Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Problem

It was the worst of weekends and it was the best of weekends. Two cabs broke down on me, and I had to get towed in from highway 22, on my way back from Stayton, after my transmission went out. At the same time it was sporadically busy from the time that I started, until I got off both days, but for some reason the bar rush time was exceptionally busy, especially on Saturday night. The weather was hot, but not unbearable, when it reached the mid 80’s, so I had my air conditioning on most of the time, even when it got cool later, so the drunks wouldn’t get sick.

Early in the evening, while it was still light, on Saturday, I picked up a literature major from Willamette University, who was going out to the Eolo Inn, where I would wait for him for about ten minutes with the meter running and then drive him to Willamette Vineyard’s by Enchanted Forest. He would be using a Willamette Safe Ride charge. On the drive there we began talking about literature and told him that I graduated from Bible college and was a freelance religion and music journalist. That triggered the direction of my passengers diatribe on the first leg of our journey.

“The problem with most Christian literature, is that much of it is bullshit,” my passenger said, as I drove him to his destination. “It has to have a positive uplifting ending and message. However, life is not positive and uplifting, it is ambivalent, exhausting and concludes with death. Anyone who has actually read the Bible, from cover to cover, and has digested the contents, will tell you that there are no happy endings. Just take a look at the major stories of the Bible if you want proof of what I’m saying,” he continued, as I drove.

1. “Noah’s Ark – Everyone in the world drowns except Noah and his family, plus all the chosen animals.”

2. “The Tower of Babel – communication for the purpose of understanding each other is obliterated, as everyone starts to speak a different language, and are alienated from each other, which is the root of Nationalism and war.

3. The Exodus – All the Egyptians are either tormented by all the plagues or actually die, as the children of Israel happily march off to the promise land.

4. David and Goliath – A bellowing Philistine gigantic braggart, gets struck down and decapitated by a teenager, triggering the youth’s fellow soldiers to butcher enemy Philistine soldiers, in a glorious blood drenched victory.

5. King Solomon – A power hungry king’s kingdom, is reduced to civil war after his death because of the harsh injustices that were endured, while he was alive.

6. The Psalms – King David is attributed to writing many of the psalms, and he was a man after God’s own heart. Many of the most loved Psalms, like #1, #23 and #27 were supposed to have been penned by David. Yet at the same time he was the most blood thirsty of all the kings of Israel, and God wouldn’t let him build the temple, because of this.

7. The story of Esther has a guy hanged at the end, while everyone rejoices.

8. The story of Jesus is a horrendous saga of misunderstandings, legalistic rigidity and the reason for separating church and state, that ends in a torturous death.

9. The positive message is that after the torturous death, Jesus is resurrected 3 days later.

10. The Book Of Revelation – Everyone who is left on the earth after the rapture, if you happen to believe in this recent theological revelation, endures some kind of horrible death, either through persecution, divine punishments or the battle of Armageddon.”

“So there you have it,” my passenger concluded, as we pulled into the Eola Inn parking lot, he told me to tune in to AM 540, that his theology professor , Dr. Blackwell, was doing a live radio exposition of the book of Romans, that I could listen to while I waited. The meter was already at $16.00 when we arrived, but then he had a Willamette account, so I wasn't worried, as he went into the bar, and I tuned the radio in

The voice on the radio spoke about what he called a post Christian exegesis on the book of Romans, using the Revised Standard version of the Interlinear Greek – English New Testament.

“Tonight is the first night of our series on the book of Romans,” the voice said and continued, we’re going to call our study of this important book, that the apostle Paul penned, ‘Out Of The Box,’ because this study will be out of the box of most conservative theologians, but then you know that I don’t buy into that philologistic bullshit! So let’s read. Romans chapter one, verse one reads, ‘Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.’ The epistle to the Romans begins with the writers name, Paul.

Formerly Saul of Tarsus, according to biographical information provided by a Greek physician named Luke, in the book of Acts. Paul was a first century marketing genius, who was eventually able to eclipse the then popular mystery religions of that day, with Christianity. Some of the most prominent mystery religions, of the 1st and 2nd century CE Roman Empire, were Mithraism, Serapism and Magna Mater worship. They involved a theological system that included resurrection, virgin birth, being born again, and cleansing by bathing in blood. The thing that set Christianity apart from the mystery religions was its non-exclusiveness. It was open to the entire population, irregardless of race, social status or sex.

Paul calls himself a servant. In the Greek it’s the word doulos, meaning a slave. So he was a slave of Jesus Christ, but at the same time he had a destiny, and being Jesus’s slave helped him to achieve his destiny. Paul’s destiny was being a messenger for Christ just like Hermes, Mercury or Tiu were for their respective supreme deities, Zeus, Jupiter, and Woden. The Greek word apostolos literally means one sent out with a message, and this letter is about that message.

Being separated, or set apart for a particular purpose is a recurring theme in the New Testament. That purpose is always the same. It centers around something called “the gospel of God”. In other places it’s called “the good news of the kingdom.” Whatever it’s called, one thing is for sure, it’s “good news,” because it’s the key to transcendence. Not just a mystical transcendence, but one having practical application in the material world.

Then my passenger came back outside and got in back in the cab, with the meter at $35.60.

“Take me to the ‘Bourbon Street’ instead,” he said.

As I drove there he wanted me to continue listening to Dr. Blackwell’s exposition, so we did.

“Verse 2,” Dr. Blackwell said, and continued, “which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,” God promised the Good News a long time ago. All you have to do is read the holy writings that the prophets left. Nearly all religions have some form of holy writings, from the Hindu Upanishads, to the Islamic Qur`an. The Hebrew TeNaKh, which later became the Christian Old Testament, was ratified, as being the authorized Hebrew scriptures, by the council of Jamnia, between 90 – 100 AD. (3) The TeNaKh was accepted by the Christian Church, which it later added to the 27 books of the New Testament.

Then he continued, “verse 3: ‘the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh’. The key to enter the kingdom is the person of Jesus Christ, so the good news is also about him. According to the scriptures, he’s a direct descendent of David, the second, and greatest king of Israel. The same king who in 1000 BC brought Israel out of the bronze age, and into the iron age, where it established itself as an independent kingdom. The ties of this lineage are through the genetic posterity of the flesh.”

“Verse 4: ‘and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,’ This descendent of David was the designated, destined and predicted “Son of God.” Besides being a descendent of Israel’s greatest king, He was also a direct descendent of the deity. This designation was declared in power. The Greek word, which is translated as power, in this passage, is “dunamei,” which contains the root word for English words, like dynamite, dynamic and dynamo. This is the kind of power that has its source in the divine transcendent realm. It is beyond human ability or comprehension. The proof of that power can be found in Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead”

“The name Jesus, is the English translation of the Greek Iesous, which is the translation of the Hebrew Yeshua, which in turn is translated as Joshua in English. Jesus was a common name among the Jews in the first century CE, about as common as being named Joe or Bob in the USA during the 20th century. All names have meanings, and Jesus, like Joshua literally meant, “God is salvation.” The common feeling among the Jews, at that time, was that they needed a savior, or leader, who would free them from the yoke of Rome, so they could regain their place as an independent nation.”

“The most popular form of government in the 1st century CE world, was a monarchy. Although both Greece and Rome existed as a Democracy or Republic, that was no longer the case. Ever since Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, in 49 BCE, the Emperor has ruled an empire. (6) The Jews longed for a theocratic Monarchy, so it was logical that popular sentiment should lean towards bestowing the title of Lord or King on their personal choice, who would be Moses, Joshua and David all rolled up in one.”

By the time that the first installment of Dr. Blackwell’s study of the book of Romans was over, the meter was at $78.90, as we sat in the Bourbon Street parking lot. He filled out the Safe Ride charge for $100.00, with a $21.10 tip, as he opened the door and got out beneath a three quarter moon rising large in the East.

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