Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Strangers in the Land: Ger 36

Joshua 8:30-35

Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the ger as well as he who was born among them ['ezrach]. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel [qahal Yisra'el], with the women, the little ones, and the ger who were living among them.

What Does It Say?

In terms of direct relation to our topic, this passage doesn't add much that wasn't established in the passages from Deuteronomy discussed recently. Joshua does the same thing that Moses did, reading the law in the hearing of all the people, native born and ger alike.

One interesting feature of this passage is the contrast between "he who was born among them" and "the assembly of Israel." Being used in this parallel nature indicates that the term "he who was born among them" ('ezrach) is identical with the "assembly of Israel" (qahal Yisra'el).

I think in one of the earlier post there was some discussion of whether the two terms were equivalant, ie., if "born among them" meant anyone born as part of the community (ie, including the descendants of ger raised in the Israelite religion) or only Israelites.

Now, qahal Yisra'el is not as explicitly a blood tie as, say, the term ben Yisra'el used in passages such as Numbers 35. But I think this might tip things towards 'ezarch referring to those who have Israeli descent.

So far as I can tell, those of mixed heritage would be considered natives, assuming they were born of legitimate unions (ie, not intermarriages with pagans).

One more thing to bear in mind about this passage is that it comes immediately after the debacle at Ai. For those rusty on their Bible history, after the great success at Jericho, one of the Judahites stole some items that were supposed to be destroyed. As a result, the Israelites were defeated at the comparatively powerless town of Ai. The culprit was found and stoned to death and burned along with his family and property, and then Ai was successfully overthrown.

The point is, it was a particularly opportune time to remind everyone that the Law was in full effect. The blessings and cursings were not theoretical; breaking the Law would bring a very, very literal death, not only for you, but for your family and community.

Next: Joshua 20

Monday, October 7, 2019

Mormon Movie Monday: Alma & King Noah's Court and The Home Teachers

I live in Salt Lake City, which is home to a certain number of "Peculiar People" (note the capitals and scare quotes). As such, I am exposed to many peculiarities of Mormon civilization, from young men in black suits and name tags to fry sauce and funeral potatoes.

Now, I was no babe in the woods as regards the religion of the American Moses when I moved to Utah's capital. I have had Mormon missionaries visit my house and give lessons, I have attended their church services on more than one occasions, and I have read their unique scriptures (The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price) in their entirety, not to mention a wider swath of Mormon theological works than most missionaries.

But we will not be speaking of theological subtleties or records of supposed ancient American Jews. Instead, we will speak of the wastelands of Mormon popular culture: the Mormon Movie.

My friend and I are fond of visiting second-hand stores and buying as many $1-$2 Mormon movies as we can get our hands on. In part because I'm thinking of making a podcast out of this, and in part because it is a slow day at work, I'm going to write up my impressions of the two masterworks of Mormon Cinema we watched last night.

Believe it or not, the shining
 prophet is not Alma.
Neither is the little girl.

Movie #1 - Alma and King Noah's Court

This 2005 movie clocks in at 55 minutes and is part of the "Liken the Scriptures" series of child-friendly Mormon-produced adaptations of stories from the Bible and Book of Mormon. The story is framed around two missionaries talking to a family thinking of being baptized as Mormons about the persecution some may face as they seek the face of the Lord (such as schoolmates making fun of us for becoming Mormons).

The missionaries share the story of Alma, the ancient Nephite priest who worked beneath the corrupt, evil, and mean King Noah. If, for some reason, you want to read the original story, here it is.

The King Noah story is presented as a musical, and it is a musical that fails in perhaps the worst way imaginable. In short, all of the songs by the evil, nasty, naughty people in the story are fun, bouncy, and memorable. All of the songs by the holy and righteous prophets are boring, pious word slurries.

The general effect is that children will learn that King Noah was a cool dude who cared about peoples' feelings and threw awesome parties, while Alma was a wet blanket (literally, in the baptism scene). Even worse, the movie ends before King Noah gets his comeuppance, instead ending on a pretty great note for him.

Also, he looks like Meng Huo from Dynasty Warriors
This effect is heightened in the post-credits scene, where the cast, crew, and their very Mormon families through a King Noah-themed party, shouting out the lyrics of his song, wearing cool dude costumes, and generally having a good time partying with one of the greatest villains of the Book of Mormon.

However, for a non-Mormon audience, there is certainly some schadenfreude in watching Mormons boogie down with the Mormon equivalent of Pilate or Herod.

I can't find any YouTube clips, but Alma and King Noah's Court is available on Amazon Prime, so if you've got an hour to kill making fun of Mormons, you could do worse.

Movie #2 - The Home Teachers

With wild and crazy guys like this around,
Wacky hi-jinks are bound to abound!





















Home Teachers are Mormons who visit the homes of other members once a month to share a brief message with them in their homes. It was used to help build relationships, reactivate backsliding members, and so on and so forth. Or at least, it was used for those things until the LDS church got rid of the program in 2018. Oh well.

But this religious comedy was released in 2004, while the Home Teaching program was still very much in place. So what happens when a football-loving schlub who just wants to relax and spend as little time in church as possible teams up with a straitlaced Scriptures On Tape salesman to bring the word of the Lord into the homes of innocent LDS members? With a classic buddy cop set up like this, hilarity should ensue!

"But MOOOOM, I wanna watch FOOTBALL!"

Unfortunately, it does not.

Watching this movie is like being on an 82 minute morphine drip. You can see that things intended to be humorous are happening on the screen, but you are too numb to react to them.

This is not the worst Mormon movie that I have seen, or even the one I hated the most. I feel an absence of emotion towards this movie. Fragments of scenes float into my memory, but I wonder if they truly happened or not. A grey fog descends upon my soul.

Me looking for my feelings on The Home Teachers
I have extra hatred for this movie because it's setup that should be impossible to mess up. The schlub Mormon learns to take God more seriously and the straitlaced Mormon learns to care about people and see where they're at instead of treating them like numbers. Funny fat man fall down, skinny serious man slip and fall in dog poo. It's such an overdone concept that it should be impossible to fail this bad.

And what makes it even worse is that the guys who made it have done decent work in the past. The Singles' Ward approaches legitimate goodness at times and The RM has some decent moments. But The Home Teachers, while not bad enough to inspire rage, is not good enough to inspire comedy. I would not watch it under any circumstances, including sexual bribes from hot Mormon women.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Strangers in the Land: Ger 35

Deuteronomy 31:9-13

So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the ger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.”

What Does It Say?

I don't have much to say about this passage, since it is more or less a retread of the last passage. However, it does answer one possible petty objection to my interpretation of the previous passage in Deuteronomy 29.

The possible petty objection (which is both petty and possible) is that the obligation on ger to worship the God of Israel and not the gods of the nations was only binding on the ger of that generation. In other words, that the ger who tagged along with the congregation through the wilderness were obligated to swear their fealty to the Covenant, but not any who wandered in the land afterwards.

And while that objection would be possible in the context of chapter 29, the content of chapter 31 destroys it. The Covenant was to be renewed every seven years, with all of the men, women, and children of Israel as well as the ger within their gates.

The ger were not simply protected by the law, they were expected to " learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law."

In short, while we cannot use the Bible to argue against the presence of any and all ger in our land, we can use it to argue for the expulsion of all who will not observe the law of God.

Of course, this is all somewhat complicated by the relationship between Law and Faith in the New Testament. However, in a world where Old Testament verses about loving the stranger are shoved in the face of the Church, it is appropriate to shove these verses right back. We are to love the stranger - the stranger who fears the Lord and observes the words of His Law.

Now, we should no more expect the ger to observe the words of God's Law perfectly than we ourselves can follow it perfectly, we must expect them to treat the Law with the same respect and reverence that we should. A foreigner who openly worships foreign gods or attempts to sway us away from the worship of the True God should be expelled.

One may argue that the above policy would only be possible in a truly Christian government. And while the culture and history of America are unarguably Christian, its government and constitution are more secular than one would like.

At the same time, we can also take an inverse argument: that America will never truly be a Christian nation (or at least, have a Christian government) until we forcibly expel the haters of the True God and stop suffering them to dwell in our midst.

But it is not all so simple. The unfortunate truth is that while the Old Testament does preach a system of government, the New Testament teaches how to have a government within a government. Paul is fine with expelling, say, the unrepentantly sexually immoral out of the Christian community and into the World. Indeed, that is what we must do. He does not, however, say if we should kick them out of the Christian state. The New Testament was written in a time when Christians conquering Rome was less of a pressing thought of the writers and readers than the certainty of Christ razing it at the end of history.

And so we reach a strange historical impasse. We know how we should run a Christian Church, but not a Christian State - or at least, an independent Christian State. Paul admonishes those who drag quarrels between Christians into pagan courts, for the Christians shall one day judge angels. The Christian community is the Christian state.

But what shall we do when the judges and laws are Christians but the defendant is a Jew? The only Christian answer is to expel the non-Christian into a non-Christian community. What about when the judges are Christians but the court is officially secular? Is it fit to be judged by Christians who cannot rule according to the laws of the Church? What about when the nation's laws are based on a mish-mash of Christianity and globo-homo and the judges are atheists, Hindus, and everything else under the sun?

Running the circle back to where it started, we come to an inevitable truth. No nation can be Christian if it is not a nation of Christians. In the same way that a nation of Nigerians cannot be be Laplandish nation, allowing non-Christians to be citizens (let alone judges) turns a Christian nation into a secular nation.

To put it another way, Christians can be citizens within any nation, but a Christian nation can never tolerate non-Christian citizens. Christians are to obey (in secular matters) and pray for the lawful authorities even when their official policy is our extermination. But our laws for ourselves cannot be applied to non-Christians.

I have rambled on, but the Christian nation can only be one of three things. First, it can be a farce, as in a nation that claims to be Christian and yet refers to the unnatural sexual union of two men or two women a marriage. Second, it can be a polite lie describing a nation that was once Christian and takes influence from Christianity, but is filled with non-Christians. Third, it can be a nation of Christians ruled by Christians.

Next: Joshua 8:33 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Update

I'm back the States, working full time.

Strangers In The Land is back on.

I'm adding a few chapters to a novel based on reader feedback and hope to be going into final editing by the end of the year.

AUM Translations is down because I'm not sure of its legality. I won't be touching that project until I can discuss it with someone legally competent.

I doubt I will ever be getting back on Twitter regularly. The whole thing is a dumpster fire.

Strangers in the Land: Ger 34

Deuteronomy 29:10-12

“All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives—also the ger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

What Does It Say?

The context of this passage is a Covenant between God and the Israelites in Moab. This is, as it says in verse 1, in addition the Covenant made in Horeb (aka, the Ten Commandments and all that jazz).

The point of interest for us here is that the Covenant is in fact not simply between the Israelites and God, but all who "stand today before the Lord your God," including the ger. Indeed, it includes even the lowliest of the ger  - cutters or wood and drawers of water. Indeed, it is not just the leaders and elders of Israel, or even just the men, but the women and children as well.

I've been reading a lot of Star Wars memes lately
This is something we have discussed before, but the Exodus did not just involve Israelites. Ger are included in the Covenant from the beginning, even if the promises were made primarily to the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

At the same time, this passage is not all sweetness and light. The Covenant that every person in the camp enters into individually is not just a promise, but a terrible threat.

The Covenant goes to every person so that no person is without warning. If any person turns away from the True God to worship the false gods of the land, God will rain such vengeance down upon them that the land will resemble Sodom and Gomorrah. You can read the rest of the chapter if you want details (particularly verses 20-28), but basically, God will turn the land into a smoking crater of destruction.

So yeah, the Anakin Skywalker meme above is surprisingly appropriate.

For us, this pretty much settles the question of if it is acceptable for ger to worship other gods while living "in the land." The answer is: "I will nuke you from orbit if you allow this."

Next: Deuteronomy 31

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Strangers in the Land: Ger 33

Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44
“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
... 
“The ger who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.
What Does It Say?

Deuteronomy 28 is a list of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. It's a long chapter, so I'm not going to reproduce any more of it here, but I highly suggest reading it on your own. It's a great window into what things God considers to be blessings and what things He considers to be cursings. Of course, there are the expected curses of plague, death, famine and locusts:

At United Methodist Headquarters

And while all but the most hardened sinners can still be threatened by death and discomfort, here are a few things that God considers a curse in this chapter that I have seen or heard people unironically praising:
"Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away."
This one works for the Environmentalists and Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.
"You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her"
Oh, hi cucks!
"Your sheep shall be given to your enemies"
The government gives money to plenty of groups I would consider enemies, including several countries that actively hate us.
"Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people"
How many people do you know who can find good work near their relations? How many peoples' work actually benefits their extended families?
"The Lord will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods—wood and stone."
Okay, you got me. No one supports the first one, but I know plenty of Americans who serve gods of wood and stone (and gold and plastic).

And of course, we also have today's main verses:

“The ger who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail."

It's interesting that the West (or most of its public figures) don't have the balls (intelligence?) to call this a curse any more. We view it as a good thing to have foreigners rise over us. We view it as a good thing to give our country over to people who 1). do not share our heritage and 2). don't even share our values. We think it's a great thing that a small group of foreigners have been able to take over our banking system, media, universities, and on and on, because it shows how tolerant we are.

I wonder how much longer it will be before we celebrate the plagues of locusts and weeping pustules? Oh, right.

Next: Deuteronomy 29

Strangers in the Land: Ger 32

Deuteronomy 27:14-19

[Parts related to ger in bold]

“And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel: 
‘Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ 
“And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen!’ 
‘Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.’ 
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 
 ‘Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.’ 
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 
‘Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.’ 
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 
‘Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the ger, the fatherless, and widow.’ 
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
What Does It Say?

This section of chapter 27 is, as you can see, a list of curses that all of the men of Israel are expected to ratify by shouting "Amen!" In essence, they are cursing themselves and their posterity if they should perform these evil actions.

I haven't included the entirety of the curses, but ones not listed above include incest, assassination, bestiality, and other unthinkably evil things. And while the last curse is on those who do not abide by all of the law, this list shows the items worth bringing particular attention to.

The inclusion of a curse on those who pervert the justice due to the ger (and the fatherless and widow) shows that the laws on ger are not purely civil. There is also a religious cursing - calling down the judgement of God - on any who do this evil thing. It is as high of a moral law as not worshiping idols and not raping your own daughter.

Next: Deuteronomy 28

Monday, March 25, 2019

Strangers in the Land: Ger 31

Deuteronomy 26:1-15

[Sections relating to ger in bold]
“And it shall be, when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and say to him, ‘I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ 
“Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall answer and say before the Lord your God: ‘My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, “a land flowing with milk and honey”; and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.’ 
“Then you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God. So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the ger who is among you. 
“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the ger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the ger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’
What Does It Say?

Today we're looking at another substantial chunk of text, because I think the context of these verses is what is most interesting.

The context is the offering of first-fruits when the Israelites come into the land. Two separate occasions are mentioned: the 'first of all the produce' when the Israelites initially come into the land, and then another on the third year, or "year of tithing."

What's fascinating here is that the text assumes there will be ger in the land with the Israelites, from the initial conquest and onward into the settled occupation. As mentioned previously, there was a 'mixed multitude' of non-Israelites following Moses through the Red Sea. Ger were part of Israel before Israel had any land.

That leads into some thoughts about what it means to be a nation. This section gives some good thoughts:
My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
The "Syrian" of course refers to Abraham (nee Abram). He (through his descendants) went down to Egypt, increased in number, and thus became a nation.

Two things here. First, the nation is the people - not the laws, not the land. Israel is a nation because they are "great, mighty, and populous." This is while they still dwell in Egypt, before God gives Moses any commandments or Joshua conquers any land. While, as we have seen, it is possible for others to be grafted on to the nation, the nation is primarily identified by common descent.

Second, there are some Christians who say that all nations and their natural boundaries were defined for all time in the "Table of Nations" in Genesis 10. And while there are some verse that could be construed to support "national eternalism" (Deuteronomy 32:8, for example), that's clearly not how God has worked in history.

Israel was not a nation until they increased in number. The people living in the Promised Land were nations until they decreased in number. The "boundaries" of the nations have and will be redrawn by the hand of God in history.

Next: Deuteronomy 27

Strangers in the Land: Ger 30

Deuteronomy 24:5-22

[Sections dealing directly with ger in bold]
“When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken. 
“No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge, for he takes one’s living in pledge. 
“If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you. 
“Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you carefully observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you; just as I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt! 
“When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you. And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight. You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the Lord your God. 
“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the ger who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you. 
“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin. 
“You shall not pervert justice due the ger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge. But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing. 
“When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the ger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the ger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the ger, the fatherless, and the widow. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing.

What Does It Say?

This section of Deuteronomy 24 is a list of laws of human decency. For example, don't take a millstone as security for a pledge (ie, 'I promise I'll pay you back, and I'll give you my millstone as collateral'). If you take one millstone, you render the mill useless, since it can no longer crush grain. Obviously there's nothing sacred about millstones, but there is something sacred about a man's ability to work and feed himself. If you take away one millstone, you take away his ability to eat.

The ger laws fall into this category as well. God repeats the charge not to deprive the ger (or fatherless or widow) of their justice as well as the reasoning that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. This section takes it a bit further - it is not just the Israelite's experience as slaves that should motivate them to treat others better, but the fact that God redeemed them.

There's a good argument that this prefigures the teachings of Jesus on forgiveness. God commands Israel to uphold justice for those that are weak, because God redeemed Israel when they were weak. Jesus commands us to forgive others, just as we were forgiven by Him (and indeed were redeemed by His death).

The law on gleaning follows a similar logic, but it also includes a blessing. The Israelites are commanded to leave some food in their fields for the ger (and fatherless, and widows) because of their experience as slaves, but also "that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."

We have discussed this principle again and again and again, but there's a danger of thinking these things apply only to the Israelites. If the Israelites are supposed to uphold justice for the weak and give from their abundance that the poor may not starve because God redeemed them from Egypt, how much more must we do these things because God redeemed us from Sin and Death? This is of course reading into the text, but we as Christians should believe that all of the Old Testament is supposed to point us to Christ.

So far, the Old Testament hasn't given us anything like "Thou shalt not have more than 5% of thy total population be foreign born." While we've seen prohibitions on what type of ger can live in the land and what they can/can't do, the strongest emphasis of the Old Testament so far is that we must treat the ger well (in the sense of not oppressing and helping with food).

1). There will be ger - the Bible treats it as a given that there will be some number of foreigners in the land.
2). The law is the law - foreigners are expected to abide by the same law, with the exception of a few ritual observances they may choose to opt out of.
3). Kindness and support of ger is not optional - Property owners are expected to make it possible for ger (and other marginal members of society) to not starve to death. Oppressing/taking advantage of ger (and so on) is super not okay with God.

Really, the only debate we should be having is over how many ger to let in. That's something the Bible hasn't covered so far, but I think we can use our wisdom to say that if it threatens the continued survival of the native population, it's too much.

Next: Deuteronomy 26

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Strangers in the Land: Ger 29

Deuteronomy 23:1-7
“He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the Lord. 
“One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord. 
“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever. 
“You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an ger in his land. The children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord."
What Does It Say?

First, a note on the NKJV translation - it translates ger as "alien" again in verse 7, which at least makes some sense here. It makes some sense to say the Israelites were aliens in Egypt and it might keep a casual reader from being confused by the term "stranger."

Moving onto the text proper, we finally see some distinctions between different nationalities of foreigners. Ammonites and Moabites are never permitted it enter the qahal (the assembly, discussed previously here). If memory serves, extermination orders were ordered for the Ammonites, so they were obviously excluded from the legal protections of ger.

Edomites and Egyptians, on the other hand are allowed to become part of the qahal after three generations. This appears to becoming fully accepted as part of qahal Yehovah, if not as elah ben Yisra'el.

It's interesting to see that reasons are given both for rejecting the Ammonites/Moabites and for accepting the Egyptians/Edomites. At this point, it's debatable as to whether or not other nationalities could become part of the qahal or not. Presumably, there would be no explicit reason to exclude them as with the Ammonites/Moabites, but on the other hand, there's no explicit reason to include them. We will suspend judgement until a passage deals with this explicitly.

You're gonna make an exception for Ruth
My suspicion is that anyone who is not part of an explicitly excluded group would be allowed to join. For example, Ruth was a Moabite woman, which apparently allowed her a pass on the ban. If the exclusion applies exclusively on Moabite men, that's a good indication that anyone not very explicitly excluded would be allowed in.

There are other examples of non-Egyptians and non-Edomites being accepted into the community, but there's no point in listing examples ad nauseum.

Next: Deuteronomy 24

Friday, March 22, 2019

[Notice] AUM Translations Etc.

I've added a list of Other Terrible Projects on the right hand side of the blog. Most of these are old projects that I haven't worked on in a long time, but there's one that's new.

I love cults and learning about cults. As you may be able to guess, I have a particular interest in Japanese cults and new religions. Japan has an incredible array of sects and cults with a dizzying variety of beliefs.

Unfortunately, most of the information available on these groups in English is from secondary sources. You'll get plenty of people writing about these groups, but only very little material by these groups. Even in cases like Happy Science, only a fraction of the group's material has been translated, and the information is often sanitized in the translation process to make it more palatable to foreigners.

So, I bought a bunch of books from notorious Japanese cults and started translating them.

The blog is called AUM Translations, after that most notorious of Japanese cults, Aum Shinrikyo (the sarin gas guys). Since it's just one guy translating in his spare time, updates will occur as time allows. But if you ever wanted to know how a cult like Aum presented itself or why a person might feel persuaded by their arguments, you may enjoy reading along.

My hope is not to spread the teachings of any of these groups per se, but to help students of religion access materials not available anywhere else.

There should be another Strangers in the Land tomorrow, but I wanted to explain what that new link was all about.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Strangers in the Land: Ger 28

Deuteronomy 16:9-17

“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you. You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the ger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. 
“You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the ger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice. 
“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.

What Does It Say?

Deuteronomy 16 is mostly a recap of ordinances for various feasts. There is also an extended warning against bribery and corruption, but that section doesn't deal with ger.

Chapter 16 doesn't tell us much we don't already know. Ger are to be included with the worship of God during these feasts (both the rejoicing and the feasting), specifically because the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. No mention here that the ger need to be circumcised as with Passover. Perhaps these feasts were open to the uncircumcised? Then again, the part of chapter 16 that deals with Passover doesn't mention circumcision either, so that one could go either way.

Not gonna lie, there's not much to pick through here, particularly compared to last time. Next!

Next: Deuteronomy 23

Strangers in the Land: Ger 27

Deuteronomy 14:21, 28-29

“You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the ger who is within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a nokriy; for you are a holy people to the Lord your God.
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the ger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

What Does It Say?

Chapter 14 is divided into two main topics. The first half mainly deals with what animals in what conditions are clean to eat. The second half deals with tithing.

I have some things to say about the content of these verses, but first there are some linguistic issues to deal with.

For some reason, the NKJV chooses to translate ger as "alien" in verse 19, despite using "stranger" in almost ever other instance. I don't see any particular reason, especially since it's contrasted with "foreigner" (nokriy). If anything, it makes ger seem equivilent to nokriy since "foreigner" is a synonym with "alien" (unless space people are involved). This is doubly confusing because ger is translated as "stranger" later in the same chapter (verse 29). This is then triply confusing since the KJV (which the NKJV is based on) uses "stranger."

This weird translation does however help us draw a line between ger and nokriy. Nokriy is generally used to describe people and things that are not just foreign, but alien. For example, Solomon's wives are nokriy in 1 Kings 11, and they lead him to the worship of alien gods. The alien women taken as wives in Ezra 10 are also described as nokriy, and Ezra 9 informs us that these alien women were also leading the Israelites to false worship, "doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites."

In fact, nokriy is almost associated with terrible things - aliens who will take the land from the Israelites, wicked people with strange customs, armies of foreigners come to spread fire and destruction. There are only a handful of neutral to positive uses:
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” 
So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a nokriy?” 
And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” 
-Ruth 2:8-12
Here Ruth is clearly humbling herself by using nokriy. While her former category was indeed nokriv, she has overcome that by choosing the worship of the true God and her mother-in-law's people. Boaz recognizes that she is now worthy of blessing and acceptance.
“Moreover, concerning a nokriy, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the nokriy calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.
-1 Kings 8:41-43
Again, this is someone who starts out as a nokriy, but humbles themselves to come to the temple for the sake of God's name. This is a positive nokriy, who has overcome his wicked customs.

There are a few other positive or neutral usages, but we'll come to them in due time. For now, let's say that a nokriy is in general a particularly loathsome pagan who we must separate ourselves from, but under certain circumstances (such as Ruth's circumstances), they may be redeemed and accepted.

Going back to Numbers 14, note that the unclean meat is given to the ger and sold to the nokriy. This ties in with the tithing regulations. The ger has a right to be in the land and should be cared for. Even if they aren't keeping kosher (in eating unclean meat), they are still given food from the tithes.

The nokriy, on the other hand, have to pay for their food. As far as I can tell, they also don't qualify for any of the legal protections offered to ger. The only legal rights they have (that I have seen so far) are:
1). They can buy unclean meat.
2). They can take out loans at interest (Deu 23:20)
3). They can come to the temple to worship the Lord.
A former nokriy such as Ruth also would have some rights due to her conversion to worship the Lord and her status as a widow of an Israelite man.

I think the different categories are starting to make sense to me. You've got ger, which are protected foreigners living long term, towshab which are short term visitors who don't get the same privileges, and nokriy who are "undesirables" that we don't want in our country.

Ger - Desirable foreigners willing to abide by our laws, deserving of reasonable assistance when in hardship. Allowed to convert, but not obligated to. Cannot hold office over the native people.
Towshab - Temporary guests such as tourists, temporary workers, merchants, and so on. Have some legal protections, but are not deserving of assistance in hardship (not obliged to help them). I haven't seen anything that says they're not allow to convert, but they're not obligated to.
Nokriy - Undesirable foreigners with particularly detestable customs. Marrying them is a sin (assuming they are still nokriv). Are free game in some cases (ie, you can charge them interest). Having these people inherit your land is a curse. You don't want them on your land and you don't want your neighbors marrying them. You can engage in economic contracts with them. However, if one of them seeks the Lord and His worship, they may overcome their previous status.

Next: Deuteronomy 16

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Strangers in the Land: Ger 026

Deuteronomy 10:12-22

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the ger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the ger, for you were ger in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name. He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.

What Does It Say?

This passage is a fascinating combo of the two main arguments about race in the Bible. In the first half, we see an emphasis on race and family as both real and important ("The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day"). Israel as an extended genetic family is important (a "people").

However, this develops in an unexpected direction in the second half. The Israelites are charged to keep the law, not just the ceremonial law of circumcision, but to circumcise their hearts. In other words, they are to serve the God who has chosen their people with all of their hearts. This includes loving caring for ger, just as God Himself cares for ger.

The first half confirms some things that the ethnonationalists assert. Extended genetic families (a "people" or perhaps "race") are real, and are assumed to be the basic unit of social organization. The nation is primarily a genetic entity. An increase in descendants is a blessing from God ("Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude") and its decrease is a curse from God.

The second half confirms some things that more mainstream Christians like to emphasize. We are supposed to love the ger and materially assist them ("loves the ger, giving him food and clothing"). There is an assumption that there will be ger in the land, that we are obligated to reasonably assist them, and (if we draw on other passages already looked at) they can become part of the nation.

The problem with the ethnonationalist position is that it ignores God's own logic. We are strangers and pilgrims in this world, therefore we should show mercy and charity to strangers in our nation. And if you say, "My people were never slaves in Egypt!" you should ask yourself if, as a Christian,  you are Abraham's seed. A "pure" ethnostate, even if possible, is out of line with the commandments of God.

The problem with the mainstream position is that it literally brings about the curse of God. If you deny that the base of the nation, the tree from which the people spring, even exists, then you will end up cutting it down. Letting in unlimited numbers of immigrants is not feasible. There will always be more people outside of any given nation than inside of it. If you let in too many ger, there will be no land for the people, and the native population will collapse.

Now, this will likely change as we keep going, but I'm going to start formulating a five points of the nation.

1). The basis of a nation is an extended family with common genetic ancestors.
2). An increase in the population of that nation (extended family) is in general a sign of Divine blessing, whereas a decrease in the population of that nation is in general a sign of Divine cursing.
3). Outsiders can become residents of the nation under the following conditions:
-They convert to the religious worship of the nation
-They obey the secular laws of the nation
-They do not threaten the prosperity of the nation by their presence
4). Intermarriage with outsiders is allowed, assuming they have converted to the religious worship of the nation.
5). Temporary residents such as merchants, travelers, and contract workers are allowed so long as they abide by the law and do not engage in public worship of false gods [so far, I haven't seen anything that explicitly says towshab are not allowed to pray to false gods in private. Public worship/building of temples to false gods is explicitly condemned through the Old Testament - see Solomon's wives.]

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Strangers in the Lad: Ger 025

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your ger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

What Does It Say?

We've already covered the first version of the Ten Commandments in this post, and the ger content in this passage is the same.

There is a difference between the Exodus version and the Deuteronomy version. Both versions give a reason for keeping the Sabbath day, but the reasons are different. Exodus says it is because the Lord rested on the seventh day of creation, while Deuteronomy says it is in remembrance of the Lord delivering them from slavery in Egypt.

That's interesting, because the slavery in Egypt is also frequently given as a reason for treating ger well: you were ger in Egypt, so you know what it's like to be in that situation. To my memory, there are three seperate laws or groups of laws that use the slavery and Exodus as their justification: First, the annual celebration of the Passover; second, The Sabbath; third, treating ger well. That's pretty good company for the laws concerning ger.

Next: Deuteronomy 10

Strangers In The Land: Ger 024

Deuteronomy 1:9-16
“And I [Moses] spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you. The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes. 
“Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the ger who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do.
What Does It Say?

 As is clear from the text, Moses is here reviewing some of the events of his time leading the Israelites, including when he instituted a system of judges.

Two interesting things here. First, the judges were chosen by each tribe. Deuteronomy doesn't describe a vote per se (and even if there was, it certainly would have functioned much differently from a modern democracy), but there was some sort of popular recognition that the men chosen were "wise and knowledgeable."

Second, I think it's important to emphasize that these men were chosen according to tribe. Each tribe was an extended family with a common ancestor. So even within the nation of Israel, rule was further subdivided by tribe, further subdivided into a thousand men, further subdivided into a hundred men, and so on in that fashion.

Many are familiar with this concept, but I think it's important that even though the Bible is adamant in its protection of the ger and the extension of civil and religious rights to them, this is within the context of a greater ethnostate. Imagine if instead of thirteen states, America had started with thirteen families (the Washingtons, the Jeffersons, etc.) and each one had been a separate political entity. You could vote for your government officers, but only a person from your extended family was eligible. A Washington would not be eligible to for office over Madisons.

Now, it's not clear from this passage if a ger could be made into a judge. It's also unclear where ger fit into the tribal system. The phrase "judge righteously between a man and his brother or the ger who is with him" indicates that the judges will mostly be deciding between either two members of the same tribe or a member of the tribe and a ger who lives in the area. Would a ger living in a city of Judah be counted as a Judahite? Would a Judahite ger be eligible to become a judge? It's unclear.

From my understanding, if you married into a tribe you became a member of that tribe. I can't remember any explicitly ger or half-ger judges. This is something I'll be looking for evidence for and against as we move forward.

Next: Deuteronomy 5

Monday, March 4, 2019

Strangers In the Land: Ger 023

Numbers 35:9-15
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there. They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment. And of the cities which you give, you shall have six cities of refuge. You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the ger, and for the towshab among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.

What Does It Say?

Numbers 35 covers the Cities of Refuge, or the six cities set up across Israel to shelter those guilty of manslaughter. Basically, if you accidentally killed another person - maybe you were play-fighting and they slipped and hit their head on a rock - you had to flee to a City of Refuge before their family revenge-killed you. It was something like Extreme Tag. If you can make it to Base, you're safe; if they catch you on the way, they can kill you without penalty.

Verse 15 is the only one which mentions ger or towshab in particular, but it's clear that all of the rules given apply to Israelites and ger equally. This might set a precidence that the Bible does not explicitly mention ger every time in a given section to indicate every single rule also applys to them. After all, the instructions for Passover only say "the ger can do this too" in general, not "the ger must paint their door frames with blood too and must eat the whole lamb too and must eat the bitter herbs too."

One more thing. The wording of verse 15 in the NKJV gives the impression that the towshab are among the ger. Now, my Hebrew knowledge is almost non-existent, but the Blue Letter Bible breakdown of the Hebrew text seems ambiguous as to whether the towshab are among the ger or in the midst of the children of Israel. I compared a few different English translations, and different translations take it different ways.

These six cities will serve as refuge for the people of Isra’el, as well as for the foreigner and resident alien with them; so that anyone who kills someone by mistake may flee there.
-Complete Jewish Bible
As well for the children of Israel as for strangers and sojourners, that he may flee to them, who hath shed blood against his will.
- Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition 
These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.
-ESV 
 These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.
-NASB 
 These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites and for foreigners residing among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.
-NIV 
These shesh he’arim shall be for miklat (refuge), both for the Bnei Yisroel, and for the ger, and for the toshav (sojourner) among them; that every one that killeth any nefesh bishegagah (unintentionally, accidently) may flee there.
-Orthodox Jewish Bible 
as well to the sons of Israel as to comelings, and pilgrims; that he flee to those cities, that shedded blood not willfully. (for the Israelites, as well as for newcomers, and foreigners, or strangers; so that anyone, who did not intentionally shed blood, can flee to one of those cities.)
-Wycliffe
Overall, I think the trend is towards either leaving it ambiguous or that the "them" the towshab are in the midst of are the children of Israel.

You might ask why I care so much who the towshab are among - basically I'm interested in if they're being treated as a subcategory of ger and therefore laws and rights given to ger are extended to towshab or if they're a separate category with different laws/rights. Right now, I'm leaning towards seperate category.

Next: Deuteronomy 1

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Strangers In The Land: Ger 022

Numbers 19:1-10

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him; and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned. And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening. Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin. And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of Israel and to the ger who dwells among them.

What Does It Say?

Numbers 19 lists a number of different purification rituals. I'm not going to go into the precise situations; they're in your Bible, just read it.

Two things stick out in chapter 19. The first is that this initial ritual for creating the water of purification is the only one which specifically mentions ger. This indicates that a ger could take part in this ritual in the temple - not as a priest, but perhaps as the one who gathers the ashes. Presumably, the other rituals of purification are also incumbent on any ger in the land (though again, this is not explicitly stated).

Second, the further rituals of purification in chapter 19 explicitly state that:

But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly [qahal], because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean.
- Numbers 19:20
 Verse 13 has a similar curse on those who do not purify themselves, except it says they will be cut off "from Israel." Thus the one who does not abide by the law of the Lord is even lower than a ger.

Next: Numbers 35

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Strangers In The Land: Ger 021

Numbers 15:13-31

'All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. And if a ger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the ger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the ger be before the Lord. 16 One law and one custom shall be for you and for the ger who dwells with you.’ ”
Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land to which I bring you, then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord. You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up. Of the first of your ground meal you shall give to the Lord a heave offering throughout your generations.
‘If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses— all that the Lord has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations— then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their unintended sin. It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the ger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally.
‘And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the Lord, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the ger who dwells among them.
‘But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a ger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’ ”

What Does It Say?

At first glance, Numbers 15 simply seems to confirm what we've seen about ger so far. That is, they are strangers living in the land for an indefinite period of time who are not part of the Israeli people. They are able to sacrifice to God if they choose, though this seems to imply they will also be circumcised (as is explicit in the instructions for ger celebrating Passover).

However, I had a certain intuition about two terms in the English text and dug a little deeper. The first was "congregation," as in, "without the knowledge of the congregation." In the Hebrew, this is qahal, an organized body or group of people. It is frequently used to refer to the people of the Exodus, the multitude that, as we know, was not exclusively Israeli. It is sometimes translated as "multitude," as in Genesis 28:3, "And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude [qahal] of people."

The second term that caught my eye was "the whole congregation of the children of Israel." The Hebrew here is "edah ben Yisra'el," or "the congregation of the sons of Israel."

Now my initial suspicion was that we were here making a distinction between the greater congregation of Israel, which would include gentile converts, and the more exclusive Sons of Israel, or the ethnostate.

Wanting to chase down this suspicion, I looked for other uses of "ben Yisra'el" to see if it was ever used to refer to ethnic gentiles. The result? A resounding "maybe." Exodus refers to the Sons of Israel at times that would have included the mixed gentiles among them, ie, the Sons of Israel passed through the Red Sea, the whole congregation of the Sons of Israel murmured against Moses.  That's hardly conclusive since it could be shorthand for "the Sons of Israel and all of the other people with them."

I did, however, look for more uses of "qahal" and found some interesting things in Deuteronomy 23:

"A bastard shall not enter into the congregation [qahal] of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation [qahal] of the LORD."
- Deu 23:2

"An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the qahal of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee."
- Deu 23:3-4

"Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land. The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the qahal of the LORD in their third generation."
- Deu 23:7-8
So regardless of whether or not an ethnic gentile could enter into the elah ben Yisra'el, they could enter the qahal Yehovah.

Next: Numbers 19

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What Ever Happened To Calvinism?

Do you remember when Calvinism was cool?

There was a brief window in the Post-9/11 world, say from the mid 2000s to mid 2010s, where Reformed theology was, for lack of a better term, a thing.

I grew up in the deeply Baptist South, in a place where Presbyterians were about as common and accepted as Zoroastrians. When I was a child, the only reason the locals would beat down the doors to a Presbyterian church was to let us know we were going to Hell for following Calvin.

So as a teenager, seeing these New Calvinists show up to my family's small Presbyterian church surprised me as much as if they had emerged from the communion wine. People were 'converting' to Reformed theology, and what's more, they were doing it because it was 'cool.'

Now 'cool' is, at best, a greased-up eel in a tub of butter when it comes to definitions, but one thing always involved is rebellion. Whether it's Flower Children putting daises in gun barrels or Metalheads decked out in skulls, spikes and chains, a sense of defiance is an eternal part of cool.

In the case of the New Calvinists, the defiance angle came from disagreeing with the doctrines of their parents and neighbors, whether those parents/neighbors were Baptists or Agnostics. Hell, I was a bad boy of theology at my Baptist school, in the sense that arguing constantly gave me a sense of power and purpose.

Checkmate, Bap-tards.
So you can imagine how weird it was when my classmates started admiring my dogged persistence in sticking to my guns and, dare I say, started treating me more like an actual bad-boy. I suspect this had less to do with my charm winning them over and more to do with the emergence of attention-grabbing Calvinist mini-Celebrities.

I'm not going to go into the doctrines of Calvinism or the extent that New Calvinism was actually Calvinist. The point is, it was an obscure subject that had the right mixture of density and edginess that pseudo-intellectuals congregate around in the Man Caves of the mind. Add in historical acceptance of beards, alcohol, and extreme quibbling over doctrine, and you've got a subculture a man with no sense of purpose in life can get behind.

But as always happens in subcultures, nothing can stay in the limelight forever. In recent years, I'm hard-pressed to find a Calvinist thought-leader in any area other than Christianized alcoholism or turning quisling for the LGBTQP2P crowd. Turns out that a vague sense of intellectual and consumerist superiority isn't enough to keep a movement interesting.

I suspect that a lot of the Calvin crowd has turned to Eastern Orthodoxy in recent years, as the "OrthoProt" meme suggests. After all, Orthodoxy is even more obscure in America, and thus easier to be smug about. It's just as compatible with Beer, Beards, and Bacon, with the bonus of candles and incense. Now instead of imagining yourself as a Great Protestant Writer, casting down the Catholic scum with your mighty pen, you can pretend to be a Great Orthodox Monk, living humbly in an obscurity that makes you better than everyone else. You can be right about everything without interacting with anyone!

I don't say any of this because of inherent problems with Orthodoxy (we can discuss those separately), but rather to say that we all know where this is going. There's gonna be another next thing to get excited about, to argue about the details of, to obsess over while ignoring the real problems of the human heart. My guess is that OrthoProts are going to dig up old heresies in their reading and weaponize one or another as the "One True Version of Christianity."

I'm not worried about the continuing coolness of Calvinism, but watching it spiral into another religious arm of Sodom and Egypt is disturbing. Maybe that's what really happened to Calvinism - the slow creeping in of the same bullshit that destroyed the mainline denominations. Can any subculture survive being cool? Not because of cycles of interest, but because every organization that can be used to push the Narrative will eventually be infiltrated and turned.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Depression Impressions

I've been thinking about depression lately - not because I am currently depressed, but because I can't seem to get away from people talking about it.

You see a few different threads of thought about depression floating around on the internet. And while a full taxonomy of every opinion would be both boring and useless, there are two trends that I keep seeing pop up and want to address.

The first is depression as a lifestlye, and it's something that seems to pop up a lot in the memesphere. Now, I like memes. Dank memes, normie memes, overused memes, whatever. Taking five minutes to binge on meme dumps on imgur used to be one of my favorite daily rituals. It was a great way to shut off my brain and chuckle at some funny pictures. Kind of like how the comics page of the newspaper used to be.



I say "used to be" because over the last few years, memes about depression as a lifestyle are taking up more and more of the memespace (at least on imgur). I see traces of this on other platforms as well - Facebook and Twitter friends talking incessantly about how they don't have the will to live, Tumblerinas joking about suicide, and so on.



Now the "why" of all this would be an interesting topic - many people claim it's because Boomers destroyed the economy for Millenials or because CIA bots are spreading demoralizing memes as a psy-op, or because depressed people spend a disproportionate amount of time on the internet. But that's not what we're going to talk about today.



What interests me is that people are curating their collections of memes around a topic like depression. Living with depression, dealing with depression, being depressed, etc. It seems less like a disease that they are forced to live with (the memes about cancer I see are more about "kicking cancer's ass" or otherwise supporting cancer patients) than a lifestyle they identify with.



This is nothing new - anyone who lived through the '90s and '00s internet had a few friends who whined about depression. But even in that context, the depression was claimed more as a super special thing that meant other people should give them attention. It was a bad, yet super-special important thing that you should pay attention to.



The latter day wave of internet depressives treat it less as a disease or attention-grabbing device and more as a part of their core identity. It's treated as part of a joke - sometimes as punchline, sometimes as setup, but only rarely as something unusual.



On the polar opposite end of this is a thread you see in self-help/positive thinking/mindset and related circles. This one doesn't require as much space to describe, since it can be summed up in one sentence: depression doesn't really exist. "Depression" is a fake disease that people use to excuse their failures and self-hatred.

Now, I was one of those depressed internet kids in the 90s and 00s. While I did display my mental damage on the internet for sympathy points, I wasn't faking it. I really was deeply mentally fucked up.

There was a performative aspect to my depression and related fuckeduppednesses, writing poetry for Teen Open Diary and setting Linkin Park lyrics as my AIM away message. Once I learned that I could get sympathy and other forms of positive attention by being open about my damage, it encouraged me to express it in new and increasingly dramatic ways.

However, thinking and writing about my depression had a secondary effect: I started to learn about it. I figured out that a bout of depression could start without any particular reason and then end without any particular reason. I could experience depression when in the middle of the most fun and fulfilling times of my life and not experience it when watching 14 hours of TV a day instead of interacting with humans.

Bit by bit, all of the time spent recording and analyzing my depression taught me something: depression is a lie that your brain tells you. Depression is your brain telling you to feel bad even when there is no objective reason to. Something is causing it - just not anything rational. It's a chemical fuck up in your brain that can be triggered at any time for no particular reason. It will last for some period of time and then goes away for no particular reason.

Having this realization had two effects. First, my depressive episodes started getting shorter and further apart. Knowing that these emotions were being caused by my brain fucking up made it easier and easier to ignore what my brain was telling me.

Second, it killed my interest in depression. I stopped enjoying entertainment (music, movies, etc) that glorified in depression. Most emo songs are now as stimulating to me as songs bitching about allergies.

Many people with depression complain about people who say depression isn't "a thing" or that it "doesn't really exist." And they're right to do so. Depression is definitely "a thing," and a different thing than simply being sad or disappointed in life. Denying its existence is dangerous because it must be managed differently than negative emotions that arise as a response to negative life experiences.

But there is also a danger in glorifying depression, making it into part of your identity. It is simply a condition to be managed and, when possible, overcome. When I spent a lot of time thinking about depression, I would also get a perverse sense of pleasure from depressive episodes. It would "prove" that my depression was real, validating my emotional experiences. Getting validation from depression, basing your identity on a mental condition can encourage you to cling to your sickness instead of managing it.

I haven't had a major depressive episode in years (though I have struggled with anxiety) - or at least I don't think I have. The last few I can remember were more like an annoyance than an existential crisis; a migraine, not a brain tumor.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Name Change

I'm changing the name of my blog because I don't really blog about video games or Hegel or any of that any more. I don't blog much in general for that matter.

My hope is that changing the name will help reorient this venture towards something useful. If it doesn't, I'll retire it. In that event, I'll leave the old posts up but put up a notice that it's retired.

I'm making another career change in March that will either leave more time for blogging or destroy any desire to blog.