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Apocalyptic Literature…..and Bingo!

Posted May 14 2009 4:40pm

So I guess that funerals where I have to mingle with the old church crowd aren’t the only things that get me into one of my religious tangents.  Apparently, insomnia kicks it into high gear as well.  At least it did last night as I lie there awake at 4am pondering the universe like the lovable oaf Hazel in Cannery Row, as he stared up at heaven from under that tree regretting his fortune of soon becoming President of the United States……

But here it is in a nutshell……what is it about our nature as human beings to over-simplify the complicated inexplicable stuff and render the simplest things impossible to explain?

Basically, what I’m talking about is the tendency church folk have to take something that theologians can’t truly explain and boil it down into something a retarded third grader can glean from such masterworks as “The Left Behind” series.  Seriously, all of my hatred towards that complete garbage aside…..Revelation just isn’t that easy to sum up, yet it’s the subject that always packed them to the rafters on Sundays when they knew ol’ Pastor Jed Clampett was going to dissect the finer points of how badly you would be tortured by the antichrist’s minions if you were stupid enough to miss the (pre-tribulation….of course) rapture.  Granted, it makes for good drama, and it’s been sixteen years since bible college for me so I’m beyond rusty……but nobody can really even say who authored the book of revelation, and more importantly, nobody can really make a definitive case for why IT made it into the canon while fifty other identical books (whose authors were unknown as well) were rejected at one of the many political conventions in the first couple of centuries A.D. where all of this crap was hammered out.  With such classic moments as a few Jewish leaders getting Song of Solomon included when they went….”oh yeah, it’s an allegory…it’s not just a love story….seriously….and if you throw it in we’ll go easy on you when the book of James comes up or something”.  Throw in the fact that much of what is spoken of in the book may have already happened in the first or second century A.D. in part of Palestine (”mark of the beast”, no buying or selling without it, etc.), and it further complicates a finite explanation of what it’s really saying.  For anyone who has suffered through Apocalyptic lit courses, you know what I’m talking about…..it sucks.  The only way to make it fun is to throw big pageants like the one here in Kansas City called “Tribulation Christmas” that chronicles of the lives of people left behind at Christmas, complete with some guy playing the antichrist and uniformed stormtroopers carrying firearms loaded with blanks that will scare just about anyone down to the altar call after Jesus comes out and throws Satan into the pit. 

So all I’m saying here is….the shit is oversimplified.  And in reality, if people are living the lives they claim to want to…..what does it really matter?  It’s good for scaring kids and doing some really lazy hit-and-run evangelism, but it doesn’t really do anything for church growth.  You’ll pack the house one day with an end-times sermon, but there is no net gain the next week when you’re preaching on Joshua-people or something. 

YET ON THE OTHER HAND……something as simple as the concept of grace is picked apart to the level where entire movements split off to create a new denomination.  What makes grace complicated?  Isn’t it all-encompassing?  I know that hackles raise when someone mentions “eternal security” or “once saved always saved”…..but what is the alternative, and why do people (badly) pick apart scripture in order to PROVE BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that someone can indeed LOSE their salvation?   And in all seriousness, what exactly are the rules?  How much sin or lack of works constitutes complete salvation-loss?  And what constitutes the one explanation of “well maybe they were never saved in the first place”?  What tangible degree of belief can you put on someone who says they are a believer? 

I talk to a lot of people about this, it has always been a favorite subject of mine, and ultimately it boils down to control.  Apparently, people will just go wild and become libertines if you tell them that there is no limit on grace.  Sharing the gospel message with them and telling them it’s a lifelong journey to continually improve yourself within those guidelines apparently is not enough.  And that attitude begat “the rules”, and the rules begat picking and choosing what part of the gospel you should believe, and that begat the finger pointing that comes from ANYONE who is convinced THEY truly live a righteous lifestyle, and that begat everyone forgetting that EVERYONE is a sinner.  And honestly, chances are really good we do it every day on some level.  And in my humble and unorthodox opinion, THAT is the real point of the gospel……it’s the ultimate Catch-22….everyone is a sinner who should strive to live a better lifestyle, and we really all do sin (some sins are just way less obvious than others…which takes us back to the finger pointing), and as soon as we claim we have no sin…..well guess what, you just sinned!

Sure, lack of sleep makes me ramble, but I really don’t understand why it has to be so complicated.  If someone believes, their struggles and their path is between them and God, you can’t really judge them.  And this was normally always the point in the conversation where someone would bring up Hitler or child molesters…….”if they say they’re saved, but they keep gassing Jews or molesterin’ kids….”.  And yes, that argument would trump me and turn my world upside down…..and then I’d go buy tickets for Tribulation Christmas and pretend I didn’t masturbate at least once a day.  Because it’s those hidden and private sins that spare all Jews and children utter horror that make us the better Christians.  And THAT’S WHY THERE HAVE TO BE RULES!  Very finite and definite RULES……..you have to be like Rob Reiner, but instead of cigarettes it’s the gospel…..you do it for the children.  That’s sarcasm, by the way.  Just in case anyone didn’t catch it.  I know I can be painfully subtle at times, and it’s very hard to discern what I think.  There it was again….the sarcasm.  There aren’t any damn rules guys, it just isn’t that complicated.  So no, I won’t be hosting the twentieth anniversary party for “This Present Darkness”……I know you felt like I was going that direction for a minute.

But that’s about it from me, just some thoughts late at night while enjoying Howard Stern hammer on Bababooey about his poor choice of home theatre layout.  The good news is that the C.H.U.D. gets into town tomorrow night, and we have week of fun and intrigue planned.  Bluestem Happy Hour, Lidia’s w/the parents, me convincing her of the brilliance of Flight of the Conchords, an honest to god full-blown Gun Show, Dave & Busters, Valentine’s Dinner at home, and most importantly…….family Bingo night.  I know I’ve mentioned Bingo at least once, but it truly is a glorious occasion when you have about twenty people hunkered around a table trying to win all manner of prizes…… cereal, shampoo, trash bags, razor blades, salad dressing…the list is infinite and diverse….and people take it deadly seriously.

So I’ll be back sometime next week.  Time for some serious housecleaning and preparation.  I can’t sit here all day explaining the universe to you mouthbreathers!

So I guess that funerals where I have to mingle with the old church crowd aren’t the only things that get me into one of my religious tangents.  Apparently, insomnia kicks it into high gear as well.  At least it did last night as I lie there awake at 4am pondering the universe like the lovable oaf Hazel in Cannery Row, as he stared up at heaven from under that tree regretting his fortune of soon becoming President of the United States……

But here it is in a nutshell……what is it about our nature as human beings to over-simplify the complicated inexplicable stuff and render the simplest things impossible to explain?

Basically, what I’m talking about is the tendency church folk have to take something that theologians can’t truly explain and boil it down into something a retarded third grader can glean from such masterworks as “The Left Behind” series.  Seriously, all of my hatred towards that complete garbage aside…..Revelation just isn’t that easy to sum up, yet it’s the subject that always packed them to the rafters on Sundays when they knew ol’ Pastor Jed Clampett was going to dissect the finer points of how badly you would be tortured by the antichrist’s minions if you were stupid enough to miss the (pre-tribulation….of course) rapture.  Granted, it makes for good drama, and it’s been sixteen years since bible college for me so I’m beyond rusty……but nobody can really even say who authored the book of revelation, and more importantly, nobody can really make a definitive case for why IT made it into the canon while fifty other identical books (whose authors were unknown as well) were rejected at one of the many political conventions in the first couple of centuries A.D. where all of this crap was hammered out.  With such classic moments as a few Jewish leaders getting Song of Solomon included when they went….”oh yeah, it’s an allegory…it’s not just a love story….seriously….and if you throw it in we’ll go easy on you when the book of James comes up or something”.  Throw in the fact that much of what is spoken of in the book may have already happened in the first or second century A.D. in part of Palestine (”mark of the beast”, no buying or selling without it, etc.), and it further complicates a finite explanation of what it’s really saying.  For anyone who has suffered through Apocalyptic lit courses, you know what I’m talking about…..it sucks.  The only way to make it fun is to throw big pageants like the one here in Kansas City called “Tribulation Christmas” that chronicles of the lives of people left behind at Christmas, complete with some guy playing the antichrist and uniformed stormtroopers carrying firearms loaded with blanks that will scare just about anyone down to the altar call after Jesus comes out and throws Satan into the pit. 

So all I’m saying here is….the shit is oversimplified.  And in reality, if people are living the lives they claim to want to…..what does it really matter?  It’s good for scaring kids and doing some really lazy hit-and-run evangelism, but it doesn’t really do anything for church growth.  You’ll pack the house one day with an end-times sermon, but there is no net gain the next week when you’re preaching on Joshua-people or something. 

YET ON THE OTHER HAND……something as simple as the concept of grace is picked apart to the level where entire movements split off to create a new denomination.  What makes grace complicated?  Isn’t it all-encompassing?  I know that hackles raise when someone mentions “eternal security” or “once saved always saved”…..but what is the alternative, and why do people (badly) pick apart scripture in order to PROVE BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that someone can indeed LOSE their salvation?   And in all seriousness, what exactly are the rules?  How much sin or lack of works constitutes complete salvation-loss?  And what constitutes the one explanation of “well maybe they were never saved in the first place”?  What tangible degree of belief can you put on someone who says they are a believer? 

I talk to a lot of people about this, it has always been a favorite subject of mine, and ultimately it boils down to control.  Apparently, people will just go wild and become libertines if you tell them that there is no limit on grace.  Sharing the gospel message with them and telling them it’s a lifelong journey to continually improve yourself within those guidelines apparently is not enough.  And that attitude begat “the rules”, and the rules begat picking and choosing what part of the gospel you should believe, and that begat the finger pointing that comes from ANYONE who is convinced THEY truly live a righteous lifestyle, and that begat everyone forgetting that EVERYONE is a sinner.  And honestly, chances are really good we do it every day on some level.  And in my humble and unorthodox opinion, THAT is the real point of the gospel……it’s the ultimate Catch-22….everyone is a sinner who should strive to live a better lifestyle, and we really all do sin (some sins are just way less obvious than others…which takes us back to the finger pointing), and as soon as we claim we have no sin…..well guess what, you just sinned!

Sure, lack of sleep makes me ramble, but I really don’t understand why it has to be so complicated.  If someone believes, their struggles and their path is between them and God, you can’t really judge them.  And this was normally always the point in the conversation where someone would bring up Hitler or child molesters…….”if they say they’re saved, but they keep gassing Jews or molesterin’ kids….”.  And yes, that argument would trump me and turn my world upside down…..and then I’d go buy tickets for Tribulation Christmas and pretend I didn’t masturbate at least once a day.  Because it’s those hidden and private sins that spare all Jews and children utter horror that make us the better Christians.  And THAT’S WHY THERE HAVE TO BE RULES!  Very finite and definite RULES……..you have to be like Rob Reiner, but instead of cigarettes it’s the gospel…..you do it for the children.  That’s sarcasm, by the way.  Just in case anyone didn’t catch it.  I know I can be painfully subtle at times, and it’s very hard to discern what I think.  There it was again….the sarcasm.  There aren’t any damn rules guys, it just isn’t that complicated.  So no, I won’t be hosting the twentieth anniversary party for “This Present Darkness”……I know you felt like I was going that direction for a minute.

But that’s about it from me, just some thoughts late at night while enjoying Howard Stern hammer on Bababooey about his poor choice of home theatre layout.  The good news is that the C.H.U.D. gets into town tomorrow night, and we have week of fun and intrigue planned.  Bluestem Happy Hour, Lidia’s w/the parents, me convincing her of the brilliance of Flight of the Conchords, an honest to god full-blown Gun Show, Dave & Busters, Valentine’s Dinner at home, and most importantly…….family Bingo night.  I know I’ve mentioned Bingo at least once, but it truly is a glorious occasion when you have about twenty people hunkered around a table trying to win all manner of prizes…… cereal, shampoo, trash bags, razor blades, salad dressing…the list is infinite and diverse….and people take it deadly seriously.

So I’ll be back sometime next week.  Time for some serious housecleaning and preparation.  I can’t sit here all day explaining the universe to you mouthbreathers!

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