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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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Necropolis of the Parking Garage

Check out the news story about “the Vatican’s Pagan Cemetery” from Newsweek International Edition: Pagan Graves in Vatican Basement!

My favorite sentence in the article:

“The Necropoli dell’Autoparco (literally Necropolis of the Parking Garage), a 2,000-year-old burial ground, which opens to the public Oct. 20, offers a rarely seen glimpse of the close ties between pagans and Christians during the Augustan era (23 B.C.-14 A.D.).”

Necropolis of the Parking Garage sounds like a wonderfully horrible Ed Wood movie. :o)

What Could Destroy Your Faith?

Over the past year I’ve read several novels that the Book-of-the-Month Club calls “artifact thrillers.” Others call them “religious thrillers,” while others just call them rip-offs of The Da Vinci Code. Beliefnet called them “heretical beach books.”

They usually involve a lost manuscript, Mary Magdalene, the Knights Templar, hidden messages in artwork, Cathars or Essenes – you get the picture. They almost always involve some deep dark secret that, if found out, will supposedly destroy the Christian faith. So the bad guys in these novels often turn out to be high-ranking officials in the Roman Catholic Church, who are all too willing to commit murder in order to protect the faith.

If you’ve read The Da Vinci Code, or seen the movie Stigmata, you know the basic drill. Thing is, I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. As well as Stigmata. Yes, they have their flaws, but they’re entertaining, and they do have some basis in historical fact. (Notice I italicized some.) So I keep on reading these “artifact thrillers,” just like I keep on reading Hard Case Crime novels. Even though at times the religious thrillers – unlike the Hard Case Crime novels – strain credulity and make me wonder why I waste my time on them.

Take, for example, the one I recently finished reading: The Expected One, by Kathleen McGowan. If you think you might read it, stop reading this blog entry now. If you don’t want to know the “deep dark secret” of this novel, click away from my blog now and visit another blog. Here’s a good one. And here’s a little blank space before I launch into the spoiler:

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Refreshingly, in The Expected One, the Roman Catholic church is not portrayed as evil. But in this novel, which is subtitled “Book One of the Magdalene Line,” Mary Magdalene is not only married to Jesus, she was also previously married to John the Baptist, who apparently was a complete jerk given to domestic violence. So Jesus was part of “an intricate love triangle that altered the course of history” – as it’s breathlessly phrased on the author's website.

It’s an interesting, although creepy, plot device, but here’s the thing that really bugs me: in the lengthy and heart-felt Afterword to the novel, the author presents all this as fact. She also presents as fact the long-lost “gospel” of Mary Magdalene [not the actual Gospel of Mary Magdalene; the one in this novel is more like a memoir], which is excerpted in the novel – and which reads like a modern-day confessional, not at all like a first-century manuscript. Of course, the author can’t reveal the sources of her new knowledge “for reasons of security,” but she does maintain that the document is authentic, as is the “fact” of Mary’s two marriages. The author fretted over revealing this knowledge to the world: “I don’t think I’ve slept through the night in more than ten years as I have agonized over the details in this book and its potential repercussions.”

A bit melodramatic, yes, and in some ways it spoils an otherwise-entertaining novel to know that the author actually believes her own farfetched fiction. But she is following the basic premise of many of the novels in this new genre, the idea that there is some hidden secret that, if discovered, will supposedly destroy the Christian faith. In some of the novels it’s a long-lost gospel, sometimes (as in Stigmata) a gospel written in Jesus’ own hand. Sometimes the horrible secret is an ossuary containing the bones of Jesus, or some other “proof” that he didn’t resurrect from the dead.

All this makes me wonder: Could any such thing ever really destroy, or even threaten, the Christian faith? Or even one individual’s authentically-held faith?

Is there anything, dear blog readers, that you can think of that would destroy your own faith? Can your faith be shaken by an archeological find, or by a scientific theory or discovery? I invite you to respond by clicking on the “comments” button below. I’d really like to know.

~ Darrell

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

String Cheese Weekend

This weekend I drove up to Asheville to see the String Cheese Incident in concert and spend a little time with some wonderful friends. The show was wonderful – the music itself trance-inducing; the audience dancing almost non-stop the whole time; the auditorium smelling of patchouli and cloves. The highlight for me was the song “Looking Glass,” from the band’s album Untying the Not. The guitar licks tore through my brain like a benevolent steel hummingbird flying gleefully through my neurons.

The second half of the show started with the band members entering from the back of the auditorium while banging on drums each one of them carried. The tribal drum-circle vibe continued for the rest of the show, which didn’t end till around midnight.

The next morning I had a late breakfast with my friends Adam and Nur at the West End Bakery, a great little organic bakery/café. We had an interesting conversation that ranged from the political to the spiritual to the musical.

On the way home I stopped at Black Rock Mountain State Park, the highest mountain elevation in the state of Georgia. The picture above, from the park’s website, captures only a fraction of the beauty of the autumn leaves and the magnificent vistas from the many scenic overlooks throughout the park.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bifocal Bear

I haven’t posted anything here in the past week because I’ve been fighting a head cold and stomach bug that has had me feeling blah. I’ve been doing what I need to do for work, and not much else. I need some Powdermilk Biscuits, I guess, so I can have the energy “to get up and do what needs to be done.”

I got new glasses on Friday. For the first time in my life, I’m wearing bifocals. I went all-out and got state-of-the-art progressive lenses, made of scratch-resistant, anti-glare polycarbonate, with light-weight titanium “Planet” frames designed by Fossil.

All this space-age technology resting lightly on the bridge of my nose means one thing: I now wear bifocals, so I am now officially middle-aged. Next I’ll be going into denial and buying a convertible.