The Latest from Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Hello all,

This is an intimate message from the Ritland Rambler himself, one Erik Ritland.

I’ve been writing blogs under some semblance of the Rambling On name since 2012. It started with a weekly run of several articles (in a newspaper type format) in January and February 2012. I quickly ran out of funding to keep it going, and after a second attempt in the summer I had to reconsider my direction.

Throughout 2013 I wrote a few blogs under the Music, Sports, and Sunday Ramble names. Finally in April 2014 I launched the latest version of Rambling On, a regular blog and podcast, that I’ve been running ever since.

Speaking of, Rambling On is seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. I encourage you to check it out.

I’ve kept each of the former incarnations/incantations of my rambles up for the sake of archive. Enjoy them but be sure to check out the latest and greatest stuff at http://www.ramblingon.net.

Erik Ritland Archive Sites

Rambling On (original series)
The original run of seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. Archived winter and summer 2012.

Music Ramble
Longer articles about music of all kinds. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sports Ramble   Local and national sports coverage. Mainly baseball and football related but some commentary on hockey and basketball as well. Archived from 2012-2014.

Ritland Ramble
Erik’s former culture blog. Society, politics, current events, and more. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sunday Ramble
Religious commentary. Archived from 2012-2013.

Daily Ramble
Daily blogs covering sports, music, culture, and more from January 2014.

The Weekly Ritland
Short-lived site that linked to each article I had posted for that week. Archived September 2012.

Main Ramble
Articles about politics and culture from the original run of Rambling On in 2012. Archived fall 2012.

Football Ramble
Commentary on the first few weeks of the 2012 football season. Another project that ran out of funding. Archived fall 2012.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

In Our Own Image

969940_510713322310573_1445846187_n-1Things Jesus Never Said is one of the funniest Christian memes. If you’re a far-left leaning Christian you may not think so, but even then you have to admit that they’re clever. This is one of my favorites.

From the beginning of Christianity people have had trouble accepting the message of Jesus. Gnostics, who believed that the material world is evil, couldn’t accept that God would become a man. So they changed that part of the message of Jesus, claiming instead he was actually something like a vampire. Jehovah’s Witnesses couldn’t accept teachings about the Trinity. Seventh Day Adventists use bogus history to discount Sunday being the day that Christian’s worshiped. And so on and so on.

The most recent form of this is modifying anything that goes against cultural norms or popular political leanings. For these people faith becomes simply one of many branches of their individual personality. I follow this or that political agenda, I’m a member of the YMCA, I like spaghetti…and I’m a Christian. Each aspect is simply what makes them who they are. It’s not the belief that’s important or has any sway over them, it’s how they fit the belief into what makes them who they are.

Worse than phony, this type of “Christianity” is destructive. If God is real, if Christianity is the truth, then faith and adherence to God’s revelations should be what guides everything that makes a person who they are. It should be what everything in a person’s life falls into place around. If something in Christianity doesn’t fit into a worldview then it’s the worldview that should be reconsidered, not Christianity that should be revised to fit into it.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

The Eternal Horizon of Chesterton’s Acrobat

In his article “A Word on Behalf of Adulthood” from the December/January issue of Gilbert Magazine, David Fagerberg brings to light a startling image from English poet, philosopher, writer and theologian G.K. Chesterton’s book on St. Francis of Assisi:

Chesterton said that St. Francis came out of the cave like an acrobat, walking on his hands, which gave him a unique perspective on the world. He saw Assisi upside down, and its massive stone foundations now looked perilous instead of permanent, because it threatened to fall if God did not hold it steadfast. “The very word dependence only means hanging.”

Chesterton’s writing is filled with thought-provoking images like this. His Francis discovers the impermanent fragility of life by literally looking at the world upside down. We are as dependent as the massive stone foundations that Francis saw suspended from the earth.

We can learn this without having to stand on our hands. Fagerberg continues:

But you do not have to upend like an acrobat, or become helpless like a child, in order to appreciate that the temporal is temporary. You can appreciate it by growing up, by taking the measure of things, and discovering how small – even if delightful – the things of this world are when placed against an eternal horizon. Regrettably, most of our world is unconscious of that horizon and so rather childish in their responses to life.

Maturity is understanding that life is placed against the eternal horizon. Pleasure isn’t evil and neither is the physical world. They both, in their proper context at least, can be holy, are made to be holy. But that temporal and temporary have the same root is not a coincidence. Becoming conscious of the eternal horizon is a necessary part of growing up.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He writes frequent Daily Rambles and Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

A Basic Introduction to the Book of Daniel

Note: there are links to Wikipedia articles about some of the topics that I gloss over that may be unfamiliar

Sources
The Navarre Bible: Major Prophets  —  The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible — The Oxford Jewish Study Bible  —  The Companion Bible  —  The Scofield Reference Bible  —   Zondervan NASB Study Bible  —  Study Bible: The New Student Bible (RSV)

daniel2

An icon of the prophet Daniel.

The book of Daniel is a series of visions, stories, and prophecies by the prophet. They take place during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews in the 6th century BC.

Throughout the book Daniel and his friends refuse to deny and blaspheme their Jewish faith. They are then punished in various ways (fiery furnace, lion’s den, etc.) but are never hurt, which forces the kings that attempt to punish them to acknowledge the God of Israel and worship Him.

Another major part of the book is Daniel’s visions of the future. He uses beautiful, complex imagery to lay out the history of the Babylonian kings and the various kings and kingdoms that come after them, all the way up to the time right before the Maccabean revolt of 164 BC.

There are two main interpretations of the book of Daniel. The most widely recognized, both by Catholic and non-Christian scholars alike, is that it was written not during the Babylonian Exile but right before the Maccabean revolt. Evidence includes the inclusion of words that weren’t used until after the exile, historical inaccuracies, and other seemingly conclusive points (see Navarre, Interpreter’s, JSB). According to this view a pious Jew wrote under the name of the renowned prophet Daniel (and collected traditions that had been circulating in his name) to create the book we have today.

The alternative, more mysterious view is that it was actually written by Daniel around the time of the Babylonian exile. In this case the prophecies of the book actually predict the future. Zondervan and the Companion Bible are hostile to the commonly held interpretation of authorship around 164 BC, claiming that it is only fashionable because of the contemporary anti-supernaturalist worldview that the future cannot be predicted. To them, not only does Daniel predict the future of the Jewish people after the exile, he even predicts the coming of Christ and events that still haven’t happened yet that will lead to the end of the world.

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Painting of the famous story of Daniel in the lion’s den.

I’m still sort of on the fence, as there are some interesting loose ends that cannot be tied up by the proponents of the more popular view. Daniel is written in three languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Both Interpreter’s and Nevarre Bible admit that there is no conclusive interpretation as to why this is the case. I guess those who hold the other view don’t have any better explanation, but this proves to me that there may be more to Daniel than meets the eye.

The most convincing piece of evidence of the fringe view is their claim that scholars have what kingdoms Daniel is talking about wrong. According to the scholarly view they are Babylonian, Persian, Mede, and Greek. The alternate view supposes that these kingdoms are the Babylonain, Persian-Mede, Greek, and Roman (significant because anything about Rome would have to be Daniel predicting the future, even if he wrote in 164 BC). If this is true then the supposed historical inaccuracies in Daniel may actually be accurate, they’re just talking about different kingdoms than the scholars are looking for. If this is the case there’s even the chance that Daniel records the history of kings that are lost to time except from their references in this book.

While the fringe view has some interesting points – it certainly intrigues me – I’m more inclined to believe the widely accepted view. It doesn’t help that almost every person who believes in the fringe view uses Daniel in conjunction with the book of Revelation in ways that I know the book of Revelation is not trying to do (that is, predict anything concrete about the future other than the fact that God wins). If there were mainline scholars, Catholic or Protestant or otherwise, that believed this about Daniel then I’d be more inclined to believe it.

dan3The main points of the book, regardless of authorship, are the most important part about it anyway. The biggest overall point, somewhat ironically considering how the fringe view sees things, is very much like the main point of the book of Revelation: that God wins in the end. God will destroy every evil. In the end every tongue will confess, and every knee will bow, to God. No matter how bleak things may look, no matter how often kings and the world seems to “win,” no matter what persecution God’s people have to endure, God will always be victorious. Those who are faithful to Him will receive glory, honor, and eternal life.

In Daniel those who deny God even in this life bow down and worship Him because of his miraculous signs, while in Revelation this is something that will happen in the future. These stories in Daniel emphasize the message that even the evil rulers of this age have to acknowledge God, even if those who ruled at the time didn’t. This certainly added an extra layer of hope.

And that is the most important thing. Regardless of when it was written or who wrote it the main point is that we should all be faithful to God. That He will win in the end is one of the most important, timeless lessons that anyone can learn.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

 

A reflection on Wisdom 7:7-11

Wisdom 7:7-11

7 Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.

8 I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.

9 Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her.

10 I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases.

11 All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth.

Wise King Solomon.

Wisdom, in the Judeo-Christian sense, is impossible to attain alone, isolated, by individual achievement. It takes a reliance on God outside of yourself, reaching out to God, and talking to Him intimately. I prayed and understanding was given; I called upon God and wisdom came to me. It takes praying, calling on God, to make things happen. Prayer is a real, intimate experience with God and incalculable good comes from it.

In this passage Solomon compares wisdom to things in life that people often covet: power, money, health, and beauty. He refers to wisdom with feminine pronouns –  isn’t this fitting? She is preferred to political power, wealth is nothing compared to her, all gold is but a little sand, and even light is unnecessary as her radiance never ceases. The main point is that the pursuit of wisdom is vitally important. This is a crucial theme throughout both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament.

Today this desire for wisdom is too-often forgotten about and underemphasized, by Christians nearly as much as non-Christians. There are few things more important than being a wise person. The unwise leave themselves open to manipulation, they make poor choices that affect their lives and the lives around them, and they struggle through life to a greater degree in general. That is why it is more important today than ever to remember that, with wisdom, all good things will come along with her, and in her hands is uncounted wealth.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. The Weekly Ramble, released on Saturdays, compiles his many weekly articles about society, music, sports (including a football blog), religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

A Wink and a Nudge

Exploring the other side of ancient Israelite culture and the Old Testament

The traditional Sunday school stories of the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) are well-known: the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, Moses, Jonah and the whale, etc. Lesser known, though often more entertaining, are the seedier stories of the Bible, the ones that aren’t taught in Sunday school. The meanings of these stories are sometimes obscure and sometimes strange but they’re always interesting.

Abraham explaining to KingAbimelech that his wife is his sister.

For example, how many people know about Abraham – the great Jewish patriarch and, to Christians, a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ – pretending his wife was his sister? Or when Noah’s son Ham sees his father’s nakedness and evidently does something really shameful that leads to a curse? Sodom and Gomorrah is a well-known, although misunderstood story, but how often is it mentioned that Abraham’s brother Lot offers his virgin daughters to a sex-crazed crowd? Or that later his daughters get him drunk and are both impregnated by him? As I heard the “proper” stories in Sunday school I also flipped through the rest of the Bible and read these stories, sometimes with my mother (imagine how awkward that was).

Modern scholarship has dug up some interesting insight into these stories. Recent archaeological discoveries shed light on the story of Abraham pretending his wife is his sister. The Nunzi tablets, an ancient list of laws, describe the practice of a husband adopting his wife in order for her to have concurrent legal status with him. This doesn’t explain why Abraham pretends Sarah is his sister but it does shed light on the cultural context. It may seem odd to a contemporary audience but it fit in the culture of the time.

The story of Noah cursing the descendents of his son Ham because he saw him naked is easier to explain. Noah curses Ham’s son Canaan with slavery. Why he curses Ham’s son and not him isn’t explained, but it is known that the Canaanites, described in Genesis as the descendants of Canaan, were slaves to the Hebrews. This story explains that the Hebrews made the Canaanites their slaves because their immorality left them cursed.

Lot and his daughters.

Abraham’s brother Lot offering his two virgin daughters to a sex-crazed crowd, and then those same daughters getting him drunk to impregnate them, is the most interesting of the stories. It says a lot about how funny, clever, and, well, pretty mean the ancient Israelites could be.

According to the story both of Lot’s daughters has a son – Moab and Ammon, whose descendents are the Moabites and the Ammonites. Although this is not mentioned in Genesis the Moabites and Ammonites were the traditional enemies of Israel. It’s very funny, then, if understood as a tongue-in-cheek description of their enemies. It’s not enough for the ancient Israelites to simply say “we don’t like these guys”; instead they make up a story about their ancestors being twisted and incestuous. The story of Lot offering his daughters to the sex-crazed crowd is a further twist of the knife, as it implies that this type of distasteful action is typical of Israel’s enemies.

Studying the Bible is hardly boring. These are only a few of the interesting, often seedy stories that are found throughout the Bible, especially in the book of Genesis, that prove how creative ancient Israelites were.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.