Once in a Blood Moon

HageeSomething’s going to happen today. Or maybe tomorrow. Maybe something happens every day. But evangelical pastor John Hagee says that because of last night’s Blood Moon and lunar eclipse, something special’s going to happen real soon. He can’t say whether it’s something good or something bad, but it’s something, okay? Because predictable lunar events are really secret messages from God, telling us he’s pissed  off again and warning us something big is going to happen, whether that’s something good or something bad. Who knows. But you will know when you see it and you’ll be able to say, ‘So this is what John Hagee warned/promised us would happen!’ He really can’t lose; ‘prophecy’ with the details filled in after the event – any event – is prophecy that can’t fail.

Christians, you are being short-changed. Your teachers and leaders, including, in all probability, those you sat listening to in church yesterday (maybe even writing down what they said) are feeding you inanities. The rest of us see it whenever we look at the God channels or stumble upon the pronouncements of the likes of Hagee or Robertson or Meyer. These people have nothing to say of any substance, sense or meaning. This isn’t just someone in an ‘unregenerate’ state saying so – analyse what they tell you for yourself and let your eyes be opened. See through the thin veneer of derisible pop-psychology and lunatic make-believe (pun intended) to the vacuousness at the heart of Christian ‘teaching’. Admittedly, this will entail doing some thinking for yourself rather then just absorbing uncritically the drivel these people send your way – but it will be worth it. Then you’ll finally see: the emperor’s self-appointed spokespersons really don’t have any clothes on.

Meanwhile look out for something happening today. Or tomorrow. Or some other damn time.

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The Seventeen Commandments

mosesQuick – can you name the sixth of the ten commandments? That was the question in a quiz I went to last night. We got it wrong, but I have to to tell you, so did the quiz-master. If you Google ‘the Ten Commandments’ – which I can assure you we didn’t during the quiz – what you get is the list of injunctions from Exodus 20. You know the ones: thou shalt not kill, steal, commit adultery or covet thy neighbour’s ass. Read them all here if you feel inclined.

When, in a fit of pique, Moses destroyed the stone slabs on which these ‘commandments’ were written, God generously offered to provide him with a replacement set. The Almighty even made a point of saying, in Exodus 34.1, that the two sets would be identical. But they’re not. Here’s the lot from Exodus 34:

1. You shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
2. Do not make any molten gods (idols).
3. Keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
4. The first born of every creature shall belong to me.
5. Work for six days and rest on the seventh.
6. Observe the Feast of Weeks.
7. Present all your male children to the Lord God three times a year.
8. Do not offer the blood of sacrifices to God with leaven and don’t leave the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover until the morning.
9. Give the first of the first-fruits of the land to the house of the Lord thy God.
10. Do not boil a kid in his mother’s milk.

Far from being identical, only three commandments are the same in the two sets; missing from the Exodus 34 group are those about adultery, theft and killing, replaced with stipulations about ancient Jewish festivals and boiling baby goats (of great eternal significance, that one.) Just to complicate matters, this second lot is the only one referred to in the Bible as ‘The Ten Commandments’ (Exodus 34.28). The more familiar injunctions from Exodus 20 – the ones Google brings up – are not.

What is going on here? It’s as if ‘The Ten Commandments’ are not as immutable as Christians claim. What are they to do? Should they pick and mix between the two sets? Should they reject one and use only the other? Obey both lots – The Seventeen Commandments? It’s far from clear and yet, according to Jesus, their eternal existence depends on getting it right (Matthew 19:17).

All of which makes me think how a single seamless garment has been created out of a ragbag of scraps and patches. The church and believers in general have told us that the shambolic writings stitched together as the Bible tell a consistent story. This deceit is a major accomplishment of the Christian faith because the seamless garment is an illusion, created by pretending there are no discrepancies or inconsistencies and by glossing over all the significant differences within God’s Word™.

This is why we never hear of the second set of commandments – they’re put away like a mad woman in the attic. The church doesn’t want people seeing them or hearing about them. Best to shut them away and make out they don’t exist. Same with the second account of creation in Genesis 2. It’s different from that in Genesis 1, though both are embarrassingly wrong about the means and order of creation. When Christians do acknowledge that there are two accounts (as Ken Ham does) they insist, that, of course, there are no real differences and they can all be explained (away). If there are no differences, why then do they need explaining?

Then there are the disparate accounts of Jesus’ life. Even where they share the same material each gospel presents it differently or gives it a spin that frequently contradicts the other gospels’ versions of the same events. Every one of the stories about the resurrection, for example, is radically different in both detail and significance from all the others.

There are even greater problems for Christians in explaining how Jesus’ supposed sacrifice on the cross brings about salvation. The writers of the New Testament aren’t clear themselves, suggesting at least a dozen largely incompatible ways between them. The four gospels alone have conflicting ideas about how it works (more on this next time), all of which differ from Paul’s salvation formula.

I suppose if Christians want to deceive themselves about their faith and their magic book, it’s up to them. But, please, righteous ones, don’t try and tell the rest of us it has a clear consistent message when it doesn’t. Don’t tell us it’s a seamless garment when it has tangles of loose threads and you’ve had to throw away all the material that doesn’t fit the pattern you pretend you can see.

 

Oh, and that sixth commandment? ‘Observe the Feast of Weeks’. But of course you knew that.

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 13: We Don’t Need No Educashun

MegaBut you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12

Evidently these words were put into Jesus’ mouth by the community that produced Matthew’s gospel and reflect the egalitarianism and communism that characterised it. The phrase that gives away their origins is ‘you have one instructor; the Christ’. ‘The Christ’, as we know, was a creation of the early church and it is highly unlikely Jesus would have referred to himself in such a way. In the synoptic gospels he is reticent even about claiming the Jewish title of Messiah for himself. In any case, the reference is patently to a third party, and is by an author or interpolator who subscribes to the later, supernatural Christ.

In the unlikely event, then, that these words emanated from Jesus himself, all they achieve is to demonstrate his lack of understanding of human psychology. Even as ‘Matthew’ set about recording them, the newly founded church was already ignoring them, which is perhaps why he felt the need to have Jesus say them. Here’s Ephesians 4.11, written by someone pretending to be Paul round about 80-100CE, contradicting them:

Christ gave (us) the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…

The imposter who wrote 1 Timothy (5:17) up to a hundred years after Jesus’ death goes further, endorsing the exaltation of those who teach and rule others:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching.

Why? Because human beings like hierarchies. Almost all human societies are hierarchical in nature and groups invariably arrange themselves hierarchically. There will always be people who see themselves as leaders and teachers and still others who look to those who’ve set themselves up as authorities to tell them what to do.

Despite what Jesus or ‘Matthew’ might have preferred – everyone being equal while those who ‘exalt’ themselves are humbled – it just doesn’t happen in human culture. It certainly wasn’t happening in the movement that emerged following Jesus’ death, in the church that existed by the time Matthew was making Jesus say that the only authority Christians should recognise was God’s and his own. The institution that was appearing in place of the end of the age – an institution that Jesus neither anticipated nor instigated – could not function effectively as the simple band of ‘brothers’ he is made to suggest. It was in need of structure, and a hierarchy was it.

And so it was that, before long, the first popes emerged – ‘pope’ deriving from the Latin for ‘papa’. Each of these exalted figures would come to be referred to as ‘Holy Father’, a title still in use today. With complete disregard for Jesus’ instructions, other priests (meaning ‘elders’) in the Catholic church also assumed the title ‘father’. Evangelical churches, lest they think the Catholic church is the only guilty party, have their ‘pastors’, meaning ‘shepherds’, who, by definition, lead others. A common or garden ‘clergyman’ is a ‘learned man’, while a bishop is one who ‘looks down from above’. An archbishop is chief look-downer and exalted indeed. Elsewhere, showmen preachers in mega-churches ‘teach’ with a mixture of anecdote, wild conjecture and stuff they make up as they go along; tune into TV’s God channels for a taste of this particular brand of humility. The church in all its manifestations has, from the beginning, been hierarchical from top to bottom.

Jesus, however, didn’t want there to be a top or bottom; if Matthew 23.8-12 is to be believed, he commanded there shouldn’t be. He envisaged his followers living in harmony with everyone equal under his and God’s authority. No-one was to set themselves up as teacher or leader; no-one was to exalt themselves above others. If any did, they would need to be humbled. But this isn’t how human beings organise themselves, and never how the church has conducted itself. Shouldn’t he have known that?

Who Decides?

DavisI’ve written before about how some parts of the Bible are more important than others; about how Christians relegate some of it – ironically much of what Jesus is purported to have said – while elevating other bits. These latter aspects trump the former, so that if there’s ever any dispute about how Christians should behave in a given context, they’ll happily cite the elevated parts while overlooking those that are less to their liking. This happened recently in the Kim Davis case,* which I talked about last time. In that context, the verses from Romans I quoted, in which Paul instructs believers to obey civil authorities, are explained away and dismissed in favour of other passages. Here are commenters doing just that on the crackpot Christian site, World Net Daily:

Have you not read Acts 4:19 and 5:29? There is a time when God’s authority trumps human authority. In this case, Kim Davis stood up for God’s authority. God’s word calls homosexuality an abomination. Ephesians 5:11 teaches that Christians must have nothing to do with the works of darkness, but instead expose them.

and

Sometimes…when you give to God…what is God’s…you will have to disobey the civil authorities that are over you. Kind of like Paul…refused to stop preaching and jailed…God took care of him, though, I do believe. Although never truly jailed, except at the end…didn’t Jesus disobey the “law”, Mosaic Law, when He preached?

It’s not as if Paul was writing about ‘authorities’ that conducted themselves in considered or considerate ways; this was the Romans, after all. They would eventually execute Paul – so much for God taking care of him! – just as they had Jesus himself. Nonetheless, Paul tells the brethren they must honour Roman authorities. But somehow, if Christians today are to be believed, he just didn’t understand what it’s like to obey civil (in both senses of the word) secular authorities in the 21st century. They consider his teaching in the early part of Romans 13 to be invalid, no longer applicable, irrelevant to the very situation it was designed to address. Other passages from the Bible are far more important and therefore trounce it easily.

But who decides this? Who decides, in what these same Christians deem to be the literal Word of God, which words are less literal than others; less applicable; less relevant? And, consequently, which are more important, more applicable, more ‘of God’?

The evidence would suggest it’s the individual Christian who does, led, no doubt, by the Holy Spirit, who inexplicably leads different believers to different conclusions about the same source material. There’s no ‘free-will’ involved in this process, however; individual interpretations of scripture are informed by the consensus of the church or the movement with which individual Christians align themselves. But who in these institutions determines the order of priority for the Bible’s many confused and often contradictory injunctions?

Determining what is important in the Bible, and what isn’t, is the result of a consensus of prejudices and biases. It’s easy to find ‘teaching’ in the Bible that supports one’s own views and opinions and equally easy to find that which doesn’t and is incompatible with the position one already holds. To reconcile the two, and to deal with the discomfort of any cognitive dissonance, Christians demote any teaching that doesn’t correspond with their pre-existent world-view – sorry, Paul, but this includes your silly suggestion that we should obey the authorities – while promoting those ideas that conform to and confirm that outlook (so hurray for those verses that say gay people are abominations and have no place in the Kingdom of God!) The very words of God are ranked according to the whims and prejudices of those reading them.

Again, I’ve written before about Christian priorities, about how those parts of the Bible they find unpalatable and challenging – such as those that say they should give away all they have and love their enemies – are explained away or ignored. But as for those passages that tell Christians how superior they are while excoriating others as ‘works of darkness’ – well, now you’re talking!  

 

*While Davis claims all her husband swapping took place before she met Jesus, she was a member of the Baptist church while she was busy trying them all on for size. At least three of her wedding ceremonies were conducted by Baptist ministers. All that happened in 2011 was that she joined the more extreme pentecostal movement, which empowered her to ignore the log in her eye and concentrate on the speck in others’.

Modern Day Martyr #94

A&ECherry picking had been a problem right from the start.

In case you missed it last time it happened, Christianity has been criminalised again. Yup, despite all the imprisonment of Jesus’ followers only a few short months ago (or was it weeks?) they’re all being rounded up again for no other reason than they’re Bible-believin’ Christians. True, they might have been incarcerated because they’re public officials who refuse to do their job because they believe God doesn’t want them to. True, they might have been divorced three times, married four and engaged in a little adultery along the way. But come on, be reasonable: ‘God’s standards’ don’t apply to Christians themselves; they’re for clobbering others with.

Naturally this isn’t how Christians themselves see it. Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky charged with issuing marriage certificates, has been imprisoned – by a Christian judge at that – because she won’t issue them to same-sex couples. And that, according to Christo-fascist Matt Barber makes her a martyr. Plus, you know, the end of the world and what-not:

For the first time in American history a woman has been imprisoned by the government for merely exercising her Christian faith. War has been declared on Christ and His followers. And there’s no turning back.

Davis’s lawyer and fellow-believer, Matt Staver, goes even further. He equates her situation with the Nazis’ extermination of 6 million Jews:

Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment, then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers. This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country (the USA).

What melodrama! If only there was something in God’s Word™ that could’ve told Kimmy what to do before everything got out of hand.

Oh wait. What’s this in Romans 13?

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves… it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience (Romans 13.1-2 & 5).

Jeez, if only it were possible for Christians to ignore the bits of the Bible they don’t like.

Oh, I forgot… it is!

The imprisonment of a public servant who declines to serve the public and refuses to comply with the law does not mark the start of any war. It is not the fore-runner of a persecution such as we’ve never seen before. It is, rather, the predictable consequence of the same old Christian hypocrisy.