Saturday, March 22, 2008

A short Jerusalem photo tour

Photos copyright 2007 by the author; may not be used or hotlinked without permission.

The first photo is of the Gethsemane Church on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. The church's proper name is the Church of All Nations and was built from 1919-1924. It was to Gethsemane that Jesus and his disciples, except Judas, came after the Last Supper. It was here that Judas brought the Temple police to arrest Jesus.

The first thing Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to endure was flagellation, a whipping with a particular whip called a flagellum. Although probably not quite as brutal as depicted in Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, it was a bloody ordeal nonetheless, and considerably weakened Jesus before he was crucified, which may help account for the speed at which he expired on the cross.

As at most Christian holy sites in Israel, there is a church built at the site where Jesus was whipped. This plaque at the church explains its history.

This is the interior of the Church of the Flagellation. There is little historical doubt that this is indeed the actual site where the scourging took place. Jesus' trial took place only a half-block away; Pilate's "courtroom" is still there and is undeniably of Roman origin. The courtyard between that site and this church is verifiably also of Roman origin.

This is a small chapel along the via dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows that Jesus walked to his execution. At this station of the cross, Jesus stumbled and fell, depicted in the mural below. It was not at this place, but a later one, where the Roman soldiers made a bystander help carry the cross because Jesus was too weakened to continue alone.

The scene depicted is of the ancient Roman Catholic tradition of Jesus carrying the entire cross, the upright and crossbeam included. Relatively recent historical research has revealed, though, that almost certainly there were permanent uprights built outside Jerusalem, a sort of ready-to-use gallows, if you will. Jesus and other condemned would have carried only the crossbeam.

Below is a street scene along the via dolorosa. This and many other sections are lined with shops, all seeking the tourists' trade. In the first century, the streets were much wider and certainly not so commercialized.

Finally, you see the dome and cross of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This is a view from the courtyard of the church.

Another view. As you can see, the church is extremely large. Under one roof the church encompasses the site where Jesus was crucified, the place his body was (incompletely) prepared for burial, and his tomb.

A schematic of the church from Sacred Destinations Travel Guide.

This is a tableau on the wall next to the place where Jesus' body was prepared for burial. The rock of preparation is on the floor just beneath here. Except it is not actually the rock even if it is the actual location - the actual rock was taken away in bits and pieces centuries ago by religious pilgrims who wanted a relic.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this is the entrance to the traditionally-sited tomb of Jesus. I did not go inside since the waiting line was more than an hour long.

The Sepulchre Church is, as I said, simply enormous. High above the tomb's site is this dome, which is not the largest dome of the church by any means.

Sacred Destinations' page on the church is worth reading and includes the arguments in favor of the site being the actual location of Jesus' death and entombment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Generosity makes you happy

If you spend as little as $5 per day for the benefit of others, you will automatically be happier.
"We wanted to test our theory that how people spend their money is at least as important as how much money they earn," said Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia.

They asked their 600 volunteers first to rate their general happiness, report their annual income and detail their monthly spending including bills, gifts for themselves, gifts for others and donations to charity.

"Regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not," Dunn said in a statement.

Dunn's team also surveyed 16 employees at a company in Boston before and after they received an annual profit-sharing bonus of between $3,000 and $8,000.

"Employees who devoted more of their bonus to pro-social spending experienced greater happiness after receiving the bonus, and the manner in which they spent that bonus was a more important predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself," they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.

"Finally, participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves," they said.
Something else I've learned: generous people cope with their own mortality much better than others. In the years I've ministered to the terminally ill and people dealing with aging-toward-mortality, invariably the ones who have been generous towards others - routinely, not just for birthdays or holidays - finally die more peaceably than non-generous people.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How the stock market works

Once upon a time in a jungle village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest, and started catching them.

The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 ! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. 'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.'

The villagers rounded up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys. Then they never saw the man nor his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.

From the Braden Files.

Rethinking Marriage

What the Christian religion has to do with marriage is a huge subject, so at best this is an overview. I call it Rethinking Marriage becaus...