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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lent / Tarot / Guile: The Seven of Swords

Some tarot cards scare people: Death, The Devil, The Tower.

Some tarot cards are warm and fuzzy: The Star, the six of cups.

Other tarot cards are like Rorschach tests. Some people look at them and see something really bad. Others look at the exact same picture and see something they like.

The seven of swords depicts a man stealing his enemies' swords, right in the enemy camp. The enemy is too far away, too taken by surprise, to react effectively.

Some look at this card and see trickery and theft and assume themselves to be the victims. "Someone is tricking me. Someone is stealing from me."

I identify with the thief. I think he's doing a good thing. He is forfending war by peacefully stealing the bad guys' weapons of war. I like this card. One reader says to interpret it this way, "Work smarter, not harder."

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

Any English major would identify Matthew 10:16 as a mixed metaphor.

A Christian hears this and is shocked. The Bible refers to serpents at least 48 times and each mention is mostly negative. Serpents are tricky, stealthy killers. Serpents are associated with the devil in Genesis and in Revelation.

And here Jesus is telling his followers to be like serpents?

Yes. And yes it is a mixed metaphor. Jesus is conveying a great deal of information in a small, powerful package.

Christians are to be two apparently contradictory things: as innocent as lambs, as doves, but also to be aware of what a tough place the world is, and to protect themselves, by guile, if necessary.

I think Jesus might be one of those people who look at the picture in the seven of swords and appreciate it. 

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