About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Old-Time Religion

“Give me that old-time religion, give me that old-time religion ...” American fundamentalists of all different stripes bellow against progress in church, culture and theology.
“Give me that old-time religion,” I hum along! But there is a stark difference in what they and I understand by the “old-times”. For them it is a nostalgia after unreflected, superstitious, mostly rural religiosity of few past decades. For me it is something substantially older, and also more intriguing, interesting and deeply spiritual. Let me explain.
Epos of Gilgamesh, tablet 11 (the Flood story) in Akkadian
from The British Museum
     In the 19th century, first explorers and later archeologists started to return from Middle East with wild stories about ancient monuments, forgotten cities and cultures: first Egypt, later Mesopotamia, then Syria, Palestine. The spectacularly sophisticated and rich cultures were discovered with their artefacts, inscriptions and texts.
    At first, people of faith welcomed these discoveries as they seemed to confirm biblical accounts. There was also great rejoicing over the ancient texts as they contained similar, sometimes almost identical stories to those in the Bible. Soon this rejoicing turned into awkwardness. Ancient myths were clearly older and they were in their nature non-orthodox(polytheistic). In addition the better understanding of ancient cultures only highlighted discrepancies and contradictions in the Bible.
    Fundamentalists started to ignore, reject or condemn the older versions of these myths.  Mainline theology developed a “clever” strategy in dealing with these shared mythical tradition. Ancient myths were to be taken as a common religious and cultural substrate, while true theological value was to be found not in those original myths, but in the ways in which they were appropriated, twisted, and turned to serve Judeo-Christian theology (orthodox agenda). And right here I call “Give me that old-time religion!” I want back those original ancient stories, I want to take them seriously in their original meaning.
    Those millennia old myths have deep cultural, religious and spiritual value in themselves, not only in the way in which they were (mis)appropriated in the Bible. Take for instance the Flood story. It s not only an inspiration for cute Sunday School murals or a simple morality story about sinful humankind, obedient Noah and the vengeful LORD who eventually gives a “covenant” never to allow Earth destruction again. In its Mesopotamian form it is also a stark reminder of the power of angry nature (or gods of nature) and the always-present potential for broad ranging environmental catastrophe in the finite world. Beyond the orthodox morality story, it is so much more - it is an old archetypal story of great significance, particularly relevant in our times of global warming and shared with the most ancient civilizations known to us.
    Taking seriously this truly “Old-Time Religion” (not just recent nostalgic fakery) can be surprisingly spiritual. This Sunday we will take one such ancient biblical myth -the  Song of Sophia, the song of Divine Wisdom from the book of Proverbs and we will allow her to speak to our current social and religious issues of gender-justice, social-justice and eco-justice. Come to sing with us and rejoice in the Song of Wisdom.

And here are links to some older articles in this blog about other historical and archeological discoveries which upset more traditional view of the Biblical theology: Did YHWH have a wife? How many gods made up God?

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