Saturday Sermon: Compassion

As I write this, we are a day away from the 21st anniversary of the September 11 attacks. It will also be a day of great hypocrisy for many of a certain ilk as they make loud proclamations  about the senseless loss of life from one day in 2001, but have been and will continue to be mum about the senseless loss of lives over the past 2+ years from a virus that could have been stemmed.

Case in point is a tweet from Vernon Jones in Georgia (US, not Europe, but then again…):

“Democrats and @JoeBiden don’t want you to remember this!” followed by a picture of Trump photoshopped onto a gas station sign showing $1.22 gas.

Twitter

I responded to this tweet which you can read here, https://twitter.com/AlienBiblical/status/1568205621161238528. Warning, I do drop an f-bomb in the final tweet in the thread (but I am nice about it).

It’s obvious to me that Vern cares more about low gas prices than human life, although he will claim to be “pro-life” because he believes in stripping women of their bodily autonomy. The situation that would lead to these low gas prices was not a good sign at all. The pandemic was about to crash land directly atop the US, sending privately owned gas stations, much like the one Jones posted into near financial ruin. That’s because gas station really don’t make money off of gas, but from snacks, drinks, beer, and cigarettes. Well, with people not driving and not stopping at gas stations as often, that’s an economic problem, but we have cheap gas like Vern said.

Is that really what matters most, Vern? To you it does, I have no doubt. That’s because to you and your ilk, the only human lives that matter are the ones that give big money to your campaigns and PACs and the ones who can afford to purchase your influence. You are truly a repugnant example of a compassionate human being and I truly meant that last tweet in the thread because there is no other way to put it.

Then we move on to the next tweet that set me off, which is from a right wing rag and attempts to disparage President Biden’s appointee for monkeypox czar, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, because he is gay, “performs HIV screenings in sex clubs” and “gives meningitis in drag”. OK, so what’s the problem? This man is a champion to a community that could really use more heroes. Everything I’ve read about him from people who have met him is that he is a kind, compassionate doctor who listens and who, as the right sees as a negative, helps those who need it most.

Those who subscribe to the right wing rag I quoted above also (pre)tend to subscribe to Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. While I will not compare Dr. Daskalakis to Jesus, I will say that the former does more embody the teachings found in the gospels than anyone on the right. He goes to where a need is not being met and does what he can to help. I have nothing but respect for the guy and wish him great success and would like to say, “Thank you for your compassion.” We need more people like Dr. Demetre Daskalakis and less like the people who hate him. Also, to respond to people posting his shirtless Instagram photos, if you got it, flaunt it. I wish I had a body I could post shirtless (trust me, you don’t want to see it, I’ll keep wearing my custom shirts). Also, how many thousands of photos of shirtless men did these anti-gay people have to wade through to find these. I’m not judging.

Numbers Chapters 17 & 18

First off, let me chuckle at the title of the first section of Chapter 17:

The budding of Aaron’s rod

OK, it’s out of my system now. Anyway, quick summary of Chapter 17 is that God wants to stop all the complaints of the Israelites toward Moses by choosing the staff of one of the leaders of the twelve houses, including Aaron who will represent the House of Levi. God will do this by causing one of the staffs to sprout. Gee, I wonder who will win. Obviously, Aaron’s is the chosen staff.

So, I have a problem with these two chapters because it gives away the game. Moses and Aaron were already the defacto leaders of this group and were the only ones who God “spoke” to and who had access to the tent of meeting. So they could have set this all up like a parlor trick in order to keep their hold on power.

In Chapter 18 God tells Aaron that, as the one responsible for the sanctuary, he and his Levite brothers have the right to eat the offerings of the people because they are holy. These offerings include the first fruits of the harvest, the best animals, and shekels of silver (obviously they won’t eat those). They are told that only they are to approach the tent of meeting and that anyone else that approaches will die. That’s a good way to keep people away, by issuing a stern warning and a threat of death.

Numbers Chapter 16

Three guys took a group of two hundred fifty Israelites to tell Moses that they were just as holy as everyone else in the congregation. Moses told them to prepare their censers with incense and gather at the tent of meeting when God will decide who is holy and who isn’t.

This is another chapter of repetition as the same things are repeated at least twice. The paragraphs following the order above is the action being carried out in the same amount of detail instead of the author saying, “and they did just that.” Is that easier? Maybe I’ll rewrite the Bible and call it the Plain, Everyday Language EditionTM.

Anyway, long story short, the two hundred fifty-three men show up armed with censers and are ready for a smoke-off with Aaron and Moses for God’s affection. Well, God already picked his winner and it’s Moses. The families and possessions of the families of the three men, including slaves and animals were swallowed up by the earth and sent down to Sheol alive.

I was reading another of the tracts that were sent to me by a SecretSatanTM and according to the author of that tract, Sheol is Hell. According to Hebrew scholars, it is not, it is sort of a (my term) waiting room for the dead. Guess which one I tend to believe more? (if you’re new here, the answer is the Hebrew scholar).

Continuing on, God isn’t done killing people. After the first wave of death, Eleazar gathered up the now holy censers and pounded them out as another decoration for the altar. This was to remind everyone that only a descendant of Aaron is permitted to offer incense to God. Well, the rest of the congregation didn’t like the fact that the earth opened and swallowed up all those people, so they let it be known. And God, who is a reasonable and thoughtful listener of complaints…who am I kidding? God started killing all of them until Aaron stepped between God and the congregation to make atonement for the people. Anyway, more than fourteen thousand died before Aaron could light up the censer. So I’m guessing that somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen thousand people died in that chapter.

Guitar Solos For Christ

Courtesy of Secret Satan #1 (Mr. 666)

I received a care package of Bible tracts from a fan (name and location withheld) and now I have new material for the blog to go with the Bible study and Saturday Sermons (I know, I haven’t done one lately). If you would like to point me to an online version of a tract, send me a Twitter DM (@AlienBiblical). If you have physical copies that you would like to send me, hold onto them and if or when I get enough responses, I will set up a PO Box for shipping. Of course, if we know each other, DM me and we’ll make arrangements. With that out of the way, I have a quick one.

This tract, “Why Sing and Not Play in Worship?” is a stellar example of why I find tracts so amusing. The opening question is, “Should we sing and play a mechanical instrument of music or just sing in worship?” It goes on to say that there are only two kinds of music, vocal and mechanical/instrumental. Really? What about the combination of the two which is what most popular music is since forever? That would then make an additional kind of music since I am assuming vocal includes a Capella, choir, chorale, barbershop, and ululation.

The author then goes on to state, “We have been discharged from the laws of Moses!” Problem: as far as I can find on the Internet, the only place in the Old Testament that seems to “command” instruments be used in worship is in Psalms which is not the law of Moses, it’s poetry. The tract lists passages where it says sing or some variation. None of these passages, however, command that ONLY voices be used and none of them explicitly or implicitly forbid the use of instruments (with the exception of one, which I will get into). They are also single verses within a larger context of a chapter. I can go through any book, pull out a line, and say that this is what the author said (people do it all the time with Orwell and Huxley).

The idea of this tract is to say, “The Bible tells us to only sing and not play instruments, so when it tells us anything we have to listen to it.” To me, when somebody states a petty rule like this, they are saying that they are petty and nothing more. Reading through the titles of the rest of the tracts by this same author, I can tell that he wrote them to stroke his own ego. Maybe you’re saying that I’m going after the low-hanging fruit here, but I contend that the author is instead.

This tract (like all other tracts) is for a narrow audience and that is the people who go to the same churches who would order these tracts and put them on display. Perhaps they could be used to try to sway someone from a church such as my girlfriend’s that do play instruments in worship (they have a quite accomplished stable of musicians, including my girlfriend). I could read deeper into this tract and make some inferences about it, but I think I’ll save that for later.

One final note on the exception that I mentioned above. The very first passage listed is Matthew 26:20 and says that it uses the word “sung”, but when I looked it up, it said no such thing. It turns out that it should have been Matthew 26:30, but then the people for whom these are written are not going to question the author because he is, apparently, an authority. While I may have typos in this post, I can correct them on the fly. That’s not so easy to do when the pamphlets have been printed and distributed.

Numbers Chapter 15

When it comes to the offerings to the Lord that are outlined, I’m pretty sure that’s the priests of the temple writing those up so that the people will give them their best food. “The Lord wants your most fatted calf, your choicest grains, your finest wine.” Actually, the priests probably want to have a party paid for by the congregants. There are a lot of offering rules given here and I’m not going through them all.

Whoever wrote this book had no system for organizing the subject matter, and after the previous section on offerings to the Lord upon entering the new land, we have a section on the penalty for violating the sabbath, and it’s just slightly more than a slap on the wrist.

32When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. 33Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation. 34They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.” 36The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 315). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

This is a totally measured and completely sane…who am I kidding? My first question is, is the man that was gathering sticks even a member of the congregation or was he just some rando who was unaware that this particular god existed? Because this passage is not at all clear about that, and that’s the whole passage verbatim. And actually, it’s not the actual penalty that is the worst thing about this chapter, it’s the matter-of-fact telling of it. I would wonder if anyone thought that this penalty was a bit fucked up, but the way the Lord acted in the last chapter, I’m pretty sure people were only trying to think happy thoughts as if God was little Anthony Fremont from the Twilight Zone.

It’s at this point that I have to ask, if evangelicals and fundamentalists take this book literally, why do they seem to skip this law? I’m not saying that I want anyone to want to enforce this law, but why pick Leviticus 20:13 and not the above passage? I think it’s because the people who preach the Bible want the lessons to fit their prejudices.

So we go in a single chapter from offerings to God, to stoning people who gather sticks to fashion rules, this book is disjointed. It’s as if someone is just making it up as they go along. The final part of this chapter talks about fringes on the corners of garments so that they will remember all of the commandments that God has given them. Does this include the rules that will be made after this point?

Numbers Chapter 14

Drama Llamas

The Israelites are complaining again and want to go back to Egypt because the idea of gaining the promised land looks like a slim possibility at this point. Moses and Aaron beg and plead with the people to trust the Lord, and Joshua and Caleb go full drama llama and tear their clothes. However, the congregation was not buying their description of the land, their praise for the Lord, or their dramatics, and threatened to stone them. God threatened to stricken the Israelites and disinherit them and then make a greater nation for Moses. So, as far as I can tell, instead of reassuring the people, God just wanted to replace them with yes-men.

Moses pleaded with God and basically guilt-tripped him into not disinheriting the people. Then he reminds of some words he spoke, I guess, at some point (I seriously don’t remember if this was iterated at an earlier point.

18‘The LORD is slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love,
forgiving iniquity and transgression,
but by no means clearing the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children to the third and the fourth generation.’

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 311). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Really? “Slow to anger”? Can we rewind to Genesis 6-8 when God had a conniption fit and destroyed every man, woman, child, infant, animal, tree, and plant except for eight people and a floating zoo. Maybe God should have sought out some behavioral therapy and not bottle up his feelings for so long. I guess we can safely assume that God is, in fact, a man. To be fair, the God of Numbers is probably not the same God as in Genesis.

Starting at verse 26, God has a tantrum and decides that this group of Israelites won’t make it to the land that was promised to them because they complained against him. So he can apparently do anything, like harden Pharoah’s heart, part the Red Sea, and appear as a whirlwind, but he gets his little feelings hurt when people complain? What a snowflake.

Anyway, the people over twenty who were told that they wouldn’t make it to the promised land attempted to make things right. It didn’t go well, of course. The people who currently inhabit the land that God wants to give to the Israelites showed up and killed them. So that’s that. Don’t trust anyone over twenty.

Numbers Chapter 13

God orders Moses to send men to spy out Canaan because God is going to give this land, which is well established with villages and families, to the Israelites because…apparently he promised it to them. So we get a long list of names who were the sons of other names from the tribes of still other names. I swear, the Bible was written for NaNoWriMo. At the end of this paragraph, and I guess for the purpose of aesthetics, Moses renames Hoshea to Joshua.

I have a problem with this next paragraph, but I want to preface it with the verse:

17Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up there into the Negeb, and go up into the hill country, 18and see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, 19and whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the towns that they live in are unwalled or fortified, 20and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 309). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

What could Moses (with the blessing of God) be planning? Notice that he doesn’t tell his spies to find out if the people are friendly or if maybe they have enough space to house the Israelites so that they can live in peace. No, this is recon for an attack. Also, it’s another strike against God’s omniscience, because he tells Moses to send the men out to find out about the land. Shouldn’t perhaps an all-knowing deity already know what’s going on in the land?

The spies returned to tell Moses and Aaron that the people are strong and the towns fortified and large. Caleb thought that they should go and occupy it because they could overcome, but the rest of the men gave a big ol’ nope to that. They also reported seeing the Nephilim which made the spies seem really small.

Numbers Chapter 12

Here we come to another point in the Pentateuch where it is likely obvious that it was not written by Moses.

3Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 307). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Truly the writing of a humble man. I would like to hear from someone who takes this book literally who can explain how Moses is so humble that he has to tell the reader that he was so humble. By the way, does this sound like someone we all know?

Prior to this, Aaron and Miriam were complaining about Moses because he apparently married a Cushite woman. According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, Cush could refer to Ethiopia (this would be Moses’ second wife) or an area in northern Arabia (this would be Zipporah, the Midianite woman he married in a previous book/chapter), the reason this is brought up is uncertain. However, they’re jealous because God only speaks through Moses.

So God calls them all out of the tent of meeting and appears as a cloud pillar and tells them that he speaks to Moses face to face and not in dreams and riddles like he does with other prophets. Then, because God can’t let anything go, strikes Miriam with leprosy for speaking against Moses. Then Aaron begged Moses not to let this happen, and Moses asked the Lord, and the Lord and the Lord said no dice, she’s gotta go bye-bye for seven days.

Numbers Chapter 11

The Israelites are grousing because they don’t have any real food to eat, just the manna from heaven. They miss meat, fish, and vegetables, which I would too. God gets mad at them for complaining, but Moses, showing some backbone, tells God to put up or shut up (in more biblical terms). God tells him to gather seventy elders and he will put some of the burden of the people on them as well.

Then God tells Moses that he will give the people meat and they will eat not for a day or two, but for a month, until meat comes out of their nostrils.

19You shall eat not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you—because you have rejected the LORD who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’ ”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 306). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

There’s a pleasant thought, don’t you think? But Moses mentions that there are 600,000 people and asks the Lord if there are enough fish, flocks, and herds to feed them all for a month and here’s where we get a God flex.

23The LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 306). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

So, I guess he’ll have to wait and find out. But first, the Lord had to give the elders some of Moses’ spirit and they went out and started prophesying, which concerned the rest of the people until Moses told them what happened.

Finally, God blows in a whole mess of quails from the sea and let them drop on either side of camp, three feet deep and as far as the eye can see. The people spent a day gathering what they could carry, but before they could finish eating, the master of the grudge, God himself, struck the people with a great plague (or maybe the dead birds weren’t fit for human consumption).

Ancient Aliens

Welcome to Saturday and another Saturday Sermon. I know it’s been a while, but I feel it’s better to write when I feel like it rather than force myself to write something on a schedule. This is why I don’t want to make being a writer or podcaster a career move. Anyway, on to the sermon.

This topic seems a little more suitable for my Illuminati Social Club blog or podcast than for a blog related to the Bible and religion, but bear with me. There was a time when I believed that aliens came to earth and gave ancient man the tools and knowledge to build the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Mayan pyramids, and all the other wonders of the ancient world. However, with age comes wisdom, and it was not long before I realized that the ancient aliens mindset can be seen as racist. After all, if modern white people can’t do it with all of their technology, then how could ancient brown people with simple machines?

These days, the idea of building a pyramid seems like a novelty. Back in ancient Egypt people were paid to build the tombs where the Pharaohs would be laid to rest. That’s because the Pharaoh was the earthly embodiment of the gods who would return to the pantheon upon his (or her) death. There have been a great many hints as to how the blocks of sandstone were carved, moved, and placed found all over Egypt. The reason that the pyramid is seen on at least three different continents is because it is the most structurally sound shape that can withstand wind and rain. The Maya may have build several hundred cuboid and cylindrical structures, but they would have been destroyed by centuries of bad weather. The pyramid is the only one that would have survived. There were no aliens necessary.

According to one author, he interpreted the hieroglyphs and confirmed that aliens did in fact come to earth and share their wisdom. He thought that it would be impossible for ancient people to make up the stories of the gods that Egyptologists claim the hieroglyphs to be. Why? Is it impossible for ancient people to have imaginations? Stories of gods and monsters were akin to science fiction today. These ancient stories sought to explain how the world came to be and how natural processes work. That’s why just about every ancient civilization has a story about a great flood washing away the entire world. It didn’t actually happen, it’s a morality tale, much like the story of Atlantis in Plato’s Republic. There was no Atlantis, it was an allegory akin to the World State of Huxley’s Brave New World, or Oceania in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

All of the same can be said of the Bible. It’s not a literal history book, but more of a moral guide for people living back in the days when those stories were told. It’s hardly a moral guide today though some lessons can be gleaned from its pages. As I stated about Exodus (I can’t remember the chapter), there were many times more words about how to properly worship God than about how to treat one another. That’s because back in those days, people were far more superstitious and thought that gods were responsible for natural disasters, growing seasons, and disease. It was far more important to worship correctly than to treat your neighbor with respect.

Can we please quit disrespecting the history of ancient civilizations by claiming that they were too weak and/or stupid to do any of what they are credited with? Just because they didn’t come up with the smartphone doesn’t mean they couldn’t build a pyramid or imagine far-off lands of strange creatures and technology.