Perhaps “Hello, beloved” is a lot to begin with.
I considered, “Hello, friend” instead.
But, “Hello, friend” falls short of “hello, beloved” in a crucial way: the love part.
And, why bury the lead?
I want to make certain you get the message of this book.
You are beloved.
Don’t let my title “rabbi” throw you into thinking I’m pushing Judaism.
I’m not pushing Judaism.
Or any other “set combination package” of thoughts and rituals.
If you are a humanist, an atheist, and/or confused about the G.O.D. word, you are totally welcome here.
We won’t be getting to theology (the study of god) until chapters 9 & 10.
G-oh-D, is a big —the biggest?—topic and we need some time to get to know each other before we get there.
If you are wondering, “why use the title rabbi?”
- I earned it.
- I doubt you would have decided to read this book if I hadn’t.
I take breaks from writing often.
I sit and power write for an hour, but I get squirrely and need breaks.
Like, a moment ago I checked on a possibly-canceled and possibly-not-canceled flight’s status.
(Indeed, we canceled in time and got flight credit for it.) Now you know.
And, you wouldn’t have known without me telling you.
This is to make a point..
I told you about me taking breaks so we’d have a “here and now” example to get us to the idea of epistemology—a fancy philosophy word that means, “how we know what we know.”
What you know is limited to your experience and what you’ve been told.
There is a lot you’ve been told about religion, wisdom, the Bible, and God.
I hope this book can help you figure out what of that stuff you wish to accept as true.
People are funny about love.
And, about taking in love.
It’s natural to want to be celebrated for who we are.
And, it’s amazing at how hard it is to ask for and take in love.
Especially if your age is recorded in double digits.
For many, many, many, drafts of this book, I struggled over and over how I could convince you to trust me.
I know I’m an honest narrator.
But, you don’t know that.
So, why would you trust me?
And, then, wham, it dawned on me: it doesn’t matter!
Whether you believe me (or like me, for that matter) is none of my business.
That being said, please feel encouraged to verify every assertion I make about religion. I think you’ll find they check out. (If you do find I misrepresented something, please let me know so I can contact all readers who give me their email addresses and so I can fix the next edition.)
And, feel free to like me. It does an ego good.
It’s a rare sunshining Portland January day.
My new friend Chris just dropped off a mason jar of the sour-dough mother starter she uses.
I’m walking her back towards her house, past the dog park, and ask her, “How did you get to be so filled with whatever magic pixie dust you seem to have?”
I wasn’t expecting her brilliant answer.
“A few years ago, I swapped out seeking approval from the limited commodity of what other people think of me for the infinite source of my own self-esteem.”
I figure by this point, you are starting to get a sense of writing my style and we are vibing a bit.
In 2007, Larry’s Christmas present to me was Spong’s book Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes.
On the book’s inside cover in my best friend, 32-years my senior, inscribed:
Brian, this book helped me to see the Jewish Jesus better. It makes me feel so much closer to you. — Shalom, Larry.
(I’ll explain who Larry is later.)
Spong’s premise — and it’s so obvious once you hear it — the Gospels were written by Jews, for Jews, in the style of Jewish writing from the first centuries.
The book forever changed me.
I didn’t know that the structure of the Gospel of Mark is based on the Jewish liturgical year from Rosh HaShanah to Passover.
And, of course, one can, nay should, read the New Testament like one reads the Mishnah or Talmud.
When I heard Spong lecture at The Chautauqua Institution in 2017, it changed the way I read his words. I started listening to what my eyes saw with his voice in my head.
Which leads me to thinking about right now.
I know how I’m reading this.
But, I don’t know how you are reading this.
Which leads me to thinking about how we hear God’s voice.
(I don’t have much cogent to say about God’s voice and how we all hear it all differently. If I did, I would have put it here. But, still, it’s cool to think about. Maybe you have some profound thoughts?)
A quote by Spong:
If God is a source of love, then the only way I can worship God is by loving, loving wastefully … It is love that loves not because it has been earned. That’s where I think God is made visible.
Optional: click on this link to hear my actual voice.
I’m about 15.
Klaus, my dad’s father’s brother—born like my Opa in Germany—is visiting New York from Argentina.
He tells me a story:
Before the war, your father’s great aunt Hanchen did a school report about the genealogy of the Mayer family. Records—destroyed in the war—showed the Mayer family (at that time the Wolfe-Mayer family), had emigrated from Spain to escape the Inquisition.
I remember my feeling learning that my family had previously had the surname Lupe: “This changes everything. And nothing. At the same time.”
Most of the time, learning and unlearning about “this religion and God stuff” can feel like that.
Like it changes everything.
At the same time.
However, there are times it feels worse than that.
Some of the time, it can feel like a trusted companion has donned a spooky clown costume with intent to kill you.
On the other side, fortunately, some of the time, learning and unlearning about this stuff leads to feelings of wonder and freedom—like you’re looking at an edifice from which foundation blocks have been removed and you see it is now floating.
My hope, obviously, is you’ll get only the spiritualigiously liberating part.
But, I felt it was only right to warn you about the scary clown possibility.
My literary agent told me to “keep things in your brand of wacky” because, “in a topic like this, I think we all could use a bit of wacky.”
I think I’m going that.
She also told me to give you an outline of what is to come. So here’s an outline:
- A bit more about love
- A narrative about how I got to be me (including exposition on the previously mentioned Larry)
- A few buckets of religion
- Three sections about God.
Finally, I always find it endearing when books start with the author introducing themselves.
So, let me say “Hi, I’m rB. Brian, the author of this book.”