Yes, friends, it’s time for The Wild Reed’s fall round-up of some of the insightful and interesting online articles I've come across over the past few months.
Let’s get the round-up started with a visit to Find and You Shall Seek where Mystical Seeker has an intriguing post entitled Nazareth’s Abu Graib Moment, in which he explores the destruction of many Galileen towns by Roman forces at the time of Jesus’ childhood. The town of Sepphoris, for instance, only four miles from Nazareth (“an hour and a half's walk,” as Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan put it in The First Christmas), was burned to the ground by the Romans when Jesus was only a baby. “Did Nazareth, where Jesus lived, itself escape Roman wrath?” ponders Mystical Seeker. Or was it too devastated?
Regardless, the brutalizing presence of the Romans in the area “would have been a sort of Abu Ghraib moment for Jesus and his fellow Galileans,” writes Mystical Seeker. “They had first hand experience with the brutality of Empire. But they also had first hand experience with the failure of open rebellion against Rome. Herein lay the genius of Jesus’s way of rebellion against Imperial authority; for what he proposed was a program of nonviolent resistance, in contrast to the more violent forms of resistance that others favored.”
Mystical Seeker also notes that: “Borg and Crossan suggest that Jesus’s father could have been one of the victims of Roman brutality during the suppression of the rebellion at that time. That is pure speculation, of course, but it is an easy inference to make.”
After all, in Mark 6:3, Jesus is referred to as “son of Mary,” not “son of Joseph.” Writes Mystical Seeker: “One could argue that [this] would have been a strange thing to say in a patriarchal culture unless there was no living father. The patriarchal assumption is further reinforced in that passage by the fact that the brothers [of Jesus] were identified by name, but the sisters were not. (And if Jesus had lots of siblings, as Mark suggests, and if Joseph had died after Jesus died, which is of course pure speculation, then Jesus would have been the youngest child of a fairly large family containing at five boys and at least two girls).”
It’s all very fascinating, don’t you think?
You’ll also find on Mystical Seeker’s excellent blog an informed analysis of Europe and the Failure of Orthodox Christianity.
Mystical Seeker begins his commentary by reflecting on a recent trip in Denmark, a country in which he found no “organized expression of progressive Christianity.”
This leads Mystical Seeker to conclude that:
The only choice available to religious seekers within the Christian tradition is that of orthodoxy. When asked to choose between, on the one hand, abandoning one’s intellectual foundations at the church house door in order to satisfy one’s religious curiosity, and on the other hand simply leaving Christianity altogether, many Danes (quite understandably) choose the latter. They simply are not afforded the option of an intellectually viable religious experience that makes sense in the post-Enlightenment world. As a result, most Danes simply eschew religion altogether. This is, indeed, a phenomenon that we find throughout Europe, where religious attendance throughout much of the continent is quite low. And the blame for this low attendance, I believe, can be placed right at the door of the European churches themselves. As long as these churches insist that believers must adhere to certain dogmas that most modern Europeans simply can’t accept, attendance will continue to be low.
In discussing this topic, Mystical Seeker shares some insightful quotes from Russell Shorto’s April 8, 2007 New York Times article on the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.
“The interesting fact is that people responding to questions about religion lie in both directions,” says the Spanish sociologist José Casanova, who is chairman of the sociology department at the New School for Social Research in New York and an authority on religion in Europe and the United States. “In America, people exaggerate how religious they are, and in Europe, it’s the other way around. That has to do with the situation of religion in both places. Americans think religion is a good thing and tend to feel guilty that they aren’t religious enough. In Europe, they think being religious is bad, and they actually feel guilty about being too religious.”
In other words, there is a great, untapped religious craving that exists in Europe that is not being fulfilled. Could the reason it is not being met is that orthodoxy has a stranglehold on Christianity there?
To read more, click here.
On his blog site, On Guard Against the Catholic “Lunatic Fringe,” Fr. Charles Ledderer has two insightful posts on celibacy here and here.
The Wild Reed, incidentally, is listed in Fr. Ledderer’s blog roll – one entitled “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
I wonder under which of these three categories Fr. Ledderer places The Wild Reed?
In a recent commentary in the Los Angeles Times, Catholic author Gary Wills takes evangelical Christians – including Catholics – to task over their stance on abortion. In doing so, Wills offers a number of insightful and well-articulated points that, at the very least, are worth pondering.
In one part of his commentary, Wills opines that abortion is not a religious issue but a “matter of natural law.” He goes on to say that:
If we are to decide the matter of abortion by natural law, that means we must turn to reason and science, the realm of Enlightened religion. But that is just what evangelicals want to avoid. Who are the relevant experts here? They are philosophers, neurobiologists, embryologists. Evangelicals want to exclude them because most give answers they do not want to hear.
Of course, this is also true of evangelicals and their selective and limited understanding of homosexuality. The official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, insists that homosexuality is “unnatural,” and that homosexual acts are therefore always “sinful.” Yet “reason and science” (not to mention human experience) say otherwise.
David W. Shelton, on his blog Skipping to the Piccolo, reviews The God Box – a new novel for young readers by Alex Sanchez. The book is being described as a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be both Christian and gay in a small Southern town.
I’m not sure if I can adequately relate just how refreshing it was to read a book that so accurately portrays the struggle that young gay Christians endure. I’ve seen so many stories about young gay teens and adults that are all about the sex, drugs, and clubbing that is so often associated with the gay community.
To me, ‘refreshing,’ is neither accurate nor appropriate to describe my feelings as I read through its pages. A far better word is ‘living.’ This is a story about life, faith, and love in a way that is as crisp as it is timely.
What makes this story so powerful is that it shows the compassionate heart behind evangelical and even fundamentalist Christianity. These are people that genuinely believe they’re working for our very souls, often not realizing just how hurtful their actions truly are. Even as I was angered by their actions, I felt compassion for them because they were just SO close to the truth.
To read David’s complete review of The God Box, click here.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is a novel I’ve been meaning to read for years. And now after reading Crystal’s wonderful post, St. Isaac Jogues & The Sparrow, I’m even more determined to do so!
And finally, Harry Potter is a “left-winger” and the seven books by J.K. Rowling are a “diatribe against Thatcherite Britain,” according to a French philosopher in this article by Hugh Schofield.
Well done, Harry (and J.K. Rowling)!
See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Image: Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain.