The entire message of Genesis comes down to one thing: “You should know better than that.”

By Christopher Cudworth

Nature and eternity are foundations of the BibleThe narrative of the Book of Genesis begins with the creation story at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition. As such it is also a watershed in terms of competing worldviews. Some take as literal truth these fundamental ideas: God created the world in seven 24-hour days, created man from dust and woman from the rib of man, kicked them out of the Garden of Eden for cheating on a few rules set up by God to protect them, and then the trouble started.

Ostensibly sin entered the world through the actions of Adam and Eve. Eventually the nasty little habit of people doing bad things led God to wipe out most of the living things on the planet. That’s according to the legend of Noah and his ark, which is also considered a literal truth by those who consider that important to the verity of the Bible.

Having read the entire Book of Genesis over many times, and having read everything I can about the book from both literal and metaphorical perspectives, there’s a plain fact staring everyone in the face that is too often ignored. The entire message of the Book of Genesis comes down to one thing, something God wants us all to know. “You should know better than that.”

If you take the Bible literally, that is still the message of Genesis. “You should know better than that.” God warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden. But they did. They obviously should have known better.

As chronicled in the rest of the Bible, God repeatedly tries to warn his chosen people and all those who would listen that they need to have faith and trust in the principles God has mapped out for the human race. Time and again people breach these promises from God and all hell breaks loose.

When wandering in the wilderness after being freed by Moses from bondage by the Egyptians, the Israelites complain and moan and create idols in defiance of God’s orders to be faithful. God is not pleased.

Later on in biblical history God’s people complain that they have no king. God tells them, “Pay attention to my guidance and you’ll never need kings.” But they insist, and the kings turn out to be flawed and tragic and selfish. Just like the rest of us. God tried to tell them. “You should know better than that.”

Of course the entire arc of the Book of Genesis ultimately points toward the arrival on earth of God’s own Son. That would perhaps be Yeshua, if we were hewing to the pronunciation of the day. To those of us reading various translations of the Bible, that man is Jesus.

Whose main message is that you should love one another even to a fault. You should even love your enemies. That is the only true path to forgiveness, grace and salvation.  Versus the ugly path our journeys take when we let our base instincts rule the day. In so many words the primary message of Jesus was an echo of Genesis. “You should know better than that.”

The people who really should have known better never accepted the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. They conspired to have him killed and succeeded in their mission to retain power and authority over the religion of the day. Of all people, they should have known better than that. Problem was, they were so obsessed with the rule of law and owning that authority for themselves, they could not see that they were the very real problem Jesus came to address.

Which brings us to the current day, and how so many people wield the message of Genesis like a weapon. They brandish a literal interpretation of the Bible as if it were God’s own words. But let us not forget––the real message of Genesis is this: “You should know better than that.”

God has been telling us the same thing for millenniums, yet people refuse to listen. They’re so busy being faithful to the idea of what the Bible is about they fail to see the basic message of it all. “You should know better than that.”

Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites and a brood of vipers for being so possessive of the truth. He blamed them for obscuring the true message of scripture, which is and always will be, “You should know better than that.”

So those of us who believe in evolution and do the honest work of reconciling the legitimate worldview of science to our faith cannot be blamed for for being the ones who undermine the true message of scripture. That has long been the work of those who patently should know better.

Jesus admonished his own disciples for failing to grasp the meaning of his parables. “Are you so dull?” he asked them. See, there’s a whole lot of truth that is healthily accessible through metaphor. That’s why Jesus taught in parables, to help people get a grip on spiritual principles by using natural examples such as mustard seeds and yeast to explain the growth of faith and the reach of grace. People “got it” because the truth was distilled to a simple principle.

Divorced from these cogent examples, the Bible really is just words on a page. We lose the symbol of the Lamb for Jesus Christ. We lose the foreshadowing of Abram willing to kill his own son Isaac. We lose the glorious fight that David engaged in for God. But we also lose the significance of the hugely flawed human being that David was, and why his sins hold true for us as well. Indeed, God did not even allow David to build a temple in His honor. God told David, in so many words: “You have too much blood on your hands.”

The patent irony of God’s decisive powers should not be lost on us. Even when you are a dedicated servant of God, not everything is going to go your way. Truly, you should know better than that. But just because our lives have difficulty does not mean that we are not special in the eyes of God. All things in the universe are special in the eyes of God.

For those of us with a hunger for attribution, the 14+ billion year history of the universe only confirms the special nature of our existence. The fact that for millions of years human beings did not exist on this earth, and the fact that 99% of all living things that ever existed are now extinct makes it even more special that human beings know how to survive. Yet we waste that gift of creation in so many ways. We have poisoned and polluted and abused our world many times over, and often in the name of God. Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Nothing in that phrase justifies abuse of the earth. In fact the word ‘dominion’ can be translated in other ways, especially to mean ‘good stewards.’ Yet that is not the legacy demanded by so many who take the Bible literally. They proceed with such force of will and selfish perspective it cannot possibly be the will of God. Yet they claim it so.

Remember that God favored David in many ways. Yet when it came time for David to honor God by building a temple in His name, it was not for that servant to receive that honor. That fell to his son Solomon, a wise man in many ways, yet also a flawed individual.

It was a harsh directive God returned to David. “So you thought you could earn the right to build a temple to me through violence alone? You should know better than that.”

That is the lesson people refuse to learn. Yes, you may have done your job well in your devotion to God. But you can also do it too well, which was the lesson for both David and the Pharisees. By being so religious and forceful that you miss the true message of God, it become possible that ego and desires run your soul when a share of prudence, consideration and metaphorical breadth of mind would serve you so much better than that other thing you do.

The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age

The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age is being revised for release on Amazon.com

CPAC, Republicans and aggressive stupidity in politics and religion

FlagWaiver

Aggressive stupidity is wearing us all out.

Another round of CPAC madness is nearly through in America. A parade of Republican zealots highlights the speaker list, with Grover Nordquist standing proudly at the front of the line proclaiming that any Republican who agrees to tax increases of any sort “are rat heads in a Coke bottle. They damage the brand for everyone.”

How is it that Nordquist fails to see himself as the rat in the bottleneck of Republican common sense?

And how interesting that another CPAC attendee, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana–himself a possible presidential candidate in 2016–once said of Republicans, “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party.”

Jindal has been castigated for that remark, of course. It is not in the nature of conservatives to admit they might be wrong or stupid about anything.

What wrong looks like

Even when proven desperately wrong by enaction of their own nation-devastating (America and Iraq, to name a couple) policies during the horrid debacle of the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney years, Republicans would not find any ground for confession that their whole ideology might just be aggressively stupid. Even when conservatives ruled all three wings of government, things didn’t go right. Bush racked up a trillion dollar bill for his wars of choice that America can’t pay off. We’re still borrowing to pay $2B a month to mess around in Afghanistan. So what do Republicans do? They point fingers at social insurance policies such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as the problem as if saving older people from destitution and medical disaster costs a nation more than war. 

Bad habits

Aggressive stupidity is a bad habit that can be fixed. But it’s hard, like shaking alcoholism or more accurately, a gambling addiction. Aggressive stupidity is a gambling addiction, to be precise. You are gambling that your brand of stubborn ideology, if backed by sufficient bets on the table, will win the day. Of course that’s been America’s global defense policy for decades. We now spend more on defense than the next 17 nations combined, and in many ways are less secure than ever. Yet here was Mitt Romney standing before the CPAC and insisting that Republicans put a powerful US military at the top of their agenda. “Do whatever you can to keep America strong, to keep America prosperous and free and the most powerful nation on earth.” Rah rah Mitt. That’s what got you where you are, buddy. A loser claiming you had all the right ideas. 

For perspective, that statement by Romney pretty much fulfills everything President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about when he cited the evils of the military/industrial complex as our worst enemy. The idea that we cannot be free without killing everything in sight is ludicrous, expensive and costly to the American spirit.

Killing ourselves in the name of the Constitution

It was recently learned that more Americans have been killed in their own country by gun violence than in all the wars ever fought by the nation. Yet we are locked in a battle over Second Amendment rights that Republicans use as a blunderbuss to cow a bunch of ignorant, one-issue voters into thinking Democrats are going to take away their guns. And when reasonable gun control laws are proposed, such as required background checks, Republicans run for cover behind the blazing guns policies of the NRA, who could think of nothing better to do in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings than to stick a bunch of armed guards in every school in America, and force teachers to get gun training. And to arm the teachers.

That is aggressive stupidity. One feels no shame in calling out stupidity in such circumstances. There is no risk of insult when the stupidity is so glaring in so many cases. Republicans are not stupid people, although even the wealthiest were targets of the incisive wit of one Mark Twain, who warned us, “All is takes is ignorance and confidence, and success is sure.” The humorist knew that aggressive stupidity really can win the day.

Elections versus selections

And when Republicans lose as they did in the 2016 selection (it wasn’t an election, but a selection of Obama against aggressive Republican stupidity) the party can think of nothing other to do than find a way to cheat the system. So Republican governors are gerrymandering ways to stifle Democratic voters any way they can.

The conservative party is shrinking like a set of testicles in a cold wind. Their policies appeal mostly to rich white voters, who are aging, as well as the ignorantly disenfranchised brand of gun-toters and a huge block of fearfully religious bigots who can’t seem to understand that their own Bible contradicts everything their party stands for.

Coming out to common sense

God Bless Republican Senator Rob Portman, who came out in favor of same-sex marriage once he learned that his own son is gay. “I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years,” he told CNN. “That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay.”

The Bible is wrong about homosexuality, just as it is wrong about slavery and hundreds of other former laws of religion that no one ever follows. Yet biblical literalists foment their brand of aggressive stupidity toward gay people with tired old contentions that homosexuality is a sin against God, and that being gay is a choice, a lifestyle, and to one all should be opposed. The Republican Party has embraced this brand of aggressive stupidity for years because it wins them votes, gains them power and makes them feel all righteous and true.

Until one of their own finds out they have a gay child. Even the Heart of Darkness Dick Cheney admitted that he loves his daughter and can’t persecute gays any longer as a result.

Not so cool

As for Portman’s position, Republicans were aggressively cool to his very personal admission that his life has changed for the better in accepting his son for who he really is. Politics trumps all other notions of sanity, you see. As quoted in a New York Times story, “A spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, who is also from Ohio, said Friday that while Mr. Boehner “respects” Mr. Portman’s position, “the speaker continues to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

That’s a form of aggressive stupidity, Mr. Boehner. Because if we took a certain pronunciation of your name quite literally, we would be forced to believe that you are actually a turgidly erect member of Congress that has no conscience. Well what do you know. It turns out that some forms of aggressive stupidity do prove true in practice. Two can play the game Republicans like to play.

Pope Francis the contradictor

We’re even forced to consider the aggressive stupidity of the new Catholic Pope Francis I, who embraces the poor but opposes birth control. That so-called “position” makes no sense if you spend a moment considering how overpopulation vexes the entire world.

But what do you expect from a religious brand that demands its priests to be celibate, then denies their policies have any consequence when a scourge of child sex abuse infests the church. Birth control dictates are ignored by more than 90% of its members, some polls report, yet the church and its patriarchal brand of aggressive stupidity keeps on rolling with a pope that stands by the position that spending sperm in a condom is a bad thing.

Some history…

Well, has the Catholic Church ever been wrong before? They almost killed Galileo for sticking up for the scientific perspective on matters universal. Then there were the Crusades, and the Inquisition, and for a while there, an insistence that the theory of evolution is wrong.

Aggressive stupidity runs through the most powerful organizations on earth. It is the hallmark of psychopathy, the aggressive will to dominate and coerce and kill in order to have your way, and have it now.

I’ve got mine and I hate yours

It’s the “I’ve got mine and I hate yours” brand of politics that is gutting America. Yet here is the CPAC closing comment. “The popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away fro conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two elections,” said Texas Governor Rick Perry, who when asked couldn’t seem to remember what programs he’d like to cut if he were president, “That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012.”

The all-time king of aggressive stupidity, however is Rick Santorum. The man combines both dunderheaded conservative politics and a conservative catholicism that forces him to spew hate while pointing fingers at Americans who don’t think his way. He had this to say about why Republicans are failing so miserably at convincing Americans their way is the right way, “Face it, the left can always promise more stuff, and make is sound like they care more, because they make it easier for Americans by providing stuff for them, through government programs, paid by by somebody else’s money.”

Jesus loves you Rick. But he would tell you that you’re an insane hypocrite. Just like the rest of the aggressively stupid people who run your party and elections by running lies and manipulations up the flagpoles of country and God.

The fatal flaws of originalism and fundamentalism as literalistic truth

Originalism is a flawed ideology that is wearing down the wit and wisdom of the Founding Fathers. The same is true of biblical literalism and fundamentalism, which are anachronistic methods of interpreting scriptural truth.

Originalism is a flawed ideology that is wearing down the wit and wisdom of the Founding Fathers. The same is true of biblical literalism and fundamentalism, which are anachronistic methods of interpreting scriptural truth.

By Christopher Cudworth

The human instinct to distill ideas down to their simplest level is an admirable endeavor. Ernest Hemingway used words with economy. His prose still overflowed with meaning.

The authors of the Holy Bible also showed talent for saying what needed to be said. For that same reason the Bible can be difficult to deconstruct. Picking apart the supposed Word of God is no small deed.

In government, the United States Constitution enjoys a status that is similarly sacroscant. Legal scholars hesitate to embellish on the laws written by the Founding Fathers, who frankly beat the crap out of each other over every word.

But we too soon forget about that. Instead there seems to be a tendency for people of a certain legal bent who appear to believe the Constitution is on par with holy writ. Yet they also claim to be able to discern what the original authors truly meant through an interesting legal theory called originalism.

Originalism as an ideology

Originalism is just what it sounds like. Originalists believe the Constitution is to be taken literally, just as it was written, rather than interpreted or amended, as Americans have occasionally seen fit to do.

Originalism therefore operates in much the same intellectual sphere as biblical literalism and its dogmatic progeny, fundamentalism. Biblical fundamentalists believe the Bible says certain things that are immutably true. Absolutes. In its most literal mode, fundamentalism essentially does the same thing to Holy Scripture that originalism does with the United States Constitution.

Both deign to read the minds of the original authors, with sole right to do so bequeathed to those who think alike.

Backwards progress

The inevitable convergence of these cultural thought memes has been in progress for a long time, but most pronouncedly in the last 40 years or so, when conservative thought leaders on the political side began dragging America back to the so-called “original” interpretation of the United States Constitution and conservative religious factions began demanding that the Bible be represented only as infallible, inerrant and literal in its context.

The problem with both originalism and fundamentalism as social constructs is that they by definition ignore the significant social changes by which society has evolved to provide equal rights to all citizens regardless of race, creed, religion, gender or sexual orientation. To ignore these changes is to dumb down the culture rather than enlighten through social progress and yes, through revelation. Turning the words of the Constitution or the Bible into gods themselves is rather a form of idol worship, ignoring the plain fact that the words themselves are but symbols of the actions of humankind.

Slaves to ideology

For example, both the Constitution and the Bible in their “original” forms share a common flaw in tolerance and promotion of human slavery. This single aspect when it comes to civil and spiritual rights is sufficient to call other notions of originalism and literalistic fundamentalism into question.

In the book of Exodus 21, the Bible sets for the following laws. We can therefore also imagine them as part of the United States Constitution, which when it was written and installed as the law of the land did not ban slavery.

Exodus 21:  “There are the ordinances that you shall set before them: When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door of the doorpost; and his master shall pierce hs ear with an awl, and he shall serve him for life.”

A different time? Not so fast.

Certainly arguments could be made that slavery was perhaps, in some way, a different social institution then than it is now. But that would just be lying to ourselves about the egregious nature of slavery as a social institution in order to accommodate the anachronism of a literalistic ideology that cannot account for social change.

The Bible was plainly wrong to advocate slavery, and so was the US Constitution in its original and sustained enactments until the passage of the 13th Amendment that abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude. So neither the literalistic fundamentalism of the Bible or the United States Constitution can be trusted with complete abandon. It took nearly 100 years and thousands of lives to accomplish the human rights goal of banning slavery in America. It took another 40 years or so to give women the full rights of citizenship.

The lessons of Constitutional Amendments

No less than 27 Amendments have been ratified to the United States Constitution, including those protecting the right to bear arms, which was not guaranteed in the “original” Constitution but needed to be defined to create the “more perfect union” through a Bill of Rights and amendments designed to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. As a nation we have deigned through amendments to the Constitution to bring clarity to many issues that deserve full measure of understanding. We have also struggled with many of these issues even with greater definition through enactments of law such as those that affect separation of church and state, so strongly implied in our history as neither establishment of a national religion nor the right to practice religious freedom. Clearly the only preventative measure to uphold that span of rights is a separation of church and state. Yet so many refuse to acknowledge even that plain truth, so determined are they to impose their own religion on the masses. Those efforts, in turn, have produced an erosion of scientific understanding, humanistic approach to civil law, and egregious attempts to control and define the private rights of individuals in medical, social and personal terms, right down to the womb of a woman.

Originally flawed

So despite the apparent aims of Constitutional “originalists” to drag America kicking and screaming back to a “literal” interpretation of the Constitution in which Supreme Court justices try to play mind reader or simply impose their own prejudicial will upon the nation on whatever issue they choose, there can be no such thing as originalism. It simply does not exist, did not exist when the Constitution was written, and later ratified, and so we should cease deceiving ourselves as a nation and quit trying to paint everything in our laws as “original” and/or black and white.

The same goes for literalistic fundamentalism, which bears part of the blame at least for the anachronistic mindset of a nation falling into intellectual ruin because 50% of its populace can’t make sense of metaphorical truth, not even when Jesus Christ himself was a teacher who made use of organic parables to convey spiritual truth.

Originalists and fundamentalists are lost in a maze of wishful thinking and backwards logic. Our Founding Fathers thought better of the Constitution to force it to lie there and play dead after it was written, and Jesus castigated the Pharisees and other teachers of the law for turning scripture into law. Neither is a legacy worth living, yet there are millions of people who believe they speak the truth without testing it against the wisdom of time and social change. That is a fatal flaw for any nation.