Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post Rapture Wrap Up

I'm going to assume you've heard the Christian Rapture didn't happen on schedule, and if you haven't, a quick websearch will yield the info.  The source of the claim was Family Radio, ( as of this writing, the website is down) specifically its founder, Harold Camping, who insisted his [mis]calculations on Biblical prophesies  pinpointed May 21, 2011 as the day of the Rapture: the day when Jesus would come and supernaturally vacuum up all Christian believers and deposit them in heaven as a prelude to the end of the world.  All of the hubbub surrounding this non-event had me re-visiting places and theories and ideas that I hadn't for some time.  Bear with me while I process these thoughts.

As usual, most people were poking fun and mocking before May 21 and now a lot of people are angry at Camping.  That's what happens to prophets, false or real.  It doesn't matter what they say, until what they predict actually happens, every prophet gets treated in the same manner.  There is no justifiable reason to believe someone whose predictions have never come to pass and Camping has made this kind of prediction before. Though, in the days before May 21, underneath some of the playful mocking I felt and heard expressed an undercurrent of fear.  What if he's right?  Nah, it's all too ridiculous and based on very sketchy theology and bogus number crunching.  Those people are crazy.  But what if he's right?  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Pishaw, do you know how many doomsday predictions there have been?  Thousands! Maybe millions!  They've all been wrong. He's wrong, I tell you.  But it could happen.  Anything can happen.  Yes, and I could be turned into a toad by an evil witch because there are books that foretell that sort of thing happening.

What irked me most was not the prediction itself but the attitude of the prophet. As tarot readers, we understand predictions.  We're well aware that predictions are hit or miss, like the weather.  We know that probable outcomes are not a concrete certainty. In Camping's predictions there was no humility, no understanding that he could be wrong (a "tiny miniscule chance" that he could be wrong is all he would admit).  There was no acknowledgement that he is but a finite dude in human clothing that can't see with the eyes of the God he believes.  I've studied the Bible, Christian theology and history, as well as various non-canonical writings.  More importantly, I've spent time among evangelical, fundamentalist Christians.  I was a part of that world once and I know how Camping got his listeners to embrace his theories.  It was built, scripture verse by verse with years of indoctrination into a mindset and belief system that made it "rational" and "sensible" and entirely believable to many people.  If you're coming into it at this juncture, never having experienced what it is to be taught and to believe the foundational pieces to this colossal gaff, it all seems so unbelievably stupid.

First of all, the one thing that will get my defenses up is stereotyping of Christians, even though I've been known to do it myself in frustration.  I don't identify as a Christian anymore, so it's not personal knee-jerking. Stereotyping any group is pretty ignorant, but with Christians it completely misses the mark because of Christianity's inherent factionalism.  It's not enough to say, "Oh, I know some really decent Christians."  That's like saying, "I have some Black friends."  With very public misfires such as this recent non-Rapture it's quite easy and convenient to simply dismiss Camping and those who believed him as ignorant, gullible fanatics.  While those who took their belief to the road may reasonably qualify as "fanatics" I would not say they were gullible or ignorant.  Fanatics are simply people who got their Wands lit up and fanatics are quite often those who change the world.  Gullibility implies one is easily deceived or duped because of a lack of intelligence.  While these folks were deceived and duped, it wasn't easy and they aren't stupid.  They weren't even credulous, which implies being persuaded to believe something unlikely but unsupported by evidence.  Evidence is what apologists are all about.  For all the people who publicly proclaimed belief in the May 21 Rapture, there were many more who secretly believed but who felt sheepish about coming out about it.  Even more entertained it as a distinct possibility.  Why?  Because of the evidence, which is quite persuasive if you happen to believe certain foundational theories.

Most Christians don't really dig that deeply into the mind-y apologetic stuff, but a good many do.  Usually they are the really gifted and brilliant ones, ones whose minds need such provoking. You know, the Swords types of people.  There are lots more Cups people in Christianity.  Christianity can feel really good.  I remember feeling relief that, after all the uncertainty and questioning, I had finally been shown the answers to life's problems or at least the means to find them in the Bible.  It felt good to belong to a community that welcomed me and accepted me.  It felt good to sing and worship.  It was reassuring to know that voice I sometimes heard inside didn't qualify me as schizophrenic, that it was indeed God's Holy Spirit guiding me.  All these qualities and more filled the cups inside of me.  Fiery Wands folks are usually found in the Evangelical and Charismatic camps, but they're everywhere.  Passion and zeal for their spiritual beliefs prompt them to do some pretty wild things, but they also provide the inspiration for change and reaching out to others.  They'll let the Pentacles people tend to the homeless and hungry but they were the ones that got the program started. Me, I'm more a Swords type, and while it was my searching and curious mind that led me into Christianity, and despite the initial emotional satisfaction,  that same inquisitive mind led me out.  Out of the labels and boxes and debates and mind-numbing, hair-splitting, morally repugnant, contradictory, sometimes nonsensical theological web that is The Church.  It has taken years to unravel the knots, but  I took some really good stuff with me. 

The funny thing about The Church is that it doesn't really exist.  It never did.  Before it even got off the ground there were splinters and cells and branches and offshoots.  The writings of the apostles in the New Testament clearly show theological disagreements among them that resulted in marked divisions of factions.  While one group clearly became more popular and ended up codifying the body of writings we know today as The Holy Bible, the Reformation in the 1500's brought some brutal editing of that book.  Gnostic Christians have been contributing to the divisions since the early days as well, bringing into play the "other" Gospels such as Thomas, Judas, and Mary Magdalene's.  Over the last two thousand years a lot of energy in these groups has gone into proving each other wrong.  The varied sects of Christianity have continued to divide even more and there is now exponentially more arguing and debating over the minutiae of Scripture.  If one spends any time among Christian apologists, one should be prepared to give one's position in titles before you can begin the discussion.  Are you Reformed? Calvinist? Arminian? Are you Evangelical? Are you a Dispensationalist?  What about Pre-Trib or Post?  Forget that, are you a Preterist? A Universalist?  What's your stance on baptism, sprinkled or immersion?  Infant or age-of accountability?  What do you believe about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?  Are they for today or did they cease after Pentecost?  Clearly this goes way beyond Catholic versus Protestant, Gnostic or Orthodox.  Each of these positions rely heavily on Biblical prooftexting and are likewise each very persuasive to the intelligent mind.  However, they oppose one another.  One cannot be, for example, both Arminian and Calvinist as they negate each other, even though one might agree with concepts in both theories.


The entire construct of Camping's Rapture date was based on a "new earth" creationist theory which places the date of earth's creation at around 6,000 BCE plus or minus 2,000 years.  There are many problems with this, one of which is that the ancient civilization of Egypt began prior to the time assigned to the creation of man. Per the creationists, that's a technicality and those carbon daters have it all wrong because natural earth events, acts of God, like floods and volcanoes tend to speed up geological processes. Both creationists and evolutionists agree that evolution is impossible with a "young earth" perspective, which suits creationists just fine since they don't believe in evolution anyway.  In order to accept Camping's evidence, one would first have to believe Genesis happened literally.  While that may seem far-fetched to many, the Christian literal belief system is based on a belief in a God that can do anything.  Any Thing.  What other kind of god is worthy of worship and devotion?  So while the stories in the Bible may seem unbelievable, a literalist Christian will believe them because God is capable of doing unbelievable things.  In order to even begin to accept Camping's evidence, one would have to already accept as fact that God exists, is Omnipotent, and the creationist position of a "young earth."  Lots of Christians already believe those things.  It's heresy in many circles to not believe them.  Because there are no assigned dates in the early books of the Bible, the first known date is at the beginning of King Saul's reign over Israel in 1020 BCE which creationists then work backwards from to arrive at their year of earth's creation.  It is done through estimates of generations, the time of Judges, genealogies, etc.  They didn't just pull a date out of their underwear, but they do limit themselves to what is contained in the Bible, which they consider infallible and the only reliable source of truth.  Camping took on the arduous task of calculating these dates and ended up with May 21, 2011 and presented his work as evidence.  For someone who already accepts certain foundational arguments, the evidence is quite persuasive.  For everyone else, it's nonsense.  But it isn't ignorant, it's just...unlikely.

The evidence doesn't rely entirely on dates and calculations of creation.  Current events that appear to fulfill prophesy are also trotted out.  Scriptures that seem to predict present day earthquakes, wars, and the Internet, even though they were likely already fulfilled a long time ago, are given as evidence that the End Times are imminent or already here.  Here is where things get messy.  I remember the first time I read Revelation as a Christian.  It terrified me.  I couldn't understand how anyone could receive comfort from that book.  It's a horrifying roller-coaster ride of devastation and destruction.  So what that the Christians may be spared some of the harsher scenes, it's brutal.  It seemed to me that everything Jesus talked about in the Gospels was negated as he dishes out torment to his enemies.  In time, I was indoctrinated into reconciling the Jesus of the Gospels with the Jesus of Revelation, who, by the way, is a favored representation of some men who feel uncomfortable with the submissive wuss of the Gospels.  Everything is set to rights when Badass Revelation Jesus comes back with a sword,  kicking heathen and demon ass and taking names.  Redemption indeed.  I grew up during the Cold War era and the nuclear warning sirens still went off every Wednesday.  We believed the Russians could wipe us out at any time, and we them.  One could only hope one died in the initial atomic blast as the picture painted of a post-nuclear war world was hellish and miserable.  I imagined the Tribulation like that.  I could never fully reconcile the tenets of the Gospels to this last book of the Bible.  It's like the angry Zeus-like God (and his Pantheon) of the Old Testament makes an encore appearance, and after all is said and done, a glittering city appears for the believers and evil is vanquished, and we all live happily ever after, curtain closes, The End.  What?

In order to reconcile anything, including monkeys flying out of my butt, I had to believe God would and could do Any Thing.  I finally got to the place where I couldn't do that anymore.  I couldn't speak peace with God in one sentence and callously care less that "evildoers" were destined to burn in hell for eternity because they didn't jump on the Jesus Bus soon enough.  I never could accept that most of the human race were living walk-on parts in this drama but destined for hell because they aren't among God's elect.  I could no longer abide the contradictory logic that on the one hand told me all my sins, past, present, future, were forgiven, but God's arms wouldn't reach past a certain point if I decided to keep sinning.  Nor did it make any sense that if Jesus defeated Satan on the Cross and released the captive prisoners of the devil, then why were Christians warning about the devil duping me now?  Grace is amazing, but you better watch your step because God may decide to rescind it if He gets fed up with your sorry self.  The most honest Christians are the ones who see the inconsistencies in the interpretations and teachings and simply throw up their hands and say, "Look, we can't know for sure, but I believe because Jesus has spoken to my heart, and I've trusted God's voice inside of me.  That's all I know for sure.  Meanwhile, I know God loves us and I love God's creation, the people and the earth and life itself.  I'm just going to attempt to live that."  My Christian intellectual finds unearthed so many more questions than answers but  I'm content with unanswered questions now.  I feel no pressing need to reconcile what happens in life to any predetermined code or theology.  We're all in this together and any one of us could get it right or wrong at any given time.

 I sincerely hope this non-Rapture experience proves to be enlightening for some people, but Christians are a fairly stubborn lot.  That comes, in part, from having beliefs rooted in some good, solid evidence, or at least what appears to be evidence.  What many Christians fail to fully appreciate about their faith is that it isn't, or shouldn't be, based on evidence but is itself the evidence.  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)  Faith in what you believe is the outward manifestation of that belief.  You don't need numbers and dates and calamities and prophecy fulfillment to know God is real to you.  What more evidence does one need than that within your own heart and life?  If you're still seeking outward evidence, fine, but that's not faith.  And having a solid faith doesn't mean nothing catastrophic will happen to you, but a calm in the middle of the storm.  There really is no way to prepare for major disruption on earth.  No emergency kit will help when a 9 point something earthquake hits.  Only love for one another, people helping each other get through the day, helps anything. And isn't that what we're told Jesus gave as the one and only commandment that sums up all of the Law and the Prophets commentaries combined? "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34 & 15:12)  Camping isn't the only one that needs to brush up on that.

And if to you all of this was simply another "look at the Christians being stupid again" event, carry on.  I won't defend indefensible acts.  I only felt obliged to say it really isn't ignorance or gullibility that is on display.  Just human fallibility dressed up like faith.  And the Fool, often a symbol for Jesus, always comes in to say the Emperor has no clothes.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Tarot Court in the Stars

Recently, a 78 Notes reader, Tabitha, commented to me that while she'd always identified with the Queen of Wands, astrologically/elementally speaking she might be more the Queen of Swords given that she is a Pisces sun with Gemini rising, due to the base water element of all Queens and her water sign of Pisces and the air element of her rising sign Gemini and Swords.  I found her comment really interesting because, though I am no astrologer and Tabitha and I may be straying off the charts (pun intended), it got me thinking about the various planetary elemental associations with the tarot court.  Maybe other tarot readers have already discovered this and written about it, I don't know, so I apologize if I am reinventing someone else's wheel.   As far as tarot and astrology goes, my interaction with the combination is fairly limited, though I always love to hear how others work with them together. 

If you do not know the planetary alignments of your date, time, and place of birth, you can access one of these useful charts for free at various websites such as AstroDienst.  That site also has a clickable chart with valuable information about what each planet in a chart means and specific descriptions regarding the placements of your particular planets.  Useful for we astrology novices who really can't remember what Pluto does for you.

To associate your sun sign with a court card, your sun sign element and your rising sign would give you the two elements for that association.  For example, my sun is in Libra and my rising is Aries.  Libra is an air sign and Aries is a fire sign.  Air is the base element for all tarot kings and wands is the suit of fire, so my Sun/Rising tarot card would be King of Wands.   This may be challenging to identify with because we naturally gravitate toward our own gendered court card, women identifying with Queens and men with Kings, so this moves a lot of us out of that predetermined box.  The gender and ages of the courts aren't supposed to be taken literally anyway.

Springboarding off of Tabitha's musings, I wondered if I could do this with other planets, such as Mercury, which rules the way we communicate.  I am Mercury in Libra so that is air/air.  Therefore my Mercury tarot court card would be King of Swords which gives me clues about how my mind works and how I communicate with others.  Venus in Scorpio would yield a King of Cups or a Queen of Swords modality in love and relationships with its air/water combination.  My moon is in Taurus, so my basic emotional level would be King of Pentacles and/or Page of Swords with its air/earth combination.

I thought to combine the planetary element with the sign element rather than the Sun sign element, but there isn't anything close to a consensus on which element is associated with each planet.  For example, although Mercury rules communication, it isn't necessarily an "air planet."  It rules two signs, Gemini, which is an air sign and Virgo, an earth sign. Here is where I usually get frustrated with overlaying any other system on top of tarot because they  don't neatly fit without bending and compromising one system or the other.  While the associations are interesting and give much food for thought and introspection, I would not grasp them too tightly or identify too strongly.  If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.   Remember, we are just experimenting here.

Next step -- associating your planetary court cards within the twelve astrological houses.  Once you have your planetary court card associations, you can them use them within your chart to see how those qualities interact with the houses.  Using one's astrological chart, lay out the designated court cards (you would need more than one tarot deck because court cards will likely be repeated throughout your chart) where they appear on the different houses and determine how these court cards would behave and interact within those placements.  For more info on the meanings of the houses, you can simply web search "meanings of the houses" and find a wealth of sites that explain them.  For example, my Venus is not only in Scorpio but also in the 8th House which is the house of death, rebirth, and others resources.  That house shows how I deal with separation and loss, how I renew and rebuild, and how I deal with legacies, inheritance, taxes, loans, etc.  Therefore, using a King of Cups as my Sun/Venus card in the 8th House, that can show me, based on what I know to be the King of Cups qualities, how I tend to deal with those issues.

Whether these associations work out to be accurate portrayals is really up to the individual to decide.  But I think because we hold within ourselves all the qualities of all the court cards in varying measure, it may be truly enlightening.  Keep in mind also that no one planet, house, or court card is a summation of your entire person, that each placement or association merely describes a piece of your own personal puzzle.  While some of the results may be totally on target, others may leave you scratching your head.  In the end, what can we do with this information?  Just as I do not believe tarot determines your fate, neither does astrology nor any combination thereof.  While we may have specific tendencies inherent in our personalities, they only limit us as much as we allow them to.  The revealing of these tendencies is valuable information because once we know what we're working with, our strengths and weaknesses, we can use them to our advantage in a conscious manner. 
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