Bring Your Bible (Funmentionables) to School Day™

B-fun2SchoolIt is a twisted logic that some Bible thumpers’ idea of religious liberty includes demanding that the government send out e-mails to promote their religion. Case in point: Folsom Cordova Unified School District in Northern California recently e-mailed parents notifying them of a “Bring Your Bible to School Day” (a.k.a. “Spit on the Constitution Day”). The public school district says it’s totally cool because they added a disclaimer saying it’s not their program, plus their lawyer said it was okay.

Their lawyer has admitted being worried about litigation from the group Focus on the Family if the district refused to send out the e-mail. Religious groups can threaten their own with eternal punishment, but they have to resort to lawsuits when dealing with the government.

Of course, when the e-mail goes out announcing “Bring Your Koran to School Day” or “Bring Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’ to School Day,” Focus on the Family will be the first to complain. Do I have to remind Focus on the Family that Jesus really hated hypocrites, especially spice tithers:

Woe to you…hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin. —Matthew 23:23

It’s particularly exasperating when the people responsible for educating our youth show such inability to think through situations like these, where it is their duty to keep church and state separate. Now instead of showing you how un-Washingtonian or how un-Jeffersonian the public school district is being, let’s change things up and give some of the less-renowned Presidents their overdue moment in the spotlight:

“Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between Church and State.” —James Polk

 

“In my view Church and State should be separate.”
—Millard Fillmore

 

“Keep Church and State forever separate.”
—Ulysses S. Grant

 

“The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute.” —James Garfield

Polk gets extra credit for the “Thank God” intro.

The school district’s legal minds may not quite match our Commanders-in-Chief (dare I call them un-Polkian), but there is also another Commander whose law about making a public display of your religion is being violated:

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…but when you make your prayer, go into your private room.
—Matthew 6:5-6

It is a shame that Focus on the Family is so thoroughly ignorant of that Bible quote. To keep today’s youth from being just as ignorant, I present “Bring Your ‘Bible Funmentionables’ to School Day.™”

Screen shot 2015-10-09 at 6.16.04 PMThat’s right; In a spirit of fairness, I have submitted my request to the Folsom Cordova Unified School District that they promote my first annual “Bring Your ‘Bible Funmentionables’ to School Day™” scheduled for October 30, 2015. Since my event is equally legal to Focus on the Family’s, I’m sure they’ll be just as eager to spread the word. Or face the threat of eternal damnation! (It’s cheaper than legal counsel.)

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.

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.

And the B-Fun’s Pope of the Year Award Goes to…

PopeoftheYearThe winner of the 2013 Triple (Pointy) Crown—Time’s Person of the Year, Esquire’s Best Dressed Man of 2013 (Really!), AND Bible Funmentionable’s prestigious Pope of the Year Award—is former the chemical technician and bouncer, the BA from Buenas Aires, Pope Francis!

Granted, choosing Pope Benedict instead of Francis was about as likely as Obama winning Constitutional Law Professor of the Year. But Frances earned this award the way Obama won his Nobel Peace Prize—by having the guy in the job before you suck so bad in comparison.

What did he do that made headlines?

• He chose to not wear red shoes. (So did I, but am I Pope? [SDIBAIP])

• As archbishop he cooked his own meals. (SDIBAIP)

• He paid his hotel bill. (SDIBAIP)

• He took the bus. (SDIBAIP)

So he didn’t become Pope of the Year from those facts alone. Let’s try another list:

What did Pope Francis say that was apontifical? (And even angered conservative Catholics)

• “Proselytism is solemn nonsense”

• “If someone is gay…who am I to judge?”

• “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.”

• “An economy of exclusion and inequality…kills.”

• “Trickle-down theories …(have) never been confirmed by the facts.”

• “There are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today’s hypocrites.”

• “I like it when someone tells me ‘I don’t agree.”

• “Every man is the image of God, whether he is a believer or not.”

• “I love tango.”

Since I have lampooned Pope Benedict in the past, I felt it was necessary to give Pope Francis credit where credit is due. When a church leader at the Pope’s level publicly seeks to find common ground with non-believers and non-Catholics instead of demonizing them, that small step is worth noting and encouraging.

And in that spirit, I’m not going to quote the Bible on what it says you should do to non-believers. Although the Pope would probably like to discuss with me those parts of the Bible where I say, “I don’t agree.”

The best news in all of this is having a religious leader who states that he personally openly welcomes dissenting views. If all religious people had this attitude the world would be a noticeably better place.

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.

Who Would Jesus Coldcock?

Boxing-Jesus-2008If we are to believe ancient, secondhand accounts, Jesus once said “Love your enemies.” Blissfully ignored by millions daily, this divine command for adversarial love is not easy, especially when you are facing the evil incarnate that we all try to avoid: the Salvation Army bell ringer.

Volunteer ringer Kristina Vindiola allegedly was attacked by a woman shopping at Wal-Mart in Phoenix for having the audacity to wish her happiness this holiday season. Unfortunately that happiness never materialized, as the shopper/vigilante Christian badgered the volunteer bell ringer by demanding, “Do you believe in God? You’re supposed to say ‘Merry Christmas’!” And in a fit of wonderful Christian irony and horrible Christian PR she slapped the well-wishing bell ringer.

Why do some Christians get it so wrong?

While the pugnacious Christian shopper is a bit of a rarity and a slap in the face to most Christians, this is what happens when Christians, currently about 80% of all Americans, are  repeatedly told by Fox News (sic) and televangelists that they are actually under severe religious persecution. Someone will eventually believe that they really are a victim and want to fight back.

I think something deeper is going on: Hyper-intolerant Christians are facing an increasingly diverse America. The idea that more and more of their neighbors are normal, decent Americans AND don’t worship Jesus is deeply disturbing to them. They kind of like kidding themselves into thinking this was, is, and always will be a “Christian nation.” (The framers of the Constitution just forgot to mention Jesus—it’s more of a typo than an intentional omission.) Living a delusion is great for a while, but sometimes that little bit of irrationality can burst forth like the dramatic final act of Judas.

Now Judas purchased a field with the reward of iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. —Acts 1:18

If they choose to selectively read their Jesus quotes, they could stop turning the proverbial other cheek and instead dwell on this gem:

Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword. —Matthew 10:34

While completely ignoring this bipolar opposite sentiment:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. —John 16:33

Christians who bristle at the phrase “separation of church and state” somehow think that the only good thing big government can do is pick religious winners and losers…as long as it’s their savior whose picture is hanging in the public high school’s Hall of Honor.

Sadly there is no commandment that unequivocally states: “Thou shalt not attack a volunteer raising money to feed and clothe the needy just because they wished that you would find some happiness in late December.”

And though it would have really clarified things for us, Jesus evidently never said, “Love your enemies unless they wish you ‘Happy Holidays.’ Then slap ’em. Slap ‘em good.”

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.

Helloween: A Holiday for and from Proselytizers

No Proselytizing - MissionariesThey work tirelessly every day, going door-to-door in order to convince us that their religion is the key to happiness and, if we choose the right god and dogma, that we may just make it into heaven (though I’ve never heard of anyone providing a money back guarantee on this celestial sales pitch). By implication the spiritual path we’ve chosen is somewhere between “inferior to theirs” and “damnable for eternity.”

It can’t be easy giving this kind of news to the predominantly uninterested homeowners of the world.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one day to celebrate these soliciting missionaries and also give them a well deserved vacation?

In honor of all that they do, I hereby ordain and institute the worldwide tradition of Helloween: The one day that proselytizers are encouraged to preach to all who will listen from 6pm-8:30pm each and every Leap Day beginning on February 29, 2012. I know I didn’t give them much notice this year, but it does give them plenty of time to prepare for next Helloween!

Here are a few simple rules for America’s favorite new holiday:

  1. Just like trick-or-treating, proselytizers can only approach houses which have the porch lights turned on and only between 6pm and 8:30pm on Leap Day evening.
  2. Any proselytizing on any other day is to be met with the same reaction that one would have toward a child trick-or-treating on non-Halloween days: a polite “It’s not Helloween” will be sufficient.
  3. Proselytizers going door-to-door on Halloween (October 31st) are to receive no candy, or in extreme cases of pity they can be given peppermints, wax lips, or root beer barrels.
  4. In exchange for giving up four years of doorstep preaching, all residents will agree to avoid implementing the Bible’s call for the immediate killing of anyone attempting a religious conversion:

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth, thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him. Neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him, but thou shalt surely kill him. Thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. —Deuteronomy 13:6-9

Now let the proselytizing begin…and then go take a relaxing four year hiatus! You might even want to take some of that time and energy you would have spent seeking converts and use it to help your fellow man to create a better world here and now.

Could 44 Adorable Jesus Fans Be Wrong?

As millions of Broncos fans hoped for a miracle in the playoff game against the Patriots, Focus on the Family aired an interminable 30-second ad featuring the most precious, interracial, GapKids models that you’ve ever seen, all basically condemning you to hell if you don’t follow Jesus.

Of all the quotes in the Bible to choose from, of course they cherry-picked John 3:16. That’s the verse that was popularized at 1970s and ’80s sporting events by The Rainbow Man (who is now serving three consecutive life sentences in prison!) and that for many Christians summarizes the whole Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16

I couldn’t help but picture how those same children would have looked giving voice to some of the Bible readings that always get left behind:

And when the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons and put them to death, all the seventy, and put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel. —2 Kings 10:7

or

She lusted after lovers with genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse. —Ezekiel 23:20

Even the most charming youngster in the world would have trouble finding converts with those verses.

But there was something beyond the choice of the verse that I found troubling: the use of children.

Why choose kids instead of adults? I see three reasons:

• Proselytizing kids sound so sweet and innocent. Adults sound pushy.

• Proselytizing kids appear to have less of a hidden agenda. Adults, i.e. the folks at Focus on the Family, definitely have an agenda.

• Listening to a child, we tend to let down our guard and listen to what they have to say. To an adult, we’re more likely to respond, “Sorry, not interested.”

So, besides being manipulative, what’s wrong with children as religious spokeskids? Because the kids are being used—used to send a message that the adults are actually making.

When a parent prodded her child to approach Michele Bachmann to make a powerful political point (being careful to capture it on video), it was a bit of a cheap shot (albeit a funny cheap shot).

If an adult wants to make an important statement of their principles, they shouldn’t hide behind their kids, who will often parrot even the most outlandish beliefs of the parents. The adults should make the case themselves. (I was tempted to make a parody ad with darling kids reciting one of the alternate quotes above, but I thought I should follow my own advice.)

As a general rule, I am not opposed to having kids in commercials selling me on the consumption-induced euphoria of toys, breakfast cereal, or underwear. But I bristle when they tell me to join their religion or suffer eternal torture. If that’s your message, say it. Don’t hide behind a sea of childhood sweetness as you tell the 4.7 billion non-Christians of the world that they’re going to hell.