According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pre-Columbian America: The (Epistemological) Lands that Time Forgot


Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (with lyrics)




I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
Unique in each way you can see

And now after some thinking
I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me

But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

What's my name, what's my station
Oh just tell me what I should do
I don't need to be kind to the armies of night
That would do such injustice to you

Or bow down and be grateful
And say "Sure take all that you see"
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls
And determine my future for me

And I don't, I don't know who to believe
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing
It's that every thing that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable
Often I barely can speak

Yeah I'm tongue tied and dizzy
And I can't keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues?
Why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I'll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard
I'd work till I'm raw
If I had an orchard
I'd work till I'm sore

And you would wait tables
And soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight
My light in the dawn
If I had an orchard
I'd work till I'm sore

If I had an orchard
I'd work till I'm sore

Someday I'll be
Like the man on the screen


As Christians, we tend to be very Bible-myopic... that is, focused on all things "in-and-around" the Bible, when in fact we should be as sympathetic to all things "non-biblical" lest we find ourselves out-of-touch, and out-of-date, with world events, people, movements, and ideas.

For instance, in today's article, how much can we say that we actually know about the ancient peoples of the ancient New World? You know, the ancient tribes and peoples of North and South America during the biblical times of the Akkadians and Sumerians, the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians?

But, you say, that's not important because they aren't in the Bible! Oh, really? Are you sure about that? Because if you are, than apparently your Bible is going to be limited by your personal views of who (or what) you think God is, His mission and agenda, and redemptive timeline for this world that we live in.

Put another way, how flexible, adaptive, and open is a biblical theology that only sees theology in transition for a regional section of the ancient world without considering its ramifications for other, more ancient, peoples and societies?

If what Jesus said to the ancient Jews is true for them, how then was it true for other tribes and events in other parts of the ancient world? And just how did God intend to get His message of salvation to those Indian tribes and "heathen" societies beyond the boundary lands of Israel's self-centeredness? Especially when separated by a trans-Atlantic, or trans-Pacific ocean, time and space?

Oh, you say, God will "dumb down" His expectations and adjust His mission to those less fortunate than the Jews (re "biblical knowledge and information"). He'll understand that the Laplanders in Finland, and the Eskimos in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada, or the Indonesian and Aborigine tribes of the South Pacific, shouldn't be as culpable as His own people (Israel), or the people that Israel traded with in the Middle East.

Which is all well-and-good until the subject of evolution comes along causing us as Christians to do "a head-spin" making us incapable of adjusting to this wildly "unbiblical" scientific viewpoint because we have had tunnel-vision for so long in our "bible-lands" imaginations and theologies.

Or when radical theology comes along to rethink the German Idealism of existentialism and phenomenology and we can't "get with it" because we are still stuck in the Greek Hellenistic mindset of Medievalism and all the classical theology that comes with it (Thomism, Catholicism, Protestantism, etc).

Or when group social theory and game theory comes along to tell us that there are certain things people can do better together in society than apart from one-another isolated from society. And when done, that the basic rules and metaphors for behavior and societal outcome will naturally adjust with it as distinctly different from past, more ancient, societies which were less bound with one another. Less dependent upon one another. Less interrelated, interchangeable, and integrated with one another.

And so it seems, that for any Christian to be sufficiently informed will require a broader worldview than the regionally minded, biblical one, that we grew up with. And no, Facebooking or Twittering each other doesn't make us more worldly-wise. In fact, it may make us more cynical; more protective of our old world views; perhaps more biased in our world opinions of one another (stereotypes, etc)....

Even so, for some involved in social media this may not be true, but for many - most grand ideas begin-and-end with one's Facebook pictures of weekend get-togethers with friends at the bars. Or the music concerts we've attended. Or the girl, or boy, that we thought was cute and went on a disaster date with. Or a meaningful motto or slogan we saw and passed along hoping to give ourselves further definition, expression, and connectedness in a technology driven society increasingly becoming disconnected to itself and community.

Hence, though today's article might be meaningful to some few of us who like to think about a less pedantic, more pervasive, series of world history and events. Or, perhaps, like to adventure and explore foreign lands unlike our own lands of familiarity. For most of us, it will not hold much relevancy except that it was a time that God seemed to have forgotten or abandoned while shifting His attention to a region of this earth (the Middle East) become a hotbed of upheaval and civil war. Where religious ideologies, faiths, and dissimilar cultures, crashed against one another in a turmoil of hatred and confusion, and became choked upon its on failures and dissents.

The sad fact is, what we see in the Middle East is no different than what we see in the rest of the world except that the rest of the world isn't bound by our religious conventions and mundane mindsets. And perhaps, in studying many other world civilizations and cultures we might actually see the hand of God there too irrespective of the Bible with its laser-like focus on Israel. That God is a God of all peoples, cultures, and nations, and not limited like our mortal selves by time and circumstance, thoughts and feelings to one region or locality on this good earth.

And if so, then this God is a God whom we should try to understand beyond the simplicities of our traditional faith traditions, allowing Him a broader expanse of wonder and mystery than we think we have known of Him held in the grip of our own disbelief and doubt, our Europeanisms and Westernized thoughts. At least I hope so....

R.E. Slater
December 29, 2013


* * * * * * * * * *


8 very old sites in the New World
http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/25/travel/archaeological-marvels-in-new-world/index.html?sr=fb122913oldsitesnewworld12a

by Leslie Gilbert Elman, Special to CNN
December 25, 2013

(CNN) -- When European explorers were planting their flags all over North and South America, they referred to the territory as the "New World." That was a misnomer. For while the Americas might have been "new" to the Europeans, they weren't new on the world timeline.

Things were happening in the Western Hemisphere a long, long time ago, as the sites on this list (a very small sampling) demonstrate. Some you might know already; others might come as a surprise. Many of them are sites of active archaeological research that continues to unearth new examples of very interesting old stuff.


The archaeological site of Tiwanaku was built at 13,000 feet above sea level in the Altiplano of the Bolivian Andes. 

Tiwanaku, Bolivia

Theorists have explained Tiwanaku as everything from a temple complex built by nomads to the work of an extraterrestrial society. Its truth is only slightly less extraordinary, and it tantalizes with questions of why and how a city of temples, public buildings, homes, streets and irrigation systems was built at 13,000 feet above sea level in the Altiplano of the Bolivian Andes.

Between 500 and 900 A.D., the Tiwanaku civilization numbered in the hundreds of thousands. By 1200, they were gone. Archaeologists continue to study the site, even constructing reed boats to demonstrate how stones weighing several tons might have been transported from one shore of nearby Lake Titicaca to the other. You'll need imagination to picture Tiwanaku as it was; a visit during the winter or summer solstice celebrations can enhance its mystical qualities.

Changing light creates spectacular effects across the landscape of Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada

About 75 million years ago, western Canada was part of an island continent called Laramidia, and this 30-square-mile expanse of badlands was populated by creatures great and small. Sounds like the start of a fantasy novel, but it's a dream come true for anyone fascinated by dinosaurs.


Since the turn of the last century, when paleontologists began working here in earnest, the park has yielded thousands of prehistoric remains, including hundreds of complete dinosaur skeletons from the Late Cretaceous Period.

At the park you can join in or observe current fieldwork. There are activities for families and kids, guided and self-guided tours, and sunset excursions for photographers. To see more specimens recovered from the park, visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, two hours away.

The Mayan temples at Tikal poke above the treeline in the Petén department of Guatemala.

Tikal, Petén, Guatemala

With its five towering pyramids, probably built between 250 and 900 A.D. (ongoing research regularly revises the dates) and situated to correspond with the position of the sun, Tikal is the site by which other Mayan archaeological sites are measured, both in scope and significance. Tikal National Park also encompasses Uaxactún -- once a separate city -- as well as nearly 55,000 acres of rainforest that add to its beauty and mystery.

The Petén Region in northern Guatemala continually yields archaeological discoveries from the Maya, such as the stunning frieze found in Holmul earlier this year. The murals at San Bartolo are under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage site status. In neighboring Honduras, is the Mayan site of Copán -- founded by a splinter group from Tikal.

Monte Albán in Oaxaca, Mexico, is a marvel of urban planning, especially when you consider that the Olmecs -- and later the Zapotecs -- who built it did so by carving its terraced landscape out of the mountainside.

Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico

Monte Albán is a marvel of urban planning, especially when you consider that the Olmecs -- and later the Zapotecs -- who built it did so by carving its terraced landscape out of the mountainside. And they began construction sometime around 500 B.C. It was built to be grand, from the ceremonial pyramids to the stadium surrounding the ball court, and because it's so impressive Monte Albán tends to be heavily visited today.

The Olmec civilization is known for colossal stone heads like this one seen at Parque Museo La Venta in Villahermosa, Mexico.

The most famous artifacts are the series of Olmec carved stone slabs known as Los Danzantes (The Dancers) because it was originally assumed they depicted dancing men. Current scholarship says they depict disemboweled prisoners of war, which would be strange, yet in keeping with the unusual artistic sensibilities of the Olmecs.

Visitors will find more than 30 Olmec sculptures, including three 20-ton heads, at Parque Museo La Venta in Villahermosa.

Parque Museo La Venta, Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico

It's hard to know what to think about the Olmecs. They practiced ritual human bloodletting and raised dogs that they subsequently ate as part of their regular diet. On the other hand, they're probably responsible for introducing chocolate to the world. They also left a wondrous legacy of carved stone sculptures, especially the enormous stone heads for which they're known.

Many Olmec sculptures discovered at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán in Veracruz and at La Venta in Tabasco -- Olmec settlements dating back to 1200 B.C. -- have been relocated to museums where they're more accessible for public viewing. You'll find more than 30, including three 20-ton heads, at Parque Museo La Venta in Villahermosa. The 16-acre park is known for its tropical foliage and for the dramatic sound and light show that illuminates the sculptures at night.

The capital of the Chimú culture, Chan Chan in Peru, probably dates back to before 850 A.D. This is a ceremonial hall known as Tschudi Palace.

Chan Chan, Peru

Machu Picchu is the most widely known archaeological site in Peru, the Nazca Lines are arguably the most mysterious, but Chan Chan, located about three miles from Trujillo, deserves mention because while its past is documented, its future is uncertain.

The capital of the Chimú culture, Chan Chan probably dates back to before 850 A.D. At its peak in the early 1400s it had a population of 30,000 before the Inca came and wiped it all out. What remains of the huge earthwork city is still astounding -- networks of beautifully carved and sculpted adobe walls delineate enclaves devoted to work, worship and family life.

About five square miles of the Chan Chan site is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but even UNESCO can't stop the wind and weather from slowly eroding Chan Chan.

Cahokia Mounds looks like a grouping of giant lumps in the earth built by the Mississippian culture more than 1,000 years ago near what is now Collinsville, Illinois.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, Illinois, United States

Cahokia Mounds looks like a grouping of giant lumps in the earth -- hills where no hills should be, built by the Mississippian culture more than 1,000 years ago. The largest is 100 feet high and bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza at its base.

Around it once stood wooden houses and plazas where people gathered for ceremonies that involved a potent concoction called Black Drink and competitions in a vigorous sport called chunkey. Inside the mounds, archaeologists have found a wealth of objects including unexpected specimens like shark's teeth carried from the Gulf of Mexico to western Illinois in some way yet to be determined. In fact, much of what went on at Cahokia is still undetermined, including why this thriving community -- the oldest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico -- disappeared in the early 14th century.

This is a pictograph found at Seminole State Historical Park.

Rock Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, Texas, United States

Around Comstock, Texas, where the Pecos River meets the Rio Grande, acres of unremarkable terrain hold a remarkable surprise: cave paintings (pictographs) and carvings (petroglyphs) made by the prehistoric hunter-gatherers who lived here thousands of years ago. They're not especially easy to reach, which has been their salvation, having left them largely unmolested throughout the centuries.

Recently archaeologists have been working to raise awareness of the sites in order to catalog, preserve and protect them. Guided tours at Seminole Canyon State Park take you on a rigorous 1.5-mile hike to the Fate Bell Shelter. Other tours conducted by members of the nonprofit Rock Art Foundation visit sites located on private land. Panther Cave and Parida Cave in the Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio are accessible by boat.

This is a pictograph found at Seminole State Historical Park.