7 things @ 9 o’clock (12.6)

7 things @ 9 o’clock (12.6) December 6, 2013

1. Did someone say “trajectory?” Excellent. This time it was Rob Bell (via AZspot):

I don’t read the Bible like a flat line. I don’t see all of the passages in the Bible sitting equally side by side so that you can pick one and then counter it with another and go back and forth endlessly, always leading you to the randomness of God. I read it as an unfolding story, with an arc, a trajectory, a movement and momentum like all great stories have.

Yes. I’ll keep harping on this until we’re all finally paying attention to what Jesus is pointing at, rather than arguing about the shape of his finger.

When you’re arguing about the finger, you’re missing Jesus’ point.

Related: “10 Things Traditional Christians Got Terribly Wrong.” (And all for the same reason.)

2. “We need an across-the-board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20 percent or more. We need it to happen right now.” The Pacific Standard examines “How a Frustrated Blogger Made Expanding Social Security a Respectable Idea.”

3. No “Cannonballs” in the baptistry.

4. Mallory Ortberg: “The Invisible Signs of Aging.” And also, “The Early Signs of Pregnancy.”

5. Cuts to food stamps are the equivalent of erasing every penny private charities provide for the hungry:

“Virtually every church, synagogue and mosque in the country is now gathering up food and distributing, and all of that work that food banks do comes to 5 percent of the food that needy people get,” said the Bread for the World president, Reverend David Beckmann. “95 percent comes from school breakfasts, lunches, food stamps and WIC, so Congress can say ‘We can cut this program 5 percent per cent – no big deal.’ But if you cut the national nutrition programs 5 percent, you cancel out everything that the charitable system is doing.”

6. N.T. Wright doesn’t use the word “trajectory.” He uses, instead, the word “eschatology,” by which he means the same thing:

The word eschatology, which literally means “the study of the last things,” doesn’t just refer to death, judgment, heaven, and hell, as used to be thought (and as many dictionaries still define the word). It also refers to the strongly held belief of most first-century Jews, and virtually all early Christians, that history was going somewhere under the guidance of God and that where it was going was toward God’s new world of justice, healing, and hope. The transition from the present world to the new one would be a matter not of the destruction of the present space-time universe but of its radical healing. As we saw in the last chapter, the New Testament writers, particularly Paul, looked forward to this time and saw Jesus’s resurrection as the beginning, the firstfruits of it. So when I (and many others) use the word eschatology, we don’t simply mean the second coming, still less a particular theory about it; we mean, rather, the entire sense of God’s future for the world and the belief that that future has already begun to come forward to meet us in the present. This is what we find in Jesus himself and in the teaching of the early church.

7. Juan Cole tells us that “Tamikrest is a Tuareg rock band from Mali who sing for peace and reconciliation in that troubled country.” I don’t know if this particular song is about peace and reconciliation, or if it’s a love song, or what, but it’s pretty terrific. Handclaps, a killer riff, and even a little ululation — what’s not to love? This is “Imanin bis Zihoun“:

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  • When you’re arguing about the finger, you’re missing Jesus’ point.

    Was it eight year-olds, Dude?

  • So, since Fred’s linking to The Toast anyway, go see Supplements Advertised in the Aug. 2008 Issue of Life Extension Magazine… and then read the poem by Cawendaw in the comments. It’s kind of awesome.

  • TheBrett

    2. I’d prefer it if it was part of a broader shift towards a basic income grant paid out monthly, but in the short run I support this. The Social Security Administration has pointed out that over half of married elderly couples on Social Security and over 70% of elderly individuals on it depend on Social Security for more than 50% of their income in retirement, and the ratios are 23% and 46% for elderly people who depend on it for more than 90% of their retirement income.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try out the retirement accounts idea, but it should be a supplement atop the guaranteed security of getting that payment in retirement.

  • redsixwing

    4. “Occasional early-morning haggery” OH! That explains it all, I’m just getting old. :D
    I wonder when the “Riding upon the storm, blessing the fields of the enemies of your rivals” kicks in.

    7. No idea about the content, but that is a rockin’ song.

  • JessicaR

    And Friday finds us over 150 bucks for the Slacktivte Charity Drive for the Ali Forney Center! They provide the vital functions of sheltering, protecting, and advocating for homeless LGBTQ youth. Every little bit helps, Paypal is janinthepan at gmail dot com. Donations are open until Dec 20th. Thank you again for your patience and generosity.

  • MikeJ

    While the overall thrust of Marcotte’s list of things people get wrong is good, I’d have to nitpick one thing. When she says, “From the second it became evident that the Biblical story of creation was wrong…”.

    Nobody believes the Three Little Pigs is wrong. I don’t think the any of the biblical creation stories are “wrong”. I’m not even a Christian but I wouldn’t apply the word “wrong” to what is clearly a story, not a history.

  • smrnda

    Well, given that a huge chunk of people think it is literally true and that a belief in it being literally true is a necessary belief, I’m not surprised someone responds to that notion rather than how we wouldn’t say “The Iliad is wrong.” (Wrong about what?) Perhaps you see it clearly as a story, but a large % of Americans do not.

    One could say ‘not possibly literally true’ but that might be a bit wordy for an article.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy


    I don’t read the Bible like a flat line. I don’t see all of the passages in the Bible sitting equally side by side so that you can pick one and then counter it with another and go back and forth endlessly, always leading you to the randomness of God. I read it as an unfolding story, with an arc, a trajectory, a movement and momentum like all great stories have.

    Yes. I’ll keep harping on this until we’re all finally paying attention to what Jesus is pointing at, rather than arguing about the shape of his finger.


    “When you point at something with your finger, the dog sniffs your finger. To a dog, a finger is a finger and that is that.” — C.S.Lewis

  • Baby_Raptor

    David Barton is one of the things I point to when people ask me why I’m certain god doesn’t exist.

  • dpolicar

    Hah! I hadn’t realized this was a quote, but I was endlessly entertained by this realization with my dog. (Relatedly, she seems to understand when I point with my nose.)

  • Yaaaaaaaay! :) I get paid next week, I will try to send more then if I can. :)

  • Baby_Raptor

    Then people are failing horribly. Look at his massive following.

  • I think it’s more that he’s a test of their patience. In Fred’s shoes I think I would be exploding in epithet-filled invective by now.

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    That comment by N.T. Wright about apocalypse as radical healing, combined with the passing of Nelson Mandela has me thinking about revolutions as mini-apocalypses. The best of them end with the world a little more healed. Mandela seemed to understand this.
    I suppose the Left Behind types want to think they could suffer and be demonized like Mandela and those like him did during the apocalypse, but their end goals are radically different. Healing and equality versus suffering and division.

  • I remember wondering if F.W. de Klerk might meet a fate worse than Gorbachev’s from right-wing Afrikaner extremist movements back in the day, but luckily, nothing ever came of that. :O

  • Michael Pullmann

    Well, “revolution” and “revelation” are pretty close in the dictionary…

  • David Evans

    I love the Invisible Signs of Ageing. Am I right in thinking that they all come from literature and/or myth? If so, why can I identify so shamefully few of them?

  • tricksterson

    That was no finger man! That was a talon!

  • Lori

    F.W. de Klerk wondered that too, which is how SA came to be the only country ever to voluntarily give up a functioning nuclear bomb, and also dismantled their quite advanced chembio weapons program.

  • Lorehead

    I admit, I was a bit surprised to see anti-Catholic prejudice, which is very wrong, listed as one of the top ten things “traditional Christians” got wrong.

    Particularly as, just hours ago, I got told, “Jesus said to the Pharisees about Moses’s laws specifically on divorcement that they were written because of the hardness of their (the Jews) heart, but from the beginning it was not so or was not what was originally intended. Clearly these laws were for the Jews.” And let it pass because I have to pick my battles.

    I think she actually managed to offend everyone.

  • Lorehead

    Not true: after the breakup of the former Soviet Union, a number of newly-independent nations, including the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, gave up their nuclear weapons.

  • Lori

    They gave up the USSR’s weapons, which isn’t quite the same thing. (It may seem like a distinction without a difference, but from the POV of nonproliferation the difference matters quite a lot.)

  • Lorehead

    If anyone had dared invade the Ukraine, that distinction would not have saved them.

  • Lori

    Not at all the point. The issue is not the weapons, it’s the decision-making. A successor state getting rid of weapons built by the collapsed state from which it broke away is not the same thing as a state dismantling weapons that it built itself.

  • Lorehead

    And South Africa was the only country to do that, true. One theory I’ve heard is that the Apartheid government knew its days were numbered, and was afraid of how its successors might use a nuclear program if it had one.

  • Lori

    That’s not a theory, it’s true. The people involved in SA’s nuclear and chembio programs have been quite honest about it. They dismantled extensive, successful weapons programs because they knew that Apartheid had become unsustainable and they feared what the ANC would do with the weapons. Some feared they’d use them against whites in SA. Others feared they wouldn’t be able to manage any sort of responsible foreign policy.

    Basically the destruction of SA’s weapons programs is a rare case of a good outcome as the result of nasty, ignorant, racist crap.

  • Lorehead

    I wouldn’t call it racist crap. It was the rational, moral decision. They originally wanted nuclear weapons in case someone invaded them because of Apartheid. With the Cold War ending and the expectation that they would soon have no enemies, why would it need nuclear weapons? Has any South African leader, even once since then, thought, “If only I had nuclear weapons?” But who knew who the future president of South Africa would be? He certainly would not be from their party ever again.

  • Lori

    No, it was racist crap. They weren’t thinking about the end of the Cold War and the lack of need for nukes. If they had thought there was hope in hell they’d be able to hold onto power they’d have kept them*. They were thinking that black people would have no clue how to run a country and would potentially use the weapons irresponsibly.

    *SA’s nuclear program was about Cold War politics, the dicey relations they had with their neighbors and about status, but not really about concerns about invasion due to Apartheid.

  • Lorehead

    Those dicey relations with their neighbors after independence had a lot to do with Apartheid. And Cold War politics could have meant Soviet support for their enemies, but no U.S. support for them.

  • Lori

    When I did my research on SA’s nuclear program* all the stuff I found indicated that their dicey relations with their neighbors were about Cold War politics (Africa being a major area of proxy fighting between the US & USSR) and regional power jockeying much more so than being about Apartheid itself. SA did get support from the US. Some of it was on the down low, but it was there. That didn’t change significantly until the anti-Apartheid struggle was well along and SA was becoming a true pariah state. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is.

    SA’s main foreign policy problem wasn’t that the US didn’t support them against the USSR & its clients, it was that SA was really freaking paranoid, and I don’t say that lightly. The maintenance of Apartheid warped everything it touched and the National government became deeply weird. The decisions to build nukes in the first place and then to destroy them and figuratively salt the earth in which they’d grown** both grew out of that paranoia and weirdness.

    *In one of my grad school classes on nuclear proliferation we studied every country known to have had or contemplated a nuclear weapons program. Everyone picked one country to study in depth and then presented to the class. I did SA.

    **They destroyed everything. Not just the facilities, but all the records, both research and logistical. Everything. I kept half-expecting to find that they had executed the scientists or at least forced them to leave the country. (They did not.) The de Klerk government not only did not want the ANC to have a completed bomb, they didn’t want them to have the ability to build one without starting from scratch. Something they calculated, correctly, that the ANC wouldn’t do.

  • Lorehead

    Okay, sounds as if you know more about this subject than I do. I had been under the impression that countries such as Zimbabwe and Angola that had overthrown white rule in revolutions cared greatly about white rule, and were basically opportunistic about the Cold War.

  • Lori

    The politics of that region are really complicated and honestly I don’t feel like I can say where the lines were drawn between deeply held principle, practical survival and opportunism for Zimbabwe and Angola. I do think there was virtually no possibility that they could have successfully attacked SA directly or that they would have tried and SA didn’t need, even for a fairly expansive definition of “need”, nukes to defend against them. SA was just a really dark, twisted place during Apartheid and it caused the ruling white minority to see the world in a very particular way that had a somewhat limited relationship with reality. One aspect of that view was a real bunker mentality.

  • Lorehead

    As I recall, the Israeli hardline right wing got along with them splendidly, sold their diamonds and helped them build their nukes.

  • Afrikaners in *.za were weirdly paranoid, indeed. They also had a vastly overexaggerated sense of their own importance in the anti-Communist cause in the Western world.

  • Lorehead

    But anyway, they might have been horrible racists, but they were also correct that South Africa was better off having the goodwill it earned by destroying its nuclear weapons than it would ever have been by keeping them.

  • Lori

    Yup. Much of what little detail that’s known for sure about how the SA bomb program was run comes from looking at the records of the Israeli side of the transactions.

  • Lori

    Goodwill was the effect, but it wasn’t the goal. The members of the National government were engaged self-protection when they dismantled their weapons programs, not trying to garner goodwill. The decision honestly was horrible racist crap from top to bottom and the good that came from it is to the credit of others, not the Apartheid government.

  • Fusina

    Yaay! I went to their website and looked them up–As someone who was told by her Mom that I needed to move out because the family got along better when I wasn’t there, I feel for homeless people. Good to see the donations are doing okay.