What Would Jesus Do?

Evangelical christians have been putting that bumper sticker on thier cars for years now. WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? As if they have exclusive access to the motivations and ethics that the semi-mythical founder of their religion would have espoused in any particular situation.

I sincerely doubt that they have that access; and the reason I doubt that they have that access is that so many of their leaders, including Donald Trump himself, clearly don’t know what Jesus would have done in any given situation.

Take the current pandemic. The evangelicals that make up the entirety of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University have decided that they will ignore medical advice on the subject of the pandemic and return to business as usual. President Trump wants to curtail social distancing and declare that the United States is open for business right at the point where we might be getting an idea of just how big the problem we are facing is. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said,

No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.

Those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

No one aside from Dan Patrick, Glenn Beck, and assorted other evangelical leaders has suggested that the trade-off is between saving the lives of seniors in the community, and giving up life in the United States as we have known it. Nor is it the elderly alone that will die in this pandemic, have died in this pandemic.

Anyone with immune deficiencies. Anyone with weak lungs. Anyone with hypertension. Anyone with none of the above, young and spry and outwardly healthy to all appearances, can fall victim to this virus and die. If you believe otherwise, you are simply whistling past the graveyard.

Evangelicals who seek to preserve their ideas of capitalism at any human cost prove only that capitalism is part of their religion. This is the prosperity gospel raising its ugly head and letting us know that it holds the reins in the evangelical world. In prosperity theology, true christians make money because that is god’s reward to them for doing god’s work. It would take a televangelist to believe wholeheartedly that getting people to give you money for nothing more than saying words that your audience wants to hear is doing god’s work.

Maybe we should try explaining to these folks that Jesus was a humanist, perhaps the first humanist. Washing the feet of his followers? Feeding the multitude? Curing the sick and the lame? What? The miracles don’t hold water with you? They don’t for me either, but how about we just take Jesus at his own word on this subject?

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus

Jesus would never start the trolley (trolley problem) much less have to decide when to stop it. The prosperity gospel is bullshit, to put it bluntly. If you think that being a capitalist is making your closer to god, then you are the same kind of person that believed that slavery was approved of by god because it is in the bible. You are going to seek wealth anyway, better to say god approves of it than to be seen as one of the merchants and money changers that Jesus drove out of the temple.

If you are suggesting we ignore the warnings of people we pay to keep us healthy. If you are one of those people that thinks we can’t afford to let the markets stop for a month to make sure we have a handle on this crisis. If you are willing to let the poor, the sick and the elderly die simply because we can’t afford to take care of them; then you are exactly the kind of christian that helped make me the atheist that I am today. I will have nothing to do with hypocrites like you if I have anything to say about it.

Twitter. Featured image is from Wikipedia: Maundy Thursday, a painting of Altar of Siena Cathedral

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Postscript

A year later and they are still at it. Unhappy that the solution to the pandemic they don’t believe in, a product of the science that they reject, can’t be limited to the good (wealthy) Christianists, United States evangelicals now want to keep all the vaccines, that they won’t admit to taking themselves, just for themselves, and not pass them out to the rest of humanity. Jesus would also tell you we need to vaccinate everyone, just like Bernie wants to do:

twitter.com/SenSanders

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Babylon is Babel

The internet is a click-bait whore. After more than two decades of living in this digital realm, I can say that with confidence. Everything on the internet is composed to get you to follow the link and find out what AMAZING, STUPENDOUS, GLORIOUS things are waiting for you on the other side of that provocative come hither looking text. Unfortunately, the reality that awaits on the other side of that click is rarely worth the energy it takes to click the link.

Take this promotion for Unexplained on Gaia for example. It popped up on Facebook for me a few months ago. It has dramatic music. Good-looking talking heads tell you things you want to believe in breathless tones. What isn’t to love about that trailer?

You know what I can’t find in a shareable form? The trailer thrown in my face on Facebook, promoted by the Gaia streaming service. I can’t find it anywhere to post to the blog so that I and my readers may laugh at it. The curious will have to go to Facebook and see it there (click the clickbait. You know you want to) because no keyword search that I’ve come up with so far can produce the actual trailer promoting this episode of Ancient Civilizations produced two years ago. If you want to see it, you have to pay for it. I guess the charlatans are getting smarter. You can’t get the rubes to give you the money if you blow your load in the first teaser trailer.

…and that link to Facebook. Just watch the repeating video at the top. That looping video is really all you need to understand the confidence game that is being played on the believers who pony up to pay for this streaming service. Ancient aliens are among us? Please.

There was no Tower of Babel, just as there was no real Atlantis. Just as there was no Ark built by Noah. I shouldn’t have to explain the difference between religion and history to people smart enough to know how to work a camera and create a documentary. There was no Tower of Babel where god looked down and cursed man with many languages for its construction. That Tower of Babel is myth. If you believe otherwise, you are a fool.

Like Atlantis, the Tower of Babel is a storytelling device. Atlantis was embroidered in the imagination of Plato, a mythical place created to hearken back to an earlier, more prosperous times. This storyline should sound familiar to anyone currently immersed in US politics. But like the lies of Donald Trump or any other populist demagogue currently making the rounds, Plato created the illusion of Atlantis to paint a picture that his students would want to strive for; and still people think they can find it. Noah’s Ark is similar.

The Ark of Noah is encased in ice on mount Ararat!

Prove it. Go to Ararat yourself and take pictures of it, yourself. I’ve taken the same trek that you’ve taken so far; which is to say, a vicarious trek. I listened to the stories told to me by elders and I believed. I read In Search of Noah’s Ark in the seventies. That book had me convinced. I just knew there was an Ark somewhere under all that ice. Just like the child shoveling out the stables. Then I started reading the works of other religions and other believers, and that’s when I discovered that it’s a common prehistoric myth. 

flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primaeval waters found in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who “represents the human craving for life”.[1]
The flood myth motif is found among many cultures as seen in the Mesopotamian flood stories, Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrativePralaya in Hinduism, the Gun-Yu in Chinese mythologyBergelmir in Norse mythology, in the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca, and Cañari Confederation, in South America, and the Aboriginal tribes in southern Australia.

Flood myth From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The myth is so common as to be pointless to attempt to verify any one claim. Like the virgin birth of Jesus reflects the virgin birth of other godlike creations, flood myths pervade early religions everywhere. All of these myths may be based on some historic flood that the local population remembers, none of them spanned the globe and destroyed all human civilization. What I’ve seen in several decades of curiosity about this subject is that there is no proof, none whatsoever, for Noah’s Ark. The story was someone else’s before it was Noah’s, and Ararat is just the nearest peak to where the myth of the Ark was located.

Also, Mary was probably having it off with someone about nine months earlier and didn’t want to die at her father’s hands. This is a practice still pathetically commonplace in many regions of the world. She got caught by being the sex that carries the young of the species (humans, in case you are wondering) a problem that the fertilizing sex doesn’t have. She couldn’t hide the belly anymore, so she claimed that god visited her in the night and that’s how the baby got in there. This is another common occurrence, lying to save your own life. It goes hand in hand with death penalties wherever you find them. You’d think parents would be happy to have grandchildren to raise, rather than worrying about selling off a virgin daughter to the highest bidder. She ended up being fobbed off on the carpenter, someone who was happy to have a few extra hands around the jobsite with all the work he had to do.

There are probably evangelicals reading this right now, or they were reading it until they got to that last paragraph. They probably aren’t reading it anymore. But if they were they would insist that we can’t find the ark on Ararat because if there was a wooden boat under the ice on Ararat for all those millennia it would of been ground to a pulp centuries ago and pushed down the mountain as debris. Myths are not realities. There was no boat, because flood waters cannot rise that high even if all the ice in the world melted. How high would it rise? 70ish meters. Numbers vary. We should see 9 feet of rise in the sea levels over the next couple of decades based on current CO2 levels. More if we don’t moderate emissions that produce warmer temperatures.

But all of that is beside the point that the Tower of Babel is a myth.

What’s that I hear you saying? The tower of Babel existed? Well yes. There were ziggurats in Babylon, one of them near the Gate of God (Marduk) so the history experts say (some of them even say it in breathless tones) and if you talk to language experts they will say that Babylon renders out as Babel or Bavel in Hebrew. So there were several towers in Babylon, one near the gate of Marduk that the Hebrew scholars of the time elbowed each other in the ribs over. Every discipline has their weird inside jokes.

But there wasn’t a tower where god sundered the languages and caused strife across the world. That would be kind of pointless since he had drowned the world just a few years earlier because of all the strife in the world. Or are you suggesting that god condemns his people for things that he created them to do? That he holds us all accountable for the things that he makes us do? Well that figures.

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Zombie Jesus

Just like every Christmas, a man goes out in his yard and builds a temporary lean-to under which he sets up figures gathered around a birth. However, this Christmas in a small Ohio town, the nativity scene that the nameless man constructed was a little different from most. The neighbors promptly had a conniption fit that spread to the city hall, the police department and code enforcement.

I personally think this is the best nativity scene ever. It perfectly captures the spirit of rising from the dead. In truth, the zombie baby Jesus should be a full-sized zombie Jesus, but I want to give the guy an A for effort. Anyone who dies and then comes back to life is by definition a zombie.

No religion is above mockery or question. If Muhammad was one of the three wise men present at this zombie birth, the reaction from Muslims would be only slightly harsher than the threats that this man has received after unveiling his zombie nativity. Those who are so insecure in their belief that they can’t abide mockery should probably review their own beliefs rather than call for the censorship of others.

The nativity scene is on his property, just like all the other religious displays should be. I have no more problem with this than I do with the rest of the solstice silliness. Less of a problem than the rest of it, because he built the display with his own time and money and all I have to do to avoid it is not drive down his street. His immediate neighbors are the only ones who should be offended because they have to see it each time they leave their houses. They have already secured the only possible recourse, a promise to take the display down immediately following Christmas. Those who are offended will have to settle for that.


It looks like the neighbors were not happy with the cities first response to the zombie nativity, the one requiring him to remove the display promptly after the season ends. I read a few comments from code officials citing fines that have been levied on the property owner for each day the display remains up. The fines were probably for the structure which houses the scene. I could see requiring a permit to construct a semi-permanent structure on his property. Still, I have to wonder how many other nativity scenes in the city are being fined for not getting permits for their structures? Unless there is a Satanist nativity I’d imagine the number would be ’round about none of them.

The city codes are the only codes which apply here, contrary to the arguments offered by others. The law of god is meaningless since there is no way to prove what god would really want as a law concerning commemorations of the birth of his son spawned during his carnal relations with a poor Jewish girl. That particular set of guidelines was not included in the Bible.

None of the ancient religions are free of contradiction on any subject, making their laws useless as meaningful guides to good behavior without accessing our own conscience in order to make judgements. This means that everyone who thinks they know their god’s law really only knows their subjective interpretation of hearsay written down a thousand years ago or more and imperfectly translated multiple times since then. Interpreting god’s law is the world’s longest game of telephone, with the meaning of life supposedly buried somewhere in 2,000 years of noise. We’d be better off accessing our own moral compass directly than attempting to make sense of god’s law.

The value of religion itself is open to question in light of what we have learned about the universe by trying to understand it directly, not interpret it through the traditions handed down by those who came before us.

I treasure my Pastafarianism because it shows just how silly all religions are; and it does this because it was established to be as silly as possible and still fall under the banner of religion. May the blessings of his noodly appendages be upon you.

Question religion. All religions. Freedom is meaningless without the freedom to question.

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Afterword

The charges were filed and dropped. The nativity scene has been erected annually on the same man’s lawn for several years. The last time it made the news was in 2017, when it was vandalized. My outrage at his being targeted by his neighbors initially has been shown to be not much more than my own bias showing. When you publicly mock someone’s beliefs like this, you should expect a little pushback. In the same way, and to the same proportion, as the religious should expect pushback when they put their religious icons on display in our shared government buildings, and expect that I will not want to do the same. Be prepared for Pirate Santa displays at the state capitol in the near future, if that trend continues.

The website that I saw the article on, shared on Facebook, no longer exists. It was probably just another clickbait mill designed to drive traffic and ad revenue. I’d like to think that all such bottom-feeding ends up being as profitless as publicly mocking another person’s’ beliefs is. We have that right here in the United States, the right to figuratively sacrifice the sacred cows of our neighbors. Having that right doesn’t mean that expressing yourself in this way comes without cost. I think the author on that long-gone clickbait site had the right initial take on the subject. The Nightmare Before Christmas would probably traumatise those poor folks who object to a zombie Jesus nativity.

Pharisee vs. Christian

I obsess about things that aren’t things. I do this frequently. I obsess about it so frequently that I created the tag definition just to talk about the things that aren’t things and the definitions of the things that are. Because things have to be definable and definitions are important for understanding. Christian is one of those things that isn’t a thing (because there is no one set of beliefs that all christians, or even a majority of christians, will agree upon and practice in their daily lives) Comparative labeling, on the other hand, is sometimes illuminating.

I’ve been about half paying attention to the little farce that is the case of the Kentucky county clerk that refuses to do her job.  It really doesn’t interest me that much as a legal question.  She’s clearly going to lose; lose her job, lose her freedom, etc.

There is a perspective on this story that I do find interesting. She’s already lost her faith although not many of her fellow faithful will even notice.  How’s that, you ask?  Because she’s a doctrinaire, and doctrinaires are the kinds of people who killed the man she calls savior.

It really is too bad that most people do not read.  If they read they might understand the subtleties of the stories that swirl around them. In this case it doesn’t even take reading to really grasp the argument.  Just ingest a sufficient quantity of your preferred mind-altering substance and then watch Jesus Christ Superstar (a link to make the process easier for you) one of my favorite soundtracks, if not one of my favorite films.  In fact, you probably should listen before watching.  Create images in your own head for what the songs mean before polluting them with images that others have come up with.

Working for a Real Estate Developer in San Angelo (feels like a lifetime ago) the first real drafting job that I landed in that oasis in the desert of West Texas, an architect named Constantin Barbu was running the design studio there.  An immigrant from Europe, he had the most amazing collection of classical music I’ve ever seen before or since, and a sound system built into the studio that an audiophile would commit mass murder to possess.

Constantin was a decent mentor.  In the short time I worked there he not only convinced me that classical music was beautiful and inspiring, but he managed to teach me the value of the narrative in construction documents; something I carried forward through the rest of my years drafting and designing architecture.

He had an original vinyl copy of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I forget how the subject came up, but I’m sure we got to talking about religion (no subject being taboo to me) and to prove some religious point or other he demanded that we listen to the soundtrack. Like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and then The Wall which were so different from the pop music that I had been listening to up to that time, that soundtrack opened vistas of thought that I’d never experienced before.

I had never thought to look at the story of Jesus from outside, from an artistic perspective. The stories that I had grown up with suddenly had a completely different meaning for me than they had when told in a religious setting. Suddenly the characters became characters in a play, people with feelings and dreams.  The caricatures that are communicated religiously are pale comparisons to the real people who lived those moments in history, if those moments were ever real at all.

Put yourself into that time, the beginning of an age.  All life is change. Jesus was an instrument of change if he was anything at all. The doctrinaires of his time, the pharisees of the bible, rejected his calls for change. they knew the law and his preaching violated that law. It was their hands, and the hands of their followers that delivered Jesus to Pilate for judgement.

We are in the midst of another time of change, and the doctrinaires who know the law would declare to us what the law says and what the punishment should be. What is good and proper and what is not, deciding for their fellow men what course they should take, transgressing on every man (and women)’s freedom of conscience.

That county clerk took an oath to execute her office. She is bound to that oath, and to what the office of a county clerk requires.  If she cannot do her job, then she should leave the job. Let someone else who can cope with the change handle it.  If her religion is really that important to her, then what she needs to do is go find what the teachings she claims to honor really mean.  Because from where I’m sitting it is obvious that she doesn’t have a clue.

Codes and Jesus the Superstar

I was reading a review of the Da Vinci Code movie over at the Atlasphere (The Da Vinci Code: Fighting Faith and Force) the other day, and noticed one of the links at the bottom of the page labeled the U.S. Catholic Bishops Brown-bashing site” I found the link intriguing, so I clicked on it.

The title of the page was the funny part. Jesus decoded, it proclaims.

That’s a great idea. Maybe they can explain the trick with the fishes and the loaves of bread, or perhaps the walking on water. That would be good to know. The most important trick to know is, of course, changing water into wine. That trick would be very popular at parties.

Too bad this sort of insight wasn’t available to Judas back in the day. Might have saved him a lot of missteps. “Who are you, what have you sacrificed?” One of the most memorable lines of lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar. Judas, as one of the disciples, should have known how to decode Jesus. Obviously it isn’t as easy as the Catholic Bishops would have us believe.

A fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the few things that remains constant from my days as a ‘born again’ to my current ascribed atheism. I picked up the DVD recently and watched the movie for the first time. Alamo Drafthouse aired snippets of the movie between showings of The Da Vinci Code (I have written about the movie and the book before) and it intrigued me. I’ve listened to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack since the early eighties, but I’ve never had the occasion to watch the film made from the play. Little did I know that the soundtrack was in fact the original version, created before the play even took shape.

That makes it all the more interesting to me that they chose to alter some of the lyrics from the soundtrack in making the play and the film. One of the most telling lines, for me, has always been Jesus’ despairing declaration to the lepers “Heal yourselves!” which is the last line in that song on the soundtrack. The movie uses a much more ambiguous “Leave me alone!” to end the song.

I prefer the more empowering declaration, myself. More fitting in describing what is wrong in the world today. The vast majority of people seem to think that what they need to fix themselves is external to their selves; when, obviously, the answers lie within.

Judas fails to comprehend were the answers lie as well. The movie, album, etc. ends with Judas still asking questions of Jesus (which still plays quite well) when the real question is why Judas would turn in the man he professes to love. Jesus Decoded, indeed.