The following article first appeared on Suite101.com.
A Milder New Testament
As a member of the "baby-boomer" generation, I grew up with television. Early morning cartoons, after school game shows, and old black-and-white movies filled the bulk of my early life. I remember how harmless and inoffensive television was back then. Anyone who was a part of mainstream society would never be upset by the programming of the day. It seems that extreme efforts were made to prevent even the slightest offense. Disclaimers such as: "The names have been changed to protect the innocent" and "The characters are purely fictional; resemblance to any person(s) living or dead is merely coincidental" often appeared at the beginning of movies and programs. Apparently, the purpose of television during its early years was to entertain and inform without offense.
I have often imagined how wonderful it would be if that same ideal could be applied to the Christian scriptures. It would be much easier for everyone to read the New Testament if it were not so confrontational and, at times, down right insulting. Some think that it is necessary to change the actual contents of the sacred book in order to make it into one that entertains and informs without offense, but I disagree. I believe that the inspired text can be preserved and made inoffensive at the same time. This can be done by using strategically placed disclaimers; ones that are similar to those used on early TV movies and programs.
Therefore, I have come up with twelve modest suggestions that may help turn the New Testament into a milder, more temperate piece of literature. These suggested disclaimers are numbered and listed below, with their accompanying portions of scripture. They are as follows:
1) Matthew 11, 18, and 23, and Luke 6, 10, 11, and 17, and the entire Epistle of Jude should each be preceded by the following statement.
All "woes" mentioned in this chapter are directed at the people who lived during the time of the original writing and are not applicable for this modern age.
2) Matthew 5:32, 19:9, and Mark 10:10 should be footnoted with:
These statements made by Jesus are not directed at those who are considering divorce for reasons of incompatibility, new found love, or the desire to be free.
3) Matthew 25, as well as most of the other chapters containing parables by Jesus, should be introduced with:
The following parables are fictitious stories designed to entertain. No theological implications should be made. For real theological truth, please consult your priest, minister, rabbi, yogi, guru, or favorite on-line religion-and-spirituality web site.
4) Every place the word hell, demon, or devil appears, the bracketed phrase [metaphorically speaking] should follow.
5) Wherever Pharisees or Sadducees are mentioned, the following footnote should be placed:
Not intended to represent any type of modern day minister. All of the seemingly obvious similarities should be considered mere coincidences.
6) The end of Romans chapter 1 verse 27 necessitates this bold, bracketed disclaimer: [The perversions referred to above have nothing to do with modern sexual alternative lifestyles. They were somehow different back then and are someway different now. Please visit an Episcopal church for a more detailed explanation.]
7) The first page of the book of Acts should contain this introductory denial:
That was then. This is now. Undertakings and accomplishments listed are no longer relevant.
8) For each Pauline epistle, immediately following the introduction of the letter, this footnote should appear:
See. It is not addressed to you. Do not take it personally.
9) For every other epistle (except Hebrews), immediately following the introduction of the letter, this footnote should appear:
See. It is not specifically addressed to you. Do not take it personally.
10) Before the first chapter of Hebrews, this phrase should be inserted:
Most scholars have no idea who wrote this letter. Do not take it too seriously.
11) The following bracketed phrase should be used at the beginning of the book of Revelations. [This book has no relevance whatsoever since it either depicts events that already happened or events that will take place long after you are dead.]
12) My final suggested disclaimer is the most important one of all. This statement should be placed at the beginning of each copy of the New Testament, either on a page of its own or on the title page. It reads as follows:
All who read the words of this sacred scripture are obviously seeking God. God would never criticize, condemn, or discourage anyone who truly seeks Him. Therefore, all criticisms, condemnations, and discouraging comments found in the following pages are aimed only at those who do not read them.
While I am on the subject of disclaimers, I would like to address an issue that has been bothering me. I am afraid that some readers may be offended by the things I have written. Please allow me to explain myself. I write satire. Satire is usually directed at those who think too highly of themselves. However, those who think too highly of themselves are usually people who do not enjoy or understand the whole concept of satirical writing. Therefore, the ones to whom the chapters of this book are directed will likely never read them.
On the other hand, I believe it is safe to say that all who choose to read this article understand and enjoy satire. Those who enjoy satire are seldom, if ever, the object of it. What I am trying to say is this: if you are reading one of my articles, it is not about you. I would never critique you in a satirical way. You are too much like me. This book is directed at all of those other people, not you. If you happen to see any similarity between you and something or someone in any of my writings, it is purely coincidental.
Hey, I really liked this
idea! Although, I wanted to
make some notations here:
a) Submit your article
under 'HUMOR': I can
see a lot of dry wit here
Let your readers know it
b) Under each 'heading',
use some more conversational, descriptive
examples. For instance, under
the 'Parables', choose one in
particular that has lots of
detail, and then discuss why
it's not applicable for
today - in a humorous way.
c) The best way not to
offend folks is to
direct most of your
dry wit and cynicism
toward your own failings
and ridiculous life
events. Then, everybody
can relate to it.