Mother’s Day In The Bible

For a variety of reasons, including the random way that speaking schedules work, I often end up being the instructor for either mother’s day or father’s day and such was the case today. One of the challenges of talking about mother’s day in a Bible class is that the Bible does not know of anything like mother’s day, which was not actually a thing until the late 19th and early 20th century. While in the United States Mother’s Day comes on the second Sunday of May, in Thailand Mother’s Day is typically assigned to the birthday of the queen regnant, which suggests the sort of politics where rulers are viewed as the parents of the nation as a whole. Suffice it to say, though, that Mother’s Day was not a day that existed in biblical societies, and so in talking about Mother’s Day, one inevitably ends up talking about mothers.

One of my favorite angles, personally, into Mother’s Day is looking at the day and its rituals (which vary by family) from the perspective of the biblical view of observances. We are used to thinking about the Bible as being about that which is commanded on the one hand and that which is forbidden on the other hand. This is, in fact, a natural view of law in general and biblical law in particular. But that which is prohibited and that which is commanded only make a small amount of what the Bible deals with. A great deal of life, hopefully most of it, deals with that which is permitted and where it is only how one does it that is prohibited or commanded. A great deal of people want the Bible to deal more with God’s permissible will, that which He allows people a great deal of latitude to live and to learn subject to various boundaries and limitations. Such is the case with Mother’s Day, which is certainly allowed but nowhere commanded. (Though, I should note, if you fail to meet your family’s expectations regarding how the day is to be kept, then that is going to be an issue.)

So, if Mother’s Day is not in the Bible itself, then it is mothers that one must discuss. The Bible contains a great many stories about mothers that show the full range of how it is that mothers behave in the Bible. Sometimes, as is the case with Lois and Eunice, the mother and grandmother of Timothy, mothers are viewed as heroic figures of faith whose belief opens up opportunities for their male relatives. At times, as is the case with Bathsheba, mothers help preserve the kingdom for their children. One wonders what would have happened to Solomon had Bathsheba (and Nathan the prophet) not brought what Adonijah was doing to try to establish the kingdom for himself to David so that it could be countered. When one is talking about motherhood in the Bible, one cannot neglect the lessons one can learn from Mary in how it is like to be the mother of the Savior, and to love a child that one cannot hope to understand. There is even a heroic mother-in-law in the Bible, namely Naomi, whose shrewd wisdom allowed Ruth to find the princely Boaz as a husband, and who has been greatly blessed as a result.

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The Strange Travels Of The Vagabond Bennetts

Once of the hazards of being interested in studying history and being pretty open about one’s genealogy, and having a name as ambiguous as my own is the way that one gets a lot of messages about one’s family background. At times, this can lead to a lot of glorious connections. This was true, as I noted, when I was able to compare my background with someone who was seeking a connection to the famous Boones of Western exploration, who were but cousins to my own Pennsylvania Quaker stay at home Boones of Pennsylvania. At times, though, these connections are much less welcome. If the Boones come off as genuine American heroes, not all the lines in my family are as glorious, and few lines have presented me with both as many questions and as many unsettling thoughts as that line involving my middle name, the Bennetts.

Although I have, since birth, had the name Bennett, I was not as equally blessed with a firm knowledge of what the Bennetts were doing in my family. Indeed, even at this point I do not have a firm grasp of what in the world the Bennetts were doing, but it appears that they were doing something, and that something is both interesting and very troubling. The bare information I do have is intriguing, to say the least. Over the course of several generations in the 18th century I find my earliest presently known Bennett ancestor being born in 1710 in Massachusetts, part of my family’s large number of New England ancestors from early colonial days. Of particular interest is the fact that eighteen years later, he has a son in Charleston, South Carolina. How and why did he go from New England to South Carolina? What was he doing there? The main residence of my family’s Bennetts appears to have been in the area around Charleston for the next few decades–I still have family there as late as 1790, where one of them appears on the census–but one of the Bennetts in the line ended up having a son that was born in London, England, a rather long way away from the colonies, one would think for a pregnant woman to end up traveling. My family’s sojourn, whatever business they were up to for decades, ended in Pennsylvania when one John Bennett, who had been born in London, ended up in Pennsylvania, perhaps as an indentured servant, and settled and ended up dying in Indiana County, which is very close to my own core ancestral background. He ended up marrying a nice German girl and being a part of my father’s line of the family.

The question I have is what were these people up to. Something odd is definitely going on. It gets even odder, though. Thanks to my Bennett name, I was contacted by someone of mixed ancestry in South Africa who has 30% or so European ancestry about a possible connection with the Bennetts of St. Helena, from whom he claimed descent through ancestors of his who were on the island in the late 1800’s. Apparently one Bennett who was a soldier in the Madras regiment of the British East India Company found himself as the patriarch of a large clan of Bennetts among the “saints” of that remote South Atlantic island with whom I had no idea whatsoever I had a family connection whatsoever, and this Bennett’s descendants include someone from South Africa (where many people from the island have traveled in search of economic opportunity) [1]. At the moment, this gentleman and I are trying to see if we can triangulate my Bennetts and his Bennetts and other known Bennett lines from St. Helena. While I do not think our most recent common ancestor would be from the island himself, it would then be likely that we are related through a common Bennett from the UK who was a mutual ancestor of our Bennetts, which would only deepen the strangeness of this family and its connections.

The Bennetts present a strange connection that is well worth pondering. If all of these Bennetts are indeed connected, we have one family that managed to combine within itself a lot of traveling. My own line appears to have traveled between New England and South Carolina and London and Pennsylvania, perhaps up to no good at various stops along the way. Finding a link between London, Massachusetts, and South Carolina would appear to indicate some participation in the triangular trade, and that background would appear to indicate why it is that someone was sent out to St. Helena as a soldier in the family, managing to spread his seed as those Bennetts (but not this Bennett, alas) managed to accomplish on multiple continents. If some of the Bennetts appear to be possible world-historical level villains in some aspects of their lives, they were fruitful and multiplied, to the point where it might have given me cousins all over the world from diverse backgrounds. And that is something to be celebrated rather than mourned.

[1] See, for example:

On Useless Infrastructure | Edge Induced Cohesion

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The Present Is Too Often The Enemy Of The Past

While the vagaries of time have been dangerous enough to the threats of Egyptian history, the worst threat to the memory of Egyptian pharaohs was other Egyptian pharaohs. One would think that Egyptian rulers would want to emphasize the lengthy ties that their own title had into the far away past. Yet over and over again Egyptians would destroy the historical remnants of the past in several ways. For one, whenever there was a change in policy or worldview, Pharaohs would try to destroy the ways of the past to try to obliterate those ways from memory. They would also try to destroy previous rulers’ temples and other buildings and re-use the materials of their monuments to glorify themselves. For reasons like these whole dynasties, like Egypt’s second dynasty, have been nearly wiped out of historical memory because the tombs were destroyed. Among the more notable aspects of the tombs that has prompted a lot of commentary by historians has been the question of human sacrifice of courtiers of the Egyptian rulers. It seems as if the airbrushing of history began almost as soon as history itself did.

What are the motivations of seeking to destroy the history of the past? There are likely some consistent motives that lead people to want to wipe out history. A great many people are embarrassed by the past. There is a magical belief in the eyes of many people that by destroying the record of the past that we can destroy the shame of the past and destroy the memory of the past. Regardless of what people say that they believe about God, it appears that there is still a magical belief that we can shape the past in the present by virtue of what is remembered and how the past is presented and viewed, rather than accepting the past as something that is real and something that can be used to inspire a better future, in the sense of a before and after photo.

How do we see the past? Characteristically, I have tended to see the past as inspiration for a better future. This is not necessarily the most popular use of the past, as a great many people tend to be irate at the fast and seek to attach blame. Who we blame for the problems of the past is certainly something that says far more about ourselves than about the past itself. One of the problems with objective reality is that we are subjective beings. We are compelled, for a variety of reasons–including our desire to see ourselves as being objectively right–to try to make sense and to understand and judge reality, even though it is extremely difficult for us to see reality accurately, or even to recognize the ways that we are blinded by our own biases. Even when we admit our own filters and perspective we usually seek to justify ourselves, regardless of the approach that we take to the past.

How will we be judged by the future? I suspect we will be judged poorly in our generation as far as how well we have preserved the past and the record of the past when it comes to future generations. Whether one is dealing with the destruction of historical sites or the obliteration of monuments or the deliberate misrepresentation of historical texts, our age does history in a terrible fashion. Rarely has a generation thought itself so faithful to the past and to the objectivity of reality and done a worse job at it than we ourselves did. Rarely have those who presented themselves as friends of the ways of the past and those who thought of themselves as representing a glorious future combined to destroy the record of the past and make a better future even more elusive than it is in general. But that is how life works.

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On The Boones Of Pennsylvania And Devonshire

One of the more interesting conversations I had was with someone who was trying to trace his own complex ancestry to the Boones and to the early settlement of Kentucky. The two of us happened to have a genetic match that went back distantly, but it was recent enough that we shared some genes in common. As it happens, the person had claimed to be a descendant of a sister of Daniel Boone through a marriage made by the last ancestor he had a paper trail to with a young woman of possibly illegitimate birth in Kentucky. As it happened, I had knowledge of some Boones in Pennsylvania, but I thought of Daniel Boone as a southern and western sort of figure. Daniel Boone is perhaps best known for his work in opening the Cumberland Gap to settlement of Kentucky and his descendants included people who helped settle the area of Oregon to the point where on can still drive on Boone’s Ferry Road, which is named after their efforts to help people over the Willamette River.

One does not want to make the mistake of conflating people together simply because they share a last name. It is like saying I am related to the Bennets of Pride & Prejudice because I happen to have ancestors whose surname was Bennett who lived alternatively in England, Massachusetts, and South Carolina over the course of several generations. As it happens, though, the Boones were originally Quakers who left Devonshire and then settled Pennsylvania, and Daniel Boone’s father Squire Nathan Boone was thrown out of the Quacker church because one of his daughters married an unbeliever. I found, when looking at the Boone family, something I had never had cause to look at before since I did not assume they were related to the famous Boones, that my own ancestor was a cousin of Daniel Boone who shared a common grandfather in George Boone III, who himself was a descendent of the famous poet John Milton, writer of Paradise Lost, who I had not realized was related to me until I pushed the Boone line back a few generations. Over the course of a bit of investigation my family went from being obscure early settler Boones to being related to some of the most famous people on both sides of the Atlantic over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

One never knows where research will take you. In my conversation with the reputed Boone descendent, he had the advantage of having a background that made his close connection to Daniel Boone something of considerable note. Even though there were several generations of Boones in my own family, I was missing the piece of information that connected Daniel Boone, famous Western explorer with the rather prosaic stay-at-home Boones that I was related to. When I found out that there was a Daniel Boone Society, I reached out to them asking whether my own family connection to Daniel Boone’s grandfather was a close enough connection to the family to be a part of the society. So far it appears to have been the case. I have not heard of or read of any Daniel Boone society troops to Oregon or the West Coast to see what his descendants did to help settle the West, following in the family tradition. For me, though, it is interesting to think that I have a not very distant connection to such notable explorers, and that as a nomadic descendent of a rather stay-at-home line of people, that I cannot explore without running across the previous trails of my long-lost and sometimes unknown cousins. There is something comforting about knowing that no matter how far away one goes from ones origins that one never escapes a connection to the historical glories of the past. At least that thought is comforting to me. It may not be comforting to everyone.

So let us trace how this sort of thing happens. Previous research that had been done by other distant relatives of mine had created a family tree that connected my mother’s father’s mother’s line–which had long been a brick wall in my own knowledge–through the generations to the Boones of Pennsylvania, who were Quakers who, like many of my ancestors, settled in Pennsylvania in search of religious freedom. Religious and political refugees, as one would figure from my own life and my own religious belief system, have long been heavy on the ground in my own family history. In many ways, I do not fall far from the trees planted by my forebears. It just so happens that a chance conversation with someone else who was researching a different line of the family allowed me to connect their line to my own, and I was able to help the person with some names and dates and documents, as the Boones appear to have been a very well attested family in the historical record going back well into colonial days. In helping to connect someone else to their own family history I ended up connecting myself to him and to illustrious relatives closely related to a previously obscure line in my own family, and even gave me an opportunity, perhaps someday, to visit places where my ancestors came from as part of a Transatlantic migration of people seeking the freedom to practice their faith in peace. Sometimes one cannot help but be an Atlantic historian even in spite of oneself.

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Book Review: The Story Of Egypt

The Story Of Egypt: The Civilization That Shaped The World, by Joann Fletcher

In one way, this book is a bit of a tease. This book is a story about Egyptian civilization, but like many books on the subject, this is a book that focuses on ancient Egypt. This is understandable, but many readers can be forgiven for not realizing that Egyptian civilization did not suddenly cease because Egypt was conquered by Rome around 30AD. Of course, discussing Egyptian history during the period of the Roman, Byzantine, and various later Muslim periods is by no means an easy task. It is hard enough covering the 3000+ years of ancient Egypt and that is what this book sets out to do. It is a narrative story, by no means complete but focusing as much as possible on issues of narrative, by no means ignoring those who do not happen to be royals, to the extent that such people enter into the historical record, makes it a pleasant enough account even if I would have liked more. When a book leaves you wanting more even when it is a large book, that is a good sign that there is something right about the book at least.

This book is a modest sized book for its material, only a bit more than 350 pages of material to cover thousands of years of history, to say nothing of prehistory. The book begins with an introduction, after which the author spends a couple of chapters talking about the beginning of Egypt (1), something everyone who talks about Egyptian history seems to want to do in biblical terms, as well as the period when the Sahara was a savannah before becoming a desert (2). Then there is a discussion of the move from the drying Sahara oases to the river (3) and the division between northern and southern Egypt (4), which endured in memory in describing Egypt. After that there is a discussion of early rulers (5) who unified the two lands, the shifting focus of early Old Kingdom Egypt (6), and the pyramid builders (7). After that there is a discussion of sun worship (8), the rule of Ra (9), and the troubles that ended the Old Kingdom (10) and led to the disastrous first intermediate period (11). After that, there is a discussion of the Middle Kingdom (12) as well as the proliferation of royal heirs that led to its disintegration (13), and the brutality of Hykso rule (14). This is followed by a discussion of the dawn of the New Kingdom (15), its peak (16), troubled period at the close of the eighteenth dynasty (17), militaristic rule of the Ramessides (18), its decline, rise and fall during the late intermediate period (19), and the final flourish of Macedonian rule (20), after which the book ends with a chronology, note on spellings, acknowledgements, notes on sources, select bibliography, picture acknowledgements, and index.

The story of Egypt is one that fills me with a good deal of sadness. It is hard for me to celebrate societies where ordinary people live grim lives of privation and suffering just so pampered elites can squabble over empty titles and the illusion of power while inflicting misery upon others. I find it hard to celebrate societies devoted to foreign conquest and the domination of others. To be sure, there is no shortage of such peoples, and some would say that imperialism as a whole is precisely that, and that empires like ancient Egypt demonstrate the basic template of imperial rule that would be followed in the rest of the world, with many of those occasions where Egypt was the imperial subject rather than the imperial overlord. We start to see that process happen at the end of the Middle Kingdom period, where first the Hyksos and then the Libyans and Nubians and then the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, followed by many others after the course of this book, dominated the land of the Pharaohs. Yet this book and its contents lead us not to feel pity at the Egyptians, for they were only paid in the same coin that they gave out to others starting in ancient history.

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Book Review: The Rise And Fall Of Ancient Egypt

The Rise And Fall Of Ancient Egypt, by Toby Wilkinson

One of the more interesting aspects of a whole suite of books that exist on ancient Egypt is the way that the politics of ancient Egypt have come under increasing scrutiny and a celebration of ancient Egypt and its endurance over millennia of history is combined with a sense of unease about the fate of common Egyptians under the rule of various despotic and frequently militaristic rulers. Similarly, the heavy hand of Egypt on neighboring regions, especially Nubia, is something that tends to make Egypt come off as less a beacon of civilization for the world than as an active and oppressive menace to others. It is enjoyable, as a reader with profoundly ambivalent feelings about ancient Egypt, to see others wrestle with the dilemmas of longstanding human patterns of thought and behavior even if Egypt’s culture is fairly alien to our own. Some aspects of human nature, including the desire to dominate others and the struggle to maintain control and legitimacy from generation to generation, are aspects of our contemporary world and have been around for a very long time. This book helps to demonstrate some of the earlier roots of the problems of and cruelty of imperialism on the African continent, a useful antidote to much contemporary identity political folly.

This book is a sizable one at more than 400 pages. The book begins with a timeline, author’s note, and introduction. After that comes the main contents of the book in five parts that span thousands of years of history. The first part of the book looks at the origins of Egyptian culture in the societies that developed first in the Sahara oases and then the Nile River starting in 5000BC that were gradually united together by rulers who viewed themselves as gods on earth who built various structures (including pyramids) to assure their eternal existence (I, 1-5). After that comes four chapters (5-9) that provide the end of innocence at the civil war that ended the Old Kingdom and that led to the Middle Kingdom, where paradise was postponed in the face of cruel and tyrannical government (II) that ended in the bitter harvest of Hykso domination. The author then discusses the power and the glory of the New Kingdom of Egypt in five chapters (10-14) that discuss the re-imposition of order, the pushing of the boundaries of Egypt out in both directions down to Sudan and up to the Euphrates, and that show a golden age that ended in a brutal royal revolution. This is followed by four chapters that discuss the military might of the Ramesides (IV, 15-18), including martial law, periods of war and peace with the Hittites, and the triumph and tragedy of Egypt’s survival in the face of the Late Bronze Age crisis that led to the loss of royal power in the face of military leaders. The fifth part of the book then looks at the lengthy period of change and decay from the division of the Libyan dynasty that took over (19), the tarnished throne fought over by Nubians and others (20), the fickle wheel of fortune (21), the invasion and introspection in late Egyptian dynasties (22), an the long goodbye during the reign of the Macedonians (23), after which the author discusses the end of ancient Egypt (24) (V). The book then ends with an epilogue acknowledgements, notes, a bibliography, and an index.

It is also intriguing, and this book does a good job at bringing it out, that there are a wide variety of rises and falls within ancient Egypt. Even by the end of the Old Kingdom there had been numerous dramatic periods of rising and falling, and the periods of the Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, and various intermediate periods, as well as the period of Late Egypt, offered their own dramatic examples of rise and fall. Whether one looks at the militarism of the 18th and 19th dynasties of the Ramesides, with their rule over Egypt ending in a military coup that divided the country into north and south, or one looks at the circulating short-term pharaohs of the eighth dynasty whose reigns were so ephemeral that they were nearly entirely forgotten in their own lifetime and beyond, there is a lot to reflect on here about the transience of power and memory. If Egypt as a whole has been well-remembered throughout history, there are certainly aspects of Egyptian history that have been hard to remember, and a great deal of the destruction came about from Egyptian rulers themselves, who wanted to efface the memory of less illustrious ancestors whose memory was problematic or who wanted to loot tombs to improve their own wealth. Some things never change.

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Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Rage Against The Machine

There are few groups for whom the biblical adage that if one lives by the sword one dies by the sword applies more than is the case for Rage Against Machine. Widely praised for their fiery political rhetoric, the chief knock against Rage Against The Machine as an act is that they stopped making music just at a time when their brand of leftist political activism would have been most appreciated. Having released four popularly successful albums between 1992 and 2000, they have released no studio albums, missing the entire period of George W Bush’s presidency, to say nothing of Obama and Trump after that. While their music has been an inspiration to later acts and the various members of the band have remained active, the band did not have enough rage against the machine to record albums in a time period where political trends would have made for a great deal of credibility with others of their ilk. So it is that instead of hearing new songs from the bands, young people who wanted to vent their hostility against the politics of the time were left playing their old songs on Guitar Hero and similar games. Rarely has a band been more widely derided for the music they did not make rather than the music that they did make, and rarely has the irony been as humorous as is the case here.

The Influence Of Rage Against The Machine

With their brand of fierce musicianship and political edge, Rage Against the Machine is considered to be a precursor to the Nu Metal sound of the early 2000’s that picked up just after the band broke up. Considering the importance of Nu Metal, and the continuing fondness of people for the songs that Rage Against The Machine made, their continuing relevance on music is solid. Besides their serving as a vital link between 1990’s alternative rock and the dominance of Nu Metal in the early 2000’s, the influence of Rage Against The Machine has survived through the musical projects of the band’s members, including most notably Audioslave, where most of the band, except for the lead singer, made more successful albums with Chris Cornell as the lead. It seems striking that Rage Against The Machine was able to work together with other groups for quite a bit of time though the lead singer himself seems to have had a lot of fights with others. And while the internal drama of the band prevented them from making more music together and recording any music during their periodic reunions, clearly a lot of others have been inspired by their music.

Why Rage Against The Machine Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

One of the aspects of rock and roll music that is very important to critics is the question of politics. Rage Against Machine clearly had the leftist politics that many would-be cultural gatekeepers appreciate. The issue is that the band broke up, largely due to internal drama, before a particularly rich period where lower taxes and American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq would seem to be tailor-made for the band’s eviscerating approach that was ultimately not to happen. The band’s record, though, is pretty clear. Only one song from the group even managed to hit the Hot #100, a late single in “Guerrilla Radio,” but every album the band released, including their covers album, went at least platinum, and two of their albums went triple platinum (the fourth went double platinum). That is itself enough of a body of work to demonstrate their success, especially when combined with their influence. What has held them up so far is that so many people wanted much more from them than they ended up giving.

Why Rage Against The Machine Aren’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Interestingly enough, Rage Against Machine has failed to enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame mainly because the band did not release any leftist activist musing during the presidency of George W Bush. Over and over again, that is what I have heard held against this band, demonstrating that when a band has made its reputation on ferocious politically charged works, that not delivering the goods in an obvious time is viewed as a serious weakness for a band’s credibility.

Verdict: Put them in, and make them perform together when they get inducted. That is torture enough, apparently.

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What Is The Worth Of Self-Identification?

For a long time I have pondered the way that nations choose their names. Over and over again, if one looks around the world, one sees that the names that nations choose are not a reflection of reality but a reflection of hope and aspiration. A great many nations have United or Union in their names, be it the United States or the Union of Myanmar or the United Kingdom, and none of those states is or has been particularly united through their histories. Similarly, one will search in vain for republics or people’s republics or democratic republics when you see nations with those titles. Indeed, the more adjectives one sees in front of a nation, the more of a basketcase that nation is likely to be. The fact that the self-description of a nation often does not only not prove itself to fit reality when subject to scrutiny, but is usually a sign that the exact opposite of the name chosen is in fact the reality, demonstrates the limited value of self-description when it comes to matching reality when it comes to nations.

This is also true with individuals as well. We live in an age that is obsessed with taking seriously what people say about themselves and how people identify themselves. Yet our self-identification does not necessarily match with any sort of objective external reality, and at times people deliberately rebel against anything that seeks to connect them to what can in fact be objectively known about them from the outside. Solipsism is the refuge of the contemporary Westerner, and that is a great shame, as what is inside the mind does not need to bear any close relation at all with what is in fact true. What is objective is, by virtue of it being objective and not subject to debate, somewhat coercive, and while most of us are at least somewhat in fond of coercing some (other) people some of the time, most of us highly resent the coercive nature of objectivity when it comes to identifying and labeling us. And, it should be noted, those who are the most fierce about demanding their right to identify themselves as they wish are the least careful when it comes to labeling others as others would not wish.

Perhaps we would best think of the worth of self-identification for people in the same way that we think of self-identification when it comes to nations or groups. All kinds of groups and institutions have mission statements and vision statements and goal statements. These statements, whether made by people or by churches or businesses or nations do not reflect the way that these people or institutions or societies are, but how they see themselves and how they would like to be and what they aim towards. There is worth in knowing what someone thinks of themselves even when it is mistaken, because it points to the gap between the self-deceived perspective and the objective reality. Similarly, there is worth in knowing where someone envisions themselves in the future, because it points to where they are going, even if they are far from that place at present.

There are even times where people would identify us in ways that we would hesitate to identify ourselves. For example, as I was having dinner today I had a book with me that I was reading, and the people at the restaurant where I ate were particularly interested to know what I am reading, because that is an interesting question to others, I suppose. I showed them a book on wit that I was reading and another book that dealt with black perspectives on the Bible. It was the second book that prompted people to comment that I was supposedly quite progressive for reading such a book, but this did not strike me as being something I would wish for anyone to call me, personally. Interestingly enough, I have read a great deal of commentary about how it is that people who might be thought of as being a feminist recoil from the term because of its negative meanings in the eyes of some. While being a first-wave feminist, for example, does not require anything that would be considered remotely unusual in our day and age, a great many people think of the term as implying, if not directly containing, some degree of misandry, which I find totally unacceptable. Similarly, in times like these I find even a label like conservative not nearly descriptive enough of what I believe is best for the present state of society, since it implies that one wishes to preserve and maintain what is, and that is not really an accurate state of my complex feelings. I suspect that is the case often. Identities are not simple matters, and people mean a lot of different things by the same words, and shy away from words that imply something that they do not wish in any way to affirm.

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How Not To Discourage Murmuring

The motivation of other people is a challenging task. As someone who spends a fair amount of time and effort motivating myself for self-improvement, I find that I tend to greatly resent when other people seek to influence me. There are a great many people one finds, unfortunately, who fancy themselves to be good at helping other people to be better, when it appears in reality that such people really relish the supposed freedom to not have to be polite to others. As I mention often, one of the appeals that people find with power, and that is power of any kind, is the freedom to not have to kowtow to the feelings of others that mere plebs have to face. Of course, this means that there is frequently an asymmetry where we desire to show candor to others free of restraint but still demand that others restrain themselves when it comes to communicating with us. We all like to critique and criticize–and this is certainly true of me–but no one wants to hear others criticize us.

This has as lot of consequences. To the extent that we are aware of our own desire to criticize others while not hearing their murmuring and discontent in response, we can act in a way that better relates to other people. For example, the ideal way to respond in a way that works to increase our influence with others is to curb our own tendency to carp and criticize while being patient with the tendency of others to do so, recognizing their human frailty, but it is hard for us to do so, and even more difficult for us to do so without indulging in the pride that is so corrosive of our fellow feeling with other people. How, then, is one to deal with the problem of murmuring? Leaders may regularly dislike the murmuring they get from others, but the murmuring is communication about how people are feeling and what needs are not being met. There are, to be sure, better and worse ways of communicating ourselves, but if someone is communicating something with you, that is something to appreciate, even if that communication comes in an imperfect form and with imperfect tone.

It is striking to me just how important tone is in how I take what others have to say. The same thing can be said in a variety of ways, and I find myself very sensitive to when things are said poorly. There is a great deal of frustration nowadays with people who find their communications criticized for tone policing, as if it was a bad thing to tone police. But we all tone police, and I must admit I am more vigorous about tone policing than is even the norm. When we communicate something, we have to be conscious of whether we are communicating for our own benefit or for that of others. To the extent that we genuinely care about influencing them, it is vital that we police our own tone because others will be policing it for us if we do not take the trouble to. If we are speaking to release our own internal stress and to get something off of our chest, then we should not be surprised that others disregard what we have to say because we are not really speaking for their well-being but for our own. If they are wise, and we are seldom wise, people can pay attention to what insights are being provided even if poorly expressed, but it is quite frequent where such communication is wasted for not being done the right way.

We might say, therefore, with some confidence that the worst way to discourage murmuring is to complain about it. Let us not forget that Moses lost his chance to enter into the promised land because of his angry response to the murmuring of the Israelites the second time that they asked for water to come out of a stone, failing to give credit to God. To be sure, the Israelites would have driven even the most mild-mannered leader to extreme rage with their continual whining and complaining, but we can never forget that the failure of others does not justify or excuse our own failure. Others will be judged for their failures, and we will be judged for ours. While it is our tendency as human beings to judge us on the curve, God will judge us according to His standard, with mercy, but by His standard nonetheless. We might therefore say that if we desire others not to murmur and complain, the worst thing that we can do is to complain about them in a sarcastic or unfriendly mood, and the best thing that we can do is to model uncomplaining behavior ourselves. To model good is so much harder than it is to complain about the bad, though.

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A Modest Proposal For The Encouragement Of Genealogical Research In The Church of God

Even if it does not always make itself obvious here, at least not yet, I have a great deal of interest in genealogical research in my own family and have found quite a few interesting connections between myself and others. The Bible spends a great deal of time talking about genealogical lines, showing that God works with people not only as individuals, but as part of a long chain of descent and belief in God and a living according to His ways and service to His people spanning for hundreds and even thousands of years. Repeatedly, the Bible promises that our belief in and obedience to God will have positive consequences for our descendants afar off–Exodus 20:4-6 says: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Similarly, Acts 2:37-39 says: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.””

In both of these cases, belief has consequences, and that consequence is that God pays attention to people because of their faithful ancestors. The children of Israel were delivered from slavery because they were the heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not because of their own righteousness. A great many of the people in the Bible who God worked with had a heritage of faith that helped them to be connected to God in a very important way. When we neglect family history, we are not aware of how the faith and obedience of our fathers and mothers has brought us blessings that we may not have deserved from our own merits. To be sure, a great many people like thinking about family history in the long-term, but one does not get there without going through a lot of intervening generations. It is worthwhile on a variety of levels to see the people we connect with and through and also to find out, if possible, the legacy of faith that we have in previous generations.

There are several ways in which an encouragement of genealogy, within reason, would make sense for the Church of God. As we have already discussed, the culture of the Church of God is one that pays a lot of attention to the role of family history in the history of salvation in God’s dwelling with mankind. In addition, family history of a more recent sort clearly has a great deal of importance within the Church of God as well, as one would notice if one looks at the frequency in which people who come from ministerial families tend to marry other people from the same sorts of backgrounds. In some churches within the larger Church of God umbrella, it is not unreasonable to speak of dynasties where sons expect to and do manage to succeed leadership from their fathers, and where dynastic concerns are in play then genealogy plays a major role in determining who is who, all of which makes the Church of God similar to ancien regime or Victorian Europe when it comes to the importance of having the right sort of family lines among its aristocratic class.

Let us note, though, that this encouragement of genealogy needs to be within reason. The invention of spurious genealogies in order to increase one’s prestige is one obvious problem that needs to be avoided. Similarly, it is important to recognize that one’s family origin does not save us. God can raise sons of Abraham from stones, and the Bible also (see Psalm 87, Isaiah 56, Galatians 3) clearly views those who believe as being adopted into Israel regardless of their ethnic origin. Those who come to a belief in God and an obedience to His ways without a pedigree of righteous faith in generations before them (at least as far as it is known) have the benefit of providing a means by which God can bless future generations of families yet unborn extending well into the future as has been the case in the past. One need not imagine that it will take extensive effort to encourage genealogical research in the Church of God–as many are no doubt doing that already, but encouraging such efforts and passing along such information, both from documentary evidence as well as genetic genealogy, is certainly something that can be greatly encouraged.

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