Author: David Lamb

I’m thankful, but I still grieve

Dad Dave at Lamb Grave PlotI’m thankful, but I still grieve. 

I have many things to be thankful for.   

I’m thankful to be a man.  I love the things typically associated with masculinity: sports, competition, protecting and providing for my family.  I like to stand, not sit.

But I grieve for the millions of women who have been victimized by men, women who have been raped, trafficked, and sexually assaulted.

I’m thankful for my racial heritage.  I visited the grave sites of my grandparents with my father in Lexington, Kentucky this past week, and listened proudly to stories about my ancestors.

But I grieve for the many Americans of non-European heritage who do not yet share the many privileges that I take for granted.

I’m thankful to be an American citizen.  I love to freely vote, to freely worship my God, and to freely praise or to freely critique my government.

But I grieve for the many residents of this land who fear deportation, and who are only able to take the jobs most Americans don’t want.

I’m thankful to be a parent.  I love to talk, to play, to wrestle with my sons.  They give me joy every day, and I’m intensely proud of them.

But I grieve for parents who have lost sons and daughters this past year, in Syria, in Liberia, and in Ferguson, Missouri.

Exodus: Gods and Kings: What to do when Hollywood gets the story “wrong”?

The new film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will be released December 12, 2014 (watch the trailer below).

I obviously, haven’t seen it, but I know what’s going to happen (spoiler alert: the Israelites are freed). But I also can predict what Christians will say. Based on responses to numerous previous screen portrayals of Scripture, most notably to the recent Noah film (2014), there will two reactions among the Christian community.

1) Some will say, “Hollywood is making a movie about the Bible. That’s awesome! I can’t wait to see how big they make the walls of water of the Red Sea. I’ll definitely see it.”

2) Others will say, “Hollywood never gets the Bible right. Look what happened to the Noah movie. I’ve already heard bad things about the new Exodus film. They change the story. I definitely won’t see it.”

I personally identify more naturally with the first group, but I understand the second group.

I am frequently in situations where people don’t get the biblical story right (perhaps some of those times I was listening to some of you). But before I jump into biblical scholar mode, I recall it’s not my job to correct every minor detail. Christians who say, “Hollywood got the story wrong” come across like the person in high school that corrected everyone else’s grammar. You don’t want to be that person (like you don’t want to be the creepy Rob Lowe).

I would hope that both groups would remember that this film is just an interpretation of the story (like Renaissance art portrayals of biblical scenes). The Bible reinterprets the story of the Exodus in different ways, emphasizing different things.  Some of these interpretations seem contradictory.

Check out these two versions in the Psalms of the complaining in the wilderness (Exo. 16-17):

“They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food in abundance.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out” (Psalm 105:40-41a).

“But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert” (Psalm 106:14).

Psalm 105 frames their complaining positively.  They asked, he gave.

Psalm 106 describes it a bit more negatively (“wanton craving”, testing God).

If Scripture itself can retell the story it such divergent ways, perhaps we should cut some slack to these screen interpretations.

The story of the Exodus is an amazing story, re-told more than any other story in Scripture. I’m glad Hollywood is retelling the story. I’ll see the film and tell you what I think about it next month (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Maybe I’ll see you at the theater (save me the aisle seat).

Ephahs, Hins, and Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys

“You must have accurate scales and accurate weights, an accurate ephah and an accurate hin (1 gallon)” (Leviticus 19:36).

If you read that verse carefully, you should have a couple of questions. Here are mine:

1) What’s an ephah and a hin? 

2) Why does God care so much about accuracy (4 times in 1 verse)?  

3) What do ephahs and hins have to do with the book Flash Boys?  

Great questions.  In order,

1) An ephah is about 20 quarts. A hin is about a gallon. That knowledge should help you sleep better tonight. You can probably forget those numbers. I can’t remember them and I teach the Old Testament.

2) God values accuracy in scales, weights, and measurements because he wants his people to trade fairly. God is concerned about justice.  Let’s say you’re doing the milk run, looking to buy a hin of milk for your family.  But if the person you buy from has an inaccurate measurement and only gives you 3/4 of a hin, then a member of your family may go without milk on their Honey-Nut Cheerios tomorrow.  The milk seller profits from an unfair market mechanism.

3) While the complexities of the US stock market and high frequency trading are a bit more complicated than a barter system involving hins and ephahs, the same principles apply.  God is concerned about justice. In Flash Boys (2014), bestselling author Michael Lewis tells the story of a group of Wall Street traders and technicians who are attempting to create a fair exchange (kind of like an accurate hin).  Their exchange (IEX) is designed to prevent predatory high frequency traders (HFT) from skimming profits from investors who are simply looking for a fair price on a commodity, whether selling or buying.

You are probably familiar with Michael Lewis, and have probably seen a film or two based on one of his books.  I’ve read and would highly recommend Liar’s PokerThe Blind Side, Moneyball (he’s written a bunch of other bestselling books, but I haven’t read them).

Lewis is a great writer and story-teller. Here is what Malcolm Gladwell (see my review of David and Goliath here) says, “I read Michael Lewis for the same reason I watch Tiger Woods.  I’ll never play like that.  But it’s good to be reminded every now and again what genius looks like.”

If you’re turned off by f-bombs, don’t read this book. I don’t think the title is particularly interesting, engaging or provocative, but I guess if you’re Michael Lewis you probably don’t need to worry too much about catching people’s attention with a title. The book gets a bit too technical at times, but I still found it hard to put down. If you are interested in fair markets, you’ve got to read this book.

If you like Goldman Sachs, be warned that they start out looking like the villains, but you’ll be relieved to know they repent by the end.

Hopefully, we will hear more about IEX Group, the “Flash Boys” who revolted on Wall Street, as more trades get directed to their exchange.  To watch the visually fascinating 3.5 minute animated video about the exchange they created, click here.  This book should be made into a movie.

Ten Commandments Smashed a Second Time

Smashed 10 CommandmentsThe Ten Commandments have been smashed a second time.  The first time the perpetrator was Moses.  He got mad when he saw that the Israelites were worshiping the golden calf (Exo. 32:19).

It’s happened again.

This time in Oklahoma City, on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capital grounds.  On Friday, October 24, 2014, a man who claims to be a Satanist drove his car into a granite monument containing the Ten Commandments.  The monument was shattered.  Oklahomans were shocked (although the ACLU was suing to have the monument removed).

Here’s ABC’s version of the story.  And Huffpo’s version here.

I’m surprised none of the journalists reporting on the story mention the “legal precedent” for such behavior established by none other than the most famous law giver this side of Hammurabi, i.e., Moses.

I’ve generally been opposed to these sorts of public displays of the Ten Commandments (I call them the Fourteen Commandments, because there are actually fourteen commands, but who’s counting?).  But every time I give my students a pop quiz on the Ten Commandments (did it again this week), typically about one out of ten can name all ten.  And these are seminary students.  Perhaps I should support these types of displays?  Maybe students would do better on my quizzes?

I still think it’s more important to obey the Ten Commandments, than to display them.  What do you think?