Tag Archives: Christianity

A Tale of Two Countries…


The king was a vain, insecure man. A vicious brute who would last out and murder his critics. A small man trying to be big. He built monuments to himself and his glory.

And when the Kingdom of Heaven was at his doorstep, challenging his insecurities, calling him to a better path, he did what all small, insecure men do, he bullied the weak, the powerless, and the helpless.

He stole their children.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”

The Kingdom of Heaven, if there is such a thing anymore, still calls out. It still stands on the doorstep. It still challenges venal, insecure brutes to let go and act to help the weak, the powerless, and the helpless.

And wicked tyrants still lash out at the vulnerable.

So it goes…

But please, do tell me of your good Christian virtues and how God anointed this pathetic waste of a human soul to lead this country to ‘greatness’.

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One Nation Under God…


If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

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If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

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If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

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Love is patient, love is kind.

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It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

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It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil 

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but rejoices with the truth.

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It always protects,

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always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

The TL:DR Bible: Acts 23-28


Chapter 23:

Paul has been taken out of prison and the elders and priests are assembled to listen to Paul and try to explain the charges against him to the Roman commander.

Paul: I’ve lived in good conscience under the Law to this day.

The high priest orders someone to punch him in the face. Paul curses him as a whitewashed wall and accuses him of breaking the Law. The people are shocked he would speak to the high priest like that and Paul says, “Yeah, I wasn’t aware the high priest goes around ordering people to be hit in the face.”

He has a point.

Paul knows how to work the system. He realizes that half the guys there are Sadducees who don’t believe in the resurrection and half are Pharisees who do, so he shouts, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee and I’m on trial for believing in the resurrection.”

So the crowd gets to infighting now with the Pharisees standing by their tribesman and the two sides yell at each other. So the Commander has Paul removed before the two sides go even more bananas. Paul has a dream that night that Jesus tells him he must go to Rome and preach there.

The next day, some Jews take an oath not to eat or drink until they kill Paul, but Paul’s nephew gets wind of the plot and tells Paul, who has him relay the message to the Commander. The Commander orders 200 soldiers, 200 spearmen, and 70 riders to escort Paul over to the governor Felix. The Commander writes the governor a letter:

Dear Felix,

I found the Jews trying to kill this guy, a Roman citizen, and the best I can make of it is that it’s some stupid religious differences motivating it. But they’re still trying to kill him, so I’m sending the matter up to you.

– Claudius Lysias

Felix receives Paul and has a room in the governor’s residence made available for him until the Jews come up and make their accusations.

 

Chapter 24:

So the high priest comes up with a lawyer and some elders and says, “This guy is disturbing our peace and he has different religious beliefs than we do, and he was trying to desecrate the Temple. We were going to take care of it, but your darned Roman soldiers stopped us.”

Paul: Yeah, I went to worship in Jerusalem. I did not cause a disturbance, they did. I wasn’t even talking with anyone. They can’t prove a damn thing. But I do freely admit to being a Christian and I think the Old Testament proves my point of view.”

Felix knew of Christianity, said, “Yeah, I’ll make a decision when I hear from Lysias, the Commander.”

So Paul is under house arrest for two years, and Felix hoped for a bribe to release him, but otherwise kept him imprisoned as curiosity and a favor to the priests. After two years, a new governor takes Felix’s place.

 

Chapter 25:

The new governor Festus goes through the same thing with Paul and the priests again. The Priests request a change of venue to Jerusalem, but Paul refuses and appeals his case to Caesar as was his right. Festus says, “Well that settles that. The case goes to Caesar now.”

Festus entertains Herod Agrippa and his wife and mentions Paul’s case to them. Agrippa is curious to hear the case, so Paul is brought before them all the next day.

Festus addresses the gathered crowd saying, “Look, I’m supposed to send him up to Caesar, but I’ve got no idea what charges I should write that he’s accused of, so maybe you guys can help me.”

 

Chapter 26:

Paul says, “Hey, I’m glad I can make a case to you, King Agrippa, since you’re familiar with the Law and the Prophets. So I believe God raised Jesus from the dead and that’s why I’m on trial. I used to persecute Christians, but then I had a vision of Jesus and converted and I’ve been faithfully executing his commission ever since. You know the Old Testament, King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets concerning the Christ who was to suffer and die and be resurrected?”

Festus: You’re crazy, Paul. You finally snapped.

Agrippa: Dude, you almost persuade me that you’re right.

Paul: I wish all the world would be persuaded.

Agrippa: Yeah, he’s innocent. If he hadn’t appealed to Caesar, I’d say let him go.

 

Chapter 27:

They start the journey to Italy. After many stops, they finally reach a harbor called Fair Havens. But the town wasn’t fun, didn’t have many bars, and generally wasn’t liked by the Roman soldiers, so they wanted to head to a different port. But winter was coming.

Paul warns them that sailing in these waters at this time of year would probably mean death, but Fair Havens was a really boring town, so the Roman centurion ordered them to try.

But they hit a storm along the way and have to anchor the boat. The storm thrashes the boat around for three days as they’re tossing over stuff to make it lighter. Then Paul stands up and says, “You should have listened to me.”

“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

“But it’s cool. The Lord tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he’s pretty sure you’re ****ed. Ha… I’m just kidding. You’re all going to live too.”

They start to sail the boat towards what they think is land, so they can run it aground, and some of the sailors think about trying to escape, but Paul tells the Centurion, “We need those guys or we’re going to die.”

So the Centurion has the small boats cut down and thrown into the sea.

After 14 days of fasting, Paul encourages them to eat. They do. When the boat is finally run aground, the soldiers want to kill the prisoners so none of them escape, but the Centurion stops them for Paul’s sake. He orders everyone to jump overboard and swim or grab onto debris and float to shore on the waves.

 

Chapter 28:

Everyone arrives safely on Malta and the Maltese welcome them with a fire. Paul gathers firewood and throws it on the fire, but a snake jumps out and bites him on the arm. Paul shakes the thing off into the fire, but everyone knows he’s going to die. They think it’s karmic justice. But Paul is fine, so they start to think he’s a god.

The governor welcomes them and Paul heals his father of an illness, so everyone starts bringing the sick to Paul and he heals them and the Maltese treat them very generously as a result. They stay there three months before they sail.

They eventually put in at Puteoli and travel up to Rome. Along the way, Christians come out to meet and speak with Paul and he’s encouraged by them.

At Rome, the centurion permits Paul to stay in a home of his own under guard and Paul sends out word to the local Jewish leaders.

“Hey, guys, I’m innocent. I don’t intend to bring charges against Israel or the Jews to Caesar, I was just forced into this by the priests in Jerusalem.”

“Look, Paul, we don’t know anything about it, but maybe you could explain this whole Jesus thing to us, because we have heard word of these Christians, but it’s always bad things we hear.”

So Paul explains to them using the Old Testament why he thinks Jesus was the Messiah. Some are converted, some aren’t and they leave having a disagreement over the topic.

Paul continues to live in Rome for two years entertaining anyone who would come to his rented home and telling them of Jesus.

Paul later dies in Rome sometime during the reign of Caesar Nero and traditionally it is claimed that he was beheaded for the faith.

The TL:DR Bible: Acts 15-16


Chapter 15:

So we get our second recorded case of church infighting. I know, impossible, right? But some Jewish Christians came over to the Gentile Christians and said, “You guys need to chop off part of your dick and keep the law if you want to be saved.”

Paul and Barnabas replied, “No, you don’t.”

So the thing became such a mess that the apostles and elders had to call a meeting. After yelling at each other in love for a while, Peter stands up and says, “Guys, remember the whole story I told in Acts 10 and 11? God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit even though they had intact dicks, so why are we trying to turn them Jewish?”

Paul and Barnabas talk about their ministry with the Gentiles, and James (the brother of Jesus) stands up and says, “Peter makes good sense, also here’s some scripture, and let’s only say that Gentiles need to stay away from pagan cult practices like eating or drinking blood, eating stuff offered to idols, and screwing around with temple prostitutes.”

So everyone’s like, “Okay, sounds cool.”

Then they draft a letter and send it to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, Silas and some others saying, “Hey, guys, we’ve decided you’re all good. Just try to stay away from eating or drinking blood or food offered to idols, and try not to screw around especially with those temple prostitutes. Do this and it’s all good.”

Then Paul said, “Hey Barnabas, road trip!”

“Cool. Let’s take John Mark too.”

“No way, dude ditched us last time.”

“He’s coming.”

“You know what? Fine. I’ll go on a road trip with Silas, you jerk.”

“See you in hell… I mean, heaven… I’ll see you in heaven, jerk. Come on, Mark.”

So the two part ways, and Paul travels around as a wandering rabbi.

 

Chapter 16:

“Hey, Timothy,” Paul said. “I’d like you to come with us.”

“Awesome!”

“You just have to cut off part of your wiener.”

“Bogus. What about chapter 15? What about chapter 15?”

“That was only for Gentiles apparently. You’re half-Jewish. Cut off your wiener bits.”

“What if I just cut off half of it?”

So Timothy joins up. So they travel some more and run into some hardships that prevent them from going various places which they chalk up to the Holy Spirit saying no. Then Paul has a dream about a tall dark Macedonian man who says, “Come over here and help us.” Probably shirtless and oiled up.

But Paul heads over to Macedonia to Philippi and converts a woman named Lydia who gets baptized and invites Paul to stay with her, and basically opens her home to become the local house church.

As they stay in Philippi, a slave woman and fortune teller follows them around saying, “Hey, guys, these are men sent from God telling you the way of salvation.”

For some reason, this annoys Paul, and he gets fed up and performs an exorcism. Her owners are not too happy about this and have Paul and Silas arrested.

“These guys are Jews and they’re teaching us a weird new religion!”

So they have Paul and Silas stripped and caned. Then they throw them into prison. At midnight, Paul and Silas are singing hymns and an earthquake strikes  and all the doors open and the prisoners’ chains fall off. The jailer wakes up and thinks his prisoners have escaped, so he prepares to commit suicide, but Paul stops him. “Hey, dude, we’re all still here.”

“Okay, how do I get saved?”

“Believe in Jesus.”

So they all get baptized. The jailer cleans up their wounds and feeds them. The next day, he gets an order from the officials saying, “Go ahead and let those two guys go.”

But Paul says, “Yeah… no. We’re Roman citizens and they beat us in public without a trial and threw us into prison. If they want us gone, they need to come down here and ask themselves.”

When the officials hear this, they’re afraid. Roman citizens had the right to a trial and they just violated the right of Paul and Silas, so they come down and beg the two of them to leave. Paul is going to make them squirm a bit. But eventually he relents and Paul and Silas go to Lydia’s house, chat with the church for a bit, and then head out of town.

The TL:DR Bible: Acts 12


Chapter 12:

Herod (traditionally Agrippa) decides to arrest Christians. According to Josephus, this Herod was a kinder ruler than his predecessors and had a zeal for Judaism and the Jews. So it would make sense that he would move against this new Christian cult as the religious leaders of the Jews considered it a heresy. “Luke’s” portrayal of him as a villain also makes sense if written from the perspective of a Christian who had seen persecution of his community.

So “Luke” says he kills James the apostle to make the Jews happy, and then arrests Peter and throws him in prison because it’s during a religious feast, so killing him would probably make the Jews less happy.

The church prays for Peter and God sends an angel to him the night before his execution to release him. The angel unchains him, tells him to get dressed and walks him out of the prison without anyone noticing. Peter thinks he’s dreaming and goes along with it.

He wakes up standing in the street at night and realizes that God organized a jail break, so he goes to the home of a local Christian woman and knocks.

“Hey, guys, let me in.”

But the slave who is in charge of the door gets so excited that she runs into the house to announce Peter without opening the door. Peter stands outside knocking.

“Uh… guys?”

They finally let Peter in and he relates the story of his prison break.

Back at the prison, no one knows where Peter is or how he got out, so Herod orders his guards to be executed.

“Luke” interprets Herod’s death as karmic justice. He is at a festival wearing, according to Josephus, a silver robe that reflects the early morning sunlight, so the crowd begins to chant that he is a god, not just a man. Herod does not tell them to be silent, and sees an owl as an omen for his soon to happen death. “Luke” has him struck down by God for his impiety. Josephus has him give a speech in which he tells the crowd that rather than an immortal god, he was merely a mortal man who would die as God demanded.

Barnabas and Saul return with John Mark from Jerusalem to Antioch after delivering the relief supplies.

As a quick aside, I’ve heard preachers say that the poverty of Jerusalem was due to their earlier voluntary communism which isn’t supported by the text. The text relates that a famine was happening and that the church was under official sanctions by the authorities. It seems absurd to bring our own 21st century economic and political biases into a situation that does not need it. Sometimes I think we do so, so we can avoid the selfless generosity that was the example of Jesus and the early church.

The TL:DR Bible: Acts 5-7


Chapter 5:

Okay, no more Mr. Nice God. Old Testament God is back, Baby.

Ananias: Hey, Peter, I sold some land too. Here’s what I got from it.

Peter: Seriously? This is everything?

Ananias: Uh… sure.

Peter: I know what that land is appraised for. You’re lying to the Holy Spirit. You didn’t have to claim you gave me all the money, but since you did, now you have to die.

Ananias: Uh… what? How is that… URK!

Peter: Go bury this lying tightwad.

So a few hours later, Ananias’ wife comes into the church.

Peter: So, Sapphira… did you really sell you plot of land for this much money?

Sapphria: Yes.

Peter: God already killed your husband for lying. Now he has to kill you too.

Sapphira: This is what they call entrapment, you know.

Peter: God cares nothing for your puny legal justifications.

Sapphria: Urk!

Peter: Go bury this woman next to her husband.

Church: Uh… what… what other ‘sins’ is God going to kill us for?

Peter: That’s for me to know and you to find out.

But for some reason, everyone still wants to join the new religion with the homicidal God. Peter and the others are preaching every day and the priests arrest them again. This time, an angel lets them out of jail and tells them to go preach some more. So they do.

The priests order the disciples to be brought before them, but they can’t find them in jail. Someone lets them know that they’re back in the Temple preaching. So they have them arrested again and brought before them.

Priests: Hey, we told you to stop it. You’re going to get us all killed because we totally killed Jesus.

Peter: God told us to do it. Besides, you did kill Jesus, but God raised him up and He is the only path to salvation now. We are his witnesses.

Priests: Okay, let’s kill these guys too.

Gamaliel: Guys, let’s just put the kibosh on that plan, okay? You remember all the other messianic cults that rose up and got squashed pretty quickly? Let’s let this play out. If God isn’t with them, they’ll end soon enough.

Priests: Fine. Let’s just whip them.

Disciples: Hooray! Thank you, Sirs, may we have another?

 

Chapter 6:

A dispute breaks out in the church because the Greek Jews were being discriminated against by the local Jews in the distribution of need to their widows.

Peter: Look, we can’t spend our valuable time feeding the poor like some kind of Jesus. Let’s have other guys do it.

This was very agreeable to the apostles and they picked seven guys to handle the distribution of food to the poor. One of them was named Stephen.

This Stephen was doing miracles left and right and preaching about Jesus. And some of the local Jews debated him, but they totally lost and were all jealous because of how awesome he was. Super awesome. Like the bestest debater ever. One might almost call him a master debater.

So they lie and get Stephen arrested and brought before the priests. And everyone looks upon him and he’s so awesome he’s got a halo shining around him like an angel.

 

Chapter 7:

So Stephen defends himself.

“So our forefather Abraham heard the voice of God and moved to this land we’re all in now. But he had no possession of it, but God promised him the land nonetheless, even though it was already occupied and God could totally have created a new continent for us so we didn’t have to mass slaughter everyone.

Instead God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be slaves in Egypt. But then God would get angry with the Egyptians and kill them, so the Jews could come there. So Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat our twelve (actually 13) tribal namesakes.

Then the other brothers sold Joe to Egypt where he became viceroy and taxed the people for food and sold it back to them until they became slaves to Pharaoh because Joe was an asshole. But Joe was nice and forgiving of his brothers and brought them to live in Egypt as free men in Goshen.

Then the Jews got put into slavery and Pharaoh killed the baby boys, but God saved Moses and when he was forty, he wanted to go see the conditions of his people and he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and then ran away for another forty years. Then God called him to be the leader of Israel and their deliverer. So even after two Israelis rejected him, God made him the leader. And he led them out of Egypt and around the desert for forty years. Moses promised another prophet like him would arise.

But our ancestors were dicks too and made a golden calf to worship, and God was pissed that you had abandoned him and worshipped other gods. And kicked us out of the land and into Babylon in the future.

But in the meantime, we had the ark and Joshua conquered the land, then David came along and was a murdering, raping dude after God’s own heart, but Solomon got to build the Temple, even though God doesn’t need a Temple because He’s big. So very big.

You guys are assholes too always being stubborn and resisting the Holy Spirit as your fathers did. They killed the prophets, they killed the ones who predicted that Jesus came, the same Jesus you killed. You have the law, but you do not keep it.”

So that doesn’t go over very well, and the entire crowd decides to chuck big heavy rocks at Stephen. Saul of Tarsus stands by and holds their coats so they don’t get blood all over them.

Stephen asks Jesus to receive his spirit and prays for the priests, then dies.

The TL:DR Bible: John 21


Chapter 21:

Okay, now, finally, we have the disciples head up to Galilee like Mark’s gospel said they would. Peter decides to go fishing again, which seems pretty weird considering he just saw a dead person alive again last chapter. But everyone decides to go fishing, including Thomas who literally touched a walking dead man and declared him to be God.

But they don’t catch anything. Jesus is on the shore watching during sunrise.

“Hey, guys, did you catch anything?”

“No.”

“Have you tried dropping your nets on the other side of the boat?”

This is almost exactly what Jesus did back in Luke 5 when “Luke” told us about Peter’s calling to discipleship.

Well, they catch a lot of fish and can’t haul the nets into the boats. The disciple whom Jesus loved says, “Hey, that’s Jesus.”

So Peter strips down to his underwear, dives into the water, and swims to shore.

“No, no, it’s okay,” the rest of the disciples said. “We’ll just stay in the boat and haul in all these damn fish, Pete. Yeah, you go ahead and bail on us… Ass.”

But everyone gets ashore, and Jesus tells Pete to go get some fish. Jesus lays out some fish on the charcoal and invites the disciples to breakfast.

“Dig in, guys,” Jesus said.

They all know it’s Jesus, but they don’t know it’s Jesus because they want to ask this stranger who he is.

So Jesus hands out fish for breakfast and eats some himself. It’s very important for “John” to show us that Jesus has a real body. This was a question being debated when his gospel was written. “John” was on what came to be the orthodox side of the argument, while his opponents argued that Jesus just appeared to have a body.

Jesus: Hey, Simon, do you love me?

Pete: Yeah, Jesus, we’re like best pals.

Jesus: Look after my people.

Jesus: Hey, Simon, do you love me?

Pete: Seriously, bro, you’re my bro.

Jesus: Look out for my people.

Jesus: Hey, Pete, do you really love me?

Pete: Seriously, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus: Look out for my followers. You used to be head strong in your youth and go wherever you wanted to, but when you are older; another will bind you and lead you to a place you don’t wish to go. Alright, all of you follow me.

Pete: Well, if I’m going to be killed, what about that guy?

Jesus: Don’t worry about him. He has his own fate.

“John” says he’s that disciple that Jesus loved, so we can totally trust that he’s telling the truth. Also, he could write a lot more about Jesus, but seriously, Jeopardy comes on in thirty minutes, so this will have to do.