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“SALVATION” AND THE FREE SPEECH ISSUE

 SALVATION

 A FAITH LOSING POPULARITY

There are reasons for the current decline in the popular standing of Christianity. Some of them, like the shocking modern record of priestly paedophilia are reasonable, others less so; for if the church is not innocent neither is the world. But amid the pattern of shifting sympathies we have to recognize a growing impatience with Christian intransigence on some issues that have become more vital today than previously.

Why, people wonder, and especially when America’s churches have long supported separation of church and state, should recent years have shown quite the level of outraged, conservative legal opposition to gay rights and abortion that has been evinced? If churches had been generous to the welfare of an often bullied, discrimination-ridden gay minority, would LGBT rights ever have become the self-righteously protested demand they now are? If churches had been less ready to criminalize or excommunicate traumatized, raped women or those whose lives were in danger, would “a woman’s right to choose” have become quite the secular feminist issue it now is? And whatever one’s convictions, shouldn’t there have been more latitude towards especially those not church affiliated? So what too often looks like an inflexible, political boss church (now sometimes protesting it is martyred because its beliefs are no longer protected) has itself partly to blame for a worsening PR situation.

But….. today a new kind of intransigence looks set to spark further alienation and confusion. And this time the quarrel is more fundamentally around faith and its rights and with unavoidable implications for personal rights and free speech in society more generally. This time the subject, even if a materialistic world ignores it, is “salvation” – who has or will have it.

TALK OF SALVATION CENSORED

We shall be hearing increasingly about this subject because, even if and when the theme is ignored by secular society, the related question of free speech can’t be so but rather affects everything. So we can’t afford to get this wrong. There is increasing pressure in the once Christian West from Russia especially but even England, to prevent Christians from witnessing to their faith – in almost any way. Don’t wear a cross, don’t offer to pray for patients, don’t invite people to church (short of government permission in Russia), don’t hand out literature lest anything from people’s multicultural to their Muslim to their gay or their feminist feelings be offended. And so on. In America a sheriff has recently had to hand over   41K to   atheists for the misdemeanour of promoting Christianity on a department Facebook page though apparently some of the posts were as innocent as “living today is best done with a lot of prayer”. Recently an American duty marine was court marshalled for not removing from a work cubicle a verse from the bible that didn’t even mention God or Christ!  There’s a relentless slide towards silencing. (Some months ago it prompted a poem from me
https://goo.gl/VmUPtA )

This is a controversial situation of some real gravity. Democracy and liberal society ultimately depend upon free speech. This is why for the greater good it may be preferable that a few sensitivities be hurt than that society and the laws indulge the merely offended through whose actions freedom of speech can be gradually eroded in favour of thought police and rigid PC values.

The rights of faith or belief must be respected. To the extent they reach into matters of conscience that everywhere feeds the most basic sentiments of freedom and independence,  they should enjoy some special, careful protection if need be before what is closer to what’s  inconvenient or hurtful to the feelings of minorities (which is not to say the latter are unimportant). It’s not good enough, it’s even shocking, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has advised Christians not to speak about their faith now unless asked. Nothing could be further from NT counsels to preach the gospel to the whole world (it’s Christ’s own last commission Matt 28:19) and even to “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or not” (2 Tim 4:2) and right now is not any favourable time.

PERSONS AND IDEAS DIFFICULT TO DEFEND

That said, plainly there are believers who would defend a right to something like “insistence” from attitudes and belief positions so extreme it helps bring the entire matter into disrepute. Although a distinct minority, there is a kind of uncompromising, aggressive evangelist, professional or lay, who on supposedly biblical grounds more or less sends to perdition anyone who resists their message. Just as free speech would not be best defended by appealing the rights of flat earthers to be heard in prime time, it would be better if protection of religious rights not have to expend too much energy defending the most absolute expressions of doom, gloom and damnation. But just what is the argument around “salvation”, one that threatens to increase as multiculturalism and the global village expand?

It is now trendy, liberal and many would maintain only good-neighbourly “inclusive”, to maintain universalist views with regard to belief. All religions are deemed essentially equal and the same: we all worship the same all-loving God (even if the Buddha denied the existence of any God/Creator and nowhere does the Koran assert that God is love) and everyone, unless the very worst, are heaven bound by default (although all religions have always had some version of Hell/Hades). We may call this (or at least its new pop version) the Rob Bell view of religion – its case is argued for by that ex-evangelical in his bestselling Love Wins favoured by the New Ager Oprah Winfrey. The doctrine can sound generous and intend well except that it now threatens to make an excluded enemy of dissenting voices.

Against this and as its polar opposite is pitched a conservative and would-be biblical position to the effect that only those who believe in Jesus can make it to heaven and escape the hell fires and  this because Jesus died not as early Christians maintained principally to ransom us from Satan and the powers of evil, but primarily to satisfy the wrath of his Father’s offended honour (an emphasis deriving from the twelfth century St Anselm).

This would seem like bad news for vast populations of humankind who have never even heard of Jesus and plain distressing to converts who are invited to believe they will never see or know their forebears again unless perhaps glimpsed through the flames of hell. We can call this the Choo Thomas view of salvation after a Korean-American woman visionary’s claims in her bestselling Heaven is so Real. Her love of Jesus was so intense and her heaven so real and experienced over a series of improbably frequent trips there with Jesus, that she was somehow able to come to terms with being shown her mother, a good woman who didn’t know about Jesus, screaming in torment……

DOES CHRISTIANITY HAVE ANY MIDDLE PATH ON “SALVATION”?

Salvation2

…….Something has to be wrong here, wrong with both parties in almost any way academically, theologically, spiritually, humanly. Putting my theologian’s cap on for a moment, what would I say?

Undeniably the second, conservative position has some scriptural basis as in the above quote from Acts, and certainly Jesus took perdition seriously – there are more references by him to hell than to heaven. The gospel is supposed to be preached in order to help save people from death and the damnation which in Jesus’ times, in the form of a dark and hopeless Hades, was more or less the default post-mortem destination even among pagans. (Elysian fields were reserved for the favoured few). Just because Jesus taught radical love and forgiveness it is absurd of the present Pope to maintain as in his  recentThe Joy of Love (understandably being criticized by leading Catholics), that damnation is not even in “the logic” of the Gospel. It surely is and backed up by all sorts of dire warnings like the famous “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?”.

Even so, no reasonable or feeling person will readily accept the alternative to universalism, namely that almost everyone is doomed and damned and even like Choo’s mother in and for their ignorance amid the accidents of their birth in historical and cultural terms.

The astonishing thing is that even those most fundamentalistically  attached to what “God’s Word” has to say, don’t really absorb what it does say, seemingly incapable of taking any hint and making even and especially any common sense deductions from the text. At least three New Testament statements invite us to understand there is something like a middle path between the two mutually exclusive options. The three I would cite (I could cite more) all derive from Christianity’s St Paul, himself the first and most fervent missionary of the faith who insisted he would do anything and go anywhere to save souls even exclaiming “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).

DAMNATION NOT SO ABSOLUTE

First and in the sermon at Athens the apostle declares:
While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he calls all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).

With this statement alone (which follows upon a quote from a pagan poet to the effect we are all God’s offspring and live and move and have our being in God), we are given some hint that up to a point ignorance does excuse. The drama of salvation begins once Christ and redemption are actually proclaimed. This moreover seems consistent with the fact Jesus’ strongest warnings as in John’s gospel about unbelief and dying in one’s sins etc are addressed in the first instance to those with whom he had direct dealings like hostile religious leaders.

Second, although Christ may not be known, conscience always is.

When Gentiles who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these though not having the law, are a low to themselves. They show that the law is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when according to my gospel, God through Jesus Christ will judge the secret thoughts of all.

At least some people are thus self-excused before God and in some fashion via Law/Conscience. (By “Law” the apostle must mean the Ten Commandments or the general sense of the Law since pagans couldn’t be expected to intuit things like why not to ingest shell fish and many regulations that Jesus himself had already discarded for the new message and era!). The nearest gospel parallel to this position would be in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25  where the sheep (often interpreted as being nations rather than individuals) discover they have been serving Christ without knowing it through what is effectively conscience.  Obviously however individuals  would be less likely and would find it harder to follow true conscience where the gospel had not been preached as intended. (Supposing you had been born into a tribe of spirit worshipping head hunters!)

Third, there was the early Christian custom of baptism for the dead. (1Cor 15:29) mentioned in the course of Paul’s disquisition on the resurrection and the necessity of belief in it.

If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

This is a verse either much ignored or disputed though it should be obvious enough what it is about. New converts didn’t want to think their forebears were automatically lost to them and to God; so they claimed them, baptizing by proxy and St Paul doesn’t object to the custom. This is very different to the situation where, as often happened in missionary zones in the great Victorian era of expansion, converts were made to reject, or feel they had abandoned, everything and everyone that had gone before them. Instead, early Christians’ allegiance didn’t damn their entire past but could even hope instead to redeem it. (I suggest that Choo Thomas for her understanding about her mother and much else was deluded, even a species of false prophet).

While we can’t now know exactly what was practiced and understood as regards the Corinthian baptism, it surely belongs with the spirit of one of the stranger and often ill translated of Jesus’ statements, one which seems to imply that up to a point it would be possible to “claim” persons for heaven itself (assuming they weren’t rank unrepentant sinners). The point is made in Luk 16:9 cited here in the NLT translation which seems to have the right sense.

“Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly money to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home”.

No reference here to the merit, faith, repentance, being born from above or born again etc that the gospels would have us believe Jesus taught as vital items of truth and salvation.

TRUTH IN PARADOX

As in much else in the New Testament and writings of St Paul, the truth about “salvation” resides somewhere in a paradox. In this instance the paradox is that even though true redemption is from Christ alone and that at death many are at real risk of separation from God (the real meaning of the “wrath| of God) due to sin or unbelief, this does not mean that divine judgement is so completely arbitrary or formula bound that it cannot make independent decision, especially in the case of genuine ignorance of what should be believed and done in life.

To deny this possibility is to deny that God can read the heart as St Paul affirms or to dismiss Abraham’s rhetorical question “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”. God must be free to make decisions even though in turn mortals would be unwise to presume on divine mercy. (Attitudes like “if I’m good enough it’ll be OK” or “to err is human, to forgive is divine” aren’t truly spiritual where judgement of a whole life and souls are concerned!).

 A BOTH/AND READING OF AN IGNORED GOSPEL

All this and more should be clear enough, but the Bible is insufficiently studied today; or rather is so academically studied it is almost high jacked over issues like the dating and authorship of its various parts while it is inadequately appreciated on a more readerly level as Wisdom literature. The latter approach would absorb the many paradoxes which shouldn’t be lightly dismissed rationalist style as “contradictions” on an either/or basis but rather as information often given on a both/and basis.

But if the bible is insufficiently or improperly read today, likewise the gospel, originally described as “the power of God to salvation ( Rom 1:16) is rarely preached. Increasingly it is said even by Popes to be about “compassion”, social justice and “mercy” (which of course it is), but any honest reading must conclude it is primarily about repentance and right belief addressed to what Jesus would call (and would certainly today call) “an evil and adulterous generation”.

Belief as the driver of attitudes and actions always matters, always has concrete effects. The average universalist doesn’t understand this, not even today as regards, for example, the effects of Islam’s promise of certain paradise solely for those who are martyrs in jihad, (a strong motivation for some to be radicalized and reckless!).

All faiths make entry to their heaven dependent upon merit earned except Christianity which makes it free to the believer with only the degree of reward dependent upon merit. Yet today it could finish an offence if not crime against PC multiculturalism for Christians to point out to non believers that their faith is based on “amazing grace” and not effects of karma, yoga practices, devotion to jihad etc. But such is now virtually the situation. Statements of even true and obvious fact must hide themselves. In the global village that long ago the Roman Empire also appeared to be, its own version of multiculturalism was seen by early Christians as a providential opportunity to proclaim. Today’s global village is seen as mandating, when not outright silence, at most the easy option of “dialogue”, as opposed to proclamation lest anyone be hurt in the exercise of compare and contrast.

I am not a Catholic, but those Catholics who declare Pope Francis a heretic are essentially correct when he declares proselytization “the worst thing of all”. Really?  Practically, not just religiously, this is nonsense because where free speech disfavours the  frank declaration it is short sighted to imagine society will allow even “dialogue” for long. Dialogue doesn’t even exist in Muslim majority nations today from Afghanistan to Turkey and it has never really been tolerated. In Pakistan Christian woman Asia Bibi has been imprisoned on death row for years now for  the “blasphemy”  of defending her faith against the abuse of Muslim women who refused her water at a well. Re the notorious Bibi case see https://goo.gl/Xsf3cc

Pope Benedict properly appealed for Bibi’s release….as our politicians should be doing, as the people of London who voted in a Pakistani supposedly a defender of human rights should be doing. But Pope Francis is is not  known to have intervened or protested, simply looking  on  in appalled silence at the testimony of Bibi’s relatives to their anguish. Beyond periodic  lament for martyred Christians, the Pope’s vision cannot reach to the challenge of dealing with a widespread Islamic intransigence in persecution that the secular West  as a whole prefers to ignore …..at the same time as it bends over backwards to accommodate Muslim rights and sensitivities otherwise and to accuse any critics of Islam of “Islamophobia”.  (Currently there is even talk in California of introducing a Muslim appreciation month). The Pope persists in speaking of “our  Muslim brethren” and their religion of peace as though no fundamental problem existed or as though Muslims of the  Ahmadiyya  branch of Islam were the only true kind. (This often persecuted Islamic minority deemed heretical refuses violence and doesn’t believe Mohammed was their faith’s final prophet) .

Last year the complaint of a British Muslim women had a colleague dismissed from the workplace for the “bullying” crime of describing her faith and inviting someone she supposed to be her friend to a church. To undermine a Christian right to declare beliefs is a fundamental and disturbing new denial of all personal rights and freedom of speech, one which will eventually hurt even those secularists who for the meantime might be pleased to silence a few nuisance believers. (Actually secular humanists are becoming concerned they may not be free to criticize Islam as they would wish).

BELIEF WILL ALWAYS MATTER

And so the trendy heaven-for-all universalism threatens to become servant of a new and uncontrolled PC censorship. As a doctrine it has no basis in any known faith but is a development of Enlightenment Deism and optimistic, mainly free church generalizations upon Christian notions of love and mercy that New Ageism has made its own. It creates as many problems as it solves because it begs the question should such as of the serial killer, the child abuser or a Hitler go unpunished, and can and would God permit sin, especially unrepented, into where it could only corrupt? (According to popular Conversations with God author, Neale Donald Walsh, Hitler is in heaven because there’s nowhere else to go!). Can we really imagine  Hitler rejoicing in heaven and would we really want it? And if sin and its effects cannot be self-cured, change must depend upon grace, which means it also depends upon faith which means it requires some measure of right belief.

And right belief according to Jesus is not the cop out or irrelevance some imagine, but rather the work we should do (Joh 6:29), something we grow into. Believing is itself something people do. This is why there is no automatic or total, faith versus works contradiction between the gospel declarations about the importance of faith and the fact that at the Last Judgement (which applies to all peoples of all ages and backgrounds) they are judged by what they have done. (Rev 20:13).

Even if we take this more  “middle path” position regarding salvation, for the modern reader of the biblical texts other questions of a purely theological nature still impinge . It can be questioned why if hell exists as the alternative to heaven should it be eternal, forever punishing “merely” finite transgressions? One answer and a short one could be that hell exists like heaven outside time in an eternal present. But such questions are beyond present scope and even relevance – ( I broach difficult themes of the kind in some of my writings like The Great Circle: Asia, David and God Consciousness.( https://goo.gl/oI543k) but most would agree those laying stress on what used to be called “the last things” and wanting an assured public hearing should give more a bit more thought to the underlying rationale of the claims they make.

But wherever you believe souls are bound, if you believe souls exist….. one certainty is that the largely post-Christian materialistic West is in terrible trouble. It believes so little on the spiritual plane that it risks accepting almost anything or being imposed upon by almost anyone. Ironically, what to some may seem an irrelevant concern with an outdated concept – “salvation” – is set to be crucial to how society will manage freedom more generally. Salvation entails a promise of freedom. Correctly and sanely guarding the concept is an important guarantee of ongoing freedom at more than one level.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in religion

 

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THE BIG JESUS AND JUPITER WEEKEND

  Washington

 THE BIG JESUS AND JUPITER WEEKEND

I admit to have felt stumped as regards predictions, or even just seeing sufficient synchronicities in the face of what is going on around Jupiter, the “fireworks” currently issuing from it and the arrival of the Juno probe giving unprecedented new insights into the nature of the planet.

Last blog I listed nine reasons why even the well known Billy Graham is wrong, as most believers from evangelicals to Catholics usually are, about “horoscopes” (i.e. astrology). It is in any case also the fact that I have long claimed not only to know when Jesus was born but to have data so accurate that it still works to this day as regards Jesus issues.

Even so I admit I had no idea what might be forecast this time, or even in this instance if anyone should be looking for a relevant Jesus event that corresponded to unusual visible as opposed to just transit activity around Jupiter at this time.

Jupiter is the planet of religion, faith, belief, hope and grace and like many, but for rather more reasons, I have long claimed Jupiter is the star of Bethlehem itself. And as I write (July 16th here in Australia) Jupiter by transit is within a degree to exact conjunction with the birth sun of Jesus –it’s exact next week. With or without things to see, by rights something very Jupiterian should occur around Jesus. But what?

I hadn’t been aware until today what that might be when I derived some information from the same Christian Post that carried the Graham article earlier this month, namely that during this last week, over this weekend especially and next week there is the Together 2016  event or Just Jesus rallies.

The major weekend event aims to draw around a million to the Washington DC region – the hope is that this will be the single largest gathering in American history in service of “revival”. The idea is a general exaltation of Jesus with worship and prayers for revival everywhere but especially in America. Washington would seem like the fated global site for such an event since the Washington asteroid (Washingtonia) is within a degree of conjunction with Jesus’ natal sun!

Jupiter is inclusive so most denominations are joining in and represented – even the Pope has been engaged to pray. The plan has been in preparation for the last ten years and more seriously for the last four. The emphasis hardly seems very Trinitarian and arguably the world and “revival|” might need more emphasis upon creation and the almost forgotten or ignored Creator/Father.  Still, the Jesus emphasis is harmonious with specifically a Jupiter event. Jupiter is involved very much with Jesus as Messiah

With restrictive Saturn currently transiting in Sagittarius, (the sign of all and any organized religion), contrary anti-revival news is not surprising and it challenges all the Jupiter linked event aims at. One thinks for example of the draconian laws signed in by Putin of Russia this last week which forbid any talk of religion without state permission and even private home worship rendered dangerous for all except Russian Orthodox. Then there is nowadays the endless tale of horrors in the persecution of Christians everywhere from Pakistan to North Korea which the secular post-Christian West, more concerned with subjects like transgender rights, cruelly and inexcusably ignores.

So…songs and prayers for “revival” in the secular world are not meaningless though perhaps against persecution might be still more meaningful at the present moment!

One day, (even I hesitate to say when, though I do have my ideas), what I have to say about the Bethlehem Star will be known and heard as it needs and deserves to be for the general good. Last Christmas season critics were almost falling over themselves about the publication of James Nicholl’s The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the Bethlehem Star. As an evangelical automatically opposed to astrology, one influential religion writer was even “in awe” of the thesis, which however doesn’t arrive at the truth or only a small portion of a vastly more awesome and clearly demonstrable range of facts. But like love the path of real Truth ne’er ran smooth and “no room at the inn” from those who should be concerned and promoting is perhaps only to be expected.

For interest I will paste in conclusion from a note I am placing at the end of the pages of planet, asteroid and Parts lists in my study a new edition of which will be released later this year.

NOTE: THE GREAT CHRIST COMET

Though I do not believe that by itself any comet was or can be a guide to the exact day or time of Jesus’ birth, I have included in the above list the positions according to Astrodienst for biblical scholar Colin Nicholl’s theorized “Great Christ Comet”. (Colin R Nicholl, The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Star of Bethlehem, Wheaton: Crossway, 2015). Though there’s no written record of it apparently the comet existed and the fact that at the birth this celestial phenomenon was conjunct Christ’s destiny Midheaven (and even at his Leavetaking conjunct the degree of the Bethlehem Star), confirms my immediate initial suspicion that what is described had something broadly to do with the messianic times and seasons surrounding the nativity, but not more. Accordingly I do not at all accept that any signs related to Christ’s birth date would be, as Nicholl speculates but cannot prove, involved with the celestial pattern – surely intended to be prophetic rather than historic! – of the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12. It is worth noting that the hype attaching to publication of the book and its theory was almost wholly due to its theological and scientific face-saving reliance on astronomy as opposed to astrology, objections to which  repeatedly prevent the truth from being known and declared.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in religion

 

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9 REASONS BILLY GRAHAM IS WRONG ABOUT “HOROSCOPES”

billygraham    Horoscope

9 REASONS BILLY GRAHAM IS WRONG ABOUT “HOROSCOPES”

A recent article in The Christian Post (June 8th) had the now elderly Billy Graham (or perhaps it was his staff or his son Franklin) declaring God to be opposed to “horoscopes” (i.e. astrology). Here are 9 reasons why the Bible, still less God, is not opposed to the subject.

1) According to Billy Graham who regards “horoscopes” as  a mystical/magical proceedure belonging with the forbidden “divination” of Deut 18:10, for Christians to seek guidance from astrologers is akin to King Saul visiting the witch of Endor. However, if that understanding of the matter were valid, astrology would never feature so strongly in the Jewish Talmud, nor would the highly observant Essenes have sought signs of the Messiah in the heavens.

2) Astrology as we know it from especially the Greeks is not “divination”. It did not even exist in the times of the Old Testament and its prophets who do condemn forecasting from new moons. The latter however refers to what is called “omen astrology” which involved gazing at the sky and uttering oracles. “Divination” is precisely what depends upon chance (as in reading tea leaves of shuffling cards), and/or just intuition with perhaps assistance from familiar spirits.

3) Standard astrology is about as occult as reading a train timetable. It is empirical, mathematical and depends chiefly upon a study of cycles of the planets and general symbolism. The kind of events and issues observed to feature under one set of positions are assumed to occur under similar or same positions – it is the principle indicated biblically by Eccl 1:9 that declares what has been will be so that there is nothing (fully) new under the sun but only “a time to be born and die” etc.as in the famous poem of time in  Chapter 3..

4) The fact that magi (astrologers) came to Christ’s birth should give Christians pause to consider that astrology might have something to teach and contribute to belief..

5) Billy Graham assumes the stars exist simply to the glory of God. They exist for more. The Bible declares they exist for signs (Gen 14 :1) and Ps 19 maintains that the night skies utter knowledge (Ps 19:2). What speech, what knowledge? Do Christians even bother to ask?

6) The Psalms also maintain that God both names the stars (Ps 147:4) and knows in advance every day of our lives (Ps 139: 16). While the latter statement can be taken by faith, the closest to any objective proof for the idea lies in astrological patterns like diurnals and the various transits of planets across the natal chart which can indicate active and stay-at-home days, excitement and nothing much happening, sometimes a turning point.

7) The previous point bespeaks fate. Evangelicals stubbornly maintain like Graham that if astrology were true there would be no free will. This is misleading and false. There is fate and fate. There are birth patterns which indicate active and prominent lives, others lives more hidden and withdrawn; but within the basic natal outline there are always choices. Attitudes and actions under certain patterns can affect the immediate situation and even the positive or negative experience of subsequent situations. People do not so much go to (or at least don’t obtain from) astrologers the “guidance” such as Graham wants believers go to bible and God for, as simple insight into their character and the nature of events they encounter.

8) Astrology is a symbol system that helps us to read and understand the hidden order of reality – the sort of order that scripture points to. Any doubt that the main impulses and lines of history follow celestial cycles should be dispelled by the work of an academic like Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and Psyche (2006). It is lamentable that there are Christians, (like Billy Graham’s daughter Ann Lotz) who presume to speak about “the end times” without even knowing or including such perspectives as the fact we are living at the end of the age (aion) of Pisces, the fishes, to whose beginning the birth of Christ approximately corresponded. Everything from flood and tsunami to fish everywhere dying along coastlines bespeaks the extremes, mostly negative, of the water and seas sign of Pisces arrived in era terms at the equivalent of the last degree of its sign. (The last degrees of any sign are notably extreme and 29 Pisces is traditionally very unfortunate, associated with violence, drowning, suicides and addiction, all the sort of issues presently concerning us).

9) Just as magi came to the birth of the messiah that prophets had foretold, so astrology can and should complement religion, at any rate its more prophetic/charismatic side. Astrology can predict or at least project various situations. The wilder claims of some would-be prophets could be questioned or modified as regards timing and likelihood if astrology were considered and in conclusion I will mention a couple of instances.

Claiming as I exceptionally do to know when Christ was born, I have been able to forecast when Jesus would likely be notably in the news as for example when in 2002 news came from Jerusalem that the so-called James ossuary box with the inscription, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus had been discovered. This if authentic (which it has belatedly been declared to be) would be the only artefact as opposed to text witnessing to Jesus.

I write this on the verge of Britan’s Brexit referendum. Astrologers have been unusually and extremely divided about the final result for reasons I needn’t detail but which suggest a rather neck and neck issue. But apart from the fact astrology can always describe a situation even if and when it cannot precisely predict its outcome, this much is plain. On the standard chart for Britain, among other things a full moon has fallen ahead of the vote conjunct a natal Uranus (rebellion, revolution, separation) opposite the natal Europa asteroid. Just by itself this marks an opposition reflective of Britain’s perennially awkward relation to the continent and even a promise as early as 1066 that there would be a Europe-separative Reformation in religion since the Uranus is in the ninth house not only of the foreign but of any religious issues. The asteroids, not even known or seen back in 1066 or at the birth of Christ, nonetheless prove eloquent today of many things. In some sense all time and language between the stars are one.

Faced with this are we to say as would Evangelicals (or the Catholic catechism which also opposes astrology) that none of what we read in the heavens reflects a divine mind or purpose, is not a case of the night skies uttering knowledge? Evangelicals especially have made a paper Pope of their bible (often the faulty KJV). Frequently read without attention to historical and cultural factors they have used scripture to make knockdown arguments where a range of sensitive issues are concerned, arguments of the kind Franklin Graham (whom many regard as undoing his father’s heritage) increasingly specializes in.

Typically, Graham cites the condemnation of Is. 47:13 as saying “ Let their astrologers stand forth….” A modern translation like the NRSV places a note to indicate it is not certain what the word is, which of course it isn’t certain because astrologers as we know them did not exist for Isaiah to condemn. But the same translation does include, as Graham doesn’t, the vital point that whoever is involved makes forecasts at new moons, which tells us this is not regular astrology which is far from reserving its kind of forecasts to such times.

It would be little short of a needed revolution of spiritual consciousness if the churches could admit elements of astrology to its understanding of existence, its theologies and the character of its leaders – even within the limited realm of sun signism it actually means something for their theology, politics and attitudes to money that Luther was born under Scorpio and Calvin under Cancer (as are Billy and Franklin Graham respectively).  However I am not exactly optimistic that notable revolution  is going to occur. I have not written to the Billy Graham org to express my  radical divergence of view as regards astrology. I know I wouldn’t get an answer. Like American businesses and self-help theories negative responses stand to be ignored, and won’t get past the minders. In fact I know of an astrologer who years ago tried to plead the case of astrology, but never received an acknowledgement from the Graham org. So….that is the point of putting the above thoughts within the humble format of a blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in religion

 

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RAPHAEL and LUCIFER: Religion, Vision and Verse

raf fix 2

Lucifer, the Prince of Air, descends to the lower hells to teach his minions how to launch a great deceit upon a sophisticated but unsuspecting humanity. Elsewhere the foreseeing Archangel Raphael explains and reveals what this will be, but will his warnings be heeded?

RAPHAEL AND LUCIFER and OTHER VISIONARY POEMS is unusual as poetry today and definitely different in its ideas.

VIDEO  recording from WildSound of Part  One of the four part  Raphael and Lucifer  mini-epic is available at this address: https://goo.gl/SkBFL1

THE BOOK with essay and notes is available on Amazon  at http://goo.gl/C32i3H\  and The Book Depository at  http://goo.gl/YOyEB0

KINDLE version later as advised

(The book’s brief INTRODUCTION is reproduced below).

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING – THE PROMOTION QUESTION

It’s not because Raphael is  “just” poetry, and certainly not any kind of “bad” poetry that this published author’s rather ambitious project doesn’t come with the imprimatur of  standard publication and promotion. One of the few UK publishers who accepts both religion and poetry today, acknowledged this is poetry to the highest  standard; but since I am not known for a performance poet nor am resident in UK for promotion purposes (so vital in publishing today), they couldn’t afford the risk of taking me on.

Actually they suggested  a certain Australian publisher might oblige. Of that story perhaps another time, but sufficient to say any religion/poetry combination is seriously hard to get through any hoops anywhere today. Agents don’t normally reckon to represent verse of any sort. Also I am not living in a metropolitan area to be in contact with the club of “right” literary persons and circles – who probably wouldn’t be interested anyway. Years ago a leading Australian poet refused me for Penguin New Poets for presuming to include – despite what they admitted was some superior “Virgilan”  writing –  “such hopelessly archaic words as ‘conduct’ and ‘bestow'”. …..

With almost everyone and everything to hinder  – the reason I abandoned anything poetic as a waste of time for over two decades – all the more reason  if you appreciate this project, that in the interests of supporting a wider range for poetry today (not to say freedom of thought more generally) you care sufficiently to  “like” it, review it, buy it, share it but essentially do whatever helps spread the word in a world of social media.

RAPHAEL AND LUCIFER:  THE INTRODUCTION (REPRODUCED) 

All the poems in this collection are to a lesser or greater extent visionary or metaphysical in a way poetry today doesn’t tend to be. Even so, they are still much involved with contemporary issues, persons or feelings. In theme and style however, Raphael and Lucifer stands apart from the rest of the collection as being a mini-epic.

Raphael is a deliberate experiment on two levels. First and obviously it is an exercise in poetic composition, specifically an adaptation, or at least evocation of, the now half lost traditions of epic and the Miltonics of especially Paradise Lost. (Mini-epic looks back to Catullus).

Second, there is an exercise in presenting and representing some often ignored, virtually censored but still developing ideas with regard to human origins. My own views as a doctor of religious studies are more fluid and liberal than those of any true blue creationist would ever be, but broadly I accept notions of theistic creation and ID (intelligent design which last, incidentally, is not the province of specifically Christian thinkers only). Given my bias, I have become increasingly aware how such belief can too easily finish treated in ways which leave meaningful argument, new facts and simple logic out of the picture. The situation can be unhelpful to the cause of truth generally and the spiritual life more particularly (even the question of divine existence and speaking of it in schools may now be involved) and we need to consider this.

Poetry is one medium that has always supported wide and sometimes unusual perspectives on things. Also, from the mythical Orpheus on through the Roman Lucretius and the English Milton and numerous tribal bards around the world, poets have been concerned with the nature of things, the mystery, spectacle and origins of life. Modern poetry has largely abandoned the theme although Ted Hughes stirringly translated Ovid’s curiously biblical evocation of a creation in the celebrated Metamorphoses. In my own case it has been appropriation of the mysteries of existence (and effectively the popularization of unbelief too) by media gurus like David Attenborough and Brian Cox, spurred me towards some poetic reaction.

Though both creationists and evolutionists can be charged with a literalism that insufficiently appreciates Genesis as poetry, it could be objected no one not a scientist, whether evolutionist or creationist, can really enter their arena of contention today with much authority. I disagree. It is well known and notoriously so, that the greater part of the educated public that bought Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was not able to understand it. The smallest minority of us are qualified scientists (or theologians) but this need not preclude us from drawing a few general conclusions about life and our place in the universe. Sometimes the issues science presents to laypersons invite almost more the application of some logical and philosophical thinking than negotiation of the most rarefied physics and mathematical theory. If Richard Dawkins openly disdains even to reply to dissenters, it is maybe time for dissenters to dismiss the blizzard of scientific data thrown at them in favour of more insistence upon examination of the basic reasoning involved with it.

Apart from the fact – a generalization but not unfair – that the operation of evolution is extrapolated from evidence for examples of micro-evolution not notably demonstrated at the macro level (which instead reveals sudden changes), essentially we are faced with two parties who claim a guiding authority for whatever declarations they make. In one case the authority is the bible and on the other “science” with its methodology. But just as biblical studies can open upon considerable divergences of opinion over sources and the interpretation of texts, so the empirical science which gets packaged for popular consumption makes claims which often conceal the range of speculation, theory and disagreement behind them. It is not unreasonable for example, to stress, as would especially creationists, that there can be quite a gap between “observational” science which treats of data reliant on tests that can be repeated, and “historical” science which offers data not directly testable and observable.

Since moreover even evolutionists are compelled to concede the limits to any account of origins via natural selection and genetic mutation alone, practically much of the argument beyond the welter of facts boils down to two differing treatments of a time factor. There is the story of a development across a time span necessarily assumed rather than absolutely proved to be almost infinite in order to cover for observed changes in the absence of a Creator to guide them. Then there is the narrative of a more designed creation over a short, or at least shorter, time span by a Creator who wouldn’t need time on an extreme scale for the often statistically improbable accidents and transitions of evolution to arrive at present human life. For both parties so much is involved with just interpretation of their facts and a species of faith that there can never be too much agreement. At most one can hope for the open discussion by no means always in evidence.

We hear much of the prejudices of creationists because they can seem obvious – almost everyone knows at least a little about Genesis which can then be dismissed as mere myth as against recently made scientific discoveries whose authority will go unquestioned. We hear less of the insufficiently examined a prioris, prejudices, even eccentricities of atheist evolutionists. These are well symbolized by the way in which the distinguished Genome Project scientist, Francis Collins, an evangelical but one who nonetheless accepts evolution, is still dismissed as a clown by most fellow scientists simply because their position is effectively that today no one but an atheist can be a true scientist. This is unacceptable and absurd, especially now there are some scientists in the style of Francis Crick, the pioneer in DNA research, prepared to attribute life on earth to extraterrestrials because of the difficulty of letting evolution account for just everything.

No more need be said in introduction. Any further points can be referred to the notes and the postscript since otherwise there is a danger the reader will not open themselves to the spirit of the poem and will approach it with already too many arguments to absorb it for what it is on its own level.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2016 in aesthetics, Poetry, religion

 

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THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT LUCIFER

   Lucifer  ACTOR TOM ELLIS

A NEW FACE FOR AN OLD DEVIL?

Though here in Australia we won’t be viewing it – yet anyway – I  see that some Christians (thousands) are upset about and have had a petition going against a Fox channel TV series called Lucifer being premiered in the US on Jan 25th.

In this series a bored devil abandons the hell regions for earth and shows his charming side to persons in California’s LA, City of Angels. Named Lucifer Morningstar he opens a nightclub called Lux (light) and makes people admit the truth about themselves. He even  assists the LA police dept in a way that insures some people get punished for their deeds. If as intended the drama extends into series 2 and 3 the devil may even finish reformed and redeemed in variation upon the set text.

The origins of the present story lie in a comic book, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, an English author with a background in Judaism and Scientology, who introduced a Lucifer figure (who stayed first in Perth, Australia rather than LA) and whose image was influenced by the late David Bowie. The series stars someone of very different appearance, the Welsh born actor Tom Ellis who, to judge from the trailer, very much acts his role as the seductive English gentleman with plum Brit accent.

It will be disputed whether this kind of small screen entertainment really matters. Some believers, fearing via comedy a trivialization of evil with some mockery of scriptures and perhaps influenced by the old saying “speak of the devil and he appears”, want the series pulled. Still more protests, and if reports are true with possibly more reason, are already swirling around a comedy  series of similar kind, Angel from Hell which premiered in America on Jan 7th.

In fairness, trivialization of evil is a risk anytime, anywhere. Currently there’s plenty of it around and without assistance from any charming L. Morningstars. A notable example might be offerings from Ireland’s rising star of fiction, Rob Doyle, whose first novel Here are the Young Men revels in drug orgies, mindless violence, sadistic porn and deliberate evil for its own sake. The personable Doyle, a philosophy graduate with a half repressed punkish side, apparently found his subject matter for the most part screamingly funny to write and some readers (but far from all) also found it amusing. (One youth fainted out at a Dublin reading which Mephistopheles Doyle, whose next book – out Jan 27th – is This is the Ritual, took to be a good sign of something). Doyle feels we must acknowledge, release and examine our subconscious. He is more certain than some it is chock-a-block full with rape, violence, the ugly and obscene. The trailer for Lucifer,  albeit in a lighter vein, suggests a somewhat similar call to “honesty” from everyone.

WHAT THE HEAVENS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE NEW LUCIFER

From curiosity I decided I would look up the position of the asteroid Lucifer on the 25th January. Suitably for a devil come to earth and speaking and acting in quasi-idealistic fashion, Lucifer is at 8 of earth sign Virgo. By itself this might not seem too significant even with the hell asteroid suggestively on a world point (0 degrees of earthy Capricorn). More strikingly however Lucifer’s 8 degrees of Virgo is exactly opposed by Neptune strong in its natural sign of Pisces. Not only is Neptune (negatively) the planetary symbol of deception and false glamour so that the series arrives at a time that can challenge images of evil by  fantastically playing around with them and via the mode of film that Neptune rules, but this same Pisces-Virgo axis is the axis of the era we still inhabit on the cusp of the new age.

Late in watery Pisces we are being appropriately “flooded” if not drowned by all manner of desires, addictions, pollutions, hopeless political situations and human disasters – not least at sea –  signs of the era’s last gasp or flame burst. A relativisation of good and evil very much belongs to the late era mutability and, however mildly compared with some expressions of the problem, our notions of the devil and the demonic are liable to partake in all this.

Fascinatingly, I also find that on the 25th Jan the devil as light, the mentioned Lucifer at 8 Virgo, is conjunct asteroid Malin (French for devil and the devil as darkness)  at 10 Virgo which also means Malin relevantly opposes Morgenstern (Morning Star) at 11 Pisces, an asteroid itself loosely conjunct Neptune. The coincidence is suggestive of an element of darkness behind the light with consequent misunderstanding, confusion and glamourization as regards the real character of Lucifer.

The choice of Tom Ellis for the role of the fallen angel is peculiar in context. If I look at his birth date, (given on the Net as 17th November 1978), we find this oddity as it affects four planets, three of them the outer planets, deemed generational, trend setting and spiritual in meaning. Uranus is at 17 Scorpio, Neptune is at 17 Sagittarius, Pluto has just left 17 Libra by a minute of a degree but Mercury is at 17 Sagittarius conjunct Neptune. Checking the birth of Neil Gaiman, Lucifer’s modern originator, (born Nov 1, 1960) we find Sun at 17 Scorpio and Mars at 17 Cancer while David Bowie was born with sun at 17 Capricorn. What if anything might this signify?

For this writer at least, the interesting thing is that in the birth data for Christ (which I claim to possess and which work for Jesus issues to this day – see below), Lucifer is at 17 degrees of Leo (i.e. trine Sagittarius) surrounded by and aspected from there by plainly relevant, eloquent factors. For the star of the series there is accordingly a spiritual connection of sorts, however ironic or eccentric, to the original Luciferian subject. Speak of the devil and he does appear, if need be through TV screens or a comic images!

None of this means that the forthcoming Lucifer  series is automatically the most evil of small screen shows, but it does suggest affinities for the wrong thinking of late era society. There is also the implication that everything is ultimately connected and fated or permitted within an overarching, defining pattern. Thus we can say that Ellis, who was born with Lucifer at 7 of shocking Aquarius opposite Jupiter the religion planet at 8 Leo (a guarantee his work can engage petitions and protests from the religious!), though he’s hardly wickedness incarnate, has been able to land himself a role that not just anyone could. There always have to be these hidden connections to other relevant factors and persons.

REVISIONING AND PUBLISHING LUCIFER THIS YEAR.

As to what the devil is really like, I will be offering – almost trendily it may seem if this is to be a year of the devil – my own portrait in a mini epic Raphael and Lucifer . It will be published later this year in America along with some other visionary/metaphysical poems. My depiction of the fallen angel will actually be a bit more theologically correct than Milton’s – oddly Milton makes Beelzebub a separate spirit rather than a name/aspect of Satan himself – and I should say I render the famed Accuser both more crafty and self-deceived. No one can of course hope to get it all right about such a figure. Still, born as I was with Milton and Shelley, the two poets most concerned with literary portrayal and understanding of Satan, rising conjunct at my birth, I am within my rights to add a few new perspectives after what will have been a strangely long pause in English language writing, poetically at least, in this area.

As regards my claims about Christ’s birth, their proofs must await till probably September for publication and what then ought to be the needed last word on that too long contested issue. The evidence will be harder to critique and oppose than a television series, though doubtless some will try…if they don’t decide it would be safer and better to ignore the whole subject.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in religion, Uncategorized

 

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LIFE AND POETRY IN 2016

Geothe3

“Art is long, life is short” is a saying from Goethe’s Faust. It’s true enough. Unless you are writing ditties or making sketches most art requires your time, researches, even leisure. Life certainly seems to crowd in if you have plans for poetry composition, especially anything epic, even if only mini epics such as I gave example of on this blog with Coming to Syracuse.

Currently I have two mini epics or long poems in mind, one in relation to Dante and another about Europe at this time of migration crisis – the latter stands to change the face of Europe for ever. I am not however sure if I will get round to my subjects soon and therefore at all because so often delay can destroy the force of inspiration…..Be that as it may, for creative purposes too many things are involving or distracting me right now including that finally and happily I have had two books accepted for publication in America later this year: the long delayed Testament of the Magi and a collection of my poetry.

The collection will include some of the poems (the more visionary and metaphysical ones) published on this blog but it will begin with a whole new mini epic, Raphael and Lucifer written last year and not issued here or anywhere before. In style and ideas it is distinctly original and for now not much more need be said except that for promotional purposes I am thinking about having the first section of the epic videoed but using my own voice as isn’t the case with Coming to Syracuse.

All this is to say that I do not reckon for the time being  to be posting poems on this blog which can itself take a little rest unless something in the world and current events strikes me as specially demanding a response. By and large I have tended to put passing comments or minor, more vers de circonstance type poems on McCleary’s Additions https://mcclearysadditions.wordpress.com/  rather than here.

What gets read on this blog and who reads it can be rather intriguing at times. I have never understood – and now after 2 years – quite how and why my article Colton Burpo’s Real Heaven, Akiane’s Jesus and New Christ Images, remains quite so popular in so many places. At the same time I can’t understand how and why even for Irish associated material (material that may get read anywhere from France to India) almost no one from Ireland comes in to read it. Ireland is not a land of the thousand welcomes where this citizen is concerned. I have never had a feature or interview there nor has any poem of mine been published in the nation.

Something else I have found most odd is that despite all the advice given out these days about how to self-advertise and increase traffic, traffic is very little determined by whether I promote the blog and its latest article or not. What the pattern might be when I am published overseas will be interesting to see.

Quite recently and very little promoted by myself ( but of course you can always spread the word), I now have a third blog, called gaythoughtsblog. It exists – so far and because I don’t have big plans for it – simply to be a home space for a substantial essay that has been on my mind for a while now.. The essay is called Beyond Marriage Equality, Queer Fantasy and Christian Disinformation, what does being gay today mean? I have today published its second half which covers a wide range of themes from relationships to tantra and the esoterics of the gay body  (see  http://wp.me/p6Zhz7-1f, ) thus extending some ideas broached in my poem Jeremiah’s Loincloth on the present blog.

Although any astrologer or even just calculator of economic and climate trends would advise you to expect a rocky year, I wish all readers a good one despite. “It’s an ill wind blows no one any good” as the saying goes, and there will still be opportunities for many. And where poetry is concerned it will even be the year in which publishing will let you know what poems make grown women cry, while yours truly will hopefully be providing a new poetic vademecum towards poetry more metaphysical and visionary. Today it’s in short supply.  It has yet to be decided if the title of the collection will be Raphael and Lucifer and Other Metaphysical Poems or Other Visionary Poems. It may finish depending upon what kind of art work will grace the cover.

But most important of all we shouldn’t come to next Christmas and year’s end (and quite likely next September) without the Magi of my writings arriving at their destination and letting their long kept secrets known. If anyone will care to dispute the findings I offer, I think they will have a very hard time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

BAROQUE: A POEM

BAROQUE

(The impressions in this poem are a composite of several experiences; no single baroque church is described and I am aware that not all baroque churches are dark and shadowy but sometimes quite light)

BAROQUE

Below weighty pillars and arches
Unpraying eyes in silence observe them:
Donors all richly attired attending the Virgin,
St Helen in triumph for tomb find and cross piece
Alexandria’s Catherine presenting her wheel.
They, like Jerome in wilderness tatters nursing
A lion, all once shone in their frames now
Much lost to high gloom, their oils half rotted
And bled into canvas that age, incense
And candle smoke darken. The coloured remains
Bear witness, fixed by grand gestures, to
Saints’ tales, pious half truths dependent
For meaning and standing on rivers and fires
Of God’s story otherwise lost to shadows or absent,
A stranger to even side altar themes.

If faith should be seen, of divine source
There’s nothing to view save the host, “he”
As wafer behind a cabinet’s doors (1)
And hidden entirely if no monstrance (2)
Bears him about in brief sunburst of gold gleam
Or above a high altar no agony’s glimpsed. There
A figure more darkened, the crucified
Hangs nailed as though it might be forever,
Sad eyes directed to heaven, limbs strained
To pure immolation. He, less Lord than an
Ever sacrificed lamb, is still caught in a
Hell world scarce overcoming earth’s ills and
The curse, unless by whatever it’s trusted
Can be re-enacted by priest’s hands amid
This scented but mouldering pomp. There
Celestial power must be drawn through
The shadows, upheld and furthered by prayers
Of the many but lessening faithful… (3)

There’s a life I am drawn to outside.
No dome to enclose nor candles to soothe me
Air, sunlight, earth and luminous sea
Let these meet and surround me. With these
Rising Godward I’ll speak into heaven
For miraculous change having chosen
Self within light, promise taken from (4)
Dawn Star and bright noon of sure resurrection. (5)
Without you, pure elements sensed and
Desired I cannot own fullness of Truth,
Cannot obtain what soul should acquire
With strength of corporeal feeling and
Nature, holding thoughts and images naked
As Francis in quest of meaning and grace. (6)
The point of reception is here, now, even
This temple, the body; with this I greet change.

NOTES

1) cabinet i.e. the tabernacle where the host is reserved
2) An implicit critique of the transubstantiation miracle whereby  Christ is not a sacrifice once offered (Heb 9:28) but repeatedly offered when the priest transforms the bread and wine.
3) A monstrance is a vessel that carries the host in processions behind glass typically surrounded by a sunburst design in gold with a cross above it.
4) Miraculous.change i.e. of soul preceding and leading to change of body (resurrection) rather than trans-elementation of bread.
5) Christ is the Morning Star (2 Pet 1:19, Rev 22:16) though Lucifer can be called that but not the Sun in full strength (Rev 1:16) i.e. noonday. A new dawn promises the various fulfilments of noonday.
6) Francis is St Francis who divested himself of his clothes to return them to his father. He also preached a sermon in the nude.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2015 in Poetry, religion, Uncategorized

 
 
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