I am currently enrolled in the most fascinating class of my seminary experience. It is a class on the Septuagint. The Septuagint, often abbreviated LXX, is the name for the first translation(s) of the so-called Old Testament. I have written some summaries of the required readings in a way that I hope prove enjoyable and informative. Here’s the first.
“Anyone?” he asked the abnormally silent classroom. After a moment the professor continued, his voice feigning disbelief, “Not one of you has an answer to this question? You’re usually all so talkative.”
Finally one student spoke up. “Maybe you could ask the question again. The silence has caused me to forget how you worded the question—which seems like it may be your point here.”
“Fair enough,” the professor conceded. He then raised up high over his head, for the second time, the black, hard-bound book which had the words “Holy Bible” inscribed in gold lettering on the front cover and asked, “Am I holding the English translation of the Holy Bible?”
The same outspoken student, after a quick look around the room resulting in renewed confidence to speak for the group, cautiously answered, “I think I could say that you’re holding one English translation of the Holy Bible and not break my integrity.”
“Ah, and why do you say, one and not the?”
Several students were heard chuckling at the ridiculously easy nature of the question.
“Well, professor, as you well know, we probably have at least four English translations amongst ourselves in just this classroom, not including digital versions stored on–or accessible by–our phones and laptops.”
“Exactly the point!” At this the just-animated professor paused. “Okay then. With that, we’re now ready to talk about the so-called Septuagint.
“The first question we need to answer is, ‘When? When are we talking about? When did this occur?’
“As with all antiquity, a range is more honest than an exact date, or if an exact date is mentioned, keep in mind that a range is implied. That said, the request and its fulfillment to translate some of what we call the Old Testament into Koine Greek (the Lingua Franca of its day–thanks to Alexander the Great) was around 250 BC. It should surprise no one that the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was treated first, and only over time does it appear that the rest of the OT (and more) was completed. Moreover, no different than the reason behind our many contemporary English translations, soon after the first so-called Septuagint there was disagreement and desire to do it better or perhaps more accurately. The big (versus only) three recensions/translators (the new ‘r’ word will be defined in a moment) that the historical record attests to are Aquila (ca. 140 AD), Theodotion (ca. 190 AD), and Symmachus (ca. 200 AD).
“Naturally, simply acknowledging these things often causes us to forget we’re in the forest. There is no denying that we find ourselves past the trees, through the roses’ scent, beyond the grass, and into the weeds. The weeds, of course, being the things that will not go away. Either we pull one up and another appears or we kill one only to discover it comes right back. Regarding Septuagint studies, this means that people are both still discovering how all the extant and attested to Septuagints were viewed in history as well as arguing over just how to categorize the many, many seeming distinctives involved in the criticism of ancient texts.
“Yet, decisions must be made and I’ve made them. You’re free to disagree with mine—after the semester. For now, here are some words that I’m going to use. Recensions must include revisions, but revisions do not necessarily produce recensions.
“In other words, there are times when we notice that some writer revised the Septuagint, without entirely revising it.
“But to say it that way is confusing. So in order to prevent the confusion I just introduced, we call the entire revision thing a recension.
“Speaking of recensions, we’ve already mentioned three notable recensions. But there are three more names that you’ll continuously come across. Those being, Hesychian, Hexapala (which is the six-column and no-longer-extant work of a man named Origen), and Lucianic. No doubt, more will be said about these as we go.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is one more word that this introduction must include: Vorlage (pronounced “4-log-eyh”). Vorlage is the name for the so-called parent-text to the LXX that history has not preserved, but which scholars believe the above personalities (and more) used to create the first LXX.
“Murky, indeed, are the waters when trying to reproduce the Vorlage.”
This is my summary of pp. 1-62 from Jobes, Karen H., and Moisés Silva’s 2015, Invitation to the Septuagint. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Baker. ISBN 978-080103649-1.
I wish I was kidding. Actually, I wish I didn’t notice things like the following anymore. They drive me crazy. In any case, when I was back in KC a few weekends ago, I noticed that an entire section of the Kansas City Star was devoted to the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse. Apparently it’s a unique one. And apparently somewhere in nearby Missouri the duration and totality of the eclipse is going to be singular, so folks are already planning on how to best view it.
I am at a loss for how to explain to all the ultra-educated science nerds who take behavioral cues from the sun that their (and my) primitive ancestors used to do this. The thing is primitive people used to do it while also worshiping wood and stone–which nearly all today see as backwards in every sense of the word. Yet, it is forever in the history books that early man used to worship wood and stone.
Not all of them of course–the patriarchs of my faith didn’t. Moses–who actually spoke with the LORD–talked about this nonsense all those years ago when he warned his people, The LORD will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.
There’s more. These self-same contemporary leaders of knowledge insist that because of their calculations (new AND improved wood and stone) they can be certain that Jesus Christ did not resurrect from the dead and that my prayers are meaningless and unheard etc., and yet they have no trouble joining the masses of humanity–past, present, and certainly future–who have denied the Living God His due Glory even as they wonder at His creation.
But I’m not finished. Here’s the kicker. In one such article about the upcoming August 21st eclipse, the writer commented that even the animal kingdom is affected by the event. You read that right. Many members of the human race are already making travel plans (two months out!) to see the eclipse and it’s news that the animals change their behavior? Is anyone else’s head spinning? It’s probably a good idea to hold onto to your child’s hand a little tighter at this point. You never know when the sun god will require a child in exchange for rain. Sheesh!
By all means, enjoy the eclipse. Just let it be an arrow in your brain that points to the LORD; let the temporary darkness bring to light a response like David’s, whom the LORD sought because he was a man after His own heart.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him?
And the son of man that You care for him?
…O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, X, viii-x.
Not long ago, a certain boy found himself curiously free from the normal assault that accompanied the end of the school day. His walk home began no different than any day before. While always a bit like a gauntlet, on this day he made his way down the hallway with no interruptions. The uneventful moments were filled with the buzz of weekend plans, clangs of locking metal, and worshipful snickers other boys directed towards Billy as he downed a shooter and lit up before even leaving the building.
Teachers puzzled over the boy. He turned in flawless homework, and proved it was his own with perfect in-class test scores. But he would not speak while at school. The walk home, however, was a different matter altogether.
The boy had Christ in his heart, in his mind, and was not afraid to summon Him when necessary. The Devil knew this and called one of his Imps over to him.
“But we are powerless against that Name,” the Imp responded when challenged.
“I didn’t ask about your weaknesses, you fool!” the Devil seethed. “I gave you an order. Now go!”
“I’ve tried that!” Billy said. “I told you I’ll do what you ask, Imp, but I will not strike the boy. He has done me no harm. I like being able to use your powers, but this boy doesn’t seem affected by the curses you gave me. His Chri-”
“-Don’t!” the Imp interrupted violently. “Do not say that name. Ever! Do you not know what would happen to us? I’d be done for, and you’d be as powerless as you were when I found you unable to fight off your drunken father.”
Taking a swing at the Imp, Billy screamed, “Say one more thing about my dad and I’ll kill you!”
Leaning back to avoid the attack, the Imp’s eyes lit up as he watched Billy feed on rage. He feigned, “Sorry. I’m sorry. Just don’t ruin this, kid.”
“Okay, okay,” Billy said. “What’s the plan this time?”
“You’ve tried breaking his things?”
“Yes. I’ve broken and torched just about everything he has brought to school. He just replies, ‘You-know-who says, Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth...'”
“You’ve tried insulting him?”
“Yep. He just says, ‘You-know-who says, Blessed are you when people insult you.‘ I’m telling you, Imp, this boy is not like the others.”
The Imp and Billy sat and thought.
Visibly impatient, the Imp began, “Wait a minute, we’re working too hard. Let’s get lazy.”
“What do you mean?”
“Next time, instead of directly challenging the boy, I want you to give him something that will take his voice away.”
“Yes,” the Imp whispered, as if to himself. Growing louder, he continued, “We’ve been going at this one all wrong. What’s the newest mirror-like thing that all your kind looks at?”
“I’m not sure what you mean?”
“ANSWER ME!” the Imp screeched. “That thing you all stare at when you are with each other? Your kind never used to do that. What’s it called?”
“Yes,” the Imp said. “Your phone. Does the boy have one like yours?”
“I think so, but he doesn’t seem to care about it.”
“Fine, fine. Here’s what you do. Call him over to you and make friends with him. Tell him you’re sorry and you’d like to be his friend. Do what you have to to get him to look at his phone more and more. We’ll simply silence him.”
“Oh, I see your game now. Silence. Yes, I can do that. I even know just what will work.”
“He’ll be working against himself soon enough. Maybe I can even get that vacation I’ve always wanted,” the Imp fantasized.
“Hey, boy!” Billy said, “Can I get your number? I want to text you later about this Bible app my aunt installed on my phone.”
“No, no. Stay there another week. Enjoy yourself. The next round is on me. You earned it. Brilliant, I tell you. The boy went from three hundred mentions to just a single mention each week,” the Devil delighted. “The best part,” the Devil paused, wiping a tear as he laughed, “The best part is he thinks we’re losing!”
I used to think it was Christians who were virtually mindless robots, all saying the same thing. Since receiving the Holy Spirit, I can report from the inside that Christians are certainly not robots and moreover we are certainly not nearly close to saying the same thing about anything. It’s like part of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in a person includes suspicion of everyone and everything–often including what the heck the Good News of Jesus Christ even is. We’re the most disorganized, freewheeling “people group” I can imagine. (Though, we are rightfully sure that we’re on our way to glory!)
But you non-believers, whether Deist, Atheist, Muslim, Agnostic or any other heathen flavor, you all are robots. After listening to your first five words I find I can accurately forecast your entire train of thought–especially if one of those words is “Trump.”
Or maybe it’s just that you all watch the same shit and I read books.
(Seriously, turn off the television.)
One of those books, pictured here, is not a must read. In fact, do not read it (unless you’re a Muslim feeling like the world is out to get you). It’s depressing. I just wanted you to see the title and maybe begin to consider that the last Christian in a region/society has already died many, many times.
With the Quebec Mosque terrorist attack, the West is officially back in the game–and playing to lose.
Christ Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I don’t know what to write.
If Thunder walked into your life, could it convince you to turn down the volume? How about if you met Lightening? Would you look up for Lightening?
Ah, but let’s not kid ourselves. You and I, we need the rain. We always have.
Despite the above, I believe there is hope. I see the peaceful way forward. And I am working on concrete projects which encourage us to challenge our assumptions, which can lead to peace. Specifically, I’m working on re-tooling how we teach our children math. (Speaking of children, pray for our children, especially H-. I don’t imagine too many six year old’s find themselves forced to work through Euclid’s Elements as their dad works on a Master’s thesis in New Testament.) But I need help, so contact me if you possess the rare trifecta of time, hope, and the Holy Spirit. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I must believe there is time.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Here’s President Obama’s self-absorbed response to Mr. Trump’s self-absorbed bombas-ticary.
Assuming you don’t have 25 minutes to spend on the above video, I’ve done my best to clarify the arguments below.
Mr. Trump is arguing that
A – American leaders need to use the label “Radical Islam” in order to stop terrorism.
B – Implicit to Mr. Trump’s argument is the argument if we don’t label the enemy accurately (know who/what the enemy is) then we cannot possibly defeat the enemy.
C – If we don’t elect Mr. Trump as president, then no one will say “Radical Islam.”
A + B + C =
D – Without using the label “Radical Islam,” we cannot defeat the enemy (whatever the enemy is).
Since B and D are the same, then Mr. Trump is using circular reasoning. All Mr. Trump has actually argued is, “Without me, we cannot defeat the enemy.”
In response, President Obama is arguing that
A – If we use the label “Radical Islam,” we don’t really mean the adjective “radical”. In other words, if we say “Radical Islam,” people only hear “Islam.”
B – Extremists successfully recruit new extremists by telling the lie to young Muslim men that the West believes Islam is the enemy.
C – If the number of extremists grows, we cannot defeat the enemy.
D – If he were to say, “Radical Islam is the enemy,” then he’d be doing the recruiting for the extremists (ISIL/ISIS).
A + B + C + D =
E – If we use the label “Radical Islam,” we cannot defeat the enemy (whatever the enemy is).
Since C and E are the same, then President Obama is likewise using circular reasoning. All President Obama has actually argued is, “Without me, we cannot defeat the enemy.”
In sum, Mr. Trump believes we must use the label “Radical Islam” to defeat the enemy and President Obama believes we must NOT use the label “Radical Islam” to defeat the enemy. But each man clearly believes that without him, the enemy cannot be defeated. Can we agree that besides being self-absorbed and redundant, their argument is depressing?
For a different, encouraging argument, try mine.
I am arguing that,
A – I wanted to fight or I did fight terrorism (Wait. Terrorism? Who are we kidding? We’re at war with Allah) with violence from Sept. 11, 2001 until March 1, 2012.
B – It’s now 2016. 4 years after stepping off the violent path, it is apparent that terrorism (Allah) is still a growing threat.
C – Terrorism (Allah) cannot be defeated by violence because it is an idea.
D – Only ideas can defeat ideas.
E – Due to internal inconsistencies not much different than President Obama and Mr. Trump’s circular reasoning, neither naturalism, nor deism, nor Buddhism, nor scientism, nor atheism, nor Mormonism, nor Tom Cruise-ism, nor patriotism, nor nationalism, nor globalism can defeat terrorism (Allah).
A + B + C + D + E =
F – Christianity’s Triune God, in all of His mystery (tell me again, how was Jesus fully human and fully divine at the same time?), in all of His reality (the concrete resurrection of Jesus as proclaimed by the New Testament writers and its subsequent 2000 year witness of manifest grace) is the only idea that can defeat terrorism (Allah).
In other words, A + B + C + D + E =
F – We can defeat terrorism (Allah). And we can defeat terrorism (Allah) without me! We just need to submit ourselves to the will of Christianity’s Triune God.
In sum, my argument (Christianity’s argument), unlike Mr. Trump and President Obama, is, “Without me, the enemy can be defeated”–emphasis on “the enemy can be defeated” and “without me.” There is hope people. His name is Jesus.
Do you see?
Driving to work yesterday, I heard the radio broadcast use the label “Muslim-American.” Muslim-American? Sorry, but no. Hyphenation works when employed on similar categories in order to be more specific. Moreover, it usually involves the speaker and the listener knowing why one word won’t work. The prime example, of course, is African-American. It’s difficult to track down who coined the term, but my own investigation into the matter has lead me to conclude that it was Malcolm X. Why did Malcolm X begin to use “African-American” as a label? Because he felt like it was rhetorically powerful to remind blacks and whites that blacks did not voluntarily immigrate to the USA. In other words, if you desired to be an American, you’re an American. If you didn’t, let’s tell the truth. (The value of the hyphenation being in its ability to convey truth.)
But Muslim-American? This hyphenation is categorically different and has an agenda based on deception, not truth. If we’re going to bring a person’s religion into the forum (by all means, when it’s appropriate please do), the very nature of their being religious means that for them there is no greater truth than their religion. For example, I am a Christian. This means I am loyal to the triune God. I am loyal to the triune God over and above any loyalties to man-made governments whose rule I find myself under. I am an American surely, but I am not a Christian-American. Do you see? The same for the killer. He was a Muslim. He was loyal to Allah over and above the laws of Florida.
Naturally, if the killer would not have associated himself with Islam during his rampage, we wouldn’t be talking about his religion. I’d put money that we’d be talking about his race or his ethnicity–anything to distance himself from our own reflection–but because we rightly value freedom of religion so highly, we would not tolerate speaking of his religion. However, since he allegedly did mention his religion, it is very appropriate to discuss Islam and violence. It is very appropriate to discuss that contrary to Malcolm X’s truth enhancing label, “African-American,” the label Muslim-American only attempts to hide the truth. Therefore, not only did a Muslim for self-purportedly religious reasons murder Americans, Americans are willfully being untruthful in their reporting of the massacre. The fact that secular authorities do not see how “Muslim-American” is deceptive is the first indication that Allah is not going to submit to secular America.
The second reason why Allah is not going to submit to secular America is in the same vein. I saw someone on the White House lawn holding a sign that read, “Stop Gun Violence and Stop Homophobia.” Stop homophobia? Have you totally lost touch with reality? Who exactly was homophobic during the tragedy? The nightclub? The killer? The patrons? The bartender? The mourning friends and family and surrounding communities and nation?
Homophobia is something limited to suburbia. Homophobia is when parents cover their child’s eyes when two men kiss on the television program they’re watching. Homophobia is when suburban American churches have an unwritten rule that homosexuals are really not welcome, despite Jesus’ call for all humans to repent and submit themselves to the triune God. Mowing down over a hundred people in cold blood is not homophobia! It is evil–pure evil.
To be clear, I was homophobic. And I have never, not once, never have I ever killed anyone. Heck, part of the reason I wanted to work at a strip club is I did not like that I was homophobic and wanted to force myself to get over my fear. Do you see the difference between homophobia and evil? If we accept labeling the killer a ‘homophobe’, we again miss the fact that he was a Muslim. And as we lose sight of the truth, we devalue the atrocity and the worth of the victims’ lives. Furthermore, we devalue our own lives. We miss the fact that his Muslim-ness and his understanding of Allah are at the root of his calculated perpetration of evil upon his fellow humans. If he would have been a Christian, I’d be arguing the same thing. But he wasn’t. It wasn’t homophobia that slaughtered 50 people. It was a Muslim man who apparently was at once delusional and not delusional regarding his ability to help ISIS wage war on the godless (Allah-less), secular West.
Should homophobia be stopped? Absolutely. Is stopping homophobia something that needs our attention today? Absolutely not. Today, it’s time to look at the facts. The deadliest terror attack on American soil was perpetrated by Muslims identifying Islam/Allah as their motivation. The deadliest mass shooting was perpetrated by a Muslim identifying Islam/Allah as his reason.
Even one of America’s favorite blockbuster films, The Matrix, identifies “denial” as the most predictable response we have to a reality that conflicts with our desires. You may desire that gods do not exist. You may desire that America is what we were taught it was as we grew up in the 80s. You may desire “separation of church and state” to mean that church has no value to the state. You may desire religion does not matter. But desiring these things does not manifest them. This (our unwillingness to accept the killer’s religion, not his homophobia, as the reason for his actions), then, is the second indication that Allah won’t submit to secular America. Secular America does not want to believe religion matters. And Muslims know Allah matters.
Christians, after prayer, the next step is to befriend Muslims. Do you know any? I know one. (We stopped talking after we stopped working together.) If you do, then become better friends. The easiest way I can think to do this is simply to share meals. Invite them to your dinner table and get yourself invited to theirs. Additionally, in an effort to meet more Muslims, we need to have “church” functions that appeal to Muslims who are looking to distance themselves from Islam right now. Again, I’d suggest potlucks open to the neighborhood. I’ve seen Muslims in bowling alleys as well. Maybe have a bowling night/potluck combo event. I know it sounds silly to treat them as if they’re different and hard to find, but social-awkwardness hasn’t stopped me in the past, so I’m not going to let it now. (And this is my blog…) We worship the triune God who, in sending Jesus, took the form of one of us so that we might be free from the bondage of sin, and surely Muslims need to be around intentional Christians as much as we need to be around each other.
The only other thing I ask of you is for you to begin to incorporate “triune” as you see I try to do when describing the Christian god. Throughout most of human history, people knew the Israelites (via Yahweh) and Christians (via Jesus) were worshiping another god than theirs. These days, however, non-believers (secular Americans especially), want to lump all gods into one god. This is simply not true. It’s time to clarify the difference. Christians serve the triune God, Muslims serve Allah. If Christians continue to use the ambiguous, impersonal noun “god” to describe the triune God, then we, ourselves, dilute the truth and allow the secular culture to define our reality.
Last week I felt more critical than the one or two weeks before it. Part of humility before God is the recognition that the playing field of life is level. We’re all living on the same level. To get angry or be critical requires an “I’m up here” while “You’re down there” attitude. So that what bothers me about last week.
Another area of life that I’m struggling to deal with is work. You know how you always hear about ex-cons heading back to their previous neighborhood and gangs etc. after being released from prison? And then they fall right back into old patterns and end up back in prison? Well, I’m not an ex-con. But at the pizza place I do behave and talk differently than anywhere but the pizza place. I’m sure part of the reason is because I’m a bit once-bitten-twice-shy about talking about Christianity much at work, but there’s also just plain muscle memory. I worked at a pizza place for 6 years as a smart-alec kid in high school and college. It’s difficult to not conform to the lackadaisical attitude that comes with high schoolers and pizza shops. Retail as a whole is pretty negative, and so even the adults can add to my giving in to jack-arsery. In any case, I sometimes hate apologizing but other times I can’t believe that I just said some things that I said. I’m too old for immaturity.
One thing that is for certain is I am falling in love with the Psalms. In my class on the Old Testament class covering the kingdom of Israel and the prophets, we’ve been working through David’s reign, and really working on building an accurate historical picture of the ancient near east. As I’ve been memorizing the Psalms, often written by the very same David, I almost feel like I can like I can tell which event recorded in 1 or 2 Samuel would have led to his writing them.
Here I can’t help but mention the lesson we were taught regarding the difference between King Saul and King David. Both kings committed unspeakable acts. Yet David is the only man in the Bible (God’s self-revelation to mankind) who is described as being a man after God’s own heart. The question is why? What is the difference between Saul and David? Repentance. Saul passed the blame; David repented.
And here, I can’t but repent for my attitude whilst working at the strip club. Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” The NIV has “mockers” instead of “scornful”. I was mocking God and life while working at the club. That’s no good. All I can hope for is the Christian account of life to be true. Insert commissioner Gordon here.
If I understand him correctly, Sigmund Freud preached a radical idea that quickly and firmly rooted itself in its mortal hearers. The idea? “If you want to be happy, blame your parents.” He didn’t want us to blame our parents for the trivial things like the shelter they provided or the food and water, but rather for the really important things or questions like, “Why do I hate myself?” and “Why can’t I keep my marriage together?” and “Why do I only like sex when it’s with strangers?”–you know, the really earth-shattering questions that must be solved if we’re to advance as a species.
Maybe it’s because I’m an honorary member (no voting rights) of MENSA, but I for one didn’t need Freud’s teaching to know that all of my problems were somebody else’s fault. But some of you might not be so smart, and so I want to start a movement. I want to be a movement initiator, the same title Marcus Borg used for Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike Jesus, my movement is to rid history of Freud’s influence. Too much of my time (and yours I’m guessing) is spent trying to figure out just how large a role my parents had in causing my life’s negative circumstances. (Oh, Dad, sorry, here’s the belated *.) Because I just don’t give a fuck anymore. I dream, I fantasize about what life must have been like before Freud. To just deal with problems as they come and quit imagining that happiness is possible if I only pinpoint exactly which spanking (all of them undeserved, as I remember it) led to me marrying my ex-wife.
Give me a break.
(The one after church on Sunday, August 30th, 1992 is my conclusion, btw).
Instead of Freud, I’d ask that we turn to Martin Heidegger, and eventually Him. Heidegger, a human, suggested that even as late as in the 20th century, philosophers were not asking the right question. The right question being, “Why do we wish to escape life?” Freud offers the idea that life can be better if we affix blame correctly; Heidegger, that life cannot be better as long as we keep trying to escape it.
Life is not in the past, it is not in the future. Life is right now.
My brother Sam’s wedding was Saturday. Despite knowing me fairly well, he let me be his best man. More shocking, he let me deliver a toast-turned-speech in front of his and his bride’s guests which numbered 230+. Here’s what I said. I hope you enjoy.
Before I begin, let’s thank everyone who set all of this up one more time (outdoor wedding/tent dinner). And keep in mind that it was raining during a lot of the time, which means we got wet. And I know I don’t like getting wet. I’d also like to personally thank Tom and Jake. You two went above and beyond in many areas and are now unforgettable.
Next, I’d like all the old people to raise their hand. Okay. If anyone is sitting next to an old person whose hand is not raised, please advise them to move closer to the speakers.
(Reaching into my pocket to pull out a few pages of paper,) I should also warn you that this isn’t going to be brief. Maybe if I had several brothers, I’d keep each one short, but I only have one brother. So take a look at your drinks and pace yourself for about fifteen minutes.
Where to begin? Oh. The title. So, this speech is called, “Relief. The end to living in sin.” It is written from the perspective of Sam and Hannah’s parents, by me. Wait a minute. (shuffling papers) I’m sorry. That was a working title. Oh boy.
The real title is “Who is my brother?”
You see, as I began to prepare for this speech, I realized I haven’t lived with Sam for fifteen years. And so it became clear early on that I might not actually have the most accurate picture of the man. So I contacted some of you who know him best to help me learn about him.
Here’s the thing. As I see it, we could take one of two routes. We could stick with the chronology of Sam, or I see a possibility to use a more abstract approach of determining if there are any themes about him. And since I think themes will be more fun, that’s how we’re going to do this.
To get started, then, I think the most important thing to mention is that Sam is, of course, an H-er man. Many of you in this room know a H-er. And a very select few of you are unfortunate enough to be married to one. The thing about H-er men is that they struggle with the obvious. Our dad, Larry, for instance, thinks the obvious needs to be stated. As a result, I find stating the obvious deplorable. And then there’s Sam, who misses the obvious.
The following anecdote is not funny, so please don’t laugh, you’ll only feel embarrassed. Sam’s first memorable miss was when our grandpa died when Sam was a toddler. After the funeral we all went back to the house and as we sat around the adults noticed Sam was not to be found. When he appeared, someone asked Sam where he was. Sam answered, “Looking for grandpa.”
Lightening the mood gradually here, there’s another time with his other grandparents when Sam did his thing. He was still very young as he sat in the back of the car while they got lost in the new-to-them Kansas City. Finally, exasperatedly, Sam said, “Pull over, Grandpa. Let me drive!”
It seems there was a least one kid who didn’t know that you had to be licensed by the state of Kansas to drive a car.
But the biggest instance of missing the obvious that I’d like to share now is what happened when Sam first called me to tell me about Hannah. He was so excited. So excited. One of the reasons he was so excited was that Hannah had graduated from an Ivy League university and yet had chosen him, he shared. What I didn’t have the heart to tell him then, but do now, is that taking the Ivy Leaguers in the highest seats of political power as an example, I think it’s rather clear that Ivy League graduates aren’t exactly known for their decision making skills. Hopefully Hannah will be an exception.
Okay. So in speeches like this, there comes a time when the bride is required to blush. Hannah, here’s your moment. It’s time to shine.
Hannah, here, unlike many of us who have only heard of yoga, actually practices yoga. And so, Hannah, I just want to say “thank you.” From what Sam has told me I just want to thank you for confirming what I’ve suspected all along. That yoga was invented by a man. For sex.
Seriously, though, Hannah. You have it pretty easy with Sam. Consider what our nephew Harry once wrote about Sam in a book. Chapter one. “My favorite relative is Uncle Sam.” Chapter two. “Uncle Sam’s favorite food is pizza. I like pizza.” Chapter three. “Uncle Sam’s favorite hobby is watching movies. I like watching movies.”
So Hannah, two things. Pizza. And Movies.
Again, as I was talking to some of you, I began to get a different picture from the one I knew. The Sam I knew had a mouthful of gum as our sister Kate stood over him accusing him of stealing her gum. Adamant denial was all she could get out of him. The Sam I knew was the one who once when I was back from college skipped school at my behest. The school called that day and I vouched for him, because I was an adult. Only years later did it come out that Kate was the one who had randomly driven by the house that day and seen his car and phoned the school herself.
But then I heard a story about Sam really enjoying going to Kate’s apartment to watch a movie with her. That didn’t seem like the Sam I knew. And then I was floored to hear that Sam mowed Kate and Mike’s lawn to help out after Harry was born. That also seemed out of character. And many more stories could be told to illustrate that Sam has proven himself to be sensitive. Observant. Intuitive. Instinctive.
Some even know him as an amazing gift giver. I’d like to stop right here though and declare that anyone who receives a white Christmas tree for their big birthday present one year while in high school will forever after give amazing gifts.
Sam is also thoughtful, they say.
And so it became very clear to me that while I initially thought these examples of behavior were out of character, it turns out that he’d been doing them so much that they were his character. Sam is a family man.
Here’s the thing. Each of us has a fire burning inside. Some people have fires that burn so bright they act as a light which draws people to them.
That’s not Sam.
Sam’s fire is the type that burns so hot that it keeps those around him warm.
Okay. Everyone stand up. Audience participation time.
I need your help. (This was the phrase I had previously arranged with Sam’s dj to press play on a certain well-known Stevie Wonder hit.)
I mentioned that I haven’t lived with Sam for fifteen years. This means a lot of phone calls. And we all know that no matter how good a phone call goes, there are some things that will never happen over the phone. Things like knuckles. Or a handshake. An elbow squeeze. Giving a shoulder a squeeze. Certainly you can’t hug over the phone. And these are the common ways men use to say “I love you.” And even now, if I turn to Sam and say, “I love you, Sam,” I’ve been talking for too long for him to get my meaning. Even if I sing it alone, I don’t think he’ll hear me.
But if everyone sings it, I think that should do the trick. We have one opportunity here. Join me in singing to Sam, or you can sing to Hannah if you like. But help me tell him I love him.
(Wait for it)
“I just called…to say…I love you. I just called…to say how much I care. I just called…to say…I love you. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”
To Sam and Hannah, everyone!
According to the wordpress stats, New Sodom has not been widely read, and it has received zero likes. Way to go and thank you.
I’ve thought a lot about that post, about why I wrote it. I wrote it because my life has been pretty great. If we measure it against the timeline of humanity on planet earth, it’s been arguably the best life ever lived. Air conditioning, food, water, unconditional love–these have never come close to running out. Plenty of us could say the same thing. But for whatever reason, this has never been enough for me. Like most veterans, I didn’t have to join the military. But I had to know what war was like (still don’t really know, but know I don’t want to know first-hand anymore). Like other manual laborers, I didn’t have to work with my body. But I had to know what it was like. I had to do these things.
At night, when I’m not thinking about what to buy, first, with my $33 from book sales, I picture you. I picture a reader who has come to trust that I’m giving Captain’s Log my best, and it turns out pretty good most of the time. But I believe a post like New Sodom should be written every once in a while because in the same way that I had to join the military and head to the oil fields, I can’t let myself (or you) forget that there are other ways to live on this planet. There are ways of living which do not hold hope dear, which do not treasure truth, respect, and love. There are ways of living which would destroy all human dignity in favor of selfishness and pride.
The pilots in the Air Force (among other military specialties I’m sure) train to perfection. By this I mean that no matter how hard I tried, I could not get anyone to show me the wrong way to perform a maneuver. Where I wanted to just see what it felt like to gain and lose hundreds of feet of altitude so that I could know the difference between incorrect and correct flying, my instructors stayed the course and held me to the previously developed standards. And once I held the standards, they raised the standards. And so on and so forth. But sometimes, in pursuit of perfection, perspective can fall by the wayside. Tempers can flare when professionalism should. That’s why I wrote New Sodom. Me and you, together we’ll get there. It’s just that sometimes I need to remind myself what happens if people like us give up. Maybe you don’t need the reminder. I do.
The only way to get there is together.