Archive for December, 2007

Tons of Free Audio

Posted: December 28, 2007 in FYI

Sounds like an advertisement, huh? Well I guess it is in a sense. I just have not been paid to tell you about it. It’s the real deal. Anyway…

I came across a website that offers tons of free audio lectures, talks, speeches, books, writings, etc. It’s pretty extensive. I heard about it through the Philosophy Podcast that they put out (there’s a link on the right sidebar), but they have podcasts and mp3’s for nerds of all kinds- religious, artists, techies, historians… and on and on.

The site is called LearnOutLoud.com. They have a membership option which is probably well worth it, but otherwise there is tons of free stuff.

enjoy!

Learnoutloudhomepagegif

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On Becoming

Posted: December 27, 2007 in Uncategorized

Be.

The Gospel According to Rusty

Posted: December 24, 2007 in Uncategorized

This is something I wrote years ago for a religion class in college…

There are two terms within theology that are significance to the understanding of the Christian gospels. The first is “history remembered.” It refers to the recollection process that the gospel writers went through in order to put to ink the teachings and life of Jesus. It implies that such writings were recorded after the events and therefore may or may not be historically accurate. The second phrase is “history interpreted.” It also implies that such writings are not guaranteed historical accuracy, but it goes beyond that. It implies that the writers didn’t record events simply to document them, but to tell of the events as they understood them. This could mean that the writers added a bit of commentary to their descriptions, or that they left out events that they deemed insignificant. It could even mean that they tweaked the events a little in order to forward the message they desired.

Such an understanding of the Christian scriptures may seem unsettling to some. Those with a literalist view of the bible may say that it is irreverent to do theology in this way. Those who don’t value the Christian scriptures might say that it is simply an attempt to rationalize the perceived inconsistencies of the bible. But it is important to understand that people living in the first-century and up to it did not take accuracy as seriously as we do today. The idea that stories must be accurate in order to have meaning is a product of Western culture and of the Age of Reason. So when the writers told the stories of Jesus and his ministry, their goal was not to write an accurate documentation of Jesus life. It was to put out his message.

In that vein, I write this personal gospel account. Those who were affected by Jesus’ life wrote about him in order to tell his story. And in a sense, they coupled their story with his. By telling his story, they told their own story. That is what I have done here. I have told the story of Jesus as I understand it, as it has been passed down to me, as it relates to me. Just like most of the writers of the New Testament, I did not know Jesus personally. So I am writing based on what has been passed down, and through my interpretation of the significance of Jesus, I am coupling it with my story.

The Gospel According to Rusty

It was a dark time for the Jews. It was a dark time for the whole world. The fascist imperial power of Rome was a constant thorn in the side of all civilization. It was a day of great advances in technology and military power, but the people weren’t so impressed, mainly since the power was being used to suppress them. As people walked around they saw the occupiers with armor and weapons. This made for a grim society. Everyone had lines of sadness on their faces. Times could be good, but they were mostly bad.

God was gone. For centuries the Jews had understood God to be present. When they were being held in captivity by oppressive powers, God had sent someone to rescue them. When society was turning to the neighboring cultures to find spiritual fulfillment, God had sent some prophet to bring their attention back the Himself. But God wasn’t doing that kind of thing anymore, or so it seemed to the Jewish people. They were dying under Roman rule and it seemed as though God didn’t mind.

There were always crazy people shouting some cosmic judgment or apocalyptic message, but they weren’t paid much attention to, because their message was the same old thing and it never came to fruition. So not only had God not spoken, but the people were loosing heart. Everyday someone was claiming to be speaking for God, yet nothing ever happened. It was like the boy who cried wolf. The more the “prophets” shouted, the less the people listened, or believed.

Jesus was one of those preahers. He was this young guy who would complain a lot about the Roman occupation. He would always talk about God too. When he was really young he went into the synagogue all the time. It seemed like he was really interested in what the scriptures said. He must have taken some pleasure in debating or something, because he would always ask the rabbis what the scrolls said and when they told him, he would proceed to ask them why nobody followed it’s teachings. Throughout his life he was really hard to figure out. He was just one of the guys, but would always seem to be preoccupied with the whole Roman occupation thing. He was always thinking and always talking to the rabbis and to older people. It didn’t come as much of a surprise when he decided to turn into one of those preachers. But his message was different. It was better. People understood that right away. He wasn’t preaching about the same old thing. He was preaching against Rome. That got people excited.

I guess it started when he disappeared from town that first time. He said he went into the desert to think about the Roman occupation. Apparently he was preparing for what he was about to do. He went without eating or drinking for over a month. Jesus was different when he came back. He had lost weight and gotten really dark-skinned, even more than he already was from living in the Middle East. But it wasn’t just his appearance that changed so drastically. He was more determined than he had ever been. People say that God had been in the desert the whole time, and Jesus found God out there.

When he returned, Jesus wouldn’t stay still. He was never at his house anymore. He traveled a lot, and preached a lot. But like I said, for some reason people listened to him. They were sick of the occupation. So when Jesus spoke against it, they listened. When he came back from the desert, he was on a mission. Instead of just talking about things like the rest of the preachers, Jesus got proactive. He recruited people to help spread his message. His message was about the kingdom of God, and how it stood in opposition to the kingdom of Rome. It was a breath of fresh air for those who understood the history of Judaism. It seemed like God was speaking again.

Of course the Roman officials were not as excited about his message. The Jewish leaders were not either. He talked about how Judaism had lost its ability to speak critically to empire. He even said that the Jewish authorities were taking advantage of the people just like Rome was. As his message spread and people started taking it seriously- you know, like speaking out against Rome- the officials got upset. Pretty soon, they decided to kill Jesus. They hung him on one of those crosses that lined the city. Rome had set up crosses that they used for intimidation. They would hang dissenters of Rome on them for the whole town to see. That’s where Jesus died.

But it didn’t end there. The people were inspired by his example. Jesus understood from the beginning that if he spoke out against Rome, he would be killed. He kept saying that he was going to be “taken into the hands of Rome.” I think he made the decision to give up his life while he was out in the desert. Inspired by his example, some people kept speaking out against Rome, and eventually this whole sect was formed called, “The Followers of the Way.” They lived together and spent all their time thinking about how to live their lives hospitably and compassionately under imperial rule.

Jesus lives on in the people. Once before he was arrested, he said that if they killed him, his spirit would rise again in the people of Nazareth.* Some people also call Jesus “Lord.” To them, it is a political declaration. Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not. Rome killed Jesus, but Jesus’ example lives on. The things he said about living with love and not fear, peace and not violence, hope and not despair- these things are still being talked about all over the place. Sometimes I am amazed about how much Jesus did, just by being faithful to himself and to God. I hope peace does reign someday, just like he said it would.

*Before the El Salvadorian priest Oscar Romero was assassinated he said “If they kill me, my spirit will rise again in the people of El Salvador,” which it definitely did, inspiring many to keep revolting. Romero’s statement totally put Jesus ‘resurrection” in perspective for me.

Christmas is About the Poor

Posted: December 24, 2007 in spirituality

Happy Christmas Eve to all who celebrate!

To many people Christmas means nothing. To those who are disturbed by the State-sanctioned takeover of the once pagan holiday, Christmas is simply another tale of state co-opted religion. To those of other religions, Christmas is just another day to realize that the whole of America still follows the Christian calendar. For many Christians and non-Christians alike, the holidays are a demoralizing display of the destructiveness of capitalism.

But to me, Christmas is a really meaningful holiday. Why would it be?

To me it is the time, whether it should be or not, for people who are encouraged by the life of Jesus to celebrate his birth, and his life. The Jewish scriptures tell of a holiday that was supposed to happen every seventh year. According to the Scriptures, the “Year of Jubilee” was supposed to be the year that all debts were forgiven and all prisoners were released. The Jews never celebrated the holiday, yet later in Jewish history the idea came about that the Messiah would be the one to bring about the Jubilee.

The gospel of Luke reads:

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Christmas is about the poor, the oppressed and all who suffer under the weight of the system because that is what Jesus was about. His good news to the poor is something to celebrate. It has sparked centuries of resistance to oppression, nonviolent revolutions, and movements of peace.

“Glory to god in the heaven, and on earth- peace and goodwill to all!”

Hmm…

Posted: December 17, 2007 in random thoughts

Daddy

Liberation Theology with Jon Sobrino

Posted: December 14, 2007 in theology

The new issue of Sojourners magazine was just shipped to my office at the Presbyterian/Disciples Student Center where I work. We get them in every month as they are issued, and they are always pretty good. I always glance at them, but the combination of not having any work to do and the intriguing cover story by Jim Wallis prompted me to pick it up and read it through.

I found a really awesome article about Jon Sobrino and his significant contribution to liberation theology, a theology that has been formally rejected by the Vatican as a “Marxist-inspired” movement. I suggest getting your hands on a Sojo zine and giving this article a read. Here’s a piece of it:

“It is the “manifest destiny” of the United States to be a prosperous country and then go back and save poor people from poverty, lack of freedom, lack of democracy and then bring them back to the real world which is democracy. For me this is an issue.
“Religion is one way of being human. It’s not because I’m religious that I want to know the truth.
We believe in a god that wants us to look at reality and to love the truth. If you don’t do that than you have failed as a human being- not as a believer, but as a human being. Religion reinforces that impulse toward truth, toward unmasking reality.”
“…The war in Congo, for example, is simply ignored. When silencing is not possible then it is covered up. Unmasking reality or trying to get to know reality becomes something very important for us as humans and religious persons.”
Soj0801

Today I noticed another article on Infoshop.org that deals with the always intriguing coupling of christianity and anarchism. It’s titled Dorothy Day’s anarcho-Catholicism: The way of love. Dorothy Day was the “foundress” of the Catholic Worker Movement- a movement which operates under anarchist principles and ideals. Strangely enough, she is now being considered for sainthood. The article is definitely worth a read. It starts out by telling Day’s story and explaining her unorthodox tendencies. Towards the end it translates Day’s ideas into practical applications for the U.S. during these upcoming elections.

Here’s an excerpt:

“…[Jesus] came to serve, to show the new Way, the way of the powerless. In the face of Empire, the Way of Love. We believe also that the government has no right to legislate as to who can or who are to perform the Works of Mercy.”