Thursday, November 12, 2015

God Rid Me Of God

Dear God, what happens in and under the name of “God,” I do not know how to pray. One would think I would know how to do this by now, but I am afraid I do not. I am afraid the vocabulary and eloquence to address the Divine eludes me. I am afraid I lack the ability to properly respond to the insistent call of God. So I begin this prayer with the humiliating proclamation that I do not know how to pray.

Dear God, I agree with Jack Caputo and his accomplice Meister Eckhart when I pray that, dear God, rid us of God.

Dear God, rid us of the God of this selfish and entitled religion. Rid us of the God whose omnipotence is so impotent that he falters, flails, and throws an infantile tantrum at the slightest objection or protest to his religion's status quo. Rid us of the God whose followers behave the same way.

Dear God, rid us of the God of Red Cup Christians, so insecure in their faith that they need and demand capitalist corporations to affirm and confirm their beliefs. Rid us of the God that has perverted Jesus' teachings to sell our possessions and give our money to the poor into a right to waste that money on overpriced and superfluous First World extravagances.

God rid us of the God of equal measures, balances and ledgers, retributive justice, and the economics of salvation that stand in opposition of the unconditional impossible that is love, hope, and the gift.

Rid us of the God of the status quo. Rid me of the God that says my characteristics just happen to be normative and anything otherwise is deviant. God rid us of the God that separates and condemns the oppressed, the forsaken, and the lost. Rid me of the God that conveniently hates all the things that I hate.

Rid me of a God that hates me as much and as frequently as he loves me. Rid me of a God that I am terrified of and terrified to love. For what would it say of me to love such a God?

Dear God, rid me of the God that expects perfect prayers, wondrous worship, and exotic exaltation. Rid me of the God that cares if I don't know how to pray. God, rid us of all other Gods and gods that we have set up to take your place, for we find them more agreeable than you and your unconditional, ridiculous, obscene, and stupid love for the other.

Finally, dear God, rid me of the God of intellectual hubris. Rid me of the God that allows me to speak in such accusative, dismissive, and derogatory language. Rid me of the God that makes me certain of my uncertainty and arrogant in my theology.

Dear God, this is my prayer, which I do not know how to pray.

Dear God, rid us of God.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sucked Up To Heaven

Your father was a good man, which is why he got sucked up to Heaven.
See, 'cause of Dukakis and... and all those people, we're finally living through that Bible thing that predicted this was gonna happen.
- Paper Girls #2
by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Monday, October 19, 2015

So Long, and Thanks for All the Jesus Fish

So Long, and Thanks for All the Jesus Fish

A Superhero Story in Three Short Parts

I. Origin

Reuben was always an ambitious lad, but his actions always lingered far behind his ideas. With an intelligence that surpassed his means, he always felt betrayed by the society that didn't recognize his genius. This resentment only intensified as his pursuit of employment met with increasing failure.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Too Inquisitive

Even as a child I doubted the concept of a Creator...
...But I knew if he really existed and was really somewhere up there in the heavens looking down...
...And if all this was happening because somehow we were too curious, or too inquisitive...
...Well you know what?...Screw him.
- FBP #20
by Simon Oliver and Alberto Ponticelli

Friday, August 14, 2015

MitchWords 15.4

Sometimes ideas are best contemplated in a narrative.  This is the story of when God visited me on my birthday.  It is a complete work of fiction.  Which means it's completely true.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Graphic Doubt: The Disruption of Faith in Comic Books and Graphic Literature

On April 17th, 2015, I attended the Upper Midwest Regional Conference of the American Academy of Religion.  During this event, I presented the following paper about faith and doubt in comic books.  Essentially, I sat in a room with respectable religious scholars and professors and talked about comic books for twenty minutes or so.

And of course they selected me to go first.  Which wasn't intimidating at all for someone who was pretty much the least educated person in the room.

Anyway, if you've followed Wednesday Theology for the past year or so you will recognize a lot of these themes.  Doubt has, in a way, become my main message, my strongest expression of my faith, and comic books have facilitated that expression and exploration.  So, I hope you enjoy the following.  I hope you appreciate the proper citations.

But why do this?  Why go to the trouble to write such a thing and present it to only a select few?  Well, this is pretty much an example of the culmination of everything Wednesday Theology strives to be: a legitimation, scholarly or otherwise, of the exploration of the intersection of theology and comic books.

Plus, it also gives me a sense of purpose to my life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 16

I love Mark 16 because of the questions and uncertainties it poses.  This is not a clean ending to the gospel story.  I feel I can look at this chapter in two ways: it's either a Choose Your Own Adventure where I pick which ending I like, or it's The Return of the King where it keeps ending over and over until I'm begging for the credits to roll because I've been sitting here for three and a half hours and I really have to use the bathroom.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 15

Immediately in the morning the chief priests hold a meeting with the larger council before taking Jesus to Pilate.  Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, to which Jesus replies, "You say so."  Very mature, Jesus.  Pilate listens to the priests' accusations but Jesus says nothing more in his defense.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 14

After all that apocalyptic rhetoric (or literal predictions of the future!), Mark continues his story two days before Passover.  The chief priests and religious leaders want to kill Jesus, but they need to be sneaky about it.  Jerusalem is packed during Passover and arresting such a popular figure may incite a riot among the rabble.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 13

When Jesus and his crew leave the Temple, one of the disciples marvels at the huge buildings.  I imagine this might be because they were all backwoods yokels visiting the big city.  Jesus responds rather ominously, though, and says that these buildings will be destroyed so thoroughly that not one stone will be left atop another.  Um, Jesus, people can get killed for that kind of talk.

Think about visiting Washington today and, on a tour of the White House, speaking within earshot of the Secret Service that the day is coming when not one brick of the White House will stand atop another.  You will probably be tackled pretty fast.  Words are dangerous, Jesus.  Words are more dangerous than miracles.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 12

Then Jesus tells a parable about a very stupid man.  The man plants a vineyard and constructs all the buildings around that are necessary.  Then he leases it to tenants and moves away, as rich men tend to do.  When the time comes, he sends a slave back to the vineyard to to collect his rent and portion of the profits.  But the tenants say, "screw this!" and beat the slave and send him back empty handed.  The man sends another slave, and the same thing happens.  For some reason, the man thinks the third time is a charm, but the tenants kill that slave.

Curiously, this pattern still continues, until the only messenger the man has left alive his is own son.  The man does the unthinkably stupid and sends his son, thinking that this time the tenants will be respectful.  No sir, mister stupid man.  The tenants kill the son, because of course they would.  So what will the man do?  Jesus says he will come to the vineyard himself, presumably with an army or something, and destroy all the tenants and give the vineyard to someone else.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 11

Jesus continues on his mission to Jerusalem.  Stopping at Bethphage and Bethany, he sends two of the disciples ahead of him into a village to steal a colt.  If anyone questions them, they are to explain that the Lord needs it, but they will bring it back.  Sounds legit, Jesus!

So the disciples do just that, and they are asked just that, and they reply just that, and the villagers are completely fine with it.  That is one weird village.  I don't know about you, but I would lock my car if I was stopping there for a burger and a Fresca.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 10

Jesus continues into Judea beyond the Jordan River.  Crowds continue to gather and, as is his custom, Jesus teaches them.  It's what he does.  It's his thing.  He teaches.  And he eats.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 9

Jesus decrees that some people standing in his presence right then would not die before they saw the coming of the kingdom of God.  Now, if we take that to mean the second coming and the institution of God's holy rule, we have two ways of looking at this: Either Jesus was wrong, or there were vampires in the crowd that day.  Two thousand years later, we are still waiting on God's literal kingdom to come.  So, maybe those vampires are still walking around somewhere?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 8

Once again Jesus and crew find themselves before a large crowd with nothing to eat.  Once again Jesus tells his disciples to feed them.  Once again the disciples wonder how they are supposed to do that.  Um, guys?  It worked out just fine not too long ago.  Maybe you should try that again.  That is pretty much what Jesus tells them.  This time they have have seven loaves of bread and a couple small fish, and after the blessing and the eating they wind up with seven baskets full of leftovers.

I have a theory: Jesus is a fan of leftovers.  Perhaps leftover fish sandwiches, even.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 7

Okay, so it looks like some Pharisees and scribes have come up all the way from Jerusalem just to listen to Jesus talk.  However, they seem more distracted by his disciples' filthy, filthy hands.  They notice that Jesus' entourage eats with defiled hands.  That is, they eat without washing their hands.  They have poo-poo hands!  Then Mark makes a quick aside explaining Jewish cleanliness rituals and traditions, indicating that Mark may be targeting this gospel, at least in part, to a non-Jewish audience.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 6

After raising the girl from the dead and telling no one to say anything (um, people will probably notice that she's not dead anymore) Jesus and his crew head to his hometown, which I guess would be Nazareth.  As is Jesus' wont, he teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  But this unnerves several of the locals who knew him as a boy.  They question who is this man to be teaching such things?  He's the carpenter, the son of Mary.  Also, I think this is the first time Mark name checks Jesus' mother.  She now has a name, and it is Mary.  And Jesus has a profession, and it is a carpenter.

Maybe he can fix the hole in The Rock's roof!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 5

Jesus versus The Incredible Hulk!

No, no, hear me out.  After Jesus tames the sea, they reach the shore in the country of the Gerasenes, which, according to the commentary in my NRSV was a largely non-Jewish population.  This actually makes sense for what follows.  Also, take that, Paul!  Jesus was reaching out to the gentiles before you got around to it!  Although, Jesus wasn't quite as successful.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 4

Once again Jesus is speaking along the sea and has his escape boat at the ready.  The crowd becomes so large that Jesus retreats to the escape boat but, instead of fleeing, he continues to teach from the boat.  If Jesus was an action figure his accessory vehicle would be an escape boat.  Jesus figure not included.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 3

Jesus enters a synagogue again and causes a ruckus.  A man with a withered hand asks Jesus to heal him.  The Pharisees and the scribes are watching intently, for once again it is a grievous violation to perform miracles on the sabbath.  So, of course Jesus heals the man and the religious leaders are upset.  Note that they don't seem too concerned by the fact that Jesus is healing people and performing miracles, but they are super miffed that he does these things on the sabbath.

You got some strange priorities, people.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 2

After a few days, Jesus goes back home to Capernaum.  And by "home" I assume Mark means back to Simon's home, because that's the only home in Capernaum he's mentioned.  Plus, you know, Simon's house has his mother-in-law that makes all those amazing sandwiches.  So, of course Jesus would go back there.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mitch Reads... Mark 1

The Bible is boring.  It's dry, humorless, and rather disjointed.

Plus, if it's the perfect, inerrant, literal word of God, then I can't question it.  I can't pick it apart and explore it.  I can't do anything with that.

Thank God I learned how to doubt (Isn't that a magnificent statement?).

So, in this little project, I set out to read the Gospel of Mark.  I didn't approach it as a collection of pithy Bible verses I can pull out to comfort me in times of trouble.  I approached it as narrative whole written by a singular (more or less) author.  Instead of mindlessly agreeing with everything I read, I brought to the text my questions and my struggles.  And hopefully my charming wit.

Now, this isn't any sort of scholarly commentary.  This is the haphazard, unorganized theological ramblings of a mad man.  And I could very well be wrong about everything.  But that's perfectly okay.  It was a fun, challenging experience all the same.

So I invite you to join my journey, and I sincerely hope you enjoy the struggle as Mitch Reads.... Mark 1.

Also, enjoy the sandwiches.  You'll see.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

MitchWords 15.3

This past Easter was difficult for me.  I have been questioning a lot, doubting a lot.  I wasn't doubting the crucifixion or the resurrection, but I was struggling with what those meant.  What exactly was sacrificed?  What was gained?  Was it purely the violent, physical death of an innocent man that somehow assured my salvation?  How does that work?  Why does that work?

And what kind of God would orchestrate such a macabre atonement?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

God Who Rules By Threat

But a God who rules by threat does not rule at all.  As I can cause pain, so I can take it away.
I can restore you.  I can make you whole.
-  God is Dead #6 by
Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa, and Di Amorim

Saturday, March 21, 2015

MitchWords 15.2

I should be an atheist.  But I'm not.

Let me back up and explain, and hopefully my thoughts won't burn too many bridges.

I went to seminary and earned a Master's Degree in Theology.  This may be my saving grace as well as my undoing.  Before starting seminary a close friend pleaded that I not become an atheist after I graduated.  She said she had a friend who attended a seminary and came out an atheist.  I could understand that.  I could understand learning about your religion causing so much disillusion that you abandon it all together.  But me?  An atheist?  How absurd.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You Sentenced Her to Hell

Dream: Sister -- you know how I felt for Nada once. What I feel for her still. But she defied me. I gave her due warning, and still she spurned me, so...
Death: So you sentenced her to hell.
Dream: ...yes.
Death: Desire was right.
Dream: What?
Death: Well, maybe not about everything. But right about Nada, anyway. You did a terrible thing to that poor girl. You acted appallingly.
Dream: You too? Even you turn on me, my sister?
Death: Oh, just shut up and let me finish. You can shout at me afterwards.
Nada loved you. She really did.
Now, maybe Desire had more to do with that -- and with your reaction to Nada's love -- than it's saying. That doesn't matter.
Because Nada was right.
It is bad for us to get involved with them. You know that.
Dream: I would have made her a goddess.
Death: Maybe she didn't want to be a goddess, little brother. Did you ever consider that?
Anyway, condemning her to an eternity in hell, just because she turned you down...
...That's a really shitty thing to do. 
 - Sandman #21
by Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg

Sunday, January 11, 2015

MitchWords: 15.1

We need to start talking about depression.

By "we," I mean Christians.  I mean the church.  I mean all of us that claim to have been called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And by "talking about depression," I don't mean we should be dismissive about it or pretend it is something that only afflicts non-Christians.  Heavens no, do not do that.  Instead, we must face the reality that Christians struggle with depression, anxiety, and emotional and mental issues as much as anyone else.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Never Deserved or Earned

We've heard a lot about nature today. By its nature, mercy is never deserved or earned. It can only be given as a gift.
- Fables #93
by Bill Willingham and David Lapham