“Fragments of Christianity” now on Pre-pub for @Logos Bible Software!

In July, my book Fragments of Christianity: Fragmentary Witnesses to Early Christian Liturgies, Hymns, Homilies, and Prayers was released in print and is available at Amazon for $24.95.

Order the Fragments of Christianity pre-pub!

At that time, several folks asked me if the book would be available for Logos Bible Software. Well, Fragments of Christianity is now available for pre-publication purchase in Logos format for $12.99.

With Logos Bible Software, “pre-publication” (aka “pre-order”) is a process where interest in a book is guaged by the amount of pre-orders a book gets. Faithlife/Logos know (approximately) how much producing the book will cost. When they have enough orders to meet their cost, then the book gets produced. Here’s the great part: Pre-orders are usually the best price you’ll find on the book, and you are not charged until the book is produced and delivered. That means you get a great deal and you don’t pay until the resource is ready. Logos notifies you before the fact on the off chance that you just might want to cancel your order.

Interested in the material? This series on Epiphany can give you an idea of the content. Seem useful?: Get in on the pre-publication price of $12.99!

My New Book, “Fragments of Christianity”

This past month has been a bit of a roller coaster. I released my new book, Fragments of Christianity: Fragmentary Witnesses to Early Christian Liturgies, Hymns, Homilies, and Prayers. Thrilled for it to finally be available! You can purchase (or even just “Look Inside”) at Amazon ($24.95).

Shortly after that, it was family vacation to the beach. (And we all know how much “vacation” happens with family vacation and three kids aged 4-14.) It was also our 15th wedding anniversary. Then I broke a bone in my right hand, so life slowed down a bit while I figured out how to function in a world where I’m typing at a computer for most of the day (and researching/writing in the evenings). In the middle of all of that got some great news on an editing/writing project that has been simmering for awhile but looks like it will proceed. (More news on that whenever a contract happens.)

But back to Fragments of Christianity. It includes transcriptions, translations, and brief discussion of 36 early (dated in the 5th century or before in a published source) fragmentary papyri. I sifted through many more papyri (all of the draft transcription and translations are on my “Stuff Early Christians Read” github repo) so maybe there’s a follow-up volume sometime down the road. The 36 papyri included in the book, however, are really cool (of course) but also useful.

This particlar project “clicked” when I realized that these aren’t simply texts randomly saved from the ravages of time. They are witnesses to the people who used them. They are a tangible link to the Christianity practiced (good, bad, and ugly) 1600-1800 years ago and the people who practiced it.

They are incredible, and they are worth our reading and study. You should check them out.

John Wayne, Jesus, and Me

I finally read Jesus and John Wayne (JJW) by Kristen Kobes Du Mez. It helped me put many things into place and start to understand how we (“evangelicalism,” though I don’t think that name is redeemable anymore) got to the depths of despair.

Some personal background:

In the 2016 presidential election cycle, I really wanted John Kasich to win and still can’t fathom that Donald Trump got the nomination. I’m pretty sure that’s when I jumped off the train. I still couldn’t bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton, and am in Washington state (reliably Democrat in Federal and statewide races) and didn’t figure it really mattered, so I wrote in a candidate. It was the first time ever I hadn’t voted for an (R) candidate that was on the ticket.

It was the beginning of my wilderness wandering.

After the 2016 election cycle I was consistently disappointed by the perception of uncritical support by the “evangelical” church for Donald Trump, particularly the sycophantic B-list group of pseudo-Christian celebrities who sucked up to him with all their being, just to be in the orbit of his presidency and feel powerful. Yes, I’m thinking of Franklin Graham (and others). The phrase “sold it all for a bowl of pork and beans” comes to mind if I stop and think about it.

I was also consistently disappointed by the same people and groups (those claiming to be “evangelical”) on issues of race and gender. This disappointment turned into complete frustration during the start of the pandemic and the upheaval of society in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

What I don’t think I realized until sometime in 2017 or 2018 was that it was my own views that were changing. Back during the election, I remembered conversations I had about immigration with friends who were enamored with Trump’s hardline approach and I was incredulous. I realized I was more pro-immigration than I thought.

So, back to JJW.

I could follow most of the history because I lived it. I mean, I was on the outskirts of evangelical (fundamental) culture from the late 70s through the 2010s.

Heck, I remember being in 2nd grade when Ronald Reagan was running against Jimmy Carter (I’m old, OK). My dad was in the Navy so I grew up in a Navy town. I remember being on the playground and talking with a kid (again, I’m in the 2nd grade here) about how he shouldn’t support Jimmy Carter because Ronald Reagan would increase the defense budget and that would be good for us Navy kids.

I remember Oliver North in the Iran Contra hearings.

I remember when Promise Keepers was cool.

I went to a Don Francisco concert when I was in Junior High.

I listened to Dobson on the Christian radio station if I happened to be in the car when it was on. I know the names “Jerry Falwell” (not Jr. but Papa), “Oral Roberts,” and many of the others. My first encounter with Bill Gothard and Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) was in the late 1990’s when it was my job to bid work on converting their books into Logos Bible Software format. (Apparently my price was too high, because it never happened. You can thank me later.) But man those books were creepy.

I’ve since had more direct experience with the effects of BG’s IBLP on people and families I know and love, and WOW. Let’s just say I don’t consider the Duggars (who are BG and IBLP devotees) as heroes or entertainment, and I’m not surprised at recent events with their oldest son. Nobody should watch their train wreck of a show, even if you just think it is “entertainment.” They need their platform destroyed, and the voyeurism needs to stop.

I went to a Christian college. Northwestern College in Orange City, IA (class of ’93!); a Reformed Church in America [RCA] school, literally 10 minutes from where JJW starts at Dordt College [our nemesis and a CRC school] in Sioux Center, IA.

I wrote a letter to the editor of my hometown paper in 1991 after the first Gulf War started in support of the war. I worked the phone bank for a Republican senatorial candidate in Iowa and even got to drive a minivan in a Presidential motorcade when Bush 43 came to Sioux City, IA to campaign and fundraise for him. It didn’t work, Tom Harkin won the open seat that year, and Bush 43 lost too. Sure was fun to speed through Sioux City with a police escort, though.

The thing which I’m most afraid (ashamed?) to admit publicly: I went to a Carman concert. I know. I’ve repented, and moved on.

I redeemed myself and rocked out at Cornerstone 1992 (77s rock!). Spent a spring break in the French Quarter doing street evangelism. Spent a summer as a counselor at a Christian camp in Illinois. Graduated college in 1993. Became a productive member of society (got a job) after I graduated working for an upstart Logos Bible Software, selling Bible software over the phone.

I guess I’m saying that I lived exactly in the world and times of a large chunk of JJW. I watched Rush Limbaugh on TV. I voted against Bill Clinton and thought he should’ve been impeached and convicted for lying under oath (still do) and for receiving oral sex from an intern while in the oval office. I remember the outcry. I remember the “Moral Majority.”

Heck, I was even accepted to Regent College for fall of 1994 because I “felt called” to pursue an M.Div., but I didn’t get any financial aid and couldn’t swing it on a student visa (read: no job) so moved on.

ANYWAY.

Back to JJW (again). Reading this book connected the dots between all these seemingly disparate ministries (and many others) in ways I would have never considered, but now can never un-see.

As I said above, I still didn’t understand how on God’s green earth Donald Trump won the nomination in 2016. I certainly didn’t understand how anyone could vote for him after the “grab ’em by the p*ssy” comments and the revelation (but were we really surprised?) he’d paid off women to be quiet about his extramarital affairs with them.

What happened to the Moral Majority? What happened to these same people who were so worked up about Clinton’s extramarital activities disqualifying him yet so seemingly chill about Trump’s extramarital activities and the several credible abuse accusations against him?

And there are parts I still don’t understand and probably never will. I’m totally flummoxed by Christians over-obsessed with protecting their “freedom” (and to hell with everything else) when Jesus literally told us to love God with everything, and to love others as we love ourselves. Wear the mask, people.

But I do see now, thanks to JJW, how the “evangelical” church has these threads of patriarchy, male power, and female submission woven all throughout it (with a twist of really unhealthy attitudes about sex within marriage, and sexuality in general). I see how church leaders all throughout try to deal with conflict, by quieting it down, by muting and typically blaming the victims, and leaving the perpetrators with largely little comparative consequence (again, see current situation with Josh Duggar for how this works out).

I see how the evangelical church (as a whole, I realize there are exceptions), just about every time some popular or well-placed group or ministry had an opportunity to change course due to a scandal or some other situation coming to light, has basically doubled down.

I keep coming back to Kristen Kobes Du Mez’ quote from … I don’t remember the source. But here it is:

Jesus will save your souls, but John Wayne will save your ass.

That is, as I read it, at this point in time the “evangelical” church is pretty much exalting the people it sees as strong, who will save their ass if and when the time comes. Preach Jesus, but pack heat. Put people in power who will protect your interests. Their morality is irrelevant; their strength is the primary qualification.

QED, Donald Trump.

As for me, I do not consider myself to be an evangelical anymore. I mean, I would love to keep that word because it is a great word and it does describe how I’d like to be: One who evangelizes, one who supports and proclaims the gospel. But the social group that word is now tied to has corrupted it beyond repair. It has become synonymous with “Trump supporter.” And I cannot be in that group. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve probably been here since 2016 and Trump’s election.

Some people I know will think I’ve totally jumped the shark, that I’m naïve, and that I’ve bought in to some woke stuff.

Maybe they’re right.

But I know this: Look at what “evangelicalism” tells you today. Their primary message has either been about a need to uncritically support Donald Trump (the twice-impeached one), or it has focused on division. By that I mean the primary messages from evangelical voices with platforms are pretty much about broadcasting what people shouldn’t be doing, and about telegraphing what the in-group people should be against. BLM. LGBTQ. Immigration. COVID-19 public health regulations. Democrats. 1619 Project. Critical Race Theory.

I can’t abide this any more, and really haven’t been able to since 2016 or so. I simply don’t think matters are that clear. These things aren’t black and white; it is a spectrum and we live in the middle of the gray. You can’t just decide what your view is going to be and double down on it forever. But that’s what evangelicalism has done for at least the past 75 years.

The best and most succinct enunciation of this I’ve ever heard was in a story I heard on the radio about a guy in Seattle who spends his time on weekends setting homeless folks up with portable toilets. It is an awesome story, it is less than 9 minutes long, and you should listen to it. Anyway, this guy says the most incredible thing somewhere between 7 and 8 minutes in, but please listen to the minutes before this to get the full context of the statement:

If you have moral clarity, you aren’t in deep enough.

Mark Lloyd

We live in a complex world. As Ferris Bueller says, “Life comes at you pretty fast.” Me? I am part of a transracial family. In our immediate family unit of five, we are Asian, we are Pacific Islander, and we are African American; on top of the Dutch/Norwegian/Irish and pastiche of other European influences.

I didn’t do it on purpose, but I got in deeper. And any moral clarity I may have thought I had has been thrown out the window. The simple solutions simply don’t work anymore.

I’m not sure how to wrap this all up, and I feel I’ve drifted a bit.

Suffice it to say, I am still a Christian. But it is like real life, the life I have lived and experienced in the past 10 years or so, has totally obliterated all the theoretical theological glass houses that used to be so comfortable. It is a bit cliché, but those glass houses are broken and gone. I’m not sure if I’m deconstructing, deconstructed, reconstructing, reconstructed, or just confused.

Jesus and John Wayne has helped me reconcile, to a degree, the recoil I’ve been experiencing for the past four years trying to understand how people who profess to believe the essentials of what I profess to believe can have such a different (and I think dangerous) take on political and social issues, not to mention the gospel. And for this, thank you, Kristen Kobes Du Mez.

Time for an Update

Apparently it’s been around 3 months since I last posted here (on Dec. 23, 2020, about Christmas Papyri). Three days before that I posted about my 2021 writing plans.

In that post I listed three priorities for the year:

  • Finish the Prayer and Amulet papyri fragments
  • Write about papyri letters
  • Write about theological and homiletical papyri fragments

I’m actually almost done with these three priorities. That is, I’ve got a draft of Prayer and Amulet papyri in the can (yay!). Then I realized that papyri letters don’t really fit in with what I’m hoping to do and there are multiple sources to point people to that handle them well. I’ve written about the theological fragments and need to write the discussion for one more homilietical fragment (1,000-2,000 words, likely). The end (of the first draft) is near.

This is good for multiple reasons. The first reason is that I’ve been working on and off in my “spare” time on this since 2018. It really took form in 2019, and went through a few changes in 2020. I’m ready to start tying the whole thing together (around 150 pages or so, I think). The second reason is that I have a few other projects cooking for the next few years (can’t say much about them yet) so it would be good to get the major portions of the papyri volume from the draft stage into rewrite/edit stage.

Now, about the pandemic …

Different people have different experiences. I can’t say I have much to complain about as I am still gainfully employed in a job I enjoy with amazing and smart colleagues. I’ve been able to work from home (er, “live from work”) for over a year now. I’ve actually been fairly productive (we released Logos 9 in October 2020, some of my contributions here), especially considering three kids (now 4, 8, and 13) have been at home for the same period of time, largely because we were not comfortable with the laissez-faire approach their private Christian school was taking toward health and safety in the midst of the pandemic. At times being at home has been a horrible shit-show; at other times it’s been the best thing. Most times, I’m just tired. Our family has various medical needs and constraints (in other words, we will hit our family medical deductible by the end of the month, and that’s normal, let the reader understand), and it can get fairly exhausting fairly quickly.

What has frustrated me has been to witness the pushback that people who claim to follow Christ have regarding social justice issues (especially those related to race and unjust use of force by police on people of color) and regarding public health issues (masks, large public groups gatherings, restrictions on actions in public groups). I am especially horrified by the current rise of Christian nationalism and what happened at the Capitol on January 6. I am a parent in a transracial family, and I have safety concerns for my family based on what I’ve seen and heard (both locally and on the social medias) about attitudes towards people of color.

I have a lot in common with Beth Moore at this point, it seems. If you haven’t read her recent interview regarding her disassociation with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), you need to. Here’s just one of many things I read in the article that resonates with where I am in regards to what “evangelicals” have done in the past 5 years:

In October 2016, Moore had what she called “the shock of my life,” when reading the transcripts of the “Access Hollywood” tapes, where Trump boasted of his sexual exploits with women.

“This wasn’t just immorality,” she said. “This smacked of sexual assault.”

She expected her fellow evangelicals, especially Southern Baptist leaders she trusted, to be outraged, especially given how they had reacted to Bill Clinton’s conduct in the 1990s. Instead, she said, they rallied around Trump.

“The disorientation of this was staggering,” she said. “Just staggering.”

“Disorientation” is a great word to describe this. I have experienced similar disorientation. There’s more, and you should read the whole article.

BUT: Our 4 year old is back in preschool two mornings a week. Our 13 year old is back in school with a hybrid schedule (2 days in, 2 days at home). Our 8 year old is still being homeschooled, and there are both joys and pressures with that arrangement. These are luxuries for us, largely because our public school district has been and is being diligent in putting the safety of students and staff first. Our fingers are crossed hoping that next school year will be a few steps closer to normal.

How to wrap this up? How about a simple plea: People, wear masks when you’re out of your house. Also, get vaccinated when you have opportunity.

Rick’s 2021 Writing Schedule: Fragmentary Early Christian Papyri

I’ve posted writing schedules in the past (2016 through 2019). For some reason, I didn’t do it for 2020. But it’s time again to try and sketch things out and make some plans for how to spend my research and writing time in 2021.

Things are always subject to change, but for 2021, my planned focus is on fragmentary early Christian papyri. I’ve done research and writing in this area since late 2018 (as sporadically evidenced on this blog) and have posted numerous transcriptions and translations as well.

At various times in the crap-hole that will historically be known as “2020” I’ve been able to get some further writing done on these fragmentary wonders. I have drafts together for the liturgical papyri (16K words) and hymn papyri (11K words) and am probably 60% through the prayer and amulet papyri (15K words at present). This means my hopes for 2021 are to:

  • Finish the Prayer and Amulet papyri fragments
  • Write about papyri letters
  • Write about theological and homiletical papyri fragments

My goal is to introduce biblical studies folks to these papyri as they are excellent and typically overlooked material. Each papyri will have a transcription, a translation, a content description, and a discussion (some short, some long) on the papyrus itself. These will typically be focused on examining affinity and interaction with Old Testament, New Testament, and other early Christian literature, with references (and hopefully decent indexes for facilitating lookup).

Not sure on word counts for letters and theological/homiletical fragments, but I’m guessing the total will be 100-120K words, maybe more. Below is a sample of one of the hymn fragments, P.Berol. 16595.

I’m not sure where or how this material will be published. I’ve had one publisher express interest but want to go in a different direction with the material (and I was not interested in their direction). I’ve also had one publisher pass on publishing. If you’re reading this, and you’re an acquisitions editor or otherwise involved with a publisher and want some more information, feel free to contact me via the blog contact form.

Here’s hoping 2021 is a productive year for writing. If I can get through drafts of most of this material, that would be most excellent.

A Crisis of Praxis

I need to start this post by stating that I am a believer in Jesus. I think the Apostles Creed provides an accurate summary of the major, non-negotiable tenets of the faith. I think “Unity in essentials, Liberty in non-essentials, Charity in all things” provides a great framework for how believers should interact with each other.

 

I also need to say that I’m fed up, and I’m having what I think I can call a “crisis of praxis.”

I need to be clear and further state that I’m talking about myself. I may identify areas that I see as issues in society and the church-at-large, but largely what I’m frustrated with is how out-of-sync my theology has become with my praxis. In other words, how what I think about Christianity has become out-of-sync with how I actually live.

I theologically understand the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. But these days, it’s as if those things have no direct, tangible, daily effect on my life.

I’m not talking about legalism or rule-following. I’m not talking about a pastor exhorting a particular action as the “application” of a passage in a sermon.

The way I was taught and the way I continue to think about praxis is that it is the logical outflow of the faith we have in Jesus. There should be a result of that faith that is natural, visible, and un-forced. And it should be distinguishing.

But I just don’t see it. I don’t see evidence of theology and belief practiced in my own life or in large as a result of the presence of the church, be it local or global.

The past six or seven years have worn me down. I have had (rightly, I’d argue) pretty much my sole focus on my little family of 5 and the insane challenges (no, really) that our life situation has brought us.

And I don’t have anything left. As the vulgar yet popular saying goes, “I’ve got zero f*cks left to give.” In this world where my immediate life situation demands and takes pretty much everything, what happens outside of my life situation sucks my hope away.

I’m grieved by my own action and inaction, but too weary and spent to do anything about it. How should I respond to that homeless woman who, in the summer and fall, essentially lives outside of the office where I work? Smiling and nodding isn’t the right way, but it’s about all I have bandwidth for apart from a muttered prayer as I enter the office each day.

How is it that I can sit through sermons at my church, basically numb to what is being said? This isn’t the pastor’s fault — he’s a good friend of mine, and he won’t be surprised that I’m writing this. But when the thing I look most forward to at church is that I can sit for an hour and zone out and not be interrupted by kids or crisis, how can that be right? This seems like an issue. And, honestly — I really don’t care, and I really don’t want to change it.

And when I look at the wider scope of things, I see the big-C “Church” (well, the protestant flavor) happily wielding power as a political pawn through self-proclaimed church “leaders” who, to me anyway, seem literally hell-bent on pursuing power at the cost of everything. Like Esau, they’ve swapped it all for a bowl of pork-and-beans, and they don’t even know it — or they do know it and they don’t care.

Does this not drive anyone else to despair?

When I look at our elected leaders, I see politicians who in their words acknowledge the King of Kings, but lack in their basic understanding of the Bible and their perverse application of it in their pontificating on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate, in their blathering during hearings, and during their interviews while appealing to their base saying whatever they can to retain power. It is sick. It drives me to despair.

I’m not expecting parity between what one thinks to be true and how one’s actions portay that truth. Lord knows that’s impossible. But the disconnect on all levels between what is testified to as true and what actions betray to be true has caused me to experience more dissonance than I’d previously thought possible.

It has worn me down.

And I haven’t even got to the issues of white privilege and patriarchy that dominate both church and society at all levels — local, national, and global — yet seem so insurmountable. I am grieved by these too, and yet I have no energy for a response. All I can muster is, unfortunately, apathy.

Talk about “white privilege,” I’m a living, breathing example.

And that’s the crisis, at least to me. My theology says my faith should provoke more than intellectual assent. But my praxis betrays this. When I look to the local church for help, I sense desire to do something, to be sure, but not a lot of ability or knowledge on how to do anything apart from the same church programs that have always been done. (I don’t know either; this isn’t a criticism, it is a statement of what I see happening.) And when I look to the church at large for help, the only thing I see is self-proclaimed “leaders” using platforms as personal power plays.

And all I can muster is apathy and preservation of my Sunday hour of uninterruption.

This is why I frame this as a “crisis of praxis.” I see the issues and they weigh upon me, but I’m spent.

I have zero f*cks left to give.

Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: Second Timothy — Now on @Logos Prepub!

This past winter, I published the second volume (of three planned volumes) of the Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, this one being the volume on Second Timothy.

Now the good folks at Logos Bible Software (note: I work for Faithlife, the producer of Logos Bible Software) have decided to make Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: Second Timothy available on prepub, to go along with the volume on First Timothy that was released in Logos format in 2017.

I’m stoked about this! Preorder yours in Logos format now!

Here’s the description on Amazon:

To responsibly exegete the text of Second Timothy, one must become familiar with the vocabulary. But examination of word meanings involves more than simply looking up words in a lexicon and choosing a gloss that seems appropriate.

Rick Brannan evaluates the vocabulary of the Second Timothy in light of the New Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), the Apostolic Fathers, the works of Philo, the works of Josephus, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, and other material. Many commentaries and other works of exegesis mention material from these sources to provide background information or examples of word usage, duly noting references to such works in footnotes or endnotes. Brannan’s work, however, provides full quotations (in translation) of the relevant references. Instead of relegating these citations to footnotes that are seldom if ever looked up, the cited text itself is reproduced for the reader to evaluate.

Please note: All proceeds from sale of books published by Appian Way Press, in print or Logos format, go directly to offset costs incurred in the adoption of our third child, Josiah. He’s now 2, and doing well! But domestic infant adoption is expensive, and we’ll be paying bills for a long time, so help us out with some book purchases!

What Have I Been Doing?

tablewithpapyrusbooks-001.png

It’s almost March, and I haven’t blogged much — mostly because I’ve been gathering transcriptions of papyri and translating them in my spare time. I think the count is now over 60 transcriptions, with a large proportion of them translated as well. This is all research and preparation for a larger book project that I’m just about ready to chart out and try to see if I can get it written, somehow, in the next year.

And I’ve also been writing my weekly email newsletter, (forthcoming), in bits of time between transcribing and translating (and fixing rabbit hutches, and playing with kids, and of course working at Faithlife, and sometimes even sleeping).

So it’s been busy and productive, but I haven’t really blogged much about it all. If you want to keep up, the best thing to do is to subscribe to (forthcoming).

What’s happening next? I’m torn because I really, really, want to keep digging into the early fragmentary Christian papyri. They are so interesting, and there is so much work to be done there. But I also need to start writing a paper on commands in Titus for a conference in Germany this September. But before that I need to write two papers for BibleTech — again in Seattle on April 11 and 12. And it may have been foolish, but I just submitted a proposal for a paper at SBL (in San Diego this November!) which I can talk about more after I hear whether or not it gets accepted.

So, yes, I’ve been busy!

Sign up for my Newsletter, “(forthcoming)”

JimCarreyTypingHi folks.

Part of the reason I have this blog is for experimentation. Another part is to raise interest in and disseminate information about my publication projects.

For both of those reasons, I’m going to start a newsletter (sign up here). I’m tentatively titling it (forthcoming), and it will include excerpts from books I’ve published, material from things I’m researching (e.g. Stuff Early Christians Read), and updates on whatever else I find interesting. I plan to use the newsletter to announce when new stuff is available as well.

I’m presently thinking there will be 2–3 newsletters per month, and they shouldn’t be more than a page or two in length. I don’t want to do more than one newsletter per week, at most. I’m not sure exactly when the newsletters will start, but probably sometime in the next two weeks.

This list of email addresses will not be sold or rented, its sole purpose is for distribution of (forthcoming).

If you’re interested, please sign up using this link. Also “Like” my new Facebook Author Page). Thanks!

Subscribe to my newsletter!