Posts Tagged “christian”

Gospel of Jesus' WifeIt’s been awhile since it was a hot topic in the news, but the so-called “gospel of Jesus’ wife” is in the news again. The New York Times reports that, after some non-destructive tests have been done on it, the fragment is probably of classical or early-medieval origin (WebCite cached article):

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.…

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.

The last time I blogged about the GJW, I’d commented on a rather rash Vatican dismissal of any possibility that the fragment could be genuine. Now that some tests have actually been done — which hadn’t been the case back when the Vatican pitched a fit over it — I don’t doubt they’ll still refuse to accept it might be genuine.

That’s a shame, because quite obviously, whether or not GJW is genuine, doesn’t mean Jesus had to have been married. It only means some classical or early medieval Coptic Christians wrote as though he had been. Sure, it seems a really bizarre idea to modern eyes, but there were lots of Christian groups that believed a lot of different things in antiquity, and a lot of those ideas were strange (even to other Christians). If you want to read a really weird account of Jesus’ childhood, for example, read the (possible) 2nd century Infancy Gospel of Thomas. In it, a young Jesus literally curses people to death. No Christians today take that seriously, but some Christian definitely wrote it, back in classical times. There really isn’t any rational reason for anyone … the robed denizens of the Vatican included … to get their knickers in knots over this.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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US DVD cover for Religulous, via MoviePosterDBIt’s no surprise that religionists aren’t fond of atheist Bill Maher. He’s been condemning their religionism for years. They get their knickers in knots almost every time the guy says something. They’re incensed that some insolent atheist dares say atheistic things … and they quite simply can’t tolerate it. The most recent example of their insane fury over the guy, comes from the keyboard of evangelical Christian Tristan Emmanuel who’s called for Maher to be “whipped” for having uttered blasphemy (locally-cached article):

Bill-asphemy: Does Maher Deserve A Whipping For Slandering God? [title]

I think it’s time to bring back blasphemy laws.

And here is why…

“… the thing that’s really disturbing about Noah isn’t that it is silly, it’s that it’s immoral. It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God… What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie.” — Bill Maher

And then he added this little ditty:

“Hey, God, you know, you’re kind of a dick when you’re in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with anger issues.” — Bill Maher.…

Here is an example of how America once dealt with the likes of Bill Maher.

“Be it declared and enacted by the Lieutenant Governor, Council and Representatives, convened in General Assembly, and it is enacted by the Authority of the same, that if any person shall presume willfully to blaspheme the holy Name of God, Father, Son, or Holy Ghost; either by denying, cursing or reproaching the true God; his Creation or Government of the World: or by denying, cursing, or reproaching the holy Word of God… everyone so offending shall be punished by imprisonment, not exceeding six months, and until they find sureties for good behaviours; by sitting in pillory; by whipping; boaring thorow the tongue, with a red hot iron; or sitting upon the gallows with a rope about their neck; at the discretion of the court…” — Massachusetts General Laws.

Of course, Emmanuel concedes Maher has a right to say what he wants … he just doesn’t think Christians should permit him to, anyway:

[Maher] may have protection under the First Amendment to say whatever slanderous thing that comes out of his toilet bowl brain, but that does not mean Christians should turn the other cheek.

(Actually, Mr Emmanuel, you Christians are required always to “turn the other cheek.” Jesus offered no exceptions or caveats in his instructions. You must do it, every single fucking time, without fail, and without excuse. But I digress.)

Emmanuel hurls the requisite anti-atheist Bible verse (Psalm 14:1) at Maher, as though this one verse justifies any believer doing anything s/he wants to Maher because he’s an insolent non-believer. Personally, I don’t find that Bible verse convincing, and I don’t expect Maher does, either. I mean, it was written a little over 2,000 years ago by a self-righteous semi-nomadic scribe somewhere in the Near East, who obviously was angry that there were actually people in his world who dared not believe in the deity he did, and he couldn’t control his outrage over it. I certainly am not impressed by that infuriated scribe’s opinions or complaints. When Christianists throw that verse at me, I know they’ve run out of rational material and are resorting to name-calling … and that tells me everything I need to know about them, and about their religion.

Emmanuel repeatedly uses the word “slander” in his screed, as though Maher’s blasphemy is the crime or tort of slander. But it’s not. I’m no lawyer, but as I understand it, in the US, to prevail in a slander case, one must demonstrate two things: First, that the statement in question is factually incorrect; and second, that the person making it knows it to be factually incorrect. I invite Emmanuel to demonstrate that YHWH is not the “psychotic mass-murderer” Maher said he was. He would first have to show that YHWH exists in the first place, then demonstrate he isn’t the “psychotic mass murderer” Maher said he was. I wish him the best of luck doing that. He won’t be able to … but I suppose he can try.

Another tactic Emmanuel uses is to claim that by “slandering” God, Maher is “slandering” his believers. This is just a way of (falsely) personalizing what Maher said, reframing it as something other than it was. Apparently by calling their God a “psychotic mass murderer,” Maher attacked his followers. Well, too bad. He didn’t. Moreoever, to identify oneself with one’s deity and to assume anything negative said about the deity is an “attack” one oneself, is presumption of the tallest order … and irrational.

Emmanuel piles onto his illogic with the claim that blaspheming his God is the same thing as threatening the president. But it isn’t. They’re two different things. Threatening the president is one thing, and it is (sometimes) illegal. But saying YHWH is “a psychotic mass murderer” is something else entirely.

There’s a saying among non-believers that blasphemy is a victimless crime. Effectively, it is. Even if there were a God who is mortally insulted whenever anyone blasphemes him/her/it, the cold fact is that s/he/it is literally unharmed by it. Assuming YHWH exists, how can Maher calling him “a psychotic mass murderer” damage him? He can’t. Maher is a mere mortal, whereas YHWH is supposedly an omnipotent being. Maher cannot harm YHWH in the slightest way, ever. Not by his words, and not by his actions. Maher’s blasphemy also does not harm YHWH’s followers, such as Emmanuel. They can just continue believing whatever they wish, however they wish; nothing Maher says can ever prevent them from doing so.

Blasphemy hurts no one and nothing, except maybe for the feelings of believers … but then, religiofascists like Emmanuel obviously have no reservations about hurting the feelings of Maher — which he did indirectly by tossing out a quotation of Ps 14:1 which refers to him as a “fool,” “corrupt,” and “abominable,” and directly by calling Maher “morally bankrupt.” So he pretty much forfeited the moral high ground here … if he had even been standing on it in the first place.

The bottom line is that an omnipotent being like YHWH can take care of himself. He doesn’t need sanctimoniously-angry followers like Emmanuel sticking up for him and whipping people who say negative things about him. If YHWH objects to Maher’s remark, or his atheism, he has the power to do something about it. If he chooses not to, then Emmanuel should just shut his self-righteous face already and stop doing for his God what his own God will not do for himself.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Religulous DVD cover, via MoviePosterDB.

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Cross Lighting 2005A bunch of hateful wingnuts in Chesterfield county in Virginia area have been recruiting lately. That’s not really surprising; it’s in the South, after all (although it’s part of the somewhat cosmopolitan Richmond region). The leaflets and assorted hateful bilge they’ve been distributing there kicked up a bit of a controversy. But the KKK chapter there has responded to that, and as WWBT-TV in Richmond reports, they’re defending their efforts to expand (locally-cached article):

We are now hearing from the man behind all those KKK fliers being distributed across Chesterfield. The Klan documents have been reported in multiple neighborhoods since January.…

NBC 12 spoke to Frank Ancona who is Imperial Wizard of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He is president of the group distributing the fliers in Chesterfield County. Ancona says KKK membership is up across the country.

“In the last 6 years that I’ve been president of this organization I’ve seen the numbers probably triple,” said Ancona.

He says members are tasked with recruiting new members.

“We don’t hate people because of their race,” said Ancona. “We are a Christian organization.”

Aha. So, because they belong to “a Christian organization,” they cannot — by (Ancona’s) definition — be haters. OK, got it. It’s a weird tautology, and one that defies logic (I wasn’t aware that being a Christian meant one cannot possibly “hate” anyone else), but it’s a free country and I suppose he’s entitled to his juvenile irrationality.

In any event, Ancona trots out the usual apologetics:

Ancona claims the packets are meant to recruit, and he says they are tools used to “set the record straight.”

“Because of the act of a few rogue Klansmen,” said Ancona. “All Klansmen are supposed to be murderers, and wanting to lynch Black people, and we’re supposed to be terrorists. That’s a complete falsehood.”

This is the old “don’t judge us by the few extremists in our midst,” but that’s belied by the Ku Klux Klan‘s history. It was founded rather specifically as something of a terrorist group. The killings its members did, do in fact reflect on the organization as a whole, because the organization was founded in order to foster conspiracies to commit violence.

A couple of Ancona’s other points of “clarification” also reveal yet more illogic on his part:

“We want to keep our race the White race,” said Ancona. “We want to stay White. It’s not a hateful thing to want to maintain White Supremacy.”

Actually, Mr Imperial Wizard, it is rather hateful to fear losing your “whiteness” to other races or to worry about loss of numbers or power. There would be no reason to worry about any of those things without first hating those of other races.

Ancona also implies that, because “KKK membership is up across the country,” what he — and they! — are doing must be right. That, however, is a form of argumentum ad populum (aka appeal to consensus, bandwagon fallacy, appeal to the majority, authority of the many, appeal to popularity, and democratic fallacy). The problem is that just because people think something … even very many people … does not necessarily mean it’s true. Veracity is not up for a popular vote, and popularity doesn’t make an invalid notion magically become fact.

Here is WWBT-TV’s video report:

As for KKK members being Christians, most of them very likely are Christians. And the KKK organization itself views itself as Christian. Here, for example, is their own Web site, making exactly this declaration (note, this is a link to a cached version of their page, not the page itself; I will not dignify them by directly linking their site in my own). It can be traced directly to Southern Baptists in the post-Civil War South. Other Christians certainly may disagree with the KKK’s version of Christianity, but its origins as a Christian group are not in dispute. The same is true of the related Christian Identity movement, which is predicated on its own Christianity-inspired mythology, including the idea that so-called “dark races” are descendants of “beast-men” mentioned in the Old Testament (e.g. Jonah 3:8), as well as Anglo-Israelism, a hateful anti-Semitic philosophy I’ve mentioned a few times previously. It is quite literally impossible to extract Christianity from what these hateful pricks believe, and have it remain intact.

The question of interest to me is, how is it that a supposedly divinely-founded religion propounded by a supposedly loving God who embraces all peoples everywhere, can possibly be used as a refuge for people like this? One can argue they’ve distorted their religion in order to suit their hatred, and maybe they have … but how could this have happened, if Christianity were truly divine in nature? Would it not be incorruptible in such a way? If not, why not? And how divine can it really be, if it is so easily corrupted?

Moreover, if it were true that KKK members are part of a “lunatic fringe” and don’t represent Christianity as a whole, how is it that the KKK has survived, in one form or another, for close to 150 years? If they’re such a tiny minority, one would think their hatred would have been stamped out long ago. But it hasn’t been. It persists. Sure, it runs into roadblocks here or there, but it always comes back, and it continues to have a voice. That an Imperial Wizard of the KKK would speak with, and reveal his identity to, a television station in a fairly large city like Richmond, tells me he doesn’t fear any repercussions. He must think none of the other Christians in his area — and there are many! — are going to try to discipline him for having stepped out of bounds. Why are Ancona, and others like him, still skulking around, doing what they’re doing?

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Teachings of Jesus 38 of 40. the rapture. one in the field. Jan Luyken etching. Bowyer BibleAs I’ve blogged so many times, religionists love to use any and all disasters to promote their dour metaphysics. Everything that happens is, for them, an object lesson and/or a warning that proves them correct. Earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics, droughts, famines, wars, accidents, etc. are all useful to them in this regard. It makes no difference what sort of awful thing happened … religionists are mercenary enough to just go ahead and use it.

The latest example of this involves the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (which has gripped the mass media like nothing else over the last couple weeks). And it comes from Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the famous evangelical preacher Billy Graham; to her, the plane’s disappearance is a harbinger of something to come (WebCite cached article):

The pictures of grieving friends and family members of those who are missing are heart-wrenching. I have prayed for God’s peace and comfort for them, as well as God’s direction of the search and rescue teams who are desperately looking for clues that will solve the mystery. But the unanswered questions seem to intensify the horror…

How could a modern airliner drop out of sight so quickly and completely? …

Bottom line: Where are all the people?

The answers don’t seem to be forthcoming as I write this. But as I have prayerfully pondered all of the above, I can’t help but wonder…Is this worldwide sense of shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief, a glimpse of things to come? Is this a small snapshot of what the entire world will experience the day after the rapture of the church? Because the Bible is clear. There is coming a moment in time when Jesus will come back to gather to Himself all those—dead and alive–who have put their trust in Him. And on that day, the world will be asking, Where have all the people gone? Not just 239 of us, but millions of us.

On that day, with millions of people directly impacted by their own missing friends and family members…in the midst of overwhelming shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief…when the world searches for clues, how easily will they find The Answer in what I leave behind? Instead of an oil slick, will there be traces of His grace and glory and truth?

The day Lotz mentions, when “millions” of Christians will supposedly vanish spontaneously, is a reference to what evangelical Christians like her call “the Rapture.” This eschatological legend is based upon Matthew 24:31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It describes how “the faithful” will be sucked up into the sky (the dead first, the living after them) to meet Jesus as he descends to earth during his Second Coming. Now, that by itself isn’t a lot to go on. Paul’s remarks about Jesus’ return doesn’t contain much narrative, and although Jesus says quite a bit about “the End,” he doesn’t say much about the Rapture moment, either. Taken as they are, these passages seem to be a sequence of events that comes in rapid order; first, Jesus and his heavenly host begin their descent (Mt 24:30 & 1 Th 4:16); the deceased “faithful” go up to meet him, then the living “faithful” (1 Th 4:17 & Mt 24:31), and after that, “destruction” will befall the earth, and presumably those who remain on it (1 Th 5:3). What evangelicals have done with the “rapture” verse is to couple it with other scriptural passages elsewhere that describe “the End” in greater detail.

As one might expect of such an exercise in creative reinterpretation, they’ve come up with a variety of ways to wedge it into their “End Times” mythology. In this regard it’s interlocked with another Christian legend, the Great Tribulation, a coming time of cataclysm and torment, described among other places in Revelation 9:1-21. Some evangelicals believe the Rapture will come at the end of the Tribulation; others believe it will happen somewhere in the middle of it; and the most popular belief — conveniently for them! — is that it will happen before the Tribulation begins. Each of these scenarios has what appears to be definitive and often exclusive scriptural support … all of which just demonstrates the folly of this kind of interpretation game. (Full disclosure: During my own fundie days, I was a “mid-tribber.”)

In any event, the notion that their Jesus will vacuum them off the earth at some point triggers a lot of fantasies in the minds of fundamentalist Christians. They imagine those who’re left behind will be horrified by the fact that so many people suddenly went missing, and they revel in this (“Hah, you insolent Jesus-haters! We’ll be up in heaven with our precious Jesus, while the rest of you will wallow in torment down on earth, terrified by our sudden departure — and then you’ll see we were right, after all!”). The famous and lucrative “Left Behind” publishing and media empire is built upon this schadenfreude.

This sort of giddy fantasy, based on suppositions built on suppositions, and capped by diatribes like Lotz’s, is all very irrational. It reveals a lot about evangelical Christians’ character … and it’s not flattering.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Christian Post.

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Jesus with a gun / via Counterlight's PeculiarsQuite some time ago I blogged about the phenomenon of pastors embracing guns and gun ownership as an expression of Christianity. And a few days ago I blogged about Christofascist Jerry Boykin’s claim that Jesus is going to return soon, armed with an automatic weapon. (He actually “checked it out,” you see, and is absolutely certain of it.)

Well, many Christians continue viewing their Jesus as a “patriot” like themselves, even if he was nothing like them at all. Let’s be honest … it’s difficult, if not impossible, to see how angry, maniacal gun-toters like Ted Nugent or Wayne LaPierre possibly bear any resemblance to the man who’s reported to have said things like “turn the other cheek” and “those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

It seems Kentucky’ Baptists are no exception. As the Louisville Courier-Journal reports, they love arming themselves to the teeth for Jesus (locally-cached article):

In an effort its spokesman has described as “outreach to rednecks,” the Kentucky Baptist Convention is leading “Second Amendment Celebrations,” where churches around the state give away guns as door prizes to lure in nonbelievers in hopes of converting them to Christ.

As many as 1,000 people are expected at the next one, on Thursday at Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah, where they will be given a free steak dinner and the chance to win one of 25 handguns, long guns and shotguns.

The goal is to “point people to Christ,” the church says in a flier. Chuck McAlister, an ex-pastor, master storyteller and former Outdoor Channel hunting show host who presides at the events as the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s team leader for evangelism, said 1,678 men made “professions of faith” at about 50 such events last year, most of them in Kentucky.

In Louisville, he said, more than 500 people showed up on a snowy January day for a gun giveaway at Highview Baptist Church, and 61 made decisions to seek salvation.

Lest anyone think this “packing heat for Jesus” movement is a localized phenomenon in Kentucky, it’s not. As CNN explains, a church in Troy, NY is giving away a gun for Jesus, too (WebCite cached article):

An upstate New York church is giving new meaning to the biblical passage, “My peace I give unto you.”

In this case, it’s a piece: an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Grace Baptist Church in Troy — about two and half hours north of Manhattan — is giving away the semi-automatic rifle as part of a special event honoring hunters and gun owners later this month. The church website entices gun lovers with the words “Win a Free AR-15″ followed by the New Testament line.

The holder of the winning ticket will receive an AR-15 modified for sale in New York state.…

In a letter to his congregation, Pastor John Koletas said: “Our country was built with the King James Bible and the gun.”

Sounds as though Koletas’s church is a member of the waning KJV-Only movement … which as I’ve explained previously, is based upon pure, unadulterated, 100% grade-A bullshit and lies. In any event, this giveaway has something of a political pedigree:

New York Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, a Republican, will speak at the service.

The C-J article points out these (literally!) militant churches and their pastors have some critics within Christianity, but it doesn’t appear those critics are actually doing much of anything about it, other than to provide a few sound bites to the occasional reporter who happens to call looking for a comment. Not one of them is explaining to these pastors that Jesus was no warrior, that he didn’t want his followers brandishing firearms all over the place, and that what they’re doing is thoroughly and completely un-Christian. No, other Christians are quite happy to let their militant co-religionists run around, holding onto their dour, sanctimonious belligerence.

Photo credit: Counterlight’s Peculiars.

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'Homeless Jesus' by Timothy P. Schmalz / photo by WCNC-TVA statue of Jesus in Davidson, NC has some local folks upset. No, it’s not blasphemous, not even slightly; in fact, it’s in front of a church, one which willingly hosted it. The problem with it, is that it depicts Jesus as … <drumroll please> … a homeless man, of all things! WCNC-TV in Charlotte explains this “controversy,” if one can call it that (WebCite cached article):

A sculpture of Jesus as a homeless man installed outside a church in Davidson has neighbors and church leaders debating its message and appropriateness.

According to articles on sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz’s website, the same “Homeless Jesus” now at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church was rejected by cathedrals in New York and Canada. Schmalz’s site also includes articles claiming Pope Francis blessed and accepted “Homeless Jesus” into Vatican City.

From a distance, especially at dusk, you would swear the sculpture is a real-life homeless man sleeping on a bench in front of the church.…

Crucifixion marks in the feet offer the only clue to the man’s identity on the sculpture itself. A plaque next to it shows the “Homeless Jesus,” title and that the inspiration came from a passage in Matthew: 25.

A local woman — I assume, Christian — interviewed for this story had called police about the statue, fearing for her family’s safety.

Later in the story she complained about it:

[Cindy Castano] Swannack says it’s an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless protecting them.

“Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help,” she said, “We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy.”

Actually, Ms Swannack, if you’d actually read your Bible (most Christians, sadly, have never done so) and noticed the mention of Matthew 25 at the site, you’d realize what this was about. It was about one of Jesus’ more notable teachings:

“Then the [Son of Man] will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus’ message is a simple one, which is completely lost on Christians like Ms Swannack. And that simple message is this: Treat the lowly as though they were Jesus himself; whatever you do for them, you do for Jesus. Honestly, how much plainer could that be? How can it not, therefore, make sense to depict Jesus as homeless?

Artist Timothy P. Schmalz’s Web site is available here, and here is his page about this particular statue. After spending some time looking at the site and Mr Schmalz’s art, I can’t see how anyone could possibly conclude his work is anything but reverent, and (contrary to Ms Swannack’s assessment) appropriately Christian.

Photo credit: WCNC-TV photo of Timothy P. Schmalz sculpture.

Hat tip: CNN Belief blog.

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The Conservative Christ / Michael D'AntuonoThis is something that’s been making the rounds for a few days, but I’ve only just gotten around to blogging about it. I commented on it yesterday in a Delphi forum, and will use some of those remarks here.

A tendency of Christians is to project something of themselves onto Jesus Christ, the founder of their religion. This is understandable since projection is a common psychological phenomenon. Retired general, raging Neocrusader, and avowed Christofascist Jerry Boykin recently fell into this trap, when, as Right Wing Watch explains, he declared Jesus was a warrior, and had inspired the Second Amendment (WebCite cached article):

The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 is [sic] says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A might [sic] warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe … I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies ’cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.

And I believe now — I’ve checked this out — I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.

Now I want you to think about this: where did the Second Amendment come from? … From the Founding Fathers, it’s in the Constitution. Well, yeah, I know that. But where did the whole concept come from? It came from Jesus when he said to his disciples ‘now, if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’

RWW offers audio of his comments, if you need to hear them:

Given humanity’s predilection, as I noted already, for projection, it’s understandable that Boykin, a retired Army general, would envision Jesus as having been a warrior. But his desire to view Jesus as having been like himself, just isn’t valid. It certainly doesn’t mesh with other aspects of Jesus as reported elsewhere in the gospels (e.g. “turn the other cheek,” “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,” “blessed are the peacemakers,” etc.).

Boykin is quoting Luke 22:36-38, which is:

And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Taken at face value — without keeping the gospel’s ongoing narrative in mind — Jesus’ instruction to “whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one” certainly does appear to be his way of preparing his followers for military action. Why else would he ask all his followers to arm themselves? However, just a couple sentences later, he concedes that just two swords within his own company “is enough.” These two sentences conflict; he went from saying that “whoever has no sword” should acquire one, i.e. wanting all 12 of his apostles armed, to deciding that only two swords are sufficient. He cannot logically have meant to say both of these things. What’s more, this passage comes after the Last Supper and before his arrest, which presumably he knew would happen soon. It would have made no sense for him to plan for his group to take on a platoon of soldiers, armed with only two swords among them. That would never have worked out. Had Jesus been a soldier first and foremost as Boykin claims, he would never have settled for just two swords!

Many scholars believe this passage was injected into Luke (or into the pre-Lucan source) as a way of having Jesus fulfill prophecy (Lk 22:37 quotes Isaiah 53:12). It does also serve well as a plot device, providing the soldiers who would soon arrest Jesus an ostensible reason to do so (in other words, giving them cause to “number” Jesus “with the transgressors”). This makes sense within the terms of the story Luke is telling: the reader can easily presume the Romans wouldn’t have wanted a band of armed Jewish (potential) bandits lurking around in or around Jerusalem, around a Jewish holiday. Having just two swords among them might easily have justified an arrest within the terms of the story, but not enough that a pitched battle might take place.

Overall, the idea that Jesus was a warrior quite simply doesn’t make any sense. This is particularly true if one compares this section of Luke with its parallel in Matthew, where shortly after this point in the story (specifically in Mt 26:52), Jesus famously said, “all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

Aside from Lk 22:36-38 the only other place Jesus was said to have expressed any kind of violent attitude was in the Cleansing of the Temple, especially as reported in John 2:13-16 which reports he actually made a weapon (a scourge of cords) and used it on people. While I concede this is an example of violence done by Jesus, I can’t see how this sort of thing stacks up with claims such as Boykin’s that Jesus was a “warrior.” The warriors of the time didn’t settle for just using cord-scourges on people. They certainly didn’t rob people with them, or take on soldiers with them, or cause anything other than minimal mayhem. No, warriors used blades (of whatever sort they could get their hands on), as well as clubs, spears, and other implements capable of causing much worse injury than any scourge ever could. A scourge is by no means the weapon of a “warrior” … not in the 1st century Levant, and not now.

Boykin also bases some of his thinking on Revelation 19, but if Christian legend about this book is correct, this is not a description of how Jesus was in the past; instead, it’s a prediction of what he will be in the future. In other words, after Armageddon (Rev 16), Jesus will arrive as a warrior. But, he wasn’t one during his first incarnation, and he isn’t one yet.

Now, I’ll grant the Abrahamic God — to whom Jesus is related — certainly was warlike. A number of times in the Old Testament, he’s called YHWH Tzevaot and similar names, which are usually rendered in English Bibles as “the Lord of Hosts.” In Exodus 15:3, he’s explicitly called a warrior. But as much as Christians would like to view Jesus as being the same as YHWH, the cold fact is that his portrayal in the gospels is very different. The Jesus described in the New Testament is nothing like YHWH, and if most Christian denominations are right, this was intentional.

Lastly, Boykin’s assurance that he’s “checked out” that Jesus will return armed with an AR-15, is just a fucking joke! What mechanism could he have used to “check out” this assertion? How did he confirm it?

Photo credit: Michael D’Antuono.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum, Friendly Atheist, Gawker, and others.

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