The Whole “Blood Libel” Thing

That Sarah sure does have a way with words. Palin’s latest, not an “oops” moment but actually something she posted online, upped the righteous hackles of a lot of people and left others going, “huh?” So, what is it? In short: “blood libel” is an accusation originally and historically used as a means of inciting hatred against Jews. (Reminder: Palin has worked hard to be sure that no one doubts her evangelical Christian identity.) It has evolved to include anyone falsely accused, which is how Palin appears to have intended it when she claimed to be the victim of a blood libel following allegations that her rhetoric and politics contributed to Loughner’s twisted decision to shoot in Tucson.

The Writing’s on the Wall

Ah, the power of the written word. Did you know that this phrase comes from the Bible? This phrase, which we use to tell that something’s sure to happen, comes from Daniel, one of the latest books of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Today’s RefDesk.com quote of the day puts a new spin on it. Here’s an excerpt from Bible Babel that explains the phrase’s biblical roots:

“Bible-based job skills” — huh?

I just read this morning a brief notice that an Illinois Corrections Department uses a Bible-based job skills program to help released inmates find and maintain jobs. It’s so successful that they’re expanding it. Hey, I’m happy for them — sounds like a great goal, and kudos for achieving it! But I’m confused. What exactly IS a “Bible-based job skills program”? Anyone know? Surely it’s not to imitate biblical jobs. It’s tough for me to imagine the practicality of, say, shepherding in Chicago or officiating as a priest in the style of Leviticus. Fishing, maybe, carpentry, too; but  winnowing grain, or prostitution? er, nevermind. And how, exactly does an arm of the judicial branch of the US government justify the application of a distinctly religious set of ideas? Clarification is welcome!

Mark of the Beast

The biblical book of Revelation (the last one in the Christian canon) is full of wild imagery and evocative symbolism. It lends itself well to interpretation, reinterpretation, and application in all sorts of times and places. I begin BIBLE BABEL with reference to concerns aired in Florida some months ago about inserting microchips in animals. The chips have retrievable electronic data to make it easier to, well, retrieve Fido or Fluffy should he or she get lost… which sounds good. But to some Revelation-readers it hints of evil because a passage there tells of a wicked Beast increasing its power and control. Without its mark one can neither buy nor sell. There’s talk also of implanting chips in people these days, by employers (of all things!) to track their workers. It has ominous implications even apart from the religious. Add Revelation, as this recent Washington Post article reports, and people are past uncomfortable.

Biblical Texts Go to War

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a picture with words

worth? GQ recently published eleven cover pages from ealier Pentagon

intelligence briefings. That they juxtapose biblical quotations with Iraq

war photos has elicited all sorts of righteous indignation.  Predictably,

many people are outraged that Rumsfeld and Bush would blithely endorse

equating Christian mission with a Mid-East military invasion. Others say,

not so fast. Context, as always, is everything — the context of the photos,

of America’s military today, and of those biblical verses.