The 500-Year-Old Ceiling That Still Brings Down the House!

Michelangelo’s fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling turns 500 years old today! (10/31/2012) The Renaissance artist realized long ago, that the best way to make sure your painting does not get taken off the wall is to make sure your painting IS the wall.

People have praised his upside-down artistic achievement for most of these five centuries—though I believe it was El Greco who saw the ceiling and basically said, “Yeah, I coulda done better.” So instead of addressing the artistic achievement of the ceiling, I thought I’d reveal a few of its most endearing oddities and the corresponding Bible quotes.

This first scene I’ve chosen shows an unflattering angle of God as he creates a fairly un-majestic bush, recalling this Bible verse:

And again the Lord said, “Behold there is a place near me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock. And when my glory shall pass by, I will set thee in a hole of the rock, and protect thee with my right hand, till I pass. And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back parts, but my face thou canst not see.” —Exodus 33:20-23

The next image is one you don’t see often in religious paintings: Noah as an old naked, drunk. Not to say that Michelangelo was plagiarizing himself, but it’s basically the “Creation of Adam” composition but with the Adam/Noah figure too wasted to point back to the finger that’s pointing at him. But hey, it’s a big ceiling; all those little kids touring the Vatican would hardly even notice the passed out 600-year-old man exposing himself, right?

He drank some wine, got drunk, and lay naked inside his tent. —Genesis 9:21

We also have Moses’ cure for those who were dying from being bitten by the fiery serpents that God was sending down to them. All you had to do back in those days was look at the brass serpent Moses put on top of a pole, and you would not die. I don’t know if this cure still works. Next time you’re bitten by a snake, you may want to ask to your doctor if Brass Serpent Beholding is right for you.

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he was made well. —Numbers 21:9

One of the many prophets that Michelangelo painted was Ezekiel. The Book of Ezekiel has this underpreached treasure:

Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and ye shall know that I am the Lord. —Ezekiel 13:21

as well as this one:

And he said to me, “This is the house of the kitchens wherein the ministers of the house of the Lord shall boil the victims of the people.” —Ezekiel 46:24

 

And finally, this lovely scene of Judith, who, after beheading Holofernes, needed to stash the head somewhere!

And she struck twice upon his neck, and cut off his head, and took off his canopy from the pillars, and rolled away his headless body. And after a while she went out, and delivered the head of Holofernes to her maid, and bade her put it into her wallet. —Judith 13:10-11

So congratulations Michelangelo for having created such a lasting work of art, that still amazes to this day. 500 years is a very long time indeed. How long, you ask? 500 years is exactly the amount of time it took until Noah was finally able to father his three sons.

After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. —Genesis 5:32

I can only hope my paintings are still around in 500 years, but with medical advances and clean living, I’m quite confident that I will still be around fathering children to populate my space ark.

 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.

The Preachy Cheerleader Banners We’d LIKE to See

For the last time, Texas: God doesn’t care who wins your high school football games! He does put a little money down on a just few NFL games each Sunday, but that’s it! He’s still beating himself up over all the money he lost betting on Notre Dame in the early ’80s.

Yet some people STILL expect God to give a damn about which team crosses the goal line more often. Recently a group of preachy East Texas cheerleaders have been in court trying to secure their right to display huge banners with Bible quotes expressing the basic theme that “God is on OUR side.” Most of us who graduated from middle school reasoned long ago that the idea of God taking sides in human sporting events is absolutely lu-di-crous! God would typically receive compelling prayer requests for victory from both sides, and would stay neutral. However, if one team prays WAY harder than the other team, or has awesome banners, some of us seem to believe that God might just be swayed.

In an effort to help these cheerleaders make even more awesome banners and find even more compelling Bible quotes, and thereby get God to cheat—I mean intervene—on their behalf, I offer the following suggestions:

So we know God can intimidate his enemies, but sometimes things don’t go your way. That’s when you have to send the Lord a different kind of message:

Other times you may need to send a different message to calm a rowdy crowd:

It turns out that the preachy cheerleaders claim that they take turns picking the Bible verses without any adult interference. If that’s really the case, someday we might just see one of these banners from the more mischievous members of the squad:

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has pointed out in an amicus brief to the court that this case is less about freedom of speech and more about school-sanctioned proselytizing.

“Cheerleading for the school is undeniably a school-sponsored activity and the banners displayed by the cheerleaders take place during a school-sponsored event.” They argue that if the girls had decided to have the players run through a pro-atheism banner, for example, the school would not allow that. If the cheerleaders were to attempt it, they would in all likelihood be run out of the state.

But was Texas judge, and Rick Perry appointee, Steve Thomas able to recognize the logic of the FFRF’s argument? Not in Texas. I’m sure it’s hard separating church and state down there, so I don’t expect any miracles when it comes to separating God/Jesus from Texas high school football.

Just imagine how Jesus, the peasant from Galilee who lived 2,000 years ago, would feel if he heard the news that his teachings were no longer allowed to be condensed to a single sentence with the sole intent of altering the outcome of the big game next Friday when the Kountze Lions take on the East Chambers Buccaneers. There’s only one Bible quote that would apply:

Jesus wept. —John 11:35

That’s the only Bible quote that came close. I searched but was unable to find a quote where Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, ‘What is this foot-ball that you speak of, how come my mom gets a pass named after her and I get nothing, and how come we don’t have actual college football playoffs yet? It’s 2012 people! Seriously, don’t make me come down there!'”

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.

Claiming You’re Jesus’ BFF Can Prove You’re Sane . . . And Get You Killed!

One of the advantages of having Jesus as your BFF: imagine this kid’s batting average!

A Florida judge has decided that a certifiably insane man is actually sane because he sounds like a “relatively normal Christian.” John Ferguson, currently on death row in Florida, claims to be “the Prince of God” and is certain he’ll be spending eternity at Jesus’ side. The judge reasons that Ferguson’s beliefs are close enough to actual Christian beliefs to qualify him for his upcoming appointment with a lethal injection.

The judge states, “There is no evidence that Ferguson’s belief…is so significantly different from beliefs other Christians may hold, so as to consider it a sign of insanity.” So if enough people have the same beliefs as Ferguson, who has been repeatedly diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, then he’s not crazy. The judge stated that Ferguson suffers from “grandiose delusion,” but incidentally didn’t say the same about the many Christians who hold views similar to Ferguson.

Finally, a teammate who won’t fumble and who can heal a torn ACL.

Now the Bible has its share of craziness, but let’s see how Ferguson’s crazy compares to the Bible’s:

John Ferguson

  • has hallucinations
  • hears his dead father’s voice
  • and thinks cockroaches have infiltrated his brain

The Bible

  • claims that burning a pigeon will take away your sins
  • forbids the eating of rock badgers
  • and asserts that plants were created a day before the sun came out.

The Bible does have some fascinating incidents of actual and feigned psychotic moments:

Nebuchadnezzar ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of the sky. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. —Daniel 4:33

David does his best imitation of a madman:

So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard. —1 Samuel 21:13

Even Jesus and Paul had people wondering about their mental conditions:

When Jesus’ family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”           —Mark 3:20

On another occasion we hear Jesus saying,

“I have the authority to give my life, and I have the authority to take my life back again. This is what my Father ordered me to do.” Many of them said, “He’s possessed by a demon! He’s crazy! Why do you listen to him?”                     —John 10:18,20

Whereas too little education can be a problem for some people,

As Paul was defending himself in this way, Festus shouted, “Paul, you’re crazy! Too much education is driving you crazy!” —Acts 26:24

Isn’t the Bible sterotyping here? Just because you’re named Festus, the Bible automatically assumes you’ll call people crazy because they’re over-educated.

One of the Bible’s most nonsensical passages about the “possessed” was the following description of the secret lives of evil spirits, the assumed cause of mental illness in biblical times.

“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.” —Luke 11:24-26

Unfortunately, the notion persists—that mental illness has a spiritual basis and can be cured by religion. Recent reports tell of the horrifying mental health care treatment in “prayer camps” run by churches in Ghana. Often chained to trees and required to fast for days on end, patients are only released when the camp leaders are told to do so by God. Most of the world has come a long way in treating mental illness, but tragically, the skewed view of some religions are still hindering progress on this front and causing ongoing, horrific, and needless suffering.

This seems like a good time to state that I do not think that the Bible is all madness. Just when you think the Bible has lost its mind, it redeems itself with a “madman” analogy that describes that one neighbor that no one really likes:

Like a madman shooting torches or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”    —Proverbs 26:18-19

Selectively read, the Bible can offer comfort and inspiration to believers. But for a judge to claim that a madman’s belief in Jesus makes him fit to be executed; that’s not just ironic (Jesus, a guy who was unfairly executed, would most likely not support the death penalty), but it’s hardly a rational basis for a decision.

Just because many people believe something, it doesn’t make it any more true.

  • More than a third of American conservatives believe that President Obama might be the anti-Christ.
  • Many people used to believe in Zeus. Does that mean he once existed, but now doesn’t?
  • Mormons used to get run out of town in their early days with few followers. Nowadays with their many adherents, their beliefs are just common enough to allow a Mormon presidential candidate.
  • Horoscopes are still printed in just about every newspaper in the country.
  • 12% of Americans are of the opinion that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
  • Millions of Christians have come and gone, convinced that Jesus was coming back to Earth in their lifetime. (Jesus has never failed to disappoint, and I’m willing to wager any amount of money that he will continue to do so. Fervent believers are encouraged to prove that their belief in Jesus’ imminent return is NOT crazy by betting their life savings on it. I figure if I were to ever lose this bet, and Jesus were to return, Jesus would be so pissed at me [and my blog] that losing my money would be the least of my worries.)

The Bible has given its blessing to a lot of delusional thinking through the years. When your religion is judged to be just about as sane as a paranoid schizophrenic, it should make you stop and think. And when a judge claims that holding commonly accepted religious beliefs, like sitting at Jesus’ side in heaven, PROVES that you’re sane, well to me that sounds a little crazy.

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.

Rebel Without a Pulse

Another Arkansas politician has made headlines, and this time it’s not because of pro-slavery comments, like some Arkansas legislators! So that’s progress, right?

Charlie Fuqua (that’s his real name, and I’m guessing he doesn’t pronounce it fuhk-YOO-ay), is running for Congress and has written a book arguing that in order to have a civil society, parents must be able to threaten to kill their children. And not just threaten; occasionally it has to be carried out. “Even though this procedure would rarely be used,” he states in his book God’s Law, it would incentivize kids “to give proper respect to their parents.”

Oddly, respect is just the opposite of what Fuqua is receiving after his comments got national attention.

Undoubtedly, killing an obnoxious child once in a while would send a strong message and would help keep order in classrooms, result in a dramatic decrease in teenage tomfoolery and hijinx, and maybe, if we executed enough of them, we might even get kids to clean their rooms once in a while!

Now just where might he have gotten this clever idea from? If you answered, “The Bible,” I’d say what a good student of the Bible you are, and I wouldn’t have to threaten to kill you for about a week or two. Good job!

They shall say unto the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice. He is a glutton, and a drunkard.” And all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones. So shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee, and all Israel shall hear and fear. —Deuteronomy 21:20-21

The Bible has been held up as the pinnacle of moral authority, so when the Bible says, “Do not lie,” we don’t lie. When the Bible says, “Do not steal,” we don’t steal. So when the Bible says,”Kill your juvenile delinquents,” do we really have any other choice?

The Bible delivers many examples of bad parenting. Lot offers his daughters to the rapacious mob of Sodom, so that the mob would be okay with not having their way with his male house guests. Thoughtful host, worst parent ever.

This is the same Lot that impregnated two of his daughters, and according to Wikipedia, “Christians and Muslims revere Lot as a righteous man of God.”

In the famous story of the sacrifice of Isaac, God at the very last minute stops Abraham from killing his son Isaac.

And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, and the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, “Abraham, lay not thine hand upon the lad, for now I know that thou fearest God.” —Genesis 22:10-12

Be afraid of God, and he might not make you kill your son! But he may not stop you from killing your daughter. In a less famous story, but far more horrific, Jephthah is NOT stopped from killing his daughter at the last minute. To show his faith in God, he goes ahead and kills her though she did absolutely nothing to deserve any punishment! (I get upset just thinking about this story, even though I believe it is fiction—horrifically bad fiction.)

And Jephthah took an oath to the Lord, and said, “If you will give the children of Ammon into my hands (in battle), then whoever comes out from the door of my house will be the Lord’s, and I will give him as a burned offering.” Then Jephthah came back to his house in Mizpah, and his daughter came out, and when he saw her he was overcome with grief, and said, “Ah! my daughter! I am crushed with sorrow, for I have made an oath to the Lord, and I may not take it back.” So he sent her away for two months and mourned her virginity. At the end of two months she went back to her father, who did with her as he had said in his oath, and she had never been touched by a man. —Excerpts from Judges 11:30-31,34-35,38-39

They seem much more concerned about her virginity than about that whole burning-her-alive-for-no-good-reason thing.

Congressional candidate Fuqua also recommends expelling Muslims to rid us of the “Muslim problem.” He certainly must be frightened of the possibility of Sharia law overtaking the U.S., yet he is more than eager to implement his Christian version of Sharia law, based on the worst parts of the Bible.

How bad does the Bible get? Let’s see who else it tells us to kill:

  • Witches —Exodus 22:18
  • Brides who turn out not to be virgins (though grooms are exempted from this law) —Deuteronomy 22:20-21
  • Anyone who disobeys a priest —Deuteronomy 17:12
  • Anyone engaged in bestiality —Leviticus 20:15-16
  • Anyone who touches a mountain that God is appearing on —Exodus 19:11-13
  • The owner of an ox that fatally gores someone when the owner knew it was likely to attack —Exodus 21:29
  • People who gathers sticks on the sabbath —Numbers 15:32-36

Capital punishment for stick gathering would certainly curtail the scourge of weekend stick collecting. It seems laughable, but given how these outlandish fundamentalist ideas keep popping up, I would not be surprised to hear in my lifetime a politician, from Arkansas or elsewhere, suggesting serious penalties for picking up sticks at the wrong time.

A new poll suggests that a growing number of Americans want neither Sharia nor Fuqua’s Bible-based laws. As tempting as it may be for parents of teenagers, few of us want to live in Fuqua’s wonderful world of obedience by death threat.

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.

A Slave to the Bible

We could all use more help around the house. Most people’s first thought would be to get some hired help, and it wouldn’t occur to them to invoke Jesus’ name as they, in all seriousness, mention that slavery might not be such a bad idea.

I say most people, but not all people.

I never imagined that a modern human, let alone a state representative from Arkansas, would come to the following conclusion:

“If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution, and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?”

That is an actual quote from Republican Representative Loy Mauch of Bismarck, Arkansas. To get a little better picture of Rep. Mauch, you would want to know that he considers the Confederate flag a symbol of Christianity. Evidently the Jesus image was rebranded in the 1860s with a flashy, new, full-color logo; the cross and the fish both being a little passé.

Clearly not a deep thinker, Mauch states that the lateness of the Civil War proves that slavery wasn’t so bad, while ironically also claiming that the Civil War wasn’t even about slavery.

So is Mauch right about the Bible NOT condemning slavery? Absolutely! Having read it cover to cover, there is never any indication that we should even have a discussion of whether slavery might be a bad idea. The Bible’s idea of having a discussion about slavery involves detailing how hard you can beat your slave.

If a man strikes his servant or his maid with a rod, and he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he gets up after a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his property. —Exodus 21:20-21

or this from the New Testament:

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters and show them complete respect. Obey not only those owners who are good and kind, but also those who are cruel. —1 Peter 2:18

Now is it true that Jesus and Paul didn’t condemn slavery? Yes. Jesus doesn’t mention it, and Paul thinks it’s the best thing since sliced manna.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. —Colossians 3:22

Do we really want to live in a country that bases its laws on whether Jesus and Paul took a stand on the issue 2,000 years ago? Let’s take a look at a few other things that Jesus and Paul did NOT condemn.

  • gay marriage
  • abortion
  • spousal abuse
  • dog fighting
  • cock fighting
  • bear baiting
  • human cloning
  • smoking in preschools
  • those annoying drum circles that never seem to end on those days when I’m walking in the park, and I’m just not in the mood for a drum circle serenade. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I enjoy them: people having fun, going into a percussion trance, it’s all good, but other times the monotonous droning is interminable, and I just want to shout, “Hey can somebody play a melody for God’s sake? Nobody has a pan flute on them? A trombone, a kazoo even?” (but I digress).

Following Rep. Mauch’s logic, there’s tacit biblical support for each of these controversial activities, (though something tells me Rep. Mauch might actually enjoy a good bear baiting). According to the Bible, Jesus and Paul never flew kites, ate sushi, or went bobsledding, so therefore…?

You know your party is starting to get a reputation for backwards thinking when a Republican Party County Chairman has to go on record saying, “I support the Emancipation Proclamation.” What year is this?

I admit that sometimes I pity Bible literalists. The knots they tie themselves into in order to hold all kinds of bizarre, twisted and contradictory beliefs are worthy of a Cirque du Soleil contortionist. My brain could never handle all of that cognitive dissonance. My pity begins to wane though when there literalism takes them to the sorry place where Rep. Mauch ends up.

Lastly, and much to my surprise, a quick word in support of negative campaigning. The guy who ran against Mauch in the election chose NOT to run a negative campaign! In my part of the country, when your opponent calls Lincoln a war criminal and claims that Jesus condoned slavery, as Mauch did, that’s your campaign right there. Negative yes, but also the honest truth. And here is one more honest truth that I reluctantly admit that Rep. Mauch and I agree on:

“Nowhere in the Holy Bible have I found a word of condemnation for the operation of slavery, Old or New Testament.” —Rep. Loy Mauch (R-AR)

But unlike Rep. Mauch, I think the Bible actually got it WRONG on the slavery issue—no matter how much help I need when I’m out working in the yard.

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.

The Original Blasphemy Ban

Since the release of “Innocence of Muslims”—the laughable (yet surprisingly unfunny) excuse for a movie that actually makes the film Blues Brothers 2000 look like The Blues Brothers—some Muslim leaders have sought to work with the U.N. to make blasphemy illegal everywhere in the world. This has provoked a lively discussion about freedom of speech vs. freedom from blasphemy.

In the U.S. many people, including President Obama, appreciate that our freedom of speech includes the freedom to speak our minds about the religions of the world without any government interference. In some other countries, where governments routinely control what qualifies as allowable speech, there is more of an expectation that governments should punish citizens for using insulting religious speech.

But let’s not get the mistaken notion that punishment for blasphemy is a uniquely Muslim idea. The Bible clearly comes down on the side of freedom FROM blasphemy as opposed to freedom of speech.

And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death. —Leviticus 24:16

and this

Thus saith the Lord God, “Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.” —Ezekiel 20:27

And it’s not just the Old Testament that highlights blasphemy. Jesus himself warns:

Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. —Matthew 12:31 

No one likes to be insulted, but why is it that only one institution, religion, has its own name for insults hurled against it. I don’t call it blasphemy when someone berates my kid’s soccer team or ridicules the all-time best movie trilogy ever made on planet Earth!

The difficult thing about blasphemy is that it is, like beauty, obscenity, and an appreciation for celebrity knitting, all in the mind of the beholder. There is no way to define exactly when an honest complaint or critique of religion become offensive enough to reach the level of blasphemy. A mormon may take offense at any reference to magic underwear, I mean “sacred garments,” and a Scientologist may violently disagree with my positive review of the latest Nicole Kidman film.

So when you hear Muslims talking about the need for anti-blasphemy laws in the U.S., remember that all this talk of blasphemy began in a book that predates the Koran. It took a few thousand years for most in the Western world to accept the idea of freedom of speech over freedom from blasphemy, so maybe there is hope that more people in predominantly Muslim countries will come around to this way of thinking, ideally before the next millennium is through.

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.