“The Red Tent”: What the Bible Might Have Been, Had Women Written It

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By Andrew Wilson

WilsonIn a holiday season with a biblical blockbuster, Exodus: Gods and Kings, far more interesting from a theological perspective is the recent Lifetime Television miniseries, “The Red Tent” (video link), taken from the best-selling novel by Anita Diamant. “The Red Tent” is a retelling of the familiar stories of Jacob, his wives and children from the perspective of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter.

The Bible knows her only through the tragic story of her “rape” at the hands of Shechem, a prince of the land. As the Bible tells it, Shechem offered to marry her, but Jacob’s sons connived to murder him and all the men of his clan as retribution for defiling Dinah’s honor. Indeed, the rape of Dinah is the premise behind several Christian “Dinah” ministries to women who have suffered abuse. But as Dinah tells her story in “The Red Tent,” she fell in love with Shechem, they married according to the customs of his people, his father then asked Jacob’s permission to approve their marriage, but what Jacob’s sons did in the name of honor — slaughtering Shechem and his people — totally devastated her heart and left her bereft. Dinah cursed Jacob and went off to Egypt, eventually found a new life there as a midwife, remarried, and attained some closure after she met Joseph there some 20 years later.

It is not difficult to grasp that the Bible was written from a male viewpoint. Hence, we might find a woman’s viewpoint, though fictional, to be intriguing. It is actually quite plausible that Dinah fell in love with Shechem; after all, he was a prince of the land and would be a good catch for a shepherd girl. For that matter, if Leah and Rachel could speak to us, how would they characterize what the Bible describes as a catty relationship as they competed for Jacob’s favor? Did they ever reconcile? “The Red Tent” reminds us that they were first of all sisters, and some of the things they did together were kept secret from their father and their husband—and hence never made it into the biblical narrative. For that matter, what was Eve thinking when the archangel tempted her? What was the nature of her inner life after the Fall?

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Joining the Church

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The following is a chapter excerpt from My Life with Rev. Sun Myung Moon, just published by Rev. David Kasbow.

By David Kasbow

392609e606477b36c737e2b66598b5e3In April 1973, I was 22 years old and in my third year of college at Wayne State University. As I was walking from the Student Center across the mall, a person came up to me. This young man asked, “What do you think about unity?” I said, “It’s great.” That afternoon I was on my way to a theatrical lighting class, a requirement for the minor in theater I was working on. As we walked, we talked about how people can come together. He said his group was having a lecture on this topic back at the Student Center and asked me to come. I told him I was on my way to class, but when he told me more about the people he was with, I got more interested. He had a German accent and explained he was traveling with a group of young people from Europe. Having had a great experience in Europe, I decided to go with him to meet these people and hear what they had to say.

When we got to the Grossberg Religious Center on the third floor of the Student Center, we sat with some other students. A young lady was standing at a chalkboard and began a lecture entitled the “Principles of Creation.” Over the next 45 minutes as she drew diagrams on the chalkboard, she explained God’s ideal for creation. She said that Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, were created to share God’s love as God’s children. They were the first human beings to have eternal souls and were thus the first people with human responsibility. She laid out God’s plan for a good and peaceful world that would have unfolded had Adam and Eve fulfilled their responsibility and not sinned so disastrously. I was intrigued by the ideas she was presenting.

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Power and Its Distribution

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by Alison Wakelin

Alison WakelinA revival of authoritarianism and fundamentalism is sweeping the world today. As Unificationists, this presents a challenge, because post-Foundation Day an encroaching darkness is stealing the hearts and lives of so many millions.

We must ask ourselves, if we truly have a foundational spiritual role to play in the development of society in the near future, how has this come about? The answer seems that there is still an outstanding issue within our movement, one that Reverend Moon spoke of as the failure of Christianity, and which we now see clearly from our Western perspective embodied within a Cheon Il Guk Constitution. We do not see Western values expressed within our own projected future.

We must look at this directly, and accept that action is needed. Too much centralization of power is fine when the person at the center is trusted and admired by everyone, but it leaves only one option when people disagree with the central person. We indeed see several instances where splinter groups have arisen from within our movement. In a post-Messianic era, we cannot cling to too much authoritarianism, and certainly as a prescription for a nation, it is a major problem.

A society with a well-educated populace can only be harmed by a concentration of power and decision-making in too few hands. People grow and mature throughout their lives by making responsible decisions and learning through the outcomes, and if the majority are expected to live solely within the parameters defined by a central powerful body, then vast numbers of people are deprived of the right to self-determination. Thus collective life is reduced to a very circumscribed existence and growth is thwarted.

Of course, it is quite acceptable that some decisions are left to a few representatives, because they know the issues best, and may have the most experience and wisdom to make decisions for the whole — but this only works if there are many levels of decision-making between the individual and the central power. On this basis, those making final decisions do so aware of the opinions and desires of others.

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No One is Minding the Store in Our Two-Party System

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by Gordon Anderson

GordonMany people do not like President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, but in his November 20 speech, he stated that if Congress did not like his solution they could pass their own bill for his signature. The failure of Congress to pass an immigration bill reflects a larger problem in the U.S. political system: our current two-party system.

Political parties, almost by definition, do not serve the nation. Rather, they serve the interests of their financial contributors, who do not contribute to the nation, but seek to get something for themselves from the government. With our current two-party system, no one is minding the store. The current U.S. Government can be compared to a Wal-Mart in which people bribe a security guard to get in the store, and, once they do, take what they want from the shelves without paying at the cash register. Our elected representatives are those security guards, and, instead of representing the people, they have become operatives of political parties.

American political parties are coalitions of economic interests justifying themselves through ideological rhetoric. They have become the factions that so worried the U.S. Founders, particularly James Madison:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

– James Madison, The Federalist 10

U.S. government policies today are determined primarily by political parties, not by citizens. As much as possible, political parties place party loyalists on the ballot as candidates. Once elected, party contributors prepare legislation and hire lobbyists to help these loyalists shepherd it through.

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‘Mother, I Thank You’ and Other Poems

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Paul Hermanby Paul Herman

Author’s note: Here are three of my poems. The first is about the preciousness and grace of mother’s love. The second, about the central person or savior that brings God’s love to us and awakens that love for others in us. The third is about the parental heart — our parental heart reaching out for all God’s lost children.

Mother, I Thank You

Mother, I thank you

For the wind isn’t hollow

And the air isn’t dry

And the world isn’t over

And I didn’t die

A gentle breeze blows and tears fill the sky with your heart of compassion

My God am I…

To live with you present in the depths of my soul

Thank you dear mother, my one and my all

 

Mother, I thank you

’Cause you can’t turn away

When you know that I’m hurting yet I’ve nothing to say

For the mistakes that I’ve made and the pain that I caused

Still my life didn’t end

It just paused…

 

And yes, I can feel you deep in my soul

In a land that is barren

In a land that is old

The sadness arises

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‘Sleepless in Jerusalem’ and Other Poems

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Howell-7By Lloyd Howell

Note: The following poems originally appeared in the 2010 issue of the Journal of Unification Studies.

Sleepless in Jerusalem

for M, a Jewish friend

Behold, he who keeps Israel will
neither slumber nor sleep. Ps. 121:4

Visiting your ancestral homeland for the first time,
you say that you had the best sleep
of your life –
the kind that only babies have!

I know what you mean but I pray
that you wake quickly
to the facts across town;
where the lines are being redrawn
and homes declared illegal
by bureaucratic fiat
to be bulldozed, without compensation.

Occupants,
no, I mean families;
to be exact, non-Jewish families,
removed by armed soldiers
following faceless orders from above
to soon stand, teeth gnashing,
in utter despair
amid unrecognizable rubble
children screaming, crying
their toys crushed,
their world gone,
now exposed to life’s inequities
at all too young an age.

Wake up!
There on the other side of town
enemies are being made;
yea, mass produced –
a house goes down,
a wall goes up
cutting off the ‘Arabs’ from you
and each other and jobs.
Soon you both will be totally
estranged from each other.

Wake up –
there on the other side [of town]
someone
is having a nightmare,
someone’s
arm is reaching out
as they are being pulled under by a tide of hate!

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The Doctrine of Continuing Revelation

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By Michael Mickler

Mickler full-sizeThe Unification movement affirms a doctrine of continuing revelation. But this is a difficult doctrine for any religious tradition to uphold.

The reason is simple. Revelation changes or at least upsets everything and almost everybody.

This is certainly the case for founders of religious traditions. The Hebrew prophets were stoned. Jesus was crucified. Mohammad was ridiculed and driven from the city of Mecca. Joseph Smith was assassinated. Sun Myung Moon endured torture and imprisonment.

In short, “Thus saith the Lord” is a life-threatening proclamation.

This is true not only for founders of religious traditions but also for their followers. Those claiming continuing revelation typically earn such titles as heretic, apostate, deceiver, witch, sorcerer, blasphemer, false prophet, liar, cult leader, and Antichrist.

In fighting off new claims, religious traditions generally follow two strategies.

This first is to close off revelation.

Christianity is a case-in-point. The early Church was a maelstrom of competing points of view, self-proclaimed prophets and founders of new sects. Christians agreed that Jesus had overcome death and in one way or another incarnated the living God. They disagreed about almost everything else: strategies of outreach, leadership, worship, church discipline, Jesus’ divine and human nature, and whether they should pray for or condemn Rome.

In this context, a plethora of individuals and groups arose who claimed continuing revelation. Some attracted broad followings. All were eventually branded heretics and many of their “revelations” claimed to supersede Jesus and his teachings. Among the more notorious were:

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K-Dramas and the Global Reach of Korean Popular Culture

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By Mark P. Barry

Mark Barry Photo 2Unificationists were among the first binge-watchers in the world. Well before our era of watching multiple episodes of a previously aired TV show, many of us became consumed with enjoying Korean historical dramas (saeguks) at night. A lot of us started with DVDs of episodes of Jumong (whose lead actor met with Reverend Moon in 2007), and followed it up with Hur Jun, Jewel in the Palace or the modern romance, Winter Sonata (filmed at the Yongpyong ski resort). Amazingly, compared to binge-watchers of American television, we enjoyed it all even despite having to read subtitles since K-dramas are in the Korean language. These dramas typically were 20, 50, even 80 or more episodes long (many “seasons” of a U.S. drama are just 13 episodes).

For many Unificationists, our enjoyment of a steady diet of Korean historical dramas began six to eight years ago. If we couldn’t borrow the discs, sometimes we could find a show streamed — often in several 10 minute segments — from various transient websites. Real enthusiasts would learn how to download, through peer-to-peer sharing, “torrents” of episodes of dramas we wanted from fans who uploaded them for other fans. Ad hoc groups of English-speaking Koreans would create often high-quality subtitles for the original episodes so that non-Koreans could understand what was being said.

For Unificationists, above all, the reason to watch episode upon episode of Korean historical dramas was because of the heart expressed in the ways people cared for one other. It seemed that especially in Korea’s traditional culture, we could see a more idealized form of how people could relate. These drama episodes certainly had good guys and bad guys, and plenty of demonstrations of utmost loyalty and filial piety, but they also had real heart – the kind we would be hard-pressed to find on American television.

The irony is this mini-phenomenon among Unificationists, Western and Japanese, foreshadowed the growing phenomenon of the popularity of K-dramas not just throughout Asia but globally, including the United States.

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Our Information-Rich Universe Points to Intelligent Design

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by Jonathan Wells

Bioinformation SymposiumI commend Jim Stephens for undertaking his “101 Proofs for God” project, and he’s right to target evolutionary theory and mention intelligent design (ID).

As Cornell biologist William Provine said in 1998, “Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism” (quoted in Witham, Where Darwin Meets the Bible, p. 23). Schools teach our children that materialistic Science is the best judge of truth, and Science says that evolution is a fact. By implication, God is certainly unnecessary and probably nonexistent. This attitude dominates academia from kindergarten to the doctoral level.

Of course, evolution can mean many things, some of which are uncontroversial — such as minor changes within existing species. In the 1930s, evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky called such minor changes “microevolution;” he used “macroevolution” to refer to the origin of new species, organs and body plans. According to Charles Darwin’s theory, all living things are descendants of one or a few common ancestors that have been modified by unguided processes such as variations and natural selection. Thus — theoretically — over millions of years microevolution has produced macroevolution (including the origin of human beings) without the need for design or purpose.

But Darwin did not know the mechanism of heredity or the origin of novel variations, so his theory was incomplete. After 1900, Mendelian genetics seemed to remedy the first deficiency, and after 1953, DNA mutations seemed to remedy the second. The resulting Modern Synthesis combined Darwin’s theory with the idea that organismal development is controlled by a genetic program written in DNA sequences, and that DNA mutations can change genetic programs to generate raw materials for evolution. According to molecular biologist Jacques Monod, “with that, and the understanding of the random physical basis of mutation that molecular biology has also provided, the mechanism of Darwinism is at last securely founded. And man has to understand that he is a mere accident” (quoted in Judson, Eighth Day of Creation, p. 217).

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