Wednesday, May 26, 2010

1 John 2: The Antichrist?

Pop quiz, kids: Who is the antichrist? And don't say Russian figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko--that's a copout. Okay, time's up. Did your answer look something like this?

Not bad. Christian tradition delivers us a vision of the antichrist very similar to the one given in Richard Donner's 1976 horror classic The Omen. The antichrist is a diabolical, often secular leader who appears right before the end of the world to gather the forces of evil for battle against divine good.

Pop quiz question 2: from which Biblical book do we get the term "antichrist"? If your answer is "Revelation," you may be surprised to hear that you're wrong. For the term "antichrist" appears elsewhere, and only in 1 and 2 John. And its technical meaning is, frankly, a little banal.

The author of 1 John--I'll just refer to him as "John" from here on out--introduces the antichrist in his second chapter:

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also" (2: 22-23).

At a very basic level, an antichrist is just someone who "denies that Jesus is the Christ." Thus Muslims and Jews are antichrists, as are secular humanists and Taoists and African Yoruba practitioners. In simple terms, antichrists are unbelievers, so at any given moment, the world is filled with tens of millions of them.

But given the fact that "Christ" is a messianic term--a divine title, not a name--one may reject Christ and still accept Jesus. Said differently, one may be an antichrist without being anti-Jesus.

And indeed, most scholars believe that John's message reaches this level of nuance. Many argue that in deriding antichrists, John is not criticizing non-believers. His targets are instead those who teach different interpretations of Jesus. Thus, the "one who denies the Father and the Son" is not a Jesus-hater; he's just someone who, perhaps, denies that Jesus is God's divine child.

John elaborates earlier in the chapter: "now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us" (1 John 2: 18-19).

Here, John makes a startling admission: the antichrists "went out from us," and they could "have remained with us." Though John disowns them now, it seems as if he knows them. Many argue that "antichrists" are those who no longer teach John's version of Christianity. They are not devils; they are schismatics.

Because of passages like this, many assume that John writes to a Christian community in crisis. Missionaries teaching orthodox Christianity have promulgated a particular interpretation of Jesus to believers. But other early Christians have left that community and begun to teach a competing message. John, then, writes his letter in defense of his version of Christian orthodoxy.

So at the end of the day, antichrists are really just anti-Johns. And they certainly aren't murderous six-year-old's with "666" mysteriously tattooed on their scalps. At least not yet ...
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Monday, May 24, 2010

The Bible and the "Lost" Finale: Wrap-Up

I've had a night to digest the Lost finale, and as fun as it was to Bible-blog the two-and-a-half-hour marathon, I must admit that the series's conclusion is decided un-Biblical. Yes, we have Christ figures galore--Jack, Hurley, Locke, Aaron, Christian Shephard, and, um, a big statue of Jesus. Yes, we have sacrifice and redemption and a vision of heaven. But even though the last scene takes place in a church, the producers leave us with a decidedly ecumenical message.

So far as I can tell, Lost ends in the afterlife. But it is not a Judeo-Christian afterlife, or a Biblical one. The Hebrew Bible usually suggests that the dead just die--they simply cease to exist. Or they descend to "Sheol," an amoral gray area where perished ancestors live on in a shady half-life. And Christianity gives us either a new Jerusalem, a lake of fire, or a "mansion with many rooms."

Lost's afterlife is not really any of these things. It seems to be, rather, an idealized space where people go to reunite with the ones they love. Though this heavenly family reunion often gets unintentionally promulgated by certain Christian sects, it is not Biblical.

And as I mentioned last night, the stained-glass window over Christian Shepherd's coffin--a virtual spiritual smorgasbord--features symbols from most of the major world religions: a star of David for Judaism, a crescent and star for Islam, a dharma wheel for Buddhism, interlocking yin and yang symbols for Taoism, the Sanskrit word for aum for Hinduism (thank you, Cara), and a cross for Christianity. Thus, we are left in an inter-religious--or post-religious?--happy place where all our beautiful friends get dressed up and hold hands. I wouldn't have been surprised had the cast members started singing, "I believe the children are our future ..."

Now, I'm not a television critic; I'm a fly-by-night, tongue-in-cheek Bible commentator. But the Lost finale seems to drop us into a big pile of wishy-washy, spiritual-but-not-religious hooey. There was definite hard-edged religious content in the finale, and in the show. Why not end with a more decisive eschaton? Even if it weren't Judeo-Christian, or even Biblical, I would have appreciated a less vague wrap-up.

Yes, the beckoning white light and the community of dead friends give us hopeful images of a pretty afterlife--they make us feel better. But do they make for the type of innovative television that the best moments of Lost led us to expect? I don't think so. Click here for more

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Bible and the "Lost" Finale: Final Live Blog

Whew! The Christian shepherd leads all the dead into a bright light. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! I'm exhausted. But I'll leave you with what now seems a pertinent parable--the one about the shepherd and the lost sheep:

"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost'" (Luke 15: 4-6) Click here for more

The Bible and the "Lost" Finale: Live Blog

Much has been said and written about the Biblical references in Lost. I thought I'd test the theory tonight by live-blogging the finale. I'll note any explicit or implicit references I see--feel free to chime in if I'm missing any! ...

Entry 1

When Sawyer asks Jack to come down from the mountaintop and tell him what the burning bush said, he's actually making two Biblical references to the Torah, both of which involve Moses. The first comes from Exodus 3, when Moses hears God speak to him from a burning bush on Mount Horeb.

However, when Biblical scholars speak of Moses "on the mountaintop"--as Martin Luther King once did--they are more frequently speaking of Moses's dealings with God on Mount Sinai, where the divine presence rests throughout much of the early Torah narrative.

Entry 2

Of course, Jacob is a Biblical name as well. Jacob is Isaac's second son and the heir who inherits the blessing. Jacob is known for many things in Genesis: he wrestles with an angel; he sees a vision of a stairway to heaven; he cheats his brother Esau; and he has twelve sons. He also sees his family sent to Egypt--the nation that will eventually host the Israelites' exile.

Entry 3

Kate is incredulous to hear Jack's father's name: Christian Shephard. Two-thirds of the Christian Trinity--both Jesus and God--are likened to shepherds in the Bible. The metaphor appears most famously in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil,
for you are with me--your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord my whole life long.

Entry 4

That golden water--of which both Jacob and Jack drink--is a "water of life" that seems to grant some level of immortality. Revelation 22, another finale of sorts, also mentions a river of the "water of life" that flows through the new Jerusalem:

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city" (22:1).

A pretty snappy description of that shiny waterfall, right? And then later in Revelation ...

"The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift" (22:17).

Entry 5

All these revelations in the sideways universe remind me of a passage from 1 Corinthians: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face" (13:12). The Greeks called such a moment of revelation an anagnorisis.

Entry 6

Tons of names in the Lost universe are Biblical, including the name of Claire's baby, Aaron, now born for the second time. Aaron is Moses's brother and right-hand man. He is also the first high priest of the Israelite people.

Entry 7

Revelation 20 speaks of a "second death," which may or may not leave one suffering eternally on a lake of fire. (And did you see that fiery, diabolical keyhole at the bottom of the waterfall?) All these old faces brought back to life in the sideways universe--most prominently, Charlie's--make me fear that they might suffer a "second death" if the resolution of the two timelines sends that alternative universe back to oblivion.

Entry 8

Jack's knife wound recalls Jesus's, mentioned in John 19:34: "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out." Jesus, of course, suffers the blow after his death. Jack, at least for the moment, is still alive ...

Entry 9

There's no way we're done with the smoke monster, right? It's always reminded me of two of the plagues that God set upon the Egyptians in Exodus. The first is darkness:

"So Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were; but all the Israelites had light where they lived" (10:22-23).

The second is the angel of death, or sometimes simply "the Lord," who strikes down the Egyptians' first-born:

"At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock" (Exodus 12:29).

Entry 10

When Kate repeats to Jack "It's over" in front of the concert tent, she's echoing Jesus too ... "When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30). These are Jesus's last words in the gospel of John.

Entry 11

Down at the bottom of the well, there's a plug that seems to keep evil corked underneath the ground. It's at the middle of concentric circles. It's worth noting that Satan serves a similar purpose in the final cantos of Dante's Inferno. He sits at the bottom of hell, his nether-regions encased in ice, his feet below the surface of the hellish ground.

(Okay, this isn't Biblical, but it's close enough.)

Entry 12

And here, as the final moments arrive, we see a white statue of Jesus, his arms spread wide. And we bring everyone together at a church. Coincidence?

And shortly after we see Jesus, John Locke, the lame man, walks. For fun, see Matthew 9, when Jesus enacts a similar miracle: "he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home."

Entry 13

As we near the end, we prepare to put Christian Shephard--the Christian shepherd? Jesus?--into the ground at last. Is Lost, then, an anti-religious, or an anti-Christian parable?

Entry 14

The stained-glass window over Christian Shephard's coffin is decidedly ecumenical; it features symbols from six major world religions.

Entry 15

And at last, an empty tomb! (Er, coffin.) Here's the end of John:

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him'" (20:1-2).
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Friday, May 21, 2010

"30 Rock" and Scripture: "Come on, Bible, Help a Lady Out"

I'm behind on my 30 Rock, but when I finally got around to watching last week's episode, "Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land," I was reminded once again that Tina Fey is the funniest television writer alive.

Near the end of the episode, Fey's character Liz Lemon attends an ex-boyfriend's wedding, at which she is asked to deliver a Bible reading. Halfway through, her boss Jack (Alec Baldwin) sends her a text asking her to stall the ceremony; she panics and starts reading random Bible quotes, each of which is more embarrassing than the last. Here's the video--just skip ahead to the last two minutes for the money shot ...

The clip's hilarious as it stands, but a little funnier if you know the Biblical context.

Liz's first reading is the chestnut of Bible wedding passages, Paul's long disquisition on love in 1 Corinthians 13.

The second, ad hoc reading references the story of Onan, from Genesis 38. Onan gives us "onanism," an archaic term for masturbation, and God kills Onan for "spilling his seed" on the ground and failing to impregnate his wife.

The third is from Exodus 4, in which Moses's wife Zipporah hastily circumcises her son to stop God from killing her husband. Why circumcision works? Nobody really knows. But Tina Fey does love penis jokes.

Last, I'll admit that even I had to look up the fourth quote: "For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money." This is a shared quote by Leah and Rachel--wives of the third patriarch, Jacob--speaking in Genesis 31:15. (Yes, polygamy is fine in Genesis.) They are giving their husband permission to take them away from their father, Laban. I have no idea what Fey's trying to do here. But it's hilariously random.

The scene fades to black with Liz Lemon, frustrated: "Come on, Bible, help a lady out!" I couldn't agree more. Click here for more

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1 Peter 3: The Harrowing of Hell

Three days.

Three days is the time Netflix needs to turn around my DVD rental. (And this is a good business model?) Three days is how long it takes for an electronic payment to post to my credit card company. (How is it that a mail truck could deliver it more quickly?) Three days is the maximum length of a pleasant visit to Canada. (Have you ever tried to spend a fourth day in Toronto?)

And three days is also the time that passes between Jesus's death and resurrection, according to Christian tradition.

But an interesting question has long plagued believers: what does Jesus do during those three days? Work on the Times crossword? Ponder the merits of Keynesian economic models? Think of funny costumes to wear when seeing his disciples again?

I like to picture the risen Jesus dressing up as a bear and sneaking up on Peter: "Aaaargh!" [Jesus takes off bear mask.] "Settle down, Peter. It's just me, Jesus, back from the dead. Aaaargh!" [Peter runs screaming.]

Well, early Christians actually have a better answer to this question: they call it the "harrowing of hell."

We get an important early reference to this creative doctrine in the Apostles' Creed; its authors suggest that Jesus, after he died, "descended into hell" before rising again. (If I were Jesus, I would have chosen Boca over Hades, but, well, I'm not Jesus.)

Early church fathers like Origen, Tertullian, and Hippolytus expand upon this cryptic phrase. They argue that Christ, after dying, goes down to hell, kicks Satan's ass a bit, and frees all those righteous men and women who lived before his ministry. The rationale is simple: people must believe in Jesus to gain salvation. But we need some way to save all those good Hebrew Biblical types--Adam, Isaiah, Joseph, David, etc.--who don't have an opportunity to get in on this new grace.

The harrowing of hell is hence a fantastic midrashic answer to two questions: Where is Jesus between death and resurrection? (Hell.) And are the Jewish heroes of the Old Testament damned forever? (No.)

But while the harrowing is a great idea, it's not a particularly Biblical one. Early and contemporary Christian scholars have to root around in the New Testament to come up with any good supporting evidence. The best they can do is two passages in 1 Peter:

The first comes in chapter 3: Jesus "was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey" (3:18-20). This is vague language. "Prison" is only figuratively hell, and it's hard to imagine Abraham as a hero who "does not obey," but it's a start.

The second passage comes just a chapter later, in 4:6: "For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does." Most scholars believe that the author of 1 Peter is here discussing the "dead" in a metaphorical sense--as those deaf to the Christian message. But a literal reading does help the harrowers' cause.

And it's a cause worth fighting for, because we need creative answers to the questions that the Bible asks, even if they're as fantastical as the "harrowing of hell."
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Alabama Pol Under Fire for Sane Stance on Bible

To run for state-wide office in Alabama, you have to believe that every word in the Bible is literal truth. Or at least that's what a new attack ad on gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne argues. Watch the carnage unfold:

Byrne, a former Democrat now running for governor as a Republican, said in an interview in November, "I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not." Of course! However, in Alabama, such statements put a candidate on defense.

By January of this year, Byrne was already backtracking. As Lee Roop reports in the Huntsville Times, he repented for his sanity in a January 6 speech, saying, "I believe the Bible is true. Every word of it."

Every word, candidate Byrne? What about the words that order mouthy children stoned to death? (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) What about the words that describe King Saul using a witch to raise his friend from the dead? (1 Samuel 28) What about the words that command women never to speak in church? (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) What about the words--contradicting all of modern science--that describe God's creation of the world in seven days, around 6000 years ago? (Genesis 1-2)

Well, it turns out Byrne's going to stick with Genesis at least. He continues his flight from "heresy" in a statement on his campaign web site: "As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school text books."

Yup. Genesis-based creationism in school textbooks. And you thought that battle ended with the Scopes trial. Well, you were wrong. And the battle rages on in Alabama. Click here for more

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sea of Galilee Fishing Ban Enforced

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus's first words to his disciples are a little odd: "Follow me and I will make you fish for people" (1:17). Time and repetition have sapped this line of its strangeness, but even centuries later, it retains some of its original power to startle. Fish for people?

Jesus, of course, is talking to a pair of fishermen, Simon and Andrew, so his metaphor makes some sense in context. Nonetheless, I always wonder what Jesus would have said had he been addressing disciples with other jobs ...

Shepherd: "Follow me and I will make you herd people."

Carpenter: "Follow me and I will make you hammer people."

Hunter: "Follow me and I will make you throw spears at people."

Usurer: "Follow me and I will make you charge interest on loans for people."

Alright, so my joke is quickly falling apart, so I'll get to my point. If I Jesus returned today looking for contemporary Simon's and Andrew's, he wouldn't find them, because as the BBC reports today, Israel is enforcing a fishing ban on the Sea of Galilee.

For centuries, the Sea of Galilee--which is actually a freshwater lake--has been fertile fishing water. In recent years, however, fish numbers have hit all-time lows. The government cites over-fishing, but those who sail Galilee blame predatory birds like the cormorant.

Whichever is the case, the ban will remain in effect through the first months of 2012. In the meantime, perhaps Galilean fishermen may take Jesus's advice and fish for people instead ... though I don't want to imagine what kind of government ban such a trend might produce. Click here for more

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

James 2: Justification by Works

Alright, dear readers: today, we're doing some New Testament basics, so if you feel you've got the whole Jesus thing down, feel free to skip this post and check out my recent entries on gay prostitute rental and blaspheming Polish pop stars. Or check out this video of a kitten sneezing.

As I've previously mentioned, Saint Paul is the first great interpreter of the Christian message. In a series of widely influential letters to the early church, he develops a theology that centers on a doctrine later called "justification by faith."

This doctrine can be explained in the following terms: at Sinai, the Jewish people are given the law of God--basically, an expanded version of the Ten Commandments. By following this law, they can theoretically be righteous, good, and just. According to Paul, however, the Jews fail to do so because humans are imperfect; they cannot be justified by their works.

When Jesus arrives, the whole game changes. Given the fact that humans can never be righteous on their own (as the Jews prove), all humans err. Jesus's death on the cross, then, serves as a sacrifice for human error. To escape sin, humans must simply have faith that the sacrifice is real and efficacious. This faith justifies humanity in a way that works cannot. Cool, huh? (The preceding is a review of Paul's letter to the Romans; for more of my take on Romans, go here.)

Paul summarizes in Galatians 2:16: "a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ." Justification by faith proves to be a very tidy interpretation of Jesus's death and resurrection, and many early Christians adopt it whole-heartedly.

But not the author of the New Testament book of James. James, it seems, is unimpressed, and in his writings, he throws Paul under the bus and tries to explain just how troublesome his ideas can be.

Justification by faith is an extremely useful notion for Paul. It has the double purpose of de-emphasizing Jewish law and rendering Christian salvation simple and accessible. Its main weakness, however, is that it makes the establishment of a Christian ethic more difficult: if faith, not works, makes a person righteous, how can one claim that ethical action is necessary, or even important?

Perhaps sensing this weakness, James enters the fray and turns Paul on his head. Reversing the language of Galatians 2:16, James writes, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24).

This after earlier, similar statements: "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?" James is not willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater; he understands the importance of Pauline faith, but he rejects the notion that after Christ, ethical action is no longer important.

One of James's main problems with justification by faith involves the difficulty of identifying true faith on the basis of spoken testimony. "Show me your faith apart from your works," he writes sardonically. "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder" (2:18-19). His point is clear. Anyone, even devils, can claim faith in Jesus. The true Christian backs up his or her faith with good deeds.

What kind of good deeds, you ask? "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27). (I got your social justice right here, Glenn Beck.)

James concludes in 2:26: "faith without works is [...] dead."

All James's ranting seems a damning critique of Paul. Martin Luther, himself a great admirer of Paul, famously called James an "epistle of straw" and wished it excised from the Bible. However, James is likely less concerned with Paul himself than with those who would misuse his descriptions of faith to justify hedonism, greed, or antinomianism. Paul never advocates unethical behavior--indeed, he's thoroughly prudish. But in focusing on faith at the expense of works, Paul opens a door to the possibility of unethical behavior.

James just slams it shut.
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Palin: Ten Commandments Should Be American Law

What would we bloggers do if we didn't have poor Sarah Palin to kick around? Last Thursday evening, during an appearance on Fox News's O'Reilly Factor, Palin continued to hone her argument that the United States is a "Christian nation."

Pressed (or encouraged) by O'Reilly, she said, "Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant. They’re quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 commandments, it’s pretty simple.” Here's the video:

The funniest part of the interview comes when O'Reilly asks Palin what she would say to non-Christians--specifically, Chinese religionists--who don't believe in the Bible. Her response? "Yay. Welcome to America."

But the most chilling part deserves re-emphasis: Palin believes we should create law on the God of the Bible and the 10 commandments. The suggestion is "simple"--even if the former governor's syntax is not.

So there you have it--add a plank to the Palin '12 platform:

1) Drill, baby, drill. (Just make sure you have lots of 100-ton metal domes to cover any stray leaks.)

2) Abolish death panels. (They are everywhere since health care reform passed.)

3) Make the Bible American law. (It's just what the founders ordered.)

Now, I won't even address the merits of Palin's "proposal" here. (The Atlantic Monthly's Jake Simpson has already provided a nice cross-section of online responses.) However, I will remind her that at least one group of Americans--Orthodox Jewry--already tries to live in perfect accordance with Biblical law. So perhaps I can offer Ms. Palin some unique advice: visit your local synagogue and see if they're accepting converts. Perhaps you'll find out that America is really a Hasidic nation! Click here for more

Thursday, May 6, 2010

God and Gays, Rekers and "rentboys"

Two items on the Bible and homosexuality have come across the Eat the Bible news desk in the past few hours.

The heavily contested Biblical argument against homosexuality boils down to about six verses (out of more than 31,000 total). At random, one comes from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians: "Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers--none of these will inherit the kingdom of God" (6:9). Here, sodomite = homosexual. It's been a rough couple of days for two men who take Paul at his word:

London's Daily Telegraph reports that this past weekend, a Christian street preacher was arrested and held for seven hours after publicly professing that the Bible calls homosexuality a sin. Holding forth on a thoroughfare in the city of Workington, the man was arrested and charged under the Public Order Act. That legislation--enacted in 1986--was originally conceived to rein in drunken soccer hooligans, though it does curb some forms of hate speech. Christian leaders in the U.K. worry that the arrest sets a frightening precedent.

On a related note, it was recently revealed that Christian anti-gay activist George Rekers just returned from a ten-day European vacation during which he was accompanied by a male prostitute he ordered through (I wish I could make this stuff up.) Rekers, who co-founded a "gay cure" organization with Focus on the Family's James Dobson, claims on his Facebook page that he was just spending time with sinners--a la Jesus--and that the "rentboy" only came along to help him carry heavy luggage. Wow.

I'm in the Bible business, not in the anti-gay-activist satire business, so I'll let Stephen Colbert do my heavy lifting.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alpha Dog of the Week - George Rekers
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Polish Pop Star Insults Bible, Faces Blasphemy Charges

At the risk of turning Eat the Bible into a tabloid, today I’m going to turn Eat the Bible into a tabloid. Alas, principles are made to be trampled.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports that Polish pop star Doda--or Dorota Rabczewska, if brevity’s not your thing—may face two years of jail time for violating her home country’s blasphemy laws.

To begin, let me say what most of you are thinking: you can go to jail for blasphemy in Poland???! Remind me to watch my mouth the next time I visit Bialystock.

But I digress … in a recent interview, Ms. Rabczewska—whose debut album is entitled, and I'm not lying here, Diamond Bitch--waxed elegiac on her skepticism about the Bible: "It is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes."

I’m not sure what evidence the “Diamond Bitch” can produce for her claim, but after watching one of her videos, I’m guessing that she hasn't spent her life immersed in the study of scripture. So without further adieu, here she is in her all her blaspheming glory, DODA:

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Gordon Brown vs. the Bible

In gaffe rankings, this one falls well below "Bigotgate." Nonetheless, it turns out that even prime ministers fighting for re-election need to know the Bible well .... or at least not poorly.

Bloomberg Business reports that British P.M. Gordon Brown--whose flagging campaign is all but dead--misidentified a Bible quote during a church appearance over the weekend: "You know the great story in Micah in the Gospel. It talks about justice rolling down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream." As Bloomberg notes, the passage (famously cited by MLK in his "I Have a Dream" speech) comes from Amos, not Micah. In the original, it reads, "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).

I only add that Micah is not "in the Gospel." Gospels are mini-biographies of Jesus found in the New Testament. Both Micah and Amos are minor prophets from the Hebrew Bible. So in one light, the P.M.--himself the son of a minister--is doubly wrong.

But we all mix up our minor prophets, and we could forgive the slip. Unfortunately for Brown, however, he didn't stop talking: "But before these words in that verse it says: 'Have done with people who are just presenting images. Have done with people who are just talking, or singing songs that don’t mean anything. Have done with the irrelevancies. Get to the center point'."

Brown might as well be making stuff up--his "paraphrase" is little more than a bad free-associative riff. The three verses that precede Amos 5:24 run as follows:

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

Have done with people who are just talking? Get to the center point? Right, Gordon. I think you might have been speaking in tongues. Click here for more