Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sarcasm In The Bible – Example #4: Job And His Doofus Friends

Poor Job. You think you have it bad, Job’s got you beat.

As if Job doesn’t have enough going wrong for him (oxen and donkeys stolen by Sabeans, fire burning up sheep and servants, Chaldeans stealing camels and killing servants, house falling on sons and daughters, painful sores on his body, you and your suffering is merely a pawn on a bet between God and the Devil.) he’s also got spectacularly unhelpful friends.

Job’s friends are Eliphaz the Temanite (I keep wanting to type Termanite), Bildad the Shulhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu the “I Showed Up Out Of Nowhere For My Speech in 32 - 37” Buzite. And they start off okay, sitting for a week on the ground with Job, not saying anything, just being physically present there, strong Friend Shoulders to cry on. Except for Elihu, since he’s not there, he’s apparently he’s not THAT great of a friend, heh.

But then they open their mouths and it’s all over.

The jist of their advice is “What’d you do to bring this on yourself? Come on, you can tell us. Better yet, tell God, confess what you did and repent. Because there’s no way all this would happen to someone who didn’t deserve it.”

Spectacularly unhelpful. Judgmental doofuses. The modern day equivalent would be something like, “It’s my Christian duty to tell you you’re dressing like a whore.”

(Have to give Stella credit for that one, she said it first. Not that I was dressing like a whore, we were totally talking about something else, ha ha ha.)

So they go around and around until God shows up in Chapter 38. God does a few chapters of neatly dodging the obvious question of Why Is This Shit Happening To Me by talking about I’m The Creator And The Point Is Not About Asking Why Because Life Is Complicated And Not About Easy Answers, The Point Is How Will You Respond When The Shit Rolls Down Because If You’re Gonna Abandon Your Faith Over This, Is Wasn’t Really Faith To Begin With. Faith Is About Staying Strong In Good Times AND Bad.

Now, what’s interesting is that a lot of websites like to say Job Chapter 38, verse 4 is sarcasm. God is asking Job “Where were you when laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand.” (verse 4)

It’s my belief that that’s actually not sarcasm, that’s a genuine question God wants to know, because He knows that Job’s answer has to be “I wasn’t there. Oops.” And then will realize that Job’s got no business demanding answers from his Creator.

Chapter 38, verse 5 is a bit more snarky, “Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!”

But quite honestly, I’m not comfortable with a sarcastic God. Are you? It makes me uneasy. I mean, just look at the Old Testament to see what an angry God looks like. It aint pretty. So a sarcastic God kinda scares me. I’m pretty sure this is the only place in the Bible where He gets His sarcasm on.

So I look at this line as God demanding answers. "Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!" "Um, well, uh, you, did, God."

It's possible you think I'm stretching. However, what IS sarcasm is back in Job 12, verse 2, snapping at Zophar, “Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!”

At the end, Job apologizes for questioning God, and takes back all the questions he asked before. And God yells at the Doofus friends, and tells them they’ve gotta go make burnt offerings, and “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Chapter 42 v.8)

So ultimately, the moral of this Sarcastic Lesson is #1 – Sarcasm is an effective weapon against Doofus Friends, #2 – if you ARE going to be a Doofus Friend, be a Elihu, because he totally disappears from the narrative when God shows up, and thus escapes God’s lecture and potential wrath.

This concludes our Sarcasm In The Bible series. I SO hope you enjoyed it. Really. I mean, I hope the joy just FLOWS out of your eyeballs and puddles onto your computer keyboard when you're reading this.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sarcasm In The Bible – Example #3 – The Whiny Israelites

(this series is going on all month, so if you’re not digging it and want me to go back to whining about my life, please rejoin us in February. )

It’s true, the Old Testament has way more examples of sarcasm than the New Testament (Paul’s writing notwithstanding.) They were so angry in the Old Testament, plagues, wars, sacrificing animals, sacrificing kids if God told you to (JUST KIDDING ABRAHAM!) It’s a wonder God loved us enough after all of it to send Jesus, that He didn’t just smite us all for being a planet of thoroughly bratty kids.

And the Israelites in Exodus are no exception. Seriously, thank God they’re the chosen people, because who’d wanna save THIS bunch.

Having made it through the 10 plagues that God through Moses and Aaron inflicted on Pharaoh and Egypt (Exodus 7 -10, and incidentally, my favorite plague is the plague of frogs, because unlike the plagues of gnats, flies, and locusts that simply flew away when they were done swarming, when the plague of frogs is over, the frogs die where they are, meaning dead frogs everywhere “… they were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them” (Exodus 8:14) You know they’re all pointing fingers at each other saying WHO’S GONNA CLEAN UP THESE FROGS!?!) Pharaoh has allowed the Israelites to leave.

It’s not immediately clear how many days have passed since they’ve left Egypt, so we don’t know if the Israelites are basking in the feeling of triumph, jubilation, security, and We Are The Champions when Pharaoh changes his mind and decides to get his pack o’ slaves back.

But bitchy they get, charging Moses with “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us out to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14 v.12)

Awesome bitchy use of sarcasm.

Never mind the fact that God has been with them all this time, literally appearing in a pillar of cloud during the day and in a pillar of fire by night to lead the way (Exodus 13: 21 -22) and one would think that a God that would care enough to do that, a God who rescued them from bugs, boils, and hailstone bumps, among other plagues, probably isn’t going to be bitchy back and say “YEP! I BROUGHT YOU GUYS OUT OF EGYPT TO KILL YOU ALL! THANKS FOR THE ANIMAL SACRIFICES AND THE WORSHIP SONGS! KISS YOUR BUTTS GOODBYE!”

Nope, God instead parts the Red Sea for them, lets them go through so they can hit the Universal Studios gift shop on the other side, and then drowns the Egyptians when they follow.

One would think this would shut the Israelites up enough to where they would learn to trust God, and know that He’s not gonna let them die. But nope. Because the Israelites are a whiny whiny bunch, and they complain a lot more.

Exodus 16 – The Israelites complain that they don’t have enough food, so God rains down manna and quail on them.

Exodus 17 – The Israelites complain that they don’t have any water, so God tells Moses to hit a rock and water comes out.

Exodus 32 – The Israelites complain that Moses isn’t coming down from the mountain where he’s getting the 10 commandments anytime soon, so Aaron, make us a golden calf that we can worship. That doesn’t go well.

And here’s where God’s had enough of them, and tells Moses he’s gonna kill them, and it’s only by Moses’ intervention, pleading and praying that God says okay, fine, but MAN, I’m pissed off at them, so I’m not going with them to the Promised Land “…because you are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you” (Exodus 33:5), and it’s only by Moses’ intervention, pleading and praying that God says okay, fine, I’ll go with you but you guys are a bunch of whiny brats. I still love you, but SERIOUSLY, MAN UP ALREADY.

So ultimately, the moral of this Sarcastic Lesson is #1 – Sarcasm is what shell-shocked people fall back on when confronted with impending death and #2 – TRUST GOD ALREADY.

Seriously. These whiny Israelites don’t know how good they had it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sarcasm In The Bible – Example #2 – Elijah and Fire Fire Fire!

Hey! We’re going all OT up in here! Ya-wooooooo!

We’re in 1st Kings, Chapter 18. Elijah is a prophet and his backstory up until this time (which is basically Chapter 17) is that he’s predicted a famine in Israel, then went and hid in a ravine because God told him to, and was fed by ravens while everyone else starved. (Yeah, I know.) Then God tells him to leave the ravens in the ravine and go hang with a widow in Zarephath, who I personally love for this response when Elijah asks her for a bit of food, “I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it – and die.” So! Dinner, then death. LOVE IT!

Needless to say, God provides for the widow, her son and Elijah, and even brings her son back to life when the son dies, and then tell Elijah to go present himself to Ahab (not the guy after the whale), the tenth king of Israel, whose wife Jezebel (not the Bette Davis movie) is out running around killing God’s prophets.

It’s right around this time that the old song, “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” pops into my head. Did you guys ever used to sing that one? We would speed it up and sing it as fast as possible to get through all twelve verses. This is the fastest I could find on Youtube (and even they don’t go through all twelve verses.)

Elijah must’ve been thinking at some point, “God, I’m kinda tired. Can we knock off the whole send me here, there, and everywhere.” Though it’s quite possible that Elijah was so stoked that he was getting direct communiqu├ęs from God that he was like, “Sure, no problem.”

Anyhow, God’s told Elijah to challenge Ahab’s prophets to a bake-off, where Elijah will face 850 of Ahab and Jezebel’s prophets on Mount Carmel. They’ll built competing altars, sacrifice competing bulls, and call on the name of their respective gods to light the altar and consume the sacrifice. “…the god who answers by fire – he is God.” (v24.)

So the 850 prophets go to it, build the altar, sacrifice the bull, and call on the name of their God, Baal to light the fire. They call, they dance, no dice.

So Ellijah makes like a good man of God and taunts them “’Shout louder!’ he said, ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (v27)

Awesome awesome use of sarcasm.

So the Baal Bad Guys keep at it, and like a tortured high schooler, cut themselves while they’re calling and dancing but still no dice.

When it’s Elijah’s turn, he preens a bit by dumping three jugs of water on the altar just to make sure everyone knows it’s gonna take a miracle to light this now soggy wood, calls on God, who promptly sends down fire to consume the sacrifice, the altar, and the water around it.

So everyone then knows whose God kicks ass.

Elijah then makes like a good man of God and orders the slaughter of those 850 prophets in the Kishon Valley. Yeah. I know. That’s how they do things in the OT.

So ultimately, the moral of this Sarcastic Lesson is #1 If you happen to be so lucky as to have God talking to you, go where He tells you because #2 It could involve slaughtering of bulls or idolatrous prophets and #3 You get to be right about it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sarcasm In The Bible – Example #1 - The Blind Guy

I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m much less of a sarcastic person now than I used to be. In person, that is. (Writing is allowed to be sarcastic, reading a sarcastic sentence doesn’t have the same kind of cutting pain to it than if you said that same sentence in person to someone. For example, “Well, you’re just on the cutting edge of brilliant, aren’t you.” Trust me, you don’t want me to say that to your face.)

But oh MAN was I a little sarcastic twit growing up. When I moved to L.A. and got freaked out at just how hard it was going to be to achieve my goals. So I toned it down. Also got tired of the relentless cynicism necessary to fuel the sarcastic drive. So now it’s all internal, and I come across as a somewhat quiet chick who must be thinking deep thoughts, when really I’m laughing at your nose or something.


Frederick William Faber once said, “No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm—crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.”

(which probably isn’t true when you look at the yards and yards of sarcasm that Paul used in 1st Corinthians, upbraiding the church to get them to come closer to God. Take THAT Frederick!)

But I’m always tickled pink when sarcasm’s used in the Bible. God will meet you where you’re at, and if you’re a sarcastic twit on the outside or inside, then here ya go – Biblical proof that sarcasm was used back then.

It’s the story of Jesus healing the blind guy; John Ch. 9. There’s actually a bunch of hilarious things running around in here – how Blind Guy’s neighbor’s supposedly don’t recognize the dude when he’s healed, though he looks exactly the same (v8), Blind Guy’s parents passing the buck about how their son was healed because they don’t wanna get kicked out of the synagogue (v20-23), the hysterical yet completely appropriate response of Blind Guy to the Pharisees when asked where Jesus was, “I don’t know (dude, I was BLIND! I couldn’t SEE him to SEE WHERE HE WENT!)” (v8-12)

But these are Pharisees we’re talking about, and when Pharisees are involved, SOMEBODY is getting their ass kicked. Much like when you call the LAPD on a domestic dispute call, SOMEBODY’s going to the station.

So the Pharisees question Blind Guy (He’s Healed Now) again, trying to get him to say Jesus is an imposter. And when they ask Blind Guy (He’s Healed Now) how was he healed, Blind Guy (He’s Healed Now) says, “I have told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” (V27)

Awesome, awesome use of sarcasm in the face of impending ass kicking.

There’s another swipe, where Blind Guy (He’s Healed Now) points out that Jesus has to be from God, because who else would’ve given him the power to heal the blind, but the Pharisees have had it, and start the ass kicking, and they kick him out of the synagogue. (V30-34) I can’t help but picture his parents breathing a sigh of relief Whew! At least it wasn’t us!

Chapter 9 ends with Jesus finding the Blind Guy (He’s Healed Now), so he can see what Jesus looks like, and even Jesus takes a swipe at some nearby Pharisees, "If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure." (v41, Message translation)

So ultimately, the moral of this Sarcastic Lesson is – God thinks it’s okay for you to be sarcastic if you’re #1 – right about your answer and #2 – giving glory to God about it and #3 – have less than supportive parents more concerned with social synagogue standing then standing up for their child.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Toasting The Sun With Tequila At The End Of The Year

So since my weak ass blood meant I wasn’t able to continue my Christmas tradition of giving blood in December, I was able to do my OTHER Christmas tradition of hitting the Santa Monica Pier and toasting the sunset with tequila. If I can’t do one, I can do the other.

I was off work this week, so I went on a weekday. Happy to see my secret about where to park for free is still intact. It was kinda windy, which meant I had room to myself, and I sat with the sun for a long time and thought about the year and all the other things you’re supposed to think about when you’re approaching the end of the year.

Everybody hated this year, it wasn’t just me. Although I realize that it’s pretty much the party line - to say how much you hated the year as you approach the end of the year. I heard in a sermon some weeks back that said something to the effect of truly desperate people live much more in hope than happy people do, because desperate people know that there’s gotta be something much better than where they are currently. And that reminds me of the classic quote from Damage (The Jeremy Irons feature film based on the Jopsehine Hart book, not the Glenn Close TV series.) “Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.”

No point in dwelling on the crap, feel free to look through the past year to get an inkling yourself if you want. And when I was shuffling through the mental memories to come up with something that would sum up the year in an oh-so-poetic way, my brain suddenly flashed to the Halloween trip I took to visit sister Agatha, Mr. Agatha, and Bug.

We had gone to Typhoon Lagoon on the last day it was open before it went down for rehab, and it was still in the mid 70s, so not too cold. And at one point, we all went on the Lazy River. You know the drill, you grab an inner tube and float at will all the way around the park, and get off when you want to. So there were four of us, in four different inner tubes, and in order to stay together, we all grabbed each other’s tubes and hung on as casually as possible. Sometimes a hand was on a handle, sometimes an ankle was hooked onto another tube. It wasn’t that difficult, and luckily it wasn’t that crowded, to where we weren’t blocking other people who wanted to get around us.

It occurs to me that that’s what life is: you hook yourself up to someone else’s inner tube, and they grab onto someone else’s inner tube, and you form your own community in your family, in your church, at your job, in your circle of friends, they’re all just inner tubes that you’ve locked together to float down the River O’Life. It gets bumpy, and sometimes the water gets filled with leaves, twigs and crap. Sometimes you wanna get off at a certain point, and maybe you do, or maybe you stick it out longer than you should. But ultimately life is meant to be lived together with other people. Whoever they are.

Following this metaphor, it means that God is the bored Disney Lifeguard who’s watching everyone to make sure they don’t drown, but really would rather be at home playing something on the X-Box. HA!

But I like this picture the best. This is Bug taking a flying leap for the photographer standing in front of her during Picture Day at Thanksgiving in Orlando. I wasn’t there, but I saw the pictures, and this is my favorite one.

I like it because even though we don’t see Bug’s face, you KNOW that there’s a gigantic grin on there. Just look at this shot. The outstretched feet, the arms in the air. Hell, it even looks like her HAIR is smiling. (candidly, I do have the picture that was taken from the front angle. Yes, she is grinning, but I like this shot more.)

This is a shot that says I’m Gleefully Jumping Into The New Year (Even Though This Picture Was Taken At Thanksgiving.) If only I had some kind of photoshop skills, I’d cut her out and put her up against some dramatic cliff or something, so it looks like she’s gleefully jumping into the abyss, but she wouldn’t go down, she’d go up. Or over. Her optimism bearing her safely to where ever she lands.

I must be friend with someone who has those kind of mad photoshop skills, right? Somebody in my Inner Tube circle could do that for me?