Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

OMG!! Really!!

Scholars at Harvard Divinity School announced recently the finding of an ancient Coptic papyrus that suggests that Jesus might have been married.  According to Professor Karen King, while this document cannot shed any conclusive evidence on the real marital status of the historical Jesus, it does contain a statement that reads: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’” Ever since the announcement the world has been buzzing and Christendom has been up in arms.

I thought we had beat this one to a pulp about ten years ago when Dan Brown wrote his big bestseller, The Da Vinci Code—especially after it became a big blockbuster in the movie theaters.  I also thought we had beat it to a pulp nearly thirty years ago when Martin Scorsese adapted Nikos Kazantzakis’ 1953 book, The Last Temptation of Christ, into a movie. Needless to say Kazantazakis’ book back in the early 1950s also took a beating despite that it missed the Pulitzer Prize for Literature by a couple of votes and nearly got the author excommunicated from the church.  It seems that Jesus’ marital status has a life of its own as it keeps resurrecting itself every couple of decades . . . the question becomes, why does it bother people so much?

I had been hearing rumbles and rumors for years that Jesus had been married.  The first time I stumbled upon it was in the rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, with its overtures of Jesus and Mary Magdalene had some sort of “thing” going on . . . then there was Kazantazakis’ book . . . then Scorsese’s adaption of the book . . . then John Prine mentioned it in his humorous song, The MissingYears . . . then Dan Brown’s book and subsequent movie, The Da Vinci Code.  And, now this . . . a Coptic scrap of paper from around the fourth century!  Surely, where there is smoke there has to be a fire!  OMG! Jesus married?

First of all, those scholars that made the announcement never said that Jesus was married.  In fact, Professor Karen King stated that the scrap did not shed any conclusive evidence on the marital status of Jesus.  We know from the Gospels that the writers did not spend any time dealing with the dating life nor the marital status of Jesus . . . nope, not a work.  No real evidence of Jesus’ marital status is to be found anywhere in what Christendom recognizes as “holy scripture”.  All we have is a lot of people being creative and suggesting—sometimes quite subtly and other times quite blatantly—that Jesus might have been married.  Again, why does that bother some people or a lot of people?

What if?  I find that to be one of the most powerful questions—and statements—in my faith.  Powerful because it makes me consider the possibilities of God’s creative and powerful presence in the lives of human beings.  Key to that is the idea of possibilities . . . possibilities that make me consider miracles . . . possibilities that make me consider healings . . . the presence of the holy . . . of hope . . . of potential and, of being real enough to strengthen my faith—not diminish it.  So, what if Jesus had been married?

Now I have to confess that if I fully believe in the monastic order—monks and nuns, and the rituals that they have practiced for centuries, well then, I don’t understand what the big debate is all about.  Nuns have been marrying years for what seem like forever!  Aren’t they considered the “brides of Christ”?  If that is the case then Jesus is not a Christian, he is a polygamist Mormon!  That might be a scary “what if”!

Years ago singer Joan Osborne had a hit single that asked the question: What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
For some reason we—who call ourselves Christian—have a difficult time dealing with the human side of Jesus.  We have a difficult time accepting his human nature.  We don’t want to see Jesus being like one of us.  I think that is what made all those books, movies, and song so controversial . . . they were getting a too close to home . . . too reflective of us . . . and that makes us uncomfortable.  None of likes to be reminded of what we are or what we could become.  Especially if we are truly going to be followers of God.  If we keep Jesus in that super holy, up in the sky, sort of guy we always have an excuse.  Who can touch the heavens and who can be like Jesus?  But don’t the scriptures tell us that Jesus was one of us—fully human?  Is that what scares us about the possibility that Jesus might have tied the knot?

It does not bother me if folks want to conjecture about whether or not Jesus was married.  I can take Jesus either way . . . I can take Jesus either way because it makes me consider what if? What if Jesus were like us . . . then I think that his life and story are that much more powerful.  Why?  Because it shows us the way when we follow him.  It shows us the potential. It shows us God’s hope.  It shows us what could really be.  Consider this: What new possibilities might it open up to us if we did begin to think of Jesus as a spouse, partner or perhaps even a father?  Kind of mind-boggling, isn’t it?

This is not mean to be a scholarly piece of writing . . . nor is it meant to be what the ancient church used to call an “apology” . . . it is just my ramblings and stammerings about an interesting topic that just does not want to seem to die.  It gets resurrected more than Jesus does!  Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion . . . his or her own belief.  I think that is what God wants for each of us—a faith that we can believe in.  I am not hear to change anyone’s ideas . . . my faith is strong enough to handle other’s faith.  I just hope the faith of others is strong enough to handle mine.

This little controversy affirms for me what I have come to believe about my faith in the last couple of decades, and that is that I am a follower of Jesus. I want to be known as a follower of Jesus . . . being called a Christian is okay, but it also alludes to a certain set of doctrines . . . doctrines most often created by men (check out your church history on that one).  Whether Jesus was married or not does not matter to me . . . it is where he leads me that matters to me and others.  OMG!! Really?  Jesus was married?  So what!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Grand Illusion

I do not like having my picture taken.  I do not like pictures of myself.  Primarily it is because I do not like what I see in those pictures . . . that is not me.  Yeah, I know, cameras can only capture what is there.  What is there is not me, but some worn down; old fart with balding hair, a Dunlop over the belt, and lots of gray hair.  That is not me and I do not know how that person keeps showing up in the pictures people take of me.  For the most part I pretty much try to avoid getting my picture taken . . . ask the family and they will tell you that there are not a whole lot of pictures of me floating around.

I also do not like to spend too much time looking in the mirror.  In the grooming phase of my morning routine I do not spend too much time looking at myself.  Outside of shaving and combing my hair, I pretty much ignore the mirror.  The mirror is important for shaving since I do not want to lop off my nose or ears with the razor.  The hair, well, the mirror is becoming less important as I grow balder, but I do like to keep the four or five hairs I still have looking combed.  The mirror is just a tool for reflecting back what it sees . . . which is usually some stranger looking back at me.  What I see in the mirror is not me.  Nope, it is just like that guy who keeps showing up in the pictures—some worn down, graying, slightly over-weight old fart.

For some reason what I see in a picture or mirror does not coincide with what my mind sees.  There is a discrepancy between who I think that I am and who reality is saying that I am.  I like the guy who runs around in the playground of my mind . . . more of a Brad Pitt sort of guy than Don Knotts. This is my “grand illusion” . . . and it keeps me going every day.

At least that is what I see with my mind’s eyes . . . a stud, and I am not talking about a two by four piece of wood.  I see a guy who still feels and hopefully acts young . . . who is confident . . . who is strong . . . has a great sense of humor . . . laughs a lot . . . has sparkling blue eyes . . . is articulate  . . . athletic (at least in my mind) . . . and is a lot of fun to be around.  Sort of how I imagine Brad Pitt being.  I imagine that a lot of how I see myself is helped through popular media, Hollywood, and advertisements.  It is an illusion . . . a grand illusion.

Pictures and mirrors . . . reality . . . say something completely different, but what do they know.  Years ago, many years ago, the rock group Styx had a big hit called The Grand Illusion that dealt with how society creates and sells something that really isn’t any one of us—a grand illusion that either makes us or breaks us within society.  Here is what they had to sing:

Welcome to the Grand illusion
Come on in and see what's happening
Pay the price, get your tickets for the show
The stage is set, the band starts playing
Suddenly your heart is pounding
Wishing secretly you were a star.

But don't be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they're just someone else's fantasy
So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because you never win the game
Just remember that it's a Grand illusion
And deep inside we're all the same.
We're all the same...

So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because your neighbors got it made
Just remember that it's a Grand illusion
And deep inside we're all the same.
We're all the same...

America spells competition, join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motor car
Someday soon we'll stop to ponder what on Earth's this spell we're under
We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are

In all honesty, I do not buy into the grand illusion that is being sold by society.  Nor do I buy into an illusion that I am a Brad Pitt sort of a guy . . . or even Don Knotts.  I try real hard not to buy into any of those illusions that are floating around out there because they are not who I am.  And, yeah, I probably should just bite the bullet and admit that the image in the pictures and mirror really are me . . . but they do not define me as a person created fully and uniquely in the image of God.  Don’t believe that I am created in the image of God?  Well, you better read the beginning of the Book of Genesis.  Yeah, God has a sense of humor.

Image is important . . . especially our self-image.  So you are probably wondering where it is that I get my self-image from . . . where I get this grand illusion that keeps me going every day.  I get it from the relationships that make up my life.  I get it from my family who see me as a spouse, father, and friend.  I get it from my friends who see me as a confidant, ally, and defender.  I get it from my co-workers who see me a friend and person that they can depend upon.  I get it from the congregation that I serve who see me as someone they can depend upon in their lives and journeys of faith.  Through each relationship I see me reflected back, and what I see, I like.  I do not need a picture or mirror to see that . . . I just need a relationship.

None of us should ever buy into the grand illusion because it is just that—a grand illusion.  Instead we should be who we were created to be by God.  That is the one relationship where I get my greatest understanding of who I am . . . with God I am a child of God . . . loved for who I was, who I am, and who I am still striving to be.  God loves me.  What more could any of us need?

The lyrics in The Grand Illusion ask: “. . . we wonder who the hell we are.”  I know who I am . . . I am a child of God, loved and cherished by many, and I continue to learn more and more about who I am each day . . . and it cannot be found in any picture or any mirror.  If that is a grand illusion, then so be it . . . because I am and that is good enough for me and those who love me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Second Best

In over 28 years of being a father I never once received any object or piece of clothing proclaiming me as the “World’s Best Father” . . . and that is okay.  Actually I instructed the wife and kids that I did NOT want to receive any object of piece of clothing that had those words printed on them.  Primarily because I do not think that I could have handled the pressure that comes with being the world’s best anything.

As we were visiting the daughter and son-in-law in Alabama to meet our latest granddaughter I have to admit that I was impressed with the parenting skills of both of them . . . they were good.  They were attentive to their daughter, kept her fed, clothed, clean, and always smiling.  I do not think that there is anything in the world that they would not do for their daughter.  They are good parents, but . . . and this is a big but . . . I would not put upon either one of them the moniker of being the best mom or dad in the world.  The pressure would be too much.  Trust me, I know.

I know from experience that it is tough being a parent . . . especially the world’s greatest parent.

First of all, I was accident prone with the kids.  I dropped two of them when they were infants and toddlers . . . the oldest I tripped with and I was the one who took the beating protecting him from injury . . . the youngest I was rocking back in forth in my arms when he decided to roll over, fly into the heat register, and knock his two front teeth back into his head!  Amazingly, they both survived and are thriving as adults despite my best parenting.

Second of all, being the squeaky cheap guy that I am, I decided that all my sons would have to endure the barbershop of Dad.  When they were little it was easy . . . either put a bowl over their head and trim around it or buzz it off.  With years of practice and hundreds of bad haircuts I eventually got pretty good at it . . . even learned how to layer hair . . . and they survived.  They survived bad haircuts, nicked ears, and taunts of ridicule from their friends.  Now they are all going bald . . . but they survived.

Third of all, I always gave them great advice . . . which they rarely followed.  They learned quickly that Dad’s advice was to not to be ignored, but was to be reversed.  Yeah, Dad had great advice coming from the depths of his wisdom, but it was best to do the opposite . . . or to talk to Mom.  At the same time, I caught on and simplified the process. When asked for advice I always referred them to their mother . . . “Go ask your mother” was my typical response to their queries.  They survived.

Despite it all, I was good entertainment for them.  I kept them laughing . . . screaming . . . or both.  Once I had to drive the daughter and her teammates to a summer volleyball league in a nearby town.  Five teenage girls in a Toyota Corolla—it was a quiet trip . . . NOT!  As we were nearing the town a bird flew into the windshield and got stuck in the windshield wipers.  Not your typical occurrence.  With a loud thump it hit the windshield and lodged itself right under the windshield wiper.  The girls screamed. 

Being a good person who wanted to make sure the girls were not late to their volleyball league, I drove on.  Of course the girls kept screaming and telling me to get the bird off the windshield.  Now the male mind works in strange and mysterious ways . . . and I did what I think 99.9 percent of men would do . . . I turned on the windshield wipers to free the imprisoned bird.  Back and forth, back and forth, the bird shimmied across the windshield . . . but it would not come free.  The girls screamed so more.  Even at its highest setting the bird would not come out from underneath the windshield wipers.  More screams.

This is when the male mind shifts into second gear . . . I sped up.  Surely the velocity of the car’s speed and the windshield wipers set at high that darn bird would be set free.  Nope, it just kept going back and forth, back and forth.  The girls screamed . . . I laughed . . . and the bird just kept going back and forth.  Eventually it was worked free from the wipers.  It was a story I heard for months afterwards, and the girls were on time.  And, they survived.

No, I probably was not the world’s best father.  At best I was probably an adequate father.  I loved my children.  I raised them to the best of my abilities and by what the wife and I thought was right.  We laughed a lot . . . argued a lot . . . cried together . . . and we all survived.  I think that is the best that any parent can hope for when it comes to parenting . . . that the children survive.  My children survived.

Now I get the opportunity to watch my children become parents . . . and it has been entertaining for the most part!  I do not want to wish them the title of being the “best parent” . . . Nope, I want to wish them to be the best that they can be as who they are.  That is the more honest approach because it is not the “perfect” approach.  It will mean dropping the kids . . . giving them terrible haircuts (which, by the way usually grow back within two weeks) . . . and entertaining them and their friends with birds caught in the windshield wipers.  My kids survived the wife and I, and their kids will survive them.

I think that is one of the nice things about being a grandparent . . . I actually know now what parenting is all about.  But instead of preaching to the kids I have discovered that it more fun to watch the kids learn on their own.  It has provided some good laughs so far . . . and yet, they are good parents and my grandchildren will survive.  Shoot!  I survived!  And, I don’t miss the allocades of that come with being the “world’s best father”. . . I never was . . . I was just a guy who did the best that he could.  The children survived and turned out pretty good.  I really do love who they are . . . that is reward enough . . . we love each other.  Isn’t that the goal of parenting?