Monthly Archives: February 2010

Lying for the Gospel

I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. By “a lot” I mean that all the people who work there know me by name (regardless of which shift they work) and they all know what I drink and are confused when I change my order (I’m allowed to drink tea now and again, aren’t I?). In my experience there, I’ve learned that Starbucks is a hotbed for several things: 1) first dates 2) last dates 3) political conversations and 4) evangelization of the worst kind. I witnessed #4 tonight.

“Lying” may be a bit strong to characterize what I heard tonight. It was more like this guy is misinformed on a few issues, though the one which he chose to discuss the most (oddly) was evolution. Why anyone feels the need to lump in a 30 minute diatribe on evolution with their evangelism is beyond me. Are the two somehow linked? Of course not. One’s personal theology may hinge upon evolution being untrue, though – now that I think about it – I’ve never seen anyone’s theology hinging upon evolution being true. For myself, I see no conflict between the Bible and evolution – God is creator. Whether He creates fixed forms or a universe with a lot of plasticity is not as important.

So this guy, Starbucks evangelizer, is going on and on about evolution (and not Jesus) and it just sounds like he’s making it up off the top of his head. He’s building numerous strawman arguments. I just wondered why anyone would feel like lying about evolution is somehow a tool or building block of evangelization. Have I missed something?

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Meat Heads in Antiquity

An interesting passage in a book I’m reading:

“The morality of meat was, furthermore, an elaborated topic in late antiquity. White it may initially strike us as an odd preoccupation, late antiquity was attuned to the moral qualities of certain foodstuffs. The anonymous Jewish author of the Letter of Aristeas, living in Alexandria in the first century before our era, expatiated at some length upon the moral qualities of animals. Whoever ate a weasel, he averred, was ingesting the very essence of malicious, backbiting slander. Those who ate foxes, dogs, lions or donkeys, were likely to become like them, according to Galen. And Philo opined that Moses had forbidden the eating of carnivorous animals lest ‘the savage passion of anger should turn [people] unawares into beasts.’ Sea creatures without fins and scales were similarly disallowed lest those who ate them find themselves passive when caught in the undertow of pleasure.”

-Blake Leyerle, “Monks and Other Animals” in The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography (eds. Dale B. Martin and Patricia Cox Miller)

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Not everyone gets in to grad school

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My new favorite Greek verb

Those of you who have taken courses on a foreign language wherein translation was the main component will appreciate this one. The verb is λωεβιζομαι – that is, “I use the Loeb (for myself)”.

When someone in your class has trouble recognizing a present tense verb one week, but comes in with the most polished translation the next(sounding a bit like 1950’s English), you can use this verb.

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Senior research

I wrote a little blurb for my Classics program’s blog about my senior research. You can read it here if you are so inclined.

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My senior religion seminar

My senior religion seminar this semester is, quite frankly, a big, fat joke. It’s awful. Last semester my seminar was on ‘Socially Engaged Buddhism’ – certainly far afield for me, but still extremely interesting. This semester we’re focusing on one author: Matthew Fox. If you aren’t familiar with Matthew Fox, he was a Dominican priest who left Catholicism because of his new age-y teachings. We’re reading a bunch of his books this semester and I’ve basically identified a pattern in the first one we read (Original Blessing). On every page he either 1) Praises himself as the greatest theological mind this side of the Church Fathers 2) Blames Augustine for any theological idea he doesn’t like (even if Augustine wasn’t the first to hold it)   3) Builds a strawman argument against “the West’s” theology (as if there’s a single, homogeneous theology floating around) or 4) he insults people (he actually compared the Pope to “the Fuhrer”).  He comes across as whiney and ridiculous to me. He harps on Augustine page after page, but then named one of his books “Confessions”. He tacked up his own 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. He argues against dualism while maintaining a “Me vs them” attitude (not to mention the ‘right brain vs left brain’ that he mentions all the time).  He dislikes Descartes but is so unbelievably Cartesian in his translation of Jn 1.1-14 (“In the beginning was the Creative Energy……” instead of res cogitans, Christ is now a res faciens).

In the first book, I found something on the order of 20 misquotes of historical persons, false etymologies,  and straight up lies. He tries to recast Hildegard and Meister Eckhart as “creation mystics”. He conveniently edits out the things that make Hildegard a 12th century Benedictine Abbess. The thing that bothers me the most: he writes this stuff for lay people who are never going to know any better. I’m not saying all lay people won’t research it, but the grand majority of people who read his books are going to think he knows what he’s talking about and move on from there.  That’s upsetting to me. I feel for those people.  I also wonder why we’re dedicating an entire semester to reading some whiney liar. I think we’d do much better to just spend the entire semester reading Augustine or Hildegard.

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