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.

Numbers Chapters 9 & 10

Numbers 9

The first part of this chapter is about keeping the Passover at its appointed time. Of course, there are people who touched corpses and are unclean and could not keep the Passover. They will just have to observe it as those who are traveling observe it. If they don’t observe the Passover, they will be cut off from the rest of the people.

The second part is about the day that the tabernacle was set and a cloud covered it. During the day, it looked like a cloud, but at night it looked like fire. When the cloud covered the tabernacle, the Israelites were to stay put and camp regardless of how long it was there. When the cloud lifted, the Israelites could get moving. This, of course, was God doing this because he couldn’t just tell them to camp or move. Basically, the rest of this chapter is just God playing a really elaborate game of “Red Light, Green Light.”

Numbers 10

God instructs Moses to make two silver trumpets for pretty much anything and everything having to do with calling for attention. It depends on whether one or both are blown and I’m assuming that they’re different sizes or in different musical keys or something. I also hope that these instructions were shared with the Israelites because this could get confusing. If both trumpets are blown, the congregation will go to the tent of meeting, but if only one is blown then only the leaders will show up. If one alarm is blown, then the east side camps will hightail it, but if a second alarm is blown, then the south side camps will make tracks. But will the east side camps still also leave or not? This gets confusing. The trumpets are also to be blown when they go to war. Also, they’re blown in celebration for festivals and at the start of the month. They are to be blown over burnt sacrifices. I guess, the way this book is going, it’s just trumpet sounds day and night.

God finally lifted the cloud from the tabernacle so the Israelites could leave. We get an exhaustive, and way too detailed account of what each different group did. I do have one question: What if God lowers the cloud on the tabernacle while they’re taking it down to get moving? Just asking.

Numbers Chapter 6 through 8

This chapter deals with the consecration of Nazirites, which are those who take a special vow to the Lord. They must abstain from any product of the grapevine, whether it’s alcoholic or not. They must also not cut their hair (I can’t let my hair grow much longer than an inch, so I’m out) and they cannot defile themselves by going near a corpse. That is, even if it’s a family member. This is the time of their consecration. Of course, all of this ritual is accompanied by, what else, animal sacrifices. You can’t do anything in the Bible without grilling up a living creature.

Once the consecration period has ended, the Nazirite comes to the tent with an offering of a lamb, a ewe, and a ram along with some unleavened bread because you need the carbs, a grain offering, and a drink offering to wash it all down. The Nazirites shave their heads at the entrance to the tent of meeting and the priest places the hair in the fire under the offering for a lovely addition of flavor. I’ll pass on dinner, thanks.

Chapter 7 is a long litany of offerings over the span of twelve days in order to dedicate the altar. It’s a lot of animals being burned on the altar along with a lot of silver and gold. Basically, the whole chapter is a really long “12 Days Of Christmas”.

Chapter 8 starts off about lamps and a lampstand for the altar, but then goes into the consecration of the Levites. It’s not as complicated as the Nazirite consecrations and it doesn’t involve animal sacrifice. Levites are to serve in the tent of meeting from aged 25 to 50. Once they hit 50, they can only assist.

Book Burni…errr…Banning

Does this image make you uncomfortable?
It should.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Saturday Sermon and my regular posts have slowed down a bit. That’s due to my own laziness, I guess. I am also reading an interesting book about the cultural shift that lead to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I will be writing or podcasting about that at some point.

As you can tell by the title, I am looking back in history to a time when authoritarian leaders and the ignorant people who followed them want to remove what they saw as controversial ideas from the public square. This is something that doesn’t happen anymore and we should be…what? You mean…? Oh crap.

Scratch that above paragraph, it turns out that some state school boards around the country have decided to remove ban books from their schools’ libraries in hopes of “cancelling” those ideas, apparently. The one that has garnered the most press lately is Maus by Art Spiegelman, the first and only graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature. It is the story of the Holocaust as told by the author’s father in comic strip form. The Tennessee school board banned it because of “unnecessary use of profanity and nudity”. Unnecessary profanity about the fucking Holocaust? The most profane event in history? Had I been in that meeting in Tennessee, I would have some very necessary profanity for the school board.

There are many other books on the list that deal with racism, LGBTQ+ subjects, religions other than Christianity, and other topics that make governments “uncomfortable”. Honestly, that’s how I know a book or movie or music is doing something right. People need to be made uncomfortable and to see things from the perspectives that they can’t seem to tolerate. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Do you know which book makes me uncomfortable? The Bible, and yet I am reading it. I’m not only reading it, but I am reading with the goal of understanding it and the people who put it on a pedestal over other humans’ lives the best that I can. So far I’m failing. How anyone can read the flood narrative and say, “Oh, yeah, I can understand why God drowned all of the men, women, and children (including babies) as well all of the animals minus the few that a 600 year-old man and his family took on a boat.” That’s just sick. These are the same people who look at the rest of Exodus and see it as somehow moral when it spends more time talking about how to treat slaves and how to properly worship a deity than it does anything of value.

My advice for everyone, whether you agree with this book banning or not, go read those books. Every time you see that a book is being considered for banning, seek it out and read it. Make yourself uncomfortable, and put yourself into the subject matter. Do not embrace the “cancel culture” of these holier-than-thou school boards who can’t see past the cover of their precious bibles which I would guess many of them have never read.