A Selective Table of Contents

November 17, 2013

 

RELIGION/PHILOSOPHY/ETC.

*Scripture in Common Usage
Prologue – Scripture, Science, and Weather

I. Scripture in Common Usage I: Oversight I- Scripture Divorced From History

II. Scripture in Common Usage II: Oversight II- Reading Scripture Flatly

III. Scripture in Common Usage III: Oversight III – Scripture in Opposition to Science

IV. Scripture in Common Usage IV: Positive Application I- Scripture as Peacemaker

V. Scripture in Common Usage V: Positive Application II- Scripture as Communal Conversation

VI. Scripture in Common Usage VI: Positive Application III- Scripture as Personal Meditative Redeemer

Scripture in Common Usage- Conclusion: I. Is Scripture a “Good” or a “Bad”? II. What will be Scripture in the future? What role will it play? III. What is scripture?

The God-shaped Hole

I. The God-shaped Hole I: Diagnosis

II. The God-shaped Hole II: Symptoms-a)Politics without Principle

III. The God-shaped Hole II: Symptoms -b) The Divided Church

III. The God-shaped Hole – The myth of Redemptive Violence

Other Highlighted “Religion” pieces

I. The Sacredness of Secular Humanism

II. The Power of Story, The Truth of “Myth”

III. In Bombs We Trust

IV. Is Religious Literacy a Thing of the Past?

V. What is Morality?

VI. The Purpose and Function of Religion

VII. Does Religiosity Affect Morality?

VIII. Morality “in the absence of God”

IX. What is a “good” person?

MUSIC/FILM/COMICS/ART/ETC.

2015

Best of 2015 (Music, Movies, Comics)

2014

The Best (Music, Movies, etc.) of 2014

2013

The 10 Best Albums of 2013

The 25 Best Songs of 2013

The 10 Best Hip Hop Albums of 2013

The 10 Best Films of 2013

2012

The 10 Best Albums of 2012

Top 25 Songs of 2012

The 10 Best Metal Albums of 2012

The 10 Best Hip Hop and R&B Albums of 2012

The 10 Best Films of 2012

2011

The 10 Best Albums of 2011

The 25 Best Songs of 2011

The 10 Best Metal Albums of 2011

The 10 Best Hip Hop and R&B Albums of 2011

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I. Is Scripture a “Good” or a “Bad?” 

II. What will be Scripture in the future? What role will it play?      

III. What is scripture? 

I.  So after spending this much time looking at scripture in both its common positive usage and its common negative usage, what “final” judgement can we make about it? On the one hand, it can create community, serve as a positive personal meditative tool, and inspire, fuel, and amplify drastic positive social change as it did in the Civil Rights Movement. On the other hand, it can isolate, enforce prejudices, and lead to violence. So really, in evidence of its varying fruits, all that can really be said is that in and of itself, Scripture is neither a good nor a bad. Once something takes on the role of Scripture, it is the interaction that communities have with it that is good or bad; it is the motives, applications, and methods of interpretation and implementation that can be judged as good or bad.

Can we apply a consistent standard for judging scripture usage? Are there clear, definite, inflexible rules to use in the case of every scripture and every usage of that scripture to judge it “good” or “bad”?  No, at least not completely; scripture cannot be judged by a scientific lens that provides a stringent box within which it can be placed and analyzed. Scriptural literalists cringe at most discussions of varying interpretations because they often, shallowly, believe that the “face value” surface reading is the correct reading and any variance from that is misinterpretation. But as has hopefully been belabored throughout this series is that even a word-for-word reading of scripture will lead to direct contradictions thus any method of scriptural reading requires an individual or community to make choices in that reading. The only way to be consistent is to interpret through a consistent lens that applies the gleanings of interpretation in a non-schizophrenic manner. The major rule for judging whether scriptural usage is “good” or “bad” that I personally apply to any usage of any scripture is this–are the “fruits” of the scriptural usage positive or negative? We cannot judge metaphysical claims; that is, we cannot judge whether ones “soul is saved,” for example. We can judge whether the usage of scripture by an individual or a community leads to a person or persons becoming “better” in the sense of compassion, care, and whether the actions performed as inspired by that scriptural community lead to a better overall world for that community and those around that community.

II.  What will be the scripture of the future? What role will it play? The biggest examples of scripture (the Bible, The Qur’an) are firmly established in the lives and practices of millions today and it is highly unlikely that the influence played by these prominent examples will completely cease in human history. New scriptures, at least those fully endorsed and held as such by name, are rare births and very few have been established in modern history–The Book of Mormon being one strong exception. It generallly takes many generations, historic developments, and usually a highly charismatic person or group at the core of a scripture’s origin to cement a “new” scripture. Yet many things assume the role of scripture, often in an unacknowledged manner. Sufi poetry like that of Rumi serves as scripture for many both Muslim and non-Muslims with a mystical bent; Transcendentalist poetry and the work of American naturalists has oft served as scripture for more secular postmodernists; the Constitution has certainly assumed the role of scripture for many Americans, even spawning its own “fundamentalists,” (i.e. the Libertarians for one). Music, art, poetry, literature influence most country’s popular religion. Will the future be one in which that work influenced by ancient texts but simultaneously far removed from those texts become the actual scriptures, at least for all practical purposes? If the world ever truly enters a “scientific age,” in which the popular attitudes and practices owe more to “reason,” “logic,” research and technology than religous codes, parables, Myths and sacraments, will “science” and its applications assume the role of scripture?

III.  Every time I have attempted to posit an answer to the question “What is scripture?” I produce a different one. I have pursued this question, as noted in the prologue pieces to this series, in many different contexts most notably in a project with other graduate students from a religious studies program. I have crafted technical “Scripture is X when Y and Z occur…” type answers and practical answers, “spiritual” answers, “religious” answers. In concluding the last major paper I wrote on the subject, I determined that the process of inquiry with my group into the nature of what scripture is was itself the definition of scripture–truly seeking, questioning, arguing, and discerning an attempted answer to the utmost important of questions with the idea that an answer was possible, wanted, and could be applied–that act itself is scripture and it is what is at the core of everything that has ever attained the level and label of Scripture.

I end this series with these open-ended conclusions because I do not believe that the questions posed in this process are ever closed; that any answer reached is never final and certainly never “universal” in its every detail. The relevance of what is scripture and what function it serves is different for every group who seek to tap into something beyond their personal self even it that something beyond is no “higher” than the fellowship of those who seek with them. Yet whether one is religious or secular, Scripture is a force that will play a role in their life if only by shaping the context within which they find themselves; Scripture will forever shape human society and life regardless of what that scripture is and if it is even considered “scripture” at  all.

In the previous post in this series, we looked at scripture as a communal conversation. I stated that scripture at its best can inspire a group to engage in just peacemaking; I placed “Scripture as communal conversation” at the nexus between just peacemaking and the focus of this entry, “scripture as personal meditative redeemer.”

  Those tied to any form of orthodox religiosity may often consider a solo venture into scripture as fraught with potential error. In this case it is amazing that the Protestant reformers placed such a high emphasis on an individual encounter with scripture because the history of religion is replete with amazing detours which emerge from such personal encounters made by individuals without grounding in some sort of unifying compass, tradition, or groundwork. Because as this whole series of posts has hopefully been clear about, a universe of potential good and potential bad vies for enactment within the canon of practically any religious corpus. So how am I to claim that scripture engaged by an individual can take the role of meditative redeemer? How is it that one can solely approach scripture, find the impetus to then engage in a communal conversation which can then (hopefully) lead to positive engaged peacemaking?

Scripture is challenging. If one is to take it seriously, regardless of what they do or do not believe about (g)God(s), the authority of a particular scripture, or the power of a faith community, one must be prepared to confront complex, often troubling, worldviews. Any piece of scripture faced today is the product of a time far removed from our current day. The social systems, customs, values, and experiences faced by the writer(s) of a particular piece of what is now held to be scripture may very well share some strong commonalities with us in our own context, but will also always be very foreign. So when one confronts scripture seriously, one is forced to question the viewpoints, bias’s, experiences, and realities of not only the author(s) context but their own modern context as well. A true engagement with any scripture should occasionally force one to question not only the viability of transporting the systems and frameworks of a scriptural era into one’s own era, but also the viability of continually maintaining and reinforcing their own current values, systems, and worldviews. Maybe the author(s) of an ancient scriptural book were unduly influenced by social values that were grounded in bad science and misguided prejudices; at the same time, maybe some of our own values are the result of the same thing. Grappling with both ages of perception simultaneously can spark personal redemption of thought and action in ways completely unforeseen by the original author, the original body which granted the text authority, as well as any particular religious body in existence today.

Scripture can serve as a personal meditative redeemer in striking a unique tone of rhythm and language not found in any contemporary work. By engaging in the text in its original language(s), by consulting its history of translation, interpretation, and commentary, an individual can absorb a new meaning or question every time a passage is revisited.

Finally, scripture encountered personally is still partaking in communal conversation–because scripture is the product of a community, from authorship to engagement, tradition, interpretation, and commentary. One enters that conversation even when alone when they wrestle with any scripture seriously.

These are just some of the ways scripture can serve as a meditative personal good with the effect of some variety of personal redemption when encountered seriously. This good can come at extreme ends of a spectrum; for a pious, traditional believer who reads their holy text prayerfully, discerningly, and in search of spiritual guidance, the step then into community and engagement is an easy one with historical examples aplenty. Yet I argue that even at the other end of the spectrum, a scripture can be encountered even by a doubter, a reader or academic, or one who doesn’t believe in religion in any traditional manner and still function in this way by causing one to attempt to enter the mental and spiritual framework of an ancient or foreign time and thus wrestle with their identity and ones current own. The aesthetic, scholastic, and sociological depth of a scripture still pulls even the strongest of doubters into its conversation and forces them to make choices. As we move to the epilogues of this series and consider truly what scripture is and if it is an overall good or not, we keep an eye on things that function as scripture and consider the role of scripture in the future. The potential for non-canonical poetry, constitutions, declarations, literature, song, etc. to function as positive scripture looms on the horizon.