A Lesson In Conscientiousness

According to Dictionary.com, there are two definitions for the word, conscientious:

1. Governed by conscience; controlled by or done according to one’s inner sense of what is right; principled.

2. Careful and painstaking; particular, meticulous; scrupulous.

Now, I’m not some starry-eyed believer in any utopian vision, but I do believe that society, and humanity in general, would be a great deal better off if people just learned to be more conscientious in their daily lives. And though morality is important, it’s the second definition I wish to stress. To be “careful and painstaking” as people go through life. To think outside of themselves for the betterment of all.

The following incident will illustrate my meaning:

Once upon a time, I was a security guard in a casino in downtown Reno. While on patrol one evening, I observed a large blue duffle bag sitting in an open area between the sports lounge and a nearby bar. It looked abandoned, so I walked over with the intent of taking it to Lost & Found.

As soon as I reached the bag, a patron at the bar began yelling—because the bag was nowhere near him—that the bag was his. I, for safety as well as peace of mind, asked the gentleman if he’d move the bag closer to the bar. Well, of course, this was a major affront to his pride, and he got an attitude with me. After several exchanges, I erupted:

“Do I really have to explain why you can’t leave your bag there?”

Luckily, a female friend of the patron’s intervened; otherwise, I might’ve escorted him off the premises. (I found out later that he was part of the show being held in the theater, which I suppose is why he acted so entitled.) The bag was moved—under protest, naturally—and I resumed my patrol, shaking my head at the utter stupidity I’d just encountered.

Now, to anyone who’s ever worked in security, the reasons why I asked the patron to move his bag should be obvious. But for the benefit of everyone who’s not had the pleasure of security work—and for my fellow security guards who perhaps never gleaned the inherent lessons of the job; namely, that we’re supposed to be proactive instead of reactive—allow me to explain.

Per Murphy’s Law, if I’d allowed that bag to sit there, one of three things would’ve probably happened:

1. Someone would’ve grabbed the bag while the patron wasn’t looking.

Seriously, it only takes a matter of seconds to pick something up and walk away with it. And in a casino, it’s easy to duck behind machines, find a convenient bathroom or exit, or otherwise disappear. If you were, oh, I don’t know, say, sitting at a bar with your theater buddies, drinking, with your back to your property, it’s a highly plausible scenario that you’d turn around and find your bag gone. And then what would’ve happened? Well, Marlon Brando would’ve called security, of course! I would’ve had to go over there, listen to him rant and rave about how his bag was missing, and deflect his demand that we “check the cameras!”

Here’s a couple tips for everyone. First of all, real life isn’t like the movies. I can’t speak for every property in this world, but most places I’ve worked—including multiple casinos, and a major trauma hospital—have L-O-U-S-Y camera systems. This is mostly due to good camera systems being highly expensive. So any footage captured will usually be grainy and fairly useless. Also, more specific to casinos, the footage that regular security has access to is extremely limited compared to the Surveillance department. And let me tell ya, getting access to Surveillance footage is often tantamount to passing a bill in Congress.

Now, let’s suppose that we did have perfect footage of the person who took the bag. What, exactly, could we do about it? Not much, except write up our own internal report—which is confidential, by the way. Yeah, sorry. If you want access to a report filed on private property, you’ll have to contact local police and get a case number, and we’ll be more than happy to share our findings with our brothers-and-sisters-in-blue.

In short, YOU are responsible for YOUR property!

2. Someone would’ve saw the bag sitting there by itself, and freaked out.

Seriously. We live in a post-9/11 world, where people are taught: “If you see something, say something.” And they do. They tell security. So, in this scenario, by ignoring the bag, I still would’ve found myself dealing with the same exact situation:

“Sir, can I get you to move your property?”

3. Someone would’ve tripped and fallen over the bag.

Boy, oh, boy. For anyone who’s never had to write an injury report, I’ll briefly take you through the process. First of all, you determine if the subject (person who fell) is injured or not. If not, and if the subject declines to write a statement, you can usually consider the situation resolved. At the particular property where I dealt with Brando and his bag, however, we wrote reports for everything, regardless. So I still would’ve had to take pictures of the subject, the bag, the surrounding area, and interview the subject so that I could write a brief, though thorough narrative of the incident.

Now, if you have an injury—either a guest or employee—or just a dramatic person who wants to make a big deal of it, then your life gets very complicated. Pictures, interview, statement. Sometimes just getting a coherent statement is quite a hassle, especially if there’s a language barrier or the subject is unable to write in English. If 911 is needed, then multiple guards have to coordinate, securing the scene, keeping the subject safe, and escorting the medical personnel through the property. If the subject is an employee, then odds are the subject’s supervisor will have to get involved (read: more paperwork), and the subject might have to take a urinalysis to remain employed (read: more paperwork).

It’s a huge mess, and later, you’ll get to sit down and write everything out in chronological order, using your notes and your memory. With all the forms, paperwork, and typing, it’ll take at least ninety minutes to complete properly. And if you haven’t documented everything correctly, well, the company you work for could be vulnerable to a lawsuit.

All because some guy carelessly left his bag sitting in a walkway.

And there you have it. The seemingly simple and harmless act of not paying attention to your property in a public setting has the potential to be both incredibly complicated, and harmful. I’ve no doubt that the entire theater group saw me as an authoritarian asshole who gets his kicks ordering people around, which wasn’t the case at all. I’m equally sure that none of them had ever worked security—at least not in a casino, anyway—and had no idea what could’ve resulted. Or maybe they just didn’t care. After all, in the last two Murphy’s Law scenarios, none of them would’ve been the slightest bit inconvenienced; it just would’ve been my problem.

All of which brings me back to perhaps my favorite word in the English language:

Conscientiousness.

Being “careful and painstaking.”

Stopping to consider that the things you do—or don’t do, for that matter—can adversely affect others, and that if more people stopped to consider potential consequences, society would be a lot safer, and a lot more pleasant. Furthermore, being conscientious means understanding that most rules, policies, and procedures are in place for a reason, and the people whose jobs it is to enforce them, aren’t just authoritarian assholes to be dismissed.

Obviously, conscientiousness applies to infinitely more than just the situation I described above, and the object of this essay is to get you thinking about that. But if, for some reason, you find the word conscientiousness off-putting, then just think of it as good, old-fashioned, common sense.

Which, unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “ain’t that common.”

***

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JLR

Gung-Woo

I first stepped onto the mat when I was seventeen years old. My best friend, Isaac—whom I’d sparred with a few times—goaded me into taking a Jiu-Jitsu class. Although the style was street-oriented, it was still very much based on traditional Japanese systems. This was when the UFC was in its infancy, and though many people had become enthralled by Gracie Jiu-Jitsu via Royce Gracie’s domination in the early UFC events, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu craze was still a few years off.

I enjoyed traditional Jiu-Jitsu, and fully embraced it for a few years. But as time went on, I began to lose interest in traditional martial arts hierarchy, and the overly formal style of training. I also became very disillusioned with the mysticism inherent in martial arts.

Now, I get it. These arts were developed in secret a long time ago, and kept secret so that one’s enemies wouldn’t learn them and use them against him. And in modern times, people enjoy learning what they think is “special” knowledge.” People are still enamored of pagan mysticism, such as astrology, healing crystals, and other such nonsense. The point is, it fascinates, and it sells.

It also doesn’t work; especially in martial arts.

Traditional Jiu-Jitsu is taught in lists. There’s a list of white belt techniques, then blue belt techniques, then green belt, and so on. At the highest levels of the system I began learning, were “secret” lists of “secret” techniques. Very mysterious. My fellow students and I marveled that we might one day learn these “secret” techniques, and were impressed that our sensei possessed such arcane knowledge.

It’s now my intent to pull the curtain back on this nonsense and expose it to the cold light of reason. But first, a brief history lesson:

Legend has it that traditional (Japanese) Jiu-Jitsu was first brought to America by a man named Professor Henry Okazaki. Professor Okazaki was supposedly a bodyguard for Emperor Hirohito, but decided to emigrate to Hawaii post-WWII. There, Professor Okazaki opened a school of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu.

One thing I should make perfectly clear about traditional martial arts at this point is that all such systems venerate their alleged “founders.” For the particular style I’m discussing here, it’s Henry Okazaki. For Judo, it’s Jigoro Kano. For Aikido, it’s Morihie Ueshiba—and that’s not including all of the countless Karate styles, or the myriad Chinese styles of martial arts. And while it’s fine to venerate someone whom you admire, to hear most traditional martial artists talk about the founders of their systems is akin to hearing deeply religious people talk about Jesus. Listening to some of these stories, you’d literally think the old masters could walk on water.

So it goes with Professor Okazaki. Not only was he a master of Jiu-Jitsu, but he mastered Chinese Gung-Fu (Kung-Fu), and the Hawaiian art of Lua, which was practiced by the Kahunas on the islands. From what I know of Lua, it’s a very violent art of bone-breaking and flesh-rending techniques, and at the upper levels, sounds suspiciously like Voodoo, with the most secretive technique being the (gasp!) “Kahuna Death Prayer.”

Lua is a whole other story, but in order to really describe the secret list of techniques I referred to earlier, I must concentrate on the Chinese art of Gung-Fu. At the highest levels, practitioners of Gung-Fu are said to learn the techniques of Dim Mak, or “Death Touch.” The appeal of these techniques is that, using very little force, you can disable your enemy by touching them in just the right way on the right part of his body. Some of these techniques even have a delayed effect; the victim will die hours, days, weeks, months, or in some cases, even years afterward.

Think about that for a moment. Think about how enticing such a proposition would be. Let’s say you’re not very big, not very strong, and even with years of martial arts training under your belt, you’re not going to win many bar fights using just your hands and feet. But then someone comes along and says that he can teach you to stop anyone—no matter how big or tough—with a simple touch, or precise strike.

This is a big part of why people are still enamored with mysticism and traditional martial arts in the modern age. It’s that false promise of making you more than you really are, and of giving you “special talents.”

The problem is, none of it stands up to any real scrutiny.

The arts of Dim Mak are based on the eastern medicinal practices of acupressure. The theory behind acupressure is that lines of energy, known as “meridians,” course all through your body. This energy, known as “chi” (“ki” in Japanese), is your vital essence. The arts of Dim Mak disrupt the vital flow, hence causing disease, organ failure, and death. Some of the arts are very specific, not only in where you strike your enemy, but when you strike him. The theory behind this is that certain anatomical areas are more vulnerable depending on the time of day, how long the victim has been awake, and even how long after the victim has eaten.

When I first began learning about ki, it was explained to me that these so-called meridian lines perfectly matched the nerves running throughout the human body. So, in effect, it wasn’t just some nebulous idea about disrupting energy, it was about attacking nerves. That made sense, but remember, I was only seventeen at the time. It wasn’t until much later that I learned how unscientific and baseless all of these claims are.

Getting back to Professor Okazaki, he supposedly learned a complete set of Dim Mak techniques, and added them as the final list to his system of Jiu-Jitsu. He called this list: “Shin Jin No Maki.” Supposedly, there were techniques for causing “tooth rot,” “bone rot,” and even the Big C.

Yes, I’m not kidding. My original martial arts instructor claimed to know a technique which, by striking someone in a specific place, you could give them cancer. But it wouldn’t show up for five years.

Now, fast forward several years. I’m living in Seattle, and teaching self-defense in my spare time. By this point, I’ve mostly moved on from traditional Jiu-Jitsu in favor of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts-type training. I was getting my teeth cleaned, and my hygienist was telling me how she learned about nerves in the face and mouth in hygienist school. “There’s a nerve in the roof of your mouth,” she said, “that if I injected Novocain into it, would make your entire face go numb.”

Intrigued, I decided to ask her what she thought about the Shin Jin technique which supposedly causes “tooth rot.” The technique—which now seems laughable—is to make a “Jiu-Jitsu knuckle” (the letter “N” in sign language; also a fabulous way to break your finger by hitting someone with it), and strike your enemy’s mouth, right along the gum-line. My hygienist thought it over for a few seconds, and replied:

“Tooth rot is bacterial. You can’t cause it with a punch. What you can do is deaden the nerve and kill the tooth. It won’t fall out, but it’ll turn black.”

So there you have it. I think it’s quite easy to see how a lot of mysticism gets ingrained in the human psyche. From a martial arts perspective, I’ve no doubt that somewhere along the line—perhaps many, many times—during fights, one of the combatants wound up with a black tooth. People seeing that—especially uneducated, superstitious people—would easily believe that mysticism was involved. Maybe even the person who delivered the blow thinks he did something magical, and seeks to find an explanation. Hence, ki, meridian lines, and everything which followed.

That’s also the danger of romanticizing the past. Ancient civilizations didn’t have “special” or “unique” knowledge which was somehow lost. In fact, quite the opposite. You don’t have to go very far back in human history before you find yourself in a world where absolutely no one understands electricity, germ theory, atomic structure, or a thousand things which even the least educated people in first world countries have basic knowledge of.

The sad truth of traditional martial arts—and I believe that Bruce Lee was one of the first prominent martial artists to not only figure this out, but to proclaim it to the world—is that, learning to throw a crisp left hook, or a good, strong uppercut, is worth more than all of those “secret” techniques combined. I know that takes a lot of the mysticism, romanticism, and even a certain amount of fun out of the endeavor, but it’s also reality.

And the more mired in reality we become, the less nonsense we find ourselves slogging through.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some admirable things about traditional martial arts. Indeed, there are. But those things are separate from what I’m discussing here. The mysticism, the “secrets,” the rigid, hierarchal structure which can allow the wrong type of people to gain positions of authority, are all beside the point of what martial arts are supposed to be:

The study of combat; pure and simple.

Causing the most amount of damage with the least amount of effort.

And, unfortunately, there are some hard truths to face. One is that, no matter what anyone says, size and strength absolutely do matter. Another is that there are no secrets. Only what works, and what doesn’t.

The rest is all bullshit.

***

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JLR

A Matter of Pride

Throughout my life, few things have confounded me as much as modern man’s incessant tribalism. For all of our technological innovation, we may as well still be living in mud huts and chanting over fire pits to keep evil spirits away. Seriously, we divide ourselves over gender, race, nationality, politics, religion, and more. We form ourselves into groups, which of course leads to groupthink, with room for individuality only within the overlapping lines. This is partly what leads to brother against brother, and nation against nation.

It’s starts when we’re young. We’re taught to take pride in our various tribes, and see ourselves—and thus, our tribe—as the best. Or, perhaps more ideologically, as right. The best examples of this are seen in tribalism’s most insidious forms: religion and nationalism. Coupled with greed, religion and nationalism are at the root of almost every war in history.

I can’t help but wonder, though, how much further along—not to mention how much more humane—humans might actually be if we embraced logic instead of tribalism.

I’ll use myself as an example:

I don’t take pride in anything except my own accomplishments. Logically, why would I? I’m glad I was born a man, but I just as easily could’ve been born a woman, so what’s to take actual pride in? The same goes for being an American, a Nevadan, and a Renoite. I could’ve been born anywhere else. I also could’ve been born from any number of racial backgrounds, so why take particular pride in this one?
Before matters of race, gender, and nationality, I think of myself primarily as a human; a citizen of the world we have named Planet Earth. Not much different—and certainly no better—than anyone else in that respect.

But I do have a ton of pride.

I take pride in the fact that I’ve consistently made healthy, responsible choices throughout my life. I take pride in how I’ve evolved as an adult from making those choices. I’m proud that, even as a kid, peer pressure meant nothing to me, and I was never a “joiner” or “follower.” I’m proud that I’ve never felt the need to experiment with drugs. I’m proud that I’ve never once had a hangover from excessive drinking. I’m proud that I’ve always taken care of myself physically, and have never been overweight. I’m proud that I’ve never needed any type of medication to deal with depression or anxiety. I’m proud that I’ve lived most of my adult life on my own, and have never had to live paycheck to paycheck. I’m proud that I’ve never been fired from any of my various jobs. I’m proud of the contributions I made to the Seattle Clean & Safe Program when I was a Safety Supervisor for the Metropolitan Improvement District. I’m proud that, wherever I go and whatever I do, I never make trouble for other people or leave messes for them to clean up. I’m proud that I devoted most of my twenties to studying martial arts, and taught self-defense for several years. I’m proud of the novels and short stories I’ve written. I’m proud of the songs I’ve collaborated on with my garage band: Super Chief. I’m proud of all the hundreds of books I’ve read since I was old enough to read. I’m proud that, through my own course of study, I no longer hold any supernatural beliefs, and certainly don’t believe in any form of Sky Daddy. I’m proud that, due to my way of thinking, I can’t be manipulated to hate or kill through patriotism.

See the pattern here?

I’m not saying that it’s intrinsically bad to take pride in your gender, racial heritage, and place of origin, just that it’s illogical and primitive. It might come naturally, but that’s beside the point. Furthermore, it’s those very instincts which divide rather than unite us.

So. If you want to make the world a better place, you’ll start thinking of yourself first and foremost as a human amongst other humans, and instead of taking so much pride in things you had no control over, you’ll measure your own worth according to that which you create and/or accomplish throughout your life. Then, you can take pride in knowing that you’ve done your part in helping humanity evolve.

I know I do.

***

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JLR

Deconstructing Genesis-Part 9

Sodom, Gomorrah, & Lot

1.

Now we have another Old Testament tale which everyone knows—or, at least, thinks they do. At heart, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about morality, and the layman’s version is incredibly simple:

Sodom and Gomorrah were cities where evil thrived, so God smote them. Of the two cities, the sole man of virtue, Lot, was allowed to escape with his wife and daughters. Disobeying The Lord’s commandment to leave without looking back, Lot’s wife glanced over her shoulder at the celestial explosion, and for her impiety was turned into a pillar of salt.

The end.

Again, that’s what most people know of Sodom and Gomorrah, and this encapsulated version does the story little justice, indeed. As with every other story we’ve delved into so far, delving into this little slice of Genesis reveals a whole host of unsavory details which most religious scholars tend to gloss over.

Why?

Perhaps because dwelling on them for too long could cause them to doubt the actual “godliness” of their One True God, Jehovah.

2.

The tale begins rather oddly with Abraham—formerly, Abram—lounging in a tent on the plains of Mam’re. The Lord appeared before Abraham, along with three men. Abraham begged The Lord to stay with him, and offered the three men all of the hospitality he could muster; water to wash their feet, the shade of a nearby tree, and cakes baked by Sarah—formerly, Sarai—herself. The three men accepted Abraham’s offer, and he rushed out to accommodate them, also scaring up some milk, butter, and a dressed calf for them to eat (Genesis 18:1-18:8).

The “men” are never described, incidentally, and might possibly be angels of The Lord.

Speaking of the three men, they inquired about Sarah, and Abraham replied that she was in her tent (Genesis 18:9). Jehovah then spoke up and repeated His claim that Sarah would bear a child (Genesis 18:10). The text reminds us that Abraham and Sarah are old (ancient by modern standards), and that “it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women,” meaning, of course, that she’s well past menopause (Genesis 18:11). Sarah also heard God’s proclamation, and “laughed within herself, saying, after I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also (Genesis 18:12)?

Jehovah, not really known for His sense of humor, repeated His edict that Sarah would bear a child (Genesis 18:13-18:14). Fearful, Sarah denied laughing, but God didn’t buy it (Genesis 18:15).

Then the three men stood up, looked toward Sodom (heretofore never mentioned in Genesis), and Abraham accompanied them to help prepare for their journey (Genesis 18:16).

What happens next is the odd part. God seemed to vacillate on whether or not He should tell Abraham what His intentions were (Genesis 18:17). Being God, I’m not sure why He would be indecisive. Abraham, after all, was just a mortal…

In any case, Jehovah—perhaps speaking to the men in Abraham’s company—continued His musings, saying that Abraham would become a great and blessed nation (Genesis 18:18), that the progeny of Abraham, like Abraham himself, would keep the way of The Lord, and that He intended to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to investigate their great sin (Genesis 18:19-18:21).

As with Sodom, this is the first mention of Gomorrah in Genesis.

The men turned to leave, but Abraham drew near, asking The Lord if He intended to destroy the righteous along with the wicked (Genesis 18:22-18:23). Abraham, showing incredible moxie, offered God the proposition of finding fifty righteous men in the twin cities of evil; would He destroy them, too (Genesis 18:24)? Because that wouldn’t be right (Genesis 18:25).

Jehovah’s reply was essentially, “Of course, not,” (Genesis 18:26), and thus began a back-and-forth negotiation of souls as Abraham brought the theoretical total of righteous men down to forty-five, then forty, then thirty-five, and so on, with God finally promising not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if He found but ten virtuous men there (Genesis 18:27-18:32).

Why Abraham seems rather more concerned with morality here than the supposedly all-loving Jehovah, or why the wrathful Creator allows Abraham such impertinence, is anybody’s guess. The Lord, however, left Abraham to do His business, and Abraham—somewhat proudly, one must assume—returned unto his tent (Genesis 18:33).

3.

The first stop was Sodom. But God didn’t go there Himself. Instead, He sent two angels to survey the wickedness of the land. Lot was conveniently at the gate (Genesis 19:1), and invited them to seek shelter in his abode (Genesis 19:2). At first, the angels balked, but finally accepted Lot’s insistent hospitality (Genesis 19:3).

Curiously, Genesis 19:3 also describes the angels partaking of a feast of unleavened bread which Lot prepared for them. One would think that the angels, being Heavenly hosts, would have no need to eat…

4.

So. Here we have the first element which isn’t widely known:

Jehovah didn’t just blow up Sodom and Gomorrah; He sent his henchmen there first. And though it’s not uncommon to find people who do know that Biblical tidbit, only people who’ve actually read the entire chapter know all the unsavory parts of this story.

Such as what happened next.

5.

Before the angels even had time to lay down—again, why would angels need to rest?—the men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s abode (Genesis 19:4). And, pray, what did those Sodomites want?

Well…

Genesis 19:5, And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

Of course, “know” in the biblical sense means, “have sex with.”

And that’s a rather important part of the story which most people don’t know. The men of Sodom were so wicked, so vile, that they wanted to fornicate with God’s angelic messengers.

6.

Now, remember; we’re talking about morality here. Morals. Right and wrong. What would you or I or anyone do in this situation? Probably not what Lot chose to do. Lot chose to go outside (Genesis 19:6), face the mob, and address them with these “virtuous” words:

Genesis 19:7, I pray you brethren, do not so wickedly.

Genesis 19:8, Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

Nice, huh?

Nice that Lot was willing to sacrifice his virginal daughters to the crowd of nymphomaniacs surrounding his house. Another great example of how biblical women are treated under the watchful eye of Jehovah.

7.

As generous as Lot’s offer was, the crowd wanted no part of it, and proceeded to press upon him (Genesis 19:9). But the angels stepped in an rescued Lot, pulling him back inside (Genesis 19:10). Then the angels smote the men outside with blindness so that they could only search in vain for Lot’s door (Genesis 19:11).

Now, at this point, I can’t help but wonder that, if those angels had the power to strike men blind, weren’t they also powerful enough to have stopped the crowd without cruelly taking their sight? I mean, again, we are talking about angels, after all.

Aren’t they supposed to be the embodiment of mercy and compassion?

Then again, they were supposedly created by Jehovah; who, as we’ve seen, isn’t so big on either of those qualities.

8.

Once the crowd had been taken care of, the angels asked Lot if he had any extended family in the area. If so, they said, he really should gather them up and vacate the city of Sodom. Because it was about to be destroyed (Genesis 19:12-19:13).

Taking heed, Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law. Not his daughters, mind you, but the men who married them (Genesis 19:14).

Another not-so-subtle reminder of how important women were back then.

9.

The next morning, the angels hastened Lot and his family out of Sodom, telling him to escape to the mountains, and admonishing him not to look back at the destruction (Genesis 19:15-19:17). Apparently, Lot was the only man of virtue to be found in either city, so Jehovah had decided to at least save him and his kin.

Lot, however, had other ideas, and argued against going into the mountains (Genesis 19:18-19:19). Instead, the put-upon man wanted to seek refuge in a small, nearby city (Genesis 19:20). The Lord readily agreed to Lot’s plan, and ushered him off to the city known as Zo’ar so that He could begin His business of wiping out Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:21-19:22).

10.

Thus, no sooner than Lot had entered Zo’ar (Genesis 19:23), this happened:

Genesis 19:24, Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.

Genesis 19:25, And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

Again, here we have a situation similar to the Great Flood. Were there no children in Sodom and Gomorrah? No women? Were both cities really filled with nothing but slavering, homosexual men? Considering that Lot had a wife and two daughters, I think it’s safe to assume that there were indeed other families there, too. Perhaps the patriarchs of those families, not being so righteous as Lot, had their sins visited upon their wives and children regardless…

But what about the animals? Were they not blameless?

Then again, with all of the rampant animal sacrifice throughout The Old Testament, I suppose that the lives of mere animals weren’t worth much to a God who demanded their slaughter in His name, anyway. And was it really necessary for a “loving” God to destroy all the plants and trees and “that which grew upon the ground?”

11.

Of course, Lot’s poor wife—who isn’t important enough to be named, apparently—couldn’t resist the urge to look back, and was indeed turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26)…

And left that way.

Even though God has thus far performed far greater miracles, He doesn’t restore Lot’s wife back to him. Interesting, eh?

I think the message is very clear:

Do not ever, ever, question The Lord or disobey His commands.

Or else.

12.

The next morning, Abraham rose and looked toward the smoking plain of where Sodom and Gomorrah once stood (Genesis 19:27-19:28). The text doesn’t describe how Abraham felt as he took in the smoldering sight, but it does seem to imply that God only saved Lot because of the promise He’d made to His favorite, circumcised, son:

Genesis 19:29, And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt.

Of course, being a mere (though ancient) mortal, Abraham had absolutely no way of knowing that anyone—much less Lot and his family—had been saved from the holy storm. So I seriously doubt if the man who was “destined to become a father of great nations” was in any way comforted.

13.

And now we come to the part of this story which seems the most obscure to religious laymen. That is, only those who’ve read this entire chapter of Genesis have any idea about it. It’s also the part which most religious zealots either skim over or try to forget about completely.

Can’t imagine why:

For reasons not explained, Lot—who originally refused to live in the mountains and preferred Zo’ar—becomes fearful of living in Zo’ar and decides to go live on a mountain. Lot also takes his precious daughters (who are also never named) with him (Genesis 19:30).

Before long, Lot’s eldest daughter bemoaned to his youngest that there was no man about to impregnate them (Genesis 19:31), so they devised a plan. Said plan was to make their father drunk with wine, then lay with him in order to preserve his seed (Genesis 19:32). So, on consecutive nights, each sister in turn performed the astounding feat of getting their father so drunk that he cannot remember having intercourse with them, yet is still able to perform sexually (Genesis 19:33-19:35).

Think about that for a moment…

Then ponder this, keeping in mind that it’s straight out of The Holy Bible:

Genesis 19:36, Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.

14.

Okay, so let’s get things straight here. God outright destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the perversity of the people within those cities. And, yet, God’s perfectly fine with Lot’s daughters deceiving him in that fashion, and having sex with him.

Interesting.

The so-called “perversity” of Sodom and Gomorrah isn’t described in any graphic detail, but it’s safe to assume that it was mostly sexual in nature. In fact, it probably all boiled down to homosexuality. Observe the fact that the men of Sodom wanted to “know” the angels, who were also described as “men.” And, of course, the word sodomy is derived from the root word: Sodom. The primary definition of sodomy is “anal intercourse”—a prominent sexual act amongst homosexual men—but it can also mean “sex from behind,” or the “doggy-style position.”

Thus, the message in The Book of Genesis, Chapter 19, is that homosexuality and/or sodomy is much worse than incest.

This proposition leads me to a rather poignant question. Since, in all modern first-world societies, incest is generally considered worse than homosexuality or sodomy between two consenting adults, I cannot help but ask:

Who’s wrong?

Us, or God?

If God truly created us in His image, and His word truly is Law, then why have we, His children, changed and evolved so much in the last two thousand years?

15.

Finally, as another reminder of how misogynistic the men who wrote—and the men who later transcribed, edited, and assembled The Bible—truly were, let it be known that, even though the names of Lot’s daughters weren’t important enough to mention, the names of their male children absolutely were:

Genesis 19:37, And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.

Genesis 19:38, And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-am-mi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

So…we know Lot, Moab, and Ben-am-mi. But we don’t know the name of the hapless woman whom Jehovah turned into a pillar of salt, nor the names of the poor young ladies who seemingly had no choice but to deceive their own father into impregnating them.

And so it goes with The Holy Bible; the eternal word of God.

***

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JLR

Deconstructing Genesis-Part 8

Abraham’s Revised Covenant

1.

As we have seen, God has already made a covenant with Abram, His chosen follower. He has promised to make Abram’s name great, to make of him a great nation, and promised the land of Canaan unto Abram’s seed. God even intervened on Abram’s behalf when Hagar fled with Ishmael still in her belly. Other than that, however, we have yet to read of Abram receiving any of The Lord’s favors—unless you count grief and strife.

It’s also worthy to note that Hagar is never mentioned again. And why should she be? After all, she’s already outlived her usefulness by playing surrogate wife and mother to Abram, bringing young Ishmael into the fold.

And again, The Lord must work in mysterious ways. Because on Abram’s ninety-ninth birthday, Jehovah appeared before His chosen one to redefine the terms of their covenant (Genesis 17:1).

2.

As if Abram needed to be reminded, God again told him of all the things He’d promised (Genesis 17:2-17:9), but added two catches to the deal:

Genesis 17:5, Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

Well, this is interesting. So far, God hadn’t made Abram a father of much of anything, much less “many nations.” But perhaps God was speaking of a later moment and what He’d planned to do. At any rate, it seems rather superfluous to change the man’s name. But this is The Lord, you see, and He had yet another surprise in store for the man now known as Abraham:

Genesis 17:10, This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

Now, since there’s been no mention of circumcision thus far in Genesis, and since there’s been no other covenants of this sort mentioned, one must conclude that poor Abraham had no idea what God was talking about. But rest assured that God didn’t leave His chosen one in the dark. Can you imagine the look on Abraham’s face when he heard this proclamation from The Almighty?:

Genesis 17:11, And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

Sounds great, doesn’t it. God has favored him, yet for some reason His favor must be accompanied by the excruciating pain of removing flesh from the most sensitive part of his body—at ninety-nine years old, no less! And if that isn’t bad enough, God also demanded that to maintain this covenant Abraham must see to it that every child, man, and every stranger bought with money—unto the house of Abraham, I assume—had to be circumcised as well (Genesis 17:12-17:13).

God, of course, wasn’t very big on explanations for His actions, and didn’t offer any to Abraham. But I can’t help but wonder why God would demand such an unintelligent trifle of a sacrifice for His followers. I mean, if He didn’t want men to have foreskins, then why didn’t He just design them that way? Furthermore, why exactly is an almighty being playing favorites, anyway? Why are a certain people His “chosen” people? And although it also doesn’t make any sense, God obviously needed some sort of blood sacrifice in those days. So perhaps He just tired of seeing animals slaughtered in His name?

Who knows?

But nevertheless, God made it very clear to Abraham just how important these small sacrifices were:

Genesis 17:14, And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

So…cut off your foreskin or forever be forsaken by your All-loving, All-knowing Creator.

Sounds fair, right?

And, by the way, what is the covenant regarding women? It’s not as if God has shown women any sort of reverence before, so do they not deserve any special sacrifice…or are they just beneath notice?

3.

Before we go any further, let’s get our terms straight on what circumcision means. An infant male child is held down while someone stretches out his foreskin—his genitalia, mind you—and cuts it off with some sort of sharp instrument. This is an utterly asinine procedure which causes unnecessary pain to an innocent newborn. And lest any reader accuse me of outright editorializing on this, allow me to say that I speak from personal knowledge:

I am not circumcised, and never in my life have I experienced any adverse health effects from having foreskin.

I confess that I’m in no way medically educated, but it’s readily apparent to me that the extra skin around the head of the penis, or glans, is there to protect it. Like a glove over a hand. How does removing it help a child, boy, or man in any way? I’ve heard it said that circumcision prevents infections, but I’ve never had any type of penile skin infection. Bathing on a regular basis thwarts that nicely. In fact, studies have shown that men who retain their foreskin experience a higher level of glans sensitivity than men who’ve had theirs removed, which only makes sense. If the glans is constantly exposed and rubbing against different materials such as clothing, what else could be expected?

And this business of circumcising grown men is beyond barbaric. At least an infant doesn’t have any idea of what’s being done, and will have no memory of the pain.

But, at any rate, we can now add the precious gifts of unnecessary pain and genital mutilation to all of humanity.

Thanks, Jehovah.

4.

Getting back to this revised covenant, God had still more to tell Abraham, but now it concerned his wife, Sarai:

Genesis 17:15, And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.

Another pointless name change, but the next proclamation was quite drastic:

Genesis 17:16, And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.

Again, this edict only reinforces The Bible’s underlying message that women are only good for bearing children. But aside from that, this completely invalidates the little escapade with Hagar the housemaid. I mean, why go through all of that in the first place? God could’ve made Sarah fertile to begin with, and Ishmael could’ve been born through her. It’s not as if Hagar is described as being in any way special or crucial to the events surrounding her, other than being Ishmael’s vessel.

So all of that grief and strife was for nothing, much like every other story we’ve covered so far.

5.

As you might imagine, Abraham was a bit incredulous at the notion of Sarah becoming pregnant at ninety years old (Genesis 17:17), and cried out for God to favor Ishmael (Genesis 17:18). But God assured His servant that, not only would Isaac’s birth come to pass (Genesis 17:19), but that Ishmael was also destined to multiply and become a great nation (Genesis 17:20).

God then reiterated his covenant with the as yet unborn Isaac, and left Abraham to fulfill His edict (Genesis 17:21-17:22). Abraham, no doubt invigorated by God’s command, returned to his abode and set about his business. The text doesn’t specify who did the circumcisions, but nonetheless it came to pass that Abraham, one year shy of his hundredth birthday, parted ways with his foreskin. Likewise, little thirteen-year-old Ishmael also endured the pain, humiliation, and utterly senseless procedure (Genesis 17:23-17:24).

All for the love of God.

***

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JLR