May 18, 2008

Yeshua and me

My greatest weakness is that I am a simple man. I am not particularly intelligent and my mind only runs one track at a time. Lots of folks multi-task with ease, but I'm stuck in the ancient days of analog brain waves. Total concentration or total neglect, with nothing in between. Life in the modern world is not kind to people like me. Our limited ability to quickly associate discordant melodies means that popular music rattles around inside our brain painfully while complex symphonies absorb us so completely the world around us disappears. People are impatient with us and often feel rejected by us. By the time our attention comes back to them, they are long gone.

When I was young, this was not a problem. I filled the empty hours with Bible study, prayer meetings, Christian music concerts, and endless reading and rereading of my Schofield Reference Bible. At one point I bought a 4-version Bible commentary with the complete textual parallels for John Calvin, Thomas Muntzer, and a couple others, all of them pivotal figures in the Reformation movement. At one point in my life I knew every Hebrew name for God, the name of every disciple in both Hebrew and Greek, and could quote the first ten verses of the Book of John in Greek. Don't get me wrong, I did not learn Greek and Hebrew, I just knew a few names and the opening verses to John. I've long forgotten all of that information. It's been a decade and a half, maybe even a bit more, since I cracked the cover on a Bible. I no longer have my trusty Schofield and I don't even know if it's still available in bookstores.

And that, in a nutshell, is the real problem. I cannot do anything halfway. I just do not have the capacity that so many other people have to live my life on multiple levels at the same time. So when my wife came to me a few weeks ago wanting us to begin going back to church, I nearly died. I cannot be a "Sunday Christian". I either jump back in with full devotion (which at this point in my life will probably drive me to attend a seminary or some such insanity), or I leave Christianity as it has been for the past decade and a half, a footnote in my youth and my own personal version of "sowing my wild oats".

The reality of the way of life presented in the pages of the Bible is seen in today's world in the Amish communities of the United States, the Hutterite communities of Canada, and other similar Christian sects whose primary focus is agriculture and community. The heart of both Old and New Testaments is the preservation of a simple, community-centric agricultural or nomadic shepherd life in the face of a rising mercantilist economy where greed, ambition, and narcissism are considered high virtues and defining values. I'm sorry, but every modern sect focused on urban living, getting rich, being "blessed" by God, and so on, any belief system that puts the individual in charge of God's plan for us all through the power of prayer and faith is at best misguided, and at worst, hypocritical or even downright delusional.

Therein lies the paradox that once again is raising its ugly head to torture me. If I start becoming a regular church member, if I start reading the Bible and participating in church programs, if I throw myself back into the Christian life, I will once again be forced to choose between living a life that I know for a fact is not in line with Biblical teaching or abandoning my family and life to join an agrarian community of believers. The guilt that tears through me when I try to live a modern life while professing to believe the Bible is too real for me. My own inability to multi-task, to balance, to teeter between two worlds and pretend all is normal will not let me be a contemporary Christian with an urban lifestyle. I just can't do it.

So what do I do? I've heard all the many justifications people will try to offer me if I ask for a sympathetic ear. I know by heart all the rationalizations for teetering on that fence and pretending it's okay to amass wealth and prepare for the future. I also know that scripturally none of those rationalizations and justifications have any validity at all.

The one silver lining to all of this is that my wife has begun hinting she might like to retire sooner rather than later, buy a bit of land out in the country somewhere, and live a simpler life. If she's really leaning in that direction, then perhaps all is not lost. Perhaps it is time to sell off my technical manuals, teaching manuals, novels, comics, and computers and start making plans to grow my own food, teach English lessons to country children, and spend my days tending a vegetable patch somewhere. I suppose I'll still need internet access and simple computer of some kind, though. All my correspondence these days is through e-mail.

Is it time to swap Objective-C and X-Code for John Calvin and Cyrus Schofield? I don't know. I just don't know.

May 14, 2008

Zeitgeist, the Movie

Zeitgeist, the movie

History is a funny thing. It never quite recreates the complex human interactions that often accidentally bring about situations so much grander and larger than any one individual they defy explanation. When this happens, we tend to blame either divine intervention in daily affairs or the complex machinations of an evil conspiracy. The link above will take you to an online-only movie which runs for 122 minutes. The movie has three distinct parts separated by titles delineating each part. In the first part the creator of the movie demonstrates how Christianity is derived from the ancient Egyptian beliefs surrounding the sun god Horus. In the second part the creator runs down all the many reasons why so many people remain convinced that the events of 9/11 were carefully staged to convince the American people their government needed to invade two countries in the Middle East. The final part carefully lays out how a select group of families with long ties to banking and finance are behind a massive conspiracy to bring about a One World Government under their direct control. Real-world fact and fanciful interpretation are carefully interwoven to present a modern-day version of an ancient conspiracy theory.

You see, throughout human history many groups have been blamed for events that result in war, depression, drought, famine, and even natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. When we do not blame a conspiracy, we blame god, or satan, or sometimes, science. Some evil groups frequently named in these conspiracy theories are Jews, Satanists, Masons, the Illuminati, Lawyers, and always, Bankers. It makes me wonder why anyone would want to be a banker. They sure do get a lot of bad press.

In the case of the movie Zeitgeist, many of the facts presented in Part One are indeed, 100% accurate. Many qualities assigned to ancient deities are also assigned to Christ. The modern Christian religion is in fact the product of a political and religious consolidation by a group of powerful Roman families in 300-320 C.E. There is considerable evidence that the rituals and rites practiced by pre-Constantine Christians and post-Constantine Christians are dramatically different. Three hundred years later, Islam in its turn also gained prominence as a religious reaction to the political and economic clout being wielded by both Jews and Christians in the early part of the 7th Century C.E. As it grew in importance Islam became both the basis for consolidation of political power and the justification for elimination of powerful mercantilist families. Seven centuries after Mohammed, Protestantism came about in Europe as a mixed political/religious reaction to the all-encompassing power of the Catholic Church. When viewed through the lens of history, it is not surprising that modern day Muslims, Christians, and Jews treat each other with such suspicion. Our shared history has been long, bloodied, and always controversial. Throughout it all, religion only gained in popularity when it walked hand in hand with political movements as well.

The modern world is no different, really. Ronald Reagan and George Bush both came to power riding on the back of Evangelical Christianity. Now that Republican political power is waning, interest in Christianity is waning as well. Is it perhaps the death of Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, the two masterminds of the sweeping Evangelical revival of the 1980's, that is contributing to the loss of legitimacy for both Evangelical Christianity and the Republican party? No, not really. In all truth, it is the bumbling mismanagement of George Bush and Dick Cheney that is eroding the influence of both the party itself and the power base that brought them into office. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

For what it's worth, most of the ideas the maker of Zeitgeist attributes to Horus in 3500 B.C.E. are also alluded to in sculpture and clay tablets dating as far back as 4000 B.C.E. During that era in ancient Sumer those qualities are ascribed to a variety of gods. If the religion of Horus represents the same kind of consolidation as evidenced by Judeo-Christian history, then his dating of the religion of Horus might be off by as much as a thousand years. Could most of the hieroglyphic displays he uses as evidence perhaps be more reliably dated to 3000 B.C.E. or even 2500 B.C.E.? Maybe. It is well worth noting that the lack of organic material in panels used to create ancient Egyptian carvings such as those presented in the movie complicates accurate dating. An error of five hundred years might seem small when discussing thousand year blocks of history, but keep in mind that 500 years ago the most powerful civilization in the world was the Chinese Empire.

Despite their use by a very active modern religion with millions of followers, both the Old and New Testaments are in fact genuine literary documents with real literary histories that can be traced back to the very roots of human civilization. My own research has focused on Sumer, which wrote it's law code and flood myth a thousand years before the Egyptians. Parallels in religious belief such as those mentioned in the movie hold true all the way back to ancient Sumer. As far as I can determine, ever since the first cities became divorced from direct dependence on agricultural wealth and became defined by crafting, bureaucratic governments, and economies centered on massive construction projects, there have been two different religious impulses that have competed for human attention: "party like there's no tomorrow" versus "work hard, live right, and you will be rewarded".

Today's world, philosophically, is little changed from ideas carved into clay tablets as far back as 4000 B.C.E. Different window dressing, but the core ideas are unchanged. Half of us are still seeking utopia while the other half works hard to prove how much better they are in the here and now. It is no surprise that the hardworkers usually wind up in charge. Likewise, people have looked up at the stars for as long as they have looked up at anything and always their imaginations and intellect have found ample inspiration among those bright, shiny, distant lights.

The second and third parts of the movie are much more difficult for me to critique. I don't have access to the knowledge needed to answer the movie's accusations, let alone the documentation. As far as I can tell, just as in the first part, the facts presented by the movie are indeed, real. The movie's interpretation of those facts, on the other hand, represents considerable exaggeration.

The second part of the movie claims WTC was destroyed as the result of a conspiracy to launch American into war. This conspiracy, which claims the WTC and Pentagon were destroyed by construction demolitions rather than the actions of terrorists flying planes loaded with fuel, is an idea I have encountered before. I am not 100% convinced of it's reality, but it does go a long way toward explaining a number of anomalies that are either lightly dismissed or completely overlooked in official reports. I have also found it very, very odd that the wing of the Pentagon that fell on 9/11 was the same wing that was mostly empty because it was in the final stages of being refurbished and reconditioned. The lack of wreckage in both Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon has always bothered me, however, there was little wreckage at the WTC site and I am 100% certain it was hit by two planes (even if the crashes were just cover fodder for a massive demolition). Personally, I'm still convinced there were three planes and three teams of hijackers. Regardless of anything else history eventually brings to light, it will still have to account for the missing planes and the 600 some odd people on board them. Several of those passengers were people I knew through my activities on the internet. There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who knows them about when and where they died.

I am also 100% certain of these facts as well:

George W. Bush would have gone down in history as a useless president if it were not for 9/11.
Dick Cheney and Karl Rove both made a small fortune off the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The C.I.A. trained and financed Osama Bin-Laden and helped him create Al-Qaeda.

If all that also means that 9/11 was in fact some kind of horrible conspiracy that sacrificed American lives in order to further the agenda of a small group of wealthy families... Well, that both saddens me and does not surprise me in the least.

The last third of the film contains massive documentation that I cannot verify, but that does not mean it is false. And the conclusion that "love conquers all" plays right into the hands of those who may or may not be behind the drive to create a unified world.

For the record, there is no doubt in my mind that sooner or later we will have a single global government funded by a single global economy. Whether we arrive at that point peacefully or through massive wars and endless manipulation is the only thing that remains to be seen. At one time I had hoped we could evolve there naturally and peacefully, but I have to admit, it does indeed appear that people in positions of power and influence have grown impatient and are determined to drive us there centuries before we are ready.

Hindsight is always 20/20, although even hindsight can be deluded into seeing connections that did not exist. History is the product of individual decisions made by thousands, and sometimes millions, of individual people. The point where those decisions cross and interact is the point we designate as either important or irrelevant when later on we come back and try to trace the events that created a certain condition. Our designation of that point in time will either raise it to pivotal importance (Pearl Harbor, 9/11), or dismiss it entirely and leave it to languish in the footnotes of history (Eleanor Roosevelt may have often made decisions for her husband when he was too sick to lead the nation).

Do people in power seek to retain and expand that power? Of course they do! Does this mean the world is run by a secret organization through undocumented back room deals and carefully staged covert operations? Probably not. After all, even if they tried, someone somewhere would have to follow their orders and carry out the covert operations they used while never once betraying the enormous trust endowed upon them by the secret ruling elite. That kind of secrecy is simply not possible. We humans like to brag too much to ever stay silent when we have a hand in molding the direction of our world.

Here then, are a variety of links more concerned with fact than fancy:

Official website of the Federal Reserve Bank Governors
Biography of Eleanor Roosevelt
Biography of John D. Rockefeller
Brief History of Ancient Sumer
Brief History of Ancient Egypt
Timeline of Constantine’s Rise to Power