The Nearest Thing to Heaven

I just ran across this interesting article.

The author includes a statement that resonates with me, but I have not seen elsewhere:  “The declining role of institutional religion has, I think, led to a serious loss of community, as the religious participant has given way to the ever more atomized consumer.”

Institutional religions all seem to have their negative characteristics, but I think it is too easy for us to under-appreciate the underlying spiritual and cultural benefits.  I think I will purchase Neil Macgregor’s book and see what other insights he has.

About Pope Francis

Red Letter Living

One of the primary reasons for looking into the Jesuit order is that I am fascinated about how different the Pope Francis is from those who proceeded him. That is, at least those in my lifetime. He just seems so focused on Jesus, and I wonder why? Since he is the first Jesuit to become pope, I thought I might gain insight into him by studying the order he came from.

One of the first things I discovered from other sources is how massive the Roman Catholic Church organization is. I never dreamed that the hierarchy was so complicated. They call organizations like the Jesuits, orders. Different orders are for purposes of being. The below chart gives you an idea of the complexity. If you look down the list you will find the Jesuits among the “Clerics Regular” with an identifier of “S.J.” .

I googled about everything imaginable to…

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The Birth of Christianity

I recently finished reading “The Birth of Christianity” by John Dominic Crossan.  I am kind of proud of myself for reading all the way through this book, because it is very academic and detailed in its approach.  But it was worth the effort.

Crossan is one of today’s leading scholars regarding the historical Jesus.  His interdisciplinary approach includes anthropology, history and archaeology to develop an understanding of earliest Christianity in the decades following the death of Jesus but before the first gospel writings.  His findings are often at odds with major teachings of the Church today, but there is much to be learned in this book whether or not one agrees with all of Crossan’s conclusions.

I won’t go into details here.  But one of the assertions that I found most interesting is that the earliest followers of Christ (about 30 AD to 60 AD) were focused primarily on the sayings of Jesus (the oral “Sayings Tradition”) and the shared meal tradition (love feast/ communion/ eucharist).  Their creed was to live as Jesus had instructed his followers.  The Christian focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection did not seem to come until later, especially as emphasized in the writings of Paul.

This book isn’t for everyone.  It will challenge your thinking, and even your beliefs.  It will drive you to your dictionary to look up some of those words used only in academia.  It is 600 pages long. But it is worth the effort.

Holiday and Solstice Greetings

This is indeed a special time of year.  It is a time to celebrate hope and new beginnings.  Today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the whole year.  This occasion has been celebrated by people around the world from the most ancient times because for the next 6 months the light will triumph over the darkness throughout the northern hemisphere.

In modern times Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, which falls on December 25. However, it’s believed that this date was chosen to offset pagan celebrations such as the Scandinavian solstice Feast of Juul (Yule).  Whatever Jesus’ true birth date might be, this does seem like a particularly appropriate time to celebrate His light coming into our world.

So I choose this day to send my Holiday greetings to all family and friends.  Rejoice in the light of the sun, the Light of Jesus, and the new opportunities that 2015 will bring.