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.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Louis CK Bible Study Week 1 Recap: God is Like a Shitty Girlfriend

The first thing you can do is enjoy the weekly Jesus meme.

   Welcome back, friends! This is the kickoff of God is Like a Shitty Girlfriend—we are excited to have you.

   Alright, first thing you have to do is check out this week’s clip. This one is from the first season of Louis CK’s Emmy-winning television show Louie. 

   Pretty awesome, right? For those of you who had trouble with that clip, Louis CK discusses the story of Abraham and Isaac. It helps if you have the actual Bible passage to go with it, so here is that too.

Genesis 22 

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God,because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself,declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

   In Delta Chi Bible Study, we do a little something called the “Quick and Dirty” after our silent reading, in which we summarize the passage in a very quick and dirty fashion (come on, you are reading a Bible study written for fraternity dudes, what did you expect?). So in that tradition, here is the Quick and Dirty on Genesis 22.
   God asks Abraham to kill his son Isaac, and surprisingly, Abraham agrees. He takes his son up to the top of a mountain, and is all set to kill him when God steps in again, praises Abe’s faithfulness, and promises him numerous descendants and a great legacy as a reward.

   Not super complicated, but it does raise a lot of questions.
1.       Why would Abraham agree to just up and kill his son like it is no big deal?
2.       Why does God double-back on himself?
3.       What does this mean for God and Abraham going forward? God and everyone else going forward?

   We can go through these one at a time. For the first question, our group found it very strange that the Bible would omit any sort of internal struggle that Abraham was feeling when God gave his orders. Seems like it would make for some good drama, right? Unfortunately, the Bible is sometimes pretty bad at giving us any sort of look into these people’s feelings, and in this case, it seems particularly strange to leave it out. The best answer the Delta Chi brothers could come up with here was straight-up faith. The dude trusted God so much that he believed in His plan all along. Never wavered once—even Louis CK thought it was nuts.
   Let’s skip to the third question (we can come back to the second one in a minute). The promise at the end of the passage is a pretty huge deal. God is basically telling Abraham that his countless descendants are going to blessed with power, land, and influence for hundreds and hundreds of years to come. It promises that God is going to be there the whole time, making sure things go alright. It is another one of those “Chosen People” moments for the father of Judaism (begs the parallel: is Abraham the LeBron James of the Bible? Vested with great power, but both struggled early—LeBron did not win a Finals for many years, and Abraham did the whole “screw your plans, God, I’ll have sex with whoever I want” thing back in Genesis 16—then they both made some great moves to Miami and a life of faithfulness, respectively, and they now enjoy lives atop the NBA/father of three religions—I’d buy that). Anyway, the deal with the covenant was to show how insightful God was about this whole thing. If he is going to make a promise that big, he needs to know he can trust Abraham.
   The elephant in the room, however, is why? Why even have this test at all? Just like Louis CK said, it was pretty shitty of God to psyche old Abe out like that—what was the point? Abraham had already been faithful for many years (again, except for Genesis 16—that pretty much sucked for everyone). The Delta Chi brothers proposed something interesting: what if God was doing some clever foreshadowing here?
   The climax of the Bible, to Christians, is the story of the Christ found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Essentially, this is the story of a sacrifice—God sacrificed His son Jesus to save humanity, just as Abraham was all set to sacrifice his son as well. We cannot imagine what Abraham went through while he was carrying Isaac up the mountain, and I think it is fair to say that when God looked down on Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross, it was not all sunshine and lollipops up in heaven. Was God trying to explain how significant the Christ sacrifice would be through the plight of Abraham? Definitely makes for some interesting parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
   Let’s bring it back to the clip. Regardless of the Jesus tie-in, it still seems pretty extreme of God to ask a grown man to murder his son. Louis CK was right, it is very shitty-girlfriend-esque to go back and forth like that. No one likes a waffling God, after all. But what the DX Bible Study found last week is that this “shitty girlfriend” attitude can be extended to a lot of things in our lives. For us, it was our fraternity. Why would you go the extra mile for something that admittedly lacks a ton of immediate affirmation and acknowledgement? Likewise, it seems silly to chase after God all the time when the result can be so intangible.
   The thing is, God always has your back in the long run, just like our bible study decided that DX always has our backs in the long run. This house gives back what you put into it, and the more you put into it, the better your experience will be, so even the times when you wash the dishes alone or make a grocery run unannounced can end up paying dividends. Upstairs, God is working to pay those dividends for you even when you might not be ready to thank Him for it. In that way, maybe God is not such a shitty girlfriend after all.
   We challenged ourselves to think about the things in our lives that we approach with the “shitty girlfriend” attitude, and we sought to turn those into positives by thinking about the future dividends in store for us. In our house, our chapter, Northwestern—whatever. Good things have been promised to each of us, and with the Big Guy in the Sky, it will definitely be worth it.

   Next week in the Louis CK series: You Have to Clean Up Your Kids When You Kill Them. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

When A Dog Dies

   My sister and I sat on the couch and did our best not to make a noise. We clamped our hands over our mouths and our eyes squeezed shut and you could barely hear the sound of stifled laughter escape from between our fingers. We were in hysterics.
   In front of us, resting on her favorite mat, our dog Junie was having a dream.
   Junie B. Jones had always had the prime piece of napping territory in our house—a big, white, cushy mat plopped smack in the middle of our living room. She loved her mat. She would sleep on it all day if she could, and sometimes, when she found time amongst watching three noisy kids and two other dogs, she would have a dream during her snooze. These dreams were pretty darn funny.
   Junie was always running in her dreams. She would pump her legs and grit her teeth and try so hard to just go go go. It was absolute comedy to us kids, sitting nearby and squeezing pillows to our faces until one of us just could not take it anymore and belted out a huge laugh, waking Junie immediately and causing her to rise up and wheel around to check if we were alright.
   We always felt bad then; we never wanted to wake her up.

   We loved Junie a lot. She died last week after 15 years of being the World’s Greatest Pet. Fifteen years for a boxer—that is a pretty long time. It is enough time for a dog to become your best friend, best secret-keeper, best pillow, best kitchen buddy, best backyard pal, and best I-want-to-be-alone-but-I-want-someone-to-talk-with confidant. The perfect pet. There was no one better.
   To be honest, there are not too many times in a college kid’s life when you want to go home, but last week, I really wanted to go back to Junie. Sitting in the hallway of your dorm with your sister on the phone makes you feel far away from a lot of things, especially the idea of your furry friend finally saying goodbye. The funny thing is, it never occurred to me that Junie needed me—it just occurred to me that I needed Junie. I needed a warm hug and a gentle tongue licking my hand and a dry nose twitching up toward my face and two big old eyes wondering why I was crying. In my hour of need, I wanted my dog. I know my sisters felt the same way, and my mom and dad too. We are all really different people, but we all had one best friend—the dog that used to smash and crash through the house when she was a lanky puppy, and the dog that used to go room to room every morning as a good old friend, just to make sure we were each waking up alright. Junie was so good, so loving—she treated us like we were a part of her family. I hope she felt like a part of our family too.
   The hardest thing to imagine is the empty space. A bowl on the kitchen floor without food in it. The spot in front of the window vacant. A favorite mat sitting lonely in front of the couch. The space under the table big and hollow—no one there to sneak scraps of tortilla or smuggle bits of hot dog. Two other dogs missing their friend as well. These things have always come along with Junie. She has been watching after our house for 15 years—ever since we picked her up out of that cardboard box and decided to take her home.

   Coming home used to be easy, because you had a welcoming committee of three crazy dogs, with Junie as the chief coordinator of all the festivities. Now, I cannot imagine what the summer will be like, and walking through that door and not seeing the best friend I ever had coming over to just remind us that Don’t worry, I remember. It feels impossible.
   Say what you will about heaven, but I know that God has a special place for all of our best friends. He has a special place for dogs who were loyal, and loving, and gentle, and happy all the time. He has a special place where Junie can have another bone, and go on another walk, and take another nap, because in heaven no one cares if you pooped on the carpet or ate a sock or shed all over Mom’s favorite chair. In heaven, Junie can do whatever she wants, because that is what you are allowed to do when you take such good care of people.

   On the day when Junie would die, I asked my father if she was alright. He sent me a picture of her. She was looking right at the camera, calm and peaceful and wise and knowing, and right underneath the photo, my dad wrote, “A-ok.”

   That is all you need to know—Junie is A-okay now. I can see her running somewhere, probably chasing some sneaky rabbit or squirrel, and she is so happy and so excited. A-okay. Just running and running and running—she does not have to dream about it anymore.