My Three Sons, Without Fred MacMurray

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2010 by R. Duane Graham

 

No exploration of the Bible could be complete without a visit to Genesis, Chapter 38, and the sad tail tale of what happened to a man and his family, after getting on the bad side of Yahweh.

That man was Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, and who famously suggested selling his younger brother Joseph into slavery in Chapter 37.

But I must warn you, this is not a feel-good, “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat,” G-rated Bible story.  If you have children lurking about, you’d better ask them to amscray* or else they might learn more about the Bible than is necessary for living a good fundamentalist Christian life.

Here goes:

Judah had a wife who bore him three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah

Now, it seems that Yahweh, the God of Sensitivity, had a problem with Er, and as almost always is the case when Yahweh has a problem with someone, he kills them. 

Here’s the way the economically-worded account in Genesis puts it:

But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD killed him.

Okay. Fair enough. You’re the God of the Universe and when you think someone is waxing wicked, you get to kill him. That’s part of being a Loving Father.

Now, as was the custom in those days, when God killed your first-born brother you were somewhat obligated to marry his widow, which was Yahweh’s way of saying, “Look, I killed the poor woman’s husband, but I aint gonna take care of her, so you do it.”

This practice was known as “levirate marriage,” which was a way the ancients had of preserving inheritance rights and a way in which the dead could continue “living” through their descendents, albeit not in the way God originally intended. But since God killed Er, I suppose one could say that it was the way God intended; however, that is a fine theological point way above my capacity to understand, much less explain.

Anyway, as an aside, the concept of levirate marriage reportedly led to the incarnation of King David, as mentioned in the Book of Ruth, which reportedly led to the Incarnation of Jesus—if you discount the fact that Jesus’ pre- and post-saintly mother allegedly didn’t have sex until after she gave birth to Him (with some folks, mostly Catholics, believing that Mary, poor woman, didn’t have sex even then).

Whew! Biblical copulation is tough to explain.

But back to the story: Judah, the father of the Yahweh-murdered Er and whose arms were apparently too short to box with God, told his second son Onan: 

Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.

While Judah may have only said, “Go marry your brother’s wife and raise up a kid for your bro,” apparently what he really meant was, “Go bang your brother’s wife and get her pregnant or Yahweh will be pissed.”

But either Judah forgot to tell Onan to make sure he didn’t spew his sacred seed all over the Persian rug, or Onan thought he could outwit Yahweh.  

But nobody outwits Yahweh.  Except for the Devil in the Garden of Eden or in the Book of Job, but that’s another story.

You see, the Bible says that Onan, “knew that the heir would not be his.”  How he knew this is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure if one could descend into the hell and ask him, he would say, “Boy, was I stupid.”

In any case, the Bible says that when Onan was banging his dead brother’s wife—yes, dear friends, that was the biblical way in those days, so don’t blame me for it—he “spilled” his seed on the ground, “lest he should give an heir to his brother.”  That would be his other brother.  His other brother Darryl Shelah.

Needless to say, the FCC has rules against saying he “came” or using some other pornographic referent.  “Spilled it on the ground” was approved by John Ashcroft while he was George Bush’s Attorney General, so “spilled it on the ground” it will stay.  Besides it would sound odd for the account in Genesis to say,

Onan was pounding his brother’s wife and he came on the carpet.

Just wouldn’t do.  How do you explain that in Sunday school?

But you get the picture.  Poor Onan, trying to game Yahweh’s system, drops his load on the turf and he has hell to pay.  And pay.  And pay.

You see, apparently spilling your seed where it aint supposed to be spilled is a capital offense:

And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

By now, old Judah was getting a little weary of Yahweh’s lack of affection for his children.  He had one kid left, Shelah, who apparently was too young to get into the action, so Judah said to his daughter-in-law, Tamar—the one originally widowed by Yahweh’s deadly righteousness:

“Live as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

This apparently was Judah’s way of getting Tamar out of sight so he wouldn’t have to remember that God demanded that his last son impregnate this bad-luck gal.  And it worked pretty well.  For a while.

Time passed and Judah’s wife died. After a sufficient period of mourning, Judah got horny and went on the road.

And that’s where the story gets even more weird, so weird that I’m sure they didn’t teach this one at Grace Baptist Tabernacle, where I went to church as a boy.  Well, maybe they did in some “back room,” but I wasn’t privy to it.

Judah went out of town to a place called Timnah, ostensibly to get his sheep sheared, but also where presumably he could get laid without consequences.  After all, Timnahites were fond of saying, “What happens in Timnah stays in Timnah.” 

Unfortunately for Judah, he got his action in a less discreet place.

Timnah happened to be on the same Interstate as Enaim, which is apparently where Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar lived. Genesis picks up the story from there:

13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”

And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.

 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.

Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.

He said, “What pledge should I give you?

Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered.

So he  gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?” 

There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.

So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’

Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”

About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.

Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!

As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”

Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.”

And he did not sleep with her again.

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.

So, there you have it. 

Tamar outsmarted old Judah and foiled his plan to screw her metaphorically by tricking him into screwing her non-metaphorically.

And God, who killed two of Judah’s sons, ended up having the last divine laugh.  In an effort to protect his youngest and last son from any more seed-spillin’ episodes, Judah ends up with his dangle in a tangle: He had twins to take care of!

Sometimes, Yahweh can be a funny guy.

That is, unless you piss him off.

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*I promise not to use too many Latin words like this one, but when dealing in Christian theology, sometimes it is unavoidable.

[Lego Onan Image: The Skeptics Annotated Bible]

Other Than Making Mel Gibson Rich*, Why Did Jesus Have To Die?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by R. Duane Graham

 

The eighth chapter of John’s gospel brings us one of the most famous and beloved and revolutionary acts of Jesus**:

1Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Before we get started, it’s important to realize when reading anything in John, that this book, more than any of the canonical gospels, represents an attempt to explain the life of Jesus Christ theologically. 

Written much later than the other gospels, John was an early effort to define Jesus and his mission in terms Hellenized thinkers—both Gentiles and Jews—could relate to.  That is why the book begins with a philosophical expression, the λόγος (logos), and attempts to portray Jesus as the personification—the Word (λόγος) became flesh—of the abstract cosmic mediator in Greek philosophy, the One who was in fact the bridge between God and the corrupt world of matter.

Understanding that much is essential to the point I want to make about the powerful passage of Jesus’ forgiveness of the adulterous woman and his dare to the phony Pharisees and other James Dobson types lurking around the temple that day.  And although I could have used other texts, like Mark 2, in which Jesus explicitly claims that he has “authority on earth to forgive sins,” I am using John’s gospel because of the obvious theological intent of the author(s).

Thus, if the gospel of John, either in its original form or its revised edition, had a consciously theological point to make, it’s only fair to criticize that point if it seems to be incoherent or contradictory to other assertions in the New Testament.

One of those apparently incoherent or contradictory points is this: If Jesus had the kind of power he displayed in the passage—essentially the power to forgive sins—prior to his death on the cross, then why did he have to die on the cross at all?  What was the point of the crucifixion?

A brief review of the theology attached to the death of Jesus can be summed up by what Paul Saul Paul Saul Paul the Apostle wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…

Christ died for our sins.  If there is any theological coherence in the New Testament, it is found in the attempt to explain the meaning of the death and, of course, the resurrection of Jesus.  One would think that this so-called “Christ-event,” in which Yahweh, the Lord of All, decisively and compassionately acted in history to bring salvation first to the Jews, then the Gentiles, then to all of creation, should have a firm theological foundation, since it is the one Fact around which all other facts orbit.

One would think.

New Testament writers, especially Paul, expressed the significance of Jesus’ death in metaphorical ways, among them:

Justification: “We have been acquitted.”

Reconciliation: “We were enemies of God, but no longer.”

Redemption: “We were slaves, but have been set free.”‘

But I will focus on another way Paul, and others, expressed the meaning and significance of the death of Jesus: propitiation.

Now you can follow the link to Wikipedia and learn that,

In Christian theology, propitiation is accomplished through Jesus Christ on the cross; in his crucifixion he is believed to fulfill the wrath and indignation of God. The crucifixion conciliates God, who would otherwise be offended by human sin and would demand penalty for it.

Or you can think, “Lamb of God.”  Jesus was the Lamb of God who, like the lamb of Passover fame, was sacrificed to satisfy an angry Yahweh, who was pissed at a recalcitrant Egyptian Pharaoh for refusing to free Yahweh’s “people.”  

It’s unclear in the Old Testament, however, just why Yahweh, who apparently had the power to herd frogs—have you ever tried that? It’s tough, I tell you—but apparently didn’t have the power to just beam his followers to the Promised Land.  Inexplicably, he needed Pharaoh’s assistance for that act, which as I said, Pharaoh,  just as inexplicably, wouldn’t give.

In any case, Yahweh’s last of the famous Ten Plagues: The Home Edition was the incredibly wasteful, if not biblically immoral, killing of the firstborn.  Yahweh said,

About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.

The Bible says Moses, who delivered Yahweh’s strange message to Pharaoh, was himself very pissed.  Well, actually it says he was “hot with anger,” but the FCC in those days strictly prohibited the use of “pissed” as an adjective, unless one was using the word in the British sense, “drunk.”  As in, “Noah got pissed and lay naked in his tent,” from Genesis 9, the subject of an upcoming Erstwhile expository special.

Back to the point.  Yahweh’s divine anger apparently was not very focused. Instead of just killing Pharaoh’s firstborn, he killed all the firstborn of Egypt, including the slaves and mysteriously the livestock (perhaps God got a bad steak at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, home of Republican steak-eaters).

And even for the Israelis, the only way his divine anger could be propitiated—remember this is about propitiation?—was for them to kill their best lamb and smear its blood over their doorposts, so that Yahweh would “pass over” that house.  Here’s how Exodus 12:23 reads:

For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

Smite” was an FCC-approved euphemism for “murder.”  I mean, it just doesn’t sound right to say, “so the Lord won’t murder you in your sleep,” does it? 

So, the blood of the lamb kept Yahweh from murdering the children of his devotees, which were also his children, the Children of Israel. Get it?

Now, we move on again to Jesus as the Lamb of God.

In our gospel of John, in the first chapter, we find these words:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

The “John” in this passage, of course, was John the Baptist, not the alleged author of The Gospel According to John.  And this John added,

And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

In the book of Hebrews, which like John, but in the form of an epistle, attempts to explain the significance of Jesus Christ’s death and his role as mediator between God and Man, we find the following language, at the end of a passage about the insufficiency of animal sacrifice and the superiority of Jesus’ sacrificial act:

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

So, now that everyone is sitting down, we can state these biblical facts:

1. When Yahweh gets pissed, he wants to kill somebody.

2. These days, Yahweh has upped the ante and instead of killing somebody, he will send them to hell to be tortured forever and ever. 

3. Somehow, Yahweh’s anger is diminished by killing animals, especially, but not limited to, young sheep.

4. Jesus is the Young Sheep Lamb of God, as well as being the Son of God.

Therefore, Yahweh won’t send us to hell if we “plead the blood of Jesus,” or somehow convince him that we believe that Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection has “saved” us from our sins. As Paul put it in Romans,

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Got it?

Now, perhaps you can see the problem I have with the passage from John, Chapter 8, and other similar passages related to Jesus’ earthly, pre-crucifixion, pre-resurrection power to forgive sins and thus save us from eternal torment.

In the John passage, the scribes and Pharisees bring an adulterous woman—captured in the act and who deserves capital punishment for her presumed pleasure—to Jesus to “test” him.  The religious authorities had heard Jesus’ biblically-revolutionary message of love-before-all-else and knew that it did not comport all that well with what they knew was buried in their Bible, in the Law of Moses.  Aint much love in there.

They knew that were Jesus to okay the stoning of the woman, they could expose him as a fraud, sort of like asking mouthy small-government conservatives to give up their Medicare.  And they figured if Jesus stepped in to save her, they could expose him as a reprobate, a non-believer in the Word of God, sort of like since Barack Obama doesn’t go to church on Sunday he is ipso facto a Muslim.

Or, if they were really lucky, Jesus would assume the authority of God and not only save her from a rockstorm, but pronounce her as “right with God”—”neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more“—thus elevating him to blasphemer status.

They were really lucky, of course. Jesus did assume the role of God in the passage and suspended the penalty demanded by the Law and thus he forgave the woman her sins.

The question for us is that in light of the theological explanation advanced by the earliest Christian apologists, how did he do that? 

How did Jesus simply declare that all is forgiven?  And to bid her to move on?  Forgetaboutit?

The obvious problem is that if Jesus had the power to forgive sins in such a fashion—without being sacrificed like an animal—then why not channel Nike and just do it? If Jesus could wipe out the sins of mankind with a word or two, wouldn’t that be better than suffering through Mel Gibson’s crucifixion movie?  Huh?

But Paul and John the Baptist and others have told us that Jesus died for our sins, that he was the Lamb of God destined to be a sacrifice to propitiate God.  Now, that may have been true; Jesus may, indeed, have died for our sins. I wasn’t there.  I’ve only read the book and haven’t seen the movie.

But was it necessary?  Does it jibe with the alleged historical accounts of Jesus’ acts before his death? Is it theologically coherent?

If it were necessary for Yahweh to be appeased by the death of his son in order to forgive us and accept us, then what the heck do passages like those found in John, Chapter 8, mean?   

And why do Christians insist that everyone must believe that Christ died for our sins in order to avoid a long stint in hell, perhaps even longer than Brett Favre’s NFL career, if the woman caught in adultery or the thief on the cross didn’t have to? 

Beats me. I just work here.

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*The Passion of The Christ has grossed $611,899,420, and was made for a reported $30 million and distributed for $15 million, making Gibson very close to having more money than God.

**For the record, I understand that the quoted passage was not part of the original Gospel According to John and may have been apocryphal.  But as Zondervan-owned BibleGateway points out in its evangelical Intervarsity Press Commentary:

Those who believe that authorship is a primary criterion for canonicity will suspect or even reject this passage. Most of Christendom, however, has received this story as authoritative, and modern scholarship, although concluding firmly that it was not a part of John’s Gospel originally, has generally recognized that this story describes an event from the life of Christ. Furthermore, it is as well written and as theologically profound as anything else in the Gospels.

So, since this blog is directed at the beliefs of fundamentalists and evangelicals, I am assuming the authenticity of the account simply because they do.

Happy Anniversary To The Midianites! Or: How One Tribe’s Slaughter Is Another Tribe’s Bounty

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by R. Duane Graham

 

A little known, and rarely celebrated, anniversary is upon us. 

3462 years ago—in August of 1452 B.C.*—the Lord said to an obedient Moses:

Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.

Thus began a not-famous-enough biblical exercise in vengeance tough love, complete with priests, trumpets, and thousands of armed Israeli tribalists, who killed all of an apparent sub-group of Midianite men, women and children—except for the “virgins,” those girls too young to have had sex. 

Those female youngsters (32,000 of them) were spared from death, and mercifully became slaves, then later, to put it kindly, “child bearers” of the conquering Israeli soldiers and priests.

The obedient soldiers also collected the Midianite herds and other property—the booty—and divided it according to the will of the Lord.

The victims of God’s vengeance tough love, the unfortunate Midianites, were believed by scholars to have lived on the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba, east of the Sinai Peninsula.

Biblically speaking, the Midianites were a relatively famous lot. This stuff gets slightly complicated, so hold on tight:

In Genesis 37:28 (in 1728 B.C.*), Joseph, a teenager with an understandable and hopefully forgivable crush on Dolly Parton, along with an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, is yanked from a cistern and sold to Midianite traders—referred to as Ishmaelites—for “twenty pieces of silver” (sound somewhat familiar, Judas fans?). 

Now, it happens that in Islamic tradition, the Ishmaelites are the ancestors of our friends the Arabs.  I say, “our friends” because we do have somewhat cozy relations with, say, Saudi Arabia, even though contemporary Israelis and contemporary Arabs don’t get along all that well, and American conservatives are suspicious of Barack Obama’s relations with his Islamic brethren, something those same conservatives could safely ignore when Saudi-friendly George Bush was president.

In any case, there are some serious Bible students who dispute the claim that the Ishmaelites—and thus the Midianites—are kin to the Arabs, particularly Muhammad, but our interest is not in any Middle East genealogical controversy, past or present, but in the Midianites and their role in biblical history. So, we move on. 

Midian was also the fun-loving place where the gallantly murderous Moses—he killed a man who was abusing a Hebrew slave—hid out in order to avoid the Egyptian authorities, namely Pharaoh, who was hot on his trail to kill him for murdering a fellow Egyptian. 

But Moses, whose fortune was looking up, made nice with a Midianite fellow (and priest) named Reuel, also known as Jethro, who kindly “gave” Moses his daughter, Zipporah, and trained the inquisitive Moses to be a High Priest in the religion of Yahweh.  Yahweh, the God of many of the Old Testament narratives, would eventually tell Moses to slaughter—you guessed it—many of the Midianites, for certain offenses against Yahweh’s divine sensibilities.

Those offenses, according to Holy Writ, included an alleged episode in which Midianite women either volunteered or were coerced into screwing Israeli men, for the purpose of “turning the Israelites away from the LORD.” Now, these women reportedly included married women and their daughters!  Wow! I’m sure I never learned about that in Sunday School!  I might have gone more often.

Anyway, I want a genuine conservative Christian to explain this episode, which allegedly precipitated God’s call to Moses to kill the guilty Midianites:

I struggle with trying to come up with a modern analogy to this, that communicates the atrocity level…It’s almost like 10,000 women, in advanced stages of the Ebola virus (or perhaps AIDS, since they would survive longer), were persuaded by their city leadership, to whole-heartedly travel to a different city and aggressively seduce and offer “sex for free” to all the married men, deliberately concealing or lying about the fact that they had Ebola/AIDS, and for the specific intent of inflicting the men (and their wives and families) with this horrible and quickly fatal disease. And, this decision was supported by their husbands and fathers (“in front of” the children), and the trip funded and planned by their government. And this all done against a people who were no threat to them now, and were actually friends/allies of a related group. 

Why would anyone “defend” the “values” of such a sub-culture? It was not just a matter of their “own consensual sexual preferences and ethics”—this was aggressive, deliberately destructive malice toward others/outsiders, and self-destructive abuse of the precious gift of feminine allure…

Of course, no one would defend the “values” of such a subculture. But this incredible—literally, incredible—justification for a religiously motivated and proudly recorded extermination of an ancient sub-tribe of people is the kind of thing you run into, if you bother to read the Old Testament.

It never seems to occur to conservative defenders of the Bible that perhaps the ancient Israelis were simply employing Yahweh’s alleged “commands” as a handy defense of their otherwise inexcusable atrocities.

Or maybe not one damn word of any of it is true.

In any case, in order to defend the chronicles of cruelty that fill much of the Old Testament, fundamentalist and evangelical scholars write pap like this—I kid you not—in defense of the Midianite massacre:

  • “The Midianite parents would have been legally/ethically responsible for this situation falling upon their children—NOT the Israelites.”

Oh my God.  The Israelites kill the men, women, and almost all of the children, but it’s the fault of the Midianite parents, who supposedly were involved in some kind of religious scheme to draw the children of Israel away from their sometimes beloved deity.  Oh, my God.

  • “This situation was forced upon the Israelites by the unprovoked treachery of the Midianites.”

Yes.  It was “forced” on them by an invisible Yahweh. I get it. Oh, my God.

  • The “foreign males” could not be assimilated into the Israeli “civilization.” And male slaves posed a military “threat/risk.” 

That’s a great explanation, except for one thing: The Israeli’s attacked the Midianites in their own land! Oh, my God.

  • “There were no ‘social relief’ institutions” at the time.

Okay. There was no Obamacare. That’s a good reason to kill them! Oh, my God.

  • “There would be no practical way to transport these boys to their ‘next of kin’ down south, and there was no guarantee that they would take them in anyway.”

Look, I tried to find a bus to Alabama for your son, but I couldn’t do it.  So, I killed him.”  Oh, my God.

  • “…Israel was forced–by the Midianite atrocity–into the difficult situation of selecting the ‘most humane way’ of dealing with the boys, which, in most situations in the ancient world, was killing them very quickly…”

That’s it!  The Israelites—under instructions from God—were just exercising their humanity by slaughtering the youngsters!  Oh, my God.

Glenn Miller, the author of this “defense” of the butchery of the Midianites—ordered by the God of Love in the book of Numbers, Chapter 31—ends his apology for the Midianite massacre by focusing on the alleged Midianite mass seduction of the Israelites away from their God, which, as Miller sees it, justifies the extinction:

The removal of this exact sub-culture…while mercifully sparing a very large number of innocent young girls…seems neither cruel nor unfair nor unwarranted…

That analysis speaks for itself.

But while there are countless similar examples of such convoluted fundamentalist moral reasoning, here is one of my favorites, the famous John Wesley commenting on Numbers 31:17, which says, “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.”:

The little ones — Which they were forbidden to do to other people, Deuteronomy 20:14, except the Canaanites, to whom this people had equaled themselves by their horrid crimes, and therefore it is not strange, nor unjust, that God, the supreme Lord of all mens lives, who as he gives them, so may take them away when he pleaseth, did equal them in the punishment.

Every woman — Partly for punishment, because the guilt was general, and though some of them only did prostitute themselves to the Israelites, yet the rest made themselves accessary by their consent or approbation; and partly, for prevention of the like mischief from such an adulterous generation.

These, boys and girls, are just examples of the kind of stuff people like an obscure Mr. Miller and a famous John Wesley—who are typical of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic true-believers—will invent to defend the indefensible claims of revelatory religion.

And the kind of stuff they are defending is typical of what can be found on the pages of the Holy Bible.

The kind of stuff, though, they don’t teach in Sunday School. Like I said, if they did, I might have gone more often.

_________________________________

*Bishop Ussher, a 17th-century Irish scholar, has graciously supplied the year, although I have taken some liberties with the exact month and day.  I’m sure the bishop wouldn’t mind, and since he’s not around to sue me, I’m not too worried about it. 

As a teaser, though, look for my upcoming anniversary celebration of Creation, which the Archbishop miraculously nailed down to October 23, 4004 B.C. 

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