Monday, September 30, 2013

About As Likely

Cicero: ...A singularity collapse of the bubbleverse could in theory cause a blowback through the membrane into our dimension--
Yarab: About as likely as a "camel through the eye of a needle."
Cicero: But for argument's sake let's say you wanted to cause a collapse. How would you go about it?
- FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #3
by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez

In the not too distant future the physics of our reality begin to unravel. Such lapses in the laws of physics occur with such frequency that the government has set up a Federal Bureau of Physics to tend to these incidents. Even when a person calls 911 and the operator asks about the nature of the emergency, one of the options listed is physics.

In this issue a bubble universe (temporary replica of a small section of our universe) has cropped up with some very important people trapped inside. Here, Cicero is theorizing whether or not a catastrophic collapse of a bubble universe would have any affect on our main universe. Yarab deems this unlikely, and quotes an old, yet familiar adage about just how impossible such an event would be.

Nowhere does the issue reference the origin of the peculiar saying, but it is so prevalent in our popular conscience that such a proper citation is unnecessary. These words, of course, come from Jesus:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." - Matthew 19:23-24 [NRSV]
Jesus makes this statement following an exchange with a rich man who wished to get into heaven. Jesus advised him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. The man found this suggestion unacceptable and went away dejected. At which point Jesus offered the saying to indicate just how impossible it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom.

The saying is rather odd. Of course a camel, a rather large animal, could not fit through the eye of a needle. I find it nearly impossible to get a piece of thread through the dang thing! So why would Jesus even present such a ludicrous scenario? I imagine to he meant to suggest just how similarly ludicrous a rich man entering into heaven would be.

Of course, there have been attempts to water this saying down so it suggests the task is merely difficult or troublesome, but not impossible.  Craig Blomberg notes in his commentary on the book of Matthew some of these attempts and dismisses them. "There is no solid historical evidence to support the legend that a narrow gate in the Jerusalem wall was called the Needle's Eye, and the manuscript support for "rope" as a substitute for "needle" is very weak and very late."1

But why would it be so impossible for the rich to enter through those Pearly Gates? Because money and God ultimately conflict, and man will inevitably choose the former over the latter.
"No one can serve two master; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." - Matthew 6:24 [NRSV]
On this subject, Blomberg is quite insightful. Instead of "wealth," some versions use the word "money." Blomberg writes, "'Money' is more literally mammon, referring to all of a person's material resources. of course, many people do try to cherish both God and mammon, but ultimately only one will be chosen. The other will be 'hated,' even if only by neglect."2 We may try to pursue both wealth and God, but if....but when those interests conflict we will choose money. Maybe we can try to justify to ourselves that, in the long run, we will use the money for God's purposes. Realistically, that will end up unlikely. And for the present it means we choose money and neglect God.

But this is America and the American dream is none other than fortune and fame. In church we decry a great many things, but rarely do we attack money. Instead we ask for money. We court money. A rich congregant just might mean a full offering plate. Even in church, money and God can conflict. Blomberg notes, "Many perceptive observers have sensed that the greatest danger to Western Christianity is not, as is sometimes alleged, prevailing ideologies such as Marxism, Islam, the New Age movement or humanism but rather the all-pervasive materialism of our affluent culture. We try so hard to create heaven on earth and to throw in Christianity when convenient as another small addition to the so-called good life."3

We don't have to look far for examples of this. So many scandals have rocked popular religious personalities that televangelism is almost synonymous with greed and fraud. With so much money coming in it is not long before the wealth clearly assumes priority over God. And then you're using donations designated to help refugees to fund your private diamond mining operation.

1 Craig L. Blomberg, The New American Commentary: Matthew (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1992), 297-298.
2 Ibid., 124.
3 Ibid.

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