Sunday, July 20, 2014

RYBS: God, Afraid?

Read Your Bible Series - Week Eleven

God, Afraid?

Genesis 11: 1-9

If we take the Bible at it's word, then there would most assuredly be emotions that an all-powerful supreme being could never feel.  Jealousy, for example.  With there being just the one true god in existence, there simply cannot be any physical way that god could feel that emotion.  How about desire?  For a being this powerful, desire seems downright laughable - if it wasn't so logically unfeasible.

But if you believe that god could never be afraid, the Bible tells us that you'd be wrong.

Take, for example, one of the more popular stories in Genesis, the city of Babel.  The story begins in Genesis 11:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, "Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
The first portion of this story makes complete sense if you remember that Noah had just finished saving himself, his family, and a select few of the billions of species that had once inhabited the Earth, from God's wrath against humanity.  And he saved them all with a magic wooden boat.

After wiping the Earth clean with water, God instructed Noah and his family to go and do what humans LOVE to do - be fruitful and multiply.  Now, why these descendants of Noah were afraid they would be scattered all over the face of the Earth is not clear, but by golly they knew they needed to build a city with really, REALLY tall tower.

God should be proud of his chosen ones, right?  Let's see:
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel - because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Since these people went to all this trouble so many years ago, we should probably try to put all of this in perspective.  The best that these poor saps could muster would have been just under 500 feet or so.  That's roughly one and one-half of a football field, straight up.  As impressive as that sounds, to our standards that's so short it's almost adorable.  Modern architecture has reached heights of over five times that, with the Burj Khalifa reaching heights of 2,722 feet above sea level.  Judging by those astronomical heights, god should be huddled in a holy corner shaking in his celestial sandals.

Okay, let's not bother with the obvious question of why god needed to descend from - wherever - to the plains of Shinar to see the tower that these budding new engineers were building.  To me, the biggest, most glaring question about this is, what could humanity ever do that would scare an omnipotent being to do such a thing?  These poor people were just doing what humans do best - they were practicing their ingenuity and engineering a fancy new high-rise.  Good for them!

And what's all this "us" nonsense from god?  Are we to believe that the god of the Universe needs the unscrupulous equivalent of a depraved bathroom buddy?  If you're going to curse humanity like this, then you shouldn't need a rotten little toady to keep you on task.  Sheesh, don't be a sissy and do it yourself!

Besides, what kind of message is this?  The minute people begin to work together to build something awe inspiring, you curse them with confusion?  Is the message of the almighty really supposed to be so anti-intellectual?

Or perhaps, just perhaps... the message here is something that the authors never really intended to convey.  Perhaps the message that our society should recognize is that someday, given enough time of course, humanity will finally figure out that the belief in the supernatural is no longer necessary.  Perhaps even they were unconsciously aware that humanity might reach a point that was once thought to be impossible: our species will eventually evolve beyond the necessity of a maker and free themselves of the restrictions that a maker creates.  Why else would someone write a story about a god that was afraid of technological advancement?

And one last thing - did you notice that the poor saps got scattered all over the Earth anyway?  Talk about tragic!

Stories like these should give us all pause, as by the very nature of the anti-intellectual messages they express, they cultivate an adherence against what makes us all human - our insatiable quest for knowledge.  And how could a being that created us ever want that?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sons of Confederate Traitors

An article I read this morning bothered me so much that I simply had to write something.  According to the Dallas Morning News, the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" won their case to have specialty license plates in Texas.

The federal appeals panel, who voted 2-1 in favor of this group of sore losers, claimed that the group's First Amendment rights were violated by something called, "viewpoint discrimination."

Well, if your viewpoint is that the South had it right and people were considered property, then yeah, your viewpoint deserves to be discriminated against.  Especially by the government!

You know how the right loved to call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter and a traitor?  Well, the "Confederate Veterans" actually WERE deserters and traitors.  You get that?  Every single politician and military leader associated with the Confederacy took a direct stance to against the United States, with the ultimate objective of overthrowing the federal government.  Every single soldier in the Confederate army who pointed a firearm against a United States soldier was, by definition, a traitor to the United States.  Plain and simple.

And how many times do we have to say this...  Those traitors LOST.  They betrayed their country, killed American soldiers, lost the war... and you're celebrating it?  It takes a serious breakdown of rational thought to believe that any one of those people that were fighting for the cause of the Confederacy deserves to be "honored" with a vanity plate.

My favorite quote from the article is from one of the sponsors for the proposal for the specialty plate design, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.  (And of course, he's an old, white guy.)  Patterson claims that the plate, "is meant to honor Confederate soldiers, not cause controversy."

Oh obviously!  Just like the wearing of white hoods is meant to honor the six veterans of the Confederate Army who founded the Ku Klux Klan, not to cause controversy...

Give us a break, Jerry.

He went on to say that, "It’s a victory for free speech and for those who are sick and tired of folks being offended at the slightest drop of a hat."

Okay, asshat.  Unless you and your family were subjected to slavery, then you don't get to tell anyone when they should or should not get offended.  The battle flag for the Confederacy does not qualify as a, "slight drop of the hat", sir.  That stupid flag is a hell of a big drop - and you damn well know it.

In my opinion, the diversity of the group is what gives it legitimacy.  And I don't think it's too big a stretch to assume that only white people like old Jerry here will be the ones that would consider paying for and displaying one of these stupid, racist plates.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

RYBS: Abuse or Misuse?

Read Your Bible Series - Week Ten

Abuse or Misuse?

This week I'd like to consider the original context of a couple of very popular verses that are, within our current society, either completely misunderstood or just openly abused.  These two are the verses that I hear being used the most frequently, but of course, your experience may differ.

Starting with Philippians 4:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
There it was... "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."  You know, the Sports Illustrated Tim Tebow eye black verse.

Yeah, that one.

The problem with these folks is that they never bothered to read what was written before the verse that they love to flaunt.  Paul even went out of his way to make sure that the reader understands that he had known and appreciated what it was like to both live with and live without.  And yet, most - if not all - people that quote this verse do so as some kind of haughty display, enthusiastically parading themselves around town as the righteous person that the rest of us should envy.

How commendable.

Now I will admit that if you've been beaten, left to rot in prison without much food or water, and you're still completely happy with where you are in your religion, then by all means use this verse.  Otherwise, you're doing it wrong.

So let's look at Luke, chapter 11:
Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.' And suppose the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
I'm sure many readers have heard this verse being exploited just after a colleague, a friend, or a family member received some very good news.  Whether it's a new job, a raise, or a good deal on a new car...

You know the drill:
"Praise Jesus!  Ask and ye shall receive!!!"
The problem here is, that's not even remotely close to what Jesus was trying to teach.  Barely one chapter before, the man had just gotten through scolding a woman named Martha for ignoring his impromptu lecture simply because she felt like there was too much to do while he was there and she was stuck doing all the housework.  (Martha was stuck doing it, by the way, because her sister Mary was busy "listening" to Jesus speak instead of helping, which is the equivalent of conveniently excusing yourself to the potty when the dishes need tending to.)

Plus, Jesus tells his disciples quite plainly that you will get, "as much as you need."  This doesn't seem to fit the popular narrative that as a Christian, you'll get whatever you want...  And yet these five words are so willfully ignored by so many.  Not to mention that it takes some serious gall to think that you are so special to the creator of the Universe that it is willing to ignore the desperate cries of starvation and acute dehydration from all over the world, just so you can have your petty little warm fuzzy over having your wish magically fulfilled.

If your worldview is this narrow and your thinking is this narcissistic, then it is your blatant abuse of these verses that bother me the most, not the somewhat odd messages that the Bible is conveying.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

RYBS: Let's Talk About the Bears

Read Your Bible Series - Week Nine

Let's Talk About the Bears

There are a multitude of stories in the Bible where the sole purpose of the message is to illustrate the overwhelming power and swift apportion of the Christian God's justice.  Yet given the brutal, barbaric nature of humanity in the Iron Age, most of these delightful tales never seem to make the final print of children's coloring books.

After this week, I think you'll agree it's probably for the best...

Anyway, our adventure begins in 2 Kings, chapter 2 with the tale of Elijah and Elisha just before Elijah was to be taken into heaven.  The first six verses gives the impression that poor Elijah must have been looking fairly debilitated since everyone felt the need to tap Elisha on the shoulder to point it out:
When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel."
But Elisha said, "As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, "Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?"
"Yes, I know," Elisha replied, "so be quiet."
Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho."
And he replied, "As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So they went to Jericho.
The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, "Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?"
"Yes, I know," he replied, "so be quiet."
Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan."
And he replied, "As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So the two of them walked on.
Was I the only one that giggled a little reading that?  No matter how many times Elijah tried to ditch Elisha, he just never seemed to get the hint.  How thoughtful.

Verses 8 & 9:
Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
Wow!  My man Elijah put on his big boy pants and pulled a Moses!  Sure, Moses parted a bit bigger body of water in the Red Sea, but Elijah parted the river Jordan - and he did it with one of the Deathly Hallows...

I don't know, though.  Now that I think about it, Elijah seems more like a drama queen than a Moses.  Seriously, nothing says, "flair for the dramatic" or, "misuse of power in the workplace" like rolling up your magic cloak and beating the hell out of a body of water just because you don't feel like doing it legally and crossing at the nearest river crosswalk.

And far be it for me to tell a prophet how to misuse his superpowers, but if old Elijah was thinking straight, maybe he should've used that magic cloak to beat some sense into Elisha in the first place.  Then maybe Elijah could have finally gotten some peace and quiet.

At any rate, we finally get to Elija's climactic exit:
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"
"Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied.
"You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah said, "yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours - otherwise, it will not."
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
One thing I'll give the Bible: in days past, if you were an "anointed" man, you were taken into heaven with far more theatrical flair than today's paltry standards of just, you know... dying.  However, if you really think about it for a minute, the god of the Universe whisked old Elijah up not in some otherworldly, radiant display of luxurious omnipotence.  No, Yahweh decided to chauffeur this prophet into paradise with the celestial equivalent of a Lincoln Towncar.

That's right, the almighty sent... a chariot.  An astonishing, miraculous, mind-boggling, horse-drawn... chariot.  Of fire.  As if emblazoning a contemporary mode of transportation in the magic flames of Zion was some manifestation of ultimate power or something.  Sure, that worked for Katniss and Cinna, but come on, this is the god of the Universe we're talking about here!  You'd think he could come up with a far more climactic event than... a chariot.  Of fire.

Be that as it may, Elijah was finally gone, and Elisha was finally poised to take the prophetic reigns.  Elisha goes on to re-part the river Jordan by stealing his mentor's magic cloak (and stealing his gag, I might add) so as to prove that he was indeed the successor of Elijah and strong with the power of God.

Oh, and just in case you might be skeptical of this new found power of God,  Elisha "heals" the fresh water spring of Jericho... with salt.
The people of the city said to Elisha, "Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive."
"Bring me a new bowl," he said, "and put salt in it." So they brought it to him.
Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, "This is what the Lord says: 'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.'" And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.
Yeah, salt always works on natural springs, because salt is so mysterious.  What with all those mystical powers of one part Sodium and one part Chlorine.  Assuming, that is, that the Bible meant table salt.

Okay.  All sarcasm aside, we've finally reached the point of all of this.  That's right.  The bears.
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. "Get out of here, baldy!" they said. "Get out of here, baldy!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
Just three simple verses, and yet so much barbaric, dopey and downright disgusting nonsense.  Then, Elisha just goes about his blessed business in Samaria as if the mauling of children was a perfectly acceptable and justified concurrence.

Here we have a revered prophet; a prophet chosen by the god of the Universe himself, getting flustered by a pack of worthless jackasses calling him, "baldy."  You got that right.  BALDY.

And what does a being of unlimited power decide to inflict upon these insolent jackasses?  Bears.  Not some out of this world display of transcendent power;  the kind of power that can literally create energy and matter.  No, not that.  He sent... bears.  That's all god could come up with for rowdy teenagers - a couple of run-of-the-mill, dumpster-diving bears to maul 42 bad-mannered adolescents diagnosing an older man's alopecia.

So let's think about the point of this narrative for a moment, shall we?  First of all, did anyone really learn anything from this exercise?  Is this really something that the all-powerful producer of the holy word would make allowance for?  And furthermore, was the punishment truly equal to the crime?  Is this really the only solution that an omnipotent being could come up with?  You're telling me that summoning bloodthirsty predators to maul 42 disrespectful kids is the ideal solution in this situation?

Well, of course it isn't!  And yet, it's the fact that I have been raised in this day and age that I know that this story is complete nonsense.  I mean, literally speaking, there's absolutely no way that two bears could move fast enough to maul 42 kids running for their lives.  Sure, human beings only use two legs to run, and the fastest individual in our species is still not even able to outrun your average, everyday house cat.  But give me a break... we're not THAT slow.  I mean, I get that two or three of the boys were mauled, but 42?  No.

Plus, why is mauling by bears even an option?  We're talking about idiotic kids here, aren't we?  KIDS!  Kids being jerks!  Now to me, if I was the almighty and I had to appoint a prophet, I would expect that prophet to behave in a manner commensurate to an all-powerful, merciful, and empathetic supreme being.  And surely the prophet that I chose would have the presence of mind to understand the timeless struggle between the older generations and the new.  I mean, I'm all-knowing and all-powerful, aren't I?  I should have seen this coming and been able to diffuse the situation so that 42 kids weren't mauled by flipping bears!

So I'd really love to to be able to tell you how to approach the subject of senseless Biblical violence in the future... but that would be a waste of everyone's time, wouldn't it?

How about a favor, instead?  A favor from one human being to another.  If you do happen to read this and you still consider yourself a true believer of the word of God - the next time you deliver your testimony and try to convince people how wonderful your life is because you follow a loving and forgiving your god... please do us all a favor.  Stop sugarcoating the violence, stop cherry-picking the easy bits, and talk to them...  Talk to them about the bears.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Facing My Own Predisposition

Yesterday I wrote a post on Facebook that attracted the attention of a person I had a casual friendship with in high school.  The exchange between the two of us was not heated, but it did get a bit adversarial.  Since I initially felt my post's relevancy would easily be applicable to the other side of the doctrinal wall, I was baffled by his responses as I read them.

Those that know me understand my immediate curiosity over what just occurred.  What happened here?  Why were we talking right past one another?  It was then I decided to put my old proverbial Sunday school clothes and go back and reread my post.

Just to set the scene, the person I had this written exchange with is the pastor of a church in Ohio, and I am openly atheist.  I'm not at all implying that it matters, but I thought I should at least give some background on the two players.  And other than the original post, I will not directly quote myself or the person I had the exchange with since it's easier to just paraphrase the conversation.

My post was written as follows:
"I need someone to explain to me how adults who had a... umm... let's just say, 'Biblically questionable' youth can go about ignoring the fact that the rest of us REMEMBER HOW YOU WERE."
At the time, in my own mind my message was clear.  But for now, I'll let whoever reads that statement to form their own opinion of it.  And don't hold back your initial reaction either!  Please, allow any opinions you may have of me, or any assumptions you have of my world view to dictate your perception of my statement.  For this analysis don't censor yourselves, because I prefer an honest reaction to what I wrote.  We'll look at the differences between intention and perception in a moment.

On to the exchange...

His initial written response to my post was one of religious acceptance, placing himself beside those that had, "strayed."  I get that - he's a pastor and this notion can be frequently heard while attending any number of local Christian churches.  What took me back was that I perceived his message to imply that it was okay to be a hypocrite, so long as you were "at home" with his God.

I answered...  He answered... both still talking right past each other.  It didn't hit home that perhaps something was amiss until he wrote that he completely understood why I would want to hold a person's transgressions against them.  When I read that statement, I knew this whole exchange had gone horribly wrong.

Okay, I will freely admit that I was a bit frustrated with the guy and wrote a terse clarification in the response thread.  However, after I read his final response, took a deep breath, and let the analyst in me take over, I realized that I had made the mistake of obscurity in my original post.

My initial intent was to come up with a cheeky way to post a message on Facebook against the judgment of others.  With all the various folks on that site throwing their Bibles about over sexuality and birth control, I thought it might be nice to remind them what it was like being young and inexperienced.  But my post was so poorly written that it left too much room for ambiguity.  Depending upon your current world view, or your personal opinion of me, I now recognize that my statement could legitimately be perceived in several different ways.

When the exchange came to a close, it was clear to me that he and I were essentially saying the same thing, albeit via different philosophical viewpoints.  And it was my own negligence in writing that left too much wiggle room for him to perceive that we held the same view.

Thus, my sincerest apologies to everyone for not being clear in my original post.

And so it goes...  No matter your age, sometimes it's best to go back and analyze yourself, especially your own written word, and learn from your mistakes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

RYBS: Hypocrisy

Read Your Bible Series - Week Eight


Luke 6: 27-31Matthew 5: 43-48Matthew 10: 34-37Luke 12: 1-7John 7: 1-9

Oftentimes in our current social and political climate, a story of a hypocritical priest, pastor or other high profile religious leader will break almost weekly.  Whether it's the story of an LGBT bigot that gets caught in flagrante delicto with a partner of the same sex, or a religious leader who exhorts his religion of peace and love yet routinely displays a vile hatred of those who do not follow his religious tenets; it's easy to assume that hypocrisy comes as second nature to many of the leaders in the religious community.

I say that it comes that easy for them because the exact same behavior comes straight from the top.

Let's start with Jesus talking to a fairly large crowd in Luke 6: 27-31:
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
That last bit should sound VERY familiar to everyone  "Do unto others..."  What a great message!  As a matter of fact, it's so great that this idea, or something very much like it, is so sound that it can be found in a multitude of cultures that predate Moses, Noah, Abraham, and most certainly Jesus himself.  Why?  Because there's really no way anyone could argue with that message.  Bravo, Jesus!

And here again, more messages of love in Matthew 5: 43-48:
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Love, even for thine enemies... that is, until you've had just about enough and you need to introduce thine enemies to the business end of your holy broadsword.  Here's Jesus speaking again in Matthew 10: 34-37:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Man against his father?  Daughter against his mother?  And what kind of monster would wish for this kind of violence and hatred between me and my children?  We just read about loving your enemy and turning the other cheek, yet if we follow that message, we're not worthy of Jesus.

Thanks, but no thanks, Jesus.  For the sake of my family, I'll take pride in my own lack of worth.

(Side note: Speaking of Mark 10, there's a fairly famous contradiction between this chapter and Mark 6.  Can you find it?)

Moving to a more specific message of hypocrisy, Jesus is speaking to a, "crowd of thousands," where he delivers this in Luke 12: 1-7:
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Again, this message of courage in the face of death should also sound familiar.  Even though the thought of suicide is frowned upon, it is routine for Christians to celebrate their own death and ascent into an infinite afterlife in heaven; as if they welcome their own demise so they can forever be in the presence of Jesus and the almighty.

So "what would Jesus do" in the face of those that seek to kill him?  The author of John gives us the answer:
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus' brothers said to him, "Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore Jesus told them, "My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come." After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, Jesus!?!?  Your time is not yet here?  What kind of excuse is that, you pansy?  Oh sure, the other guys can go about their business and get themselves killed, because you know, it's not yet your time and you're having a bad day where you're just not feeling up to facing your own doctrine...


It seems we've come full circle to yet another message that is older than Moses, Noah, Abraham, and even Jesus himself.  The creator of the Universe couldn't practice what he preached.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

RYBS: Catalog of Immaculate Practices and Procedures

Read Your Bible Series - Week Seven

Baptisms and Temptations

For this week's discussion, I'd like to cover a few verses where the Bible apparently implies that the divine being has its own, "Catalog of Immaculate Practices and Procedures", or CIPAP for short, that even Jesus (or God?) himself (or itself?) had to follow.

Starting with Matthew 3, verse 13:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
John "The Baptist" had a really good point there, no?  If Jesus was his God in human form, why does he need to be baptized?  Just a few verses before these, in Matthew 3 verses 5 and 6, the writer of Matthew explains:
People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
These two verse state that people confessed their sins and then were baptized by John.  Jesus had no sin, thus required no baptism.  But then what does Jesus mean when he says, "... it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness"?  That would suggest that in order for Jesus to be fully righteous, he has to get baptized to wash away his sins.  Right there, Jesus admits that while it seems absurd, it's procedure, and the CIPAP has to be followed to the letter.

This whole dialogue between Jesus and John reminds me of a scene in Galaxy Quest where Jesus is essentially a frustrated Gwen DeMarco:
"Look, I have ONE job on this lousy planet... it's STUPID, but I'm gonna do it. OKAY!?!"
Speaking of procedure, right after Jesus is baptized, he is escorted into a wilderness by "the Spirit" to be tempted by Satan himself:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
First of all Jesus... you can't count the fasting thing because you did that to yourself.  Second, how is asking a magician to give away his tricks a temptation?  Had Satan bothered to offer an actual loaf of freshly baked bread instead of coming to such an important event like this one empty handed, then THAT would have been a valid temptation.

Besides, asking Jesus to do all the work is just plain lazy, Satan.  Not to mention you just gives Jesus the upper hand.

Did you notice how these verses portray an air of impatience from Jesus, as if this is all too easy?  But give Jesus some credit, he's just following the CIPAP!

And now, temptation number two:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
'He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
Okay, give us a break, Jesus.  How is this a temptation?  Satan has to be the least creative super angel being that I have ever read about!  You tempt a guy by telling him to hurl himself off of a building?  Even I could say no to that one, Satan.

But then again, procedures are procedures...  and in order to do his job, Jesus had to be tempted by Satan.

Finally, the writer of Matthew wraps it up with number three:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
This is the only temptation that Jesus totally missed a perfect opportunity to slam Satan for being a complete idiot.  How can Satan give away something that does not belong to him?  This would be like me trying to sell my house to the bank that holds my mortgage!  Instead, Jesus spews some silly verse about worshiping himself...  I mean, come on Jesus!  You already created the heavens and the Earth.  Why not rub Satan's nose in it a bit?

Ugh, I bet Jesus figured that out later and was kicking himself for not laying down that zinger.

One tiny thing before we wrap this up.  Now, I know I'm not the only one that thinks that surely one of those angels brought Jesus a sandwich.  Well...  unless, of course, Jesus was bright enough to recognize the loophole he gets in the whole "fasting" thing by just miraculously creating bread in his stomach or perhaps magically creating ATP for his cells...

But then again, this is the CIPAP we're talking about here, and even Jesus had to stick to his father's (or his?) blessed administrative protocols.