Egyptian-American poet and aphorist Yahia Lababidi — whose fab Fever Dreams Crisis Chronicles had the privilege of publishing in 2011 — is featured/interviewed in the May issue of Tuck Magazine. Read here: tuckmagazine.com/2012/05/01/may-feature-interview-poet-yahia-lababidi/.
Troubadour 21‘s Carlton Smith asked me some nearly impossible questions and I tried my best to answer them thoroughly. T21 plans to interview/feature a different artist each week, and I may be their first. ‘Tis a pleasure and honor! See what all the hubbub’s about at
Today, I’m proud to welcome Shaindel Beers’ “On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme” tour to Crisis Chronicles. I once owned a 1978 Cutlass Supreme – and I loved that car. Believe it or not, back then I never got around to using the hood for anything beyond getting into the engine area to check the oil or fill up the windshield washer fluid. And I never even left Ohio with that car. What the hell was wrong with me? I suppose I was afraid of ruining the finish.
Actually, this blog is about much more than a fine vehicle. It’s about fine poetry — though I guess in a way we poets are vehicles, as well as drivers. Sometimes we let the muse drive us and sometimes we drive the muse around. Other times we wrestle with the muse over the steering wheel and run the poetic vehicle off a cliff. To survive the artistic drive and get the most out of one’s creative journey, balance is essential. A poet must know when to listen to the muse’s back seat driving and when to follow his or her own instincts — when to apply the brake or reaccelerate, and precisely when to veer sharply left or merge gently to the right.
Reading Shaindel Beers’ poetry collection A Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009), I was impressed by how well the author handles her poetic vehicle — on country and city roads, over train tracks, around mountains, across Florida, Oregon and points between and beyond — even passing through the cell of an Iraq war protester. The territory is sometimes perilous, and it would be easy to lose one’s way; but this poet navigates masterfully. No matter where she takes us or how fearlessly she uses her vehicle in this book, Shaindel never loses her balance or ruins its finish. In the end, A Brief History of Time dropped me off at home eagerly looking forward to the next journey with her poetry.
I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Shaindel briefly yesterday, and here’s what she had to say:
[photo of Shaindel Beers courtesy of Evan Moodie Photography]
JC: Besides being a writer, you work as an English instructor at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon. Though I’ve always considered teaching one of the most noble professions, I could say the same about poetry. Which do you consider yourself foremost: a teacher or a poet? And which do you consider more important?
Shaindel: That’s really tricky. I don’t know if I would say that I consider myself one more than the other. It would be kind of like asking me if I’m a woman or if I’m white. I see the two as being equal parts of my identity. Since most poets have to have a “day job,” I don’t think there’s a better match than doing something that allows me to have poetry in my life every day. I teach at a community college, so most of my teaching load is composition, but I’m always teaching either a creative writing course or a literature course (or one of each) each term as well. I get to teach great poetry to my students, and I get to see some of my students compose amazing works of their own. I also have the luxury of having a job that pays for me to go to writers’ conferences and retreats and that allows me to miss work to do a reading or a speaking engagement occasionally.
It’s always odd to me when I meet writers who are outside of academia, and I ask, “Are you going to this or that conference this year?” and they say something about not knowing if they can afford it or if they can get time off from work. It’s easy to take for granted that most colleges or universities are paying for their English professors to be there.
I think teaching and writing are both equally important, too. There’s that Walt Whitman quote, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” I think that a lot of those audiences are formed on college campuses. It’s where most people pick up their first books of poetry, so I’m creating my own work in one facet of my life, and creating readers and critical thinkers in the other.
JC: When did you first know you were a poet?
Shaindel: My answer is going to sound similar to signs you might be an alcoholic. You write every day. You write alone. You write to cope with things that happen in your life. More than 50% of your friends are writers.
I think that at the time, I felt like a poet when I first got published in a literary magazine, but looking back, I should have known I was a poet when it was my natural practice to write about things to process them. In elementary school, my cousin shot my dog, and I didn’t know how else to grieve other than to write a poem about it. That was probably a sure sign it was going to turn out this way.
JC: I know a poet who believes that certain words we might refer to as profanity (for example, “bitch” and “cunt”) have no place in poetry. Yet you use them to great effect in pieces like “Sleep” in A Brief History of Time. If there is a boundary between when such words should be used and when they should not, where do you draw it?
Shaindel: Words are just words. They have no power other than the power we give them, hence all of the groups “taking back” words that were used against them. For instance, feminists taking back the word bitch, as in Bitch magazine (http://bitchmagazine.org/), or LGBT populations taking back the term queer, as in the chant, “We’re here; we’re queer! Get used to it!” The key is to make sure no matter what you’re writing to use the right word in each instance, whether it’s an adjective, an adverb, a profane word. Look at each word in your writing and determine if it’s the right word. If it isn’t, take it out. If a word is needed there, replace it with the right one.
I think all of the profanity in A Brief History of Time belongs there. I didn’t have any in poems where it didn’t belong, but in “Sleep” and “HA!” and some of the other poems, that’s how it was. Those are the people I’m writing about, and that’s how they talk. If they were going over Latin conjugations in a classroom at Harvard, that’s what I would have written.
JC: As much as I like (and in many cases, love) each individual poem in your book, one of the things I find most impressive about your collection is how all the poems – despite their quite varied forms and subject matters – work together as a whole and combine their stories to tell an engaging “bigger picture” story in what seems to be chronological order. How chronological – and how autobiographical – is A Brief History of Time?
Shaindel: The collection is actually very chronological. And very autobiographical. I believe in Robert Frost’s theory that in a collection of twenty-four poems, the twenty-fifth poem is the collection itself. I tried all kinds of arrangements by emotional arc or theme, but the only thing that seemed to work was chronological—or at least a frame story—with “A Brief History of Time” as the first poem with the world crammed in there and “How Time Betrays Us” with me imagining my death as the last poem. Some details are changed in the poems; it’s not straight memoir, but it’s mostly true. And as John Ciardi says, “Poetry lies its way to the truth.”
JC: Thank you, Shaindel! It’s been a pleasure to participate in your virtual book tour. Is there anything else you like to share with Crisis Chronicles readers?
Shaindel: I’d just like to thank everyone for checking out this interview and encourage them to take a look at my book. I’m doing a promotional giveaway at Goodreads.com in honor of A Brief History of Time’s half birthday: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6135468.A_Brief_History_of_Time. I’m giving away six copies, one copy for each month the book’s been out, so I would love for your readers to enter the drawing. And be sure to find me on Facebook or on my Red Room author site: http://www.redroom.com/author/shaindel-rebekah-beers. Peace, love, and happy writing, Everyone!
JC: Read Shaindel Beers’ “Sleep” (from A Brief History of Time) in the Crisis Chronicles Library — http://library.crisischronicles.com/2009/05/13/sleep-by-shaindel-beers.aspx
From the back cover:
Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in eastern Oregon’s high desert and serves as Poetry editor of Contrary (www.contrarymagazine.com). She hosts the talk radio poetry show Translated By, which can be found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/onword.
My MySpace friend Don sent me these interview questions in April – and I’m just now getting around to answering them.
Better tardy than trash-canned, I suppose….
And I’m going to try my best to tame my tendency toward verbosity and keep it brief (heck – even that sentence was redundant… lol).
Don: What is the single most important thing that has happened in America in the past 25 years?
JC: George W. Bush winning the Presidency in 2000.
Don: Using only three words for each, describe the three presidential candidates.
JC: Clinton = Smart, strong, stubborn
Obama = Smart, surprising, swiftboatable
McCain = Bore, war, whore
Don: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
JC: Short answer: Mom, for a number of reasons. I know I wrote a blog about this on my old MySpace profile (that was deleted a year ago by Murdoch’s minions) long before I knew Don – wish I’d saved it in Word so I could cut and paste it here…. Here are a just a few reasons for my choice: I might not have gone to college, might not have survived prison, and might not have been as sensitive as I am without Mom. I think I might have discussed this more in one of my “Ask Jesus Anything” blogs (here are links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three).
Don: You are very passionate in your beliefs. How often does someone have a convincing enough argument to sway you?
Not often…. I tend to be very indecisive. I deliberate forever over even the most trivial things. I always try to look at all the evidence, put myself in the shoes of folks on all sides of an issue, and really be objective and thoughtful before drawing a conclusion. So once I’ve made up my mind, I usually find that the arguments people use to try to sway me are ones I’ve already seriously weighed before I made the decision. Sometimes new information will surface, however – or I simply mature/grow/evolve – and I will change my mind. After all, I voted for George Bush in 1988, before I knew better. It does happen – so I try to keep an open mind. Like anyone perhaps, I hate to have to admit I was wrong. So I try to be thorough in my thinking before I decide – and thereby keep my mea culpas to a minimum.
Don: Should we boycott the Olympics? Would that help Tibet in any measurable way?
I am boycotting the Olympics. I feel I need to do something to show solidarity with the Tibetan people, and I’m not sure what else I can do. I wrote a blog about the subject, and then elaborated on my views in response to comments on it (here’s the link: Chin Check China’s Olympics). Since then, I’ve read about the Dalai Lama not supporting a boycott, et cetera, and I’m not so sure about my stance. Will it help the Tibetan people? I think the publicity helps them – and maybe the Olympics have been a boon in that they have brought publicity, though they also seem to have brought increased oppresssion in the short term. I don’t know. Maybe this is one of those cases where I’ve been swayed. I’ve at least been swayed from my certainty (though I wasn’t totally certain in the first place). Let’s be honest, though. It’s easy for me to boycott the Olympics. I doubt I’d watch them if they were held in Ohio. I do wish I could do something. Maybe getting people dialoguing about it is something. But is it enough? The decision I made to boycott was largely an emotional one, made quickly and before I’d completed my usual deliberations. Perhaps it’s still the right decision – I just don’t know. Still deliberating….
Let the games continue. These are the “rules” I’ve inherited from Don, who inherited them from the soul who first interviewed him.
1. Leave me a comment saying “interview me,” if you wish.
2. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog (so you have to have a blog) with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
You don’t have to do anything – just if you want to….
Fantasy, Comedy, & Women: The Crisis Interviews – Volume Three: StormChaser
Current mood: thankful
Category: Religion and Philosophy
The Crisis Interviews
Volume Three: StormChaser
Look at this dude! The picture makes him look like he would be more than happy to kick your butt for even thinking about disagreeing with anything he has to say. But don’t be fooled! StormChaser is actually a very nice guy – tolerant and thoughtful, in addition to being intelligent and quite talented.
Check out these ROCKIN’ creations of his:
And those are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
When I invited StormChaser to be interviewed for this blog, he said:
“I don’t have a favorite scripture – but I find the Bible is an interesting epic novel with a lot of history and a bit of fantasy, and not necessarily a GREAT novel. One of my favorite quotes about the Bible is from Garrison Keillor. ‘God writes a lot of comedy… the trouble is, he’s stuck with so many bad actors who don’t know how to play funny.'”
Jesus Crisis interviews StormChaser
Jesus Crisis: Hi, StormChaser! It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to The Crisis Interviews. I’m intrigued by your description of the Bible as “an interesting epic novel with a lot of history and a bit of fantasy and not necessarily a GREAT novel.” Would you elaborate?
Stormchaser: There are 4 points here:
1. Yes, a novel – fictional.
2. Based on historic people and events.
3. Fantasy – “miracles” abound and there are multiple (different) accounts of the same events.
4. Too many characters, too many stories, wandering plot line.
Jesus Crisis: If I were to ask you to name a Bible “fantasy,” what’s the first that comes to mind?
Stormchaser: Parting of the Red Sea is the first thing, but closely followed by the many things that can be done with the “laying on of the hands,” including raising of the dead, healing the sick, making the blind see, and killing fig trees.
Jesus Crisis: The whole “laying on of hands” thing reminds me of Reiki. Are these, in your opinion, completely made up stories – or are they perhaps based on real happenings that people either embellished or didn’t understand?
Stormchaser: OK, let’s call them exaggerations. A person has a “spiritual” encounter and wakes from a coma or is freed from his psychosomatic impairment.
Jesus Crisis: I chuckled at your Garrison Keillor quotation (“God writes a lot of comedy… the trouble is, he’s stuck with so many bad actors who don’t know how to play funny”). Who would you nominate as the “Funniest Bad Actor” in the Bible?
Stormchaser: Well we really can’t blame the actors, they’re just reading their lines. It’s the writers and their “Stories.” And the Actor, or role, that has the worst writing is Jesus.
Jesus Crisis: Why?
Stormchaser: There’s the healing and the feeding of the masses (but no teaching to fish) and then there’s the “I am the light of the world” proclamation, and the whole incident with the fig tree (how dare it not bear fruit while not in season, I’ll show you!).
Jesus Crisis: If we believe God has human attributes (like anger, jealousy, and even love), does it follow that he must have a sense of humor, too?
StormChaser: I’m all about a sense of humor. If we are going to give God human qualities, then humor is definitely one of them – Platypus, George Bush, et al.
Jesus Crisis: Haha! George Bush made in God’s image?
StormChaser: But God created us in his image so that makes us godlike.
Jesus Crisis: In what way? It’s hard for me to imagine Bush as godlike.
StormChaser: We have control of our destiny and can make an impact on others.
Jesus Crisis: Ah….
StormChaser: “She” definitely has a sense of humor
Jesus Crisis: It’s interesting you say “she.” Some of the words used for God in the Hebrew are genderless, and it seems that God’s Shekinah aspect is without a doubt female.
StormChaser: I’d rather think that God is the intelligent nurturing type (and looks like Alanis Morrisette).
Jesus Crisis: I used to love Alanis, until I burned myself out on her. Some might be tempted to say the same of God… lol. So why do you think Paul, in 1st Corinthians 14:34-35, advises women to essentially keep their keep their mouths shut in church?
StormChaser: It was necessary to write the Bible with the masses in mind – no sense trying to spring new ideas – like empowerment of women – when trying to launch a new religion. It happened anyhow – with the popularity of the virgin Mary – if the “human” god, Jesus, is so great, then his human mom is even better.
Jesus Crisis: Do you think Jesus felt that way?
StormChaser: I am not a Christian – so to answer that I would either have to believe Jesus “actually” existed or take the approach from what the writers wanted to get across.
Jesus Crisis: I find it curious that many in the Church revere Mary, an ideal sort of “empowered woman,” while not seeming to revere or empower women on earth. For example, where are the Catholic women priests? And if I’m not mistaken, Reform Jews did not even ordain women as rabbis until the 1970s.
StormChaser: It is strange that Mary is seen as empowered when – as the story goes – she really had no say in the matter.
Jesus Crisis: A very interesting point….
StormChaser: I am very intrigued by the Jewish faith – the approach is much better because it was based on tradition and teaching rather than rallying around one character and preaching. The tradition was strong and women rabbis is actually a chink in their armor.
Jesus Crisis: Some “sects” (like the Chasidic movement) still resist having women rabbis.
StormChaser: I am very much into empowerment – but going against the tradition that is the foundation of the religion weakens it.
Jesus Crisis: If you look closely, there are women “prophets” in the Old Testament (Deborah in Judges 4 comes to mind) and female “apostles” referred to in the New. Their mentions are very brief, but they’re there. It seems that a Church or society that wanted to keep women subjugated would have an interest in keeping these examples to a bare minmum in the Bible. I’m kinda surprised they’re still in there at all.
StormChaser: Which probably means that they where historically accurate and it was necessary to keep them in but down played as much as possible.
Jesus Crisis: Interesting point….
StormChaser: It’s strange that we only hear about the “big 12” – you would think that they would want to show this number growing constantly as Jesus became better known. There were too many characters in the book already
Jesus Crisis: Before we go, I’d like to touch on the topic of humor again. Do have any Bible-ish jokes or anecdotes you’d like to share?
StormChaser: Well – I do believe that Voltaire was correct when he said – If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.
Jesus Crisis: lol
StormChaser: I forget which comedian said this – “When did I realize I was God? I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself.”
Jesus Crisis: Ah, yes… another good one. Peter O’Toole! By the way, I’m looking forward to your next WTF Challenge.
StormChaser: I’m sorry to disappoint – I was just about to post a bulletin about taking a break for a while – I enjoy the work that went into it – but not many others have lately.
Jesus Crisis: Ah! Well, I hope you’ll return to it at some point. I like how it made me think…. So what can we look forward to in the near future?
StormChaser: I’m working on a few new profile pics – for the upcoming holidays. And I probably will do a WTF or two soon – but nobody has even asked about it or said a word to me (except you) this past week.
Jesus Crisis: I hope so! And I can’t tell you how many messages I received from people who loved the Britney and “Jesus Criss” avatars you created for me. I love them both, and thank you again! Now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll probably be deluged with requests… lol.
StormChaser: Thank you and I would love to be deluged.
Jesus Crisis: I know quite a few people who will be thrilled to hear that! Well, thanks for agreeing to this interview, StormChaser! I’ve enjoyed it.
StormChaser: Me too.
StormChaser’s blog is a cool cornucopia full of perplexing puzzles, groovy games, intriguing trivia, and so much more. I especially enjoy his fun and fascinating WTF Challenge series. Please check ’em out, if you haven’t already!
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The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 1
By Daniel C. Matt
Release date: 29 October, 2003
The Crisis Interviews
Volume Two: Ed
I recently became intrigued with the concept of interviewing thoughtful friends on their “favorite” scriptural passages. And Ed is the second subject of this experiment.
Ed is a smart, open-minded friend with a variety of interests and a whole lot of interesting things to say. His URL indicates that he is a “liberaltreehuggingvegan” – but that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.
When I asked him before our interview to come up with a favorite scripture to serve as a starting point, Ed had this to say:
“As far as my favorite Bible verse, I cannot say I have one. I do have a favorite book though, that being Genesis. It has become my favorite because it really sets the tone of the Bible with all it’s fallacies. I have often thought if you can make it through Genesis and think ‘wow, that makes perfect sense,’ then there is probably no going back for you.”
Jesus Crisis interviews Ed
Jesus Crisis: Good afternoon, Ed! And welcome to The Crisis Interviews.
Ed: Hey, man! This sounds like a good time… hope I don’t disappoint.
Jesus Crisis: If your blogs and comments are any indication, I’m sure there is no risk of you disappointing… lol
Ed: lol. So, where do we begin?
Jesus Crisis: When I asked you before this interview for a “favorite scripture,” I found it interesting that you chose an entire book.
Ed: Well… I think breaking down the Bible into quotable phrases has caused a lot of problems. Sound bites are great, but easily taken out of context
Jesus Crisis: Very true. Bible verses are notoriously taken out of context – like anything else, I guess.
Ed: Yes, it almost seems as if that was the plan; and if so, it has worked masterfully. One can justify just about anything by taking the Bible out of context, provided the people they are talking to have no knowledge of the text.
Jesus Crisis: That’s one reason I like these discussions. The more we explore it, the closer we get to the truth, wherever it might or might not be found.
Ed: I think you are right. Hearing other points of view often gives us a perspective we never would have considered. Too often, though, it just pisses us off.
Jesus Crisis: Unfortunately true…. So how are we to take the stories of Genesis, Ed? I mean things like the creation in six days, the great flood, Jacob wrestling with the “angel,” et cetera. Are these literally true facts, only metaphorically true, somewhere in between, or simply ridiculous myths?
Ed: Well, that is where the problem lies, isn’t it? No one really knows. If they were all true, you would think there would be other accounts of it through history. But generally speaking, the Bible is the only source for the stories of the bible. This is where faith comes in.
Jesus Crisis: Some people are sure they do know – and will almost violently defend their positions.
Ed: Well, some people believe they have seen Bigfoot as well… that does not make it true one way or the other.
Jesus Crisis: Indeed. But they believe the fact that it’s written in the Bible does make it true.
Ed: I don’t think you can fault a person for believing in the Bible. We all, at one time or another, believed in Santa Claus too… only because we trusted the people telling the story.
Jesus Crisis: One passage I’ve always found curious in Genesis is where <ST1Lot is visited by “angels” [chapter 19]. A mob of men start beating on his door, demanding to “know” (a euphemism for “have sex with”) his guests. But as much as <ST1Lot</ST1 doesn’t want to let that happen, he seems to have relatively little compunction about giving the same mob his own virgin daughters to ravish. And God apparently still thinks so highly of Lot after this that he spares Lot and his family while destroying the rest of the inhabitants of <ST1Sodom.
Ed: YES! I love that one! I never understood it. If you look at it as metaphor, it’s shows the importance of the angels, but to believe that really happened, well, again the issue of faith enters.
Jesus Crisis: One would think that protecting one’s own family, especially one’s own young daughters would be high on the list of biblical imperatives – higher than protecting adult male (or angelic) guests who could at least to some degree defend themselves.
Ed: One would think so. But the Bible does say God is selfish, so perhaps he doesn’t care for us as much as we like to think he does.
Jesus Crisis: God “doesn’t care for us as much as we like to think he does.” That’s a provocative statement.
Ed: Well, it would seem that if he did, he would fix things as opposed to periodically wiping out entire cities.
Jesus Crisis: That reminds me of Philippians 2:12 – “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Do you think that perhaps God might reserve his “help” primarily for those who, according to the adage, “help themselves”?
Ed: Ah, the age old question, who does God help?… I think it is important to remember God created humans to serve him…not to hang out and eat falafel. I think God is probably pretty indifferent on the issue of our suffering. People who help themselves, I think, just give the credit to God.
Jesus Crisis: Well, I hate to stop now, but that’s about all the time we have today, Ed. I’m so glad you agreed to this.
Ed: No prob man. Sorry I couldn’t be more informative… thank you too, by the way.
Jesus Crisis: You’ve been great and have given us a smorgasbord of food for thought – including the falafel!
Ed: lol… vegans love falafel
Jesus Crisis: I’m not completely vegan, but I must say I’m quite fond of it as well.
Ed: Hehe… I just like saying it.
Jesus Crisis: LOL… Great job on your recent “the militant atheist” blog, by the way!
Ed: Oh thank you…it was my hope to actually reach a few Christians on that one…mostly, it was an apology
Jesus Crisis: I found it very sensitive, thoughtful….
Ed: I try to be that way all the time… maybe that’s why so many people think I am gay.
Jesus Crisis: LOL. Gay can be defined as “happy” – in which sense we should all be gay.
Ed: There ya go. It’s funny to think that in the end, all any one wants to be is gay.
Jesus Crisis: Indeed! Well, have a happy day, Ed. And thank you again for being a great interviewee and one of my favorite MySpace friends.
Ed‘s blog “wasted opportunities” is an important read for anyone who gives a damn about things that really matter. His “so you won’t be bored” made me feel like I matter. And if Ed doesn’t respond to your comments and messages right away, don’t feel like you don’t matter – read his “damnit” and you’ll understand why.
Ed’s most recent blog, “the militant atheist,” manages to be sensitive, provocative, informative – and it’s one of the few blogs I’ve actually gone back and re-read. It also played a role in my decision to interview Ed this week, rather than at a later date. Check it out!
The Crisis Interviews
Volume One: Anti-Mike
I recently became intrigued with the concept of interviewing thoughtful friends on their “favorite” scriptural passages. And Anti-Mike is the first subject of this experiment.
Anti-Mike is a smart guy and a relentless seeker of truth. Whether or not one shares his perspective on some issues, it is undeniable that his views are both thought provoking and well thought out. I always look forward to his comments on my blogs (they keep me sharp), and I think his blogs are well worth reading, whatever your religious or philosophical persuasion. Check them out! And if you like (or even hate) what he has to say, please let us know.
Jesus Crisis interviews Anti-Mike
Jesus Crisis: Are you ready to be the premiere guest (or guinea pig) on “The Crisis Interviews”?
Anti-Mike: Sounds good!
Jesus Crisis: Since despite your youthful appearance you strike me as a learned man, I consider it an honor to interview you first. So what is your favorite scripture passage anyway?
Anti-Mike: Well, first let me tell you that the honor is all mine. You host some of the most insightful blogs I’ve read, and seeing the intelligent responses by your readers is a breath of fresh air to me.
Jesus Crisis: Thanks. I really appreciate that. Some of the comments I’ve enjoyed and been intellectually stimulated by most have been yours.
Anti-Mike: As for my favorite scripture passage, well, that’s kind of a hard one. I don’t read the Bible looking for guidelines or encouragement. I try to look at it from a skeptic’s standpoint. While my analysis of scripture has been ridiculed as biased and one-sided, I only make a passive attempt at objectivity.
But to answer your question, I would probably have to say the story of Asa. You can find it starting in 2 Chronicles Chapter 14, Verses 8-13.
Jesus Crisis: Ah… from a relatively obscure Old Testament book.
Anti-Mike: It is the account of the single largest God-assisted slaughter within the Bible. Within this chapter, God helps Asa slaughter 1 million Ethiopians.
Jesus Crisis: That could be described as genocide.
Anti-Mike: Yes, you’re right. For me, this is the most vulgar and blatant display of abuse that can be found within the Old Testament. It is a testimony to the horrendous cruelty that the so-called ‘God of Love’ is truly capable of, and speaks volumes about His character before the more politically-correct tales of the New Testament.
Jesus Crisis: One million! I wonder how that number compares to what’s going on currently in Darfur… or the number of Kurds Saddam Hussein killed in his notorious “ethnic cleansing.”
Anti-Mike: I can’t say offhand, but that would be an interesting comparison.
Jesus Crisis: We tend to think of these as acts of evil, counter to “Biblical” morality.
Anti-Mike: Yes, which is a misconception that many people fall for. The Christian God is consistently involved in many damnable acts through both the Old and New Testaments. But Christians generally fail to acknowledge this because they tend to focus more on the sacrifice of Jesus and the salvation of mankind.
According to external resources, it is estimated that the total number of people killed by God in the Bible is somewhere around 2,200,000.
Jesus Crisis: How do we reconcile what you’re calling “damnable acts” with the commandment (found in Exodus 20 and Deuternomy 5) that “thou shalt not kill”? Richard Dawkins’ recent book The God Delusion brought up an interesting suggestion that this commandment carried with it (in the minds of the Israelites) the connotation “Thou shalt not kill another Jew.”
Anti-Mike: Honestly, if I knew how to reconcile some of the inherent flaws found within the scripture I might not see them as I do right now. So much of the text is open to interpretation, and people draw from it what they wish. The assertion by Dawkins that the commandment could mean “Thou shalt not kill another Jew” fits a lot better than the all-encompassing “Thou shalt not kill” as there are many instances within the Bible in which either God Himself or one of his followers condemns people to death. This particularly applies to heathens and homosexuals, who, according to Romans 1:32 are ‘worthy of death.’
Jesus Crisis: Interestingly, Romans is the same book that at one point proclaims that “All Israel will be saved” [Romans 11:26]. Why not “All Ethiopians,” “All Midianites” or “All Americans”? But I guess that’s straying off the subject….
Was the “crime” of these people killed in II Chronicles 14 merely that they inhabited the land …and didn’t worship “the Lord”?
Anti-Mike: The slaughter of the Ethiopians by Asa is a somewhat unique tale, as there isn’t really any mention of what they did to deserve death. According to 14:2, ‘Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.’ He took down the altars of strange gods and broke their images. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord and obey the commandments.
Jesus Crisis: Killing a million people was “good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God”?
Anti-Mike: When the Ethiopians come into the picture, Asa confronted them on his own. Asa asks God to give him His favor in the battle, and with God’s help Asa slaughters 1 million Ethiopians.
It wasn’t necessarily that the Ethiopians had offended God. From what I’ve read, it seems that God was simply rewarding Asa for his good faith by giving him the power to slaughter untold numbers of people.
Jesus Crisis: Things like that make me think it more likely that man created God in his image, rather than God creating man in His image.
Anti-Mike: Exactly. Before Man came into the picture, God was simply The Creator.
Jesus Crisis: Because if “God is Love,” as the New Testament asserts (in 1st John 4:16), I can’t imagine Love favoring someone who kills a million people, no matter what their crime.
Anti-Mike: After Man, however, God becomes a ruthless tyrant who lusts after destruction.
Jesus Crisis: Well, thank you so much, Mike! I’m sure this will stimulate a lot of discussion in the comments.
Anti-Mike: I certainly hope so. And of course I would like to take this opportunity to shamelessly promote my writing. So make sure to throw a link to my blog in here somewhere and advise your readers to drop by. The debate should be moving along nicely tonight, and it would be a perfect opportunity for some new people to come in and share their insights.
Jesus Crisis: Absolutely… I enjoy your writing…. And I think many of my readers will as well, even if they don’t necessarily agree with everything you say. You certainly think before you draw your conclusions, and you encourage your readers to think. That’s an admirable quality.
Anti-Mike: Yes. I’m not asking for people to jump on the bandwagon and agree with my every thought. I’m simply trying to provoke independent thought and analysis. I’m just trying to get the ball rolling. We all have to find answers for ourselves.
Jesus Crisis: And you’ve certainly gotten the ball rolling here… LOL
Anti-Mike: Indeed. Well, my friend, thank you so much for the interview. I’m looking forward to seeing how your readers respond to my rantings and I’m certainly awaiting your next blog.
Jesus Crisis: Thanks again, Mike. And I look forward to reading more of your writing. Is it true that Equal Opportunity Joker and you are collaborating on a new project?
Anti-Mike: As a matter of fact, we are. The tentative title right now is “G.I. Jesus”. It’s going to be a collaborative effort between the both of us to analyze the biblical Jesus and compare him to what was likely the true historical Jesus.
Jesus Crisis: I can’t wait to check it out.
Anti-Mike: I don’t want to spoil things for everyone, but it’s definitely going to be a blast.
Jesus Crisis: I can easily imagine that, knowing you and Joker! Thanks again, bro!
Anti-Mike: Thank you!
Anti-Mike‘s latest blog is DEBATE: The Path to Salvation, in which he and Connie (a smart, well-spoken Christian lady) are taking on each other in a quest for the truth about Salvation. I recommend it.