• history,  religion,  the ethical life

    Thoughts on Reading about Medieval Religious Beliefs, Self-Improvement and Lying

    I am reading a book called Lies, Slander and Obscenity in Medieval English Literature by Edwin Craun. I can’t understand everything in the book but it raises such fascinating questions. It is fun to read about people who took questions of truthfulness so incredibly seriously. It helps put what I read about the origins of the word equivocate, in the late 16th early 17th century into context. I had read long ago (in a different book) that the word came into common use at a time where Catholics in England were being persecuted. Some Catholics wrote instructions about how to equivocate as a way of trying to be truthful without…

  • activism,  meaning of life,  music,  religion

    Reflection on a Linnea Good Concert

    Last night I took my children to a Linnea Good concert. Linnea Good is a United Church singer, songwriter and storyteller. I took my very-atheist children to her concert because her music was a big part of my teenage years. This was my second time attending a concert of hers, and the first was way back when I was younger than my oldest is now. So, why was the music meaningful to me? I think the most amazing meaningful part was that Linnea was willing to show some of her own vulnerability. She talked about how after thirty years of performing she’s really good at being nice, but that she…

  • Biblical history,  history,  religion

    Comparing the Bible with Mythology

    I’m reading Charles Penglase’s book Greek Mythology and Mesopotamia: Parallels and Influence in the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod. The heart of Penglase’ book is the idea that myth writers took motifs from other stories. He identifies rough motifs such as the goddess-and-her-consort stories where there is a journey to the underworld and a return and then he argues that those motifs show up even in unusual places. For example, pointing out how Apollo’s birth could be seen as fitting the goddess-and-consort-and-underworld myth. It has a wandering mother searching for (a place to bear) her child. It has the personified Island being scared it will be pushed down into the (underworld?)…

  • activism,  meaning of life,  religion

    Remembering we all have work to do

    I’ve been reading a book called Liberating Jonah: Forming an Ethics of Reconciliation. The book has a lot less about Jonah than I had hoped, but it has lots about reconciliation, which is good too. The starting argument of the book is that the miracle in the story of Jonah is not so much the storm or the fish but that Jonah was called to go to the Assyrians in the first place. Assyrians were the evil ones, the murdering empire bent on oppressing everyone. Yet the Bible says that God called on them to repent and would forgive even them. The bulk of the book is an argument for…

  • meaning of life,  religion

    Reading Ancient Sumerian Poetry

    I’m reading little bits from four thousand year old poems about Inanna, a Sumerian goddess, as translated by Betty De Shong Meador. Here are a few small samples.   She shifts a god’s curse a blight reversed out of nothing shapes what has never been her sharp wit splits the door where cleverness resides and there reveals what lives inside   ….   to smooth the traveler’s road to clear a path for the weak are yours Inanna   to straighten the footpath to make firm the cleft place are yours Inanna   to destroy     to build to lift up    to put down are yours Inanna     ….  …

  • This picture shows a Minecraft village built in the style of Catal Hoyuk
    history,  homeschooling,  politics,  religion

    Searching for Justice and Equality in Ancient Times

    One of the classes I’m teaching these days is a secular Bible study class. I treat the Bible like a work of literature. We discuss the different historical periods and the theologies within the Bible, but I’m not trying to convert them. I use the textbooks I had from university to help me, but simplifying stuff for children. I’m having wonderful fun with the class. Then on a different day of the week I teach an ancient history class that is looking more at other ancient cultures of the Middle East. So from this study of ancient times, what fascinates me is the frequency in which the different texts and…

  • history,  politics,  religion,  the ethical life

    Nellie McClung and the challenge of history

    Up until a few weeks ago, if I was asked my impression of Nellie McClung I probably would have said “oh, she was that suffragette, right? The one people say was racist and supported eugenics?” I started reading about Nellie McClung this past few weeks. I’ll still a newcomer to McClung’s story and I’ve already read bits that do suggest the darker parts of her beliefs. But what has amazed me is realizing how beautiful some of her thoughts and ideas were too. She wrote novels that promoted the idea that we are all called to serve community, love one another and by doing so to change the world. She…

  • religion,  the ethical life

    William Morris and Jane Austen: Lens for Literature

    I’m reading about William Morris, the 19th century designer and socialist. His company rejected the assembly line in favor of treating every creation like a work of art to be done by one person from start to finish. Morris learned old techniques and reinvented lost techniques. He hoped that as people saw the great quality products they would shun the cheaper mass-produced goods, but of course this didn’t happen and instead other companies produced cheap knock-offs of his work. I first heard of him years ago at university, when I was busy fingerweaving Metis-style sashes, which gave me at least a bit of a feel for the time involved in…

  • God,  politics,  religion

    Gretta Vosper and the atheist church

    Gretta Vosper is a minister in the United Church of Canada, at least for now. A committee in Toronto has recommended that she not be allowed to continue as a minister, given her statements that she does not believe in God or call herself a Christian. The United Church, of which I am a part, is a church that recognizes that people’s understanding of theology changes. When someone says they don’t believe in God, the reaction is not necessarily shock as much as the question “what God is it you don’t believe in?” There is space a lot of space between believing in an omnipotent force that intervenes in this world and…

  • meaning of life,  religion,  the ethical life

    making peace

    As a child one of my favourite records was one produced by the Mennonite Central Committee. It was called “I can make peace” and it had a mix of stories and songs. One of the stories was about a family getting up to go to school and how one person’s grumpiness was passed on to the next person until even a friend’s family was affected, but then the reverse happens where someone’s joyfulness is passed on person to person. One story was about an elephant family. The stories and songs start off focused on families and move out to talking about adults, including one about Muriel Lester. I don’t have…