Escape goats

I sincerely hope that I will have the time to communicate new thoughts on the whole concept of the externalization of evil soon- this weekend perhaps?- but I have been otherwise occupied of late (with incredibly positive stuff), so I’m re-posting this discussion of the concept of the scape goat in the interim. It is very much connected with the problem- that I keep emphasizing- regarding the projection of our human tendency to lay the culpability for our actions on something outside of ourselves, and therefore another manifestation of our conceptualization of the ‘devil’. Just in case you missed it the first time ’round….

colemining

Given my great love of myth and symbol as expressions of what it means to be human, it should hardly come as a surprise that I love language in general and the origins of words and phrases in particular.  We take words for granted- use and misuse them without too much thought about where they came from and, sometimes, what they really mean.  So many words and phrases that are part of our (relatively) common parlance have origins in the language of myth.

One such term has been hovering on the edge of my consciousness a lot lately- not because it is all that out of the ordinary, but because I heard it spectacularly misused in conversation not long ago- although, to be perfectly fair, both words have the same root and have been used interchangeable historically.  Still, the speaker calling herself an ‘escape goat’ very much summoned images of a…

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The hand, writing on the wall

The Hebrew Scriptures have some pretty cool stories that contain some really cool characters and memorable lines.  I’ve been studying the texts of the OT and NT and the Apocrypha, and Pseudipigrapha, and the literatures of neighbouring countries (Egypt, the Ancient Near East, Greece, Rome, and etc.) for so very long now, it’s tricky trying to single out what (and who) makes my absolute top of the pops of ancient literature.

I have resolved my love-hate relationship with the particular text(s) that served as the focus of my doctoral thesis- and I’m back to hanging out and having fun with my gnostics, in all their ‘heretical’ glory.  I’ve neglected the Egyptians and Mesopotamians a bit lately- after teaching about them for a few years running and visiting with them at the ROM on a weekly basis we all needed some time apart.

The NT and I remain estranged- there are still some residual hard feelings left over from my Master’s thesis, and, to be honest, I’m not sure that Saul of Tarsus and I will ever really see eye to eye on things.  The Revelation has a lot of fun stuff, but it’s being used all over the place lately (the Headless Horseman of the Apocalypse- on Sleepy Hollow, for e.g), so I’m feeling the over-exposure and forced interpretations more than a little bit right now.

My last new, not re-blogged, post- about our current selfie society- generated some great dialogue in the comments section, and led me to pull out the ol’ Old Testament and have a look back at the Book of Daniel (thanks, Susan!).

Now Daniel and I have always been buds.  He’s a guy you can really cheer for- and the book about him marks the real, canonical, beginnings of apocalyptic literature in the biblical worldview (I’d rather not get into an argument about whether or not the book belongs with the prophetic books or the writings.  Some day, perhaps, I’ll talk a bit about biblical prophecy being not so much- or at all- prophetic but very much about the social commentary of the time in which it was written- and therefore a type of early apocalypticism– but right now I’m grooving with Daniel.  Who belongs with the writings as a proto-apocalyptic).

Next to my gnostics, I love the apocalyptic peeps best.  Sometimes it’s like choosing a favourite from among two cherished children, so why choose?  They tend to overlap a fair bit anyway- hardly surprising since both arise out of discontent and disconnection with the society when the texts were written.

When people are pissed with the status quo things often get a little apocalyptic (it’s happening now, as a matter of fact).  Daniel- and the pseudonymous book about him- was a harbinger of a whole lot of discontent and attempts at change.  And it gave us one of the most interesting images of the whole bible.  In my humble opinion, anyway.

The narrative tells the story of Daniel, who, as a member of the Judean nobility, is serving some time in the service of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.  He, and three of his pals, refused to succumb to the lures of the food and wine provided by their captors, and maintain the mandates of their heritage and religion, even while in exile.  They catch the eye of the king, who declares them to be superior to his own wise men at court and enlists them to his service.  Daniel soon gains a reputation for the accuracy of his dream interpretations, and, since Nebuchadnezzar (I love that name.  Just typing it makes me happy.  Saying it makes me smile.  I guess I was a Babylonian in a former life.  Or something) frequently needs his dreams analysed, he eventually appoints Daniel as his Chief Wise Guy.

While Nebuchadnezzar had his good qualities (like his name.  I love his name), he did steal the treasures of the Temple of Jerusalem (during the destruction of the city and the beginning of the Exilic Period) and brought them back to Babylon with him.  While Neb deals with his demons (7 years of crazy, living like a wild beast and all that) his son Belshazzar (although the Book of Daniel is the only source that lists Belshazzar as Neb’s kid- other historical sources list him as the son of Nabonidus- but we can let him be Neb’s son- no harm to the story) acts as co-regent, and then king in his own right.

One night Belshazzar and his noble friends throw a big party- and use the sacred vessels plundered from Solomon’s Temple as their pint glasses.  They make toasts to their gods- mainly inanimate deities- using Yahweh’s own sacred vessels.  Those of you who have read the Hebrew Scriptures up to this point in the continuing story have to realize that this is not a good idea.  Yahweh does not (generally) take kindly to his word, his people or his stuff being messed with.

To the horror of the collected party goers, a mysterious disembodied hand appears and starts writing on the wall.  Still reeling from the strange apparition, neither Belshazzar nor his assembled guests can figure out what the writing says.  He calls for Daniel to come and have a look.  Daniel, the superlative and Yahweh-favoured Chief Wise Dude, reads the words as Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.  At first inspection they seem to be meaningless references to weights and measures, but Daniel interprets them as the verbs that correspond to the nouns: numbered, weighed, divided.

As such, he explains that god has numbered the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom and decided that they are at an end.  The kingdom (and its king) have been weighed and found wanting, so it will be divided between the Medes and the Persians.  Like now.  The interpretation is quickly realized, and that very night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede became king.

Generally the story is used (‘the writing on the wall’, ‘the hand writing on the wall’, ‘Mene Mene’) to indicate imminent doom, originating in misbehaviour or inappropriate governance.  Those who attended the feast- and shared culpability for the bad politics and decisions- were able to see the hand as it wrote on the wall, yet were totally unable to understand the message that was being imparted.  The interpretation had to come from someone who wasn’t in any way responsible for the negative behaviours- or the misuse of the vessels and the sacrosanct ideology behind them.  Only Daniel was able to give warning and explain the impending collapse of the Babylonian kingdom by reading the writing on the wall.

Increasingly, these days and with the societies and systems of government that we have created and institutionalized, fewer and fewer people are able to see the imminence of danger as we continue headlong down a path that is becoming less and less equitable and more and more dictated by those who hold power.  That those in power were, ostensibly, chosen by the people (rather than through hereditary ascension, as in the Babylonian example), makes the systemic problems all the more glaring and frustrating.

We are not doing enough to hold our leaders to account (don’t even talk to me about the idiots of FN- who will STILL vote for that guy come next October.  As much as I despise name-calling, those who remain convinced that THAT guy is the best candidate for mayor, ARE idiots.  There is no other adequate descriptive word.  And I know LOTS of words) while they choose to ignore the disembodied hand and its message entirely.  Claims about improvements to the economy (while myriad citizens remain in situations of un/underemployment and the middle class continues shrinking while the divide between the haves and the have nots become more pronounced), to the housing market (as home ownership is increasingly an inaccessible pipe dream in most major Canadian cities), and the short-sighted politics that reflect immediate self-interest rather than long-term nationwide benefits… These things, as serious as they are, only scratch the surface of the current crises we are facing.

As I say over and over and over again, our myths- and their interpretations- have a whole lot of wisdom to offer, if we bother to take the time and pay attention to what those who came before us had to say.  Especially since we keep on making the same sorts of mistakes, driven by greed and one-upmanship and the ever-increasing need to hear ourselves speak (or yell) over the voices that might be offering an alternative (and better, more equitable) perspective.

In February 1964, as a response to the assassination of JFK a few months previously, a young lad named Paul Simon wrote a song.  The Sound(s) of Silence (the original title was plural) shares an enduring sense of futility and awareness of the dangers of silence- the problems that arise when people fail to effectively listen to and speak out about the cancers growing around us.

As we bow to our own neon gods, perhaps we need to take time to listen to this song- about to celebrate its 50th (!) birthday- a little more closely.  It might help us to see the hand and decipher the message it is continually writing on the walls that surround us.

And the sign flashed out its warning, in the words that it was forming

And the sign said, ‘the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls’

And whispered in the sounds of silence.

Mene Mene, my friends.  Take heed.  That hand is getting pretty emphatic with its messages.

‘Oh Life…’

I’ve written about loss before.  The sudden death of a loved one, and the slow, painful withdrawal of the personality that was the beloved long before the inevitable loss of life.

You’d think it would get easier with years and experience.  It doesn’t.  Losing someone rips a hole in the fabric of the universe that never completely closes.

The clichés and platitudes notwithstanding (man, am I ever against the platitudes this week), it doesn’t always get easier, and letting go can feel like betrayal and lead to guilt that is even harder to shake.

Loss. Decisions.  The human condition.  These are the foundations of all the religions of the world.  Once upon a long ago time, with the development of self-awareness, and given our nature as social animals, when those we love left us, we humans created hope that we will meet them again- or that they are, at least, in place where the suffering has ceased and there is peace and happiness.

People often make the hard decisions- CAN make the hard decisions- with this as an underlying hope or belief.

But what happens when one of the things that gets lost is the religion that we create in an effort to moderate our sadness and help justify the pain and its eventual lessening?  And lessoning?

The song is 22 years old. Where has the time gone?

(More losses- of both the time that has passed and the place with which I most associate the tune)

Losing my Religion’ is really a Southern US colloquialism for losing one’s temper, flying off the handle, behaving in a manner that is less than civilized (gotta love the Southern equation of ‘religion’ and ‘civilized behaviour’.  Ack!).

Subject-wise, the song is more about unrequited love and obsession (Michael Stipe has actually compared its theme to Every Breath You Take– that exemplar of obsessive songs about stalking restraining orders love from the Police’s 1983 wonder of an album, Synchronicity) than about the loss of religious faith.

But it’s a good song.  And it fits my mood and the paths down which my slightly disordered and sleep-deprived mind is traveling right now, faced as I am with another potential loss.

I was, nominally, raised in a religious tradition.  Attended services, participated in the community, was taught the mythology.

Frustration with the blatant abuse of power in the Institution and, especially, my absolute lack of comprehension about how, in any way, the theodicy behind the myth system can be justified, marked the finality of the decision to ‘lose’ it.

Millennia ago a man wrote a treatise that encompassed all kinds of aspects of the realities of life.  It became part of the collected wisdom tradition of the people behind one of the most influential mythological systems in history and spoke to the realities of life and the nature of the godhead.  The questions he expressed- alongside a recounting of his own experiences- were answered by the theodicy of the day- ‘because the god wants it that way.’

It could have been written yesterday.  Plus ça change

Abuse of power: Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun.  Look, the tears of the oppressed- with no one to comfort them!  On the side of their oppressors there was power- with no one to comfort them.  And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive, but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (4.1-3).

The ever-repetitious cycle of life: “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.  The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises.  The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind and on its circuits the wind returns. (1.4-6)

Death: ‘For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals, for all is vanity.  All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (3.19-20).  (N.B. the lack of anything approaching the idea of heaven/hell in that little statement.  He finished that thought: ‘Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of of animals goes downward to the earth?’ 3.21)

That Qohelet guy found the faith in the plan of his deity to make the terror, the repetition, the inequity, the futility and the rest of the realities of morality manageable.  He, like Job and the Prophets and the authors of the Psalms, trusted the justice of the god in spite of infinite examples of injustice and pain in the world.

Me?  Can’t do it.

My faith is based in this world and in my fellow humans.  Which means that I have to do my best to act against those inequities that can be changed and roll with the punches dealt by those that can’t.  Including the deaths of cherished loved ones.

It’s a different kind of faith, and one that offers no easy answers or comforting visions of angelic choirs and waiting La-Z-Boys at the right hand of an Elder of Days.  It requires reliance on others who share our lot in this here world, and the strength to endure and to ask for help from those others when our own reserves run low.  The cultural and social realities of today, combined with our collective experiential learning, have rendered the created, absent, inscrutable, unjust godhead obsolete.

My religion may be long lost, but my civility is intact and as ready as it can be to face coming inevitabilities.

But I can still find comfort in Qohelet’s musings +/- 2500 years after they were first written down.  Not for his conviction about his god, but because of the beauty and humanity of his questioning and honest examination of the world as it was still is.

‘For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.’  (1.18)

Truer words…

Proud- Part 2

Continuing where we left off yesterday…

In case you missed it, or don’t want to read the whole of Part 1 (although I’d love it if you did), let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up: (to steal a line from Inigo Montoya).

This week SCOTUS made landmark rulings, overturning Prop. 8 (which banned same-sex marriage in California) as unconstitutional and invalidated the provision of DOMA that prevented same-sex couples from accessing the same benefits available to heterosexual couples.

This is a GOOD thing.

As usual, and as noted by George Takei, the bible thumpers are out in force screaming about the whole thing- regardless of the fact that it affects the lives of heterosexuals in NO way, shape or form.

We talked briefly about the mythologies of Mesopotamia and Greece- two of the major cultures that influenced the development of biblical mythology- and found that neither of them took any issue with homosexuality, nor proscribed against it.

Which leads us to that much-thumped book of stories (terrible way to treat stories- all that thumping).

Starting at the beginning (or the re-beginning, anyway):

Genesis 9.1  And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

Genesis 9.7.  “And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.”

This is YHWH speaking with Noah and the fam post-flood.  Right after the deity had just completely wiped out his own creation (with the exception of one family and those animals that made it onto the boat.  Poor dinosaurs and unicorns.  Sniff).  No over-reaction there.

He is setting the scene with this initial covenant (ironically- given its use by the LBGTQ community- represented by the appearance of a rainbow in the sky) for the big-C-Covenant-to-come by setting out some initial commandments and telling Noah and his progeny to go forth and re-populate the earth that he had just finished destroying.

Obviously, this would be difficult if there was much of a homosexual component to Noah’s family (being, as it was, the days before artificial insemination).  These early passages set the stage for the oft-cited idea that marriage is all about procreation, a key facet of upholding the covenant with the deity.

The laws found in Leviticus echo this idea with a more definite attempt at controlling behaviour.  Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13 both suggest that ‘lying with mankind as with womankind’ is an ‘abomination’.  The Levitical laws are social controls– meant to establish order in the new nation under the covenant established with YHWH.

Some of them are practical concerns (the food laws are generally accepted to have had a whole lot to do with lack of refrigeration capabilities in the desert and therefore efforts to avoid having the population die out from food poisoning), while others were meant to set the Israelites apart from their neighbours, and those they conquered in the name of their god.

The gods, mores and practices of the Canaanites (the original residents of the ‘Promised Land’) had a great deal in common with those of the Mesopotamian City States, which were not institutionally against homosexuality.  To distinguish themselves- and assert the holiness of their covenant- the Israelites had to adhere to an identity that was very much against the ‘other’- which meant distancing themselves from the social realities of the surrounding cultures.

Biblical literature is full of examples of the Israelites falling off the YHWH-wagon and taking up the pastimes and habits of those around them- which often included the worship of their gods.  Major covenant violation there- breaking of Big Rules #1 and #2, in fact.  Not going to please the old man at all.  Best to enforce the complete separation from the other by reinforcing mores that are supported by earlier Hebrew myths.

Going back to Genesis, the story of Sodom and Gommorah is usually dragged out as the main justification for the ‘abomination’ associated with homosexual acts, because the mob at the door wanted to access Lot’s angelic visitors and to ‘know’ them- in the biblical sense.  Even Lot offering his own virgin daughters to placate the crowd in their stead did not turn the citizens away from their violation of the laws of hospitality and lack of charity to visitors (I should think that the impulse to rape guests in the city would definitely qualify as being inhospitable).

If you read the Prophets (Ezekiel for example) and early Talmudic tradition, the ‘sin’ of Sodom and Gommorah was identified as this social injustice and lack of hospitality.  Since violating the proper social order leads to chaos, such actions were deemed dangerous and punishment was required (with YHWH again following his pattern of the overkill model of punitive judgement).

Later interpretations and compositional strands in the mythology itself- and stronger shout-outs against homosexuality drawn from the influence of Zoroastrianism from the period of the Babylonian exile- tended toward a more completely negative view of same-sex pairings, based in cultural bias rather than social prescriptions.  Even with this syncretism of prejudices, it wasn’t until the 1st century CE that Jewish writers- such as Philo of Alexandria and the Roman historian Josephus- unequivocally asserted that homosexuality was, in fact, the great sin that caused the destruction of the twin cities.

When it comes to support of anti-homosexual proclamations from the OT, basically we are talking about examples of institutionalized aversion to the other, as the political and religious powers sought to maintain control and social order in a developing nation, while avoiding the assumption of outside ideas into Jewish beliefs and practices.

Moving on to the NT…

Jesus says nothing, nada, zilch about homosexuality in the words that are attributed to him.   In fact, in Matthew 10.14-15, he compares the fate of anyone who is unwelcoming of his followers to the lack of hospitality displayed at Sodom and Gommorah- noting that any towns that turned them away would suffer even more than the Sodom and Gommorah-ites.

Jesus was a 1st century CE Jew who was looking to reform the religious tradition in which he was raised.  He welcomed those from the margins of society and his mission was one of inclusion- values that he felt were being ignored by the authorities of the Temple.  If Christians want to maintain that his message was all about the love, they really need to stop involving him- completely undeservedly- in their hate-mongering.  Poor guy must be rolling over in his grave.

On the other hand, the early Christian writers- Paul of Tarsus for example- were seeking to develop a minority new religious movement within a larger social, political and religious background.  Like the Israelites, they had to differentiate themselves- first from the Jews and then from other cultural groups that were in any way displeasing to the Roman officials.

There are mentions made in some of the canonical epistles (Romans 1.26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 come to mind) that speak against all kinds of perceived sexual improprieties, but this is hardly surprising.  Paul wasn’t a big fan of sex in any form.  Have a look at 1 Corinthians 7, if you have any doubts about that reality.

The upshot of all this discussion (and I could go on, believe me), is that ideological objections to homosexuality drawn from biblical mythology are few and far between (especially given the volume of canonical literature alone).  Those that do exist are clearly culturally and temporally driven- by political expedience for the purpose of the maintenance of social order, flying under the radar of the ruling majority and/or in order to support increasing the number of followers of the deity of the covenant.  Yet people want to use 2000-3000 year old political and cultural ideas as the basis for life-affecting legislation in the 21st century?

Sigh.

My wonderful friend Tracey had a conversation with her son about the events of the week.  Hopefully more people will finally embrace the reality that this amazing child knows intuitively.  It is beyond ridiculous to hold to the proscriptions dictated by Bronze Age people, looking to assert their national dominance (and that of their god) over the indigenous peoples of the land they sought to conquer and claim as their own.  And citing the epistolary writings of the PR people for a struggling new religious movement trying to find its footing in the face of majority persecution- against the model and words of the ‘founder’ of said movement?  You call that justification?

Humbug.

The SCOTUS decision is a welcome step toward the arrival at a point that should have become moot long ago.  I honestly can’t believe we are still talking about this.   Yet seeing the vitriolic responses in the ‘news’, the comments sections of opinion pieces and in various incarnations of social media, I realize that dialogue apparently remains necessary.  Still.  So let this be my two cents- and my happy (and relieved) reaction to an historic ruling that upholds equality, intellectual rationale and just plain common sense.

Happy Pride everyone.  May the fact that human decency, fairness and reason finally saw some light this week set the tone for a joyful weekend.

Devil’s Advocate

The other night, while out for dinner with friends, our discussion turned to television and the viewing patterns of people we know.  It got me thinking about cultural mores and how changeable they are- and how relatively quickly those changes can come about.

Not to sound like some ancient geezer who waxes philosophic about the good ol’ days, but the truth is that there is programming being broadcast over the airwaves (public, cable, pay-per-view and the interworld) that would not have been allowed to see the light of day even a very few years ago.

Between the voyeuristic idiocy that is most reality programming and the sex and extreme violence that is found on HBO and the like on a weekly basis (did you SEE that Red Wedding?!?  WTF was that?!?!), many of the shows that were once strongly criticized now seem incredibly innocent in comparison.

When The Simpsons first premiered on Fox way back in 1989 (!) it came under loudly-expressed fire for it’s presentation of ‘degraded’ ‘American family values’.  Then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush spoke against the show, suggesting that what America needed was a family ‘more like the Waltons than the Simpsons.’  Bart was widely criticized as being terrible role model for children.

Those who took the time to actually watch the show soon discovered that, along with solid, witty writing, the Simpsons and their neighbours offered up some of the best-natured, morally stable programming out there.  This is a family who, even with all the admitted dysfunction, stick it out and make it work while doing the best for their community.

There are certainly voices of institutionalized morality (Flanders, of course, and Reverend Lovejoy are the obvious examples) but generally religion is dealt with as being something that is present- and integral to the lives of the residents of Springfield- without it being preachy or judgemental in any way.

Apu frequently exhibits frustration as his neighbours refer to his religion as ‘other’, but Marge and Homer throw him a traditional Hindu wedding and adopt the personas of the avatars of his gods when he and his wife are dealing with marital stressors.  Krusty deals with the abandonment and rediscovery of his Jewish faith in an effort to reconnect with his Rabbi father.  Lisa struggles with concepts of belief, dabbles in Wicca and ultimately embraces Buddhism.

The microcosm of Springfield, USA exemplifies a community working the way one should work.  A town where those of different faiths, races and ethnicities get along and do their best at every turn.  Even with its myriad issues; the corruption of its mayor (although I’d take Quimby over our incumbent any day), the evil Republican power mongers (headed up by Mr. Burns), giant sinkholes, the eternal tire fire… Springfield really is a pretty  ideal town to call home.

Another show that got a very undeserved bum rap at its get-go was the sadly short-lived God, the Devil and Bob.  The animated sitcom showed up on NBC on March 9, 2000.  It was pulled March 28, 2000.  Only 4 episodes- out of the 13 that were produced- aired before it was removed from the line-up, largely as a result of pressure from religious activists.

Watching the show again recently I was struck by the complete innocence- and ‘niceness’, for lack of a better word- of the star-studded half-hour program.  God (James Garner) is charmingly laid back and reminiscent of Jerry Garcia.  He enjoys having a beer, playing a round of golf and generally being around and involved with his creatures.

That the state of his creation has driven him to consider getting rid of it all and starting over again is a function of humanity’s poor use of their collective free will, rather than any sort of unreasonable wrathfulness or vengeful tendencies (as he explains in the intro, he’s ‘not that kind of god’).

The Devil (voiced by Alan Cummings) encourages God to destroy this world and begin again- providing he still gets to play a role in the new creation (in which marsupials would be the dominant life-form this time ’round).  They have something of a dysfunctional and co-dependent- yet still respectful and reciprocal- relationship.

Lucifer’s feelings are hurt when God forgets his birthday, or a scheduled golf date, and reacts rather badly.  Like a sulky adolescent, actually.  One who just happens to have the resources of Hell at his disposal.  Yet there is no animosity between them- there is definite affection (and understanding) there- as God repeatedly mollifies the Devil, apologizing for hurting him and letting him know that he is, in fact, appreciated.

I imagine the criticisms about the show- likely led by those who never took the time to watch it but who were ‘offended’ by the title itself- were sourced in the ‘humanness’ of the portrayal of the deity and his ‘evil’ counterpart.

The trouble with that is the plot- and the interactions between God and the Devil, and God and Bob (who is a blue-collar, porno-watching, beer drinking, father of two who works on the assembly line of an auto plant in Detroit- played by French Stewart), and the Devil and Bob- are very much in keeping with the original mythology.

Think Job.

Or any of the Prophets.

The show is decidedly Old Testament (Jesus is nowhere to be found- except in very brief passing) and it is likely therein that the problem lies.

Those who have read the whole OT shebang (and not just in order to be able to cite random passages out of context to condemn various things that personally offend them) would certainly see that the story of the relationship between God and the Devil/Satan/Lucifer (certainly among the most unfairly maligned characters in mythology/literature/history) did not originate with wars in Heaven, or with falls from that same locale and eventual punishment in the abyss.

The satan began as an emissary- lackey/gofer/PA- of Yahweh, and one that fulfilled a vital role in the bureaucracy of Heaven.  The assumption of later cultural traditions saw the satans meshed with demons and/or vanquished gods to become beings that were set in opposition to the presiding deity.

The strict black and white dichotomy of good vs. evil is a later development in the mythology- one that very much leads to a lack of assumption of responsibility for one’s own actions- that is not at all in keeping with the foundational premise behind the earliest biblical myths.  What WE do- as individuals and collectively- matters.  Our actions and ideas affect us personally, our families, the larger community and the nation.  Every once in awhile, when we seem to be straying too far off the desired path, the deity sends a mouthpiece to guide us back to the straight and narrow.

IF we are willing to listen to said prophet.  Historically (according to the stories), we haven’t been much good at that.  As a result, the deity sends the appropriate punishment our way.  There was, initially, no emphasis on any sort of external being showing up to tempt us down the garden path.  Our deeds- and the results of those deeds- were completely our own look-out.

God, the Devil and Bob very much demonstrates the wisdom of this earliest message in the mythology as is can be applied to 21st century life.  The characters are funny, endearing and very human in their actions and reactions.  While the Devil does try to interfere with Bob’s attempts to make the world a better place (on behalf, and in defence, of ALL humanity), the characters on the show do the right thing- not out of fear of divine punishment (since no one- other than Bob’s six-year-old son, Andy- believes in his prophet-hood) but because they truly know right from wrong.

Compared to the sophomoric humour that is the norm in the crop of myriad animated shows out there now (looking at YOU Family Guy et al), and certainly when placed against some of the ridiculous ‘unscripted’ programming that crowds the tv listings, God, the Devil and Bob reflects basic values and morality in an entertaining and light-hearted manner, while acknowledging the realities of life in our particular cultural context.

Along with being ‘smarter’ than a great deal of the shows on offer these days, it is a very positive and responsible use of the mythology- with familiar characters made more sympathetic and less-vengeful- that reminds us that we humans need to be charting our own paths without constantly relying on any form of divine guidance or intervention.

It deserves a closer viewing.  One that isn’t dictated by the hysterical posturing of those with a literalist agenda- and no sense of humour.

If you’re interested, you can find the episodes on YouTube- or you might be able to find the whole 13-episode season on DVD.  I have it- it’s fun.