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Old 2008-07-31, 17:02   Link #1183
Join Date: May 2006
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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
A writer using a metaphor assumes the audience is familiar with the contexts in which the metaphor is expressed. An excellent example that comes to mind about what happens when this isn't the case is an old Star Trek: Next Generation episode called "Darmok". In the story, the crew is baffled by a language in which they understand the words but everything is misunderstood because the symbolic concepts of the language are all expressed in the intense cultural metaphors of the race.

Genesis was written to reach the audience of its day using cultural metaphors familiar to its audience. Many concepts can be easily misinterpreted by present day audiences filtered through several language translations. Those translations were also conducted by people who had their own preconceived notions and agendas (e.g. the "virgin birth" which the oldest texts simply do not mention but which had become a critical part of Church mythos, or the failure to realize that the use of individual name actually was a allegory for an entire tribe).

(note: readers less familiar with Christianity might find this link useful for Christian terms and this link useful for an introduction to metaphorical languages)
Excellent points. And herein we see the root of most religious infighting, splits, and injustice in the world. It's outright depressing. Most people are unwilling to see the world as it is, and prefer to see the world as they interpret it.

Many people who apply logic and reasoning to their faith, and/or obtain greater perspective through better historical, cultural, or linguistic knowledge tend to stay quiet about what they learn, for they discover that if they try to teach their fellow religious man better, their fellow religious man will not take it so well. The decision between proper correction and preserving peace is one I hate making. I spend enough time correcting people who get a little perspective and run off with newer but just as half-baked ideas that I'm not left with much time to even worry about reshaping the primary demographic.

The virgin birth issue, though, is actually a really good example of your first point rather than your second. Most any modern Jew will quickly explain that the text of the messianic prophesy in Isaiah does not actually say the messiah would be born of a "virgin", but that the word is closer to meaning "young woman". They would be right.

However, what many don't know (or won't explain) is that the word used is really closer to the word "maiden", and did, in fact, strongly imply virginity even if it didn't state it explicitly. There is debate here, but we do have historical texts to show that it was not an uncommon Jewish position that it specified a virgin--at least, not until the Jews started strongly dissociating themselves from Christians. Even then, there is acknowledgement of debate in some places. Its explanation as such in the gospels is also evidence of this interpretation being Jewish--depending, of course, on what one believes the source of those texts to be. The argument based on the literal reading of the text runs strong, though.

Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
I used to be a pretty avid supporter of Scouting - but since the East Texas fringe kooks took over the national level in the 1980s, many Scout Troops just pay lip service to the rules and kind of ignore the twits at the national level. The people at the national office have pretty much subverted the meaning of Scouting to their ends. They've crapped all over the original concepts that Baden Powell had in mind.
Unfortunately, with all the bad press the national lunatics collect with their antics, the non-church-supported troops (usually supported by veteran organizations (American Legion) or civic duty clubs (Rotary, Lions, Elks, etc) are fading in many areas.

The rules for Scouting only state one must believe in some sort of higher power (which makes the Buddhists iffy even though there's an official badge for them, there's also religious badges for Hindu, Judaism, Islam and others) but in recent years American Scouting has taken public ridicule at the national level for being clearly antagonistic to any but the "correct" religion. The Wiccans and other religions have repeatedly been in tangles with the leadership over this.

Fortunately, Scouting in other countries seems to be thriving with less baggage -- I still consider the concept of Scouting a good experience minus the exclusionary idiocy. I loved my experience as a teen (I was beginning the road of "examining my beliefs" .... the Scoutmaster made the "Buddhist/Athiest/Agnostic/Christian?" kid (me) the chaplain at one point in hopes of providing me guidance. However, instead he got some of what he said were the "most interesting thought provoking prayers and sermons" he'd ever heard.
My older son was a Scout in a troop supported by a local American Legion veteran group --- we were pretty much free of the "one way or the highway" nonsense and had an interesting collection of religious stances.

The downside was that Scouting seems to have become the "you fix my kid cuz I'm too lazy to get my ass off the couch to do it myself and ooooh, look American Idol is on, no camping for me" destination. When we were feeling charitable, we called them "curbside parents", other days it wasn't printable what we called them. But as we found at the inter-troop meetings we'd have with other troops (church supported, mostly Catholic, Methodist, or Mormon) in our area - they relayed that the "curbside parent" problem was universal.
As a former Boy Scout, I understand exactly what you mean on all counts. Scouting is one of the few institutions I have any real respect for. I abandoned my trek to earn Eagle rank as I went to college early... Not putting in that extra effort to make it SOMEhow is one of few things I truly regret in life.

As much as I feel that the BSA can't be divorced from religious faith without removing its core (although there's no harm in secular alternatives!), I also feel that the BSA administration has made some serious mistakes and caused some good kids to be abandoned and ostracized. If Scouting is going to be resource for "curbside parenting", then dad gum it, it needs to be the best it can be for every one it can.

For what it's worth, my scout troop was sponsored by a church and had an atheist assistant scoutmaster and one prominent atheist Scout in leadership. While every one went to chapel and the oaths didn't change, no one had to ascribe to any particular religious belief--or any at all. The only demand placed on faith was that one must be respectful of the decisions and faith of others. Those were good days.

Edited to add:
Baden Powell's comments on religion and scouting were an interesting read. As a Christian, he had a good bit to say on religion, and that is definitely reflected in the Boy Scouts, but I hadn't seen just what he had to say on the relevance of religion in the institution:

I await patiently
the gift promised to me.
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