Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Comments on the Resurrection Post

[Moved up from the comments, with two new sentences added to the end, and the typo "fall" corrected to "wall."]

Daniel said...

David, I will have you know that I just wrote a brilliant and articulate rant about your mistreatment of that passage in 1 Corinthians. It was glorious and long, and it took me four hours to write, and then I mis-clicked in the browser window, and all was instantly lost.I'm too tired and disheartened to pick it up right now. I might try to re-create the magic tomorrow.Here is the only part that survived the event (on my clipboard during the tragic click):

To the particulars, Paul is not having the irrelevant conversation about the Holy Anatomy of The Risen Person you keep mentioning (though I am sure it would have been most engaging). Rather, he is arguing the importance of a historical event: that this thing happened, and the impact it has on our theology. He says if it didn't happen, in the end, we are to be pitied, because we conduct our lives on the basis of a lie. If there is no resurrection, then when we die, we rot. Furthermore, then Christ was never raised from the dead. If Christ was never raised, then he was not the Son of God, with proof that he has authority to forgive sins. If he cannot forgive us our sins, then we are still doomed, and we grossly misunderstand our relationship with God. And while we may believe something that gives us hope for the short time we have on earth, when we die, we rot. And we are to be pitied.

He has also called out this one truth as very important; not that all things ever written into the canon are weighed equally. I think this is where your entire criticism is going astray. Besides the fact that you want to read into it the goofiness you found in some poem, and use that to indite the entire canon of scripture. Regardless, it is a gross overreach to come to your conclusions from what Paul has written here.So I guess I'm just saying you should prepare yourself -- maybe I'll post again tomorrow. But since I don't have the time or energy for a more articulate or involved reply right now, suffice it to say:Die, heretic! Die!

I reply:

Ouch! I feel for your loss. Stuff like that never used to happen with typewriters.

I think I can spare you SOME of the rewriting, however, since I like to think I deliberately avoided the worst of the poem's goofiness (the loom, angels made of quanta, etc.) and I would never suggest that Christians actually think this way.

(By the way, you're right that I was misremembering the central doctrinal nature of Paul's discussion in I Corinthians. I was trying to give him a little wiggle room, but I guess that won't stand. That was just a minor side tour, so let's not let it distract anyone.)

The point I was trying to make--but I published before I was sure I was clear, which also never used to happen with typewriters--is that Christians generally DON'T think this way--literal spiritual cells and all that-- but at the very same time, and sometimes in a parallel thought, they DO act as if the bodily resurrection were the point of the resurrection...despite the fact that they DON'T try to think through the obvious implications of it. It is somehow both literally and factually true, and yet scientifically incoherent. (And I don't mean in the standard way that all miracles stymie science; I mean you can literally barely picture it at all. The Red Sea would have looked like water under a microscope even when it was allegedly forming a wall around the Israelites. But what ever happened to that fish the resurrected Jesus ate at the end of John? Holy shit!)

You have to believe it and then stop thinking just before you get to the DNA question, and my point is that this is weird, exhausting, and unnecessary, and that's why liberal Christians made the move. Because just as Jesus scraped accretions off the law of Moses to get to the actual point of it underneath, "Christ Event" theologians are doing the same thing to the stories of the resurrection--which, it should be pointed out again, can't be reconciled with each other anyway. (And again, this isn't "miraculous" unscientificness, which you could at least make a case for; it's the simple incoherence of being unable to tell who saw what at the tomb when.)

Faced with a Bible that a.) seemed to be demanding belief in a physical resurrection, b.) seemed to be very unclear about the details of the resurrection or of Easter in general, and c.) seemed to be saying, like Paul, that bodily resurrection is essential when it clearly isn't, the liberal theologians eventually, I think, made the right call: focusing on how Jesus gives life, and that more abundantly, is a better use of everyone's time than making flow charts of who saw which angel when, and asking modern-minded people to accept a story that leaves open implicit weird questions like what, at the Ascension, was Jesus's escape velocity. Yes, it's a silly question. That's why the liberals decided God couldn't have wanted it to matter. They sacrificed the Bible in the process, but they were more interested in a Jesus they could actually think about, in the service of a God whose ways made at least a little modern sense.



Blogger Rhu/nmHz said...

Minor correction: It was the Red Sea (actually the Reed Sea), not Dead Sea, that split.

3/26/2008 10:28 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Thanks! I've corrected accordingly.

3/26/2008 10:45 AM  
Blogger that atheist guy said...

If you're typing somthing long into an unstable web browser window it's a good idea to do an occasional Ctrl-A Ctrl-C to copy what you wrote into the clipboard as a backup. (I don't know what the shortcut keys are on a Mac, but you get the idea.)

Daniel said Paul said,
" He says if it didn't happen, in the end, we are to be pitied, because we conduct our lives on the basis of a lie. If there is no resurrection, then when we die, we rot. Furthermore, then Christ was never raised from the dead. If Christ was never raised, then he was not the Son of God, with proof that he has authority to forgive sins. If he cannot forgive us our sins, then we are still doomed, and we grossly misunderstand our relationship with God. And while we may believe something that gives us hope for the short time we have on earth, when we die, we rot. And we are to be pitied."

There seems to be a lot of false dichotomies there. What if there is a God and the Bible doesn't have the correct information? For example, maybe the Muslims are right. They don't need a resurrection to believe they won't die and rot. Or maybe something else is going on that no Earthly religion has ever described correctly.

3/27/2008 9:32 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Right. I'll concede your point, atheist guy, but you are having a spirited conversation with someone who merely looks like me. Or maybe it is me, but it is a different conversation.

The point I was making with David was to describe accurately what Paul had written in the scripture that David referenced and mischaracterized. My brilliant monologue, now lost to the vagaries of my computer's memory management system, was written to express what Paul said and why these "Christ event" people don't get to use that passage to justify their beliefs. After threatening David with the menacing finger in my jacket pocket ("...or I shall taunt you a second time -- and click on 'Post' this time!") David backed down, conceding that he wasn't reading the passage properly.

To the point of the passage, Paul was talking about why the resurrection is important to us as Christians, and how we can't expect our faith to survive if it somehow turns out to be false. It speaks directly to these "Christ event" Christians, who wish to remove all miracles from the Bible in some misguided attempt to inspire a more modern and, I presume, more lofty and enlightened form of Christianity. Paul very well states in the passage that David quoted, that we don't get that luxury: if the resurrection did not literally happen, then our Christian faith is literally screwed. Not that anyone else is any more or less screwed than we are; but that we Christians are truly screwed.

Your point about whether or not anyone actually "needs" a resurrection belief is valid. I agree that there are a whole host of beliefs and assumptions that drive to that point, and I wouldn't even try to prove that this would pass muster. Metaphysics has to be presupposed if it is to function as a belief at all, because by definition it requires faith in things that cannot be measured. So I am not saying that the Christian belief system is an air-tight case. It can't be.

But when I turn that same question to these "faith event" people, it merely begs the question why they even bother to consider themselves Christians at all: they seem to me to be atheists who like liturgy. I think perhaps they are after something I am not, like academics who crave credibility. Maybe they're from Europe. Whatever it is, I just don't get it.

On shortcut keys: I use a mac. On a mac, the Command key (also called the Apple key), does the same thing as the Ctrl key on a windows system, and the Ctrl key is basically your secondary mouse button. Any time you right-click to do something on Windows, I do the same by "Ctrl-Clicking". It is as though I have a second mouse button rather inconveniently placed on the keyboard. The feature that made this event possible was that Cmd-X closes the window, destroying everything. So I was following the Cmd-A, Cmd-C protocol, but my finger strayed to the X key, and suddenly all was obliterated.

3/31/2008 2:19 AM  
Blogger that atheist guy said...

Daniel, thanks for the thorough reply. Just a few comments:

1. Wow, that seems like a very dangerous design flaw on the Mac Keyboard. A Ctrl-X would just cut the text on a PC, and on Firefox to close the window you have to do a three fingered Ctrl-Shift-W.

2. Regarding Christian beliefs, I always have a hard time understanding where the presuppositions come from. I could presuppose that Paul didn't get the story right and that Jesus was in fact channeling God directly. So then everything Jesus said was valid, but a bodily resurrection is unnecessary to believe his message was true.

3. I hate to be a jerk, but I have no choice but to try my best to stem the inevitable evolution of the phrase "beg the question":

On the other hand I do support Dave's efforts 100% to make the use of "they" as a gender neutral singular pronoun legitimate.

3/31/2008 10:35 AM  

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