Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Isaac Knew Abraham's Plan

My strongest remaining tie to Catholicism is the stories. I love the resonance of Bible stories, especially the story of Abraham and Isaac. They are a part of my mythology, too.

The Abraham and Isaac story resonates with me because it is so utterly horrible and so familiar. My mother has faith like Abraham, for which she would sacrifice anything "of this plane."

In case you're not familiar, the Abraham and Isaac story goes like this. God tells Abraham to bring his eldest son, Isaac, to the top of the mountain, and kill him there like a sacrificial lamb on an altar. Abraham, without a single recorded question in any of the Biblical texts I found, proceeds to the mountain with his son. Abraham carries the knife and the fire (no matches back then), and Isaac carries the wood. You need a lot of wood to burn a recently dead anything. 

It takes the three days to get to the place where God wants Abraham to kill Isaac. Imagine that journey, with Isaac (who I picture as between eight and twelve at the time) asking questions like, "The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for burnt offering?"

I understand that Biblical times were different: harsher, with shorter lifespans and perhaps not as much attachment to life, but I still can't give Abraham a free pass. Isaac was his only legitimate son, born to him and Sarah late in life. There was no promise of another. 

Don't even get me started on how, for every Biblical scholar who wants to condemn homosexuality based on the line "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman," there are a dozen twisting themselves in knots to justify or gloss over the use of sex slaves by so-called men of God. Because in fact, Isaac wasn't Abraham's only son. He had a son, Ishmael, by his slave Hagar, who are only mentioned when convenient because of their status as second class citizens.  

Oh. I didn't want to get started. 

Returning to the story, Abraham gets as far as binding Isaac's limbs and laying him on top of the altar, on top of the wood. Do you think Isaac might have picked up on what was happening, offered a little struggle? Could he ever forgive a father who was willing to do that to him? 

There's a streak of masochism in Christianity that repulses me: Abraham the willing victim of God's request, Isaac lying down, mute, on the altar like the sacrificial lamb his father plans him to be. 

I have found the gay Christian blogs (bless their hearts) that work so hard to make the words say what they want. Although I respect the endeavor, for me, it's not different enough than the endeavors of the bigots, using the stale and ancient words to condemn homosexuals, women who've had abortions, or other social pariahs who don't fit with white, middle class values. 

That's what the Christianity that I know has become in America: white, middle class values and self-righteousness disguised as spirituality. In the Evangelical church, there's a little religious ecstasy mixed for a release. 

They need that release. It is a struggle, for many Christians I know, to live their lives contrary to so much actual evidence (the history of the earth, global warming, the nature of evil, you name it). Even gay Christians in progressive and accepting churches have to reconcile with the fact that several branches of their own religion would cast them out. 

Religion is one of the greatest crimes of humanity, compelling generations of victims to live in direct opposition to their own self-interest. 

The greatest victims of religion are those who believe fully, who are willing to sacrifice their children, standing right in front of them, for the promise of an afterlife they haven't seen. 

But of course, we their children are also in trouble. 

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