It has been too long since my last entry, but that's not because I've been blog-lazy; it's just that I haven't heard any really bad metaphors in church in a while. All that changed yesterday. The following is only slightly exaggerated:
The Gospel is like the 1984 James Cameron film "The Terminator," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. See, in the film, robot-Arnold is sent back in time from a dystopian robot future, so he can kill Sarah Connor before she gives birth to Batman. And we all know how devastating that would be. It would change the course of history, just by getting rid of one lady.
And that's why it's like the Gospel. We can change the course of history, too. Learn about firearms now, so that in twenty years you can become the leader of the resistance. Repent now, so that in twenty years you can become a Bishop. You get the idea.
Also, in "The Terminator," Arnold is a Bad Guy, but in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," which came out in 1991, Arnold is reprogrammed (by Batman) to be a Good Guy. This is just like conversion. We just need to offer our circuits to the Lord and He can reprogram our sins and replace them with awesome.
Reprogrammed [converted], we might still have to sacrifice ourselves into a lava pit to save mankind, but at least we will have discovered the meaning of humanity. And we're coming back in the third and fourth movies anyway.
I'm curious as to how many other violent R-rated 80s sci-fi movies I'll hear preached about from the pulpit in the coming months. I hope this guy does Blade Runner next.
I have to apologize that it's been so long since my last update. The Gospel has been like all sorts of things in the past couple months, but I keep forgetting to write down the bizarre metaphors I hear. Also, life has been busy this summer and I haven't been blogging very consistently, until recently when I saw a film that blew my mind and I had to talk about it.
However, one metaphor from church has stood out to me. This was a few weeks ago. We were talking about continued revelation and how in Latter-Day Saint theology, we believe in an open canon (as opposed to the closed canon we see in most mainstream Christianity). This means that we believe the Bible to be the word of God, but we also believe that God had more to say, to other people (the Book of Mormon), and also in more recent times (the Doctrine and Covenants, etc).
A man raised his hand to comment and briefly shared with us his thoughts on how the Bible is like classical music, and "it's wonderful, but who wants to listen to classical all day? There is so much more variety available now." A few of the guys sitting around me cringed at the implications of this statement, which made me glad I wasn't the only one.
He stopped just barely short of naming specific genres and attributing them to specific canonical works or to dispensations, but I am sure he has the whole system mapped out in his mind. Let's step into his mind, Inception-style. He probably thinks something like this...
Classical music: Okay, this is the boring old stuff with all the violins, right? Totally Old Testament. Often slow and repetitive, with occasional bursts of violent crescendo. To fully appreciate it, it requires a really nerdy attention to detail and understanding of historical context - not to mention a long attention span. Also, classical music, like the Old Testament, sets precedence for basically everything else that follows it, but is widely ignored for so doing, and is considered outdated. 60's rock music: This is the New Testament. Shorter than the Old, more to-the-point, and the style is almost completely different. Plus, it's all about peace and love and whatnot. Not to mention that both 60's rock and the New Testament endeavor to answer all sorts of age-old questions - like the meaning of happiness. Progressive Rock: A frenetic, inherently groundbreaking, and undefinable style, progressive rock is kind of like the Book of Mormon. It is defined by the fact that it takes conventional rock music and moves it - progresses it - in a new direction. Prog-rock and the Book of Mormon have got a little bit of everything: sometimes chaotic and intense, sometimes soulful and haunting, sometimes inspirational and empowering. Since the Book was written by many different authors with very different stories, it's like an ultimate mix-tape of progressive greats: some chapters remind me of Pink Floyd, some of Radiohead, some of The Mars Volta. You name it, it's in there. Electronica: This is the music that makes your car's subwoofer go BOOM, and it's very awesome, but when you show it to your friends, they're only impressed for a few moments before you lose their attention. "There are no words," they say with a shrug; "I just don't get it." And that's kind of like the Pearl of Great Price. It's not easily accessible by any means, but there's depth and brilliance in there that, when paid attention to, can blow your mind. Country Music: Some people can't stand this stuff. It feels repetitive and useless to them, because they're city folk and can't really relate to the cultural contexts from which it springs. But every now and then, a song will get famous that they'll say, "okay, fine I hate all country EXCEPT for that one song about feelin' like a woman." And this is why country music is like the Doctrine and Covenants. Most people don't read it cover-to-cover because it bores them, but there are a few passages that everyone knows and loves. Speaking of things everyone loves...
Pop Music: This is a genre defined by the masses. Pop songs play on Top 40 charts and everyone knows them, regardless of personal tastes, because let's face it, they're usually undeniably catchy. It's hard not to sing along. Thus pop music is just like General Conference: it's easy to understand and relate to, and most people love it. Of course, now and then a critical listener will bemoan what they call superficiality: they wish that General Authorities would start talking about more theologically and intellectually challenging subjects, and that "Party in the U.S.A." would stop playing on the radio. But one thing we can't forget is that pop music needs to be simple and accessible to appeal to the masses, just like the General Authorities need to keep their topics simple and accessible when speaking to a worldwide audience. That's why we call them General Authorities. Also, just because something is catchy doesn't mean it's without merit: Eminem and Rhianna's duet "Love The Way You Lie" is incredibly well-written and it's topping the charts. Maybe, because it's rap, it's more hard-hitting and brutal than most popular music, but hey, everyone needs a Bruce R. McConkie sermon once in a while, right?
This weekend we went to the National Zoo with my niece. We saw a turtle who was stuck upside-down and couldn't get up. It was simultaneously the most hilarious and most profoundly depressing thing I've ever seen.
The other turtles just walked by, bad-Samaritan style, observing but not helping. It flailed around for a while (and a nearby kid kept yelling, "get up! get up!"), but to no avail.
This is like the Gospel because, as Batman's butler would say, "why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to [use the Atonement so Jesus can pick us] up."
A few entries back, when I talked about the Gospel being like Bowflex, I mentioned my ward's propensity for ridiculous metaphors (said propensity was what inspired the creation of this blog in the first place). Well, I am no longer living at Lanai because I came home for the summer to work. I am kept up to date (my roommate, who blogs primarily about indie music and shoes, texted me this afternoon saying: "today at Lanai ward, the Gospel is like The Lion King. Simba is a less-active. Nala is a foxy active girl for Simba. Mufasa is God. You're welcome."), but my weekly church services are now provided by Herndon Ward, full of my parents' friends and babies.
I had hoped that being in a family ward would not limit ideas fueling a satirical blog such as this (the Gospel is like all sorts of things when deacons get to the pulpit, right?). My hopes were not in vain: last week, while driving through Ohio, I heard a Sunday School teacher compare the ass from Numbers 22 to "our kids." I thought that it was a bold move to tell your class that their kids were all asses, but the point was valid: namely, that sometimes we ignore profound spiritual truths as uttered by children when we're distracted or blinded by pride.
So, in tribute of those profound truths uttered by children, I present to you: Axe Cop. Written by a five-year-old and illustrated by his older brother, Axe Cop is the perfect encapsulation of a child's imagination. And how is it like the Gospel, you ask?
1. "Sockarang" is a member of Axe Cop's team. He has socks for arms that he can throw as boomerangs. This is probably the line of work Lamoni's enemies went into after Ammon was done with them.
2. Avocado Soldier, originally "Flute Cop," was turned into Uni-Avocado Soldier by a magic avocado and Uni-Baby's misplaced horn. Later, he became "Ghost Cop." These incidents are reminiscent of divinely-inspired name changes like Abram to Abraham, or Saul to Paul.
3. Wexter is Axe Cop's pet T-Rex with a "super fast bite." He has chain guns for arms, fire breath and can fly. This is just like Moses' pet T-Rex, Samson's Triceratops, or, y'know, other Biblical dinosaurs.
4. Axe Cop holds "try outs" to build a team of good guys when he needs to fight bad guys. In the spiritual battle of life, I certainly hope we attend the try outs and fight for the good guy team. Amen.
Every Sunday afternoon, I host a very small scripture study group at my apartment. Part of what we do there is ask each other questions that, due to time-related [or other] constraints, we would not bring up in Sunday School. At any rate, four days ago, it was briefly noted that at least in some ways, the Gospel is like the old video game Warcraft II. Allow me to expound on this subject.
1. Think of the idea of spiritual self-maintenance: how it is all too easy to neglect aspects of our lives that otherwise would have brought us significant spiritual benefit. We will inevitably be distracted by things (which admittedly are often virtuous), and we forget about maintaining little things - like daily scripture study. This is like Warcraft II because often you tell a peasant to go mine gold and it gets stuck in transit while you are out warmongering. A little later, you look at your main base again and notice that the confused peasant is just standing there idly, holding a sack of gold over his broad shoulders and not making you any money. If this goes on for too long without being noticed, your income is cut off, you can't compensate for your losses in battle, and your defenses are eventually overcome. In Warcraft, the "idle peasant" problem is more of an annoying algorithm issue than a fundamental game feature, but in the game of real life, it's not unfair to say that Satan uses your fallen nature's algorithmic flaws to his advantage.
2. However, Satan doesn't typically have to wait for you to be lazy or careless about your religious resource management. Sometimes he gets antsy and aggressive, and that's when he actively attacks your sources of spiritual strength. This is like in Warcraft II, when the enemy kills all your gold-mining peasants (pictured beside this paragraph) and then hangs around your gold mine daring you to try to train more. IT'S THE WORST. But of course, if you can do this trick to HIM before he can try it on you, it's golden. It's like in Alma 57:7-12 when the Nephites cut off the provisions for the enemy city Cumeni. If we cut off the devil's provisions, choke the "natural man," then his attempts at damning us will be ... well, damned!
3. Finally, the Gospel is like Warcraft II because good triumphs over evil. In Warcraft II, the Death Knights may have all sorts of cool spells (like "Unholy Armor" or "Raise Dead," always all sorts of fun), but there is nothing that matches the awesomeness of the 'good guy' Mage's "Polymorph" spell. The Polymorph turns an enemy unit INTO A FREAKING SHEEP.
So, whether it's turning water to wine or turning dragon to mutton, Jesus wins. Amen!
...Okay, maybe I went overboard on the Photoshopping for this article.
Jedi Master Yoda teaches young Anakin (in The Phantom Menace), "fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering;" likewise, St. Paul teaches young Timothy (in The New Testament), "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
The Council of the Twelve's job was to provide ecclesiastical leadership and insight, to maintain communication with the Divine in the world, to try to promote piety, and to train young Christian leaders and congregations to lead Christlike lives; likewise, the Jedi Council's job was to provide theological wisdom and insight, to maintain balance in the Force in the galaxy, to try to promote peace, and to train young padawan learners to lead Knightly lives.
When Jesus of Nazareth was crucified (due to the betrayal of Judas Iscariot), the world fell under apostasy and the Council of Twelve were persecuted and killed - with the exception of John the Beloved, who went into exile on the Isle of Patmos; likewise, when Anakin Skywalker fell and became Darth Vader (due to the betrayal of Chancellor Palpatine), the galaxy fell under Imperial rule and the Jedi Council were hunted down and killed - with the exception of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who went into exile on Degobah and Tatooine, respectively.
When Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees to pray in the spring of 1820, he (after being delivered from an evil interference) was the first in centuries to see the face of the Lord in vision, and then the fullness of the Gospel was restored to the earth; likewise, when Luke Skywalker went into the Death Star to duel Vader in Return of the Jedi, he (after being delivered from the Emperor's dark force lightning) was the first in decades to see the face of his father, and then balance in the Force was restored to the galaxy.
Six days ago, I had the pleasure of attending the BYU 244th Ward (Lanai), which is always a gold mine of interesting metaphors (a month ago, I heard someone testify about Tiger Woods and the film "2012" in the same paragraph). So, I was excited. Imagine my increased excitement as a counselor from the bishopric got up to the pulpit and opened his remarks with: "Hi, I'm Brother [so-and-so], and this week I bought a Bowflex." I was so excited, in fact, that I fell asleep. So I didn't hear the next ten minutes of his Gospel-Bowflex analogy, but according to what I hear, it was glorious. Let us now examine: in what ways is the Gospel like a Bowflex?
1. Our good friend Professor Wikipedia says, "Bowflex is the brand name for a series of exercise machines used for strength training and cardio training." Likewise, the Gospel is kind of like the 'brand name' for a series of principles and ordinances used for salvation and exaltation?
2. Wikipedia continues: "[Bowflex machines] are primarily sold through the use of infomercials." And hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Because, as you may know, the Gospel is also shared through television commercials. Perhaps T.V. hasn't quite become the most effective means of proselyting, but "isn't it about ... time?"
3. Speaking of time, exercising consistently with a Bowflex requires a considerable investment of time and effort (and money). Likewise, to live the Gospel also requires, well, everything. Disciples are commanded to be ready to sacrifice all they have. And if you've ever met a bodybuilder, they seem to be living under some similar commandment. The comparison is striking.
4. Bowflex machines can be dangerous, even for those who know how to use them. Wikipedia reports that in January 2004, about 420,000 Bowflex machines were recalled due to mechanical problems. Later, in November 2004, there was a recall of nearly 800,000. How does this relate to the Gospel? Well, not very well, unless you're an atheist.
Anyway. Looks like I ran out of steam on this one. I guess I'm just not insightful enough to be able to more deeply compare piety to pumping iron. Too bad I fell asleep during that talk.
The Gospel is like a lot of things, including alcohol distribution. See, when I was a missionary, I went "tracting" (knocking on doors) all too often. During one of these tracting adventures, a man's Budweiser truck pulled into his driveway as we were knocking on his door. He got out and approached us and we introduced ourselves. As I explained what my companion and I were doing at his house, he seemed mildly interested in at least a short synopsis of what we would teach him, if hypothetically he were to invite us in. We gave him a miniature lesson. When trying to explain why God sends prophets, I took another look at this man's truck, and I said:
"You know, it's kind of like your profession. When you drive that truck, you represent the Budweiser company. As you distribute their product, you are acting on their behalf. Not just anyone can drive that truck. It has to be someone delegated by the company to go out - driving a truck with their name - to distribute beer. In a way, God sends prophets for the same reason. God is like the head of the Budweiser company, and prophets (or missionaries, for that matter) are His employees. We act on His behalf, and distribute His good word under His name and authority. It isn't ours (you don't produce your own beer to ship with that truck, now do you?), but we are given stewardship over it.
So, when there aren't any more prophets, the Gospel can't be distributed to everyone anymore. This is bad. Imagine a country without beer. Now imagine the beer is the Gospel. Basically, the Great Apostacy was akin to the days of Prohibition, and the Restoration is akin to the US Constitution's 21st Amendment."
He liked the analogy. I hope you do too.
I'm going to close by testifying that when the Second Coming happens, we will get to drink wine with Jesus, cause He was all about that in the New Testament days. That is all I have to say about that.
The Gospel is like a lot of things. The Gospel is kind of like that movie "Avatar," because Neal A. Maxwell said there are people on other worlds, and I think that if we find them, we should be nice to them.
The Gospel is kind of like those "Harry Potter" movies, because we're special and we have special powers. Well, not really powers, but, like, the Priesthood and stuff. And we should share our testimonies with muggles.
I saw a movie called "Up" and it reminded me that we are all going "up," into Heaven. An old man puts balloons on his house and floats it to South America. Balloons are like faith, and South America is like the Celestial Kingdom (but probably more dirty and dangerous). Anyway, the Gospel is like a Disney-owned CGI-centric film company that got big because of a Tom Hanks cowboy and a Tim Allen spaceman.
There was this film called "Angels and Demons" in theaters recently and it just reminded me of how blessed we are to have the Restoration. Seriously, so blessed.
The Gospel is like "2012," because, um, well, the world is going to end and we had better be ready. But in the film, the sun hates us, and in real life, the Son loves us. Get it? Sun and Son? The Gospel is like my cleverness: infinite. Just kidding! But seriously, I want to close with my testimony that the world will end in 2012.
Indeed, "the Gospel is like a lot of things." But it is not like everything. The aim (or "work and glory," if you will) of this blog is to poke fun of bad analogies that people could use for explaining Gospel principles. Since this is, of course, satire, many things will be exaggerated, but a surprising number of things you read here come from actual metaphors I have heard people say from the pulpit.
As a hopefully needless disclaimer, do not take anything you read here to be official doctrine. Some of it will probably even be false doctrine. I wash my hands.