from Ibn Araby, 13th C. Sufi philosopher

“Do not praise your own faith so exclusively that you disbelieve all the rest; if you do this, you will miss much good. In fact, you will fail to realize the real truth of the matter. God the omnipresent and omniscient cannot be confined to any one creed, for he says in the Qur’an, ‘Wherever you turn, there is the face of God.'”

Like so many fundamentalists, the radical Muslims look and act tragically ignorant. They don’t know their own religion’s central principle, which, as with Judaism and Christianity, is compassion.

Big Bang Theory

Yes, the Ancients were right:  the Circle is all;  All is a Circle.  Einstein showed us space always curves.  Time curves, too; like any other dimension.  As atomic nuclei and their circling particles model galaxies and stars, circles like seasons model how and whether Time began or will end.  Telescopes squinting through our temporal arrow slit report yellowed news: those bodies hurtling away happened billions of years ago.  They may no longer exist.  Or they’ve begun their return to center, for every explosion gives in to gravity.  Stars and planets will fall back in and in and create a new black hole.  Meanwhile, another black hole will have swallowed so much matter and energy it will burst, and some race ages thence will self-centeredly call it The Big Bang.  Incubating whole universes, these “black holes.”  Eons of re-Creation we’ll never know.  As one universe dies, a new one, and Time, are born again and again and again.

God’s heartbeat.

You don’t find God in church.

Alice Walker’s masterpiece, The Color Purple, suffered from being made into a movie. Not only did the movie shy away from the sex, religion, and politics and Disney-ize the story, but people thought the movie told the whole story and never read the book. Wow, did they miss a lot.

Here’s an example. It’s the climax, for goodness sake, the turning point, the chapter that has Celie finally getting free of her demons, one of the biggest of which was the stern, anthropomorphic God as imagined by many of us.

This chapter shows how a truly knowledgeable writer can discuss any subject in simple, accessible language. In this case, Walker makes more sense more efficiently than virtually all the credit grubbers infesting scholarly quarterlies. 

The chapter opens with the huge step of Celie no longer writing letters to God but to her sister, whom she hasn’t seen in years but hopes is still alive. She writes of telling her friend Shug that she has lost her faith. She misses God, who now seems to be gone even from church and paying no attention. Shug, who has a history with men and booze and nightclub gigs, astonishes Celie and us with her theological persuasion.

Shug asks whether Celie has ever found God in church, because she (Shug) never has. “Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not to find God.”

This is just the first time we hear a version of the line from Luke’s gospel, where he quotes Jesus saying, “The kingdom of God is within you,” a sentence worth many days of meditation.

Then Shug asks Celie to tell her what God looks like, and she describes the classic European image, much like Leonardo’s Sistine ceiling. Shug quite rightly condemns that image as invented by white people and an obstacle to constructive prayer.

Speaking of appearance, Celie mentions that her sister once said Jesus’s hair is described in the Bible as being like lamb’s wool, which is a reference to The Apocalypse of John, or Revelation. This hallucinatory allegory describes a vision of Jesus with white hair like wool. We do know Jesus wasn’t Caucasian like the models used by European artists. He was a Palestinian Jew and probably had curly or kinky hair and olive skin, like the stereotype of a Middle Eastern terrorist. He certainly terrified the governor, who decided he had to have Jesus executed.

Enough detour. Shug gets to her second iteration of that great line from Luke: “Here’s the thing, …The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.”

And Shug, notice, wisely insists on God as It. Wisely because assigning gender to God also assigns genitals and sexual desire, which regresses us the Ancient Greek and Hindu pantheons.

Celie asks, reasonably, what God looks like, then. “Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’re found It.”

Shug describes her progression away from the distant man upstairs to a God-in-us who is truly spirit: “My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I know that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried and I run all around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it. It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh.”

Celie is shocked that sexual pleasure isn’t dirty but made and blessed by God. “But more than anything else, God love admiration.” And here’s the source of the book’s title, when Shug says, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

And what does God do when that happens?

Shug explains that God simply makes something else, to try to please us back. God wants to be loved, just like everything It created. Just like us.

Which gospel gets it right?

All four of our official gospels tell of Jesus’s baptism by John, and about Andrew, the first disciple, and Simon, the second, who went into history as Peter.

Mark is the oldest gospel. Willis Barnstone’s translation has the baptism thus:

Johanan the Dipper (John the Baptist) appeared in the desert, preaching an immersion of repentance for the remission of sin. The whole land of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem came out to him and were immersed by him in the Jordan River and confessing their sins.

And it happened in those days that Yeshua (Jesus) came from Nazareth in Galilee and was immersed in the Jordan by John. And as soon as he came out of the water, he saw the skies torn open and the spirit like a dove descending on him. And there came a voice out of the skies: You are my son whom I love. With you I am well pleased.

[Later,]…as Jesus went by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting nets into the sea, for they were fishermen, and Jesus said to them, Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of people. And at once they dropped their nets and followed him.

Matthew adds the detail that John preached from Isaiah and even quotes a verse. And he adds two groups of especially holy and respected men, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When they came to be baptized, instead of welcoming them and giving thanks for their presence, John no doubt shocked everybody. He cursed them.

And Matthew adds a conversation to the next event: Then came Jesus…to John to be immersed by him. John tried to stop him, saying “I need to be immersed by you, yet you come to me?” But Jesus answered, “Leave things as they are. It is right for us in this way to fulfill all that is just.” Then John consented. And when Jesus was immersed, [the Spirit descended like a dove, as in Mark.]

And then the first two disciples get recruited off the beach the same way, and as abruptly, as in Mark.

Luke gives the episode a date, the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and he names other officials on duty at the time. As with Luke’s telling of Jesus’s birth, the richness of detail far outshines his sources, which were Mark and Matthew. He even includes some of John’s preaching, which sounds a lot like the Jesus of months hence: “One who has two coats should share them with one who has none. One who has meat should share it the same way.” To the tax collector’s question, John says, “Collect no more than you are ordered to.” And to the soldier’s question, “Do not slanderously blackmail, do not extort, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Wow. Think about the nerve and courage of these people. The tax men and soldiers are government employees, working for Caesar, and they risk their jobs by showing up to get dipped at a public place by a man with no official credentials who looks like a bum. Yet John also has the courage, and the grace, to give them his honest answer to their dangerously, achingly honest question, “What shall we do?”

Luke’s telling of the actual baptism of Jesus, and the first disciples, seems like that of his predecessors, but goes on to report a record fish catch, thanks to this Jesus, before he promises to turn them into people catchers.

Then decades pass before the writing of the fourth gospel that made the cut in our Bible, supposedly by the apostle John. In this Gospel of John the Apostle, John the Baptizer calls Jesus the Lamb of God. Now we have a heavy title, a prescient, foreboding label. After all, old John the Baptizer was good at foreboding. He looked scary, and he cursed the power structure and shouted about a bad end for everybody unless they got right with God.

But the fourth gospel’s story sounds and feels different from the three earlier versions, and it’s not the sound of John’s yelling. This version doesn’t really say that John baptized Jesus. No matter how many times you look again, the story skips the actual baptism. Instead, both Johns, the writer and the Baptizer, focus on the credentials of Jesus as the Lamb of God, revealed to Israel by the Holy Spirit, and as the Son of God.

The differences continue. We have no details about fishing here. In fact, the first two disciples come not from their nets but from among the disciples of the Baptizer. They just walk away and follow this new master. One of these was Andrew, who went to find his brother Simon Peter the next day with the biggest news a Jew could have: “We have found the Messiah!” And with that, the story’s setup ends, and the gospel has its real beginning.

Of course, John was neither a Baptist, Southern or otherwise, nor a Christian. He was a Jewish baptizer who practiced the mikvah, or bathing ceremony for ritual purity called for in the Torah and the Qur’an, but he kicked it up a notch. Maybe several notches, because all four gospel writers report folks flocking to hear his message and get dunked in the muddy river. According to the Gospel of John, some of these people stayed right there and became his disciples.

But unlike many evangelists now, or even then, John the Baptizer wasn’t in the saving game to get rich and famous. When a man named Yeshua showed up to get dipped and dedicated like everybody else, John publicly called him his superior then and there. And he didn’t object when some of his disciples followed Jesus home. He even hailed Jesus as the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world! Now there’s a celebrity endorsement.

Maybe we can explain this new tone of John’s gospel. First, maybe he didn’t write it. If he did, he’d have been 90 to 120 at the time. Unlikely, especially in those days. But it shouldn’t surprise us that someone else might have written this gospel. Writers often adopted a famous person’s name and wrote serious works from that imagined point of view.

People in those days would say we’re very silly to nitpick about who really wrote the many gospels, books of acts, letters of Paul, or apocalypses. They were much more concerned with Truth, with a capital T, the Truth that a great story, including great fiction, has to tell.

Whoever wrote the Gospel of John wrote it much later than the others, when the followers of Jesus had increased and were becoming a bit scattered. They couldn’t all see each other and talk every day, or even every year. Consequently, some groups got different ideas and ran with them.

One bunch, called the Gnostics, started thinking about the freedom to approach God all by oneself. They said maybe you could get into heaven on your own, just by asking What would Jesus do, and not relying on leaders. They got a lot of their inspiration from the Gospel of Thomas and considered Thomas to have been Jesus’s favorite, his “beloved disciple.”

So Thomas was becoming a symbol of questioning and independent thought, while the other main group considered Peter their leader and thought of Peter as standing for the rocklike security of rules and ritual.

Well, this controversy had to stop, so the writer of the Gospel of John stripped the piled-on costumes and props from the Jesus story and started over, with an agenda. He skipped the manger stuff entirely and wrote a new introduction about the Light shining in darkness and then introduced John, who baptizes with water, and, in turn, introduces Jesus, who baptizes with Spirit. From the first sentence, the writer spotlights Jesus as the One and Only.

He gets right to the point and sticks to it, establishing Jesus immediately as a mature Messiah who gets straight to work. The everyday jobs of the first apostles are unimportant. John the Baptizer names Jesus the Lamb of God and the Son of God; Jesus has charisma, and two of John’s disciples defect. Andrew announces Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and that’s enough for Simon.

Lest anyone think an interloper such as Thomas should lead the infant church, John has Jesus nickname Simon Kefa right away. All the locals spoke Aramaic, and kefa is Aramaic for rock. The Greek for kefa is petros, from which we get the name Peter. The gospel writer wanted to tell us whom Jesus chose as the solid, rocklike one, and it wasn’t Thomas.

The followers of the Peter faction also made good and sure that Thomas’s gospel would not make the cut as part of our official New Testament.

And that Lamb of God line. Let’s not forget that. Jesus, a Jew, was called the Lamb of God by a fellow Jew in front of a Jewish audience. Nobody would have missed that title’s significance. Lambs were killed and eaten at Passover, their blood used to mark the door of every observant Jew’s house. Maybe John the Baptizer said this, or the obviously brilliant writer could be using the term to foreshadow not only Jesus as the Chosen One but also the Chosen Sacrifice. At the end of the story, the writer even moves up the day of the Crucifixion so that Jesus actually becomes a Passover sacrifice.

So how do we know what’s true? Did a real dove come down? Did Jesus find his first followers on the beach of the Sea of Galilee and recruit them, or did they recognize Jesus on the bank of the Jordan River, and volunteer? As we often do when dealing with something very old, we’re asking the wrong questions.

Like every good story, including Santa Claus, the larger truth matters more than historical, literal fact. Doesn’t it sound silly to complain that Ebenezer Scrooge never lived, and all those ghosts are just impossible? As the saying goes, It’s true, even if it didn’t happen, and that’s what matters.

Today, a visitor to the part of the Middle East called the Holy Land by Jews, Christians, and Muslims might know that those holy sites look nothing like their original form and may not even be in the right place. Often, we just don’t know. But believers and people of faith alike visit these places, and worship, and remember the stories, and are often changed, and that counts for more than the exact location where Andrew and Simon Peter signed on with Jesus.

Whether the gospels we read today tell literal truth, pure fiction, or a real event much retold and retouched, we can get inside this story and marvel at the faith on display. We have John, standing in the water, who may have guessed he’d be arrested for sedition, but who went ahead and comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. We have Jesus, who takes an equal risk getting dunked by this crazy-looking man and accepts being called the Lamb of God. He must have known that the Roman occupiers wouldn’t tolerate his increasing fame for too long before having him rubbed out and trying to make Jesus’s own people take the blame. And we have Andrew and Simon, who risked everything as disciples of John and then took a leap into infinity by leaving John to follow Jesus. Or maybe they left a hard but familiar occupation in their boats to follow Jesus; it doesn’t matter. How could they know what lay ahead for them? They must have understood at least some of the risk.

John and Jesus were probably well aware of what they faced. It may have kept them awake at night, and Jesus sounds deeply frightened in his last days.

But all of them went ahead. And in going ahead in spite of the risk and their fears, they inspire us. These are some of the oldest and best profiles in courage. The Bible is full of them. Who cares whether they’re all literally true? Whether Andrew and his brother joined Jesus beside a big lake or beside a river has no importance; they’re both true. Only the Truth of the story concerns us: they joined up.

Are we like them? That’s our challenge. Maybe we can’t be Jesus, but can we be Andrew, or Simon, or Thomas, or the women who also preached and healed in His name? Can we stumble after Jesus, not caring about social or official pressure or even cost? The author of the Gospel of John has Simon getting the nickname Rock. What might ours be? What shall we do?

Copyright ©2016 James L. Evans

Dear Dr. Laura:

Below is an item that went around the Net years ago that’s too good to lose. Dr. Laura urged her audience to read the Bible and do what it says.

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law.  I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.  When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example,  I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. … End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.

1.  When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1: 9.  The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?

2.  I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.  In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3.  I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24.  The problem is, how do I tell?  I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4.  Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.  A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify?  Why can’t I own Canadians?

5.  I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.  Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death.  Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6.  A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.  I don’t agree.  Can you settle this?

7.  Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight.  I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.  Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8.  Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9.  I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10.  My uncle has a farm.  He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.  Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? -Lev.24:10-16.

Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.  Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.  Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

Jews or The Jews?

Jews or The Jews?

Assigning blame for the Crucifixion

In the trial of Jesus, Pilate insists to “the Jews” that he can’t make a case against the defendant.  No case, no conviction.

Not for lack of trying, I’m sure.  Imagine Pilate’s position.  As governor of this backwater province, he finds that it’s something of a crossroads.  New ideas keep sprouting, and intellectual ferment is as dangerous to empire then as it today.

To maintain power and keep his job, Pontius Pilate needs more than a garrison of Roman troops.  He also needs a network of nabobs, influential men who in turn need him, so their pet projects can proceed with minimum red tape.  Charismatics who stir up the masses and empower the poor present a serious threat.  They must be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Being the doctors, lawyers, and temple chiefs, the high priests love power, and, like their counterparts today, often enjoy mutually beneficial arrangements with the government.  Clearly identified in the text as the chief priests, these are “the Jews” in the crowd.  They love being close to power, and they play their part perfectly.

Pilate probably fears that convicting Jesus might piss off the masses enough to start a revolution, which would get him reassigned to someplace cold and damp.  So, like a U.S. senator voting for campaign finance reform only so he can say he did, Pilate proclaims Jesus’s innocence, knowing the sycophant brigade will conveniently shut him down, allowing him to publicly wash his hands of responsibility, while disposing of his Jew problem.

Today, some unthinking Christians blame the Jews for killing Jesus.  Yes, Jews called for his execution, and Pilate cynically delivered.  But blaming the Jews is like blaming the Catholics for the canonization of a Nazi-collaborator pope, or the Fundamentalists for Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden.  The Christ-killing Jews were political insiders, with their cronies, who had fully convinced themselves of their rightness.  But the run-of-the-mill Jews were Jesus fans, therefore big threats to the religious and political power elite.

So the Crucifixion looked like a big win for both power groups. What could possibly go wrong?

So who really killed Jesus?  Neocons of the day.

Are Fundamentalists Evil?

Aleksandr Solzenitzin had it right. Immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he said that Islam was not to blame. He pointed at fundamentalism. His deep, cool thinking while many of us screamed for revenge impresses me still.

Time for a definition. Fundamentalism is rigid belief in a set of principles, no discussion or negotiation allowed. Most Americans probably pin that label on certain Protestant churches, whose members might make the ludicrous claim that every word of the Bible is true.

But the world seems to have room for fundamentalist Catholics, fundamentalist Jews, and fundamentalist Muslims, to name a few. I know of fundamentalist atheists, fundamentalist right- and left-wingers, but I’ll focus on the three great Abrahamic religions.

Back to the definition, let’s look at “rigid belief,” which is really a redundancy. Belief is blind. Once you believe something, you have no doubt. You don’t challenge beliefs without starting a fight. You guard and cherish your own beliefs like a dragon with a hoard of gold, and only a figurative earthquake in your life might change them. Sometimes, that earthquake is the act of growing. If you’re not sure what you believe, and often, even if you are, you’re putty in the palms of the persuasive.

Faith, on the other hand, is dynamic, not rigid. Faith has its eyes and ears wide open and welcomes challenge. Faith has room for doubt, actually must have doubt. Faith is always testing, questioning, and therefore growing. That’s why faith is so much stronger than belief, but it’s difficult. Faith is for grownups.

True believers cherry-pick their scriptural passages just as everybody else does, but they usually choose the simplest black-or-white ideas, principles a child would understand. They tend to ignore the guiding message, the spirit, of the entire scripture, be it the Qur’an or the Bible, which is compassion, and instead try to play the part of the vengeful god of their imaginings, or maybe of their own tortured childhoods. Consider the true believers of the Westboro Baptist Church screaming God hates fags at a funeral for a fallen soldier. Consider the true believers repeating God is great as they steered jetliners into buildings full of people. That’s where fundamentalism can lead.

But it doesn’t prove fundamentalism is evil. I know fundamentalists who are really nice folks in most ways. They obey the law, love their families, and help their neighbors. They just stopped developing theologically, usually before puberty, and never progressed from belief into faith. They almost always believe they’re not racist and don’t understand that the Creation stories, the Apocalypse of John (aka the Book of Revelations), and much of what lies between them, are allegories. Hell, they may even not know that Genesis begins with two creation stories, vastly different, from different times. Yet they say they’ve read the Bible cover to cover and believe it all.

When fundamentalists try to force others to believe, or to punish those who don’t believe, they can become evil, because they’re violating the foundations of their own religions.

Muslims might memorize the Qur’an in a madrasah in its original Arabic even when they’re illiterate, and even when they don’t understand the language. Jews might be taught to take the Zionist lines in the Torah literally and practice ethnic cleansing as it’s described. Christians usually get their poison from the Old Testament as well.

Consider these Bible quotations: “I hate them with a perfect hate.” “May all their children be orphans.” “An eye for an eye.” I’m surprised the out-of-context quoters haven’t given the verse, “Meals and wine are made for laughter, and money is the answer to everything,” more play. At least it sounds like fun.

The Bible and the Qur’an both have passages that are like weapons, dangerous in the hands of the ignorant. Yes, ignorant people can be stupid, but let’s remember, ignorant means uneducated or unknowing, not stupid. Fundamentalists are often ignorant, and often under the influence of a smart leader who wants them not to learn too much. Sometimes, they can do evil things, because they stopped thinking. They just believe.

Raising Cain

Reading: Gen. 4:1-24

When we read or hear the Cain and Abel story, many of us let the details wash over us without much thought.  We feel sorry for Abel and mad at Cain.  When Cain gets kicked off his land and exiled for the rest of his life, we, too, banish him from our minds.  But this story has dimensions we need to think about.  Maybe we miss something important when we forget about Cain.  Maybe he has something to teach us.

Before I continue, I need to remind you that this ancient story, like so many in the Bible, is full of lessons and interpretations.  That’s a reason the Bible is so rich and worthy of so many lifetimes of study. Please be warned that I’m presenting an unusual way of looking at Cain.  I don’t pretend to be right, but when I was a teacher, I often advanced strange points of view just to get our thinking out of its ruts.  So today, class, get ready to work.

First, let’s not demonize Cain.  Maybe I say this partly because I had a younger brother, too, whom I thought I wanted to kill when I was young, and vice versa.  I was also raised as a farmer, so I can sympathize with Cain’s rage.

Cain worked hard, maybe harder than Abel, and he presented his best produce as an offering to God.  His gift of sweat and love was ignored, and it looked as if the Creator/Father loved his younger brother more.  That’s a big deal for a kid.  Of course he raged, even if he wasn’t quite a kid any more.  He felt unfairly rejected, and can we blame him?  All we can condemn is how Cain expressed his anger.

Today, we’d say he made poor choices and didn’t think about consequences.  But who thinks about consequences when blinded by rage?  That’s why the death penalty is such a poor deterrent.  Notice that Cain is not punished by death for what is clearly first degree murder.

But why is Cain’s perfectly good offering ignored?  I like the explanation I’ve heard that a myth from a pastoral, nomadic society might naturally look askance at a young man who chose to plow up good grazing land and tie himself to it like a prisoner, a sitting duck for drought and both insect and human marauders, while he waited for a crop to come in.  Besides, in many herding cultures, digging in the dirt and caring for plants was and is women’s work.

So if you were a good old-fashioned, macho, outdoorsy God, wouldn’t you enjoy some nice fresh meat more than a basket of millet?  Cain may be a victim of this cultural prejudice, which can help us understand his anger even better.

On the other hand, Cain also had some cultural prejudice on his side, as the firstborn son.  By unwritten law, he owned the birthright to everything from the Old Man, and Abel had nothing coming.  So when Daddy seemed to hand the love and credit to Abel, Cain felt perfectly justified in his bitterness, much like the innocent man picked out of a police lineup and found guilty while the real murderer goes free.

So Cain, with no support from where he needs it most, decides to settle it himself by hurting his brother as badly as he hurts.  To him, that means killing him, because his own life feels basically over when his father rejects him.

Before he carries out his awful intention, God tries to reason with him as any parent would.  But this point in the story gets very tricky.  Exactly what words the story puts into God’s mouth makes a world of difference.  Upon the meaning of just one of those words, one that John Steinbeck called the most important word in the Bible, hangs whole theologies, cultural systems, moral codes, and declarations of war to this day.

According to the myth, God pleads with Cain that evil, the temptation to violence, like a monster, is crouching at his door, so to speak, ready to pounce and overwhelm him.  “But you must conquer him,” say some translations.  “You will conquer him,” say others, while yet other translators see it as, “You may conquer him.”

The whole wonderful, addictive, shocking story in East of Eden, a provocative and perhaps dangerous novel that Steinbeck wrote as his masterwork, centers on the implications of this word.  He transliterates it as timshelTimshol is actually correct, but Steinbeck brings up a genuine controversy:  Rabbi Harold Kushner, a prominent author and Biblical scholar, says that he could study Hebrew for the rest of his life and still not feel sure whether timshol means you must, you will, or you may.  It depends.

Believe it or not, lives hang on getting this word right.  We’ve all made hurtful mistakes in the heat of the moment, maybe serious mistakes, so Cain stands for all of us.  After all, Cain means smith in other Semitic languages, and since so many of us are named Smith, maybe we need to pay close attention to this episode.

We all face jealous anger and frustrated rage when life is just plain unfair, or somebody else seems to have all the luck, or gets the break that we deserve.  Who has not?

If Cain heard God say that he must conquer his frustration, I imagine he felt like a tearful child ordered not cry, and be perfect.  With an order like that, he must suppress his emotion, and I can see Cain maturing into a tormented man, perhaps an alcoholic, unapproachable in his guilt.

You will conquer sin, however, sounds like a wonderful promise.  Cain is off the hook.  He can believe that if he stays with God, he’ll be a new man, and he will sin no more.  That may sound good, and it doesn’t start with a T, but I’ll get to why it spells trouble.

However, suppose timshol means “you may.”  We really don’t know for sure.  Here’s an example of the confusion.  The Jerusalem Bible, a translation of great beauty produced under Jesuit leadership in 1966, saw it as “you must.”  Nineteen years later, the good fathers published The New Jerusalem Bible after reconsidering every word.  This time, the verse says, “but you can still conquer” these evil thoughts.  So now they vote for “you may.”  So do the editors of Tanach, the Jewish Publication Society’s translation.

If Cain were told “you may conquer your sin,” he would know he had a choice.  We’d say he made the wrong one, but after he whacked his brother, he still had his free will.  He could argue with God about leaving his beloved soil, he could protest his punishment, and Cain could take that punishment with his head up.

The story makes sense to me only if timshol means you may, or you can.  Reading it as “you must” tells all of us that we must control our dark temptations and revenge fantasies.  Such a command is an order to stop feeling the wrongs that have befallen us, perhaps even deny our pain, simply not think about it, not acknowledge it, and live a life of numbness.

And if Cain had been told he had no choice, that he must conquer the evil within, then he would have gone out into the world feeling he had no options, and was already a failure.

On the other hand, if Cain didn’t even feel the need to consider a choice, because God had assured him that “you will do the right thing,” he might have headed out with no conscience, a dangerous, amoral person armed with an order of protection from none other than the Great I Am.  After all, God had told him, “You will conquer your sin,” and he immediately killed his brother.  Wouldn’t that make him a menace to society?

As this applies to us, if timshol means you will, we have only a different excuse not to use the brains God gave us.  If God says we will overcome our evil natures, we can relax.  We’ll be fine.  We can deny our pain here, too, but not because we must; it will just happen.  No pain, all gain:  God will take care of you.  Temptation, the desire to get even, and other sinful impulses will simply not enter our pretty little heads.  There’s a wonderful movie about living this way.  It’s called Pleasantville, which starts with P, and that rhymes with T, and that spells Trouble.

But Genesis says that Cain turned his life around and became a success.  To do so, he must have been able to make at least some wise choices.  Timshol has to mean you may or you can, or the second part of his story cannot follow the first.

In Cain, then, we have a thoroughly modern hero.  Whatever that mark was, it was in plain sight and must have been as much of a handicap in relationships as it was a blessing.  So we have a hero who succeeds in spite of a handicap as well as a hero with a seriously blemished past who establishes a city and a nation, a rags to riches, crime blotter to founding father story.

He did all this thanks to God saying, “you may,” or “you can,” the best thing a parent, teacher, or mentor can say to a young person.  In so doing, God gave Cain the gift of freedom of choice, of trust, of faith, of positive reinforcement, of responsibility.  Cain stumbled and made an awful choice, for which he had no one to blame but himself, and then, so then, he was able to grow up.

Cain’s story is our story, and I choose to raise Cain as a model of maturing into manhood after an overimpulsive youth, and of finally making the best of the terrible consequences of his actions.  What a realistic, modern sounding example.

We also need to raise him as a a challenge to ourselves.  Traditionally, readers and hearers of this story think of Cain as a pure villain and pretend not to be descended from him, but if we do more than pretend to be Christians, Jews, or Muslims, we’ll do our best to forgive him, and love him.  We have Cains living almost next door, in state detention centers for youth, all of them marked by their records, and all needing love.

Genesis remains one of the great classics because its relevance has stood the test of time.  Its subject is growing, both growing a relationship with a sometimes difficult God, and growing up.  Patches of story combine  into blocks that finally make a narrative quilt that tells as much truth today as it did 150 generations ago.

The little patch about Cain has much to teach us about choices, accountability, and growing up.  Like him, we can choose to do the right thing, or not.  Like him, we face more and tougher choices after we do the wrong thing.  But although temptation may be crouching, ready to take over our actions, we may and we can still conquer it.  God gave us the power to choose.

Copyright ©2016 James L. Evans

Weeds

Readings:  Micah 5:1-5a; Mark 4: 30-32, 9-12.

In much of the Old Testament, we see that the rich are blessed, winners of wars are blessed, and powerful nations are blessed.  Jewish prophets frame their visions of the Messiah from this point of view.  For example, note the closing of the Micah passage in the Jewish Publication Society translation:

[And you, O Bethlehem of Ephrath, Least among the clans of Judah,

From you one shall come forth To rule Israel for Me —

One whose origin is from old, From ancient times.

Truly, God will leave them helpless Until she who is to bear has borne;

Then the rest of his countrymen Shall return to the children of Israel.]

He shall stand and shepherd By the might of the Lord,

By the power of the name Of the Lord his God,

And they shall dwell secure. For lo, he shall wax great

To the ends of the earth; And that shall afford safety.

Sounds as if this Promised One might be the Incredible Hulk.  But then came Yeshua ben Yosef, whom some of the Jews decided was that Messiah, the one we like to call Jesus. Trouble is, Jesus didn’t talk like a king or any kind of ruler. For one thing, he told puzzling little stories and seemed to love paradoxes that didn’t make a whole lot of sense — the first shall be last; love your enemies; lose your life to gain it; to be rich, give away everything you have. Who is this guy? Shouldn’t he be locked up?

The ancient way of thinking we hear in the Old Testament displays the state of development in most people of that time, and let’s be honest, we haven’t changed much. This primitive thinking, as I’ll call it, is still very much with us. For instance, you can still hear hateful people call, “An eye for an eye!” when their blood boils for revenge. Many of these folks seem to know that “an eye for an eye” is in the Bible, and these same folks often call themselves Christians, but they don’t realize that they’re citing an idea that Jesus was squarely and explicitly against.

This tension between the immature “eye for an eye” thinking and more fully mature Christian thinking helps make the Book of Job so significant and unusual. When Job lost everything and sat in pain of body and soul, his friends, thinking in the old way, told him he must have done something really bad to deserve all this. The book centers on a great debate between these three friends and Job, who maintains he did nothing to earn such pain. And even in that agony, Job also refuses to blame God for his misfortune.

And Job wins the debate, which marks a radical departure from the old “eye for an eye” thinking. This book anticipated the Christian doctrine forbidding revenge by ten or fifteen generations and introduced Jews to the concept of a God who actually has a mind of God’s own. God’s actions are too complex to explain our with simple human logic, and we can’t control God; all we can do is love God and stay faithful.

Yes, the “eye for an eye” code is in the Bible, but it appears in the same list of laws that includes punishment by stoning to death. And some think only the Qur’an calls for stoning. Those who stayed awake in high school ancient history will remember that the “eye for an eye” penalty is older than the Bible. The Babylonian king Hamurabbi authorized the wording we have today, and the Jews may have learned it as prisoners in Babylon. Not that it’s necessarily a unique idea; like it or not, revenge seems to be in our genes, doesn’t it.

So whether ancient Jewish prisoners copied their captors’ law or thought of it themselves doesn’t much matter. The point is, “an eye for an eye” is ancient, primitive, gut thinking. Childish thinking.  I remember, way back in the primary grades, that “when somebody hits you, hit ’em back” sounded natural and sensible. Then along came Jesus, a Palestinian under foreign occupation, saying to turn the other cheek and love your enemy.

Whoa. This is an earthquake.  Some guy comes along, whom we call the Messiah, and says vengeance belongs to God; we, on the other hand, are to love our enemies. Suddenly, primitive thinking is out of date, and we’re asked to grow up. Jesus has given us modern thinking, advanced thinking, truly civilized thinking.

Not that we’ve become modern, civilized, mature thinkers, even if we call ourselves Christians. Over a hundred generations after Jesus, we’re still not comfortable with his message. Old ways die hard, don’t they. We still call “an eye for an eye” when our rage rises at, say, a terrorist crime, even when the attack is perpetrated by an American who’s white, Republican, and Christian: Surely you remember Tim McVey’s deadly bombing in Oklahoma City. We’ve also suffered the actions of David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, three more fellow Christians. We may say that what they did was antiChristian, but to call for their deaths was also antiChristian, taught them nothing, and lowered ourselves to their level.

Maybe now we can begin to understand why Jesus said those shocking things. Leaving revenge for God to take care of starts to make sense, if you think long range. And loving our enemies — they are fellow children of God, after all — brings them closer so we can learn more about them. Much of our prejudice and hatred comes from ignorance; and what we don’t know, we fear. If we got to know our enemies, we might even make friends. And yes, our immature side loves the truth in the joke that loving our enemies drives them absolutely nuts.

But seriously, this kind of compassion, loving our enemies, can also make us much stronger. Jesus knew what we all at least pretend to know, that it takes more strength to walk away from a fight than to give in to the the impulse to hit, and still more strength to understand the other side’s position. He wasn’t talking about arguments in school, either. The Palestinian Jews suffered under a racist Roman rule. The Jews might have been treated better than the Israeli government treats Muslim Palestinians today, but nobody likes to be occupied by an army, and many of Jesus’s compatriots wanted to strike back. Jesus advocated love, which probably did drive the government crazy, and strengthened thousands of Jews in ways the Romans couldn’t figure out, so they finally decided that Jesus had to be eliminated.

That solved the Palestinian problem, didn’t it. Not if you look at what happened. Jesus left vengeance to the Lord, and his spirit lives today, while the great Roman Empire lies in ruins. Talk about long range thinking.

Other paradoxes from the teachings of Jesus also make more sense when you listen with the ears of an occupied Palestinian. Remember how Jesus would tag a parable with the line, “Those who have ears, let them hear!”  Sounds rather rude, doesn’t it. But Jesus is signaling that he’s telling a story in code, so he won’t get arrested; not this week, anyway.

Jesus spoke in metaphors, and in so doing, he was hewing to Jewish tradition. The Bible is full of metaphors, from the two vivid Creation stories to John’s psychedelic vision of the Apocalypse, stories that say one thing on the surface, which we are not to take literally, and something much deeper if you have ears and hear the real message.

Speaking in metaphors, or parables, was the only way Jesus could safely get his message out, because he was speaking truth to a power that didn’t want to hear it.

For instance, Caesar insisted upon being first, and upon being God, while Jesus humbled himself even to the level of washing the feet of his followers. And  guess what: The first (Caesar) became the last; and the last (Jesus), has become first.

It sounded too strange to understand for Jesus to tell folks that they must lose their lives to gain them. As many of you know, he was talking about losing our old selves and gaining new lives following God instead of artificial rules. He couldn’t publicly say that Roman rules should be overthrown; he even told his questioner once that he should obey the rules and pay his taxes — render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s — but give to God what is God’s. And he let it be known that what is God’s is our hearts and souls, and if we stay in love with God, we can be new people and gain life everlasting. He was willing to lay down his own life to prove this, and that’s exactly how he proved it. He lives larger today than he ever did when he was a dusty little guy tramping around Palestine.

Of all Jesus’s parables, my new favorite is his image of the mustard seed. As a child, I had trouble with this, because I had seen mustard seeds in my mother’s spice cabinet, and they weren’t so doggone small. I always thought that if he’d wanted to talk about little seeds, he should have referred to lettuce.

And growing to a tree? Not lettuce, but not mustard, either. My dad worked to clear mustard from his fields, just as farmers in Biblical times did. It’s not a tree, it’s a weed. A big weed, but not a tree. So what’s Jesus getting at? We know it’s some kind of code, because he says if you have ears, listen.

I was surprised and a little comforted to hear John Dominic Crossan, one of the foremost Christian scholars on the planet, express his confusion about this parable. Dr. Crossan quite rightly pointed out that if Jesus had wanted a powerful tree image, he would have chosen a Cedar of Lebanon. Those trees were basically Mediterranean redwoods. “But why a weed?” he asked.

Eugene Peterson, who translated the Hebrew and Greek Bibles into The Message, was evidently confused as well, and you might remember that he simply changed the mustard seed to a pine nut, which at least grows into a tree big enough to nest in. So we’re in good company if we listen and are still confused.

Well, I think Dr. Peterson wimped out, and I think I’ve cracked the code. I did some research and found that I’m not the first to do this, of course, but all I did was listen like a farmer chafing under foreign occupation, and I got that rare experience of feeling really smart.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed” is a double barreled message and doubly dangerous, what with government spies all around. The first phrase threatens to disturb the peace right now. Saying “The Kingdom of Heaven” is to imply that another kingdom exists besides the one, the eternal, the world wide, the all-powerful Roman Empire. It also implies that this rival kingdom, being “of Heaven,” is higher than Rome. Just imagine how a paranoid government is going to take that. And it was paranoid, as are all who rule with fear instead of respect.

The second phrase, “like a mustard seed,” threatens to disturb the peace in the future. Jesus uses mustard because it’s a tough weed that farmers can’t ever really get rid of. It springs up in their fields and spreads from field to field, often thriving on the poorest land to seed the surrounding acres. It’s also a poor man’s crop, because even though it’s a pesky weed, mustard greens are nutritious, and the ground seeds can enliven even food made of scraps, such as hot dogs.

Jesus’s audience would probably have contained enough farmers to hear this. They’d understand the coded message, and    what a perfect image. If we do no harm, do good, stay in love with God, and practice the Golden Rule, the Kingdom of God will spread like weeds.  It will spread like mustard because Jesus said the Kingdom of God is right here, right now, within each of us.

We do the spreading. We are the weeds in the Evil Empire’s well-ordered fields. Authorities or doubters may try to stamp us out, but they’ll never, ever eliminate us, because each of us will tell or demonstrate the Good News to our friends, whether we know them or not, and each of them will tell or show others, and so on, faster than a dictatorship could drag us all into court, and faster than fear can pull us into self-made gated communities of the mind.

That’s the best and brightest secret of revolution: Have a message so powerful it has a life of its own, and it’ll spread like a viral video. And Jesus was indeed planting the seeds of revolution.

And that may be the key to all those weird paradoxes Jesus seemed so fond of: He wasn’t trying to be difficult; well, he was, but only for the system that was crushing the spirits of his countrymen. For his followers, he was bringing change they could believe in.

Long live the revolution.

Copyright ©2015 James L. Evans

 

How true is the Creation Story?

The writer of the first Creation story in the Bible, the newer one that’s placed in the first chapter or so, begins his story before even time began and describes the indescribable with metaphors like The Deep and the Spirit, or Breath, of God.  What a story; what awesome images.  Worth reading over and over.  I especially like the writer’s concepts of Light and Darkness as just ideas at first — the sun, moon, and stars came later — and the separation of water and air with that firmament, dome, or space humping up.  He ends with God creating men and women to care for the earth and then taking a day off.  That’s the end, but it’s really only the beginning, of course.

And look how all those things happen:  “God said, ‘Let there be light;’ God said ‘Let there be a space in the middle of the water;’ God said, ‘Let the earth sprout plants,’” and so on, slowly building from basic and simple to complex, each stage happening thanks to the power of words.

Those must have been some super-special words.  God just says them, and a universe comes into being.  With the words of this story, and the next one, which seems very different because it’s truly ancient, we can begin to wrap our minds around the miracle of our existence.  These words create for us a way to think about ourselves.

So is this story true?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Why argue about that?  We may argue only because we don’t start out by agreeing on what we mean by truth.

Would you read Winnie the Pooh to kids if it were all lies?  It’s a classic for the same reason anything — a poem like Beowulf, a story like “The Velveteen Rabbit,” a painting like Guernica, music like Händel’s Messiah — the same reason any great work becomes classic: its truth and relevance stand the test of time.  Pooh Bear tells more truth than any newspaper, and here’s why.

The truth can hurt.  Sometimes it can just about blind you.  You can’t face it straight on.  It’s just too powerful.  That’s what fiction is for.  It can tell us the truth with a story, and that story works like a lens and helps us focus our minds on the really important, really big questions of our lives.  Great fiction like Winnie the Pooh, or Hamlet, or parts of Genesis, still ring true in a way that an accurate historical account never could.

There, I said it.  I called parts of Genesis fiction.  Most scholars, as a matter of fact, refer to the early chapters as creation myths.  Now don’t let the word myth throw you off.  Even though we often misuse it, please remember that a myth is no more a lie than a theory, such as the Theory of Evolution, or the Theory of Gravity, is just a wild idea.  The creation myths  are true stories because, like The Odyssey and The Iliad,  they teach us truth about human nature, good and evil, and why we’re here.

Please also remember that until recently, recently meaning the past three or four centuries, we didn’t even have the concept of accurate, objective history.  Whoever wrote history felt perfectly free to add good stuff, toss bad stuff, and make up juicy episodes to make a point and keep you reading.

Take William Shakespeare, for instance.  Shakespeare couldn’t write and produce movies 400 years ago, so he put on plays and was very popular.  Really.  One of his best shows is about a real king from an even earlier time, named Henry V.  Did Henry inspire his exhausted, outnumbered soldiers with exactly that great St. Crispin’s Day speech?  Of course not.  Shakespeare knew how to make an audience pay attention and money.  He didn’t care about the precise facts of history.

We like to think we’re better than that now, but we can see obvious reworkings of history today in movies such as JFK, The Road to 9/11Troy, and Selma.

So even though history may be less than reliable, it exists to tell us who and when.  Science tells us how.  Maybe fiction really tells us what, but we have religion to tell us why.  And the big question the writers of Genesis have in mind is, Why are we here?

They can’t tell us when we appeared, because of course they had no records.  They can’t tell us how, really; they just say that God spoke His wish, and it happened.  So the writer of Chapter 1 puts down a series of fortunate events that presents the creation of our world like the greatest animated short film ever made.  And it can never be made, because the story is so good that the movie in our minds is better than anything on the screen.  That’s the power of words.

Words have great power, but they’re like fire, necessary, but dangerous when misused.  Most of us can remember some grownup saying to us when we were kids that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  What a crock.  You can’t fool kids.  When I first heard that, it was a big clue that sometimes, grownups don’t have all the right answers.

Of course, words can hurt.  One of our most important growing-up lessons is learning how to use the power of words wisely.  Some of us are still learning.  Words can also heal.  Words can connect us to each other, and to God.  We must use them carefully, and try to know what we’re doing.

When we grow up, we learn to weigh words in their context and consider their source, so we can estimate their power.  Even in the Bible, we pay attention to some words and ignore others.  The Bible condones slavery and has clear and firm laws against wearing blended fabrics, breeding hybrid livestock, shaving, and eating lobster, but we know as educated adults that all those laws had good reasons for them at the time, but those reasons have disappeared with modern knowledge.

The words of the first creation story, though, are still relevant.  Maybe they sound fresh because they still make us think.  They may vaguely point a way, but they stay focused on why we’re here, not on what to wear, or how much to put into the collection plate.  The only explicit tasks the unknown number of people are given are to eat the plant kingdom and rule the animal kingdom.  Oh, and fill the earth and master it.

I like to think that the writer liked government by monarchy because his experience with rulers was positive.  He did have enough leisure to sit and write beautiful stories.  He was apparently lucky enough to live in a system that recognized his genius with sponsorship.

So if he lived and worked under the rule of a good and wise king or high priest, that’s probably what he had in mind when he wrote that God said to rule or master.  We are to have dominion like good and wise kings and queens, not greedy ones who waste what has been given them.  The inconvenient truth is that we haven’t done so well in our dominion over the earth.

And even without all that inference and reasoning, let’s just look at what the story says:  God made everything, from galaxies to gall wasps, so shouldn’t we honor God’s creation?

A vengeful God may not always set the best example for Christians, but in this story, God is purely a creator who enjoyed God’s work.  God sets a universal example by seeing good in what God has made.  The God of the next creation story shows some differences, but here, God appreciates.  At the end of a day’s work, God pronounces it good, very good.  It sounds like a proto-prayer of thanks, a model for us to follow.

I like the way this idea gets expanded in The Color Purple.  In the book.  I recommend it.  In a later section of the book, the main character, Celie, is suffering terribly because she can’t possibly live up to the strict, cheerless standards, the Thou Shalt Nots, of her church and judgmental community.  Her friend Shug preaches one of my favorite sermons, reassuring her that God is Love, and all God wants is love, love in your life, and love back to God.  You make God happy, says Shug, when you just sit back and enjoy someone you love and all the great stuff God made.  This is where the title of the book comes from.

So on the seventh day, God sat back and enjoyed, another behavior model to follow.  Just to be healthy — emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy — we simply must take time to relax and appreciate just being alive.  Think about it now.  Considering all the close calls we’ve lived through, all the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I’s, all the almost-got-me’s, isn’t it a blooming miracle that we’re all here, alive, today?  Thanks be to God!

So the author of this creation myth had no intention to present a historical account.  He (yes, probably he) meant to offer a meditation on the very nature of being.

It’s almost a poem, with seven majestic stanzas.  I believe it was divinely inspired, like all great art, but it’s written as an attempt to make sense of what is beyond our senses.  Nobody was there to note what God thought or said; it’s just one of the magnificent guesses the Bible offers about where we came from and why we’re here.

Having two possibilities, this story and what follows in Chapter 2, underlines the unpleasant, grownup fact that we don’t have many neat, tidy answers, and there’s no easy, straightforward path to enlightenment.

This faith we celebrate is but one of those paths up the mountain.  One of my favorite images of this concept is a mountain in Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak,  that’s sacred to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and maybe more.  The mountain has at least a half-dozen trails to the summit, where they all meet, because we all agree on God.  We may use different names, but it’s the same god.  We may have different words in our holy books, but we’re all trying to use human words to describe something beyond us mere mortals.  And those words, being ours, aren’t always perfect.

In the words of Karen Armstrong, a religion scholar who’s an idol of mine, “We cannot treat the Bible as a holy encyclopedia where we can look up information about the divine, because we are likely to find contradictory data in the very next chapter.”

In closing, I’ll indulge my ego and share my own creation myth.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t conflict with the Bible at all.  It’s called

Big Bang Theory

Yes, the Ancients were right:  the Circle is all;  All is a Circle.  Einstein showed us space always curves.  Time curves, too; like any other dimension.  As atomic nuclei and their circling particles model galaxies and stars, circles, like seasons, model how, and whether, Time began, or will end.  Telescopes, squinting through our temporal arrow slit, report yellowed news: those bodies hurtling away happened billions of years ago.  They may no longer exist.  Or they’ve begun their return to center, for every explosion gives in to gravity.  Stars and planets will fall back in and in and create a new black hole.  Meanwhile, another black hole will have swallowed so much matter and energy it will burst, and some race ages thence will self-centeredly call it The Big Bang.  Incubating whole universes, these “black holes.”  Eons of re-Creation we’ll never know.  As one universe dies, a new one, and Time, are born again and again and again.

God’s heartbeat.

Copyright ©2015 James L. Evans