I’m sure you all get sick of my voice so we’re incorporating some guest bloggers. We’re hoping for a few a month and we’re starting out with Laura Talley, creator of the blog Redheaded Skeptic. Laura started this blog after she ended her marriage to Baptist minister. Now she’s an Atheist. Her blog is fun and interesting and I would encourage you to check her out. Laura…

LT: Life is never a straight line. It seems we often go the hard way to get to our goals, if we ever make it there at all. Someone did the math on the Bible story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. They wandered in the desert for 40 years on an eight-mile line from point A to point B. That’s how I feel at times.

Five years ago today, I was a conservative Baptist youth minister’s wife finishing up my psychology degree and preparing for motherhood and a life of serving at churches alongside my husband. Today I am married to another man, I have a 4-year-old daughter, I am working on pre-requisites for medical school and I am an atheist. You never know where life is going to take you. I am in the last place I ever thought I would be.

To explain how I got here is like explaining how the Israelites wandered in the desert for so long. Full of twists and turns, and not all of it seems to make a lot of sense.

I married my now ex-husband at the age of 20. While we worked at a Baptist church, we also attended school. Bob (a pseudonym) attended his theology classes and we discussed them when he arrived home. Learning about the different theological theories sparked my curiosity and I began doing my own research. I became more moderate in my theology over time, and from moderate to liberal. By 2007, it was quite clear that I no longer belonged in a Baptist church.

When we graduated, we moved to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with our infant daughter. The isolation from family and friends while caring for a new baby in a miserable marriage in a church where I felt I could not express my opinions led to a severe depression, but no one saw me fall and no one really cared as long as I still attended church and put on a spiritual face. No one, that is, except a friend of mine from college who had moved into general region to attend law school about an hour away from where we lived. When my marriage finally ripped apart, I stayed with the friend while my fundamentalist family showed no support.

Away from the conservative strangle, I delighted in attending a Presbyterian (PCUSA), and later Episcopalian (liberal) church. But I found that the questions I had while a Christian didn’t go away just because I liberated myself from an oppressive situation. I kept exploring and found that I no longer believed any of it anymore. A year after I left my ex-husband, I left the church entirely.

Happily ever after doesn’t usually come all at once. For me anyways, it’s coming in pieces, often more slowly than I would like. In 2009, I married Steve, the friend I stayed with after leaving my ex, and the friend who has stayed with me despite the enormous amount of baggage I brought to the relationship. He saved my life. We have struggled through school together, and he finally graduated from law school last spring. We moved from Fayetteville, Arkansas to the Little Rock area, where I will hopefully begin classes for medical school next spring. It’s not perfect, and it never will be, but it is getting better. It may not come all at once, but for me, this is happily ever after. Or, to carry the Israelite theme all the way through, this is the Promised Land. Now I just have to build my house. . .

Dan the Man

October 27, 2010

Big Diesel. Hollywood. Shug Night. These are my father’s aliases. His namesake, Daniel the prophet, only had one — Belteshazzar.

My dad, Dan, is similar to Daniel. He’s loyal, generous and inquisitive. He also makes grandiose statements, loves giving advice and ends up in some interesting situations.

I’m not sure why my brother calls my dad Big Diesel, but the name fits the personality. Why? Well, Big Diesel has his own way of doing things. Rather than messing with his desk chair, Big Diesel keeps it at midget height, his chest level with the keyboard; he turns his laptop sideways to read unusually formatted documents; and carries his reading glasses in a plastic sandwich bag. Big Diesel.

Like Daniel the prophet, who walks in a fire to save his friends, Big Diesel is extremely loyal. Why not long ago he participated in a three-day, 60-mile MS walkathon to support his friends. No one in our family has MS and until moments before the race, Big Diesel wasn’t walking much. When he started training (I’m guessing a week, two weeks before the race), he got a huge blister on his heel. Rather than letting his friends down, he cut a hole in the back of his shoe to accommodate the blister. Big Diesel.

Daniel the prophet prays for his people while wearing sackcloth and sitting in a pile of ashes. I don’t think my dad’s ever done that (it’s possible), but he has his own sense of style, which is why we call him Hollywood. Hollywood is a very good skier, but his skiing attire — black jeans, $2 Ray-Ban knock-offs, flapping jacket — is all 80s and if Hollywood gets a phone call, he will stop mid-turn to answer it. Hollywood loves his flip phone and has special greetings for everyone who calls. They include: “Yo.” “Mr. Brown.” “Hel-lo.” “Hey Ives.” “This is Dan.” His tone varies with each greeting and when he’s done with you he says, “It was good talking to you.” Click. No goodbye. Conversation over.

Inference is a Prophet Daniel and Big Diesel/Hollywood specialty. The prophet interprets dreams, Hollywood interprets people. For a while, Hollywood knew all bad drivers were either “on drugs” or “punks.” “Methheads” got worked in there for a while, but I think that prophecy has dissipated.

Hollywood could be a writer. He loves telling stories and creating conspiracy theories. This is how his final alias, Shug Night, was born.

For some reason Hollywood started a conversation about the Biggie/Tupac beef, of which he knows a lot (he watched a special). It’s impossible to talk about Biggie and Tupac without theorizing Biggie’s death. Shug Night admits producer Suge Knight had a role in the situation.  However, Shug Night’s says gangs are the real reason Biggie got shot. He blames the “Knights and Crips” a rivalry that, to my knowledge, doesn’t exist.

I just got off the phone with Shug Night. I had to verify the spelling of his name. I though it was “Shrug Night” (because he shrugs his shoulders a lot) but it’s Shug. Why Shug and not Suge, like the real Suge Knight?

“I just shortened it up. His name wasn’t cool enough for me.”

I read The Book of Daniel with greater enthusiasm than the other books because it made me think of my father. If churches could relate personalities like Big Diesel, Hollywood and Shug Night to the prophets, I would consider parking my butt in a pew.

Stopping Point: The Book of Hosea

Sympathy for the Devil

October 26, 2010

Here’s a christian favorite: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

He sure does. I dozed off during today’s reading. I blame Gog, a man with an interesting name and dull tale. When I woke up I thought, “What the hell am I going to write about today? All I’ve got is Gog.”

To stay awake during the rest of the reading, I turned on Pandora and wouldn’t you know, the first song was “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. When I finished reading, I got an email from a reader about Stones’ front man Keith Richards quitting the Bible in 2008 because “it was boring.” Coincidence? I think not. God wanted me to find inspiration in the devil.

Before boring Gog, I read “The Valley of Dry Bones.” Anorexics existed during Biblical times (many people nearly fasted themselves to death in the name of the Lord) but this valley is full of bones, no flesh, no organs, no fuzzy faces. Bones.

God breathes life into these bones, thereby creating new humans. How, might I ask, does this exclude reincarnation as a possibility for Christians? What if God screwed up and breathed souls into animals or trees? I’d like to delve into this topic, but I’m brain dead and it’s almost Halloween so let’s get back to the devil.

All God has to do is breathe life into bones. The devil, on the other hand, has to personalize purgatory for every sinner. That, my friend, is quite a task. I am not bothered by the prospect of spending eternity in inferno. Extreme heat is not on my Top 100 List of Irritations. When I go to hell, the devil’s going to need to customize a chamber for me, Ivy Hughes, and it should include the following:

Old people eating liquids

Barking dogs

Morbidly obese people in motorized scooters

Snakes

Politicians (there’s some overlap here)

Glenn Beck and his stupid university

Bjork

Mark Zuckerberg

Raw chicken

Those are just a few samples from the list I’ve been compiling for about a year and that’s just me. My husband’s chamber would include wet socks, mismatched socks, Oprah and unsolicited contact with bodily fluids.

Imagine how many people are in and will go to hell. Imagine customizing purgatory for each and every one of them.

In “Sympathy for the Devil,” the Stones say the Devil “stole many a man’s soul and fate.” Imagine managing all of those stolen souls? The Devil only gets one holiday — Halloween — so make sure it’s a good one.

The Rolling Stones : Sympathy For The Devil (live) HQ

Stopping Point: The Book of Daniel

*We’re adding faces and opinions. Thursday our first guest blogger, Laura Talley, creator of the Redheaded Skeptic, will contribute to ThumpMe. If you’re interested in contributing or have suggestions for contributors/subjects, please leave a comment or contact me at ivy.hughes@gmail.com

Back on Tuesday

October 25, 2010

Despite working through the weekend, I haven’t finished the two articles I must turn in today. So, I’m bumping the thump to Tuesday, Oct. 26.

 

 

Puff the Magic Prophet

October 20, 2010

Mescaline is: “An alkaloid drug, C11H17NO3, obtained from mescal buttons, which produces hallucinations. Also called peyote.” (Definition provided by Urban Dictionary contributor, Adict).

This hallucinogen is obtained from cacti and special beans. I don’t know if mescaline producing cacti grow in the Middle East, but I assure you beans belonging to the Fabacae family are a prevalent food source in Middle Eastern diets and, based on his extremely bizarre visions, I’m going to guess Prophet Ezekiel fancied this particular food group.

Ezekiel learns he’s a prophet after four creatures with human-ish forms appear before him. Each of these forms has four faces — a human face, lion face, bull face and eagle face — four wings, straight legs, hooves (like a bull) and four human hands under each wing. Wheels with eyes sit next to them and there’s additional detail about subsequent wheels and fire, but it’s too confusing for me to explain. Despite Ezekiel’s descriptive efforts, I cannot imagine how these things moved or what they looked like.

I’m reading a Bible with pictures, drawings really, sometimes they’re helpful, sometimes not. This is the one place where I could really use some imagery but for some reason, the creative team behind my edition of the Bible thought it more valuable to include a drawing of a man shaking his fist in the air than the quad-faced roller derby creatures.

So, I’ve had to improvise. This is a little amateurish, but this is what I picture.

Oh, the eye wheel.

I’ve heard it’s difficult to explain hallucinations. I suppose it’s like explaining dreams, which is why I’m going leave Ezekiel’s second vision of God to the imagination.

In all seriousness, I’ve always wondered how a person becomes a prophet and, more importantly, how people believe that person is a prophet. Prophets claim to have seen God in some form or another but plenty of people claim to have seen God. They see his image in toast, concrete and candy bars. Others claim God reveals himself through substance induced hallucinations. One guy founded an entire religion based on four golden plates allegedly bestowed upon him by God’s angels. Another man convinced 39 people to kill themselves because, after a near death experience, it became apparent to him that he was one of the two witnesses in the Book of Revelations.

Who gets to decide what is a hallucination; an idol; a dream; a message from God; or a joke? What, really, is the difference between someone who sees a four-faced, four-handed creature and someone who sees Jesus toast? Talking stuffed animals? Golden plates?

I find this all very confusing but make no mistake, prophets lead horrible lives. Forecasting death, cannibalism, fire and starvation is an intense, thankless job. Poor Jeremiah nearly lost his mind. Ezekiel, was much more matter of fact in his role as bearer of bad news. I don’t think he was insensitive, I just think he had a little something-something to get him through the night.

Make no mistake, if God ever reveals himself to me, forcing me into a life of prophesying, my food pyramid will consist entirely of mescaline…or beans.

Stopping Point: The Book of Ezekiel 25-48

Gospel Aerobics

October 19, 2010

Gospel Dance Aerobics #1

(Video provided by www.givinghimpraise.com)

This is simply amazing. As a former aerobics instructor, I can appreciate the outfits. As a non-believer reading the Bible, I appreciate the incorporation of the Gospel though I can’t understand anything that woman is singing.

I’m going to overlook the fact that this book is a compilation of C-grade poetry because it validates the notion that every great nation must fall, an end people hasten by refusing to pay attention.

God went hoarse warning the people about their greed, excess, corruption, etc. but they didn’t listen and bam, good by promise land, hello dust and thorns. I’m not a history buff so I can’t say what round of empire destruction we’re entering, but I know which country’s citizens aren’t paying any attention. It’s the same one that’s on deck for obliteration and, unfortunately, we’re living in it.

I had a rather church-like moment Sunday. You need a whole lot of patience to get into my favorite breakfast place on a Sunday so I headed to IHOP, a post church destination for many people in the greater Lansing area.

The last time I went to IHOP the décor was tan and brown, the waitresses were rude, wore orthopedic shoes and delivered meals sized for humans, not elephants. IHOP 2010 is like the dining hall of fat kids camp, flat screens on the walls, meals for $6.99 that include two eggs, four pieces of bacon, hash browns and bottomless pancakes and servers at the ready with two types of hot sauce and ketchup. The bottomless tank of coffee was already on the table as were the five different flavors of syrup. To make room for this mess, I had to take my Bible off the table and put it on my lap. My breakfast at IHOP was so excessive I couldn’t even read, which is a microcosm of what’s happening in this country. We’ve excessed ourselves to stupidity. (My version of spell check doesn’t recognize “excessed” though it’s fairly prevalent on the Internet. Evolution?)

I know history is cumbersome. Lots of dates, lots of names, lots of little details about metals and string and begetting clans but is it too much to ask people to pay attention to the present? Even just a little. I covered the Michigan Senate for about three years. In case you haven’t tuned into the news for oh, years, my state in a bit of a predicament. Something about high unemployment and aging industries… Anyway, it’s damn hard to watch politics that intimately and then watch how little the public reacts. Actually, reaction would be good. Generally, I don’t see anything.

I’m not suggesting violence, but unless “bloody uprising” becomes a new Wii game, I think the citizens of this country are going to keep their heads in the sand, coming up for air to yell racial slurs after tourist attacks; borrowing a popular “celebrity cause” for dinner party conversation and, occasionally voting for people they don’t like and issues they don’t care about.

Celebrities can get people off the couch. On Oct. 30, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are hosting joint marches at the Capitol, the Rally to Restore Sanity and the March to Keep Fear Alive. This is sure to be cute and I commend Colbert and Stewart for attempting to draw the public eye to the issues burying this country but the public eye is lazy, it rolls around IHOP on Sundays, lolling from a giant plate of pancakes to the sports ticker (or cartoons) on a big screen TV. The people in Jerusalem didn’t have big screen TVs, but they had wine and women and jewelry and once they developed lazy eyes, they lost everything.

Stopping Point: The Book of Ezekiel

(Note: I would like to relate at least one entry per Name Book  — ie. Mark, Daniel, John, etc. — to someone who shares that name. However, I’m short on a few. If you know a Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah or Haggai I could talk to, please let me know. I’ll be flexible. If you’ve got an Oadie or Zeek, that will work).

Preacher Mike was kind enough to interview me about ThumpMe. We talked about guacamole, Bible highlights, sections I could do without and, of course, Bible thumpers.

I have to say I’m kind of shocked by the response. Preacher Mike seems to have a pretty open-minded following, which goes to show that most of us operate in the middle, but are represented by the extremes.

If you’re interested in reading the interview, check it out here.

If we walked among the prophets, there’s no way God would stand for such as thing as National Bullying Prevention Month, a lengthy, touchy-feely strike against bullying. On the other hand, God’s prophet Jeremiah would likely accept a position as National Bullying Prevention Month spokesman.

You see, at this point in the Bible, God was extremely upset with people for worshiping idols and ignoring him. As punishment, he vowed to slaughter them, smash them like jars full of wine, starve them and kill them with disease. His prophet, Jeremiah, the sweet, marrying kind, was devastated by God’s wrath and wept for the people, but was too afraid of God to go his own way. Because both were so extreme in their emotions, God appears to be a bully and Jeremiah the victim.

Unfortunately, we tend to focus on the extreme, which is why things like National Bullying Prevention Month exist.  Extreme instances of bullying are not a joke. These instances — 16-Year Old Muslim Beating; Four Teen Suicides in Ohio;  — are reprehensible and the people responsible for them should be severely punished. That being said, 21st Century America is overly sensitive.

There’s no reason to dedicate a month to something the everyone has experienced especially since those experiences are generally mild. If you’ve gone to elementary school or survived puberty, chances are you’ve been “bullied” or what we old fogies might refer to as “teased” and/or “made fun of.”

I have a fat face and when I was in fifth and sixth grade I was a tomboy and spent recess playing basketball with the boys. When I exercise, my round little ball face reddens. Unfortunately for me, side ponytails were the rage during my tomboy phase and after a particularly strenuous game, one of the boys told me the combination of my red round face and side ponytail reminded him of a cherry.

I’ve been made fun of for wearing a bolo tie and being a bookworm but my worst bulling moments occurred in junior. I was teased non-stop by a group of girls in junior high school. After I rounded out and switched social groups, they stopped teasing me.  One even asked if I wanted to be jumped into her gang. I’m not into teardrop tattoos so I declined.

I was never physically harmed like Ralphie in a “A Christmas Story.”

A Christmas Story – Bullying Clip

But, like Ralphie, I survived. We were kids. We got bullied. It happens.

Ralphie Loses It

If we’re going to start setting aside a months to recognize extreme situations, why not create a “National White Collar Criminal Roundup Month;” “National Political Accountability Month;” or “National Spend Less Than You Earn Month”?

Normalizing extreme situations is extremely dangerous. In between God’s threats and Jeremiah’s emotional breakdown, a reasonable outcome exists. But because the back-and-forth focuses on two extremes, it’s difficult to see the reasonable middle ground.

If we, as a society, could stop swinging between freaking out and not caring, we wouldn’t need things like National Bullying Prevention Month. We also wouldn’t cave to political wedge issues or overact to people who think differently than we do. I’m not one for ideals, but it would be great if we could just moderate. Everything in moderation.

This, of course, is coming from Little Mrs. All or Nothing. We’ve all got a little work to do.

Stopping Point: Book of Jeremiah, 31-52

The Trio Behind the Blog

October 12, 2010

Once upon a time when I wanted to blow through college in three years so I could start climbing the corporate ladder (what a joke!) someone told me “if you want to be successful, surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.” I’m sure that was a borrowed phrase, but in my experience, it’s true. Hence, ThumpMe interns Izabela Babinska and Whitney Orth.

Here’s a little info — Izabela was born in Poland; Whitney hates spoons; and I, apparently, need a shave. To read more about us click here. For more info about the blog click here.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

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