Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jesus laughed

By Capt. Fogg

"How dangerous it is in sensible things to use metaphorical expressions unto the people, and what absurd conceits they will swallow in their literals."

-Thomas Browne - Pseudoxia Epidemica-


Making sense out of someone else's religion is a bit like looking at a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't all fit and some are taped in place or hidden under others. Take the Mary and Joseph story. We're supposed to believe that since Joseph was too old to have sex with his obscenely young bride Mary, her pregnancy was a bit of a surprise - until of course she told him that God, in the form of a bird, did the deed. The subsequent pregnancies resulting in brothers and sisters might have been harder to explain, unless the bird left some blue pills for the old man -- or unless we ignore old Occam: "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem" which means don't make shit up just so people won't laugh at your bogus story.

That of course would have Jesus' brother Jacob the true heir to the throne of David, making him the Messiah; because after all, Joseph, from whose family the title was inherited, wasn't his real father. OK, so we don't ask and we just tape that piece in place and ignore what is underneath.

Anyway, one can choose to treat the alleged divinity of Jesus as a metaphor, which makes sense, or literally, which makes absolutely none. If you're of the latter persuasion, which didn't approach universality for many centuries into the Christian Era, (if it ever really did) the flimsiness of your construction is likely to make you touchy and humorless if not aggressively pugnacious. Imagine the fundamentalist's reaction to a poster showing A young Joseph in bed with a frustrated looking Mary and titled "Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow."

The Church that put up the billboard in Aukland, New Zealand simply wished to point out the absurd conceit of swallowing this literal fundamentalist interpretation. Archdeacon Glynn Cardy of The St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church said he wanted to inspire people to talk about the Christmas story: to challenge a fundamentalist interpretation that's obviously pasted together from pieces torn from other religions, rather than swallowing the cocktail.
"What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about. Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?"

Predictably, it wasn't well received by those who demand that everyone else swallow the same mind numbing potion and within hours an irate man was trying to paint over the image. Local Catholic spokesmen were up in arms and a "conservative" group called Family First was calling the whole thing irresponsible. It's nice to know that "conservatives" despise religious freedom in New Zealand as much as they do here. I mean it's one thing to be able to speak out against secular authority, but suggesting that God's own sacred chicken doesn't make half breed, wholly God children with young girls who somehow remain virginal throughout multiple pregnancies and births! What fools these mortals be!

If only I could claim such protection against people who disagree with me.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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