Wednesday, May 5, 2010

242: The Bible, Officially Insane

Ezekiel 1-4
"Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle." - Ezekiel 1:10

This is one of those "what the fuck" days. If you didn't think at least some of the writers of the bible were high or mentally ill, you will after today.

Ezekiel is sitting by the river when he sees a windstorm coming from the north. As the storm comes closer he sees four creatures. As they come even closer, Ezekiel sees that these creatures have four wings and four heads each. Their bodies are human but their legs are calf legs made of bronze. They have one head that's human, one of an ox, one of a lion, and one of an eagle.

That's not all. Beside these creatures are wheels. They are built as if a wheel is intersecting a wheel (making them spherical). These wheels follow the creatures everywhere they go. If that's not weird enough, Ezekiel says that the wheels are full of eyes. Someone please try to convince me that this isn't completely insane.

Finally, Ezekiel sees God. Ezekiel says that God looks as if he is half made of metal (his upper half) and half made of fire (his lower half), and that God has the figure of a man.

Artist's representation of what I've just described

Ezekiel falls face down (or more likely just falls because he's so high). God tells him to stand back up, and he does. God tells him that he's going to send him to the Israelites because they are stubborn. Then God says something strange, "But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you." Ok, a little creepy. Is this some kind of metaphor? (The answer is no.)

God gives Ezekiel a scroll. Ezekiel says that on the scroll are written words of lament and mourning. Then God tells Ezekiel to eat the scroll. Yes, go back and read that sentence a few more times and let that soak in. Ezekiel, being a good servant (and also totally high) eats the scroll. How big was this scroll? Eating even a little paper is not an easy task, eating an entire roll of parchment must not have been fun. God then lifts up Ezekiel and takes him to the exiles at Tel Abib. God spends the rest of the chapter telling Ezekiel that he should warn the Israelites when God says they are going to be killed.

The strangeness isn't toned down for the final chapter of the day. God tells Ezekiel to get a clay tablet and carve the city of Jerusalem on it. Then God tells him to lay siege to it (yes, lay siege to the inanimate clay tablet). He tells Ezekiel to set up siege works, battering rams, and camps against it. I have an interesting image in my head of a guy attacking a clay tablet. Are we all in agreement that this man is high or mentally ill yet? Wait we're not done yet.

God then tells Ezekiel to lay on his left side and "put the sin of the house of Israel" on himself. God tells him to lay his side for 390 days. Yes, Ezekiel is to stay laying on his side for over a year, I'm not sure what this is going to accomplish. After he's done, God tells him to lay on his right side for another 40 days to take on Judah's sins too.

God tells Ezekiel to put various ingredients in a jar, and use them to make bread during his 390 days of laying on his side. God says to weigh out 20 shekels of food to eat per day. Ezekiel is to use human feces to bake his bread. This is supposed to symbolize Israel eating impure things. When Ezekiel hears this he objects, saying that he has never eaten any unclean animals. God relents, and tells Ezekiel that he can use cow feces to cook his food. Ezekiel seems satisfied with this.

Moral of the story: Just say no to drugs.

Michael Pinto doesn't want us to pick and choose what parts of the bible we follow.
The Bible is not like a box of chocolates that you can pick through and choose pieces when addressing sexual orientation issues.
Ok, so it's only a box of chocolates when it comes to working on the sabbath, what foods to eat, when to trim your beard, whether or not to shave your head, killing people for adultery, killing people for witchcraft, and whether or not to kill people for the "sexual orientation issues"? It's ok to pick and choose what tenants of the bible to follow, unless it has something to do with those nasty gays.
The difficulty I find with most reconciling churches is that while they emphasize efforts toward justice they minimize the sinful aspects of homosexual actions and relationships. As Rev. Knapp points out, there are no passages in scripture that condone homosexual activities regardless of the context. Battling in favor of gay marriages does not make such relationships and activities any less sinful if you use the Bible as a basis for your determination of what is holy and what is evil.
Again, no matter how much you try to reconcile shaving your beard every morning, it doesn't make it any less sinful. Also, the churches that tell people it's ok to be a worker on Sunday need to clean up their act.
If reconciling churches really wanted to reconcile people with gender orientation problems they would offer programs such as those provided by Exodus International to help individuals overcome their same-gender attractions and desires.
Right, because that always works.
We are called to love all people because they are created in God’s image. But we are also called to battle evil because the fall of Adam and Eve has left each one of us with a sinful nature. That is the message of Scripture. As such, the Bible is not like a box of chocolates where we pick and choose particular verses that support our views. Instead, it is to be read and learned in totality so that it guides our lives today — even if what it asks is difficult — and fills us with hope for tomorrow when all struggles (including those with gender issues) will be resolved in God’s loving presence.
I'm sure letting someone know that they are immoral for loving someone will fill them with such hope for the future. Michael tells us to not treat the bible like a box of chocolates, but he may be the biggest offender. The bible mentions homosexuality on only a few scant verses, while working on the sabbath is condemned constantly. You can't just pick and choose what parts of the bible to follow, Michael. In the end though, I agree, you shouldn't treat the bible like a box of chocolates. Throw the whole thing out, not just a few select verses.


  1. You forgot to point out that god also put his obligatory death threat into this shroom journey: 4:20 - "Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die." Yup, god's responsible for potholes now, what a jerk.

  2. If you think this sounds like drug-induced ravings, just wait until you get to Daniel and then Revelations. The bible is just getting warmed up.

  3. BTW, this isn't related to today's reading (but it is to many of your earlier posts), but it seems the sort of thing that you like to post in your News section. From the NYT:

    It's about whether and to what extent babies are moral. Here is the part that really amused me:
    "Moral ideas seem to involve much more than mere compassion. Morality, for instance, is closely related to notions of praise and blame: we want to reward what we see as good and punish what we see as bad. Morality is also closely connected to the ideal of impartiality — if it’s immoral for you to do something to me, then, all else being equal, it is immoral for me to do the same thing to you. In addition, moral principles are different from other types of rules or laws: they cannot, for instance, be overruled solely by virtue of authority. (Even a 4-year-old knows not only that unprovoked hitting is wrong but also that it would continue to be wrong even if a teacher said that it was O.K.) And we tend to associate morality with the possibility of free and rational choice; people choose to do good or evil. To hold someone responsible for an act means that we believe that he could have chosen to act otherwise. "

    Here the author is listing "commonsense" notions of morality. And yet, most of these principles are violated by God in the Bible, the supposed source of Western morality. In particular, we've encountered numerous passages so far where God shows bias toward one group of people, overrules his own laws in an ad hoc fashion by virtue of authority, and punishes people for actions that they did not choose of their own free will.



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