In the first instance, Parry has invited a noted Christian minister/theologian Howard Best to recount some of the cautions that must surround the literal belief in the events which "christmas" celebrates. In a Bold-face Editor's Note, Parry warns:
In the modern age, religious mythologies – when mixed with politics – have led to very harmful and often bloody consequences, especially involving the leading monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.(Ummm. Okay, a quibble: One of the constant features of religious mythologies of ALL times is that they are readily--some would argue, designedly--mixed with politics to ENABLE and/or justify the "bloody consequences" of doctrinal deviation. Just saying. Parry's being really gentle here.--W
So, in this guest essay, Baptist minister Howard Bess reminds Christians that many of their most cherished beliefs about the birth of Jesus were not based on empirical evidence, but on politically motivated mythology:
Rev. Best is 'catholic' in the net he casts across the mythic seas of Christmas, starting with one major problem: there are two (and only two) accounts of Jesus' birth, and they seem irreconcilable on certain points. He also gives a short, precise picture of the geo-political stage upon which these two narratives were being offered, including the 'poetic" mimicry employed by the Christians to disguise their affinities amid a hostile civitas. Then he turns to literary criticism and historiography (the Rev.'s a fuuking HUMANIST? Hoocoodanode?--W): "For whom were the birth narratives written?... What literary device was used by the authors?" for clues to understanding how the texts were used. He finally arrives at the (expectable) conclusion that the story of the Divine Natality is both a metaphor and a parable, one to be enjoyed and honored for its (what Colbert might call) "Truthiness."
Another story, brought up today from the Archives of Consortium News, features an examination of a book and a theory by Israel scholar and author Schlomo Sand, whose premise--
"Sand explicitly presents his book as an attempt to undermine the twin notions that the “Jewish people” share a single ancestry and that this people share ancestral rights to the land of Israel."--will almost certainly cause an epidemic of 'pearls' of fury and dismissal to irrupt in the relevant cultural oyster beds.Again there is a prefatory Editor's Note:
As we can see, this, too, is a potentially explosive topic. Morgan Strong composed and assembled the piece for Consortium, and it includes clips from video-taped Q&A sessions Sand underwent recently. Here's one:
In April, we published an article by Middle East expert Morgan Strong about the controversial findings of Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, calling the Roman Diaspora of the Jewish people a myth that has been misused to justify the current displacement of Palestinians by European Jews, whom Sand argues have no geneological connection to the Holy Land.
Since then, Sand's book, renamed The Invention of the Jewish People, has been published in English, and the author has recently appeared on international news programs to respond to questions about his findings. Clips from one such interview are included below, along with Strong's article.
Provocative, nest paw? Strong asserts :
There has been no serious rebuttal to Sand’s book, which has been a bestseller in Israel and Europe – and which is expected to be released in the United States within the year. But there were earlier genetic studies attempting to demonstrate an unbroken line of descent among Ashkenazi Jews in Europe from the Hebrew tribes of Israel.And just in time for Christmas, the USer version/translation of the book is out in English. It's a fascinating story, and in its own way fitting for your Solstice celebratory ruminations...