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. 

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