It's never too early to start holiday gift shopping, right? And if you act now, you can grab one of these products that I'm sure will be in VERY short supply by the November/December gift-buying window.
Once again, it's time for the three-days-late Wrapup.
Questionable Content: We look at Marten and Dora together -- "the music dork version of sloppy makeouts." You get a music education in every episode of this comic!
Some have noticed that I left Theater Hopper out of the last wrapup. I haven't stopped reading it, and I will include it in the future.
So I've spent all weekend away from my computer, taking a sort of blog vacation, and the whole Gospel of Judas thing has probably blown over by now. Or maybe not -- people seem particularly susceptible to "hidden Gospels" right now, and this newest one sure does promise a new look at Christianity.
The sad thing is that it's not all that new. It's made the rounds of the antiquities markets, the "grey market" of archaeology. It is getting attention now because of the current fascination with historically inaccurate portrayals of early Christianity (The DaVinci Code) and re-hashes of early 80s fantasy works (Holy Blood, Holy Grail, brought back to life by author Michael Baigent as The Jesus Papers just in time for his lawsuit against Brown. Or maybe the lawsuit was the opportunely-timed event ...). People are fascinated by the idea that there were multiple traditions early on.
The Gospel of Judas has actually been known for over a thousand years. Irenaeus referred to the work in AD 180 in discussing the heretical group, the Cainites.
The Cainites were a Gnostic and Antinomian sect who were known to worship Cain as the first victim of the Demiurge Jehovah, the Old Testament God, who was identified by many groups of gnostics as evil. The sect following was relatively small. They were mentioned by Tertullian and Irenaeus as existing in the eastern Roman Empire during the 2nd century.The Cainites were typical gnostics, and viewed Judas' work as a heroic effort to defeat the demiurge Yahweh/Jehovah and bring salvation to mankind.
One of my favorite books as a teenager was Taylor Caldwell's book I, Judas. The book presents a more sympathetic view of Judas, as we see events from his point of view. It doesn't quite go as far as the Cainites did, but we are left with a Judas who, while flawed, is not deserving of the condemnation that is routinely heaped on him. I enjoyed the book because I thought it gave a more human Judas -- a man who did something very wrong, but for the best of reasons. A man who, like the rest of the disciples, saw Jesus as a political savior (which is what Israel was looking for, after all). He saw Jesus as a reluctant leader, and tried to force His hand. And when he found out that Jesus was to be executed, realized that he was wrong.
The Gospel of Judas cannot be reliably dated to the time of Christ. The earliest date we have for the manuscript fragments available is 220, though clearly the text existed in the latter half of the second century, since Irenaeus made reference to it. It certainly tells the story of a group who appropriated the story of Jesus of Nazareth for their own philosophy, and enlisted Him in their gnostic battle against the creator demiurge. There is nothing new here, nothing that hasn't actually been speculated about before. The text can illuminate a sect that has been cloaked in mystery (and even obscurity) for almost two thousand years. But it's value in studying early Christianity lies only in it's account of the divergent traditions that grew up as people rejected the teachings of the disciples.
There is little background concerning the fragments available, since they are unprovenanced finds. The hype we are seeing is over a document that has been known about for centuries (of course, the same can be said about the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary, but the hype continues). The hype will continue, fueled by people who are more eager to reject Chrisitanity than to find out the truth.
There will probably be alot of new messengers to the SBC Convention in Greensboro this year. A lot of first-timers who may be wondering what's going on.
There's a valuable resource over at 12 Witnesses (note to self -- get this one added to the aggregator). Just check out the side links (right sidebar) and look at the SBC Primer posts he's got listed.
These posts are also good primers for anyone who is interested or curious. The SBC is a huge "denomination," and it might be a good idea for people to know how things are (and aren't) done.
God willing, I'll be blogging the convention this year. It will be my second national convention (I was at the Atlanta convention in 1999, after being a Southern Baptist for only about a year).
Only 36 percent of the 1,007 adults interviewed a month ago by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University said "yes" to the question: "Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?" Fifty-four percent said they do not believe and 10 percent were undecided.And yet over 60% of Americans claim to be Christians -- in fact, a Barna survey taken in 2002 puts the figure closer to 80%, with 68% describing themselves as "committed Christians." We claim to be Christians, but deny one of the basic beliefs of Christianity -- the eventual resurrection of all men.
We've removed belief from Christianity. We've made it so easy to call yourself a Christian that anyone can do it, regardless of what they believe. We need to start defining Christianity the way it is defined Biblically -- people who believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, trust Him alone for their salvation, and believe (and live) according to His teachings. Anything else may be a really cool way to believe, but it isn't Christianity, and we need to stop fooling ourselves.
Christians are proud of the "fact" that our nation is 60%+ Christian -- I'd rather rejoice in the 20-30% who actually know what that means, and live it anyway.
How to Be Your Own Publicist is written by an award-winning writer and publicist. This made me a bit nervous right away; I was afraid that the book would either be overly technical and thus inaccessible, or extremely basic (I've had some experience with overly basic business books).
Thankfully, I found the book to be neither. How to Be Your Own Publicist finds a great middle-ground between people who just want to get attention for their cause/business/writing/blog and people who are getting ready to head up the PR department in their own small business. The book is easilly accessible for those with no marketing background, with plenty of meat for people with more experience.
The most valuable part of the book for me were the sections on creating press kits and writing press releases. I'm looking at moving my podcasting beyond just a hobby, and I learned a lot that I can use to promote both my podcasts and myself as a podcaster. I'll be making use of those ideas in the very near future. There are also valuable sections on getting yourself recognized as an "expert" in your field -- leading to radio and TV interviews where you can let people know about your product/service/company. Hatchigan also covers what not to do, including the infamous "soup to nuts" speeches where you overload your audience with too much information. She also cautions budding publicity hounds to use "publicity stunts" with great care -- don't let the stunt overshadow what you're trying to promote. This reminds me of commercials that I see all the time -- witty, memorable skits that leave you humming the tune but wondering what they were trying to sell.
Knowing how to attract attention to your business -- or your blog, or your podcast -- is important. Being able to create not only an impression, but also a memory -- and a good one -- is also important. How to Be Your Own Publicist shows you how to do both.
As the number of religious conservatives expressing an opinion on a moral or political issue increases, the probability that someone on the political left will invoke the term “theocracy” approaches one.Jow gives as examples Kevin Phillips' new book American Theocracy and Harper Magazine's piece on "The Christian Right's War on America".
I've noticed how many people have decided that President Bush's evangelical faith has ushered in a sort of theocracy in America. These are usually the same people who blissfully ignore Bill Clinton's and Jimmy Carter's evangelical faith -- evangelicalism is a pretty big tent, after all. What it comes down to, it seems, is that if you agree with someone's theology, it isn't a theocracy. When you disagree, it's a theocracy that threatens the very fabric of our Constitution.
The only Christians I know who are seeking a theocracy are the Christian Reconstructionists -- and they're a thankfully small group. I've mentioned them before. The rest of us know that only Christ can effect real, permanent change. While we will work for social change, we recognize that there's really only one way for that to happen.
I haven't done one of these in a LONG time, and probably wouldn't be doing this one had it not come from Dr. Michael Haykin. Which Scottish historian are you?
I am Thomas Boston, champion of evangelistic preaching and the Free Offer of the Gospel. Actually, I tied for first place:
Thomas Boston 95%
James Orr 95%
James Denney 75%
John Knox 65%
Thomas Chalmers 50%
Recent reports show that 'Deadeye' Dick Cheney gave away 80% of his income to charities. These reports have been met in different ways by different people.
Democrats are demanding to know what happened to that other 20%. Republicans are considering revoking Cheney's membership card unless he can prove he used at least half of what was left over to buy stock in multi-national corporations.
OK, seriously for a minute -- the man donated close to seven million dollars to charity. Now he's getting a HUGE refund on his taxes, and people are mad. Get over it, people. When YOU donate 80% of your income to charity, you'll get a hefty tax refund, too.
In related news, I'm announcing the formation of the Warren Kelly Foundation. Tax-deductable donations will be accepted through the handy PayPal link to the right...
I don't do college basketball, though I paid more attention to it this year than I have before. I'm a hockey guy, and even though the cable deal the league got with OLN assured me of rarely getting to watch the game on TV, I paid attention this season. Now it's playoff time, and it's time for my predictions:
In the East:
Rangers/Devils: I don't like either team, but I REALLY don't like Jersey. I'd love to pick New York, but I don't see the Devils dropping this one. My pick: Jersey in six.
Lightning/Senators: Tampa is starting off on the road, and they are expected to lose to the Sens. If I were a gambling man, I'd take the Lightning just because of the odds, but I wouldn't spend much. My pick: Ottawa in five.
Hurricanes/Canadiens: This is the series everyone is looking forward to -- high-speed hockey. I think that every game will be high-scoring, but in the end, there can only be one. My pick: Carolina in 7.
Sabres/Flyers: My sister is a Flyers fan, even though she lives in Tampa now. That makes me really want the Flyers to win. But she's had a good year in fantasy hockey this year -- she won the BHL championship, and smoked me the last time we played -- so she can handle a little disappointment. My pick: Buffalo in six.
In the West:
Red Wings/Oilers: This one's almost a gimmie. The Wings are the most consistent team in the NHL right now, while Edmondton is streaky. The Wings can win on the road. And I don't care what ESPN says, the Legace/Osgood goalie tandem is great. Yzerman is hot right now. My pick: Detroit in five, maybe four.
Stars/Avalanche: Dallas has the advantage in goal with Marty Turco, Mike Modano is on a roll, and they're probably the easiest team to underestimate in the NHL. I like Colorado, but ... My pick: Dallas in five.
Mighty Ducks/Flames: If you're looking for an upset, this is the place to do it. The Ducks have been steadily improving in the latter half of the season, Teemu Selanne is healthy this year, and they've got a bumper crop of rookie talent. The big question is whether they can beat Kiprusof, who has been key in the goal for Calgary. My pick: Anaheim in seven, in a close one.
Sharks/Predators: The Predators are the favorite in this one, but they're hurting. Vokoun is missing in the net, Zidlicky and Sullivan are missing and presumed gone for the season. They DO have a rapidly improving replacement goaly in Chris Mason, but is that going to be enough against Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo? I'm not so sure... My pick: San Jose in six, maybe seven.
So there you have it. Argue away -- after all, if I knew it all, my sister wouldn't have smoked me a few weeks back, and my team would have been better than fifth in the BHL this season.
It's very tempting for me to write a scathing review of this book. I could rant about The Da Vinci Code-esque revisionist church history, and incite Christians everywhere to protest the book. But I won't, for a few reasons.
One - like I could get more than a dozen Christians to actually listen to me, much less do what I want them to. Two - the book's good.
The premise: there is a secret society -- similar to the legendary Grail Knights -- tasked with protecting the True Cross, on which Christ was crucified. They have infiltrated every part of the Church all over the world, protecting the fragments of the Cross that have been strewn all over Christendom, with one goal: To bring them all back together, under their control.
The book begins with a series of robberies, and a mysterious corpse. Pieces of the True Cross are being stolen, and the corpse is one of the thieves. He bears intricate body art -- ritual scarification, the result of his induction into the mysterious group known as the Staurofilakes -- the protectors of the Cross.
Vatican paleographer Ottavia Salina is called on to help investigate the crimes, and bring the Staurofilakes back into fellowship with the Catholic Church - by force, if need be. Accompanied by a member of the Swiss Guard and an atheistic professor, she begins her investigation. Aided by clues provided by Dante's Divine Comedy, they move closer and closer to the mysterious group - even as they receive the very same ritual scars as the dead thief.
There is a growing sub-genre of religious fiction - the skeptical, gnostic-based thriller novel. The Da Vinci Code is, of course, the most famous example of this genre, and is responsible for its popularity today. The Da Vinci Code, though, was originally published in 2003, though -- The Last Cato was originally published in 2001, in Spanish. So this is not an example of an author jumping on the bandwagon. It's a wonderfully written story, with healthy doses of skepticism toward religion. The skepticism is not heavy-handed -- in most cases, it's mentioned in passing, with no 'proselytizing' as Dan Brown tends toward in his book. Readers would be well-advised to get a copy of The Divine Comedy as a reference as they read this book, but the important passages are quoted in the book, so that's not essential. You'll never read Dante the same way again, I can promise you that.
Characterization in the book isn't overt or heavy-handed, but by the end you feel like you really know these three people. You sympathize with Ottavia's struggles and her anguish over the direction her life seems to be taking her. By the end, you're pondering the irony in her statement that "Life doesn't drag you along if you don't let it."
One minor quibble with the book, or actually the translation. Latin names are often mishandled, it seems. Eusebius is left Eusebio, for example, almost as if the Spanish name had been left alone, rather than being translated to the proper Latin name. A minor detail, at best, but it did grate on the church historian in me to see familiar names rendered incorrectly.
One reason I would start a protest over the book is that the result of such action seems clear - people will read the book to see what all the fuss is about. And this is a book that deserves to be read. And it didn't borrow anything from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. That in itself deserves high praise indeed. I didn't read The Da Vinci Code, but if this is the type of book publishers are picking up because of Dan Brown's success, then we owe him thanks. Just remember that the book was written two years before Brown's book, and you'll enjoy it even more.
Got this meme from Songstress. Fired up iTunes and here are my results:
HOW MANY SONGS? 841, including a LOT of podcasts and a 35-part lecture series on church history. Seriously -- I've got something like 428 podcast episodes right now -- I need to go through them and get rid of most. I keep the dramatic podcasts that I listen to (like Dr. Floyd) and burn them to CD later, so I need to do that, too. But I've got CDs to rip, so the actual total will probably go up.
SORT BY SONG TITLE: (I filtered out the podcasts for this one)
First: A Balynure Ballad by Christopher Lynch, from an Original Irish Tenors CD I reviewed.
Last: Your Lies by Silas, a Chrisitan indie band that I'm going to play on an upcoming Pewcast.
SORT BY TIME: (again, leaving out the podcasts, some of which are over an hour long)
Longest: Parable Guy by ApologetiX (8:21) (parody of American Pie)
Shortest: Winter Wonderland by Steve Taylor (2:02)
SORT BY ALBUM:
First: Back Home by Eric Clapton
Last: Wide Eyed and Mystified by downhere. NOT the whole album (it's not out until the end of May), but I got the single to play on the Pewcast.
TOP 5 MOST PLAYED SONGS:
"Say Yeah," "The Best I Have to Offer," "A Song About Nothing," and "In Jesus Name" by Three Cord Wonder, and "I Will Sing" by Jamie Rowe. What can I say, Three Cord Wonder is a great band. You can hear them on ... well, you know.
FIRST SONG THAT COMES UP ON SHUFFLE:
Poor Rich Folk, "Leaves Like Eve's." Guess where I've played that one ....
SEARCH FOR: (left the podcasts in for this one)
Sex - 1. A report on turning in sexual predators from Stacy Harp's podcast.
Death - 1. "Death Danced at Midnight" -- a Red Panda Adventure from Decoder Ring Theater.
Love - 23. I'm not listing all of them!
If you want to do this one, knock yourself out -- just hit me with a trackback!