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 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.

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 6 Most Boring Passages of the Bible (And Why You Should Avoid Them)

Most kids think church is boring. No news there. But now, in classic man-bites-dog style, it’s a Catholic bishop who has made headlines by complaining that church is too boring!

Retired Philippine Catholic Bishop Teodoro Bacani claims that boring sermons are hurting the church’s market share, as many are seeking out the El Shaddai Catholic charismatic movement instead of their traditional Catholic parish.

Boring sermons may cause drowsiness in the Philippines, but according to the Bible, boring sermons can kill!

A certain young man named Eutychus sat in the window, weighed down with deep sleep. As Paul spoke still longer, being weighed down by his sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. —Acts 20:9

To avoid boring their congregation to death, Bishop Bacani recommends that priests learn a more effective and “livelier” way of communicating their message. For a religion that claims to offer the ultimate truths of life, creation, and heaven and hell, it seems superficial to attempt to repackage those eternal truths to accommodate the short attention span generation.

A more reliable solution is to know which Bible passages to avoid in the first place! So as a service to preachers everywhere, I offer this Do Not Read List of The Bible’s 6 Most Boring Passages. Attempting to read these passages may not be mortally monotonous, but they could easily cause a loss of tithing churchgoers. And as most preachers know, to quote the church leader in the movie Help!, “without the congregation there’ll be no…more…me.”

1. The Table of Nations: Genesis 10-11 (Genealogies of People You’ll Never Meet and You Couldn’t Care Less About)

And these are births of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and born to them are sons after the deluge. Sons of Japheth are Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. And sons of Gomer are Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. —Genesis 10:1-3

2. Setting Up the Tabernacle: Exodus 40 (Moses Puts up a Tent)

And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up. And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up his pillars…And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark. And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony…And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail. And he set the bread in order upon it before the Lord…And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation, over against the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward…And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the vail. And he burnt sweet incense thereon…And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle. And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation…And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal…And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. —Excerpted from Exodus 40

3. Burnt Offerings: Leviticus 1-10  (Because the Lord Wants to Smell Burning Animals)

If the offering is a burned offering of the herd, let him give a male without a mark. He is to give it at the door of the Tent of Meeting so that he may be pleasing to the Lord. And he is to put his hand on the head of the burned offering and it will be taken for him, to take away his sin. And the ox is to be put to death before the Lord. Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, are to take the blood and put some of it on and round the altar which is at the door of the Tent of Meeting. And the burned offering is to be skinned and cut up into its parts. And Aaron’s sons, the priests, are to put fire on the altar and put the wood in order on the fire. And Aaron’s sons, the priests, are to put the parts, the head and the fat, in order on the wood which is on the fire on the altar. But its inside parts and its legs are to be washed with water, and it will all be burned on the altar by the priest for a burned offering, an offering made by fire, for a sweet smell to the Lord. —Excerpted from Leviticus 1

4. Curses for Disobedience: Deuteronomy 28 (Before Hell Was Invented, Curses Were God’s Way of Ensuring Good Behavior)

You will be cursed in the town and cursed in the field. A curse will be on your basket and on your bread-basin. A curse will be on the fruit of your body, and on the fruit of your land, on the increase of your cattle, and the young of your flock. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. The Lord will send on you cursing and trouble and punishment in everything to which you put your hand. —Deuteronomy 28:16-20

5. Historical Records From Adam to Abraham: 1 Chronicles 1-9  (It’s Like Hearing Stories About People You’ve Never Heard Of—But Without the Stories)

Adam, Sheth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered, Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. And the sons of Gomer; Ashchenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. The sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.  The sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabta, and Raamah, and Sabtecha. And the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan. And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be mighty upon the earth. And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (of whom came the Philistines,) and Caphthorim. And Canaan begat Zidon his firstborn, and Heth, The Jebusite also, and the Amorite, and the Girgashite, And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. —Excerpted from 1 Chronicles 1

6. The New Temple: Ezekiel 40-43 (Now You Can Build Your Own Temple Without the Benefit of Blueprints)

Then he brought me into the inner court through the south gate, and he measured the south gate; it had the same measurements as the others. Its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as the others. The gateway and its portico had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. (The porticoes of the gateways around the inner court were twenty-five cubits wide and five cubits deep.) Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated its jambs, and eight steps led up to it. Then he brought me to the inner court on the east side, and he measured the gateway. It had the same measurements as the others. Its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as the others. The gateway and its portico had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated the jambs on either side, and eight steps led up to it. —Excerpted from Ezekiel 40

Left for theologians to discuss is the age-old question of why God felt it necessary to include these insufferably long, repetitive, spiritually-bereft verses in a book that many believe is the actual word of God. They say God works in mysterious ways, and evidently sometimes he works in mind-numbingly tedious and uninspiring ways as well. It doesn’t seem to have hurt Bible sales too much. You do have to wonder how much more popular the Bible would have been if God had deleted these chapters and focused on penning some practical solutions to day to day problems people face: reliable nutrition information, disease prevention strategies, or detailed instruction on how to build your own bicycle.

So remember, preachers, avoid these chapters in order to keep your congregation coming back for more, and keep people from falling to their deaths like Eutychus.

Who might actually want to seek out these verses?

  • People who never again want to be asked to choose the reading at their Bible study group.
  • Priests who are ready to hang up their collar for good and want to go out in style with the longest and most wearisome Bible recitation ever.
  • Insomniacs—even the Bible admits that it’s boring enough to put a king to sleep:

On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the Chronicles, and they were read before the king.—Esther 6:1

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.

Barberism in Amish Country

NEWS FLASH!!! (and possibly a sign of the Apocalypse): the LEAST common crime in the nation has been committed!

An Amish gang armed with semi-automatic shears snuffed out the beards of five other Amish men last year. This case has gripped the nation like few other Amish-on-Amish attacks. Unwilling to plea their case down to involuntary beardslaughter, the trial is currently under way in Cleveland, Ohio.

The gang leader, Sam Mullet is the alleged mastermind of this low-tech hate crime spree. Not to blame the victims too much, but when you hear that the Mullet Gang is coming to town, you’re pretty much guaranteed that someone is going to end up having a really bad hair day.

The beardectomies were Mullet’s retribution over disputes with other Amish leaders. To make matters worse, Mullet’s sister testified that her brother abused his power as bishop by taking advantage of some Amish women. She accused him of “close sitting” with the women, even going so far as to “look into their eyes.”

Fortunately for the men who lost their facial hair against their wishes, the Bible does offer them some consolation: It could have been worse—at least they didn’t expose your backsides!

So Hanun took David’s servants, and after shaving off half of their beards, and cutting off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, he sent them away. When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Stay at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return.” —2 Samuel 10:4-5

So the Bible lesson IS NOT “Don’t be ashamed of losing your beard.” Instead the Bible lesson IS “Stay ashamed until your beard grows back.” Nowhere does it state that David’s servants also sewed up the holes in the backs of their robes. Hopefully they did not follow God’s example when he appear to Moses:

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

It’s easy to have some fun at the feuding Amish’s expense, but evidently they take their hair care way, way more seriously than even Lady Gaga, Mr. T, and Chestur Arthur combined. Most likely their devotion to beards is based on this Bible admonition:

Ye shall not shave the corners of your head round, neither shalt thou mutilate the corners of thy beard. —Leviticus 19:27

Scholars have yet to agree on how exactly you cut the corners of your head round, but they do postulate that if anybody can figure it out, it will most likely be a member of the dreaded Mullet Gang. I just hope that people like Johnny Mullet (an actual name of one of the Mullet Gang—who sounds like he belongs in a Damon Runyon story) serve their debt to society, maybe eventually lobby for effective scissors control laws, and put this whole hair-razing episode behind them.

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.

Now About That Vow of Silence…

Every Catholic schoolkid knows one thing: you don’t tell a nun to shut up. At least you don’t if you wanted to avoid rapped knuckles and the more long-term problem of eternal damnation.

Yet one man is finally doing what so many students have always dreamt of: Pope Benedict XVI is telling 1,500 nuns of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), who represent over 40,000 nuns, “You don’t make the rules here. I do.”

It seems the nuns made the mistake of not speaking out forcefully enough about abortion and gay marriage, and then they actually contemplated the possibility of the ordination of women priests. If the Pope would read his Bible a little more carefully, he would find that someone else didn’t speak out forcefully, or at all, on these issues: a guy named Jesus of Nazareth. We all remember him, right?

This papal bitch slap (N.B. To every nun who worked so tirelessly to educate mischievous little me—with very little pay and even less gratitude—forgive me for using this politically incorrect yet emotionally very correct phrase) is being euphemistically called “renewal” by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Using the term “renewal” for this major rebuke is like a new dictator’s claim that he overthrew the government in order to “restore order.”

And who was appointed to tell the nuns what they can and can’t say? Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who is (in)famous for being the guy who ordered anti-gay marriage sermons be preached in all of Washington’s Catholic churches, in an attempt to defeat same-sex marriage legislation.

Interestingly, many churches refused to repeat Sartain’s political/religious opinion, to the approval of many churchgoers.

If Sartain and Benedict are looking for biblical justifications for this ecclesiastical crackdown, they won’t have to search very hard.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak. —1 Corinthians 14:34

It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. —1 Corinthians 14:35

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. —1 Timothy 2:12

Theologians note that Paul himself very likely never wrote these quotes that are attributed to him. But thanks to some misogynistic, mischief-making forger who lived 2,000 years ago, these sentiments made it into the most revered holy book in Western culture.

Usually it’s fairly easy to find Bible passages that would contradict other passages, but when I searched for verses that speak positively about the rights of women, there were slim pickings:

Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel. —1 Peter 3:7

The next closest thing I found were the many occasions where Paul addresses the following female leaders and other important women in the early Christian church:

  • Apphia —Philemon 2
  • Euodia —Philippians 4:2
  • Junia —Romans 16:7
  • Mary —Romans 16:6
  • Nympha —Colossians 4:15
  • Persis —Romans 16:12
  • Phoebe —Romans 16:1
  • Priscilla —I Corinthians 16:19
  • Syntyche —Philippians 4:2

So you see, religious women have a long tradition of being active in the church and following Jesus’ call to serve the needs of others. The Vatican, on the other hand, has a long tradition of holding onto power and keeping its concentration of wealth restricted to a relatively small group of increasingly conservative men. Maybe it’s a force of habit, as it is a part of evolution: men feel threatened by forces that could potentially lower their social status—so even priests who may never reproduce (ideally) still possess the genes from their forefathers who behaved and successfully reproduced with this mentality. Let’s all just breathe a sigh of relief that the fathers of the church have not yet started quoting this biblical gem:

If anyone deliberately disobeys the priest who serves the Lord your God or the judge, that person must die. —Deuteronomy 17:12

Meanwhile, I’ll start searching for those quotes from Jesus’ Sermon on Gay Marriage. I think it starts “Blessed are the straight.”

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.

That Old Pope Smell

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

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

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

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

And the act of smelling itself is important:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Shall Be Stink –Isaiah 3:24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Et Tu, Denzel?

Denzel Washington in Julius Caesar

Like a dagger to the heart, many atheists feel hurt and betrayed by Denzel Washington’s likening atheists to sociopaths. Photo by Sara Krulwich

Let me just preface this post with a statement that may shock some people: I personally know some real life, actual atheists who are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, caring, loving, generous tippers—no horns, no pitchforks.

So I was a bit shocked to hear one of America’s (and my) favorite actors compare atheists to sociopaths:

“The traits of a sociopath: no conscience, no sense of remorse, usually atheist.” —Denzel Washington on the Today Show 2/8/2012

He didn’t say that all atheists are sociopaths, but how many viewers heard just that, given the vilification of the word “atheist” by many of today’s preachers and conservative commentators.

It turns out that Denzel’s conflation of the two terms may offend a few million atheists, but will certainly not offend the Big Man Upstairs (for all you atheists, I’m referring to God):

The law is made, not for the upright man, but for those who have no respect for law and order, for evil men and sinners, for the unholy and those who have no religion, for those who put their fathers or mothers to death, for takers of life. —1 Timothy 1:9

That’s correct, right there in the Bible they lump together atheists and patricidal sociopaths.  And when it comes to non-believers God does not mess around:

So shall ye perish, because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God. —Deuteronomy 8:20

But not all atheists are all bad, right?

The fool hath said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works. There is none that doeth good. —Psalms 14:1

So does Denzel have a point? Sociopaths by definition don’t play by other people’s rules, so it would certainly be surprising to find them behaving as devout religious believers.

But by tying together the words atheists and sociopaths, I have to say something to  America’s coolest actor that I thought I’d never have to say: “Uncool, Denzel.”

Denzel wouldn’t think of saying any of the following factually accurate statements about Christians, would he?

Is it too much to ask that people drop the atheist-sociopath connection? It’s a bit like going up to an artist and saying, “You know who else was an artist? Hitler!” (BTW: also uncool.)

To avoid being confused with sociopaths, it’s not surprising that many non-believers avoid the “atheist” label and choose a more positive “freethinker,” “humanist,” or “skeptic” description instead.

US Army Major Ray Bradley recently made headlines by requesting that he be allowed to change his belief system designation in the military to “Humanist,” since the only other option currently available to him is “Atheist.” He prefers humanist because “Humanism is a philosophy that guides a person. It’s more than just a stamp of what you’re not.”

As Howard Katz, president of the Humanist Society added, “You could have an axe murderer who’s an atheist. Humanists have ethics and a philosophy.”

So in the spirit of good will, I call on atheists to refrain from mentioning the Inquisition every time they meet a Christian, and I call on believers to get out there and get to know an atheist, taking comfort in the fact that the odds are actually quite high that the person they meet will not be an axe-wielding sociopath.

And to give believers strength in reaching out to the atheists of the world, let’s let the Bible have the final word:

Now accept one who is weak in faith. —Romans 14:1

and

Live peaceably with all men. —Romans 12:18

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.