Thursday, January 23, 2014

Oh the things my mind retains

Last night, on the eve of my 44th birthday, my mind drifted towards a very old, but very vivid memory. I remember being a youngster in the backseat of my grandparents' car at a drive-in. I think it was the long closed Waterford drive-in. This memory drifts by regularly in the flotsam of my mind, so I've considered it many times. I figured I was about six years old. I also think my grandparents had expected me to be asleep by the time of the 2nd movie. I don't remember what the first movie was. I only remember the end of this movie in my memory.

I got out of bed and thought I'd see what Google could do for me. I searched for "70's movie, guy crucified on a box car." The clip on YouTube has enough screaming in it to wake a toddler.

Yeah, that image is a bit much for a youngster to digest and forget.

Google came through. Boxcar Bertha is a Martin Scorcese movie before he hit his stride and became famous starring David Carradine. Many reviewers mention it being an exploitation movie with plenty of violence and sex. The biggest shock to me last night was learning this movie came out in 1972. I was two years old! I saw my first crucifixion before I ever graduated to Sunday School. I had no grid to process what I saw. Yet I remember it so vividly to this day, nearly 42 years later.

Yesterday, the Tumblerbot asked me what my earliest memory is. Until last night, I thought it was when I was around 3 running to the bathroom before I had an accident and I did not make it. It had to be potty training age. I remember playing outside with a friend and ignoring my body's signals until it was a crisis. I remember running and knowing I wasn't going to make it. I remember the release and then the memory ends. At least, as a toddler, I had a grid for messing myself.

I want to warn all of you who have the privilege of being around very small children. They miss nothing. So give them an abundance of safety and love, in words and images and actions.
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Boxcar Bertha
Boxcar Bertha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

energy and heat from your roof

I first saw this today at Inhabitat's blog. I have seen roofs with panels that heat water. I have seen solar panels on roofs. But now SolTech Energy in Sweden figured out how to combine them. The thin film solar panels are laid on the roof. Then the glass tiles are laid over them. The glass tiles heat up air that is used to heat water, which is stored, and available for heating and domestic water use. This idea is so cool.
This is their schematic.
Here is their finished product.
Glass tiles can't be cheap, and the roof would need extra strength to support it all, but the awesomeness of the whole thing cannot be beat.

It turns out an American company in New Jersey named Englert has developed a similar system with thin laminated solar panels on a standing seam metal roof with the glycol/water piped underneath the roof.

As far as aesthetics go, the glass tiles look so much better. But you get what you pay for.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Another New England compatible alternative house construction idea

New England has an abundance of trees, rocks and sand. The sand comes from glacial till, back when the glaciers spread over this area and bulldozed everything down to the granite. As they melted, ground down rocks and sand were left behind. Sand is abundant in these parts. How can it be used for home construction though? By itself, it can be a great wall, but not in a cold climate, because it does not insulate. Bagged sand is a great way to build walls between frames. But without clay and lots of muscle it won't form a strong earth bag house or a rammed earth home. Small bags can be used to build walls, as is being done in South Africa and Israel by Ecosteps. Big bags in gabions can do the trick as well. As I've struggled with this issue before, I thought I would have to settle with a foam insulation. But there is a new option available, mushroom insulation. The Long Island packaging company Ecovative Design has expanded their concept from protecting fragile packages to insulating homes with dead mycelium. They even insulated a tiny house this way as a demonstration, affectionately titled the Mushroom Tiny House. Like any other insulation, sheathing protects it from the elements. It might be kind of cool looking on some interior walls to leave it as is. Thus my proposal is a mushroom sandwich with sand, or stone, providing strength and thermal mass in the middle between insulating slices of mushroom.

This is Ecovative's picture comparing their product to foam. Oil + foam expansion or mycelium + agricultural waste.
I wonder if a roof could be insulated this way as well?

Now, all I need is land, a building permit, money, and time...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Jesus changes everything in the Bible

In Jesus' sermon on the mount, as written by Matthew in the 5th-7th chapters of his gospel, he teaches many counter-intuitive, even heavenly, ideals. One of those is about non-retaliation and extending love even to our enemies.
Matthew 5:38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard of justice and punishment: take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say this, don’t fight against the one who is working evil against you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, you are to turn and offer him your left cheek. 40 If someone connives to get your shirt, give him your jacket as well. 41 If someone forces you to walk with him for a mile, walk with him for two instead. 42 If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If someone wants to borrow something from you, do not turn away. 43 You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you— 45 in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven. He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel. He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner. 46 It is easy to love those who love you—even a tax collector can love those who love him. 47 And it is easy to greet your friends—even outsiders do that! 48 But you are called to something higher: “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (The Voice)
This teaching forces Christians to wrestle with many things in the Old Testament, like what I read this morning, in my daily lectionary reading, Psalm 149.
1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints.
2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.
5 Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand,
7 To execute vengeance on the nations, And punishments on the peoples;
8 To bind their kings with chains, And their nobles with fetters of iron;
9 To execute on them the written judgment— This honor have all His saints. Praise the Lord!
The mood certainly gets weird from the middle of verse 6 on. I'm sure even most devout Jews these days aren't taking this verse very literally. But maybe the Maccabee family did when they overthrew the Greek rulers who defiled their temple in Jerusalem. Did the Crusaders find comfort in this verse as they set out to kill the infidels? I'm sure some Jews as well as Christians even today take this hymn of worship literally to some degree or other. Maybe they consider the two-edged sword figurative for an AR-15 rifle. Here is the evangelical/fundamentalist dilemma. In the 2nd epistle to Timothy is written a key verse for inerrantists,
2 Tim. 3:16 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...
The key question for me is this Psalm one of the scriptures inspired by God? In the gospels, Jesus says when we see him, we see God. Jesus says he only tells us what he hears from God. Jesus tells us he only does what God tells him to do. So if one part of the Bible is in contradiction with what Jesus teaches, it makes sense to me to assume that part is not inspired by God. The turn in v.6 of Psalm 149 is a clear example to me, of the intersection of the humanity and the divinity in the Bible.

In yesterday's post, on the chaff of American evangelical Christianity, I wrote that this blending of human and divine in the Bible is obvious, but I had joined my tribe, in it's devotion to inerrancy, to affirm the divinity of these parts that even Jesus does not agree with. If I call it figurative, can I claim it inerrant when the author does not seem to be speaking figuratively? If I call it the Psalmist's honest expression, is it inerrant if it is not inspired by God? Did God really say this through the Psalmist? Uh-oh. Now I'm speaking like the Satanic snake in the Garden of Eden...Did God really say...? The question is extremely important and it is not demonic. Did God really command Moses and Joshua to wage war genocidally? Did God approve of Ezra's order for Jews married to Gentiles to divorce them and send away their wives and half-Jewish children? Did God tell Moses the proper way for Jewish soldiers to force captured women to be their wives? Are these things of God, who Jesus fully represents?

When Jesus is my lens for examining the Bible, I am no longer threatened by those ugly passages. Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever as Hebrews 13:8 asserts then I can believe he had nothing to do with the 2nd half of Psalm 149 or the even more violent Psalm 137. Letting go of inerrancy and using the Jesus lens is how I have begun to make peace with the texts of terror in the Bible.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

American evangelical chaff

I am an american evangelical raised in the fundamentalist strain of the faith. I had the book, The Fundamentals, for awhile, but I never read it. Lately, some of the sacred cows I used to defend vigorously, have lost their luster. This isn't new for me. I no longer think, like I told a poor girl in my high school youth group that listening to Pink Floyd means no salvation for her soul. I am an idiot. Now I like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, too. But I elevated chaff to wheat. Miscellany to necessary. Dust to Must. Like then, so now, things I presumed gold looks more like pyrite. I don't like feeling foolish. But I am a fool, and, I feel I need to document my change in thinking. I do think I'm really learning to trust God's constant refrain in the Bible, "Fear not." There are three issues I've stopped fearing.

Number One:
When I went to the Christian liberal arts college my freshman year, I was somewhat scandalized, really scandalized, but then really liberated, when my class had no time for young earth creationism or flood geology. I have swung around that pole of creation/evolution for a long time. I'm a biologist. I love science. I love biology. I've read the fundamentalist books defending a literal seven day, recent creation and I've read evangelical books saying that the evidence for an old earth and evolution are not threats to the faith. I even read the Intelligent Design books, thinking it might be a middle way. But lately, I've been reading outside my Christian subculture. Right now I am reading Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind by Richard Fortey, and it is excellent. The British naturalist is not an exciting writer. He writes like a scientist. In this book, he looks at some of living creatures that have deep roots in the fossil record, such as horseshoe crabs and velvet worms. This summer I read a short book, The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood by David R. Montgomery. One benefit of these books for the general audience instead of the christian fundamentalists is that I can borrow them from the local library. I did buy and will soon read Four Views on the Historical Adam. When I'm not reading books like these I'm reading blogs by Christians that explain the evidence for evolution and contrast the issues that young earthers and worldwide flooders can't explain, while still loving Jesus and not becoming devil worshippers. I like the Biologos blog, Science and the Sacred, for straight up science, I like Naturalis Historia, and for an intersection of theology and evolution, Musings on Science and Theology. The third blogger chooses to remain anonymous. I suspect that is because coming out as an old earther evolutionist could have career consequences. There aren't any career consequences for me. It is low risk for me to be public in my belief that young earth creationism is evangelical chaff. The wind has blown it away. It was never nutritious anyway.

Number 2:
I did read the conservative evangelical book from the 70's, The Battle for the Bible, by Howard Lindsell. Around the same time this book came out, a group of evangelical leaders got together and formulated the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Inerrancy has become a conservative evangelical shibboleth. I used to support it. However, in the past few months I've read a few books, three by evangelicals, that, in my view, show that inerrancy can mean whatever it wants, as long as the author bows to it. The four recent books are Is God a Moral Monster?, Against the Gods, Who wrote the Bible?, and The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation. The last one is a beast. I'm also glad I read the third one before reading the last one so I can know what topics are ignored in such a massive book. However, that massive book did demonstrate the evolution (see what I did there) of the text of the Old Testament. I have waiting for me on my Kindle Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. When I'm not reading big books on Bibilical textual criticism, I benefit from a few bloggers as well, each consider themselves evangelical as well: Peter Enns, Roger Olson, and Michael Heiser. Shaking off inerrancy as chaff does not take away from the Bible as the word of God, because Jesus is the Word of God. The Bible is a massive backstory for Jesus always regarding highly the life of faith, like Abraham, (see The Meaning of the Pentateuch). The book is a mingling of the human and the divine with expected consequences. The shiny parts that look like Jesus, divine, the ugly parts that don't look like Jesus, not divine. Greg Boyd and Brian Zahnd, among others, have been making a strong case for viewing the entire Bible from the revelation of Jesus in the gospels. Jesus is the surprise ending that reframes everything that came before. Thus, inerrancy, I've realized, is chaff. It claimed way too much, promised way too much, and can't engage numerous problems with the text without redefining itself to meaninglessness.

None of these things are creedal issues. These are topics to talk about. They are tribal issues things that show what slice we want to belong. I'm an outlier in my tribe, but I haven't stepped outside of earliest formulations of Christianity, which were concerned with the Triune God and fully human and fully divine Jesus. The third item is also not creedal, but it sure gets people's hackles up.

In high school, I prayed with one of my gay friends to entrust his life to Jesus. But Jesus did not un-gay him. After college, in the early 90's I volunteered a couple nights a week at a free AIDS test clinic. I wanted to be the hands of Jesus to those who feared for their lives. I also learned in the 90's, in my evangelical world, that people could pray the gay away or have therapy to undo their bad relationship with their fathers. This year, the biggest evangelical ex-gay ministry folded, admitting that those two things do not happen. Three other books I've read in the past couple years by conservative Christians say the same thing: The end of Sexual Identity, Washed and Waiting, and Homosexuality and the Christian. This past spring I also reviewed a great book God's Gay Agenda by an evangelical who formerly served with YWAM, who now pastors a small church, and is a lesbian with a wife. This book engages the Bible head on and makes a strong case that the conservative, anti-gay, evangelical culture is missing something in translation, both in language but also in context. At some point I will buy Bible, Gender, Sexuality for more in depth Biblical re-assessment of this issue. I think Christians can disagree over their understanding of homosexuality and sin from the Bible, yet still be siblings in the faith. Just like I think Christians can listen to Pink Floyd without threatening their salvation. Homosexuality is an issue I have wrestled with in over 130 posts on this blog. As I wrestled, reasoned, read, listened, and tried to understand, I'm now at the point where I think it is chaff. It's not essential. It's not creedal. It's not something I need to worry about. What I do need to worry about is loving my neighbor as I love myself. I need to love my gay neighbors as much as my white, conservative, straight, married, Christian neighbors. One way I can love my gay brothers and sisters is to trust the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives to reveal to them the path they pursue, either towards a life of celibacy or a life of companionship and marriage. I don't think excluding them, and making conditions on my acceptance of them is loving. Jesus saves them, not me. I think full inclusion of my gay brothers and sisters in church is an Acts 10 opportunity for the church. Just as the full inclusion of women into leadership is as well. I used to not think these things. I need to give everyone who still thinks like I did as much grace as I need.

I argue a lot on the internet. I don't like that feature of me so much. I'm not interested in arguing these things. I like reading and sharing what I've learned. I like encouraging those who might disagree with me to read the books I read and arrive at their own conclusions from more than the dozen paragraphs here. Be warned though, the more I've learned, the less I know. I titled this "American evangelical chaff" because I don't think these issues are historic, worldwide, orthodox church issues, the first two especially, the third I'm waiting on ancient church data to consider. Suggestions are welcome.

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