I am still doing the research for the class whose name is the name of this blog. I realized I won’t have time to read as much more as I wanted to for the series–I am reading Zornberg’s The Beginnings of Desire and Bill Moyer’s Genesis. I am only writing about the Abraham stories, but I figured to read the best and most interesting writers on the subject would be the best place to start my lecture series. I wish I had time to read Whitehead’s Process and Reality and Adventures of Ideas; and Hegel’s Phenology of Spirit; and even a little Charles Hartshorne before doing my lecture. I already read Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling) and Thomas Mann (Joseph and His Brothers) for the book. I also read all kinds of religious sources for the book.
What I hope to exemplify in my series is that a story like Abraham’s changes meaning in every retelling. That as people express different parts of the ancient story, it both changes and stays the same. This is like what I hope to write about The Bible According to Eve. Of course I did not do more than retell ancient stories. Yet those stories–I hope–expressed new ideas. And that comes to the book I have read only part of, Whitehead’s Adventures of Ideas.
In what I read of it, Whitehead expressed the belief that Roman slaves–the ones who converted to Christianity–loved its idea that they deserved to be free. And they kept the dream alive. Now in the modern age, he said, men are finally becoming what God intended: Free. He was not brave enough to hope for it for the 3rd World. Yet I sincerely hope that it comes for them, too… Thomas Jefferson was brave enough to hope Progress was a viable philosophy. For all that at the moment it does not look like it in America–for all that we all are suffering from COVID-19 in varying degrees and had Donald Trump as President, we must not give up on what is good about America. We must not give up on Freedom.
At the same time… like the ancient Jews we must believe we have “freedom for” something. We are a free people who worship God in our own peculiar way. Americans singing in “America the Beautiful” that our King is God. It has been our belief since our nation’s founding that though there are many different ways of worshipping God, He is the only King worth having. I remember as a kid reading Samuel’s lecture to the Israelites about the rapacious nature of kings. I savored it: the Jewish prophet understood what the founders did, if in a little way. He understood that his country did not need a King.
Yet perhaps God is not really our King, but our Father and our Friend. Perhaps, after all, our Creator only was addressed as King in that point of Jewish history because that was how the Jews understood God. Perhaps there will be a new and better way at the end of History. I will type a prayer I wrote for the Jewish people that I doubt will ever be read by anyone in particular except the people who read my Blog. Here it is:
Our Father Abraham dreamed dreams;
our Mother Sarah’s earthly roots,
helped them find Promised Israel.
He grew in his faith; so do we.
If Abraham’s faith was a birth,
and Egypt its own Akedah
with Israel’s move to the Land
a kind of adolescence which
is recreated at Passover.
Yet, we still grow to know God more
in Democratic Ages, too.
We add these words to ancient ones:
our God is Sovereign to us,
his citizens who elect him
as pious living descendants
of the Friend Father Abraham
found in the Middle Eastern dream
he shared with Mother Sarah who
was the wife supporting his cause.
Yet in a sense our God always
is Father, Friend of Abraham.
We say this, because God is
always One open to our faith
in the New Ideas we have.
God does not lose Faith in the Jews—
a nation of the nations which
is also a group promised Him—
like Isaac at the Akedah.
The Jews love wholeheartedly their Friend.
They find new ways to Honor him.
He is the Father loving them
and guaranteeing them long life.
For God Is, Was, and Shall Be.
He loves his children forever,
from this World to the World-to-Come,
He’s God to Sacred Ancestors
who will live in us forever.
I saw a commercial that had Dan Rather–a reporter from the World War II generation–say that we must have faith that “better days will come again.” Actually, that’s a paraphrase. I don’t remember the real words. Yet is that healthy optimism that made our country great–but more, that made us good.
As much as I did not want Donald Trump elected, and wish his fans would realize they are worshipping and dying for a narcissist, I still believe in the Founder’s Dream of Democracy, beginning at home. That is why the next generation needs to put things back together again. More, I hope they become enthused with American history and politics, and that some of them join in the fray in a bigger way than I ever want to. Yet I hope if they do they will hold onto the knowledge that whatever you hope to become, you need to be a good person, first. It is not enough to succeed. A person has to be good, too.
I hope this doesn’t sound like the ramblings of a nut. The truth is, I am still recovering from a bout of insanity that I wrote about last time. Yet I shall recover. If ever I succeed in my dream of being a great writer, I will know that just by holding onto childish dreams and working hard, I have finally won the prize that the Apostle Paul (I know, I am a Jew) claimed every Christian does:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:
and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
I guess though I read the Talmud more than the Gospels now, I want to believe that I have kept the faith with something even higher than the Torah: God. Though the Torah may come next and then America, I want to believe that I kept the faith with them to. So if there is anyone who doesn’t mind listening to a deranged nut about her faith, do what you do with God and Country in your heart.