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.

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.

Put Down the Damn Snakes!: The Top 12 Gospel Edits Jesus Will Make If and When He Returns (Part 1)

6a00d83451586c69e200e54f2cca758834-800wiMillions of eager earthlings await Jesus’ return to his home planet (in this lifetime if you don’t mind!). In case you haven’t been following current events, Jesus has snubbed this earthly invite for about 1,985 years, assuming a 4 BC birth. By the way, this was Jesus’ first and mostly under-appreciated miracle: Christ being born four years before Christ.

So when Jesus finally does experience terrestrial gravity again, it will be the perfect opportunity to once and for all clarify his message, which in the past has allowed for conflicting interpretations that have led to fistfights, schisms, the occasional war, and The Life of Brian. Okay one out of four ain’t bad.

So without further ado, and without express written consent of God or Major League Baseball, here are Jesus’ Top 12 Gospel Edits:

1. And these signs will be with those who have faith…They will take up snakes, and if there is poison in their drink, it will do them no evil. —Mark 16:17-18

JHC: I gotta start with this quotation because I never said it! (I know that surprises a lot of people.) So put down the damn snakes, people! And don’t drink poison! Poison bad!

This verse wasn’t even in Mark’s first draft. It was added later, maybe by someone trying to create demand in the normally un-lucrative poisonous snake business.

So let’s make a new First Commandment, even before “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor etc.” and it’s this: “First and foremost, use your brain.” Period. I don’t want to read any more news stories of snake handlers dying in my name. You’re not dying for your faith or lack of faith, you’re dying for your gullibility and lack of common sense. Sometimes I wish my followers weren’t such a bunch of followers. Hey, and a shout out to all my non-snake handling followers, way to think things through! Ironically, I have more faith in you than in those uber-faithful snake handlers.

2. But I say to you that whoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye shall cause thee to sin, pluck it out…and if thy right hand shall cause thee to sin, cut it off. —Matthew 5:28-30

JHC: Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed because I really don’t even remember saying this one. Some of my “biographers” sure seem to have had their own agendas. It sounds like I’m condemning all men with a healthy libido to a life of monoscopic vision and one-handed clapping. Updated it would sound like this: “If you look lustfully at a woman, just relax, and do not pluck out or chop off anything! Lust is a very natural thing and quite possibly the reason you are here today. Just focus on finding a partner who’s into you and into what you’re into.” Clear enough?

3. Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” —Matthew 8:21-22

JHC: Wow, sounds like I was a bit stressed out that day. I sure did know how to throw out a catchy soundbite though, didn’t I? I do think this was one of my funnier lines. But since most people don’t seek out a messiah for his jocularity, let’s go with something more practical like “Bury the dead as you must, and then return to the business of living.” I sound like much less of a jerk that way, don’t I? Oh yeah, I still got it.

To be continued…

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 Preachy Cheerleader Banners We’d LIKE to See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus wept. —John 11:35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ferguson

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

The Bible

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

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

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

David does his best imitation of a madman:

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

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

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

On another occasion we hear Jesus saying,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Top 7 Bible-Themed Rides You Won’t Find at the Ark Encounter Amusement Park

Ark Encounter RideJesus expected his followers to have faith strong enough to command a tree to wither and die, and, for no particular reason, to send a mountain into the ocean. To date, no one has accomplished either of these destructive acts of faith.

But when it comes to showing Bunyanesque quantities of faith in the Bible though, it’s hard to beat the folks at Answers in Genesis who are now in the process of creating a life-size Noah’s ark and accompanying theme park.

Controversial to some, due to its proposed $43 million in tax breaks from the state of Kentucky, Ark Encounter may run into even more controversy as they create other Bible-themed rides for the non-ark portion of the park. Currently, their only other major ride in development—the way they plan to attract tourists away from Disneyworld and other parks—is The Ten Plagues of Egypt. You can almost hear the kids fighting in the back seats of cars across America:

“I want to see the plague of boils first!”

“No, I want to see the death of the firstborn first.”

Since this is the second best ride they could find from the Bible, they appear a little desperate for ideas. In order to help them avoid picking an even less appealing ride, I offer my Top 7 Bible-Themed Rides You Won’t Find at the Ark Encounter Amusement Park. If you’re a praying person, you may want to pray that these never get chosen.

1. Porkvalanche!

You loved how God killed off animals in the Great Flood, now see his son take a turn as Jesus makes 2,000 pigs commit mass suicide. Audiences will roar at the demons being hurled into the porcine herd, compelling them to jump off a cliff and drown in the sea. All the fun of a waterside, all the horror of a slaughterhouse!

The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the cliff into the sea and drowned. —Mark 5:13

2. The Undead Jamboree

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

Kids would be thrilled to see recreations of their favorite dead Bible heroes being brought back to life, but parents may frown on their children quite likely getting the impression that Jesus was just one in a long line of back-from-the-grave Bible embellishments.

As a quick aside, though most Bible miracles such as talking bushes and snakes have tapered off in modern times, resuscitating people is more prevalent than ever. I saw it happen to my own father. The miracle worker that saved his life when he was down and out with a sudden heart attack is known by three initials: AED. If you are unfamiliar with how to recognize and operate a defibrillator, please watch this video. There are plenty of people walking around today who are eternally grateful to people who learned how to operate these simple and amazing machines.

3. Everybody Must Get Stoned

Imagine “It’s a Small World” but with better music and innumerable depictions of every capital offense described in the Bible. Here are but a few:

  • Cursing your parents —Exodus 21:17
  • Worshipping other gods —Exodus 22:20
  • Gathering sticks on the Sabbath —Numbers 15:32-36
  • Disobeying a priest —Deuteronomy 17:12

The ride could end in two different ways. Riders, now consumed by bloodlust, could exit through the “Stones for Every Occasion” gift shop and purchase rocks at prices way over wholesale, or you could have Jesus come on and spoil the mood by saying, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.”

4. Ye Old Testament Sideshow

“See God’s Back Parts (as shown only to Moses), watch the 99-year-old Abraham agree to get circumcised, marvel at Jacob, the Canaanite Casanova: two wives plus two handmaidens plus one septuagenarian = 13 kids and one exhausted Jacob!”

5. Tamar’s Wild Ride

Warning: Riders must keep there eyes in their sockets at all times.

There is never a dull moment as Tamar marries Er. God then kills Er because of an unspecified transgression. By law, Er’s brother Onan must then impregnate Tamar. Onan’s seed is spilled on the ground, so of course, God kills Onan. Onan’s brother is next in line to marry Tamar, but when that is delayed, Tamar is so desperate to get pregnant, she dresses as a prostitute and tricks her father-in-law into fathering her children. When he discovers she’s pregnant, he demands that she be burned to death, until he realizes he is the father.

So once we get off this ride and shake off our temporary PTSD, what is the moral lesson gained from this biblical soap opera? According to Genesis 38:26, between not giving your son to his widowed sister-in-law on the one hand and prostitution on the other, the thing that gets God murderously enraged is failing to impregnate a sister-in-law. So why is that legal but prostitution is illegal? God’s not going to be happy about that.

6. The All New Testament Sideshow

“Step right up and prove your faith in Jesus today by handling 100% poisonous snakes, drinking 100% poisonous poison, and treading on genuine serpents and scorpions.”

They will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them. —Mark 16:18

It’s not every religion that tells its followers that it’s absolutely fine to drink poison. You have to love the adaptability of Christians today who have decided to play down this test of faith, given how it has proven itself deadly to some of the most faithful believers who ever lived, and died.

A marginally safer route is snake handling, but sadly the County Health Department would shut down this carnival fare fairly quickly.

7. Noah’s Post-diluvian Carcass Roundup

You already had a chance to see all those cute animals that got saved on the ark. Now see what Noah found once the waters receded. You can’t just leave all those drowning victims, human and animal, lying all over the ground. Do you really want to go out for a nice, quiet stroll at night and have to worry about tripping over a waterlogged orangutan carcass? Faced with this massive cleanup effort and very few humans left to help him, Noah’s course of action when he finally hit dry land makes a bit more sense:

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

The Bible is full of wild, evocative, and sometimes disturbing stories. Setting aside the Great Flood’s death and destruction that often gets swept under the rug, the story of Noah’s Ark has captured believers’ imaginations like no other. For someone like me, who sees biblical literalism as an intellectually untenable position, Noah’s story is a case study in the length believers will go to in order to preserve some highly implausible beliefs.

The list of questions that arise when challenging a literal interpretation of the ark account is long and intriguing. Biblical literalists are often willing to avoid these hard questions or to twist reality into knots in order to avoid admitting a possible mythic, non-literal component to certain elements of the Bible.

It is truly remarkable the absurd lengths that some people are willing to go to in order to defend the most absurd claims in the Bible. Jesus recommended casting a mountain into the sea, but he said nothing about throwing your common sense in as well.

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.

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.

Would Jesus Tebow?

Tim Tebow sporting a brand new eye black tract (artist’s rendering).*

To take a knee and pray, in a public place, ideally with cameras rolling, (Tebowing as it’s known), is easily the most colorful Christian craze of 2011.

Mimicking the sideline prayer-time stance of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has caught the imagination of some sports/Jesus fans, but it begs the pressing biblical question: Would Jesus, in fact, Tebow?

While we can only speculate on how a miracle worker like Jesus would perform on the football field, we do know who would NOT be on the sidelines before the game, saying a prayer for all to see: Jesus!

How do we know that Jesus would be the first to throw a spiritual flag at Tim Tebow and friends? We have Jesus’ own words:

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. 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 6:5-6

Not only would Jesus look on disappointedly, he’d instruct you to “Get a room!”

You have to understand how extraordinary it is to have Jesus comment directly on a current hot-button issue. Too often, Jesus and the Bible are brought in as authorities on a debate topic that is never specifically addressed in the Bible. In arguing over abortion issues, for example, people tend to interpret loosely related passages in order to support their pre-existing biases and ideologies. But here we have Jesus weighing in specifically on the issue of public prayer. Not only did he preach this, but he also lived it:

And in the morning, rising a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. –Mark 1:35

Just imagine if Jesus had taught that only people of OTHER faiths should not pray in public. I could imagine certain of his followers fervently enforcing that teaching. Why those Christians think that Jesus’ “Get a room” admonition doesn’t apply to them is puzzling. Publicly praying to the guy who said don’t pray in public is like punting when the coach just called for a 2-point conversion.

Keep in mind that not all Christians say “Amen” to Tim Tebow’s actions. There are countless Christians in the NFL who don’t make a show of their faith. So why have some Christians thrilled to the sight of this gridiron genuflection? There are three main reasons:

1. Success on the Field

Tim Tebow prayed and then won, prayed and then won, prayed and then won, (except when he prayed and lost). So any Christian who is eager to believe in the power of prayer would be thrilled by that record of success.

2. A Victimhood Mentality

American Christians have been trained to think of themselves as victims of religious persecution. Our country has incredible religious freedom, but it draws the line when it comes to the government choosing a side in all things religious. Conservative Christians despise government interference, yet somehow trust our government to help promote THEIR religion.

3. Biblical Illiteracy

Your average Christians don’t know their own Bible. Passages like Matthew 6:6 don’t get airtime in churches like the easier to preach passages do. In my book, Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve Never Been Told, I detail all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your preacher has left behind. By hearing everything the Bible has to say, including the parts that tend to make a believer cringe, we develop a deeper understanding of what the Bible is all about.

It’s not just the pleasant verses heard on Sunday. It’s not just Jesus talking about loving others. It can be amusingly outdated, disturbingly violent, stunningly unholy, and at times absolutely contradictory.

For example, the best contradiction to Jesus’ warning to only pray indoors comes from the New Testament:

I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing. —1 Timothy 2:8

So maybe we should show some understanding to Tebowers around the world. There’s a chance they’re just taking a little time out in silent reflection to try to make sense of the many contradictory, confusing, and comical commands found within the pages of their very own Good Book.

* The passage from Luke 14:26 in the photo above reads — “And turning round, Jesus said to them, ‘If any man comes to me and has not hate for his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even for his life, he may not be my disciple.’”