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A post-homiletical discourse delivered by the Rev. Dr. James R. Beebe
Rector, St. Patrick’s Church, Incline Village, Nevada, October 23, 2011
This headline just in:
“Rural South Dakotan Walks Away From First Encounter With Jewish Man, Shaken But Unharmed.”
SELBY, SD — “According to local resident Hank Tyson's firsthand account, the 51-year-old service-shop owner was left rattled but unharmed Wednesday after engaging in small talk with a man who turned out to be Jewish. "It seemed like any other conversation at first, but once I realized he was Jewish, I could feel my blood pressure go up and everything started moving in slow motion," said Tyson, claiming the sequence of events that followed "felt like some kind of awful dream," from the man's subtle gesturing to his repeated questions about how to get to I-94. "You never think anything like this will happen to you until it does." Following the encounter, Tyson drove home, kissed his wife, and told his children he loved them.”
That, from the Onion (Issue 46-45), an online satirical magazine aimed at skewering pretense and silly beliefs. Of course, “skewering” and “scoffing” are closely related. “Scoffing,” of course, means, “mocking” or “treating with derision.” And, according to the psalmist, we’re supposed to steer clear of it.
That’s not to say that the Bible doesn’t have its fair share of scoffers. People laughed at Noah’s project. Some teenagers made fun of Elisha because he was bald. Jezebel wasn’t too thrilled with the seedy, second-class religion of the Israelites. Jesus was scoffed at on the cross because he could save others, but, apparently, not himself. Yes, scoffing is right at home in Holy Writ.
An unusually earnest young man by the name of Hutchens recently wrote a blog, with a complaint about those who scoffed at his faith. “Faith in God,” he writes, “is attributed to mental disease or deficiency, or viewed as an anodyne for misery, when examination of the lives of the most devout would show abounding mental health and unusual levels of happiness and stability.”
Methinks he doth protesteth too much….
Not all that long ago, an obscure, self-taught prognosticator said that the end of the world was going to be Saturday, May 21, 2011, at 6 p.m. When that didn’t happen, Harold Camping told his listeners on Family Radio Network that May 21st was only a “spiritual judgment day,” a mere harbinger for the real thing on October 21st.
Back in May, Camping said that the end was to come via “a huge earthquake that’s going to make the big earthquake in Japan seem like a Sunday school picnic.” Last week he clarified that news flash by saying that probably nobody would notice….
So, apparently, the Rapture happened two days ago. I guess that means we’re Left Behind. Or, alternatively, maybe everybody’s Left Behind. Which begs the question of whether being Left Behind is even possible if nobody left in the first place.
Then there are those who say the world is going to end because – in exactly 424 days, the Mayan “Long Count” calendar marks the end of a 5,126 year era. Lots of books have been written on the subject, fueled, in part by Mel Gibson’s December 2006 movie, “Apocalypto.”
Journalist Lawrence Joseph forecasts widespread catastrophe in Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation Into Civilization's End. “Whatever energy typically streams to Earth from the center of the Milky Way will be disrupted on 12/21/12 at 11:11 p.m. Universal Time,” he writes. Of course, he’s referring to the winter solstice, when the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in 26,000 years.
So stay tuned. Still, I wonder if it ever occurred to these True Believers that the most important truism ever visited upon the human race is being promulgated by a failed civilization that couldn’t even finish its own calendar….
Then again, it is what it is. Mark Twain has plenty to say about religion, most of which might be considered scoffiness: “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them. He is the only animal that love his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why. It seems questionable taste.” (“The Lowest Animal”)
But for every detractor of religion there comes a champion of the faith. Listen to WebPastor David Todeschini as he works himself up into a lather about how so-called educated people use evolution to scoff at the Bible:
“Evolution is the ultimate insult to God. It is a religion – a very stupid Pagan religion that believes that all the complex and interdependent life on Earth ‘evolved’ from a broth of complex chemicals on a Primordial Earth over ‘billions of years.’ The bottom line is that Evolutionist scoffers ultimately believe that all life on Earth ‘evolved’ from rocks, which is where the ‘complex chemicals’ came from, by process of erosion.”
So let me get this right: scoffers are bad, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. But apparently it’s OK to scoff at the scoffers, as long as you have the corner on the market of Eternal Truth.
I’ve said that Jesus is the lens through whom we should read the Bible. That is, anything that is in consonance with Jesus’ life and teachings is good to go; anything that is not is speculation. Having said that, what does Jesus say about scoffing? In his never-ending attempts to get his followers to internalize the Law, he says this in Matthew: “…if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘Raca,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
“Raca”? It’s an Aramaic word, literally meaning, “empty-headed,” or “fool.” In fact, Jesus himself is recorded as having used it in his rebuke of the Pharisees later in Matthew: “You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold of the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? At any rate, going to hell for calling someone a fool seems like a bit of overkill.
I’m just sayin’….
Let me just finish by saying that maybe all parties need to get their respective acts together. It seems like it’s a universal tendency to scoff at others, just made more justifiable if you think you’re in the right. I’ve said all along that the followers of Jesus should have a higher bar than the rest…
…of those silly people….