My Ongoing Arguments with Christianity and Myself

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Wilderness: Pentecost, Week 24

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2009 at 3:21 am

I’m taking some time to follow along through the Christian year using the new Mosaic Bible. This week’s readings: Ex 3, Ps 106 & 107, Acts 7, Luke 4:1-13, and Deut 8.

This week’s theme is wilderness, and the readings include the burning bush, a recap of the entire Exodus story in both Psalms and Acts, and Jesus’ tempting by the devil. And I can’t help but find myself perplexed and pissed.

It’s a thin thread that runs through these readings. In the Jesus story, we find a rejection of power, place, and even raw human biological need. But in the Psalms recap of the Exodus story, we find the worn deuteronomistic embrace of power, place, and human want—if you do what Yahweh says, you will enjoy power, place, and more, but if you don’t…

Stephen’s recap is interesting though. He’s takes it a bit away from the prosperity nonsense and uses the story to heckle the religious powers-that-be: you lot have never got it right before, and so it isn’t surprising that you haven’t got it right now. Saying that Christianity replaced Judaism isn’t very far away once we’ve gotten to this point, but I have to admire the rhetorical jab Stephen pulls off. It’s a nice callback to the jabs that Jesus got in.

In the “tesserare” readings we don’t quite get to “God hits you because he loves you,” but we’re never more than a stone’s throw away. We do get “lesson theology” though—God sends you into the wilderness to suffer and starve as a teaching tool. The mother of all awful object lessons!

The Brian Catherman selection is a welcome relief. He notes that the biblical meaning of wilderness is closer to a deserted place than to a desert place. These deserted places can be chosen, and they’re not barren or dry—indeed, quite the opposite. It’s a nice tie in to the opening artwork, which features a lonely young boy sitting on the floor with his head in his hands. Above him grafiti reads “I was here” and “I was too.” Not an empty place, but a deserted one.

Why does everything bad thing that happens to a Christian have to be a lesson from God? Maybe shit just happens. Maybe shit just happens because someone is being shitty to you. And if it is God who is sending the shit your way, well at least we know who to call out for being shitty.

I’m reading the story of Jesus’ temptation as a direct rebuke of the “God gives you bling if you behave” theology. I don’t see how anybody can admire how Jesus rejects power and place and at the same time think that God is personally sending them rewards and punishments to teach them to obey him like a dog. There’s a hard choice here. One of these teaches us something about God, and the other, if it teaches any lesson at all, it’s precisely how God doesn’t operate in the world.

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