01 March 2010

Mar 1

Reference links:
Old Testament

The Levites only owned houses in Levitical towns and the fields around them. Because that was all they owned, they got it back every 50 years (as we learn later in the reading, every 50 years is the Jubilee year, a year of rest for people and the land when everyone regains that which belonged to their ancestors).

The Israelites were commanded not to take advantage of those who have come on hard times. Good sentiment!

However, God fails when it comes to slavery. The Israelites may not buy and sell each other as slaves, only as indentured servants to be freed in the Year of Jubilee.
However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you. You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born into your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat them as slaves, but you must never treat your fellow Israelites this way.
Now, if God really inspired the authorship of Leviticus as a book meant to go into his book of instruction for all of humanity for all time, you would think that the one thing he could handle is saying straight out that slavery is wrong. Fail.

Another failure is God's idea of just punishment. God declares to Moses that a man should be stoned to death for blasphemy. What a terrible way to kill someone! A stoning would be a drawn out, painful death. It counts, in  my opinion, as cruel punishment that only a wicked being would choose as appropriate another. And yet, this is supposedly God's preferred method of putting blasphemers to death. Perhaps not surprising for a being that murdered all of humanity in the flood and murdered many Egyptians before the Exodus, but still, like those events, sickening. Even if the God of the Bible exists, I do not think I could believe him worthy of worship.

Today's reading also gives us the famous phrase, "an eye for an eye".
Anyone who injures another person must be dealt with according to the injury inflicted -- a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever anyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind.
This is barbaric. Yes, I know Jesus repudiates this when he says to turn the other cheek, but we still have to deal with the original. The original is not barbaric because it claims that punishment should be proportional to the crime. It is barbaric because it implies that it should be like in kind. Imagine, someone causes someone else to lose an eye. Now, the person who committed the crime must have their eye deliberately gouged out by someone else.

New Testament

We see an example of Jesus being nice! Well, kind of. Some parents had brought their children to be blessed by Jesus. The disciples try to shoo them away. Instead of just telling them not too,
When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples.
Hardly a day goes by when the reading does not contain some reference to Jesus' anger or annoyance. At least he blesses the children.

Actually, today we really do see an example of Jesus acting in a caring manner. A rich man who had always kept the commandments asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. "There is still one thing you haven't done," he told him. "God and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Wow! No anger, no annoyance, just genuine love. I like this Jesus more than the Jesus we usually see. The disciples discuss the difficulty of getting into heaven by these standards. Jesus tells them,
Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.
That's nice. The next bit however, seems a bit callous. Jesus says,
I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property -- along with persecution.
Sorry to break it to you Jesus, but getting a new family does not make up for the one that was lost. Relationships are not fungible like that.

Psalms and Proverbs

We get depressing a reading from Psalms today.
You have butchered us like sheep
and scattered us among the nations.
You sold your precious people for a pittance,
making nothing on the sale.
...
We can't escape the constant humiliation;
shame is written across our faces.
All we hear are the taunts of our mockers.
All we see are our vengeful enemies.
All this has happened though we have not forgotten you.
We have not violated your covenant.
Our hearts have not deserted you.
We have not strayed from your path.
Yet you have crushed us in the jackal's desert home.
You have covered us with darkness and death.
...
Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Get up! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you look the other way?
Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
We collapse in the dust,
lying face down in the dirt.
Rise up! Help us!
Ransom us because of your unfailing love.