That Other ‘Dratted Verse’…

[Author’s Note: This essay is about a verse in the ‘Letter to the Hebrews’. No-one is certain who wrote that Epistle, but for the sake of convenience I will here refer to the writer using the masculine pronouns ‘he/him’ and as the ‘writer’ rather than presuming either a name or a gender] [1]

I once wrote a piece about a Bible verse that seems to cause more trouble than any other; the one ‘dratted verse’ found in 2Timothy 3:16 where it supposedly says that ‘all Scripture is God-breathed…’ and about how that verse, or at least the modern-English translation of it, is used as the basis for the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, and thence used as a weapon by Christian religious zealots to beat people over the head. Of course. For more on that idea, please see the piece I wrote earlier.

I so wish that verse wasn’t in the Bible 😉

So, then, today’s journey into the mysterious world of misused Scripture texts takes us to the Letter to the Hebrews. Here, in Chapter 9 and verse 27, is found the Other Dratted Verse:

(Heb 9:27)

I so wish that verse wasn’t in the Bible, either 😉

And I’ll tell you for why.

It’s because the verse is regularly used by certain Christians as a proof-text – a Bible verse that supposedly proves a person’s point – for the doctrine that death is some sort of ‘deadline’ (pun not intended; I detest such things!) for fulfilling, well, whatever condition they want to impose on you.

Usually, the thing they are touting is that if a person does not ‘accept Christ’ [or other religious requirement of their choice] before they die, then it’s off to Hell with them, and of course they will naturally have to pay for their own handbasket. And because the verse in question, Hebrews 9:27, appears to support this idea, it has become virtually exclusively the verse used to ‘prove’ that doctrine; in fact I can’t think of another such verse. Like many doctrines, this whole idea tries to negate the concept of God being all-loving and all-merciful, and of course it also reinforces the Hell doctrines that I stand so vehemently against, because the inference is that at this ‘judgment’, everyone will be found guilty [2] and end up going there – apart, of course, from the one preaching, and his denomination, because naturally they alone are the people who have received the ‘one true gospel’ 😉

So, you see, this verse has been used continuously, for some time now, as a high-pressure sales closing technique. Buy your salvation ticket now, folks, because tonight you might be dead and then it will be too late! I could rant about the rights and wrongs of such an approach, but I am a man of mercy and I will spare you. But still the fact remains that generations of pushy evangelists have misused this verse in this pressurising manner, presumably each of them picking up the technique from the ones they have watched and learned from. [3]

And Heb 9:27 is the verse which is used as the proof-text to show that the moments just before death are actually a person’s ‘last chance’ before the opportunity closes. They need to ‘repent!’ by then, or else!

That’s why I wish this verse was not in the Bible!

But that stuff I have written above – is that really what the verse actually means? Or have those Christians simply read into the verse the things they want to see there, as happens so often with other ‘proof-texts’? And would it surprise you if they had? 😉

What else could the verse possibly mean, though, if not the interpretation that we’ve always accepted? Well, we need to look a little closer at the context. If you read the sentence itself, it’s like, ‘Just as it is set for man to die once, and then face the judgement, so also …’ and so on. This shows that the phrase is being used as a comparison (as we will see below); it is not intended as a standalone proof that death is followed by some sort of judgment. The writer is not trying to show that death is the last chance to ‘comply’; he is simply setting up the next part of his argument.

Seeing this important point, then, the first thing we can note from Christianity’s abuse use of this verse is that the first stanza of the verse – the part that contains the point they want to emphasise – is the only part that is generally used. It’s very rare that the quote is continued into the concept it’s being compared to. I think it’s safe to say that most Christians probably can’t quote the rest of the verse as readily as they can the first part. But key to understanding this verse is the knowledge that the writer is using a Hebrew poetic device known as ‘synonymous parallelism’ where he compares two concepts in the same verse. To omit the second part of the verse, as they do when they only use the first part of the verse, is to fail to do the whole verse justice because we will miss the point its writer was originally intending to make. Worse than that, not only does it not do the verse justice, in fact, but also it demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the Scripture and its proper interpretation, which I am absolutely sure is intentional in some cases. Some people will do it from ignorance, sure, but for those who understand the proper exegesis of Biblical texts, they should not interpret that text in the way they have. To deliberately use the text in this way, when you know how to do proper exegesis, is simply dishonest plain and simple. It is extremely clear that the sentence structure is quite deliberate and it is perfectly apparent that ‘parallelism’ is definitely what the writer is doing. The part about dying once and facing judgment has neither meaning nor contextual relevance unless the writer’s argument is continued into the next stanza, so that he can finish what he was saying; the comparison is not complete without continuing the sentence. This should be obvious to any perceptive general reader because v.27 begins with ‘For just as…’ implying that there’s something else to follow the sentence. So, for example, if I said, ‘Just as the sky is blue, so is the ocean’, then that carries meaning.  If, however, I just said, ‘Just as the sky is blue…’ it wouldn’t mean anything. ‘Just as the sky is blue, what?’, would have to be our next logical question, because you expect that there will be a conclusion to the comparison. This is the same thing here. ‘Just as it is appointed….so….[something else]’. Now that makes more sense.

So now if you look at the local context, you should be able to see it:

 – Heb 9:27-28

Do you see it? It’s quite obvious when it’s pointed out, isn’t it?

Even if you read the header picture for this blog post, with the text on the brown background, you can immediately see that the phrase is not complete, for the reasons already explained. Taking this lack of completeness into account, then, we can see straight away is that the bit about ‘die once and then face judgement’ is actually not the main thrust of the writer’s argument. As already stated, he’s using it as a comparison; as an analogy or even an allegory if you like. He’s saying “Christ’s one-off sacrifice to take away the sins of many people is analoguous to when man dies once [as the quotation claims] and then faces judgment”. He then goes on, in Chapter 10, to expand on the idea of just what the analogy compares to, and all that stuff is really what this Scripture section is all about. The idea of death being a person’s ‘last chance’ is not in any way what is being presented in this context.

I hope that’s clear.

And there’s a fair bit more to it than that. Like, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but that idea about ‘die once and face judgment’ is found nowhere else in Scripture[4]. In our verse in Heb 9:27, the writer is not quoting a Scripture passage when he makes this assertion. However, in other passages in the Epistle, where he is making a major point from a premise in his Scripture (to us, that would be what we call the Old Testament), it is obvious that he is quoting Scripture. That such a quotation is not apparent does not of itself mean that it is not a Scriptural idea, of course, but for us nowadays with powerful search tools, we can look and see for ourselves that it is not a text from anywhere else in the entire Bible, in either the Old or the New Testament.

So, if we take that whole context and non-Scriptural quote into account, we see that the verse cannot in fact be used to prove post-mortem punishment or judgement, because a) he’s not talking about this as a way proving it, and b) the context suggests that the phrase is probably an already commonly-accepted idea or some other premise (an ‘axiom‘), and that it is also extra-Biblical in origin – quoted from another source outside the Scripture – because it’s not as if the writer is quoting an Old Testament passage like he does in other parts of his letter. Or like Jesus does when he says ” ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye…’ ” in Mt 5:38, quoting Ex 21:24. And so, the axiom is not Scripturally founded. Sure, it’s in the Scripture as we know it nowadays, but the writer’s argument is not presented as being from a Scriptural perspective from his point of view, like he does with other points in Hebrews. Maybe it’s folklore or something that he’s got the idea from. Maybe it’s a ‘they say that…[something is true]’. It could be anything. He might as well be quoting the song lyric, “All you need is Love”, for all the Scriptural precedent it has! This idea of ‘die once and then face judgment’ is nowhere near as powerful, nor as conclusive, nor as firmly quoted, as are his Scripture references. In fact, it’s almost as if he simply plucks the thing out of thin air! Where does that idea come from? It is not made clear, which suggests that the writer thinks its veracity unimportant from a doctrinal point of view – because it’s being used as a comparison, not as a doctrinal point.

And the fact that it is in the Bible as we know it today is not sufficient to make it an objective fact, given its context of being a quotation, and especially from an undefined source which was almost certainly not a source which was considered Scriptural when Hebrews was written, else the writer would have made that clear.

This all means, then, that for people to use Heb 9:27 as the sole proof-text that people face judgement immediately after death is nowhere near as straightforward nor as ironclad as they would like to claim. It is an accepted principle of doctrine formation that no major belief/doctrine should ever be founded on a single verse of Scripture, but, sadly, this is what seems to have happened here.

But even if it were true; even if just before death is, as they claim, the last chance a person has to ‘put things right with God’, or whatever other thing they’re trying to push on you, then you would expect it to fit with the entire arc of the Scriptural narrative. But it doesn’t. If we’re going to explore how this idea fits in with other Scriptural concepts, and if Christendom is going to claim (as they so often do) that we should ‘Let Scripture interpret Scripture!’ [5], then they should take into account other parts of the Scripture. So let’s take a look, shall we?

For me, the major issue with the ‘die once’ idea is this: Christ died, and therefore all died (2Cor 5:14). Everyone has died in Christ already, and it could reasonably be argued that at His death was when that judgement happened, because the death of Christ was God’s judgement on ‘sin’ in that it was nailed to the Cross and destroyed (Col 2:14). Furthermore whoever has died in Him (and that’s everybody, whether they know it or not, under 2Cor 5:14) has passed from death to life and will not be judged.

You see, Jesus said in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”, implying that belief means that they have crossed over from death already, i.e. they have already died, and this is supported by the numerous references made by Paul (especially in Romans; see below for examples) about us being dead, considering ourselves dead, and all that sort of thing. The Greek word for ‘Life’ there is the word ‘zōēn‘ which usually implies life of the eternal quality. And because of that ‘crossing over’, they will not be judged, either.

Now, granted, Jesus is here speaking about those who ‘believe’, and not necessarily about those who do not. But still the points remain: a) all have already died in Christ and therefore have crossed from death to life; b) those who believe, according to Jesus, have already crossed over from death to life because they believe. (There is tension between those ideas, but for Biblical studies and indeed the faith life in general, tension between concepts is the normal state of affairs!) Anyway, it’s analoguous to them having already died, as Paul says in Romans. So, then, for the believer, are they going to face this judgment after having died? In fact if Jesus says that those who have eternal life will not be judged, where then does that ‘judgment’ after death, as claimed in Heb 9:27, come from? Jesus says we will not be judged. This is even more evidence, in my view, that the Heb 9:27 passage is non-Scriptural in its source.

Furthermore, in 1Cor 15:22 it says that ‘…in Adam all die…’ too, but also ‘…’in Christ shall all be made alive’! So, if all die in Adam, which is probably referring to the actual physical death of humans, does that count as the one death after which we face judgment? Is the judgment part of our being originally in Adam, but now we are made alive in Christ – as it says in that verse? Or does it mean that because we are all human? (the Hebrew word meaning ‘Adam’ can also be taken as meaning simply ‘human’, so that it simply means simply being human means we will all, one day, die)

And in other places, like Ephesians 2:2, it says that we were “…dead in our transgressions…”, and then in Eph 2:5 he says God “…made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions“. Do you see this? It’s almost as if the Scripture is talking about our ‘death’ as being a thing of the past because we died in Christ; when we were dead in our transgressions, God made us alive in Christ. This is a done deal; it is a fait accompli. Of course, harsh religious types would like to deny this incredibly good news, but I have shown directly from their own Rulebook that it fits in with the incredible generosity and completely unfair and unearned Grace of God that this is the sort of thing He would do for us without us even having to ask!

Oh, bless God, this is really such good news! You see how quickly the dark shadows, cobwebs and bad news flee away when we open up the words in the Bible and examine what they really mean, rather than what we thought/have been told they have meant for all these years? And then discover far more glorious truths behind all the whitewashed-tomb stuff the Pharisees would have us believe? How the fear, the dread of death and its supposedly ensuing (and presumably, according to most religious people, adverse) judgment, vanish like smoke on the wind! In fact, I often wonder if this preoccupation with actual physical, bodily death is simply the result of humanity’s innate fear of that death. I therefore wonder if our previous assumptions about the ‘die once’ death in Heb 9:27 is simply due our preoccupation with that bodily death, blinkering and blinding people to the – let’s face it! – almost unbelievable, fantastic truth that as far as God is concerned, somehow we have already ‘died’, and that Jesus has defeated that death once and for all in His own death and Resurrection!

And so it is actually not ‘…appointed for man to die once and then face judgment…’, because there are all these other ‘deaths’ involved too. In other words, which ‘die once’ death are they talking about? Adam’s death? The death of our sinful nature on the Cross, ‘if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him’ (Rom 6:8; 2Tim2:11)? Or maybe the ‘second death’ in Revelation 20:14? If there’s a ‘second death’, then how can it be for man to die once? Granted, when Hebrews was written, Revelation was not a part of any Canon of Scripture, simply because the New Testament did not exist at that time. But it is still clear that the Bible is not clear on this (see what I did there!). And then there’s the idea that we have ‘died to sin’ to take into account too (Rom 6:2; Rom 6:6-7 – I mean come on, Romans 6 is full of this stuff!)

Let’s also remember that, according to Paul, there’s the ‘resurrection body’. Does this all not put into a new light the ideas on the immortal ‘resurrection body’ described by Paul in 1Cor 15:35-58? Can we see how this new body (that we supposedly receive after death) is incompatible with the idea of post-death judgment? According to Paul, our old body is ‘sown corruptible’ but is ‘raised incorruptible’. To me, this means that although our bodies as they are now will physically die, yet we will be raised up in an incorruptible body; a body of perfection, with no sickness, disease or infirmity. And surely one of those infirmities that will be missing when it is raised is the sickness of sin. So, in this alleged post-mortem judgment, what will there be to judge? We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23. If God is for us (which, of course, He is!), then who can be against us? (Rom 8:31). Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies! (Rom 8:33)

Surely this is why we are ‘already judged’, as Jesus said in John 5:24? When we are transformed at death into this new resurrection body, what possible place will there be for sin and judgment? Sin, and therefore the reason for any kind of judgment, will not stick to that new body at all. How in fact can God condemn anyone of whom He said, ‘I will remember their sins no more’ (Heb 8:12, quoting Isaiah 43:25)? No, no-one can bring a charge against God’s elect. If there are no charges, then there can be no judgment, even if that judgment is ‘not guilty’. And in any case, how can that Resurrection body, which is immortal (1Cor 15:50-54) die again? It’s immortal; by definition this means it cannot die. So how can that body ever be subject to a ‘second death’ (Rev 20:14) in response to any adverse judgment?

Can you see it?

From all this, then, it is apparent that in this verse of Heb 9:27, it’s far from the clear-cut, simple idea that ‘you die and then you are judged’ that Christendom has so far espoused without question. Oh, sure, they’ll say ‘well the first death precedes the judgment (for which you are raised up and given a body in which to face that judgment) and then there’s a second death’, but it still doesn’t take away that the actual words they use are ‘man…to die once’ – so what place is there for a second death? And neither does it remove the confusing issue of just which ‘death’ the writer is talking about in our verse in Heb 9:27, nor about how the ‘resurrection body’ is involved.

Of course, the harsh Religious types who love to weaponise this verse will not like these ideas one bit, and as usual it’s not those people who I am trying to convince. They can believe what they want to believe.

But I want to be able to take away, from my ordinary everyday readers who have often been bruised by this verse used by vicious religious types, the fear of death and what follows it. Harsh believers believe in a harsh god. Harsh believers believe the strange idea that god can love you ‘unconditionally’ all your life and then at the very instant that you pass from this world into the next, he instantly becomes a ravening, vicious monster who actually now, all of a sudden, has all along had tacit conditions that you should somehow have known about and that you are now, surprise surprise, going to be penalised for not knowing. And all because of that split instant where your body ceases to function as a living organism any more. Well, according to their own Rulebook, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). He doesn’t change, and neither does His Father. It’s almost as if they are trying really hard to make God look bad, once again, whereas in actual fact there is no darkness in Him; none at all (1Jn 1:5). And when Jesus says in Mk 12:27 that “…God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”, and even more significantly in the synoptic passage in Luke 20:38, the text also has the extra detail, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive“, then that too throws some more confusion into the ‘standard’ interpretation of Heb 9:27 because it blurs the distinction between what we understand as death and how God sees it. If God sees even the ‘dead’ as ‘alive’, where then does that leave us in our exegesis of Heb 9:27?

While I was looking for a suitable header image for this post (the one above the title), I simply put ‘Heb 9:27’ into Googe image search. And most of the references that came up were of the harsh, nasty, horrible-god kind of flavour, and easily demonstrating my point about the ‘deadline’ idea being the main use/abuse/interpretation of this text. You can even clearly see that in many of the cases they have only quoted the first part of the stanza, and thus openly demonstrated that they have ripped the verse out of context.

With this kind of harshness on display, coupled with that sort of unethical, or maybe even deceptive, practice of using verses out of context, is it any wonder that so many people nowadays, in some ways including myself, want nothing to do with Christianity? Try that search yourself; I guarantee that the results will be disturbing 😉 What you will see will be a million miles away from the real love of Christ.

But still my point is demonstrated by those search findings: this is the text used to ‘prove’ that once you’re dead, you’ve run out of time. And I think that in this essay I have managed to show that there is, at the very least, much cause for concern about using this text to prove that idea, and indeed about interpreting the text in the way that it has been interpreted.

I believe I have shown in this piece that even when (and in fact especially because of) taking into account what some Christians refer to as the ‘whole counsel of Scripture’ [6] (Acts 20:27), Heb 9:27 does not categorically mean that when we die physically here on this planet, we go straight to some sort of judgment.

In fact, we could even say, again taking into account the ‘whole counsel of scripture’, that the converse is true, if we assume that God is unconditionally all-loving. I mean, Love never fails (1Cor 13:8). Look at 1Cor 13 and Romans 8:38-39; there is so much in those passages that declares the unilateral strength of God’s love, and its power to keep us in His hands despite anything we do or don’t do, and in spite of man-imposed deadlines. If it says ‘Nothing’ in all creation…can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’, then that ‘nothing’ includes not having made the ‘right decision’ by the time we die. Religious people with an agenda like to qualify the love of God; in a way, to restrict access to that Love, but in fact it is not subject to their provisos or conditions. It’s not now, and it never has been. Unconditional means unconditional. If you introduce a condition, it ceases to be unconditional by definition. And this drives the Pharisees nuts, because they think it’s because of their own righteousness that they are made acceptable to God, even though they would doubtless deny this. This is why the Cross is foolishness to them.

Finally, let me also point out that the sting of death has been drawn:

What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. (Romans 6:8-10 Message)

On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
(Isaiah 25:7-8)

Here is my summary: The statement in Heb 9:27, that “…man is destined to die once and then face judgment…”, is not a Biblical axiom. That concept is found nowhere else in Scripture unless it is read into it.

The idea of immediate post-mortem judgment is not the main thrust of the argument in the passage forming its context.

The concept of this ‘once’ death is not as clear-cut as it first seems. Which death are we talking about, and what about the ‘second death’ mentioned in Revelation?

There is no place for after-death judgment because a) we are already judged, and b) the ‘resurrection body’ has no place for judgment.

Conclusion: The arguments from this Bible verse ‘proving’ that idea are therefore a flawed premise. Hebrews 9:27 cannot be used as a watertight proof-text to show that human death is the point at which they have run out of time in order to respond to God (or, more usually, to those who claim to be His people). There is no fear in death, because Jesus has defeated it.

Wow! Now that’s good news!

Let me leave you with this beautiful piece of writing from John Spinks, in his superb book ‘Cult Escape‘:

“This perfect unconditional love [of God] does not have terms and conditions, stipulations, requirements, demands, obligations, prerequisites, boundaries, time-scales or laws to obey.

“To receive it, you just have to believe.

“No, not believe to get it, but believe to realise that it is and was already there, waiting patiently for you to open your door and allow it in.

“This is because this perfect unconditional love will not violate your will. It will not push your door down and force its way in. It will not roll its eyes in frustration and get annoyed with you when you refuse to accept its gentle knock on your door. It will not threaten to punish, hurt, or destroy you. There is no fear in this love, absolutely no fear whatsoever, not one iota of fear in fact. There is nothing to be scared of. There is no fear that one day this love will lose patience with you.

“There is no fear that it will ever run out of time. [Emphasis mine – Ed]

“This is because it is eternal, it lasts forever, it never gives up, it never changes, and it never changes its unconditional nature. It never eventually introduces conditions. It never puts you under the remotest form of pressure to conform or obey. It does say follow but only in the meekest, humblest, gentlest of ways, so gentle, just like a still small voice, that if you are making a noise you might not even hear it.

“If man is making a big noise in your life by putting pressure on you, telling you that you are under law, giving you conditions to meet, placing boundaries around your life, expecting you to meet certain requirements, any requirements, tying you into terms and conditions, controlling any aspect of your lifestyle via rules, commanding you to follow him, teaching you that your identity is determined by your level of conformity to his latest dictates, demanding unswerving loyalty to whatever he tells you to believe…..

“…..then you are unlikely to hear the still, small, ever so gentle voice”.

 – John Spinks, Cult Escape, Kindle Edition, location 2385

 

Grace and Peace to you


My previous ideas on post-mortem judgment and the ‘timing’ of ‘repentance’ can be found in this piece from May 2015

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Regarding the ‘Writer to the Hebrews’ – no-one is really certain who wrote the Letter (or ‘Epistle’, which means the same thing) to the Hebrews. Some name Barnabas as being the author, some think it was Priscilla, and yet others suggest Clement of Rome. There are also many who consider that it was St. Paul who wrote it, and indeed in my Bible school we were told that the reason why it was not omitted from the Canon of Scripture was just in case it was written by Paul. If there was any chance it was written by Paul, then they didn’t want to miss it out. Clearly there was also sufficient support, in the various ecclesiastical Councils down the ages who had a part in determining the Canon, for it being a work of St. Paul for it to be included, even if only on that basis of not wanting to miss it out. And there was also considerable near-contemporary support for the opposing view, that St Paul did not in fact write it. The writing style, as read in the English translations, is very different from the style used in the letters generally accepted as being written by Paul, like the letters to the Corinthians, Romans and Ephesians. It’s also different enough even from the style used in the ‘disputed’ letters. But it could also have been Paul writing far more formally than he did in the gritty, practical and down-to earth epistles to people he knew personally in Corinth and Rome. A letter to a more generic audience could easily have been written more formally rather than informally/personally, and certainly the learned style of the writing could reflect Paul’s upbringing and training in the Jewish faith, and the detailed knowledge of Jewish beliefs and how they relate to Jesus’s life, death and Resurrection could certainly have been from Paul. Or, again, they could have been from any learned and articulate Jew-turned-Christian. I personally have no strong opinion on the subject. In Christendom generally, the jury is still out on the matter, and probably always will be. For more on this subject, which is in itself quite fascinating, take a look at the Wikipedia article on the subject.
2. And that is, of course, assuming that such judgment will be along the lines of the modern, adversarial ‘law courts’ system, as opposed to God’s judgment which always emphasises restoration and redemption rather than retribution and vengeance
3. Personally, and somewhat cynically, I consider that what it really is is that they want to try to influence or brainwash you before it’s too late for them; before you are forever beyond their reach by passing on into that place where the problems caused by such people are but a dim memory. But that’s just me being cynical again 😉
4. Some would argue that the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in (Matthew 25:31-46) both infers it and is referring to it, but that’s not the case and especially as you consider the wider context of Mt 25. It’s not the case, that is, unless you actually superimpose this present verse from Heb 9:27 on top of it and say about Mt 25, ‘Ah! Jesus must here be referring to the post-death judgment that Hebrews talks about in Heb 9:27!’ In other words, it’s a circular argument
5. The idea of ‘Let scripture interpret Scripture’, which itself is not a Biblical concept!
6. (Sorry for all the footnotes! I’ve just got a new WordPress plugin to help me use footnotes, and I am enjoying playing with it 😉 ) The idea of the ‘whole counsel of Scripture’ invariably means that they are using all the proof-texts they want to prove their view, while conveniently ignoring the ones that disagree. And/or, they are finding nasty verses to counteract the Good News that you are trying to share. So, really, it’s ‘the whole counsel of Scripture, as far as we are going to take it’.

A Box of Frozen Chickens

I think I’ve said this before, but some of my favourite blog posts have been inspired by interesting exchanges 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 😀

10

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[1]. 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 aeroplane 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 what I imagine it’s like being catapulted off an aircraft carrier[2] 😉 . 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:

After this, returning to base, then, via the pretty 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[3].

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.

 

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. 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!
2. I realise that there are more than just two methods of launching gliders, but aerotowing and winch launching are far and away the most commonly-used
3. 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. And in this article, I have left the original essay text in place, because I will undoubtedly be going there 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.

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! 😀

 

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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.

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