Friday, October 16, 2015
I've signed up to teach Sunday School at my church - the first grade class. Ah, the little darlings. I don't do it all on my own; there are two other teachers and we work in rotation. Also, an older boy, Thomas is his name, is there to assist.
Anyway, the very first lesson I taught covered Abraham's journey to Canaan up to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It's a very interesting story in many respects. Of course, the verses selected by the diocese or whoever selects these things left out all the most salacious stuff. For example, as Abraham is traveling around with his wife Sarah, whenever some potentate asks, "Is that your wife?" Abraham always comes back with, "Wife? Heck no. She's just my sister." And then Abraham sits outside the tent or city gates, twiddling his thumbs, while Sarah and the potentate get better acquainted inside. Then Abraham and Sarah go to the next city over where the same thing happens. Better, I suppose, then saying, "Heck yes, this is my wife! Hands off, buddy!" and getting whacked by the potentate's henchmen, but not the sort of thing you can explain to a bunch of six-year-olds.
I'm not sure how much the class got out of the lesson, but they seemed to enjoy the part - or at least I enjoyed reading it - where Abraham wheedles God down on his threat to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. That's what cool about God in the Old Testament, you could talk him into stuff. God's all set to rain down burning sulfur and brimstone, and Abraham's like, "Well, what if I can find fifty righteous men? Would you still do it?" And God's like, "Okay, if you find fifty righteous men, I won't do it." Then Abraham's like, "Well, what about forty-five righteous men?" And bit by bit, Abraham talks God Almighty into sparing the cities if he can find just ten righteous men. Oddly, though, there doesn't seem to be any record of Abraham actually looking for any righteous men, like taking out a personal ad: Aged Semite seeks ten righteous men to appease God's wrath, or something. Maybe Abraham wasn't really all that interested in saving Sodom and Gomorrah, he just wanted to see if he could out-negotiate God.
Another scripture we didn't read was the part where a couple of angels come to visit Lot. Lot's some sort of relative of Abraham, a nephew or something, I forget. Anyway, he's got an apartment in Sodom, and when word gets out he's got visitors, the whole town shows up on his doorstep demanding he turn them over to the crowd so the crowd can turn them over themselves (If you take my meaning.) And Lot says - get this - I won't give you my visitors, but you can have my daughters, and they're virgins! There is no record of how the daughters felt about this proposal, but the townspeople weren't having it. They had come there to get some angel bootie, and weren't leaving til they got it. Long story short, Sodom and Gomorrah get eighty-sixed. Boom. Lot's wife turns back to take a gander and turns into a pillar of salt. I do not know what became of the gander. Later - this part I also did not read to my Sunday School class - Lot's daughters get him drunk and have sex with him in the mistaken belief the world has ended and they are the last three people alive.
Out of this muddle of adultery, pimpery, incest, and rape, the most profound moral some Christians can discover is that God doesn't like homosexuals. (Homosexuality seems a rather minor theme in this tale, but I think whatever your stand on Gay Rights, we can all agree God doesn't like people who gang-rape angels.)
In any case, one moral idea is abundantly clear: the Bible isn't fit reading for anyone under twenty-five.
(Originally posted 2012)