Monday, December 29, 2008

bible criticism

Helow agane.  

There have been a few funny things happening lately concerning me and people with very strong convictions.  So I'm doing what I always do... I'm plotting to take over the world.

Before for we get into this highly charged topic of religion and sacred texts let me just say this;
I'm nobody of consequence, I'm just some dude.
I've been wrong more times than I can remember and every time I was wrong... I thought I was right.
I've said the right thing at the wrong time... the right thing the wrong way... and the right thing for all the wrong reasons.
So there.

I am not a mainstream Christian or a Bible literalist.
I tend to believe that all religions are more than their sacred texts.
And I believe that spirituality transcends religion.

Now then, my first year Religion professor hated all religions except for Egyptology.
I remember him trashing the story of Jonah because archaeological findings suggested that Nineva was much smaller than the account given in the Torah (okay, that was his beef? What about being eaten and regurgitated?  No problem with that?)

I loved the guy, he was a great teacher, but he was no anthropologist or construction worker.  Experts in ancient South American civilizations will tell you that the old mezzo empires were vast, much more so than the sparse ruins that survived the ages.  That's kind of a cool idea, the metropolis consumed by the jungle.  Some anthropologists speculate that if modern civilization were to expire that the only thing left after 100 years would be hotdogs and super highways.

I find this very easy to believe.  Being a former construction worker I have seen first hand how poorly structures are made these days.  My house was sheathed in 1/8 inch foam and then covered in vinyl siding.  This plus my drywall is the only thing standing between a thief and my LCD television.  An archeologist digging around the ruins of America might suspect that the nation's capital was pretty small, after all DC is dwarfed by it's surrounding foam/plastic suburbs.  

Maybe the ancient Assyrian's had better construction than American contractors.  I don't know.  I've also been to Dandora, it is the largest slum in the world, it can be seen from space.  One good natural disaster and it's all gone.  The only thing left would be foreign embassy buildings.  
Then again, all my jewish friends hyperbolize every detail of every story... but they do make better stories.

I guess that's why all my other professors were always going on about 'context'.  
They all claimed to be teaching on religious texts from the context of 'phenomenology', well that was bull shit.  They were the most... never mind.  
From the academic context, the 'serpent' in Genesis is just a snake and nothing else (because the book of Genesis doesn't say that it is anything other than a snake), from mainstream Christian tradition, it is Satan.

Since my old friend Matt reminded me of a hilarious story about a bald prophet cursing 42 kids with death by bear attack, I'll use that one to crit in a few different contexts (in the tradition of the Talmud I'll start with minority and go more mainstream).

Here's a weird story where Elisha gets mocked by some kids saying 'go on up bald head!' and Elisha calls for TWO! bears to kill the kids (42 are slain) 'in the name of the lord'
Sweet, apparently Elisha is bald.
What does this mean?  
Was 'Go on up bald head' a reference to something in the northern kingdom?  an urban/thuglife philistine song perhaps? Did Elisha see the bears first and then prophesy ex eventu?  Was the scribe of 1 Kings just a baldy child-hater that had an agenda to insert a turd squirting fear of God in those would be bald head mockers?  I know that there was a different dialect spoken in the northern and southern kingdoms, perhaps 'go on up baldhead' meant 'hey you, with the bald head, look out for those bears' or 'please kill me'.

It's just a story.  
I'm only half kidding here.  There are dozens of different kinds of Jews.  They could be national, ethnic, orthodox, reform, conservative, mystic, whatever.  Most Torah literalists died out after Antiochus Epiphanes.  The few Jews that I have known in the U.S. don't believe in God or an afterlife, but might believe in a 'messianic age'.  

Christian Tradition
No one in the Bible makes mistakes, if it happened then it is good and we must conform our logic to these moral contradictions.  
God did it and the kids were asking for it, Elisha is just a vessel of GOD's will.
All have fallen short of the glory of GOD and the wages of sin is death... the kids deserved it... in fact we all deserved it... it's only by the mercy of 'Bald head' that we are not all eaten by two bears.  

Who cares?  Is there anything of worth to take away from this story?
I would find it very comforting to know that Elisha was just a dick.  I mean, I'm a lazy selfish jerk, but I would love to be used by God.  
I don't know if I believe in bear curses, but if I did then I would think that Elisha was GIVEN power by God early on and may have used it well sometimes and not so well other times.
Either way, I think it's a weird story.  I definitely would not take it as a prescribed world view, reflection of God's will, or model of good character. 

Alright, so I'm like totally not mainstream.  But I dare any of you baldies to curse me with carnivores bears.  That's how I want to go out... but it would be cool if they were undead cybernetic bears with alien DNA.  
On a more serious note, I would encourage those who get really defensive about their religious texts to relax a little bit.  If your faith is so fragile that it can be shattered by a bit of textual criticism then where is your faith really placed?  

The best things in life are unconditional, if you have a NEED for your book to a little inerrant idol then you don't deserve to have your faith, what you are looking for is certainty and insurance.  
Okay my stream of consciousness hit some rough waters there, I'm tired, figure it out yourself.


Matthew H Camp said...
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Matthew H Camp said...
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abpmark said...

Brian: Great to see you are still alive. Don't let milk come out of your nose!

Mark Camp (Matthew's Dad)

Matthew H Camp said...

Y: The Last Man

As usual, Brian doesn't steer you worng on cool comic books.

I rescued a run in the 40's to 50's of Y: The Last Man from the dollar bins recently on your recommendation, and was not disappointed.

I see now that the somewhat non-descript, matter-of-fact artwork is a complememnt to the story. If someone like Jack Kirby or Jim Lee had drawn it, it would have that element of exaggerated fantasy that makes their visuals appealing. However, as Vaughn's sci-fi epic unfolds, the artwork gives you a sense that it could really happen just this way, to real people - giving the narrative a much stronger power than fantastic art could.

Good call, Brian! I'll be digging through the dollar bins for the rest of the series if you need me.

Matthew H Camp said...

You'd like my friend Kristian (KB). He was just discussing with me what he felt was a need for a secular church. One that would provide for the mind, body, and spirit like a church without any religion.

I directed him to this post. He and I discussed bears eating babies back in December, fueling this whole "go on up, baldy!" train of thinking.

Check him out on FB if you ever get a minute free at home. You must be so happy with your babies right now!

One book we both left off our 'best of's was Concrete. This year I picked up a really great collection and was entranced. Paul Chadwick's "World Below" is a trip, too.

Shame on me. I feel so simple minded when you influence me :-)