As a youngster, I liked to ask questions of the teacher in Sunday School class. I would ask questions about one of the many stories that we were told. How tall was Goliath? How long did it take for Noah to build his ark? Did Jericho really fall down after some horns were blown? It was often answered with a chuckle and pat on the head from the teacher. I did not feel that I had my answers from this person, but later the preacher would have a sermon on the very stories that I had questioned. I learned quickly to not question the stories vocally. It was a sin to question God and his Word. It was a sin that led me to an eternal damnation. So, I stopped in order to gain approval from the adults and not be punished with banishment from the comforts.
However, this was the seed that began to grow into a sapling of a tree of knowledge. I needed to water and care for this tree. To find the water and food, I changed my posture on the questioning and began to ask from the point of view that was not from innocence. I asked challenging questions that would force the preacher or teacher to examine their own beliefs to find the answers. Essential, I investigated the Bible by understanding what others interpreted a verse or story to mean. What does this parable mean? What is the break down of the Sermon on the Mount? How does one view the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness? Who Jesus is preaching to? Who was Jesus? Why was he a threat in Jerusalem? What was his message?
It was a wellspring of information of opinions and interpretations of doctrines and dogma. I often suggest that this mountain of knowledge compares to the idea of reading numerous reviews of a movie that you have never seen and forming an opinion. However, I was able to pull together a skeleton of various doctrines and map out how different the minds of the Church can think.
The next step was to actually read the source and examine it in the method of a historian. The historical context was the macrocosm while each book and chapter in the bible was examined as a whole. If you take a single verse out of the bible, you can apply it to an interpretation that may not fit into the entire context of the chapter or book. In the past, I have encountered numerous preachers, faithful members, and verse-spewing fanatics who love to pull out a verse to support their thoughts on a subject. Of course, I remember that during the temptation of Jesus that he was tested by the devil doing the same thing.
By the time I learned enough from this historical method, I was ready to search for the deeper notions of the texts and compare them with the texts of the time. I had studied enough of the contemporary history of the first century BCE and the first century CE that I felt that I could draw on it to answer my questions.
My first question was about the parables and why this form was used to convey the message that Jesus had brought. It was very difficult question as the texts of the region that Jesus was supposed to have lived in were not known for its mass-produced texts. In fact, it is easy to conclude that nearly all were illiterate. The language of the early texts of the New Testament was mostly ancient Greek. Most of the lands had come to know Greek during the Hellenization of the region after Alexander the Great’s conquest.
Parables have a higher rate of understanding due to their length and lack of complexity for the people of the region to understand. These people were not thinking about the world beyond their daily routine. A minister roaming the land that works to connect with his people is best served when he changes his words into short stories that can be easily memorized and told to others. It is an example of early social networking.
On the thought of the language used, the texts of Gospels are accepted to be dated later in the first century CE, so this places them a few decades after the crucifixion. In addition, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE. It is difficult to believe that the Gospels were eye witness accounts written during Jesus’ time. All are dated to the period after the Jewish Revolt, so it makes logical sense that the parables were passed along in an oral tradition until they were recorded and protected from destruction. The Parables of Jesus survived as a simple vehicle in a region of illiterate people.
It is this group of people that became the core of the beginnings. They were simple people on the rural edge of a sea that kept them away from all the politics of the world. It is no surprise that the powers of the Empire did not give them much thought. But this conclusion only answers one of my questions and not with much solid evidence. The puzzle is missing pieces.
I will be working to explore this subject further and would love to hear from others on their ideas of parables and their use in the New Testament. I have plenty questions to further understand.
I have been spending a lot of time focusing on the effects that various religious thought has had on my life. Originally, I had given into the belief systems of those around me. This had lasted for so long that I nearly lost myself. Eventually, I resurfaced and realized that I needed the skills to keep me from drowning. This was the effect of those early years which turned into a cause. Yet, as I picked my way through the matters of the doctrines and dogma, I soon felt the stones being tied to my legs. This was beginning to pull me down into the depths.
I soon discovered that it was my choice to continue on this path or alter my direction. It was my choice based on free will, so I took that step. This became a turning point. I took some time to reflect on that moment. I came to remember it as the epiphany of my religious understanding. The moment did not stop my search for the answers or fulfill my need to know more. I did not want to sink further into the mire. Instead, I was given freedom from the oppression and continued on my own path.
As I did this, I grew interested in finding others who could understand what it was that I had discovered. I knew that my spouse was with me after having a similar experience in relation to religious beliefs. Yet, I wanted to know if anyone else had come to some of the same conclusions. The search for this person or group of people was for the purpose to discuss and refine the thoughts and theories. I found something that surprised me.
The first moment that I found a group was one day when I was revising some points on my Facebook page. The religious views drop-down menu had many options, but I never expected to find Free-thinker or Hard core non-theist, but non-atheist. I never did care for such labels because no one should be put in a box unless they choose it. As I reviewed the options, I discovered what I thought was a typo. I had read much about Rastafarians, but I had no clue to what a Pastafarian was. I was soon to learn more about it because of that little drop-down menu.
In 2005, I found the answers to this new question. Pastafarians are the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who is the creator of the universe and pirates. The movement essentially was created in a simple response from an Oregon undergrad in 2003 to an incident in Kansas. His letter was to the State’s Board of Education. It was their intention to teach Creationism as part of the science classes. Creationism would be taught as a theory along with Evolution. This letter was a request for them to also teach his theory on the creation of the universe by a pile of noodles with a pair of meatballs. It was a voice that expressed satire for this decision while designing a curious point for people to gather and discuss their ideas about the world and the universe.
Around this point, the ideas grew until the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded and formal religious texts were set down. The ceremonies and holidays were established including September 19. This day came from a curious legend in modern society. It was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The tone for this group of Pastafarians was set and the battle was on. Satire was soon questioned by those of other faiths and the words started to fly.
Of course, I was not interested in the battles as much as I was eager to find others who had seen some of the ridiculous contradictions of the religions. This was not a desire to gang up and make fun of them, but it became a deeper exploration of others’ experiences. I was completely fascinated and quickly identified with them. Perhaps I was more excited to have other minds to bounce ideas off. Either way, I had found something to share and acknowledged this following in my religious views.
So, I would like to invite anyone interested in a different point of view that is not out to strike aggressively at other beliefs to check out the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This discovery is not the end of the search for answers, but a way station for general fellowship. I belief that we all should take a moment to question what is told to us. We should all strive to experience and to understand our own beliefs.