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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sunspots 628

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: A Sojourners writer says that white evangelicals have been far too silent about high-profile African-American deaths.

Relevant says that Christians are too apathetic about sexual abuse.

Relevant also has a good article on being called to some sort of ministry.

Computing: Wired tells us that the .GIF graphics format has been around for 30 years, and is still widely used.

Listverse points out 10 disturbing facts about Facebook.

Education: FiveThirtyEight tells us why the National Spelling Bee is so difficult, and points out the most common types of spelling errors from previous contests.

Health: National Public Radio reports on a study of how accurate fitness tracker devices are.

Undark reports that, under "Trumpcare," as presently envisioned, it is likely that victims of domestic abuse will be denied reimbursement for injuries suffered from an abusive spouse, and, possibly, denied coverage for any problem, if there has been a history of domestic abuse.

Politics: The Wall Street Journal tells us that rural America is the new "inner city."

Science: Listverse tells us 10 interesting facts about eagles.

Listverse also tells us that pink is not really a color, and then goes on to describe 10 "Pink Wonders of the Natural World."

Scientific American reports that some cicadas, which were expected to emerge as adults in 2021, have emerged this year.

Sports: National Public Radio reports on shooting free throws underhanded, as NBA great Rick Barry did. So does his son, a collegiate player.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 50

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above" continues:

They Please God. Like Enoch, they walk with God, and have the testimony that they please Him because they "keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." Even when they make mistakes, which through infirmity they are liable to, He does not frown upon them, because He knows they did not mean to, and judges the action by the intention. They prize His smile of approbation more than the plaudits of a universe without it, and this they have. They feel:

"Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too,
Human hearts and looks deceive me,
Thou art not like man, untrue;
And while Thou shalt smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends may shun me,
Show Thy face and all is bright."

Sometimes the Father calls His children to a course which brings censure from worldings and chiding from friends, and then soothes the pain thus caused by loving caresses which He lavishes upon them when they are all alone with Him. A million fold repaid for their sacrifice, they exclaim:

"Blest Savior, what delightful fare!
How sweet Thine entertainments are!"

They are Inflexible, and Walk by Faith. In nonessentials they are as yielding as air, but in matters where God's will is clearly known they are as firm as granite. They belong to the class of whom it is said: "These are the men of whom martyrs are made. When the day of great tribulation comes, when dungeons are ready and fires are burning, then God permits His children, who are weak in the flesh, to stand aside; then the illuminated Christians, those who live in the region of high emotion rather than of quiet faith, who have been conspicuous in the world of Christian activity, and have been as a pleasant and loud song, and in many things have done nobly, will unfold to the right and to the left, and let this little company of whom the world is ignorant and whom it can not know, come up from their secret places to the great battle of the Lord. To them the prison is as acceptable as the throne; a place of degradation as a place of honor. Ask them how they feel and they will perhaps be startled, because their thoughts are thus turned from God to themselves, and they will answer by saying 'what God wills.' They have no feeling separate from the will of God. . . . Hence, chains and dungeons have no terrors; a bed of fire is as a bed of down."

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sunspots 627

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey argues that a Christian pacifist, and/or a Christian who refuses to use a gun on others, is not, therefore, a coward.

FiveThirtyEight reports on a study that says that as much as 25% of the US population may be atheists, although most of them don't identify themselves as such.

Christianity Today analyzes the influence of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr on James Comey, the recently fired head of the FBI, and on other prominent public figures.

Computing: Pro Publica reports that some Trump properties, including Mar-a-Lago, used by the President and other important figures, have networks that could easily be hacked. Wired has more on this.

Open Broadcaster Software is a free tool for recording and live streaming video.

The Conversation argues that banning laptops on airplanes would do little to increase security.

Listverse discusses the origin of 10 fonts currently in use.

Politics: Scientific American reports that the Republican governors of Vermont and Massachusetts are seriously concerned about the current and future effects of global warming, and are urging the Trump administration to continue trying to slow it down.

FiveThirtyEight gives a thorough analysis of the likelihood of President Trump being removed from office by the Congress.

Science: The History Blog reports on a fossil Nodosaur.

Scientific American reports that plants may be able to hear.

Scientific American also reports on an apple-picking robot. (With video)

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 49

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Convictions from Above" continues:

Humility. All divinely led prove the truth that "before honor is humility." They illustrate the truth of Bishop Taylor's statement, that "humility is like a tree whose root when it is set deepest in the earth rises higher and spreads fairer, and stands surer and lasts longer, and every step of its descent is like a rib of iron." The fact that they have no wisdom in themselves, but have to depend upon another at every turn, tends in itself to keep them lowly. Thus, humbling themselves under the mighty hand of God, he exalts them by guiding them with His counsels, and afterwards receiving them into glory.

The possibility that through a defective judgment or some other infirmity they may be mistaken, also makes them very teachable in regard to all points where God's will has not been unmistakably revealed to them. Jesus, our great Exampler, always divinely led, manifested His humility by divesting Himself of the glory He had with the Father, by taking our nature, by His seemingly humble and ignoble birth, by subjection to His parents, by His occupation as a carpenter, by partaking of our infirmities, by becoming a servant, by associating with the so-called "riff raff" of society, by refusing earthly honors, by exposing Himself to reproach and contempt, and by His death as an outcast criminal upon the despised cross. All who are fully led by God have in them this mind which was also in Christ Jesus, and "walking as He walked," they live amid the profusion and fragrance of the flowers which bloom only in the vale of humility.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor novels, with comparisons to Jack Vance

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor
(For a quick introduction to Silverberg's Majipoor, see Welcome to Majipoor. For the Wikipedia article on these works, go here.)

I confess -- I originally posted this in my own domain, which no longer exists, several years ago, and discovered that someone had archived it, so I'm re-publishing it as part of this blog. It has been lightly edited, and the links are still good.

In his Lord Valentine’s Castle, (New York: Bantam Books, 1981) Robert Silverberg, (a five-time Nebula award winner, but not for this book) has created a fascinating world. Silverberg has written about that world again, in Majipoor Chronicles, (New York: Bantam, 1989) in Valentine Pontifex (New York: Bantam, 1989), in Sorcerers of Majipoor, (New York: HarperPrism, 1996) in Lord Prestimion (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), in The King of Dreams (New York: HarperCollins, 2001, in "The Seventh Seal," (in Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Silverberg--New York: Tor, 1998) and possibly in some other works.

Warning: if you are wondering about whether to read these books, but are the kind of person who doesn't want to know about what happens until you have finished a book, you should not read this web page further. I recommend the books to you. I have found them worth reading, and reading again.

Majipoor’s geography and government
The planet is very large, probably as large, or larger, than Jupiter or Saturn. (As a reviewer points out, Silverberg claims that it is the largest inhabited planet in fantastic literature, but isn't as large as Larry Niven's Ringworld. The Ringworld is supposed to be a manufactured object.) However, because of a lack of heavy elements, gravity is not oppressive. Most of it is covered by water, but the land areas combined are larger than those of any other inhabited planet. There are four main land areas, Alhanroel, Zimroel, Suvrael, and the Isle of Sleep. There is also one large archipelago. Castle Mount, on Alhanroel, is very tall--so tall, thirty miles high--that there are weather machines near its top, producing a breathable atmosphere for the inhabitants of its cities, and its Castle. Other features, including the oceans and rivers are also, as it were, larger than life. So are some of the manufactured objects, especially the Labyrinth, a vast underground city several miles deep, and the Castle, with thousands of rooms, on Castle Mount.

The Piurivars, an indigenous race, who used to be found on all continents, are almost all confined to a large reservation in Zimroel in Castle. (Some of Silverberg's other writing about Majipoor goes back long before Castle, including before the Piurivars were moved to the reservation.) This species is also known as metamorphs, or shape-shifters, because they have the ability to alter their appearance, even their structure, to mimic other species.

There are four powers of the government throughout most of the books. (There are stories going back before all four were established, and a fifth power is established at the end.) These are the Pontifex, who issues decrees relating to commerce from the Labyrinth, in Alhanroel; the Coronal, who is the ceremonial head of government, carrying out the decrees of the Pontifex, from the Castle, also in Alhanroel; the Lady, sending out, with her subordinates, dreams of peace and goodness from the Isle, and the King of Dreams, sending out dreams to punish criminals from Suvrael. The Coronal becomes Pontifex on the death of an old Pontifex. The new Pontifex chooses a Coronal, usually from a small group of those trained to lead, but does not choose his own relatives. The Coronal’s mother becomes the Lady. The King of Dreams is a hereditary office, passed down within the Barjazid family.

One interesting aspect of the governmental institutions that Silverberg created is that Coronals don't like their jobs very much. They must sign countless documents, and attend countless ceremonies, and listen to countless speeches by various minor functionaries. They are expected to make Grand Processionals every few years, which takes them around Majipoor for as much as five years at a time. They look forward with real horror to moving to the Labyrinth, where they will live as Pontifex when they succeed to that office, coming above ground but rarely.

Majipoor is so large that its human rulers invited non-humans to come and help colonize it, thousands of years before the time of Castle, the first book written. As a result, there are several species who have lived on Majipoor for a long time. The Skandars are tall and covered with fur, and have four arms. The Su-Suheris have two heads. The Ghayrogs lay eggs. Hjorts and Vroons and Liimen are obviously non-human. These species are all living in harmony, and share a single culture, more or less, and a common language. They travel and work together, and live in the same cities, and have the same government.

There is an indigenous species, the Piriuvar, or metamorphs, who are not part of the common culture, although a few of them do live among the other species, and communication is possible.

The first book describes how Valentine, the Coronal, has been deprived of his memory, and his rulership, but becomes aware of his loss, and, with a group of associates, including humans, Skandars, a Hjort, a Vroon, and even an alien being, (a tourist on Majipoor) regains his memory and his position. During this story, Silverberg often gives us just names of great cities, without any description, or with a very modest description. In no case, except for a city inhabited mostly by Ghayrogs, does he describe one of these cities as having a different culture. The cultural differences in the mostly Ghayrog city, Dulorn, are because Ghayrogs don’t sleep, except at one season of the year, not because they wish to be separate, or others from them.

One theme, spread throughout the Majipoor books, is how the Piurivars were originally mistreated, and how they finally come to accept a role as part of the common culture.

The second book in the series, Chronicles, is a group of stories. Silverberg uses a fictional device. It has been possible for citizens of Majipoor to store their memories and experiences in such a way that they can be re-lived. The book relates these experiences, which are re-lived by Hissune, one of the main characters in the first three books, and are part of his training to take Valentine’s place as Coronal.

In the very first of these episodes, “Thesme and the Ghayrog,” Silverberg takes us back to a time long before Valentine and Hissune, when non-human species are new on Majipoor. Thesme has decided to live in isolation in the forest. She finds an injured Ghayrog, and helps him recover. She eventually has sexual experiences with him. Finally, she tires of this, and returns to living with her family and human acquaintances, but the episode closes with the understanding that humans, Ghayrogs, and other species are going to work together in harmony to tame Majipoor.

Silverberg's use of Culture Compared with Jack Vance's Work
In case anyone wonders, Silverberg has read Vance, and, in fact, he says: "Vance was an influence so far as the design of the planet was concerned -- I borrowed his Big Planet concept, though I designed my own." (Interview with Jim Freund, Ellen Datlow, and Mike McCoy, September 7, 1997.) Actually, I didn't know this when I decided to start this comparison. I just knew that Majipoor was way too homogenous to be a Vance creation.

The most thorough treatment of Vance's propensity to invent culture is "People are Plastic: Jack Vance and the Dilemma of Cultural Relativism," by Tom Shippey, in Jack Vance: Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography, Edited by A. E. Cunningham (Boston Spa and London: The British Library, 2000, pp. 67 - 84) Shippey's first paragraph says, in part:
. . . Vance’s work should not be treated as merely whimsical or decorative, but should be seen as centrally preoccupied with one of the most acute moral dilemmas and major intellectual developments of our age: a dilemma and a development furthermore which tend to be avoided or left unfocused, to our detriment, in literature of the mainstream. The intellectual development is that of social or cultural anthropology, . . . and the dilemma it generates is, to put it bluntly, whether any sense of absolute value, or of ‘human nature’, can survive a thoroughgoing acceptance of the cultural relativism recommended so forcefully by so many anthropologists.

Silverberg's creation has a culture, and there are local variations, but nothing like those of Vance. Every city, almost every neighborhood, seems to call upon Vance's creative powers, as he invents new types of clothing, food, occupations, amusements, language, religion and courtship for so many of these. Or, perhaps, it's the other way around. Vance adds neighborhoods and cities so he can have places for his permutations of culture to inhabit. Majipoor does have a few isolated pockets where there is a separate language, or a separate religion, (even, in Prestimion, an area where several intelligent alien species live) but they are in the minority on the planet, and Silverberg does not dwell on them.

Silverberg uses some of his creative powers in describing variety in the landscape, (or sometimes in the seascape) and in the animals and plants that inhabit it. Besides the several diverse species of intelligent beings that have come to Majipoor, there is an abundant variety of supposedly non-intelligent life there. The most spectacular of these are the sea-dragons, immense beasts that migrate in herds, in paths that take them years, around the planet. They can swim, and have wing-like appendages, but cannot fly. In Castle, Valentine and his companions travel with the dragon-hunters to reach the Isle of Sleep. On the way, a giant sea-dragon attacks their ship, and some of his companions are lost. Valentine, himself, with his giant human female bodyguard, is swallowed by the dragon. The bodyguard finally cuts a tunnel in the side of the dragon, and they escape. In Pontifex, we, and the central culture, find that the sea-dragons are highly intelligent, and have the power to send their thoughts to other intelligent beings at a great distance, but the central culture lived in ignorance of that for thousands of years.

Scattered throughout the books are descriptions of strange landscapes, soil, geological formations of many types. Also, I have not counted, but there must be names, and, in some cases, descriptions, of at least a hundred different species of plants, and as many animals. In both Pontifex and Prestimion, some animals have been produced (by genetic engineering?) for evil purposes. Except for these, the culture of Majipoor lives in general harmony with the land, the sea, and their non-intelligent inhabitants. The variety of natural features, living and non-living, has probably not been matched in any other works of fantastic literature.

It is true that, having established a nearly homogenous culture on the largest inhabited planet in the first three books about Majipoor, Silverberg departs somewhat from that in later writings. The Mountains of Majipoor (New York: Bantam: 1996) presents a story that takes place several hundreds of years after Valentine has departed the scene. Harpirias, a young noble, is sent to a newly-discovered group of humans that have been geographically isolated for thousands of years. They speak a different language, have a different religion, etc. However, Harpirias is able to learn the language, and to understand them. If Vance had written about the same situation, there would surely have been some incomprehensibility between the two cultures. (Mountains also presents the Piurivars as not having been completely homogenized yet.)

Sorcerers of Majipoor (New York: Harper Prism, 1998 -- excerpt from novel here) takes place long before Valentine's time. In it, Silverberg describes how many religious cults, each bizarrely different, have arisen. However, these are all manifestations of the same thing:
In a thousand cities, furious mages came forth, saying, "This is the way of salvation, these are the spells that will restore the world," and the people, doleful and frightened and hungry for salvation, said, "Yes, yes, show us the way." In each city the observances were different, and yet in essence everything was the same everywhere: processions and wild dances, shrieking flutes, roaring trumpets. (p. 33)

Since this is fantastic fiction, there is plenty of opportunity for bizarre crime. The first book begins shortly after one such has been committed. Valentine, the Coronal, has had his body taken over by another, who now masquerades as Coronal. Some of his consciousness, but not all—not enough even to remember that he was Coronal—has been placed in a different body. The story of the first book is the story of Valentine’s quest, which is, at first, undertaken very reluctantly, to overthrow the false Coronal and restore harmony to the realm.
At the end, Valentine and his followers discover that one of the Barjazid family members has had his mind placed in what had been Valentine’s body.  The force behind this awful act, however, was a group of metamorphs (Piurivars), who have masqueraded as humans, one of them even assuming the form of the King of Dreams, the usurper’s father. When the plot is unmasked, and Valentine is back in his rightful place, one of his friends proposes vengeance upon the Piurivars. Valentine does not agree: “But I think also we must reach toward those people, and heal them of their anger if we can, or Majipoor will be thrown into endless war.” (Castle, p. 444) He also did not seek vengeance on the human who was the tool of the Piurivars: "Lord Valentine . . . had gently and lovingly sought even to win the soul of his enemy the usurper Dominin Barjazid, in the last moments of the war of restoration." Pontifex, p. 49.

There are three stories in the Chronicles that also demonstrate that vengeance is not central to Silverberg’s characters. In one, a merchant has been sold shoddy goods. While he is meeting with the man who sold them to him, he impulsively pushes him out the window of the hotel room into the river, to his death. The river is so boisterous that the body will not be found. Things go along well enough for a while, but eventually the King of Dreams starts sending terrible dreams to the murderer. He flees, taking on new identity, again and again, each time escaping for a while. Finally, he becomes a pilgrim in the Isle, where pilgrimage from level to level, toward the center, usually takes many years. After some years there, he sees a man who looks like the merchant he murdered. He converses with the man, who turns out to be the son of the dead man. The son says that he does not want to punish the murderer. He has already been punished, and all that the son wants is to find out what happened to his father.

Another story concerns the establishment of the King of Dreams. Dekkeret, a noble from the Castle, has business in Suvrael, which is mostly an oppressive desert wasteland, and hires a Barjazid as a guide into the interior. While on the journey, he is beset by terrible dreams, and almost dies while sleepwalking during one. He discovers that the guide has been sending them, using an apparatus he wears on his head to project dreams from his own brain. Barjazid asks if the noble will punish him. The noble says that he will not. Instead, he wants Barjazid to come to Castle Mount, to show the apparatus to the Coronal and others. This Barjazid’s son, Dinitak Barjazid, will become the first King of Dreams.

In a third story, a shopkeeper is visited by two rascals, who tell her that she has inherited one of the great homes in a city far away. For a significant sum, they will process her claim to the estate. She pays them, and goes to claim her inheritance, finding that she has no such claim, and that the rascals have been saying the same thing to many others. Through a long series of circumstances, the girl does become mistress of this same great home. One day she sees the rascals. She has them arrested, because they have defrauded many, but asks that their punishment be slight, because her circumstances are so much better, because of what happened to her as a result of the swindle.

A fourth story details an episode in the conquest of the Piurivars by Stiamot, the Coronal. In Prestimion, which takes place much later, we read that Stiamot, many years later, tried to travel to ask forgiveness of the Danipiur, the leader of the Piurivars, but died before he was able to finish that journey.

Silverberg said (in the interview cited above, with Freund, Datlow, and McCoy) that "I knew that Lord Valentine's Castle needed a sequel to deal with the problem of the disgruntled Shapeshifters." He said the same thing in other interviews.

There is another interesting aspect of revenge in Pontifex. The Piurivars have a long memory. They remember sacrificing two sea-dragons in their holiest place, on land, long before humans came to Majipoor. They believe that they have so defiled the place, and themselves, that they abandon it. However, the greatest of the sea-dragons tells (through telepathy) Faraataa, Piurivar leader who thinks he is leading his people to atone for this sin:
The gods gave themselves willingly, that day in Velalisier. It was their sacrifice, which you misunderstand. You have invented a myth of a Defilement, but it is the wrong myth. . . . The water-king Niznorn and the water-king Domsitor gave themselves as sacrifices that day long ago, just as the water-kings give themselves yet to our hunters as they round the curve of Zimroel. (p. 362--this idea, of a willingness to be sacrificed by intelligent beings, is reinforced in "Seventh Shrine.")
Silverberg's characters don't always feel that they need revenge. The sea-dragons go further--they willingly offer themselves as victims.

Religion, with comparison to Jack Vance
Although he doesn't spell out its theology, clearly Majipoor, and, presumably, Silverberg, consider that religion is important, and often, although not always, beneficial. Not so with Vance, who never presents religion as anything but empty, and usually dangerous, ritual. Vance's priests, or the equivalent, are usually greedy and hypocritical.

The Lady of the Isle, although a living human person, is, in a sense, worshipped by the inhabitants of Majipoor. They address prayers to her. There is, however, another sort of deity for Majipoor, understood as above all, and, somehow, influencing and controlling events.

Here is a dialog near the end of Castle (p. 375):

Deliamber said . . . "It may be that the present troubles of the realm are the beginning of the retribution for the suppression of the Metamorphs."
Valentine stared at him. "What do you mean by that?"
"Only that we have gone a long way, here on Majipoor, without paying any sort of price for the original sin of the conquerors. The account accumulates interest, you know. . . . perhaps the past is starting to send us its reckoning at last."
"But Valentine had nothing to do with the oppression of the Metamorphs," Carabella protested. . . .
Deliamber shrugged. "Such things are never fairly distributed. What makes you think that only the guilty are punished?"
"The Divine--"
"Why do you think the Divine is fair? In the long run, all wrongs are righted, every minus is balanced with a plus, the columns are totaled and the totals are found correct. But that's in the long run. We must live in the short run, and matters are often unjust there. The compensating forces of the universe make all the accounts come out even, but they grind down the good as well as the wicked in the process."
"More than that," said Valentine suddenly. "It may be that I was chosen to be an instrument of Deliamber's compensating forces, and it was necessary for me to suffer in order to be effective."

Pontifex, in a sentence, is about the long run--righting all wrongs. It is a story of sin, sacrifice, and redemption. The book begins by describing how the life of Majipoor is falling apart, with the agents being, in part, the metamorphs, and ends with the establishment of these Piurivars as equal and participating members of the society of Majipoor. Throughout the book, there is frequent mention of higher powers:
"We have no choice in that: it is the will of the Divine. Is that not so?" (p. 24. The speaker is Aximaan Threysz, an ancient and respected Ghayrog matriarch and farmer.)
"Noor groaned. 'The Divine spare me!'" (p. 27. Noor is an government agricultural agent.)
"By the Divine, if you could know how I long to see the sun again!" (Valentine speaking, p. 47)
"But is he acceptable to the Divine, my friends?" (A human, claiming that Valentine should not be Coronal, pp. 129-130)

Actually, the humans who came to Majipoor long ago are not the only beings who have sinned. Their sin was not "original sin," or not the original one on the planet. The Piurivars sinned, at least in their own eyes, by sacrificing two sea-dragons, before humans ever came to the planet. Here is a dream of a Piurivar:
"In the beginning was the Defilement, when a madness came over us and we sinned against our brothers of the sea," he cries. "And when we awakened and beheld what we had done, for that sin we destroy our great city and go forth across the land. But even that was not sufficient, and enemies from afar were sent down upon us, and took from us all that we had, and drove us into the wilderness, which was our penance, for we had sinned against our brothers of the sea. And our ways were lost and our suffering was great and the face of the Most High was averted from us, until the time of the end of the penance came, and we found the strength to drive our oppressors from us and reclaim that which we had lost through our ancient sin. . . ." (Pontifex, p. 118)

Throughout the Majipoor books, it is clear that there is a higher power. The land-dwelling inhabitants speak of The Divine. The sea-dragons speak of "That Which Is." (All words capitalized in the original.)

(An aside here: in my view, Silverberg has a genius for naming characters, or at least for inventing names. Not all fantastic writers have been so good. Tolkien was, but he was drawing on the languages that he had created to produce those names. Silverberg, so far as I know, did not create any languages for Majipoor, but there is music in some of the names above these lines: Deliamber, Carabella, Aximaan Threysz.)

An on-line chat, apparently held in 1999, and apparently no longer available on-line, includes the following:
R Silverberg: Advocating any doctrine seems to me a violation of the reader-writer relationship.
OrsonScottCard: Obviously I'm not a fan of the genre.
RSilverberg: Exploring, yes. Peddling, no,
RSilverberg: Christianity is at least as worth exploring as atomic theory.
RSilverberg: In fiction, I mean.
. . .
RSilverberg: I was once asked to provide a quote for a Christian novel by Roger Elwood. He was astounded when I pointed out I wasn't Christian.
RSilverberg: And that Zeus was about as real to me as Jehovah.

I believe Silverberg has set out to explore Christianity in the Majipoor writings. It isn't the only thing he explores, and I doubt if he would say it's the main one, but it's part of the exploration. What has he explored? At least four themes closely related to Christianity. As I have said, one of these is revenge, or, rather, forgiveness and love instead of revenge. He has also explored sacrifice, in several ways. Valentine goes to the Piurivars, knowing that he may be killed, in Pontifex, because he is willing to be sacrificed for the good of Majipoor as a whole. Dekkeret's lovely cousin dies, killed by a madman who is trying to kill Prestimion, in Prestimion. Her death brings Dekkeret, who will eventually become Coronal, to Prestimion's attention. The Water-Kings, or seadragons, allow the Piurivars to kill them in a sacrificial ritual. Several warriors die gladly so that their leaders may live. A third is sin, and its consequences. Although there is forgiveness, evil leads to destruction, desolation, and death. Tying all these together is the theme of redemption. Valentine, and, later, Prestimion and Dekkeret, realize that Majipoor needs redemption--some act of love to free them from the consequences of wrong.

Sorcerers of Majipoor: revenge and religion
Sorcerers of Majipoor is set long before the time of Valentine. The plot is this: sorcerers have become prominent in the land. Most people consult them. The wealthy hire them to tell the future, and find things, and even, sometimes, to perform magic. The Pontifex is dying. Coronal Confalume (remembered for the throne he had built, in the marvelous Castle, the throne that Valentine ascended) will become Pontifex. He has chosen Prestimion to be the next Coronal. Although a Coronal's son has never succeeded a Coronal to the throne, Confalume's daughter, Thismet, and her sorcerer, persuade Thismet's twin brother, Korsibar, that he is the man most fit to succeed. (He is not--he is selfish, vain, and shallow, and has not paid much attention to the details of government.) The sorcerer casts a spell of confusion on everyone but Korsibar when the Pontifex dies, and Korsibar seizes the crown and proclaims himself Coronal. Confalume, the new Pontifex, still confused, does not dispute this rash act. Prestimion decides that he cannot accept Korsibar, and that no one should, so rebels. Many follow him, including, apparently, his distant cousin, Dantirya Sambail, the Procurator, the most powerful man on Zimroel, the second-largest continent of Majipoor. Eventually, there is war. Dantirya Sambail betrays Prestimion, and suggests to Korsibar that Prestimion be lured into the valley below a great dam, then have the dam breached. Prestimion escapes, but most of his army, and thousands of innocent farmers, do not. Prestimion, never a believer in sorcery, flees to the city where the most powerful sorcerers live, and decides to try again to remove Korsibar by force. He raises another army, this time with sorcerers in it. Thismet decides that she has no place in Korsibar's Castle. Her sorcerer has left her for her brother, the false Coronal. Her brother does not give her any power, and ignores her. She leaves Castle Mount, and travels to join Prestimion, and becomes his consort. Battle is joined again. Thousands perish, including Korsibar and Thismet, both slain by her former sorcerer, who betrays Korsibar. Prestimion, still not been a devotee of sorcery, reluctantly decides that the only thing that will heal Majipoor is to have the two most powerful sorcerers perform one last sorcery--they make everyone in the whole world, including themselves, forget that Korsibar ever existed, that wars were ever fought, that the dam was breached. Only Prestimion and two of his friends, Septach Melyn and Gilaurys, will remember. The three of them believe that these terrible events, and their effects, are over.

A word about sorcery--in the two previous Valentine books, there is a little sorcery. Two of the races, Vroon and Su-Suheris, have what might be called extra-sensory powers. Autifon Deliamber, who is with Valentine almost from the beginning of his restoration, is a Vroon. Deliamber is able to find ways for Valentine and his companions to travel, by projecting himself, or his senses, ahead to find safety. There is little else in the Valentine books that indicates that sorcery had any prominence. In Sorcerers, it seems that sorcery has recently come to prominence, in part because of the recent arrival of the two races that are most likely to practice it. (Others, including humans, also do.) Apparently it loses its appeal, and its influence, during the reign of Prestimion, or some time after that.

Religion, in Sorcerers, is fractured. There is still some acknowledgement of the Divine. However, it is clear that sorcery has become not only a wide-spread practice, but belief in it has become a religion, or many religions:

So there was no contending against the tide of magic and fear. In a thousand cities furious mages came forth, saying, "This is the way of salvation, these are the spells that will restore the world," and the people, doleful and frightened and hungry for salvation, said, "Yes, yes, show us the way." In each city the observations were different, and yet in essence everything was the same everywhere, processions and wild dances, shrieking flutes, roaring trumpets. Omens and prodigies. Sorcerers, p. 33.

Clearly Silverberg understands, as some authors of fantastic fiction do not, (No less than Tolkien, a faithful Roman Catholic, has been accused of this) that religion plays an important part, often positive, sometimes not, in the lives of people, and this should be reflected even in fantastic worlds. Here are two examples, spoken by Prestimion, from page 264:

"Item two, Korsibar's done something foul and dark and blasphemous by crowning himself like that. Such deeds are inevitably repaid on high. . . ."

"It's well known I have no use for sorcerers and such-like flummery. To that extent I'm a skeptic; but that doesn't mean I'm godless, Dantirya Sambail. There are forces in the universe that punish evil: this I do believe. The world will suffer if Korsibar's left to go unopposed. My own private ambitions aside, I feel he must be taken down, for the good of all."

Near the close of Sorcerers, Prestimion, like Valentine,  rejects violence. He has Dantirya Sambail in his power:

Nothing unhappy had befallen him that Dantirya Sambail had not had a hand in, somewhere. Prestimion felt himself grow hot with fury. Strike at him, he thought, and you are striking at all your misfortunes in a single thrust. . . .
"Go ahead," the Procurator said, "Shove it home, cousin!"
"What a pleasure that would be," said Prestimion. "But no. No, cousin, no." Not like this; not the slaughter of a prisoner, even this one. He could not. He would not. All his wrath had turned away. There had been enough killing for now. (pp. 598-9, emphasis in original)

Prestimion has him put into prison. He also puts a Vroon wizard, who changed sides more than once during the conflict, into the charge of a man named Barjazid, and tells him to take the wizard to Suvrael, the desert continent. The wizard has been working on devices to contact the mind at a distance.

Lord Prestimion: revenge and religion continued
An aside, before I consider the main plot and themes of this work. In Chronicles, Hissune accesses a memory left behind by Dekkeret, which has this statement in the second paragraph. "It was as an act of penance that Dekkeret had undertaken a voyage to the burning wastes of barren Suvrael." (p. 100) Prestimion gives more of the background of this story. Prestimion sees Dekkeret, a commoner, and believes that he has qualities of greatness. He elevates him to the Castle, to training for leadership. Part of that is a trip to Zimroel. After many days as a bureaucrat, Dekkeret goes on a hunting trip. The guides are not friendly, and don't respect Dekkeret and his companion, a noble from the Castle. The quarry animal appears. He goes after it, and kills it, running past his guide as he engages the animal. It develops that the beast has injured the guide, and, when Dekkeret returns to the scene, she is dead. Others do not blame Dekkeret. Indeed, the woman probably would have died in any case, but Dekkeret asks for assignment to Suvrael as penance.

Lord Prestimion continues Sorcerers. Several things which seemed settled aren't really settled. Varaile, a young commoner, with a wealthy widower for a father, is in charge of her household. A servant leaps to her death out of a window, killing two tourists in the street. Others are affected, also. There is a madness that strikes randomly. Not everyone is affected, but too many are. People have horrible headaches, or stop functioning for a few minutes, or go mad, and attack others, or jump off boats. As nearly as anyone can understand, they are in despair. Prestimion, now Coronal, thinks that these troubles are because so many of the citizenry are trying to deal with the changes that came about as a result of the enormous sorcery he ordered, which was designed to put all memories of Korsibar, and the war, out of people's minds. They don't seem able to remember how their friends, relatives, or acquaintances died, or they have forgotten that they existed. They have made up stories about how and why missing people are missing. Confalume, still Pontifex, does not remember that he had any children. He cannot remember Thismet and Korsibar. Prestimion fears that there is a price to pray for the suppression of all this truth.

Besides his two friends, who know what has happened, Prestimion tells Dantirya Sambail enough of what happened to explain why the latter is imprisoned, because Prestimion doesn't feel that he can keep the second most powerful man on the planet in jail for no apparent reason. Dantirya Sambail does not beg forgiveness, and escapes. Prestimion tells a few others, also. He has told his Su-Suheris mage, Maundigand-Klimd (who, by the way, claims, and acts as if, his sorcery is a science, not magic). Prestimion tells his mother, who has become Lady of the Isle, one of the powers of Majipoor, and Variale, who has become his wife, while on a visit to the Isle. In his despair, he tells them: "I thought I was healing the world. Instead, I was destroying it. I opened the gateway for this madness that consumes it now, the full dimensions of which have only become apparent to me today." (p. 394) A little later, Variale remarks that Prestimion must hate Dantirya Sambail, who seems to be at large, and raising an army to rebel. Prestimion realizes that he does hate him.

The King of Dreams
King concludes the second trilogy. Dantirya Sambail's poison-taster, Mandralisca, is a consummately evil man. He establishes a kingdom of his own in Zimroel, with five of Sambail's nephews as fronts for his leadership. A Barjazid, kept by Dinitak from coming to the Castle, goes to Mandralisca, with the secret of thought-projecting helmets that can be used to attack enemies in another continent. Mandralisca uses a helmet to send horrible dreams to members of Prestimion's family. Prestimion's brother is driven to take his own life by Mandralisca's visitation. Prestimion, now Pontifex, believes that the government must go to war against Mandralisca and his followers. However, Dekkeret, now Coronal, hopes that there is some method short of outright war. He, like Valentine, wants to win by projecting goodness. Dinitak Barjazid, now Dekkeret's best friend and confidante, also has the secret of the thought-projecting helmets. He acts to protect Dekkeret from evil thought projection, and Mandralisca is overthrown, without a war. Just before his final overthrow, one of Mandralisca's most trusted lieutenants, Thastain, an innocent farm boy placed into events he has not understood, understands how evil Mandralisca is, and gives his life to protect Dekkeret. Septach Melyn, Prestimion's old friend, as a representative of the Pontifex, kills Mandralisca, but dies himself.

During the time leading up to Dekkeret's expedition to Zimroel to overthrow Mandralisca, he receives powerful messages, apparently from the Divine, that he must do something to change the way things are done on Majipoor. At the end, he decides that what he must do is to set up Dinitak Barjazid as the first King of Dreams, who will punish evil-doers all over the planet.

Mr. Silverberg, himself, found the previous incarnation of this document, and e-mailed me about what I had said about religion and his work. See here.

Thanks for reading! Read Silverberg, if you wish.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sunspots 626

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Education: National Public Radio has published an in-depth report on the pluses and minuses of school voucher programs.

Ethics: Rerum Novarum, an encyclical issued in 1881, by Pope Leo XIII, on the treatment of laborers, and a lot more. Sample (from paragraph 28):
Neither must it be supposed that the solicitude of the Church is so preoccupied with the spiritual concerns of her children as to neglect their temporal and earthly interests. Her desire is that the poor, for example, should rise above poverty and wretchedness, and better their condition in life; and for this she makes a strong endeavor. By the fact that she calls men to virtue and forms them to its practice she promotes this in no slight degree.

Finance: Relevant reports on a study of repaying loans, which found that people who mentioned God when talking about paying back loans were less likely to pay them back.

Health: National Public Radio details two good methods for washing our hands. (Confession: I don't use either of them.)

History: Some historical facts you didn't learn in school, from Listverse.

Humor: (Sort of) Scientific American reports further on the question of why people take their empty shopping carts to a cart corral, or don't. The report is mostly interesting comments, from returners and non-returners.

Politics: Listverse tells us that free speech is being attacked from many sides, in many ways.

(And history) FiveThirtyEight discusses US political scandals of the past, and points out that even when Presidents were involved in some really bad stuff, many congresspeople stuck by them.

Science: (and Christianity) Relevant strongly defends the concept of human-caused climate change.

Wired reports that scientists have made functioning mouse ovaries with a 3-D printer. Really.

Listverse describes 10 fascinating facts about plants.

Image source (public domain)

Patience, endurance, perseverance in the Bible

Some of the Biblical admonitions to believers, to be patient, to endure, to persevere:

Matthew 10:22 You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved.

Luke 8:15 Those in the good ground, these are those who with an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it tightly, and produce fruit with perseverance.

Luke 21:17 You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake. 18 And not a hair of your head will perish. 19 ... By your endurance you will win your lives.

Romans 2:5b God; 6 … will pay back to everyone according to their works:” 7 to those who by perseverance in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility, eternal life;

Romans 5:3b but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: 5 and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 8:23b we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for that which he sees? 25 But if we hope for that which we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 13: [Love] 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

2 Corinthians 6:3 We give no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our service may not be blamed, 4 but in everything commending ourselves, as servants of God, in great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; 6 in pureness, in knowledge, in perseverance, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love,

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23b gentleness, and self-control.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints:

Philippians 1:9 For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, 11 strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, for all endurance and perseverance with joy,

1 Timothy 6:9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation, a snare, and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.

2 Timothy 2:12 If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing that they generate strife. 24 The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle toward all, able to teach, patient,

Titus 2:2b older men should be temperate, sensible, sober minded, sound in faith, in love, and in perseverance:

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous, so as to forget your work and the labor of love which you showed toward his name, in that you served the saints, and still do serve them. 11 We desire that each one of you may show the same diligence to the fullness of hope even to the end, 12 that you won’t be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherited the promises.

Hebrews 10:35 Therefore don’t throw away your boldness, which has a great reward. 36 For you need endurance so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore let’s also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls.

1 Peter 2:19 For it is commendable if someone endures pain, suffering unjustly, because of conscience toward God. 20 For what glory is it if, when you sin, you patiently endure beating? But if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God. 21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps ...

Thanks for reading. Be patient.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 48

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Impressions from Above" continues:


"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is written therein; for then thou shalt have thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." -- Joshua 1: 8.

Impressions which are of God ripen into convictions. They are to convictions what the blossom is to the fruit. No impression should be followed until it has thus ripened. When it has it must be obeyed, and God will always bless such obedience with blessed and abundant fruitage.

The results are so sweet and soul-satisfying that simply a review of them is an inspiration.

The following are among the many fruits which abound in all who are thus led.

Calmness. A holy calm possesses the soul which is conscious that God is leading. It may be led contrary to natural inclinations, and like Paul, against the protests of countrymen and bosom friends, yet amid all oppositions, it may be as peaceful as Galilee beneath the Master's silencing command.

Confidence. Righteousness always inspires confidence. The promise that "The Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken," finds in them fruitful fulfillment. Trusting not in self or human help, but in the "living God" alone, they are as "bold as a lion." They can speak to frowning Sanhedrins, or, like Luther, to an angry Diet, if God gives the message, and fearlessly leave the results with Him. They sow the seed that He commands, and expect Him to send the sunshine, the shower and the harvest.

They are Free from Fret. God never leads people to fret and worry. Hence, those who keep all their ways committed to Him, never do. "Anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and thanksgiving," they let their requests be known to God, and thus possess the peace that passeth understanding. If the seed they have sown does not come up the next morning, they do not dig it up to see what is the matter, but having done their best believe that God will do the rest. Instead of fretting and groaning under corroding care, they "cast all their burdens upon the Lord," He sustains them, and they sing:

"This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long."

Blessed salvation that saves from sin, and also from friction and from fret!

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sunspots 625

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: An article on the National Association of Evangelical's web site, indicating that almost 90% of "evangelical leaders" don't believe that pastors should endorse politicians from the pulpit. This survey was taken before President Trump's executive order of last week on (more or less) this subject. Christianity Today discusses the executive order, and says, among other things, that only a small minority of churchgoers believe that pastors should endorse politicians from the pulpit.

Computing: (or something) Elon Musk wants to attach our brains to the internet. We're a long way from being able to do this, but, if we could, there are all kinds of issues. "Could I be hacked?," for example.

Benjamin L. Corey asks "How many people in your local community does your church provide comprehensive medical care for?"

Finance: Listverse reports on the hidden costs of shopping at dollar stores.

Humor: (Not exactly) Listverse describes how people survived 10 different bear attacks. (In most or all cases, the bear was surprised. Normally, they don't go around looking for people to attack.)

(Also not exactly) Scientific American reports that all the TVs in the US Food and Drug Administration have been set to show only the Fox News channel.

Politics: NPR reports that President Trump doesn't like compromising, and claims that he hasn't done so.

NPR also informs us that, as of May 6, there are 129 people officially in the race for President of the USA in 2020. Plus some more who may end up running.

Science: Scientific American reports that, contrary to dogma, nerve cells in a single organism do not have identical DNA.

FiveThirtyEight reports on how many insects there are in the world. The answer? A lot, but not as many as there used to be.

Scientific American has a historical essay on our obsession with lawns.

Listverse reports on 10 strange objects in space, including an asteroid, planets, and galaxies.

Sports: (and finance) National Public Radio reports on the shockingly low pay of minor league baseball players.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, May 08, 2017

Christianity is about doing more than it's about not doing

Christians, unfortunately, are too often known for what we are against, rather than what we are for. We are also unfortunately known for what we don't do, rather than what we do.

Both of these misconceptions have some validity, because of the behavior of some people who say that they are Christians. But that's not the emphasis of the Bible. The Bible tells us that we should be for some things, and that we are to do some things. (Sure, there are things we shouldn't do, like stealing or adultery, and things we should be against, like child abuse. But these sorts of positions shouldn't define us. Not according to the Bible.) And, the Bible teaches, our attitude, not just what we do, is critically important.

In James 4:17 the Bible explicitly condemns sins of omission: To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.
A sin of omission is about something we should do, but don’t; a sin of omission is when we don’t do the things we know we should.

But, some may say, the New Testament is about doing good. Not the Old Testament -- it's about not doing bad. And Christians are supposed to pay attention to the Old Testament, too. Yes, we should. It was the Bible for Jesus, and for the early church, and it was the foundation for the Gospel. But is the Old Testament just about not doing things? The Ten Commandments might seem to be that sort of rules: don't bear false witness, don't commit adultery, don't murder, etc. But, when Jesus was asked about which commandment was the greatest, here's what he said: Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37, and elsewhere, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, which passages, of course, are in the Old Testament.) These two great commandments tell us what believers ought to do -- love God, and love other people. When Jesus was asked to specify who a neighbor is, he told the story of the Good Samaritan, a member of a despised ethnic/religious group, indicating that our neighbors aren't just people who live near us, and/or act and look like us.

Here's another “rule,” from an Old Testament prophet: Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah tells us what we ought to do, and what our attitude should be, just as the two great commandments do. Be just, be humble, be merciful.

Let's go to the New Testament for further guidance. In fact, let us go to the heart of Christ's teaching, the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:5“… Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
The Beatitudes are not mostly about not doing things, but about doing things, and about our attitude: being merciful, making peace, etc.

The Golden Rule is also part of the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Back to the Old Testament. God wanted the Israelites to keep from worshiping idols, and, in order to do that, they were told to wipe out certain tribes that were already living in the Promised Land. But He also told them to treat aliens -- people who weren't Israelites -- respectfully and generously, and, in fact to love them:
Deuteronomy 10:19 Therefore love the foreigner, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. In other words, treat them in the same way Jesus indicated in the Golden Rule. (These directions for dealing with aliens, foreigners and strangers are repeated elsewhere in the five books that begin the Old Testament.)

Let's look at another central Christian text: 
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23b gentleness, and self-control. The Fruit of the Spirit is about our attitudes, not about what we shouldn’t do. 

And another:
The heroes (and heroines) of faith in Hebrews 11 are named because of what they did, not because of what they didn’t do.

And there are the final instructions of Christ:
Matthew 28:18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  
Go, make disciples, baptize and teach are all things to do.

Examples of sins of omission in the Bible:
•    Matthew 11:20-24. The Galilean cities did not repent.
•    Matthew 25:26 “But his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow, and gather where I didn’t scatter. 27 You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest. …”
•    The Judgment scene in Matt 25:41-46. Jesus used that scripture to condemn sins of omission.
•    One thief on the cross did not believe and repent. (Luke 23:39-43)
•    The rich man did nothing for Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31).

What should we be doing? Believe; repent; forgive/ask forgiveness; be baptized; take communion; praise and witness; obey Christ’s commands; be a Christ-like example; give, including to the needy; meet with other Christians for worship, learning and mutual encouragement; pray for other Christians; love other people; absorb the Bible; find ways to serve. That's a lot of doing, but God can help us do these things.

We must not forget that salvation is not the result of what we do -- we can't earn it. It's the result of what Christ did, in dying and being resurrected.

Thanks for reading.