Monday, February 16, 2009

Cool things in the Bible - or How to Skip the 'Begats'

This is weird for me - I actually am appreciating my elementary school for reading a section of the Bible everyday when I was in elementary school - it makes getting through the Old Testament easier. I picked up the Bible for Dummies book (my daughter asks - 'Are you a Dummy, Dad?' - of course I am!) and I think it is a good idea for kids to learn the Classics - which means the O.T.

I mean, several Giants, a Dragon, satyrs, and a few monsters - no wonder C.S. Lewis was able to do Narnia without a theological struggle - there's some cool stuff in here - never mind all the violence and incest and revenge and constant warfare. Lots of drunkenness and hookers too!

I especially like finding out what different things mean and the history and.... ok - before anyone gets too mad at me - I KNOW IT SAYS " " and therefore you should realize it means exactly....
Gotta remember - I'm a heathen who has no pretentions about being 'righteous' and if it weren't for Jesus, I'd be still slaughtering wayfarers in Europe and thinking Thor makes the sky rumber. So give me a few breaks when I say 'let me think about all this' and then hear the researchers say 'oh, that actually means B, not just A'. Too often you can interpret anything to justify your own views (Churchianity) vs the Truth (Christianity). CS Lewis said that - and I always thought he was bang on.

Can't beat the Old King James Version for poetry though - Shakespeare's day, of course. Great words. Can't take it at face value- or I'd be 'kicking against the pricks!"

And us Protestants don't like the Apocrapha because of using the Greek translations instead of the Hebrew ones and even the Hebrew thought they weren't the most Divine stories.... but I disagree! Daniel really comes off as a good guy in the Apocrapha - but come on! Some of the OT books have a Divine stamp on them - like Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastics and Psalms - and people quote them and say 'vanity (or vapour) - all is vanity' and that is divine knowledge? That's on par with 'God made the world' and 'thou shalt not kill'? I'm a bad person for not wanting to start following every old law ---- and even editting it.

I find the OT fascinating - but I really don't see that I'm going to sacrifice goats - and if I am as wise as Solomon - I can covet lots of women and marry a good number of them too - and I can sing songs that were actually written about other deities.

I should do a book - 'Cool things in the Bible for Heathens' and it would be a great way to get kids to look at the thing. I wonder if anyone ever combined translations - use the King James poetry when it fits and plain language for the obscure parts.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

God's Foster Kids and your head and your butt and abortion and offending my mother and being a heathen...

I just finished reading A.J. Jacobs's The Year of Living Biblically - and as much as I can sometimes agree with him - I gotta say: "What a shmuck!" He says he's going to follow the Bible exactly but he basically dabbles in 'being Kosher' - and does a half-butt job of it. I admire his stamina and research skills and blog abilities - we'd probably get along well over coffee in the real world - but long term? We'd hate each other.

A lot of critics of his book have noted how he tried to do it all himself while keeping his regular 'VERY NEW YORK' latte lifestyle going - and he has to make sacrifices but it's very comfy. It did make me go out and get a 'Bible for Dummies' book and a modern english Bible as I was tempted to read some of the Old Testament again... what with all the fun rules about sacrificing a goat a certain way for each bad thing and who begat who and....

More on that later.

The point is he VISITED groups in his journey but didn't actually JOIN anything - he visited, he dabbled, he read, he walked around, he 'practiced' and recited things- VERY IN HIS OWN HEAD. Now, I am THE most stuck in his own head guy I know - but at least I know it and am trying constantly to improve myself - which is not very convenient. He adds little commandments all the time to his regime, when convenient, and goes along and ... ugh! Grow a pair or 'be a mensch!' Do what people do - join the Hasidic jews for a few weeks and live like it - not fly to LA to interview Rosario Dawson and complain she talks about sex too much.

I was happy that after a year of sacrificing, at a bar mitzvah - he actually felt a few minutes of connectedness and spirituality - and he has grown to respect spiritual people more - but really - like the cover of the book, it's a costume he's putting on. No skin in the game.

I was thinking about this not because I am the picture of self-sacrifice but because from what I can see, one of the hallmarks of EVERY religion/spiritual system (THAT LASTS, oh say, 300 years- just to qualify it- maybe I'll start a cult tomorrow) is to BRING YOUR HEAD out of YOUR OWN BUTT but to look at things that are "NOT YOU." Even inherently introspective Eastern religions have that quality of 'know yourself by forgetting yourself' I have good friends who really don't do much on Saturday or Sunday according to their Sabbath tradition - and they are ok with missing out on stuff. Because - it ain't all about them. It's because it IS hard that tempers or forges a stronger person.

It made sense to me if most religions are about THE OTHER - either Higher Power or OtherPeople or Family - than personal issues seem to be antithetical. See, this is why I figured so many (ie: close to ALL) religions have such an issue with abortion, despite any actual clear scriptural basis for it - [please, no letters] - but because it IS the ultimate PERSONAL choice for a woman, anything that is focussed on Duty/Dharma/Family is going to being pitching for the 'one more kid for the tribe' team.

Explains why so many systems are so against homosexuality or pro-fertility or anti-crazy behavour - it doesn't always benefit the tribe. Choosing to have no kids helps you but hurts gramma and her tribe - so it is selfish and bad to choose this.

Since becoming a parent, I've been known to smile at single friends and think 'I remember that freedom' and it ain't all that - it's about the species and my biological duty to a few small members of that species.

Not that I'm not still very petty.

I told my mom I was happy I was 'such a heathen'. She was overjoyed because nothing makes her happier for an hour to rail against organized religion and how everyone has it wrong except for the author of the last book she read - until I finally told her I was tired of hearing that and she was just like the religious types in her family she was still rebelling against after 79 years. NO, I'm not being disrespectful, but she gets stuck in a sermon sometimes from Echhart Toole or whoever Oprah's new fave is.

Anyways, I'm a heathen because I realized that I really have no hope or obligation to live up to Old Testament laws - because they weren't written for me. I can even convert to Judaism and my family won't be quite acceptable for several generations - so I'm not really rejecting the Hebrew Testament - it has rejected me. I AM A FOREIGNER. I am a heathen barbarian from central Europe who lived in swamps and forests and clubbed each other on the head and thought Thor's chariot made thunder in the sky - my family still likes to such the marrow out of ribs - which I find revolting still. But at Xmas-time, I was reading how you shouldn't cut down a tree and bring it inside and adorn it with silver and ... oh crap - no Christmas trees? But really, that's a bad translation because it basically means make a carved idol out of wood and put silver and gold on it for worship - which means I can have a Christmas tree but no making totem poles. But as I looked at it more - this was all for the Israelites to keep themselves separate and pure - and I ain't either. I am the bad boy of the desert... well, forest your momma warned you about - better check to see if he's still got his foreskin or not....

BTW: I am thinking about not doing a 'Tennenbaum' next year since it isn't really a very Christmas thing, either...

Part of my dharma is to bring the kids to Sunday School every Sunday (or close to it) because I refuse to raise kids in ignorance as much as possible and I believe if you profess to have a spirituality/culture yet you keep it from your kids - you don't really. You have the culture of 'let's sleep in today' and 'well, there's lots of opinions on that'. It sucks - by itself it doesn't even hedge me towards being a decent person because I am ok with church but dislike people on a Sunday morning - or any morning - so sainthood is a far step. Usually, it is not so bad latey with the new ministers but the moment someone wants me on a committee - I'm retreating.

But I'm not becoming a pagan, just realizing my ancestors were. I have no hope in the Old Testament - I am a foreigner, but as one of God's Foster Kids, I have a shot.

(Since I haven't written any books on journeys lately, I'll admit that because of the Good Lord taking an interest in me, I've been able to let a lot of things go and focus on important things - whereas I know that left to my own rationalist devices - I'd be in worse shape for certain. No worries, friends - I just feel more at ease with the evils in the world and am ok with not taking them personally.)

But never mind that - my great theory of Foster Kids and God. I figure that Christians see Muslims the same way that Jews see Christians - as 'johnny come latelys who re-interpret OUR stuff.' My parable goes like this:

Mr&Mrs Jerusalem had a girl - let's call her Judy. Judy grew up in their strict vegan household and got punished a lot for her rebellious ways until she went out to college to start her life. She always talked of her 'issues' with the family and wouldn't always call except on Mother/Father's day when it was expected and would promise to visit but never got around to it.

Later on, she goes home to visit and finds Chrisine living in her old room. 'Who are you?' she asks. "Sister!" Christine calls and hugs her, saying that "Mom and Dad will be happy to see you."
Christine is taken aback and says 'those are my parents, not yours!' Christine explains that she is an orphan who was Adopted by the Jerusalems- and she is happy with them and all their structures... and they even let her have burgers at McDonalds now.

Christine complains to the parents, noting the strict vegan rules of her childhood and now they are so lenient. The parents cite Empty Nest Syndrome - "you never call..." and how since Judy grew up so strong, they could go a little easier now and enjoy life.... at McDonalds.

Christine is not used to having a sister and they fight a lot - but eventually, they get used to each other living separate lives and meet at the house for holidays together- rolling their eyes at parental silliness - until one Thanksgivining when they run into Mo. Mo is the new Foster Kid - and he is angry at the girls, saying that they are bad siblings, who are never there to take MOM shopping or help DAD with the house and he thinks a vegan lifestyle is great - although McDonald french fries are ok sometimes. Needless to say, Judy and Christine and Mom get into some fierce fights - and the parents can't stand it - and the kids don't want to come to holidays if they others are there - and the parents start looking at brochures on adopting other kids, Lee Quan, and Pedro, and Nanuk and [ok, just insert ethnic sounding names here]....

Each generation seems to have a choice - either stay home and don't grow up, or grow up with regular contact so no one else needs to more in, or wait for someone else to push you out of first place. Please note: we usually say the First Born gets the inheritance, but in some cultures like ancient Greece - the youngest gets it - so the olders have to make their own way.

Oh, how to end after going on so long...