“This Dangerous Book”: by the founders of the Museum of the Bible

I visited the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC near Federal Center SW on the first day of Winter, Dec. 21, and after the visit noticed the book by Steve and Jackie Green, founders of the museum, in the museum gift shop. The title, on a brown dust jacket, caught my attention. That is, “This Dangerous Book: How the BIBLE Has Shaped our World, and Why It Still Matters Today”.

My first thought was that Milo Yiannopoulos titled his book “Dangerous” and names his own publishing company that (he has published Pam Geller), and now his own main website, that.  In terms of world history, the Bible is a lot more dangerous than Milo’s work!  I really wondered if this title duplication was more than a coincidence.  As a matter of law, titles cannot be copyrighted, and normally they only become trademarked if they become a series.  (That raises a question about my own “Do Ask, Do Tell”). Business company names (like publishing companies) normally can be trademarked.  So sometimes their accompanying domain names are, too.

Steve and Jackie are part of a larger family, David’s, that founded the Hobby Lobby, which became controversial in refusing to cover the “morning-after pill” for employees claiming it was an abortifacient. So here we go, into the area of how much religious beliefs should affect your treatment of other people (like employees) on their private decisions.

The Museum is quite objective and neutral, covering both Judaism and Christianity well, but Islam much less because Islam has its own texts.

The book is partly about the history of Biblical codices and manuscripts (through the significance of the innovation of the printing press), and partly about the Green family’s own journey of faith and perspective on it.  The Green’s talk about their early life expenses of debt, and how it is hard to avoid when you have five children. (Note: single people, and in the past, many gays, tended to taken on fewer responsibilities for others that can lead to debt.  That’s changing with longer life spans, demographics, eldercare, and marriage law.)  Later they talk about prayer in whether to adopt a child from China, which turned out to be tricky legally.  The oldest natural sibling seemed to think that the parents were morally obliged to try to do so.  This is emotionally a close-knit family, in a way that I haven’t experienced.

I recall a particular moment, the first time I entered my tenth grade English classroom in September 1958, and saw a lot of classic books on a shelf, with a young adult male teacher. (Yes, he had played football but he was academically very well prepared.  This reminds me of a college athlete I met on a Metro in 2014 as he read a philosophy text.  Yup, a lot of “jocks” really are smart, too.  And that happened about the time of GWU’s annual Day of Service.  A lot flashes through the mind.)  Ever since then, I’ve wondered if some books deserve to be thought of as “good” and having more credibility to be believed by the public than others.  I can wonder that about my own “Do Ask Do Tell” series.

I can recall a 90’s book, “The Good Book” (legacy review), by African-American Harvard religion professor Peter Gomes, who also describes his coming out as gay.  I remember reading this book when I wrote my own first DADT book.

So then, I ponder, as the Green book explores, do you look at the Bible as a source of authority on moral judgements?  The Greens get into that, and try to maintain some flexibility.  The assorted literary forms in the Bible (especially New Testament letters) add to the authority.  (The remarks about John’s account of the Revelations seem particularly challenging.)  But for Christians this comes down to a personal “relationship” with and faith in “Him”.

Consider this: for most of my life, Jesus has usually been depicted visually as a slender, physically fit young adult white male.  As a gay white male myself, that image is what I would tend to want “upward affiliation” (to borrow a term from George Gilder) with. Suppose I encounter a young adult white male somewhat like an extension of the teenage Clark Kent in the WB “Smallville” series.  What if the individual shows “powers”.  Actually, I can think of two such persons now.   No, I won’t identify them (and, Milo, sorry, he’s not you). I am very careful about my connection to such a person, not wanting to blow it.  For example, nothing gets carried out on social media (so far). (As far as I’m concerned, we don’t know that “Smallville”, with the help of a nearby wormhole to deal with the speed of light, is impossible.  The legal rights of personhood for an “alien” like Clark Kent would an interesting question for the courts, and challenging to Donald Trump.  We have not treated orcas well.)  But a “Clark Kent” would never ask anyone to drop everything an “follow me”.

For someone who lived and experienced his own personhood at the time of Christ however, the miracles, including resurrection and ascension, would seem to be unchallenged and ultimate factual truths. There would be no other frame of reference for knowledge, like modern physics and cosmology. And there could be no nuclear weapons. No dependence on technology to be wiped away by an enemy with some unprecedented act.

I want to note with some interest that the authors consider the course of American history as underlined by the contents of the Bible, from the American revolution (they even make observations about the end of the French and Indian Wars) to the story of Amistad (the book and 1997 film by Steven Spielberg, legacy review), two decades before the War Between the States.

Here is my legacy review of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” (2002). The problem is, sometimes, it really needs to be “about me.”

Author: Steve and Jackie Green, with Bill High; Foreword by Rick Warren
Title, Subtitle: “This Dangerous Book: How the BIBLE Has Shaped our World and Why It Still Matters Today”
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-0-310-35147-4
Publication: Zonervan (Harper Collins); 5 Parts, 18 Chapters, 251 pages, hardcover (also audio and ebook); many color photos and color maps.
Link: publisher 

(Posted: Friday, January 5, 2018 at 1:34 PM EST)

“Life After Death”: the geography of the Afterlife (Martin)

I received, from author Stephen Hawley Martin, a complimentary review copy of his Second Edition (2017) “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”.  I think the first edition was in 1995.

The author believes that consciousness generates the Universe and permeates it.  Consciousness exists apart from matter and energy – you could wonder if it has anything to do with dark energy, or with unused dimensions in string theory.  Consciousness tends to aggregate into concentrates that seek some sort of physical vehicle for expression.  Since ultimate conscious entities can make choices, in theory conscious entities – expressed (on this planet at least) with reproductive life forms, oppose entropy, which would cause the Universe to degrade.

Human being (and animal) individual consciousness comes about as genetics and “morphogenetic” influences cause a “soul” or conscious entity to become expressed or “received” by a physical body.  Many other sources talk about “free will” and self-awareness as connected to microtubules within neurons able to deal with quantum uncertainties.

Martin’s book, which is a bit random in its presentations style, focuses most on evidence from “near death experiences” or NDE’s, and many examples of reincarnation.  He mentions AMORC, or the Rosicrucian Order, as well as the Monroe Institute (20 miles south of Charlottesville VA) which he says the CIA has used to train agents in remote viewing. He cites cases of intelligent people with very little cerebrum matter, and notes that even plants can “behave” despite not having brains.

I think there is a logical question.  Do most newborn babies develop a “new” soul, or are most actually reincarnations?  If the universe expands infinitely and has infinitely many centers of consciousness, there could be an “infinite series” of reincarnation – but then again, some series will converge! He mentions AMORC’s (Rosicrucian) teaching that typical reincarnation cycles last about 140 years.

The author suggests that homosexuality may result when the person was of the opposite sex in the previous incarnation (although this idea runs the risk of confusing sexual orientation with gender identity or fluidity, very different concepts).  It’s all too easy to imagine the “Putin” argument that acceptance of homosexuality can lower procreation (and give returning souls another chance).

He also talks about “life between lives”, as being “what you want”.  Some souls “get stuck” as “asylum seekers” and become ghosts.  The sites “Afterlife Knowledge” and Mike Pettigrew’s give a geography of the Afterlife.  Note the “hollow heavens” available to those with strict religious beliefs;  “Focus 27” seems to be the most advanced level.   The author notes that a lot of souls got “stuck” after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but not after 9/11, because the deaths were more instantaneous. That would suggest that the way you die does affect your next course in the Afterlife.

The  soul life might be the “real life”, whereas earthly life is like a “dream” (as in the song “Row your boat”);  In a dream during sleep, you don’t remember how you got there, although you know who you are.  This is the concept of Christopher Nolan’s movie “Inception” (2010).  Other films worth mention here are “Cocoon” (Ron Howard, 1985), or even  the “Chiller”, “The Disembodied” (1957). The appropriate term for a person who has passed away is “discarnate”.  We could also ponder “Our Home: Astral City” (2011, Brazil), “What Dreams May Come” (1998, Robin Williams), and “Defending Your Life” (1991).

Martin mentions the “life review” that occurs at time of passage, that seems to give the person access to every moment in his or her life as if on a video.  The term reminds me of “content evaluation” in the POD book industry.  As evidence of his theory, Martin also notes that people with Alzheimer’s disease often become lucid and get most of their memory back just before they pass on, as if the memory came from a repository of cosmic consciousness.

Martin also talks about Grace as a cosmological concept that matches up with that in the Christian and other faiths, as organizing nature.  He explains telekinesis (or maybe self-teleportation as with young Clark Kent in “Smallville”) as instances of “mind over matter”.

He does mention angels a couple times, and I’ve wondered if these are immortal physical beings, or maybe someone like Jason Ritter’s hero character Sean Walker in NBC’s series “The Event“, someone who doesn’t know he is an alien, and almost immortal, until the end.  In my own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I play with the idea that a soul could experience another (younger) person’s body through “consolidation” (through a fictitious virus) but the process backfires when one of the persons separates as piece of ball lightning and then reconnects himself.

Martin mentions the Myers-Biggs personality charts (p. 173), and considers himself “INTJ” (introverted-intuitive-thinking-judging), about 2% of the population.  I fall into that category (“feminine subjective” by Rosenfels), and can be unpopular, viewed as a spectator rather than a participant.

I think the concept of relation between soul and living person can be put into analogy with a phonograph recording of a performance of a music work.  This concept may have been more applicable in the past before the Internet and digital age with cloud storage.  But an “instance” recording of a work can wear out (bad styli in the past) and need to be replaced, but the actual work and performance still lives forever.  You could even draw a comparison to object-oriented programming, with “classes” and “instances”, where rebirth is “instantiation” (or “construction”).

I have visited the grounds of the Monroe Institute (Aug. 2014), but you have to arrive very early for a one day event.   The long sessions with Hemi-Sync require a considerable time commitment.   I visited the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose CA in 1975.

Author: Stephen Hawley Martin
Title, Subtitle: “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”
publication date 2017, 1995
ISBN 978-1543134322
Publication: Oaklea Press, Richmond Va; Paper, 13 chapters, 206 pages
Link: sales

(Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 9:15 PM EDT)

“Apostle Peter and the Last Supper”: church film actually poses a challenge in the science v. faith debate

Sometimes Biblical dramas produced explicitly for churches do pose real questions about how faith applies today, and how people could view Biblical narratives in comparison to their own modern lives.

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper” (2012, directed Gabriel Sabloff) presents an elderly Peter (Robert Loggia) in jail, a few days before his own crucifixion, giving his jailer about his own time with the real physical Jesus, including the Last Supper.  A deleted scene on the DVD actually shows the Ascension, also.

The “back story” is about the life of the apostles following Jesus on his journeys, witnessing his miracles, and them coming down to the climatic Last Supper.  The young man Peter (Ryan Alosio) certainly experiences upward affiliation for Jesus (Bruce Marchiano), and wonders how Jesus can be so sure that Peter will deny him, and that at least one other disciple will betray him with the “Judas Kiss”.  There are a few brief moments where Jesus appears supernatural in the flesh.  Life is quite communal; there is no intinction.

The men had apparently given up “normal” economic and family life the follow Him around, behavior that in the modern world would seem insecure and immature for a young adult male, who ought to be raising his own brood.  I’ve been in that situation myself.   (But some of the disciples were married.)

The Last Supper scene is indeed intimate. Jesus washes Peter’s feet, as if Jesus were showing and experiencing humility.  I did wonder, why was Peter’s leg hairless?  He was still a young man.

In thus ancient world, at a special time, all knowledge comes from religious authority, and there is no opportunity to map it onto science as we know it today. “Following me” could be appropriate in their world when it would not be in ours.

Imagine if a teen Clark Kent like in “Smallville” really does exist, maybe as a twenty-something now.  You would have to see it to believe it; there could be no Doubting Thomas.  Even then, it would be hard to make “Him” credible;  in social media it would be seen as part of the fake news aggregation.  Clark Kent might well stay off social media.  There could be a risk that if he tried to get a following, the group would become a cult.

In the modern world, there is a schism in what we are asked to believe, compared to what an “I” in the ancient world could experience.  A personal relationship with “Him” still seems abstract. But it was not so for Peter, even if he “denied” Jesus momentarily to avoid taking an unnecessary “bullet”.  For the disciples , to become apostles, they had seen and lived it.

I call to mind an incident in 1979 in west Texas, at a camping weekend sponsored by MCC Dallas, when a particular young man put his arm around me and stated I was lost and tried to “recruit” me to follow “Him”.  But “He” was still invisible, and no longer personal.  But the young man at the camp was all too personal.  What if one really could return to the original setting of Resurrection?

In fact, there is a 1969 novel “Behold the Man” by Michael Moorcock that sets up this dichotomy with tike travel; I vaguely remember reading the paperback while living in Dallas in the 1980s.

I’ll add that in the 2011 gay sci-fi film “Judas Kiss”, the title refers to a short film made by the character Danny about his abusive father, but I don’t recall the real connection to Judas.

It has always struck me that Jesus, as depicted in the past, was always shown as a young man who would be seen as perfect by conventional gay male values.  Perfect for upward affiliation, except from the Rich Young Ruler, who has too much to lose so he panders Jesus.  Jesus was seen as someone who would never be desecrated, until He allowed the crucifixion to pay for our sins.  But then, he “came back”, in perfection, and rose to the Heavens in perfection.  Today that’s the stuff of UFO’s and science fiction.

If a “Clark Kent” really exists somewhere (even in “Kill Bill 2”) it could mean the end of time, for us at least.

Note the meaning of the terms “apostle” and “disciple”.

The film was shot around Malibu with Italian money. But a lot of the scenery looks constructed. The DVD has a 20 minute “Behind the Scenes” and 11 minutes of deleted scenes.

Name:  “Apostle Peter and the Last Supper
Director, writer:  Gabriel Sabloff
Released:  2012
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed: Netflix DVD
Length:  93
Rating:  PG
Companies:  PureFlix
Link:  NA

(Posted: Friday, February 3, 2017 at 11 PM EST)