With all my heart, I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and for those who do not celebrate Christmas, then I wish you a Happy Holiday Season!
Perhaps my posts and the somewhat(!) 'minimal' position of my views might mislead the reader to assume that I am not Christian, or perhaps have a 'chip on my shoulder' in regards to Judaism or Christianity or even religion itself. I, in fact, have a deep respect for religion and its place in human life.
To me, both Judaism and Christianity are worthy traditions that give great value to humanity each and every day. Religions of such age and resiliency exist because people benefit from them. They can give meaning and a strength exactly at those times in life when it is the hardest to find; they are able to provide that 'something' (and I don't really know exactly what it is...) that so many human beings greatly need. Of course, these religions and the 'wealth' they provide can also be turned in negative directions, and be used for nefarious purposes, too. But that is another story, for another post...
I believe that human beings are capable of wondrous and truly good and beautiful things, but they are not so by default. And I also think the religions and ideas therein that our ancestors have passed down to us were passed down for good reason: they found a special value in them. The ideas and traditions and stories that they passed down to us helped them to be better — helped them to rise above 'the default'. I also can feel very cynical at times, and regard religions as places of stagnating power structures that serve to sustain negative and ultimately selfish thought paradigms. But I strongly feel that 'the baby should not be thrown-out with the bathwater.'
In Christianity, I think the special values/beliefs (the 'baby') our ancestors found consisted of: forgiveness; love; a caring for the poor; self-sacrifice; a universal inclusiveness; an optimism that good triumphs over evil; a conviction that mankind is special in the eyes of the universe — each and every human individual; and that the universe is ultimately kind and loving and forgiving.
These values are not always followed, of course: at times even Christians are too ready to throw out the baby and keep the bathwater. But the lasting, precious values that our ancestors cherished so much are still there to be found. We should educate ourselves in order to be able to find and keep the baby, and get rid of the bathwater. That is what I hope to do in my studying, and why I seek to understand as clearly as I can the Bible and discover its true history.
Btw, Joe Cathey, and Jim West, I wish the best to both of you and the same to everyone all across the dreaded Minimalist-Maximalist spectrum. I hope we all can be willing to find the 'baby' (whether it be cooing sweetly or in a raving temper-tantrum, it's still a baby that might grow up and save your b*tt, right?) in each other, and also be willing to recognize the 'bathwater' in ourselves. (I know, that is hopelessly corny, but hopefully you know what I am trying to say...)
Happy Holidays to all,