Friday, April 28, 2006

My Contest Entry

Here's my entry in Mindy's Memorial Cow Contest. Check the link for details, and you can enter, too!!

Kiva and GA Top 10: Two Ideas for the Weekend

Here are a couple of interesting ideas for you to ponder over the weekend.

Michael Kruse, of Kruse Khronicle, wrote about his two most recent investments. He didn't invest in stocks and bonds, but through an organization called Kiva, invested in small businesses in developing countries. He posts the pictures and discriptions of the two people he made loans to. You can make these loans directly to the borrower through the website with your credit card and PayPal account. What a great way to really make a difference a donation of as little as $25. What if a group in your church got together to do this? Talk about your mission dollar at work!

Pastor Lance, of FullCourtPresby, invites all you Presbyterian types out there to help him compile a Top Ten Issues for the June General Assembly, in response to the Top 10 published by the denomination's Stated Clerk recently which he found less than inspiring. What would you add to Pastor Lance's Top 10 list?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

MOTB Shoes Seeking Dress

Down With Church Committees

Reverendmother has two great posts here and here where she asks how to do the business of the church by moving away from traditional committee structures and getting things done in more creative ways. The comments on both posts are interesting and enlightening.

Go over and join in the discussion!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

If Everyone did the ABC Meme--I'd do it , too!

Seen everywhere on the RevGalsBlogPals webring...

Accent: Texan
Booze: Margaritas, Mojitos, and red, red wine
Chore I Hate: running everyone else's errands, part of the "Mom" job description
Dog or Cat: Dog, Gretel, age 14. No cats--allergies.
Essential Electronics: I-book; I-Pod; digital camera, cellphone
Favorite Cologne: Trish McEvoy
Gold or Silver: Gold
Hometown: San Antonio
Insomnia: occasional since reaching a "certain age", you gals will know what I mean
Job Title: Director of Christian Education and Renaissance Woman At Large
Kids: Two lovely twenty-something daughters
Living Arrangements: Suburban homestead with husband and dog
Most Admirable Trait: administrative ability
Number of sexual partners: as IF I'd answer a question like that on the internet!
Overnight hospital stays: 4 (two for childbirth, one for knee surgery and one for gall bladder removal)
Phobias: Heights--as Cheesehead noted, that's weird for a tall gal!
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths."
2 Timothy 4:3-4
Religion: Presbyterian
Siblings: One sister, two brothers
Time I Wake Up: 7 am, mas o' menos
Unusual Talent or Skill: remembering all the lyrics to songs, hymns etc with little effort
Vegetable I refuse to eat: Lima beans--yech!
Worst habit: Planning for the "worst case scenario"
X-rays: of knee--lots of them.
Yummy foods I make: Texas chocolate sheet cake, pecan-crusted fish, Greek shrimp, lasagne, seafood gumbo, and from-scratch biscuits
Zodiac sign: Aquarius

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New Hymnal or Hurricane Relief?

The powers that be in Louisville (PCUSA headquarters) have WAY too much time on their hands.

You'd think that with General Assembly coming up in barely two months, they'd be plenty busy what with an agenda that includes divisive reports on ordination standards, divestment of investments in Israeli-related companies, proposals to ordain Christian Educators, an unbalanced budget demanding serious cutting and personnel layoffs, and the controversial proposal to move the Presbyterian Historical Society archives away from Montreat. Not to mention the precipitous decline in membership that fuels some of these issues.

But NO! Someone wants to stir up the worship wars by proposing that the PCUSA develop a new hymnal. They ask: Will the PCUSA need a new hymnal by 2013? What lunacy! Will the PCUSA still be around in 2013?? Countless PCUSA churches in my area still use the old red hymnal and refuse to change to the "new" blue one. So now we're going to ask the publication arm of the denomination to publish another one ?

Let's see.. red +blue =purple. PURPLE: the color of denial.

Full Court Presbyterian lamented yesterday that the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina (and I would add, Hurricane Rita) did not make the Stated Clerk's list of the top 10 issues facing the General Assembly. He pointed out that if the denomination united in an effort to help reconstruct these areas the church could make a real difference.

Let's add number 11 to the Stated Clerk's list. A new purple hymnal or hurricane relief for the Gulf Coast? You make the call.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Summer Sunday School Dilemma

Yesterday evening the session approved the Christian Education Committee's recommendation that we take a "sabbath" from Sunday School this summer. Traditionally, we have always offered Sunday School classes for children and youth all summer and also had one or two adult summer classes. The only time we didn't conduct summer SS was the year construction on the CE building precluded its use.

Although I raised the issue with the committee, I have mixed feelings about not having Sunday School in the summer. Our attendance in Sunday School decreased this year significantly from previous years (mirroring a similar decrease in worship attendance), so we anticipated that summer vacations and summer camp attendance would really take its toll on our classes, leaving many of them not viable. Although we combine classes more in the summer, it looks like we could still have Sundays with no children or 1 or 2 attending. I don't like cancelling Sunday School for the summer, but I don't want to ask people to commit their time to teach and then be frustrated by lack of attendance.

Many churches in our area do not offer Sunday School during the summer months, so we will not be an exception to that practice. We hope that a break will refresh everyone and hopefully encourage increased attendance after school starts.

What does your church do in the summer for Sunday School? If you don't have it, do you think that the break is important in keeping up interest and attendance during the school year?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Linens and Lace Shower

Here's the table decorations for Portia's Linens and Lace shower tomorrow. Of course, the decorated champagne glasses will be placed on top of the handtowel when I do the real thing--but I wanted you to be able to read it!

Babs is hosting a "Linens and Lace" shower in Austin at a lovely restaurant during brunch. Our San Antonio relatives will be able to join us and I'm driving up tomorrow morning with my sister-in-law and my niece and precious Baby Annie. Portia's girlfriends from law school will all be there, too.

In other wedding news, I'm happy to report that the invitations have gone to the printer. Our goal is to mail them by the end of June so that should give us plenty of time to address them, buy stamps, etc. Next week Dorothy and I will resume the search for the perfect MOTB dress.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Terrifying Trifecta

Texas Wildfires

Hurricane Rita

On this morning's TV news show, there was a story featuring meterologists discussing predictions of severe weather events in the country in the near future. They put up maps showing areas most at risk for earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes and tornados. Texas was in the big, fat middle of 3 of those maps, making a terrifying trifecta of wildfires, tornados and hurricanes, reminding me of General Sherman's quip, " If I owned hell and Texas, I'd live in hell and rent out Texas."

Last night I ossified myself watching a reprise of Hurricane Katrina on the Discovery Channel. As hurricane season approaches, the politicians are fussin' and feudin' about who should be in charge of future evacuations of heavily populated areas like Houston-Galveston. The governor wants to centralize authority in (you guessed it) his office, but local city and county officials don't want to agree to that. The mayor of Galveston, Lyda Ann Thomas (love that Texas name!), did a superb job evacuating that city in advance of Rita last summer, providing transportation for the poor, elderly and ill well ahead of projected landfall of the storm. I vote that we put her in charge.

I need to lay in emergency supplies--including a detailed map of the state showing all the little back roads that can take you out of town while avoiding the heavily traveled highways. Better an unnecessary stay in San Antonio or Austin than being trapped in an evacuation while trying to get El Jefe's aged father, Dutch, out of harm's way. This summer I plan to stay a step ahead of the crowd.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I Wish This Were Really True

You Are Sunrise

You enjoy living a slow, fulfilling life. You enjoy living every moment, no matter how ordinary.
You are a person of reflection and meditation. You start and end every day by looking inward.
Caring and giving, you enjoy making people happy. You're often cooking for friends or buying them gifts.
All in all, you know how to love life for what it is - not for how it should be.
What Time Of Day Are You?

Thanks to Wendy for tipping me off to this blogthing.

God Bless the Gnostics

I seem to be on a Gnostic-themed roll this week, so feel free to skip this if you're getting bored.

Last night I was leading my class on The Da Vinci Code and our subject was Ancient and Modern Gnosticism as it relates to the book (and presumably the movie). One of the class members asked what value the Gnostic writings have for Christians today.

That really made me think. Of course there is the historical interest of seeing how some interpreted the Christian message in the second and third centuries after Christ. But for the average Christian in the pew, I think that the Gnostic writings reflect people struggling over the same basic question people struggle with today--who was Jesus?

Was he God? Was he human? Was he born by divine intervention or not? Did he possess the spirit of God or WAS he the spirit of God? Was his physical body resurrected or was it only his spiritual being that survived the crucifixion?

Modern theologians dispute these questions and average Christians have doubts about the answers to them. In a society which holds truth to be relative, rather than absolute, tolerance is the highest good and the New Gnosticism thrives. The barrier to wider acceptance of these old ideas in a democratic culture is their fundamental elitism--the notion that salvation is available to only those with special knowledge and not to all who profess faith in Jesus Christ.

Truly The Da Vinci Code presents a great opportunity for the church to re-educate itself about these ancient discredited doctrines so that it can spot them more clearly when they appear in modern dress.

Ah, those pesky Gnostics! God bless them, they keep us on our toes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Startling Judas 'Tie" Discovered!

This is almost as good as Portia's satire, Dog-Gone. Read it here.

Thanks to Susan for the link found at her blog Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Living the Gnostic Life

You'll have to pardon my tendency to see Gnostics behind every bush these days, as I continue to prepare for my Wednesday classes on The Da Vinci Code. But sometimes you don't have to look very far.

Yesterday I had Oprah on the tv (yes, I know!) while putting stuff away in the kitchen. It was a show where different Oscar winners were interviewed. Ellen Burstyn (she won back in the '70's for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) was one of them. I perked up my ears when I heard her remark: Jesus said in The Gospel of Thomas, " if you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you." (That's saying number 70. I checked. Too much time on my hands.)

That seems to fit in with Oprah's genial free-floating spirtuality expressed in the slogan of her website "Live Your Best Life." (I am NOT accusing Oprah of being a closet Gnostic. Necessarily.) But doesn't that slogan sound familiar? Yes!! Joel Osteen's best-selling book is Your Best Life Now.
~ cue Twilight Zone theme ~

Monday, April 17, 2006

Real Life Dead Sea Thriller

I spent Easter Evening listening to fascinating tales of archaeologists chasing Bedouins who were shadowed by underworld antiquities dealers from Qumran to Jerusalem to Lebanon to the Catholic Museum in Paris to the Isle of Man to New Jersey and back again. No, it wasn't a preview of the next Dan Brown thriller, but the true story of the discovery, dispersal and gradual reassemblage of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A story that is not yet complete.

This is about the sixth time El Jefe and I have had the privilege of hearing Dr. Weston Fields, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, talk about his work. And each time there is a new story and a new discovery! Dr. Fields is in Houston to discuss a second Scroll-related exhibit for Houston's Museum of Natural Science which is being planned for 2008. ( There was an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at that museum in 2004). He is related to one of El Jefe's law partners, who introduced him to us a number of years ago. We always try to see him when he is in town.

Weston is one of the most fascinating people I ever met. He spends 6 months a year in Jerusalem working on Foundation business and 6 months in Alaska, running his family's salmon business. An ordained minister, he is an expert in ancient and modern Hebrew and travels around the world raising money to pay for the translation and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls by the Oxford University Press. As Director of the Foundation, he also coordinates the work of the archaeologists, translators, and scholars. He has been gracious enough to come out to my church on two different occasions to speak about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

For several years Weston has been working on a book that would record the history of the discovery and translation of the scrolls. He began by interviewing the first scholars and archaeologists involved who were aged 70 through 90, but the project grew as he was given access to their private papers which were more extensive and more reliable than 50 year old memories. Now two different publications have emerged from his research and work: one is a two volume exhaustive history meant for academics (to be published by Doubleday) and the second is a much shorter work for the popular market ( to be published by Brill).

Last week Weston visited the offices of Doubleday in New York City to deliver the last chapters of the the first volume of the academic work off with his editor. That is a mansion of merry men indeed, because it is Dan Brown's publisher. While there, he was told that Dan Brown has made 275 MILLION dollar$ on his The Da Vinci Code royalties. Imagine what Doubleday's profit must be!

If Weston writes as well as he tells a story, then his book for the popular market will be a true-to-life Biblically-related thriller crammed with double-dealing, shady characters, academic infighting and technological twists. When I asked Weston what the title of his popular book would be, he said that he was still looking for one. In jest, I suggested "The Dead Sea Scrolls Code", and others in the group chimed in with their suggestions.

So, gentle readers, do you have a suggestion that could make his book the next runaway best-seller? I'll pass them on.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

My niece sent this picture today of her baby, Annie, in the bluebonnets.
Happy Easter, everyone!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Memorable Good Fridays Past

As Director of Christian Education, I don't have additional responsibilities during Holy Week, unlike many of my RevGal blog pals. On the contrary, I find myself spending time assuring people that, yes, Sunday School classes WILL be meeting on Easter. (??? But that's a post for another day.) The burden of the week falls on the pastors and the music folks. Today I've been relaxing with Babs, who is home for Easter weekend and remembered some Good Fridays past.

Back when I was in college, the music for the production Jesus Christ Superstar first came out. The full soundtrack was played beginning at noon in our church in San Antonio on Good Friday as the focus of the service. The church was starkly modern and Calvinist in design, with a roof of bare timbers and a driftwood cross over the communion table. Outside the day was bright and sunny while inside the dramatic story unfolded through rock music. The service was very brief: an opening prayer and a brief introduction to the album. Everyone left in silence when it finished. I was very moved by the experience.

My father came with me. Daddy was a music snob of the first rank. An aficianado of classical religious music who normally had no time for anything written after 1700, nonetheless Daddy LOVED Jesus Christ Superstar. The "generation gap" was the subject of much nattering by the chattering classes back then, but the two of us had no generation gap that day.

Many years later when Babs and Portia were very little, we lived near downtown Houston. I was a member of the choir of First Presbyterian Church there, and was asked to join a small group to sing on Good Friday at their lunchtime service. A medium sized crowd gathered in the large sanctuary and the service was brief enough to accomodate those who were attending during their lunch hour. This was the first time I sang in such a small group and was very nervous about it. But once the magnificent organ filled the sanctuary, my fears melted away and my self-conciousness evaporated. This was the first time I knew the truth of St. Augustine's adage "who sings in worship, prays twice."

More recently, the youth group at my present church presented a very moving Good Friday service with a drama that included soliloquies by Biblical characters who surrounded the cross, according to the Gospels. The young people did a wonderful job. After each character spoke the lights in the sanctuary were dimmed a little bit and something from the chancel area of the sanctuary was taken away--the chalice, the communion plate, the table, the pulpit hangings, the candles, etc. Finally the area was bare, except for a large wooden cross. The group draped the cross in black and the lights were fully extinguished as the congregation exited in silence.

What was your most memorable Good Friday service?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Quilts for Soldiers at Easter

This week one of the Ministers of the Cloth (quilting group at our church), Darlyne Fratt and her husband Wally are visiting grandchildren in the Washington, DC area. Since they would be close to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Darlyne brought a batch of just-finished quilts made for wounded soldiers by The Ministers of the Cloth as part of their Quilts for Soldiers mission project.

Darlyne and Wally were met by the veterans group that usually distributes our quilts and shown around the hospital. They were thrilled to be able to give out the quilts in person to some of the Marines being treated there. Lou Stavely, who took the pictures for them, wrote:
"Thank you for the wonderful quilts. The wounded really love them."

Pictured above is the group of veterans who visit the wounded regularly at the hospital and distribute quilts from the Quilts for Soldiers project. The photos below are of Darlyne and Wally with two of the young men they visited.

Lou Stavely told Darlyne and Wally that thanks to many groups like ours, the wounded soldiers at Bethesda and Walter Reed Army Hospital in the DC area are well supplied with quilts, but those transferred for treatment to San Diego Naval Hospital and the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio are not. So the Ministers of the Cloth are planning to direct their future donations to these two facilities.

Darlyne asks for prayers for the recovery of Lance Corporals Ben Lunak and Chris Hahn and Corpsman Dan Jacob as well as prayers for their fellow Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you, Darlyne and Wally, for sharing these photos with us. And many thanks to these brave young men and women who are serving their country.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

An Incredible Appointment

For those of you who were hoping that the Israeli investment divestment policy passed at the last PCUSA General Assembly would be set aside at the GA in June--think again.

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase has appointed as moderator (chairman) of the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee, which has jurisdiction over the divestment policy, a minister whose previous public statements include praise of the 9/11 attacks on our country as "an act of faith and courage." Way to insure the credibility of that committee, Rick!

Thanks to Will Spotts for sending the link and the heads up.

UPDATE: Presbyweb posted the entire text of the remarks of Rev. Gretchen Graf, the newly appointed moderator of the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee here. The whole transcript puts the statements quoted in the link above in a less outrageous context.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tripping Out With the Gospel of Judas

This morning I read the Gospel of Judas. All 7 pages of it, downloaded from the National Geographic website.

Full Disclosure: I'm not a NewTestament or Early Christian Scholar--just a layperson with an interest in Christian history who has read some books about it but has never had a formal class on the subject. My opinion here is worth what you're paying for it.

It's quite a trip. The introduction says that it is "the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week three days before he celebrated Passover." I don't pretend to have much understanding of the Gnostics. But I don't think you have to be very conversant with the period to note the weirdness of this text. For example, Judas tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is from "the immortal realm of Barbelo." Barbelo???

Then there's a bunch of references to the "great and holy generation" and the "aeons". Aeons? Jesus refers to a being called "the Self-Generated", the "incorruptible generation of Seth", and the "luminaries." The word "Christ" appears in connection with the listing of the "lost angels" who ruled over the underworld. Huh???

The whole thing is riddled with missing lines (from disintegrated papyrus) and words. But even if all the words were there, I think it would still read like incomprehensible babble. It reminds me of some of the worst New Age ravings--Scientology gone amok, if you can imagine.

The Gospel of Judas doesn't resemble Jewish or orthodox Christian cosmology or theology in any way. I think anyone who reads it will find the fact that it was not taken seriously by the early Church perfectly understandable. The book of Revelation is crystal clear compared to this.

It's a great time we live in, when the translation of a text like this is available to everyone on the internet. You can read and judge for yourself whether it adds or subtracts anything from your understanding of Jesus. As the Reformation was advanced by the development of the printing press and the translation of the Bible from Latin to the vernacular, so the world wide web enables the priesthood of all believers to access information without the intermediary of the media and scholarly commentary.

And that is a very good thing. Thanks be to God!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Arts & Craps & Bluebonnets

It's springtime in Texas and a girl's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of bluebonnets...and shopping. So Friday my good friend Dorothy and I joined a bus tour of Central Texas' two biggest tourist attractions: Arts & Crafts (called Arts & Craps by El Jefe) and the bluebonnet trail.

Alas this is not a good year for bluebonnets because it has been too dry. We did see a few. It was definitely NOT a good year for Arts & Craps, either. I mean, how many metal giant Texas stars, rusting wagon wheels, and mismatched "antique" china does a person need?

But we were undaunted and turned the day into a personal challenge to find the absurd, the kooky, and the tasteless and put it on the blog. Dorothy was equipped with a great camera and a great eye. Credit her with the photos and blame me for the comments!

QG and Dorothy's Award for Most Politically In-Correct Craft

The " And What Ethnic Group of Dancers Are These ?" Award

Dorothy's Worst Use of Quilting Award

The Taking Face-Painting Too Far Award

QG's Just for Mindy Award

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Gospel of Judas--Nothing New Under the Sun

Since I had a couple of people who are attending my class on The Da Vinci Code ask about the "Gospel of Judas", I'm posting some links to good information on the subject.

If you want to read the new translation of this document, it is available on the National Geographic's website here as a pdf file. Judge for yourself the authenticity and credibility of this document.

For good, sound analysis of how the "Gospel of Judas" fits into the history of early Christianity and whether it alters the traditional view of Jesus as presented in the New Testament Gospels, read Mark D. Roberts (Presbyterian pastor and Phd. in New Testament studies from Harvard University) and/or Ben Witherington III (professor at Asbury Seminary).

I don't have time today to post my own thoughts on the story and its media coverage, but suffice to say the Fourth Estate's ignorance of the development of the biblical canon and the Gnostic writings is almost breath-taking. But not quite. I'm talking back to the news incessantly and so must turn it off before I get my blood pressure up.

Truly, friends, as the Teacher observed in Ecclesiastes: "There is nothing new under the sun."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Righting the Family Story: Update!

Back in February I wrote a post about El Jefe and his cousin sending off DNA samples in order to get geneological information. They sent the samples off to this company and in the past few days we have been receiving the information via email and internet.

There were some surprises in the result. The analysis of ethnic origins shows that their family is mostly of English origin. (Told ya so!) They both thought the results would show Irish and German ancestry--but the Irish and Scots tied for second and there were no German identical genetic matches. Alas, their hopes of finding a genetic link to Neal of the Nine Hostages have been dashed.

Instead of Germans, the Danish and the Dutch showed up in third place! El Jefe's paternal grandmother and his mother both had what we thought were German names. The explanation, according to the website, could be that their families came from areas controlled by the Germans at the time the families immigrated to the US, but were historically Danish or Dutch in ethnicity.

So now I'm watching him for signs of Danish pastry and Dutch beer cravings. But hold the smoked herring and wooden clogs. Please.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Turn Up The Heat Under the Melting Pot

While home over the weekend, Daughter Babs talked about the anti-immigration reform protests at the Capitol in Austin the previous week. She has a part-time job with the Texas Psychological Association which offices right across the street from the Capitol grounds.

Babs is in a seminar that focuses on how to counsel people of different ethnic groups. The professor leading the seminar is Mexican-American and fiercely proud of her heritage. They had an interesting discussion about these protests and the reaction of the graduate students in the seminar to it.

The professor, of course, emphatically supported the protests and said it was because she was Mexican. Babs related that the students challenged her, pointing out that both she and her parents were born in the USA and were citizens of this country. She responded by saying that each of them must identify strongly with the country of their origin, as she did with Mexico.

Not so, they replied. Babs said, "my family comes from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland, that I know of. How can I identify with just one of those countries? Who could identify as a Nordic-European? I'm an American. " The other seminar members agreed--and the professor was very surprised.

Note to Congress: perhaps we need to get the old Melting Pot off the shelf and fire up the heat under it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Judge Eckels To Replace DeLay?

Tom DeLay's surprise announcement that he is retiring from Congress and leaving the race for re-election sent politicos scrambling this morning down here.

First of all, it's not clear how he can resign from the race--under Texas law you have to die, be incapacitated or become ineligible to hold office in order to get your name off the ballot in November at this point in the election proceedings. De Lay must have chosen the latter option because he announced he is taking a job with a DC area organization and will move to Virginia which will become his legal residence.

Secondly, a special election to elect a replacement to serve the remainder of his term must be held. That's a problem for the state election officials. Since a state-wide election is already scheduled for May, this special election will probably be added to that ballot.

Thirdly, the Republican party must select a replacement for De Lay as its nominee in the general election. That won't necessarily be the same person as whoever gets elected to fill his unexpired term, but it probably will be. Lawyers are studying the election laws as I write, trying to figure out who makes that selection.

The list of those who have already expressed interest in replacing De Lay include Republican Harris County Judge Robert Eckels. That's the man who received kudos around the world for his role in organizing Houston's reception of Katrina evacuees. He's my personal pick.

Whoever replaces De Lay will be a Republican. District 22 is mega-red. I'm very relieved to be spared the George Soros funded anti-De Lay ad barrage that was looming over our district for the off-year election.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Dog-Gone: Next Brown Thriller?

Portia is guest blogging today with her original satire of The Da Vinci Code in honor of my first class on that subject which begins Wednesday evening at our church. Portia's senior college thesis analyzed why the Roman Empire began persecuting the Christians--so she has a lot of knowledge about this period of history.
From Dan Brown's newest iconographic thriller:
Disclaimer: This is a work of my own twisted imagination and is meant to be nothing more than a satire of Dan Brown's best-selling Da Vinci Code, which I thought was absolutely horrible (apologies to those of you who enjoyed it and my pity to those of you who bought it and have yet to read it). PORTIA.
Our story to this point:
Vlad Gonzales, acclaimed professor of Judaic Studies at Yale University, and Shannon Stein, the FBI's newest (and most attractive) codebreaker, have been thrown together by fate to solve one of the world's most ancient mysteries: the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant.

Having discovered that her dearly-beloved -- and recently departed -- Grammy was the leader in an elite Jewish order, the Priory of Zion, which was entrusted with the duty of preserving the secrecy of the Ark's location (and its contents), Stein is on a mission to uncover Grammy's secret so that it may not die with her.

Stein and Gonzales, on the run from American and Israeli forces, seek asylum at Vlad's weathly and eccentric friend Harold Blackstone's cottage on the shores of Crete. It is here, in this Mediterranean paradise, that Stein will learn the greatest secret in history.

"You must be familiar with the Ark of the Covenant and its contents?" Vlad queried as he helped himself to his second piece of baklava.

"Of course. I may be a lapsed Jew, but I'm not hopeless. The Ark held the remains Ten Commandments Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. The Ark of Covenant resided in the Holiest of Holies in the Temple in Jersualem until its disapperance in the sixth century B.C.E. when the Temple was destroyed for the first time by the Babylonians." Shannon sighed deeply, sinking slowly into the lush couch. Being a fugitive for going on twenty-four hours was proving exhausting.

"Yes, dear, that's the standard story. Though the Ark contains not just the Ten Commandments but several other items sacred to the Jews. Above all, the Ark was a visible testament to God's protection and presence," Harold guffawed excitedly. He loved nothing more than to watch someone as they slowly discovered that what they had always thought to be true, was little more than a fable.

"You see," Vlad interrupted, "there is more in the Ark than just the remains of the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron, et cetera. Something even more valuable -- and even more dangerous in the wrong hands."

"You saw 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' then, too?" Shannon was in no mood for this.

"No no...inside the Ark lies the truth about the nature of the Jewish God, of Yahweh." Harold was immensely tired of having people assume that just because they were Indiana Jones' fans, they knew all about the Ark.

"Yahweh's true nature?"

"Yes, Shannon. Yahweh was canine. Inside the Ark lies the remains of a dog." Vlad paused a moment to let this idea sink in. Shannon looked dubious. Hastily, Vlad elaborated: "Well actually, not just any dog, but The Dog. The One True Dog. The Dog that led Moses out of Egypt and the Israelites into Canaan. The evidence for this is overwhelming."

"Is it?" Shannon looked to Harold, who nodded furiously and added, "Yes. Loads of evidence. Hidden in scripture, in art, everywhere."

"Shannon, you're a codebreaker, what's the anagram of 'dog?'"

"God," Shannon couldn't believe it could be true. It was just too obvious. How had she not noticed before?

Vlad smiled. "Precisely. And if you take the Hebrew "Yahweh" and read the "h's" as "n's" and the "y" as an "i" and the "w" as a "c" then you have an anagram of what?"

"Oh my God. 'Canine.'"

"Yes. This is just too big a coincidence to merely be a coincidence. But there's more. 'Rabbi' has the same root as 'rabid'..."

"But 'rabbi' is Hebrew for teacher and 'rabid' is from the Latin 'rabidus.'" Shannon looked somewhat skeptical.

"Bollocks, Shannon. They were all in on this secret. Hebrews. Romans. All of them." Harold exclaimed. He lept from his seat to go into his library. Vlad took Shannon's hand reassuringly. "Shannon, it's true. Believe us. A lot of very notable scholars from very prestigious univerisities are all in agreement on this. We have uncontrovertible proof. Provided that you are willing to suspend your disbelief for a few minutes more, Harold will happily show you when he returns."

"So Vlad, then why has this been suppressed for so long? Why would they suddenly disappear with the Ark and lie about its contents when they did?"

"Because Shannon," Vlad sighed. "Nebuchadnezzar was a cat-person."