Monday Morning and Already Two Cases Where Belief has Caused Depravity

I’ve said it before, belief can be beautiful but it can be deadly and depraved as well.  First, an insane (she has to be, no ifs or buts about it) woman cut her sons throat to release the demons (no seriously):

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – A mother accused of slitting her 5-year-old’s throat early Saturday said she wanted to “release the demons” from his body, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Daphne Octavia Spurlock is charged with attempted capital murder.

Magnolia police and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office responded to a welfare check of a child on Roy Lane, just off FM 1488, shortly after midnight. The child’s father told police he believed his son was dead inside a residence.

Authorities found the 5-year-old Michael Spurlock covered in blood on the floor of the small mobile home.

The child had multiple lacerations to his throat, which had been slit from side to side. He also had a severe head injury and his chest was possibly crushed.

And people believe we need more religious structure in this country?  They must be joking.

On a more humorous note and (yet still depraved) act of a religious fanaticism, a mother convinces (or forces, who knows really) her children to strip down naked with her in a school parking lot in response to the administrations (obviously astute!) refusal to hand over a child to them (of whom they apparently had no legal custody):

UPPER DARBY – An entire family is in custody after cavorting in the nude in the parking lot of Upper Darby High School Friday afternoon.

Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said officers busted the entire family and transported them back to the police headquarters in the nude.

Here’s the crazy belief part:

According to the top cop, police learned the family arrived at Upper Darby High School approximately 10 a.m. to have her biological child released from school.

“Because she has no parental rights school officials would not release the child and said she couldn’t take the child out of school,” Chitwood said. “They started singing religious songs and lay prone on the sidewalk at the entrance to the building.”

School district security ordered the family off the property and they returned approximately 1 p.m. and took off all their clothes.

“They disrobed between parked cars and were running around chanting prayers to Jesus,” Chitwood said. “When police got there they locked their arms in defiant protest. When we get them back to the police station we gave them their clothes and the mom refuses to put her clothes on. She’s the leader of the pack.”

Stay classy Upper Darby.  And people wonder why I take issue with this sort of thing.

Fundamentalist Christians ‘Spanked’ Daughter to Death

A travesty and a tragedy.  I just don’t have the words.

CNN’s Gary Tuchman reported Monday on a fundamentalist Christian couple who killed their 7-year-old adopted daughter while practicing a violent form of discipline.

They reportedly beat their nine children regularly because they thought God wanted them to. Both parents were jailed after pleading guilty to the crime and the surviving children are now in foster homes.

via Fundamentalist Christians ‘spanked’ daughter to death | Raw Replay.

The Implications of Historicizing a Theological Sacrifice

I’m not against someone emulating a figure of their faith they believe to be pious and inspirational, especially if it is something akin to what Albert Schweitzer had done.  I’m not even against an adherence of certain Biblical principles, those which do not advocate hate or intolerance (or bodily harm) towards another.  But this news story below is a consequence of taking the Bible to a degree of ‘literal’ that is nothing short of tragic:

SEOUL, South Korea — The body of a man with his hands and feet nailed to a wooden cross and a crown of thorns on his head has been found in an abandoned stone quarry, South Korean police said Wednesday.

A man wearing only underwear, with a wound on the side of his torso and nylon strings tied around his neck, arms and stomach, was found crucified Sunday in Mungyong, about 115 miles southeast of Seoul, said Chung Ji-chun, chief of the violent crime section at Gyeongbuk Provincial Police Agency.

Two smaller crosses were erected on each side of the cross he was nailed to, Chung said.

Police also found nails, a hammer, an electric drill, pieces of wood and instructions on how to build crosses inside a tent near the scene, Chung said.

An SUV belonging to the dead man was found nearby.

via Body found crucified, wearing crown of thorns – World news – Asia-Pacific – msnbc.com.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new.  Crucifixion is reenacted every year by devout worshipers.  But this shows nothing short of a lack of understanding of the theological sacrifice of Christ as portrayed in the Gospel narratives.  His death, his physical death, is only important theologically because he was resurrected.  But this raises implications that need to be addressed.

First and foremost, God came down to earth, became flesh, died, and rose again to take his seat again at the right hand of God (or as God, depending on whether you’re a catholic or not).  In the realm of time, his suffering was a fraction of a fraction of a second.  And if one believes in the historicity of this event (I do not), then while we can admit it may be a magnanimous gesture, this is not a true definition of a ‘sacrifice’. I hear this thrown around a lot, that Jesus ‘sacrificed’ himself to save mankind.

Let’s step back for a moment, away from Christian kerygmatic tradition, and look at this another way.  You want it to rain because your crops are dying, the land has been in a drought.  So you go out to your field and look around at your livestock, drag back a goat, and you kill (known as ‘sacrificing’) the goat and offer it up to your deity.  A few days later it rains.  Ask yourself this: did it rain because you ‘sacrificed’ the goat?

And is this really even a sacrifice?  When we talk about heroes sacrificing themselves, they often expend their life for a purpose which brings about a direct result, immediately.  A soldier will sacrifice his life by falling on a grenade to prevent injury or death to his friends.  A fireman will rush into a building about to collapse to save people from certain death even at the cost of his own life; that is sacrifice.  But how is the act of physical death, even a brutal one for the sake of a magnanimous gesture, be considered a sacrifice?  Especially since (a) he is/was God (according to some traditions)?

Now let’s bring this back to the Passion narrative.  Jesus is slain by officials, wherein he gives himself as a sacrificial offering to God (himself, actually, if you believe that sort of thing), dies and, according to tradition, goes into hell (this is why Christian universalism fails, theologically) to free the spirits of the dead and, with Jesus, the righteous are resurrected.  Now mankind doesn’t descend into Sheol, as it once had, but, if righteous enough, will resurrect spiritually into Heaven (and if you’re a catholic, the bodies of the dead will be reanimated in the future).  Theologically, this sacrifice works.  It works because it has nothing to do with the physical world.  The death of the flesh has nothing to offer the world of the spirit.  The problem comes into play when one attempts to blend the two worlds together.

Then one must confront the inevitable problem:  how does the death of the flesh alter the world of the spirit?  And how does the death of the flesh effect the world of the flesh?  This is the part of the passion narrative which makes absolutely no sense.  We return back to the idea of the sacrificial goat; if you sacrifice a goat to God, as stated in Leviticus 16, what does that death accomplish?  How is the decay of matter effecting the outside world?  How is that same decaying matter interacting with the world of the spirit?  What influence can that possibly have and, more importantly, why would you want that action–the decay of matter–to be your link to something supremely amazing?  If you r answer is, ‘well, it’s a mystery’ you’re not really thinking this through.  But that is the point, isn’t it?

I can see the theological significance, and I would stress that I am not trying to dissuade readers from not believing in that particular function of the narrative.  The issue is that people truthfully believe that the physical act of dying on the cross had an actual impact on the fleshly world we live, and even on the spiritual world.  In a way, this is, in my humble opinion, directly related to the devaluation of the theological message behind the narrative and directly the result of the greater focus given to the death of Jesus by both scholars who can’t seem to get past it and the media (al la Mel Gibson’s Passion…) who can’t stop making it as important, violent, and bloody as they can.  If the death was most significant, Mark would have ended at 15:41.  They believe this so much that they impersonate the act of crucifixion.  And what does that say about a society who finds the value of the Passion narrative in the violent suffering and brutal death of Jesus rather than the celebration of rebirth, the renewal of spirit?

When people question why historicizing the narrative of the Gospels is a problem, I will direct them to this incident.  When you take a theological story, historicize it, and extrapolate the theological message, while telling your parishioners to emulate the narrative, you’re only setting yourself up for more and more news stories like this one.

Searching for Muses: More Osama Dilettantism

Dilettantes Internet browsers found this site by searching the following (I’ll be brief…):

is osamas death in the bible?

No.

how does osama’s death relate to the bible

It doesn’t.

bible quotes about osama

There are none.

Now stop being dilettantes and go back to watching American Idol or something.

See here and here for more details.

Searching for Muses: Do Bible Verses Support Osama’s Death?

According to statistics today, a great deal of blog hits have come from people searching for Biblical support for Osama’s death.  I worry greatly about people who seek validation for modern affairs in a book, as a part of a corpus of other books, gathered hundreds of years ago, wherein the books within were written thousands of years ago, and for completely different reasons (albeit, the reasons were theological–not prophetic).

Here are some of the search queues:

  • bible verses osama
  • bible verses to support osama bin laden’s death
  • bible verse osama bin laden
  • acripture regarding bin ladens death (sic)
  • good bible verses relating to osama’s death
  • bible verses about osama bin laden death
  • christian verses on bin laden
  • bible verses on the death of osama
  • how to apply scripture to bin ladens death

I stress again what I have stressed countless times before.  It is dilettante-esque to believe one can (a) find passages to support murder in an ancient book, written for other reasons, hundreds of years ago and (b) find verses which mention or discuss current events (you have to not only be a dilettante, but you have to be completely stupid to think Osama is mentioned or discussed in the Bible–so if you were one of those people who were searching for Biblical references to Osama…don’t admit it to anyone and save yourself the embarrassment).

So what should you do if you want to find validation for the death of Osama?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Seek council from other (currently living, that is to say, alive) human beings.  You can find them in your church, synagogue, mosque, community center, school, where ever.  But the Bible doesn’t have the answers because (*gasp*) the books of the Bible weren’t written for you.
  2. Consider why you are seeking reasons to happily justify death with more death (while I am as relieved as any other American that Osama is dead, I still recognize that killing is killing, regardless how you dress it up).
  3. If you are seeking evidence from the Bible that the death of Osama will usher in the end times, you might need serious medical or psychological evaluation.  Or you can join a cult and follow this loon.  He’s a dilettante as well, so you can have all sorts of deplorable and dilettantish conversations that distort and manipulate the Biblical texts. (But just to be sure you’re aware, since you are into these sorts of dilettante things, the world will not end this month either).

Whatever you choose to do, do something.  Because, trust me, if you got here by searching for these or similar terms, you’re doing it wrong.

Timothy Beal: In the Beginning(s): Appreciating the Complexity of the Bible

What an excellent article by Timothy Beal at the Huffington Post. This is what I have been trying to say for years now.  Definitely check it out; it is worth the read.  Here is a snippet:

Unlike the creationism in circulation today, the Bible’s own creationism is rich in different, mutually incompatible ways of imagining cosmic and human beginnings. There is no single biblical account of creation. The Bible doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. Why should we?

Whether or not we should have a problem with this biblical polyvocality, I’ve learned the hard way that many indeed do. I recently wrote a short piece for Askmen.com on “Five Things You Didn’t Know” about the Bible. The first of those five things was that there are multiple accounts of creation in the Bible. I expected some people to disagree, and I looked forward to a serious back-and-forth about the texts I had pointed out. That’s not what happened. Instead, I was overwhelmed with a flood of angry responses, most of which were as impious, rude and downright unchristian in tone as they were reactionary and unthinking in their “defense” of the Bible.

Once I got over being called a “gay moron” and “fatass nerd editor sitting in his basement,” I could see that what I’d gotten myself into was an amplified version of the debates that go on every day between “Bible-believers” and atheists, who looked to me very much like two sides of the same coin.

Both sides agreed that my goal was to “discredit” the Bible, to “make the Bible look stupid, irrelevant, and full of holes” and “a load of bullshit.” The only difference between them was whether they supported or condemned me for doing so. Neither side was remotely interested in engaging with the logic of my argument, let alone the biblical texts I used to support it.

Never mind that I’m a Christian, that I regularly teach about the Bible in confirmation classes and in Sunday school, and that I’ve dedicated more than two decades to studying and teaching biblical literature as a college professor. I think I have my facts right, and the biblical references were right there. It would’ve been easy to go and read them before responding. But no one on either side of the argument did.

via Timothy Beal: In the Beginning(s): Appreciating the Complexity of the Bible.

I can’t recommend it enough.  (h/t to James McGrath on Facebook)

That Guy Predicting the End of the World? He Has Done This Before!

This is nothing new.  See the Great Disappointment; when that failed, people still believed him, too!

Well he did it before- claiming that the world would end in April…. of 1996! And people still believe him!!!! (in the same way that adherents of Jehovah’s Witness-ism still believe their folly ridden ‘doctrine’ in spite of the fact that their founder was dead wrong about the millennium and everything else).

via Hey, you Know the Guy Predicting the End of the World??? « Zwinglius Redivivus.

As Jim West notes:

Only one word fits this guy and his followers- dilettantes.

Agreed.

Searching for Muses: New 10 Plagues?

Of course the dilettantes continue on with their lunacy.  Someone today found my blog today searching:

  • rain of dead birds are part of the new 10 plagues

Right…new 10 plagues… because God wants to, what, terrorize us with dead birds and fish?  The whole point of the plagues on Egypt was they they were living; they were everywhere and made life unbearably intolerable for the Pharaoh and the Egyptians so he would release the Jews (which, of course, he couldn’t do anyway because God forced his heart so, even if he would have normally released them, he wasn’t allowed–so much for free will, eh?).  What purpose would God have for pummeling one or two miles-worth of rural(!!) roads with dead things?  Hell, I pass dead animals all the time on my way to work.  Let’s wake up people, stop being dilettantes, and remember that we have brains.  Use them.

Though, if there were new plagues upon the earth, I’m going to say that the first is probably American Idol.  Ten seasons of that show makes life pretty unbearable.

End of Days in May? According to Some…Yes.

If the end of the world happens ten days after my birthday, I’m going to have some serious egg on my face.  Sans that, here is the low down:

RALEIGH, N.C. — If there had been time, Marie Exley would have liked to start a family. Instead, the 32-year-old Army veteran has less than six months left, which she’ll spend spreading a stark warning: Judgment Day is almost here.

Exley is part of a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin on May 21, 2011.

via End of Days in May? Believers enter final stretch – U.S. news – Life – msnbc.com.

Just as long as no one gets any ‘end of days’ soot on my shoes…

Man Claims God Made Him Choke and Slash Woman

More depravity.

A 29-year-old man who choked an Allentown woman with a lamp cord and slashed her throat and face last week said God made him do it, according to court records.

Dennis Rafael Calderon, of Easton, was arrested at the home in the 400 block of Green Street after an unidentified man held him down until police arrived, according to court records.

Ortiz told the officers a man named Dennis slashed her. She said the last thing she remembered was Calderon choking her with a lamp cord and saying “God commanded me to kill you.”

via Allentown slashing God: Allentown slashing God, man claims God made his choke and slash woman in Allentown home – mcall.com.

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