Saturday, June 10, 2017

June 10: The Gospel from Outer Space, Terrible Things, Making the World a Better Place

She asked him if there was anything she could bring him from the outside, and he said, "No, I have just about everything I want."

"What about books?" said Valencia.

"I'm right next to one of the biggest private libraries in the world," said Billy, meaning Eliot Rosewater's collection of science fiction.

Rosewater was on the next bed, reading, and Billy drew him into the conversation, asked him what he was reading this time.

So Rosewater told him.  It was The Gospel from Outer Space, by Kilgore Trout.  It was about a visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Tralfamadorian, by the way.  The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel.  He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament.  He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lower of the low.

But the Gospels actually taught this:

Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected.  So it goes.

That's a fairly superficial interpretation of the Gospels, but it does serve Vonnegut's purpose for the novel.  Vonnegut is trying to explain the firebombing of Dresden, which he witnessed firsthand.  An entire city leveled.  Innocent people incinerated.  All of that done in the name of justice and morality, as if killing is ever just and moral, no matter who is responsible.

I've said this before, and I will say it again:  terrible things have been done in the name of God throughout all of history.  Every religion has had followers that use faith as an excuse for inhumanity.  That is a verifiable fact.  The Bible was used as justification for the enslavement of millions of African Americans in the United States.  The Koran is used as justification for bombings and beheadings and stabbings.

That doesn't mean that the Bible or Koran actually support these kinds of crimes against humanity.  They don't.  That's all humanity's doing.  God has given us the wisdom and tools.  It's up to us what we do with those tools.  Unfortunately, we don't have a great track record of doing the right thing.

Today, I have a whole lot of sitting and waiting ahead of me.  It's dance recital day.  Rehearsal and rehearsal and then pizza and then recital.  I will be thinking about the above passage from Slaughterhouse most of the day as I sit in a dark auditorium.  I know that nothing that I do will change the minds of terrorists, both home-grown and abroad.  We have a whole lot of people in power in the United States right now who are using their "religious" values as justification for hatred and discrimination.  That makes me very sad.

Today is an antidote to that for me, watching young people, full of hope and joy, doing something they love.  I wish politicians would realize that their jobs are to make the world a better place for our children.  All of them.  Gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim.  That is what the true message of the Bible is.

Saint Marty is thankful for dance today.

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