Please Forgive Me (An Open Note to Fellow Christians)

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The Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) has moved my heart and mind and soul to apologize.Holy_Spirit_as_Dove_(detail) Although I won’t take down prior posts, I am sorry for having participated as a blogger and commenter in the ongoing divisiveness among Christians on the internet.  There are so many non-essentials of the faith about which we can disagree (Biblical equality or not, roles of women and men, pre-tribulation rapture or post-tribulation rapture, or not, and so on).  And it is clear in these times that we need to focus on strengthening our faith and love in Jesus Christ (also the Father and the Holy Spirit) as we and the world continue to face what’s daily in the news and implied eschatologically behind the scenes.  

Recently I heard a Messianic Jewish pastor discuss something that had always troubled me about 1 Peter 3:7 and its description of a wife as the “weaker partner.”  (I’d given birth to a premature baby after excruciating precipitate labor without drugs, had my husband escape to his lab immediately afterward and been the parent who nursed the baby to health including arrangements for a mobile unit to mechanically facilitate the milk she needed.  I’d finished a 4-year college curriculum in 3 years followed by 3 years of a tough graduate program at a top-ranked university.  I knew I wasn’t physically the “weaker partner” also when I chased away an intruder from our home.  So what did it mean in 1 Peter about “weaker”?)  images (20)

According to this pastor, women are  weaker vessels insofar as their personality structures are more permeable (less strong, less rigid) than men’s and therefore more susceptible (at both ends of the spectrum, for good and for bad) to receiving an influx of spiritual influence.  Thus, this pastor did not recommend against women using their gifts in the church as Christian women — indeed women could have extraordinarily strong gifts at the good end of the spectrum.  But  as a check and balance he suggested that in areas (like senior pastoring) where there might be a female tendency to operate at either extreme, the church would benefit from the less susceptible (more in the middle) overview of authentically Christian male leadership.  He honored that women, at the extreme good end, might be more truly prophetic than a man with a “word of the Lord,” but that also a woman at the extreme other side of the spectrum might be more sincerely deluded.  

It made sense to me based on self-knowledge and the humility of where my zeal has taken me —along the spectrum, intensely —  in the seeker’s journey before ending up a solid Bible-believing Christian in love with Jesus, blessed by my Abba Father, also comforted and counseled daily by the Holy Spirit.  I’m not sure it convinced me to change my overall view that women or men equally in all leadership roles in a church may be fitting,  but it softened my heart about those who believe otherwise.  And in any event I am certain that I do not want to be part of divisiveness among those who sincerely know and love Jesus Christ and have been called unto His (not man’s) purpose.  

In closing, let me just say: “… the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’!”  (Revelation 22:17, KJV.)christ-the-redeemer-2-620x763

Ongoing Pentecostal Outpouring to Heal the Body of Christ on Earth

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Staying away from church: I get it. But things change. On Pentecost Sunday at the little church where I worship Fukuroda-Falls-Ibaraki-Japan we’ve been asked to dress in red in honor of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring. Yet I may be among the very few of this particular congregation whose hands raise in the air, who have experienced worship among Pentecostals, who hope to see the infilling of the Holy Spirit among Christians everywhere. No matter. I’m praying for the Holy Spirit’s outpouring to be a supernaturally good blessing everywhere, to break forth as it did in the original Pentecost, and as it did in the revival of William Seymour which began in Los Angeles in 1906.

fukushimaNuclearDisasterThe expanding chronic darkness of evil in the world calls us to every gift that God can grant us in the name of Jesus Christ through the pouring into us of the Holy Spirit.

And so, tomorrow and every day, my hope is for unity in our love of Jesus Christ among professing Christians. I have repented and plan no longer to criticize those in the faith who believe differently on this or any other issue (including marital equality or complementarianism). I’m trusting God to reach so many of us with holy fire of the Holy Spirit’s giftedness that outmoded discriminatory practices within the body of Christ will simply die out and fade away, leaving the joy of Jesus to move on this earth, as it is in heaven.

Personal aside: Although I didn’t know it at the time, 100 years ago to the day when William Seymour’s pentecostal revival began on April 9, 1906 at the Bonnie Brae street house in Los Angeles, I was living temporarily in Los Angeles near the intersection of Alvarado and Bonnie Brae. I’d get inexplicable goosebumps, in a good way, when the Metro bus driver called the Bonnie Brae stop. When the 20th century revival outgrew the Bonnie Brae location it moved to 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles and continued until 1915, drawing Christians from around the globe to come and see, also seeding pentecostalism everywhere.

Nothing but the power of the Holy Spirit, and William Seymour’s willingness to trust Jesus as an African American man living at the height of America’s post-civil war racism, could have sparked the new outpouring of pentecostal fire in 1906. Thankfully and blessedly today as the legacy, we have global Youtube music ministries like Hillsong spawned by the pentecostal megachurch of the same name that originated in Australia and now has a fledgling church plant in Los Angeles.

In my territorial connection to the Bonnie Brae origins in LA of the pentecostal movement across racial and gender lines, the LA neighborhood’s racial composition had remained “of color,” more Latino (immigrant and second generation) than African American in the 21st century. Across the street from my Bonnie Brae rental, my neighbor had filled his front yard with the Virgin of Guadalupe being upheld by Jesus Christ. In the charismatic and liberation Catholicism sweeping through South and Latin America, the devotion to Jesus Christ our Lord, born of a blessed woman, Mary, inspires people to have a heart for God. Who are Protestants or non-denominatial Christians to judge Catholics, or vice versa? Even the “Hail Mary” prayer of Catholicsm has a “sola scriptura” basis (see Luke 1). LATXcreatures 338

The scriptural bases for the Holy Spirit’s gifts — becoming filled with the Holy Spirit after being sealed as a believer — in the context of divine love as a present reality is available to all Christians across all churches, from the Vatican to the dusty storefront to the park picnic table to the cross-spired building to the humblest living room. See John 14-17, Acts 1, 2 and 6, 1 Corinthians 14: 1 – 33, Ephesians 1, 2 and 5: 1-21, for a scriptural sampling. Please remember that the ancient Greek manuscripts (copies of copies translated into English), none of which is an originally authored autograph, differ among themselves in some matters, e.g., 1 Corinthians 14: 34-39, which could then be translated into discriminatory verbiage by English translators. Also please remember when you read your Bible with the Holy Spirit and anointing of Christ to guide you, see 1 John, that the Greek manuscripts do not contain English-language subheadings, English-language sentence-ending periods (or other punctuation) or chapter:verse markings. To ascribe inerrancy to English biblical translators of any era would be as large an error as ascribing infallibility to any human pope, it seems to me. But if you feel differently as a Christian I’m not going to fight. And also, I agree that the pope can say good things, and that I love my Bible. I’d ask you just to consider one (compound) question. Mustn’t we love Jesus more as the incarnate Word who now reigns on high, and couldn’t that love unite us to overcome evil? See the entire gospel of John in full context if you wonder about this.

And now, this may be my last post here. (Although God may change my mind for me!) The back and forth of opinions by blogging may not be the place God is calling me to play a part going forward. Also in the disclosure fair to the body of Christ, I am clarifying that I’ve written here (on another Fourowls blog also) in the indigenous nickname of a great-grandmother who by family legend was “bird clan” Cherokee. It seemed fitting somehow to embrace the multi-racial character of the body of Christ around the world.

My real name is Jan, and I love Jesus. In Him I live and move and have my being.

For your online theological sustenance, I can recommend the impeccably well-educated, Spirit-filled Greg Boyd to you:

Masculinity as Sexual Oppression within the Faith (and the Radically Loving Answer of Jesus)

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Love and Thanks to John Piper and Mark Driscoll for Revealing the Undue Force of Masculinity that Continues to Fragment Christianity

When it erupted online a couple of years ago I missed the John Piper/masculinity/maleness Christianity brouhaha. But the tentacles of its anti-female bias persist in Piper protégé and bestselling author Mark Driscoll, and preachers, priests and popes (however well-intentioned they might be) who would relegate the female half of humanity to a subordinate position of putting men in the place where only God and God’s call can fairly be. female pastors

This post, by the way, also credits the countless men and women expanding daily in numbers who today practice and preach an egalitarian understanding of Jesus Christ and authentic Christianity grounded in love. To all of you, a special thanks.images (21)

And… special thanks as well to John Piper and Mark Driscoll for calling out in explicit 21st century terms the largely unspoken male sexist biases of Christendom that have plagued it since the Emperor Constantine adopted and co-opted the faith to the imperial masculinist culture of the Roman Empire. Yes, I say plague. And I say it lovingly, because disease can be a call to healing. Masculine dominance is a major problem of religious disease just as in need of Christ’s healing in 2014 as misusing the Bible to approve American slavery was in need of healing in the 1800’s. It’s not just about labeling positive spiritual attributes “masculine” as if males and not God originated goodness. It’s also about the broader disease of relegating those not embodied as males to second-class citizenship within Christianity. male liturgy

The Call to Healing the “Masculine” Church

When we don’t heal this, on one side of the divide women who know their real worth in God’s eyes are continually run out of male-dominant churches, or even worse run away from following Jesus. On the other side of the divide, women inside the church who know Jesus are blocked overtly or subtly by the male leadership from using their gifts of the Holy Spirit. These women gradually grow smaller, sometimes petty and bitter, in their illicit subordination. We all know what I’m talking about if we’ve been in male-dominated churches.

By male-dominant church ideation, what Christ is to the man as head of the church, the man is to the woman as head of her, with the “headship” inaccurately interpreted in an Anglocentric way as dominant authority not intended by the original ancient language of scripture inspired for a new egalitarian society in Christ. Any misguided even if well-intentioned deification of human masculinity and maleness is idolatry. It needs to be faced like any other sin, and healed.cross heart

Jesus and the Teaching of the Reign of God (Not Man Over Woman) by the Original Languages

Jesus never taught this dominating reign of males over females. He didn’t bring up the story of Adam and Eve. His new covenant ended the curse for followers in God’s “rule” and “reign” (non-gendered translations of “basiliea,” a Greek written word in early texts, or “mulkuth,” the Aramaic word Jesus would have spoken). It was an artifact of English male-dominant cultural translation in a time of kings to have rewritten these words as “kingdom,” as if God can only be pictured as a male king. mother teresa

By the simple, profound teaching of Jesus, God’s reign occurs through all people (women as well as men) whose hearts and relationships are in subordination to the reign of not man, not earthly kings, but only God.

Jesus Broke the Curse of Male Domination through the Triune God

Jesus taught of males and females made in God’s image from the beginning of creation, Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6, because He came for our salvation and to break the curse of male domination and female subordination. He gave us the dispensation of the Holy Spirit to help us in the ongoing work of Christianity toward the reign of God. Any idolatry of sexism inside the church (all of those churches where it exists, not just the Catholic Church) means that we lose too many of our sisters who know at core that a loving Jesus intends not to make men their false idols. Jesus broke the curse and we reign with Christ under God, not men, but joint heirs with men under divine reign.christ-the-redeemer-31-620x465

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Idolatry puts mortal men in the place only the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can divinely occupy. After too many centuries putting Father and Son into a male-shaped box of primacy, we might today honor the femininity of the Holy Spirit as a divinely co-equal Person in the Trininty. “Ruach Ha-Kodesh” is the feminine Hebrew and “Ruah Qudsha” is the feminine Galilean Aramaic for the Holy Spirit rendered into English. Even in the more masculinist cultural language of Greek, the word “Pneuma” for Spirit, as it appeared in New Testament texts, was not male but neuter. Perhaps the Holy Spirit, as finally named in the Trinity, calls us to position Her by language as a corrective action against Christian sexism in our time. We can also transcend quibbling about divine gender by a non-sexist appreciation of God’s mystery through the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit is Feminine or Neuter Scripturally, but Never Exclusively Masculine

We can choose to follow Jesus who left us the Holy Spirit as comforter, counselor and dispenser of gifts: feminine or neuter but not exclusively masculine. images (25)We can pray for but choose not to follow the later men who have profited in celebrity funding sourced from sexism by perpetuating the human male headship that Jesus instead came to end with the reign and rule of the triune God.

What Paul Really Said about Women

Since 1991’s publication of What Paul Really Said about Women by Dr. John Temple Bristow (Disciples of Christ pastor), everyday Christians have had good reason in a readable form to stop the female subordination by males within the faith. For instance, Dr. Bristow with straightforward scholarship translated the English Bible’s version of Ephesians 5 (the part about the husband being head of his wife, subjecting women to their husbands) into the Greek language that Paul used for writing. When Dr. Bristow compared his English-to-Greek translation with the Greek text of Ephesians itself, there were surprising differences. If Paul had meant to dictate male domination of women, he would have chosen different words when he wrote in Greek. Dr. Bristow also showed that using the Greek language for writing, Paul in Christ sought a liberation movement for participants of Greco-Roman culture — the true gender reconciliation for both women and men that Jesus and the cross offers through redemption of the fallen-world curse against Adam and Eve.

Paul’s words became radically misinterpreted through the sexist eyes of the early Church Fathers of the Roman Empire. Later translators of the Bible carried forward the blindness to thwart the intention of Jesus for Christian women and men, boys and girls. nativity book

This is not to detract from the good that God worked through the early Church Fathers of the Church or through the Bible otherwise in an era of discriminatory abuses against women and girls generally. No one can confirm intent to distort (although scripture on devilish powers and principalities, e.g., Ephesians 6: 10-18, confirms as possibility that evil worked in them to twist the intentions of both Jesus and Paul about women in Christ until truth could win through the unfolding of God’s reign and credible scholarship about the Bible today).

No Good Excuse for Sexism Within Christianity, and the Call for Forgiveness

We the people (pastors, priests and popes especially) have reason to know better today, and do not have good excuse for sexism within Christianity. At the same time, my prayer and love go out to all Christian women who have been caught (conditioned, brainwashed) unawares by modern men to take a subordinate hierarchical position here on earth. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” images (26)

Likewise my prayer and love to all Christian women and men who have been caught unawares by misguided discriminatory teaching. We will best thrive in the Body of Christ through all of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to all of God’s children if we embrace the loving, non-racist, non-sexist divine reign inaugurated by Jesus Christ.

Jesus Never Taught the Low-Grade Sadism and Masochism of Male Dominance Over Womenimages (5)

How did this human idolatry of masculinity arise among faithful Christians? Human reasons are always multilayered but from lived experience among various Christian modes of practice, I’ve noticed that idolatrous domination within professed Christian practice mirrors the prevailing sinfully dominating society of global culture generally. Just as all sinning is comfortable (until it starts to hurt), the mirrored domination is comfortable for many professing Christians. (A predominant cultural circle feeding on itself.) Gendered church hierarchy’s low-grade sadism and masochism in social arrangements is, however, not part of what Jesus taught even if the practitioners enjoy it (or have good intentions in its practice).

The Bible’s Import on What Jesus Really Intended for Women and Men Togetherimages (9)

By the import of the Bible’s telling of the teaching of Jesus, only the Syrophoenician woman (and mother of a daughter) ever convinced Jesus to change His mind. Mark 7: 24-30. Was this to elevate females over males? No, only part of the ministry of Jesus to overturn among believers the sinning social norm in all cultures by which the men lorded it over the women, the rich over the poor, the hypocrites over the sincerely faithful. The message of change to God-reliance in Christ subverts the social order, available to all, freely given.

Sidestepping the import of the ministry of Jesus, many pastors today rely for their “higher” authority on a literalist English translation (or cultural mistranslation) of the Bible. Then their congregation (filled with people acclimated to domination culture) need not question what’s printed on the page as translated into the English which arose as language in cultures of dominance. (More predominant circularity feeding on itself.)

The Example of “Authentein” (or “It’s All Greek to Me”) in Misusing the Bible Against Women

We don’t have to throw up our hands as non-scholars of ancient languages and blindly trust the untrustworthy to translate or interpret scripture for us. For example, “authentein” (Greek) as translated in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, could be translated as “originator.” (Google pulls up scholarship in a postmodern resurgence of interest in Christianity and the direction of faith.) Thus translated it would be clear as a Pauline caution against lapsing back toward temple sex-priestess dogma of males’ origination from females (as their originators) by a corrupted earth mother goddess religion in Ephesus where Timothy pastored. Apparently the translators into English of the Greek texts didn’t want look at the whole truth several hundred years ago. Most readers of English Bibles fall back on “it’s all Greek to me” even today. greek

From the mid-1800’s until now it has not been easy for slaveholders or dominant persons of any type to give up the thrill and/or profit of controlling another human being especially when the Bible in English has condoned the practice.

The Radical Love of Christ, Praying for Changed Hearts, and Daring Greatlychrist-the-redeemer-2-620x763

Praying for changed hearts by those who believe differently (about domination and otherwise) helps me extend the radical love of Jesus. Facing my own lapses from Christ’s radical love helps me forgive myself and those in Christendom who might castigate me for even daring as a woman to write this. Can we not have the revolution for Christ instead where we honor one another and our respective gifts of the Holy Spirit without man-made obstruction?

Jesus calls us to dare greatly for one another, worshiping God in spirit and in truth, John 4:24, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well who served as the first Gentile missionary proclaiming Him as Messiah. Jesus appeared to women first after the resurrection in an era where the predominant culture found the witness of any female to be inherently untrustworthy. Our Lord trusted us, women, when nobody else in the world did. celtic cross

During His walk Jesus also taught, and the Holy Spirit today teaches, women and men about wisdom and her children (the feminine Sophia in the Greek language), Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:35, as well as about Abba, Father (Mark 14:36), Beloved in the Aramaic. Now we can learn to trust ourselves in Christ, men and women together, equally yoked, married or not, cf., 2 Corinthians 6:14, in primary relationship with God.

Oh Lord my God, “Thy ‘kingdom’ come,” where gendered language is irrelevant to the radical love of Jesus. At last it’s time.

Simple Follower of Jesus to Call on God

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To know who’s writing here, you can click “About” in the upper left-hand corner. It’s a complex world of long corridors but there’s one way, Jesus, to simple peace of mind, good action and not taking yourself too seriously (even if you are going to heaven). images (16) Call yourself “Rev.” if you’ve had a good day following Jesus. Say “thanks” as a prayer. And if you’re feeling like today or huge hunks of your life were largely wasted (which I totally get because of having been there), you can call on God.

God loves prodigals especially. It’s because we are more likely to change our ways — what the Bible calls repentance — when we have directly experienced how bad it can be out there. Jesus didn’t get through to folks who thought themselves righteous by their own doing (or wanted to continue in hypocrisy), but specifically said He’d come to call sinners to repentance. Then He hung out with drunks, gluttons, adulterers, tax confiscators and parents. Also guys who fished. Jesus recommended having faith like a little child, fitting the scriptural tradition of Jewish prophets who spoke about the maternal as well as the paternal qualities of God. Whatever your day was like, you might as well tell God all about it. He’s up all night anyway.

Why Me, Lord? (Song and Story by Kris Kristofferson)

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Favorite video for prodigal Christians like me …  And who hasn’t felt on any given day that sense of falling short and being grateful for forgiveness?  Not that we’re meant to wallow in remorse but instead to face it, shake it off, connect to our Maker.  Then we know ourselves at core as wonderfully made in God’s image and blessed to create for the greater good. 

How The Hunger Games (THG) Trilogy Updates the Relationship Story of the Christian Trinity

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    Fans of THG trilogy know the themes of all three books beyond the love triangle of Katniss, Gale and Peeta.  THG stories contain trinitarian analogies to seventeen centuries of Christian lore about deific Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).  Spiritually speaking the Trinity is an ancient form of story about how the soul calls out for growth in embodied human beings and through infinite spiritual power as Jesus Christ came to share.

Sophia_George_volThe Trinity can also be codified as religion, and varieties of Christian religion have codified doctrines as well as religious images over the many centuries of Christendom. (The public domain photo includes Sophia along with more familiar Christian figures and originated in the European Orthodox faith that split from the Church in Rome long before Protestantism began. Could we ever be so sure of ourselves to deny that God has worked through the Christian faithful of all times and diverse cultures?)

    By posting this I intend no disrespect to the doctrine of the Trinity taken as an article of faith. As a Christian I can accept what the Trinity means to my religion and also see a more inclusive spiritual story about God calling everyone into relationship. THG also is a form of spiritual story with triads of relationships.

The Trinity speaks to relationship among the divine aspects of the Creator, modeling the relationship we can have with our multi-faceted Maker in turn. Jesus (Son in the Trinity) taught about Wisdom and her children, evoking the prior relationship between God and Wisdom as named by Jewish scriptures (incorporated later to the Bible as the Proverbs) from the everlasting in the beginning. It needn’t be a stumbling block to the healing relationship power of “Trinity” that the word itself does not appear in holy scripture. Instead the “Trinity” originated with Tertullian, called the Father of Latin Christianity, who lived between 160 and 225 A.D. and obviously never met Jesus face to face. Tertullian was a forerunner of the male authors of the doctrine of the Trinity adopted by the Roman Empire’s Catholic Church (in a time of female exclusion from imperial leadership) as codified in the Nicene Creed at the Council of Nicaea, Anatolia (present-day Iznik, Turkey) in 325 A.D. The Trinity as doctrine omits the Mother also known as Virgin Mary who physically birthed Jesus into this world. The Trinity as doctrine omits Wisdom (“Sophia” in the Greek) as taught by Jesus, Who also referred to Abba, which means Beloved from the Aramaic, when mentioning the Father. Jesus spoke about God as spirit and truth (or Spirit and Truth). Translating biblically into English from ancient languages of cross-cultural manuscripts that didn’t use capital letters can be tricky. The_War_Scroll_-_Dead_Sea_Scroll

God is still calling all of us to increased understanding, so updated stories continue to be told about the power of reconciling us to relationship with God and one another in the created world. As a form of sculptural story, from a neighborhood Protestant church here’s one of my photos of Jesus in the boat reaching out to relationship with all people. Come all! The giant palm tree and huge blue sky also beckon in God’s creation. jesus in boat

In its own fashion, without using religious imagery, THG speaks to the redemptive power of relationship in the fictional Panem. We can see the redemptive power in our own culturally diverse neighborhoods, too. With Jesus as beloved Child holding up His Mother before Juan Diego, who is just a guy, a triad of beloved relationships inspire many in the Americas who take Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgin Mary) to be their patron for bringing them to Christ. Here is my triad of three photos of the shrine built by a neighbor who is a present-day Roman Catholic.  

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President Snow in THG by contrast is nobody in District 12′s neighbor and not a Catholic or any other kind of Christian. During THG book one your heart clutches at the widespread fear and awe resulting from President Snow’s virtual omnipresence as father figure.  He’s a counterfeit deity substitute.  Like Emperors of old who required worship from their subjects, he means to be obeyed in his edicts of terror.  The citizens of Panem in book one wish for a compassionate authority figure, a true holy Father who will treat them all with equal dignity. This hope is unmet in Panem’s greedily imposed political structure of rationalized mass exploitation.

THG book one hints at change with symbolic berries near its end. The film Noah in theaters (March-April 2014) uses a berries metaphor also.

Maybe Noah’s producers hoped to ride the coattails of THG fandom because the berries  220px-Amelanchier_ovalis3220px-Amelanchier_ovalis3weren’t exactly featured in the source story of a great flood from a paternal deity angry about a world filled with immoral humans on President Snow’s low level of dastardliness.

    As if a perfectly imperfect triune Child of God, Katniss, Gale and Peeta struggle with their interlocking relationships and hold out the hope of symbolic “Sonship” to save the masses from terror.  It would be bigoted and culturally limited to consider the “Sonship” exclusively male when nineteen centuries ago an early celebrity Christian evangelist named  Paul wrote, as biblically confirmed, that there is no male and no female in the all-inclusive Christ. (It was just as bigoted and culturally limited to use biblical writings to justify slavery in nineteenth century America, and that’s no longer done, so there’s hope for an end to biblically rationalized racism and sexism everywhere.) Much as when the biblical account of the risen Son dispenses the Holy Spirit by metaphysical tongues of fire,  in THG book two you read with growing hope as Katniss in the Sonship role inspires to the point of catching fire.  The film in turn brings the entertainment as led by Oscar caliber talent, anointed for inspiration. Katniss

THG book three, symbolically titled the Mockingjay, also evokes wings of angels, winds of change and the dove from above traditionally linked with the Holy Ghost (or Spirit) of the Christian Trinity.  Because book three has been split into two YA parts for films due after this summer’s tent pole season, this post ends now in deference to the multiplex fans who prefer their story in movie mode.  Or try praying for revelation if you just can’t wait!

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