Friday, 1 February 2008

For the Bible tells me so ?

So, I was at the ACE hardware store yesterday. I picked up what I needed (noxious weed killer), and wandered back towards the check-out.

The good Clerk at the-check out asked

“Can I help you to find something sir?” “No”, I replied “I’ve found it”, showing her the spray bottle of weed killer.

Then came my tongue in cheek afterthought. “Maybe you could help me to find the meaning of life”.

The customer ahead of me said “it’s all in the Bible”.

I grimaced inwardly, but said nothing. After all, I was in a hardware store.

But as I drove home I remembered the song we sang in my fundamentalist Sunday School.

“The best book to read is the Bible

The best book to read is the Bible

If you read it every day, it will help you on your way

Oh, the best book to read is the Bible”

I wondered about this as I drove home. I came to the conclusion that the Bible is a very dangerous book.

It sanctions and encourages what we would call “ethnic cleansing” (see below).

It says that rape is appropriate in the conquest of other nations (again, see below).

It has been translated perversely. For instance, the word “homosexual” is never to be found in the Hebrew or Greek texts. (That word was not created until the 19th Century!)

When translators of the Bible into English use the word “homosexual”, they are revealing a personal bias, and not strictly translating the original texts.

So how are we to understand these sacred texts? (Here I move into personal opinion)

The Roman Catholic view is that only the Church may interpret the texts.

The Protestant view is that Biblical texts are a matter of personal interpretation.

I believe that both views are half-right, and entirely wrong.

The Roman Catholic is half right in its affirmation that Scripture should be understood within the context of a Christian community.

It is more than half-wrong when it asserts that the Christian community is identical with the (male) ordained Priesthood. (That has to do with corporate power).

The Protestant Church is half-right when it affirms that scripture is the “peoples’ book”.

It is more than half-wrong when it asserts that any person may come to her/his personal interpretation of Scripture. (That has to do with individual tyranny).

I stand, all proud and assured, in some middle ground.

Scripture is wonderful, blessed
and dangerous.

I dare not trust some hierarchy to
tell me what it means.

I dare not trust some individual to
tell me what it means.

I will try to understand scripture in
dialogue, argument,
disagreement, understanding
and scholarship.

I will not “stand over” Scripture as an ordained Priest.

I will not “stand under” Scripture as an individual believer.

I will “stand alongside” Scripture in community with other Christians.


Num 1 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people."

3 So Moses said to the people, "Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites and to carry out the LORD's vengeance on them. 4 Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel." 5 So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. 6 Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling.

7 They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man. 8 Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. 9 The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. 10 They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. 11 They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, 12 and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho.

13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.

15 "Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. 16 "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

Religious Grounds:
Some passages in the Hebrew Scriptures condemned people to death if they followed a different religious or spiritual path. Quoting from the King James Version of the Bible, Jehovah required the state to execute a person:
 for following another religion: Exodus 22:20 states: He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed. See also and Numbers 25:1-15.
 for a stranger entering the temple: Numbers 1:51 states (in part): ...when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. See also Numbers 3:10, 18:7 and 17:13.
 for proselytizing: Deuteronomy 13:1-10 states that a person who tries to convince an Israelite to convert to another religion must be killed.
 for communicating with the dead: Leviticus 20:27 calls for the execution by stoning of all mediums and spiritists (aka spiritualists), both male and female.
 for black magic: Exodus 22:18 states: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. This is a mistranslation. The passage has nothing to do with Wicca or other forms of Neo-paganism, which are the only types of Witchcraft that are practiced today in North America in significant numbers . The original Hebrew word is translated "sorceress" in most other versions of the Bible. A more accurate phrase would be "women who engage in black magic, harming others by the use of spoken curses." Men are left off the hook.

Sexual grounds:
Other passages required people to be stoned to death or even burned alive for sexual activities:
 for adultery: Leviticus 20:10 states: And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. This is repeated in Deuteronomy 22:22
 for incest: Leviticus 20:11 states: And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death... See also Leviticus 20, verses 12 and 14. Verse 17 prescribe excommunication for incest with one's sister or step-sister.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Nothing original tonight. This is from my brother Martyn

Amusing Signs

Sign in a London department store:

Bargain basement upstairs.

In an office:

Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken.

In an office:

After tea break, staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.

Outside a second-hand shop:

We exchange anything--bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife along and get a wonderful bargain.

Sign outside a new town hall to be opened by the Prince of Wales:

The town hall is closed until opening. It will remain closed after being opened. Open tomorrow.

Outside a photographer's studio:

Out to lunch: if not back by five, out for dinner also.

Seen at the side of a Sussex road:

Slow cattle crossing, no overtaking for the next 100 yrs.

Outside a disco:

Smart is the most exclusive disco in town, everyone welcome.

Sign warning of quicksand:

Quicksand, any person passing this point will be drowned, by order of the district council.

Notice sent to residents of a Wiltshire parish:

Due to increasing problems with the letter louts and vandals, we must ask anyone with relatives buried in the graveyard to do their best to keep them in order.

Sign on motorway garage:

Please do not smoke near our petrol pumps. Your life may not be worth much but our petrol is.

Spotted in a safari park:

Elephants, please stay in your car.

Seen during a conference:

For anyone who has children and doesn't know it, there is a day care on the first floor.

Notice in a field:

The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.

Message on a leaflet:

If you cannot read, this leaflet will tell you how to get lessons.

Sign on a repair shop door:

We can repair anything (Please knock hard on the door, the bell doesn't work).

Spotted in a toilet in a London office block:

Toilet out of order please use floor below.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Something silly today!

The Wisdom of Larry The Cable Guy . .

1. A day without sunshine is like night.

2. On the other hand, you have different fingers.

3. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

4. 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

5. Remember, half the people you know are below average.

6. He who laughs last thinks slowest.

7. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

8. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.

9. Support bacteria. That's the only culture some people have.

10. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

11. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

12. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.

13. How many of you believe in psycho-kinesis? Raise my hand.

14. OK, so what's the speed of dark?

15. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

16. Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.

17. How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?

18. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines. (That's True)
19. What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?

20. Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

21. Inside every older person is a younger person wondering, 'What the heck happened?'

22. Just remember -- if the world didn't suck, we would all fall off.

23. Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

24. Life isn't like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your butt tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Folks I have known: Kitty and DeWolf Perry

The summer of 1975 (between my Junior and Senior years in Seminary) saw` me in the United States. Through a friendship with an American seminarian I had been invited by Bishop Alexander Stewart of Western Massachusetts, to spend that summer as a team member with others who led Vacation Bible Schools in parishes in Western MA.

We were trained for a week at the Diocesan Camp and Conference Centre (Camp Bement), and then spent two whole weeks in four parishes: - St. James’s, Greenfield; St. Mark’s, Worcester; Nativity, Northborough and Grace Church, Oxford.

Our leader was a Seminarian, Noreen Suriner. She is now the Interim Rector at St. John’s, Northampton, MA, and we remain friends to this day.

All manner of good things happened that summer. I was trained by my dear and good Gwen Sears, little knowing that we would become colleagues in Pittsfield (1984-2000) and good friends.

I recorded an audio tape for the Diocese and the man who set up an informal studio and made the recording, Jim Sammons became a parishioner of mine in Pittsfield too!

My summer in Western Massachusetts in 1975 led, in due course, to my return to the United States where I’ve lived and thrived since 1976. (When I pass my 64th birthday in May 2008, I will have lived longer in these United States that I did in the United Kingdom).

At the end of our week of training, our fearless leader, Noreen, arranged for team Debbie Jenks and I to stay two nights with Noreen’s friends Kitty and DeWolf Perry, in Princeton, MA. (The other trainees had local homes in which they spent the weekend).

Kitty and DeWolf took us to their parish, (Good Shepherd, West Fitchburg) where DeWolf was Priest-in Charge, and also where I met Doris and Al Williams, Bristol U.K. expatriates, who later became good friends.

The team moved on to Greenfield, Worcester, Northborough and Oxford. We enjoyed a great summer of service.

But DeWolf Perry, - indeed the Revd. DeWolf Perry had left a deep impression on me after that brief weekend. He had wisdom that I needed.

So dear Noreen arranged for me to spend an afternoon with him. And he and I spent an unforgettable afternoon on the lawn of his garden in Princeton, and “I told him all things ever that I had done” It was such a safe time.

Fast forward one year. In 1976 the famous/infamous Bishop Alexander Stewart invited me back to the U.S.A. to serve at Good Shepherd, Fitchburg - that very same congregation with whom I had worshipped the year before.

I came to the States in 1976 on a two year contract, and I am still here!

Then DeWolf and Kitty Perry became my mentors. They lived not far away from Fitchburg, and at my urging continued to worship at Good Shepherd. Their joint and several counsel changed and blessed my life.

Kitty’s wisdom was understated and perhaps under valued. But I learned to trust her judgement.

DeWolf would listen to my “rants”, and then quietly lead me to a new way of thinking, always prefacing his words with “now Michael”.

Even now, when I get into a rant I hear those quiet words: “now Michael”.

Kitty helped me to remember the goodly traditions of the past.

DeWolf always prepared me for the goodly hopes for the future.

Many years later I sat with Kitty in Princeton as the children, Jim, Dain and Tinka helped DeWolf to die in Worcester.

I participated in his funeral in Fitchburg, MA and also led the prayers at the burial of his remains in Bristol, Rhode Island.

And when Kitty died I shared in her Requiem Eucharist in Westborough, MA.

I stay in touch with two of their three children, Dain and Tinka.

And I get happy/teary goose bumps whenever I think of Kitty and DeWolf.


The Perry family descend from the DeWolfs of Bristol, Rhode Island, the wealthiest of the northern slave traders.

See for details of how this modern family is coming to terms with its history.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Dream theme

In the previous four or so months I’ve had a series of dreams with a recurring theme.

In the dream I am at either St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield, or St. James’s, Cambridge. And, in the dream, I should not have been there, for I had resigned six months previously.

But I am in one of those two parishes, and usually in a farewell service in which everything goes wrong.

But that’s not all. In all the dreams I was supposed to have begun a new job the very next day, either as an Assistant Priest or as a Rector, but always in a Parish in Atlanta, GA

And I’ve not packed my bags/sold my condo/called my new boss/told the new Vestry that I’ve accepted its call.

As I “unpack” this dream theme I think that it is revealing two things.

First, that I’ve never truly “let go” of St. Stephen’s or St. James’s. Part of me still longs to be there.

Second, that there is something in my life which I’d still like to do, but I am not prepared for it.

Enough of dream analysis.

Here’s my question.

Why Atlanta?

Why not Bali, or San Francisco, or Paris, or Sienna, or Burgundy - places where I’d love to live!

With all due respect to Atlanta and my friends who live there - I want to dream about some place else!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Barack Obama 55%

I am getting more that a little ticked off with the white liberal media pundits.

Many are making a fetish of telling us that Mr. Obama won the Democratic Party Primary election in South Carolina with 80% of the black vote and only 25% of the white vote.

Why the hell are these pundits deciding that there are white votes and black votes?

The real news, the only news shorn of condescending punditry is that Mr. Obama received 55% of the American vote in South Carolina. That's a plurality of votes over the other candidates "favourite son" John Edwards, and "the anointed favourite" Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama won the South Carolina Democratic Party Primary. That's it!


Here is a transcript of his victory speech.

January 26, 2008
Barack Obama’s South Carolina Primary Speech

The following is a transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s speech to supporters after the South Carolina primary, as provided by the Federal News Service.

BARACK OBAMA: Thank you, South Carolina! (Cheers, applause.)

(Chants of "Yes, We Can! Yes, We Can!")

MR. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

(Continued chants of "Yes, We Can!")

MR. OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you, South Carolina. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you, South Carolina. Thank you to the rock of my life, Michelle Obama. (Cheers, applause.)

Thank you to Malia and Sasha Obama, who haven't seen their daddy in a week. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you to Pete Skidmore for his outstanding service to our country and being such a great supporter of this campaign. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, over two weeks ago we saw the people of Iowa proclaim that our time for change has come. (Cheers, applause.) But there were those who doubted this country's desire for something new, who said Iowa was a fluke, not to be repeated again. Well, tonight the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina. (Cheers, applause.)

After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates -- (cheers, applause) -- and the most diverse coalition of Americans that we've seen in a long, long time. (Cheers, applause.)

You can see it in the faces here tonight. There are young and old, rich and poor. They are black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American. (Cheers, applause.) They are Democrats from Des Moines and independents from Concord and, yes, some Republicans from rural Nevada. And we've got young people all across this country who've never had a reason to participate until now. (Cheers, applause.)

And in nine days, in nine short days, nearly half the nation will have the chance to join us in saying that we are tired of business as usual in Washington. (Cheers, applause.) We are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again. (Cheers, applause.)

(Chants of "We Want Change! We Want Change!")

But if there's anything, though, that we've been reminded of since Iowa, it's that the kind of change we seek will not come easy. Now, partly because we have fine candidates in this field, fierce competitors who are worthy of our respect and our admiration -- (applause) -- and as contentious as this campaign may get, we have to remember that this is a contest for the Democratic nomination and that all of us share an abiding desire to end the disastrous policies of the current administration. (Cheers, applause.)

But there are real differences between the candidates. We are looking for more than just a change of party in the White House. We're looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington. (Cheers, applause.) It's a status quo that extends beyond any particular party. And right now that status quo is fighting back with everything it's got, with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face, whether those problems are health care that folks can't afford or a mortgage they cannot pay.

So this will not be easy. Make no mistake about what we're up against. We're up against the belief that it's all right for lobbyists to dominate our government, that they are just part of the system in Washington. But we know that the undue influence of lobbyists is part of the problem, and this election is our chance to say that we are not going to let them stand in our way anymore. (Cheers, applause.)

We're up against the conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as president comes from longevity in Washington or proximity to the White House. But we know that real leadership is about candor and judgment and the ability to rally Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose, a higher purpose. (Cheers, applause.)

We're up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner. It's the kind of partisanship where you're not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea, even if it's one you never agreed with. That's the kind of politics that is bad for our party. It is bad for our country. And this is our chance to end it once and for all. (Cheers, applause.)

We're up against the idea that it's acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what's wrong with our politics. This is why people don't believe what their leaders say anymore. This is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again. (Cheers, applause.)

But let me say this, South Carolina. What we've seen in these last weeks is that we're also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation.

It's a politics that uses religion as a wedge and patriotism as a bludgeon, a politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us, the assumption that young people are apathetic, the assumption that Republicans won't cross over, the assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor and that the poor don't vote, the assumption that African-Americans can't support the white candidate, whites can't support the African-American candidate, blacks and Latinos cannot come together.

We are here tonight to say that that is not the America we believe in. (Cheers, applause.)

(Chants of "Yes, We Can! Yes, We Can!")

I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina -- (cheers, applause) -- because in the end, we're not up just against the ingrained and destructive habits of Washington. We're also struggling with our own doubts, our own fears, our own cynicism. The change we seek has always required great struggle and great sacrifice. And so this is a battle in our own hearts and minds about what kind of country we want and how hard we're willing to work for it.

So let me remind you tonight that change will not be easy. Change will take time. There will be setbacks and false starts, and sometimes we'll make mistakes. But as hard as it may seem, we cannot lose hope, because there are people all across this great nation who are counting on us, who can't afford another four years without health care. (Cheers.) They can't afford another four years without good schools. (Cheers.) They can't afford another four years without decent wages because our leaders couldn't come together and get it done.

Theirs are the stories and voices we carry on from South Carolina -- the mother who can't get Medicaid to cover all the needs of her sick child. She needs us to pass a health care plan that cuts costs and makes health care available and affordable for every single American. That's what she's looking for. (Cheers, applause.)

The teacher who works another shift at Dunkin' Donuts after school just to make ends meet -- she needs us to reform our education system so that she gets better pay and more support and that students get the resources that they need to achieve their dreams. (Cheers, applause.)

The Maytag worker who's now competing with his own teenager for a $7-an-hour job at the local Wal-Mart because the factory he gave his life to shut its doors -- he needs us to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship our jobs overseas and start putting them in the pockets of working Americans who deserve it -- (cheers, applause) -- and put them in the pockets of struggling homeowners who are having a tough time, and looking after seniors who should retire with dignity and respect.

That woman who told me that she hasn't been able to breathe since the day her nephew left for Iraq, or the soldier who doesn't know his child because he's on his third or fourth or even fifth tour of duty -- they need us to come together and put an end to a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. (Cheers, applause.)

So understand this, South Carolina. The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It's not about rich versus poor, young versus old, and it is not about black versus white.

(Cheers, applause.)

This election is about the past versus the future. (Cheers, applause.) It's about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation, a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.

There are those who will continue to tell us that we can't do this, that we can't have what we're looking for, that we can't have what we want, that we're peddling false hopes. But here's what I know. I know that when people say we can't overcome all the big money and influence in Washington, I think of that elderly woman who sent me a contribution the other day, an envelope that had a money order for $3.01 -- (cheers, applause) -- along with a verse of Scripture tucked inside the envelope. So don't tell us change isn't possible. That woman knows change is possible. (Cheers, applause.)

When I hear the cynical talk that blacks and whites and Latinos can't join together and work together, I'm reminded of the Latino brothers and sisters I organized with and stood with and fought with side by side for jobs and justice on the streets of Chicago. So don't tell us change can't happen. (Cheers, applause.)

When I hear that we'll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who's now devoted to educating inner-city children, and who went out into the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don't tell me we can't change. (Cheers, applause.)

Yes, we can. Yes, we can change.

(Chants of "Yes, We Can! Yes, We Can!")

Yes, we can.

(Continued chants of "Yes, We Can!")

Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future. And as we leave this great state with a new wind at our backs, and we take this journey across this great country, a country we love, with the message we've carried from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire, from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast, the same message we had when we were up and when we were down, that out of many we are one, that while we breathe we will hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words: Yes, we can.

Thank you, South Carolina. I love you. (Cheers, applause.)