Friday, April 5, 2013

Barmy Bible Study - A Lesson On Obedience and Respect

God sends two bears to tear apart 42 little children for laughing at Elisha.  That's understandable, right?

Yesterday, I posted about the creeping danger of extremist religion delivered directly to our schoolchildren in public schools. Today, I'd like to repost a Barmy Bible Study that relates to this issue. Reasonable people ought to challenge the accepted view that religion - and religious indoctrination - is benign or even "good" for children. Instead of simply skimming over the stories and "lessons" in the Bible and ignoring the very real horrors contained within the Good Book™, I'd like to challenge NiftyReaders to read - really read - what the lessons actually mean.

This week's Barmy Bible Study features Elisha and the She-Bears (bit parts played by forty-two little children).  Our text for this evening's study can be found in the book of Kings. I will post three different versions of the passage, since it is brief. It might be interesting to compare them (you go ahead; one version is more than enough for me): 
(Note: Atheists and other haters of GOD'S HOLY WORD, scroll past the blue text)

2 Kings 2:23-24
King James Version (KJV)
23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

2 Kings 2:23-24
Darby Translation (DARBY)
23 And he went up from thence to Bethel, and as he went up by the way, there came forth little boys out of the city, and mocked him, and said to him, Go up, bald head; go up, bald head!
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of Jehovah. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tore forty-two children of them.

(During the renaissance of fundamentalist Christianity in the early 1980's, a newer, more politically-correct and friendly Bible was developed. People needed a Bible they could understand; one that rounded off the rough edges a little, one that suggested that the "little children" might in fact have been the very kind of "youths" that so many modern Christians  fear and despise. A little gentle manipulation of the text here and there and voil√†! An Old Testament version massaged just enough to soften the jagged Truth™within):

2 Kings 2:23-24
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
Elisha Is Jeered
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!”
24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

Don't worry kids, you will soon believe:
injustice is justice*, viciousness is righteousness
and fear is love.
The Good News™ is not for the meek!
Oh wait...
For some reason, this part of the Elisha story does not make it into the Sunday school curriculum or Sunday readings in church often enough - and, strangely, it is not mentioned at all in the wikipedia entry for Elisha, (although I am pleased to report that this Bible character is presented on wikipedia as an historical figure and the (positive) stories about him are presented as objective historical facts rather than unverifiable Biblical mythology, which is awesome) - but it really ought to feature prominently in children's Bible study. Sure, it might be frightening to a few little children, but who ever said that the Truth™ would be easy to hear? The terrifying and depressing stories in the Bible are inexplicably called the Good News™, after all. All true Bible-Believers know that terror brings comfort just as cruelty means love and death is life in Christian theology. It only takes a little early Biblical training to semi-permanently mold the human mind to this spiritual knowledge.

The story of Elisha and the She-Bears is the perfect introduction to Biblical morality for young Christians. It beautifully illustrates the character of the Biblical god, not to mention the character of Biblical leaders revered by Bible-believers. This story helps settle, once and for all, any confusion about the source from which modern conservatives derive their moral values. Most of all, it underlines in easy-to-understand terms just how important it is to respect the religious and their religious beliefs. The first four Commandments handed down by Moses are not about how human beings ought to treat one another, but about respecting the god of Israel and recognizing that all social and political power belongs in the hands of His followers. Belief is everything; moral behavior toward one's fellow human beings is secondary. Let there be no doubt what the Biblical priorities are: We don't call it Bible-based morality for nothing!

Study Questions for Elisha and the She-Bears:

1. What happened to Elisha as he approached the city of Bethel?

2. How did he react to this?

3. How does the Bible tell us that Jehovah responded to Elisha's reaction and what does his response teach us?

You know the type; always mocking the godly.
Just look at them - the arrogant bullies!
The Bible tells us that Elisha was a prophet and a servant of Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. After Elijah was taken up to heaven, Elisha was understandably elated because not only would he no longer be playing second fiddle to Elijah, but he had asked for and received a double portion of Elijah's spirit as a deathbed blessing (interestingly, Elisha later punished his own servant without mercy for the sin of greed, but I digress*). He proceeded to travel the Holy Lands letting everyone know that he was the top prophet at last. As he journeyed from town to town, Elisha was occasionally disappointed in the people he found there. When he was disappointed, he wasted no time before calling down the wrath of his god upon them.  As a "Man of God", Elisha was able to flex that power that comes with being a favored son of Jehovah, and like the god himself, Elisha never hesitated to use it mercilessly to crush those who displeased him.

Take the day he traveled to Bethel, for example. Perhaps he was feeling a little testy that day (and, come on, isn't a Man of God entitled to a grumpy day now and then?), so his reaction to the teasing of a group of little children will be entirely understandable. Here is what happened:

Elisha was approaching the gates of the city of Bethel. No doubt he was tired from his journey and feeling irritable. Perhaps his bald head was noticably shining with perspiration due to his exertions. Whatever the case may be, a group of little children from the town ran out to watch his approach and for some unknown reason began to tease and taunt him, using the timeless, sing-songing repetition that has characterized children's games for generations.

"Go on up, you baldhead! Go on up, you baldhead" they called out to him. Twice.

Now, that was clearly disrespectful. These little children, in their arrogance, were obviously mocking the Man of God. They were making fun of Elisha's bald, sweatily glistening head! They may even have been ignorantly parroting things they may have overheard their elders saying about Elisha - perhaps that he was trying too hard to emulate Elijah and might just as well ascend into heaven like his deceased mentor - we cannot know for sure why the children did what they did, and they may not, in fact, have had any motive except silly childish games, but still. Their youthful innocence and ignorance of Elisha's exalted role as God's emissary was no excuse for this rude behaviour. Nothing is ever a valid excuse for mockery of a religious figure or a religion. That is blasphemy! Blasphemers are the worst of the worst. And justice* must be seen to be done.

This will teach those smart-alecs to fear God!
Remember children: fear is love.
And vicious, capricious cruelty is God's love.
Remember that now, little ones...oh wait...too late!
So Elisha did what any Man of God would do: he called on Jehovah to right this appalling injustice - this unforgivable mockery of a godly man - the playful nyah-nyahing of laughing children who must surely have been little minions of Satan! You might think that the all-loving god of the Christian imagination would have gently chastised the little children, understanding that their behaviour was nothing more than a stage in the developmental path that the god himself, after all, had ordained for humanity. You might think that He would have counselled Elisha to smile patiently and go about his business as not only a Man of God, but also as a mature adult. You might think these things, but you would be wrong. Jehovah answered Elisha's call the Biblical wayand how! -->

Jehovah (aka "God") sent two ferocious bears - she-bears, naturally - which then proceeded to rip forty-two of the little children to pieces. The story goes that as the bears tore the limbs off little boys and girls and sank their massive teeth into tiny necks and torsos, Elisha continued on into the city of Bethel to spread the Good News™ of Jehovah's boundless love to the men within. Then, of course, he simply carried on his way to his next stop, Samaria. The Bible never does say how the townspeople of Bethel reacted later when they found the bloody, dismembered bodies of forty-two of their children. It moves smartly on to more important topics, obviously.

It may seem as though Elisha was indifferent to the suffering of little children whom he had condemned to terrible deaths for the "crime" of laughing at him, but we learn from this story that he did it for a good reason: disrespect for a "Man of God" - especially disbelief in the invisible and silent, unknowable and undetectable, yet omniscient and omnipotent creator god - is never to be tolerated. The One True Faith must be respected at all costs - revered by everyone, including the innocent, the ignorant and the unbelievers - and when it is not, the insult is so intolerable that anything is permitted.

Elisha stood strong against 
the little children.
Let Biblical justice be done!
In Bible studies all over Christendom, people nod in agreement and barely flicker an eyelid upon reading about the massacre of little children, because they believe in Biblical values, which are far superior to any mere humanist morality. They know that allowing little children to be torn apart by wild bears is nothing compared to the horror of allowing a Man of God to be ridiculed without dire consequences. Bible-belief lifts true Christians above the filth of mere human emotion and tender feelings for other human beings. These are the values that modern Christians strive to apply to their own lives, for the good of humanity. Those who will not bow down respectfully before the Christian religion clearly choose not to, and therefore they choose whatever they have coming to them. That's not bigotry, that's the Biblical way.

Every right-minded Christian understands that to be laughed at or mocked for one's beliefs, while it is expected, is an intolerable offense that the godly should never have to endure. As followers of the One True Faith™, righteous Christians must never be prevented from defending against insults using every weapon at their disposal.  Throughout history, of course, Christians waged wars, persecuted unbelievers and punished blasphemers mercilessly, just like Elisha and his god. But those were the good old days (whatever happened to just being able to burn heretics at the stake? That's another of our freedoms stolen by those damned liberals!). Today, right-wing Christians in the western world are prevented by secular liberal society from responding to criticism or mockery in the time-honored Biblical way, sadly, but some groups have devised ingenious ways of getting around the protection obstruction of the secular Constitution.

Whether their fellow citizens want it or not, Bible-believing Christians know that it is imperative that the United States be brought to its knees before them the one true god. Great strides have been made since the Reagan era made it clear that there were ways around the First Amendment, and Christian power in government and society has since grown enormous. Every level of government, every profession, every cultural sphere and every educational institution has been infused with the holy spirit in the form of planted emissaries of the favored Christian faith. It is time for the Christian Right to stand up even taller in defense of their faith: the criticism coming from liberals and moderates is intolerable and outrageous. It must be silenced. It is not simply free speech in a free country - it is persecution of Christians!

Turns out God and Guns is a
winning combination, after all!
Might makes right; that's the
Biblical way!
The story of Elisha and the She-Bears teaches us without ambiguity that the Biblical God is a mercilessly punishing god. To disrespect him - even unknowingly - is to bring his wrath down upon even the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Righteous, Bible-believing Christians know this Truth™and they fear it. The anger of the all-loving, all-powerful god is terrifying and there is no room for mutual understanding, acceptance of different beliefs or of ignorance. The Good News™ must be embraced by everyone - force-fed to them, if necessary - for the good of humanity.

Righteous, Bible-believing, born-again Christians will not be fooled by liberals who disguise themselves as Christians, either. So-called moderate Christians - who are too tolerant of others, who accept other people for who they are and who believe there may be many pathways to God - will never be accepted as real Christians by the true Bible-believer. Moderate, liberal Christians are like the little children who mocked the great Man of God, Elisha. They look innocent but they are false Christians, perhaps even the devil's minions and they, likewise, must be shown no mercy. It is hard Truth™, but true Christians know that they must be strong enough to do whatever is necessary to defend their beliefs. In the words of, "We need more Elishas, those who will stand fast and act in biblical ways leaving the results to the Lord." Wow. Indeed! How awesome is Biblical love!

Here is what every loving Christian parent knows: The lesson about God's righteous justice that they learn from the story of Elisha and the Bears is good for Christian children. Fear is good. We know this is true because the Bible tells us so. The Bible says it. We believe it. That settles it. However, there is always the danger that some Christians may recognise the raw, power-hungry psychological manipulation for what it is fail to accept and understand this wondrous mystery unless their beliefs are seared into their psyches through childhood indoctrination inculcated early and thoroughly. Might as well get them started in pre-school! Below you will find an example of a fun way to introduce the important message of the story of Elisha and the She-Bears to young children - use a colouring page! It's just the thing. Find your copies at any Christian supply store and start training up your children the right way today!

*Justice is injustice. Injustice is justice. The Bible is always right. This is Biblical logic. Get used to it. 'We need more Elishas' and, if the Christian right gets its wish this election, we will have them at long last. We could soon be enjoying a far more Biblically correct America. Praise God!

Class dismissed.

The child who coloured this page added a nice touch when he drew in the spurting blood.
This boy shows righteous promise! A future Elisha, perhaps?

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