Laughing at God

Bible Thumper

The yet untapped new super villain. How long will movies settle for just the uncouth bible thumper trend and upscale to the more sinister aspect?
The yet untapped new super villain. How long will movies settle for just the uncouth bible thumper trend and upscale to the more sinister aspect?

Readings of the Good Book

I have this insidious temptation sometimes to seek out a Bible Thumpers Camp and start reading passages from the Good Book. My rationale? I just don’t think they’ve read the darn thing. This might just be a stereotype of mine informed by the ever knowledgeable, completely accurate media that always hits non majority and majority groups right on the nail. Although Christianity has a bad rap so far for beating people over the head with this book (another downfall of Guttenburg’s printing press) and some Christians perpetuate this negative stereotype by continuing this practice (just imagine what will become of them when the Bible becomes solely an electronic entity. Will they then resort to laptops?), I can’t help but mourn the sad reality that many people are walking away from a fascinating work of literature with the wrong idea.

They think it condemns homosexuality…but they haven’t read the part about God speaking against his people who fail to plead for the cause of the oppressed. They think it becomes a moral code by which to live by…but they miss the part where Jesus exonerates the prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners as having found the gate to heaven (and the religious ones of his day were sadly left clueless). But those are the virtuous reasons to read the work. We haven’t gotten into the naughty reasons one should read “The Good Book.” Besides sex, murder and cannibalism found within such a work (oh, yes, there is cannibalism), it is quite fascinating to see that God/people relationship…and all the problems that ensue.

A religion teacher once suggested that the Old Testament read more like a soap opera. And it does! Sometimes, I think the Old Testament would be more accessible if it were written as a dialog between a couple in marriage counseling. I would have to further that notion of soap opera and say that at times, it’s more scandalous than Jerry Springer. But you can never tell a Bible Thumper that. Or, to be fair, you could never tell the kind of Bible Thumper that is more interested in using the book for power than for personal growth. I’m certain there are some Bible Thumpers that would be quite willing to act out some bits of Ezekiel with me if I begged (more moments of scandalous nudity would then ensue on top of the conviction people would have that the religious nuts were taking more than just wine at the service).

To be quite blunt, I’m fairly fond of this book known as the Bible that has the great misfortune of being so misused throughout history to push down other groups of people (and I really don’t think the Good Book endorses such actions). Why do I like this work? Perhaps it’s just that notion of God speaking out of an ass that has me compelled. Or the spectacular feats of destruction attributed to God (who makes a woman on PMS look like a tame kitten). Or the way things go horribly, abysmally wrong. Just look up Lot and you’ll see how. Among other things. But for now, I would like to share just one story that to the grave detriment of our society, ought to be thought about and discussed more just because of the amazing implications it has. Simply put, it’s the kind of story that makes it almost religious to laugh at God.

Past Times with a Patriarch

Herein lies the brief, summed up story of Aberham as told from my perspective. Aberham has that experience in which God makes a promise to him about making a great nation come forth from him. Aberham leaves where he’s from, gets older, makes another pact with God (back then, it was a covenant and those things are more binding than those so called sports contracts athletes find ways to wriggle out of) and still sees no results. No kids. No kids means no nation. No nation means no valid promise. No promise means he’s just a fool who drank the kool aide. Oh, and by the way, he had already changed his name from Abram (meaning “high father”) to Abraham (meaning “father of a multitude of nations”). The text never says that he’s the laughing stock of his community, but one has to wonder about the reactions he received at that statement. Especially when he and his wife get to that stage where they both are really, really old. Only by this time, they both have complicated matters by trying to have a kid from Sarah’s woman servant Hagar. Having been married to one man for a little less than a year, I don’t even want to imagine what that triangular relationship was like. Not pretty.

Well past the age of child rearing, God finally declares to Abram that he will have a child. Finally! Abram’s response? Keep in mind that this is the Patriarch, the big Cahuna, the man himself. And the patriarch responds by…yep, you guessed it, laughter. Now, the text of Genesis doesn’t describe the angel’s reaction to Abram’s laughter, but I’ve always wondered what that moment would have been like. How did the angel or God think about such laughter? Because I always imagine that the God in this moment in the text is so lofty that he doesn’t understand humor or laughter. At this point in time, I imagine God’s reaction to be like some humans who also take things too seriously and forget to laugh.

And while I might be wrong on this point, I can’t help but point out to another part in the text to defend my theory on God. Because when Sarah hears the same announcement about God, she also responds by laughing. Only this time, God doesn’t just stand there and take it. He calls her out on that laughter. What follows is a dialog that is eerily reminiscent of two five year olds on a playground: You did too laugh! I did not! Did too! You’re a big fat liar! Oh yeah, well you’re just a big meanie! Okay, I guess the text is a little more sophisticated than that, but I can’t help but wonder why God called out Sarah for laughing and not Abraham. Did he just not like Sarah? Was he slightly confused by the humor that Abraham found? I don’t know. But I can only imagine.

What Abraham's Laughter Reveals

Now, I think there is something of a disconnect between this story and me. First of all, I don’t know what it’s like to want a child and never have one. I’m still at that point where I think baby and an image of Diaper Genie replete with 10 capsules of exhaustion pops into my head. Recently, a friend of mine who thought she couldn’t get pregnant found out she was expecting. And I’m insanely stoked for her because she really wants to have a kid. But I don’t know what it’s like to feel that ache for a kid that might never come. Yet while I might not understand that specific part of the story, I still have my own private longings for those sacred entities (which shall remain nameless) that never seem to come. I still feel that lingering sense of wanting that thing so much that desperation seems like the most logical sanity. I still have this sense of thinking that God just didn’t seem to care much about that unfulfilled yearning.

When discussing Abraham in the context of the religious setting, people will often admire his stalwart faith. Having experienced enough doubt to sink 12 Titanics, I’ve decided that I admire him and Sarah for their laughter. Just imagine the pain they had to go through before they finally had a child. Especially considering the time they were in. Not having a child would be akin to not having a job. But on top of the pain that many people can relate to on not being able to have a child, they have that other layer of difficulty: the belief that God would give them a child. Some people might read that as a reason to have hope and a kind of spiritual boon, but I can’t say that it is. Is there not some pain in believing something that never seems to materialize?

Even on a non spiritual plane, this happens. Going to college with the conviction that you’ll get a good job and then finding out you have a sack load of debt and are working at a job that doesn’t pay much. Working harder at a job because you think you’ll get that raise, only to find the boss has engaged in the fine practice of nepotism and all the money is going to the shmuck. Training hard because you might have a shot at the Olympics only to come in fourth or burn out in the first round. Isn’t Aberham in some sense the story of every person who has followed that crazy hope and succumbed to a conviction that this path would lead to the fulfillment of a desire, however impossible it might seem?

What happens then in the moments when the dream doesn’t materialize? As Langston Hughes once asked, “What happens to a raisin in the sun?” It would be so easy to become embittered and jaded. Maybe even more so if you’re religious. Because it can be so easy to shout at the sky and demand from an invisible being a compensation for having done right. A friend of Forest Gump’s expresses his rage. So does Patch Adams in the movie. To have a dream and watch it fall apart…to hold something so tightly for so long and then watch everything come unraveled…is that not the recipe for falling apart? Proverbs even nods at this trend. “A hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Pr. 13:12).

In Conclusion

Returning to Abraham’s laughter: it’s quite amazing that he does laugh. Because while he might have had reason to become embittered and frustrated by this longing, he doesn’t. Not according to the text anyway. He opts instead for that moment in which, when so close to his dream of having a child, he can laugh. Laugh despite the painful road he must have traveled. Laugh despite the best-intentioned errors he made. Laugh despite the pressingly real possibility that he might never be a father. For that matter, for the road he’s been on, he can even find the strength to laugh at God (which consequently is very different from how he acted with God when trying to save Sodom and Gomorrah many years ago. He was a lot more hesitant back then). And for that matter, isn’t the situation somewhat ludicrous? Whoever heard of 90 year olds having kids?

In conclusion, I must admit that as someone who studies and thinks, life doesn’t always conform to how I think it should run. For that matter, neither does God. The scary part is that I’m beginning to think that “God” is like a stray dog I must tame so as to keep in my house. While I remain skeptical of religions, there seems to me something somewhat dangerous in this inclination of mine to think I should train God. But really, the possibility just opens up so many worlds. Yet as that might never be the case, I must conclude by taking a leaf out of Abraham and Sarah’s book. Laughing at God just sounds like more fun.

Funny Reading of the Good Book

The Real Patch Adams

A Conversation with God in Song

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Comments 16 comments

Daniel J. Neumann profile image

Daniel J. Neumann 6 years ago from Harrisburg, Pa

Elefanza,

I'm glad you still like the Bible. And you're right about Fundamentalists. They pervert Christianity almost to the extent of Islamic Terrorists (and there are parallels).

You really zeroed-in on a great interpretation of that story (or passage). Sometimes, it seems like forever until our prayers are answered. It's a circumstance of time.

It's like a child, who, during a movie, keeps asking, "What does so-and-so mean about such-in-such?" and the parent patiently says, "Quiet. You'll know soon enough. Watch, wait, and see." It would spoil the plot to know the answers too soon.

Similarly, we cannot always get what we want (or think we need) instantly. The pleasure of that comes later. For now, we're stuck in a movie without knowing our roles.

Thanks,

Dan

P.S.

Personally, I think God laughs with us :)


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Dan,

Thanks so much for your comment! I definitely feel as though we're in a movie without knowing our roles. Only sometimes, I think the set keeps changing, the script has been blackened, and most of the stage is on fire.

I don't doubt that there are parallels between Christian fundamentalist and Islamic terrorists. I'm sure there are other parallels that exist as well and we just don't know about them yet. I think it's the extreme element of religion that is dangerous.

As for God laughing with us, I couldn't agree more. I see way too much humor in places where there really shouldn't be any. :)


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I always like your hubs, and I like Daniel's comment too. Without Jerry Falwell and/or Pat Robertson types-nobody would care for idiots like Richard Dawkins.

"Fire and Brimstone" fundies are illiterate, as best as I can tell-but you, you are certainly one with fine comprehension.

I'm very saddened by members of the new atheist movement who are so troubled or hurt by their past experiences with fundies that they've thrown the babe out with the bath water.


Acid Rahne profile image

Acid Rahne 6 years ago

You are a damn good writer. And probably the only person within recent memory who has made me want to pick up a bible....if ONLY TO FIND THE CANNIBALISM!!! WHERE WAS THE CANNIBALISM?????

And don't listen to Todd about Richard Dawkins. Todd has never read Richard Dawkins. Yeah that's right, Todd, whatcha gonna do, HUH???

Seriously though, excallant blog!!!!


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Rahne, there is probably more than one example, or possible example-but think about communion. . . .this is my body, this is my blood-it's symbolic cannibalism; but then again, I hear that Catholics actually believe that the communion bread is transfigured into the flesh of Jesus. . . .but still taste's like bread.

but I could be wrong. I'll bet I can find another example. . . .you wait.

It's true, Elefanza, I've never read Dawkins. .. . .but I've seen him on t.v., and he wasn't a good writer when he was talking like a snob on television.. . . right.


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Thanks,Todd! I've never read Richard Dawkins, but I always thought it would be interesting to see what he says. It is unfortunate when any group responds to another group out of frustration by negative experiences. Possibly why the quote, "To err is human, to forgive, divine," makes so much sense (and is so hard at times). Yeah, Catholics DO believe the eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ. It's very strange when you consider this belief along with what Jesus says in the Gospel of John. He tells people he's the Bread...and no one takes up forks to try eating him! So sad. As for Richard Dawkins being a snob, that could be quite amusing. People with that snob thing can be quite fun to laugh at. :)

Rahne, ha ha, it's good to know I'm not the only one amused by cannibalism and the Bible. I have a feeling you would appreciate some of the other rather disturbing moments in it as well. :) But yea, it appears in the Pentateuch in which God threatens the people if they break the Covenant, outsiders will lay siege to their cities and parents will "eat the flesh of their womb." (Deut. 28:53-55). And of course, this happens later in the good book with all the fanfare, exclamation points, and horror. Quite awesome, yet, funnily enough, not the most disturbing anecdote. Ergo, I love it and must agree with Stewie that the good book is "a thumping good read." :)


Sundaymoments profile image

Sundaymoments 6 years ago from United States

Great hub

yes fundamentals do have quite a bit different way at looking at the Bible.

Often times it is the fundamentals that cast much judgment towards the world which creates religious hatred towards the Christian as they think they are perfect and need to judge because others are not following their exact way!


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Thanks Sundaymoments.

Yeah, it is one of the more frustrating trends with fundamentalists who are so often made visible by the worst elements within. There are still some good fundamentalists who take a different approach toward the Bible, viewing it as a way to look inside and create inner change, but too often the group uses the book to judge others and not themselves.


*©* 6 years ago

Good read,

Growing up in a household where religious discussions where the standard sort of like Sunday dinners with the entire family and having a father who was an Engineer by education and theologist by drive exposure to religious writings where readily accessible and read often by me.

I have always loved the writing in the "Old Book" not so much the "New Book" and knowing at an early start that Genesis along with more than a few other passages/chapters/books where borrowed made it that much more intriguing.

It would be interesting to see the writers reverting to the past and use the spoken words as the great story tellers of old.

Thank you and continue the great writing only a "few" have the ability to paint images with their words....


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

What a rich background! I bet you must have had some amazing discussions. Theological discussions can be quite fascinating just because there's so much to think about. It's fascinating to see how others view that kind of stuff. As for religious writings, did you ever get into any of the medieval spiritual writings? I'm still fascinated by the little I've read of some of them and I adore Julian of Norwich. And I do love the Old Book/Old Testament (and on this point, I had a Jewish prof. explain why he thought that term was, if not great, at least somewhat acceptable) just because the language is so rich.

Glad you enjoyed reading! I always love having an excuse to continue to word vomit. :)


pennyofheaven profile image

pennyofheaven 5 years ago from New Zealand

Awesome hub. It was one of those reads you just can't stop reading and want more! Love the way you write!


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 5 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Thanks for the compliment, PennyofHeaven. I love writing and thinking, so any excuse to keep doing so makes me quite cheery. I'm glad you enjoyed and hope you can continue to enjoy other stuff! :)


Old Pete profile image

Old Pete 5 years ago from Brighton UK

Another hub I can relate to!

I'm 75 and I've been outside the walls of traditional Christianity for some 40 years.

I have twice been forced to reconsider just about everything I have ever been taught. Over the last 7-8 years in particular I seem to have been learning so much about why people believe what they believe, often based on divisive, denominational theology.

I have come to the conclusion that there is an enormous difference between the Christian RELIGION and the Christian FAITH - the difference between trying to earn that 'get out of hell free' card, and an awareness of a loving relationship.

I have a bit of a reputation for asking the awkward questions to which there are no easy answers - the questions I have been asking for as long as I can remember.

I really enjoy it when I am able to encourage others to THINK for themselves - and if I can support and encourage anyone on the journey that's just a bonus!


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 5 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Nice to meet you, Old Pete! I feel as though I have much in common with you as I've always been asking questions about Christianity for as long as I can remember (and getting in trouble for it too!).

I definitely think there is a huge discrepancy between the Christian faith and the way Christian culture/religion lives it out today and am currently questioning everything that Christianity is because of that difference.

I also really like thinking and can't seem to stop. I hope we can challenge each other's thought and learn more. :)


Old Pete profile image

Old Pete 5 years ago from Brighton UK

It was in 1995 that I was really challenged to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught when the Sabbath keeping church that we attended announced that much of their theology was misguided. That was a traumatic experience that completely split our own family (14 by marriage).

It was in 2003 that I made contact with what was then being referred to as the 'out of church Christians'.

Something like 2 million people are leaving the churches of Europe and North America every year. Tens of thousands of those people are committed Christians (many of them leaders) who are convinced that they are being led by God to leave churches that they may have attended for many years.

I have recently finished putting together much of the story of my journey of life together with many of the questions that I have been considering both in writing and in the form of 'Mind Maps' for those who like me find visual presentations helpful.

I couldn't have done this if I hadn't made an exciting discovery less that three years ago - I have Aspergers Syndrome - and that helps to explain why I've always been the odd one out and see things so differently!


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 5 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

It's not surprising to see so many Christians leaving the church. A recent article talked about this trend in millenials leaving the Christian faith. It's hard to ignore the many negative aspects about it and the impact it has had.

Your journey sounds very interesting, though probably very painful at times. One of my friends experienced a church split and it was a nasty thing for her to see.

As for being diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, that sounds like it must have been an incredible journey. It's such a relief to know that you have has a name and isn't just construed as something wrong with you.

Having been the odd one out all my life thus far, I can definitely relate. I feel as though I'm always stepping about social situations all wrong, being all clumsy with my thoughts. Glad to know I'm not alone in this!

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