October 4th, 2008


Exodus & Leviticus

I'm traveling this weekend, so there will be a minor flurry of activity here. I did some voice notes to myself on the blackberry on the drive up here while I listened to my audiobook of the Bible. I'm not sure how easy it will be to understand my own recordings, but this was probably safer than trying to type with my thumbs while I was driving. Those notes follow. (I had to wait until everyone went to bed, especially my grandmother... I don't think she'd appreciate some of my remarks.) Tomorrow I have to attend a Catholic wedding. Haven't been to one in ages, at least 15 years. So I may be sitting in the pews live blogging the event with my observations. I'll listen to more of the Bible on the way back home.

My mom asked me if I wanted to do a speech at the reception... I'm like, you can't give me 18 hours notice, not when I'm this tired, and expect me to come up with something touching and not sarcastic or snarky. I need at least a month (well, maybe a week, but still...) tomorrow is no good.

And now for the bible commentary.

How do you define holiness? I find myself asking the same question Socrates once asked in Plato's dialogues. How is it that a god who commits mass murder and genocide can be considered holy? Indeed, gloriously holy?

What does it mean to be redeemed before there was a redeemer?

You can only collect manna for six days. If you save it during the week, it rots and gets wormy. But if you collect it on the sixth day and save it, you can still eat it the next day. Don't you think that would freak you out? And you have to do this for 40 years? Does anything in the real world work that way? If there was such a thing, then sure, I'd believe in keeping the Sabbath, 'cause that would be pretty damn weird.

Why is Moses upset when the Israelites are dying of thirst and are upset with him because they want to know where to get the water they need to survive? Isn't it logical to be concerned in such circumstances?

It's convenient isn't if there is a war between Joshua and Ammonick(sp?), and then you take away his memory of the event, you can claim anything about the event that you want. Tell Joshua that he won, and he won, never mind the facts. How can we be expected to believe this?

This is a really benevolent god, I must say. I mean, really and truly merciful. After all, it's so merciful and benevolent to visit the iniquities of the father upon the son and unto the third and fourth generations. Nothing is as fair and just as being punished for something you didn't do.

Exactly why is it that the Israelites can't see god without dying? But Moses can? Does it have something to with that whole apple thing?

I notice that a lot of the Hebrew men don't marry Hebrew wives. According to the modern tradition, it's the Jewish mother than makes someone Jewish. So the children of Moses (who married outside his people) aren't Jewish?

If a man servant marries a woman servant, but they have no kids, then the woman gets to leave with the husband when he's freed. But if they have kids, both the wife and the children have to stay with the master. What's fair about that?

Cursing and stealing are both worth the death penalty?

If a woman is pregnant and she loses the baby due to the act of someone else, it's the husband of the woman that get to determine what the penalty will be. Yeah, I'm sure all doctors who perform abortions will love to live by that one.

If an oxen gores a man, the oxen will get stoned to death... are you kidding me?

Other than the absurdity of some of these rules, listening to Exodus is a lot like reading the Ohio Revised Code.... it's incredibly boring! And the specifics are kinda ridiculous. Don't they understand the idea of generalization? I take it back, it's more like a Student Code of Conduct, where all the bizarre rules are there because someone actually didn't something that absurd.

More death penalties... witches, lying and worshiping another god. So no lying under any circumstances because god will reject you if you do (so much for most of the Christian Right's hope of getting into heaven), and no receiving gifts. Wow, what a life. And they think atheists have nothing to live for.

You don't hear a lot about that be kind to strangers thing in Exodus.

The Israelites are supposed to have from the Red Sea to the river... the Euphrates River?

They are driving out the peoples before them... so the early European settlers in North America took their cue from here?

One of the things that has always turned me off to a lot of ancient religions, like the Romans, and the Old Testament, is all the blood sacrifice. It's not a little used as a token, but the altars are steeped in it there is so much of it.

So they wait at the base of the mountain for six days, and then a cloud came and no one could see it anymore. And then Moses went up and stayed for 40 days (there is that number 40 again... what is the significance?). But isn't 40 days enough time to carve his own damn tablets, even without a god?

From a functional standpoint from worshiping a gold arc and its altar, vs. worshiping a gold, lamb, let's say, representing the "lamb of god"? (Yeah, I know it was a calf in the story, but I'm trying to make a point here.) Aren't they both worshiping objects?

I don't really think of god as an interior decorator, but he certainly is picky.

I don't see the point of the burnt offerings. What exactly does god get out of it? A savory scent??

When Jews move out into the solar system, into the galaxy, since they aren't allowed to offer god "strange" animals or "strange" incense as a sacrifice, they will have to take Earth animals with them... no offering up aliens as a sacrifice, or even alien smells. If god created everything though, what qualifies as "strange"?

Holy oil, holy perfume... why does this sound so much like toiletries? Are toiletries holy?

Aaron is supposed to be the high priest, basically. But while Moses is up in the mountains it's he who loses faith and builds the golden calf. And then strip down and dance it naked. He's supposed to be Moses' righthand man, and yet, he's aiding and abetting their falling away from god. Without apparent resistance. One thing you can say about the Book of Mormon is that someone resisted. So why is he high priest? Isn't there anyone who is a better holdout? Very smart. Once again, weakness. But if Aaron is encouraging them, why is Moses upset with them and not just pissed at Aaron?

God repented? Can god repent?

Why would god care if the Israelites are wearing ornaments and how would that help him decide what to do with them? How are the two related? Did I miss a passage where god said that ornaments were a bad thing?

God will be merciful to whom he will be merciful to. Oh, so there is no criteria? It's random? It sounds random, and capricious. Let's flip a coin.

And the lord who's name is jealous is a jealous god? Is that a misreading or what?

It's an interesting anthropological question, how did Hebrew monotheism arise? It's so different than other polytheistic religions? Where did it come from? Was he one of many? Or what?

This section about Moses' shining face, for some reason the image that comes to mind is one of those plastic Santa Claus things you see at Christmas, where you can put a light on the inside and the whole thing glows.

Exactly how can anyone be wise-hearted?

How are the 12 stones they talk about in the rainment related to the 12 tribes of Israel? Names in Hebrew?

Only the descendants of Aaron can be priests?

So the priests can't eat yeast or honey or... anything else that is banned in the offerings like the fat because they burn part and eat the rest... or is that only the offerings themselves, but they can if they get it from another source? Are they supposed to subsist on these offerings?

And what is a bullock? A male calf? (ah, Wikipedia says it's a castrated bull)

Unclean creaping things?

Gonna stop here at Chapter 7 in Leviticus. Not much interesting going on yet. I should be able to get through at least the rest of Leviticus before I get back home.


What else can you say about weddings in general? There is a fine balance between sappiness and heartfelt emotion, and adding religion to the mix doesn't help.

The wedding started late, of course.

I was going to let one of the ushers sit me with the family, but mom said to wait, thinking, wrongly, that I was supposed to be part of the wedding party and would be escorted with the parents and grandparents... Um, no. So, I'm sitting here in the back of the church observing. My brother spotted me on his way in and just shook his head with a wry smile, as if I had planned this... So I could escape quickly.

The readings and the hymns are predictable. I've probably heard them before at weddings. Shame they are so unimaginative.

The church has a strange configuration. There seems to be pews on either side of the altar, and the entire wedding is on one side. But the altar is actually facing between the two sets of pews, i.e. At a 90 degree angle from the audience. All I can see back here is the side of all the celebrants' faces. The church was obviously built on a long narrow lot, and since the altar has to face thr east, this is an interesting solution. But looking at a wall by default is odd.

Here the priest is trying to make money jokes about my brother's name. These jokes are sooooo old.

Now he's talking about Christian marriage... This isn't going to be a Christian marriage, pal, I hate to break it to you that Cash is an apatheist.

Now he's making single people feel like freaks... Damn, I hate couples.

This is appalling. If this was my wedding, I'd be having a fit. Cash better appreciate that I'm sitting through this.

Now he's talking about the election...

Suffering is holy. Suffering is how you see god. Strange that just the opposite is true.

Renew their vows? Huh?

This wasn't a sacrament until 1215.

Jenn says that they will bring up their children in Christ... Um, I don't think I would ever make that vow, especially if I intended to break it. It would make me feel dirty. Actually, it makes me feel dirty just listening to it knowing that it's not terribly likely.

Kissy, kissy. They at least did a better kiss today than at the rehearsal dinner.

Weird. It's strange to think of Cash as a married man. Maybe it would seem less weird if I expected to get married myself.

Oh, geez, let's invoke heaven and the dead... Is that really necessary??

Interesting, they let two women, girls really, present the bread and wine. They never did that when I still attended church. Boys only.

The church has this gient fountain of holy water back here. It runs down the rock face. Interesting.

That's like the fifth or sixth time he's used the phrase "Christian marriage". Isn't that overkill. Can't we just talk about marriage. Don't they think it gives the impression that other marriages are, well, somehow lesser.

This guy is singing the communion section. They didn't do that when I was kid either. It was intoned. I remember the words well, but singing? Not that he's a bad singer, it's just... It reminds me of a musical.

This strange woman just came in and is standing on the groom's side, but I have idea who she is. Is she just here for communion? That's pretty tacky in the middle of a wedding. Or is she with the bride and is just confused?

They are saying the Our Father, with hands out-stretched. Is that how Jesus taught us?

It never seemed weirdd before, but watching the mass break out into handshakes as a "sign of Christ's peace" is weird to watch.

Things are winding down now...I guess they are filing out next. Cash took a moment to schmooze with the bridesmaids...Okay, not. More praying. Oh, I wonder if the whole audience still has to take communion or if just the couple gets it? I guess they are doing the full communion thing... Should I start another scandal at the wedding and take a wafer but not eat it??? No, I'm too honest, I guess.

That strange woman is leaving.

It just occurred to me that the last time I was in a church, my childhood superstitions still kicked in, and it crossed my mind that perhaps I should be worried about lightningm :). It didn't even occur to me until just now.

Boy, do I feel sorry for mom right now... not only did they have to forward and be blessed with the new couple, he's singing it again.

Yeah, every time he talks about Cash and their future children, he makes it really apparent that they don't know him very well.

They added a native american blessing at the end. Okay, that's interesting.

Intro of the couple. I guess we are done now. More later maybe.