Friday Fun with Jesus, dinosaurs and Methodists

Originally, I had an eclectic mix for today’s fun – until a dinner party on Wednesday descended into a feast of Biblically themed internet gem sharing. So I sat, chuckled, took notes and present you with the following…

Firstly, ever wondered if Jesus rode a dinosaur? Here’s what it probably would have looked like:

Under this image on Flickr is the following genius conversation:

Dad, did dinosaurs really exist?

Sure they did, son. The Bible says so. They didn’t call them “dinosaurs” back then, but instead they were known as “leviathans” or “behemoths”.

But, my science teacher says dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. Is that true?

Of course not, son.

Then how old are they?

Well, let’s see. The Bible tells us [from Adam and Eve’s family tree] that the Universe is only a few thousand years old. So dinosaurs had to have lived within the past few thousand years. That’s simple logic, son.

Oh. So that means they were on Noah’s Ark?

Absolutely! The Bible says two of every animal were brought [by God] to the ark. Dinosaurs were animals. So, using your logic again son, dinosaurs had to be on the ark.

Huh. So how come scientists say they’re older than that? and died way before Jesus?

Well, son, they just make that up. Dinosaur bones don’t have labels on them to tell how old they are. In fact, there is no proof whatsoever that the world and its fossil layers are millions of years old. No scientist saw dinosaurs die-

Dad!

No I’m serious. Scientists only find the bones in the here and now, and because many of them are evolutionists, they try to fit the story of the dinosaurs into their view.

That’s sad. But I thought scientists were smart?

Sure, but they don’t know everything. So they have to make stuff up to fit their beliefs. While you and I, we have the facts, straight from the Bible.

I don’t want to be a scientist!

Ha! That’s ok, son. It’s better to be right, than smart. C’mon, wanna learn how to flip burgers like your Dad?

Yeah!

Love it. Personally, my own epiphany regarding creationism came when Phoebe refused to believe Ross’ explanation for fossils (i.e. evolution) in an episode of Friends. My father had to point out that many Christians shared Phoebe’s views and I probably shouldn’t refer to them as idiots quite so readily…
Secondly, something else a tad blasphemous – a brilliant depiction of Jesus telling his disciples what they did wrong. Yes, Jesus’ voice is a little bit creepy, but some of the lines are classic. Listen out for:
“There’s no use trying to hide. I am Jesus and I will find you.”
“As for you Frank, you know what you did, but I’m Jesus and I just can’t repeat it.”
“I forgot your name so you’re off the hook.”

Thirdly, my own contribution to the discussion, which sadly we couldn’t bring up on our phones at that precise moment, but I did have a fun half-hour re-exploring it for the first time in years last night. I mentioned it here about 4 years ago but I think that’s long enough for a repeat plug. The Brick Testament is a pictorial representation of the Bible using Lego characters to quite impressive effect. It’s worth noting from the start that were it not for the creation of Harry Potter and Star Wars Lego sets, this project would have been much harder… Warning: some of it is NSFW, but then so are certain parts of the Bible.

Finally, something a little bit more niche – a rather delightful YouTube video from Garrison Keillor. If you’ve not come across him before, you’ve missed out! Author of the Lake Woebegone books and radio personality, he’s utterly delightful and hilarious. A Methodist friend tweeted a link to this video earlier in the week and I resisted the urge to retweet it so I could share it here first. Methodist friends (and my Dad especially) will love this, even though it’s more about the American church than the British one. [The United Methodist Church in the states is a diverse being – its members include both George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.]

If you didn’t manage to catch the lyrics fear not – they’re available here. But these were a few of my favourites:

Everyone’s afraid of change. 
Don’t like anything new or strange.
Or we get our underwear in a twist
That’s how it is with a Methodist

We were founded by John Wesley,
Not Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley,
We’re not so hip but we persist
We go on being Methodist

Perhaps the UMC has more in common with the British church than I initially realised? 

Gleefully religious?

For the next few weeks I’m at a course on Monday nights, which makes it impossible for me to watch Glee – that all important Monday night TV fixture – in its regular 9pm slot. On my way home last week I checked Facebook and Twitter and spotted a variety of Glee related messages that made me all the more determined to make it back in time for the 10pm E4+1 showing.
The episode in question was apparently religious in nature and had caught the attention not just of my religious friends/twitter people, but of lapsed churchgoers and atheist radio celebrities. In fact, one twitter theologian went as far as to say that it was “a wonderful example of how to do evangelism today”. I might have simply left it at watching the episode and pondering its meaning with a few friends, but for two reasons:
(i) My sister said, on the night it was shown, that she reckoned I’d blog about it within 24 hours. 
(ii) I disagree with the twitter theologian above.
Many sneer at Glee, thinking it trashy TV with trashy music meant only for teenagers and those with little going on in their lives. However, I’m personally of the opinion that every so often – as was the case last week – it manages to deal with serious issues maturely and with the aid of a good soft-rock cover version. [This obviously was not the case for the couple of episodes early in season one where a male character was led to believe his girlfriend had got pregnant while they were making out in a hot tub…] 
This episode managed to highlight a number of religious issues, from the separation of religion & state that’s held so sacred in America, to the importance of religious heritage, via the church’s attitude to homosexuality – all within a storyline that centred upon a grilled cheese sandwich with the face of Jesus on it. [The grill hadn’t grilled properly ever since Finn used it to dry his sneakers.] Finn chooses to pray to Jesus-of-the-sandwich and declares his new found faith (and desire to sing songs about it) to his fellow classmates – and thus the episode begins.
So what have I got to add to the mix? First off, the regular beginning of episode scene set in the glee club classroom has to contain some of the best one-liners of the series and at the same time illustrate diverse religious attitudes and opinions that you’d find in any classroom. 

Kurt: “Most churches don’t think much of gay people. Or women…or science…”

Mercedes: “I don’t see anything wrong with getting a little church up in here.” 

Quinn: “I’ve had a really hard year and I turned to God a lot for help…I for one wouldn’t mind saying thanks.” 

Brittney: “Whenever I pray I fall asleep.”

[Incidentally, my friends created a game years ago that you can play at church/religious festivals entitled ‘praying or sleeping’, which was followed by ‘religious experience or medical emergency’. Hours of fun, right there.]

Puck: “I got no problem with the guy, I’m a total Jew for Jesus, he’s my number one Heeb.”

You know what this episode is really about? It’s not evangelism, or stuffing faith down the throats of those that don’t want to hear (which is most definitely not the same as evangelism) – it’s about prayer.

Finn becomes inspired to pray and then discovers his prayers being answered. The football team wins and he gets to touch his girlfriend’s cleavage – so he’s keen to share the love. He’s also found an object he can use as a focus for his prayers, albeit a savoury snack. When bad stuff ends up happening, apparently as a result of his prayers, he has a crisis and turns to the Guidance Counsellor (who, incidentally is played by a Christian) and discovers that it’s unlikely God had a direct hand in what he’d seen as miracles. [Cue soft-rock to illustrate point and what better than Losing My Religion?]

Kurt’s father Burt has a heart attack and lies in a coma. [It wasn’t until I looked this episode up on Wikipedia that I realised their names rhymed! Such is the subtle genius of Glee.] He’s an atheist and when his religious friends vow to pray for his father, he refuses their support. Ultimately, he ends up at church with Mercedes and watches as the whole church prays for his father to recover. Getting him into church may look like an act of evangelism, but it’s just an act of love by a friend to show that others care so much for people they’ve never met. We don’t know if it changes his opinion of religion, but hopefully it brought him some comfort.

Sue Sylvester – Glee’s most delightfully awful character – comes to blows with the rather weedy Guidance Counsellor over why she’s an atheist. As a child she prayed that her sister (who was born with Downs Syndrome) would get better, but because she never did, so Sue decided that God couldn’t possibly exist. Ironically, it’s revealed that her sister does believe in God and prays for Sue.

They’re all totally logical responses. Who (amongst the churchgoers reading this) hasn’t been given a pebble, rosary, picture or icon with which to direct or focus their prayer? (I’m sure there was a period in the 90s when you couldn’t get through an ‘alternative’ act of worship without being given a pebble.) Persistence in prayer is one thing – desperately praying for your heart’s desire to be fulfilled and it never happening is quite another and phenomenally painful. How do you argue for the existence of God in the face of that? Personally, one of the hardest things I’ve found is comforting atheist friends when my natural response with other Christians would be to say that I’d pray for them – often it’s not what they want to hear.

There’s obviously a lot more that could be said about this, but I’m not entirely sure that I can be this serious about Glee for any longer! I would just like to state for the record that the one thing that did not impress me was the use of One of Us (the mid 90s one-hit-wonder by Joan Osborne) – slightly obvious and a song that has not left my head ever since. Given that the episode also included some classic REM and Bridge Over Troubled Water, you might realise why I’m peeved.

Can I ask you a question about the Bible?

Today’s Friday entertainment comes thanks to my Dad and the BBC. (More thanks is probably due the BBC, Dad simply e-mailed me the link.)

I’m sure I’ve raved about Outnumbered before, it’s a gem of a sitcom – mostly thanks to its precocious cast whose roles are almost entirely improvised. My parents love it and I think this clip is now a part of my Dad’s mission to educate his students (he’s principal of a school for vicars) in how to deal with over-intelligent children who ask too many questions.
Dad says he’s well placed to teach this as he had to deal with his own Karen (the 6 year old star of the show) for many, many years. Apparently he means me. I’m trying not to take offense.
Anyway, this is a hilarious clip. The e-mail that went with it ended with the line: “If this doesn’t put people off ordination, nothing will!” Duely noted. Thanks Dad.
If you’ve ever wondered why baby Jesus didn’t simply zap Herod, here’s the answer…

Emulating Jesus

I’m mid-way through writing another (slightly longer) post, but I had to write this whilst I still remember it.

I’ve just accused one of my colleagues of being a little judgemental (in a non-serious way). His response:

“I’m just trying to be like Jesus…he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

And that’s what you get for studying theology at Oxford for 8 years!

"How do we get the Baby Jesus to sleep?"

My monthly sessions with the under-6’s at church are an endless source of entertainment. I was particularly looking forward to Sunday as it’s the first time in 3 years that I’ve been on the rota the week before the Christingle service. This means one thing – nativity play rehearsals.
Zoom sessions always begin with 20 minutes of free play whilst the children settle and their parents leave. They can choose from colouring, lego, playdough, construction stuff, Thomas the Tank engine railtracks and a few other distractions. This week, two of the boys who would usually be Thomas fanatics instead decided to bond with a doll.
Not just any doll, this was Baby Jesus (always capitalised!), wrapped up in a wooden manger ready for the Nativity rehearsals. These lovely boys were fully aware of who the doll was meant to be and for the entire free time, they were completely enraptured with it.
When I wandered over to see what they were doing, they were trying to decide how to get him to sleep. One boy decided that because I’m a girl, I’d know what to do “because girls have babies and boys can’t”. The other informed me that because it was Baby Jesus, he was very well behaved and didn’t cry. Minutes later I was asked to provide something that could be used to feed him, because he was hungry.
By the time we were gathering the children together for news time, a flock of boys had gathered around the doll. The girls were more concerned with making glittery Christmas cards.

Photo courtesy of Whitewood Ladies on flickr.

So it turns out that (at least amongst this group) small children do not conform to society’s gender stereotypes. Not only do the boys like to take care of babies, but when having to decide whether to an Angel or a Shepherd in the play, we had a mixture of sexes in both categories.

I’m personally very much looking forward to the sight of boisterous boys dressed up in white robes and silver tinsel on Sunday!