Chadwick Boseman’s Death is a Reminder of All That We Do Not Know

I’ve never seen Black Panther. I think the last MCU movie I saw was the first Avengers. This is due to indifference. I’m not big into Marvel, and only slightly more into DC (the last DC movie I saw was Dark Knight Rises, which doesn’t count). That whole journey went right by me. Don’t take it personally.

So I don’t have anything to say about Chadwick Boseman as an actor. I’m sure he was good, or at least good enough to play the lead in the only comic book movie to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (what an antiquated term. No one calls them “moving pictures” anymore. Why don’t they call it Best Film?). I’m not here as a critic.

But that Twist. The fact that he’s been fighting Stage3/4 colon cancer since 2016. That he gave those performances, fought his way through Panther, Infinity War, and Endgame while undergoing chemo, catches the heart somehow. And sure, acting in a film is not storming the beaches of Normandy. But it’s not manning a checkout line at Safeway either. They pay you to do it because it’s work.

Above and beyond Bosments’s suddenly-apparent nigh-superhuman toughness, however, sits the fact that such a secret stayed hidden. Granted, Hollywood is good at hiding things. But health ain’t always exactly a secret. If Betty White had the sniffles, the internet would shut down for a day in pre-emptive mourning. But Black Panther had butt cancer and not even the 4channers knew.

That’s the lesson. Whoever you know, whoever you don’t know, whoever you hate, whoever you love, they’re carrying things that no one but God and their general practictioner know about. Things that are not spoken of outside of the four walls of their homes. What you see of a person – any person – is no more than what they show you.

That’s why The Man said Don’t Judge. Not because we’re incapable of judging, but because the full content of a human soul is hidden from us. We need most desperately to remember that in these supremely judgey times. For we are fragile, and our time is short.

Requiscat in Pace Æternam.

I Love it When the Ignorant Lecture Me About Jesus

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This is the kind of rhetorical nonsense that people who think they’re moar SMRTer then dem stoopid Xtians love to share. It’s so full of irrelevancies, absurdities, and flat-out mischaracterizations as to represent a Perfect Storm of Woke-Signalling. It cries out to Heaven for a Fisking.

Original in Bold, my responses in italic.

Jesus was a radical nonviolent revolutionary

Lemme stop you right here. “Radical” is one of those words, like “fascist” that has been overused to the point of meaninglessness. He was certainly not a “revolutionary” in any accepted meaning of the term. In the first place, claiming to be a Messiah, the Heir of the House of David, is if anything a Reactionary position, as restoring the Davidic Kingdom would by definition be restoring a long-honored past. In the second place, dude was quite clear that his Kingdom was Not Of This World, and had very little to say on proper political arrangements, other than everyone should pay their taxes, which is the least revolutionary political statement of all time.

As for the “nonviolent” bit, we’re talking about the guy who kicked the money-changers out of the Temple and promised that he was “bringing not peace, but the sword,” right?

…who hung around with lepers, hookers, and crooks…

Which, as he explicitly said, was in order that these people be healed, forgiven, and brought back into the fold. Not as a statement that leprosy, prostitution, and theft were valid choices to be celebrated.

…wasn’t American and never spoke English…

Your strawman, it burns so beautifully. I’ve heard versions of this chuckle-witted applause line a million times if I’ve heard it once, and always comes from someone mocking the idea. I have never in my born days heard a grown adult Christian of any denomination claim that Jesus was American and spoke English. Find a new line, will you?

…was anti-wealth, anti-death penalty, anti public-prayer (Mt 6:5)

Y’all just love that line about the difficulties of a wealthy man entering the Kingdom of Heaven. True, love of money is a sin. But most of the Bible treats wealth as a blessing from God, to be dispensed with in a Godly way, but by no means wicked in and of itself.  And if we’re being honest, you don’t think YOUR money is bad. You think the other guy, who has Too Much Money, is bad. There’s a whole commandment just for you.

I’m gonna need a citation on that anti-death penalty thing. Because Jesus was real big on casting people into the fiery Gehenna, to the point of telling people to cut their hands of and gouge their eyes out to avoid it. And when Peter told Jesus NOT to go and have himself handed over to death, Jesus called him Satan and told him to get behind him. It’s almost as if this guy was working on a meta/cosmic/spiritual level, and doesn’t deserve to get shoehorned into your modern political demands. But whatever.

Matthew 6:5 does indeed tell people to pray in their homes rather than make a loud show to their neighbors of how Holy and Good they are. If you think he was talking about punishing high school kids for saying a prayer before their football games, because an atheist might be downwind, then you’re deliberately taking Matthew 6:5 out of context. A guy who publicly taught people his message about God, to the point of preaching to thousands at a time, was 100% not saying what you’re trying to squeeze out of him here.

…But was never anti-gay…

Being “gay”, like America and the English language, didn’t exist in the first century. Jesus didn’t speak about “gay issues” because there was no subculture seeking validation for them. What Jesus did say was that the Mosaic Law (which is blunt on homosexual acts being contrary to God’s Will) was to be retained and followed, and unless your righteousness exceeded that of the Phariseees, (meaning you followed the Law even better than they did)  you weren’t getting your Golden Ticket. He also rather publicly stated (Matthew 5) that marriage existed in order to bring together male and female, and that such was what God intended from the beginning, in case you’re planning on updating this screed to include same-sex marriage or the 57 new genders.

…never mentioned abortion or birth control…

Again, because this wasn’t an issue for Jews of his time. The Mosaic Law (which again, Jesus said he was all about) applies the death penalty to men who by violence cause an unborn child to die (Ex 21:22-23). No Jewish sect of Jesus’ time was pro-abortion or pro-birth control, and the Early Church was foursquare in its condemnation of Roman practices of both. He didn’t have to mention it; everyone was on board.

…never called the poor lazy…

“But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.
“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

-Matthew 25:26-30

This also doesn’t sound like a guy who’s “anti-wealth”. Huh.

…Never justified torture…

See above, regarding cutting your hand off and poking your eye out to avoid Hell. Jesus’ pronouncements about Hell as a Lake of Fire and a Second Death, are pretty vivid and horrifying. But you do you.

…never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes…

Nazarenes weren’t wealthy. Nazareth was a half-Samaritan backwater that no one thought anything of. It was the Flyover Country of Judaea. If anything, Jesus endured the snobbery of Hellenized, globally-aware Jerusalem urbanites who scoffed at the notion of anything good coming from those dirty fishermen.

Sound familiar?

As for the statement that he never specifically advocated for tax relief, for the wealthy or otherwise, that’s probably because of his general lack of interest in political questions. Is that a stance you’re going to be emulating anytime soon?

…never asked a leper for a copay…

He also never demanded that Caeser Augustus and the High Priest create a control board rationing care to lepers and demoniacs. He just healed them. Because he was God.

..and was a long-haired…

Every single artistic depiction of Jesus of the last two-thousand years has shown him with long hair. What secret do you think you’re uncovering?

…brown-skinned…

I promise you, no one is shocked by this. Everyone knows Jesus wasn’t a European. I’m pretty sure Chinese Christians know that he wasn’t Asian and African Christians will admit that he wasn’t black. This is another strawman, and says way more about you than it does about whoever you imagine you’re calling out.

…homeless community-organizing…

Precisely what did Jesus organize the “homeless community” of Judaea to do?

And while you’re answering that, you can go ahead and tell me what Barack Obama’s community-organizing accomplishments were. I’ve been waiting for about 12 years for that state secret to get declassified.

…anti-slut shaming…

Tell that to the Woman at the Well. 

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

John 4:15-18

Now, I know you’re really talking about the Woman Taken in Adultery a few chapters later, in John 8. But you’re taking the wrong lesson from that story, as almost everyone does. Jesus didn’t say “The law is wrong and you shouldn’t stone her,” he said “Let him who is without sin cast the FIRST stone.” Not all the subsequent stones, just the first one. He was making a point that he often made about casting out your own sins (hence the aforementioned hand-chopping and eye-gouging) before dealing with another’s. And when the crowd dispersed, Jesus didn’t say “You Go Girl!” to the woman spared, he said “Go forth and sin no more.” As in “Get your life together, sister, or next time I won’t be here to slow them down.”

…Middle Eastern Jew.

Hey, you got one right. Good for you!

 

Wisdom from the Lord of Battles — Reblog from The Writer in Black

The Havamal is a collection of sayings attributed to Odin, Lord of Battles, Most Wise and Most High. Much of it is advice on wisdom. Some of what is said here is specific to the time and place of Medieval Scandinavia and needs to be considered with that in mind. But much of it if […]

via Wisdom from the Lord of Battles — The Writer in Black

Married Priests Might Be a Thing Again

I’m fine with this.

The Celibate priesthood is a non-essential tradition, dating no earlier than the Middle Ages. I dont’ expect it to be a panacaea, but I don’t think it will do any harm. At any rate, it constitutes a change to the priesthood, and I think after the last fifty years the priesthood merits a change.

Francis isn’t my favorite Pope, but I can’t fault this move.

No, Islamic Spain was Not Tolerant

So sayeth this review of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. (h/t Vox Populi)

And yes, the reviewer is an Orthodox priest, if you want to ready your ad hominems, and he is positively scathing regarding the myth, even working in a Gone With the Wind reference.

As Fernandez-Morera’s book points out, the picture of a tolerant Islam can only be drawn by selecting among the facts and zeroing in on a few of the upper classes, while conveniently ignoring the mass of people and suppressing certain other facts—even facts about those upper classes.

Now, the fact that medieval Muslims forcibly oppressed Christians in their lands does not and should not surprise. Religions, if they’re worth anything, are totalizing, thus religious tolerance always has the tendency to border on being a contradiction in terms. So the status of Christian dhimmis in Muslim Spain as fifth-class subjects should not really be a revelation.

But it is, and this indicaes a broader problem, of a spiritual cancer at the heart of the West. There are those among us who are prepared to believe, and repeat, anything, if it makes our own culture look bad. The same people who tut derisively about the Crusades train themselves not to notice the wars of conquest by which Arab Muslims destroyed Christian Visigothic Spain in the eighth century. Their stunted ideology requires them to deplore the first thing and attack anyone who mentions the second thing as a racist (because, you know, Islam is a race. Oh, we know that it isn’t, but you’re too dumb to make that distinction). Attacking your own culture makes you virtuous, you see.

Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair climbed on the bandwagon, saying in 2007, “The standard-bearers of tolerance in the early Middle Ages were far more likely to be found in Muslim lands than in Christian ones”.

Given that the early Middle Ages were the time when Muslims attacked other lands specifically in the name of their religion, this statement beggars belief. I’d be hard pressed to think that Tony Blair even really thought this was true. It’s just the sort of thing we’re expected to say, a reading from the Catechism of the Blessed Dictatorship of Post-Cultural Relativism.

John C. Wright on The Grand Christian Conspiracy

Which is always assumed, but somehow never demonstrated.

Paul got wealth and prestige and money by spreading the doctrine of Jesus, and the Jewish and Roman authorities anointed him with honors. Peter likewise was exulted and died a wealthy man, surrounded by children and grandchildren, and John retired to a small island in the Mediterranean in his leisure years. Thomas traveled to India, sightseeing, and was well received by the natives. Bartholomew made a fortune in the tanning business. So the Church was a moneymaking juggernaut in Nero’s time, and many Christians in Rome went into business lighting the public streets. Others when into the entertainment industry. Perpetua and Felicitas  are still remembered for their animal act.

“lighting the public streets” That’s just funny, that is.

Watching Wright disembowel rhetorical commonplaces is always a pleasure.

Myths of the Great Library

In History, the details are always hard to catch, yet always worth knowing. This long post at History for Atheists, worth absorbing in full, makes a number of discordant points about the Myth that the Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by a Christian mob in 390 AD, thus setting science and technology back a thousand years. I will state them below in brief, and you may read the post in full.

  1. The Great Library of Alexandria was not the only Great Library of the Ancient World. It did not “contain all the wisdom of the ancient world”.
  2. The Great Library of Alexandria was a research institution, a Mouseion, devoted to the Nine Muses, which is to say, they were a product of Pagan religious inspiration, the worship of the gods.
  3. Consequently, most of the scholarship done at the Mouseion was focused on textual criticism and poetry, and not very much on what we moderns would call science.
  4. The Ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t really do science as we understand it today. Which is to say, their natural philosophy was largely inductive, not empirical, and they did not apply this philosophy to improving the technology of their culture.
  5. The Mouseion had almost certainly ceased to exist by 390 AD. A series of sackings of the city by Romans, beginning with Julius Caesar, greatly diminished the value of the place.
  6. What was destroyed in 390 AD was a daughter library, the Serapaeum. As with the Mouseion, the Serapaeum was first and foremost a pagan temple, devoted to the worship of the hybrid Greek-Egyptian God Serapis. It’s destruction in 390 was the result of a long series of hostilites between the pagan and Christian populations of the city. Which is to say, it was the result of a war between rival religious traditions, and not a war between religion and science. And according to primary sources, there may not even have been a library in the Serapaeum at the time.

Again, Read the Whole Thing (Hat Tip: Vox Populi)

When Creation Stories Sync – Veda and Bible

Doing a bit of research for a later novel set in a fantasy world of my own devising, I finally got my mitts on a cheap translation of (selections from) the Rig Veda. I do this because my world has a Trimurti of deities in differing similar roles to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The written-but-unpublished first novel from this world, The Island Prince, makes mention of them.

Anyway, I’m reading the hymn known as the Golden Embryo, or the Unknown God, and I do find some striking similarities in the phrasing between it and the first chapter of Genesis. Both start with “In the Beginning”, both reference a “dome of the sky” and both speak to a mastery over the waters.

The difference lies in the Vedic uncertainty of which god did it – each line ends with “who is the god whom we should worship with oblation?” – when the Bible is quite certain who did it and in what order. Also there’s no mention of living things. Whoever this originator of creation – named Prajapati (“Lord of Creation” in Sanskrit) – might be, he’s not here connected with lower beings, save by the act of worship.

I rather enjoy the rhythm of the hymns as well. Stuff to absorb for later works.

John C. Wright on the Genius of Robert E. Howard

Fascinating essay:

Conan is somewhat more deep and complex than the cartoon image of a brute in a bearskin loincloth found the popular imagination, with a dancing girl clutching his brawny thigh and a devil-beast dying under his bloody ax. The theme and philosophy he represents is not the product of adolescent neurosis (as certain bitter critics would have us believe) but of somber, even cynical, reflection on the age of the world, the costs of civilization, and the frailty of man.

You really have to read the original Conan stories to understand what there was about the character and the stories he enlivened to make him still a household name, 80 years later. For my part, the more I have read them, the more I have come to appreciate the vitality of them, and the flexibility of the character:

Conan is, in Wright’s estimation, a product of Theosophy’s pagan theories of eternal recursion:

the world of successive cataclysms captures the grim mood of the Hindu mystic, where a Kali Yuga routinely wipes out all life in the universe, only to have it start again. The Ecpyrosis of the Roman Stoics was the same idea, and said the whole cosmos periodically burned to ash and was reborn. And the successive destructions whispered in Aztec legends, where different generations of man and god alike are obliterated, all these and others capture the pagan spirit and atmosphere needed for the Hyborian Age of Conan.

In this way, Conan is something like an avatar of Shiva, or at the very least of Ares, the Greek troublemaker and brawler.

I recently picked up Wright’s Count to a Trillion, the start of one of his spacefaring trilogies. I haven’t cracked it open yet, but I hope to soon.

Read the Whole Thing, obviously

Barabbas was a Terrorist?

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Today, with The Devil Left Him out and available, I’d like to talk a little about the connection between Jesus and Barrabbas, and the latter’s role in the Biblical story.

1st Century Judea had a number of divisive sects vying for control of what Judaism meant. The Sadducees, the priests, were the most Hellenized, the most docile with regard to the Roman occupation. The Pharisees, the scribes, were most determined to emphasize their Jewishness, and to appeal to Rabbinical authority and black-letter Mosaic Law. The Essenes were the proto-monastic mystics who hungered for God in the desert. They were most connected to John the Baptist, and according to some New Testament Scholars, to Jesus himself.

Then you had the Zealots, who imagined themselves as the successors to the Maccabees who had thrown off Greek rule and in the previous century and briefly established Jewish independence before the Romans showed up. They favored a violent overthrow of Roman rule, and believed that Divine aid would secure this goal as it had secured the Promised Land for Israel in Joshua’s time (Linguist’s Note: “Joshua,” “Yeshua,” and “Jesus” are all the same word as expressed in English, Hebrew, and Greek). A subset (or ally, depending on which source you rely upon) were the sicaroi, or “dagger-men”.

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Sicaroi were literal terrorists, they would practice stealth assassination with their sicarii, or short-bladed daggers, and then blend back into the crowd. They practiced this not only against Romans, but against Jewish collaborators.

What has this to do with Barabbas?

Well, the Gospels have it that Barabbas was an unsavory character. Matthew refers to him as a “notorious prisoner” (Mt 27:16), and Mark (15:7) and Luke (23:19) say that he took part in a riot, and committed murder. John 18:40 calls Barabbas a “bandit”, using a Greek word (“lestes”) that the Jewish historian Josephus later used to refer to rebels.

Is that enough to justify my headline? Maybe not. Some historians say that the sicaroi were active in the run up to the Jewish Revolt of the 60’s AD, not during the 30’s.

But there’s an even more interesting link between Jesus and Barabbas. “Barabbas” in Hebrew means “son of the father”, and early editions of the Gospel of Matthew refer to Jesus as “Jesus Barabbas”. It may have been changed to avoid confusion.

This presents an interesting contrast between the two guys Pilate had on hand to execute on Good Friday: there’s the Messiah that Jesus claimed to be and the more direct,  political type that Barabbas could well have been. The Messiah of God vs. the Messiah of Man, as Augustine might have put it.

Which is why The Devil Left Him has a tragic, dagger-wielding Barabbas encountering Jesus prior to their more famous meeting. Check it out.