Thursday, July 10, 2008

God's T-Ball League

Christians and others within the Abrahamic traditions are preoccupied with finding loopholes by which to avoid the many cruel, arbitrary, capricious, inhumane, barbaric, ludicrous, idiotic dictates laid down in the Old Testament, especially Deuteronomy and Leviticus (e.g., no eating eagles, ravens, storks, owls or bats; no houses without parapets; the requirement to kill blasphemers and disobedient children, etc.).

It's understandable. I would probably do the same thing were I cowed into believing that I am required, under threat of eternal torment, to obey and love a god who laid down such rules. One such loophole is, oddly enough, to note precisely that these rules are cruel, arbitrary, capricious, inhumane, barbaric, ludicrous, and idiotic:

... "holy" in the [Leviticus] text tends to carry the connotation of "consecrated": holy to the Lord. A priest is, of course, consecrated to his deity, and his life is a life of liturgical service to his deity. There is no surprise if this liturgical service involves actions that are strange, for instance ordained by ancient tradition, held to be revealed by a deity, and so on. It is no surprise if a priest of a religion should be commanded to wear only certain kinds of clothes, eat only certain kinds of foods, perform special actions on special days, and so on.
In case you missed it, the economical euphemism for cruel, arbitrary, capricious, inhumane, barbaric, ludicrous, and idiotic is liturgical. There are, by definition it would seem, no surprises in liturgy. A world in which people serve bats and storks as part of a nutritious breakfast would be a world that is unholy to the Lord for some reason, and we can't have that.

However economical in terms of keystrokes, using the word liturgy rather conspicuously sidesteps the question of whether people are still required to follow all the rules listed in the Bible, but don't worry, because what is demanded without good reason can be dismissed without good reason:
... while the specific rules no longer literally apply in the Christian era, the idea of a whole life of service to God, a life of liturgy, is intensified in Christianity, in at least two ways. The first way is through every Christian's participation in the sacrifice of Christ, a participation more intimate than that of the Israelite in the Levitical sacrifices, because Christ the High Priest lives through us. The second, and liturgically very significant, intensification is that in the Eucharist all Christians need to participate, in a completely real way, in the quintessentially priestly action of eating of the sacrificial victim.
So the insane liturgy of the Old Testament (mustn't eat owls) was just God's way of setting the stage for a new insane liturgy (must eat Christ), much in the way that T-ball in grade school sets the stage for baseball in junior high.

It's too bad for the people stoned to death in the course of god's high stakes T-ball league, but one has to break eggs to make an omelet. Just don't dare let it be an eagle's egg, lest you gravely offend at least some of the gods.

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