Contraception, no; Viagra, si

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (Gen. 1:22)

This is one of those verses that has been abused many times over to promote the agenda of the Corporate Christian Complex. The Corporate Christian Complex was abusing this verse long before it had evolved into the Corporate Christian Complex. Often cited as God’s command to Adam and Eve, the verse has been used at various times to justify:

  • Greed
  • Overexpansion
  • Overpopulation
  • Any reason to mow down the less privileged in the name of progress.

At the hands of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and their puppet master Pope Benedict, who singlehandedly wants to return the Catholic Church to pre-Vatican II (if not the Middle Ages), this verse has been used to make sure women get pregnant whenever possible.

You see, God hates birth control. How do we know? Genesis 1:22. So any health providers that include birth control are bad, and any government who makes health care providers provide birth control are in league with Lucifer himself.

Lucifer, secular humanists, and Democrats.

Women rights advocates (including my wife Carol) complain that health care shouldn’t cover Viagra if they deny birth control. They forget that Viagra is as Christian as communion wine and tithing. How do we know this? Genesis 1:22. God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply.

I was thinking about this during the most recent round of Republican moves to force women to undergo invasive ultrasound treatments and publicize the names of women who have abortions. I realized that the Bible does have an unwritten exception clause. Time.

Let me explain. As a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) I learned early on that drinking wine (or anything alcoholic) is a sin. We couldn’t even have wine at the Lord’s supper, which is the BPK form of holy communion. We had to drink grape juice from a glass too tiny for espresso.

But the Bible clearly says Jesus and all of the apostles drank wine. So I asked my Baptist Preacher Dad (BPD) what gives. The answer? Time.

You see, when Jesus was alive they didn’t have grape juice. It always fermented. It wasn’t until Welch invented grape juice that we could enjoy the fruit of the vine without also imbibing alcohol.

Why couldn’t they just drink water, I asked.

The same answer: Time. You see, water was dirty and full of germs. People who drank it got sick. So they were forced to drink wine.

Unfortunately for BPD, I was one of those inquisitive kids who couldn’t let go off a bug once it flew up his ass (which, in my case, was all the time). Why didn’t they boil it like we did in Cub Scouts before they kicked me out because I got the entire den to spray our sodas on our scout master?

It took a moment, but BPD’s are clever. That’s how they justify splitting churches so often. People could boil water at home, but it was too difficult to carry pots and firewood when they traveled. So they carried wine skins instead.

I could have pressed it but there were too many other, more important issues to press, like the Holy Trinity, free will and why David got to marry Bathsheba after they committed adultery and had her husband killed. A marriage without which, I might add, we wouldn’t have had Jesus. (Look it up). These produced far more satisfactory flusters than water and wine.

I was thinking about the Time answer when I was thinking about birth control and I realized it works just as well here. Think about it. When God told us to multiply we didn’t have math. The only way we could multiply was with sex.

In the 21st Century we not only have math, we have calculators on our iPhones. It’s so much easier, and so much less messy, to multiply without sex. So we can now obey God without getting women pregnant.

Get off your high horses, Rick and Newt and Tea Party members. Give women birth control if they want it. Just make sure they download calculator apps to their smart phones. I know that this also undermines the rationale for Viagra, but when have men ever really needed the Bible to rationalize having sex? They can find twenty-seven other perfectly reasonable rationalizations between heart beats.

Besides, now that women have smart phones, they can multiply perfectly well without getting men involved.

Women of America, claim your freedom earned with time. Brandish your calculators and demand birth control if you want it. You can be Christian without babies.

Ironically, when I looked up Genesis 1:22 before writing this blog I realized God never commanded Adam and Eve to multiply. He issues the command to “the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.” (1:21).

You see, God hadn’t even thought of people yet. That doesn’t happen until Day Six. Now, you might try to argue that people are animals as well. But that would make you an evolutionist. People are special.

Remember, babies came after they got kicked out of the garden of Eden.


Would Jesus rent a homeless hotspot?

Austin’s South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) hosted one more innovative event this year: homeless people as wifi hotspots. New York advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) paid homeless people $20 a day to carry mobile wifi hotspots at festival venues. People could use the hotspots for wireless access for a small donation ($2 suggested).

Wow, what a horrible idea. Exploiting poor homeless people for advertising. Or so we should believe when we listen to the outrage over the idea, expressed mostly by conservatives, including FOX, over the rank hypocrisy (or worse). BBH wasn’t helping the homeless so much as taking advantage of them.

That’s right, the same people who want to get rid of the minimum wage are furious that homeless people were underpaid for offering a service that people would actually give them money for. After all, they would do so much better panhandling.

Critics say the gesture is little more than a callous attempt by a large corporation to appear socially aware. And what do these critics offer the homeless in exchange? Why, they can stay homeless. Marie Antionette at least was willing to give the poor cake. Basically they seem to advocate it’s better to help no one and not be a hypocrite about it than to help someone in need when you have something to gain.

That has to be the most cynical equation I can imagine. I prefer this (and I’ve written it before): It’s better to give for the wrong reasons than to not give for the right ones. Let’s face it, I can’t imagine a blind person asking Jesus for healing only if his heart was in it.

I might say that to my mother or Carol, yes. But family dynamics aren’t an issue in this scenario.

Where are the Christians asking WWJD about homeless hotspots? I suspect Jesus would ask, “What you have done for the homeless recently?” Consider this: People attending SXSW probably needed wireless connections to check in with home and office. After all, a cell phone call will no longer do since they show you are backward on technology. I’m not willing to wander around SXSW with a mobile router. If a homeless person feels it’s worth his or her time to accept donations providing the hotspot, everybody wins.

Keeping the Bible Honest

After years of complaining about the Jesus Seminar and their ruthless dismantling of Jesus’ message, conservatives are fighting back. They will be replacing all the verses the Seminar kicked out and cutting out all the verses the Seminar kept in. Their rationale? We have to keep those liberals out of the Bible business.

Maybe I’m exaggerating slightly, but not much. The Conservative Bible Project has decided to embrace the enterprise of the Jesus Seminar by engaging in a worldwide online collaborative effort “to render God’s word into modern English without liberal translation distortions.” This means, among other things, eliminating gender inclusive language, replacing outdated words such as “peace” and “miracle” with modern conservative words (presumably words like “preemptive strike” and “the invisible hand of the free market”), eliminating questionable liberal passages such as the injunction to be sinless before you cast the first stone,1 and rephrasing economic parables with modern free market language.

Some history: The Jesus Seminar is a long established symposium of international scholars who gave themselves the mission of trying to decide which passages in the Gospels include the authentic words of Jesus and which came later. They are among the movers behind the increasing public awareness of the Q manuscript (a proto-gospel of sayings attributed to Jesus) and have at last count successfully reduced the number of historically authentic words of Jesus to about three.

Okay, all of the words of Jesus are probably authentic, the question is whether he used them in the specific order recounted in specific passages. And there is some merit to the enterprise if we insist every word in the Gospel is the literal word of God and yet the Gospels record them differently.

By contrast, the Conservative Bible Project is a spin off of, which claims to be the “trustworthy encyclopedia.” This week’s highlights include an article about God’s sense of humor, “a simple mystery the lamestream media and public schools ignore,” the “Question Evolution campaign” which poses 15 questions that allegedly continue to baffle atheists and scientists2 and a “humorous” article comparing Joseph Stalin and atheist Richard Dawkins. On the surface I would say the credentials of the open-source contributors to the Conservative Bible Project clearly trump those of the Jesus Seminar.

Ironically, the Conservative Bible Project is precisely the kind of post-modernist enterprise that conservatives hate. Deconstructing biblical texts brings to mind the work of Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jaques Derrida, French liberal scholars who question the stability of texts as they undergo translation and the passage of time. The postmodernist impulse to suggest meaning is, in part, a matter of commercial and cultural viability. Or, to put it more simply, any crazy idea gains merit if you can sell it to enough people.

But why not have a Conservative Bible Project? It isn’t too different from the Fundamentalist Papers circulated early in the twentieth century (and to which I am far more sympathetic). As former President Bush used to say, you have the right to your own belief even if it’s wrong and I intend to ignore it.

We could speculate that the Project is little more than an attempt by the Corporate Christian Complex to hijack the scriptures and the moral ground. After all, it’s a small step from saying Jesus was a capitalist to saying Jesus wants us to vote for Romney to saying Jesus wants corporations to pollute our rivers, poison our kids and lay us off by the millions because the love of money is the root of all progress.

To me it the Project sounds like a strategy often suggested by Baptist leaders when I was younger: Fight the devil with the devil’s tools. If the Jesus Seminar wants to rewrite the Bible for the devil, we should rewrite the Bible even better. Because that’s what Jesus would do. And that, I can assure you, is a direct literal quote from the honest-to-God Bible. I just don’t remember where it is.

1Admittedly the passage about the adulteress snuck into the Bible rather late appearing in some, but not all the early manuscripts. back
2Mainly because they don’t accept the answers posed by atheists and scientists, they just hold their fingers in their ears and shout, “La la la.” Example: how did sex originate? The answer: The same way every other adaptation originated. No, I don’t want that answer, I want a better one that accounts specifically for sex and nothing else. This is kind of like the athiest’s old dilemma, “Can God move an immovable rock?” (Think, “can God create a round square?”)
Okay, many are worth discussing, because scientists ask them as well, but they hardly demolish evolution any more than the problem of evil demolishes the possibility of God. It’s kind of like asking how you could possibly drive the direct route from Austin to Detroit since no highway connects them. You can’t, but you can still get there. back

Would Jesus respect the Qur’an?

Do unto others as you would have them do means acting as they believe, not as we do. Far too often Christians, consciously or not, act out from our own values, even though we would be disturbed should others treat us according to their beliefs. We never stop to consider that Jesus’ command means we should apply others’ values as the basis for our actions toward them.

How would we feel if someone burned our Bible? Many would be (and have been) outraged. When I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) I sat through many sermons on Bible burning and religious persecution in the Middle East and the Soviet Bloc. Our family donated money to ministers to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union. Yet, when Afghans express outrage over NATO’s accidental burning of the Qur’an, many Christians respond with indignation.

We assume no responsibility since we don’t accept the Qur’an as a holy book. This attitude suggests a major disconnect. The Qur’an may not be our scripture, but it is scripture for the Moslems—a scripture based very much on stories in our own Old Testament and written to inspire reverence for our God. Allah is the Jewish God as well, whether we want to deny it or not, and, by extension, the God Christians revere as well.

Moslems may view God in a different light than we do, but we view God in a different light than Jews. To say that Moslems appropriated our God to fashion their own worship is to overlook the fact that Christians appropriated the Jewish God.

Christians are people of faith, Jews are people of faith and Moslems are people of faith. We would be incensed—or should I say, many Christians are incensed—when people of other faiths don’t place our faith on equal (if not higher ground) than theirs. In other words, we demand respect for our beliefs and expect others to step aside when the exercise of our faith inconveniences, or even offends them.

This, then, is one of the implications of the golden rule. We should treat the beliefs of others with the same respect we ask them to treat ours. In fact, since Jesus also said we should go the extra mile, we should be more tolerant of other faiths than we ask them to be of our own.

We know the apostle Paul would not have eaten pork or non-kosher wine in the presence of Jews or Christians who practiced kosher law, even if he didn’t follow kosher practices. I think it is safe to assume he wouldn’t have served alcohol or pork to Moslems (had there been any at the time).

If US or NATO troops burn the scriptures of a country our troops occupy, even if we do so inadvertently, we owe more than an apology. The White House and State Department should be consulting with Imams and Islamic scholars as to the proper way to make restitution to the people of Afghanistan for the disregard we showed to scriptures placed under our care.

We shouldn’t protest that they have killed our troops in retaliation, and believe that gives us the moral high ground. That they did so is criminal and the offenders should be prosecuted under Afghani law. But these offenders aren’t our responsibility. Our responsibility is to make whatever amends Islamic culture would request of us.

If they choose not to accept those amends, we are, as Christians, still compelled to forgive them. Whether we want to forgive them or not.