julesjones: (Default)
41) Ursula Vernon -- Digger [graphic novel]

And this is what ate my Good Friday in 2011, courtesy of a link at Making Light -- the webcomic "Digger". There is not a single mention of the Abrahamic religions in it. However, there's a lot of thoughtful exploration of ethics and morality, and the author's background in anthropology shows, in a good rather than bad way. I got dropped into it via link very early in the archive, where the heroine (a wombat mining engineer by the name of Digger) has just dug her way to the surface after an encounter with some toxic gas, and finds herself in a temple with a statue of the Hindu god Ganesh. A statue that is an avatar of the god, and is still talking to her even after she's had a few lungfuls of clean air and is therefore not hallucinating. I found it interesting enough to backtrack to the beginning, and got sucked in.

Originally a webcomic (which is what I read), but also available as a series of five graphic novels.


LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Okay, big religious post below. That's for the Bearing Witness community, set up for liberal Christians to bear witness to the message of "God is love" this Pentecost/Whitsunday, i.e. today. Anyone is welcome to comment on posts, anyone is welcome to join the community to make a top-level post, so long as they abide by the spirit of the comm as given in the user profile. No, you don't have to be a Christian to participate in the conversation, and you can comment anonymously should you choose. The comm is at both Livejournal and Dreamwidth, although the two comms are not identical as there's no way to auto-mirror at present.

http://community.livejournal.com/bearing_witness/profile (LJ community)
http://syndicated.livejournal.com/bearingwitness/profile (feed to LJ of DW community)
http://bearing-witness.dreamwidth.org/profile (DW community)
http://bearing-witness-feed.dreamwidth.org/profile (feed to DW of LJ comm)

Here is our comm profile info:

Jesus Christ lived and preached love and acceptance of all, but it increasingly seems like the most vocal Christians are preaching intolerance and hatred. So we, as Christians who believe in Christ's true message, think it's past time for us to exercise our right of rebuttal.

Note that our aim is not to evangelise to non-Christians about our religious beliefs, but rather to evangelise to other Christians about our political beliefs, and to strengthen ourselves in fellowship with others who take these beliefs as not merely compatible with, but actually required by, our faith.

This Pentecost May 23rd we're going to blog about what Jesus's message means for us, and what we believe it means for how the Christian church should support its members and the members of the communities around us. We invite all other Christians to join us with your own blog posts, whether you believe in:

* LGBTQ rights,
* women's rights to choose an abortion,
* freedom of religion,
* evolution,
* social justice,
* or any other message of love.
julesjones: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. by Zeborah@DW - gankable (Christianity)
Posted for Pentecost at the Bearing Witness community on Livejournal and Dreamwidth. Comments welcome at the copies on the Livejournal comm and Dreamwidth comm. You can comment anonymously on both.


Creationists will tell you that Genesis says that the world and all within it was created in seven days. Some of them will tell you that it was created specifically in 4004 BC, following the Ussher chronology. They hate the very concept of evolution, seeing it as a denial of God.

Some atheists will tell you that the evidence for evolution is all around us, and thus anyone who believes in God is a fool, because the Bible is clearly a lie.

They have both fallen into the same trap -- literalism.

The Bible is not a single book. It is a collection of works by multiple authors, written in different places over many, many years, edited, re-edited, and translated through multiple languages. Those works include history written by the winners, history written by the losers, genealogical data, poetry, philosophical musings, just-so stories, and mythology. Yes, mythology.

"Myth" is not an insult or denial. It is a description of a thing which is not literally true, but which nevertheless shows us truth through symbolism. The Bible is filled with myths and fables. Some of them are explicitly labelled as such, for Jesus was a great one for the parable as teaching tool. If you insist on taking every word in the Bible as the literal and inerrant word of God, Ur Doin It Rong. Not least because there are multiple contradictions in the Bible.

One set of those contradictions is in Genesis. There are two creation stories, following the same pattern but with different and contradictory details. No problem at all, if you see Genesis as another parable, a (divinely inspired) teaching tool rather than an accurate or even inaccurate historical record.

As it happens, the Christian creation myth is quite a good match for the current scientific understanding of the evolution of the universe, if you read it as allegory rather than history. (Sufficiently so that one Big Name Astronomer campaigned passionately against the Big Bang Theory to his dying day, in part because he was an atheist who felt that it gave too much credence to the notion of a Creator.) That's not really relevant. The job of Genesis is to give us a tool we can use to think about a deep philosophical problem. It's not supposed to be a locked door barring our way.

We have, over the last few thousand years, used the minds God gave us to deepen our understanding and appreciation of God's creation. It is not one tiny, flat world at the centre of a complex piece of clockwork providing a show for our sole benefit a few thousand feet, or perhaps a few thousand miles, up in the sky. It is a vast and ancient universe, with many wonderful things in it besides us. It is giant galaxies and tiny microbes. It is deep time going back at current estimates some 12 to 14 thousand million years for Creation as a whole, and perhaps 4.5 thousand million years just for our own small pebble in the sky. It is certainly not all about us as the pinnacle of Creation. And it is, for now, beyond our complete comprehension. That last can be frightening, but it's also inspiring.

For me, there is a God, and evolution is Its tool. Having a Creation that is 12 aeons old and wide to contemplate in awe and joy as part of appreciating its Creator, yet in fear trying to force it down into the narrow confines of that tiny clockwork toy -- that to me is a sorrow and a burden that should be laid down.

God said, "Let there be light". And there was. And it was, and is, beautiful to behold.

(Comments welcome at the copies on the Livejournal and Dreamwidth versions of the Bearing Witness comm. You can comment anonymously on both.)

Large Face-on Spiral Galaxy NGC 3344

(Image from JPL Nasa.)
julesjones: (Default)
For many years I said little about religion online, not least because I am Northern Irish and Let's Not Go There. But four years ago, I felt the need to stand up and be counted in a culture war that crosses denominations. I posted an essay condemning those who preach hatred in Christ's name. It struck a chord with other liberal Christians, then and since. And recently it has inspired the concept of a day for liberal Christians to post in rebuttal of hate.

The first draft of that essay was written in incandescent fury, and it shows. I am not ashamed of this -- sometimes anger really is the most appropriate response. But it must never become the default response. As I said in that essay, self-righteous hatred is a drug. This is not just a metaphor -- the endorphin rush of anger can be addictive, leading people to seek out more opportunities to feel angry. This is ultimately a destructive path, however tempting it may be.

Thus the Bearing Witness community. We have come together in fellowship to discuss our interpretation of Christianity -- not to attack others of different views, but to show by example that we too believe.

We believe a number of things,and not necessarily the same things. But one thing we all believe is this -- the greatest commandment is love.

The community is available on both Dreamwidth and Livejournal, and each site has an rss feed of the other, as they are not exact mirrors.

http://community.livejournal.com/bearing_witness/profile (LJ community)
http://syndicated.livejournal.com/bearingwitness/profile (feed to LJ of DW community)
http://bearing-witness.dreamwidth.org/profile (DW community)
http://bearing-witness-feed.dreamwidth.org/profile (feed to DW of LJ comm)

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
-- Matthew 25:37-40

(In light of later changes to LiveJournal's T&C, the moderators did not feel the community could continue on LiveJournal and the posts and comments there were transferred to the Dreamwidth community. I did the same with my original essay at http://julesjones.livejournal.com/85365.html)

julesjones: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. by Zeborah@DW - gankable (credo)
And I celebrate this with a chocolate easter egg, a symbol that manages to combine the secular, the pagan, the Christian -- and the hedonist. I'm just fine with that, thanks. :-)

But for some years now it has been Fairtrade easter eggs on my shopping list. It's not feasible to ensure that each and every thing I buy is completely ethical; the world market is too entangled to achieve that. But chocolate is, when all is said and done, a luxury good that I can readily live without if need be. And one where it is now very easy to make a choice that moves away from exploitation of the poor.

Whether or not I take the words of the Nicene Creed literally (and there are many days when I do not), one of the things which I believe always and ever is that the man who died upon the cross did so to bring a message which is worth listening to. A message which is summarised in the Great Commandment: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."

These people are my neighbours. Choosing my easter eggs on whether the cacao growers got a fair contract is one way to be able to say, "Lord, when did I see you hungry, and feed you?" A fitting symbol for his life and death, I think.
julesjones: (Default)
So, the Pope's published the pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland. It's an amazing piece of blame-shifting, and I recommend to you Natural20's analysis of the letter, with further commentary by Sciamanna. A hearty dose of "what they said".

Now, I'm an Anglican. Anglican, not Church of England, because I was baptised in the Church of Ireland, which is a separate and autonomous province within the Anglican Communion. It's clear that I am not likely to look upon the doings of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland with an entirely unjaundiced eye. However, I remember reading about this pattern of cover-up gradually coming to light in Canada -- in the 1980s. It was the same story that's become so familiar since, from one country to the next; the victims and their families sworn to secrecy on pain of excommunication, the rapists quietly moved on to another parish when it became too difficult to keep the lid on rumour.

And Ratzinger has the damnable cheek to blame this on a mix of secularisation and Vatican II?

I mean that damnable quite literally. This is not the product of the liberals within and without the church having some sway. It is entirely the opposite. It is the product of a hierarchy obsessed with its own status and power doing anything, anything, to preserve their grip on authority. These cases run back to at least the 1950s in Ireland, and that's the ones we know about. Don't try blaming Vatican II for that. Vatican II tried to tackle the mindset that leads to cover-up. The organisational crime here is simple and obvious -- it is that of putting image before substance, of clinging to earthly pomp and power rather than easing suffering that was well within their power to mend at least a little. There are one or two Biblical verses on that subject, though they seem to have slipped the memory of those involved.

No organisation can entirely eradicate those within its structure who will abuse the power given them by their position. It would not be fair to blame a church simply for having abusers within its ranks. What a church can be blamed for is the way it handles cases that come to light. And the handling here was utterly amoral.

I can understand a church trying to hush things up out of embarrassment. I might not approve of a church simply removing an abuser from contact with those he is likely to abuse, but I can understand and forgive an attempt to restrain him within the confines of the organisation rather than without. But what the Roman Catholic Church did was not restrain such men, but actively enable them. Their victims were silenced by threats, they were provided with easy access to fresh prey. And this was not the work of one rogue diocese, but institutional policy, corrupt and criminally complicit from top to bottom.

And even now, the institutional reaction is to avoid accepting moral responsibility. As individuals, as an organisation. "I was only obeying orders." Benedict's letter is the closest I've seen any senior figure come to saying honestly, "We fucked up, big time, and we're sorry," and even he is using it to say that the answer to the problem is greater lay obedience to that very hierarchy that failed to protect the innocent.

They have no moral authority. They have shamed not just themselves, but those priests who have faithfully tried to keep God's word. There can be no trust where trust was so shamefully used, and honest priests will have to bear that burden now. And that too is a sin, if not so grievous a sin as the enabling of abuse, for there are many who have found comfort in religion who will now no longer have it.
julesjones: (Default)
It should be obvious that I do not think that hatred based on sexual orientation has any business in Christianity. I think this is covered perfectly well by the Second Great Commandment[*], but there's other stuff as well. A couple of days ago I followed a link and found a spectacular one. The analysis on wouldjesusdiscriminate.org of the Roman centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant was an "oh, of course" moment for me. I think some gay-friendly interpretations of Biblical verses are stretching things a bit, but this just makes sense, at least to me.

It also fills me with the urge to go and write their backstory...

[* the detailed rant on that topic]

ETA: Watervole notes in comments at LJ that she's getting a warning from Avast on that link. Vaughan_Steph says the same with NOD32. I'm not getting anything from Norton -- but I can see that site being a target for hacking by people who don't like its message. So link cut, and a quick bit of copyright infringment to give you the gist:

extract )

ETA2: doire has found another MCC site with a copy of the full essay used by permission: http://www.marriagealliance.co.za/spirituality/would-jesus-discriminate/jesus-affirmed-a-gay-couple-matthew-85-13.html
Note that the essays are extracts from a book, "The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships", ISBN 978-0971929609.
julesjones: (Default)
I usually post on Easter Sunday about the Two Great Commandments, and usually in reference to a very specific application of the second of those. This year I was going to do a somewhat different theme, on my choice of Easter eggs, and Fair Trade, and walking away from Omelas. Unfortunately I've got reason this afternoon to go back to the usual.

I will begin by quoting from Teresa Nielsen Hayden's magnificent "Things I believe" post for Easter Day 2004, a beautiful meditation on the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the God of the Burgess Shale, Who not only made creation stranger than we know, but stranger than we could ever imagine.

These are the words of someone who believes, who believes very deeply. And who also believes this:

I believe that any Christians whose religious practices aren’t centered around sacrificing and burning animals ought not spend all their time trying to enforce obscure passages in the Pentateuch.

I believe that as well. As do a number of other people who write, edit or publish books which have just been censored by Amazon for their adult content, where "adult" is deemed to include anything that portrays homosexuality in a positive or even neutral light. This is the thing which many people overlook when they associate Christianity with an obsession with controlling sexuality, who believe that a Christian, by definition, disapproves of homosexuality -- there are a good many Christians who don't. Who believe that the persecution of people for no better reason than their loving, consensual relationships with other adults is a direct repudiation of the second of the Two Great Commandments, and thus of the message which Jesus gave to us. Which he died, horribly and in pain and in public shame, to give to us. This is the passage in question:

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:37-40

And when he was asked, "Lord, who is my neighbour?", he made it very clear through a parable that your neighbours are not just the people you like and approve of. Not just the people who are just like you.

I am not as good as I might be, as I should be, at keeping those commandments. But as a Christian, I must at least try to keep the spirit of the second. As indeed must adherents of other religions with similar messages, and those who follow no religion or faith at all. This is what it means to be truly human -- that whatever we believe to be the source of the impulse to love our neighbours, whether we have one god or many or none, we believe that others are human too.

julesjones: (Default)
The Belief-o-Matic's doing the rounds again. I don't suppose the result I got tonight is going to be a great surprise to anyone, after the last few posts...

stating the obvious )
julesjones: (Default)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] yourbob for the following link:

Religion outbreak warning

Part of the reason I so loathed Falwell is that he used the Two Great Commandments for toilet paper. I'm an Anglican, if no longer a terribly regular church goer, and back when I was a regular church goer it was in a diocese that was very big on the Two Great Commandments as a central part of the rite of communion. Recite "and a second is like it, you shall love your neighbour as yourself. Upon these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" on as many Sundays as I have, and it sticks. It's important to me at a very deep level, even if I'm less than perfect in following it.

And so, though I would dearly like to say "Burn in hell for evermore" for the many, many acts of evil he committed, I shouldn't. Not just because it would be committing the same horror of a sin he revelled in. I don't believe in literal hellfire, but in the more subtle concept that hell is the absence of God. If Falwell ever understands, even an aeon from now, what it is he has done and why it is wrong, and truly repents of his evil deeds, there is still redemption.

But this is one of the reasons I so liked [livejournal.com profile] tharain's suggestion of St Peter in drag as Tinky Winky. Not just for the amusement, and the honest malicious pleasure it gave me, but for the symbolic value. Because if Falwell finds a giant Tinky Winky waiting to read him his sins, and will not listen to that recital simply because of who is reading, he has not truly repented of his greatest sin -- hate. And he's not going to get through those gates until he does.
julesjones: (Default)
Were I a better Christian than I am, I would not have had the response I did to the news that this morning Jerry Falwell will be explaining himself to the boss in person. But I'm still not ashamed of the glee I felt at [livejournal.com profile] tharain's suggestion that he will find a giant Tinky Winky guarding the Pearly Gates.
julesjones: (Default)
I don't normally do religion in public, but I'm getting very tired of some of the people who claim to speak on behalf of all Christians. No, they don't. And *this* Christian is of the opinion that some of the things they claim to be saying in the name of Christianity are decidedly unChristian.

My basic philosophy is agnostic, in the technical sense of the term - it is not possible to prove the existence or absence of a god. My faith, if you will, veers all over the place. But the core of my moral code, the foundation of how I see good and evil, comes from Christianity. For better or worse, I am a Christian in general, and in particular I am an Anglican.

And I say that these people who are preaching hatred in the name of my Lord are not Christians, whatever they might call themselves and however they might pronounce the name of the one they do evil for.

I mention Anglicanism, because one Anglican's discussion of "deeds not words" is very pertinent and has recent wide exposure. "Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he had truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted." Quite. Doing evil in the name of Christ is still doing evil. Is it any wonder that there are certain preachers who have attacked Lewis, called him atheist or Satanist? They have seen a reflection in a mirror, and chosen to call it a view through a window. Or a cell door, that door they wish to shut on others without knowing who is on the inside, and who is on the outside.

What is evil? Well, Jesus was pretty blunt about how he wanted us to treat one another. Part of his response when asked which is the greatest commandment: "And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Upon these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Nothing can be put above the commandment to love our neighbour. And who is our neighbour? He was asked that too. The point of his answer has been softened down the years, because anyone exposed to Christianity has almost certainly heard the parable of the Good Samaritan, but doesn't have the context of the time that parable was first taught. For us, "Samaritan" has come to mean "good person". Now read that parable over, and substitute "Israeli" for "Jew" and "Palestinian" for "Samaritan". *That's* what's going on in that parable. Your neighbour isn't just the person you think it right and proper to treat as a human being. Your "neighbour" is *everyone*.

Over and over again, he told us to have mercy, to have compassion, to treat others as we would wish to be treated. And he warned us against condemning others for their sins while ignoring our own. "Let he amongst you who is without sin cast the first stone." That's not open to weaselling about "My sins are minor, but *those* people deserve to be punished." Nor is, "First pluck out the log in thine own eye." There is a great temptation to attack others for their sins, to make them scapegoats for our own sins that we do not wish to acknowledge, and he knew it. Whether he was Incarnation of God, prophet, or simply a man with a vision, he understood people and how terribly easy we find it to turn and rend the weak and the few and the oppressed. Self-righteous hatred is a most gratifying and addictive drug, and so very very sweet to indulge. And he wanted us to stop doing that, and take the harder way.

So now I will indulge myself. I say of our modern day Pharisees who ride the airwaves to preach hatred and violence towards any who are not exactly like themselves; they are not Christians. With their fear and their hate and their greed they have put themselves aside from God; and they will not find Him again until they find it within themselves to open themselves to His love for all of us. All of us, including the lepers, the poor, the whores, the tax gatherers, the outcasts of society, and even the officer of the occupying army. We are all one in the body of Christ, and it is not the place of the Pharisees to give Him orders as to who may or may not receive His love. And I really, really wish they would stop parading their sick and twisted version in public and saying that this is what Christianity is. It isn't.

        And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as
        you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you
        did it to me.'


Apr. 16th, 2006 07:17 pm
julesjones: (Default)
"And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets."

That means no cherry-picking the Bible for excuses to hate your neighbours or ignore their travails, thank you. The Man said that's naughty. Listen to Him. He went to a good deal of trouble to get people's attention. He gave *everything* to get people's attention.

[livejournal.com profile] tnh posted a beautiful statement of faith for Easter Day 2004. It's well worth reading regardless of your beliefs. A small sample:

I believe in the God of the Burgess Shale, Who not only made creation stranger than we know, but stranger than we could ever imagine.
julesjones: (Default)
'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'

Sadly, there are organisations which see the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina not as an occasion to do as they were commanded in this passage, but an opportunity to solicit donations which will be used to promote their own narrow interests. Even more sadly, some of those organisations are listed on the FEMA website as suitable recipients for funds. Please give, please be careful who you give to. You'll need to make up your own mind, but you could start with this annotated list:

For the record - my personal choice would be the Red Cross and the Anglican/Espicopalian church's American disaster relief organisation ( http://www.er-d.org/ ), but there are plenty of other secular and religious organisations who will bring food, water and shelter without strings attached.


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