Sunday, June 29, 2014

RYBS: Hypocrisy

Read Your Bible Series - Week Eight

Hypocrisy

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...

Pish!

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.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

RYBS: A Loving Message for Fathers

Read Your Bible Series - Week Six

A Loving Message for Fathers


For the Father's Day edition of Read Your Bible Series, I decided to take our weekly review in a slightly different direction by focusing on god, the father.  I'm quite sure there are a multitude of sermons being delivered today that are, in one way or another, focusing on how thankful we men should feel given all the blessings of fatherhood that the god of the Bible has given us.  So instead of taking the easy route, why not be creative and take the time to cover some of the other paternal messages in the Bible?

Let's begin with a message about disobedience from Leviticus 26: 27-29:
If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.
Since I've only been a father for 16+ years and do not have near the parenting skills that an eternity would bring, it must be my own ignorance that makes me question the lesson here.  I mean, this kind of punishment strikes me as a bit of an overreaction for a parent.  Plus, it just doesn't seem that productive in the grand scheme of things to cause a disobedient follower to slaughter his own sons and daughters and roast them rotisserie style over a fire pit.  What lesson does that teach?  But, I shouldn't be so disrespectful, because far be it from me to tell the god of the Universe how to raise his children.

Even if I think this level of punishment is disproportionate to the act of disobedience, it does appear to be a common parenting technique for god.  Deuteronomy 28: 53-55:
Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities.
The message here is clear.  Even the most gentile, the most sensitive, and the most compassionate among men will be too selfish to share the meat he has harvested from his own children.  Pish... stingy!

Now, if you haven't run out of children to slaughter for dinner, there are some other biblical techniques you can use that should help you with disciplining the ones you have left.  For example, every father has had the cheeky little one that likes to mock us behind our backs.  In the Bible, the solution is simple - Proverbs 30: 17:
The eye that mocks a father,
that scorns an aged mother,
will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley,
will be eaten by the vultures.
I hate to be so whiny toward my holy father, but sheesh!  Throw me a bone here!  (Pardon the pun.)  Okay, I'm all for making my children understand who is in charge in your family, but making me find a raven AND a vulture is just too much work!

There has to be something easier, right?  Perhaps we could just find some people to help with a problem child.  You know, the whole, "It takes a village" idea.  Exodus 21: 15 and 17:
Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
Now we're getting somewhere...  Put them to death.  But how?  Deuteronomy 21: 18-21:
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Perfect!  You can always count on the Bible to provide answers to the most difficult of questions.  Here we solve several issues at once.  We recruit some of the other fathers in our neighborhood, gather enough rocks heavy enough to break bone but still light enough to throw, and clobber the bratty kid to death.

So happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!  Remember to find your kids, give them a big hug, and use your Bible to scare them into submission and bring about the next four weeks worth of nightmares.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Cruelty of "Reparative Therapy"

Sometimes a local news story disturbs me to such an extent that I have a very difficult time trying to get my thoughts together and write something without lashing out with a carpet bomb of profanity.

If you didn't know already, the Texas GOP recently advocated for something that has miserably failed since before the time of Sigmund Freud.  We used to call it, "Conversion Therapy."  But since that term has been demonized, we have now the catchy new name: "Reparative Therapy."

Well, last night the CBS affiliate in Dallas, KTVT, ran a segment where they took, "a closer look at reparative therapy."

David Pickup, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is the Texas GOP's (a.k.a. Tea Party's) expert on the subject.  You see, he never considered himself gay but used to entertain homosexual "feelings" because he was sexually assaulted as a child.  He asserts that the assault caused his confusion and the therapy helped him to discover who he really was.

It should be noted that I could not find his credentials on his website other than a statement saying he was licensed.  So if he claims to be licensed, I'll have to take his word for it.

I think it's tragic what happened to Mr. Pickup when he was a child.  It sounds absolutely horrific and I truly wish that there was some kind of omnipotent being out there that could give us a hand protecting the innocence of little ones from the atrocities of sexual predators.  If only...

But here's the point that all of these GOP fools and Mr. Pickup are missing - they are admitting that there has to be some kind of experience, some kind of event that would make them all gay.  That's right all you Stetson wearing, gun carrying, GOP voting cowboys - Mr. Pickup thinks that you're all just one experience away from Brokeback Mountain.

Furthermore, if his view is correct, then the converse must also be correct.  In other words, if tragic experiences equals homosexual "confusion", then good experiences equal heterosexual identity.  I would love to ask Mr. Pickup what specific experiences contribute to my heterosexuality?   And as a scientist, I deserve to know the empirical evidence - not anecdotal - that I can find in my own life that made me straight.  But then, what about people that have been sexually assaulted and still identify as heterosexual?  Or how is it that some people that have never been sexually assaulted, that have never been raped, and that have never been molested identify as being gay?

From the interview with Mr. Pickup:
"There’s an automatic – this is what a lot of people don’t realize – there’s an automatic, spontaneous lessening or dissipation of homoerotic feeling toward men after therapy."
What the hell does that even mean?  Sounds to me like he's saying that he still has feelings for men, but now there's a, "lessening" or a, "dissipation" of the burning in his loins.  I think there's something obvious that Mr. Pickup is missing here.  What he just said fits the definition of lust, plain and simple.  Lust hits quickly and fades as your mind moves on.  And the fact that Mr. Pickup doesn't recognize that is the main reason why I pity him - he hates himself so much that he cannot be comfortable in his own skin.

Reparative therapy...

I detest that filthy term for the same reason I hate the term, "born sinners".  It's hateful and immoral to convince people that somehow they are broken, especially children and young adults.  And isn't it always convenient that the ones that claim there are "broken" people are ever so eager to sell them the cure to their problems?  At a discount price, of course.

Look, the LGBT community just wants to be happy, to love another person, and to stop being discriminated against.  The LGBT community is not broken.  The LGBT community deserves the same rights as everyone else.

Repeat after me - If you do not want gay marriage for yourself, THEN DO NOT GET GAY MARRIED.  And leave everyone else alone because it's none of your damn business who people fall in love with.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

RYBS: Omnisciently Playing Favorites Part 2

Read Your Bible Series - Week Five

Omnisciently Playing Favorites Part 2

Genesis 19


For week five, we're going to cover what is, to most Christians, one of the most well-known yet most abridged story in the Bible.  I'm sure most people with even the slightest knowledge of Christianity are aware of the story told in Chapter 19.  It is the wildly popular tale of the overwhelming destructive power of almighty god in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Other than a few of the supernatural highlights that are used to champion the power of god, there's another very important, very righteous character that gets lost in the carnage.  I'm sure most have heard the name, but have you really sat down and scrutinized the charming side-story of Lot, the guy that redefines the term, "family man"?

Recall from last week that there were three angels who crashed Abraham's circumcision recovery lodge.  Beginning in chapter 19, two of those angels have finally arrived in Sodom:
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. "My lords," he said, "please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning."
"No," they answered, "we will spend the night in the square."
But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom - both young and old - surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."
And yes, you read that correctly.  All these men didn't just want to meet those new guys, they wanted sex.  The naughty kind.

Considering that 13 year-olds were considered men in that day and age, I'm certainly glad that our society has moved toward less invasive gestures like simple handshakes and hugs.

So, how does Lot handle this?  Let's read a bit further:
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."
And yes, you read that correctly, too.  Under the protection of his roof?!?  What about his poor daughters?  According to the Bible, since they don't have a penis, their holes aren't covered by Lot's roof.  What a great message for half of the young people in the youth group this Wednesday.

Moving on:
"Get out of our way," they replied. "This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them." They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.
The two men said to Lot, "Do you have anyone else here - sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it."
So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, "Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!" But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished."
Try not to get bogged down too much with the obvious questions that I'm quite sure you must be thinking.  For instance, why don't the, "angels of the Lord" already know that Lot has other family and loved ones in the city?  Did they not read their holy email?  What about those sons-in-law?  Didn't Lot just offer up his daughters to that horny mob?  How do those poor saps feel about their future father-in-law condoning the gang rape of their betrothed?

¡Ay, caramba!  See what I mean?  Just let it go, and breathe.
When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!"
But Lot said to them, "No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it - it is very small, isn't it? Then my life will be spared."
He said to him, "Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it." (That is why the town was called Zoar.)
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah - from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities - and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
And that's the point that most preachers, children's classes and Bible study groups will stop.  They make sure to include the pillar of salt story, the carnage, murder and absolute destruction of the twin cities.  Oh, and even the vegetation...  But if you ask most people what happened to Lot and his daughters, they honestly don't know.

Let's find out:
Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children - as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father."
That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
The next day the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.
And yes, you read that correctly, too.  The servant who found favor in god's eyes became the father of two kingdoms by fathering his own grandchildren.  Bravo, Lot.  Bravo.

What a great story.

Okay.  Come on, Bible...  I know how alcohol works for older men - and it's either one or the other, not both.  As a man, you don't get to be unconscious and still pitch a tent.  Once you're to the point of being "unaware" that someone in your immediate family is trying to date rape you, your wedding tackle is as limp as the rest of you.

Furthermore, by the way the end of this chapter is written, it seems perfectly reasonable that Lot's daughters would get the bizarre idea to sleep with their father.  Sure, they knew they had to liquor him up first, but to these young women, this seemed the best and most legitimate means of preserving their family line.  I don't know, maybe all of the men in the city of Zoar scared those poor girls too much to consider using a couple of those fellows as sperm donors.

Again, too many questions.  But what a great story, right?  Just absolute perfection from an absolutely perfect book!  There's really nothing like digesting the messages of morality, righteousness, and purity that are found in the Bible.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

RYBS: Omnisciently Playing Favorites Part 1

Read Your Bible Series - Week Four

Omnisciently Playing Favorites Part 1


This week we will jump back to the Old Testament for a two week review of the often told story of the Lord's judgment on the twin cities, Sodom and Gomorrah.  Most people who have been exposed to Christianity know this story well because it is often included in children's coloring books and teen Bible studies.  However, what most people don't know are the sordid details that are (purposely?) omitted by most pastors during Sunday sermons.

We begin with Abraham at his tent, most likely recovering from circumcising himself:

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way - now that you have come to your servant."
"Very well," they answered, "do as you say."
So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread."
Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
Upon reading these verses, it can be confusing as to what is going on in Abraham's head.  We begin with three "men" that decide to take a break from whatever the creator of the Universe had assigned them to do and to freeload on Abraham and his wife, Sarah.  And I'm sure that you noticed that one of them is referred to as "Lord".  Don't make the mistake of thinking that this refers to the holy trinity, as most scholars refute this since two of these guys end up in the next chapter.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Just understand that as we progress in this story, the one referred to as "the Lord" is generally accepted to be a, "messenger of the Lord," or in more common language, an angel of the almighty.  Whatever that is...
"Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him.
"There, in the tent," he said.
Then one of them said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?"
There are several things in the Bible that actually make me giggle, and that last sentence takes the cake.  It's easy to imagine how Sarah, who has lived long enough that she doesn't think twice about getting snarky with god, had every right to openly verbalize her skepticism.  That reaction is classic:  "Pish!  We've been at this for over 60 years and now you tell me I'm going to have a son?  Thanks...  I guess."   To me, this shows that stereotypes of older women were alive and well, even in the minds of Bronze Age writers.
Then the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son."
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh."
But he said, "Yes, you did laugh."
It's a good thing that the almighty had a touch of humility this time, because god usually doesn't take any sass from anyone - especially women - and Sarah darn near dug herself a hole she couldn't "bow low" enough to get out of.

The story continues:
When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."
Then the Lord said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."
These verses should give us all pause.  Why does god need to send angels to find out anything?  How is it that Sodom and Gomorrah are able to hide themselves from the almighty on such a large scale?  God should never have any doubts as to what is going on in that city, much less need to send a couple of henchmen to interrogate the locals.
The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing - to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
Here again, we see that even the Bible suggests that humanity has more morality than the god we're supposed to serve.  Even Abraham questions the rationality of murdering everyone just to punish a select few.  But as I'm sure most people have heard before, we're to believe that god works in mysterious ways.

The next set of verses amount to nothing more than haggling between gamesters.  Gamesters where one party already knows everything that there is to know...
The Lord said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?"
"If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it."
Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?"
He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it."
Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?"
He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."
Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?"
He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it."
Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?"
He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
Phew!  Abraham finally bargained his way down to a manageable number, right?  It's only ten.  Ten is easy.

Okay, now I ask you, do people really give this whole exchange enough thought?  As I see it, Abraham's quest should be as simple as marching straight to the nearest nursery or daycare.  There's no way that two cities don't have enough babies and small children to fulfill the righteous quota of the holy of holies.  That is, unless god doesn't consider children to be innocent when it comes to destroying a couple of sinful cities.  Which it appears to me, he doesn't.

Plus, if Abraham really thought about it, he should have felt a bit silly dickering with god, don't you think?  I mean, we are talking about the supreme being here, right?  Yet the diligence of Abraham to get that number as low as he could suggests that he actually thought he could outsmart omniscience.

Good luck with that, Abe.

So, do you think Abraham found those ten people or ten children or ten babies?  *SPOILER ALERT*...  Lord no.