Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sophia & Jesus mixed

Sophia & Jesus mixed, January 23
Many scripture scholars have noted parallels between the Jesus portrayed in the Fourth Gospel and Sophia in the Books of Wisdom, Proverbs, Baruch, and Sirach.  “Sophia” in Greek means wisdom and is grammatically feminine.

So much do the two figures—male and female—resemble each other that verses about them are interchangeable, as the following list demonstrates.
I challenge readers to discern of each line whether it refers to the Divine Feminine in Wisdom Literature or the Divine Masculine in the Fourth Gospel. Translations are from the NAB and the Inclusive Bible. I changed words that gave away the gender.

Decide whether the original line was talking about Sophia or Jesus. Answers—next week.

. . . was present to God from the beginning.

. . . comes from God; . . .  dwells with God forever.

I came that they might have life.

The one who finds me finds life.

All who hold H__  fast will live, and those who forsake H__ will die.

H__ whom you have sent, . . . . 

No one has gone up into heaven except the one who came down from heaven.

___ is a breath of the power of God, a pure light of the glory of the Most High.

To H__ own ___ came, yet H__ own did not accept H__.

I called and you chose not to listen, . . . I beckoned and you ignored me.

___ showers the earth with insight and intelligence, and rewards those who espouse H__ gifts.

To love H__ is to love life; those who seek H__ win H__ favor.
Those who follow H__ follow the Holy One; the Most High loves those who love H__.
Obey H__ and you will be in a position of supreme authority;
Listen to H__ and you will live in H__ heart of hearts.

Draw close to H__ with all your heart and keep to H__ discipline at all costs.
Pursue H__, look for H__, seek H__, and you will find H__—and once you hold H__, never let go.

We have seen H__ glory . . . filled with enduring love.

___ will be your joy.

Whoever believes in H__ may not die but may have eternal life.  

All who cling to H__ will live, but those will die who forsake H__.

 “ . . . all nations would follow me”

Goddess or god?  January 31, 2013
I hope you had fun sorting out the Bible verses I quoted last week mixing Sophia with Jesus, two parallel personifications of God. I had fun choosing the verses.
Personifications are figurative images; they are poetic ways of referring to what is not human as if it were human. Saying the stars danced, I personify them. Saying the wind howled, I personify it. Saying time flew by, I personify time. Saying God told me something, I personify God. The personifications Sophia and Jesus help us relate to the mystery we call God.

Here are more parallels between the female and male God-images:
  • Both speak in long discourses in first person, and both speak poetically.
  • Both reveal God and give instruction on what pleases God.
  • Both walk the streets, crying out their message and offering their gifts.
  • Both lead people to life and immortality.
  • Both refer to their followers as children and both use metaphors of food and water to describe their spiritual gifts.
  • Both are rejected.
Following are the original Bible verses. Wisdom speaks in the Books of Wisdom, Proverbs, Baruch, and Sirach.  

Jn 1:2:  The Word was present to God from the beginning.
Sir 1:1:  Wisdom comes from YHWH; She dwells with God forever.

Jn 10:10b:  I came that they might have life.
Prov 8:35 The one who finds me finds life.

Jn 6:57: One who feeds on me will have life because of me.
Bar 4:1b:  All who cling to Her will live, but those will die who forsake Her.

Jn 3:16b: Whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.  
Baruch 4: 1b All who cling to Her will live, but those will die who forsake Her.
Prov 3:18: She is a tree of life to those who grasp her.

Jn 17:3: ………him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. 
Wis 9:10: Send her forth from your holy heavens.

Jn 3:13:  No one has gone up into heaven except the one who came down from heaven—the Son of Man.
Wis 7:25:  She is a breath of the power of God, a pure light of the glory of the Most High.

Jn 1: 11 To his own he came, yet his own did not accept him.
Prov 1: 24 I called and you chose not to listen, . . . I beckoned and you ignored me.

Jn 14: 6: No one comes to the father except through me.
Sir 4:14 - 15: Those who serve Her serve the Holy One . . . One who obeys her judges nations.  
Those who follow Her follow the Holy One; the Most High loves those who love Her.
Obey Her and you will be in a position of supreme authority;

Jn 3: The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God.
Sir 1:17  She showers the earth with insight and intelligence, and rewards those who espouse Her gifts.
Sir 6:27-28  Draw close to Her with all your heart and keep to Her discipline at all costs.
Pursue Her, look for Her, seek Her, and you will find Her—and once you hold Her, never let go.

Sir 6: 29b        She will be your joy.

Sophia and Jesus convey the same wisdom. Both are divine personalities with God before the beginning of creation. Raymond Brown, renowned as the foremost authority on the Fourth Gospel, asserts that the feminine Wisdom and the masculine Logos share divine attributes. Parallel passages from Wisdom literature and the gospel usually attributed to a “John” (more about this to come) illustrate:
John 1: 1-2        In the beginning was the Word
the Word was in God’s presence
and the Word was God.
Proverbs 8: 23   I have been from everlasting,
in the beginning, before the world began.
John 1:3               Through the Word all things came into being.
Proverbs 8: 30  When the foundation of the world was laid
            I was the skilled artisan standing next to the Almighty.

My purpose in this exercise is to provoke realization that exclusive and repetitive HeHimHis God-talk keeps us from distinguishing between male images and the reality of God. It prevents appreciation of the Transcendent Mystery beyond our capacity to comprehend. It directs us toward worship of idols. If we want to advance in understanding of spiritual reality, we must change our habits.
For help in preparing this I used An Introduction to New Testament Christology by the eminent Catholic scholar Raymond Brown.
Theologian Elizabeth Johnson informs us further in She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. She noted the scholarly consensus on the influence of pagan Goddesses on the Jewish Sophia.
The cultural context that made possible a Hebrew personification of God in female form was pagan Goddess worship.
So, following the trail of influences, we see that the Goddess is a prototype of Christ—a fact to mull over if you’re a Christian ready for this.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tax injustice

For anybody who still shares Romney's contempt for people at the bottom who do not pay income tax (they pay plenty of other taxes), Need to Know on PBS Friday night explained the practical results of our tax code—its unequal treatment of rich, middle class, and poor.    
You can learn about deductions, about the Earned Income Credit, about the practical effects for people representing various income levels. I love the 1 percenter, who says,
I think it’s perfectly reasonable that the wealthy, who, I believe, in the end benefit the most from having a society that works for everybody, should be contributing more. . . .
I absolutely think I should pay more in taxes.
Why should we have these differential rates between earnings from income and earnings from capital? It’s the hardworking individual who goes out to get money for their labor that we really ought to be rewarding. Isn’t that the person that we really feel is contributing the most to society?  . . .
Why is it that we think what the venture capitalist does is more important than what the teacher does?
Conservatives like to crow that the top one percent pay almost 40 percent of all federal income tax  and the top ten percent pay around 70 percent. So what? They should pay taxes commensurate with their share of the country's wealth. On average the 1 percenters pay an income tax of only 15%. Their share of the total federal income tax is big because their share of the country’s income is so monstrous.
As we learn HERE, the top 1 % have 42.1% of our country's financial wealth but they control 81% to 94% of the wealth.
We can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America. . . .
And the top 1% of income earners actually pay a smaller percentage of their incomes to taxes than the 9% just below them.
Americans have no idea that the wealth distribution . . . [net worth] is as concentrated as it is.
From the Need to Know transcript:
This guy makes eight times the amount that you make, and he’s paying a lower effective tax rate than you. What do you think about that?
SETH HAHN: It really sort of outrageous that our elected leaders allow it to continue to happen. The people who are reaping all of the benefits of the wealth that we are sort of collectively creating are those who are paying, often, the least in taxes.
Also on Friday night, Paul Krugman explained why the current obsession with cutting spending produces precisely the wrong effect—more misery for everyone, including the future generations that conservatives fancy themselves to be defending. Austerity does not work. Witness Europe and Japan. Krugman says,
 . . . all the evidence of history says . . . in a situation like this [if] the private sector won’t spend, government can step in and provide the spending that we need in order to keep this economy afloat.  
After the interview, Bill Moyers reported that the deal reached at the New Year included more gifts to millionaires. Damn. With their powerful finance lobby, Wall Street moguls wheedle out of government favors for themselves while preaching austerity for the rest of us. Already before the latest deal, Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs loomed nauseatingly, hypocritically. The Huffington Post commented:
While nobly calling for shared sacrifice, . . . [Blankfein says] the only way to address our grave fiscal crisis is to slash corporate tax rates and encourage poors and olds to get over their irrational aversion to dumpster-diving.
Outrage is appropriate. Until we pressure for justice, it will elude us.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Guns DO kill

I get a little hot when I hear, "Guns don't kill; people kill," so I wrote about it. My opinion piece published today gives evidence to show that the presence of firearms alone spurs gun violence.  We live in a uniquely gun-loving culture and bear the consequences of living in the most armed nation in the world.
Eugene Beniek's comment to my editorial explains the reason for Americans' lack of common sense about guns—they’re flooded by propaganda from the National Rifle Association.  Beniek quotes The Nation:
And though the NRA has been roundly mocked for its public relations effort this week, officials are watching what is sure to be a flood of new cash.

Here’s why: For every gun or package of ammunition sold at participating stores, a dollar is donated to the NRA. The NRA’s corporate fundraising division has several special retail partnerships called “Add-A-Buck,” “NRA Round-Up,” and “Shooting for the Future.” In some cases, these deals allow for customers to contribute a dollar or two to the NRA at the point of purchase; others, like one with Sturm, Ruger & Co., the company led by Mike Fifer, require automatic contributions to the NRA with every purchase. Many of these retail deals are linked to the NRA’s 501(c)4 affiliate, which can, unlike other affiliates of the NRA, spend that money on political advertisements and lobbying.

This year alone, Midway USA, an ammunition company, has given the NRA $1 million through the Round Up program.

In another comment, John Ellenbecker answers the argument that a national database of guns will lead down the slippery slope to confiscation:
Yes, registration can lead to confiscation. We are required to register our motor vehicles, and when a person commits a crime with their motor vehicle, in some instances their motor vehicle gets confiscated.
Unlike other debates, on the matter of gun control the sensible arguments come from one side alone. Arguments against any control of weapons fail any test of reason, perhaps because they are generated by a powerful profit-making propaganda machine—the NRA.  How long will we be pawns of weapons manufacturers who supply the NRA with funds to dupe us?

The Children—Christ figures, December 19, 2012

This time of grieving since the massacre of innocents in Sandy Hook Elementary School is variously described as “horrible,” “tough,” “unendurable,” “tragic.” I suggest the word “holy,” because the dying children remind us of holy themes and they could save us from ourselves.

The life of Christ presents a template for every human life well lived—growing in wisdom and love, suffering with grace, and sacrificing in love for others. Jungian psychologist Robert Johnson writes that the story of Christ can be understood as a process within every one of us—an inner journey.
Read in this way, we can see that Christ is constantly being immaculately conceived and born, is confounding the elders, teaching, being betrayed, being crucified, dying, resurrecting, and is making an ascension. All of these are occurring in every moment; . . .
We have in the children of Sandy Hook—both those who died and those who survived—sacred models of Christ. As holy saviors, they direct our gaze to elevated concerns of enduring value and lead us to awareness of the illness in our gun-loving society.

May the lives of these Christ figures, these holy saviors, not have been sacrificed in vain.

Brenda commented (Dec. 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM):
Yes, we need to look to ourselves and our own society. Thank you, Jeanette.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Teilhard, Christians, atheists

It is altogether fitting and proper to begin the new year with a post on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. His ideas were recently featured on the public radio program On Being, which explores scintillating ideas in religion, science, ethics, and culture through interviews by Krista Tippett. The thoughts of people influenced by Teilhard de Chardin reminded me of his deep effect on me when I read him decades ago. At the time I was trying to be an atheist but still intensely connected to my Catholic upbringing.
Host Krista Tippett gives this summary of Teilhard de Chardin:
A world-renowned paleontologist, he helped verify fossil evidence of human evolution. A Jesuit priest and philosopher, he penned forbidden ideas that seemed mystical at the time but are now coming true — that humanity would develop capacities for collective, global intelligence; that a meaningful vision of the earth and the universe would have to include, as he put it, "the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter."
Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man thrilled me with its marriage of science and spirituality, and that it was authored by a Catholic priest satisfied my desire to stay inside Catholic thought. I felt safe in the bosom of Catholic theology, even while I was trying to be an atheist! The irony occurred to me then too.
When I read Phenomenon of Man I was electrified with excitement over Teilhard’s mind-expanding vision as he traced the rise of consciousness from inanimate matter through the living species, from the less to the more conscious, culminating in humans and a collective, global intelligence. He introduced the idea that thinking humans form a layer of consciousness he called the noosphere, a concept far ahead of his time that in retrospect seems to have foretold the World Wide Web. I was mesmerized by his exposition of the evolution of consciousness.

But the end of the book let me down with a disappointing thud. He stuffed his exhilarating concepts into the Christian frame by calling the Omega Point "Christ." A deflating return to what I’d rejected in grade school—that we have the one, true faith. Back to Jesus Christ dominating spiritual reflection. Back to the same old Christian claim of exclusive access to God. His loyalty to Christian thought appears sadder in light of the fact that the Vatican censored his ideas. His books did not appear until after his death.

Teilhard’s intoxicating synthesis of evolutionary science with spiritual reality spoke a prophetic wisdom that far surpasses Christian limits. It stirred me profoundly. I learned to ignore Teilhard’s Christian finish from commentaries by others who also were awed by his synthesis and easily ignored that Christian note. They were not still wrestling with Christian claims as I was. I add that I do not remember at the time reacting strongly to the English translation of Teilhard’s title. Today the use of “man” to mean humanity stabs me with irritation, as my awareness of its insult to women has grown over time.

From Teilhard I learned to think about The Within of things. Jung’s theology—called “depth psychology”—also spoke of inner realities unacknowledged in the outer world, but Jung focused on the emotional/spiritual health of the individual. In fact, he called the process of becoming aware of our unconscious motivations “individuation.” In addition, Jung directly addressed the problem of Christian literalism and myopia. He affirmed and explained both my dissatisfaction with Christian dogmatism and my dissatisfaction with atheism.

From Teilhard and Jung I learned to consider the dichotomy of inner and outer, the interior of reality and its exterior or what our outer senses can register. They let me appreciate spiritual reality free of both religious and atheist dogma.
May the new year nudge my readers toward the same.