Monday, October 05, 2009

Armstrong In Town...

No, not the guy who walked on the moon!
No, not that guy that rides bikes!
Not the trumpet-player.
The ex-nun scholar-woman theologian that has written fascinating books about religion!
<-- This is her new one, and Random House graciously sent me a review copy!
[Thank you, Jessica!]

The Case For God.

And in just a little over a week's time [Wednesday the 14th] the author, the scholar, the legend -- Karen Armstrong will be giving a lecture just down the street from me, at St. Brigid's Church.
I am very much looking forward to this. I already have my ticket purchased!
I've read many of her books, and she is just incredibly astute, wise, and experientially brilliant, when it comes to "religion."
I am still immersed in Margaret Atwood's dystopia [incidentally, I saw Maggie at the same church two weeks ago... I'm on a real author-groupie roll here...] so I have not started Karen Armstrong's book, but I just randomly flipped through it a minute ago.
This excerpt from the Bible sort of caught my interest, it's on page 85:

There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests, but everybody thinks of other people's interests instead.

This is from the Apostle Paul's advice to the Philippians. Chapter 2, verses 2 to 4.
The comment I want to make has absolutely nothing to do with Karen Armstrong's subsequent erudition in this book.
I merely looked at the Scripture and thought about it.
I conclude that it is a bit nutty.

There was a time in my life when I would have read this Scripture and immediately felt an obligation to be "self-effacing" or whatever.
Would have begun considering how important everyone else's "interests" are in comparison to my own.
But nowadays, my brain is no longer in NEUTRAL!

At least if these verses were suggesting that other people's interests were EQUAL to my own... OK... you've got my ear... but then Brother Paul throws in that last word "instead".
"Instead" means I am actually supposed to sort of jettison my own interests, I guess.
In my opinion, that is a recipe for lunacy.
Imagine the mileage that a secretly self-interested minister could get with this one verse alone!
Practically speaking, this verse needs a lot of footnotes. And if you read the rest of Philippians, the footnotes simply aren't there!
Even in theory, [and all conceit aside] there are tons of people out there in the world that just plain are not "better" than I am.
For me to tell myself that they are... well, that is called schizophrenia.
Sorry about that Paul and/or God!


Beth said...

Self-effacement has never been part of my repertoire – although it can come in handy as a put-on/fake act in dealing with certain people.

Stefanie said...

St Brigid's is starting to sound like a church of literature and that's one church I can happily attend! How do I get one to set up shop in my neighborhood?

Please report back on the lecture and the book. I am interested in both :)

Erin in Boston said...

OK, you're going to make me look this up, aren't you? Here is what the NIV translation (the one touted to be the one closest to the Dead Sea Scrolls in translation) says:

"2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

This is a lot different than the one you quoted. It says that you can look to your own interests, but in doing so don't forget to ALSO to the interests of others.

You have to really be careful with the translations you use and their veracity since they vary so much.

Anonymous said...

I like Erin in Boston's version much more than the one found in A Case for God. Much closer to what would seem to me as not leading to lunacy and insanity.

Isabella K said...

Hmm. ALSO is a lot different from INSTEAD. Maybe this is why I avoid religion altogether — I want clarity.

St Brigid's was always cutting-edge cool. They used to hold mass in Latin, but that was shut down for being too much of a spectacle.

Cipriano said...

These are all great comments.
True enough, the version that Karen Armstrong's book is using.... [not even sure which it is] seems woefully..... well, woe-ish, compared to the NIV translation that Erin mentions.
The NIV is probably more true to the original intent of the verses, the word "also" is far superior to "instead."

Stefanie and Isabella:
St. Brigid's is actually the new home base for the "Writer's Festival" an annual cavalcade of lectures and workshops etc. I just love the fact that it is so close to where I live.... my beloved downtown!

Priori said...

I would agree with this verse to some degree. The difficult part is about considering others better than myself. Not that I want to think that I am better than someone else, but its just a mind trick tactic, and doesnt make logical sense. If you think I am better than yourself, and I think you are better than myself, we can not both be correct. We are equal to the degree that we are both humans. One may need more additional guidance than the other, but its not a question of heirarchy. This is a part about religions which makes people angry - they always resort to some subtle mind bending way of thinking, which you must adhere to, not understand. It should just say something like (in my god voice) "If you are able to humble yourself and consider the needs of others in all of your actions, then you will not build upon your own selfish desires, and will be rewarded in the kingdom of heaven. Thus sayeth the Lord" The kingdom of heaven refering to NOW, heaven being consciousness, life, awareness of it.

Anyways, thats my two Yen, or cents, or however we are counting these days.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have to admit that what Priori said both is his god voice and outside the ""s was closer to what I'd be inclined to swallow (I always feel like religion is trying to feed me some kind of ... well, you know!).
p.s. the folks at St. Brigid's are always looking for volunteers, in case you're interested in attending without paying. You do have to help out though.