Pray the Ex-Gay Away

Maybe there is a God after all!

Exodus International, a leading “ex-gay” organization (you know, those lovely groups that think if gay guys pray hard enough, they won’t like dudes anymore), is shutting its doors.

And this except from an apology from Alan Chambers, Exodus’ president, is just–wow. Read it for yourself:

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

The End of the Beginning


OMGWTFBIBLE is a project I started a little over a year ago. On a bit of an insane whim, I decided to write my own translation of the Hebrew Bible. The podcast I do each month, where a friend reads a chapter or so of my translation while I provide commentary, is a fun way to showcase the work I’m doing, but the core of the project is just to create this thing: a complete, relatively accurate, and interesting translation of the entire Old Testament. In what little free time I have.

Very often, this has seemed like an impossible task. The book is just so massive, not to mention rife with words with ambiguous or unknown meanings, that in the back of my mind, there’s always been a little nagging voicing saying, “do you really think you can pull this off?”

Maybe I can. I’m happy to announce that, as of this weekend, I’ve finished my initial translation of Genesis. Or, as I’m calling it, “In the Beginning.” I still have to revise it and edit it and make sure the jokes are actually funny, but the words are all there. It’s done. I’ve translated the first book of the Bible.

Therefore: thank you everyone who’s been coming to shows or supporting this thing online or given me reviews on iTunes or helped with promotion or been a guest on the show or have simply let me know how much they’ve enjoyed it. So much of the reason I’ve kept pushing forward to finish the first book is because of the feedback I’ve got. Thank you for reminding me that, even when I’m searching through concordances for hours to figure out what obscure ancient words mean, this is a thing worth making.

Retranslating the Bible, One Word at a Time

The Texas Bible in action.

Or, Just retranslating one word.

Jon Dyer had a problem. There was no word in standard English translations of the book that accurately capture plural form of “you” in the original text. In his words:

[Just] about any time I teach from the Scriptures I have to point out a place where the English Bible says “you,” but the original Hebrew or Greek indicates you plural rather than you singular. This means the original author was addressing to a group of people, but a modern English reader can’t detect this because in common English we use “you” for both singular (“you are awesome”) and plural (“you are a team”). This often leads modern readers to think “you” refers to him or her as an individual, when in fact it refers to the community of faith.

Here in Texas (and in the Southern US more generally), I tell my audience that we have a perfect equivalent to the original Greek/Hebrew second person plural: “y’all” the contraction of “you all.” This of course always gets me a good laugh. And this is not unique to the Southern US – many other areas of the English speaking world also have spoken forms of you plural such as “you guys,” “yinz,” and “you lot.”

So, like any other enterprising web developer/former youth pastor, he created a Chrome plugin to fix the problem. With the Texas Bible, Chrome will automatically retranslate appropriate “you”s on a bunch of Bible websites to “y’all,” “yinz,” or “you guys.”

<h/t: First Things>

Breaking: Jews Like Booze

Did you know that Jews like whiskey? It is true! Jews like whiskey! A lot of my early Jewish memories are closely tied to whiskey. Every holiday and wedding and Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah featured whiskey. And not just any whiskey, but good whiskey. Single-malt Scotch Whiskey.

And Purim? Forget about it.

Anyway, I guess this was a secret? Something people didn’t know? Well, New York Times found out and wrote an article about the decades-old trend, covering a new WhiskyFest-related event called “Whisky Jewbilee:”

The bond with whiskey goes way back. Mr. Blashka said early Jewish immigrants to America, unable to trust the provenance of local wines, turned to certain distilled liquors, including whiskey. “Because the wine was an issue, typically spirits was their avenue for drinking,” he said.

It’s a good thing whiskey wasn’t mentioned in the Torah!

As recent decades have ushered in a revival in Scotch, bourbon and other whiskeys, Jews, like many other groups, have moved beyond the usual blends and have developed more sophisticated tastes. “Now we have many whiskeys that we know are kosher,” said Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Congregation B’nai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights, whose preferred whiskey is the smoky Laphroaig, a single malt from Islay. “It is used to add to our joy.”

But really, Rabbi Raskin, what’s the real reason you’re so excited about all this whiskey?

“And it helps attendance at synagogues,” he added.

I can only imagine that this news will only increase the mourning on Tisha B’av.

<h/t: Heeb>

The Apocalypse is Coming, So Why Save the World?

One of my favorite pet theories about Republican opposition to action on climate change goes this way: many religious Republicans believe strongly in end-times prophecies and therefore has absolutely no incentive to do anything to stop climate change. After all, if God’s going to destroy the world eventually, who cares if we do?

This was something I’d sometimes tell friends if I had too many drinks. In a new study, David C. Barker and David H. Bearce actually put this hypothesis to the test through research and stuff. They found that, in 2006, a whopping 76% of Republicans stated a belief in the Second Coming. And what did that belief mean?

The study, based on data from the 2007 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, uncovered that belief in the “Second Coming” of Jesus reduced the probability of strongly supporting government action on climate change by 12 percent when controlling for a number of demographic and cultural factors. When the effects of party affiliation, political ideology, and media distrust were removed from the analysis, the belief in the “Second Coming” increased this effect by almost 20 percent.

“[I]t stands to reason that most nonbelievers would support preserving the Earth for future generations, but that end-times believers would rationally perceive such efforts to be ultimately futile, and hence ill-advised,” Barker and Bearce explained.

Yikes! Guys, we really have to stop taking this book so literally if we want to not drown to death.

<h/t: Andrew Sullivan>

Responding to Boston

Last night, before the show, I felt compelled to address the terrorist attacks in Boston that day. To start the show without talking about that tragedy felt wrong. Since I was recording, I’ve released my remarks as a special podcast episode.

It’s available in Stitcher, iTunes, RSS, and direct download.

My statements, as prepared (I deviated a bit in the recording), appear below:

There’s something I need to address. As you hear this, this happened more than a week ago, but just a few hours ago, there were two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We don’t really know anything right now. Two people are dead and there are reports of over a hundred wounded.

This is awful and has made me sick to my stomach. My heart goes out to everyone affected by these apparently deliberate attacks. I have family in Boston and I got in touch with them and they’re ok—but there are a lot of people who aren’t.

These was a moment this afternoon when I considered cancelling tonight’s show. Something about my taking such a cavalier attitude to a text so many people consider sacred in the wake of such a tragedy seemed a bit insensitive.

But then I realized that’s exactly why I should perform tonight.

This book is at the center of millions of peoples’ ideologies.  For a lot of the world, morality is driven by the book I’m going to make fun of tonight. And sometimes, some people (a very small minority, but some) stand so firm in their ideologies, whether they come from this book or not, that they reject all other points of view. And they kill.

You’ll see seemingly righteous killing in this month’s chapter. And a lot of people base certain moral judgements on what we’re about to read. Part of the reason this show must go on is to point out the ambiguity that exists even within this ideology—that those who stake a claim to absolute truth and morality might just be mistaken. And if they are, they probably shouldn’t condemn anyone. Or kill them.

The other reason, and this is more of a traditional reading than I usually do in this show, is because of the conversation Avraham has with God. As you’ll see, Avraham convinces Yehovah to spare the cities of S’dom and G’mora if He can find 10 innocent men within.

Presumably God, if you believe in Him, knows what lies in the hearts of men. He is the only entity that can know whether a soul is truly innocent. And he relents for the sake of 10 innocents. How can anyone, especially one who professes a belief in an Almighty, possibly claim to know what lies in the hearts of others and condemn countless times more than 10 innocents to death—when even God wouldn’t do such a thing?

Do the Coen Brothers Believe in God?

Growing up in a religious Jewish community, I always had a special affinity for the films of the Coen brothers. Their cheeky humor was appealed to my cynical side and the whispers I heard that they’d grown up Orthodox made me feel an unearned kinship with them. Seeing Walter Sobchak on screen was a formative experience for a generation of Sabbath-observing Jews. As I got older and a little brighter, I started to notice the murky moral waters in which their films swam and my appreciation for them deepened.

Throughout their films, the Coens grapple with the struggles between good and evil, the impact of luck and fate on our lives, and the concept of a creator running it all. Matt Zoller Seitz spoke with film critic Jeffrey Overstreet in Indiewire last month about the representation of religion in the worlds of the Coens:

I think the Coens suggest him via negativa. They show the incompleteness and insufficiency of a vision that leaves God out. There are clearly human evils at work —evils of foolishness, carelessness, folly, and evils of greed and deliberate violence. But there are also evils of apocalyptic, seemingly supernatural proportions. As No Country demonstrates, good deeds and the power of law are not enough to save the world. Ultimately, the best we can do is seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in the presence of something greater than ourselves.

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The Only Way to Fly


Well, this definitely isn’t in the Torah. Yesterday, a redditor posted this image of a Chasid wrapped in a plastic bag aboard an airplane. The poster assumed it was to avoid touching women, which while TOTALLY INSANE, is not really that crazy an assumption. Another was quick to point out that this was likely a Kohen (or priest) protecting himself from the impurity he’d pick up from flying 40,000 feet over a cemetary. And that this solution was prescribed by the venerable Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv. OK!

Isn’t kind of a suffocation hazard? What will this dude say when his children start hanging out in plastic bags and tell him “we learned it from watching YOU!”?