The Cash Cow Lurks!

“Who loves you baby? Who gives you good credit? Who says you’ll regret it?”

Ok, so here’s an experimental post . . .For it to make any sense, you first need to watch the embedded video below. Seriously, don’t read past the YouTube stuff below until you’ve watched it!

Now, that you’ve listened to this great little video, “The Cash Cow” by Steve Taylor, read the following posts:

Now, I’m sure that the folks who participated in this bovine gathering sincerely believed they were bringing their needs and the needs of the nation to God. If there is a time we should be praying, it is now. Still, the symbolism is too uncanny. Uncanny enough that even the secular world can pick up the biblical parallels. It’s too bad that the folks who organized this gathering did not pick up on them.

Are we now drinking water made heavy with ground gold dust?

From the Valley of the Shadow of the Outlet Mall
To the customized pet-wear boutique
From the trailer of the fry chef
To the palace of the sheik
The Cash Cow lurks
The Cash Cow lurks
The Cash Cow lurks

Illuminated World – A Glossy Gospel

This looks interesting (from BoingBoing):

…a Swedish adman and former CEO Dag Soderberg is leading a team called Illuminated World that’s reinterpreting the Bible as a magazine – complete with sidebars, coverlines, and subheads. He’s using the straight text, for the most part, but embellishing it with Bennetton-style photos and pull quotes. (See rushkoff @ boingboing)

From the Illuminated World website:

Remarkably, the revolutionary new Bible reached unprecedented sales in Sweden. Illuminated World increased the market for bibles by almost 50 percent without cannibalizing normal bible sales. (Link)

While this Bible “magazine” looks quite “artsy”, the concept is not new (for good or for ill). Thomas Nelson has published “Refuel” for teenage guys and “Revolve” for teenage girls.

Now, I’m all for contextualization of the Gospel, but at what point does the “context” get in the way of the Gospel? As rushkoff notes, “Something about the combination of an advertising perspective with the Bible feels like a contradiction.” Does Scripture need to be made “trendy” for a modern audience?

Star light! Star bright! Make me a Talmud scholar tonight!

James Davila at Paleojudaica notes that Madonna supposedly cited the Talmud in her recent acceptance speech at her induction into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. The pop star stated:

There’s a saying in the Talmud that for every blade of glass there’s an angel that watches over it and whispers grow, grow. And I could still hear those angels whispering. And even the naysayers, the ones that said I was talentless, that I was chubby, that I couldn’t sing, that I was a one hit wonder, they helped me too. (Quoted from “The Bangkok Jungle“)

Well, it turns out that the “Material Girl” was a bit mistaken. She did not quote from the Talmud, but from the Zohar:

The Holy One brings out all the hosts, camps, and stars, each one is called by its own name, and “not one faileth” (Isa 40:26). Over all these stars and constellations of the firmament there have been set chiefs, leaders, and ministers, whose duty is to serve the world each one according to his appointed station. And not the tiniest grass-blade on earth but has its own appointed star in heaven. Each star, too, has over it a being appointed who ministers before the Holy One as its representative, each according to his order. All the stars in the firmaments keep watch over this world: they are appointed to minister to every individual object in this world, to each object a star. Herbs and trees, gras and wild plants, cannot flourish and grow except from the influence of the stars who stand above them and gaze upon them face to face, each according to his fashon. (Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 171b)

While she’s certainly no Talmud scholar, her lyrics have a new (and potentially more profound) meaning:

You must be my lucky star
‘Cause you make the darkness seem so far
And when I’m lost you’ll be my guide
I just turn around and you’re by my side

Starlight, star bright first star I see tonight
Starlight, (star bright) make everything all right
Starlight, star bright first star I see tonight
Starlight, (star bright) yeah

Come on shine your heavenly body tonight
‘Cause I know you’re gonna make everything all right

Update: Manuscript Boy (from Hagahot) e-mailed Jim Davila of Paleojudaica with the following quote from Genesis Rabbah 10.6:

א”ר סימון אין לך כל עשב ועשב ברקיע שאין לו מזל ברקיע שמכה אותו ואומר לו גדל

Neusner’s translation:

Said R. Simon, ‘There is not a single herb which is not subject to the influence of a planet in heaven, which smites it and says to it, “Grow!”‘

As Manuscript Boy notes, it’s “Not whispers but beatings. Other than that, it’s pretty close.”

Potter “according to the Scriptures”?

The Deathly Hallows book coverThis weekend, my wife and I finished reading the latest and last installment of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, The Deathly Hallows. I must admit I have been a late-comer to the Potter craze, having read the series only in the last year or so. I suffered from the weariness that many have had regarding Potter, worrying about its lack of reference to God (or even a god), as well as its glib portrayal of “magic.” Being raised in a Pentecostal setting — where folks could suffer from the “demon of vitamin B-12 deficiency” — I thought more than twice before delving into the witchery & wizardry of Rowling’s world. Still, my wife had read the series repeatedly, and as far as I could tell, she had NOT started to projectile vomit green pea soup, and her head never did start revolving. So, I thought it might be safe to read the books myself. (Don’t mind the ethical problem of using my wife for a spiritual guinea pig!)

Anyway, back to The Deathly Hallows. In this latest installment Rowling makes her first overt allusions to Scripture. Two verses are quoted:

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21/Luke 12:34; Hallows, 325)

and

“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:26; Hallows, 328)

Rowling does not explicitly cite these passages as Scripture, and the characters in the story do not recognize the texts as Christian Scripture. Indeed, regarding the passage from the Gospels, Harry “did not understand what these words meant” (326). Also, Harry mistook Paul’s words about death as “a Death Eater idea” (328). Hermione corrected him, explaining that “It means . . . you know . . . living beyond death. Living after death” (328). These verses “pop up” at a key part of the book, and they fit with overarching themes of the series, and indeed this latest volume. (I won’t go into detail, as I’d rather not contribute to the mass of spoilers on the web.) I will say this. These clear references to Scripture actually pale in comparison to the symbolism (dare I say typology?) of this book.

I will be interested to see whether or not Christian opinions of Rowling’s work will change in the upcoming months. Will she be viewed as the postmodern Lewis or Tolkien? Will she be seen as an “angel of light” seeking to draw folks in to a syncretist faith? It will also be interesting to see how Rowling responds to Christian critics and fans in the near future, given the note upon which the series ends. In the year 2000, when asked about her own faith — whether she was a Christian — Rowling responded:

Yes, I am, . . . Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.*

Similarly she responds about her belief in God/magic:

JK: I do believe in God. That seems to offend the South Carolinians more than almost anything else. I think they would find it…well that is my limited experience, that they have more of a problem with me believing in God than they would have if I was an unrepentant atheist.

E: You do believe in God.

JK: Yeah. Yeah.

E: In magic and…

JK: Magic in the sense in which it happens in my books, no, I don’t believe. I don’t believe in that. No. No. This is so frustrating. Again, there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I’ve written book seven. But then maybe you won’t need to even say it ’cause you’ll have found it out anyway. You’ll have read it.**

Now that the last book is published, and the final plot revealed, perhaps Rowling will be more forthcoming about her faith, and whether she intended to tap theological themes in a manner similar to Tolkien and Lewis.

I’m tired. I’m going to take my vitamin B-12 supplement and go to bed.


* Quoted from Max Wyman, “‘You can lead a fool to a book but you can’t make them think’: Author has frank words for the religious right,” The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia), October 26, 2000 [reproduced at accio-quote.org].
** Quoted from Evan Solomon, “J.K. Rowling Interview,” CBCNewsWorld: Hot Type, July 13, 2000 [reproduced at accio-quote.org].

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