SCOTUS’s Big FU to JC

SupremeandSupremeIt’s not every day that the US Supreme Court gets an amicus brief from their Lord and Savior. Even more surprising is that conservative Christian justices would ignore Jesus’ opinion so completely, as was the case in their Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway decision of May 2014.

My strong suspicion is that Jesus has no immediate plans of coming back to Earth, otherwise he couldn’t have picked a better time to appear as a surprise witness at the Supreme Court reminding the “Christians” that Christian public prayer is an oxymoron, the very definition of “UN-Christian.”

When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. —Matthew 6:5

But wait, Jesus isn’t done yet:

But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. —Matthew 6:6

Pretty clearly the Son of God and King of Kings says only pray in “your private room” where you’re not “seen by men.”

But if Jesus says you can’t pray at your city council meeting, where else could you possibly pray? This time Jesus leads by example:

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. —Luke 5:16

In every gospel, Jesus heads off to the desert or the mountain to pray. That’s fine for him, but he never quite imagined his followers would eventually number in the billions. It really is impractical to start your governmental meeting with a quick trip to the desert.

The “Ceremonial” Argument

The 5-4 decision, by and for conservative Christians, claims that these prayers are acceptable since they are “ceremonial” and “part of the Nation’s heritage and tradition.”

As is often the case, these religious prayers or governmental references to God are claimed to be harmlessly “ceremonial” or “patriotic.” But yet at the same time the prayers are fiercely defended by the religious majority. So which is it? Are they negligibly religious or deeply meaningful and important to the believers?

It is just way too convenient that on this one issue these prayers and phrases are decreed to perfectly straddle the line between meaningful and meaningless. Meaningful enough to continue, but not meaningful enough for non-believers to complain about.

To get a sense of how “ceremonial” the Greece, NY prayers were, here are a few quotes from the prayers that were featured in Justice Kagan’s dissent:

Prayers evoking “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross,” “the plan of redemption that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ,” “the life and death, resurrection and ascension of the Savior Jesus Christ,” the workings of the Holy Spirit, the events of Pentecost, and the belief that God “has raised up the Lord Jesus” and “will raise us, in our turn, and put us by His side.”

The amicus brief from the Freedom from Religion Foundation reminds us that the American “traditions” of miscegenation and sodomy laws had been on the books for a ling time, but that “a longstanding practice can simply be a longstanding violation.”

“We do it that way because we’ve always done it that way” leads to this reasoning from Warren Burger’s 1986 (!) Bowers v. Hardwick opinion:

[H]omosexual conduct ha[s] been subject to state intervention throughout the history of Western civilization. Condemnation of those practices is firmly rooted in Judeao-Christian moral and ethical standards. . . . To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.

Religious Lack of Empathy

Why then are so many (though definitely not all!) Christians unwilling or unable to imagine how it would feel to be a religious outsider when public prayers are being said?

With any religion, just like with any sports team, there is an in-group who shares your core beliefs, and an out-group who doesn’t. What always amazes me is the callous attitude some believers have about the effect of their public prayers on their fellow citizens who don’t share their religious beliefs. What kind of religion does not teach and foster empathy, the ability and willingness to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective? Either that message just does not get through to some congregants, or some churches don’t see it as a priority.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled this month that the phrase “under God” could stay in the Pledge of Allegiance when public school students are told to recite it. Again, their attitude toward these children is fairly callous: “Participation is entirely voluntary,” as if to assume there is no downside for a child who sits out the Pledge of Allegiance on religious or constitutional grounds.

Which brings us to Bible Funmentionables’ Core Principle #3: If your religion makes you a better person—more empathetic, understanding and accepting of others—then great! If your religion allows or encourages you to be hateful, self-righteous, and intolerant of your fellow human beings who are just trying to get along on this planet, you may have missed the point of your religion entirely.

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.

Throw a Reporter “Off This F—ing Balcony” Day

BalconyAN OPEN LETTER TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

On January 28, 2014, Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) issued a direct verbal threat to a reporter inside the Capitol building by saying “I’ll break you in half” and “throw you off this f—ing balcony,” which was a direct violation of D.C. law (District of Columbia Official Code, Division IV, Title 22, Subtitle I, Chapter 4, § 22-407).

Threats to do bodily harm.

Whoever is convicted in the District of threats to do bodily harm shall be fined not more than $ 500 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, in addition thereto, or in lieu thereof, may be required to give bond to keep the peace for a period not exceeding 1 year.

Rep. Grimm was never arrested for his actions, and Congress has taken no punitive action against him. By its inaction, the US Congress is essentially condoning a Congressperson’s right to threaten to kill average Americans, though conversely, when average Americans threaten the life of a public official, they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In keeping with this double standard and to codify for all time this special status, I propose the following:

RESOLUTION

Expressing support for designation of January 28, annually, as “Throw a Reporter “Off This F—ing Balcony” Day”.

Whereas Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) has never been expelled, censured, or even reprimanded by Congress after he threatened to kill a reporter who displeased him by throwing the reporter off a balcony inside the Capitol and to break the reporter in half: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives, that Congress–

(1) decrees the designation of “Throw a Reporter ‘Off This F—ing Balcony’ Day” (also known as “Break a Boy in Half Day”);

(2) allows, and indeed encourages, each Congressperson to threaten to do bodily harm up to and including death threats to any one (1) reporter or other American citizen or resident alien who displeases the Congressperson;

(3) denies the right to make such threats to another Congressperson or member of the current power structure including influential or potentially influential staffers, donors, lobbyists, or government contractors. Making threats on any day of the year outside of January 28th is forbidden and may result in having to issue an “If I offended anyone…” type of half-assed apology; and

(4) establishes that no Congressperson shall ever be expelled, censured, reprimanded, in any way criticized, or given the evil eye for threatening to kill a reporter who would have the gall to ask a difficult question that might actually help inform the voting public.

Please sign the White House petition to bring this issue to their attention.

As this is the Bible Funmentionables blog, I offer the following passages which lend biblical support to the idea of breaking your enemies and throwing them down to their deaths. (illustrating the Bible Funmentionables’ Core Principle #5: In American politics, nothing trumps a well reasoned political argument like a quote from the Bible.)

Break the arm of the wicked and evil man. —Psalm 10:15

And Indian burns to the mischievous.

I will break you in pieces, and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel. —Jeremiah 25:34

Questionable translations make for the most perplexing analogies.

The army of Judah captured another 10,000 men and took them to the top of a cliff and threw them off, dashing them to pieces on the rocks below. —2 Chronicles 25:12

At some point wouldn’t they not be landing on rocks anymore?

Throw her down!” Jehu yelled. So they threw Jezebel out the window, and her blood spattered against the wall and on the horses and Jehu trampled her body under his horses’ hooves. —2 Kings 9:33

The Bible rarely leaves out a pointlessly gory detail.

When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the boy. Two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, so that she might be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. —Revelation 12:13-14

The book of Revelation probably made sense once upon a time, and times, or maybe it was just half a time.

Now I have always been reluctant to believe that we have what you would call a Ruling Class in this country—a political establishment that is collectively more concerned about holding on to their own positions of power and sources of wealth than they are about the welfare of the country as a whole. When a reporter can be given a death threat by a sitting a Congressman annoyed by his question (in the Capitol and with cameras rolling, for God’s sake!) and there is no official reprimand, it begs the question: Do we now have an American Ruling Class that prefers to operate by its own set of rules, that expects not to be held accountable by an inquiring press, and that is more responsive to the needs of big money donors which keep the Ruling Class in power than to average Americans?

The answer to that question is revealed daily by the actions and inactions of those in power.

Please Sign the Petition here!

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.

Could Christians Become Erotic Cake Baking Slaves?

yummy-rainbow-cakeEvidently some conservative Christians have completely run out of actual things to fear.

Judson Phillips, the president of Tea Party Nation, worries that without the ability to discriminate against gays, Christians may become “slaves” who could be “required to create a cake for a homosexual wedding that has a giant phallic symbol on it.”

You would have to be the world’s worst slave owner, or the most profligate anyway, to use the slaves at your disposal just to create erotic wedding cakes—as if people do that for weddings! I don’t want to know what else Phillips thinks goes on at gay weddings.

Which brings us to Bible Funmentionables Core Principle #7: Whenever people make really outrageous and irrational statements about others, it’s quite likely that they are projecting their own suppressed desires and emotions.

For example, some state lawmakers claim, contrary to all the evidence, that there is rampant voter fraud. They assume their opponents are the ones doing this fraud, which in fact they themselves would like to be doing. They then prove their desire to commit voter fraud by passing voter suppression laws.

But let’s let God’s word itself weigh in on the controversy and see what the Bible has to say about cake making:

Isaiah ordered, “Get a fig cake.” So they did as he ordered and placed it on the ulcerated sore, and he recovered. —2 Kings 20:7

Fig cakes on a sore: good advice at the time when you compare it to other more harmful cures, but what about those slave-baked penis cakes?

For a harlot consumeth unto a cake of bread, and an adulteress the precious soul hunteth. —Proverbs 6:26

In other words, a prostitute will only cost you the price of a loaf of bread, but sleep with some other guy’s wife and it could cost you your life. Finally, some practical advice from Proverbs which most guys never hear about until it’s too late.

And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with human excrement in their sight. Then he said to me, “Lo, I have given thee cow’s dung for man’s dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread with them.” —Ezekiel 4:12,15

Newer translations make it very clear that the dung is for fuel purposes only, not part of the ingredients. Either way, ewwww!

So evidently the Bible is agnostic on the issue of whether it’s okay to a snake cake baker, although it has plenty to say about how great slavery is.

Arizona bill SB1062, which was vetoed, is a political/religious Rorschach test: To conservative Christians it’s a matter of freedom of conscience: doing business for a gay wedding is condoning an abomination unto the Lord (which I’ll get into in a future post). To others it’s a violation of gays’ civil liberties.

Whenever you’re demanding your right to refuse service/discriminate against another group, you can usually find some kind of biblical support for your position, but increasingly, you may find that much of the rest of society is moving on to a more charitable and inclusive way of seeing the world. Let’s not tell Judson Phillips.

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.

When You ASS-U-ME the Bible Will Give You the Right Answer…

GogAndMagogI am repeatedly shocked by how often the Wall Street Journal runs ill-conceived and plainly second-rate op-eds on their editorial pages. As long as your political philosophy aligns with the editorial board, they seem willing to run just about anything. So when I read this, I couldn’t keep myself away from the B-fun blog.

Tevi Troy’s assertion that many American Presidents have been influenced by the Bible (“The Presidential Bible Class”) was as inarguable as it was superficial. It left unasked two vital questions: Have presidential Bible consultations yielded universally positive results? and Should the Bible be relied upon as an unerring counsel for political leaders?

To answer the first question we need only travel back in time to 2003 to recall the account of former French President Jacques Chirac who claimed President Bush tried to convince him to join the invasion of Iraq because “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.” Gog and Magog are not Mr. Magoo’s adorable nephews, but rather they are creatures prophesied in the Book of Revelation to bring destruction upon Israel. Given that a recent Gallup poll shows that 53% of Americans believe that invading Iraq was a mistake, we may have been better served if Bush had studied more about the tensions between Shiites and Sunnis and worried less about Gog and Magog.

A one-time US Senator and Secretary of War once said, “It (slavery) was established by decree of Almighty God and is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments from Genesis to Revelation.” The author of this quote was also a President of sorts: the Confederate States’ President Jefferson Davis.

Slavery is famously not outlawed in the Bible with passages like

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.” —Ephesians 6:5

and

“Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters.” —Titus 2:9

That could explain that despite being fully aware of the Bible, 10 of the first 10 US Presidents (who were not named Adams) owned slaves at some point in their lives. But that was a different time. No politician today would really think the Bible meant what it said about slavery, right? Well there is the case of state representative Loy Mauch of Arkansas who claimed in 2012,

“If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it?”

So consulting the Bible has been no guarantor of inerrant advice for past politicians. But is there a place for the Bible as an aide in informing today’s weighty political issues?

In my own study of the Bible, I have endeavored to catalogue the most surprising and arcane passages of the Old and New Testaments, and I discovered that for every Bible verse used to support a given political opinion, it was not difficult to find a verse that would support just the opposite.

There are the more lighthearted contradictions:

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.” —Proverbs 18:22

and

“It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” —1 Corinthians 7:1

Then there are the confusing directives:

“Even so let your light shine before men.” —Matthew 5:16

and

“Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men.” —Matthew 6:1

Some are deeply theological:

“The Father is greater than I am.” —John 14:28

and

“I and my Father are one.” —John 10:30

And others have important public policy ramifications:

“Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” —Luke 18:22

and

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” —John 12:8

When I combed through every single saying of Jesus in the gospels looking for those with either a hint of liberal or conservative sentiments, I was surprised to find that Jesus was not wholly one or the other, though by my count his liberal-leaning statements outnumbered his conservative ones by a ration of 2 to 1. Given this mixed message in the gospels, what does it mean to rely upon the Bible as a source of political inspiration. Rather than hearing one consistent message, it seems highly likely that one would be tempted to seek out those verses that conform to one’s preexisting ideology also known as confirmation bias. When is the last time you heard a politician say that even though it goes completely against their political leanings, the Bible made them change a deeply held belief.

I mention this as a cautionary tale. Being well-versed in the Bible does not necessarily equal unparalleled political decision-making. Even Abraham Lincoln understood his limited ability to discern the ideal course of action when he said,

“My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

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 War on Festivus (and Why the Bible Commands It!)

PoleWake up, America: Festivus is under attack!

The popular Festivus tradition that goes back for many television seasons is the only purely American winter holiday tradition. The Founding Fathers, if they had just lived long enough to watch Seinfeld in 1997, would be frightening to look at and would have found it “eminently jocular, albeit a tad ribald,” —Thomas Jefferson, Senior Living(?) Magazine.

These fine, patriotic Festivus-Americans are just trying to celebrate their First Amendment rights this holiday season by doing what any American would do: demand that their display be prominently featured on public land. (I think that’s in the Constitution somewhere after the part about you have the right to a lawyer, a decent plumber, and a masseuse of the gender of your choosing.)

How Is Festivus Under Attack?

In Bartow, Florida, a Festivus pole was stolen.

And Fox News (sic) has actually begun attacking these fine Americans for making a Festivus pole out of beer cans!

Fox hates beer cans!?! The shining symbol of American consumerism! Even Jesus who was known as a drunkard

“Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”—Matthew 11:19

would be crying in his PBR over such blatant anti-American hatred.

Does the Bible Condone the Vandalizing of Poles?

Is the Pope Catholic? (No, really. This new Pope is such an adjustment from the last few.)

But to answer the question: God totally approves of pole destruction! In my book Bible Funmentionables I explain how the “disgusting” poles at the temples of the fertility goddess Asherah really bothered the writers of the Bible.

But this is what you are to do to them: their altars are to be pulled down, and their pillars broken, and their Asherah poles cut down, and their images burned with fire. —Deuteronomy 7:5

God didn’t appreciating other religions cutting in on his marketshare, and, in true mobster form, he wasn’t afraid to arrange for a little “market correction.”

And King Josiah brought out the Asherah pole from the house of Yahweh, outside of Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it, and beat it to dust, and cast its dust on the graves of the common people. —2 Kings 23:6

So the War on Festivus is part of an ongoing fight for people’s hearts and minds. What’s most puzzling to me is how the manger-at-city-hall people fail to see how their use of the government to promote their religion caused the Festivus display backlash. I guess the one thing that is more American than expecting the government to give you a high profile location in front of City Hall is complaining when some other group gets that same special privilege that you got.

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.

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.

Is There a Blessing for a Bain?

Cherry-picking Bible verses is as easy as 10, 11, 12, 13.

God loves a good capitalist. Or so says Rabbi Aryeh Spero who gave Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital the Good Lord’s stamp of approval in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. The only problem is that it was less of a divine imprimatur and more of a classic example of a pesky little thing called “confirmation bias.”

Choosing only evidence that vindicates your personal biases is an easy trap, and with its many contradictory and ambiguous passages, the Bible makes confirmation bias that much easier.

Like a desperate kid with a Magic 8 Ball, the Bible is likely to give you the answer you want as long as you just keep trying.

Rabbi Spero begins his commentary by calling President Obama a “redistributionist.” (What has this nation come to when Spero can’t even call the President what he seems to want to: a socialist.) Spero’s broad-brush caricature of liberal positions and his disinterest in the social ramifications of Bain’s tactics make his ideology fairly obvious. He then cherry-picked Bible passages to purportedly absolve Romney and Bain of any possible offenses in their private equity exploits.

Spero’s main contention is that any critique of Bain’s business practice amounts to envy, and envy is forbidden in the Bible. It’s quite an assumption in itself to claim that basically anyone who has a problem with income distribution in America is just jealous. Calling the 99% envious is a way of downplaying the real concern that many have expressed that there is not a level playing field in America today—that the game is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. And Bain’s story of firing workers, bankrupting companies, and raiding pension funds in order to reward its wealthy investors is a prime example.

But let’s assume that the 60% of Americans that think income distribution is an important issue are all just jealous. If we use a different confirmation bias, we could say that their jealousy is actually making them more godlike:

The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. —Exodus 34:14

Now let’s see what else the Bible has to say about other views people have about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.

Opinion 1: “Romney made his money honestly. We should all work to be as rich as he is.”

Bible’s Approval: The poor man is hated even by his neighbor, but the man of wealth has numbers of friends. —Proverbs 14:20

Bible’s Disapproval: Labor not to be rich. —Proverbs 23:4

Opinion 2: “In a capitalist system, it was Romney’s duty to seek the highest return on investment, regardless of societal implications.”

Bible’s Approval: “Why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.” —Matthew 25:27

Bible’s Disapproval: And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. —Acts 2:45

Opinion 3: “Without lifting a finger, Mitt Romney’s blind trust earns in 16 hours what an average American worker earns in an entire year. It’s not fair.”

Bible’s Approval: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” —Mark 10:25

Bible’s Disapproval: Wealth makes a great number of friends, but the poor man is parted from his friend. —Proverbs 19:4

Opinion 4: “Romney raided companies, walked away with massive wealth, and cared little about the impact on the people affected.”

Bible’s Approval: When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches and dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away. And they were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. —2 Chronicles 20:25

Bible’s Disapproval:  They slew of their enemy 75,000, but on the spoil they laid not their hand. —Esther 9:16

Opinion 5: “Mitt ‘I’m Not Concerned About The Very Poor’ Romney isn’t concerned about the very poor.”

Bible’s Approval: You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. —John 12:8

Bible’s Disapproval: He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. —Proverbs 14:31

As a bit of an expert on the use and abuse of Bible quotes (at least the outlandish ones), I know confirmation bias when I see it. Rabbi Spero would do better by telling us what he thinks about Mitt Romney’s version of capitalism rather than trying to tell us God’s opinion. It’s hard to precisely pinpoint God’s position on any particular topic these days. God gave numerous and contradictory statements in the past, and for some strange reason he is no longer giving interviews.

Answering Newt’s Prayer for Open Marriage

Newt GingrichProposing to your wife, that you would like to have an open marriage, is a shocking bit of news, according to Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife. But surprisingly, one place where such concepts are definitely old news is in the Holy Bible.

In the laws of the Old Testament, polygamy is spoken of in very matter-of-fact terms, without any hint of disrepute:

If he take himself another wife… —Exodus 21:10

If a man have two wives… —Deuteronomy 21:15

A candidate who really believed the Bible would tell us that traditional marriage is between one man and one woman…and as many other wives and concubines as the man can attract and afford.

To get a sense of how commonplace polygamy is in the Bible, the following is a list of biblical characters who carried on with more than one woman, and it reads like one of those too-boring-to-read-out-loud genealogies from First Chronicles (seriously, do not try to read 1 Chronicles chapters 1-9 at your next Bible study group!): Abijah, Abraham, Ahab, Ahasuerus, Ashur, Belshazzar, Benhadad, Caleb, David, Eliphaz, Elkanah, Esau, Ezra, Gideon, Jacob, Jehoiachin, Jehoram, Jerahmeel, Joash, Lamech, Machir, Manasseh, Mered, Moses, Nahor, Rehoboam, Saul, Shaharaim, Simeon, Solomon, and Zedekiah.

In the scriptures, polygamy originated rather humbly with Noah’s father, Lamech:

And Lemech took two wives, one named Adah and the other Zillah. —Genesis 4:19

And it culminates in the harem of King Solomon:

Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray. — 1 Kings 11:3

A man with a reputation for wisdom couldn’t forsee any problem living with 1,000 women?

In the New Testament, or as Rev. Lovejoy calls it, “somewhere towards the back” of the Bible, polygamy is definitely downplayed, though it was evidently accepted enough to work its way into one of Jesus’ parables:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. —Matthew 25:1

Throughout most of the Bible, multiple wives pointed to a king’s increased social status. Perhaps a similar urge affected Gingrich and the most recent batch of America’s polyamorous politicians from both major parties, including John Edwards, John Ensign, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eliot Spitzer, and David Vitter to name but a few.

Officially, it should be stated, Gingrich has denied calling for an open marriage, but his admission of the affair and his shoot-the-messenger reaction to the story has left some unconvinced of his innocence.

The Bible clearly treats polygamy as an allowable practice, and nowhere is it unequivocally forbidden by God. As the practice became socially unacceptable in the U.S., the religions that wanted to stay in business decided to go along with public sentiment, just like they did with other biblically supported issues like slavery, the killing of witches, and the prohibition of tattoos.

In making his open marriage request, maybe the old Newt was making a point that the newly devout Newt would appreciate: it’s not adultery if we can all just agree to call her a concubine. Sadly for him, even those who interpret the Bible literally are unlikely to follow what the Bible says on this issue.

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.