I’m Jesus, and I Approve This Message

Celebrity endorsements can be tricky. Kid Rock endorsed his biggest fan, Mitt Romney. Gary Busey endorsed Donald Trump, before he endorsed Newt Gingrich, before he took back his endorsement of Newt Gingrich.  And now Jesus, a man who wants us to drink wine in his memory, is being used to endorse a pro-Prohibition ballot measure in Kentucky.

If you thought alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, you’d be right…and wrong. There are still 200 dry counties in the USA, and every year there are ballot measures to change counties from dry to wet. Not surprisingly, many of these dry areas are in the nation’s Bible Belt, and many pro-Prohibition proponents employ religious appeals: “Serve Jesus, not alcohol” reads an ad in a small Kentucky town’s newspaper.

And we find sentiments like this from Matthew Ratliffe of Williamsburg, Kentucky: “I do have a moral obligation as a follower of Jesus Christ to be against alcohol.”

But wait, isn’t this the same Jesus who had a reputation for excessively enjoying the fruit of the vine?

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard!” —Matthew 11:19

This is also the guy who at the Last Supper urged his followers to drink wine as if it were his blood, and he was looking forward to drinking in heaven too:

But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. —Matthew 26:29

Okay, Jesus seems to be cool with alcohol, but God never drank, right?

And the vine said to them, “Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man?” —Judges 9:13

It sounds like God not only drinks wine, but gets a little tipsy, if my interpretation is correct. And he helps his people do the same:

The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine. —Isaiah 25:6

So Yahweh and Jesus seem to enjoy the occasional drink, but what does the rest of the Bible say on the matter. As usual, it is of two minds:

PRO

  • Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart. —Ecclesiastes 9:7
  • Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter of soul. —Proverbs 31:6
  • Take a little wine for the good of your stomach and because you are frequently ill. —1 Timothy 5:23


CON

  • Cursed are those who are strong to take wine and great in making mixed drinks! —Isaiah 5:22
  • Woe to him that giveth drink to his friend, and presenteth his gall, and maketh him drunk, that he may behold his nakedness…Drink thou also…and shameful vomiting shall be on thy glory.” —Habakkuk 2:15-16
  • Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. —Ephesians 5:18

The Bible’s coming down on both sides of the issue doesn’t help settle the case for or against Prohibition. But its ambivalence did give us one of the best oxymorons in the scriptures when it tells us that the one thing that “is health to soul and body” is

Sober drinking. —Sirach 31:37

I’m sure teetotaling advocates have their reasons for keeping Prohibition alive in their counties, but it may be time to find a new spokessavior. After all, if Jesus were really against alcohol, he would have chosen his first miracle ever performed to be turning wine into water instead of the other way around. That may have pleased some of his current day followers, but he would certainly have gone down in history, not just as a miracle worker, but also as one of the world’s worst wedding guests ever.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

That Old Pope Smell

pope fresh scentIt’s good to be pope. While some priests and nuns still take a vow of poverty, Pope Benedict XVI felt compelled to commission a personalized cologne just for the Holy (and Delightfully-Scented) Father. Perfume creator Silvana Casoli—who evidently works for stars with one name only: Sting, Madonna, Bendict—has revealed that the pope’s fragrance contains hints of grass, verbena, and lime tree.

This begs the question: why does a pope need to smell uniquely stunning? A lot of single guys like to smell their best, though I haven’t heard that he is using his cologne to attract a mate. Everything he owns probably reeks of church incense, so he could be trying to cover that up.

Or maybe, since he is getting along in years, when his time is up he wants to smell his best for when he meets up with the Holy Father’s boss: the Holy Father. The Bible is clear that God indeed has a sense of smell:

It is a burnt sacrifice…of a sweet smell to the Lord. —Leviticus 1:13

And the act of smelling itself is important:

If all the body was hearing, where would be the smelling? —1 Corinthians 12:17

The Bible is also clear that it does not approve of things that smell bad:

My wounds are poisoned and evil-smelling. —Psalms 38:5

Their fish stink, because there is no water, and die for thirst. —Isaiah 50:2

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour. —Ecclesiastes 10:1

Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to him, “Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days.” —John 11:39

One of the Bible’s many hidden rock band names follows this theme as well:

There Shall Be Stink –Isaiah 3:24

I would go see them play before I would sit in a crowd waiting for the popemobile to pass by.

But Benedict must be very careful dealing with perfume dealers, since God has not always been kind to them:

Then fire came out from the Lord, burning up the 250 men who were offering the perfume. —Numbers 16:35

So next time I’m out pruning my lime tree which is right next to my verbena which is right next to a patch of grass (I’m not kidding), I will be reminded of the pope who, in this world of great need and at the head of a church of great wealth, did just what Jesus recommends: forget about the poor for a while and pamper yourself!

Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me with you. She poured this perfume on my body before it is placed in a tomb. —Matthew 26:10-12

So be careful condemning this individually perfumed pope, because whatsoever you say about the least of your pontiffs, you say unto Jesus.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Pray Away the Tornado

St. Peter’s Catholic Church of Quincy, IL after the tornado of April 12, 1945. From family archives

One problem with believing the entire Bible is literally true is that you can sometimes come to distasteful and contradictory conclusions. Here are Pat Robertson’s insights into God’s role in the recent deadly tornadoes:

  • God deserves credit for setting up the conditions that allow deadly tornadoes, but he doesn’t deserve blame for sending them.
  • Those killed by tornadoes deserve blame for living where tornadoes happen—i.e. in every state but Alaska—and for not praying enough.
  • A blameless, omnibenevolent God could have stopped the tornadoes, but chose not too because too few people prayed for him to do so.

When true believers face the question of why God allows great suffering (e.g. 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina) the most common explanations are

  1. We can’t understand the mind of God. (In other words, I have no good answer. Let’s talk about something else.)
  2. When someone dies, they’re in a better place. (But what if they would actually prefer to still be alive?)
  3. It is an opportunity to find strength in God. (As if there is no other way to learn this lesson.)
  4. God is punishing us for being sinful. (Let’s not blame God, let’s blame those people that don’t believe what we believe.)

This last explanation, that human suffering is caused by sin, is seen throughout the Bible:

The LORD saw how evil humans had become on the earth, so he said, “I will wipe off the face of the earth these humans that I created. Not only humans, but also domestic animals, crawling animals, and birds.” —Excerpts from Genesis 6:5,7

And a favorite of the fire and brimstone preachers:

For the wages of sin is death. —Romans 6:23

God punishes and kills off sinners in the Bible with incredible regularity—check out the book Drunk with Blood for all the gory details. Since Bible literalists see so many examples of this, it is easy understand why Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell famously fell into the trap of arguing that God allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of the actions of the ACLU, federal courts, abortionists, pagans, feminists, gays, lesbians, People for the American Way, and those who want church/state separation. As unlikely as it sounds to non-evangelicals, God hated the exact same people that Robertson and Falwell hated.

It’s very difficult for a preacher to sermonize that innocent people sometimes suffer and die for no good reason, and it’s much more convenient for them to blame their own political enemies.

However, in a little reported decree from Jesus himself, we find a very different explanation of human tribulation:

What about those 18 people who died when the tower at Siloam fell on them? Do you think that they were more sinful than other people living in Jerusalem? No! I can guarantee that they weren’t. —Luke 13:4-5

So here we have Jesus clearly stating that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and it is not because they were sinners. This passage is underpreached because it offers little solace to people who are grieving. Plus preachers who ignore it can continue to blame the sinners of their choosing.

So the Bible tells us that disasters happen to sinners and that disasters also happen to innocent people, but there’s one more category that’s is rarely heard of in the Bible: those innocent people that God goes out of his way to strike dead. Gather the family around to hear the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished story of Uzzah who steadies the ark of the covenant when his oxen bump into it:

Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him there for his error. And there he died by the ark of God. —Excerpts from 2 Samuel 6:6-7

So instead of encouraging people to pray tornadoes away, how about something a little more practical: to lessen your chances of being hit by a tornado, your best bet is to not be a male resident of a hotel or mobile home, 10-35 years old, in Kansas, Oklahoma, or north Texas from 3-9pm from May to June. Or just move to Alaska.