The Lost Art of Resurrection

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“How come nobody resurrects anymore!” You hear it all the time. A church is only as good as its padded kneelers, its reliably saliva-free holy water, and its ability to bring about a modern miracle from time to time.

And don’t think that bringing people back from the dead is a thing of the past! It was commanded by Jesus himself, who knew a thing or two about how the whole resurrection thing worked.

Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions…Heal the sick, raise the dead. —Matthew 10:5,8

Churches are pretty confident about the healing the sick part. Prayers for the ill and infirmed abound, though God evidently has a longer wait time than your HMO’s GI specialist as he often needs cure requests repeated on multiple Sundays.

But why are churches so reluctant to try their hand at resurrections. If any church could find a successful revival incantation, its congregation would soon include most of the entire world.

But most of us know the likelihood of raising the dead (I mean the dead-dead, not the near-dead, medically revivable types) is 0.000%. So part of the problem of a church even trying is that no one would believe you if you succeeded. How do we know that? Let’s look at what happened to our most famous resurrected case study: Jesus of Nazareth.

After seeing the empty tomb, here’s what Mark said happened.

The women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone.
—Mark 16:8

None of us would have heard about the resurrection if Mark’s version was not totally contradicted by the other three gospels:

So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
—Matthew 28:8

Later, when Jesus showed up, it was not just Thomas who doubted:

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. —Matthew 28:17

That’s right, they saw Him and were still doubtful. I just can’t see how, if a preacher I knew came back to life, I would hang out with him, worship him, but in the back of my mind be saying, “Meh, it’s probably not him.”

While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have ye here any meat?” —Luke 24:41

“Verily I say unto you, what’s in the fridge?”

Furthermore, on the Road to Emmaus, two disciples walk and talk with what we are told is the risen Jesus, yet through it all they don’t recognize him. Again suspicious.

Adding even more to the suspect nature of the reporting of the resurrected Jesus is the blatant inconsistencies of the evangelists. Of all the Crucifixion and Resurrection inconsistencies, and there are many, one of the worst may be the list of who saw the resurrected Jesus. As so much of the religion relies on this supernatural event, detailing who the witnesses were would seem like a high priority. The reality reveals just the opposite.

Screen shot 2016-03-24 at 8.55.12 PMA more likely explanation of events, like the accounts of Elvis’ return in the late 1970s, comes from William Greg’s 1875 book The Creed of Christendom:

We may believe that the minds of the disciples, excited by the disappearance of the body, and the announcement by the women of his resurrection, mistook some passing individual for their crucified Lord, and that from such an origin multiplied rumors of his re-appearance arose and spread.

In addition to the question of veracity, it’s important to ask what any resurrection, including Jesus’, actually proves.

Even though Acts 26:23 insists that Jesus was the first person to rise from the dead, the Bible has over eight resurrections that predate Jesus’ return to the land of the living, and two that followed.

  • The widow of Zarephath’s son (resurrected by Elijah) —1 Kings 17:17–24
  • The Shunammite’s son (Elisha) —2 Kings 4:32–37
  • The corpse thrown into Elisha’s tomb (Elisha’s bones) —2 Kings 13:21
  • The widow of Nain’s son (Jesus) —Luke 7:11-15
  • Jairus’ daughter (Jesus) —Luke 8:49-56
  • Lazarus (Jesus) —John 11:39–44
  • The post-crucifixion saints of Jerusalem (Spontaneous and simultaneous revivals) —Matthew 27:51-53
  • Dorcas of Joppa (Peter) —Acts 9:36-43
  • Eutychus (Paul) —Acts 20:9–12

If resurrecting proves you are God worthy of adoration or that all your teachings are true, then why does no one worship Lazarus? It seems that either your teachings are without peer or they’re not. Whether you ate meat after you died or not should maybe be of secondary importance. Still it’s a pretty cool trick.

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 Mystery of the Sodomite Suppression Act: How the Bible Inspired the Least Popular Proposition Ever!

Editor’s Note: Below is an op-ed I submitted to the local paper. It did not get picked up, and I am getting the impression that your typical mainstream newspaper finds it much safer to steer clear of this topic even when the information would shed light on a news story that many find perplexing and personally hurtful.

350xThe Sodomite Suppression Act initiative has left many political observers perplexed: What could possibly have motivated attorney Matt McLaughlin to propose capital punishment for homosexuality?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly to some, is the Bible.

Many would like to interpret McLaughlin’s initiative as a Swiftian satire and that he was trying to make some ironic point. The more compelling explanation actually comes from Cervantes: McLaughlin, having read a few too many ancient writings, is on a quixotic quest, tilting at windmills that only he sees as monsters.

McLaughlin, by his own account, has been a daily reader of the Bible since first grade. In 2004 he proposed and failed to qualify a ballot initiative that would have required California public schools to provide a King James Bible to every student.

McLaughlin’s latest initiative claims that God commands us to suppress the “monstrous evil” of sodomy or face “our utter destruction.” It takes its inspiration directly from Leviticus 20:13:

“If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.”

I should explain my own particular interest in obscure Bible verses like this one. Around the time of McLaughlin’s Bibles-in-schools initiative, I started to hear more and more talk from Bible literalists like McLaughlin who sought to compel prayer in public schools. Out of curiosity, I decided to read the Bible cover to cover to learn what was really in it, focusing my attention on the verses that rarely get mentioned by preachers. What I discovered was that there are countless cringe-worthy passages that have conveniently been swept under the rug and that few people know are part of their own religion’s sacred texts.

For example, I discovered that the God of the Bible orders capital punishment for more than just male homosexuality. The Bible explicitly requires the death penalty for the following:

• Witchcraft

• Cursing your parents

• A man who fails to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law

• Gathering sticks on the sabbath

• A man sleeping with his step-mother

• Bestiality

• And at least 20 other less-than-capital offenses

By singling out gays and letting stick gatherers go free, McLaughlin reveals that he is motivated more by his own biases than he is by God’s ancient dictates.

Few Bible aficionados seem to be aware of these wholly unholy Bible passages, but to ignore their existence and their effect on some believers like McLaughlin is a danger.

Bible quotes like Leviticus 20:13 helped inspire Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to famously place partial blame on “the gays and the lesbians” for causing the 9/11 attacks. A few years back, some American fundamentalist Christians supported “kill the gays” legislation in Uganda. The Army of God is an American terrorist group that has promoted Bible-inspired violence against gays. Other Bible passages are complicit in the deaths of dozens of children who die each year from being denied medical treatment because of their parents’ interpretation of scripture. If you need more examples of the damage caused by literal interpretations of Bible verses, plenty of heartbreaking stories can be found at whatstheharm.net/religiousfundamentalism.html.

Unquestionably these fundamentalists do not represent your average believer, but they are on the airwaves and in pulpits spreading their extremist views and influencing eager believers like McLaughlin.

It is crucial to understand the Bible’s key role in inspiring this ghastly initiative. McLaughlin’s Bible literalism should be a warning for anyone attracted to such simplistic answers. Uncritical acceptance of any dogma fosters group-think and a my-way-or-the-highway attitude.

This kind of absolutist outlook played out on a national scale gives us extremists championing the use of the Bible as a legal blueprint for America. Played out on a global scale, it is a poison that has the potential to endanger us all with endless religious wars.

Fortunately, few Bible literalists interpret the Bible quite like McLaughlin does, though many may be surprised to find that the genesis for his horrific initiative can be found in the often overlooked passages of the best-selling book of all-time, the Bible.

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.