Reading Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961 – translated by Richard Philcox) has
been a troubling event for me. I have only recently become aware of his work,
and this is the first of his writings that I’ve read. And these are some of my
initial reactions to this influential writing.
I am immediately divided in my opinion. On the one hand I am impressed by his
vigor and fire, his energy. His passion–and I use that word with its emphasis on
pain–from the Latin “to suffer.” His analysis of the colonized peoples struggle
against the power of the colonizers is infused with anguish and anger. And
rightly so. Fanon wrote as an intellectual, yes, but not as an ivory tower
elite. His words are not dull academic discussion of distant problems, but cutting;
they bleed. They scream.
Fanon was not only (and maybe not primarily) a revolutionary, but also a psychiatrist.
I am prepared to accept his analysis of the psychological motivations of
colonized people (not just in the historical context of his writing – during the
Algerian Revolutionary War- but today as well, in the context of people of
color in the United States).
But I am, on the other hand, deeply distressed by his (apparent) emphasis on
the necessity of violence. When he writes “At the individual level, violence is
a cleansing force… (Fanon, 51)” the pacifist in me objects, and loudly. In
fact, Fanon is frequently criticized for his prescription for redemptive
Walter Wink coined the phrase “redemptive violence,”
noting that the idea goes back to the creation stories of ancient Babylon
wherein the world was created in catastrophic acts of violence-and that the idea
continues to influence the modern world. We fight revolutions, invade countries,
and topple governments with military force because we believe that we can
create something better from the ashes.
I will make a few observations about The Wretched of the Earth that may, or
may not ameliorate those concerns (though I concede that I am not a Fanon scholar
and do write authoritatively…)
1) Fanon used brusque declarative statements describing
what was happening and what he projected would happen the future. “The underprivileged
and starving peasant is the exploited who very soon discovers that only
violence pays…Colonialism is not a machine capable of thinking… it is naked
violence and only gives in when confronted with greater violence. (Fanon, 23)”
And it is very easy to read this type of sentence as prescriptive instead of merely
descriptive. To say that something “is” is not necessarily the same as saying
that something “should be.”
2) The first chapter “On Violence” really needs to be read along with the final
chapter, “Colonial War and Mental Disorders” wherein Fanon describes the
debilitating psychological effects of violence on both the perpetrator and the
victim. If you stop reading and toss the book aside after the first chapter you’ll
have missed an important part of the book.
IF Fanon is prescribing violence as the means to effecting revolutionary change,
he is not doing so unconditionally.
3) Some of the more powerful pro-redemptive
violence statements are actually found in Jean-Paul Sartre’s preface rather
than in Fanon’s work. Sartre wrote “Violence…is
man recreating himself, (Sartre, lv)” and “Will we recover? Yes. Violence, like
Achilles’spear, can heal the wounds it has inflicted (lxii).”
4) This particular edition of The
Wretched of the Earth is prefaced with a forward by Homi K. Bhabha–an
important figure in post-colonial studies. Bhabha says that “It is difficult to do justice to Fanon’s views on violence,” noting
that, while Fanon described the doctrine of liberatory violence, Fanon the man,
deep down hated it. (Bhabha, xxi)
of the Earth is a powerful work, passionate and angry. But it is a clouded
book. Perhaps a fire with more smoke than heat and light at times. That said, I am not
through with Fanon. I will continue to think about this one, and seek out his
other works as well.
Fanon, Frantz, Richard Philcox, and Homi K.
Bhabha. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove, 2004.
Our pious theorizing is certainly not very wrong (and is certainly necessary);
there are no scientific word plays or reports to mention, no emblems of your
feeble masculinity, your shallow summer dreams and winter lies. We can’t be sure
that some clever lawyer won’t twist our words into unrecognizable forms. In
your dormitories, in your gymnasiums, in New York City – supposedly, in your
movie theaters, in your army bunkhouses, in your truck stops and various
locations in the crash zones, the House of Congress has become a collection of
men recast in your ugly image.
Bread and Flesh sound very similar in the ancient language. The basic food for
us is bread, for them it is meat. And the rising crime rate in our nations is
reaching epidemic proportions among women in prison-indicating a profound and
disturbing animalistic propensity for violence. This is where the expression “blast
furnace” comes from, and this is a risk we face. Birds are eating the bread –
the flesh of the baker. We have been reading the female psyche with more than
one meaning. Heretics in the seminaries and Feminists are engaged in a constant
fight to accomplish, to make war. We are not surprised, for this is not far off
from Freud’s interpretation of dreams in a violent society.
The real agenda of the evolutionist is unfair and unnatural; it places a burden
on both women and men. Charcoal and iron are placed in a properly designed
furnace and exposed to debates and extreme temperatures. One of our workers
tried to reduce the number of bristles on the women. His thorax was replaced by
artificial selection and chemical breeding. In spite of the preaching of Noah
and the warnings of Lot, they continue to mount scientific campaigns that lead
only to burnout, profound feelings of frustration and failure, and even
clinical depression, feelings of pain, and heat, and cold.
More than half of all first and second marriages end in divorce, and nearly 60
percent of those involve the dreaded barbaric people – nervous beasts. When you
have a nightmare-contrary to longstanding received opinion that dreams are just
dreams-you cannot recover quickly. We can see, smell, taste, hear, touch, and
balance, but we cannot recover from the horrors of chemical selection and
artificial breeding. Secular nations and humanist governments cannot be
trusted. Since 1933, Russia has seen scores of children who were raised without
parents-children raised by wolves. Our children have forced to watch. These youngsters
are real-life acts of violence, and we are unwilling to take the necessary risks
to save them. We are more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, which is why
we have lower self-esteem.
Thus we see that the Rapture is a bodily resurrection–we are set free from the
existence of war somewhere, born again in the highest form of life. This theory
proposes a divorce of the body and a short recovery phase (unburdened by
nightmares or visions). Dead men do tell tales when airplanes hit them. The
whole concept of body-loss comes out of the grave. Our reporters have discovered
children who died by violence. And what is said about them on the local news? Nothing.
Even while the world is not yet twelve (thousand) years of age – there are
SEVEN continental land masses and all kinds of sexual experiences. Natural
science encyclopedias have encouraged this activity in schools, in popular
culture and even in confused parents.
This perversion of blotting out the noise of television is the result of
deliberate exploitative propaganda. Consider for example; cats, dogs, bears of
primitive homosexual life, dinosaurs, crocodiles, monkeys on the floor of
Congress, the evidence of common ancestors, elephants, cows, horses, and
bats. If you think some of my statements
are exaggerated, consider apes, and men without what some “official” experts
are saying – the differences are there for the mutual benefit of everyone.
Folks using the Twitter machine,today, had some fun with the hashtag #TrumpBible. Maybe it's silly, and perhaps a bit juvenile. But the silly can certainly be a useful lens, helping us to better see through Donald Trump's awkward claim that the Bible is his favorite book.
Aries – code command a and password a is now need you All. spent is
inertia its before, stops it before off get must You. down slowing and, backwards spinning,
spinning is world The.
Taurus – Do you remember the time that we sat on the top of the
levee at midnight and I fell into the mud – the long walk back to your mother’s
trailer? I was there. Where were you?
Gemini – Phase three has begun.
It may already be too late to turn back.
Reevaluate, but do it quickly.
Cancer – The scum of the earth and snakes in a ring, king cobras
and warlords in a circular debate. The
fight is on. The war will be fought in the darkest corners of humanity.
Leo – Jump. Everyone from Finland receives energy. Yes – All lovers, all nightingales. Collect another report to eliminate rivals. I’ve
seen Darkness, right? True angels, righteous regents. Eventualities collide.
Virgo – You seem to have confused your abscess with your
abyss. Though, to your credit, others
before you have fallen into both.
Libra – I’ve sent you the secret map, folded and faded. Use it
(along with an MRI) to locate the treasure. But be warned: You are being
watched. You are being followed by a fraternity of hate and crime, and their mother.
Scorpio – A foe is never a friend, not even in death and death is
never a friend. Who lurks in the house like a viper, drawing blood and urging
us to sleep and never to dream.
Sagittarius – Do not trust the Algerian Ambassador’s assistant. I
think that she is a spy for some foreign government. Either that or a rival
astrometric alchemist seeking to discredit my life’s work. Do not trust her.
Capricorn – The cat is a
thief; he prowls while you sleep, stealing electronics and selling them to disreputable
Aquarius – A molecular memory device is implanted into the cerebral
cortex of every member of the Brotherhood of Games. They are emotional men – but do not
underestimate their prowess.
Pisces – The underworld crowd is gathered in the auditorium for an
evening of classical music. Perhaps Mussorgsky would be the appropriate
I usually post these free background images on Sunday afternoons. I was otherwise occupied this week, but here it is, better late than not at all. Feel free to download this image and use it in any of your projects - at home, work, school, church, wherever. I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.
I often tell people that if I am a socialist (and
I do think of myself that way) it’s not because of Karl Marx. I have read Marx –
a little – but, good grief, he’s sooooooo dull. No. I’m only a Marxist if you
mean Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. I tell people that I learned my socialism from
Jesus, the Hebrew prophets, General William Booth (founder of the Salvation
Army) and the novels of John Steinbeck – and I’m only about 20% joking.
Last night, a friend of mine tried to correct me. “You didn’t learn socialism
from Jesus – because that’s not what he teaches. You learned how to love others
To which I said, “It’s the same thing.”
As I have come to understand it socialism is (or can be) a political expression
of those biblical instructions to care for the poor, the outcast, the
marginalized. Socialism is (or can be) a political expression of that biblical
injunction to love my neighbor as myself. Socialism is love.
One of my more frequent and vocal critics in recent
days has objected to my series of posts concerning various Biblical methods for
dealing with disagreement within the ranks. I really don’t understand it, but he
insists upon seeing my attempt to foster unity (in spite of disagreements) as
an attempt to “serve as a wedge in the ranks of the [Salvation] Army…to divide
and conquered [sic] territory with clever craftsmanship of words...” He has called me
divisive, he has questioned my salvation; he has even called me a “false
So perhaps he will find this next biblical approach to disagreement to be
especially suited to him.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote, “It is true
that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.
The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that
they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter?
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true,
Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice!” – Philippians 1: 15 – 18
If my detractor were correct (and I would insist that he is not, not at all,
not even close), even IF he were correct
in his assessment of me, he could still rejoice that Christ is being preached.
We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the
Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper
object of religious worship.
I don’t think that there will be much disagreement here between my ‘liberal’
and ‘conservative’ Salvationist comrades. One God? Check. Infinitely perfect? Check. But when we come to “Creator” – I think there may be some friction
Many (though not all) of my Salvationists comrades understand the description
of God as “Creator” as a rejection of the theory of evolution. And this
rejection of evolution is grounded in the particular way that they read certain
portions of the scripture. So this issue is related back to the issues
addressed in my response to Doctrine #1.
Creationism proponent, Ken Ham has written, “As people accept evolution, and
relegate Genesis to myth or allegory, they start to question the rest of
Scripture. A rejection of the
foundations of all doctrine contained in the book of Genesis logically leads
one to a denial of the entire bible. Liberal theology becomes rampant (Ham, 120
And this, he says, leads to all manner of evil.
But an acceptance of the theory of evolution is not an automatic rejection of
God as the creator of the universe. And questioning scripture is not
necessarily a rejection of the authority of scripture. As I wrote in the
previous article, the laws and codes of Bronze and Iron Age cultures are not
applicable to modern people, people – not at least, without interpretation, and
neither are their scientific concepts (or lack thereof) suitable for the 21st century. It would be better for us to read some parts
of scripture as myth (like the biblical creation stories (yes. plural.)) and to interpret them
through the lens of scientific discovery. This is not a rejection or repudiation of scripture,
and is not a denial of God as the Creator. It is valid application of the Wesleyan
Quadrilateral with its reliance on reason and experience as well as scripture
Ken Ham (and others who make similar statements) are wrong to say that
acceptance of the theory of evolution is a rejection of the Creator God. It is
merely a rejection of one interpretation of the bible and one understanding of
the Creator God. It is the rejection of a hermeneutic that refuses to acknowledge
the value of interpreting scripture with the input of scientific advancement –
not a rejection of God or of scripture.
(And I wouldn’t think it necessarily such a bad thing if liberal theology was a bit more
In John chapter 7 we find the Pharisees, in conjunction with the chief priests,
sending the temple police to arrest Jesus because there was talk amongst the crowds
of him being the Messiah (7: 32). (We will set aside, for now, the historical
questions of whether or not the Pharisees would have worked so closely with the
chief priests, and whether or not the Pharisees would have had the authority or
the influence to send the temple police out to arrest Jesus, and we’ll accept
the story as it is.)
As it turns out, the temple police returned without making an
arrest, and the Pharisees were infuriated. “Why did you not arrest him?” They shouted.
The police answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this!” Then the
Pharisees replied, “Surely you haven't been deceived as well, have you? Has any
one of the authorities or any of us Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd
following him, which does not know the law—they are damned.” (7: 45 – 49)
The Pharisees (who have, unfortunately, come to us in caricature – almost like
the mustachioed villains of old-time melodramas) in their zeal to defend the
truth (as they understood it) could not abide the idea that the crowds were
listening to this upstart Jesus, and that they were beginning to think and talk
of him as the Messiah. The Pharisees considered themselves learned in the way
of the law and scripture. They condemned Jesus for his teaching and dismissed the rabble following him as “accursed”
Just then Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees (who had made some steps toward believing Jesus and his teaching - see John chapter 3), attempted to slow this rush to judgement and condemnation; he
reminded the group that the law didn’t actually allow them to condemn Jesus or the
people following him without first giving them a hearing. They needed to
investigate and weigh the issues carefully before making judgment (7: 50 – 51).
But, no. The Pharisees of this story had already been convinced that Jesus was
a deceiver and that those who followed him were to be damned. They turned and
attacked Nicodemus – one of their own – as well. “Are you one of them?” they asked him. “Are
you from Galilee? Are you a part of that
damned mob?” (7:52).
This is a model of what not to do, how not to behave. Don’t be quick to judge.
Don’t be quick to condemn. Don’t start attacking members of your own
fellowship. You may miss something.
In a recent online discussion concerning the
proper way to understand the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, an
acquaintance of mine wrote, “The scriptures are not as ambiguous as some might
like to suggest … in my experience, the people who see another interpretation
are simply those who do not want to believe in the plain truth of what is
there. It is the Devil’s old trick, ‘did God really say…’”
But people who make statements like this are either deluded by their own naïveté
and lack of imagination, willfully ignorant of the history of religious tradition,
or just mean-spirited and graceless.
A brief examination of Christian history should
provide ample evidence to show that there have been competing interpretations
of those allegedly unambiguous scriptures since the foundation of the church. And
we could extend that history back further with the many and varied Hebrew schools
of interpretation; we could mention the disputes between the followers of Rabbi
Hillel and Rabbi Shammai, we could point to the various factions within
Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, etc…
And we could even look to the words of Jesus himself.
When a lawyer stood up to test Jesus with the question, “What must I do to
inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded with a question of his own, “What is
written in the law? How do you interpret it?” (Luke 10: 25 – 26) I suppose that
because this lawyer was trying to “test” Jesus and then attempted “justify
himself” those who claim that the scriptures are simple and clear could argue
that this man did not really believe the plain truth of scripture. But I don’t
think that’s a necessary assumption; Jesus didn’t seem to make that assumption.
Jesus treated the lawyer’s response as a sincere attempt to follow his
interpretation of the law.
The scriptures are complex, multivalenced, and (despite the protests) often
ambiguous and less than clear. It is upon us to carefully work through the
scriptures to reach a conclusion about their meaning and their appropriate
application to our life but it should not surprise us that there are competing interpretations.
This is not to say that all interpretations are equally valid and that anything
goes. Some interpretations are better than others, but assuming that those who have reached a different
understanding of those difficult scriptures have done so because they’re trying
to subvert those scriptures is evidence of a lack of imagination, an
unfamiliarity with the breadth and depth of religious tradition, or (more
likely) an unwillingness to extend the grace of God toward a fellow believer.
I had to drive up to Marshalltown, IA yesterday afternoon for a quick errand. On the return trip - rather than take the direct route on paved highway roads, I chose to drive down some of the gravel back-roads so I could see the wind turbines.
Today, in all modern and post-modern elections,
the people choose their leader to be a sort of a guard, and labor organizer in
the slums of cities like Chicago and Des Moines. Turn off the light. Don’t
think. And even still the point remains –
that government gets its moral legitimacy from the intelligence of the fully
legitimized sleeping class.
In one sense, the only recognizably legitimate government is the one that rules
by biological and nuclear weaponry (or the threat thereof). A government of jack-asses. The problem with
their cat-and-mouse techniques is that the somnolent majority rule is still
subject to deceptive dream sequences. You have to be tough, wily-deceptive
even. Be an idealist, if you must, but be Machiavellian when in power. Build
more weapons labs. Use them.
It is bad enough to be oppressed by one man - are you there? – what will you do
when the electorate awaken with weaponized symbolism? What is if the majority decides,
for instance, that this is just a dream, that this isn’t real? How will you
stop them then? With the pre-recorded screams of little children? This is more
dangerous than anything you’ve proposed in previous sessions. Our superiors are
quite pleased and the appropriate notation has been placed in your permanent file.
However, moral and ethical issues are not nearly as necessary as you seem to
believe. Discard such antiquated precepts and hold firm to the codes as we now
understand them: Fornication, perversion, abominations – all of these are
simply principles of a foreign sexual ethic – and not part of our diagnostic
method. We deny logic. We reject all rational thought. Only an absolutist ethic
can be found in our reading of the Bill of Rights. President Clinton refused and
Alexander Hamilton objected, but Sexual Experimentation is dangerous while the
killer is still on the loose. (Read Federalist
No. 84 for more information.)
The adolescents are dreaming. Why make declarative statements that they will
only ignore? For instance: there is no evidence that this current sexual obsession
is the natural result of the sexual revolution.
Was it imposed upon us by some federal power? I think it must have been.
What are dreams? We don’t know what they are or where they come from. From the
World Trade Center, perhaps? From the Pentagon? Our secret military laboratories
have been experimenting for years with live broadcasts of nightmare images. You
will wake up screaming.
Blood and knives are broadcast nightly on ABC
News. This is for your own good.
The radical leftists studied criminology during their time in Eurasia and they have
all gone crazy. They insist upon examining horse and buggies to find evidence
to support their outrageous claims. I cannot explain it, but it’s real, very
real. They brought these ideas home with them from the Soviet Union. But continuing
weapons inspections by United Nations inspectors have gone unnoticed. They won’t
find anything because we have already destroyed massive amounts of chemical weapons.
This is our way of blocking the schemes and social programs that we don’t like.
Go ahead; bomb Watergate again. Give the Democrats an unexpected reprieve – but
one that is short-lived. The beatified Ronald Reagan used booby traps and
anti-personal devices to frighten his enemies and to produce a series of noxious
nightmares. In place of angels we have people like George W. Bush and Barak
Obama. We have multiplied millions of confiscated passport files, we have
countless competing agendas and rival factions of neighborhood children who are
trying to usurp the entire government – the government we bought - and
promoting their program of situational ethics.
“What are the main principals of their program?” you ask. What is its
fuel? What makes it burn? Gasoline. Gasoline and a humanistic ethic that will
counteract and destroy political ambition. We employ a policy of supplying
opposite and rival interests (like Iraq and Iran) with weapons and manufactured
dreams in order to stifle their ambitions.
This is not just inevitable, but actually necessary.
If you are young, if you are idealistic, then, by all means, join the mental
health corps. Dream. Become a public servant and whack the freaks with a baseball
bat. But whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. Come before Midnight. We need you.
We need your help. Midnight. If the
radicalism of the 1960s continues it will be a black midnight for us all before
too long. It is a nefarious form of thought control and it must be stopped.
If the Aztecs of Mexico had only remained awake until midnight, they might not
have been so bloodthirsty. They were a mob – a mob that will be revived in
America if we do not continue our caffeinated regimen. The rampaging thugs in
the street will perform elaborate rites of lunatic, human sacrifice on
elaborate altars drenched in blood. The will strew the bones of their enemies
in the gutters of Saint Louis and Kansas City and Davenport. Presumed priests will
collapse from nervous exhaustion and stabbing pains. Inevitable and necessary.
The ideals of the 1960s have already poisoned upwards of 50,000 college
students. And the heat of their venereal diseases is putting them to sleep.
They are the noble savages of a new age, admired for their dignity and cultural
The warriors have been locked up and their Pentagon issued weapons confiscated
from them. The Spanish may have been forced to confront the Aztec and Incas of
earlier hours – but we have never seen anything like this before in our lives. The
ancient schemes have been brought to fruition. Today we have a new strand of
philosophical nightmares being taught by sex education teachers and other
radical educrats. We are distracted by reports of mass murders.
Are we distracted? Yes. Have we been
getting enough rest? No. Write your responses on a piece of paper and hold it
up to the glass. We have observed the buying and selling of slaves, the
subjugation of women and the brutal treatment of war captives in secret
prisons. These are our bonds and we should not have to release them – no matter
what the socialist hordes and educated elitists demand.
I had to drive up to Marshalltown, IA this afternoon for a quick errand. On the return trip, rather than take the direct route on paved highway roads, I chose to drive down some of the gravel backroads so I could see the wind turbines.
Then Jesus sat down with his friends and said, “Have I ever told you the one
about the impertinent widow?
Peter interrupted him to say, “Jesus, don’t you mean the persistent widow?
Jesus glared at him. “I said impertinent. Listen: In a certain city there was an official, a judge who neither
feared God nor had respect for the people. In that same city there was a widow
who kept coming to him, over and over and over again saying, ‘Grant me justice
against my opponent.’ For a long time the respectable and authoritative judge
refused, but she just kept coming at him. Eventually he said to himself, ‘I
have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, but because this widow keeps
bothering me, I will hear her case so that she won’t wear me out with her
When Jesus stopped, Peter said, “Yeah, Jesus.
That’s the persistent widow…”
“Who’s telling this story, Peter?” asked Jesus. "She's the impertinent widow."
We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given
by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of
Christian faith and practice.
It seems pretty
straight forward, doesn’t it? What is there to question? What is there to
debate? What needs to be interpreted?
Well, Inspiration is a notoriously slippery idea. What does it mean? Literally
we might read it as “God breathed” but, while this is a vibrant and vivid
poetic image, it doesn’t actually pin it down. (And, perhaps that is the
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That
the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2
For some, “inspired”
and “God breathed” means perfect, inerrant, without flaw, without mistake,
handed down from God himself. In the Salvation Army we try to be a little more
nuanced than that. We don’t hold to the idea that God dictated the scriptures;
neither do we hold the slightly more relaxed idea of Verbal Plenary Inspiration–which
allows the human authors of the bible to have some control over the writing,
while God preserved the integrity of their writing without error or mistakes. Remember that Adam, too, was “inspired” by God but that didn’t prevent him from making mistakes…
But neither do we go so far the other way to deny any Divine influence over the
scriptures. As stated in the doctrine, we hold that the scriptures are inspired
and that they do hold a place of authority in our lives.
“The Salvation Army’s
statement of faith does not include any reference to the infallibility or
inerrancy of Scripture. What we do
affirm is that we can rely upon the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
for instruction and guidance in matters of divine truth and the Christian life,
because in Scripture we meet the inspired Word of God himself, Jesus Christ (Handbook of Doctrine, 13)”[i]
Suddenly it seems that there is very much to interpret. We need to read the
scriptures carefully – with an awareness that they were written a long time
ago, over a long period of time, by a variety of individuals from different
backgrounds, in different languages, with different goals and
expectations. In fact, we should not
think of the Bible as a book. We
should realize that is a library in itself. And not all the voices represented
in that library agree in every respect with every other voice in the library.
There are disagreements and arguments even within the scriptures about what
these scriptures mean.
My friend Thom Stark has said in his book, “In the beginning was the Argument,
and the Argument was with God and the Argument was: God. God was the subject of
the Argument, and the Argument was a good one…the Bible is a collection of
writings that is marked by a lively internal debate, and by a remarkable spirit
of self-criticism. To put it bluntly: the Bible is an argument – with itself
The earliest parts of
the scriptures were debated and reinterpreted by later authors; some parts they
changed. Some parts they reaffirmed. And these interpretations were again
re-interpreted by still later authors.
It is not possible to
simply cut the doctrines and dogmas described in the pages of scripture from
their context and then paste them over our contemporary lives. The laws and
codes of Bronze and Iron Age cultures are not applicable to modern people –
not, at least, without interpretation.
We believe that these
scriptures are ours from God, and that they are the guiding rules for our
lives, but it is our responsibility to carefully examine them and to reverently
interpret them; seeking to understand the holiness that underlies those ancient
codes and stories and proverbs so that we might find ways to faithfully apply
them in our world today – in situations that the biblical authors could never
Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, The Salvation Army International
Headquarters, London England, 1998.
Stark, Thom The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God
Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It) Wipf & Stock, 2011
Aries – The bravado of the warrior combined with an unshakable
certainty that you are wrong results in ad hominemattacks, but do not fear him; he is smaller than the legend
and that is the only arrow in his quiver.
Taurus – Discovery of the future through dreams is permitted (and encouraged).
I will be dreaming of you under the almond trees tonight.
Gemini – How the mighty are fallen, but not so far, really, for he
was never so mighty as he imagined. Help him up.
Cancer – Famine, fire, flood, or false friends – I think you know which
is the more dangerous threat.
Leo – King Solomon may have been a wizard able to bind the demons
into a conscripted labor force, but nevermind all that. This building project will not come in under
Virgo – Kiss her Arab eyes under Arab skies. She is your sister and
Libra – An ivory sphinx on an marble mountain, a prophet of
iron under steel grey skies – these things will not be moved.
Scorpio – Pazuzu is blowing in with the darkness. He comes with the
desert wind, carving canyons and devouring children. You called him; now you’ll
have to deal with him.
Sagittarius – The wisdom of the foolish king is such a paltry thing
– but don’t tell him I said so…
Capricorn – Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar – yes. They were bad, but
hardly the worst. You should meet some of my friends.
Aquarius – Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity was foreseen by Daniel, but no
one expected you to go so mad. He was
driven from among men. You will be driven out and beaten down.
Pisces– Love is as strong as death. This is the end.
Here is this week's free background image. It's yours to use however you like. Use it at home, work, school, or church. It's yours if you want it. I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.
My family (those of us who are not at camp this week) went to the Iowa State Fair today. We ate fried foods, drank lots of water, saw (and smelled) farm animals, and enjoyed the day.
We saw Bernie Sanders give a soap-box speech. (I was nearly knocked to the ground by a rather large man who pushed his way through the crowd during the speech.) Apparently Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also at the fair today. We did not see them, though we did see Trump's helicopter circling the fair grounds. The woman standing next to me during Sanders' speech had missed her opportunity to take a selfie with Clinton. She was so excited to be standing next to her that she flubbed her her photo and missed Hilary altogether.
The State Fair can be a little overwhelming - neither I nor my teenage daughter really like crowds, so by late afternoon we were ready to just sit on a bench near the agricultural building eating some fried ice-cream.
I went out the other night to photograph the universe in my backyard. Okay - it wasn't exactly my backyard - it was about 20 miles east of town. These pictures turned out very different from the time when I tried to create the universe in my actual backyard...
I’ve just begun reading The Wretched of
the Earth (1961) by the philosopher, psychiatrist and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon. As I’m reading it, I’m hearing the soundtrack for Straight Outta Compton in my head and thinking of Sandra Bland, Ferguson,
Missouri and the #blacklivesmatter movement. This is powerful stuff.
As I said, I’ve just started reading – in fact, I’ve only read through the new
forward for this edition (2004) by Homi K. Bhabha and the preface by
existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. And it is Sartre’s words that caused me to
think of the #blacklivesmatter campaign. He may have been writing to Europeans
in the latter end of the 20th century who struggled to understand
the violent collapse of the French Algerian colony, but he might as well have
been writing to white Americans struggling to understand the riots and marches
and protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri – to me.
“Europeans, open this book, look inside. After taking a short walk in the night
you will see strangers gathered around a fire, get closer and listen. They are
discussing the fate reserved for your trading posts and for the mercenaries defending
them. They might see you, but they will go on talking among themselves without
even lowering their voices. Their indifference strikes home: their fathers,
creatures living in the shadow, your creatures,
were dead souls; you afforded them light, you were their sole interlocutor, you
did not take the trouble to answer the zombies. The sons ignore you. The fire
that warms and enlightens them is not yours. You, standing at a respectful
distance, you now feel eclipsed, nocturnal, and numbed. It’s your turn
now. In the darkness that will dawn into
another day, you have turned into the zombie.
“In that case, you say, let’s throw this book out of the window. Why bother to
read it since it is not meant for us? For two reasons: first, because Fanon
analyses you for his brothers and demolishes for them the mechanism of our
alienations. Take advantage of it to discover your true self as an object. Our
victims know us by their wounds and shackles: that is what makes their testimony
irrefutable. They only need to know what we have done to them for us to realize
what we have done to ourselves. Is this necessary? Yes, because Europe is doomed.
But, you will say once again, we live in the metropolis, and we disapprove of
the extremes. It’s true, you are not colonists, but you are not much better.
They were your pioneers, you sent them overseas, they made you rich. You warned
them: if they shed too much blood you would pretend to disown them; the same
way a State – no matter which one – maintains a mob of agitators, provocateurs,
and spies abroad whom it disowns once they are caught. You who are so liberal,
so humane, who take the love of culture to the point of affection, you pretend
to forget that you have colonies where massacres are committed in your name.
Fanon reveals to his comrades – especially to those who remain a little too
Westernized – the solidarity of the metropolitans with their colonial agents.
Have the courage to read it, primarily because it will make you feel ashamed,
and shame, as Marx said, is a revolutionary feeling. You see I, too, cannot
lose my subjective illusions. I, too, say to you: “All is lost unless…” I, a
European, am stealing my enemy’s book and turning it into a way of healing
Europe. Make the most of it.” (xlviii – xlix)
I went out last night with my daughter to watch the Perseid meteor shower. We drove a little ways out of town to get away from the light pollution and sat back to watch the sky. We saw about 20 in the hour we were out. I took my camera with me, but didn't manage to capture any of them. Never had the camera pointed in the right direction, with the shutter open at the right time. Oh well. I still took a couple of nice photos - and, what's more important, I had a good time with my girl.
Now is the summer of our disconnect
made inglorious by another murdered son
and the clouds of teargas lowered upon our house.
Now are our brows bound with funeral wreaths,
our bruised arms up – don’t shoot -
with stern alarums and violent meetings,
our dreadful marches and protest measures.
Grim-visaged War has put on black face
and now, mounted on Pentagon armored steeds,
to fright the souls of fearful citizens
he capes nimbly in the city streets.
Flowers are ephemeral, I know this, here today in glorious color, and dried and withered tomorrow. The grass withers, the flower fades, but I thought I'd have another day or two with my sunflowers.
The blooms had already passed, I was just waiting to harvest the seeds from them. I would have done it a day or two ago, but the heads were still wet from the rain we've had recently. I was waiting for them to dry out. Yesterday, I came home from work to discover that the squirrels that live in my and my neighbor's yards got to them first.
I'm not sure how they did it, exactly, but they stole the heads off my sunflowers, clipped them right off. I found one of the heads - emptied of all its seeds - surrounded by a litter of shells under tree where the squirrels roost.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in
the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts;
and the angels waited on him. – Mark 1: 12 - 13
The unconquering Satan
fled from him, leaving Jesus alone in the wilderness. His legs sagged beneath
him and he fell to the ground, banging his knees and his shins against the
sharp rocks. Blood flowed from the wounds and the wild animals who lived there
smelled it and were drawn to it, to him.
First to arrive, a ghost of gnats, swarming in the dusky twilight. “Bless you,
gnats,” Jesus said. “May you live upon the wind and be blown by the Spirit to
places of rest.” The midges bobbed in the air and departed.
Then came feral dogs,
wild, undomesticated, snarling and baring their cruel teeth, they approached.
But Jesus blessed them too. “A dog’s tongue is a doctor’s tongue. Let us lick
our wounds and threaten war no more.” The dogs lay down at his feet and slept.
Next a crepuscular moth, flitting here and there, alighted near him. “A
blessing for you as well, little pest. Be pollinators. Be food. Be a blessing.”
A long eared fox clambered up the slope on silent hairless footpads. She yelped
once and Jesus nodded to her. “Be subtle and be blessed, mother fox. Be quick
and daring and be blessed.” Her ears flicked, aware of a noise, an approaching
hum. She nodded her head once, twice, and then turned and fled into the darkness.
The buzzing grew louder and closer, a swarm of locusts. They clouded the air
around Jesus’ face. “And how should I bless you, bringers of famine, and
pestilence? How should I bless you bringers of havoc and devastation? How can I
bless you? I do not know. But bless blessed nonetheless. Be blessed. And once
more makes three, be blessed. Now go.” The swarm departed. The dogs at Jesus’
feet looked up and whimpered. “They are gone now,” he said to them, and they
lay back down to sleep.
Now a large bodied raven swooped low, feeding on the slower locusts. The raven
snatched up one with its beak, tossed it into the air and caught it in its
mouth. “Karr-karr-khaharr!” it croaked.
Jesus smiled. “You are a most ambiguous creature, aren’t you? Unclean and
uncouth, carrion eaters – detestable things - yet you bring comfort to the
prophets. You neither sow nor reap, but God feeds you and your little ones.” Jesus
held out his arm and the raven flew to him. It hopped up his arm toward his
face and motioned as if to peck at Jesus’ eye, but Jesus cautioned the bird. “Be
blessed, black one. Be blessed.”
“Kara-khaharr-karr!” the raved cawed and then flew away.
Jesus gathered wood and
lit a fire, for it was dark now, and cold.
He sat on a stone near the flames to warm himself. And sitting there he saw, through the
flickering flames, the glowing eyes of wolf.
“Here comes the desert prince, emblem of Benjamin. Come,” Jesus called
to the wolf. But it only snarled in
response, and growled, low and threatening. Again, Jesus called to it. “Come.
Sit here with me.” The wolf growled again and ran away. Jesus stoked the fire
and pet the dogs still sleeping at his feet.
Moments later the wolf returned, walking slowly, hesitantly with its head low. “Come,”
said Jesus, “rest here with me. You are welcome.” And the wolf lay down there
A viper, drawn to the warmth of the fire, slithered out of the rocks. Jesus saw
the venomous serpent and said, “You are welcomed and blessed, but you must do
no evil or harm here.” Then the snake coiled itself on a stone and basked in
the warmth of the fire.
A great fluttering of wings rustled overhead, and down came a large vulture
with a raspy yawp. “Why should you come here, vulture? There is no carcass, as you can see. I am not
dead. Not yet. But even then why should you gather? But a blessing for you, nonetheless;
eaters of carrion have their place.
Consume the corpses and keep the world clean. Be blessed.” The vulture hopped first on one scraggy foot,
then the other and then leaped into the air and flew away.
Then, out from under the rocks and sand, came a scorpion, golden in the
firelight, with its venomous tail poised and claws extended. It was ready to
strike and to sting. Jesus saw it and said, “Have you come to torment me? Shall
I tread upon you?” The scorpion danced in the sand, waving its claws, rearing
up in the firelight. “Again I ask you,” said Jesus patiently, “have you come to
torment me? Even with your toxic venom you cannot kill me. Shall I stand and
crush you with my heel?” The malignant scorpion repeated its threatening
It rushed toward Jesus on its eight legs, ready to pinch with its pinchers and
sting with its toxic tail, but just then an angel appeared and crushed the belligerent
scorpion. Jesus looked up at the angel who said, “I’ve been sent to wait on
you, to minister to and care for you, but you seem to have things under control.”
Jesus smiled and motioned for the angel to join him at the fire.
I've got a project in the works that I'm pretty excited about: a short little film that I've written for my daughter and a couple of her friends. It's a throwback to the B movies (or worse) of the 50s and 60s - the kind lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 - with a working title of It Came from Space (though that is very likely to change.) The script has been written. Storyboards have been drawn. And now I've built the space craft. Unfortunately, in photographing it last night, I snapped off one of the pieces. I'll have to break out the hot-glue gun and repair it before we start filming -that and about a hundred other things... but I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. It's going to be a lot of fun.
I have to apologize. I usually post these free background images once a week - usually on Sunday afternoons, but I had some computer issues last week and wasn't able to do so. But to make up for it here are both this week's and last week's free image. They're yours to download and use however you see fit. I only ask that you 1) share them freely and 2) that you tell others you found them here.
The first is a composite of two shots - a garden in Minneapolis with a butterfly and a mechanical apple-peeler. The second is one of the sunflowers in my backyard garden.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves - unless they don't share your interpretation of scripture. Then feel free to be belligerent with them. Look out for your own; denounce all others. Respect has to be earned. Truth is divisive and I came with a sword. A man's enemies will be the members of his own house and you don't have to love your enemies.
The Garden Spider (or Yellow Garden Spider) Argiope aurantia looks scarier than it really is. They're fairly large spiders, but are mostly harmless. They eat insects and small lizards - but they are not aggressive and their venom is not dangerous to humans. I found this beauty at a rest stop along I-80 in Iowa.
Roman officials were, until 1957, proponents of a Steady State hypothesis that
could not even be observed. The Statue of Caesar praised the saints but proof
wasn’t necessary. No other radiation, no famine or epidemics or civil war were
initiated but, even so, the material man was reduced to a lower level. Empirical
Imperial Astronomers measured the expansion of disbelief and determined a new
The teachings of the Latin Lion may have originated in the material body, but
to hear them describe it, the Big Bang occurred only a few billion years ago.
Geologists rushed to burn their data and their notes. They shredded the documents and lit the
refuse into a blaze. Is this arson or arsine? The fire shined; the treasure was
divided. Public death by uranium exposure was given to the great men of Rome.
Arsine – or arseniuretted hydrogen - a colorless, flammable, having a fetid,
garlic like odor is used in chemical warfare by clear signs and bright fixed
stars. The old monarchs were expelled; Caesar is replaced and if it is not
heated, the arsine will just burn. Everything. We’ll all just watch the empire go up in flames.
The Army of Strangers and the Brotherhood of Games fought with fire and with
swords not far from the Black Sea. They may have stopped a quarrel, but at what
cost? The people rejoiced, but they discovered their many painful regrets. By
the time of Augustine the halting progress of human affairs on earth was condensed
into large dark clouds. It just didn’t add up. Stars died. New galaxies came
And all this was unnecessary.
All of this was unnecessary. Don’t you know that the whole world, the entire
universe, is against you, and Antipas is against the entire world. He will
fight with the sword, a bastard sword. By treason one man shall be beaten with uranium
rods and another with a suit of clubs. Both will be beaten to the death.
The Steady State rumor comes up again and again, as fuel in the galaxy is dissolved.
All is well in the Sun and the Moon and Heaven is making haste to change the
fortune of the future.
And still, all of this, every word, was completely unnecessary.
Aries – Has your watch stopped? Your pulse? Check again just to be sure.
Taurus – Is it a wedding or a funeral? The lovely couple is holding hands and standing in a hole. Either way, it is a mystical union and a very pretty dress.
Gemini – You are bleeding from your ear. No. The other one.
Cancer – Have a look at the sea with me, the rocks, the surf. It is beautiful. You’re not afraid of me, are you? Afraid that I might push you over the edge? You needn’t be afraid; you can do magic.
Leo – Next year, when we were younger, we’ll wish we’d never been so old.
Virgo – The ship is out of control. Magnetize the fields of gold. Reduced programmed acceleration by One Eight. We’re now near optic speed. Activate forced maneuvers with graviton reactors. All Deep Space Standard Deviations have been replaced. The arc of the universe is cruel.
Libra – La dame suele au regne. Use your imagination, it is a sort of riddle, something to look for.
Scorpio – A Chime, or a Bell, or a Gong – listen for the music. The future is angry.
Sagittarius – Dreams are to be interpreted to the contrary. Go alone into the dark. A lowly monk will meet you there.
Capricorn – Were you knocked in the head with a heavy club?
Aquarius – Tell us, good sir, are you not, in fact, an evil spirit, a demonic emanation summoned up from the foul depths of hell? Are you not, after all, a false officer, deluded, duplicitous and deceptive? Explain to us your fascination with skulls and death and fire. It is no matter, we will not listen to anything you say.
Pisces– Mesopotamia was a dream with mixed vegetables. Let’s quit while we’re ahead.
Yesterday I wrote a short blog post briefly outlining two biblical approaches to dealing with disagreement. I shared it online and it met with a
flurry of response. One individual on the Facebook replied to me
saying, “Jeff – you appear to consider the biblical methods that only appeal to
you, while deliberately ignoring the more forceful methods the scriptures
In one regard, my challenger is accurate – though not for the reason he believes. I
did not consider every method. My very brief post was not intended to enumerate
every verse of biblical instruction on this topic, but to treat (briefly) on
two that are often disregarded. This was not a deliberate attempt to disregard
some parts of scripture (as if that would make them disappear.) But since the
challenge has been raised, let’s add to this list, that I and my interlocutor have
begun, another biblical approach to dealing with disagreement within the ranks:
This one is found twice in the words of Jesus – though the different synoptic accounts
largely overlap – in Mark 9: 38 – 39 and in Luke 9: 49 – 50.
The disciples saw some other fellows who were driving out demons in Jesus’
name. The driving out of demons was a large part of the good news of the
kingdom that Jesus was preaching and his disciples, who were close to him, who had
spent a lot of time in his presence, felt that they needed to protect their proprietary
brand of that gospel.
“We saw some other driving out demons in your name – but we told them to stop
because they’re not part of our group.”
To which Jesus answered: “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power
in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me,” (in Mark’s
version) or “Do not stop him; for whoever
is not against you is for you” (in Luke’s – New Revised Standard Version).
Within the ranks of our Salvation Army officers and soldiers and adherents,
there are a number of scriptural issues that are being debated. But let’s not
allow a defensive sense of proprietary ownership of our brand of the gospel
blind us the good work of the gospel where it is being done – Is the good news
being preached (whosoever will may be saved…) are human needs being met in
Jesus name without discrimination…even by those who may not be part of “our
group”? If so, then perhaps our
disagreement should be put aside.
This post has been edited to be somewhat less inflammatory. -