I finally had to do it. My Bible collection, at the last count before today, had grown to about 310 volumes. So today I bit the bullet, and did a purge. I set aside Bibles I really don't need, traded some to McKay Used Books, and I have another five boxes of them, ready to take to McKay next time I get a chance. The current count, if my spreadsheet is accurate, is...205. Now, I know for most people, that's still a LOT of Bibles. But that means I have purged over 100 books from my shelves! That's not a bad start...
Below is a picture of the shelves where the majority of my Bibles currently reside. You can't see every Bible I own in this picture, but it gives you a little glimpse of my...let's just call it a sickness, shall we?
Awhile back, while we were watching the excellent British comedy Rev., on Hulu, we used to see trailers for a Candian comedy called Little Mosque on the Prairie (or as it's called on Hulu, simply Little Mosque). I watched a couple episodes back then, and then some other show came up for us to binge watch, and I forgot about it. Recently I started watching it again, and it's quite funny, in a quaint, Canadian sort of way. The premise is the story of a mosque that rents space at a little Anglican church in a small town on the prairie of Saskatchewan. Of course, there are little culture clashes, and a fair amount of hilarity. The great strength of the show, to my way of thinking, is of the various characters: the progressive young imam, the equally progressive (but somewhat more cynical) Anglican priest, the traditionalist African immigrant, the educated ultra-conservative Muslim who is always shouting at people, the opportunistic Muslim businessman with the former-Anglican wife (who isn't really very good at the whole Islam thing), and several other enjoyable (if somewhat stereotypical) characters.
The writing is pretty good, the situations are humorous, and the nice thing is, in general, even when they disagree, all these different people get along. In this crazy time in which we live, especially when it comes to friction between various cultures, it's nice to see a comedy that posits the idea, however idealistic it may seem, that things wouldn't be so bad if we could just come to grips with the idea that we're all pretty much the same. I also think the fact that it's set in Canada, instead of the United States, makes it a bit easier to digest, for some reason. (If it were in the US, I feel like it might hit a little to close to home, literally.) Anyway, I'm enjoying it, and I'm almost to the end of the first season (out of six).
I've been back and forth on ideas to simplify my blogging, and I'm pretty sure I've hit on the best method now. Once again, I'm shutting down my old individually themed blogs: Baker Street Babble, Bible Bookshelf, and Willy Wigglestick. Any future posts on Sherlock Holmes, the Bible, or Shakespeare (or whatever other subjects come to mind) will be shared right here, at the Corybanter Blog.
I'm keeping my blog Dallas: the Poetry of Alice K. Howell separate from everything else, because I want to keep all my Grandma Howell's poetry in one place, without a bunch of other stuff cluttering it up. And for right now, I'm keeping my "mini-blogs" at Medium.com. (I may decide to close those down at a later date).
And now, for your enjoyment, here's a picture of my daughters having fun at the recent Greek Festival, here in Nashville, TN!
I haven't checked into my "main blog" here for quite some time, so I thought I'd rectify the situation a bit this morning. I'm sitting at Star Bagel, finishing up my second cup of coffee, and it seemed like a good time to catch up on my blogging activities.
I remember when the word "blog" was a strange, new, unfamiliar word to me. I think I read an article in a print magazine (I don't remember which one, honestly) about this new Internet trend: the "weblog," or "blog," for short. And I thought, "Hm, that sounds interesting." And then I promptly went on with whatever I was doing at the time. I think it may have been a few years later that my brother Toby started his first blog. Again, I thought, "Hm, maybe I should give that a try." And I did.
I seem to remember my first attempt at a Corybanter blog happened on Tumblr. (That first blog still exists, even though it's inactive.) Then Toby introduced me to Posterous: don't look for it, it doesn't exist any more. But, boy, did I love blogging on Posterous. It was so easy! I maintained a blog there for a couple of years, I think, before Posterous went belly up. After that, it took me awhile to find another blogging platform that I liked: I tried Tumblr (again), Wordpress, and a couple others, before I finally more or less settled on Weebly.
I guess it was last year that I tried consolidating all of my blogs into one blog (to rule them all), and then almost immediately decided to keep my separate blogs, and maintain this one (with the domain name coryhowell.net) as a sort of central place to link to them all. Has that worked?
I almost never check in here, and I still have several of those other blogs: Willy Wigglestick (my Shakespeare blog), Baker Street Babble (my Sherlock Holmes blog), Bible Bookshelf (a blog about Bible versions and such), this small collection of stuff at Medium, the blog of my Grandma Howell's poetry, and maybe a couple others that I'm forgetting. Still, I keep coming back to the idea of an online home for all my various blogs to live, here at CoryHowell.net. And I keep hearing the siren song calling to me, "Come and blog! Share your thoughts online!" From time to time, I actually respond. Thanks for reading.
Occasionally I get very interested in the Jewish roots of Christianity. There have even been times in my life when I have thought, "What would it be like to live a Jewish life?" I have never very seriously considered conversion to Judaism, mind you, but I have long been interested in Judaism, both as its own faith tradition and as it relates to the foundations of the Christian faith. Often, as I begin to read about Judaism and how it relates to Christianity, I think about Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy them but to fulfill them." (Lexham English Bible) So what does this mean for today's Christian, or for that matter, for Christians over the past twenty centuries? In short, sometimes I wonder, as Christians, why aren't we Torah-observant?
I've heard the usual arguments that are advanced in contemporary Christian tradition: that Jesus "nailed the Law to the cross," that we are saved by grace through faith, the argument of faith vs. works, and some pretty vague talk about ritual vs. moral law. But usually that doesn't get to the heart of the matter: Jesus and his disciples were, as far as I can tell from my reading of the New Testament, fairly Torah-observant 1st century Jews. (Oh sure, there are some little disputes between the early Christian movement and the Jewish establishment...accusations of Jesus and his followers breaking the Sabbath, and that type of thing.) As I understand it, there was never a point when the earliest Apostles stopped being Jewish. But as the Church grew and evolved, we lost Saturday observance of the Sabbath, and gave up on the vast majority of Old Testament law. Of course, I've heard the standard arguments (I've made them myself!): "Well...Jesus basically distilled the Ten Commandments down to the two most important ones--love of God and love of neighbor." Meanwhile, while Christians so often ignore much OT Law in their understanding of grace, there are still Christian groups that push for bringing the Ten Commandments back to the courtrooms, or harping on one or another particular OT law. (Very few Christians ever push for bringing back all 613 mitzvot that Maimonides identified...)
Then there are the various Messianic and "Hebrew roots" sects of Christianity. When I first heard about Jews for Jesus, I thought it was really a cool idea. After all, the earliest Christians were Jewish, so wouldn't a modern movement of Jewish Christians be a neat idea? These days I'm not so sure about that idea: it seems to me that Jews for Jesus is more interested in conversion of Jews, while retaining some of the trappings of "Jewishness" (use of Hebrew/Yiddish, familiar Jewish imagery, Jewish holidays, etc.). Then there's the "Hebrew roots" movement: I've met some of these folks, and they often seem to be fairly typical Christians who have appropriated much of the interesting parts of Jewish culture, without really seeing Judaism as a legitimate religion. (That's admittedly an over-simplification of the Hebrew roots movements, which actually seem to be quite varied in how they approach the similarities and differences between Judaism and Christianity.)
But back to my original thought: what does Torah mean for us Christians? Should we follow the Torah to the best of our ability, or should we acknowledge the differences between Christianity and Judaism? Also, is an attempt by Gentiles to be "Torah observant" actually an improper appropriation of Jewish culture, that fails to understand the whole basic foundation of the Jewish faith? I must admit, I don't really know all of the answers to these questions. I've read some pretty compelling arguments in favor of followers of Christ also following his observance of Torah, and I've read some compelling arguments against that stance, as well as several arguments that fall somewhere in the middle.
I suppose the bottom line for me, at least, is to take this interest and use it to more fully explore how I relate to God and my neighbor, in light of what I have learned about the entire history of Christianity, as well as the history of Judaism that came before it, and developed alongside it.
I know I've arrived really late to this party, but I just recently "discovered" the miniseries on HBO that was done way back in 2008, based on David McCullough's John Adams. I'm not one who usually goes for biographical/historical dramas. Oh, I've enjoyed the occasional one: Shadowlands (based on C.S. Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman) or the recent film Hidden Figures (about the women who worked as "computers" for NASA in the 60s). But recently, my daughters and I have been listening to the Broadway sensation Hamilton, and I ended up seeing some clips on YouTube from the John Adams miniseries, which featured scenes that included Mr. Hamilton (played in the miniseries by Rufus Sewell). When I found out that I could view the John Adams miniseries on Amazon Prime Video for free, I thought I'd check it out, and I'm glad I did.
Here's the clip that first got me started:
For Game of Thrones fans, it may take you a second to recognize Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) as Thomas Jefferson. The aforementioned Rufus Sewell plays Hamilton, the wonderful David Morse plays George Washington, and Paul Giamatti knocks it out of the park as the main character, John Adams. Special mention also goes to the beautiful Laura Linney, for her excellent performance as Abigail Adams. The attention to historical detail is quite impressive (despite just a few historical inaccuracies, which are detailed in the Wikipedia article about the miniseries). If you've got Amazon Prime, do yourself a favor and check this awesome miniseries out, if you didn't already do so nine years ago, when it aired on HBO.
No, this isn't some existential question about the nature of God or the universe. I was just thinking about the nature of blogging, or at least, blogging as I practice it. Which is to say, I've been doing quite a bit of blogging on various subjects for several years, often sporadically and never consistently. For example, if there are readers of this blog out there, they might know that I have several different themed blogs, which you can read by clicking on the links on the top of this page. Meanwhile, from time to time, I share thoughts that don't fit into one of the themes of my other blogs right here, on coryhowell.net. Blogging is just a little hobby of mine: it's not a business, it's not a systematic form of keeping a journal, or anything like that. I blog when I have ideas that I want to share. I don't pay much attention to any of the statistics that are available, stuff like how many visitors are checking in...that type of thing.
My brother Toby keeps telling me I should do more writing, and figure out ways to make money at it. So far, that hasn't happened, probably because I'm not very disciplined about any of my online writing pursuits. Whenever I post something on any one of my blogs, I'm always kind of wondering if anyone's reading it. Don't worry, this isn't one of those things you see on Facebook: "I wonder how many people are paying attention...copy and paste if you're really my friend." I hate those posts, so no one need feel, if they're reading this, that they need to chime in to make me feel good about myself.
Today, I was going through my Facebook News Feed, and there was a little thingy that said I could start my own Page (to "promote" myself, I guess). I thought it might be fun to have something on Facebook, apart from my Timeline, that would serve as a kind of Facebook Cory Central HQ, or some such thing. So I created my Page, shared links to my blogs, and now I've probably got a whopping...eight followers? I haven't gone viral yet, that's for sure. Anyway, it got me thinking about all these online interactions so many of us participate in every single day: Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Instagram, and on and on. Lots of it is just putting something up there that we find interesting, and if someone responds, great. I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook, as it is my main method of keeping up with friends who I don't see every day (and a few friends who I do see every day). I never quite got the hang of Twitter, and the 140-character limit has never gone well with my particular verbose style. So much stuff out there, and who knows who's seeing it all? I know, i could get really detailed about my permissions on all these sites, but I prefer to just put it all out there, and let it float around.
Several years ago, there was a site called Posterous, and it was the first blogging platform I really embraced. The very first "Corybanter Blog" was on Posterous, I think. (Or maybe it was the second one...I may have tried Tumblr first.) I used to love posting on Posterous, but eventually that company was bought by a larger company, and then it went away. Since then, I've split a lot of my blogging between Weebly (where you're currently reading) and Tumblr (where my Willy Wigglestick blog resides, as well as the blog where I have been transcribing my Grandma Howell's poetry). I have been gravitating a bit towards Medium.com, because of its neat, simple style. Still, it can be a bit like multiple personality disorder, trying to figure out where I'm going to be typing next. That's why coryhowell.net functions as a central hub for all of my blogging...or most of it, I should say.
To make a long story short (too late!), if there are readers of this blog, you can comment if you like, but you needn't feel any compulsion to do so. One nice thing of being a complete amateur in the blogging world is that I mainly write all this stuff for one person...me. If someone else finds it interesting, then cool. If not, I still had the chance to put some of my thoughts down on virtual paper. So, Hypothetical Reader, thanks for reading!
This morning, I was eating breakfast with my daughter, and a friendly man with a cross around his neck approached me, and asked if he could give me a tract. Mostly by reflex, I said, "Sure, I'll read it," and took it as he walked away. It was a completely innocuous Christian tract: the cover said something like "Are You Going to Heaven?" and inside were the standard Bible verses (English Standard Version). It was published by Crossway, so there was no ultra-fundamentalist stuff, a la Chick Tracts, or anything heretical, as you would find in a Jehovah's Witness tract. But it got me thinking, why did I even take this tract? I could have just said, "No need, man, I'm a Christian." Or even better, I could have invited him to sit down with us to talk. But I didn't. I glanced over it, and left it on the table, in hopes that someone else would discover it.
It makes me think, though. What is the actual effectiveness of these "tract ministries," where people just run around hnding tracts to everyone they bump into, without any sort of engagement? That's the thing: no one that I can think of who has just handed me a tract has ever stayed around to actually talk to me, to find out whether I agree or disagree with their theology. Even some Mormons, who are pretty persistent with their evangelism, have just handed me pamphlets before, with very little actual discussion. Is the theory that, every so often, someone is going to receive a tract at exactly the right time in their life, and immediately surrender to the witness of the Holy Spirit? Then what? Do they just go to the nearest church, and say, "Someone handed me a tract, and I need to start going to church"? It seems like the actual effectiveness of such "evangelism" would be pretty minuscule.
A few weeks ago, I had a nice little chat with some friendly Jehovah's Witnesses on my front porch. Now I don't agree with the vast majority of JW theology, but I had to appreciate the fact that they were willing to talk to me about their beliefs, without simply shoving a pamphlet into my hand and running away. There's a down side to it, of course. They'll probably see me as a potential convert, and they'll probably end up on my porch again someday. And I'll have to explain where we differ in our theology. And that's not always a comfortable conversation to have, but at least it is an actual conversation. Not just a "hit and run."
Another thing that's always bothered me about the tract evangelism thing is the assumption on the part of the person handing out tracts: they aren't bothering to find out if the person they're handing the tract to is already a Christian or not. They simply assume that everyone they bump into "out there" is a nonbeliever who needs to read the gospel. I guess they often figure, if the person is a Christian, they're not the right kind of Christian (since they're not out there handing out tracts). That bugs me, I admit. I'm not trying to toot my own horn when I say that I have probably studied the Bible a lot more than most of the people who hand me tracts. So before you hand me a tract, get to know me first.
In fact, before you begin to evangelize, why not read the way Jesus did it? I haven't read anywhere in the New Testament about Jesus and his disciples handing out tracts. He taught and preached, and healed people, and sat down at the table with them for food and fellowship. Sure, "the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few," but does that justify such an impersonal form of preaching the gospel? I appreciate the wish people have to get out there and share their faith, but are they actually sharing their faith, if they're handing someone a piece of paper, and then moving on? I doubt it. But then again, I'm sitting at a computer, sharing my thoughts, so can I judge too much? Probably not.
While I was in grad school, just for fun, I decided to take a year of New Testament Greek. I wanted one course that would get me away from my music classes for a short while each week, and I really enjoyed the course, even though I didn't have a whole lot of time to study a non-major subject. In the years since grad school, I've tried to do some self-study in Koine Greek, and I've had varying degrees of success doing that. But I'm often on the lookout for resources to aid me in my continuing study of the original language of the New Testament. Which brings me to this video...
Yesterday, I was searching for some NT Greek resources on the website of our local library, and I found a course in Ancient Greek on hoopla, which is a service that our library offers. On hoopla, you can check out ebooks, videos, and music for a limited download. The guy that presents the course seems knowledgeable enough, but his style of addressing the camera, and speaking to his virtual students is very entertaining to me. Here's the first installment of the course, which I found on YouTube, that demonstrates this teacher's unique style (meanwhile, if you don't know it, this video will teach you the Greek alphabet):
A few years ago, I started a couple simple blogs on Medium.com, about which I'd forgotten until today. One was the oddly titled "Confessions of a Bible Collector," in which I shared some of my thoughts on my Bible collection and related subjects. As I have a Bible Bookshelf Blog (see the link at the top of the page), I don't think I'll be resurrecting that "Confessions" blog any time soon. (I mean, you never know, but I don't have any plans to add to it at this time...)
The other blog on Medium, though, is one I'd like to return to regularly: right now, it's called "Bible and Prayer Book" (not a very imaginative title, I know...perhaps I'll come up with something better soon). I used it as a sort of online journal to study the Bible with the aid of the Daily Office readings from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It looks like I began the blog in June of 2014, did a few entries, and then promptly forgot about it. But I was thinking today that I'd really like to begin systematic Bible study again, and the BCP was always a great tool for helping me do that. So I shall try reviving that "Bible and Prayer Book" blog, and see what happen. If I can get it going again, I will probably add it to the links here at CoryHowell.net. I may or may not do that, as it's essentially just for me. But it is out there on the Internet, so it's private in a very public sort of way. Or public in a very private sort of way. Whatever.
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)