Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Louis CK Bible Study Week 4 Recap: the Evil of Jizanthapus

This one was custom.

   Throughout our culture, the idea of the Devil has taken many forms. Is Satan the weird furry red thing at the end of Insidious? Is he the weird gender-neutral albino from Passion of the Christ? Or, is he embodied in rap music, such as Naughty by Nature’s classic “Hip Hop Hooray,” that I may or may not be listening to right now? The Devil can be totally mysterious, and because of that, he can also be terrifying. This week, the Delta Chi Bible Study looks to find out who this Satan guy is—through the Great Deceiver’s interactions with our main man Jesus Christ. That is right, Jesus and Satan once squared off in the desert and completely threw down. As always, let’s look at this with our pal Louis CK.
  First off, watch the clip!

   Alright—what does that have to do with the Devil? First thing we talked about at Delta Chi is what exactly we picture the Devil to be. What does he look like? Is he an angel or a serpent or some kind of superhuman? The reality is, Satan can take many forms (with our guy Louis CK, he just happens to be embodied in a little shit-kindergartner). And while we may not really see him in a tangible form these days—sorry, horror movies—he does work through something called temptation. Let’s look to our passage for a picture of what this looks like. This is out of Mark, but you could also call this Jesus/Satan Royal Smackdown Celebrity Rumble (because, seriously, the Bible would be so much cooler if you sprinkled it with some WWE-inspired chapter titles).

Matthew 4
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

   There it is—one of the ultimate battles of good and evil in the history of the world, as told in the bible. That is some real talk going on between Jesus and the Devil, but on the surface, it seems like a bunch of cryptic Da Vinci Code-type talk—just a bunch of guys spouting off rules and codes and trying to outwit each other one after the other.
   Well essentially, that is exactly what is happening. Satan is trying to take Scripture out of context and use those passages against Jesus, but Jesus is able to reject each and every one. Let’s break this down.
The First Temptation—Physical Needs
   Satan first asks Jesus to turn the nearby stones into bread. Remember that the J-Man has been fasting for 40 days at this point (world record for longest fast? 43 days—this is some serious stuff going down), so this temptation would be a serious test of willpower. To us, the choice seems easy—Jesus can do whatever he wants, so why not just have some bread and kick it for a while? However, Jesus is smarter than this, and rather than giving in to his hunger and appeasing the Devil, he simply comments that man does not live on bread alone, but rather, finds satisfaction in his relationship with God. Solid counter. Notice how he barely even acknowledges the temptation.

The Second Temptation—Love
 Then, the Devil takes Jesus up to the highest place in all of Jerusalem. He asks Jesus to throw himself off, because God’s angels are guaranteed to catch him. He will prove his relationship with God in this way. Again, it seems like it would make sense for Jesus to just do the miracle. BAM—I am the Son of God. Boom, roasted. Again, however, he does not. Instead, Jesus turns to Scripture and explains that God has commanded us not to put Him to the test. His response is again characterized by a total disregard for what the Devil is asking. There is no consideration or hesitation at all—Jesus just will not do it.

The Third Temptation—Power
   Finally, the Devil asks one simple thing: for Jesus to bow down and worship him. In return, Jesus will be made ruler of everything he can see. Jesus pays this the least attention of all, denouncing Satan and declaring that he will worship only the Father. The Devil disappears and Jesus chills with the angels for a while.

   What remains consistent? A couple things. For one, Jesus never performs the miracles. He uses Scripture to counter the Devil’s use of Scripture (which we will talk about in a minute), and never gives in. We will see that this is the perfect model of how we should respond to Satan as well (Jesus Christ’s Keys to the Game, if you will).
   The other thing that remains consistent is the Devil’s sheer incomprehension for who he is dealing with. The Scripture he quotes is horribly out of context (the angels he refers to in the second temptation can be seen as highly metaphorical in the Psalm they are taken from—that passage itself actually talks about how God will protect us and shelter us in all situations, not about how he is going to send an army of angels for us to use whenever we want), and his understanding of Jesus is something narrow and limited. You see, the Devil tempts Jesus with things that would typically work on someone human. Food—we need that. Love—we crave that. Power—we demand that. The thing is, since Jesus is just as much God as he is man, these things do not have the same implications for him that they do for us.
   In a way, though, this should be encouraging. If we have Jesus on our side—the Devil literally has no idea how to defeat us! He does not understand the power that Christ has! That is amazing! Of course, this does not mean we have a Get Out Of Jail Free card for every time the Devil tries to deceive us. In fact, we still have a lot of work to do.
   Thank goodness for this passage, because  Jesus has given us his Keys to the Game. Now, from a Christian perspective, it is well-known that the Devil works in the world. He tempts us with all sorts of things—terrible food, unsatisfying relationships, porn—essentially, a lot of things that turn us toward ourselves and away from God. The Devil wants us to put ourselves before God—bottom line. He tried to do this with Jesus in the desert. He tried to tempt Jesus with all of these worldly things so that Jesus would break his fast and come into conflict with God.
   Here is how Jesus won, or rather, here are the Jesus Christ Keys to the Game:
1.       Know yourself. Jesus acknowledges his human side, which might be why the Devil thought he could sway Him with worldly things. However, Jesus also is confident with his place in God’s Kingdom (his kingdom, really). He understands what it means to be the Son of God, and with that knowledge, he is able to outwit the Devil using Scripture. He can lean on his knowledge of Himself.
2.       Know the Devil. Jesus knows how the Devil works, and this is predominantly seen in the final temptation. The Devil offers Christ the world, but in actuality, there is nothing the Devil can offer that Jesus does not have already. In fact, the Devil has no power to give anything. All Satan can do is tempt us—he cannot create evil people or evil action, he can only urge us to consider those actions. And, since Jesus knows how to counter these temptations, he can renounce the Devil completely. Pretty badass, in all honesty.
3.       Lean on your homies. What does Jesus do at the end of the passage? He surrounds himself with angels—people who can support him and be with him. In our own lives, we can do similar things with our friends and our family, and in settings like Delta Chi, our fraternity brothers. We need fellowships around us who can support our relationship with God and serve as scaffolding on our climb to heaven. Even Jesus, in his hour of need, turned to his friends. We saw it at the Last Supper with his disciples, and we see it in his time with the angels here.

   So this week, think about how you respond to temptation, and think about how you use Christ’s Keys to the Game. Remember that the Devil is real, but that God is undefeated against him. Jesus wins every time when it comes to Jesus/Stan Royal Smackdown Celebrity Rumble, so even though it does not make for great drama, it does make for some incredible lessons.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Louis CK Bible Study Week 3 Recap: Did You Shit All Over Every Polar Bear?!

Weekly Jesus meme, per usual.
   Welcome back, friends! If you want to start this bible study at the beginning, check out our introduction. You can find the subsequent parts I and II in the According to Dazz archives.
   Instead of starting with a clip this week, I actually want you guys to read this quick passage first; check out Genesis below.

Genesis 1:27-31

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earthand subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of lifein it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
   You have all that? Great. It is time for our good friend Louis CK to lend his thoughts on all of this. Here is your clip for this week!

   Now buckle up, because you have another passage to read. Well, we are going to be doing a little something here called comparing and contrasting, and to do that, you need two things (wow—rocket science!), so suck it up. Here is John 1—many Christians would consider this “classic Gospel”—kind of like the Dark Side of the Moon of the Bible. It is one of the best-produced passages in the entire holy book, and a great intro into an incredible world of thought.

John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
   Essentially, we have a story here told in three parts. Let’s go in order:

Part I: The Ideal World
   Look back at that Genesis 1 passage. Life seems pretty great, right? God creates us with the mindset that we would become masters of this earth, and live with the rest of His creation in a perfect, harmonious setting. We would be a reflection of God Himself, that is, we would carry out His original intention of being people of love and compassion and grace. We were made in the image of God—crazy—and God looked to us to reveal that in our behavior.

Part II: When we shit on the polar bears
   The world that Louis CK talks about, however, is something very different than what God intended. Louis CK shows how today, we value things like expediency, convenience, and bacon over the more important areas of life, such as, you know, taking care of what we all share (i.e. the world). Instead of living out our lives the way God wanted us to live, we have put ourselves first. As a result, the polar bears are brown, oil is oozing all over the place, and God is looking down with his face in his hand going “What the fuck did you do?!”
   The world is broken. You know that funny Internet picture of the dog who trashed his whole house while the owner stepped out? We are the dog. We took the vision that God wanted for us and we chose to ignore it. We did our own thing. Sometimes, we still do.

Part III: The Word enters the picture
   I guess the first question we have to answer here is “What is the Word?” Well, the short answer is that the Word is Jesus, the Son of God. This passage refers to Him as the Word for good reason—it actually comes from the Greek word “logos,” which is rooted in the idea that the spoken word itself has tremendous power. Think of the creation story up there in Genesis 1. Throughout that chapter, God speaks things into being—his words have all the power. Jesus can be considered as the Word because of his humanness. He is here to send us the message—literally, a verbal message—of God’s love for us. Bam, origin story.
   The key line is that the Word became flesh—God became man. Is it important to note, also, that the Bible never says that Jesus was made or created. Rather, the text is careful to say that Jesus was begotten. The idea of something being begotten comes from royal blood lines. Kings would beget a son, with the idea that one day, that son would become equal to himself (that is, a king). Now, when you make something, you create something that is different than yourself. God made man. We make things in our kitchens. Things like that.
   The Bible, though, says Jesus was begotten, not made. That is to say, Jesus was someone who is the same as God. If Jesus were created, he would clearly be something different, but he was not created. Fascinating.

   But what was the big deal of Jesus being here at all? Why did he have to come? Well, it was all in response to God’s original intentions being broken by us people. The world was a place of sin and despair and emptiness, and God decided that, to hell with it, he better come on down here himself and help us figure out our problems. God needed to reveal to us that, because he loves us so much, he was willing to give up his Son (essentially, give up himself) to save us from this broken world. Even though we shit on the polar bears, God wanted to give us another chance, and we have this chance in Jesus, right now.
   So as you go out this week, consider this: what was God’s original intention for you? In Delta Chi, we talked about being a brotherhood, a place where men could gather and support each other and grow together. In some of the habits that we have now, we might have lost some sight of that, but as a bible study, we were able to sit down and bring the focus back to what was important. We may exchange harsh emails at times and neglect to clean our chapter room, but at the end of the day we have to turn back to the foundation of friendship, community, and bro-mancing that brought us all together. You can do the same for yourself, for your family, your friends.

   The challenge of this week is to bring yourself to look at God’s original intentions for you, and how you might have gone away from that (what polar bear have you shit on?). Make a commitment, something tangible and substantial, that will help keep you aligned toward that idea of being created in God’s image. It might be challenging, but think back to the Louis CK clip: do you really want to be that person who God facepalms in front of?


Friday, February 14, 2014

Louis CK Bible Study Week 2 Recap: You Have to Clean Up Your Kids When You Kill Them

Weekly Jesus meme. Classic.

   Welcome back, everyone! For part one of the Louis CK Bible Study, click here.

   Alright, this week we are going to be talked about some pretty dicey stuff, so first thing is first: watch the clip!

   Right off the bat, let’s respond to that and tackle the elephant in the room: I am definitely not ruling out the idea that I might be capable of murder if it was legal. As a journalist, I think it might serve one’s writing well to just have that experience on your resum
é. Now that we know what kind of person I am (. . . or do we?), we can turn to the good stuff.
   The passage this week is shorter than usual—you can read it for yourself right here:

Genesis 16: 6-9
“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 

   Wait a second—read that again. Abram and Sarai have some problem with their slave, named Hagar, so Sarai mistreats her (which, from what we know about the treatment of servants and slave in the days of the Old Testament, must have been pretty awful to be called mistreatment). Hagar runs away, but an angel of the Lord appears to her and demands that she goes back to her mistress and “submit to her.” That seems pretty awful, right? It certainly does not sound like the God that Christians talk about—the God of love and fairness and compassion. So what gives? Turns out, it is all a matter of context, just like Louis CK discusses in our clip. Check out the full passage now, with the original excerpt in red:

Genesis 16: 1-10
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May theLord judge between you and me.”
“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a springin the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
   It might make a little more sense now, but just in case, here is the Quick and Dirty.
   So Abram (soon to be Abraham) has this Sarai chick, who will soon be Sarah. Abram and Sarai were promised a kid by God, but still did not have one for a while, so out of sheer impatience, Sarai told Abram to sleep with their slave. Abram, with a total frat move, totally does, and Hagar is knocked up with Ishmael (who, fun fact, will eventually become the founder of Islam—pretty awesome). Sarai is pretty upset about this, and treats Hagar so badly that Hagar runs away. Luckily, the angel of the Lord tracks her down and tells her to return to Sarai, but not before he makes a promise that Hagar will be blessed with a lot of descendants.

   The difference between the two passages should be stark. In one, the Lord seems cruel and rigid, but when placed into the greater context of Genesis, there is a reason behind the return—if Hagar trusts in God now, she will receive a ton of blessings to come. What appears to be a negative in one sense becomes better in another—just like Louis CK points out with murder. The societal context of murder right now says that it is wrong and negative, but when placed into another context where society is fine with killing, it becomes a positive because you do not have to deal with your asshole kids all day.

   The importance of context is rampant throughout  Scripture—this is by no means an isolated incident. Google “messed up Bible verses” and witness the insane power of context. You take a lot of this stuff out of the source material, and it sounds really messed up, but if you put it in the light it was meant to be read under, and the real meaning tells you something different.
   In Delta Chi last week, we discussed some more practical things through the contextual lens—most notably, we discussed drinking. Drinking in Greek life definitely has social value—it is relaxing, fun, and opens you to new ideas and new people. The issue arises when the line is drawn between drinking to meet people and meeting people to drink. In larger society, drinking just to be drunk is heavily frowned upon, but in the Greek system, it is totally accepted—different contexts mean different attitudes and mindsets (just like murder in the Louis CK clip!). Our chapter looked at how we are approaching drinking at this present moment—do we drink to be social, or are we social so we can drink?
   So in your life, where does context define what it alright and what is not alright? Are there things you view differently based on who you are with or where you are? I know for me, it can be hard sometimes to see how different contexts—such as my Christian groups and my fraternity—can overlap, intersect, or intertwine. Ultimately, it seems consistency in your beliefs is key, but perhaps that is the real challenge: consistency through context.