Prophets at a Loss

prophets

God’s prophets; holy men who are God’s confidantes, his mouthpiece on Earth. They know how he thinks, what his plans are, what pleases him, what annoys him, what he intends doing in the future. They’re the first to know all of these things because they’re so much in touch with him, he speaks to them personally.

That’s how Jim Bakker knows God plans to punish those counties in the States that voted for Hillary Clinton. God simply can’t stand her, you see, and is going to vent his anger at those who thought she’d make a better president than his anointed one, the Donald.

It’s how Cindy Jacobs knew in 2015 that Civil War and Christian persecution were coming to America, how Michelle Bachmann knew Obama would start World War III, how William Tapley (‘the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse’, don’t you know) sees the signs of the End Times™ everywhere, and how John McTernan can tell us that natural disasters are the result of America’s lack of support for Israel.

These men and women (who evidently don’t know they’re supposed to keep quiet [1 Timothy 2:12] ), are also proficient, or so they’d have us believe, at interpreting the signs of the times. They know when events are actually God meting out punishment (usually) or trampling over someone’s much vaunted free-will to ensure his purposes are met. Hence, their conviction that natural disasters are divine tantrums, caused by a growing acceptance of LGBT people, or abortion, or some other damn thing they don’t care for much. And they know for sure that Trump’s election was because God wanted him to be the next president, because the Almighty told them so himself.

There are others, however, who think these fellow-Christians have got it all wrong. God has no need of prophets today (Luke 16.16). He used them only in more primitive times when people were more credulous and superstitious – Bible times, in fact. The only way of knowing what God is up to these days, these prophecy-denying Christians say, is to read and interpret his Holy Word.™

If only it wasn’t filled with the same sort ramblings as those of the current crop of fantasists, the only difference between today’s and yesterday’s prophets being that the earlier nutjobs were lucky enough to have their words preserved – by those with a need to believe and the self-interested – in the supposedly ‘ineffable’ Bible. Their prophecies are no more accurate and have no more bearing on reality than the messages of Bakker, Jacobs, Tapley, McTernan and the like claim to receive from God today. They’re of the same lunatic level, offering the same sort of vacuous bullshit.

How do we know? Because of the Bible’s prophecies written before the events they purport to predict, none has come to pass. This includes Jesus’ prophecy that the Son of Man would soon appear in the sky with the heavenly host to usher in God’s Kingdom on Earth (Matt 16.27-28; Matt 24:27-31. Including his and Paul’s predictions of an imminent judgement (Matthew 7.22 & 25:36-40; 1 Corinthians 4.5); Paul’s promise of a rapture (1 Corinthians 15.51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17); John’s prophecy of the armies of heaven defeating the Whore of Babylon (the Romans) and Jesus being put in charge instead (Revelation 17.8-14 & 20.11-15). These prophets were certain these events were going to happen soon, within, as the text spells out, the lifetimes of their listeners and readers. They didn’t and they’re not going to happen now either, two thousand years after their sell-by date. They’re not going to happen at all.

They are fantasies, every one of them. As are the messages supplied by the self-appointed prophets of our day. Fraudulent twaddle from charlatans with a pathological need to have their delusions taken seriously; these men and women of God can no more divine the future than you or I. True, once in a while events in the real world might bear some coincidental resemblance to one of their predictions, but that is all it is – coincidence. As the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump have reminded us, we can’t ever see the future with any degree of certainty. Soothsayers, fortune-tellers and Prophets of God who tell us we can – tell us they can – are liars and deceivers. And we know, don’t we, what the Bible says should be done about them (Deuteronomy 13.5).

Picture: Artist’s impression of JC, archetypal false prophet (as if there’s any other sort); Jim Bakker, crook and adulterer; Cindy Jacobs (loose screw not shown) and William Tapley, Looney Tune of the Apocalypse.
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God sends New Savior!

jesuscity

Well, Stateside Christians, you got your man. Donald Trump will be president come January and you’re largely responsible for that. 81% of you voted for him. By my reckoning that’s about 50% of his total vote; he couldn’t have done it without you. Now he’s going to be your nation’s savior. He’s going to make America great again. He’ll return the nation to Christian values and morals. He’ll honour God and bring him back into the public arena, just like you want him to.

Or will he? How do you get God-fearing Savior from a petulant, misogynistic individual who has repeatedly shown himself to be racist, sexist, xenophobic, divisive, adulterous, abusive, ignorant, vitriolic, dishonest and avaricious; a man who denies climate change, is full of his importance (and nothing else), who makes promises he can’t keep and probably had no intention of keeping even as he made them. A man who couldn’t name a single verse in his ‘favourite book’, the Bible; who admits he’s never asked God for forgiveness and who has shown no sign of any kind of Christian humility, compassion or morality; a man who is even now appointing the most reactionary, right-wing extremists to his transitional team (so much for draining the swamp!) How can this man be the one who is going to restore America to a glorious Christian past it never really had, and make it a truly God-fearing nation once again?

Someone with these ‘qualities’ cannot possibly turn America into the promised land, even though you’ve convinced yourselves he’s another King Cyrus, the heathen king in the Old Testament who helped God’s people in their time of need. Trump is no Cyrus, even if he is the 45th president and Cyrus’s story is told in Isaiah 45 (yes, some of you think this is significant). You have been duped, again, American believers. But it is not Trump who has deluded you; it is you yourselves. You have persuaded yourselves that despite all of the evidence, Trump is man who can be greatly used by God.

There was no divine guidance behind Trump’s campaign and God won’t be manipulating him into doing his bidding once he takes office. This is because, primarily, there is no God to do any these things, but even if there were, why would he? Why would he ensure a man whose values are the direct antithesis of all (you say) he stands for, became the leader of the free world? Why would he be interested in making a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that is Donald Trump? Wouldn’t your God of Reason start with someone who is already one of his own? Someone who is genuinely a Christian; someone, say, who has tacky pictures of himself and Jesus hanging in his house? Or an evangelical – let’s call him Mike Pence – who comes pre-packaged with genuine, and genuinely viscious, Christian faith and a necessary anti-abortion, anti-gay agenda?

It’s you and you alone, Christians, who have turned Trump into a Savior. It is you who have created the silk purse. You’ve ignored what has been in front of you throughout the presidential campaign and have projected on to an individual who has done nothing but tell you what you wanted to hear, a spiritual significance he does not have. You have made of Trump an artificial Man of God, just like your predecessors did two thousand years ago with that other imposter, Yeshua Bar Joseph. Like them, you’re going to find out that the man you’ve elevated to savior status is anything but, because the Donald Trump you’ve elected is a construct of your collective imaginations. You’re about to discover that the real Donald Trump is not the man you’ve deluded yourselves into thinking he is.

I Know What It’s Like To Be Dead

lazarus

And you do too.

We experienced what it was like last night and, you know, it really wasn’t too bad.

We entered, at some point, a deep, dreamless sleep (we dream for only a quarter of the time we’re asleep and even then often can’t remember what we’ve dreamt about) and the rest of the time we were, as far as subjective experience was concerned, dead to the world. During that deep sleep, our conscious mind was completely switched off; we did not experience anything while we were in this state and as far as awareness is concerned, we did not exist. And when we woke this morning we were none the worse for our period of non-existence. We booted up reasonably satisfactorily and the memories we had yesterday, before our deep sleep, were restored and the entity we call our self began to interact with the day.

This period of deep sleep, this unconscious oblivion, is precisely what it is like to be dead. Of course, in death we switch off permanently; there’s with no reboot afterwards, either in our beds, our graves or in heaven. The oblivion that is death is permanent. But, and this is my point, being dead is no more painful or unendurable, and no more to be feared, than the deep sleep you had last night and that you will enjoy tonight. We might not much like the idea that once we fall into the ultimate sleep there will be no waking up, but that is only a concern, if it’s a concern at all, of the living. I guarantee that it does not cross the minds of those who are already dead. They have no minds, the same as you didn’t last night, for it to cross.

Being dead, to paraphrase Mark Twain, does not trouble us at all. Its prospect, while we remain on this side of it, should encourage us to enjoy life and live it to the full. It shouldn’t cause us to worry about being dead, because there’s nothing we can do about it and, in any case, it’s no worse than being in deep sleep. Nor should we be concerned about whether we’ve subscribed to the right incantation, appeased the right God in the right way or lived a good enough life, in order to avoid death. There’s no avoiding death and the promises of religions that we can if only we believe the right magic, are utterly false. Understandable perhaps, but false.

Oh death, where is thy sting, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.55. Well, death still has its sting. It has it in its inevitability – every organic creature, of which we are one, must die – and it has it, depending on your perspective, in our individual obliteration. (Though, frankly, why anyone should think their own personal bundle of thoughts, impulses and prejudices merits everlasting existence is a mystery). Most significantly, however, it has it in the dying process, which for many of us can be debilitating and painful. This is the way of it for all of us, including those who believe religions’ false promises. They are not spared the suffering, even though modern medicine can help alleviate much of it. Christians, Muslims and Hindus, despite their belief that a deity smiles benevolently upon them, are not guaranteed a comfortable passage from this life to non-existence.

Death is the great leveller; we all experience dying in much the same way and we none of us experience anything after it. One of these – maybe both if we’re lucky – isn’t too bad. Just like deep sleep in fact.

Until then, we should make the most of life while we still have it.

Sleep well.