DeVos: Things change |

DeVos: Things change

Jon DeVos
Staff Photo |

Now I know why street people object to being profiled. Last week I got accosted by a person who doesn’t know me at all, calling me a moral relativist. I was uncertain what that means but I chose to be flattered, assuming I’d gotten a chuckle in a previous column over the international uproar over the tango a hundred years ago.

My accoster left no doubt that I was hellbound, using a lot of thunderous pulpitspeak to put me in my place. They also inferred that because I merely mentioned the word abortion that I endorse pulling baby parts out of women (untrue). What I do heartily endorse is that the world could be a better place if people minded their own business.

Let adults make their own decisions about their own bodies. Except when it comes to gruesome tattoos. I’m dead square against gruesome tattoos on anybody, especially those handlebar things women put on their … well, that’s another column.

To me, it is sheer arrogance to advocate for, and likewise to legislate against, personal choices that irritate someone else’s perception of a Universal Moral Law. Is their God so anemic that He needs their help? What astonishing arrogance! If God is keeping an eye on the sparrows, He or She probably has a grip on people’s personal decisions without reading picket slogans and consulting state laws.

Hmm, the Universal Moral Law must refer to the Bible because for Christians, what else is there? But while God may have inspired early writers of the Bible, kings and librarians have had a dramatic hand in what remains between the covers of the 1.9 billion Gideon Bibles found in hotel nightstands.

For instance, have you ever read the Gospel of Thomas? Probably not, but it’s an important work. In the year 340 C.E., Eusebius, the Bishop of Rome made three piles of papyrus scrolls that were biblical contenders. The first pile was the obvious rejects, the second were maybes, and the third were works that complemented and supported the prevailing Christian ideals. There was a great body of holy writings to choose among, but the Gospel of Thomas was left out solely because sometime in the prior 300 years, some librarian misfiled part of it. So the Thomas’ Gospel was rejected because it was incomplete.

Nearly 30 years later, in 367 C.E. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, embraced Eusebius’ top picks and essentially embalmed the 27 books of the New Testament, banning any and all other documents from the Christian canon.

Then, nothing happened for 1,600 years until 1947 when a farmer, digging bat manure out of a cave in northern Egypt, made a startling discovery, one that is beginning to widen our understanding of Jesus and his message. The farmer uncovered a large earthen jar packed with ancient scrolls including the complete text of the Gospel of Thomas. The jar also contained two other complete scrolls of the Gospel of Phillip and the Gospel of Truth, both previously unknown.

Conservatives quickly branded the discovery as forgeries but carbon dating and other growing evidence is verifying their authenticity. In fact, the Gospel of Thomas looks as if it was the source material for the 3 synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and may have been written as much as 20 years before them, around 50 C.E. Synoptic merely means the three gospels are very similar in content, structure and chronology and likely evolved from the same original source, i.e. the Gospel of Thomas.

Today, Americans are turning away from organized religion in unprecedented numbers. Religious affiliation has dropped 8 percentage points in the last seven years, a net of about 5 million people. The only increase was a slight one among evangelical Protestants. The greatest decrease is among millennials; more than 35 percent claim no religion.

Despite each generation wishing it were not so, every generation breaks with the past. Ideals, goals and even concepts like good, evil and morality get defined anew as civilizations advance and decline.

When it comes to people who believe in the literal Bible, there’s comfort to be found there, more for what it symbolizes than what it says because so many fundamentalists have trivialized the message with cherry-picked sound bites without really digging into the content of the Bible.

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