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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lent / Tarot / Victory: Six of Wands

There is much debate about whether or not the Bible records historical events. Some scholars point to this or that detail to "prove" that so-called historical events in the Bible never happened. The historicity of Biblical figures like Abraham and Jesus are studied and debated. Some say that Abraham never existed. As proof, they point to the Bible's mention of Abraham having camels. Camels were not domesticated at the time that Abraham was supposed to have existed, some argue.

I think this is a particularly weak argument. It's entirely possible that a later retelling of Abraham's story inserted camels into his flocks.

On the other hand, some argue that camels were domesticated earlier than previously thought. Many websites address this controversy. One website is headlined "Bible Wins the Debate with Carbon Dated Camel Bones."

One scholar insists that the New Testament can't record an accurate history of Jesus because Good Friday follows so quickly after Palm Sunday.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus makes a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He rides a donkey, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy: Zechariah 9:9 reads,

"Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you…
humble and mounted on a donkey."

The crowds shout hosanna and throw their garments under his feet. This is also a reference to the Old Testament, 2 Kings 9:13.

Then, a mere week later, everything changes. When the crowd is offered a chance of whom to crucify, Jesus or Barabbas, they shout that Barabbas should be freed and Jesus should be crucified.

Scoffers insist that the rapidity of the acceptance and celebration and then rejection of Jesus happens entirely too quickly. This can't be a factual story, they declare.

Others try to reconcile the alleged problem by saying that the Palm Sunday crowd and the Good Friday crowd are two different crowds. See an example here.

Others say that both events happened, they just happened further apart in time than as depicted in the New Testament.

My take? I love the Palm Sunday / Good Friday switcheroo. I think it probably happened exactly as depicted in the New Testament. And I think it reveals a deep truth about human nature.

Me? I'm a writer. People read my stuff. If they agree with what I wrote, they send me fan mail. The fan mail flatters me. Oh, you are such a great person I love you thank you. If that very same person later reads something I wrote with which they disagree, within 24 or 48 hours, I get hate mail. I just got one such email this morning.

I have no idea who sent me the hate mail. It was anonymous, as hate mail often is. The author said that I "disappointed" him because he had read something I wrote that he really liked and he thought I was a great person. Then he read something I wrote that he didn't like and he decided that I'm worthless.

Frank Capra depicts this tendency of crowds to turn on a dime, to lift people up and tear them down, in the 1941 film "Meet John Doe." Gary Cooper, as John Doe, is giving a speech. One minute the crowd is cheering him, adoring him. The next minute they are throwing tomatoes at him. It's a very painful scene to watch. Crisis Magazine ran a piece about Capra's Christ figures – you can read it here.

Media saturation and social media encourage us to be like the Palm Sunday / Good Friday crowds. They toss human lives at us as if the lives were chum and as if we were sharks. We are supposed to love one person one minute and hate another person the next. This past week, we were supposed to be outraged that Ben Carson used the word "immigrant" to refer to African American slaves. It was really weird to see rich white people lecture Ben Carson, himself a black man, on the status of slaves.

The six of wands tarot card depicts a victorious rider. Wise people recognize his victory as a moment in time, not a permanent state of being. 

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