Thursday, February 4, 2010

Never mind, I fixed it. With science!

 Why are my followers and post archives at the bottom of the page?

The facts of navel-gazing, or, Tyler Durden: 1 Solipsism: 0

There's another Nero's Fiddle Blog.  First post: 2005.  Last post: 2008.

There's also a, where there is one huge picture of wenches and nothing else.

Google is what makes us feel unoriginal and alienated in a sea of connectivity.  Just look what happens when you have a common name.

I think it was King Solomon who once said:

You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. 

But the proof is in the Google image searchdopplegangerHi Tom!  Love your bright orange hair, your pasty Irish-German skin.  You must really stand out in a crowd.  What?  You’re left-handed too?  With hazel eyes?  I bet there’s no one in the whole world who is just like you.  And don’t stress it, by the time you’re oh, 25 or so, I bet your beard will finally fill in and those two hairs next to your left nipple will become a veritable forest.  Good luck with the razor-burn, though, that rash might just be here to stay.

Take that, Facebook Dopplegangers!

Saints of Doubt: Mark Salomon

Patron Saint of Pioneers
There is an old saying: “the pioneers take the arrows, the settlers take the land.”  Which is interesting because the best contemporary translation of Hebrews 12:1-2 goes like this:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.*
Pioneers get killed, settlers enjoy the land.  Thanks, Jesus.  And thank you too, Mark Salomon, lead singer of the most awesomest God band ever.
All my theological life, I have been walking in Mark’s footsteps. 
A young fundamentalist, hot-headed, arguing for the faith, condemning all outsiders to the flames:
...watching you torture yourself 
and whoever else you can bring down 
with you... 
...a song took from our souls 
a home that is our own 
we're all born remembering 
but few of us will know" 
the tip of your tongue 
a memory in mind 
just outside of you... 
will you wake to find 
the rest you so clearly seek 
or painfully realize that it's lost 
Lost in guilt, desiring redemption:
with a sigh i greet the day/ i feel the morning on my face/ weary at the moment i awake/ even as i lie/ the thought returns to mind/ "welcome to the rest of your life"./ somewhere i've lost my way/ from saved to stray and failing/ in silence my spirit pleads,/ is the vision lost/ or has it been passed on?/ is there any use continuing?
But I think I know the way,/ I got a promise on the mind,/ and I'll be looking for what's mine/ Sovereign stillness whispers trust in me/ In just a little while/ They'll wish that they were silent/
Keep waiting,/ I'll be right on time/ Keep waiting,/ I'll be right on time
Betrayed by “brothers and sisters”:

The usual mourners attend/ eager to pay their last respects/ say what they usually say/ and hope today will somehow be different/ 'We welcome you into our fold/ We've been waiting/ Always have room for one more/ Will you be staying?'/
it's a time-honored tradition we hold/ we build up and then tear down our own/ now I know why I never come home/ I get tired of climbing up out of this hole
Abandoned by the church:
Your steady stream of throwaway words has flooded/ this already crowded room/ I've lost my taste for the race and the running/ there's nothing here to prove/ all I want/
want to know is what you're waiting for/
I'll flood the wreckage build a bridge into the next age and/ say goodbye and leave a cloud of dust behind
I could go on, but you got the idea four songs ago.  In a church culture that has selectively deleted the Psalms, Mark taught me that worship includes complaint, doubt, frustration, and fear.  He had already been to those places, committed them feverishly, passionately to disc; he had experienced it all, a journey out of fundamentalism and into the sundown motel.  Honestly, faithfully, never pulling punches, always telling the truth.

So they shot him for it.

On the road, pastors rejected him because he wouldn’t preach (as if any one of his songs weren’t worth ten thousand sermons).  He was viewed with suspicion for doubting and revealing the scars he earned in church.  He and his band were consigned to the Christian music ghetto where they would never fit in (truthtellers rarely do).  And yet, the band plays on.

It sounds strange to say, but Mark Salomon is one of the top five most influential theologians in my life.  His is a faith of relentless heartbreak, private suffering, enduring commitment, and exuberant, irrational hope.

Which is, of course, the faith of the cross.  If he had a bumper sticker, it would read:
My boss was tortured to death for blasphemy and sedition.
Here’s to the Patron Saint of Pioneers:

*For a quick exegetical explanation for why this is a better translation, see this post.

In which I indulge my darlings

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I was writing a post on Mark Salomon and I began to digress into an exegesis of Hebrews 12:1-2, and I decided that this was one of my darlings, totally inappropriate for the Saints of Doubt post, but instead of killing it, I made it another post.


Whatever.  If you’re interested, here’s a quick word study/exegetical remark on the passage that explains why I prefer “trailblazer” or “pioneer” to “author” or “founder.”

Older translations render ἀρχηγὸν as “author” or “founder,” but the word does literally mean “one who goes first down the path.”  And so the description makes more sense, because Hebrew 12 follows—you guessed it—Hebrews 11, which is a recitation of great heroes of the faith.  But if Jesus comes after guys like Enoch and Abraham, how can he be the “first one down the path” of faith?  Older translations “fix” the problem by inserting a less common meaning, namely, “author.”  Of course, that doesn’t really solve the problem, because how can Jesus be the “founder” of something that has been going on since ancient times?  The translation reflects a theological/historical bias.  Surely the author of Hebrews is musing on a new dispensation of faith, a new era, in which faith *for us* is different than faith *for them*.  To which I say nay.

The book of Hebrews is set in the context of “these last days", when God “has spoken to us by his son.”  Possibly meaning that post-Easter faith is somehow new, different, of changed content.  Another, better, possibility is that Jesus has shown us the first fulfillment of the promise of faith.  Meaning that Jesus’ faith was not qualitatively different from Abraham’s, but, rather than just dying in faith (as did all the faithful in Hebrews 11), Jesus “pioneers” the experience-of-coming-into-the-promise-of-faith.  This makes better sense of “the joy” of being “sat at the right hand” as well as the end of Hebrews 11 which reminds us that all those other guys died and that was it.  Nothing else.  They did many heroic deeds, suffered martyrs deaths, and stayed in the grave.  Jesus follows their example of death by torture, but “pioneers” the deepest fulfillment of faith, namely, the joy of glory and vindication.

For our purposes, Jesus’ “pioneering work” should be seen as a continuation of OT/Apocryphal faith—that is, the life of a martyr—with a certain knowledge of “what comes next” in these “last days”: resurrection, glory, and new life.