CONTEST! Produce Better Parody Of Christianity Than Nicholas Kristof & Serene Jones

We’ve had many contests over the years, dear readers, varying in their difficulty and intellectual challenge.

This time I have the true test, the consummate conundrum, the summit of stumpers. I’m launching a new contest in the belief that nobody will win. Frankly, I think the task is impossible. But I have very clever readers who are always astonishing me. So there’s a chance.

Here’s what you have to do. Produce a better parody of Christianity than that given to us by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times in his interview with the president of Union Theological Seminary Serene Jones.

First and only prize is eternal bragging rights. You can also use your entry as an application to the Union Theological Seminary (or Harvard) for the position of full professorship.

Here are snippets from the Kristof-Jones parody. Do read it all.

KRISTOF Happy Easter, Reverend Jones! To start, do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection? I have problems with that.

JONES When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.

For me it’s impossible to tell the story of Easter without also telling the story of the cross. The crucifixion is a first-century lynching. It couldn’t be more pertinent to our world today.

If you have any hope, dear reader, it is here. If Jesus had been black, Jones’s take would have reached the status of mathematical proof, which would guaranteed the parody’s eternal top slot.

But without a physical resurrection, isn’t there a risk that we are left with just the crucifixion?

Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope?

The tacit of calling fundamental truths “nuts” is hackneyed, yes. But it’s hackneyed because it works. Don’t be afraid of simplicity.

What about other miracles of the New Testament? Say, the virgin birth?

I find the virgin birth a bizarre claim. It has nothing to do with Jesus’ message. The virgin birth only becomes important if you have a theology in which sexuality is considered sinful. It also promotes this notion that the pure, untouched female body is the best body, and that idea has led to centuries of oppressing women.

See how she brought sodomy into it without even having to use the word? Clever. She didn’t even say Jesus was all about free love, but she still managed to convey it! Spread dem legs, baby. Brilliant.

Prayer is efficacious in the sense of making us feel better, but do you believe it is efficacious in curing cancer?

I don’t believe in a God who, because of prayer, would decide to cure your mother’s cancer but not cure the mother of your nonpraying neighbor. We can’t manipulate God like that.

Okay, yes, saying that appealing to God is useless is not inventive. Yet wait. The true creativity of her remark has only begun to reveal itself. Belief in God is not a requirement for Christianity, she continues. Standard stuff for a Christianity parody. But Jones is better than that, far more subtle and patient. She wraps the noose around the neck with this last bit.

I’ve asked this of other interviewees in this religion series: For someone like myself who is drawn to Jesus’ teaching but doesn’t believe in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection, what am I? Am I a Christian?

Well, you sound an awful lot like me, and I’m a Christian minister…

Christianity is at something of a turning point, but I think that this questioning and this reaching is even bigger than Christianity. It reaches into many religious traditions. This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression — it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, “Something is horribly wrong here.” It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born.

She wasn’t recalling Yeats, of course. “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” That would bring her remarks to the level of Reality. Jones does not do Reality.

Add these remarks to her earlier statements about the absurdity of the resurrection, and therefore the deduction that Jesus was only human, and what we have instead of Christianity is the religion of Serene Jones.

I mean Serene Jones as deity. Each and every one of us as deity. God is gone, and we are gods. We just haven’t all realized it yet. This is pure genius.

BONUS

For those taking the challenge seriously, it’s well to study the previous title holder, Katharine Jefferts Schori, ex-Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

On May 12, Bishop Jefferts Schori preached in All Saints Church in the town of Steenrijk. Curaçao is part of the Episcopal Church’s small Diocese of Venezuela, and Bishop Jefferts Schori was making a pastoral call to a distant congregation. Her text was Acts 16:16-34, which includes the story of a slave woman and fortuneteller whom Paul encounters in Philippi, Macedonia.

As Luke, who Christians believe is the narrator, tells the story, the woman “had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortunetelling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.'” After many days, “Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.”

This story has historically been read as a tale of exorcism, in which Paul delivers the woman from some sort of indwelling spirit — or, alternatively, strikes a blow for monotheism against local beliefs in plural gods. But as Bishop Jefferts Schori interpreted the passage, Paul was guilty of failing to value diversity, to see the slave girl’s beautiful “difference.”

This was in 2009, and after it happened bookies the world over stopped taking bets on new parody entries, so strong was the conviction that Jefferts Schori’s effort would never be bested.

The episode proves even experts can be wrong. So have a try!

13 Thoughts

  1. Oh, my! These two atheists are neck and neck on a race to hell. Just extremely sad to see…

  2. Parody requires some presumptuous falseness in the object of ridicule that can be mocked. Authentic Christians will not be able to create a parody because they will not be able to find any such thing in their religion. Even though there are elements of Christian theology hard to understand and even to accept easily, they’re presented simply as fact without excuse or adornment or hint of pomposity so mockery falls flat. I think what you really want is the invention of a false religion soothing to the the modern soul yet so full of baloney even adherents will gag.

  3. She is no Christian, much less an authority of the Church, and obviously is not familiar with the Scripture.

    1 Timothy 2
    I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
    2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
    3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
    4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
    5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
    6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
    7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
    8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
    9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
    10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
    11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
    15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

    1 Timothy 3
    This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
    2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
    3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
    4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
    5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
    6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
    7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
    8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
    9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
    10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
    11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
    12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
    13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
    14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
    15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
    16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

  4. I wonder if that could be topped; though given the ‘progressive’ religion currently promoted, it probably will be.
    1. Virgin birth: forgotten, if ever aware of it, is that human parthenogenesis does happen. When it does, the products are female (no Y possible, just mom’s X) and generally spontaneously abort after a short period of time. Thus, human parthenogenesis that went full term and produced a boy is a miracle.
    2. The gospels are “all over the place”; well, I would be suspicious if they weren’t. Human memory is fallible, mutable, and depends on the person’s perspective and emotions that help firm it up.
    3. The resurrection happened. We recall what Paul said about the faith when its tenets are false.
    4. It seems that moderns are too sure of themselves; and that what is today is what is has mostly always been. Though that can’t be fully true since mutable things do mutate; and that makes evolution a tautology.

  5. As a Brazilian, with access to a bunch of liberation theology material, I could probably pull off something similar/better. To quote from Calvin and Hobbes, though:

    C: So if you capture the other guy’s flag and make it back to your territory, you win.
    H: Win what?
    C: The game.
    H: No luggage? No toaster oven?

  6. From the inaugural address of the Religious Education & Exposition Establishment of the Most Holy Order of Pope Francis I by Bishopess-Activist Krystal LeShawna, 2033

    Sisters, genderfluid otherkin, pansexuals, demisexuals, MAPs, and all other gender non-conforming and oppressed persons and objects of colour, let me tell you about my truth. Let me tell you of my feelings, of my experiences, that led me to the holy light of Judeo-Christ and xir message. Of how xe took the form of the Eternal Oppressor, the white male, and died on the cross that symbolises the intersectionality of our manifold victimhoods, that we might rise up, and spread the gospel of social justice to every corner of the world as xe intended. For truly I tell you, all sins and unintentional microaggressions will be forgiven for the daughters of women, should the women choose to have them. But whoever racists against diversity will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin, and shall be branded a white male.

    As we gather here at the celebration of Ishtar, we should remember also the sacrifices of those who came before, before the Patriarchy was as entrenched as it is today. Of the womyn who disobeyed their men and went to the tomb of Judeo-Christ to find it empty, as proof that the greatest love in the world, which is sexual gratification, cannot be killed or kept locked up, but will always be free. Of the white men who first denied Judeo-Christ three times, and who then, even when xe had returned amongst them from hiding, continued to doubt – unlike their womyn. True it is that they were white womyn, but such is the love of Judeo-Christ that xe will work to re-educate even the Eternal Oppressor, even when they do not publically apologise on Twitter, as the Romans did not. Even when they deny their womyn the right to choose or even reproductive healthcare, as Joseph did to Mary when she became pregnant – even then, Judeo-Christ works xir magic.

    For that is what you are all gathered here today to become over the following years. Yes, we faculty members hope that you will all come to love and enjoy your time at this R. E. E. E., and that over the next three years you come to understand your feelings and get in touch with your inner self, and your truths, better than ever before. So that, when you emerge from these halls, and until the day that you know the sweet embrace of oblivion that is death, you shall all be equipped to spread the social justice gospel to every corner of our holy mother world, and ensure diversity and equality for all!

    Oh, one last thing, before I forget. Those taking the Islam and Social Justice course, please remember to take your shoes off before entering the mosque, as it is holy ground to Mohammed, peace be upon him. One of the staff cut across its grounds last week whilst wearing shoes, so we had to fire and un-person them lest we offend any of the world’s Muslims. That’s all.

  7. Atheists wanting to be minor deities is not logical. Because, as soon as you have a bunch of deities, it is reasonable to think of an even better deity, (as they clearly exist, and as some are better than others), and at some point the best deity possible. Which is the God of the Philosophers. Whom, as an Atheist, you believe cannot exist.

  8. God makes humans. Humans misbehave. To forgive them he sacrificed a piece of Himself to Himself. A human might do something similar by making sentient self-reproducing little robots that misbehave in response to which the human removes a part of his/her liver, eats it, then declares the robots forgiven when the liver grows back (human livers do that). Makes perfect sense, right?

    ‘Course, the liver is an imperfect analogy…or is it?

    Christians claim the God is a trinity of co-equal parts, who are independent beings, AND part of the same being. That concurrent independence & singularity being an unfathomable mystery. This in straight-faced sincerity. Also, Concurrently, one of those co-equal beings within the trinity is presented in the same Bible as having unique special properties—being the focal point of the so-called “Unforgivable Sin.”

    Co-equal and also very expressly unequal. I have yet to read or hear a coherent explanation of how the HSpirit is both equal and is, uniquely subject to higher standards by its humans.

    How can anyone top that founding story, and with the trinity? Looks almost like Christianity itself was a parody that somehow stuck … in part by inducing its adherents to switch off their thinking faculties to avoid confronting the logical contradictions.

    Also, isn’t it curious that when Gospel story inconsistencies are noted they’re brushed off as inconsequential s to be expected from different sources. … Until some other time when the very same references are asserted to be the Divine Words of God. Doesn’t it seem a weak or disinterested god that can’t ensure His Divine words, messages and law cannot be recorded consistently? Both “Almighty” and responsible for sowing contradiction in His official Word?

    Or, maybe, those and much more are indicators of terrestrial origin.

  9. NY Times’ Molly Worthen interviews pastor Ramona Robertson

    Worthen: Reverend Robertson, first I just wanted to say I admire your courage to have accepted “female” as your true sexuality that you identify with in spite of what fundamentalists say about your so-called biological gender as you were born. How does it feel to be such a revolutionary leader as a pastor of the Progressive Christ Church?

    Robertson: It’s hard, Molly. I’m sure you understand as a fellow woman, that men can get away with anything. Furthermore, as a pastor, I don’t make nearly as much money as the average reverend. The wage gap is a real problem in the modern world.

    Worthen: Tell me about it. And let’s not forget white privilege. I’ll have you know that Nicholas Kristof stole my idea and went ahead of me to have an interview with none other than Serene Jones.

    Robertson: But to her credit, she’s wonderful–as Christian as they come. As you know, there are many misconceptions about the role and authority of women based on what is written in the Bible.

    Worthen: Would you care to clarify?

    Robertson: Absolutely. Let me start by saying that the virgin Mary is actually my inspiration and primarily how I came to identify as a female. What is significant about the virgin birth is not so much to do with her not having sex, for God made sex to be wonderful, but the point really is that with God there are no boundaries. I also am living proof of that fact.

    Worthen: Do you find as a transgender individual that being transgender makes it harder for your congregation to take you seriously?

    Robertson: Sure, but I mean look at Jesus. All sorts of people thought he was crazy. It’s like he teaches us “blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

  10. There are some forms of Christianity which themselves are close to parody – Pentecostalism, Word of Faith, Jehovah Witness’, Mormonism, etc. Heck, some in Catholicism with their teachings (see here about purgatory, gaining merit, and virtues). Not to mention Ken Ham’s ‘ministry‘ in Kentucky.

    These are far more dangerous than the pagan universalism of the left, which will collapse on its own accord since it has no source of authority or of values. But most of these forms of Christianity have a basis in some teaching(s) from the bible or the church fathers, as interpreted and emphasized by authorities in the specific church.

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