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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.


Sunday, April 30, 2006

“Lost Gospels” Article Now Online

My latest article is now online at Whosoever:
The Lost Gospels of Judas and Thomas: A Tale of Two Gnostics

The newly-uncovered Gospel of Judas is repeatedly lumped together with the Gospel of Thomas in current news stories and articles. Yet the two gospels are vastly different from each other. This article takes a look at those differences and the two very different types of gnosticism these two “lost gospels” represent.

Amsterdam



Another web quiz: What European City Do You Belong In?

Here are my results. Interestingly, Amsterdam is one of three European cities I really want to visit someday. The other two are Prague and Paris (with a side trip to Chartres).

You Belong in Amsterdam

A little old fashioned, a little modern – you're the best of both worlds. And so is Amsterdam. Whether you want to be a squatter graffiti artist or a great novelist, Amsterdam has all that you want in Europe (in one small city).

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Coffee


“Moderately drunk, coffee removes vapours from the brain, occasioned by fumes of wine, or other strong liquors; eases pains in the head, prevents sour belchings, and provokes appetite.”
-- England's Happiness Improved (1699)

“No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness.”
~ Sheik Abd al-Kadir

“Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and as sweet as love.”
~ Turkish proverb

“Without my morning coffee I'm just like a dried up piece of roast goat.”
~ Johann Sebastian Bach, The Coffee Cantata

Friday, April 21, 2006

Living Mindfully



“Described by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago, mindfulness is a way of learning to see life as a unified whole. When we live mindfully, life is no longer divided between what we have to do and what we want to do. Life is no longer divided between ‘our’ time and time for others. All of life becomes our time. All of life becomes an opportunity to be alive and aware. When we live mindfully, we learn to be happy and content, whether interacting with our patients, filling in an appointment time in our calendar, enjoying time with someone we love, or relaxing with a cup of coffee.”

~ from Mindful Therapy, by Thomas Bien


“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

~ Henry Miller

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Gospel of Judas: Clear as Mud

In “Betrayed Again: The Gospel of Judas Roadshow,” on the Christianity Today website, reviewer John Wilson gives us this quotation from the Gospel of Judas, which shows how fragmentary much of the text really is:

“Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, for all of them the stars bring matters to completion. When Saklas completes the span of time assigned for him, their first star will appear with the generations, and they will finish what they said they would do. Then they will fornicate in my name and slay their children and they will [ … ] and [—about six and a half lines missing—] my name, and he will [ … ] your star over the [thir]teenth aeon.’”

Wilson makes the point that “this newly recovered gospel is a bit difficult to follow at times.” His brief review concludes with a tongue-in-cheek observation that made me laugh out loud:

“What the Gospel of Judas people really need is a version by Eugene Peterson. The Message: Judas. But don't hold your breath.”

(If that didn’t strike you as funny, be comforted: you are not a theology geek.)

Darrell
www.WildFaith.com

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Matthew Fox and Grateful Bear on Podcast

Whosoever’s Podcast (“Godcast”) Number 6 is now online, available for download. This edition features a spirited commentary on current news from editor Candace Chellew-Hodge; an interview with the Rev. Matthew Fox about his book A New Reformation; and an essay by yours truly, the Grateful Bear, on “Coffeehouse Spirituality.”

To download the podcast as an mp3, click here. For info on how to subscribe to the podcast using iTunes or iPodder, click here.

“Coffeehouse Spirituality” originally appeared in White Crane Journal.

Gospel of Judas Update

Finally! I found an internet article in which a biblical scholar – from Harvard, no less – acknowledges that the Gospel of Judas is homophobic. I was beginning to think I was the only one who saw the homophobia in it! From the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer story, “Judas Gospel hasn't changed story: Few expect to see impact on Christianity from text” –

. . . But those hoping to find a kinder, gentler Christianity – one more in tune with the mystical yearnings of the present generation – may disappointed with the Gnostics, and especially the Judas Gospel.

“It's dreadfully anti-Jewish and homophobic,” said Karen L. King, a professor of church history at Harvard Divinity School. “I don't think it makes progress.”

Karen King is the author of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala.

I was surprised to see a link to the Blog of the Grateful Bear at the New York Times story about the Gospel of Judas. As a result of the link, the number of visits to this blog shot up from 157 on April 7th to 446 on April 8th. And with the increase in traffic came an increase in off-the-wall comments that had to be deleted: incoherent rants; lengthy, badly-written sermons; off-topic posts about the evils of The Da Vinci Code; and most surprisingly of all, a large number of anonymous posts from people disagreeing with me about the holiness of the body.

This is the statement I made in my April 7th post that drew the most criticism: “Our bodies are the temple of God, not the prison of the soul as the Sethian Gnostics [who wrote the Gospel of Judas] believed.”

I had no idea there were so many people out there who view their bodies as prisons – and who get angry when people suggest otherwise. The dualism in the Gospel of Judas (its view of spirit as good and matter, including the physical body, as evil) may prove to be one of its selling points.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Wind That Swirls Everywhere


A Pentecostal scholar is writing about the Holy Spirit being active in other religions besides Christianity. From the Christianity Today article about theologian Amos Yong:

His central thesis is that, because the Spirit of God is universally active in creation and new creation, “the religions of the world, like everything else that exists, are providentially sustained by the Spirit of God for divine purposes.” Where most Pentecostals see the devil’s work, Yong sees the Spirit’s. Concretely, that means Christians should be open to learning from and being enriched by the Spirit's work in world religions. Dialogue must take place alongside evangelism, he argues, so that all the religions—including Christianity—can learn from each other what the Spirit is doing.

Yong believes that pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit) has been too long neglected by Christian theologians. He writes, “A pneumatological approach to the non-Christian faiths . . . opens up the Christian to whatever is true, good, beautiful, and holy in the other traditions, even while nurturing an environment in which the non-Christian can come to appreciate the same in Christian faith.”

The article is online at the Christianity Today website:
A Wind that Swirls Everywhere


The idea of the Spirit moving like a wind through all the world’s religions reminds me of the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. In his classic book Living Buddha, Living Christ, he writes about the Holy Spirit as a “door” between Buddhism and Christianity. Here’s just one of many passages in the book where Thich Nhat Hanh writes about the Holy Spirit:

“The Buddha was not against God. He was only against notions of God that are mere mental constructions that do not correspond to reality, notions that prevent us from developing ourselves and touching ultimate reality. That is why I believe it is safer to approach God through the Holy Spirit than through the door of theology. We can identify the Holy Spirit whenever it makes its presence felt. Whenever we see someone who is loving, compassionate, mindful, caring, and understanding, we know that the Holy Spirit is there.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ


“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

~ John 3:8, ESV

Friday, April 14, 2006

Seven Stanzas at Easter


Seven Stanzas at Easter
by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that – pierced – died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

from Collected Poems 1953-1993
copyright © 1993 by John Updike

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Jesus and Judas Papers


Christianity Today has published a thoughtful critique, from an evangelical perspective, of The Jesus Papers (a new book by Michael Baigent, which I haven’t read) and The Gospel of Judas:

The Jesus and Judas Papers: A Look at Recent Claims about Jesus
by Darrell Bock

A more enthusiastic perspective about The Gospel of Judas:
The Gospel Truth
a New York Times Op-Ed column by Elaine Pagels

Reminder: No anonymous comments are allowed on this blog.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dalai Lama: Support for Gay Rights

PRESS RELEASE
Geneva, April 3, 2006
For immediate circulation

HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA
ISSUES STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF HUMAN RIGHTS OF
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE

Participants at the XXIII World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) welcomed a message of support from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The statement (below) expresses H. H. the Dalai Lama’s concern at “reports of violence and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people” and “urges respect, tolerance and the full recognition of human rights for all.”

The statement was greeted by a standing ovation from participants at the Conference.

“We are deeply grateful for the support expressed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama for human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Rosanna Flamer-Caldera and Philip Braun, Co-Secretaries-General of ILGA. “In a world where the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are regularly violated, His Holiness’ message of support is a beacon of hope and respect. We urge other world religious leaders to join with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in opposing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and demonstrate a similar commitment to respect for the human rights.”
___

The Tibet Bureau
Office of the Representative of H. H. the Dalai Lama

“I am pleased to bring you greetings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the occasion of the XXIII World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

His Holiness welcomes the special attention given at this conference to religious tolerance and respect for diversity.

His Holiness is greatly concerned by reports of violence and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

His Holiness opposes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and urges respect, tolerance, and the full recognition of human rights for all.

Finally, he expresses his best wishes for a successful conference.”

Geneva, 30 March 2006

“The Conversion of Judas”


An upbeat, enthusastic article about the Gospel of Judas appears on the explorefaith.org website:

Just in Time for Good Friday – The Conversion of Judas
by Jon M. Sweeney, author/editor of the excellent biography of St. Francis, The Road to Assisi, as well as The St. Francis Prayer Book (which I highly recommend).

Sweeney offers an interesting and worthwhile perspective, one that encourages us to re-think our perceptions of Judas. But the article doesn’t address any of the spiritual difficulties with the recently-unearthed Gospel of Judas: its dualism, its homophobia (see my earlier post, dated April 7th), or the spiritual elitism of the Gnostic sect that produced it. Unlike the Gospel of Thomas, which recognizes the divine light within us all, the Gospel of Judas says that only a few, the spiritual children of Seth, have that divine light within them – the rest of us simply cease to exist when we die.

I think it’s worthwhile to compare the two gospels, since many of the news stories and articles about the Gospel of Judas also mention the Gospel of Thomas (including the one by Sweeney).

The Gospel of Thomas was suppressed by the early Church because it was too inclusive: it doesn’t limit the divine light to those who believe in Jesus, as the Gospel of John does. The Gospel of Judas, which portrays Judas as the only one of Jesus’ disciples to have that divine light, was suppressed in part because it wasn’t inclusive enough.

The two gospels represent two very different forms of Gnosticism. I’m currently writing an article comparing the two for the May/June 2006 issue of Whosoever. Working title: “The Lost Gospels of Judas and Thomas: A Tale of Two Gnostics.”

More information, links, photos, and commentary (both positive and negative) on the Gospel of Judas is on the website of Roger Pearse: The Coptic Ps.Gospel of Judas (Iscariot).

Also, The New Yorker has a rather sardonic review of the book as well as all the hype: Jesus Laughed: In the “Gospel of Judas,” the renegade is redeemed, by Adam Gopnik.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Gospel According to Sam Spade


Mystery author Tim Wohlforth suggested, on an email discussion list, that the Lost Gospel of Judas (see below) has some of the elements of a crime noir novel. I think he’s right: There is a noir quality to presenting history's “ultimate villain” as being a good guy after all. As in a good noir novel, there's moral ambiguity here: the good guys, the disciples, aren't all good (they're rather thick-headed) and the bad guy, Judas, isn't all bad. And the way the gospel ends – abruptly, with Judas receiving the pay-off and handing Jesus over to his executioners – is rather noir, too.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Found: Missing Link, Missing Gospel


The National Geographic Society unleashed two big news stories yesterday: they’ve found the “missing link” evolutionists have been seeking for years, and they’ve uncovered yet another lost gospel – the Gospel of Judas.

The “missing link” is a new species of fish, fossils of which were found in the Canadian Arctic. Researchers uncovered three nearly complete fossils measuring up to nine feet long. The fish has leg-like fins and “other features characteristic of land animals, including ribs, a neck, and nostrils on its snout for breathing air.”

So the “Darwin fish” you see on the bumpers of cars – the fish with legs – is apparently a reality.


The Gospel of Judas was all over the news yesterday (here’s the NPR story, and here’s the National Geographic website about it). From the New York Times news story: “In this version, Jesus asked Judas, as a close friend, to sell him out to the authorities, telling Judas he will ‘exceed’ the other disciples by doing so.”

You can download the English text as a 7-page pdf document at the National Geographic site.

I’m very interested in seeing what biblical scholars make of this new gospel, especially since it contains elements that sound homophobic (at least upon a first reading).

In the text (manuscript pages 38 to 40), Jesus asks his disciples what the temple priests are like. The disciples then list several sins they accuse the priests of commiting: “[some] sacrifice their own children, others their own wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name].” Jesus tells the disciples that they are just like those priests, and he then repeats the list of their sins, including “those who sleep with men” (listed just after “slayers of children”).

This shouldn’t be too surprising in a text that apparently comes from the Sethian sect of Gnostics (equating Adam’s son Seth with Christ, which the Gospel of Judas explicitly does on manuscript page 52). They had a very dualistic view of spirit as good and matter, including the physical body, as evil. In fact, that’s why Judas is seen as good – Jesus tells him “you will sacrifice the man that clothes me,” i.e., his physical body (manuscript page 56).

Those of us who believe in the traditional Christian view of the incarnation do not view Jesus’ body as evil, nor do we view our own bodies as evil. Our bodies are the temple of God, not the prison of the soul as the Sethian Gnostics believed.

The Sufi tradition also affirms the sacredness of the body. Hazrat Inayat Khan, the teacher who brought Sufism to the west, said, “This is not my body, this is the temple of God.” He also affirmed the holiness of nature, God’s physical creation: “There is One Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature.”

So while the story of this lost gospel is fascinating – and as a theology geek, I’m sure I’ll watch the two hour special about it on the National Geographic Channel Sunday night – it’s hardly an affirming text for those of us who believe in the holiness of the physical body.

The photo above, from the National Geographic Society, shows the last page of the codex. The final words read “Gospel of Judas.”

Addendum: Once again I've had to change the settings for this blog to only allow comments that I have moderated and determined to be appropriate. Here's what's not appropriate (and what I've deleted): incoherent rants; lengthy, badly-written sermons [my blog is not your pulpit]; off-topic posts about the evils of The Da Vinci Code. Also, I will not approve any anonymous comments. I value feedback from serious readers of this blog, and I apologize to them for any inconvenience.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Transition

My grandmother Ruth Grizzle passed away on Tuesday. She was 83 years old and not in good health, and she knew that she was going. Just before she died she laid down on the sofa in her living room and told her daughter, "This is where Jesus will find me." A few minutes later she was gone. Now she and my grandfather, B.G. Grizzle, are together again. She was B.G.'s second wife, and she brought him much happiness the last 25 years of his life.

Ruth was a hummingbird person. She always had hummingbird feeders outside her windows and little hummingbird figurines all over her house.

I was at the funeral home in Dahlonega with my family yesterday, and I'll be there again tomorrow (Friday at 2) for the funeral. Please remember me and my family in your prayers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Springtime, with Cats and Snake


Spring has sprung here in Marietta, Georgia. This afternoon as I was coming home from work, a single puffy cloud was hanging in the blue sky over Kennesaw Mountain. The sun was shining brilliantly on the trees on the side of the mountain, illuminating the green leaves and pine needles. The dogwoods are in full bloom, and carpenter bees are buzzing around the mailboxes. A variety of cardinals, bluejays, and finches are feeding at the wooden birdfeeder on the porch – much to the fascination of Kato the cat, who closely monitors their comings and goings.

Kato recently brought a small garden snake, still alive, into the apartment. After the snake was escorted back outside, Kato spent some time on the porch happily batting it around with his paw. The neighbor cat, Shadow, came over and joined in the fun. It was amazing to see Kato and Shadow share the snake, since they usually bristle and hurl curses at each other. After a while, Kato got bored with the snake and came inside, and Shadow took the snake behind the bushes and ate part of it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Another Step Toward Vegetarianism

“All sentient beings have the seed of the Buddha within them.”
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Last weekend while driving on the interstate I passed a huge flatbed truck carrying about a hundred cages full of live chickens. Within each individual cage the chickens were jammed in on top of each other, and through the vents in each cage you could see the chickens struggling and squawking at each other, feathers flying out of the cages and onto the highway. There was no way to deny that these sentient beings were suffering.

I had been leaning toward pesco-vegetarianism lately anyway, and seeing this sight (which literally nauseated me and the friend who was riding with me) sealed the deal. I can’t imagine eating chicken again without seeing that nauseating image of living creatures piled on top of each other.

The “pesco” part of pesco-vegetarianism refers to fish, which I’ll continue to eat, along with organic dairy products and eggs from certified free-range chickens. I know that fish are sentient beings just as chickens are, and I make no claims to consistency. Perhaps in time I will work my way toward being a 100% vegetarian or vegan. But taking this step, to no longer participate in the sufferings of most animals that are used for food, is what I feel called to do at this time.