Saturday, June 6, 2009

An Ancient San Fransisco

Preamble: The Bible is host to a great many stories which have been told again and again throughout the ages, informing and forming our culture and guiding the doctrine of our lives. The best stories, found in the Old Testament, feature a wholesome slathering of sex, betrayal, bets with Satan, and random characters being smote. Sometimes, we can interpret stories to derive moral lessons which can form the foundation of a spiritual life and three major religions. And sometimes, they’re just good, smitey fun. Thus I present:

The Tale of Sodom and Gomorrah: An Ancient San Fransisco

Generations has passed since the time of Noah, who, good Sunday school students recall, had built an ark and gathered two of every animal (save the tardy and ill-fated unicorn). God had drowned all those not aboard the arc and, after the waters receded, He felt kind of bad about the whole thing. To make amends, He sent Noah a sign: a rainbow, as a promise of a brighter future in which the entire population of the Earth is not drowned en masse.

God’s sign to Noah can still be seen in skies today, though global warming and polar ice cap naysayers remain unconvinced that we won't all drown, and a few have postulated that the rainbow is simply an optical illusion born of water and light, or an attempt by God to frown at gay people.

Back in Genesis, however, God’s message was never questioned.

There lived the aging Abraham and Sarah.

Abraham and Sarah’s marriage had not been without its struggles. Sarah, while attractive, had been unable to bare a male heir, making her essentially useless as a wife, and as good as dead. Abraham did not say this out loud, but both spouses knew it to be true, and the ensuing stress had been the source of constant arguments and a few destroyed lives.

As the couple aged, their grief remained, but it eventually grew to be familiar and then faded to the background of an otherwise tolerable existence. Abraham’s sheep farm prospered, and they fell into a familiar pattern. Abraham would see to his sheep while Sarah tended to the house, cooking, cleaning, beating servants, and generally worshipping God in the way that good, righteous people do.

When three men appeared on Abraham’s doorstep, the couple took them in warmly and without question. Sarah served them tea and crumpets, as was only proper, and the men proved to be gracious and kind. They admired the house, and the donkey, and the accumulated jewels from a century of plunder. One turned to the aging Sarah and said:

“I see you’re pregnant, mazal tov! I sincerely hope it’s a boy!”

Sarah blushed dark red and examined herself in the mirror, noting with sadness her expanding waistline and generous belly. She wished for the days of ore, when she was known as a great beauty and was hot enough to be kidnapped as a captive bride for an Egyptian prince. Such days seemed long ago.

When their guests had left, Sarah tidied the table and began to wash the dishes, while Abraham retreated to his study and had a long conversation God.

God was in a wrathful mood that evening, engulfed in flaming rage over a certain city, known for debauchery. The city’s reputation was well-known and damning, and worse still, the people there played loud music at all hours of the night:

“I must destroy them!”

Abraham cautioned God against this, noting that surely righteous men lived in the city, too. It would be wrong to kill them along side their sinning brothers, since they were entirely innocent.

God took this in, sighing. He remembered the Great Flood of Noah’s time, and the tides of anger that had poured out of him then, the satisfaction of watching the last heathen baby drown, then the discomforting guilt that had followed. He remembered his promise to Noah. And still He was uneasy, for it had been so long since He had felt the simple pleasure of blotting out human life-

“What sort of ratio are we talking about here?” He asked, looking to Abraham intently. “I mean, if there are five hundred sinning men and only one good one, it hardly seems worth it to spare an entire city. How many innocent victims would there have to be?”

“Some people might argue that human life can’t be quantified that way.” Abraham said this quietly, hoping not the incur the wrath of his Lord.

“People are so stupid. What nonsense!” God laughed aloud at the thought. “Look, Abraham, if you expect me to not destroy this city, then there had better be at least fifty good men living there.”

“If you’ll spare the city for fifty men, then you should probably spare it for forty-five.”

Abraham was a cunning haggler, and it was a skill that he would pass on to his generations of offspring until eventually it formed the basis of an unkind racial stereotype. Even God was impressed as Abraham whittled down the necessary number of good men to forty, then thirty, and finally a measly ten.

And God and Abraham agreed:

“If there are ten good men in the city of Sodom, then I will not destroy it. I promise.”


True to His word, God did not smite the city of Sodom (which savvy readers may note was the basis of a certain word ending in 'odomy'). Instead He developed a task force to perform a morality census.

He sent two of his best angels directly into the city to investigate. And while we cannot be sure, legend and the ensuing events tell us that angels, while human-like in appearance, glowed with an ethereal light. Their flesh untarnished, their smiles pearly white - this was quite the sight to behold in early Biblical times, still hundreds of years from the invention of soap.

This young Brad Pitt and George Clooney strolled into the city, shirtless (for what use would angels have of shirts?), and there they happened upon Lot, who was Abraham’s righteous nephew. Lot greeted the angels enthusiastically and, showing the same good manners his aunt and uncle had taught him, invited them home for tea and crumpets.

“You’re welcome to stay the night, if you’d like, and be on your way in the morning.”

The angels declined, not wanting to impose, and suggested they sleep in the city square. Lot would have none of this, and escorted the men to his home where, despite their protests, he served them tea and crumpets, followed by an elaborate feast.

The angels were rubbing their satiated, muscular bellies, when a loud knock was heard at Lot’s door.

Going to answer it, he found an assembly of townsmen on his doorstep and peaking anxiously through his windows.

“Lot, who are those men?”

Lot shrugged, for he did not know - they were strangers. This did not impress the mob.

“We saw you talking to them, and we saw them coming here.” The men insisted. “Who are they, and what are they doing here? Can we meet them?”

Lot noted an unsavory look in their eyes.

“We want to know them.” The men of Sodom insisted, and with this vaguely implied lechery, Lot had certainly heard enough.

“Those men are guests of my home!” He shouted to the restless crowd. “As their host, I must protect them. Please, just leave them alone.”

The men would not be appeased.

“Look,” Lot stated, panicking. “Those men are my guests, and I cannot let any harm come to them. That would be wrong. But, why don’t we compromise? I have two beautiful young daughters, and they’re virgins. Why don’t you just gang rape them, instead? Hell, do whatever you want to my virgin daughters! But please,” Lot insisted, gravely “Those strangers are my guests, and what you plan to do to them is sinful.”

The mob was no longer listening, and the men of the city surged forward. Just as they were about to smash in the door, Brad and George grabbed hold of Lot and pulled him inside. In a flash of searing light, the angels struck the mob blind (likely done with laser pointers).

Brad and George, no longer interested in a census, informed Lot of the imminent doom: “Get your sons-in-law, your children, and whoever you have in the city. Don’t look back, and try to make it to higher ground.” Lot paused, confused. “We’re angels, sent by God, and tomorrow at dawn we’re going to blow up your city.”

Lot thought then of his family, cowering together as their city burned. He, like his uncle Abraham, had yet to be blessed with a son. He had only daughters - parasitic and ungrateful daughters. It was at this point he went to his sons-in-law and informed them of the coming apocalypse.

“You told them, right?” His wife asked, insistently, as the family gathered in Lot’s home and prepared to flee. His two virgin, un-raped daughters hung close to his wife, and she was staring anxiously at the door. Their married daughters had yet to arrive.

“Of course I told them.” Lot replied truthfully. He had told his sons-in-law on the imminent doom they were facing, and they had listened. What he did not tell his wife was that he had passed off the warning as a hilarious joke, and then he had laughed heartily and left them to die.

The angels looked on at their host family with deep concern.

“Please, it’s almost dawn, and you need to get out of here.” Brad and George grasped the small family by the hands and led them to the gates of the city, as the distant East sky brightened and the city prepared to burn. Lot, terrified, began to cry.

“I don’t think we can make it to the mountains.” He whispered, leaning against Brad for support. “Thank you for trying to save us, but we’ll never make it out alive. My daughters walk ever so slowly, it’s no use! We’ll only make it to that tiny town over there.” He pointed, sadly, to the small town across the plane.

“Fine, then, we’ll try to spare that city from the fallout.” Brad consented, glancing over his shoulder at the nearing sun. He and George were beginning to feel anxious, eager to make their way to the city square, uncomfortable with the heavy feeling of the explosives strapped to their chests. They were ready to begin things, to destroy, and to end.

Lot and his family ran for the neighboring town, and as the sun rose they could feel the roar of thunder and the thick clouds of ash, spreading and smothering, across the planes of Jordan. God reigned down fire from the heavens, and the heat pressed the family on.

As they neared the town and safety, Lot’s wife looked back at the carnage. And here God saw fit to turn Lot's wife to a pillar of salt, where she remained and provided nutrients to grazing cattle in years to come.


Abraham saw the dark clouds on the horizon where he knew that town of Sodom to be, and he was sad for his nephew, and for the innocent men who had died there (though they numbered less than ten). And while his sadness was great, it was soon to be lifted, for Abraham had been blessed by God.

A short few months later, his wife, Sarah, bore Abraham a precious son.

Friday, June 5, 2009

And God Said Unto Moses

“Got Jesus?” Asks the sign of my neighborhood Pentecostal church, cleverly lampooning a commercial that aired a mere ten years ago, advertising milk. The sign makes all those warm, fuzzy feelings come flooding back until my throat closes up and I grab for my Epi pen…ahh, Christianity, I missed you so.

Church signage is a careful art, summarizing an entire philosophy on life and death, amusing members, gently reminding the strays of your flock to return, and peaking the interest of non-believers, all with less characters than your average Tweet. My favorite comes from the American Bible belt and sadly was only posted for a week last summer, declaring: “I kissed a girl, and I liked it, and then I went to Hell.”

What the members of the Southern Baptist congregation failed to grasp was a reference to the popular Katy Perry song, in which the reverend’s daughter got too brave drinking and lost her discretion, leading to a make-out session with…a girl! And she doesn't even know her name. For shame, Katy.

The sign was taken down after the posting minister received a flood of calls from a confused congregation, who wondered if he was trying to promote a procreation-only view of sex (where ‘liking’ a kiss is strictly forbidden, as kissing is simply a means to a disdained but dutiful, baby-making end). No, no, no, silly unsavvy American south, that’s not what he was trying to say at all. Sex is great, God-given fun, done within the confines of Holy matrimony. And you know who can’t get married? That's right, them God-forsaken Homosexuals.

Homosexuality, you see, is a one-way ticket to eternal damnation, so be wary of kissing girls (or guys), no matter how good the taste of their cherry chapstick…it won’t taste so good when you’re burning in the fire of Hades. So you should think on that, young teenagers, lest your screams go unheeded for all of eternity within a fiery inferno, because Homosexuality is a Sin, and the Bible tells me so.

This Biblical stance is what has Christians the world over digging in their heals and shaking their head on gay marriage. ‘Civil liberties and equal rights be damned,’ best said when stamping a foot for the emphasis, ‘homosexuals make me feel icky, and besides… It’s in Leviticus.’

Actually, homosexuality is not just in Leviticus - the Bible makes mention of intragendered sex not once, but twice. Raping of men is seen as a bad thing in the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, transcribed above, though the issue is never addressed directly, and is more a commentary on the relative worth of men compared to women that anything to do with sex or love.

Leviticus is the most frequently cited passage because, at least comparatively, its reading is relatively clear:

‘Thou shalt not lie with a man as thou lies with a woman, for this is an abomination.’ (Leviticus, 18:22)

Leviticus was written by Moses in close consultation with God himself, who no one else ever saw or heard because God only talked to Moses when he was far away from other people, in this case on the top of Mount Sinai. It’s the third book of the Old Testament, which should make Christians wary - much of what is said this far back in the Bible is contradicted later on, often by Jesus himself, and therefore null and void (this is why Christians are allowed to eat shellfish and pork). But Jesus never mentions his gay friend, Nathan, and so we must act according to what Moses said, and Moses said it pretty clear: you cannot have sex with a man in an identical manner to the way you would have sex with a woman, for this is pretty bad in the eyes of God, amen.

This message only gets tarnished when you branch out a little and examine what else God decried in Leviticus. Leviticus is a giant book of rules, ranging from the mundane to the absurdly specific: do not have sex with a woman during her period, do not breed any of your of your livestock with a different species, and if you have sex with a slave woman who is promised to another man but who has not yet been set free to be married, then all will be forgiven if you take a ram to the entrance of the meeting hall to be sacrificed by a priest, and the man promised the slave woman may not kill you (Leviticus, 19:20-22).

Some colorful aspects of Judeo-Christian law come up in such rule-laden texts, and these are the parts you rarely hear about in Sunday school. I just spent a frustrating five minutes trying to Google the passage of Leviticus talking about parenting methods for difficult children, but that’s because the elusive passage was written in Deuteronomy, two books later:

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother and, though they chastise him, will not give heed, then his parents shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of the city, and say to the elders ‘This is our stubborn and rebellious son. He will not listen. He is a drunkard and a glutton.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones, and thus you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all of Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:19-21)

[To finish the chapter, “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death, put to death, and his body is hung on a tree (which of course is a natural place to put a body), you must not leave the body hanging overnight and must bury it the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God and defiles the land God gave you.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)]

Needless to say, these passages aren’t frequently mentioned, despite a bumper crop of adult children who have yet to leave home. (‘Drunkard’ and ‘glutton,’ please. Moses is lucky he died before kids went to college.) Christians don’t frequently stone their wayward children, and most churches don’t even preach abstinence during a woman’s period…these passages simply aren’t considered relevant in our modern, enlightened times. From the Old Testament, Christians (and even Christian pastors) tend to dabble, taking what they please, and leaving the rest as a relic of the past.

So, back now to modern times, you or a loved one kissed and girl and liked it and are having a crisis of faith. What does the Bible say of such things? Well, in Leviticus it says that you shouldn't have sex with a man in the same way that you have sex with a woman. One chapter over, it says we should not trip the blind, pervert justice, or spread slander. And it mentions not doing anything that may endanger a neighbor’s life and to not harbor hate, and to never bear a grudge, love thy neighbor as thyself…or something like that.

It’s up to modern-day Christians to choose which passages should be highlighted, and preached about, and which messages are worth displaying on roadward signs. So go forth, God speed, and choose wisely.

Me of the Day

Current mood: Sweaty

Totally amazing: I have successfully completed my year long mission of acquiring a small child to adore me and do my bidding, via the Big Sisters volunteer mentoring organization. This has taken three character references, a criminal records check, a ten page application, two information sessions, a three hour interview, and four months of waiting to be matched. She had better be the most amazing ten-year-old that ever was. (I suspect she will be.)

Also amazing: I have also achieved my longstanding goal of volunteering with my dog Toby, who was just hired as a puppy-visitor for the local cancer agency. (My other dog, Mustard, has yet to contribute to society.) Toby will be hanging out with people in various cancerous states and curing their illnesses through the power of puppy love.

Can cats cure cancer and improve quality of life, Crabigail?? I suspect that no, they cannot.

Latest arch nemesis: Aphids, ants, and aphid farms tended by ants on my sad little spinach plant (who was subsequently yellowed and droopy, and may not survive the ordeal). I no longer feel guilty about killing every single one of you tiny assholes, interspecies genocide or no.

Other news: Through a random scheduling mishap, I have over a week off, and am very, very, very bored. I am also poor. Suggestions for activities that are time consuming and moderately pleasurable are welcome, preferably they should not involve reading 'War and Peace,' as that does not sound fun to me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God Hates Me: A Memoir

This refurbished entry (written a year ago) is a downer. Seriously. Just..don’t read it. Watch some tv. Dancing with the Stars in on. There’s no reason to ruin your good mood.

CHAPTER TWO: God, failing to mess up my life enough, goes after the life of my puppy.

The week had been going badly, as a whole. I was in the midst of a mental health crisis, my job contract had ended and so I was leaving an organization I loved while also becoming unemployed, I was struggling with my courses despite the fact that I had hoped to graduate already, half of my friends were fleeing the province (while the other half seemed to be constantly having sex), and I was trying and failing to move all of my crap 15 blocks without a car. Plus, my stomach hurt. I was poor and hungry and out of Diet Coke while the whole world seemed to be collapsing around my miserable shriveled shell of humanity…and that’s actually an understatement. Things badly needed to change.

It was at this moment that, uncharacteristically, I decided that my attitude needed adjustment. I was being too negative – I needed to look on the bright side of life. I have so many blessings in my life. I’m moving into an awesome new apartment. I don’t have to go to work. I have great friends, despite the fact that they’ve all abandoned me for foreign provinces or penises. Life is looking up.

So, I rearranged my new place so it felt more like my own. I discovered I suddenly owned three tvs, two blenders, two sewing machines, and four dvd players…yay?! I set up separate offices in my bedroom and my non-bedroom room, just in case I was feeling eclectic. I vowed to host sewing and margarita parties. I made to-do lists of all of the positive steps I could take in the coming week. Things were looking up.

My puppies were both staying in kennel to facilitate the move – I realized that I was ready and eager to have them home. Puppy the second was getting neutered, but puppy the first could be picked up that very day, a day earlier than planned…yay! I called the vet and made arrangements. My puppy was so happy to see me, and made me feel special and loved and important. I bought him copious amounts of dog treats and took him home to my new house.

Perhaps I should mention: I love my puppy (in case my four photo albums devoted to him didn’t tell you that). My puppy is my baby. My puppy brings joy and happiness to the world around him. He assistant coordinated Speakeasy. He’s a registered therapist. He volunteers. He was nominated twice for the next election (by the same slightly senile Kerrisdale man) and frankly, I believe he would have won. He knows how to give high-fives, for crying out loud. My puppy is perhaps the greatest puppy in the world.

So I was basking in the wonderfulness of my puppy and feeling on top of the world. After a few hours of cuddling, I made the decisions to go out and purchase a book a friend had recommended which was meant to further improve my mood. Puppy climbed into my purse and we rode to Chapters, where I found the book on sale. We took a different bus route home and got off a few blocks from home as a chance to explore the new neighborhood. My puppy sniffed flowers while I admired cherry blossoms, and we found a nearby school that I could take him to play.

I have always trained my puppy not to stay near roads and, for the most part, he’s listened. Whenever we cross the street, I order him to wait until the moment I yell ‘let’s go!’ at which point he is free to run to the other side. This is meant to avoid him ever going onto the road without my permission and to get him off the road as fast as possible, and while he still needs practice, that evening he was being shockingly good. Each street corner we passed he improved, waiting patiently for my command that it was safe for him to cross and dashing speedily to the other side with me being tugged behind on his leash.

We made it to the last road before our house, and my puppy looked up at me patiently and expectantly. And I told him to go.

The beige SUV turned into our lane from the left in what must have been less than two seconds. I remember stepping back in horror, and watching the front tire just miss my puppy as he jumped back, and then watching the back tire go over his abdomen with a sickening crunch. The SUV paused before speeding away and my puppy screamed. I tried to pick him up and he screamed more as I cuddled him in my arms, and a passing motorist opened her door and told us to get in – she was driving us to the vet. I don’t remember much of the ride, except that my puppy grew quiet as I whispered to him that he was brave and strong and good, and that when we arrived I had been crying and my coat was covered in blood and fecal matter.

Twenty-four hours later, my puppy was able to come home. There are so many things to be grateful for: the girl who drove us, calling her mom for directions, without a second of thought; the vet’s that was there, waiting and open, less than ten minutes from home on a Sunday night; the veterinarians who cared for him as I tearfully filled out his paper work; the friends who sat with me and sent my puppy their love as he made it through that first important night; and of course my puppy who, despite his fear of shiny objects, proved himself to be amazingly strong and brave. He’s home now, and still broken, his medication making him sleepy but in less pain. His prognosis is good, with no fractures or ruptures, but he can’t run for two weeks, or play, and it hurts him to wag his tail. He licks where a bandage covers his IV wound, and then looks up at me sadly and without understanding. Tire marks and bruising cover his tiny tummy.

I had wandered my house, distraught, during the night he was in hospital, crying to a god that I didn’t believe in, ordering him to make my puppy okay – I needed him to be okay. And maybe, when the bruising and pain fade, he will be. He might not run the same, or trust me to keep him safe from cars on the road, and he might be a little less friendly to strangers. I hope no part of him understands what I’ve been reminded of, harshly – that good moods are just moods, and that happiness and whim are cruel precursors to a more triumphant fall. That training your dog to cross the road on command will just make your heart break all the more when you tell him to run, into a car making a careless right turn, before it speeds away while your crushed puppy screams.

Dearest Cat People: You are Stupid...though actually, cats are lovely

This posting is in direct opposition to a certain friend who, on being forced to read a blog post almost entirely about attractive, conservative Irish men, looked at me with distain at the single, solitary mention of dogs: Why do all your postings have to be about Puppies??

Well, Crabigail, this is why…Puppies are amazing.

Puppies are fluffy, and small, and when they fight with each other they make the noises of a beached walrus. Yesterday, they each lay on my bed, with their paws in the air, wanting to fight but unwilling to move across the two feet that separated them, and so instead just stared at each other, opened their mouths wide, and wiggled. Puppies flail their paws at each other flamboyantly, just because, and get confused when squirrels appear on tv.

Puppies love you. They lick your hair when you come out of the shower, and climb six feet of furniture to make this happen. They stand on their legs and jump when you come home from work, or the yard, or the bathroom, because they just like seeing you. Sometimes, they lick your face while you sleep, which I find a little creepy, though that doesn’t happen often. Mostly, they just stare at you adoringly, hoping you’ll wake up and play with them, soon.

I love you, adorable puppies, and I will write about your fluffy joy until my fingers fall off, crappy cat people be damned.

(I love you too, Crabigail.)