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

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28

Dec

2021

Christmas -- how God does things

Author: Jim Taylor

 

Thursday December 23, 2021

 

What I like most about Christmas, I think, is that it forces me to sharpen my beliefs.

            I call myself a Christian (though I’m sure some would consider me a humanist at best, an atheist at worst). Certainly, I come from a Christian tradition. And Christian tradition has asserted, for centuries, that God was born as a human baby. We call him Jesus. Other cultures call him Jesu, or Yeshua, or some name that I don’t know. 

            Think about the sheer audacity of that claim. God became human! God didn’t just pretend to become human. God didn’t put on a human mask and go around in disguise. God became a human. A very specific historical human.

            The Incarnation makes my faith much simpler. If I want to know what God is like, I need only look at Jesus. 


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2

Oct

2020

Watching the winds make waves

Author: Jim Taylor

In the Okanagan Valley, summer winds are predictable. The south wind blows up the valley. The north wind blows down the valley -- “up” and “down” depending on how you orient a map, because a lake surface has no up or down.

            In spring and fall, we also have west winds, which ride over the Coast Mountains and gather speed as they whoosh down the slopes to the lake.

            They hit the lake like a physical punch. The lake reels. Its surface darkens. Waves form, long lines of foaming combers, marching in formation across the lake.

            I’ve often wondered what’s happening at the front of the gust, at its intersection with the existing airflow.


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9

Apr

2020

Handwashing for beginners

Author: Jim Taylor

Today is Maundy Thursday.

            Maundy? Probably not a word you run across often. “Maundy” apparently derives from Latin mandatum, meaning commandment.

            Traditionally, today celebrates the last evening Jesus spent with his disciples. Where he took pita bread, or some equivalent, and tore it up, and told his disciples, “This bread is (like) my body (which will be) broken for your sakes.”

            And he poured wine into their cups (today it would probably be Tim Hortons coffee), and said, more or less, “This is like blood. You need it to keep your strength up. Drink it, and remember me in tough times.”

            Treat those as commands, and you have “Maundy”.


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24

Oct

2018

What did you say?

Author: Jim Taylor

Sometimes I hear people insist that Jesus was the Son of God, or God fully embodied as a human. And because God, to be God, must know everything, therefore Jesus must also have known everything. About everything. Including his own forthcoming death and resurrection.

            Let’s play with that idea. Let’s imagine that we have a time machine. And we can go back 20 centuries, and listen to Jesus talking to the crowds that have come out to hear him.

            He’s standing on a hilltop. 

            “You think that this rock I am standing on is solid,” he tells the crowd. “I tell you, this rock consists of billions of electrons and protons -- far tinier than a mustard seed -- which are not things at all, just positive and negative electrical charges, which you don’t know about yet, which can only be defined as probabilities. In fact, there is nothing under my feet, and nothing under you, except what you imagine is there.”

            Fast forward a few decades. (Our time machine has split-screen capabilities.) The disciples are trying to reconstruct what Jesus taught them. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Jesus, time machine

12

Sep

2018

Maligning my lifelong friend

Author: Jim Taylor

On my last visit to Vancouver, I took a walk along False Creek.

            Vancouver's waterfront is open to everyone, regardless of age, ethnic origins, or income.

            And the Parks Board has thoughtfully placed benches along the way, where passers-by can sit, catch their breath, enjoy the view, or just meditate.

            Most of the benches have small bronze plaques attached -- memorials to a family member or friend. I read them, casually, as I strolled along. Until I got to one that offended me.

            It eulogized a child who had died. It described how wonderful she was. And the last line said, “Jesus always picks the finest flowers first.”

            And I found myself instantly angry.


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25

Jul

2018

How colonizers gain control

Author: Jim Taylor

Some arrived by sea, some by land. Wherever they arrived, they established footholds among the local population. They settled in. They built networks.

            As time passed, they began to impose the values and standards of their culture on the existing population. Eventually, they became the dominant group. Their values, their standards, became the law of the land.

            Like a giant vacuum cleaner, they sucked up other religions, other faiths, and other cultures, and homogenized them in their own image.

            You thought I was describing the European settlement of the Americas, didn’t you?

            Nope. I was talking about the colonization of the Mediterranean basin by the followers of Jesus.


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26

Jun

2017

Retaliation ignores the Golden Rule

Author: Jim Taylor

If you want to invest in a growth industry, consider hate crimes. London police report a five-fold increase in attacks on Muslims – particularly Muslim women – since the terrorist attacks on London Bridge, the Westminster parliament, and the Manchester concert.

            But the increase is not limited to Britain, where the reaction might be understandable. Here in Canada, Statistics Canada indicates that attacks on Muslims more than tripled over three years, from 45 in 2012 to 159 in 2015. During 2015 alone, according to a CBC report, hate crimes against Muslims soared by 60 per cent.

           No doubt attacks on Muslims are a form of retaliation for acts attributed to Islamic extremists. But if so, why single out women? Not one of those acts was committed by a woman.

            Or are women simply easier to identify by their head scarves?

 

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12

Apr

2017

The man who didn’t die

Author: Jim Taylor

As Easter nears, I think about two men – one who died, and one who didn’t. Jesus died; Barabbas didn’t. Or maybe it’s the other way around, in the long term.

            By a cruel irony, when governor Pontius Pilate offers to free Jesus as a goodwill gesture for the Jewish Passover, an angry crowd demands that he release, instead, a thief and murderer named “Barabbas.” Barabbas -- “the son of the father”.

            And so the man who said “The Father and I are one” was executed on a trumped-up charge of claiming to be King of the Jews, while the man named “Son of the Father” was set free.

            The coincidence is so keen, it almost demands further exploration.


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22

Mar

2017

Building on what came before

Author: Jim Taylor

Composer Johannes Brahms had an inferiority complex, Tom Allan explained on CBC Radio one afternoon. Apparently Brahms idolized Beethoven. Beethoven set music on a new course; Brahms felt that his best efforts could never measure up to Beethoven’s standard. 

            Of course, Beethoven may have felt the same about Mozart, the genius who preceded him. And perhaps Mozart drew inspiration from Bach. And Bach -- who knows? Perhaps Vivaldi or Telemann. And they in turn looked back to Corelli or Buxtehude…

            But none of them gave up composing music because they feared they couldn’t compare with their predecessors. 

            The same holds true in every human endeavour I can think of -- with one exception: religion.


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