B1 Intermediate US 1317 Folder Collection
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read that God actually comes to Noah afterwards
and he says, "Y'know the whole flood thing?
It might have been a big mistake!"
And he promises that he'll never do it again.
And that was another surprise: God has regrets.
Then we got to stories like Sodom and Gomorrah.
All I remembered about that story is
that they were these two sinful cities,
like Las Vegas and Reno or something,
and God got mad and wiped them out.
And Lot's wife looked back when
she was told not to and
she got turned into a pillar of salt.
But the nuns of my grade school
didn't explain to us
what happens right before they flee.
Right before they flee, Lot is visited by these two angels,
who are masquerading as two men,
and they come and stay overnight at his house.
And this mob forms outside and they yell,
"Send out those two angel-like men to us
so we can have sex with them!" And Lot yells "No!"
Which I think is a basic rule of hospitality:
don't give up your guests to be raped by the angry mob outside.
But then, what does he say next?
He says, "Why don't you take my daughters
and rape and do what you will with them? They're virgins!"
Okay, so Lot is evil, right? How is it that
the story we know about him is about
his wife getting turned into a pillar of salt?
Maybe that was her only way out.
Maybe being a big pillar of salt
is preferable to being married to Lot!
Anyway, after Lot and his two traumatized daughters
flee Sodom and Gomorra,
they all go to a cave in the mountains highed out.
And during the night, Lot's two daughters
get Lot drunk and then rape him.
Do they do this in revenge of what their father did to them?
No. The Bible says it's because
there aren't any other men around.
Even though, the Bible also says that
they're not that far from a city named Zoar.
So, I guess no men around for maybe a few miles?
And wait a minute, so Lot's two daughters
just had to drug and rape somebody?
And then I guess if you're their dad
and you're the only one there...
Okay, I knew the Bible had nutty stories, I mean, I knew there were nutty stories
but I don't know, I guess I thought they'd be wedged in
amongst an ocean of inspiration and history.
But instead, the stories just got darker
and even more convoluted.
This Old Testament God makes the grizzliest tests
of people's loyalty. Like when he asks Abraham
to murder his son, Isaac.
As a kid, we were taught to admire it.
I caught my breath reading it. We were taught to admire it?
What kind of sadistic test of loyalty is that,
to ask someone to kill his or her own child?
And isn't the proper answer,
"No! I will not kill my child, or any child,
even if it means eternal punishment in hell!"?
At the next Bible study class Father Tom reminded us,
"That Isaac represents what matters to Abraham most.
And that's what God asks us to give up for him."
I said, "But protecting and loving and
caring for the welfare of your child is
such a deep ethical, loving instinct and act.
So, what if what matters to you most is
your own loving behavior?
Should we be willing to give up our ethics for God?"
And he said, "No! Because your ethics,
because your ethics, your ethics IS your love and faith in God."
That confused me a little bit, but
I decided to just let that one go.
But then, I found out that Abraham is
not the only person willing to murder
his own child for God.
In the Bible, they're actually all over the place.
For example, in the book of Judges, this guy named Jephtheh
tells God that if he can win this battle,
he will kill the first person who greets him
when he comes home as a burnt offering.
And who is the first person he sees?
His only child, his beloved daughter,
who runs up to him playing with tambourines and singing.
"Hi daddy... what?"
And does God say,
"No, don't kill your only child as a burnt offering to me!"
Or even, "Jephtheh, who did you expect
to be the first person to greet you when you came home?"
No, it appears the most important point of this story is
that Jephtheh allows his beautiful daughter
to go off into the woods for two months
to mourn her virginity (I kept thinking, "Run! Run!")
before she comes back and he kills her...
by lighting her on fire.
Even if you leave aside
the creepy sacrifice-your-own-offspring stories,
the laws of the Old Testament were really hard to take.
Leviticus and Deuteronomy are filled with archaic,
just hard to imagine laws. Like if a man has sex with an animal,
both the man and the animal should be killed.
Which I could almost understand for the man, but the animal?
Because the animal was a willing participant?
Because now the animal's had the taste of human sex
and won't be satisfied without it?
Or my personal favorite law in the Bible:
in Deuteronomy, it says if you're a woman,
married to a man, who gets into a fight with another man,
and you try to help him out by grabbing onto the genitals
of his opponent, the Bible says
you immediately have to have your hand chopped off.
Even things that I thought were set in stone,
like literally set in stone, like the Ten Commandments,
were not. The Ten Commandments that
we are all most familiar with,
are these rules that God simply told Moses on Mt. Sinai,
without referring to them as commandments
and without even setting them in stone.
It's only later in Exodus,
when Moses goes back up to Mount Sinai,
that God then hands him a set of two tablets of stone
with these rules chiseled on them.
When Moses gets back down off the mountain,
he sees the people worshipping a golden calf,
and he has a tantrum and
he smashes the stones before he reads them.
So then Moses goes back up to Mt. Sinai and
God gives him another set of stone tablets,
and this is the first time at this point that
they are referred to as "The Commandments."
And they're chiseled into stone,
so you'd sort of think that
God must be pretty firm on the subject of commandments by now.
But the rules are significantly different than those other rules.
Like how all male children have to appear before God
three times a year (however that's supposed to be accomplished)
and how you shouldn't cook a baby goat in its mother's milk
and how every domestic animals'
first born male should be sacrificed.
But then the commandment goes on to say that
if you don't want to sacrifice your donkey's firstborn male,
you could go ahead and substitute a lamb's.
If you really needed to.
Some people think that without the Ten Commandments,
morality in society would be relative and wishy-washy.
But in the Bible morality is relative and wishy-washy.
In fact, it sure seems like
our modern morality is much more loving and humane
than the Bible's morality.
Well, Father Tom saw me outside of church
after Mass one Sunday. And he said,
"Julia, you know, you always look
so very sad in Bible Study class."
And I said, "I'm sorry Father, it's just that,
God is so offensive in the Bible.
Really, it's like he's bi-polar."
And he said, "Well, y'know, the Old Testament.
Just remember that the people
who wrote it were an ancient Bronze Age civilization.
I mean the stories are legends.
They're tales of trickery and deception that
were told around the campfire by sheiks
who made God impressive by their very ancient standards."
I said, "Oh. Wow. Looking at the Old Testament that way,
it actually makes a lot of sense now, Father.
Looking at the Old Testament that way is quite interesting.
But Homer was also an ancient Bronze Age writer,
writing about Gods... I mean, how much
are we supposed to believe is actually true?"
He said, "Well, there's no evidence that
Abraham is anything other than legend.
Or Isaac. Or Moses. Or even the whole Exodus story."
I said, "The Exodus story is a myth?"
And he said, "Well, myth-ish."
And I said, "How could something be myth-ish?"
And he said, "Well, the Exodus story is a myth
in the sense that it never actually happened.
But it's not a myth in the fact that
a people believed the story was true,
and shaped their identity as a culture
based on thinking that.
But, Julia, you can't read the Bible
with modern, historical eyes.
You've got to read it with the eyes of faith.
Because this is the story that God wants us to know."
I left the church thinking, "Okay, calm down.
This is the Old Testament. Old.
Old is right in the title.
A new, a Newer Testament is coming up.
And that's why God must have sent his son, Jesus.
Because we clearly hadn't gotten the message right.
Jesus was all about tearing down
those old, archaic ways of worship and
reminding people that what mattered most was
what we were like on the inside.
I could hardly wait to meet Jesus again
as if it were the first time.
But, oh dear. Well, first of all, Jesus was much angrier
than I had expected him to be.
I mean, I knew he got angry
with all those moneychangers in the temple and everything,
but I just had no idea that
he was so angry so much of the time. And very impatient.
Jesus says that he speaks in parables because the people,
they just don't understand anything else.
But the parables are often foggy and meaningless.
And Jesus is snippy when even the disciples don't get them.
He says to them, "If you don't understand this parable,
then how can you understand any parable?"
And "Are you incapable of understanding?"
I kept thinking, "Don't teach in parables then.
It's not working!
Even your staff doesn't understand them!
Why don't you just say what you mean?"
Okay, so, Jesus isn't so patient and I think
he picked a very ineffective lesson giving technique,
and he's angry most of the time,
but that doesn't make him bad.
It's just, wow, I really expected someone else.
Some of the parables are not just foggy,
but to me, they're sort of offensive.
Like, in Luke, Jesus helps us understand
God's relationship with humans
by telling us a story about
how God treats people
the way people treat their slaves.
They beat some more than they beat others.
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(Letting Go of God)

1317 Folder Collection
Anita Chung published on April 22, 2015
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