July 6th, 2008

Indy Says Study History

Theological Notebook: The NYT Tells Us Another Artifact Threatens To Destroy Christianity. Again.

itihasa drew my attention to a New York Times article with her blurb: A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. The discussion on her post consisted of a lot of *facepalm* kinds of comments, and no little laughter. While there were a number of people excited to read some actual scholarship on the artifact, most were commenting on the awful yellow journalism of the article itself. The fact that I see so much of this sort of thing in the Times makes me both annoyed and a bit frightened, as I commented:
"NEWLY DISCOVERED ARTIFACT ADDS NEW NUANCES TO SCHOLARLY EXAMINATION OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE CONTEXT OF SECOND TEMPLE JUDAISM"

or

"NEWLY DISCOVERED ARTIFACT THREATENS TO DESTROY CHRISTIANITY"

Every new artifact or text seems to get the second treatment – some folks here cited The Gospel of Judas as the last time we were treated to this noise – because it seems that in the mind of the unimaginative news editor, only the latter option can possibly be newsworthy. Whether this reflects a lack of depth in understanding subtleties of historical research or whether it indicates a certain longing deep in the hearts of the newspaper's staff is ambiguous.

The fact that I so consistently see headlines like this in the New York Times in my field makes me suspect that it isn't as far removed from the National Inquirer as it would like to imagine. That makes me more than a bit worried when I think to read the Times seriously in all the fields I'm not a specialist in. Would that they had the imagination to hire someone with a theological degree who could recognize the difference between those offering serious and modest scholarly comment and those engaging in self-promotion or hucksterism. I'm amazed that they can have the quality of someone like Peter Steinfels on their staff and at the same time print such hokum in what could have been a serious article.
I wonder if I ought to convert that into a Letter to the Editor. The question would be whether to significantly tame it down or whether to really try to shame them into some sort of self-awareness: the latter is more effective, in a sense, but has a slim chance of succeeding if the target is convinced of their all-knowingness because, hey – they work for the Times.

We'll have to see if this thing gets the full treatment: specials on the Discovery and History Channels and the like. If so, it might earn a chapter in that book I'd like to write someday: The Total, Complete, and Final Destruction of Christianity: A History
Doctor Fate

Personal/Random: Deathstroke Dream

Heading outside to do some more reading, but wanted to jot this down, first. The apartment got stuffy in the late afternoon as I was reading, and I fell asleep and dreamt.

I was in some place conducting some heavy industrial production with my brother Joe: steel pouring, robots spot-welding things like on a Chrysler production line, the works. But also all very high-tech. I had a flatish silver thing in my hand, rather like one of those cased razors you use when you are scraping old paint off of glass, which I offered to Mom, who was also involved in this venture, and which had the unique virtue of suspending time for 53 seconds while allowing you to continue moving. We laughed over the similarity to its being like the gold watch in a corny made-for-TV movie I'd seen as a kid called The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything, but then she declined using it, which annoyed me to no end as it was perfect for what she was trying to do, which I seem to remember having to do with replacing a door knob, which makes no sense whatsoever.

This was supposedly tied in with the industrial thing I was doing with Joe, and which began to result in pieces of metal occasionally flying out from the process, which I had to knock away from me with a piece of metal that then morphed into a samurai sword for the task. Suddenly the whole scene changed and I was proctoring/participating in a nighttime neighbourhood cross country foot/motor race/obstacle course/duel composed of pre-teen kids (some of whom I think might have been LOMC campers of mine years ago) while still wielding the sword but now dressed as/playing the role of Deathstroke the Terminator, all set to "Beds Are Burning" (Tamarama Mix, to be precise) by Midnight Oil.
Dear Brain,

WTF?!