John Woman

Walter Mosley is a prolific author. His first book was Devil in a Blue Dress which introduced Easy Rawlins, the reluctant detective–my review here. He has 14 in that series through 2016; 6 in the Socrates Fortlow series; 7 in the Leonid McGill series through 2020; 4 Crosstown to Oblivion books; and 17 standalone books with John Woman being the most recent in 2018.

The first thing I can say about this book is that Mosley has come a long way. Yet, not all that far. Easy Rowlins is a man who wants to do his job in a world that does not respect his race. He seeks the truth as well as a payday. John Woman, seven decades later, seeks the truth as well.

A big difference is that John, son of a broken but intelligent black man, graduated from Yale and then Harvard before becoming a professor at a new school in Arizona. His speciality is deconstructionist history–the study of what we do not know.

I know, history; who would have guessed? If you do not like history you probably won’t like this book. Prof Woman spends much of the book lecturing on why historians are so often wrong. The Civil War was not fought to free the slaves. How can we be sure that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis–or another 3 million Russians, Poles, Gypsies, etc? Too often we rely on flawed sources like Parsons Weems stories about young George Washington throwing a dollar across the Potomac and chopping down a cherry tree. People told the silly stories so long we began to believe they must be true.

Yes, there is a murder in the book and it hangs over most of the storyline like Joe Bflspk’s dark cloud in Li’l Abner. Part of the reason is that the name John Woman is, as you may have guessed, is contrived. After CC Jones killed a man at the age of 16, he created a new image of himself as an 18-year-old high school graduate, and after a semester at CCNY he created a completed degree that qualified him to enter Yale.

I read every page of this book. I would have loved to take his class, even though I had very little idea where Woman was headed. I also did not know where Mosley was headed. He created a direction for his protagonist to go, but I thought Woman was too smart to go that way. I read the last chapter twice to make sure I didn’t overlook something.

The truth is that Woman disappeared. The truth is, we do not know any other truth. In that sense, Mosley kept the story within the deconstructionist framework.

The story has some weaknesses. It was disappointing in places. It was not as grand as I think Mosley wanted it to be. But it is good.

Mike Lawrence

The Beginning of Wisdom

Copyright: U.S. Army

 

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

Last week, we looked at the acrostic Psalm 37. When I finally looked back before writing this post, I noticed an acrostic on September 1 for Psalm 112. Today’s Psalm 111 is also an acrostic. In some respects, it would be good to consider 111 & 112 together, but the theme of each is very different. They are both short, just ten verses, and contain two letters per verse except for nine and ten containing three verses.

Psalm 111 praises God, while 112 praises the righteous individual. As we look at each of the first seven lines, we see they describe the greatness of God. The next 12 lines describe God’s gifts to us. The last three lines begin with, The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LordJSB

That single statement is the key message of the Bible.

We must understand the Hebrew meaning that most English translations turn into fear. The word is yir’ah. That is the feminine form of yare. Yare means fearing or reverent while yir’ah means reverence or fear.

Instead of using the word that stresses fear, the author used the form that stresses reverence. For ancient Hebrews, when they were talking about God, they meant both fear and reverence. There was no option to approach God without both.

Today, we in America especially have removed fear from the equation. Many now have the notion that in Christ, we can say to God, “Yo, Man, how’s it hanging?” If we look at Jesus, he never got more personal than to call God Abba, which means Daddy.

In other words, Jesus never assumed he was on equal footing with Yahwah. Yes, he could call on God as a father, and we can as well, but we should always call on God with that sense of fear we find in the Hebrew word.

There is a famous photo of Eisenhower talking with some soldiers of the 101st Airborne the day before they dropped into France. He was talking to Lt. Strobel from Michigan about fly fishing. Right behind him was a sergeant who answered when Ike asked if there was anyone from Kansas. Then the four-star general asked the sergeant his name and the man was so awed by Ike that he forgot his own name. That is something like how we should approach God.

Yahweh is a God who heals people through His son Jesus. He is a God who turns fish and bread into a feast for thousands. He is a God who brings the dead back to life. How can we ever not have a little fear of Him? But it should always be a combination of fear, respect, and reverence.

Everyone who works on the long-distance electric power lines approaches them with that kind of fear. They tend to run around 345,000 volts, over 8,000 amps. There is simply no second chance, no do-overs, no choice but to concentrate and do it by the book every time.

As Christians, we too often forget about the book and just do it our own way. At least with God, there are do-overs. But there still is no easy button.

Or is there? Yeshua the Messiah; Jesus the Christ?

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence