Burqas in the Bible?
 

Burqas in the Bible?

The following comment was a Facebook status observation by my friend Elizabeth Dahl Kingery, blogger at Unravel, a couple of weeks ago.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  John 14:15.  

Why do I picture this husband’s bride wearing a burqa?

Do you think this is fair?  Is there any truth in it?  How do you understand this commandment?

In my humble opinion, there are two issues here.  The first is of Jesus’s demanding our obedience.  I’ve always been uncomfortable with a God who needs legions who will do his bidding.  If he is perfect, as we say he is, then why does he need our allegiance through obedience?

The second is the issue of Jesus’s (the husband’s) treatment of the church (the wife).  There’s not much difference between some of the New Testament mandates for women to refrain from adorning themselves, to cover their hair and stay silent in church, to be submissive to their husbands, and the Middle Eastern tradition of women wearing burqas.  They all accomplish the same thing—to keep women hidden as objects to be used, for sex, for child-rearing, for housekeeping.

What do you think?

[Post image: Burqa, origin unknown]

Elissa -

46 Comments


  1. Matt
    Sep 29, 2011

    wow that’s a stretch. good attempt but still a logical fallacy. you seem to blame Jesus for all the deeds people have done in the name of religion through the ages.

    if you take your eyes off your family, your history, and other people, and focus on what Jesus teaches, you’ll find a message of love, redemption, and forgiveness.


    • Elissa
      Sep 29, 2011

      Hmmm, I’m not sure it’s illogical. There are many verses (attributed to Jesus) that do not seem to be loving, kind, or redemptive. And many of them contradict what he’s JUST said.

      Here, I’ll provide some of them:

      Mark 4:11 “And [Jesus] was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables.” [So, it’s a secret society, and Jesus only wants SOME people to “get” what he’s saying?]

      He refers to a Canaanite woman as a dog when she asks him to heal her daughter. Matthew 15: 24-27: “But [Jesus] answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ And He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she said, ‘Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.'” [I’ll have to be honest here. I don’t think Jesus wins any award here for being loving to his enemy. More bluntly, I’ll ask, “Is he a racist?”]

      Matthew 5:18-19: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law; until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Reading that as-is, we’d have to be following all those awful commandments in the Old Testament. Death for adultery, anyone? (Lev. 20:10) Death for dishonoring parents? (Lev. 20:9) Death for blaspheming the name of the Lord? (Lev. 24:16)]

      Those are just a few examples.

      Now, for the damning part (that’s you and me, I’m talking about). In fact everyone I know personally (who believes in Jesus).

      Luke 14:33: “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”

      Nervous cough here. So, that about takes care of the rest of us, no?

      So, let’s say you’re right—that if I “focus on what Jesus teaches, [I’ll] find a message of love, redemption, and forgiveness.” Starting with that premise, do you personally know of anyone that would be his disciple, based on that last verse?

      And remember, I’m taking the direct words from Scripture. I’m giving you Jesus’s exact words…if he actually said them.


  2. Matt
    Sep 29, 2011

    Really hard for me to take your interpretations seriously.
    I’m in a lab now so I can’t respond in full but I’ll try to address soon.


  3. Sylvia
    Sep 29, 2011

    Now you are asking the hard questions that everyone should examine. Thank you for all you do.


    • Elissa
      Sep 29, 2011

      You’re welcome, Sylvia. I’m so glad we’re on this journey together. What would I do without people like you…who want the hard questions?


  4. Matt
    Sep 29, 2011

    I think I see what you’re doing here, and on the rest of your blog. What you’re doing is taking things out of context. You lift verses right out and spin them like a record without looking above the verse and below the verse. The liberals do this, people who move their own agenda do this, and the media does this. Let’s not do it here. If we look at the Bible with a narrow scope we will never get to the truth.

    You said:
    Mark 4:11 “And [Jesus] was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables.” [So, it’s a secret society, and Jesus only wants SOME people to “get” what he’s saying?]

    Let’s go to how it was originally written. The word Γνωναι in Greek means to know. “Unto you it is given to know”. This word is omitted by many translations. The omission of this word makes a material alteration in the sense, for without it the passage may be read as you did above.

    It’s also not a secret society. You claim that it is. The activities and inner functions of a secret society are concealed from non-members. Purposely. Jesus makes it clear it’s not a secret society but in fact claims that the information is told to those who don’t “know” with parables. Parables that they can understand. And to make sure we have the same definition of a parable, it is: a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons.

    You said:
    He refers to a Canaanite woman as a dog when she asks him to heal her daughter. Matthew 15: 24-27: “But [Jesus] answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ And He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she said, ‘Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.’” [I’ll have to be honest here. I don’t think Jesus wins any award here for being loving to his enemy. More bluntly, I’ll ask, “Is he a racist?”]

    Who said this woman was Jesus’ enemy? That’s your immediate quick impulse interpretation. You are also judging Jesus’ vocabulary with an ethnocentric point of view. He borrows the word “dog” from his own Jewish culture. When we look at these texts we need to understand the Hebrew culture and how they spoke. And if you compare it to our politically correct culture today, a lot of it rubs the wrong way. Even if you took an ancient Sumerian stone tablet and translated it, would it not be foolish to read it and translate it with our own culture’s point of view? Of course it would. In order to understand it completely we would need to research the Sumerian’s culture and how they lived. That being said I think you can answer your own question asking if Jesus was racist.

    You said:
    Matthew 5:18-19: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law; until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Reading that as-is, we’d have to be following all those awful commandments in the Old Testament. Death for adultery, anyone? (Lev. 20:10) Death for dishonoring parents? (Lev. 20:9) Death for blaspheming the name of the Lord? (Lev. 24:16)]

    Death for adultery? Death for dishonoring parents? Sounds like God was serious about those infractions and you don’t like it. Many people take the Old Testament and shake their fists at God. The Old Testament can be confusing for many people. We need to understand why the Old Testament was written. The “law” Jesus referred to is the first 5 books of the bible or the jew’s “torah” and the “prophets” refer to the rest of the OT. The Old Testament points to him, not only in specific predictions of a Messiah but also in its sacrificial system. A system which paved the way for and looked forward to his great sacrifice of himself, the many events that foreshadowed his life as God’s true Son, the laws which he perfectly obeyed, and in the “wisdom” books of the OT which set a behavioral pattern his life exemplified.

    The New Testament does not replace the OT but rather fulfills it. It fulfills it as Jesus’ life and ministry, along with his interpretation, complete and clarify God’s intent and meaning in the entire OT. As a student of the bible and for one who seeks God, it is imperative to see what the intent and purpose of the Bible rather than get caught up in ancient customs. Again most people interpret the Old Testament with an ethnocentric point of view
    .
    In a nutshell the Bible is a guide for redemption. A guide to reunify man to God for that which was broken long ago. This is only made possible through the cross. And one does not find himself at the cross until he realizes his need for it. Jesus used the 10 commandments to convict people of their sin.

    You said:
    Luke 14:33: “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
    Nervous cough here. So, that about takes care of the rest of us, no?
    So, let’s say you’re right—that if I “focus on what Jesus teaches, [I’ll] find a message of love, redemption, and forgiveness.” Starting with that premise, do you personally know of anyone that would be his disciple, based on that last verse?

    The word is ἀποτάσσεται. Forsaketh. Self renunciation. I think if we look at Luke 14:25-35 instead of one verse we’ll get what Jesus is saying. We must bear the cross in a way of duty. Jesus said we could count on that. We must consider the expenses of our religion and at the same time consider the perils of it. We must seek to be disciples of course, however are we all not a little fickle, fallible, and weak. What hope do we have of being perfect? You cough nervously? I do too. I think Jesus says this in the same way he uses the Law to convict us of our unworthiness. .

    Again Jesus used the 10 commandments to convict people of their sin. For example, the law says don’t murder. Well I haven’t murdered anyone. Jesus took the law one step further and said whoever hates anyone has committed murder in his heart. The law says don’t commit adultery. I haven’t committed adultery. Jesus said whoever looks on a person with lust commits adultery in his heart. I do this on a weekly if not daily basis. Wrap Luke 14:33 in there and we’ve got a situation where I am completely inadequate to stand before him much less be his disciple.
    His message is that we are not inherently good people. We are in need of redemption. Not everyone will feel they need redemption. On a further note, people say that God is love and would never condemn anyone. I beg to differ. Because God is love, he will judge. I use the example of a criminal in a court of law. Is the judge going to say “because I am a good man, you are free to go”. No. Because the judge is a good and honorable man, he will pass sentence upon the accused.

    Because God is love he doesn’t want to have to do that. He provided a way for so he wouldn’t have to. That way is Jesus and his death and ultimate resurrection without which all mankind is lost. I know this and believe this from what the Bible says:
    What did Jesus teach? Here it is in a nutshell. And this is what the Truth is.

    John 14:6 – I am the way the truth and the life NO man comes to the Father except through me.

    Matthew 7:14 – Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through FAITH, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

    John 3:16- for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

    Romans 10:9 – If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    And then Jesus warns us of other doctrine:

    2 Timothy 4:3,4 – For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    2 Corinthians 11:13,14 – For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

    2 Corinthians 11:4 – For if someone comes along and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or should you receive a different spirit from the one you received or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you are all too willing to listen.

    Galatians 1:8 – But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.

    And this of course is all foolishness to those who don’t believe it. I Corinthians 1:18 says the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.

    I really think that through research and study, you’ll find the Bible to be a worthy source of information. If verses get plucked from the Bible out of the context they reside, we will continue to mill around and around not arriving at the truth.


    • Elissa
      Sep 29, 2011

      Hmmm, I really don’t want to argue.

      My point was this. Yes, Jesus contradicts himself elsewhere in the gospels. You used one example well. That was that the new law would fulfill the old law (as the Bible states elsewhere). But what do you do with the verse I mentioned above, which states that if anyone gets rid of the smallest commandment, he “shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven?” I’d like to know how you reconcile them. You just choose the one you like…and run with it?

      That’s what I’m talking about. The words of Jesus are open to interpretation (LOTS of interpretation, as seen by the myriads of denominations in existence). Yes, he used parables, but even his own disciples didn’t understand them. Many of US don’t understand them, and it’s not for lack of trying.

      I agree with you. The Bible should be read in context. After all, it’s a library, really, not a book written by one person. But my question still stands. What do you do with the contradictions? Play eeny-meeny-miny-moe or just assume you have the only and wisest and best interpretation? I think that’s a fair question.


  5. Matt
    Sep 29, 2011

    Why don’t you tell me what the contradictions are and I can address it. I don’t know of any.


    • Elissa
      Sep 29, 2011

      I guess I’m unable to make it any clearer than above. So sorry.


  6. Matt
    Sep 29, 2011

    And you actually do want to argue as you continually trash the Bible repeatedly.


    • Elissa
      Sep 29, 2011

      No, I respect the Bible. I’m asking questions about it, hoping that we can make sense of contradictions within it. My questions are not intended to infuriate, but to take the first step in how we might go about solving the problem…or not solving it…whichever it is.


  7. Ninotchka
    Sep 29, 2011

    But what did Jesus actually command other than that we love each other?


    • Elissa
      Sep 29, 2011

      You are right, Ninotchka. There is a series of verses in Luke 10:25-28 that says, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ And he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.'”

      Many of my Christian friends would say it’s these two commandments they strive to. Very noble and good, I think. My question is, “What about all the other stuff? Are we not beholden to anything else? Do we throw the rest of it out, or do we pick-and-choose what we want to follow?” Because I’m thinking we do the latter. What do you think?


  8. clare
    Sep 29, 2011

    Whether or not we can agree or disagree on what is or isn’t a contradiction in either English or Greek (Jesus’ own native language, so naturally quoting Greek makes his intentions clearer) there still remain some big questions for me.
    How is it that we all inherit the stain of wrongdoing from Adam (whether eating the apple gets classified as symbolic, allegorical or literal)? How does apple eating (allegorical or otherwise) get morphed into every other heinous evil of which man is now capable (especially if evolution is off the table)?
    Why is it that god’s perfect plan took so many years to formulate and apply?
    Why can the agonizing death of a divine Jesus (the second Adam) not reverse any of the harm of the human Adam, but only supply the possibility of it only if we believe it can do it, and only then after our death?
    It seems to me that all the platitudes and directives that get quoted at great length (both in and out of the context of other of his words) are neither here nor there. If I were Jesus and I were going to endure such agony I would want some guarantees that it was all going to be efficacious and worthwhile and I wouldn’t want it all to be left in the balance of future translators and arguments of bloggers.


    • Elissa
      Sep 29, 2011

      I have all the same questions, Clare, and the one that bothers me the most is the latter one. Why would God/Jesus not be clearer about what it all means? Rather, we have virtually no eyewitness accounts (those written having been written much later than Jesus, by people who weren’t directly with him). [And I’m not sure Jesus actually spoke Greek (there’s disagreement on this); I think he would have spoken some form of Aramaic.] We aren’t sure what he DID say, and what he DIDN’T say, which throws it all into question, in my book.

      The thing that puzzles me most is that we KNOW for certain this is what we’re supposed to believe, even though we weren’t there, and we know no one who was. There are no uncertainties. Only certainties. About something none of us went through. And knowing what we know about human nature today (just think of your best friends and family), we actually trust what we’re told to believe. Without a shadow of a doubt. That just doesn’t sit well with me. [And I mean for myself here. I’m not telling anyone else how or what to believe.]


  9. clare
    Sep 29, 2011

    Sorry, Elissa, you are much too polite. I was being harshly facetious when I said Greek was Jesus’ native language because I don’t see how getting back to the Greek of a writer who did not know Jesus is any more helpful than a bad English translation of that Greek. We are still talking about a much transcribed Greek version of a lost original by someone who lived after the lifetime of Jesus, who spoke Aramaic and wrote nothing himself and whose life as described in the bible is quite disturbingly similar to that of the Persian man-god, Mithra, who predates even Judaism. When both Mithra and Jesus are described as The Lamb of God and The Way the Truth and the Light we are no longer worrying about Greek translations but who it is we think we are following.


    • Elissa
      Sep 30, 2011

      I knew you were (being facetious). Hee, hee, hee…

      And you’re right. Many of the titles of God and Jesus were used by other gods BEFORE the Hebrew scribes attributed them to God and Jesus.


  10. clare
    Sep 30, 2011

    I also wonder why the true meaning of the bible can only be reached by reading the Greek. Does this not imply yet another group of outsiders who can never know the truth and never find the way? Are all readers of King James to be left like those outsiders who were only given parables? Are all those Chinese bibles a waste of time? What about all those Catholics who believe the only way to celebrate the mass is in Latin (and Tridentine at that). It starts to get like Hermione correcting the syllable emphasis of the spell “Leviosa” and the eye of the needle seems to get smaller and smaller.

    Returning to your original focus for this post, I just thought I would share my 8 year-old’s reaction to the photo of the women in burqas. I explained that they were women “And they’re alive???” he asked.


    • Elissa
      Sep 30, 2011

      Yes, I agree. There’s something wrong if we have to be knowledgeable in certain areas (to get the correct interpretation). God’s message seems to be one for everyone, so why do we think he can only be understood by the educated? That’s been a beef of mine for a long time!

      And I can’t even add to what Nico said. He said it perfectly!


  11. Matt
    Sep 30, 2011

    Clare: I was being harshly facetious
    Elissa: I knew you were (being facetious). Hee, hee, hee…

    everyone is having a good laugh. interesting how a blog that is dedicated to asking questions is so hostile to the teachings of Jesus.

    You have a lot of questions Clare. It’s unrealistic to address all of them on a blog. My question to you is what would it take for you to believe?

    If I answered your question about the stain of wrongdoing passed on from Adam, would you believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God?

    If your question about the length of God’s perfect plan was answered would you believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God?

    If your question asking why couldn’t the agonizing death of Jesus could reverse the harm of the human Adam, but only supply the possibility of it only if we can believe it can do it, and then after our death was answered, would you believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God?

    You state that if you were Jesus you would want guarantees and blah blah blah is how I read it. If you were Jesus and had guarantees, would you sacrifice yourself for the world?

    The answer to all of the above is no.
    All questions and more questions.

    I get reminded of the verse :
    2 Timothy 4:3,4 – For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    So I can sit here and try to debate in this forum, but not only will it fall on deaf ears, There is no logical academic approach in responding to what I have written. In fact all I get is sarcasm. I have approached the translation of the Bible with an anthropological approach that would be accepted in any university today.

    Clara you say the true meaning of the Bible can only be reached by reading Greek. False. Your logical fallacy doesn’t work. There are many who understand the Bible without knowing a lick of Greek.

    Elissa you say you respect the Bible. This is not close to being true. Your writings and blog grossly refute that. Let’s not pretend for political correctness.

    So we all live our lives and believe what we want. We ask questions, and we pretend to be philosophical. What way will your life change if you find what you’re looking for? In what way would it be different from mine? What fantastic breakthroughs are you searching for that will make a difference in you and your family’s life?

    When the curtain falls and you take your last breath what will be the difference between you and me? If I’m wrong, I will stand shoulder to shoulder next to you…..your sarcasm and laughter at that time will be warranted.


    • Elissa
      Sep 30, 2011

      Okay, I thought I’d never have to do this on my blog. For a while now, my family leaves little comments for me, under different aliases. I’ve convinced Matt to come clean and write as himself, which he’s done. Matt is one of my brothers. So now you know what I’ve come from. I’m saying this here, because I’ve repeatedly asked him to please be kind if he posts, and he refuses to do so.

      So, Matt, here goes:

      Clare and I are friends. [And Clare, of all people, has done her research.] We weren’t having a laugh AT you. We were agreeing that people didn’t need Greek to study the Bible. It’s one of the worst things clergy (and other Christians) have done to people is insinuate they need more (in order to understand Jesus or God). It’s abuse, plain and simple. Hence, we wanted to make sure people knew that by you quoting Greek, you know nothing more than we do. And you weren’t getting your history correct, by having Jesus speak Greek.

      The purpose of this blog, as I’ve mentioned to you before, is NOT conversion. Please, no one is going to listen to you and say, at a moment’s notice, “Huh, Matt’s right. Let me ask Jesus into my heart.”

      The purpose of this blog is to QUESTION…EVERYTHING. And if that bothers you, please don’t read…don’t post…don’t antagonize the people I’ve grown to love. That you’re bothered says more about you than my postings…or the fact that I’m questioning. In fact, I’d like to suggest you’re helping me PROVE the fact I wasn’t allowed to question growing up.

      I’m happy you KNOW so much to be true. I’m happy you know you’re going to heaven. I don’t (for myself), and I’m content in that knowledge.

      I can’t address all your questions here, because I don’t detect that we’re having a conversation…we’re talking AT each other, and that’s a dead-end street.


  12. Matt
    Sep 30, 2011

    talking AT each other and laughing at people who think differently. got it.

    I previewed what I typed and I never said Jesus spoke Greek. The Bible was written in Greek. Jesus spoke in Hebrew and used his own cultural dialect which was translated into Greek. Do you guys even read what I write?

    Adieu.


  13. clare
    Sep 30, 2011

    I apologize for the rage that creeps into my posts. I believed wholeheartedly for most of my life, attending church daily throughout my young adult life. In my conviction of the truth of my beliefs I studied other religions to give my own validity by contrast. In coming across zoroastrianism I was therefore stunned. Mithra, the son of the god Zoroastra, was born of a virgin on December 25th in a field surrounded by shepherds. After a 40 day period called Estra he died and was entombed, after which he rose on the third day. Ceremonies recalling this event used a rock to represent the man-god, and priests would eat bread and drink wine. It is no exaggeration or hyperbole to say this was the most horrifying realization of my life. This pulled all the certainty of my life out from under me. It was the equivalent of finding out I had been switched at birth. This meant to me that all of the scriptures were nothing more than a rehashing and adaptation of earlier man-made beliefs. If I sound angry it is because I am. I felt the enormity of its meaninglessness. I felt like a complete idiot. This was not a case of multiple belief sets each hinting at the whole. This was a completely different, ancient pagan religion copied almost word for word, complete with titles, and presented as the story of our salvation, the culmination of a perfect plan. Angry? Yes. Embarrassed? absolutely. Able to be convinced ever again that one word of it is true? Never


  14. Matt
    Sep 30, 2011

    Zoroastrianism originated around the time of the Babylonian Captivity and history suggests that it copied from the Hebrew’s religion which is the exact opposite. I would be happy to go over the dates and the history of Zoroastrianism if you would be interested but i’m on the road so it would have to wait until tomorrow…it’s actually quite fascinating.


  15. clare
    Sep 30, 2011

    It is very easy to Google Mithraism and Zoroastrianism and find their links to Judaism and Christianity, with Tarsus and Rome. I don’t find it fascinating; I find it devastating. Nothing about any of it gives me comfort that we have been following anything other than a repackaged pagan sun god religion of blood sacrifice and primitive ritual and I will always look on my belief in it with utter embarrassment.


  16. kelly g.
    Sep 30, 2011

    I, too, am a friend of Elissa’s and wonder of wonders, I have a deep belief/faith in God. Elissa knows this about me and still calls me friend. No deep seated plan on her part to turn me from my beliefs. It is through Elissa’s journey, her questioning, that I have found myself looking deeper into my own faith and why I believe what I believe. It has in fact, strengthened my faith and I can say that here without any concern that I will be judged because of it. “Living the Questions” has taught me so much–acceptance, a willingness to be vulnerable (by Elissa and others), to think, to look harder, to be open to others thoughts/feelings and most importantly to be kind. This has been a safe, non confrontational place to go for sometimes tough and always thought-provoking issues. Obviously I don’t know you at all Matt but somehow you have managed to interject an antagonistic tone in your comments that is unsettling to me (and possibly to others). So I ask with as much kindness as I can muster, please give it a rest Matt…please.


    • Elissa
      Oct 01, 2011

      Kelly,

      And I love the fact that you don’t mind questioning along with me, even though we might disagree on a few things. The disagreement doesn’t matter to me. It’s the taking-a-hard-look at what you believe that matters to me, for everyone, and hopefully, we’re doing it. Thank YOU for loving me for where I’m at. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. xo


  17. Todd
    Oct 01, 2011

    I second Kelly’s opinion. Was getting tired of that bigot’s drivel.


    • Elissa
      Oct 01, 2011

      And yes, lest anyone think I’m hard-hearted to let this last message through, I want to define the word bigot, because I think it fits in this case, and I want everyone to know that bigots cannot be tolerated on this blog, for the rest of us who need safety in what we’re discussing. Bullying cannot and will not be allowed, and that goes for me, too.

      Bigot: noun
      a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

      Thanks, Todd.


  18. dasephix
    Oct 02, 2011

    I think that what we are doing here (actually living the questions themselves) is truly a path to progress because it allows our personal growth to connect to the actual experience of coming to realize our relationships with these difficult questions. It is a path that has the ability to move beyond context, of which arguments are hinged upon. Living the questions allows for dialogue of the experiences themselves (the heart of the matter), which by their own nature are connected because of our humanity and our willingness to connect. At least, it is with faith that I hope this to be true for all of us that struggle!

    But it is still with profound sadness to witness the self-righteousness which pervades the realm of the spiritual, religious, academic or whatever subject matter it may be. When the self-righteous defends or seeks to prove their point, it saddens me only because it reminds me of the suffering of which I too was not aware of during a previous time in my life.
    It was an unquestioned, unacknowledged suffering that imbued my Christian experience with the hubris of a pseudo-academic that claimed to be religious, especially because it had become rationalized. I believe real academics do not seek to prove others wrong but rather generate the forums and mediums for dialogue and are also aware of the reciprocal nature of the learning process. It is with sincere gratitude for my Professors and dears friends, as well as a conscious choice to ask the difficult questions, that I was able to release (to a greater degree) my position of self-righteousness so that I could learn and engage with others in a ways that did not imply an opposition or other, at least for a time as I did fall off the wayside once again.

    I find that it can be easy to default to that which is/was known because it feels secure, but it never sits well with me whenever I come to find that I have reverted to the type of mental framework of which was really only self-serving. To me, self-righteousness is really hyper-vigilance of which I still deal with to this day, and because of habit I still find myself approaching dialogue on matters of the human experience and God with such forethought and I know where that leads… Not to mention, the polarity which followed constricted what once was essentially unobstructed dialogue that denied no one. The feeling of “knowing” made me feel good too, but this feeling good was only in relation to others who I assumed did not know or understand which is a very oppressive and is superficial view.

    It makes me think, if there is undeniable truth in the teachings of any religion, how is it that one must defend it if it is whole? Or if God is whole and encompasses reality, why must the one who believes defend it? I think that if we become mindful of the transition of the dialogue to when it becomes an argument, with a compassionate attempt to understand the person that seeks to argue and defend, we begin to see that the questions are no longer about growing and expanding discussion. It is as if the one that defends becomes blind to the reasons that may have brought them to the spiritual path in the first place, and that what he/she argues for is actually about their own internal conflict that seeks to resolve itself by proving to others that they possess truth, when in in reality truth may be to a greater degree experiential, like living the questions themselves.

    At the same time I do not want to put myself in opposition to a person that holds such righteous views, only because it would contradict my idea of connectedness despite the inherent antagonistic quality of those views. To me, the righteous are really a reminder of a place of which we all might be familiar with or have experienced, which may be the very reason why we come here to discuss these matters. We have developed the courage to continually question that which becomes secure, comfortable, and “known”. I think this is our reality and because of that, when we go out into the world, the kind of righteous reasoning that exists will inevitably cross our paths. We can communicate with people that hold these views with the knowledge that we grew out from that kind of thinking. It is also with the knowledge of experience that we know these people carry with them their vulnerabilities guarded by their righteousness, which is a kind of suffering as it requires energy when one defends a view. These are vulnerabilities of which may never come to fruition for them, in that they provide a link to the feeling that we share a place in the ebb and flow of life’s happenings from birth to our death. To me, this is the true sadness, because I do want to share with others but I sometimes I can’t because the foundations for their beliefs are divisive in nature.

    It is with hope that perhaps someday the rigidity of the righteous may become malleable, so that they may have the awareness to see that the explicit nature of their arguments subjugate the a spiritual path which no one can truly own, define, or prove because it is available to everyone. I hope that I too can continue on the path of the spiritual, and of inquiry, without feeling the need to defend it. If in fact my path is encompassed by truth, how can that same truth not encompass anyone that follows another path, just like friends who can be in the company of each other without having to say a single word?


    • Elissa
      Oct 02, 2011

      Oh, Dasephix. You should just write my blog posts for me. Ha, ha.

      Yes, I wish that we could all see that there is no threat in believing something different. Our dialogue would expand if we could only hear and see other’s experiences.

      On another note, my suspicion is that IF God exists, he/she/it is not called God, and he/she/it cannot be defined as we’ve defined it, and that opens up wonderful possibilities…that whatever “it” is, “it” will appear differently to each person, just as we ourselves appear differently to the various people we know. In that way, we will all “know” a different spirituality with this Mystery, you might say. I’m hypothesizing, of course, but that would make sense to me, IF God exists. And in this way, we would all “allow” everyone around us to have his or her own journey with this Mystery. There’s no way we could say he or she is wrong in what he or she is feeling, as long as those feelings don’t lead to such fanaticism that oppresses others. [I don’t know. Just a thought.]

      I loved your last sentence best: “If in fact my path is encompassed by truth, how can that same truth not encompass anyone that follows another path, just like friends who can be in the company of each other without having to say a single word?”

      So true. Thank you.


  19. Don Rogers
    Oct 02, 2011

    Absolutely fascinating conversation, Elissa! I have a new respect for you, having to endure self-righteous comments from family. Many in my family fully disagree with the journey I am traveling. However, it is very rare that they seek to confront and refute me instead of allowing me my path to travel. I admire your restraint. I hope to never be faced with what you seem to face on a regular basis. Thanks for questions.


    • Elissa
      Oct 02, 2011

      Thanks, Don. You don’t know how much that means to me! xo


  20. Roger Pearse
    Oct 22, 2011

    Hello,

    Someone drew my attention to a comment on this post which contained the following remarkable statements. I know quite a bit about Mithras — indeed I wrote most of the Wikipedia article on him, before it was hijacked by a pair of very nasty trolls back in January (who are still sitting on it to make sure it says various falsehoods). But much of what has been claimed seems rather odd to me.

    “In coming across zoroastrianism I was therefore stunned. Mithra, the son of the god Zoroastra, was born of a virgin on December 25th in a field surrounded by shepherds. After a 40 day period called Estra he died and was entombed, after which he rose on the third day. Ceremonies recalling this event used a rock to represent the man-god, and priests would eat bread and drink wine. It is no exaggeration or hyperbole to say this was the most horrifying realization of my life. This pulled all the certainty of my life out from under me.”

    I’m not concerned with religious opinions, and mine are no better than anyone else’s I’m sure. But these are not claimed to be opinions; these are claimed to be *factual* statements about ancient mythology. Perhaps I might ask some questions, then, about these supposed facts, and make a comment or two?

    * What is the origin of this material? It sounds like a very corrupt version of the story told by Acharya S, but with some very strange additions. Can anyone identify where this stuff comes from?
    * In Zoroastrianism, isn’t the god Ahura-Mazda, or Ormazd, and Zoroaster his prophet? In which ancient source is a god “Zoroastra” identified?
    * In the Avestan texts, the basis of Zoroastrianism, which were written down for the first time in the 4th century AD, and extant in copies no earlier than the 13th century AD, we find Mitra or Mithra, the Indo-European god identified as the “Lord of Wide Pastures”. None of those texts give the narrative above.
    * The Roman god Mithras was born from a rock, wearing a hat and carrying a dagger in one hand and a dagger in the other. This we know from depictions of him. There is no evidence for this cult before 80 AD, although it probably existed earlier.
    * Neither deity was born on December 25. Mithras scholar Roger Beck has described the claim that Mithras was born on that date as “the hoariest of myths”, and indeed the idea seems to derive from a careless remark by Franz Cumont ca. 1900.
    * Neither deity was born associated with shepherds. Claims that Mithras was are mostly derived from a supposed claim that his two attendants in images, Cautes and Cautopates, are sometimes depicted with what seem to be shepherd’s crooks. But I have yet to meet anyone who has ever seen such a depiction.
    * No ancient source records any “40 day period” associated with him, nor the word “estra”. Surely all of us know that the English word “Easter” is derived from anglo-saxon, is not used in the Mediterranean world for Easter itself?
    * No ancient text records a death of Mithras, still less a resurrection.
    * No ancient text records a rock being used to symbolise Mithras.
    * The only bit of this that has any connection with reality at all — and a scanty one it is — is the bit about bread and wine. Consuming a ritual meal was a common feature of most Roman cults. In the cult of Mithras there were seven different meals, one each for the seven different grades of initiation. Justin Martyr ca. 150 AD tells us that in the cult in Rome, one grade — which had a ritual meal of bread and *water* — was performing its ritual in some unspecified way that mocked the Christians. Unfortunately he gives no details.

    The remainder of the comments by that poster consist in telling us how he reached his conclusions through “study”, and how angry he was. But since he got his facts so badly wrong, I think we might reasonably ask how much “study” he did.


    • Elissa
      Oct 23, 2011

      Hi, Roger,

      Thanks for that info. I don’t know the first thing about Mithras, so I’ve alerted Clare (I think that’s who you’re quoting), so she can tell you her sources. Is that okay?

      If there’s erroneous info out there, then I’m sure you’ll understand that what people believe could be a hodgepodge of information (and I’m assuming that’s what you want to know…the source material).

  21. […] The commenter here gives us the usual spiel about how he/she was brought up to be a Christian, and “studied” other religions. […]


  22. Steve Perisho
    Nov 03, 2011

    Elissa:

    May I just point out that although it may well be the case that what “people” in general “believe [about Zoroastrianism, or Mithra, or Mithraism, or whatever] could be a hodgepodge of information,” it is this option that Clare explicitly rejects: “This,” she says, “was not a case of multiple belief sets each hinting at the whole”, etc. Thus, she has set the bar for this response of hers to Mr. Pearse much higher. I.e., she must show not only that this fragment exists over HERE in both space and time, and that whisp of a fragment over THERE (leaving to the side the question whether they–almost exclusively monumental as distinguished from literary, as Mr. Pearse points out–have have all been properly interpreted); she must show that it all coheres in a single historical faith, one “completely different” but integral “ancient pagan religion” (in the singular). And that, so far as I’ve been able to tell in the time I’ve had to get up to speed on this, is precisely the assumption that specialists on Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, and so forth, have been shredding for well over forty years now. The reading-around in the scholarly literature that I’ve done leaves me with the impression that what Clare has swallowed is a VULGARIZATION of late-19th- and early-20th-century Cumont-ism. Yet to quote but a single work of contemporary reference (I could quote many more, and some of the contemporary scholarship itself besides), “Cumont’s [late-19th- and early-20th-century] reconstruction suffered a mortal blow at the first conference of Mithraic studies, held in Manchester in 1971 (GORDON, 1975), and has not been revived since. The past twenty-five years have instead given rise to many—mutually exclusive—theories on the origin and nature of the Mithraic mysteries, which virtually all share a stress on the absence of [clear] links between [Iranian] Zoroastrianism and [largely post-Christian Greco-Roman] Mithraism” (H. J. W. Drijvers & A. F. de Jong, “Mithras,” Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (Eerdmans/Brill, 1999), p. 579). So much for the work of the true specialists. What Mr. Pearse is asking to see are the ancient (i.e. primary) sources for each of these claims themselves. And all of that must, of course, be properly located, dated, interpreted, AND shown to be more (i.e. much more integral) than “a hodgepodge of [seriously outdated mis]information.” Enter the world of the specialists and see how extraordinarily difficult it becomes to make the breathtakingly sweeping statements made here by Clare. Or so it seems to me.

    All the best,


    • Elissa
      Nov 03, 2011

      Steve,

      And that’s exactly the reason people should be cognizant of this fact: WHATEVER they believe is absolutely a hodgepodge of information, whether they like it or not. Mithraism or Cumont-ism aside, none of us have primary sources for everything we believe. And that’s the amazing thing…in my humble opinion.


      • Roger Pearse
        Nov 14, 2011

        “WHATEVER they believe is absolutely a hodgepodge of information, whether they like it or not. … none of us have primary sources for everything we believe. And that’s the amazing thing…in my humble opinion.”

        It is doubtless the case that we are all dependent to some degree for much of what we think we know in this world on hearsay. Anything else would be impossible. Even specialists have to specialise!

        But the question then, as regards “what we believe” in a looser sense, is whether it is a good idea to believe things when we haven’t established whether they are true.

        I suppose it depends whether you or I are one of the people who control the media agenda of today, or not. Because if we are, then we are the source of much of what “most people believe”. What other source can most people have? And if so, then we can pretty much control what all these people think is “normal”, because they’re hardly likely to question it.

        If we aren’t — and I certainly am not — then we need to realise that ideas don’t just happen, but originate with people, and ask who these people are, whether they are trustworthy, and just why they want us to think X, Y, or Z. Surely to do so is necessary, out of self-preservation?

        I think we all should be much more sceptical of things which are merely “part of the clamour of the age” in which we happen to live. What we think of as “our own thoughts”, too often, are perhaps neither our own, nor deserving of the term “thoughts”?


        • Elissa
          Nov 15, 2011

          I agree wholeheartedly with these comments, Roger. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, especially ones in the last year or so (for I’ve certainly changed considerably over the three years of this blog!), you’ll see I question everything…because I believe that people don’t normally question what they’re told…and I think that’s dangerous.

          I am a skeptic at heart. 🙂


  23. Steve Perisho
    Nov 03, 2011

    Thanks, Elissa.

    To the extent that that is true (and “absolutely” makes it a pretty sweeping statement), then the mark of an intelligent person who loves the truth will be his ability to discriminate; to situate the various “hodgepodge”s before him along a continuum ranging from credible to incredible; to work his way through a proper “grammar of assent”.

    All the best,


    • Elissa
      Nov 03, 2011

      Yes, I realize “absolutely” is a sweeping statement, but I stand by it because I cannot think of one example (of anyone I’ve ever met or known) who it doesn’t apply to (including me). That may seem like another grandiose statement, but I think it’s true (for me, in my experience).

      And might I add to your last statement (about a person’s ability to arrange his own hodgepodge adequately in front of himself)…how many people actually do this in a diligent and responsible manner? Not many…again, in my experience. And that’s the sad part about it all…


  24. Steve Perisho
    Nov 04, 2011

    Thanks, Elissa.

    It may be that we have slightly different things in mind here. If what you’re saying is that no finite human being can ever get to the point from which he need take nothing (in even any ONE field of endeavor) on “faith”/as axiomatic, then I would agree. But if what you’re saying is that I can’t possibly have known or known of “many” who have dealt with their finitude “in a diligent and responsible manner”, then I would disagree. For I have (have known or known of).

    All the best,


    • Elissa
      Nov 04, 2011

      No, I’m not speaking to your experience. I can only speak to mine. I “know” of people who have worked out their faith and their knowledge with sweat and tears; I just don’t “know” them personally. That’s why I read a lot. I read to know I’m not alone.

      Maybe I need to clarify the first point. What I’m saying is that none of us have primary sources for everything we believe. Even the Bible that we hold in our hands is not a primary source. It’s evolved from many (some faulty) translations (have you seen the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that’s making the rounds?). So, we must be wary what we say is absolutely (there’s that word again) true. We CAN say it is true for us; we must just be honest that we (personally) have accepted it as such, not that it is actually true. Does this make sense?

      The New Yorker had an excellent article about six months ago (and unfortunately I’ve looked and can’t find it for you) on how, really, every person’s belief system is an amalgamation of little things they’ve learned throughout their life. So, you have Christians who might use the service of psychics, or believe that if a black cat crosses their path, something bad will happen. [If you’ve done any reading on Haiti, this is what has happened there…they’ve mixed Christianity with their own voodoo religion.] We all do it; we’re not always AWARE we’re doing it.

      So, there’s the primary sources issue we’re talking about. Then there’s the ever-present picking and choosing of what we believe, for we all do it. Then, on top of that, there’s laziness (on the part of many) who don’t want to learn anything new. [I’ve mentioned on this blog before my continual amazement at how it’s a good thing to keep questioning in science, but it’s a bad thing in religion, generally speaking.] The majority of people are comfortable where they’re at. I know this because I’ve been told it many times. I’ve been told by at least five close friends in the past year that they have serious doubts about what they believe, but they believe because they HAVE to believe; they need to be able to pray; they need that comfort and stability; they need church and community. They’d break apart if they didn’t have all that.

      So, I gave you more than you probably wanted (or needed), but I was trying to clarify that I cannot speak to your experience. You’ve been in academia (and I’ve not been), so I would hope you would be surrounded by people who are thinking and challenging the stated norms. LOL.


  25. Roger Pearse
    Nov 14, 2011

    Pardon my hopelessly cynical mind, but when I read the two sentences above, and compare them, certain seditious doubts enter my mind. The two sentences are:

    1. “none of us have primary sources for everything we believe”
    2. “the Bible that we hold in our hands is not a primary source. It’s evolved from many (some faulty) translations…”

    #1 is a truism, but you write as if you believe that it means “none of us have primary sources for anything we believe”, and “but of course this criticism doesn’t apply to anything we want to believe, or is no reason for us not to do whatever we want”. If you don’t mean this, of course, that’s fine; but you write rather as if you do, as if this claim is somehow a reason to ignore the views of *others*.

    As for #2 … erm, if we don’t have a “primary source” for these claims, haven’t we just refuted ourselves? 🙂

    NB: the term “primary source” … “I do not think it means what you think it means.” 🙂

    All the best,

    Roger Pearse


    • Elissa
      Nov 15, 2011

      I’m confused. I said both of the numbered comments…AND the first comment (that you have in quotes…in the second paragraph), but not the second. Where did the second one come from (“but of course this criticism doesn’t apply to anything…”)?

      Yes, I believe that none of us have primary sources for anything. And yes I know that that statement (in and of itself) is an irrational belief (because I can’t prove it). But for the sake of simplifying things, you said it yourself in the above comment. Everything we believe (or hold dear) has been told to us by someone else, and yes, we must weigh how trustworthy these people are. But at the end of the day, people we think are trustworthy are not, OR they themselves don’t know they’ve been deluded.

      So yes, I’m very cautious about what I state as fact (and I know this includes “there are no primary sources for anything we believe,” but I think that’s self-evident…at least to me.

      And no, I am NOT saying that I don’t give credence to what others believe. That’s not my responsibility. I am only responsible for what I believe. I can’t change others’ minds. I can’t convince others where they’ve gone wrong, because believe it or not, I am fully cognizant that I may have gone wrong somewhere. Does that make sense?

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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