal, however, of a businessman to provide services that automatically imply his endorsement and participation in that which he does not agree should be expected and understood and such understanding would be reasonable!

By now most presume to know that about which I am talking. No, for your surprise it is not only the issue of gays; it is also the celebration of America, American values, supposedly Christian symbols (that are not really Christian), and those that are indeed genuine Christian symbols, the liberation of drugs, and now some ridiculous rulings, which are too ridiculous to mention. People of faith and out of faith who want to preserve a certain heritage without waiving, who love to wear shirts that extol the quality of their military relatives, American Flags, etc. who feel threatened by lawsuits and other artifices of the “indignation industry”, and yes, those who do not agree with abortions and the gay issue, should not now, all of a sudden, be forced to comply or else. What is reasonable? If we want a fair society, then lets offer fairness rather than demanding it and in the process progress in an environment without hostility and division, and such environment is not a fertile ground for corrupt politicians, but not having corrupt politicians coming out of every sewerage is a fringe benefit of this new world of fairness!   That is expected and reasonable!

If ‪#‎Putin‬ and ‪#‎Russia‬ “annexes” ‪#‎Crimea‬, should ‪#‎Nato‬ or the US intervene? ‪#‎Ukraine‬

Русский: Знамя Вооружённых Сил Российской Феде...

Русский: Знамя Вооружённых Сил Российской Федерации. Основная часть (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In connection with the extraordinary situation that has arisen in the Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our fellow countrymen and the personnel of the military contingent of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation deployed on the territory of the Ukraine (the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea) in accordance with an international agreement, on the basis of Point G Part 1 of Article 101 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation [governing the use of Russian armed forces outside Russian territory], I am submitting to the Council of the Federation [upper house] of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation a request to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Ukraine until the normalisation of the socio-political situation in that country.”

via BBC News – Ukraine crisis: Text of Putin’s request to use troops.

So, who wants to tackle this?

Wedding cakes and flowers

wedding cakeAllow me to be the “contrarian”, but before labeling the author of this article and its main thrust, “anti-gay” or “homophobic”, fundamentalist or a “fun the mentalist”, please, please consider his proposition. Then, call it whatever your emotion prompt you to call him.

Read here. “Of Consciences and Cakes: A Response to Kirsten Powers”

On γαρ’d

Douglas Campbell’s Deliverance of God has generated lots of discussion, especially on Romans 1:18-32. The γαρ in 1:18 has been a problem for interpreters long before Campbell came to it. But Campbell’s work is making folks take another look at the particle in this verse.

Koine “traditionalists” (is there a better word?) assert that γαρ is a discourse connector which logically joins two parts of a discourse, normally in an explanatory way.  This sense is typically translated “therefore”. Example: I have a broken leg, therefore I will not be playing football. If one only reads the NT, then clearly this is the most frequent usage.

But there is other Greek literature out there. Consider Euripides’ Bacchae. In places like lines 477, 483, and 612, γαρ is used to signal a switch in speaker (like from Dionysus to Pentheus or the Chorus leader to Dionysus). This is evidence for how the particle could function in rhetoric, particularly in a Socratic dialogue. To be fair, just because Euripides used γαρ this way sometimes does not automatically mean that’s what Paul did in Romans 1:18. However, it is evidence that I don’t see many people consider before they dismiss it. A better question for the traditionalists might be Why can’t the γαρ in Romans 1:18 indicate a speaker change?

In addition to Euripides, there’s biblical evidence as well. Consider the translation Greek of the LXX. In Job, when he converses with his “friends”, γαρ is twice used in a change of speaker (Job 6:2; 25:2). Also, by my count there are over 45 instances of γαρ symbolizing a speaker change in LXX Isaiah (tweet me if you want the list and begin discussing who is speaking where in Isaiah). (Maybe this requires an intro to the various voices in Isaiah, but…) One of the clearest examples is Cyrus talking to Yahweh in Isa 45:15— συ γαρ ει θεος, και ουκ ηδειμεν, ο θεος του Ισραηλ σωτηρ (You are the God people cannot see. You are the God who saves Israel. ERV)

Long story short: γαρ is a very small form that gets used in lots of contexts. Identifying what the form means from context-to-context should be determined by those contexts, not by a lexicographic straight-jacket.

So does the γαρ in Romans 1:18 signal a switch from Paul’s voice to the Teacher’s voice? I think the evidence suggests so.

@DageshForte

 

 

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Homily for inaugural Mass of Petrine Ministry – Full Text

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll focus on this a bit later.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

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When are biblioblogs appropriate?

On the internet. But as print media and scholarship evolve, biblioblogs creep into places that maybe they shouldn’t be.

Case and point: Eisenbrauns‘ new book edited by Miller, Naudé, and Zevit called Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew (2012). The book’s afterword is an article by Zevit entitled “Not-So-Random Thoughts Concerning Linguistic Dating and Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew” (pp 455-489), and this blogger thinks that Zevit has brought Bible blogs (or at least one) into a place they don’t belong.

In 2008, Bible scholars Ian Young, Robert Rezetko, and Martin Ehrensvärd published a 2 volume book called Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts (Equinox) (henceforth LDBT), wherein they conclude that Hebrew Bible texts cannot be dated based on the linguistic evidence available. This started a huge debate among Hebraists to the degree that the topic has dominated more than one SBL session every year since 2009. Now, Eisenbrauns has published a book that collects articles on the topic, and most specifically, responses to LDBT. Zevit’s afterword is one such article. In this post, Zevit’s handling of a biblioblog interview in that article will be discussed.

The now defunct Hebrew and Greek Reader weblog did some interviews with the authors of LDBT back in 2009. As the creator of those interview questions, I think I am qualified to shed light on the questions in question. There are 7 issues I take with the article, and 3 resulting broader issues for further discussion.

1. On p459, Zevit writes, “It is rare that authors of a very specialized academic book are interviewed and even rarer when readers of an interview can be sure that what is reported reflects the ipssisima verba of the interviewees. But it happens sometimes.”

It used to be rare that scholars were interviewed about their specialized work. Since YouTube, iTunesU, podcasts, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, that has all changed. In fact, this all changed a few years before 2008, when LDBT was published. For some time now, anyone in the world can read, hear, or see scholars discuss graduate level academic issues, and many do so everyday.  I think Zevit’s assertion of this as a rarity is evidence of a generation gap in biblical studies.

2. I find the use of ipissisima verba uncritical and perhaps even self-contradictory (but I’m no classicist, so I’m open to being schooled). To say that the interviewer used the same words as the authors on page 459, and then to say on page 461 that the authors deny the interviewer’s premise of assuming the authors have their own dating system is quite near self-contradiction. While I used the words “linguistic dating”, that is what was being discussed. The real issue is if I was a dumb parrot, mouthing back to the authors their own ideas. Obviously that’s not the case, because the questions show that, at the time of asking, I did not fully understand what the LDBT authors were talking about (one letter off and that acronym takes an entirely different meaning!).

3. (And this is a picky thing, but I think is also evidence for a larger issue) The website is once referred to as “Hebrew and Greek Reader: Bible, Language, Education”. This was not the title of the weblog. The taglines “Bible, Language, and Education” are simply taglines. When creating a wordpress.com weblog, wordpress.com gives bloggers the option to put taglines in the site header under the title. Again, this is the generation gap. Had the author ever created his own weblog or played around on wordpress.com or blogspot.com, he would have quickly seen that blogs are not like books or academic papers. Bloggers use keywords to get more hits, not to create formal titles. Further, an Eisenbrauns editor should have caught that.

In a footnote, Zevit cites the website haphazardly. Two of the four URLs given take a reader to the relevant page, the other two do not. The main website reference mistakenly has an @ symbol that looks like a Twitter handle, the specific interview pages have ellipses in the URL (though @Eisenbrauns has explained this. Follow them on Twitter!), and in (2) Robert Rezetko’s name has an ø symbol instead of a letter o (@Eisenbrauns has also explained this typo). While there are cleaner ad hoc ways to cite a blog in a footnote, there are guidelines for this now. MLA, Turabian, and SBL style handbooks all explain how a website is properly cited. In fact, §14.246 in the new Chicago manual is dedicated to citing blogs.  Zevit, and even worse Eisenbrauns, has followed no standard convention. For Zevit, this is evidence of the generation gap. For Eisenbrauns, it shows editorial sloppiness.

4. Zevit’s understanding of tone on the blog is also objectionable. In footnote 6 on p459, he writes that the answers given in response to 7 (except for Young’s) are “serious and on-point”. I disagree.  I think Rezetko’s response that includes detours into cooking is not “serious and on-point” but rather funny and conversational. One of the special things about Bible weblogs is that many of them, to follow Ian’s use of colloquialism, take the piss out of scholarship. Biblioblogs are funny and off-point and chase down detours and post lots of pictures of lol cats.

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5. Zevit also addressed my interviewing skills. He writes, “Question 7 is poorly worded from two unrelated questions (p461)”. I am grateful for the criticism. The question is poorly worded as evidenced by Zevit’s assertion that the two parts of question 7 are unrelated. They are indeed related, which is why they both make up question 7. By “writing style” and “research method”, I meant exactly what I said. I wanted to know if the authors wrote in a particular way. Do they do lots of re-writing as they go? Do they do one big blow-out draft, put it down, then edit it a month later? Do they write as if the paper might be read aloud? At the time, I was writing an MA thesis and my writing style was being forced to change from something I would call bop-prose to scholarly technical writing. It was hard and I wanted to see if others had similar struggles. Then by “research method” I meant the exact same thing. Do you write in a particular place? Do you stop to do push ups or stretches to break up the time? Do you listen to music when researching? I could have made the questions more specific, but I didn’t want to direct them too much. I was simply interested in how their scholarship works in daily life. I am satisfied with their answers. All three basically said, “No.”

The relatedness of the two parts of question 7 is a great issue to raise in the post’s comments section. Why this question was not first asked there instead of being taken to print, I do not know. It is worthy to note that in all the comments I’ve received about these interviews, this is first time I’ve ever heard of someone being confused over the interview.

6. Regarding question 13 in the interview, Zevit asserts that the phrase “linguistic dating” actually refers to the LDBT books and should thus be capitalized “Linguistic Dating”. This is incorrect. Again, why an author would assume this and publish a mistaken assumption before asking the question in the blog’s comments section baffles me. Again, perhaps Zevit is on the other side of the generation gap from me and did not wish to enter into an online discussion. Still, an editor or one of the peers who reviews such works before they are printed should have offered to ask the clarification question on the blog. This is why comments sections exist.

By “linguistic dating” I do not refer to the LDBT books, but rather the lack of formal historical linguistics in the authors’ work. To clarify this, I added “(like generative or cognitive linguistics)” to indicate that I was looking for a formal theory rather than their ad hoc process. Again, I could have worded the question clearer, but the interviewees clearly understood and answered accordingly.

There is also a pesky typo. “Cognitive linguistics” is misquoted as “cognate linguistics” (460).

7. Again on p461, Zevit mistakes what is happening in the interview. In question 15, I asked a question about their research, using their term “textual instability”, and then I formed the question in a way that was not conducive to their conclusions. They have concluded that linguistic dating of biblical Hebrew texts cannot be done with present evidence (and I agree). However, at the time (still three-quarters of the way through Vol. 1 back in 2009), I did not fully understand that. I was expecting them to propose an alternative dating system, as Zevit rightly notes. Upon discovering my ignorance, the authors did not call attention to my error, but quickly and simply corrected me. I am thankful for their time and answers.

There are some specific issues I take with Zevit’s handling of the interview, which I have detailed above. On the whole, there are three larger issues that this section of the new Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew book raises. 1) Just how big is the generation gap in biblical studies? 2) Are book publishers less strict with senior scholars in the peer review and editorial processes? 3) How do scholars go about deciding which weblog posts are worthy of being re-published in print media? And what etiquette should be observed when doing so?

But question 3 is the biggest. Some might even expand, should biblioblogs be used to analyze printed scholarly work at all? To that I answer- with discretion. Certainly little-to-nothing I’ve ever posted should be used in an Eisenbrauns book. You take the finished work to folks like Eisenbrauns. Hebrew and Greek Reader was a learning tool, a writing tool, a conversation tool. It was useful as an undergrad and a new masters’ level student to have a place to vomit out ideas and get feedback from others. Sometimes posts were good. Sometimes they were bad. But as for me, they were all good cause they all taught me something (“shut your mouth” was a common theme). I think many other bloggers have approached their sites the same way, like a comic doing open-mic night: just working out the new stuff.

But then I think of bloggers like John Hobbins and April DeConick and Kurk Gayle and Steve Runge who often write/wrote (Hobbins ain’t a country pastor no more) posts that should be referred to in scholarly works.

So when are biblioblogger posts appropriate for printed scholarly materials? When they’re not mine.

D

follow me on twitter @DageshForte