Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who's Your Daddy?

It was only a matter of time. Once we knew that Jesus had children with Mary Magdalene, it was only a matter of time until some of his great, great, great ... grandchildren stepped forward to make their presence known.

The first to do so is Kathleen McGowan whose novel, The Expected One, reveals that she is one of Jesus' descendents. This may be news to many, but not to me. Ever since reading The Da Vinci Code I have been searching out the contemporary line of Jesus and the Mary.

The first one I uncovered was a cousin of mine, fifth removed on my material grandfather's paternal uncle's maternal aunt's side of the family. Like Ms. McGowan, I too have incontrovertible evidence proving this to be so, but, again like her, I am not at liberty to reveal this to the public.

Since finding this cousin, I have stumbled on dozens of Jesus descendents all of whom are related to me. Now I know that this means that I too am related to Jesus and Mary. Ordinarily this would not really mean much to me. After all it is such a tenuous connection. Yet, I found out that not only am I a descendent of Jesus, my next door neighbor, with whom I have never gotten along, is descended from the High Priest who plotted Jesus' death. And not only that, but the guy around the corner is in fact related to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator who actually had Jesus killed. Neither my neighbor nor I get along with him.

And there is more. Knowing my lineage explains so much about my life. Now I know why I feel so persecuted. Now I know why I used to get the hives in high school wood shop. Now I know why thorns frighten me, and why I loved subtraction in elementary school but broke out in a cold sweat every time I had to write the plus sign in addition problems.

Lots of readers will deny Ms. McGowan's claim, seeing it as a crass marketing ploy by her and her publisher. But I haven't written a novel about my ancestors, so I have nothing to gain by disclosing my heritage. Well, maybe not nothing. I am writing to Aunt Kathleen to ask her to help out a starving relative when the millions she will reap from this disclosure start poring in. I am sure she will be delighted to send me a substantial percentage. After all, it is the Christian thing to do.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane?

Here is a question that every Jew, somewhere in the recesses of his or her mind, asks on a regular basis: When will I know it is time to leave the country?

I heard this growing up and used to dismiss it out of hand. I am an American. America, from George Washington on, has been built on the principle of inclusion. Jews are part of the fabric of the United States, and while I am not blind to Anti-Semitism it has never been a governmental policy. For Jews America is not like Spain, or Germany, or England where we were summarily exiled or killed. American is more like Amsterdam where we were welcomed, albeit with some trepidation.

But things are changing. The Southern Baptist Convention turned back a move to pull their kids out of the public schools, and have called upon their members to take on the culture of public education with “godly influence.” I don’t know which is worse. The idea of millions of SBC kids freed from any public school influence and indoctrinated in SBC truths— mistaking myth for history, metaphor for fact, and theology for science— can only dim the future hopes of America in the world. But the idea of millions of SBC families applying “godly influence” on the public schools means imposing SBC ideology on the rest of us. Just as the Southern Baptists may worry about activist judges imposing liberalism, I worry about activist school boards imposing the inquisition. Extreme? Maybe. But I read Ann Coulter.

And then there is the move in Kentucky to replace the inclusive BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) with BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, Year of Our Lord). Of course the Jews, Chinese, and Muslims have their own calendars, and I have no problem with Christians using BC. and AD among themselves. My problem is that when we use godly influence to go from Common Era to Year of Our Lord we are making it clear that America is for those whose Lord is Jesus.

America is not a Christian country, but it is a country of Christians. There is a difference, but only if the Constitution and the principles of freedom upon which the country was founded remain intact. When people call for a return to Christian values and point to the piety of the early settlers as proof of America’s Christian roots, I shudder. Not because they are wrong to do so, but because the Christian values the early settlers brought to America included the expulsion of Christians whose Christianity differed from their own, an attempt to keep Jews out of the settlements, the Salem Witch Trials, and the killing and exploitation of the Native Peoples, to name but four.

Most Christians I know who want to see America return to its Christian values are right wing Republicans who mistake the Contract With America for the Sermon on the Mount. I can see them creating their own version of the Inquisition in the name of rooting out heresy. And for a Jew that spells trouble with a capital H.

So is it time to leave? Well I’m not packing my bags just yet, but I am keeping my passport up to date. And I sent a donation to the 700 Club just in case.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Which Came First: Allah or the Egg?

This is true: Reuters News Service reported today that a chicken in a Kazakh village (i.e. a village in predominately Sunni Moslem Central Asian state of Kazakhstan) laid an egg with the word “Allah” written in Arabic on its shell.

This is not: The Christian organization, To Hell with Unbelievers (ToHU), immediately issued a statement saying in part:

“The Allah egg is an obvious forgery. First of all God’s Name is God. Second of all, while God does license the images of his Son and his Son’s Mother to appear in a variety of baked goods, pizza slices, grilled cheese sandwiches, and other food stuffs, the Lord of the Universe does not authorize the use of his signature or Name on eggs.”

Intrigued, I contacted the director of the ToHU, Mark Matthews, and asked what God has against eggs.
“It isn’t that God has something against eggs per se,” Mr. Matthews told me. “The problem is having been born of a woman, Himself, God does not choose to license His Name or Image on other birth products. And, before some liberal takes this as a slap at women and other females, God does not allow His Image to appear in pools of semen either.”

That settled, I wondered if Shiite Moslems were offended that the Allah egg came from a Sunni bird.

“No,” said Abdul Kayyam, the twenty-something head of a hip Shiite group out of Manhattan called Shiite Happens. “We are simply glad that Allah decided to get into the food manifestation business. For years it has been an insult to Moslems everywhere that Jesus and Mary dominated the Holy Face in Foodstuffs movement. Of course, neither Allah nor Mohammed, peace be upon him, would ever lend their faces to food, it is good to see that Allah has found a way to let the world know that He is the God.”

Having been reminded of the prohibition of drawing Mohammed’s face, I did some investigation and found that a Dutch newspaper was holding a contest challenging Dutch chickens to lay eggs with Mohammed’s face on them. No word yet as to how this is going.

For the sake of balance I also called Rabbi Moishe Gross of the Image of God in Food Society, which, despite its name, tries to debunk claims that God’s face or signature shows up in food. “This is nonsense,” the rabbis told me. “God would not sign the Ten Commandments, let alone an egg, and a nonkosher egg at that. No, the signature is a forgery. The pizza with Mary is more problematic, seeing as how a slice of pizza stacked diagonally on another slice of pizza actually reveals the Star of David, but since she only appears on one slice, we are not worried.”

Well, then, neither am I.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Way of the Window Crank

You never know when controversy will strike. I was reading the paper over lunch and came across an article about the future of crank windows in new cars. It seems that in the near future automatic windows will be standard on all makes and models of new cars. OK, that is somewhat interesting I suppose. But then came the shocker.

Toyota spokesman Kim Kwong predicted, and I quote: “You are going to see crank windows go the way of the dinosaurs.” Oh…my…God…! The way of the dinosaurs. This isn’t simply controversy, this is catastrophe.

Why, you might be asking yourself? Because the way of the dinosaurs isn’t pretty.

Basically you have two choices when it comes the way of the dinosaurs: the scientific way and the Creationist way. Neither one is going to make you sleep better tonight.

If you adhere to the theory of Creationism, the dinosaurs coexisted with human beings and both were caught up in the Flood. Noah and his family survived and so did two of every kind of dinosaur, but after the flood the earth just wasn’t same and the dinosaurs couldn’t adapt or, dare we say, “evolve,” fast enough. The last of them died after the flood.

Now let’s apply this to crank windows. If they, too, go the way of the dinosaur, we are in for another Flood— and (at least according to prophet Kwong) soon! Yes, I know God promised not to drown the earth a second time, but there are millions of people who believe in Creationism and the Flood-bath that killed the dinosaurs so I wouldn’t be so sure. A second flood is coming and, unless you are currently building an ark under God’s direction, you are screwed!

But, if you are a pseudo-intellectual sophisticate life me, you can always scoff at the Flood theory and go with more scientific data regarding the way of the dinosaur.

I always thought an asteroid stricking the earth 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period killed off the beast. (Yes, I know, you thought it was beauty that killed the beast, but that is because you are a hopeless Romantic and not a real scientist.) It turns out, however, that the climate had already turned too cold for them, and the asteroid was simply the final straw (so to speak). The dinosaurs were freezing to death.

Sure, I know we are supposed to worry about global warming, but, if we are to take Kim Kwong and science seriously, the truth is that extreme cold is going to kill off the crank window. And I mean extreme!

Think of it this way: window cranks are made of plastic. Do you know the freezing point of plastic? Neither do I, but I do know that gasoline will still burn at minus 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Since both plastic and gasoline are made from petroleum you can be pretty damn sure that it has to be pretty damn cold for plastic to freeze. Since the scientific way of the dinosaur is freezing to death, and crank windows are going the way of the dinosaur—it is going to get really cold really soon.

So what can we do? Nothing. Religion and science agree: If crank windows are going the way of the dinosaur as Kim Kwong predicts, we are doomed.

Our only hope is that Mr. Kwong is wrong. But when it comes to predicting the future of the automobile, the people at Toyota are rarely wrong. So here is my advice: Roll up your car windows and burn as much fossil fuel as possible to up the greenhouse gas levels. It may keep the floodwaters out and you a little bit warmer. But not for long.

Homorein (with thanks to E)

Do I really care about a Gay-Pride parade in Jerusalem? Do I really feel compelled to comment that in a city where thousands of Jews dress as if they were living in medieval Poland there are Jews who want to make sure that thousands more don’t dress up as the Village People and march down Ben Yehudah Street? Yes I do.

And not because I am gay. I am not even happy most of the time. Nor am I eager to watch Jews with more piercings than Jesus walk along the Via Delarosa. No, I care because I can’t stand it when other unknown rabbis suddenly make the news, while I am condemned to blog about it

The rabbi is question is Rabbi Yehudah Levin of the New York-based Jews for Morality. He is supporting a petition to cancel a Gay-Pride parade in Jerusalem. I’ll tell you about the petition in a moment, but first, I have to say that I never heard of Jews for Morality, though most of the Jews I know are for morality. Why is it when you capitalize a regular noun other than at the beginning of a sentence you suddenly own it? If I am not a member of Jews for Morality, does that make me immoral? And if so, how much does it cost to become a member of Jews for Morality and hence become moral?

I checked out their website to see. First of all these Jews are the circumcised equivalent of the Rapture Right. The only difference, beside the missing foreskin, is that when the Rapture comes, these people will all be left behind. You can be as right as you want, but if you aren’t right with Jesus you are wrong. So there. Second of all, I couldn’t find out how to join. I am hoping that merely clicking on their website is sufficient because that is all I could do.

OK, back to the petition. The petition says, “[s]uch a parade in Jerusalem, of all places, is a great blow at the ages-old Jewish character of the city and its holy values, for the Jewish and non-Jewish public in Israel and around the world. To hold it in Jerusalem is a provocation and a declared mockery of all that is precious and sacred in the Holy city of Jerusalem in the eyes of the entire world."

I know what you are thinking: Why not simply move the parade to Tel Aviv? Rabbi Levin has that covered. Speaking on Israel National Radio he said, "If they think that we will be silent if the parade is moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, they do not understand our entire struggle. The Holy Land in its entirety must not be defiled; the basis for our continued presence in this land is that it remain pure."

Pure means “free of homosexuals.” It probably also means free of women in pants. Does this sound like Nazism? It does to me. Yes, I know it is vile to link anything Jewish to the Nazis, and I am not saying that Rabbi Levin is calling for the extermination of homosexuals, but echoes of Judenrein are still dancing in my head.

Rabbi Levin also said that the newly appointed mufti of Jerusalem, as well as other leading Moslem clerics, have shown great support for his cause. Good for him. These are the kind of moral giants we all wish to follow.

The real problem is not Rabbi Levin or Jews for Morality. The real problem is not that they are misrepresenting Judaism, the way we desperately hope that Muslim extremists are misrepresenting Islam. The real problem is that the Torah hates homosexual acts between men. Read Leviticus 18:22: male homosexuality is an abomination. Torah is very clear about this— clear and wrong. It is wrong on many things, and until we are willing to stand up and say so publicly and reject it when it is wrong without having to play games to pretend it doesn’t mean what it says, or says what it clearly does not say, we will continue to be plagued by the madness that passes for religion.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Lobby of the Lord

I never heard of Hobby Lobby before moving to Tennessee, and when I did I assumed it was a large crafts store, which it is. But it seems that the true concern of Hobby Lobby is not to lobby for your hobby but to lobby for Jesus and a Christian America. Hence its full-page ad entitled In God We Trust in the July 4th issue of USA Today.

The ad is an anthology of quotes from past presidents, founding fathers, Supreme Court justices, Congress, and others making the case that America is more than a nation of Christians, but a Christian nation. Maybe this shouldn’t upset me. It is just that I love being an American, and I find the Fourth of July truly inspiring. I think we should assemble on the Fourth to read and debate the meaning of the Declaration and the Bill of Rights. I think the Fourth of July should be for Americans what Yom Kippur is for Jews and Easter is for Christians—the day when we consider the deepest truths of who we are.

So when I find an ad that violates the very genius and spirit of America and does so in the name of America, I get upset. No, not upset—sad. Sad and worried. And then a bit more sad.

In addition to being sad, I also find this ad to be a fine example of false advertising. Hobby Lobby does not trust in God. If it did it would relax and let God take care of things. HL wants to impose JC on the rest of us. And if HL can’t turn all Americans into believing Christians, it wants to make sure all are forced to live by Christian values (as they define them) and do away with science, contraception, and homosexuals.

If they really trusted God, they would simply leave these things up to God. If God is willing to allow us to imagine and teach that humans and apes share a family tree, why should HL take offense? And if God created people so that people might create condoms, who are they to interfere? And if God created everything, then God created homosexuals and who is HL to condemn God’s creation?

What bugs me about HL is their hubris. They sift through the teachings of Jesus, focus on what he has to say about homosexuality, stem cell research, evolution, and contraception, and ignore all the rest. (Note: For those who have not read the Gospels, Jesus says nothing about any of these things.) Their Jesus is created in their image, not God’s. He is their son, not His. They did the same with this ad. America was not and is not a Christian nation, and because it isn’t, Christianity flourishes here unlike anywhere else on the planet.

So I call upon America (notice how I assume America reads this blog) to trust in God but not in Hobby Lobby. I, for one, will no longer shop at Hobby Lobby. (OK I never have before, either.) I will not shop at Hobby Lobby not because I have no hobbies (which, sadly, is true) but because I can’t support their lobby. And I hope you won’t either. I am calling for a boycott of Hobby Lobby. Or, if you just have to buy stuff there, buy some stuff to make a sign that tells others not to buy there.

Happy Fourth. And God bless you (or damn you as the case may be).

Monday, July 03, 2006

Knit One, Pearl Two

When most of us think of the creation of humanity in the Bible we think of Genesis. In Chapter One God simply has the idea to create men and women and— whoosh! — there they are. In Chapter Two God creates the male human first by fashioning a clay manikin and then breathing consciousness into it. Both versions of human origins have something to teach us.

We are an idea in the mind of God. We are, as the Hindus say, the dream of God. Or better, we are God dreaming. The creation you and I experience is a cosmic game of hide of seek with God hiding from himself and then finding himself which ends the game for a few millennia until God starts playing all over again. We know this intuitively which is why one of the earliest games babies learn to play is peek-a-boo: now you’re here, now you’re not.

The second creation story reminds us that we are not (as the first story might suggest) alien to the earth, but fully of it. This is just the opposite of the Christian call to be in the world but not of the world. Genesis 2 says we are of the world, literally. We are the clay of the earth made self-conscious. To me this means that we are the way life comes to know itself divine. We are the way nature cares for the poor, the homeless, and the hungry. Unfortunately we are also the way nature produces poverty, homelessness, and starvation. There is nothing we can do about that. We are both the problem and the solution.

But there is a third creation myth in the Bible. In Psalm 139:13 we learn that God knits us together in our mothers’ wombs. I love this image for several reasons. First, the Knitting God just cannot be the angry, imperial, and dysfunctional Lord God running around creating life, drowning life, and proclaiming fatwas and jihads against anyone who crosses the Chosen people. With the exception of Madame Lafarge, knitting is done with love, not malice.

Second, the Knitting God is God as Mother and Grandmother, a welcome alternative to God the Father. In my family women knit, men fart. This image of the Great Mother God knitting me into existence is so loving. I have God’s full attention, and better, I am the result of God’s full attention.

Third, knitting is an image quite different from breathing life into a blow-up doll. When you knit you take different threads and weave them together. The more complex the pattern, the more glorious the piece. Given the excitement around string theory in physics, I can imagine God knitting the strings of existence together in an infinite array of more and less complex patterns eventually knitting a sweater and pants set that thinks and can knit its own socks!

So the next time you hear someone say we ought to teach Biblical creationism in the schools, you should agree with them. Just do it in during home economics.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Kal-El, Son of God

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a gay guy!

Is Superman, the quintessential American superhero, gay? Enquiring minds want to know. Actually not “enquiring” minds but stupid, silly, bored minds with nothing better to do than debate Superman’s sexuality. But, since they started…

Actually I have no idea if Superman is gay or straight. And, since he is a COMIC BOOK CHARACTER, I don’t care. But apparently some people do, but not the people you might think. It isn’t the wacko-Christian fringe that is obsessed with a gay Man of Steel, but the wacko-gay fringe. They can’t imagine that a guy in tights and wearing a cap is straight. What do they think the big “S” on his chest stands for, anyway.

As I investigated the truth behind the gay Ubermensch (UberHomo?) I discovered a more fascinating understanding of the big “S.” It doesn’t stand for “straight” but for “Son,” as in the Son of God. The May/June issue of New Man, a Christian men’s magazine (talk about gay, there isn’t a single photograph of a woman, let alone a scantily dressed woman, in this magazine), the Man of Steel is the Son of God. Here’s the proof:

Superman’s powers come from the sun (Son, get it?).
Superman has X-ray vision; God can see everything.
Superman has super hearing; God hears all prayers before they are spoken (Isaiah 65:24).
Superman has heat vision; Christ’s eyes blaze like fire (Revelation 1:14).
Superman has super speed; Christ is everywhere in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Superman is raised by Martha and Jonathan which sounds like Mary and Joseph. (And, though the magazine didn’t mention this, “Kent” rhymes with Lent.)
Superman’s archenemy is Lex Luthor which sounds a lot like Lucifer, aka, the Devil.

You get the idea. Of course it doesn’t hurt that in the up-coming movie Jor-El, Superman’s dad, says he is sending his only begotten son to save the earth. And it damn well helps to know that Superman’s real name is Kal-El, which the two Jewish creators of Superman, having recently become bar mitzvah, knew is Hebrew for “All-God” (Jor-
El means nothing in particular, though El is Hebrew for God).

So is Superman a gay, Jewish, Christ-figure? Yes, he likes to run around in tights and a cape, but the rest of his wardrobe is kind of boring. Yes, he has a great body, but he never works out. Yes, he trying to save humankind, but he never sacrifices himself, preferring to beat the crap out of his enemies. Yes, his name is Jewish, but he flies on Shabbos.

The truth is, we don’t know. Does it matter? Not to me. Jesus wore robes, hung around with a bunch of guys, never married, remained a virgin (sorry Dan Brown), and seemed to attract a lot of women without himself being attracted to them. Maybe Jesus was…. Nah.