Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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17

Mar

2019

Regime changes don’t work

Author: Jim Taylor

I hesitate to write anything at all about Venezuela. I don’t speak Spanish  (beyond dos cervesas por favor).I haven’t lived there. I have no inside informants. 

            In trying to sort out the confusion, I turn to an unlikely source – Franciscan priest Fr. Richard Rohr. Rohr’s speciality is religion, not international politics. But I have found his process for understanding Bible stories helpful in deciphering complex secular issues. 

            A story needs four levels of analysis, Rohr argues. 

            There is, first, the literal level. No interpretation, “just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday used to say. 

            In Venezuela’s case, the literal level is complex enough. President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded former President Hugo Chavez, got re-elected in what many consider a fraudulent election. He consolidated his power by creating a constituent assembly, made up of his supporters, to replace the existing National Assembly, which is controlled by his opposition. In the absence of what it considers a legitimately elected president, the National Assembly declared its Speaker, Juan Guaido to be Maduro’s constitutional successor. 

            By analogy, imagine Donald Trump creating an alternative Congress composed of his fans, while the existing House of Representatives declares Nancy Pelosi to be the rightful president. 


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24

Jan

2019

Reading life below the surface

Author: Jim Taylor

There was a time, I seem to recall, when a handshake was worth more than a legal contract. The hand-shakers had reached an agreement; they would stick to it, come hell or high water.

            But in literal fact, a handshake is simply a momentary meeting of palms.

            The example of a handshake came up during a discussion of a blog posting by Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who heads the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. Rohr wasn’t writing about handshakes, of course. He was writing about how people read the Bible. Or any other sacred text.

            “While biblical messages often proceed from historical incidents, the actual message does not depend upon communicating those events with perfect factual accuracy,” Rohr suggested.

            “Spiritual writers are not primarily journalists… Scripture can be understood on at least four levels: literal meaning, deep meaning, comparative meaning, and hidden meaning.”

            He explained, “The literal level of meaning doesn’t get to the root and, in fact, is the least helpful to the soul and the most dangerous for history." 

            It occurred to me that the same approach might enrich our understanding of everyday events. Like handshakes, for example.


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