Saturday, July 17, 2010

315: In a Little While

John 16-18
"Some of his disciples said to one another, 'What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?' They kept asking, 'What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying.' " - John 16:17-18

Jesus starts the day by repeating most of the concepts he explained yesterday. Namely that once he is crucified he will tell God to send the counselor (the Holy Spirit) to everyone. Why God can't do this without Jesus being crucified, I'm not sure (being all powerful, and all). Jesus ends all this by saying that he has much more to say, but he is going to let the Holy Spirit say the rest of the truth.

Jesus then tells his disciples that in a little while they will see him no more, then a little while after that they will see him. Jesus has a strange definition of "no more". His disciples ask him what he means by all this. He responds with a metaphor about mothers feeling pain until their baby is born then they feel joy.

Jesus ends the chapter by promising that eventually he will stop speaking figuratively. The disciples seem confused, and say that because he's stopped speaking figuratively, they now believe that he's from God (Jesus didn't say that he had actually stopped speaking figuratively). Does this mean they didn't believe before? Jesus happily exclaims, "you believe at last!" I guess the miracles of John's gospels aren't enough to even convince the disciples.

In chapter 17 Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and all the other believers. This seems to be the Gethsemane scene from the other gospels (right before he is arrested). This time, instead of being reluctant to be crucified, Jesus seems to have accepted his fate. And because of this acceptance he tells God that it is time to glorify he and his son. I think he knows, Jesus. This seems to be the exact opposite of the Jesus from the other gospels, who prays that God will take the burden of crucifixion away from him.

Chapter 18 starts with Jesus being arrested. Again Peter chops off one of the ears of the men trying to arrest Jesus. This time Jesus tells him to stop, because Jesus has to "drink the cup" that his father has given him. There is no "he who lives by the sword will die by the sword". Jesus also neglects to heal the ear of the man who has it chopped off (as in Luke). And there is no naked disciple that runs away when Jesus is arrested (as in Mark).

Jesus is first taken to Annas (as opposed to Caiaphas). Annas is the one that asks him about his disciples and his teaching. After Annas has done his questioning, Jesus is sent to Caiaphas. While Jesus is going to Caiaphas, Peter is denying Jesus. Peter's denial happens in a similar manner to the other gospels, but this time he is talking to Jewish servants and officials. Peter seems to deny he is a disciple to different people in every gospel.

The next time we see Jesus is as he is being sent away from Caiaphas to Pilate. John just skipped the entire Jewish conviction of Jesus. Pilate asks the Jews what the man is being charged with. The Jews respond by saying that if he were not a criminal they would not have brought him before Pilate. Well that wasn't very helpful. Pilate tells the Jews to try them under their own laws, but the Jews say they are not allowed. Couldn't Pilate give them permission?

Pilate then questions Jesus, asking him if he is the king of the Jews. Jesus eventually says yes, he is the king. Pilate then tells the Jews that he's found no basis for charging Jesus. This merges right into Pilate asking if the Jews would like to release Barabbas or Jesus. Wait, Pilate just said he wasn't going to charge Jesus. Isn't the idea that the Jews are supposed to choose between two criminals? How does that work if one person hasn't been charged? Again John seems to have assumed we've read the other gospels.

*News*
This one's a good one. Will Smith is reportedly making a movie based on the bible.
According to reports, mega-star Will Smith has latched on to a new project called The Legend of Cain. Smith is planning to not only produce the movie through his own Overbrook Entertainment, but also star in the title role of Cain. The star’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, James Lassiter, and Ken Stovitz will also produce.
This is interesting when you take into account Will Smith's alleged Scientology (which he denies). Is this an elaborate scheme to make sure we all know that he's actually a Christian? At least he can't take the anti-Semitic route (a la Mel Gibson) with the story of Cain and Abel.

But wait, there's a twist. Cain is actually a vampire! Seriously, I can't make this shit up:
On its own this content could probably make a decent film, but The Legend of Cain will take the old story a step further with a little twist: vampires. Yes, it looks like the plan is for Cain to also be a bloodsucker, likely pegging him as the very first vampire.
I'm sure this won't be the last we hear of this. If the movie actually goes into production I'm sure I'll have some fundie rage to talk about. "Cain? A vampire? Blasphemy!"

Until then, I'll give you a sneak preview of what this movie will look like:

Cain

Abel

Choose now, who's team are you on? Either that or commit seppuku before you have to hear about another vampire movie.

Friday, July 16, 2010

314: Pedicure

John 13-15
"...so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." - John 13:4-5

Chapter 13 starts as passover nears. Jesus knows that his death is near. As Jesus and his disciples are having their evening dinner (this must be the last supper, though John doesn't make a big deal about it), the bible says that Satan has already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.

In the middle of dinner, Jesus takes off his "outer clothing" and wraps a towel around his waist. He then starts washing all of his disciples feet. Peter, upon seeing this, says that Jesus will never wash his feet. Jesus responds by saying "unless I wash you, you have no part with me". Peter says that if he washes his feet, he should wash his entire body. I guess it's in for a penny in for a pound with Peter. Jesus further replies that a person who takes a bath needs only to wash their feet. I guess all the showers I've taken in my life have been a big waste of time.

Jesus explains that, since he's washed their feet, they should go wash others' feet. Which I assume is a metaphor for spreading the word of God, or some such thing.

The next section is Jesus predicting his betrayal. This is decidedly different than the other times we've heard this story. Jesus first says that someone is going to betray him, and the disciples ask who. Jesus says that he will dip his bread in a dish, and the person he gives the bread to is his betrayer.

Jesus dips the bread and gives it to Judas (in front of the disciples). As soon as Judas takes the bread, "Satan entered into him". This would imply that Jesus somehow allowed Satan to enter Judas. Jesus then tells Judas to go quickly, and do what he is going to do. Instead of "woe" to the person that betrays him, in John, Jesus seems to give Judas his blessing.

As if this version of the story weren't strange enough already, none of the disciples seem to acknowledge what Jesus has just told them. The bible says that nobody at the table knew what Jesus mean't when he said "go quickly" to Judas. Shouldn't everyone be saying "holy shit, Judas is the betrayer". Jesus, after all, pretty clearly answered their question.

At the end of chapter 13, Jesus gives the disciples the command to love one another as he has loved them. Unfortunately for the reader, we haven't really seen how Jesus showed love for his disciples. Should we randomly wash people's feet? Thats the only really loving thing that Jesus has said/done for the disciples.

The entirety of chapter 14 is a long rant about Jesus being the way to God and promising to give people the Holy Spirit. I don't claim to fully understand this, but I'm told most Christians don't really understand the trinity, so I don't feel so bad.

First Jesus says that the only way to God is through him. The disciples then immediately ask to be shown the Father. Jesus responds by saying he's in the Father and the Father is in him. So by being shown Jesus they've been shown the Father. Then Jesus is the Father? Then how can we get to the Father through Jesus if Jesus is already the father? I've found a video that may help us understand (I think I've already shown this, but it's worth a second watch):



Glad we got that cleared up.

Moving on to the last half of chapter 14, Jesus tries to explain this "Holy Spirit" that he's leaving us all with (well, not all of us). Jesus says that if you love and obey him, he will tell the Father to imbue you with Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit will be your counselor and will somehow allow Jesus to be in you. When you get this Spirit, the bible says, "you will realize that I [Jesus] am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you". I'm starting to feel like some sort of strange Russian nesting doll.

Jesus further explains that his counselor (the Holy Spirit) will teach you all things and remind you of what Jesus taught. So all you have to do is love and obey Jesus and you'll have a walking bible encyclopedia in your brain? Needless to say, this doesn't quite align with reality.

Chapter 15 just repeats Jesus's command for the disciples to love one another. There's also a rambling metaphor about God trimming the vine (Jesus) so that only the best fruit (disciples?) will grow. The chapter ends with Jesus saying that the world may hate the disciples. But this is just because the disciples are not of this world(?).

*News*
As if we haven't heard enough about this ground zero mosque, God recently visited Bill Keller and told him he needed to build a church near ground zero (to combat the mosque, of course). God seems to have forgotten that there is already a church in the rebuilt 7 World Trade Center (right across the street), and that St. Paul Chapel is a block away. For reference, let's see what the Cordoba House's (renamed 51 Park Place) initiative is:
Cordoba House is a Muslim-led project which will build a world-class facility that promotes tolerance, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City. The center will be community-driven, serving as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy.
Now lets see what Bill has to say about Islam:
Islam is a 1400-year-old lie from hell, dreamed up by Mohammed after being visited by angels of satan in his sleep. "Allah" is an imaginary god that is actually a black rock and is NOT the God of the Bible! Islam has advanced this false relgion for 1400 years through violence, hatred, and death. The greatest difference between Christianity and Islam is that you are born into Islam, or threatened with death to become a Muslim. You become a Christian by making the free-will choice to accept Jesus Christ by faith!
A "black rock"? I guess black rocks are worse than regular rocks (which God is constantly compared to in the Old Testament). I don't see that it matters (at least in this discussion) how the religion was originally advanced. Christianity had it's violent days too. What does matter is that the Islam of today (in America) doesn't advance itself through hatred or violence. In fact, the only hatred I see in this situation is the Christians, which seems to contradict at least the teaching of Jesus.
After I got over being angry, I got on my knees in prayer. I knew God was calling me to do something, but what? After many hours, I realized it would not be another "big event," that just hours after it was over people would be back to their lives and nothing would have been accomplished. We have all been to and seen "big events," and nothing ever changes. No, this had to be more than an event, but an ongoing mission to combat this new evil being constructed near ground zero which would bring people the Truth of God's Word and the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
And as usual when God calls you to do something, all he needs is money. Eight million dollars worth to be exact. Eight million dollars is perfectly ok for something unneeded, God says so:
God has shown me that the new 9-11 Christian Center at Ground Zero is going to be the catalyst, the final piece to the many ministries of Liveprayer to not only continue impacting millions of lives for Christ each day, but exponentially expand all of our existing efforts to not just bring God's Truth to the national marketplace in a bold and visible way, not just see souls won for Christ, but have the ability to turn the spritual course of this nation and lead our great land back to God and His Truth!!!
Right, a catalyst to spread your message of hatred and fear of Islam. Why is it that American Muslims (who I'm supposed to believe are insane extremists) always seem to come off as the sane, moderate ones in the Christian vs. Islam debate? If these nutty Christians don't want to follow the Constitution (which affords them the same right to build a church as it does for a Muslim group to build a mosque), they could at least follow their own scripture. They seem to have forgotten Jesus's command to "love each other".

Thursday, July 15, 2010

313: Jesus Makes More Zombies

John 11-12
"When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.' " - John 11:43-44

The entirety of chapter 11 is about Jesus healing Lazarus (no, not that Lazarus). The story starts out with Lazarus getting sick (we're not told what kind of sickness). His sisters (Mary and Martha) send word to Jesus. John seems to assume that we already know about Mary from the gospel of Luke, introducing her as the woman who wiped Jesus's feet with her hair (which is only aforementioned in the gospel of Luke). The word the sisters send is simply "the one you love is sick". Jesus, apparently feeling omniscient today, knows that the messenger means Lazarus. Jesus says that this sickness will not end in death.

Jesus, instead of going and healing Lazarus, stays put for two more days. Lazarus, sometime in this two days, dies. Jesus somehow knows that Lazarus has died, and tells the disciples that now they can go see Lazarus. So much for "this sickness will not end in death".

Jesus and his disciples arrive at the home of Mary and Martha, who are mourning the death of Lazarus. They both mention that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus were there. Jesus asks where they've buried Lazarus (doesn't he know?). Mary tells him to come and see, and Jesus starts weeping. What? What's he crying about? He's the one that let Lazarus die so he could show everyone how awesome he is. It doesn't seem like there's anything (from Jesus's point of view) to cry about.

When Jesus makes it to Lazarus's tomb, he tells Mary and Martha to open it up. Martha advises against it, because Lazarus will be stinky after 4 days. Jesus talks them into opening up the tomb. He then says a rambling, seemingly pointless, prayer to god:
Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.
Why did that help them believe? Jesus then shouts for Lazarus to come out of his tomb. "The dead man", the bible says, comes out of the tomb. Is he still dead? Is Jesus somehow animating this guy's dead body? That's what the bible's wording would imply.

As a result of this resurrection, the priests have a meeting about Jesus. The priests seem concerned that if everyone believes in him the Romans will take away their nation. The high priest says that they know nothing, but then seems to concur with them, saying "You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." Is this guy supposed to be the antagonist? He seems to be saying the exact same thing that Jesus is saying. Namely that Jesus will die so that the Jews won't "perish". They have different motives, but both the priests and Jesus seem to be working toward the same goal (ensuring the wellbeing of the Jewish people).

Chapter 12 starts with the story of Jesus being anointed with expensive perfume. John's version has a different connotation than the story in the other gospels. This time we are told that the woman who pours the expensive perfume is Mary. And this time the only disciple that objects to this is Judas. Judas, we are told, is the keeper of the money. Therefore, when he says the money should have gone to the poor, he's really just trying to line his own pocketbook.

Jesus responds similarly to the other gospels, saying that the poor will always be around, but Jesus won't be. Therefore, I guess, it's ok to deprive the poor so that you can smell good. I don't find that the point is any less valid just because Judas is bringing it up for nefarious purposes. It seems John added this extra information (considering none of the other gospels say any of this), in an attempt to soften the blow of Jesus being an inconsistent ass hole.

Next is Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. John completely omits the story of how Jesus obtained the donkey (yes, it's back to being a donkey, not a colt) he rides into town on. Instead, John just says that Jesus "found" the donkey. I guess "found" sounds better than "sent his disciples to steal". During this triumphal entry, Lazarus is constantly alongside Jesus. In fact, John says, a large portion of the crowd has gathered just to see Lazarus. This begs the question, why didn't the other three gospels ever mention Lazarus?

Jesus goes on to preach in Jerusalem. During this preaching he says "unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds". This is an obvious metaphor for Jesus's death and resurrection, but it seems to reveal a complete lack of understanding of how seeds work. Doesn't Jesus know that seeds don't die before they grow into a new plant?

Jesus also says, in his preaching, that his heart is unsettled. However, he says that he will not ask God to save him from "this hour" (surely referring to the crucifixion). Interestingly, this is the very thing he asks of God in the other gospels (Luke 22:42, for example). Following this proclamation, a "voice" is heard from heaven. Many of the witnesses, says John, thought this "voice" sounded a lot like thunder.

The chapter ends with John talking about how the people will not believe in Jesus, to fulfill the prophecies in Isaiah. Why is God condemning people to hell (for not believing in Jesus) to fulfill a vague prophecy in Isaiah?

*News*
Do we get guilt from God? Billy Graham thinks so:
Guilt in the deepest sense comes from the knowledge that we have done wrong, not just in the eyes of others, but in the eyes of God.
...
You see, God put within each of us a sense of right and wrong, and he also has told us in the Bible how we ought to live.
I can think of a plethora of reasons that someone would feel guilty for non-biblical reasons. You're in a gang and the leader tells you to kill someone. You don't and you feel guilty. Did God come down and imbue you with that guilt?
Down inside we know it’s wrong to hurt others, or to commit immorality, or to lie or cheat or steal. When we fail to meet God’s moral standards, we feel guilty, and we should, because we are guilty.
Unfortunately, guilt is not a universal feeling. A WHO defined disorder called "dissocial personality disorder" is characterized by, among other things, the "Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience". Did God somehow miss these people when imbuing people with guilt?

Also, Billy Graham's definition of "immorality" surely includes homosexuality. I hope he realizes that there are plenty of people that guiltlessly participate in homosexuality. Again, did God somehow pass over these people when he was giving humanity a universal sense of right and wrong? Or perhaps Billy will take this as evidence that homosexuality is, in fact, not wrong. Somehow I doubt that.
But God still loves us, in spite of our guilt. He loves us so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, from heaven so we could be forgiven and cleansed of our sins.
I'm still not convinced that anything has changed as a result of Jesus's arrival. God seems to be able to choose who can and cannot follow Jesus, and makes these decisions with the same sort of arbitrary disregard as he did in the Old Testament days. I guess I still have a couple of months to be convinced.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

312: Was Blind, but Now I see

John 9-10
" 'How then were your eyes opened?' they demanded. He replied, 'The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.' " - John 9:10-11

The entirety of chapter 9 is about Jesus healing a man that was blind from birth. When Jesus's disciples see the man, they ask who sinned (the man, or his parents) to make the man blind. Jesus says that none of them sinned (I thought everyone sinned), but this man was blinded so that "God might be displayed in his life". God blinded him from birth so that Jesus could eventually come along and heal him? That's like me punching someone in the face so I can show everyone how nice I am when I help them up.

Unfortunately, Jesus is having an off day magic wise. He has to go back to using his spit-healing technique. Instead of spitting directly on the mans face (as in Mark), Jesus spits in the dirt to make mud. He smears this mud into the man's eyes and tells him to wash the mud out in the "pool of Siloam". Upon washing his eyes out, the man can see perfectly.

The problem with this is that when people who are blind from birth get their sight (this has happened) there is a lengthy learning process for someone to actually see. Most people in this condition never learn to distinguish distances correctly because the part of the brain that registers sight is underdeveloped. The man in this story has his sight restored, and is walking around the next day distinguishing all sorts of objects. Unless Jesus also smeared some of that mud on the man's occipital lobe, imbuing him with years of experience and knowledge about what objects look like, this story doesn't make sense (as if it made sense anyway).

Jesus ends the chapter by telling the Pharisees they are spiritually blind. This kind of makes the healing the blind man story seem like a metaphor. I guess calling it a metaphor is only a little better than saying "John made it up".

The first part of chapter 10 is another rolling metaphor. Jesus can't seem to decide who he is in this metaphor. Jesus first compares humanity to a herd of sheep. The man who enters the front gate of the sheep pen, Jesus says, is the shepherd of these sheep. The man who jumps in the pen from some other way is a thief.

Jesus first says that, in this metaphor, he is the gate for the sheep pen. In that whoever enters through him is "saved". Wait, I thought the person who entered through the gate was the shepherd. Jesus then changes his mind and starts calling himself the shepherd (the person who entered through the gate). I think Jesus got lost in his own rambling metaphor.

The last part of chapter 10 starts with the people of Jerusalem asking Jesus to tell them plainly that he is the Christ (the Messiah). Jesus says that he's already told them, but they didn't listen because they're not his sheep. Who, then, are these sheeple Jesus is talking about (if not the Jews)? Jesus vaguely describes his sheep as the people who follow him. Only the people that are already following him can understand him saying that he is the Messiah?

Jesus then says "I and the Father are one". This is after referring to God as "my father" for the entire chapter. I'm forced (for the moment) to assume that Jesus isn't literally talking about he and God being one being. For this statement, the Jews decide to stone Jesus (for the third or fourth time in John).

Jesus stops them and asks them which one of his miracles he is being stoned for. The Jews respond by saying that they are stoning him for blasphemy, not for his miracles. Jesus says that they should use his miracles as evidence that the Father is "in" Jesus. The Jews don't buy it and commence the stoning. Jesus slips away (again), and goes across the Jordan to safety. The Jesus of the gospel of John seems to be a master of escape.

*News*
A congressional debate on immigration reform turned into a scriptural debate.
Most illegal migrants are coming "not for nefarious purposes," but to reconnect with family members or find work, he asserted. "Church teaching acknowledges and upholds the right of a nation to control its borders. (But) it is our view that the best way to secure our southern border is through (comprehensive) immigration reform." [Bishop Gerald Kicanas ]
Illegal immigrants are... humans, with families?! Surely not. Back me up, Texas Representative Lamar Smith:
But Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, repeatedly cited passages from the Bible in support of a stronger crackdown on illegal immigration.

"The Bible contains numerous passages that support the rule of law," he asserted. "The scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities
with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers."
He seems to completely overlook the bible's definition of "wrongdoer". I have a range of different complaints with the bible, however, fairness in immigration is not one of them. The bible consistently (yes, the bible is actually consistent on something) teaches that you are to treat foreigners in your land with respect. It even goes so far as to say you are to leave portions of your crop exclusively for the poor and for foreigners.
Smith cited, among other things, Romans 13: "Let every person be subject to governing authorities."

He also noted a passage from Leviticus: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong." This, he contended, does not imply that "foreigners should disregard civil laws to enter (the country) or that we should overlook it when they do."
Oh, so when foreigners break your flawed immigration law, the bible doesn't apply? Then, I guess, we can do all sorts of wrong to them (like split up families, and deport people that have been here for years). I guess this Representative is only a biblical literalist up until the point that it hurts his political goals.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, argued that the government is fundamentally "a reflection of who we are," and that there should therefore be little distinction between individual and governmental roles.

"Focus on (the undocumented) families" at the center of the debate, he said. "Let's focus on the human beings."
There we go again, comparing illegal immigrants to humans. Yuck. Back me up, Iowa Representative Steve King:
"I didn't realize that the Bible barred the enforcement of immigration laws and neither did I realize that it erased borders, demanded pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or ... forbid the leaders of a nation from caring most about the well-being of its own citizens."

King noted approvingly that "in the land of the Bible the leaders of today's Israel (have) built border fences to protect their citizens from terrorists or illegal job seekers alike."
Great, it's good to see that our Representatives are basing their foreign policy on the foreign policy of Israel (but that's for another post).

Let's back up a little bit. Why is this discussion happening at all? Why are congressman having a scriptural debate in the middle of a House subcommittee hearing? The opinion of the bible on immigration reform doesn't matter. It's a good thing our Representatives didn't consult the bible when ratifying the thirteenth amendment. The bible is overwhelming in it's support of slavery, but times have changed in the last (+/-) 4000 years.

(via CNN)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

311: Self Testimony

John 7-8
"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid." - John 5:31

"The Pharisees challenged him, 'Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.' Jesus answered, 'Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.' " - John 8:13-14

Chapter 7 starts around the time of the feast of the tabernacles. The disciples go into Judea to celebrate, but Jesus is reluctant to go because the Jews are trying to kill him. His disciples beg Jesus to go with them and show the people more miracles. Jesus says that it's not the right time yet, and he's going to stay in Galilee. It turns out, though, that Jesus doesn't stay in Galilee and tags along (in secret) behind his disciples. If that's not a lie I don't know what is.

About half way through the feast, Jesus sneaks up to the temple courts and starts teaching. The people start mumbling, asking each other if this is the guy that the Jews are trying to kill. When the officials say (to each other) that Jesus isn't the Christ, Jesus freaks out and screams that he's been sent by God.

When the Pharisees send guards after Jesus, he evades them because "his time had not yet come". At the end of the feast, Jesus again gets up in front of the crowd and yells that if anyone is thirsty they should come to him and get some living water (i.e. "the Spirit").

The people then talk among themselves and wonder how Jesus can be the Messiah. They say that the true Messiah would come from Bethlehem. The two gospels that mention Jesus's birth have him born in Bethlehem. I guess that either doesn't count, or John thinks that Jesus was born elsewhere.

We then have yet another section that the NIV bible warns us isn't in early manuscripts. Surprisingly, contained in this section is Jesus's "cast the first stone" parable. For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about. The Pharisees bring a woman sentenced to death (for adultery), and ask Jesus what to do with her (this is to test him, of course). Jesus randomly starts writing words on the ground and famously says "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Everyone promptly leaves.

I've heard this passage used as validation for not punishing people for a plethora of Old Testament laws. Unfortunately (based on the evidence at hand), Jesus didn't actually say it. Is there any (non-secular) reason that Christians shouldn't be out killing people for working on the sabbath, or for committing adultery? After all, Jesus isn't here to change the laws of the prophets.

The next section holds a terribly obvious contradiction from Jesus on self testimony. Jesus says that he is the light of the world, and everyone that follows him will have life. The Pharisees call him out on this, saying that he is being a self witness, and self testimony is invalid. Take note that this is almost word for word what Jesus himself says in John 5:31. However, Jesus has changed his mind. He now claims that his self testimony is perfectly valid because he knows where he comes from, and where he's going. So, if I have this right, Jesus has just verified his self testimony with more self testimony.

Jesus goes on for the rest of the chapter (with more self testimony) about how he is the son of God. When the people don't believe him/don't understand him, he accuses them of being children of the devil. If they truly believed in God, claims Jesus, they would also believe in him (and be able to understand him). That's right, Jesus just validated the self testimony of his self testimony with more, you guessed it, self testimony.

As if to mock me, the last section of chapter 8 is titled "the claims of Jesus about himself". I think this entire book could be accurately labeled "The claims of Jesus about himself". Considering his miracles are decidedly un-miraculous. The only real "evidence" of Jesus's father being God seems to be Jesus saying so.

The last section consists mostly of the Jews claiming Jesus is demon possessed. Jesus denies this, and says that those who follow him will have eternal life. The Jews respond by saying they're sure that Jesus is demon possessed now. Jesus says that their father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing him one day (more self testimony). Having heard enough of Jesus's vacuous crap, the Jews pick up stones to kill him, but he slips away.

*News*
Many people have tried to "convert" me over the years. During one of these attempted conversions, I was confronted with shock. "I thought this was only going to take a few hours", said my would be converter. At the time I had no idea how someone could have such a skewed idea of the mental constitution of non-believers. However, the mystery is no more. I've found some interesting religious propaganda:
My visit to the home of an atheist was at the request of his daughter. He had recently been released from a local hospital after being treated for advanced throat cancer and his prospects for survival were poor to none. My mission was to bring him to faith but the years he had invested in building arguments against the existence of God made my goal seem almost impossible to achieve.
It probably seems impossible because there is really no new evidence that you can present. No atheist I know has arbitrarily chosen to be an atheist. Most people I know have come to this conclusion after careful consideration over a number of years.

The writer goes on to paint a caricature of what he thinks an "atheist" is. The atheist is bitter, hates preachers, and speaks in profanity (in which his parrot is well versed).
Finally I learned that this man's atheism was rooted in his observation of the painful suffering of a relative he had respected in spite, according to him, of her faith and consistency of life. I hadn't known this woman but had no reason to doubt his high praise of her. This did help me to understand one of his barriers to faith. In light of her suffering, he was unable to reconcile her long period of pain to the existence of a loving God. Arguing that her time in heaven would by now have more than compensated for her earthly trials would never have convinced him because he didn't believe heaven existed.
The man's argument is further validated when you consider Jesus claims that anything asked for in his name will be given to you. Surely this woman prayed to Jesus to heal her. I don't think that any amount of time in heaven could make up for a horrible death and suffering. To echo this man's argument, wouldn't an all loving God find a way to - if not make us happy - at least prevent us from undue suffering?
Then, suddenly, I knew what to do and asked a question that shattered this atheist's unbelief: "Is there anything about the change in your daughter's life that you can't explain apart from a work of God?"

"Yes!" he replied without a moment's hesitation.

His quick reply let me know she had changed so much that he couldn't deny the miracle of new life in her and with that acknowledgement our argument ended and his unbelief quickly faded away.
Whoa, whoa, WHOA. This man's years of examination were just blown away by him not understanding something? This is only slightly less barbaric than looking at a lightning strike, saying you don't understand how lightning works, then concluding that Zeus must be responsible.

There is really no other explanation of why his daughter changed? Maybe she just found a new group of friends at church that are a better influence. Even if there is absolutely no explanation, that doesn't mean God did it. Having no explanation cannot be the basis for an explanation. "I don't know why my daughter changed, therefore I know God did it." It doesn't make sense.

I guess I know now why that friend of mine was so confused when I didn't immediately come to the Jesus conclusion. This surely isn't an isolated case of anti-atheist (for lack of a better term) propaganda.

Monday, July 12, 2010

310: Eat Jesus or Die

John 5-6
"Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me." - John 6:57

The theme of of Jesus healing people by doing (visibly) nothing continues in the beginning of chapter 5. Jesus heals a man that has been paralyzed for 38 years. But he does this by telling the man to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. So Jesus has to spit in people's faces to cure deafness, but healing a paralytic can be done with an offhand comment?

It turns out that carrying a mat is illegal on the sabbath day. Jesus has healed the man, but now the man is risking his life to break the law (you know, the law that Jesus has promised he wasn't changing?) and obey Jesus's command to carry his mat. It turns out that the Jews are more interested in killing Jesus than they are interested in killing the man for breaking the sabbath.

Jesus then goes on a bit of a rant about how he's the son and he only does what his father (God) tells him to. He makes the interesting claim that the father judges no one, because he's passed all his judging powers onto his son. Jesus also changes the requirements to get into heaven (again). Jesus says that whoever believes in God and hears the word of Jesus will have eternal life.

Jesus now has three separate criteria for getting into heaven: Believing in Jesus, being born again, and believing in God and hearing the word of Jesus. Do you have to do all three to get into heaven? Each time he changes it he makes it seem like that's the only thing you need to do. So maybe we just need to do the last one?

The next section is very strange, and I'm really not sure what Jesus is trying to say. First Jesus says that he testifies about himself, but self testimony is not valid. Jesus then says that John has been sent to testify about him. However, Jesus immediately says that he does not accept human testimony. If we don't accept Jesus's testimony (because Jesus tells us not to), and we don't accept the testimony of man (because we're being Christlike), then why the hell should we believe in Jesus? Jesus goes on to claim that God has testified for him (therefore we should believe). But, of course, the words of God are delivered directly through the testimony of man (which Jesus just talked about not trusting).

At the beginning of chapter 6 Jesus feeds the 5000. This is just as vague a retelling as the other 3 times we've heard this story (or 5 times if you count feeding the 4000). We also hear the story of Jesus walking on water. This story omits Peter also walking on water.

Next is an incredibly long section about the "bread of life". Turns out, the bread of life is Jesus's flesh. If you eat this bread of life, you are supposed to never again be hungry or thirsty. The Jews don't believe him. In response, Jesus tells them to stop grumbling, and that only those God chooses can come to Jesus. What? This would imply that God chooses to disallow people from following Jesus. This would further imply that there is a subset of humanity that is destined to be sent to hell. So much for free will. I guess God found a way to be a douchebag even after he sent Jesus.

The last paragraph of the bread of life section is incredibly strange, and deserves a quote:
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me."
Now, any Christian you ask will call this a big metaphor. But why? If I said to someone, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat me I'm going to kill you". What about that sentence implies that I'm speaking in metaphor? Who prefixes metaphors by saying "I tell you the truth"? Even if I can be convinced this is a metaphor, it would certainly be strange enough to have Jesus locked away in the funny farm if he lived in modern times.

As a testament to how strange this paragraph really is, Jesus ends up losing "many" of his disciples over this teaching. I guess I'm not the only one that thinks eating Jesus's flesh and drinking his blood is a little over the line.

*News*
A few days ago Mike Adams wrote an article he titled "An Immodest Proposal". Which consisted of him telling Christian students to go join atheist groups, become the majority, and vote themselves to office. This was in response to a recent supreme court ruling that Christian groups can not discriminate against gay people when deciding membership.

First of all, based on the title of the article, it's clear that he meant it as satire. However, it's not beyond comprehension that some Christians wouldn't understand his satire, and would proceed to actually follow his suggestions. Surely following this line of logic, he received several comments saying that this was an inappropriate article for a professor (did I mention he is a professor?) to write. Satire or not, I'm inclined to agree.

This is where it gets interesting. Today he wrote a reply to one of these atheists that responded to his article. The atheist he responded to just so happened to be named Bryan (I honestly assure you that it wasn't me). This is what Bryan had to say:
I understand having a political viewpoint, but (“An Immodest Proposal”) is not just advocating, but stating the intention to marginalize and harass your own students based on religious preference out of some misplaced sense of spite. How is that even remotely acceptable behavior for a Professor?
Mike goes on to spend the rest of his response article calling Bryan an idiot for not understanding his satire. Unfortunately, this response ends up being rather inappropriate for a professor too. He repeatedly calls Bryan a " Dumb Atheist Moralist Not Engaging Debate" (DAMNED, get it?). Not only is this a terrible acronym, but a professor calling someone "dumb" doesn't seem like "acceptable behavior for a professor" (to quote Bryan).

So, Mike, unless you're willing to call this article "satire" too, I'd suggest trying to act your age (or at least act your title). Ad hominem attacks based on someone's legitimate concerns just make you look like an ass hole.

(via Townhall)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

309: For God so Loved the World

John 3-4
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16 [KJV]

The chapter starts out with Jesus teaching a Pharisee (Nicodemus). Jesus teaches him that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless they've been "born again". We never end up getting a very good description of what Jesus is talking about. Jesus repeats that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless they've been born of water and of spirit.

When the Pharisee seems confused, Jesus tells him that he shouldn't be surprised to hear Jesus saying this. He also asks him how he doesn't understand the things he's talking about. I didn't realize that being "born again" was such an obvious conclusion to be drawn from someone who has only read the Old Testament. More importantly, why has Jesus never mentioned this before? If this is a requirement to get into heaven you'd think Jesus would have mentioned it somewhere in the other gospels.

Jesus then immediately contradicts the born again requirement with a famous quote (one of the five or so I know), "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Do you have to be born again, or do you just have to believe in Jesus to receive eternal life?

John the Baptist then reiterates that he is not Jesus. He also reiterates that you have to believe in Jesus to have eternal life. He apparently doesn't know that you also have to be born again. This also seems to exclude the "unforgivable" blasphemy against the holy spirit. If you blaspheme against the holy spirit, then start believing in Jesus, do you go to heaven? You'd think they'd be a little more specific when discussing eternal destiny.

In the next chapter Jesus has an interesting (read confusing) conversation with a Samaritan woman. Jesus is sitting beside a well in a town in Samaria. Jesus sees a Samaritan woman drawing water and asks her for a drink. She asks him why a Jew would ask a Samaritan such a question. Jesus responds by saying if she had known the "gift of God" she was talking to, she would have asked Jesus for "living water".

Jesus explains that if you drink living water you will never be thirsty again. In fact, this water will somehow form a spring inside the drinker and give them eternal life. This is terribly strange so, like any good Christian would, we'll call it a metaphor.

The woman asks for some of this water. Jesus instead tells her to go get her husband (why?). The woman promptly responds by saying she doesn't have a husband. Well so much for omniscient. How is Jesus going to get out of this one? I'll quote Jesus:
You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.
Of course, Jesus knew all along she didn't actually have a husband. I don't know what this "five husbands" business is that Jesus is talking about. The woman, instead of calling Jesus out on this bullshit, exclaims that Jesus is a prophet. What?

Most of the rest of the chapter is about this woman spreading the news of Jesus being the Messiah. What did he do?! He said something incorrect, then (when corrected), said something random and crazy. Where did she get the idea that he is the Messiah? She never even ended up getting the mysterious "living water".

The chapter ends with one more anticlimactic "miracle". An official comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his son. Jesus bemoans the fact that people need miraculous signs to believe. Huh? It sounds like this man does believe. Why else would he come to Jesus to heal his son?

The official begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his son. Instead of going with the man, Jesus tells him to leave and that his son will be fine. The official, upon going home, finds that his son's condition improved at the same time Jesus told him to leave. Jesus's miracles seem incredibly un-miraculous in the gospel of John. I know I complained about Mark, when Jesus had to spit in people's faces for his magic to work. But at least then you could tell he was doing something. Now he vaguely says "bugger off" to perform his miracles?

John lists this as Jesus's second miraculous sign. I'm assuming the other sign was Jesus telling his mom to go away (thus changing water into wine)

*News*
Two Russian art curators face up to three years in jail for "defaming the Russian soul".

How did they accomplish this soul defaming? By blaspheming against Jesus, of course. One image was of Jesus with Mickey Mouse ears. The other was Jesus being crucified, with his head replaced by an order of Lenin medal.

The title of the exhibit, "forbidden art", turned out to be all too true. When the Orthodox Church of Russia caught wind of the exhibit they demanded the curators be prosecuted under a law meant to prohibit "religious hatred". Reportedly, even Russia's culture minister doesn't think they've broken the law.

I'm constantly grateful that I live in a country where I can say what I want about Jesus (and this blog can exist). It puts me in the mood to exercise my rights:


(via AP)
 

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