The Bible Stories Your Pastor Doesn’t Want You to Read

As a small, yet important preface, I must say that I was once a flourishing Christian. Taught Sunday school, did vacation bible schools and their high school equivalents.  I was a member of the church in every sense of the world.  Choir, teaching flag football, ministering to children and at times trying to find a place that made sense for me.

In the midst of all this, I started reading through the Old Testament.  I knew the Jesus, the God of the New Testament, but who was the God of the Israelites? The God of the Flood?  The God of controversy.  Part of me was excited to find out some new things about the cosmic being to which I was offering my words and actions to, and yet there was the other part that was extremely terrified of what I might uncover.

So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down.31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed.33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be knowntoday that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

If you read through that, then you’ll be either laughing or crying, there is no middle ground.  Elijah won in a clear-cut battle between Baal and our God.  Pastors stop at verse 39.  Verse 40 is, “Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal.  Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.”

That’s hardcore.  Not only do you win and shame your enemy, but now you must herd them to a separate location and then not just execute them, but slaughter them!  That last part is too iffy to make it into sermons, but it’s an important part of God and his prophets.  Mercy is to be shown not for your enemies, but for the downtrodden and weak.

Elishah And The Bears

 

For our next story, Elishah is Elijah’s son and traveling from town to town to make a name for himself as a traveling prophet.  His path was waylaid due to some unruly children.  Take a look.

Elisha Is Jeered

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

Short and sweet, isn’t it?  Maulings are always succinct, I’ve heard.  These children were just being children.  Taunting, laughing, picking apart the flaws of adults.  That’s what we do, right?  Well, Elishah said he’d had enough.  He asked for two beast ass bears to handily dispatch forty-two children.  Even in comparison with the mass shootings that have occurred in the last year.  I think Elishah’s is the most cold-blooded.  That’s really saying something too.  Petty, petty prophet.

 

The Golden Calf

Everyone who has any biblical knowledge knows about the golden calf incident.  Moses is up on mount Sinai talking to Him and Moses’ brother Aaron starts a merry bad of reluctant hedonists.  Sounds just so common, when put that way.  So here’s what happened:

 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lordrelented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
    it is not the sound of defeat;
    it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing,his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder,scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the bookyou have written.”

33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

Shameful Biblical Treachery

Moses went up there with pure thoughts.  He wanted to find out the will of GOD, but what happened was his own flesh and blood brother betrayed him and all of his ideals.  In Verse 9, that’s God wanting to destroy humanity.  Humanity!  Pressing the reset button on your N64 has never been so easy.  It was Moses himself that talked the all-high God out of his psychopathic path.

Only….some should die.  Definitely some, though, right?  Now gather ye around ye Levites.  Kill your mother, your brother, your children in the name of the LORD and you will be rewarded.  This experiment has gotten so far fucked up that we need a reset button.  Good luck!

Even after the Levites killed three thousand in one night, and the blessing of the Lord was upon them, God was intent to reward everyone with a plague in remembrance of Aaron’s golden calf.

These are just a few of the wild and crazy stories that every God-fearing Christian should take into account.  If this particular deity were still to be in existence, would He just your life as nothing more than idol after idol?

 

More stories to come.  Be sure of it.

Gender Equality in Furies of Calderon

Man and woman historically have had defined roles in a society.  Breadwinner, housemaker, and the like. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher takes these common notions and discards them entirely.  ‘Tis refreshing, really.  Furies has the stink of an average medieval high fantasy novel at first brush, but yet comes damn near close to a Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones type epic near the end.  As the song lyrics go, “times are a-changing” and in Furies that’s very much the truth.

In the first several dozen pages it’s confusing who the main protagonist is.  Isana, Bernard, Tavi and Amari all take turns being point-of-view characters.  What defines a main character, even?  Is it winning, or likability or something as cliche as plot armor.  George R.R. Martin believes that even main characters must die, but that’s hardly the norm.  Jim Butcher prefers his MCs alive.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s really hard to invest readers in something if their favorite characters keep dying.   For purposes of the this article, main characters are really defined as who gets the most screen-time.  Who gets the spotlight the most.  Can a person be the hero of the tale if he only gets ten pages out of three hundred?

The main characters are as follow: Tavi, a young boy.  Amara, a relatively young girl.  Isana, a relatively old woman with a young complexion.  Bernard, a middle-aged man.  Finally, Fidelius, an older man.  Butcher is careful not to reveal or dwell upon ages too often, except in the case of Tavi, a fifteen year-old boy.  None of the other characters have their ages made explicit.  This is a good thing, though.  What’s important is whether or not each sex was considered equally viable, not necessarily age.

In this case, there are two sides to the coin of this story.  On the one side, Isana is seen as a mature, intricate, capable stand-in for Bernard when things go awry.  The key phrase there is stand-in.  In the Codex Alera universe, women are not steadholders.  That’s a man thing.  Giving commands, taking care of the people, that’s in a man’s job.  Women are more followers, helpers, healers, that sort of thing.  Not every character agrees with this assessment, and there you have Amara.  She’s a headstrong, if not naive, Cursor which is a messenger-sometimes-spy for the Crown.  Her duties are manyfold and never does she rely upon her gender or sex to get the job done.  Whether it’s spying on the enemy or helping an ally, she doesn’t even take her gender into account.  Amara willing enters battle at her own risk, placing her body and mind in harm’s way to save the day.

It is oft-mentioned that other characters see this Amara as somewhat of a counter-flow figure.  She regularly overrules, humiliates, and defeats men without giving it a lot of reflection.  She doesn’t really see herself as the breakout character that she is.

That leads us to the darker side of this coin.  Chivalry, machoism, whatever you’d like to call it.  Men do strong thing.  Women do sensitive thing.  Bernard is stuck in his ways.  He thinks he must protect his sister Isana, or Amara whenever she’s vulnerable.  While it’s undeniably a noble intention, it’s also misguided.  Isana and Amara show time and time again that they can take care of themselves.  Butcher portrays both Bernard and his nephew Tavi as archetypical men.  During a fury-storm which, if you can imagine, is a magical thunderstorm fraught with monsters and madness, Amara finds herself injured and exhausted; unable to continue.  Tavi is then seen as her protector.  He’s someone that, even though he has inadequacies of his own, is able to provide instinctual awareness enough to help out his fellow woman.

Butcher strives to show Tavi as a young man.  Someone who can help those who are weary and helpless.  If this at all seems overdone, it is therefore blunted by his sensitive nature.  Tavi is shown as a young man full of emotion.  Rage, despair, kindness, love, passion, everything that could possibly round out a blossoming young hero.  He’s equal parts masculine and feminine, and it works.

The same can be said for Amara.  When both Tavi and Amara are in-scene together, it’s rather difficult to put one in charge of the other.  It’s not usually one following the other.  I find that rather touching, really, as people aren’t boiled down to stereotypes.  A man is not the product of his gender, but rather the measure of his own heart.  The product of his hand.  What has he wrought into this world?

Even Fidelius, the book’s resident senior, is not phased by his apprentice Amara’s strong will nor strong action.  In his own way, he encourages her to fight in both body and spirit.  I feel like Jim Butcher has envisioned both sex groups of the Codex Alera universe to be generally equal.  A man may be First Lord, but it could as easily be a woman.  And may will, further in the series.  As capable as the men are pictured, they are as equally flawed as well.  These women are not seen as trophies, companions, or sex-toys and that is much appreciated.  While there are those villains in this adventure that would see woman as will-stripped slaves, this is not the prevailing narrative.  In Codex Alera, men and women are as equal as is possible. Women can outrank men at fighting, and men can outrank women in emotional depth; as it should be.

Dresden Files – From Storm Front to Skin Game, a Series Retrospective

It should be mentioned right away that it is rare for me to make it through an entire book series in any reasonable amount of time.  Inevitably, I get bored, and when I get bored, I move on.  Such is the plight of the all-empowered consumer of the 21st century.  There are millions and millions of different sources of content for us humans to enjoy, and it takes a special kind of writer to make a book series that is worth reading from start to finish.

Jim Butcher has done exactly that.  His first book Storm Front came to us in the wily and unimportant year of 2000.  I wasn’t actually introduced to this series until 2015 when a coworker begged me to read Storm Front.  I was taken aback by Butcher’s quick paced yet easy to follow style.  They’re very clearly adventure novels, as you’ll come to understand.  Protagonist Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only ‘Professional Wizard.’  Listed in the phone books, even.  In many ways he’s a supernatural private detective, taking on jobs for the police, fairy queens, fallen angels, and fellow wizards often enough.  Harry is often stuck with the ‘it’s always something’ literary technique.  Conflict drives a story, and Butcher knows this.  No one would want to read a book about Harry sitting at home, sipping coffee and petting his thirty pound cat Mister.  Well….I shouldn’t say no one.

Butcher knows that things need to happen in order for more things to happen.  Some plot lines are more interesting than others, sadly.  I won’t spoil anything, but Ghost Story struggled from a lack of direction as well as a dearth of meaningful decisions.  Butcher learned his lesson on that, though, as Cold Days that followed was full of important decisions, epic conflict, and mystery.

There is always a mystery to be solved in these books, and for those of us that want to use our minds when reading, the world of Dresden Files delivers every single time.  There were times when I didn’t know who the villain was for the entire book until the last few pages.  It’s not usually cut and dry, evil vs. good, light side vs. dark.  One of Harry Dresden’s most hated enemies is a man of considerable stature in the criminal world.  He has been responsible, directly or indirectly, for some of the more heinous crimes in recent history.  And yet, Harry is forced to work with, for, or begrudgingly alongside this man dozens of times.  There are even a few solitary snippets to be had where this man is seen to be doing something wrong for a good reason.  Stealing a cure to save a child.  Something like that.

Harry has a healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) amount of inner monologue on display.  He is clearly at odds with himself over many past, present, and future decisions.  Above all else, he’s very much a human.  Full of fears, doubts, suspicions, failures, hopes and desires.  These books don’t play the philosophy or psychology cards, yet they are so very much full of such concepts.  It’s just more subtle than most.  Harry has an ability that is unique to wizards in this particular universe.  He can attempt a soulgaze of another entity.  It amounts to looking into the other person, thing, or creature’s eyes and maintaining eye contact.  There’s only a brief window in which to drop out of a soulgaze. Once you’re in, though, it’s quite the ride.  Dresden Files goes from a action-on-the-run mystery thriller to something more.  For those few brief instants, you’re directly transported into a sort of…abstraction, usually in the form of an elaborate metaphor that captures the essence of the person Harry is gazing into. (For those people in the comments: Harry is not the only one who can Soulgaze. Reread my words)

In one particular soulgaze, Harry finds himself seeing a young associate of his in a sort of crossroads in front of several mirrors.  She, herself, is barely old enough to have made any lasting decisions, and is standing still, ready to take that plunge into one of those mirrors.  Each mirror holds a possibility of her future self.  One is happy, working on a farm somewhere in Missouri.  Another is sitting at home with her family, looking quite bored, but secretly working magics upon them.  The most pressing of them is the form of a ragged witch-like creature who is emanating waves of evil and treachery.

The thing about soulgazes is that they’re two-way.  She saw just as much of him and he did of her.  Butcher never tells us exactly what they see, but it’s almost always not good, even terrifying to some.  Being given insight into the people around Harry is just as important as gaining insight into his own mind.

Butcher is careful not to divulge too much, too quickly, lest we may become bored with our flawed hero.  In the dozen or more years that these books cover, Harry changes quite a bit.  Some of his own doing, some not.  We are very much the product of the company we keep, so it’s heartening that his allies are some of the most interesting side characters I’ve ever witness.

There’s Michael the Holy Knight of the Cross, a man of faith and abilities who provides a sharp contrast with Harry’s more…nonreligious perspective.  Then there’s Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, of the Chicago Police.  She works dozens of cases alongside Harry and becomes a much-needed confidant and back-up in times of peril.  In the words of Sanya, “Small, yet fierce.”

All of these characters come together to make for an ensemble cast that gives other fantasy novels a run for their money.  Add in the complex nature of the forces that be in his world, and the compelling, usually morally gray conflicts that arise, you have yourself one of the finest book series we’re like to see.  I’m now headed onto his Codex Alera book series.  I’ll see you soon.

Sea of Rust: O.O. Review

For the lowly price of two USD, I found myself the owner of a brand new eBook, ready to buckle down and enjoy a post-apocalyptic adventure.  I had no idea — going in– what kind of genius C. Robert Cargill is.  He captured me from the first few pages, illustrating a world ravaged by war, essentially leaving Earth a massive desert.  Humans are gone, but why?  Robots are scarce and oft on the run, but why?  These are the questions I found myself asking in the opening chapter. Who is Brittle and why does she earn the nickname, “Angel of Death?”  Cargill creates an atmosphere of desiring to know more, succeeding in drawing me into this all-too-real world.

Thus C was its first succes, not only able to answer any question its creators asked, but also able to decide not to.  Asked to name itself, C chose 0100111–binary code for 79. 0100111 would insist on being called Seventy-Nine when spoken aloud, but 0100111 in print.  Years later when asked by a new-generation intelligence why it had chosen that name, 0100111 revealed that it thought it was funny to watch humans puzzle over it and try to explain it to one another.  0100111 had a sense of humor and delighted in fucking with people. – Chapter: A Brief History of AI, Page 33

Continue reading Sea of Rust: O.O. Review