Jim's Sunday Sermon
Written by Jim Brochu
The story of Abram is referred to by biblical scholars as "The Great Faith Story."
THE STORY OF ABRAHAM:
HOW THE WEST BANK WAS WON
Being raised a Catholic, I accepted my faith unquestioningly and even entered the seminary to become a priest. There, they defined Faith as a contract between man and an unseen entity; an agreement with lopsided terms.
Abraham got land, money and children for agreeing to believe in a certain God; others believe their reward will come later.
While the story of Adam and Eve reads like a bucolic Thoreau-esque tale of beautiful gardens, primitive instincts and natural disasters, the Cain-Abel fratricide reportage is more reminiscent of Truman Capote's gritty "In Cold Blood."
But with the arrival of Abram and his clan, the Bible becomes a full-fledged episode of "Dallas" - a sprawling saga of rich land barons using sex and lies to increase their power and possessions.
And The Big Voice approves!
After the flood, the sons of Noah and their families head off to different lands to start different tribes. Japeth and his family head for the seashore, Shem (the "h" must have been silent since he became the father of the Semites) moves to the hills and Ham's family (The Hamites) go into real estate development and build many great cities.
Remember when Noah got loaded and was sleeping naked? Shem and Japeth go into the tent to cover their father but Noah wakes up and curses Canaan who had nothing to do with it.
Noah promises that Canaan's heir's will all be slaves to his brothers. The Bible teaches a great morality lesson here: Life is unfair and be prepared to get the blame for something you didn't do.
The Canaanites built the cities of Ninevah, Calah (famous for it's egg bread), Resen, Sodom and Gomorrah. From the Canaanites were descended the Philistines. It says that each of the tribes - the Japethites, the Hamites and Semites went each into their own country and each with their own language. (Genesis 10:4, Genesis:20, Genesis 10:31)
Just as the tribes get dispersed into their different lands, The Big Voice gets bored and pulls a prank. It takes a lot of extra-curricular activities to fill Eternity and sometimes I think The Big Voice had too much time on His hands.
(When my grandfather retired, he spent most his his free time being cranky and telling the kids on the block they were making too much noise.)
In the rapidly-growing city of Babel, one of the descendants of Canaan is a very enterprising young man who wants to build a special tower in order to
So The Big Voice hears all the commotion and decides to investigate. Instead of saying, "Oh, what a beautiful tall thing you're building! How enterprising, dear children. You've discovered progress! Kudos all around..."
- 1) Honor The Big Voice.
- 2) Let his relatives know where they can all get together and...
- 3) Show off a little and let the people of earth know that you can turn your ideas into reality if you work hard enough. The people of Babel are ambitious. They have a purpose and a goal. They build a tower to reach to The Big Voice.
He says, "Why you arrogant desert developers, how dare you to reach up to Me. How dare you aspire to new heights and try to make an honorable name for yourself. If you're capable of creating this then you're capable of creating even more marvelous things. And then you'll forget all about The Big Voice. Well, since you think you're soooooo smart, I'm going to play a mean joke on you."
The Big Voice decides that the punishment for aspiring to greatness is mass confusion. He takes the gift of communication away from man so that it becomes harder, not easier, for us to understand each other.
(Were the builders of Babel getting too close to heaven or too close to the truth?) On a positive note, mankind was able to turn lemons into lemonade by taking The Curse of Mass Confusion and inventing The Game of Charades.
In one of the great contradictions so far, the Babel story begins by saying that everyone on the earth spoke one language (Genesis 11:1). However, the previous chapter (Gen 10:4, 10:20 and 10:31) states that each tribe had its own language already.
A few women are mentioned by name in Genesis but only as the wives of prominent men. None develop into full blooded characters until Sarai, the wife of Abram, vamps her way out of a tent to a saxophone solo of "Harlem Nocturne." The writer of Genesis was definitely heterosexual because he doesn't mention a woman unless she's a head-turner.
Abraham had two brothers - Haran and Nahum. Haran died leaving two children Milcah and Lot. Nahum married Haran's daughter, Milcah, his own niece and Abraham married Sarai, who must have been the most astonishingly beautiful women in the world.
She was well into her seventies, an age at which my grandmother's bra size was 42 long, but she had every camel breeder and tent maker panting after her.
By primitive desert culture standards, Abram was a very wealthy man, comfortable in his three thousand unit camel park, when The Big Voice says to him, "Let's make a deal!"
Even though The Big Voice hasn't spoken out loud since the flood a thousand years ago, the descendants of Noah know all about Him. They have handed down the story of mass destruction to each new son and daughter.
So when Abram, the Tony Randall of Genesis, hears The Big Voice for the first time, he recognizes it instantly as the same Big Voice that wiped out the entire earth just a few generations ago.
Abram remembered when he was a child and his grandmother would tuck him in and say, "You be a good boy or The Big Voice will come and drown you with the sheep."
So out of fear, Abram opens negotiations with The Big Voice and asks Him what he wants. The Big Voice tells Abraham that he wants Him and all of his people to accept Him as God. Abram didn't become the successful business man he is by accepting the first offer and counters, "What do I get out of it?"
The Big Voice says "Abram, if you put your faith in me, I will make you leave your comfortable home, wander the desert, and then sell your people into slavery for four hundred years."
Abram asks, "That's terrible."
"But you also get my blessing!"
"Oh, boy!" says Abram. "How lucky can you get."
"And," The Big Voice adds, "I'll make you famous."
"Famous? I've always wanted to be famous," says Abram. "Let's Go!"
Abram, knowing that The Big Voice could rub them out at any minute, takes his wife, his nephew, Lot, Lot's wife, the whole camel park and goes to the land of Canaan. He doesn't question. He has faith. He's scared.
In their travels, they discover four kingdoms with four kings which indicates that somewhere between Noah and Abram, social structure has developed and the caste system has come into existence. The world now has kings and slaves with a working middle class to fill in the statistics.
Abram finds the promised famine in Canaan and decides that there's a lot of food in Egypt.
I guess there was a custom in Egypt that if a man had a beautiful wife it was okay to kill the schnook and take the wife. Being the brave soul that he is, Abram turns to Sarai (played in the John Huston epic by Ava Gardner) and says, "Look, baby. Even though you're seventy, you've got the body of a sixty-nine year old and when the King of Egypt sees you, despite the fact that he has two hundred nubile girls ages fourteen through twenty-eight, he's going to want you."
Instead of standing and declaring. "I love you, Sarai. You are my wife. I will not go to into Egypt even though there is a lot of food there and we'd be very comfortable, because the King will want you and my marriage vows are sacred," he says, "Lie! Tell everybody you're my sister (Yeah, that's it...my sister!) and we can have it all." (Genesis 12:13)
Sure enough, Abram and his (wink) sister arrive in the capital and the King of Egypt's eyeballs catapult out of his head when sees Sarai. Abram says, "Isn't my sister a dish? Take her, she's yours!"
Does this make Abram a liar and a pimp? Who am I to judge? Okay, yes I think this makes Abram a liar and a pimp but remember it was still before The Big Voice revealed his name and handed down the ten commandments.
At this point it was still okay to lie to the authorities and to arrange for your wife to commit adultery in order to steal the neighbor's goods you covet.
Continuity-wise, the Egyptians pose a problem in that they were totally unaffected by the flood that destroyed "the whole world." The Egyptians are not related to any of the generation of Noah and are represented as a civilization that's been around far longer then Abram's ancestors. So if The Big Voice sent a flood that destroyed everything, how come the Egyptians never heard about it?
After a while, Pharaoh starts to notice that there are some major plagues infecting his household and wonders what he did to deserve such a punishment? I wonder too. If The Big Voice didn't like the idea of Pharaoh fooling around with a married woman, then why didn't he send the diseases to Abram?
Pharaoh didn't do anything except get hot for a seventy-five year old desert rose.
Pharaoh learns the truth and throws his (wink) brother-in-law and the whole family out of Egypt - but not before he gives Abram tons of sheep, cattle, gold, silver and slaves as protection to keep The Big Voice off of his jeweled asp.
Abram and Lot have become like the Donald Trump and Merv Griffin of the Middle East. Their wealth is too vast for them to share the same land and so they decide to split up. Abram gives Lot the choice of lots and he and his tribe settle in the suburbs of Sodom.
Abram and his family take up a more leisurely existence on the plains of Hebron (still in today's news) and begin acting out an episode of DALLAS - full of illicit sex and big business deals.
The Big Voice comes to Abraham to continue negotiating their Faith Contract. The Big Voice promises that Abram will become the father of a great nation if he will change his name to Abraham for marquee value and orders him to make a big barbecue to seal the bargain.
I noticed that The Big Voice tells Abraham that he's going to start a great nation, and not a great religion. Religion needs rules, rites, regulations and the name of something to worship. Those elements are still missing.
Sarai, knowing she's slept with half of Egypt and still can't have a baby, goes to her slave-maid Hagar and says, "I want you to have my husband's child." Hagar agrees, and since Hagar is a hottie, the eighty-six year old Abram doesn't think it's such a bad idea either.
So Jock Ewing, I mean Abram, sleeps with Hagar and she conceives a child.
Now Miss Ellie, oops, I meant Sarai, gets very jealous when she sees Hagar prancing around showing off her big pregnant belly. She says to Abram, "I feel like beating that girl," and Abram says, "Go ahead, she's your slave. If you want to clean her clock, give her one for me too."
Sarai, endangering the life of the unborn child, abuses the woman to the point that she flees for her life.
Hagar gets safely away when an Angel of The Big Voice comes to her and says,"Look, you're the slave and Sarai's your owner and if she wants to kick the daylights out of you then The Big Voice says it's okay and you'll have to be a good little slave girl and take it.In one brief chapter, The Big Voice signifies his approval for owning slaves, using them sexually and beating them whenever you feel like it. And if a slave runs away from an abusive master, The Big Voice will send heavenly help to retrieve the ungrateful property.
"Now go back, get beaten up and have the baby because you are Woman. W-O-M-A-N. I'll say it again.
"Oh, and by the way, your child is going to be one son of a bitch who'll have the nastiest temper in the world. He's going to hate everybody and everybody is going to hate him. You'll rue the day you gave him birth. Now call him Ishmael and have a nice day."
Hagar gives birth to Ishmael and things are quiet for a while. But Abram isn't satisfied. He wants to leave the ranch to his own son and not the son of his wife's slave.
The Big Voice has been negotiating His contract with Abram since the beginning of chapter 10 and now He's ready to put it in writing. The Big Voice is saying,"If you believe in me, I'll give you presents in return." I'm sure Abram also had in the back of his mind that if he didn't make the deal, he would be annihilated like his ancestors.Now we come to the fine points of the deal and The Big Voice gives Abram the final wording of the contract before he signs it:Made on this 1st Day of April 11, 816 After Creation, between Abraham (THE BELIEVER) and The Big Voice (THE BELIEF).THE BELIEVER agrees to accept THE BELIEF in return for goods and services.
Agreed to by both parties etc,....
- 1) THE BELIEF promises to give THE BELIEVER fame and fortune. He will be the founder of a nation and have a heaps of livestock, gold and wealth.
- 2) THE BELIEF promises to give THE BELIEVER a son named Isaac from the womb of his 100 year-old (but still beautiful) wife. In exchange, for this miraculous birth, Sarai will change her named to Sarah so it will sound nicer when the part is played by Ava Gardner.
- 2) THE BELIEF promises to give THE BELIEVER 's son Isaac many children which will make Abraham the father of millions. However, his oldest son Ishmael will not be part of this nation because, although he's a sweet kid and I bless him, he's a hot tempered wild man.
- 3) THE BELIEF promises to give THE BELIEVER the land of Canaan.*
*The Land of Canaan is currently owned by somebody else and, even though said tenants have lived there for generations and believe it's their land, take it back from them forcibly.
- 4) THE BELIEF promises to keep the nation of Abraham enslaved for four hundred years to test their strength and make sure they remember the Belief.
- 5) In return, THE BELIEVER promises to keep the name of the God whose name he doesn't know alive and to cut off his foreskin and the foreskin of all his relatives and slaves."
Abraham couldn't believe it. He's been negotiating this contract for years, they get to closing and there's a new clause? Abraham thinks it's so funny, (Genesis 17:17) he actually rolls around on the floor laughing.
When The Big Voice wants to know what's so funny, Abraham says, "What's funny? My hundred year old wife, who can't eat solid food any more, is going to have a baby and you want me to cut off what? You never said anything about cutting off body parts. I want a lawyer."
The Big Voice wants Abraham to mark himself to proclaim their covenant to the world. Couldn't he have found a more obvious place? I'm sure Abraham pointed out to The Big Voice that there were plenty of body parts above the waist that would drawn a stranger's immediate attention.
Wouldn't it make a better impression if the tip of your ear was cut off? Or the tip of your little finger? People could see right away that you believed in The Big Voice without having to expose oneself. Was Abraham such a flasher that God knew everyone would see his penis first?
The Big Voice wants every man born into Abraham's nation to greet the light of day with a knife to his crotch. Abraham goes back to his family with the old "Good News/Bad News" game.
The good news is that Sarah is going to have a baby - which she also finds fall-down funny (Gen 18:13) - the bad news is that all the men have to have their genitals mutilated.
But a bargain is a bargain and the Faith Contract is a done deal. The Big Voice got his people, Abraham got children, fame, fortune, land and a nation - while his descendants paid the price by enduring forever the unkindest cut of all.
NEXT: SODOM, SARAH & ISAAC
PART 1: THE ADAM FAMILY
PART 2: CAIN & ABEL
PART 3: NOAH, CAPTAIN OF THE FIRST LOVE BOAT
PART 5: SODOM, SARAH & ISAAC
PART 6: THE ISAAC FAMILY PLOTS
PART 7: JACOB & HIS WILD KIDS
PART 8: I DREAM OF JOSEPH
This is an excerpt from either a new book or a new musical or both.
Hey, or maybe it's just internet performance art!
© 1998, 1999 by Jim Brochu. All rights of reproduction are reserved.
This book originated at Bonusround.com.