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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bible reading and JFK

An archaeological debate about a piece of clay with some ancient scratching on it is set forth as a key piece of evidence for the Davidic monarchy in 1000BC. I read it here, which for some reason is not creating a link:

I think issues of history and the Bible are somewhat important. I use the term somewhat because it is not clear to me what "history" means when we are talking about events 3,000 years ago. I have often argued that the most important context of any piece of writing is the context of the writing, and the reader's context is of secondary importance. We sort of talked about that on Sunday morning when I popped in to do a Sunday school class. At least one man found it very helpful so I want to reflect on it here in the hopes that another might as well.

First of all, we need to think through what real life is like. When we communicate, what is the process that takes place?

1. In simplest terms, there is an event. The event has all manner of things taking place. No one is able to experience every single thing. People have different angles and view points.Some are 'key players/performers' some are 'participants' and some are 'audience/observer.' Some aspects are available for all to see while others are known to only a select few, or maybe no one at all. For example, John F. Kennedy was driving in the back seat of a car in Dallas. As the car turned he suddenly lurched forward and then almost immediately a death dealing head wound occurred. His wife and Governor Connelly were also present. There is no reasonable doubt that our President was assassinated on that day. So "the event" is historical. But what happened? Who shot him (theories abound)? Was there a cover up (theories abound)? Where was the shooter(s)? Various eye witnesses provide insight into the event as they share their own personal "experience." [and personal experience while real is often inaccurately understood] People claim there were shots from numerous locations. What happened and what they think/believe happened is not in sync.

2. "The event" is remembered and talked about. With the advent of modern technology we have access to the past which never existed before. The Zapruder film, scratchy as it is, provides a real time photographic record. People can study it and analyze it in ways that no one's personal memory can be studied. Ancient records do not have this degree of clarity. And as one talks about any event there are things which are left out and other details which are emphasized. Researchers find that people can create new "memories" by interacting and talking with others. So someone else can literally change what we "remember" by saying things to us.

3. The story we tell is influenced by other things. Was JFK being shot different than other people who were also shot that day? Yes, because JFK has a mythic quality that most people do not. He is the leader in "Camelot"--that is what his presidency was called. This means he was understood as a type of King Arthur by some. Hence, he is not just a shooting victim, he is a fallen 'king' and hero. His death is the end of an age. [and generationally speaking his death was the turning point; the end of the romanticized post-war years and the beginning of Viet Nam, riots, civil unrest, a failed LBJ refusing to run for President, culminating a decade later in the impeachment and resignation of a sitting President, Nixon (who is never, like his two predecessors known by his initials RMN).

4. Herein is the key. The murder is more than a man's death. A cold detailed account of the shooting may be clinically accurate, but it would always leave out what mattered most to the people of our nation. Like him or hate him, the JFK legacy is real. Debates and arguments about myth vs. reality ignores the fact that in his case, myth and reality co-exist. For decades afterwards one frequently saw pictures of President Kennedy (often beside Martin Luther King, Jr) in the homes of many simple people. I know I did, again and again.

There is more to reflect on but let's start here. What is the "true" story? How should it be told? What would you say the story is? What would a Kennedy-phile write? A Kennedy critic? How is seeing Kennedy as a philandering hypocrite going to influence the telling? Or Kennedy as the handsome young bright shining hope of our best days? How would the desire to use him as an example change what was said and left unsaid? If one was writing for the purpose of advocating gun control would that influence the details? Would a foreigner who hated America (say a Cuban national offended by the Bay of Pigs) or a MAFIA type angry at the Kennedy brothers for the prosecution of organized crime have a different take?

Obviously, yes. There is not one story. There are many stories. All based on an event, some more, some less data and fact focused. Some more interested in "the endless story" (too readily dismissed as myth) and the deeper resonance of the meaning for all  humans. And the fodder for endless discussion and reflection: after all, how many books have been written about Kennedy since his body slumped in the back seat of that limo fifty years ago?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting take on the difference between"accurate" and "true" in the movie "Absence of Malice."

    Nice to see you return, seemingly refreshed.
    Once more into the breach ...