June 22, 2011

Defending My Life



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All this talk about theology has gotten me thinking about the principles by which I live. My all time favorite theology is the premise of the movie Defending Your Life. Basically when you die you will be judged based on how well you managed to overcome your fears in life. If you fail you get sent back to Earth to try again. If you pass you "move on."

The recently deceased watch video snippets of their lives, depicting moments when they overcame their fears successfully and moments when they chickened out. They have to defend their poor choices to a judge.

Sometimes, because I'm a little weird, I like to play my video in my head and decide how I think I stack up.

The Bad

Age 3: Made mom wait in long line for Santa and then refused to sit on his lap. FAIL

Age 4: Made mom wait in long line for Santa and then refused to sit on his lap. FAIL

Age 5: Made mom wait in long line for Santa and then refused to sit on his lap. FAIL

Age 7: Made dad wait in long line for Space Mountain and then refused to ride. FAIL

Age 5-13: Pretended to be sick on a regular basis to skip school. Also pretended to miss the bus. Also ditched with Lini Holloway (oh yeah, that's right Lini, I'm calling you out). But, contextually, at

Age 13: Attempted suicide as a result of years of school bullying. Was this giving into fear? Maybe. Did I know any better? I really don't think so. I thought that sounded like a good solution to the problem. Maybe it was almost an example of facing my fear (because, you know, death is pretty much the ultimate scary thing). PASS
Side note: the It Gets Better Project is a wonderful thing but please don't think it only applies to LGBT youths. I was bullied because I was fat, because I was socially awkward, and because there are some really rotten people in this world. Please, please do not ignore the issues your kids are facing in school. Don't think they just need to "toughen up," they need your guidance and your intervention. It's called parenting. (And I don't blame my own parents at all, I'm speaking as a parent myself. My mom & dad were incredible.)
Age 14: At a new school with a brand new start, but I fell in with a bad crowd because I was terrified of being labeled a dork again. I smoked, drank, snuck out of the house, and did everything I thought would make me "cool." FAIL

Age 20: Married a guy I knew wasn't right for me. FAIL

Age 23: While working for Club Med and vacationing at their resort near Guaymas ("Sonora Bay," now closed) I took an excursion to swim with the seals at Seal Island. Let me tell you about my absolute biggest fear in the whole entire world: the ocean. Specifically large animals swimming around me in the ocean. So I got into the water with the rest of the guests on the excursion. It was beautiful, peaceful, calm... then a seal swam by me. After my bowels finished voiding I scurried back onto the boat like a little bitch and spent the rest of the excursion being eaten alive by mosquitoes, while watching the rest of the guests delighting in the majesty of the noble and playful seals. HUGE FAIL

Age 25: Got entangled in a two-year relationship with someone who really sort of grossed me out because I felt sorry for him. FAIL

Age 29: Had a crush on a guy at the grocery store for months but was too afraid to approach him. Now's a good time to introduce my second greatest fear - men. I still, to this day, can barely talk to men sober. I'm like the female version of Raj (from The Big Bang Theory). At any rate my BFF had to ask the grocery guy out for me. He's now my husband. But if it wasn't for Giovanna this would have been a regrettable FAIL.

~Wow~ At this rate I may be headed back to Earth... but wait, we haven't analyzed:

The Good

Age 22: Left the guy who wasn't right for me. Leaving him was disappointing for everyone, including my own family. But I avoided complacency and stayed true to what I knew would lead to a more satisfying life. It made me sad to hurt him but it was the right thing to do. PASS

Age 23: Relocated with my job from Phoenix to Miami with just a car full of crap and a couple of pot-smoking buddies. I'd never been to Miami but I did it anyway. It was a fun year, full of great experiences. I learned what it is like to be a minority (the only gringa for 1,000 miles) and it gave me a whole new perspective on race. PASS

Age 23: While in Miami (and living on South Beach) I regularly took late night walks on the beach by myself. Dangerous? HELL yeah. Magical and enchanting? Oh, so worth it. PASS

Age 24: Packed up again and moved to Alaska because it sounded like fun. Took a road trip back to Phoenix and a month off, during which the millennium new year occurred. Decided on December 30th, 1999, that I wanted to spend New Year's Eve in Vegas with my best friend. Made it happen. Great experience. PASS

Age 27: Flew to Vegas to meet a (male) friend I'd made online who lived in Manhattan. Got a cool new tattoo!
PASS

Age 29-30: Took two hunting trips on Prince of Wales Island with my then fiancé (now husband). Let me tell you about Prince of Wales Island. It is the fourth largest island in the United States (2,577 square miles) and has a total population of 6,000.


Check out this map. Let's talk population density:

Craig: 1,195
Klawock: 745
Thorne Bay: 557
Hydaburg: 300
Hollis: 139
Coffman Cove: 199
Naukati: 135
Whale Pass: 58
Kasaan: 39
Point Baker: 35

Are you getting this image? A HUGE mass of land, sparsely populated, and the vast majority of roads are old logging roads in disrepair. We slept in rock quarries in the back of our truck, used a bucket for a toilet, and kicked around on dangerous roads for a week at a time. Once we got a flat tire on the top of a mountain and Jerry couldn't get the jack loose from the truck. There's no "waiting for the next car" to help you in that situation. There's no hiking to the nearest town. There's just "get the f-cking jack loose or we're gonna die out here." Once we killed a deer at dusk. Let me tell you about my third biggest fear - bears. You take a guess at how scared I was standing around as it got darker and darker while my husband gutted that deer and I envisioned the bears closing in around me.

For my husband this isn't scary stuff. I'm from Phoenix. These trips, for me, were a remarkable PASS.

Age 32: On a Friday afternoon I heard that the show The Girls Next Door was going to be filming in town the following week and needed someone to drive them around and stuff. I immediately got on the phone to the Chamber of Commerce and volunteered to do it, THEN told my boss I was taking the week off. E! hired two local production assistants for the week and they hated the other one, so I went from being a manager at a bank on Friday to being a producer's full time bitch on Monday. It was so rad. I drove the camera crew around, frantically chased down signatures from random people in the background, and went with the whole gang over to Prince of Wales Island (where Holly grew up). During the "plane crash" scene I had gone with the rest of the crew on another plane and was waiting in Craig for them when they finally arrived.

PS - They didn't show it but Kendra got SO wasted in Craig and had a meltdown before she agreed to get on the return plane. The "water bottle" in her hand was all booze. Can I get sued for saying that? Cool! That'll teach you to leave me out of the credits. Assholes. PASS

Didn't believe me, did you?
Age 33: While on a business trip to Connecticut I decided I couldn't miss the opportunity to visit Manhattan, alone. Drove from Glastonbury to wherever it was you could catch a train to Manhattan and stayed in a hotel by myself for three or four days. Did as much as I could cram into that time period, including randomly hopping on a train headed for Coney Island when I had no idea how far Coney Island was or even if it was open that day. PASS

Age 35: After relocating to Idaho with my family I immediately joined a mom group and met tons of wonderful people. After a year or so I even started my own mom group to coordinate more activities in my area. Joining these groups was one of the most rewarding choices I've ever made. Instead of sitting at home with my kids I'm out and about, all the time, with tons of nice people doing super fun things. I'm pretty dang shy, so for me this is a terrific PASS.

Should I move on or return to Earth?

I'm living a life I love right now, with few regrets. If I were my judge I would insist on some SCUBA classes (just the thought makes my palms sweaty) but otherwise I think I'm doing pretty doggone good. I still can't really talk to men but I can handle my husband. And, you know, bears can kill me so that's a pretty legitimate fear. I'm fine with bears at a reasonable distance and behind some big metal spikes.

Tell me about your video!     -Kim

June 19, 2011

Christianity Part III: A Tale of Two Christs

I'm not sure how to approach this. I'm re-reading the Gospel of Matthew for the first time in many years, and there is such beauty in some of the parables and teachings of Jesus. I can't help but feel, however, that the overall message of this gospel is "You must strive to be perfect, because only the really good people are going to make it to heaven. Most of you are screwed."

I guess after reading this gospel I'm starting to see the correlation between Old Testament God and New Testament God, because Jesus was no Gandhi:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
"When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.' Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"
"Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered."
"While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.' He replied to him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'"
"While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. 'Why this waste?' they asked. 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.' Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.'"
 At risk of being struck down - Jesus was kind of a dick. He spoke often (according to Matthew) about who was going to hell as well. The Pharisees are going to hell, the rich are going to hell, the cities in which he performed miracles are going to hell because they didn't repent, those who don't forgive are going to hell, anyone who entertains adulterous thoughts is going to hell, and on and on. It's so pervasive that I'm not even going to list quotes, just know that there's a whole lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. He repeatedly implies that it's really tough to get into heaven and not very many people will make it:
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
For many are invited, but few are chosen.
How do I reconcile this temperamental, judgmental Son of God with the beautiful Teacher portrayed in the same Gospel? Some of the greatest teachings ever written are in there:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? ... And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?"
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
 "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”
"I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Jesus says this a few times according to Matthew. I have a dear friend who once believed (we haven't discussed it lately) that Jesus' death erased the sins of all mankind. She sincerely wished that the rapists and the child molesters and Hitler himself would be shown mercy when they died and would be allowed into heaven. Isn't that how it should work? Isn't that the definition of mercy? So why does Jesus put all these stipulations on salvation and make it sound like a gnostic process?

What purpose did the death of Christ serve? We're taught in church that all we have to do is "ask Jesus into our hearts" and we will be saved. Well. That's not what he had to say about it.
"Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?' 'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.' 'Which ones?' he inquired. Jesus replied, 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ 'All these I have kept,' the young man said. 'What do I still lack?' Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'"
My journey will continue. I don't know what answer I'm looking for. I suppose I just want to know why so many people believe in this religion that doesn't really make any sense to me. I also want to know why nobody knows anything about the Bible. I have encountered many Christians who don't even realize there is a connection between Judaism and Christianity. It scares me when people are willing to follow something they don't understand, and are afraid to question it at all.     -Kim


Please note: I know I didn't cite the quotes in this post. All of them are verbatim from the NIV version of Matthew. If you're desperate to know exactly where they appear you can Google it.

June 15, 2011

Christianity Part II: Paul

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Have you seen the South Park episode about Joseph Smith? Above is a relevant three minute clip.

Back to "our" Bible, New Testament: Jesus was born, lived, taught, died, and was resurrected. Four different accounts, called Gospels, have been deemed reliable sources over the centuries. There is debate about the identities of the Gospel authors, but they appear to be based on firsthand accounts and generally corroborate each other. The four Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Book of Luke is usually attributed to an historian called Luke the Evangelist. He is also assumed to have written the next book in the New Testament, called Acts of the Apostles (normally referred to as "Acts.")

In Acts 9 Luke introduces this new character named Paul. Paul was a persecutor of the early Christian church. Paul never met Jesus when he was alive, but for whatever reason he just really hated Christians. Then one day, on his way to the city of Damascus to kill some Christians, he had an encounter with God and was converted to Christianity. His companions may have heard a sound or seen a light of some kind (accounts vary) but we only have Paul's account of what God supposedly said to him (thus the comparison to Joseph Smith).

So God talked to him and told him to stop being such a dick, and suddenly Paul is the star of the New Testament. He authored 13 of the 27 texts that made it into the New Testament. Paul's writings are mostly letters (or "epistles") to the churches he founded and to his assistants.

Granted, Paul was imprisoned and persecuted for his work in the early Christian church. Just because he was persecuted doesn't mean he was right, or sane. The argument for Christianity often hinges on whether Jesus Christ was a Liar, Lunatic, or Lord (who He claimed to be). Nobody seems to question that we're making a huge leap from whether or not Jesus was the Son of God to whether or not Paul was a legitimate representative of Jesus Christ.

There's a wonderful quote often attributed to Ghandi (but it probably wasn't him):
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
So true. Why do I suppose that is? PAUL.

Paul Had Some Lofty Opinions of Himself

His letters all start with pretty much the same introduction:

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God..."
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus..."
"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior..." (ooh, that's a good one!)
"Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus..."
Here's an especially disturbing one:
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 5: 1-5 (emphasis mine)
Okay, so Paul was Paul's biggest promoter, I suppose. And we're just gonna take his word for it, huh?

Paul Was a Separatist


Jesus was notorious for hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and whatnot. It was sort of his "thing." Befriending and converting those whom society looked down upon. So where does Paul get off:

"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame." -1 Corinthians 15: 33,34
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God." -2 Corinthians 6: 14-16
"Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly." -2 Timothy 2:16
"Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ." -Philippians 3: 17,18
Paul Was a Fear Monger (and a little obsessed with sexual immorality.)

The truly scary thing about these quotes is that Paul is claiming to know the will of God. You can argue that I'm taking things out of context and not showing an understanding of the times in which Paul was living, but the fact remains Paul makes some HARSH and SPECIFIC declarations about what God's gonna do to these people if they don't listen to him. Again, what are his qualifications? Oh yeah (see video clip above).


"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." -1 Corinthians 6: 18-20
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." -Ephesians 5: 3-5
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming." -Colossians 3:5,6
"It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before." -1 Thessalonians 4: 3-6
"All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you." -2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." -2 Timothy 3: 1-5
Oh, and by the way -

Paul Was a Misogynist

Christians are often so quick to judge Islam for the requirements it places on women. This is the New Testament, people. These aren't some obscure laws from Genesis, these are all Paul.


"I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." -1 Timothy 2: 9-15
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." -Ephesians 5: 22-24
"Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." -1 Corinthians 14: 34,35
"A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God." -1 Corinthians 7: 39,40
"A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." -1 Corinthians 11: 7-9
"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." -Titus 2: 3-5
"As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan." -1 Timothy 5: 11-15

My opinion? If Paul was speaking for Jesus Christ then so is Fred Phelps, and we're all in a lot of trouble. I think Paul singlehandedly undid much of what Christ tried to teach. Sure, Paul had some nice stuff to say ("Love is patient, love is kind...") but much of that nonsense that drives Christians apart from the rest of us came from Paul. The negativity, the judgment, and the separatism? Paul.

So what was the real message of Jesus (according to me)? Stay tuned.


-Kim     NEXT Check Out: A Tale of Two Christs



June 14, 2011

Christianity Part I: Old Testament vs. New Testament

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"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."  -Matthew 7: 1-4


"At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
   But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
   At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'
   'No one, sir,' she said.
   'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'”    -John 8: 1-11
***********************************************

Familiar stories, beautiful sentiments, yet this is not the image we have of modern Christianity. Why? I have my thoughts which I will be sharing over a multi-part series on Why Christianity Confuses Me So Much.

Google "Bible Contradictions" and there are seven zillion websites and blogs devoted to pointing out everything that is contradictory in the Bible. I'm not here to do that. A thinking Christian is not going to believe that every word of the Bible is literally transcribed from God. 66 books that were written over a period of hundreds of years, transcribed thousands of times into hundreds of languages? Come on. How many versions of the Bible are in the English language alone?

The books included in the mainstream Protestant Bible were thoughtfully chosen by councils of religious scholars over the centuries. The Biblical canon (or books of the Bible) has changed frequently as these scholars have tried to determine which books are the "most holy" and authentic. The books that didn't make the cut are called apocryphal and some of them are used in various branches of modern Christianity right alongside "our" Bible.

"Our" Bible documents sacred events throughout history that our religious leaders have determined pertain to our faith. Some of the books are Jewish, and some have been adopted by faiths not accepted as Christian by the mainstream Christian church. We should use it as a reference tool to learn about God, not try to maintain that every line in every version of the Bible is the infallible Word of God. That's embarrassing.

That said, let's talk about:

Part I - The Gist: Old Testament vs. New Testament

PLEASE, somebody tell me how I'm supposed to believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same guy? Have you READ the Bible?

Old Testament:  "From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. 'Get out of here, baldy!' they said. 'Get out of here, baldy!' He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys."

New Testament: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."

Old Testament (my summary of Job): 
God and Satan are hanging out (WTF?) and God says "Hey, my man Job is swell. He worships Me and has a great heart. He is a good guy."
Satan says "Yeah, but you coddle him. He'd be a jerk like everyone else if he had any real problems."
God: "Nuh-uh, go ahead and f-ck with him all you want. You'll see."
Satan proceeds to kill all Job's animals, servants, and children. Job continues to worship God.
The next day God says "So, I was totally right about Job, huh?"
Satan replies "Nah. If it was his own life threatened he'd crumble."
God: "Whatever! Try it."
Satan proceeds to cover Job's entire body with painful sores. Job continues to worship God.
(I'm just going to say "Etc." here.)

New Testament: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

How on earth am I supposed to believe that this asshole scary God in the Old Testament has anything to do with the lovey-dovey God of the New Testament? One might say because Jesus changed everything when he died for our sins, but then there's this confusing passage:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."   -Matthew 5:17,18
The "law" to which he is referring? Is that the whole Leviticus mess? The entire book of Leviticus is just a bunch of bizarre rules but here's a little sample:
"If anyone becomes aware that they are guilty—if they unwittingly touch anything ceremonially unclean (whether the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic, or of any unclean creature that moves along the ground) and they are unaware that they have become unclean, but then they come to realize their guilt; or if they touch human uncleanness (anything that would make them unclean) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt; or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt— when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned.
As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin. 
Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the LORD as a penalty for their sin—one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. They are to bring them to the priest, who shall first offer the one for the sin offering. He is to wring its head from its neck, not dividing it completely, and is to splash some of the blood of the sin offering against the side of the altar; the rest of the blood must be drained out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering. The priest shall then offer the other as a burnt offering in the prescribed way and make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.
If, however, they cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, they are to bring as an offering for their sin a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour for a sin offering. They must not put olive oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering. They are to bring it to the priest, who shall take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the LORD. It is a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for any of these sins they have committed, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering."
So, did Jesus die for our sins? What does that even mean? If we are inherently sinners we will continue to sin even after we are baptized and "saved." Then we can ask for forgiveness, right? But we could do that before, through a complex pigeon ritual.

What are the rules we should be following? If Jesus did not come to abolish the law then we should be living more like the Orthodox Jews, right? We're still supposed to be living "righteously" and "without sin" and apparently these definitions didn't change. 

Is it just the 10 commandments we're sticking with? Okay. So why can't we swear? Or be gay? Or get tattoos?

It seems to me that Modern Christianity is being selectively moral according to the law which has not been abolished. Modern Christianity is also putting a lot of stock in the writings of Paul, a man who never actually met Jesus but supposedly "encountered" God in spirit form on the road to Damascus and was converted. Paul's writings take up nearly half (13 of 27 books) of the New Testament. Why is he the authority?     -Kim