29 October 2011

Sabbath or Sunday, Seventh or First Day?

A few years ago, at an international meeting in Korea, I met one person who told me he belonged to the Seventh Day Baptists, and asked me if I had heard of them.

As it happened, I knew of the group, a Christian group that is Baptist in faith and practice, except that they still honor the old Hebrew Sabbath, worshiping on the 7th day of the week instead of the 1st, as most Christians do.

In North America, I knew that the Seventh Day Baptists participate in the North American Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance, like most other Baptist groups in the US, Mexico and Canada.

Most people will be familiar with another Sabbath Christian group, the Seventh Day Adventists, a better-known church that also worships on the Sabbath. Though better known for their apocalyptic beliefs, the Adventists observe more of the Hebrew requirements and practices than other Christians. Even so, they have become more closely allied with "evangelical" denominations in North America in recent years.

Most Christians worldwide observe the first day of the week as the Lord's Day in honor of the resurrection of Jesus. The pattern was set even before the New Testament Gospels and letters were written, as indicated in the book of Acts, the strong admonition in Hebrews (Hebrews 10:25) and other New Testament references.

As the Greek-speaking peoples gradually became Christian, this led to the first day of the week, their worship day, being named "The Lord's Day." This is the Greek name even today for that first day of the week.

But the first followers of Jesus the Messiah ("Christ" in Greek) were often meeting every day of the week, including Saturday. The first messianic believers continued observing the Sabbath as well as worshiping on Sunday and other days throughout the week. Jewish followers of Jesus continued worshiping in the synagogues and the temple until its destruction in AD 70.

What are the factors about worshiping on Saturday or Sunday? I recently thought through this question again in some detail and have posted a recent article discussing this topic. I also list here other related topics among my resources.

Sabbath, Sunday and Covenant Relationships – The Sabbath for the Christian: Thoughts on Commandment Four
Sabbath and Sunday
Keeping The Torah By Nature – Life Instruction
The Gospels in their Jewish Setting
When Paul Studied with Gamaliel

06 October 2011

Cyprus, Afrodite and the Holy Virgin

A few years back, I had the awesome experience of living in Cyprus for 3.5 years. I loved the small island country, the warm family-oriented people and the ancient history all around us, with about 3500 archaeological sites and dozens of museums tucked in the old medieval streets of all the towns.

Aphrodite (also transliterated Afrodite) is a major figure in the history and culture of Cyprus. It is said that she was born out of the foam of the sea where the Mediterranean crashes against the great rocks of a bay near Paphos, on the western coast of the island.

Note Homer's comment on Afrodite:
"And laughter-loving Afrodite went to Paphos in Cyprus where she has her sacred precinct and fragrant altar."
-- Odyssey VIII 362

Afrodite is a great tourist focus with sites like Afrodite's Bay and Afrodite's baths in the Pafos district. Replicas of the classical figures of Afrodite as well as many of the old Greek gods are sold. The stories of these gods are told in the literature with the same historical tone as other historical stories. It is hard to tell how seriously these are taken.

This focus on the pagan past is surprising in light of the strong Christian identity of Cyprus, and the great struggles of the Christians against their pagan opponents and persecutors until about AD 400. Afrodite's ties with traditional Cyprus is a great money-earner.

Of course commercial interests are the context for much of the reproduction of classical art work representing the ancient Greek religious scenes and characters from the myths.

These ancient "myths" (Greek mythos for "story"), further, are the symbolic history of the Greek peoples. Like other ancient and current oral-relational peoples of the world, the Greeks encapulate and transmit their identity and origins and pre-history in story form.

The story flow and relationships of the characters are in focus, not necessarily (not usually) literal, specific objective "facts" like moderns have come to prefer. Think of Aesop's Fables, and compare with the Germanic Grimm's fairy tales, and stories like Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood in the Black Forest of Germany.

But such stories convey quickly whole categories of wisdom and truth in story form, notably guidance for life, personal safety or moral values.

Prayer Bows
In Cyprus, bits of cloth are tied to branches and stems of bushes and trees in certain areas, as prayers for fertility (originally, and apparently still so intended). These bows on the bushes were originally prayers to Afrodite, and now are considered prayers to Mary Mother of Jesus (the God-Bearer theotokos). These are found on trees or bushes in church yards, as well as more genral public areas.

As in the rest of the Christian world, other previously pagan celebrations have been reinterpreted into Christan themes. For instance, the annual celebration of Kataklysmos. This originally-pagan holiday also originally honored Aphrodite.

Kataklysmos is now supposed to be a celebration of the deliverance from the Flood (kataklysmos). This is usually celebrated in Cyprus at the same time as Pentecost Sunday, celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first Day of Pentecost after Jesus' resurrection. Kataklysmos is celebrated with traditional dances and fairs all weekend and Monday. The most famous venue is the Larnaca seafront boardwalk fair.

Learn more about Cyprus and its fascinating, deep-history culture at these links on my website:
Across the Greek Divide
Cyprus: Notes and Perceptions
Eastern Orthodoxy
Eastern Orthodoxy Presentation
Prayer for Cyprus
History and Art in Cyprus
Italians, Etruscans and Greeks: Genetics and Ethnicity

For More on Cyprus
History of Cyprus
The Church of Cyprus - Official Site
The Church of Cyprus - Religion Wiki
The Church of Cyprus - Wikipedia

06 August 2011

Welcome, South Sudan, to the Family of Nations!

On 9 July 2011, a new nation-state came into being, when the Republic of South Sudan was proclaimed. After two generations of oppression and war, a new Nation was born as Southern Sudan became independent.

The new South Sudan was created geographically out of three former provinces of the Sudan, Bahr-el-ghazal, Equatoria and Greater Upper Nile. These territories are now configured into 10 states of the new republic.

There was a great wave of exultation and hope across the world in expatriate communities of Nuer and Dinka, the two largest ethnic groups, and others as South Sudan joined the world family of nations.

The previous decades of exploitation, devastation, destruction and exploitation were made even worse by extensive drought and famine in long, repeated periods. Over the years thousands of refugees fled into neighboring countries and into rescue centers in other continents.

About 25,000 Nuer alone are in the United States. Many will remember the "Lost Boys," mostly Nuer and Dinka children who walked incredible distances to escape their light.

One source comments:
"Approximately 25,000 Nuer were resettled in the United States as refugees since the early 1990s, with many Nuer now residing in Nebraska, Minnesota, Sag Harbor, NY, Iowa, South Dakota, Tennessee, Georgia and many other states, and some of them living in Canada, mostly in Toronto, Kitchener, Edmonton, and Calgary."

The source says another 20,000 went to Australia.

See my updated cultural profiles of the Dinka and Nuer, with a map and extensive links to other sources:
The Dinka People of South Sudan
The Nuer People of South Sudan

For more on South Sudan, the Nuer and the Dinka:
Nuer - Nethelper
Sudan - Wikipedia
Nuer and Sudan - Dual B Gony
South Sudan – Wikipedia

13 July 2011

What Makes a Dialect a Dialect?

Sometimes people would ask about our African home, What dialect do they speak over there? In Kenya, about the size of Texas or France, there are about 85 languages. Then you want to look into the dozens of dialects of all those languages?

Do some people speak a language while others speak only a dialect? Hmmmnnn. Do you speak a dialect or a language? Why do the Kikuyus speak Kikuyu? Why do the Kumam people of Uganda speak differently from the related Acholi people?

Have you noticed that all (or most) people growing up in the same place speak the same way? Well, sure you have. Why is that? How did you learn the phrases you use, the words you choose in certain situations and purposes?

Why is it that the language children learn is the language of their parents! And why is that some children learn two or three languages at the same time, without even thinking about it?

Way back in our language learning prehistory the pattern operates. No, I don't mean when your ancestors were cavemen. No I mean yours and my own personal prehistory. Can you remember learning English? Me neither. Our brains just knew what to do.

But how did our brains know how to do it? How did our subconscious Learning Acquisition Device know what to "teach" us? Well, you brain is an amazing implement that just works on what it finds around us.

We talk like the people where we grew up because that is the Model of speech communication our ears heard. We learned the patterns and models available to us! This is what leads to our regional accents, and what makes the dialect of one area different from the speech of another.

Human communication is complex, frustrating and fascinating. Ever wonder which people speak a language and which people speak a dialect? Look into all this in my latest article on the question:
Accent, Dialect and Language

Mentioned or related to this Blog Topic:

Accents - Developing and Changing Them

Dialects, Languages and Ethnicity

Living and Working in Kenya

The Kikuyu People of Kenya

The Kumam People of Uganda

29 June 2011

Birth of Chicago Blues

Milton (Mezz) Mezzrow was the foundation on which Chicago Jazz, and the related Chicago Blues, arose. Mezzrow was Louis Armstrong's radio producer, a key figure in Dixieland Jazz and the development of the Chicago Jazz sound. Reading about Mezzrow's life and music filled huge gaps in my knowledge of Jazz Era realities and details.

Mezzrow writes about his own financial and personality struggles and the notable successes of his life in the Jazz set. He tutored Gene Krupa and influenced numerous key figures in jazz and blues.

Mezzrow's testimony provides important insights into important individuals in American music's identity. The recently republished book includes added features. See my review of this important work on the history of American music and link to more on the internet from there.

Visit the fascinating and murky early years of 20th Century American Music.

Really the Blues, by Mezz Mezzrow

30 March 2011

Knowledge and Politics

I have just posted a new book review on a fascinating topic.

Among the topics I continue to read, concepts of Knowledge and Knowing fascinate me immensely. The official name for ideas of knowledge and learning is Epistemology. This is a whole branch of Philosophy and is a huge segment of modern Neurolinguistics and Neurophysiology.

Psychologists, Physiologists, Neurologists, Biochemists, Linguists, Anthropologists and Philosophers are among the specialists who study how we learn, how we know, and how we can verify and be sure of the certainty of our perceptions.

The relation between physical perception and mental understanding is a growing area in virtually every area of science today.

I have reviewed a recent book on this topic, additionally fascinating because the author looks at concepts of government and society. This book is a study of the political philosophy of Eric Voegelin's Political Theory.

Voegelin analyzes political systems and theories reflect concepts of Reality and our perceptions or assumptions about Reality. You will learn a lot about how political movements over the last 200 years relate to each other and our lives today.

Voegelin was a very practical thinker, but could see the trends and implications often overlooked in today's media madness of hype and dazzle. He analyzes concepts of knowledge, of epistemology. In short, this means he investigates the different ideas people have proposed about how we learn and know and how we can trust our sense of knowledge. How valid are our perceptions; how well can we trust what we think we know about reality?

My review links to other articles I have written on how we learn, know and conceive of Reality.

"The underlying theme all through this volume is Epistemology, the core of Voegelin's philosophy. Epistemology is the science or philosophy of knowledge, how we know, how we can substantiate, verify, and understand ourselves and the external world. Voegelin analyzes theories of worldview and consciousness, and deals with the role of religion in the problems of consciousness and government."
-- "Self and the World, Knowing Reality," my review of The Balance of Consciousness: Eric Voegelin's Political Theory (University Park/London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990. 194pp.)

19 March 2011

The Tutsi People

The unbelievable genocide in Rwanda was one of the landmark events of the 20th Century. At that time I wrote a short comment on the cultural background of that event. Discussion continued and a serries of articles developed, interacting with various people of different African ethnicities.

A reader in Uganda recently wrote with some thoughts on modern history involving invaders from the north that led to a dispersal of the ruling dynasty into various places in East Central Africa.

This led to a background piece on the deep pre-history of the Tutsi-Hutu conflict, focusing on possible origins of the Tutsi. In our discussion I tried to put in perspective the various waves of immigration that contributed to the current ethnicities around the Great Lakes of Africa.

Read that latest article in my Tutsi series, Tutsi and Chwezi: History and Pre-History.

For more on the Tutsi, Hutu and related peoples, see my other articles:

Hima, Ham and Cush
The Hima People of Eastern Africa
How Did the Tutsis Conquer?
The Nyankore of Uganda
Tutsi, Hutu and Hima – Cultural Background in Rwanda
Tutsi, Hutu and Germans
Tutsis – the Ethiopia-Somalia Connection

Read my review of the book on which Hotel Rwanda was based. True story by Paul Rusesabagina:
Anything But Ordinary

10 March 2011

Ash Wednesday Funeral

About 1500 worshipers in Arlington, Texas, observed Ash Wednesday, 9 March 2011, by attending the funeral of slain pastor Clint Dobson.

Clint was a very good friend. When Edith and I came back from Africa two years ago, Clint joined our sons and their families to meet us at the airport. We quickly grew close. I picked up my role as sax player in the church worship team, where I had participated over the years when we were in town. Clint and I would have coffee periodically and talk about books, study topics and his plans for the church.

This past week has been a torture of surrealism. The whole of Arlington and the broader Dallas-Ft Worth Metroplex were shocked at the initial news of Clint’s murder and the brutal beating of Clint's ministry assistant Judy Elliot in the church building, on Thursday 3 March 2011. The story was national news.

Friends and church members found themselves in various video footage of unfolding events as the news media kept the public informed of the developing story. In two days the Arlington Police had one perpetrator in custody, and before long tracked down the second, with the help of concerned local citizens who knew him.

The Arlington Pastors and Police Association, a chaplaincy and community relations group, with whom Clint had been active, comforted us as in a public prayer vigil on the front steps of NorthPointe on the night following the murder. The staff and members of the parent church, First Baptist Church, Arlington, led by Pastor Dennis Wiles and Pastor of Administration Terry Bertrand, enfolded the small NorthPointe family in care and support.

Edith and I are very thankful for a special gift whose import we could not have known the weekend before Clint was killed. Clint came by the house to return a book he had borrowed from me. This whole experience has been eerie, like reality has been suspended. At times still, when I think through this, when I remember discussions with Clint, when I think back to his precious last comments in our home that Saturday before his death on Thursday -- I am thankful, I am angry, I am puzzled, I am amazed, I am sad.

Clint was a voracious reader, he was always thinking, exploring, envisioning. When he and I would meet for coffee, he would talk about the authors he was reading, the current topic he was exploring and theological and social questions important to him.

I enjoyed sharing theological speculation and historical reflection with him. He was interested in perspectives we had learned from other cultures in our decades of life primarily in Africa. Clint liked to see different and fresh ways God was speaking into our human existence in His active Love.

Clint took Jesus' words seriously. He lived by faith and he loved people. He had a special rapport with children. Thank you, God, for the rich times we had with Clint, before he was taken from us.

Obituary and Condolence Book for Clinton Roderick Dobson

The Associated Baptist Press
Slain pastor laid to rest

Mourners filled First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, March 9 to celebrate the life of a young mission pastor cut short by murder, while more than 500 others watched live on the Internet.

Funeral of Pastor Clint Dobson
NorthPointe Church Worship Service after Clint's murder
Clint's Last Blog on the NorthPointe Website
Memorial by Dr. Dennis R. Wiles, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Arlington
Facebook Page Pray for NorthPointe

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