Archive for July, 2009
In an earlier thread, Logiopath and I shared this exchange:
Logio: The next time your boss tells you something, try and read a double meaning into the words. In other words, if the Gospel texts have any reflection of Jesus’ words, then what is said is probably what is meant (regardless of the accuracy of the statement).
Me: That’s actually not bad advice. Never having managed people in a business setting you probably have never encountered the overly literal employee who ONLY does precisely as he is told or perhaps follows the instructions so ‘religiously’ that he botches things up….”But that’s what you TOLD me to do!” It helps to understand your bosses general intent (bad bosses kept this secret – Jesus did not).
Logio: You’re right, I’ve never been in management, but I understand giving instructions to students who are literal in their interpretation.
When I discussed this conversation with my friend, Jack the Trivia King, he snapped his fingers and, nodding his vigorously, said “Just like Greg Brady’s exact words!” Which meant absolutely nothing to me.
It turns out that this is a famous episode of the Brady Bunch (a TV show that puberty saved me from having to watch) in which the eldest boy (Greg) is told that he is forbidden to drive the family car for two weeks because of his carelessness behind the wheel.
Taking his father’s words quite literally, Greg instead borrows the neighbor’s car for a drive. Having been found out and now grounded, Greg complains that he did not disobey his parents; after all, he didn’t drive the family car. He was actually very obedient and followed his dad’s instructions to the letter. To avoid further confusion, Greg suggests that from now on everyone should only say EXACTLY what they mean, using only EXACT words. His wise (and very hip) dad readily agrees and wholesome family hilarity ensues.
This sitcom episode is apparently a classic example of a literary ‘trope’ – “a storytelling device and convention that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.”; like the Genie granting three wishes or the boy who cried wolf. In this particular case someone is taking an authority’s instructions so literally that they actually, and quite legally, subvert the authority’s purpose in giving those instructions in the first place.
In the workplace this is known as “Malicious Obedience” or “Destructive Compliance” or “Bothering by the Book”. In order to further their own agendas, the workers obey the rules so religiously that it subverts their employers intentions. Any well run business will encourage their employees to ‘take ownership’ of their responsibilities, allowing them the flexibility to be innovative in their interpretations of the workplace rules, as long as they remain in the spirit in which the rules were written. In fact, good companies don’t give rules, they provide guidelines. Some of the most successful companies today (like Yahoo!) are quite radical in this respect.
This, I think, is a pretty good analogy for the differences between fundamentalist religion and progressive religion. Jesus would have been considered a progressive, if not even a radical -breaking the religious rules in order to better serve the spirit of those rules.
We’ve all witnessed the sometimes silly but often tragic results of people reading scriptures by their exact words. More often than not they end up subverting the spirit of those words. Just as in how some have changed Jesus’ imploration to not judge others (in that case, adulterers) into a new legalist ‘sin’; sexual titillation.
Much worse, many have used the ‘exact words’ of Hebrew and Christian scriptures to justify slavery, prejudice and war, the ‘exact words’ of Matthew and John to justify anti-Semitism, the ‘exact words’ of Paul to justify male chauvinism and homophobia and the ‘exact words’ of Mohammed to justify misogyny and initiate violent intifada; all zealously bothering by the Good Book.
As Greg Brady painfully learned in that episode, taking someone at their ‘exact words’ is something you learn to avoid as you grow up. If you want to avoid confusion and if you want to better serve authority.
Thank God, I will get a view of the Battle of Armageddon from the grand stand seats of the heavens. All who are born again will see the battle of Armageddon, but it will be from the skies (Carl McIntire, 1965)
What then should be the believer’s attitude to the destruction of the world by fire? First of all, he should welcome it and pray for its nearness (Robert Gromacki, 1970)
The world has one great war yet to endure…. The slaughter that will take place is too frightening to imagine. Just be thankful that you’re not going to be around (Chuck Smith, 1977)
The Tribulation will result in such bloodshed and destruction that any war up to that time will seem insignificant (Jerry Falwell, 1983)
Some day we may blow ourselves up with all the bombs…. But I still believe God’s going to be in control…. If He chooses to use nuclear war, then who am I to argue with that? (Charles Jones, 1986)
-from “God and Empire” by John Dominic Crossan
I’m sorry, but the Book of Revelation should never have been included in the Bible. There. I’ve said it. No more pussy-footing around. I’m no longer going to compromise, rationalizing that it needs to be read, as Augustine said, ‘spiritually and not carnally’ (metaphorically and not literally). I think it would have been better never read at all.
Rather than underlining Jesus’ (and Paul’s) radical message of the just and peaceable Kingdom of God to be found right now and right here on this earth, Revelations depicts a kingdom somewhere “out there” that will some day come, but only after Jesus returns and and initiates the violent destruction of civilization.
In the Gospels, Jesus offers us a meal of bread and wine- hospitality, friendship, community. In Revelation he offers the birds of the air a meal made up of the flesh of millions of dead.
In the Gospels Jesus talks of his return AFTER a violent apocalypse but an apocalypse that is the result of man’s ‘worldly’ and violent way of life. His return does not precipitate this apocalypse but follows it, bringing the Kingdom’s non-violent redemptive power. Revelation, on the other hand, has Jesus accepting and adopting as his own modus operandi this ‘worldly’ violence, no matter how ‘other worldly’ it is portrayed.
In the Gospels he enters the Jerusalem meekly, on a donkey, pointedly lampooning the triumphal entry of the Roman governor. In Revelation he is on a white charger, wielding sword and with a blood soaked cape flowing about him.
Is it any wonder that this vision of a doomed and temporary earth violently destroyed by a blood-thirsty Messiah who then selectively redeems it has led to 20 centuries of Church sanctioned violence? Well, not when we realize that it didn’t take long for the Church to stop opposing violent empire and become violent empire. The Book of Revelations proved to be an excellent tool in furthering the worldly ideals and goals of empire.
Americans easily recognize that the fundamentalist theology of Islam, of a disposable world followed by paradise for the fortunate faithful, has eagerly led many to commit acts of horrific violence. But can’t we see that the contemporary dispensationalist theology of Rapture and Armageddon also leads to similar contempt for this world and a a similar eagerness for violent retribution?
It may seem extreme to make comparisons between the actions of radical Islamists and those of fundamentalist Christians, but their rhetoric is similar. Violent actions no not always follow violent rhetoric but they are always preceded by violent rhetoric.
Perhaps there is some good ecclesiastical advice in this book, advice designed to help the early beleaguered Church to hold fast and resist the temptation to capitulate to empire. But by painting Jesus in heretically violent colors John only helped spur on the Church to become empire. Did Rome co-opt the Church or did the Church co-opt Rome?
How might have history been different, if the rhetoric of violent judgment penned by John of Patmos had never been linked to Jesus’ Gospel of peace and justice?
Is there a doctor in the house?! Or maybe someone else expert in physiology? Or maybe someone who has experienced something similar to what I am going through right now?
Because a funny thing happened to me two weeks ago; I lost my taste. Now before you start in with the jokes about my obviously pre-existing lack of taste, let me jump in and tell you that I seem to have primarily lost my ability to taste natural sugar. Which really sucks because it changes the flavor profile of just about everything with the exception of things like brussel sprouts, dandelion and chicory. (By the way, did you know that cats, from little kitties to big lions, can’t taste sweet either? Perhaps I should give Fancy Feast a try. Or a Thompson gazelle? )
And before anyone else suggests that I should have my nose checked out, I can smell just fine, thank you. (Please, no jokes!) In fact, foods that are mostly tasted through the nose (like very dry Italian wines, coffee, kimche and boiled eggs) are even tolerable (if not quite palatable) to me. Umami is good, when it’s not linked to sweetness (such as with pine nuts, blue cheese and Parmesan) but we are not presented with many choices there.
Almost all beer is impossible (lots of maltose) although a recent triple hop IPA was marginally drinkable, but still not much more flavorful than your standard Budweiser. Even my beloved bone-in rib-eye (cowboy) steak tastes like cardboard soaked in Crisco. Celery still tastes like…celery. I feel like crying.
I have not been hit on the head, struck ill, had recent surgery or received radiation or chemo-therapy. I am not vitamin B-12 or zinc deficient. I have not burned or cut my tongue. I DID smoke the occasional cigar but have not done so since this has happened. OK maybe a little more than occasionally, but not more than a couple of times a week and I have friends that have been two-packers-a-day for thirty years and they don’t have this problem.
What’s weird is that I CAN taste some artificial sweeteners like saccharine and Xylitol. But not Splenda, Equal or Nutrasweet. Haven’t checked Stevia out yet.
It has been an enlightening (if rather unappetizing ) experience. After having spent my entire life preparing and serving food I now understand the physiology of taste in a way that absolutely no cook (or text) book ever could convey it. I don’t believe this will effect my career adversely – I remember recipes and can still read them, I just need a taster by my side (anyone seen “Tortilla Soup”?) It may even be possible for me to explore new avenues in cooking. Right now some of our cutting edge chefs are introducing bitter tasting foods on their menus, something that other culinary cultures are much more familiar with. Perhaps for me, bitter is better.
There is a silver lining to this gustatory cloud; my appetite is so diminished that I’ve lost about ten pounds. This is the world’s most effective weight loss program. I’m pretty much convinced that the biggest enticement to overeating is that food just tastes so damn good. (There is even an Indian herb and a pill made from it that claims to deaden your sense of taste and has allegedly helped people lose weight.) It’s convenient for me, I guess,that the foods that taste the worst right now are those containing the most sugars and simple carbs, the biggest contributors to weight gain (through insulin resistance). So maybe I really don’t want this problem fixed….Nah! Good food is one of God’s greatest gifts, much more so than sex, fame, money or skinny-ness – believe me!
So, what the hell happened? I know some of you folks have some understanding of the science behind food and eating. If anyone has any ideas or any suggestions….HELP!
I’m in the middle of an interesting book; “Ready for Rapture” by Daniel Radosh. I doubt it is a book that many Christians will pick up – but they should. Radosh, a practicing Jew that happens to be agnostic (?) brings an outsider’s fresh perspective to the inside of Christian pop culture. And that is what he is critiquing; not Christianity itself but the unique, separate and often silly world that many American Christians have created and so many have misinterpreted as the ‘faith’.
I’d like to discuss this book in more depth when I finish it, but every once in a while Radosh shares something that I think is worth mentioning. At one point he tells us of attending a “Christian” skateboard event, ostensibly presented by Stephen Baldwin, (who never shows up). It’s a rainy day but just as the skate boarding demonstration is about to begin the skies clear:
“An MC hopped onto the central platform holding a wireless microphone. After a few words of welcome to the spectators—about four hundred lined up behind yellow caution tape—he pointed to the sky. “You noticed it stopped raining? That’s because God is good!”
Radosh says that he found the skateboarding pretty boring but the following BMX biker show much more exciting.
“Except that twenty minutes in, it started to rain and the event had to be cut short. The MC made no comment on this, but I could only surmise that either God was now bad, or that he prefers skating to BMX—in which case we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.”
Some Christians may think this a little naive or even cynical of Radosh, although perhaps expected of someone who professes to have no faith in any god. But simple statements like “God is good” tend to sound a bit trite when they fall so easily and so often off the religious tongue. Because when any trivially ‘good’ thing is used to point out God’s goodness someone else can just as reasonably point to a significantly ‘bad’ thing as proof of his lack of goodness. Or, his lack of existence.
If God is good when a cancer patient is ‘miraculously’ cured then what is he when the patient dies? (In an earlier post I asked similar questions.) Perhaps the indiscriminate dropping of these little God-bombs are one reason why the ‘outsider looking in’ can sometimes only scratch his head in bemusement.
If you ever get one of these letters then..uh-oh…
This message has been sent to you by a friend or a relative who has recently disappeared along with millions and millions of people around the world. The reason they chose to send you this letter is because they cared about you and would like you to know the truth about where they went. This may come as a shock to you, but the one who sent you this has been taken up to heaven.
I f you read a Bible, you will see that after chapter three in the book of Revelation, the church is no longer mentioned as being on earth. (The church are the believers in Jesus Christ, not the buildings in which people meet.)
In the Bible, 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 verses 16 and 17 tell how Jesus came to take away His church. But, you have to believe the Bible is the Word of God in order to believe this.
I am sure that there will be a lot of speculation as to what happened to all these people. The theories of some scientists and world leaders will have so much credibility that most of the world will believe them.It will sound like the truth!
But, there is only one truth. And, that truth is that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came back to earth and took with Him to Heaven all who believed in Him and made Him their Lord.
If you would like to give your life to Jesus Christ and be born again, it is not too late. First you must pray to God saying“Father I admit I am a sinner, and I will turn from my sin and do good. I believe that Jesus was your son and that He came here to die for me so that my sins would be forgiven. I ask you to forgive me and I will repent of my sins. In Jesus name I pray.”
If you just prayed that prayer and meant it with all your heart, then God will know you as one of His own. You should now seek out others who have also given their lives to Christ, read a Bible daily, and do your best to bring others to Christ.
God bless you,
Yep. That’s right. There is a website called Raptureletters.com where people can sign up to have an e-mail sent to their ‘left behind’ friends explaining where they are and what the hell heck just happened:
And if you decide to ignore this heartfelt warning? This is what the Prince of Peace has in store for you:
Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood. It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin…Their innards and entrails gushed to the desert floor, and as those around them turned to run, they too were slain, their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of the glory of Christ. (“Glorious Appearing”, Jenkins and LaHaye)
Great stuff, huh. I can’t wait. But if I’m raptured, won’t I miss out on all the fun? (I know what you’re thinking:“If I were you I wouldn’t worry”.) Will the raptured have good seats for all the action? Since we’ll still have our bodies, will popcorn be available? Will we be naked and if so will we all be issued Grace Goggles? For answers to more questions like these check out: Rapture Ready.Com It’s got the answers to all your Pre-Trib concerns AND it’s full of fun facts like these:
The Bible predicts that the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Ever since the 70 AD destruction, one major roadblock barring the reconstruction of the Temple is the fact that the Temple Mount area has been defiled by warfare. In order to cleanse the tribulation Temple Mount for worship, the Jews will need the ashes of a pure red heifer. Numbers chapter 19 describes how King Solomon cleansed the first Temple with the ashes of a specially prepared Red Heifer.
(Israeli scientists have been working for years to genetically engineer a red calf. But why would they want to kick-off the Tribulation?)
Replacement theology is the view that Israel, having failed God, has been replaced by the Church around 70 AD. The Church is now seen as spiritual Israel and spiritual Jerusalem. This teaching claims that all the promises and blessings, in fact Israel’s entire inheritance, now belongs to the Church. However, all is not lost for Israel; it gets to keep all the curses.
During the latter part of the tribulation an Oriental army of some 200 million strong, will move into the Middle East, crossing over the dried up Euphrates River. This army, guided by four demonic angels, will kill one third of mankind.
You certainly don’t want to be hanging around for that. Reminds me of an old joke; 200 million Chinese guys walk into a bar and order a drink…..uh, I forget the rest.
I know a lot of good folks who waste a lot of good time with all this hooey. I wonder what they would think if they knew that these cherished ‘biblical truths’ have only been around for about 100 years or so and are mostly the result of a ne’er-do-well-cum-Evangelical-huckster’s popularization of an imaginative Anglo-Irish minister’s ruminations.