Sunday, 16 March 2008

God versus Mammon

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mark 10:25)

This old chestnut, over-used and cliche-ridden has been the mainstay of bible-bashers the world over. It's the ace of scriptures designed to trump all arguments about poverty, wealth and the hereafter. But could this brand of salesmanship be no more than an insidious five-card trick? Is there a genuine case for the idea that living in poverty guarantees a ticket to life everlasting, or are the evangelists merely using the bible to their own ends?

What is 'Rich'?

There is a big problem with the above scripture. It's the word 'rich'. How can this word possibly be defined objectively. I have my own view of what constitutes 'rich' and no doubt you, the reader, have yours. To a member of the Rothschild family, I would definitely not be considered rich, but to the jobless, the displaced and the dispossessed, I am a wealthy man. So, according to what criteria does a person have the right credentials to pass through the pearly gates, all other things being equal?

Pennies to Heaven

The fact that double standards exist within the church may not come as a surprise. The following scripture should, by rights, have settled the matter of privilege, but alas they have studiously ignored it.

"Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." (Acts 8:20)

This scripture highlights the deeply embedded tradition of rich people buying their way into heaven. This was done on the basis that sins could be forgiven by giving donations, or indulgences, and the larger the donation, the cleaner the slate. The donor was lighter in the pocket but could now sleep peacefully. That is until the next sin. The Catholic church quickly realised the wonderful potential of this. Wow! What a nice little earner! What power they had and still do have!

Guilt Trip

The donations, as you would expect, swelled the coffers of the church making it the richest institution of all time. In modern times we have the famous (or do I mean infamous?) collection plate and for the fundamentalists, the added principle of tithing, ensuring a regular flow of money. And if the congregation should, by circumstance, default in this endeavour, you could guarantee a hell-fire and brimstone sermon next Sunday. This is the ultimate in guilt trips.

Root of all Evil?

The old saying that 'Money is the root of all evil' is a misquote. Money is an inanimate object. It has no power of itself but relies upon a universal belief that it represents a certain value at a certain time and place. For this reason alone the exchange of money is really an exchange of energy. You give energy in the form of the currency of your country, and you receive energy in the form of goods or services. In July of 1914, the German mark was a relatively stable currency but by January 1919 you needed 2.6 of them to buy the same thing. By November 1923 you would have needed 726,000,000,000 of them to buy that same thing.

If you've aver tried to sell something you considered quite valuable and had no takers, it's not the fault of money but simply the market forces at work. The trouble is that we have mostly been taught that having money is bad. How often have you heard the following statements?

  • Money doesn't grow on trees.
  • Money is filthy and dirty.
  • Rich people are crooks.
  • Only people who cheat have money.
  • Poor people can never get out from under.
How we Think about Money

This list is not exhaustive but it highlights the kind of indoctrination we have mostly grown up with. Louise Hay tackles the problems of money from the inside by saying that we always have a choice. To make a different choice from the ones we have been making all our lives requires a decision to change our thoughts about wealth and I can do no better than recommend her books which explain this in detail. She offers a totally new and refreshing view on money. For example, do you resent paying bills? Do you treat bills as punishments, or debt as a life sentence? Do you treat money as a friend or an enemy to be avoided?

If we can remove ourselves from the negative teachings about money and adopt positive thinking, we can throw off the guilt attached to it and begin to prosper. The prosperity which comes from this will be a genuine prosperity, not one which goes the way of the German mark. It has worked for me. It can work for you.

If you want to know more about this 'new' thinking, get Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life". It makes mincemeat of camels and needles.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Does God have a Sense of Humour?

"I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." (Proverbs 1:26)

Is this proof that God has a sense of humour? Is there such a thing as 'universal' humour, or does it depend upon the mores of culture and community? Impossible questions? Maybe.

The Audience

History has shown that 'professional' humour operates on a knife edge and that only the fabled few comedians, and comediennes, are able to hack it successfully year after year. They have the skills to match their humour with the audience knowing that failure to do so would mean disaster. Stand-up comedy is also about character and style of delivery. We only see the elite because of the dictates of the media. "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone" is a well-worn adage which still holds true today.

The above scripture is interesting because it is one of the very few which blatantly give God a human face. I have mentioned, in a previous post, that man is forever anthropomorphising God. By doing this, man feels more comfortable about God - like he's one of us - a chip off the old block.

Gallows Laughter

But don't get me wrong! God is no stand-up comedian. The laughter suggested in the above scripture is a classic example of 'gallows' laughter. This is a kind of anti-humour, the sort that says "I'll get back at you for what you've done, ha-ha." This is definitely a case of Nemesis rides again. The need to get even is, unfortunately, heavily ingrained in man's psyche.

You've probably noticed that the bible, generally speaking, doesn't have much 'natural' humour in it. In fact the overall tenor of the scriptures is a sobering cocktail of misery, morbidity and mayhem. It seems that being a 'man of God' is a serious business, not to be taken lightly or lightheartedly.

Women and Humour

"A time to weep and a time to laugh." (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Made into a famous song, this scripture runs the whole gamut of emotions. On balance, there is more weeping than laughing. There is, however, one event that demonstrates beyond question the existence of natural humour. When Abraham's wife, Sarah, was told she would conceive and give birth, she laughed. This was hardly surprising since she was 90 years old. As we all know, she gave birth to a son called Isaac, a name which means 'laughter'. Interestingly, there is no record of Abraham laughing. He, after all, was much older. Does this mean that women have a greater sense of humour than men?

As I write this, I am reminded, with sadness, of certain countries who are, even now, destroying their infant girls. Apart from the moral and social implications of this act, they are destroying the spirit of humour. What will they become when the spring of humour dries up completely?

Unintentional Humour

"Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep..." (Song of Solomon 4:2)

This one is a hoot. If this isn't a starter for ten, I don't know what is. Can you imagine saying these words to your loved one? Can you imagine the response? I don't have a punchline that will cut the mustard but if you have any suggestions feel free to make a comment.

Old Golfers Never Die

One day Jesus, Moses and an old man were playing golf. Jesus went up to the tee and hit the ball which sailed over the fairway into the water trap. Jesus simply walked on the water and chipped the ball on to the green. Then Moses went up to the tee and hit the ball which also went into the water trap. Moses simply parted the water and chipped the ball on to the green.

Next to play was the old man. He hit the ball which headed for the water trap. Just before it hit the water, a fish jumped out catching the ball in its mouth. But before the fish could dive back into the water an eagle flew down catching the fish in its claws. The eagle, with fish and ball, flew up, whereupon a lightning bolt shot by, barely missing it. In its fright, the eagle dropped the fish which promptly fell on the green. On hitting the ground the ball rolled out of the mouth of the fish into the hole for a hole in one. On seeing this, Jesus said to the old man "Dad, if you don't stop messing about we won't bring you again."

I hope you liked that one and I shall conclude by quoting from Dave Allen, an Irish comedian sadly no longer with us:

"In Ireland we take our religion seriously. We take our sex religiously."