Monday, July 25, 2016

Help to Find a Publisher



I've decided to harness the power of the internet and am asking readers of this blog for some assistance.

Several years ago, I began writing a faith-based novel.  Now, I need to find a publisher.  The book, Revelation, follows Publius Scipio Longus, a decadent Roman aristocrat who finds true faith through the book of Revelation.  As you know from the blog, I'm a religious historian, so the account is accurate for the time and place.


In the book, Longus has to seek safety after his slave disrupts the coronation of the new emperor, Nerva.  He finds refuge with Christians hiding in the catacombs, but is enslaved and sent to a Roman silver mine in Spain.  There, he befriends a Christian slave who has found solace in Revelation.  Freed, Longus finds himself going back to Rome with Christians arrested for their beliefs.  They face death in the Colosseum if they don’t recant their beliefs.  Longus must choose between his own safety and joining them in martyrdom.

Revelation has been professionally edited and runs about 84,000 words.

I have always been interested in how and why people discover faith.  I chose a time period, around the end of the first century, when Christianity was gaining momentum and separating from Judaism.  The pagan faiths were fading, and Romans were turning increasingly to divination and astrology. 

I've had a variety of fiction and nonfiction books published in the past, including Comparative Religion for Dummies (Wiley Press), Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols (Halifax Press) and a comic murder-mystery, Adventures in Bonding (Bold Venture Press.) I am also a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor who has taught writing at various colleges and universities while ghostwriting for clients worldwide via an agent in New York.

This is the first time I’ve written a novel with such religious content.  I thought a publisher focused on that audience might be a better choice, but do not know any.

Do you?

You can write me at wplazarus@aol.com or add a comment to this blog. 

Thanks for any help.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Racism and Trump


The deep and malevolent vein of racism that runs beneath American culture lies exposed.  Angered by having a competent black president, racists have emerged from the shadows on the heels of the presidential campaign.  They are not being coy: “Make America Great Again” is the most racist slogan in American political history.

It easily eclipses the anti-Catholic sentiments that tarnished presidential campaigns in 1884, 1928 and 1960, while sprinting well past the slimy lies endured by Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman in their day, as well as by Edwin Muskie, John Kerry and Al Gore in ours.
Trump

The U.S. is lacking in nothing, from resources to the strongest economy and the best military.  The only thing that Donald Trump and his followers want to make “greater” is to return a white man to the White House.

Such a hateful attitude grew out of a singular event that took place nearly 400 years ago.  In 1619, Virginia tobacco farmers imported slaves to work the fields.  There were free black men in this country, but Virginia moved quickly to curtain the rights of slaves, rapidly ensnaring anyone with darker skin in the process.

Other southern states followed suit, prevent blacks from voting, owning property and, of course, getting an education.

Slavery
Emancipation in the 1860s as a result of the Civil War did nothing to change attitudes.  By then, the idea that a person with darker skin was somehow inferior was deeply ingrained into the American psyche, a concept backed by an 1890s Supreme Court decision creating "separate but equal" guidelines.  That concept is no different than the twisted claims of Nazis that German genes were somehow better than anyone else’s.   This plague of eugenics led to the inevitable Holocaust, and was only destroyed by more-recent scientific research into genetics.

Scientists have proven that all females of any color are descendants of one woman who lived perhaps 150,000 years ago.  All males have the same father.  This isn’t Adam and Eve; our progenitors lived thousands of years apart.

As such, color is merely an adaptation.  Darker skin protects against the fierce African sun.  In the same way, white skin is more beneficial in northern climates. Evolutionary studies have helped to explain the process.

In reality, humans come in multiple colors, the direct result of the mixing of genes across the millennia.   Color has nothing to do with intelligence, athletic ability, creativity, morals, ethics or any aspect that makes us individuals.

O. Henry
Americans and their British counterparts remain almost unique in their fixation on skin color.  I saw that first hand in an Embry-Riddle University classroom, where students in an English class read an old  O. Henry story.  The irony in the 1890s tale was that the protagonist had a black wife and was seeking a white cook.  Readers were naturally supposed to believe the opposite.

None of my international students understood the irony.  Their societies, with natives of all colors, had no concept of racism.  That’s equally true in India and China, countries with the bulk of the world’s population.

I’m not suggesting that all of Trump’s supporters are racists.  Some clearly like the egotistical, narcissistic businessman with multiple failed marriages and bankruptcies who faces thousands of lawsuits because of his business practices.   They want a “strong” leader, just the way Italians initially supported Mussolini, the late fascist whom Trump seems to most resemble.

However, racism remains the key component of his appeal.  After all, Trump is endorsed by the KKK and the American Nazi Party, exemplar homegrown proponents of racism. 

That hate-filled attitude is also an element in the widespread police shootings, too, although the NRA shares some of the blame for its mad effort to arm an entire country.  Under the circumstances, police have no way of knowing if someone they are stopping is carrying a weapon.  They would rather shoot first, which is understandable.  At the same time, however, color is clearly a factor whether or not bullets fly.

Nor can we expect an immediate change.  With almost four centuries of racist propaganda and a political candidate using coded messages to continue the drumbeat, racism will continue to pulse overtly through our country.
Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that someday his children will be judged by their character and not the color of the skin remains merely a hope in a Trump world driven by overt racism.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His most recent book is Passover in Prison, which details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons, and The Sands of Time, a look at 100 years of Daytona Beach racing history.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1





Monday, July 11, 2016

"Proving" the Bible



Recent dig at a Philistine site
Every now and then, archaeologists stumble over some relic or site that illuminates some aspect of our past.  Such discoveries are not only exciting for the archaeologists, but fascinating for anyone interested in unveiling human history.

One group in particular really pays attention: fundamentalists, who are committed to a belief in the accuracy of the Bible.  Each finding which touches on the biblical time period is greeted with loud enthusiasm and applause as if the new information “proves” biblical accounts.

Their wide-eyed interest started back in the 1800s when the first critical studies of the New Testament revealed that much of the text was laced with mythology.  The German School went so far as to claim that Jesus was basically a myth.  The real Jesus was “sacrificed for Christ,” was the way one researcher described it..

Ancient Jericho
Such claims naturally outraged believers, who promptly began to fund investigations by scholars and archaeologists to scour the Holy Land for proof.  They were inspired by the discovery of Troy in the mid-1800s, a city long thought to be part of a myth.  If it was real, biblical sites must be buried under Israeli dirt.

They were right.  Ancient cities like Jericho were unearthed throughout the country along with graves, buildings and the like. 

Unfortunately for the faithful, however, such discoveries do not prove anything.

Canaanite ruins
Take for example the discovery of ancient Jericho, buried layers below the current city.  It is there.  It is in the Bible.  However, its presence only proves that it existed, not that any of the biblical stories associated with Jericho are true.  We have no way of knowing if Joshua marched his army around the city for seven days, somehow causing the walls to fall down.  In fact, no evidence of walls has been found. 

That’s the limitation of archaeology.  It can demonstrate that something existed, such as a structure, a city, homes, even a culture, since everyone in a community shared cultural traits.  Such findings can be dated through Carbon 14.  But that’s a two-edged sword.  For example, archaeologists found proof of ancient Canaanite settlements, but no evidence of an invasion by escaped slaves from Egypt, as the Bible depicts.

That’s because cultural artifacts, such as cloth, ceramics and housing design, were unchanged for millennia. 

Ancient stone with Pilate's name on it
The same limitation touches on New Testament research.  For example, Pontius Pilate, who in the sacred text presides over the trial of Jesus, really lived.  His name is attested in several places.  But that’s not proof of that Jesus was tried before Pilate or, indeed, had the slightest contact with the Roman official. No evidence of a connection, beyond biblical claims, has ever been found.

In fact, the supposed official information about Pilate’s 10 years in office were released by a later Roman emperor, but promptly vanished.  Historians suspect the papers contradicted Christian teachings, but also wonder if the texts were forged by an anti-Christian emperor.

Bible
Regardless, the connection between Jesus and Pilate is tenuous at best.  For starters, no one knows when Jesus lived.  While the New Testament places Jesus in the reign of Pilate, 26 to 36 C.E., it also claims in Luke that Jesus was born during the census of 6 C.E., another real event that took place when the Romans ousted Herod’s successor, but, in Matthew, the nativity took place at the end of the reign of King Herod, who died in 4 B.C.E.  Because of the obvious contradiction, some historians have suggested that the anonymous biblical authors actually plucked the names of prominent Romans and inserted them in the text.

Archaeology will never provide an answer.  That won’t stop archaeologists from digging up all sorts of new information.  However, nothing they find will ever prove a single line of the Bible.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His most recent book is Passover in Prison, which details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1