My Old School


Next month I’ll be attending my 45th High School class reunion. I even volunteered to be on the planning committee. This will be the first High School reunion I’ve gone to. Today I’ve been thinking about the reasons why I’ve never been to one. What was it about school that made me not want to revisit those days? I’ve often wondered, as I’m sure many people do, what happened to some of my old school mates. I could probably have kept up with them through reunions but something always kept me away. It’s almost like I’ve had a phobia of school. So I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ll share some of those thoughts with you.

I got into a lot of trouble in school, but not in the way you might think. Whether it was grade school or Sunday school or high school, I got in trouble because I asked questions. Now you would think that school is the perfect place to ask questions and you’d be right. Unless you ask the wrong questions. Take for instance, History class. We learned all about American history, specifically European American history. We learned about the Doctrine of Discovery. And how this idea allows that Christian governments can occupy and claim for their own, lands that are occupied by non-Christian peoples. As Christians, it is their God given right to basically take what they want because they are on the side of God and those that aren’t, don’t count. I got in trouble over this because I wanted to know why it was okay to slaughter millions of Native Americans just so we could have their land. Once, I was told that if the Europeans hadn’t done that, I would never have been born, so I should be grateful that they did. Basically this means as long as I got what I wanted out of it, the rest of it shouldn’t matter. That excuse has been use for the fulfillment of most of the atrocities of history. I got a lot of lectures from teachers and principles in school.

As a child I attended Sunday school, Wednesday school and Confirmation classes in Middle school. At some time during all that I was taught that Hebrew law required all Rabbi’s to be married. This was an important part of being a Rabbi. I asked why Jesus wasn’t married. He was a Rabbi after all, the New Testament says so. He taught in the Synagogue. I was told that Jesus wasn’t married because he was the son of God. And I answered that Jesus was a Rabbi before anyone knew he was the son of God so, why wasn’t he married? I got in big trouble for that. In confirmation class I asked questions that my pastor couldn’t answer. He told me sometimes you have to take things on faith. “Well, no I don’t,” I answered. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Well you’re right, you don’t.” That was the first time I remember a teacher giving me an honest answer.

When I graduated High school I walked away without looking back. I didn’t have fond memories. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t into sports, I wasn’t into joining. I wanted answers to questions that High school had no answers for. On my own throughout the years I’ve answered a lot of those questions by studying various teachers who would not be considered mainstream and definitely not accepted by the Education department of our government. To get my spiritual questions answered I went to Christianity and Buddhism, Paganism and no “ism” at all. And I have never once needed Algebra. As an adult I went to college to become a Medical Laboratory Technician. Had I had the money and time I would have continued my education on to Medical Laboratory Scientist which was only another two years from a Technician degree but it never happened. Going into the medical field allowed me to go to school and learn what I needed without all the extras that required education tacks on. Except for Algebra. I still had to do Algebra in college. (And I’ve still never needed it.)

So why go to a high school reunion after all these years? Hopefully we mature as we age. I’ve come to the point where if a person tells me they believe the exact opposite of what I believe I’ll say, “Well that’s nice, have a great day!” When I was young I wanted answers, I wanted to argue until I got them. I wanted to know. I wasn’t interested in being right in someone else’s eyes, I was interested in being right in my own mind. I am still interested in a good debate but the outcome of a debate should be to learn, not to be right. So I think the reunion will be fun. It will be good to see some folks I haven’t seen in a very long time. All the old drama that we thought was so important will be gone and we can simply enjoy seeing one another.

I had my head so filled with useless information in school that there were times I thought it might explode. I had to sift through it all, discard what I didn’t need and expound on what was useful. But you really can’t do that until you have a maturity level to know the difference. That’s what I’ve been doing since high school, in case anyone asks. Taking it all in, religion, politics, news and information, dissecting it all, looking for truth and discarding what is not helpful. Maybe someday, I’ll know something!

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No One Should Read This….

angry god
I’ll repeat the warning again. I don’t recommend that anyone read this. There. If you do, you’re on your own. I’m going to talk about religion again. These are my thoughts on why I don’t think the Bible is “the word of God.” Why am I writing this, you ask? Because for a time in my past, I believed it was. I found out the truth the hard way. I’m not going to go into that because it’s not relevant but I want to make clear, that if you are a believer and you still are after reading this then there’s no harm done. If this helps you to ask some questions, then no harm done again. And I always believe that humor helps the medicine go down. So, lets get started.

We’ll start at the beginning, with Satan. Bear with me, it will get better. According to the Bible, God is the perfect being. So he creates Angels. One of them, Satan, rebels and falls from grace. God kicks him out of heaven. So God created angels with the ability to rebel. He’d have to have, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. Why would God have done that? Anyway, Satan rebels. Wouldn’t Satan know that rebelling against God was futile? Wouldn’t God have known, because he is all knowing and all seeing that Satan would rebel? If he didn’t know, then how is God in charge? Wow, all these questions!

So now God creates Adam and Eve. They live in a beautiful garden and God gives Adam the job of husbanding all the animals. He names them, and oversees them all. That’s his job. God plants the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden and tells Adam and Eve not to eat from it for on the day that they do they will surly die. How are Adam and Eve supposed to know that disobeying God is bad if they don’t know what good and bad are? And why did God lie to them when he told them they would die if they ate from it? And how were they supposed to know that to die was bad? They had no idea what good and bad were until after they ate from the tree. Then Satan shows up and talks to Eve in the guise of a serpent. Instead of going, “Holy crap, a talking snake!” which is just what I would have done, She talks to him as if everything is normal. In my fantasy world, if I were Eve I would have shot straight off to find Adam to tell him. Adam would’ve squinted his steely eyes and said, “A talking snake? That’s not right. Where’s my axe?” And right then and there, thousands of years of human suffering would have been ended before it ever got started. But of course that’s not what happened. Eve probably put down her book, lit a smoke, poured herself a glass of wine and said, “So, talking snake, what’s on your mind?” And well, you know the rest of the story. Eve believed a talking snake instead of God. Really. That’s what it says.
talking snake
And then we have Job. Job is a pretty cool guy. He’s got lots of flocks of animals, a wife and kids. Probably got a membership at the local country club. Shoots 18 holes once in a while, and you know, drinks with the guys and stuff. He’s doing alright. And then Satan shows up. God gives Satan permission to ruin Job’s life. Kill his animals, kill his wife and kids and infect him with diseases. And God says he thinks Job will still love him. God and Satan play with Job for awhile until they get bored and then say, “Just kidding Job, you can have it all back now.”

Now we’ll skip ahead to Ecclesiastes. That’s a hard one to say and even harder to spell. Anyway, chapter One, verse Five says: “The Sun rises and the Sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” (New International Version) You might think, “So, so what?” That’s just what I thought after reading it several times. But you really have to give this one some thought. Today we know that the Sun doesn’t actually “rise.” The earth spins on it’s axis once every twenty four hours and this give the Sun the appearance of “rising and setting.” So when we say, “The Sun rises,” we know it’s just an expression. But the writer of Ecclesiastes didn’t know that. Science didn’t prove that until the late 1500’s to early 1600’s with Copernicus and Galileo. This biblical writer actually thought the Sun went around and around the Earth. And God created all this so he would know that this passage wasn’t true and yet it’s in the Bible. But it is insisted that the Bible is “The word of God.”

I could go on and on. Why did God, who is a perfect being, create such imperfect people, and then spend the rest of time trying to straighten us out? Why did God unleash Satan on us? Why does God play with peoples lives, like Job? Why did God tell Joshua to kill every man, woman and child in Jericho but put all the gold, silver and copper in the store house because these things are “precious to the lord.” Why did God need a son? Why, why, why?
god with hammer
So now if you’re reading this and your mouth is hanging open and you think, “This guy is going straight to Hell,” I warned you. I told you not to read this. By the way, I never did very well in Sunday School. Here’s another question. Why did God give us all these abilities and then expect us to be at war with ourselves to not use them? Like curiosity. To question why? To want to have an answer to these impossible conundrums? If God can do these seemingly amoral things, why shouldn’t we question that? Shouldn’t our creator have a higher moral standard than we do? If we are expected to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” why does God get to let horrible things happen to people like Job? Why is that okay? If you were suddenly given the power to end all suffering in the world but didn’t use it wouldn’t you be considered a horrible human being? If God has the power to end all suffering, why does he sit back and let it happen? Drinking his coffee, watching the afternoon soaps and not paying attention. Oh, and by the way, why did God give a man nipples? Do you know that I have almost accidentally ripped my nipples off about a thousand times while pulling off a tee shirt? Like I said, I didn’t do very well in Sunday School.

Whether or not you believe God is real, the Bible is a fascinating read. 66 separate books written by many authors over a span of thousands of years. Did the hand of God guide the writers? I don’t think so. Is it deliberately false? I don’t believe that either. I think the authors wrote what they truly believed, as with the Ecclesiastes example. Where does that leave us? There are many things in the Bible that are horrible, like the book of Joshua or Job. But there are also many beautiful things like how to love one another and treat others right. I encourage everyone to take a crack at. So that about wraps it up. Try not to think to badly of me. I got my knuckles rapped a lot when I was a kid.
teacher with ruler

Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho

joshua

As often happens when I take Sophie for a walk, instead of just “being there” and enjoying the day, I let my mind wander just to see what pops in. This morning I remembered my Sunday and Wednesday classes at church when I was young and how they taught us the song, “Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho”. So when I got home I got out my Strongs Exhaustive Concordance and my New International Version of the Christian Bible and dug around a little bit. And as always I had help from the internet too.

I’m not going to type out the words to the song but mostly it goes, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. Joshua commanded the children to shout and the walls came tumbling down.” I have some vivid memories of my childhood and I remember learning this song and wondering why Jericho needed a wall around it and why Joshua wanted to get in so bad that he would wreck their wall to do it. I’m sure I drove my teachers crazy. Anyway, the book of Joshua in the bible tells the story of the taking of the land of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites.

In Joshua 1:1-5 God tells Joshua that the land he promised to Moses will now be his (Joshua’s). It is the land of the Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Hittites, and The Amorites. It seems there is a lot of “ites” there, meaning, there is already a lot of people living in the land. But God says it belongs to the Israelites and so they move in and take it. It seems history repeats itself. In Joshua 6:15-25 The walls of Jericho come tumbling down and they, “destroyed with the sword every living thing in it-men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys.” (NIV) Joshua 6:19, says, “All the sliver, gold and articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the lord and must go into his treasury.” Here we see a glimpse of Joshua’s God and what he covets. Sliver, gold and bronze. Not the Canaanites whom he made in his own image, but gold and silver and bronze. Kill the men, women and children, but keep the gold, because it’s “sacred to the lord.”

So here’s what I want to know. What kind of sick mind decides to make a children’s song about the murder of hundreds if not thousands of men, women and children, even implicating the Israelite children in the story with the words, “Joshua commanded the children to shout, and the walls came tumbling down?” The song, “Ring around the Rosie” was written about the Plague in Europe. (Folklorists have rejected this idea.) Who comes up with this stuff and then teaches it to children? I had no idea what I was singing about in Sunday school. About how God loves gold and silver but not certain human beings. As it turns out, the land of Canaan had been cursed by God long before that. Sometime after the flood, it seems Noah made his own wine. One day Noah got drunk off his wine and passed out naked in his tent. His son Ham went in and finding him this way, went out and told his brothers. His brothers, while not looking at their fathers nakedness, covered him up and later told their father that Ham had seen him naked. Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” According to the Bible, Canaan is the son of Ham. So the land of Canaan gets cursed because Canaan’s dad sees his grandfather passed out naked and drunk.

So I’m having a hard time understanding all this. The Bible says that God is loving and forgiving. And yet he commands Joshua and the Israelites to murder all the people in the land of Canaan, people that God presumably made in his own image, just like the rest of humanity. So are all the people of Canaan cursed because Ham saw Noah naked? But God created them all naked. Why would God curse an entire country of people because a son saw his father naked? Or was it because his dad was passed out drunk? Maybe that was embarrassing to God? I don’t know. But there are more things here that bother me than this. People who go to war and kill the enemies of their country often come back with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is not a new thing, however it has been kept quiet for a long time because for some strange reason we humans don’t deal well with mental illness. They have lots of problems dealing with the things they were asked to do during their time in service to their country. According to the Bible however, nothing like PTSD is ever mentioned. The Israelites murder every man woman and child with swords. It would have been a blood bath. Women, children, babies, pregnant mothers and men as well. Run them through with swords. Blood, guts, body parts, and not a single one of the Israelites seems to have suffered any ill effects because of it.

So my questions are many. If we are to live good lives, be moral people and treat everyone as we would like to be treated, why does the God who supposedly created us not have to live up to that standard? Why is God not as moral as we are. Are you outraged by murder? By the killing of innocent children? Why does God command his people to do this very thing. I can’t read the Bible without asking these questions. I just can’t. I have Christian friends who I love and admire. They tell me that there are lots of things in the Bible that we can’t understand but we are supposed to trust that God has his reasons. I just don’t know what to think about that. This is one reason why I didn’t do very well in Sunday school. I’ve never been comfortable with any of this.

There are two “answers” to this dilemma. Either the Bible is made up by man and attributed to a God, or the God of the universe really does exist and he is genuinely cruel and “inhuman.” I can’t think of any other way to explain it. Can you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

(Photos for this story are from picshark.com and patheos.com)