Emily Dickinson > God
February 4, 2012 Leave a comment
HEY EVERYBODY I TURNED IN THE FULL DRAFT OF MY THESIS YESTERDAY!!
This has a couple of implications.
1) I will probably graduate! It was touch and go for a while there.
2) Now I can respond to all the emails that have been languishing in my inbox for the past couple of weeks. If you’re one of those poor neglected souls, please accept my apologies.
3) It’s time to get Biblical again! This weekend, as promised, I’ll be publishing a couple of gargantuan catching-up posts. So grab some snacks or roll a joint or something, because we’re going to be here for a while.
OT: Exodus 15-19
Moses & co., to celebrate the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of their fellow human beings, sing a happy song! It goes a little something like this.
Yay! God drowned all the Egyptians!
God’s the man. He saved us. We like him.
Did I mention that he drowned all the Egyptians?
Sometimes he kills people!
He “shatters the enemy” and “burns them up like straw” (6-7)!
Isn’t that cool?
Also, he just drowned a bunch of people.
People were chasing us,
But he drowned them all.
Who else is as cool as God? Nobody!
He led us to safety.
He scared all our enemies away.
He brought us to our homeland.
He’ll rule forever.
For good measure, Miriam, Aaron’s and Moses’s sister, leads all the women in dancing and playing tambourines and singing along with the chorus (which is one of the many parts about how God just drowned a bunch of people).
The Moses leads everyone out into the desert. They go three days without finding water, which I’m pretty sure would kill them if this were real life. Then they find somewhere with water, but the water is “bitter” (23). They panic about what to drink. God shows Moses a tree, and Moses somehow intuits from this that he is supposed to throw the tree into the water. For some reason, when he does that, the water turns sweet.
God makes a rule that if the Israelites obey all his commandments, he won’t give them any of the diseases he tormented the Egyptians with. Isn’t that nice? Then the Israelites arrive at an oasis with exactly 12 springs and 70 palm trees, and they camp there. I’m guessing this is somehow symbolic of the fact that 70 members of Jacob’s family, including the 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel, migrated to Egypt back in the day. See? I’m paying attention.
They leave the numerology oasis and relocate to the Sin desert, which is confusing because last time I checked they were nowhere near Nevada. By now they’ve been wandering in the desert for like six weeks, and everybody is yelling at Aaron and Moses, saying they were better off back in Egypt where they could sit down and cook their food like normal people and they should have look at a map before they left and we told them to pull over at the next rest stop but no they just had to wait until they got to the one with a Starbucks but here we are an hour later and we still have to pee and no Starbucks so where does that leave us? And Aaron and Moses are like well we only did this because you complained about the whole slavery thing every day so we’re doing this for you but you can’t be satisfied with anything and you were the one who wanted coffee in the first place and it’s your own fault we don’t have bread here because while we were out negotiating with Pharaoh and getting us set free your job was to pack up the food and jewelry and it certainly wasn’t us who told you wait until the last minute to make the bread and now you’re complaining because your bread is too flat and you don’t have coffee and you could feel free to take the lead any time but you’d much rather sit back and keep complaining and for god’s sake quiet down in the backseat because NO WE ARE NOT THERE YET!
God sees Moses is in trouble so he’s like “I got you, Moses! I’m gonna make it rain bread.” So he rains bread down on the desert, and it covers the sand in thin flaky layers, like frost, which sounds like it would be really difficult to gather without getting sand all up in your bread. Everybody gathers it anyway and Moses tells them to eat it all and trust that God will send more in the morning, but some people save some just in case, but it becomes infested with worms, or melts in the sun. Gross. But then on sixth day Moses tells everyone to collect double weird-flaky-heaven-bread because tomorrow God is going to rest and won’t rain bread, so they save half and it doesn’t become infested, so they eat the rest the next day. Some people go out to look for more anyway, and God is like “OMG why can’t you just do what I say? I gave you double food for exactly this reason. Go home and rest.” So they do. Apparently the flaky magic bread, which the Israelites call manna, looks like cilantro seeds but tastes like honey wafers. Moses, on God’s instructions, saves a jar of the manna for posterity so future generations can see what the Israelites ate in the desert when they escaped from Egypt. They all wander the desert for forty more years and live off of manna until they finally get to Canaan.
Wait, now we’re back to the whole wandering-the-desert part. Sigh. So they leave the Sin desert and they don’t have any water and they all complain to Moses and he’s like “why don’t you trust God?!” And they’re like “BECAUSE WE’RE FUCKING THIRSTY.” So Moses is like “God, you gotta help me out man!” So God’s like “go on ahead with some elders and use your magic stick to whack a rock and it will squirt water.” Then the Amalekites come fight with the Israelites. Moses tells Joshua to pick some strong men and go fight them, which he does while Moses sits on a hill with his magic stick to watch. Moses quickly figures out that whenever he puts his hand in the air (presumably the one holding the stick), the Israelites start winning the battle, but whenever he puts his hand down, the Amalekites start winning, which is a dumb system if you ask me, since God could just make the battle go however he wants without making Moses wave his hands around. Moses’s arms start getting tired so people get him a rock to sit on and help hold his arms up and then the Israelites win the battle. God tells Moses to write on a scroll that God “will completely wipe out the memory of Amalek” (14) and to read that to Joshua. Not sure why Moses needs to read it to Joshua, or why he can’t just tell Joshua verbally, or why God can’t tell Joshua himself. In any case, it makes no sense since the Amalekites are recorded right here in the Bible, keeping their memory alive for several thousand years. Fail?
Jethro (Moses’s father-in-law, remember?) hears about what Moses has been up to, and comes to visit him along with Zipporah and her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. (I think Moses sent his wife and children away to live with Jethro back when shit was getting real with Pharaoh.) Jethro & co. arrive at Moses’s tent and they all catch up with each other and have a grand old time. After the story of the escape, Jethro talks about how much he likes God and says, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods” (11), again supporting my polytheism theory. Jethro sacrifices to God, and everybody has dinner. The next day, Jethro sees Moses sitting around all day answering people’s questions about God and adjudicating their disagreements and teaching them the commandments. Jethro’s like, “Hey, Moses, this is way too much work for one person. You should pick some other smart people and put them in charge of smaller groups of people. They can bring big difficult questions to you, but mostly they can take care of this stuff without you.” Moses is like “yeah good idea” and appoints his judges accordingly, and bids Jethro adieu.
Exactly three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites get to Sinai and set up camp. Moses heads up the mountain and God tells him to tell his peeps that if they obey the commandments they’ll be his favorites. So Moses spreads the news. God tells Moses that, in three days, he’s going to come chat with Moses in front of everyone so they can hear what God says and trust Moses’s authority. In preparation for this, God tells Moses to ready the peeps for his visit by washing all their clothes and such, and tells him to keep the men from having sex with women in the days preceding. God also warns that anybody who touches the mountain during his visit must be put to death, as must anybody who touches the people who have touched the mountain, with stones or arrows. Three days later, God comes down, wrapped in a cloud as disguise; Moses gather the peeps around the mountain to watch while he ascends. God is chilling with Moses on the mountain, but he panics and worries about how many people will die from his own stupid rule about not touching the mountain. Instead of revoking it, like a responsible person, he’s like, “Hey Moses, make sure your peeps don’t touch the mountain!” And Moses is like “nah it’s all good they won’t do that!” And God’s like “Ok, bring Aaron here.”
Jethro’s division of labor into lower courts and supreme courts (or what have you) is smart.
Celebrating genocide = not so classy.
OT: Psalms 15-17
Who gets to chill with you, God? Only perfect people who do the right thing and tell the truth and are nice and hate the wicked and like the faithful and keep promises and lend money without interest. Those people are set for life.
God, save me, you’re the only good thing in my life. As for those people who thought they were holy but worshiped the wrong God, please fuck them up. I’m not friends with them anymore. You’re all I want. You give me great advice and never lead me astray, so I trust you and I’m happy. You make things great.
Listen to me! I’m needy! You know me, I don’t mess around. Other people suck but I always obey you. You always do what I want, so do that now! You’re the bomb and you protect your followers. So protect me from my enemies! They’re all around and they want to fuck me up. Kill them! Save me! Hurt them and nurture the people you like more. I know I’ll be rewarded for my awesomeness.
Zip. Still hate the psalms.
My favorite part of the whining in psalm 17 is, “Rescue me from these people whose only possession is their fleeting life” (14). I think Emily Dickinson responded well to this sentiment when she observed, “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” Emily Dickinson: 1; Psalms: 0.
NT: Matthew 22-23
More parables. FML.
The kingdom of heaven is like a guy who is throwing a party. He invites a bunch of people and prepares a delicious feast for them but they are ungrateful jerks and don’t come and either ignore the invitation or kill the servants who came to invite them. The host gets angry and sets fire to the city where the people who slighted him live. Then he tells his (surviving) servants to go invite everybody they can find on the road to his party because those other people “weren’t worthy” (8). So a bunch of randos come to the party, and the host wanders around his guests. He finds one person who isn’t wearing party-appropriate attire, and asks how he got in. The guy has no answer, so the host tells his servants, “Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth” (13). Wow, way to break the metaphor there, Jesus. At the end of this horrific parable, Jesus helpfully tells us the moral of the story: “Many people are invited, but few are chosen” (14). Also, God is a crazed psychopath, apparenty.
The Pharisees keep trying to trip Jesus up. So they ask him whether the law allows people to pay taxes to Caesar given that Jesus doesn’t support favoritism (not sure how those things are related). Jesus is like, “Why are you trying to fuck with me? Go bring me a coin.” So they bring him a coin and he’s like “Whose fucking head is on this fucking coin?” And they’re like, “Caesar’s.” And he’s like, “Great. Give Caesar what’s Caesar’s and give God what’s God’s. Fuck off.” So they do.
The Sadducees, who don’t believe in resurrection, come to ask Jesus a resurrection-related question. They explain that they knew of seven brothers who each married the same woman, all in a row, with the next one marrying her when the last one died. Eventually they all died and so did the woman, and none of them had any children. So, they ask, which of the men will the woman be married to after they are all resurrected? Jesus answers that “At the resurrection people won’t marry nor will they be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like angels from God” (30). The Sadducees freak out and leave.
The Pharisees try again, and ask Jesus what the greatest commandment is. He says that the most important is to love God as hard as you can, and that the next most important is to love your neighbor as yourself, and that the whole law depends on those two commandments. Then Jesus turns the Pharisees’ tactics on them. He asks them whose son the Christ is, and they say David’s. But Jesus quotes some passage from the Old Testament where David calls the Christ “lord,” and says, “If David calls him Lord, how can he be David’s son?” (45). Nobody can answer him and from then on nobody dares ask him any questions ever again. I’m not sure how exactly this was such a rhetorical knock-down punch, but okay.
Jesus tells his followers to do what the Pharisees say but not what they do, because “Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others” (5). He points out that they really liked to be called “Rabbi” (i.e. “teacher”), and warns everyone that Christ is their only teacher and God is their only father, so no human should be called teacher or father because they are really brothers and sisters. He also talks again about how the low will be lifted up and the high and mighty will be brought low and the greatest will be servants and so on.
Jesus condemns the Pharisees and similar folks for their hypocrisy and general lameness. He calls them stupid and blind, and blames them for keeping people out of the kingdom of heaven. They follow the tiny busybody rules to the letter but totally miss the big picture – they tithe diligently but don’t understand justice, for example. He says that though they look righteous and pure on the outside, they are polluted inside (yes, this section was alluded to in this video). Finally, Jesus bemoans Jerusalem’s lostness and blindness and how God has tried so hard to save the people of Israel but they keep going astray.
The condemnation of hypocrisy is pretty cool, and pretty ironic given the political climate of this country.
The most appealing part of the idea of an afterlife, to me, is the idea of being reunited after death with those whom you loved in life. And that certainly seems to be one of the components which most comforts people I know who believe in an afterlife. But Jesus puts the kibosh on that idea with the whole story of the seven brothers. Too bad.