Worthy, Part 23

img_9788-4

As Abigail nears graduation, she becomes more apprehensive about her plans for afterward. She’s all but completely decided she’ll head back to Seattle, and there’s a genetics lab there which she interviewed with at a career fair who’s expressed an interest in having her work for them. She does not look forward to leaving behind her friends and newly acquired family. Her greatest apprehension comes from the inevitable talk she must have with Lauren.

Since they’ve been together, Abigail has developed a deep affection for Lauren, but she’s always felt something was lacking in their relationship. Lauren seems to feel it, too. Several months earlier, she suggested Abigail move in with her, but quickly let the matter drop when Abigail couldn’t commit. In considering the offer, Abigail realized she likes having a place to retreat once their dates are over. They always have lots of fun together, but there’s much about Abigail’s life she has yet to share and she hasn’t questioned Lauren much about her past. While Lauren did meet Rhiannon while she was staying with Abigail, Abigail has yet to meet any of Lauren’s family, even though they live in the suburbs of Portland.

For his part, Neil deals with the change in his usual nonchalant fashion.

“Seattle’s not that far away,” he says, “and they’ve got a great music scene up there.”

“How do you think the band will handle not having me around?”

“We’ll probably break up. But we pretty much do that every week anyway.”

For advice on how to handle the trickier issue of Lauren, Abigail phones Jillian. They haven’t seen one another since just after Rhiannon’s accident, but they talk occasionally on the phone whenever Abigail needs some advice.

Jillian takes her usual blunt position.

“The sex is okay, isn’t it?”

“That has never been a problem, and I’m not going to elaborate any further so don’t ask.”

“Okay. Okay. You’re always so cerebral about these things. Relationships need to be more organic.”

“Isn’t the fact that I’m questioning it suggestive of a problem?”

“Well, yes. It certainly doesn’t imply things are going smoothly. I mean, you’re talking to me now and not her.”

“I’m aware of that. I just don’t want to hurt her.”

“Sweetie, you’re going to hurt her a lot more by avoiding it. From what you’ve told me, it sounds like she’s already pretty well clued in. I doubt you’ll be telling her anything she doesn’t already know.”

“You’re probably right.”

“Of course I’m right. I’ve been to this rodeo a few times. Trust me, it never gets easier. It’s best to acknowledge you’re moving in different directions and part as friends.”

“Well, I’ll get my chance soon enough. We’re seeing Sarah McLachlan tomorrow.”

“I’m envious. I missed her in San Francisco last month.”

“Wish me luck.”

“Forget luck. Use tact. Speak from your heart and avoid cliches. Things go much better when they’re real.”

“Got it.”

Trumpland Trumpland Uber Alles

 Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Fountain Hills, AZ. Photo by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/. Cropped and autocorrected.


Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Fountain Hills, AZ. Photo by Gage Skidmore
https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/. Cropped and autocorrected.

In an article posted to this blog in November of 2015, I outlined how Donald Trump could become the 45th President of the United States. At that time, he was one of sixteen Republican candidates, most of whom had better qualifications, organizations, and support from the party than him. Now, he’s the Republican nominee and will face Hillary Clinton in the general election in November. Despite his current shortfalls in support, and numerous missteps on the campaign trail, he still has a very strong chance of being elected, and wishing this wasn’t the case won’t make him go away. The same arguments which were used to demonstrate why he wouldn’t get the nomination are now being used to show why he won’t be elected. They are just as false now as they were then. In a nutshell, the people who want to see Trump as president are united; the people who don’t are not.

The problem is painfully familiar. Every time the Democrats become overconfident, they lose — every time. People are quick to point to polls that show Clinton ahead by a significant amount but these polls are meaningless and hurt more than help Clinton’s chances. If we get to November with Clinton still holding a comfortable lead, many in the electorate may conclude Clinton has the election in the bag and won’t need their votes. Once these voters check out of the process, Trump’s chances skyrocket. People simply don’t like Clinton. It may not be logical for people to feel that way, but guess what? People aren’t logical. If Democrats focus all their efforts on getting Clinton elected they will lose and lose big. The Democrats need to shift the focus away from electing Clinton and instead focus on retaking the House and Senate. If the electorate can be convinced they have a stake in the election, they’ll be more likely to turn out and Clinton will benefit by proxy. Clinton’s biggest challenge is to not make any missteps between now and the election and to give Trump plenty of leeway to make a fool of himself.

Clinton is very predictable. Her record as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State is there for all to see. If she’s elected, not much will change. She may be more militaristic than Obama, but from a policy standpoint, she’ll toe the party line and everyone knows this. If the Democrats manage to take back one or both houses of Congress, she’ll be in a position to accomplish quite a bit, but the Republicans will oppose her just as rabidly as they have Obama and her husband before her. A number of Republicans have already raised the specter of impeachment with the election still more than two months away.

Comparing Trump to a certain German chancellor from the first half of the twentieth century is misguided. That individual was focused and had a very specific agenda. Trump is not focused and has no discernible agenda. He says whatever people want to hear and nothing more. The trick Donald Trump has been able to pull off is to fool his supporters into thinking he’s anti-establishment, when in fact a wealthy real estate mogul is the very definition of establishment. Trump is dangerous because he’s unpredictable. No one knows what he would do as president, not even him. We can’t believe anything he says, not even when he’s making fascist or racist statements. He’s the ultimate frat boy, a dittohead who’s made something of himself in spite of himself. He says outrageous things because he can get away with it. When the Clintons were in power in the 90s he was their best friend. Now, he sees an opportunity to expand his brand, and he’ll ride it for as far as he can, even into the White House.

If Trump gets elected, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves. It’s not the Sanders supporters, nor the people who might vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein who’ll be at fault. It will be the Democrats, who put forth yet another problematic candidate who doesn’t speak to the needs of the constituents. For all of her qualifications, which admittedly make her the most experienced person in the race, Hillary Clinton is not perceived as a candidate for the people. In many ways, she’s the new millennium’s equivalent of Ted Kennedy and faces an uphill battle to win the White House. No, this doesn’t make sense, but when have elections in the US ever made sense? At this point the only person who has a realistic chance of stopping Trump is Trump himself and that doesn’t seem likely to happen, though with Trump, anything’s possible.

Real Bible Studies: Kings & Chronicles 

img_6262

Nowhere is the piecemeal nature of the Bible more evident than in the books detailing the kings of Israel and Judah from the time of David’s ascension to the time Babylon sacks Jerusalem and burns the temple. Kings and Chronicles are each broken up into two books, but according to sources, in the Hebrew Bible, each was originally a single volume. The narrative flow of Kings is disrupted by the break, which occurs during the story of Ahaziah of Israel, while Chronicles is less so, book one ending with David’s final days and book two beginning with Solomon building the temple.

While both collections tell essentially the same story, and appear to be based on the same source material, volumes referred to as The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, there are numerous differences between the two, suggesting they were written by different authors for different purposes and combined in the Jewish scriptures without making any attempt to reconcile the differences. Kings references the source material as two works, one for Israel, one for Judah, but Chronicles often references it as one work. This may indicate that by the time the author of Chronicles was writing, the texts had been combined into one. Even in translation, the books have a different feel to them, Kings a bit more flowery in its descriptions than Chronicles, and a good deal more concise, Kings at a combined forty-seven chapters and Chronicles at a combined sixty-five.

Kings alternates between the stories of Israel and Judah, from their status as a unified kingdom under David and Solomon, to independent entities following Solomon’s reign. Chronicles concerns itself exclusively with Judah, only bringing in relevant facts about Israel when the king being profiled interacts with his counterpart in Israel. Kings often uses the reign of the opposing king to date his counterpart; for instance, Ahaziah becomes king of Israel in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat’s reign in Judah. Chronicles is far more sympathetic to the House of David than is Kings, which reports the failings of the kings of Judah with the same critical eye the kings of Israel receive. This also means the author of Kings has to come up with excuses for why Judah doesn’t suffer the same fate as Israel, despite committing the same offenses. This is usually accomplished by citing God’s commitment to David.

First Chronicles is complicated by having the first nine chapters provide a painstakingly tedious recitation of the genealogies of every generation between Adam and David. I haven’t taken the time to check this genealogy against others that occur within the Bible, but it doesn’t just document a single line down to a specific individual, though it does end with Saul’s death and David becoming king of the unified kingdom. The genealogy covers most of the major figures in the narrative up to that point, and also provides some details about other tribes such as Edom. Even after David comes into the story, at just about every step, the author provides lists of David or one of his descendants’ followers, names and numbers of different tribes, sizes and weights of the materials used in constructing various buildings, and other trivial facts surrounding the kings. There’s some of this in Kings as well, but Chronicles takes it to ludicrous extremes.

One of the significant differences concerns the building of the first temple, as well as the portrayal of Solomon. In Kings, David wants to build a temple to the Lord but is told, without much elaboration, that it’s Solomon’s responsibility to do so. In Chronicles, David is also told it’s Solomon’s responsibility, but this time is given the explanation that David is a man of war and the temple must be built by a man of peace. In Kings, it’s Solomon who provides this information after David has died, but he puts a slightly different spin on it. Nevertheless, in Chronicles, David assumes all of the responsibility for everything short of actually building the temple, designing it, financing it, hiring the workers, electing priests, designating all the temple personnel, in addition to naming Solomon as his successor. In this version of the story, David’s decision to designate Solomon as the next king is to facilitate Solomon building the temple, not in reaction to Adonijah’s challenge to the throne as related in Kings. There’s also none of the palace intrigue of Solomon eliminating his older brother after taking the throne, or having to rid himself of his father’s army commander or other enemies at David’s insistence.

In Chronicles, Solomon is depicted as young, inexperienced, and totally devoted to doing the work of God, not the cunning politician ruthlessly consolidating his rule as depicted in Kings. Also, Kings reports that later in life Solomon married wives from the surrounding nations, and often worshipped other gods earning the disfavor of the God of his ancestors. Chronicles doesn’t mention any of this, portraying Solomon as a wise and godly ruler throughout his reign. Kings is also the source for the story of Solomon deciding between two mothers arguing over a child, perhaps his most famous decision. Chronicles doesn’t mention it, though it does laud the wisdom of Solomon.

Both narratives agree on the dimensions of the temple (1 Kings 6 & 2 Chronicles 2): Sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, thirty cubits high, with a portico twenty cubits wide. Footnotes in the NIV interpret the dimensions as 90 feet (27 meters) long, 30 feet (9 meters) wide and 45 feet (14 meters) high. By way of comparison, the US White House is 168 feet (51.2 meters) long, 85 feet 6 inches (26.1 meters) wide without porticos and 152 feet wide with porticos. In Kings the father of Huram, the metal worker, is from Tyre and his mother is from the tribe of Naphtali. In Chronicles, he’s Huram-Abi and his mother is from Dan. Both narratives also state that David took a census of the people which earned the disfavor of God, prompting a punishment, but Chronicles states Solomon later used the census to find foreigners to press into service in the building the temple.

Kings is preceded in the Protestant Bible by first and second Samuel, and Chronicles is followed by Ezra, giving a full accounting of Israel and Judah from the anointing of Saul to the return of exiles from Babylon under Cyrus of Persia. Both Kings and Chronicles make it clear throughout that they’re only summarizing the source material, the aforementioned Chronicles of the Kings of whichever kingdom is being profiled. It seems clear that whoever wrote Chronicles intended to promote the Davidic line of kings, and also show that Israel’s problems arose from failing to follow the word of God as written in the Commandments and Leviticus. During the reign of Josiah, a text was discovered during the renovation of the temple which most scholars agree was Deuteronomy, which purports to be the last commentary by Moses. The initial intent of Kings is less apparent, stating kings failed to remain faithful to their God, but not hammering home the idea that this is what led to the destruction of Israel or the exile of Judah. The prophets Elijah and Elisha are prominent figures in Kings, but since their dealings were mostly with Israel, they’re hardly mentioned in Chronicles.

Chronicles ends with Cyrus, king of Persia issuing his decree allowing the Jews in exile in Babylon to return to Jerusalem, which is picked up in Ezra, almost without a break. Kings ends with the release of King Jehoiachin, one of the last kings of pre-exile Judah from captivity in Babylon, but he’s not allowed to return to Jerusalem. This suggests the writer was aware of these events but not of the return from exile and gives a clue as to when Kings was compiled. It also gives us a clue to who wrote the history, since this person appears to have access to official documents pertaining to the reigns of the Davidic kings. Most of those carted off were among the upper eschelons of society.

Arabia Mountain Trail, July-August, 2016

Here’s a collection of photos and videos from Arabia Mountain Trail in Lithonia, GA, which were posted to my Instagram account gmatt63.