My moonlighting at The Parkesburg Point has connected me to people who are outside my traditional tribes.
Last night, I spoke with a first generation Pakistani named Annis (that’s probably spelled wrong) whose son was serving community service at The Point. We discussed religion (he’s an interesting mix of Islam, Hindu and Christian) and then we talked about death.
His mother had died a few years back and he told me how she saw the ghost of Muhammad before she died. According to Annis, before people die they see apparitions of a religious figure.
In Pakistan, Islam is the predominant religion, but there’s a mix of Hindu and Christianity. Nevertheless, most Pakistanis bury the traditional Islamic method: direct burial.
The body is washed.
The body is shrouded in linen.
The body is prayed over.
The body is buried.
So far, Annis wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t know. Then he asked me, “Do you believe that the spirit dwells around the body after death?”
I replied, “I don’t know for certain there’s a spirit and I don’t know if it dwells around the body.”
He then asked, “When you talk about a newly deceased person at your funeral home, do you use present tense or past tense?”
I thought about it for a couple seconds and replied, “Present tense.”
“See!” he said. “You believe the spirit is still dwelling around the body.” And although I didn’t buy his logic, I did appreciate how he used this point to explain his understanding of direct burial.
“We believe that the spirit is only at peace when it is buried. So we must bury right away and treat the body properly or the spirit will not find peace. If a body is not treated properly, that spirit will not find peace.”
“Well,” I thought to myself, “that explains a number of burial customs.”
A spirit will only find peace when it’s body is buried properly.
This is easily the most disturbing death related news item that I’ve ever posted on my blog.
As I write this article there is a bill in the Parliament of Egypt that seeks to legalize necrophilia.
This bill originates out of the teachings of a Moroccan cleric named Zamzami Abdul Bari (pictured to the right). The cleric believes that the marriage commitment remains valid after death. Based on that assumption, he believes that a man, and a woman, should have the right to have sex with the corpse of their spouse. He calls this “Farewell Intercourse”.
Idea’s have consequences. And theology, as well as hermenutics, matter.
The Egyptian bill, if passed into law, would only allow a spouse to have sex with their deceased partner up to six hours after death.
I wonder how you’d enforce such a law?
Thankfully, Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) is petitioning the Islamist controlled parliament to vote down the necrophilia bill as well as another bill that seeks to essentially legalize pedophilia (lowing the marriageable age limit for girls to 14).
I wish this was a joke, but it’s not. The world is sick. And it seems to only become sicker when men seek to consolidate power for themselves.
God is a god of risks.
He risked when he created mankind. He risked his name when he let Israel bear it. He risked himself when he became a child; and yet the risk he took when he let the Church become his representation on earth was greater still.
Why didn’t Jesus just take the easy way out and just dictate or personally write his own book?
Like Allah via Gabriel via Muhammad, if Jesus would have just written a book there would be less plurality, less infighting, less misrepresentation and less bad PR and (possibly) more unity.
In a book, Jesus could have spelled out exactly what he wanted so that when the church fails to meet the standard, it would have been clearly the church’s fault … and not Jesus’ fault.
Instead we have an Old Testament that we’re not sure how to interpret as New Testament believers and which we’ve often used for our violent agendas; four often varying accounts of Jesus’ words and life, two of which are from people who weren’t even one of the twelve and to cap it off, we have Paul. All written in different contexts, often in different languages by different people … and so we have different interpretations, thousands upon thousands of denominations and rarely the unity presented in Islam.
If only Jesus had taken the easy route of leaving behind his own words … his own interpretation of everything … like the Qur’an, which claims to be the EXACT dictation of God’s desires. In fact, if you want to copy God’s literary style … learn the Qur’an. If you want to speak God’s language … learn Arabic. If you want to write like God … well, you get the point.
The Qur’an is written in one language, from the context of one man, at one time period and has the final authority on all things with little room for varying interpretations.
But instead of writing a book, Jesus formed a community. A community of differing approaches, differing (rarely deferring) personalities that have been bereft with plurality from its very incipiency.
And this community provides the interpretive lenses through which the world sees Jesus.
In a sense, the church becomes the incarnation of Christ, just as Christ became the incarnation of God. We represent the Representation of God. Moving and acting as Christ, just as Christ moved and acted as God.
Lesslie Newbigin writes, “The only hermeneutic of the gospel (to the world), is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society; 227).
The Body of Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the illumination of the scriptures, is the active work of Jesus in the world.
Do you think God’s ultimate witness to the world is His people … His church?
Let me know your thoughts by commenting HERE.
That sounds both familiar and odd, doesn’t it?
Those of us who grew up in a Christian background have all read the scripture from the Gospel of John, chapter one, verse one: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Although there’s been some disputed difference about whether this verse should be translated as “the Word was God” or, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses translate, “the Word was a god” most Christians see this verse as supporting Jesus’ divinity.
The Greek word for “word” is “Logos.” And, as many of you know, “Logos” has a Greek philosophical history to it. It was first used by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (535 – 475 BC) as a word that implied “universal reason”, or the “reason above man’s reasoning” as though it was a transcendent, ideal Reason.
St. John used a Greek philosophical term to describe Jesus.
Scholars who are in the know (of which I’m not one … my ability to memorize foreign languages is almost as good as my ability to jump over buildings), believe that John was writing his Gospel with the Greeks and Hellenized Romans as his intended audience; thus, his use of Logos as a means to communicate that Jesus was the transcendent representation of all that was reasonable (Paul said that the cross was foolishness to the Greeks, so apparently John and Paul may have disagreed on this matter).
Between the time of Heraclitus and John the term “Logos” had undergone some change in meaning specifically through the attempts of Philo to synthesize the word with a Judaist understanding , and so we can only speculate about John’s conception of Logos and exactly what he meant by using it in reference to Jesus.
What we do know is that John attempted to perform some type of contextualization of Jesus to the Hellenized mind when he made use of Logos.
Interestingly enough, the Chinese Bible did a similar thing.
Instead of translating the term “Logos” for a Mandarin equivalent of “word”, they translated “Logos” into “Tao” (or “Dao”). So that it reads, “In the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God and the Tao was God.” Taoism (or Daoism), as you may or may not know, is the Asian religion that brought the Ying and the Yang into popular culture.
“In Chinese culture, ‘what is truth?’ isn’t the question being asked” States Prothero, “Rather than asking after truth as did the Greeks, Taoism asks about where to go: what is the way to the Way?” For the Chinese, “The Way” is the Tao … it is the transcendent Way to life … to abundant life. Prothero continues, “In fact, of all the great religions, Taoism may be the most allergic to doctrine … to be fully human is to dance with this Dao, moving in rhythm with its core values of naturalness, equanimity, spontaneity, and freedom.” So that when the Chinese Bible says that Jesus is the Tao, they are saying that He is the personal Life force, with whom all of us need to connect.
(Eastern Orthodoxy has a similar conception of the divine dance. I wrote about it some time ago.)
Does it come as a surprise that a large percentage of the world’s population isn’t seeking the Greek Truth, but the Taoist Way?
What do you think about the Chinese Christians translating Logos as Tao? Is this a contextualization that’s gone too far?
Compared to other languages, honorifics play little role in American English. Along with democracy, we can blame the King James Bible for our lack of honorifics. When the KJV was written, “you” was the formal way to address a superior, whereas “Thou” was the informal and familiar term that you’d use for a personal friend. But, the KJV didn’t use “you” for God, but the informal and personal “thou.”
Some groups, like the Quakers, caught onto this and figured that since their Bible didn’t speak to God formally, why should they speak to men formally? So, they called those who had a higher status in society the informal “thou”, and omitted other formal practices considered obligatory to superiors at that time; all of which was considered “intolerable insubordination” and they often received beatings as a result (Story of Christianity; 254).
In Asian culture, Confucianism has made hierarchy the modus operandi of society. In fact, honorifics are mandatory when in a formal relationship or setting, and are so prevalent in their language that it would seem the entire language changes from formal to informal settings. We have honorifics in our titles, but Asian languages often have honorific verb tenses and nouns.
And these honorifics extend to God.
For instance, Koreans – due to the nature of their Confucian culture – will never call God “You” as it’s considered entirely disrespectful. Not using “you” in reference to God would effectively change almost all of our English worship songs. They also add the suffix “Sir” to all their names for God, as seen in the graphic above.
In older English, a person of lower position in society wouldn’t even use the second person to address a superior … a language device that communicated “I can’t speak to you personally because we aren’t supposed/meant to be friends.” So, they’d speak to their superiors in the third person, such as: “What can I do for Your Highness so that I might please her?”
If these honorifics translated to how we speak to God, we’d pray, “How can I serve Your Holiness and please Him today?”
What do you think? How would your relationship to God change if you always spoke to Him in formal language?