Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I...Am Your Father! Luke Chapters 15 - 16

Part 7 of my "I...Am Your Father!" series.

Chapter 15
  • Verse 7: "...there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." I know, I've harped on this one before, but I think perhaps it needs to be harped on, because it is one of the most glaring weaknesses of Christianity: how can we tell when to take the bible literally and when to interpret it? If we take it literally, then Jesus is saying that there are indeed righteous people in the world. That's not what Paul says in Romans 3:10: "There is no one righteous, not even one." This is apparently Paul's interpretation of Psalm 14:3, "...there is no one who does good, not even one." This sentiment is repeated verbatim in Psalm 53:3, and the sentiment is echoed in Ecclesiastes 7:20: "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." Seems like Paul knew his scripture better than Jesus. Or maybe we're supposed to a priori assume that Jesus would never contradict himself, and assume that he was speaking sarcastically about "righteous persons who do not need to repent," meaning "self-righteous persons who think that they do not need to repent." Too bad the bible wasn't written in XML; we could look at the text and see tags like <literal> and <sarcastic> and know how to interpret these ravings.
  • Verse 21: "I have sinned against...you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." This is absolutely horrifying. If my daughter "set off for a distant country" to engage in "wild living," I would not think of her as having sinned against me. I wouldn't ever sit in judgment of her or her lifestyle. I'd be worried sick the whole time that she would cause some permanent damage to her life. I would be overjoyed for her to come to her senses and return home, but I would be horrified to hear her go on about "sin" and being "no longer worthy". The concept of sin is ugly. I think it lies at the root of many ongoing social ills. The idea of groveling in this way is disgusting, and a person, even if it's a supernatural person, who accepts and/or expects groveling is repulsive. One might wish to claim that the father did not want the son to grovel, and a naive interpretation of the parable seems to suggest that. However, I have heard far too many Christians (I mean Paulines) say that we have to approach God from this "I'm not worthy" place. That's a repulsive god.
Chapter 16
  • Verses 1 - 8: I love this: my NIV copy of the bible calls this passage, "The Parable of the Shrewd Manager." Shrewdness may have been one of the manager's qualities, but it's misleading to call him "the shrewd manager." The guy is a total crook, and even Jesus refers to him as "dishonest". What kind of parable is this? What meaning can we hope to get from it? A manager who does this sort of thing should go to jail. The master would not commend him; he'd be seriously pissed off because now he has to go to his debtors and explain that the manager had been fired and acted illegally.
  • Verse 9: Jesus has finished the parable of the corrupt manager, and adds, "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." Astounding. Here Jesus explicitly commands his followers to buy so-called friends, and says that this is yet another way that we can go to heaven. Who knew that there were so many ways to get in?
  • Verse 15: "What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." Yeah, like equal rights for everyone, education, eradication of disease and poverty. Every atheist I've ever known values these things very highly, and it's quite obvious that God finds them detestable.
  • Verse 16: "...everyone is forcing his way into the kingdom of God"? What the hell does that mean? Why would Jesus say it?
  • Verse 18: "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." It is so strange to hear Christians (I mean Paulines) repeating, ad nauseum, that I have only one reason for rejecting God: my desire to go on sinning. Apparently this sinning that I want to continue has something to do with my private sex life. But these same people divorce and remarry all the time. In fact, I've heard it claimed that Christians have a higher divorce rate than those who profess no faith. Don't you guys also "just want to go on sinning"? What's the moral difference between your lifestyle and mine?
  • Verse 25: The parable of the rich man and Lazarus: Lazarus is comforted in heaven because he had a hard life. Yet another way to get into heaven. Paulines, how many slaves have died over the centuries, clinging to their traditional spiritual beliefs, rejecting Jesus to the end? Will they go to heaven because of their hard lives, or to hell because they rejected Jesus?
  • Verse 28: "...I have five brothers. Let [Lazarus] warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment." Sounds like hell isn't really all that bad, if the man can have a conversation, and especially if he can think about his brothers. I've always thought of hell as literal fire, which would be agonizing. I sense that most people being burned with fire would do a lot of screaming and not much chatting or thinking about other people.

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