A Box of Frozen Chickens

I think I’ve said this before, but some of my favourite blog posts have been inspired by interesting exhanges on social media, especially Facebook. Yes, despite my recent rants, there are still interesting posts on there, in addition to the usual bunch of grey Religious people doing their routine moaning. In particular, the humour one finds on the Internet is far and away my favourite aspect of the entire marvellous phenomenon (that phenomenon being the Internet). So, I wanted to share this particular exchange and the funny, bantering discussion that followed. It’s quite dry and tongue-in-cheek geeky banter, but if it makes you laugh, job done. If it doesn’t, fair enough and I am sure there’ll be something out there that you will find funny.

So, in this very memorable exchange from last week, there was a question about some damage that an airliner had suffered in a collision with a bird. Here’s the meme that prompted the discussion:

My two friends Bill and Philip commented, and it kinda went from there:

Bill: What kind of bird was it? Wanna make sure I dont hit it with my truck!

Philip: I think it’s a dead kinda bird now…
Don’t know, actually. But it musta been a decent size…A frozen chicken, possibly?

Bill: Box of frozen maybe?

Philip: It could have been, Bill…I’d like to know the aerodynamic possibilities of a box of frozen chickens at cruising altitude, though…Anthony, you may be able to enlighten us…

Bill: I would very much like to hear his analysis.

Philip: Bill, knowing Anthony, he will give us a comprehensive and detailed synopsis.

Me: Very well, gentlemen. I’ll see what I can do.

The aerodynamic properties of a box of frozen chickens at 38,000ft would be very easily defined. Of the four forces of flight: Lift, Drag, Thrust and Weight, only weight and drag would be in operation due to the absence of any lift generating devices (such as wings) and the lack of an engine (producing thrust). Weight would accelerate the box downwards until the deceleration caused by the drag forces, operating in direct opposition to the acceleration caused by the weight, cancelled out the downward acceleration. At this point, the box would attain a stable downwards velocity which is known as ‘terminal velocity’, which brings it back to something that most of us have heard of, even if only because it is the title of various eponymous movies. The box would maintain that velocity – which would of course vary with air density and temperature – right until it made what is technically known as a big splat.

The fact that they were chickens in the box would have no bearing on the matter because a) chickens are virtually flightless; b) the chickens are frozen (and therefore dead) and c) they are in a box. Fortunately for the chickens, the fact that they are already dead means that the outcome of the analysis, for them at least, is irrelevant.

In short, the aerodynamic properties can therefore be summed up as being very similar to those of a safe, or even a piano. It would not be correct to assert that the aerodynamic properties are similar to an anvil, however, because that would be more streamlined, at least at the pointy end. But even an anvil would still have its own terminal velocity.

I trust this answers your questions.

Philip: It answers them perfectly! I thank you.
The only question that remains, is; how did the box of frozen chickens, travelling perfectly naturally at their terminal velocity, collide with the front of the airliner? I propose that there’s something quite fishy, here…Or, chickeny…

Me: No, it’s actually quite a simple explanation. Because air accident investigators always blame the aircrew, it follows that in fact it was the airliner that collided with the box, not the other way round.

Philip: Of course! That clears things up. It’s the aircrew’s fault. Lol…

 

And at this point, we left it. I so love Internet humour, and the banter of intelligent people 🙂

 

Peace and Grace to you 😀

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Buffet Lunch

Another collection of tasty treats:

“Your picture is on God’s fridge”
– Susan Cottrell

“When we say that Christ “paid the debt, once and for all”, it simply means that God’s job is to make up for all deficiencies in the universe.

“What else would God do?

“Basically, grace is Gods first name, and probably last too. Grace is what God does to keep all things he has made in love and alive- forever

“Grace is not something God gives; grace is who God is”
– Richard Rohr

[After explaining a medical question, in a simple way, to a friend] “This is science, but it’s not rocket science. I don’t do that 😀 ”
– Me

[Speaking of someone making racist, bigoted comments] “So, on that front the man also deserves an epic fail as a human being”.
– ‘Shane’

“Your life is not there to fulfil someone else’s wish list” – Me

“If one person is offended by your post that’s all it takes – to end the freedom of speech we all enjoy. To deny someone the right to show a swastika is to endorse everything the swastika stood for”.
– Matt

“If your picture of God is starting to feel too good to be true, you’re starting to move in the right direction.”
– Greg Boyd

“…it also makes me wonder just how real some people’s faith really is. Maybe there are those who do not actually know the Shepherd’s Voice, for whatever reason, and they are afraid of those who do know that Voice. You see, God is unpredictable, which is a) why they like Him to be shut in a book, and b) why they try to make Him conform to their expectations. Either way, they’re on a losing wicket 😉 ”
– Me

“You cannot offend anyone. People can be offended by what you say. It’s their interpretation, and not your problem”.
– Jan

…and related: ” The difficulty with offence is that it is taken, not given. People choose what they find offensive. That should not be prescribed for them.”
– Gerry

“I think it might be an idea if you re-read what you just wrote, but with your sensible lenses on. And then re-write it using your sensible pen”. – Me

“Loyalty is interesting. It’s actually an emotion. It’s not the same as trust. Trust is calculated and is developed through our powers of reason. We can cultivate trust if, a person is trustworthy. But loyalty is a natural reaction.

“The only people that ask/demand loyalty from you are abusive mates, high-control cults, and manipulative salespeople”.
– Daniel

“Make no mistake – the desire to please God through following rules almost always turns into trying to please men, because in actual fact it’s their rules you end up trying to keep, not God’s”.
– Me

“A God who cannot handle your questions cannot be your answer”.
– Jeff Turner

“I do think that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear”
– David Hayward

“When it becomes clear that your beliefs are keeping you from being better, allow yourself the freedom to become better than your beliefs”.
– Jeff Turner

“If you were going to give the Bible an enema, Numbers is where the tube would go. Or maybe Deuteronomy”. – Me00

Sportavia-Pützer RS 180 Sportsman

This entry is part 22 of 22 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

Well, it’s been a looong time – more than a year, actually – since I last published a piece in the series ‘Beautiful Destroyers: my articles about military aircraft and how beautiful they often are, despite their sometimes dark roles. Please accept my apologies for the long gap between posts in this series.

I did say that I would also be featuring civilian aircraft too, and today’s aircraft is such a one. And I’m sure you’ll love it.

So, here is the Sportavia-Pützer RS-180 Sportsman.

The RS-180 is a little-known aeroplane designed by legendary French aircraft designer René Fournier. Fournier also designed the Fournier RF-6/Slingsby T-67 Firefly (which was used as a basic flying trainer for the RAF and the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines) and a series of motor-gliders including the Fournier RF-4 and RF-5, all of which aircraft are well-known in General Aviation circles.

A four-seat, low-wing, single-engined monoplane, the RS-180 features a large bubble canopy with excellent – in fact I would say unparalleled – visibility, easy handling, and docile flight characteristics.

In this article, I will be writing pretty well exclusively about the aircraft in the photo above, G-VIZZ. It is an unbelievable fact that there were only eighteen aircraft of this type ever built, and G-VIZZ (‘Zulu-Zulu’) is the sole British-registered example. If you see an RS-180 flying over you somewhere in the UK, it will most likely be G-VIZZ. So, give us a wave 😉

Here she is standing on the taxiway in front of her hangar at Exeter Airport in Devon, UK, on a sunny morning in May 2020. Most of the pictures on today’s blog post were taken on that day, and most of them are also clickable to zoom in for additional detail.

From a military history point of view, and indeed from a ‘Beautiful Destroyers’ point of view, the building we use for VIZZ’s hangar is very interesting. It was originally built to be the gun butts, where the guns of the Spitfires that were based at Exeter in WWII could be set up safely. In other words, the ‘hangar’ was originally designed to be a giant bullet catcher. Here is a wartime photo of a Spitfire Mk.V having its guns calibrated, and the building is visible on the right of the photo:

Now, I am very fortunate to be a member of the Owners’ Group for G-VIZZ, which means I get to fly her as often as I can afford (which is not as often as I’d like!) and because there are only a few of us, it means she is almost always available. Group members can borrow her for just simple flights, or for a weekend away, for touring, holidays, landaways and all sorts of things like that; basically she is our aeroplane and we can do what we like with her. Yes, that means that essentially I own an aeroplane. Sometimes I find that simply unbelievable 😉 But it also means that I get to write this piece from an owner/pilot’s perspective.

The canopy is very large and bubble-shaped, with the only framing being the join line between the front and rear sections. It also has a really low coaming (the bottom edge) so the visibility is immense – even for the back-seat passengers.  In the photo below, taken at Exeter’s Taxiway ‘C’, you can see how high up the line of sight is for everyone in the aircraft. No idea who the people in the aircraft are, by the way; they are not current Group members. Must have been taken a few years ago.

The canopy opens by sliding forwards on rails, which means that you can’t open it in flight – so no flour-bombing competitions or anything with this aircraft*. Yes, there are such activities, and we used to do them at Bodmin (Cornwall Flying Club) in the Cessna 152s there 😀

The rear canopy is fixed in place, and the rear-seat passengers get in and out by tilting the front seats forward. For emergencies, there’s even a miniature fire axe on the centre console to let the passengers hack their way out!

Everyone has a ‘Happy Place’, and here’s a picture of mine:

This is the full instrument panel, showing even the yellow glider-tow release handle on the centre console (see below for more about this unusual feature). Remember the Captain’s seat is on the left in an aeroplane (but on the right in a helicopter), so the most important instruments are arranged in front of the left hand seat. While it looks complex, in reality it’s not. You don’t sit there looking at all those gauges and dials in bewilderment and think, ‘What does that one do? What about that one?’ 😉 Actually how it works is that say I want to check my speed, maybe to make sure it is correct on final approach, I’d look at the airspeed indicator. That’s the one on the top left. If I wanted to see how high up I am, it’s the altimeter. That’s the one slap-bang in the middle of the left instrument panel, with the two hands so it looks like a clock. So what happens is that you use the correct instrument to gather the required information at the time you need it.  It’s just a question of knowing which instrument to look at, and where it is, in order to get the information you need. Most of the rest of the time, at least in daylight flying, you more or less ignore the instruments. Really, you shouldn’t be peering at the panel all the time anyway; your eyes should be outside the aircraft, enjoying the view and looking out for other aircraft so you don’t hit them.

Here’s a closer view of the main instrument panel:

Note the gun button on the top of the control column; this fires the aircraft’s machine guns and cannon.

Just kidding 😉 It’s actually the transmit button for the radio – also known as a ‘PTT’ or ‘Push to Talk’ button.

So, what’s she like to fly? Well, she is an absolute dream.

Yes, I have put her in my series ‘Beautiful Destroyers’ despite, if truth be told, her looking like a bit of an odd bird. The fuselage almost looks too short for the cockpit canopy, the tail is a funny shape and the tailplane is halfway up the fin.

But she more than makes up for that in her handling. Now that really is beautiful. Light to the touch, sensitive and yet well-balanced controls make for easy and gentle flying characteristics. She’s stable, she’s responsive and she’s just so natural to fly. For example, I took my eldest son David up in her a few months ago, or, more accurately, he took me up. He’s a Pilot too, and yes he’s flown a fair few different aircraft types, but even so I basically just plonked him in the left hand seat and said those immortal words, “You have control. Take us flying”. And he did. Obviously we’d pre-briefed with the checklist; we’d discussed the V-speeds (that’s the speeds that you fly in the different phases of the flight, so, take-off speed; climb speed; best glide speed; maximum flap speed; circuit, base leg, final approach and threshold speeds) but he really just flew the entire sortie himself, with me as Command Pilot only by name. Never flown the type before and he took to her like he’d been flying her all his life, including a lovely wing-down crossind landing, and he loved every minute of it. She really is such a delight to fly.

And the visibility is enormous. That bubble canopy with the low coaming means you have a huge field of view. Couple the view with the lovely, light handling, and you’ve got a gorgeous aeroplane. I mean, when you go back to flying a Piper Warrior – which really is itself a delight to fly – the Warrior feels like a bit of a tank in comparison, and the canopy framing makes you feel like you’re shut in a box. Although the RS-180’s performance is more or less identical to the Warrior’s, the RS-180 is a much nicer aeroplane to fly – and that really is saying something, because the Warrior has always been high on my list of favourite aircraft types to fly in terms of handling.

In this next shot, the aeroplane’s starboard flap is easily visible, set up for preflight inspection at the full 50 degrees of extension.

This aircraft has ‘split flaps’, meaning that just the underside of the wing drops down to form the flap, leaving the upper surface of the wing in place. This is as opposed to ‘slotted’ flaps like on a Warrior, or ‘Fowler’ flaps like on a Cessna 152, where the flaps extend backwards and downwards, sort of on rails, like on a jet airliner. But this aeroplane has split flaps. This does mean that you can’t see from the Pilot’s seat whether the flaps have extended or not, but there’s never any doubt because you can feel it in the way the aroplane flies. If you zoom in on the next picture, you’ll just about be able to see the way in which the flaps have a sort of ‘recess’ above them in the wing; this is where they go when they retract. 50 degrees of flap is a very effective setting and you can get down – landed and stopped – in just a couple of hundred yards with them, if you know what you’re doing.

Also visible on the above pictures is the glider towing system I mentioned earlier; it’s that sort of black ‘stinger’ thing that is sticking out under the tail. This is kind of an aeroplane ‘tow-bar’ that enables the aircraft to tow gliders into the air, on a rope behind her. ‘Aerotowing’, as it is called, is one of the two main launching methods for getting gliders into the air in gliding clubs all around the world, the other method being the ‘winch launch’, which is very much like being catapulted off an aircraft carrier 😉 . When I flew gliders back in the early ’90’s, I had a number of aerotows, and they were great fun. As far as any of us know in the Owners’ Group, G-VIZZ has never been used for glider towing. But for the sake of completeness, here’s what an aerotow looks like in practice:

I love this next shot. This is the view forwards on Exeter’s Runway 26, just before opening the throttle for take-off. For me, there are few sights in aviation more evocative than this one. Today, everything has come down to this: all the preparation and planning; all my checks are complete; the aeroplane is fuelled and my route, radio frequencies and V-speeds are written on my kneeboard. Everything is ready; it’s a perfect day for flying, adventure beckons and it’s somewhere off in this present direction of 260 degrees magnetic (that’s what the ’26’ in ‘Runway 26’ means). The reason the airport is there is to enable aeroplanes to land and take off, and now it’s my turn and I have the runway all to myself. So, it’s brakes off, full power, and away we go!

Here’s a video demonstrating the unparalleled visibility that bubble canopy gives. Taken from over Ashburton in Devon on that same day in May 2020, this video begins looking out East towards the English Channel, over Torbay, and then the camera swings all the way round past Dartmoor and over the tail towards Bovey Tracey. Note how the only canopy frame that gets in the way is over my right shoulder, as the view comes round towards the aircraft’s tailplane:

I think that’s quite breathtaking 🙂

This is a still shot of the Teign estuary in the foreground, and Torbay in the distance, taken from over Chudleigh, Devon, again through that magnificent bubble canopy:

I mean that view is just colossal. Here is a view of Ivybridge from 3,000ft, demonstrating the superlative view downwards and forwards:

This is the now-closed Plymouth Airport. It’s the place where I learned to fly in 1996-7; there are plans to reopen it, but we shall have to wait and see – while all the politics are sorted out.

Here’s a lovely view of the River Plym estuary, looking roughly south-southeast:

And then back to base via the lovely little grass strip at Bolt Head. I intend to do a landaway here sometime this summer, and I have been practising short-field operations for this very reason**.

And then the return flight to Exeter in all that spectacular visibility, via the magnificent Start Bay:

I mean it just doesn’t get any more gorgeous than that 😀

The next picture is of G-VIZZ tucked away in her hangar after the flight, with the covers on. With a canopy that huge, any bird droppings or dust of any kind on the perspex is always going to spoil the flying experience, as well as compromise safety and maybe even damage the plastic (by etching it), so it’s important to put the large canvas cover on her before leaving her for the day. I haven’t had to do this at night yet, though! But I’m sure I’ll be fine; I have flown VIZZ as it was getting dark once and all I needed to do when I put her to bed was to plonk my car on the  taxiway with the headlights on, shining them into the hangar 😉

Just one more photo, and this one is not of G-VIZZ but of a German-registered RS-180; I have included this shot to show the shape of the wing on this aeroplane type.

So, there we are. The RS-180 Sportsman, easily the sweetest-handling aeroplane that it has ever been my privilege to fly.

I love those words I used for David: “You have control. Take us flying”.

There’s no better light civilian aeroplane in which to do that.


*Actually, there is a way of doing flour-bombing. We can use the glider-towing attachment. If we put the flour bomb in a net bag and attach a metal ring to the bag, we can clip that ring into the towing apparatus as if it was a mini-glider, then release the bomb by using the yellow glider release lever pictured above. Simples!


**Edit: In between writing this article and its publication, I did just that, and landed at Bolt Head. Here’s G-VIZZ on the ground at Bolt Head airfield, 17th July 2020.

Some other aircraft had flown in that day too; you can see them in the background. But I have left the original text in place, because I will undoubtedly be going again 🙂

But on this occasion, I flew in, went and did a coast path walk, then had a picnic in the shade under the tail, then flew back to Exeter. What’s known as a ‘grand day out’, you know.

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Cosmic Shame

One of my online friends, Louise, coined a superb phrase the other day – ‘Cosmic shame’. I simply had to share the concept in order to let her refutation of the idea out there into the wild, as it were 🙂

Over to Louise:


I think essentially every human being wants to be loved and respected just as they are.

I’ve just been chatting to some friends this morning, funnily enough about the nature of shame. I think shame is a whole whirlwind of emotions that comes out of a sense of rejection. That rejection can be what we sense in a group, or at work, in family and actually when it comes to hell as well. Hell is a cosmic rejection from heaven – which leads to trying to handle a cosmic shame within our own body. That is why I think the hell doctrine is so damaging. We find it hard enough to handle every day shame that comes along – let alone cosmic shame.

One thing I’m finding to be more and more true is that – I am the resource. If I want other people to love respect me just as I am, I need to love and respect me just as I am.

The act of rejection and shame we consequently experience is a feeling that we don’t have the right to even exist! It’s the deepest, most destructive, most unsettling, most primal fear and sickness there is.

People experience rejection from the tribe, rejection from family, rejection from friendship groups, rejection from the earth, rejection from God and the universe. It is that silly idea that there is a qualification needed to even be here. Shame essentially asks the questions:

Are you good enough to be here?

Are you good enough to belong here?

Do you deserve to live?

Do you deserve to be here?

Do you belong to this planet?

It’s the most unsettling feeling in the world. It destabilises the root of who you are. It’s questions your personhood. Heaven and hell are so disturbing because essentially church says to people that they are rejected from heaven – they say “You don’t get to be here, you are not good enough”. It’s the biggest, most enormous cosmic rejection that someone can experience. Terrible.

But it’s ironic. Because that rejection is an illusion. We have come out of the earth-we belong here! We are from here. Planet earth is our home. God is father to us all. And we all will be in paradise one day. And we all are one anyway.

But that illusion is painful. And we can’t wait for everyone to understand that. We have to stop waiting for others to act out of the truth – and act out our own truth, and own that truth.

I am worthy.

I belong here.

I am beloved.

– Louise, shared here with her kind permission


Wow. I don’t think I need to comment further 🙂 Thanks, Louise!10

What Love Is Not

I’ve often said that if what a Christian labels as ‘Love’ does not match in every respect the Love described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, then it is not Love. It’s certainly not God’s Love, at any rate.

It might be a cheap imitation, or it may even be a better kind of human love that more closely approaches that ideal, but it’s not God’s Love. Interesting therefore that it could be thought of that there are different ‘grades’ of love…

But what Love is not, is torturing billions of people for ever in a fiery furnace that Christians call ‘Hell’. “God is Love, but…” is a contradiction in terms. There’s no ‘but’ in God’s Love; there is indeed no ‘balance’ in God, and the idea that there needs to be is a man-made idea. God’s ‘Love’ is not ‘balanced’ by God’s ‘Justice’. Again, this is another man-made idea.

Putting this practically, take a look at this little meme. It goes a little bit further than I would (in that I still call myself Christian), but it says it really well:

Remember also the sickening Infernalist ideas about the Resurrection Body. Unless the Resurrection Body exists, how is God going to torture people forever in Hell? These people believe that everyone is resurrected into one of these amazing, glorious bodies, just like that of the Risen Christ, only for it to be used as an everlasting vessel in which they will endure endless agony.

You’d have to be a real sicko to believe that that’s what’s going to happen. Or, so deeply indoctrinated in the Infernalist viewpoint that it doesn’t appear that there’s anything amiss with the idea…

I realise that Dan Barker is an atheist. But sometimes it takes someone outside one’s familiar belief structure to cast a clear and clean light on just how foolish some of our beliefs are, and so I make no apology for including his ideas here.

Nope. Love is not torturing people forever; not in any way can this be a valid description of Love. No way.

Go figure.

Grace and Peace to you! 😀

 

10

Tapping the Christ Within

Here’s a great piece by Jeff Turner:


The God of Christianity does not actively send calamities our way, nor does he cause the world to batter us that he might better us. It is also the case, however, that God does not go out of his way to overprotect, not to “helicopter parent” us in order to ensure that we are never touched by difficulties or trying circumstances. The one who claims that God does such things is simply living in a fantasyland, and has no real contact with the world inhabited both by God and “men.”

So, why does God not magically shield us from the activities of the sometimes chaotic cosmos? I’ve thought about this for a very long time, and I’ve come to believe it is because he trusts his image in us. We are universes within a universe, and house within us that which the “heavens” which contain us cannot contain. We do not live as this is so, however, and tend to go about life gazing at our navels, and bemoaning our inability to change this circumstance or that. It is the chaos of the cosmos, however, that put a demand on Christ within us, and causes that which can bring about order to stand at attention in our souls.

Were God to never allow life to happen to us, we very well may never learn to trust in the reality of Christ in us, our only hope of glorification. We would remain in an infantile state, always trembling and looking for God to enter our situation from the outside in order to alter it. When life is allowed to be what it is, however, there is a blessed pressure put upon the limitless-ness of God in his people, and we find resurrection life coming from the inside out.

That said, if you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion that God has sent terrible things your way, you can set that aside, knowing it is not the case. Life is allowed to run its course, but the good Father we have will not waste a single “happening,” but will redeem it, making it work in our favor by causing it to tap the endless ocean of Christ that we contain. You are being parented skilfully by a Father who trusts his image in you to come forth.

– Jeff Turner, used with his kind permission

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How Jesus Interpreted Scripture

By Richard Rohr

Biblical messages often proceed from historical incidents, but the actual message does not depend upon communicating those events with perfect factual accuracy. Any good writer knows that! Spiritual writers are not primarily journalists. Hebrew rabbis and scholars sometimes used an approach called midrash in which they reflected on a story to communicate all of its underlying message.

Scripture can be understood on at least four levels: literal meaning, deep meaning, comparative meaning, and hidden meaning. Midrash allowed and encouraged each listener to grow with a text and not to settle for mere literalism, which of itself bears very little spiritual fruit. Some Christians do the same today with mature, reflective reading of Scripture (lectio divina), but Jesus and ancient Jewish teachers were much more honest and up front about this.

Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver. This was drilled into me during my seminary education. People at different levels of development will interpret the same text (or homily) in different ways. There is no one right way to interpret sacred texts. Such a singular approach was a defensive posture that emerged more strongly after the fights of the Reformation and the attacks of the Enlightenment.

How you see is what you see; the who that you bring to your reading of the Scriptures matters. Is it a defensive who? An offensive who? A power-hungry who? A righteous who? Surely, this is why we need to pray before reading a sacred text!

More than telling us exactly what to see in the Scriptures, Jesus taught us how to see, what to emphasize, and also what could be de-emphasized or ignored. Jesus himself is our hermeneutic! He was in no way a fundamentalist or literalist. He was a man of the Spirit. Just watch how he does it. (To do so, you’ll need some knowledge and respect for the Hebrew culture and practices.)

Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalistic texts in his own inspired Hebrew Bible in favor of passages that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and honesty. He read the Scriptures in a spiritual and selective way. Jesus had a deeper and wider eye that knew which passages were creating a path for God and which passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. That becomes self-evident once you know enough to see the “comparative meaning” of an incident or statement. [1]

When Christians pretend that every line in the Bible is of equal importance and inspiration, they are being very unlike Jesus. This is precisely why Jesus was accused of teaching “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29, RSV), and why they hated him so much.

Jesus even accused fervent and pious “teachers of the law” of largely missing the point. “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” he asked them (Mark 12:24, RSV). We cannot make the same mistake all over again—and now in Jesus’ name.

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Don’t Relax Your Vigilance

I think this is the first time I have commented on current affairs on my blog, save as a means to leading into a lesson for those walking the path of spirituality. But today, this one is grittily practical and entirely to do with earthly things. It’s about our current worldwide plague.

Regarding Covid, there are very few people who know what dying by means of a respiratory distress illness actually looks like.

Of all the ways there are to die, It’s probably one of the worst ways to go that there is. There’s no family sitting tearfully by your bedside holding your hand. They’re not allowed in. No, you die alone, of suffocation; you’re trying to breathe but you can’t. Like when you’re gasping for breath after inhaling smoke from a bonfire, but it doesn’t stop. You can’t get a good enough breath to take away the overwhelming urge to breathe, and the panic sets in and still it doesn’t stop. There’s no escape, it’s lonely, it’s terrifying and it’s utterly, utterly terrible.

Maybe if you’re lucky there might be a nurse there, but you can’t tell it’s a human because they are gowned up to the nines in protective equipment, and they likely will not be allowed even to hold your hand.

My online and RL friends know me; I am by nature a bright optimist. I am unhealthily positive. I don’t take much seriously at all and my outlook on life is offensively flippant, and I live a pretty fearless life. So why am I writing a post like this?

Well, I need to tell you that this is the way it is, because these points I make can save lives. Look, this is not fear-mongering; I mean what do you think SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which is what Covid is part of) means if not an extremely distressing death? I’m trying to tell you how it is.

I mean, if only they’d put as much effort into showing what Covid deaths look like, as they do in putting photos of damaged lungs on cigarette packets, people might take this thing a lot more seriously.

The virus has not ‘gone away’. It may well be time to relax the rules a little, yes, but we must still be vigilant. Keep your distance. Definitely avoid crowds. Wash your hands. Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Stay away from others as far as possible and respect their right to stay away from you. Don’t assume that just because you feel more ‘comfortable’ about the virus, that others will too. Our Government don’t seem to be able to make up their minds about anything, so it is up to you to protect yourself and your family from others and to protect others from yourself too.

Wearing a mask may not protect you, but if you are infected – and you will have no way of knowing this – then it WILL protect others from you simply by deflecting the airflow around the back of your head. Masks are proven to be effective at protecting others, else why do you think surgeons wear them over the patient in the operating theatre? Don’t believe stupid conspiracy theories or ideas from the University of YouTube, but use your common sense. And don’t relax your vigilance.

I have worked in the medical field all my life: I have two degrees in microbiology; twelve years in medical research; and twenty-four years in the pharmaceutical industry, and even I don’t know what the future holds, nor do I know enough about this virus to make any prognosis or give any advice – except to say that social distancing works, as do hand-washing and all the other things I have mentioned. Basic precautions is why the infection rate hasn’t gone through the roof in the UK; we have done ok up until now, so we need to keep up the effort.

So, be sensible. Don’t relax your vigilance. Respect others. Let them live.

Edit: I’ve turned off commenting for this post. Reason: Some folks may not agree, and that’s fine. But I’m taking this seriously enough to know that some of the comments people could make may be capable of endangering lives, like people advocating not wearing masks, for instance. So, no comments on this one. I also won’t be accepting any emails about it either. This one isn’t up for discussion, I’m afraid. Thanks for understanding.

20

What’s So Bad About Sin?

For some time now, I’ve been working on some sort of ‘definition’ of ‘sin’ (which is why I put ‘sin’ in inverted commas a lot in my writings, because I am not sure it really exists; I am not sure how I would describe it even if it does; I feel that Religious people have an unhealthy obsession with it; I consider that it has been defeated by Jesus at Golgotha; and even if the Religious people are right and it does exist and is a major problem, still they have never been able to define it accurately and consistently.

Anyway, I still haven’t ‘got’ that definition yet. It’s an ongoing process, but without being too unhealthy 😉

So, here’s a great post on the subject by Ryan Harbidge, a piece which goes a long way towards explaining things, and also offers some interesting and encouraging perspectives:


I was brought to the hospital’s emergency entrance with a gruesome and painful injury. My left shoulder had become completely dislocated. My arm hung uselessly with my shoulder totally out of the socket and the pain was building to an intensity that was almost unbearable.

The emergency doctor looked at me with anger and disgust yelling, “What the hell are you doing here looking like that?  That is absolutely disgusting!  What makes you think that all of us here need to see that?  Did you think of me?  Did you consider what seeing that is doing to my well being?  Besides, it is against the law to dislocate your shoulder.  You will be punished for this!!!”

They gathered around and beat me.  The doctors and nurses knocked me off of the gurney and punched and kicked at me for what seemed like an eternity.

Hopefully at this point you are wondering, “What kind of a sick and twisted hospital is that?”  After all, this is not how patients are treated at hospitals.  The story is partially correct.  I did in fact suffer such an injury.  The treatment that I received at the hospital, however, was nothing short excellent, with caring staff who had one thing in mind for me:  The restoration of my body.  Repairing my injuries in order to make things right again. I told the story of this unmerciful hospital to make a point.  If you have been a part of either the Roman Catholic or Protestant Christian religion, you have likely been taught that God sees sin as the merciless hospital sees injury.

Where do we get this idea that sin is a moral failure—a coming short of following God’s laws?  Looking back at the history of religious development from primitive to modern times, there seems to be a commonality of fear, superstition and anthropomorphism at the heart of every religion.  In primitive times, people recognized the obvious design of nature and from that, knew that there is either a force or a person who is in control of, or at least influences what happens around them.

Kind of like at a hockey game where your favourite team wins and you happen to be wearing a certain shirt, you may assume that if you wear that shirt again, your team will win.  It becomes your “lucky shirt” and you wear it every time your team plays in order to bring your team good luck and influence their victory. The same thing happens in the development of religion. For example, you have a good hunting season after you have had a feast on the night of a full moon.  The assumption is made that the feast on that point on the lunar cycle  was an influencer in your good hunting season.  Superstition is born.

You recognize that people who are more powerful than you need to be appeased in order for you to live in peace and safety and the assumption is made that whatever force or being (let’s call this “God” for the sake of reference) who made the world you live in must also be like this, anthropomorphism is born.

Sin, therefore becomes something of an infraction of the expectations that this deity expects in order for us to enjoy safety, food and health.  A religious system of rule keeping and ceremony is born out of fear of this God in order for Him to provide for your needs. It’s a transactional relationship and anyone in the tribe who breaks the laws is assumed to be putting the whole tribe in danger and is subsequently punished.

We see this in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament scriptures.  There are three main words for “sin.”

-chaţţâ’âh chaţţâ’th: (An offence caused by falling short of someone’s expectations of behaviour)

-chêţ: (A crime.) This is also a subjective term, for example, in Deuteronomy 23:21,23 (NASBS)

“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you.  You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised.”

The person in question only had to pay whatever he promised God because he promised it.  If he doesn’t pay, it is a “sin”, however if he hadn’t promised it, it wouldn’t be a sin to not pay it.

-châţâ (to miss)

Interestingly enough, looking at the masoretic texts, there seems to be an evolution of thought as to what “sin” is at some point for the Hebrew people.  It is châţâ and its corresponding imagery for “sin” which seems to make it into the language and thinking of the New Testament.  In the Septuagint, which came from much older manuscripts than the masoretic texts, we see a consistency of thought in the wording pertaining to the nature of sin.

In the Koine Greek language of the New Testament (and the LXX), we find two main words for the word “sin”.

-Hamartia: (miss the mark) This word has no moral implications.  It carries the imagery of an archer shooting an arrow at a target, but coming short of hitting the “bullseye”.

Francois DuToit, who is a Greek scholar was kind enough to send this definition of “hamartia” to me:

“The word hamartia, from ha, negative and meros, portion or form, thus to be without your allotted portion or without form, pointing to a disorientated, distorted identity; the word meros, is the stem of morphe, as in 2 Corinthians 3:18 the word metamorphe, with form, is the opposite of hamartia – without form. Sin is to live out of context with the blueprint of one’s design; to behave out of tune with God’s original harmony. Hamartia suggests anything that could possibly distract from the awareness of our likeness. See Deuteronomy 32:18, “You have forgotten the Rock that begot you and have gotten out of step with the God who danced with you!” Hebrew, khul or kheel, to dance.”

-Paraptoma:  This word gets rendered into either “transgress” or “trespass” in English. Personally, I like the imagery of “transgress” better.  The imagery seems to be more consistent with the Greek. It makes sense when you consider the words “progress” and “regress”. “Pro” means “forward motion” and of course “Re” is “backwards motion”.  The word “transgress” is a combination of the Latin words “trans” which means to “go across laterally” and “gradi” which is “to walk”.   Here’s the imagery that forms in my mind.  I think of a Canadian winter in which there is snow and ice covering the ground.  I am walking towards a goal.  I am “progressing” and am “on target”.  Suddenly, the terrain changes and I find myself walking along a side slope which is slippery.  I start sliding sideways, which takes me off course of my intended goal.  I have “transgressed”.

Now that we appear to have a completely different definition for what it means to “sin”, the big question becomes:  What is the mark we miss?  What is the goal that we slide away from?

I can no longer believe that sin has anything to do with falling short of Gods moral perfection. I have become convinced that it has everything to do with not recognizing our ontological worth and identity.

In the creation narrative of Genesis, we come away with one essential truth:  We as humans were created in the “image of God”.  We have divine origin.  We were declared by our maker to be “good”.  The Hebrew word used here is “ţôb” which means “complete, and as it should be”.

There is another interesting word in the Hebrew language and a corresponding word in Koine Greek which speak to human value. The Hebrew word is “kâbôd”.  Here is the imagery this word gives us:  Back before the invention of paper currency, if you wished to buy, say a cow for example, the worth of that animal would be equivalent to a certain weight of silver or gold.  Pretend for a moment that our economy still works this way. If you wish to purchase a live cow, in todays valuation, a cow would be worth approximately 1.8 Troy ounces of gold.  In other words, that cow has the kâbôd of 1.8 ounces of gold.

In Greek, we have similar imagery in the word “doxa”.  To understand this word, picture this:  You are at an auction.  A beige 1979 Plymouth Horizon comes up for bidding.  I know.  It’s unlikely that anyone would actually want to purchase this particular car and that there might even any of these in existence anymore, but work with me here.  The first bidder sees the chance of buying a cheap first car for his kid and offers $100.00. You see the car and it brings back a wave of nostalgia as you had a car just like this in high school. (True story for me unfortunately)  So, you offer $150.00. The bidding war is on!  Others, delusional with auction fever join in, suddenly determined to have this fine automobile.  At the end, the car is sold for an unbelievable $5000.00. Is the car worth that?  Yes.  Why?!?  Because someone was willing to pay that money for it.  Value is a very subjective thing.  Something has value because someone has demand and desire for it.  “Doxa” is the assessed value of something.

How are those two words, “kâbôd“ and “doxa” connected?  They are both translated into English as “glory”.

Read the words of Jesus high priestly prayer in John 17 with this imagery of “glory” in mind:

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Note how Jesus says, pertaining to Himself: “you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”  Who has God given Him?  All people of course.  Yes, He acknowledges the loss of one person, presumably Judas.  This does not imply  a static or irreversible state of being.  For being lost simply makes you eligible for being found.

Near the end of this beautiful prayer, He says, “The glory (assessed value) that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.“

In other words:  “The assessed value that You have given to me I have given to them.”  Jesus, I believe is the perfect manifestation of the eternal Christ (the enfleshment of God) and thus possesses the same value as God the Father.  He has given us the same value!  How awesome is that?  And why?  So that there may be a praxis of unity.

Have you ever been in a crowd of people who are incredibly rich, famous or successful in some way that you are not?  There is a hierarchical social structure that automatically forms.  If you are of a low place in society, you don’t feel like you can approach people of higher position as equals. There cannot be unity if there is a perceived difference in the value of people in a crowd. Jesus levels the playing field between us and our maker by giving us the same value…or perhaps by restoring the value we have always had.

At the national mint where currency is printed, a $100 bill is given the value (glory) of $100.  That is the objective value it has.  No more.  No less.  If that bill falls out of its owners pocket and is dropped into a mud puddle on the road, becoming soiled, if cars drive over that bill, damaging it and tearing it, is it still worth $100?  Of course it is.  Neither its poor appearance or its lostness has altered its value.  Should you be so fortunate to find that bill, it can still be traded for something of equal value.  If you trade this $100 bill for something that is only worth $5, you have “missed the mark” and have not treated it according to its true value.

Each of us as humans have been made in Gods image.  We are declared to be good—complete—as we should be.  This is the assessed value given to us by God Himself!  Throughout our lives however, we are told that we have lesser value.  People do this.  Organizational systems do this to us. The church does this.  Ever heard of the doctrine of “original sin”?  You see, it’s much easier to create a social or systemic structure to your advantage if you can convince other people that they are worth less than you.  This is what we call the “sin of the world”.

That’s right.  Things we do like: murder, theft, coveting, lying, etc., are not sin.  They are symptoms of sin.  The real sin is this:  When you either give to another person or receive from a person or system an assessment of value which is lower than what God has already given you.  This is sin.

When you have a cold, you get a runny nose and a cough. The snot, phlegm and noise of coughing is not the cold.  The rhinovirus is.  The gross stuff that is offensive to everyone around you is simply the symptoms of the virus.

If you have been told and believe that you are ontologically flawed from the get-go, that you are worth nothing and are utterly sinful, that is how you will behave.  Your perceived, assessed value will ultimately be reflected in your behaviour. From your lowered sense of worth, comes “sinful” actions.  It is impossible to consistently live a life that reflects a value higher than what you think you are worth.  Ever wonder why so many religious people tend to fall and fall hard into a lifestyle of “sin”?  They live a disingenuous life with the belief that they are sinful, but hold themselves to a higher sense of morality, because that’s what they believe God expects of them.  It’s the same transactional mindset of primitive religion.  The problem is, that you cannot keep up the facade.  You will ultimately fail in your quest for a “moral” life. It doesn’t matter if you are a high profile preacher or just an average person.  The only difference is that the high profile guy gets noticed more.

The gospel has nothing to do with a prayer you must pray, a set of beliefs you must hold to and behaviour you must keep in order for God to be pleased enough with you that He will let you into heaven one day.  The gospel is the announcement that you have never lost your value. You are worth the same as God Himself.  You are as you should be. You are good.  The gospel is that we don’t have to live from a low valuation of self.

The words of Jesus in Luke 10:26-28 (NASBS):

“And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ And he answered, ‘You SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’  And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.’”

Jesus is not telling this inquisitive lawyer how to act in order to please God.  He is telling him how you act naturally when you behave from a knowledge of what you are already worth!  He is describing how to live as one who is fully and beautifully human!  Whenever you treat someone with kindness, whenever you refuse to respond to violence with violence, whenever you put the needs of someone else ahead of yourself, you are behaving in the most natural, truly human way. You are behaving from who you are. This is what pleases God. When we engage in relationship with Him, we participate in the healing of the world.

In the first chapter of the gospel of John, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and announces, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  That is indeed what Jesus started, but did not complete.  You see, it was important for God to become enfleshed as one of us, to bring back dignity to humanity and to restore our “glory” as humanity had completely lost sight of our value.  Jesus gives us permission to believe that we are good.  And because we are good, we can behave in a way that reflects who we are.  I believe that “taking away the sin of the world” is a task that needs to continue.  It is a job that each of us is called to. Each of us needs to communicate to other people that we come into contact with everyday that they too are priceless.  They too are created in the image of God and are complete and good as they are.  We need to participate with God in taking away the devaluation of humanity and restore proper worth revealing every person as equal.  It seems like a big job, but it really comes naturally when you live from your true self.

Once more…and if it seems like I am repeating myself, I am.  You are NOT morally depraved.  You do NOT have a sin nature.

You ARE good.  You ARE created in the image of God and share His value.  Your nature is love and you can only thrive when you participate in what is natural for you.

Repeat this to yourself every day. Change your mind about who you are and watch how your behaviour naturally shifts as you understand who you have always been!

– Ryan Harbidge, used here with his kind permission


Here is the link to the original article20