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

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4

Sep

2022

he Bible is not a citizenship test

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday August 21, 2022

 

Colorado Republican Representative Lauren Boebert wants the U.S. to have a “biblical citizenship” test. Was she serious? On video clips, she sounds as if it was just a casual aside.

            Serious or not, it may be the stupidest idea that the U.S.’s Christian Right has come up with yet.

            The first casualty would be Donald Trump. The 9th Commandment forbids lying; Trump broke it 30,573 times during his presidency!

            Beyond that, though, what constitutes biblical literacy? Is it enough to know the Ten Commandments, a few choice quotations from Jesus, and the 23rd Psalm?

            Or should biblical literacy mean that you can open the Bible to any page, any verse, and know how it relates to the book’s larger themes?


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9

Jul

2022

Making sense of meaningless words

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday July 7, 2022

 

        Every storyteller runs into difficulties. A retired Ontario minister told me his favourite children’s story disaster. He started, like me, with a question: “What is furry and runs up and down trees?”

            No answer.

            He tried again: “What hides nuts for winter?”

            Still no answer.

            Somewhat desperately: “What has a big bushy tail and beady eyes?”

            Finally one girl held up her hand. “I know the answer is always supposed to be Jesus,” she said. “But it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”


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31

May

2021

Little hope for happy endings

Author: Jim Taylor

 

Sunday May 23, 2021

 


I wonder if any country on earth has seen more consistent violence than Palestine/Israel. Or is it just that we know more about the endless conflicts there, thanks to the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings in the Bible? 

            Wars against the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Moabites … In one appalling passage, God commands genocide against the Amalekites – men, women, children, livestock, even pets.

            Also wars between the sons of Jacob. One act of revenge so totally exterminated the tribe of Benjamin that the other tribes had to volunteer some of their own members to recreate Benjamin for posterity.

            In Jesus’ time, the region was an irritating pimple on Rome’s backside. Other conquered nations accepted the inevitable, got on with business, and profited from the Pax Romana. But Rome had to constantly crush Hebrew rebellions. Protestant Bibles conveniently leave out the grisly saga of the Maccabees, but tourists line up to visit the final defeat at Masada.


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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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13

Aug

2020

What’s Covid doing to friendships?

Author: Jim Taylor

In the Bible, I find only two instances of come-hell-or-high-water friendships. 

            David and Jonathan were more than buddies. Jonathan risked the royal wrath of his father King Saul by befriending David. 

            Ruth and Naomi seem also to have been more than mother and daughter-in-law. Ruth could have abandoned Naomi and returned to her own people. But the two stuck together, and eventually Ruth became David’s great-grandmother. 

            The other instances commonly cited aren’t as clearly “friendships of the good.” Elijah and Elisha were mentor and pupil. Moses and Aaron, Mary and Elizabeth, Abraham and Lot, all had family ties. 

            Paul built friendships with his missionary companions Barnabas, Timothy, and Mark. But he also quarrelled and split angrily with them. 

            King Herod valued his conversations with John the Baptist. But it’s hard to call it friendship when one of you is chained to the wall.



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20

Nov

2019

These immigrants welcome here

Author: Jim Taylor

We had some unexpected immigrants drop in at our house recently. A couple, I assume; they’re always together. And they literally dropped in -- out of the sky, onto our bird feeder.

            Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds defines them as ringed turtle-doves. The description is clear and precise -- they could be nothing else.

            Pigeons have been around for a long time. It was a pigeon that Noah released from his ark, to see if there were green shoots growing anywhere. And a pigeon that settled on Jesus as he came up out of the Jordan River after his baptism.

            This particular species was probably imported from southern Africa or Asia as household pets. Peterson calls them “a domestic-bred variant of the African turtle-dove…seen very locally in city parks in Los Angeles, rarely elsewhere.”

            Which raises some uncomfortable questions.

            Did someone move Los Angeles?


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12

Dec

2018

Nativity scenes

Author: Jim Taylor

Every year, my old friend Kenn Ward sets up a Nativity scene in his front yard in Winnipeg.

            Many of us have indoor Nativity scenes, often called a creche. And we never set the figures up exactly the same way each year. Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus take centre stage, of course. But the shepherds, the visitors from the east, the animals – they get shuffled around, depending on what we feel is the essential theme of the story, this year.

            Kenn has that problem too, with the bigger figures for his outdoor creche. “I never know quite what to expect,” he wrote on Facebook. “Usually one of the figures, or a group of them, insist that they have been neglected and deserve more prominence in the scene. There is often a clash of egos… 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Bible, Nativity, creche

8

Aug

2018

Long before the Bible

Author: Jim Taylor

            You’ve probably seen pictures of cuneiform writing – little wedge-shaped marks pressed into clay tablets. They go back to the Mesopotamian cultures of the Tigris-Euphrates valley, many millennia ago. 

            In school, I was told, cuneiform was a primitive form of accounting. Lacking pen and paper – let alone computers and spreadsheets – the ancient tribes of what is now called Iraq used soft clay tablets to record the number of sheep or bags of wheat someone had bought or sold. It was just a numbering system, I understood.

            Of course, I didn’t bother thinking that those ancient traders also needed symbols for sheep and wheat they were trading. 

            Most of those clay tablets eventually returned to the mud from whence they came. But a few were baked, to preserve them longer. And some got baked, unintentionally, when marauding tribes burned houses and granaries. 


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24

Jun

2018

Beware of politicians quoting Bible verses

Author: Jim Taylor

For a hundred years, the Canadian government took children from their parents and incarcerated them in Indian Residential Schools. For their own good.

            The feds have since issued apologies. They’ve paid around $5 billion in compensation. And all governments have paid many billions more in welfare, prisons, and social assistance.

            In the 1950s, the B.C. government took Doukhobor children away from their families, and locked them up in a prison camp in New Denver. For the children’s own good, of course.

            In the 1960s, various governments did the Sixties Scoop. Once again Indigenous children were separated from their parents and placed with white foster families. For their own good, of course.

            We’re now reaping a bitter harvest of alcoholism and drug dependency, of depression and suicide, of adults who don’t know how to be parents.

            And then the Trump administration set a policy of removing children from parents who enter the United States illegally, and locking the children up in detention centres.

            Can’t we ever learn from past mistakes?


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20

May

2018

U.S. embassy move misreads the Bible

Author: Jim Taylor

This week, the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv on Israel’s Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. The move fulfilled one of President Donald Tweet’s campaign promises. The president sent his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to represent the American Empire. 

            Jerusalem epitomizes all that’s wrong with U.S. foreign policy.

            Kushner had no foreign policy experience at all, prior to being appointed the White House’s “Senior Advisor” with particular emphasis on Middle Eastern issue. But he is Jewish. 

           U.S. foreign policy treats the Bible as the final word on anything related to Jews. And, by extension, to anything related to the Middle East. 

           Let’s be clear – the Bible does state that the legendary King David chose Jerusalem as the capital of the new nation he had formed from the warring tribes descended from Jacob’s sons. That’s a selective reading, though. It ignores the Bible’s own testimony that David chose that site specifically because it did NOT form part of traditional Jewish territories. 


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