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The Art of Culling (or, why Jesus was not a good shepherd) - Tactical Ninja

Sep. 21st, 2012

08:56 am - The Art of Culling (or, why Jesus was not a good shepherd)

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So this morning's pillow talk was about why it's not sensible to keep a dragon in an apartment. I thought my argument that New Zealand has too many cows and that the dragon could help cull them would win the day, but apparently dealing with cow-sized dragon poo is an effective counter to that. Also, what happens when it won't fit in the kitchen window any more vs using the neighbour's balcony as a landing pad and how to deal with a house full of treasure. *sigh*


I read something on my flist today about getting accosted in the street by someone who wanted to talk about the good news. I think most of us know that means it'll be someone proselytising for some religion - in this country it'd most likely be a Christian*. We have one guy who stands on Lambton Quay and hands out tracts. He's a nice enough guy (although sometimes he rants, I'm told) - mostly he just holds them out and you can take one if you want, or not.

I hold no truck with organised religion. I'm an atheist in that (as described in Magic and Drugs Part 1) I don't buy the concept of an intelligent, self-aware deity that gives a crap about what I'm doing. I think it's impossible for the universe to be created the way it is - logic tells me that the only way this could have happened is by chance, good old trial and error. That doesn't just count for the Christian God, it counts for all gods. I think we made them up. That doesn't mean they are not real for the people who believe in them - I think we've established that the mind is a pretty bloody powerful thing, right, so there's no reason why if magic exists because I believe it so, then a god can't either. But your god doesn't exist for me.

However, in the interest of religous tolerance and because I'm always curious about what people believe and why, I tend to hear people out when they talk about their sprituality, and on this particular day, I was feeling curious so I took one of this guy's tracts. Turns out it was the one about the good shepherd. You know the one, where the guy loses a sheep and Jesus is all "Go find that one lost sheep because that's what a good shepherd does" while blatantly bludgeoning you with the analogy that Jesus is a good shepherd because he cares enough about you personally that he'll go looking for you in the wilderness if you wander away from the flock. In fact, Jesus reckons that good shepherding involves taking special care of the extra-needy sheep - the lost, the sick, the wanting.

This is an awesome philosophy for a caring paradigm, and to make Jesus look like a decent sort. It's nice to think that if you're in need of extra care and attention, this bloke will give it, right? But what it isn't, is good shepherding.

I've been a shepherd. Caring for a flock of sheep is about keeping the flock healthy and safe. This means ministering to the sick ones - and then culling them so they don't pass their weak genes on to their offspring. It means looking after the ones that you know will give the best return and cutting out the ones that require extra work and expense to maintain. And if one wanders off into the wilderness, sure, you go look for it - but not before you've made sure the bulk of the flock is safe in the barn. Otherwise, you might come back with your Lil Lost Lamb and find that your healthy flock that you've been nurturing for years has been eaten by wolves - or they've all wandered off and now you have to hire a bunch of drunk musterers to help you find them all**.

As you can imagine, letting the sick/lost/difficult sheep die is probably not a good analogy for the sort of caring that Jesus would have advocated. I actually agree with him - when it comes to people, those in need of extra care should get it, and when someone's lost (either physically or mentally) we should put extra effort into finding them. But people are not sheep, and this behaviour is about as far from good shepherding as you can get.

I read this thing and by the end of it I was all "What a load of horseshit." Because seriously, to anyone who knows anything about sheep, this parable just tells you that Jesus was a terrible shepherd and should have stuck to carpentry, and that if he really thought of people as his flock then the way he treats the ones that don't stray is pretty bloody cavalier. I'm sure the devout would say that he's just testing your faith by ignoring you because you're faithful in favour of those that aren't. That's all well and good, but it's not good bloody shepherding. K? You don't test your flock's health by putting them freshly shorn in a southerly-exposed paddock on a snow day in September to lamb, while you keep the sick one by the fire in a beer crate. Just no.

So, um, yeah. Jesus needs a better analogy. Sadly, this shepherd thing has permeated throughout the religion and it makes me distrustful of the whole shebang to be honest. The people who wrote the bible must have known something about keeping sheep, coming from an agrarian culture and all, yet they persisted with it. Maybe they treated their sheep differently in those days, but to be honest if they treated their sheep the way they claim Jesus said they should, they'd be all dead. Just saying.


* Nobody else really proselytises here. The hare krishnas dance around with tambourines going "Hey we're having an awesome time want some free vegie food?" and the Falun Gong meditate in Cuba Mall with signs showing what the Chinese Government has done to them, but that's about it.
** Bo Peep moved to Australia when the ECA came in.

Anyway, do you reckon I should make a dragon? I've been doing a bit of paper mache stuff lately and enjoying it, and I like dragons. A paper mache one wouldn't poo either, so there's that. However, before you go "WTF Tats of course you should make a dragon!" Remember I have to put it somewhere. Think about how much you'd like a dragon in your apartment (even a little one) and how it'd need dusting and how it would take up random space that could be actual space and whether it'd be worth the sacrifices to have a dragon. This is the thing - I don't know if I want to have a dragon - I just want to make one.

Sound familiar?

Oh yeah, while I remember, t_c_da asked me to boost the signal on this. Girl acts in movie believing she's making a fantasy movie, turns out when it's released it's been overdubbed and turned into a hate movie about Muslims. Nasty.

Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:September 20th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
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actually, i am not convinced that the people who wrote the bible knew anything about sheep, mostly cause the bible ie the new testament was collated, as in put together about 300 years after jesus ran about doing his thing.. and mostly it was a bunch of 'priests' who were being directed by an emperor who had an agenda that was nothing to do with sheep but more to with consolidating the people of rome. now down through the ages the various passages found in the new testament have been changed and altered depending on when it was re-written and what the politics of the day was..

so that all means the bible as we know it today is less about sheep and spirituality and more about politics and control...

and as an aside.. if you hunt down the Jesus seminar, they have apparently re written the bible in a colour coded kinda way, with the colours indicating if jesus actually said and did what was written.. which is only about 14-16% of said new testament...

alright, that will be all for today class.. you should run off now and enjoy the day.. *coughs*

*grins*
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
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Sure, but even 300 years later it was an agrarian society (at least the countries where it all went down were).

If what you're saying is correct, I must assume that early Christians were all also townies, and that by the time the country folk got into Christianity they were either being forced to at swordpoint or it was too late to change the bible back to saying sensible stuff like "Don't treat people like your sheep because then you'll have to mercy kill the sick ones with a knife."
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From:pombagira
Date:September 20th, 2012 09:55 pm (UTC)
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yes pretty much.. even way back then while a lot of the society was a farm based one, the people who were involved with the bible where not, thus no clue was had. and like you said by the time country folk got into Christianity in a read the bible kinda way it was to late..

for most countries, the first people who were converted to Christianity where the wealthy and royalty.. with the idea that the peasants look up and want to emulate, and aspire to, the wealthy and royality. however like most things this was not always the case..and the farmer folk where reluctant in many places to give up their pagan ways, well or so the story goes... so really if it had been the peasants were left to write the bible i suspect it would of looked way different.. *grins*

*ponders this*
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From:t_c_da
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:12 pm (UTC)
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converted to Christianity where the wealthy and royalty

I'm going to dispute that for the early church (i.e. pre Constantine in 300AD). Just look at the apostles, only Paul had any education, the rest were fishermen and similar bottom of the barrel folk.

For my money, Christianity headed down the tubes about the time it became an "official" religion, and the rich buggers took over - much like civilisation when you think about it...
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From:pombagira
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC)
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yeah, it was around 300AD that the rich people took over.. so lots of time for tweeking and messing it all up..


before that it was considered a jewish sect and from what i understand small groups of people who shared the letters and various writings around, thus much was lost and when it was collated all together much was left out by the people in power...

*ponders*
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From:poor_toms_acold
Date:September 23rd, 2012 08:11 am (UTC)
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Yep, the Nicene Creed - a big meeting in which the rich people decided which Christian writings were true and which were inconvenient and therefore not true. What we now know as the New Testament is the collected works deemed 'correct'.
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From:t_c_da
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
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I'm going to be a little difficult here, but please bear with me.

First a question for you Tats: what size flock were you shepherding?

I'm given to understand that in the time of Jesus flocks were rarely more than a dozen or two* and all the individual sheep were known by name to the shepherd. There was a type of two way bond between the shepherd and the sheep - hence the quote "I know my sheep, and my sheep know me".

I suspect too, that shepherds were probably not so into improving the flock by selective breeding and such in the manner of modern large flocks with it's associated drive for bigger better fatter more profitable sheep.

* Yeah, I know, the parable talks about leaving the 99 to go looking for the one, so shoot me. I personally knew a monk who knew all his 160 cows by name, and got the highest milk fat per cow production in the country for many years...
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
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This applies similarly to the 10-50 of my own (named) sheep, or to the 5,000 I would look after for other people.

And whether you want bigger better fatter sheep or just want all your sheep to survive, abandoning the X number of sheep you have to go looking for the one you've lost is just not good sense.

And yeah, the smaller number you have the better their production. I used to top the lambing percentage in Tinui because I could give individual care, but I still wouldn't let 9 of them run off down the road by themselves because one folded in the ditch, you know?
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
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The story I heard was that Jesus got sacked for shouting "29 ... 5 ... 67 .. 42" while the boss was counting them through the gate.

And all the parable had to say was "lock up your flock before going sheep hunting". But instead it says very specifically "abandon your flock to go sheep hunting." Maybe that was why Jesus got sacked.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 11:10 pm (UTC)
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Happy's Law: As an internet discussion increases in length, the probability that someone will mention a random number of invisible wolves from an alternative universe approaches 1.

But only if you have evidence the conversation is about sheep.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 21st, 2012 02:38 am (UTC)
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Woolly metaphors? Yes, I think I agree.
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From:_fustian
Date:September 23rd, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
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The Jesus Seminar's isn't a generally-accepted scholarly view on the "authenticity" of the gospels (whatever that means, given their provenance). The colour coding is based on the consensus opinion of (to quote Wikipedia) "150 critical scholars and laymen".

Also, while you're correct about the political role of Constantine's ecumenical council, it was really all about doctrine and bureaucracy (he was trying to build an Imperial Church out of Christianity, but nobody could give him a definitive explanation of the nature of its God). Canon was established (Constantine also wanted to print some bibles) by selection from a larger pool, sure, but very little editing went on. Likewise, there's not much evidence of tampering with the text (other than in the hands of the translator) "down through the ages". Consistency was the whole purpose; once you add a hardcore IP rider like

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

to the end of the thing, you're pretty much declaring an end to major change.
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From:richdrich
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
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Did they even run sheep in zeroth century Palestine? Bit hot and dry for it, I would have thought, unless the climate was substantially different. Maybe goats. Or up in Lebanon or someplace.

More likely the sheep bits were made up later as Polly suggests, probably by Romans.

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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:51 pm (UTC)
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Most breeds of sheep originate in that area. If you look at wild sheep, they are native to arid semi-mountainous regions. It's us that realised they get bigger if you stuff them full of grass and bred them for the lowlands where farming is easier.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
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Needs more LEDs and lasers.
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From:richdrich
Date:September 20th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
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DO WANT!

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From:labelleizzy
Date:September 21st, 2012 10:54 pm (UTC)
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ooooo. that's the cool kinda dragons...
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From:polychrome_baby
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
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There's actually way worse problems than that in the NT. The geography it gives of Israel isn't even consistent with itself, let alone consistent with actual ancient Israel. Heck, lots and lots of fiddly little shit like that.

I think another thing that always befuddles me is why in the world everyone seems to think this was so far away in the land of ago. As though before 30 AD everyone was sitting in the mud and picking lice off of each other, and heck, there certainly is no other history from that time.
That's not really true, though. There's pretty good records, actually. Civilizations have risen and fallen, with great works and pretty good technology. We've gone upwards and downwards with our knowledge over and over again.

My main issue with Christianity, really though, is that it is a death cult that focuses on death and what happens after death. If they wanted to make an argument that they are about the resurrection of Jesus, then it would make more sense for their symbol to be the rock covering the cafe of his tomb. It's not, though, is it? It's a cross. It's this constant death thing, and that focus makes all the bits about where it's gone off track with it's gentler and kinder bits make sense.
You can't do good out of a center of fear.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
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I think a lot of the thoughts attributed to Jesus are good ones, it's the religion that stuffed it up. But the shepherding thing really rankles.
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From:t_c_da
Date:September 20th, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
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In my more random moments I look at the Roman Catholic church, and wonder what Jesus makes of the whole show. I personally suspect that by and large he's given up on the institution and concentrated instead on individuals within it.

I love this joke from a Presbyterian newsletter at home somewhere in which Jesus comes back and asks some theologians what they think christianity is, and when they respond with some long winded polysyllabic verbiage he replies "What???".

There are several passages in the gospels that (to my mind anyway) are at complete odds with the way most branches of Christianity are run.
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From:tieke
Date:September 20th, 2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
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Oh noes, I just got stared at for being that crazy lady rofling on the bus. Also, I believe you have just invented a religious parable for the ACT party.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 20th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
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I know. I scared myself when I realised how far my views of looking after sheep are from my views of looking after a country.

It made me realise why so many farmers are National voters though. ;-/
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From:bekitty
Date:September 21st, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
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It's the foot-washing metaphors that really crack me up. Foot-washing is (apparently) a metaphor for *censored*. Y'know, like all the begatting.

So apparently, Mary Magdalen "washed" Jesus' "feet", then dried them with her hair. Fnar fnar.

And then I watched Prometheus, where one character is shown literally washing another character's feet. Which made me gigglesnort loudly. In the cinema.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 21st, 2012 10:40 am (UTC)
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See I told Dr Wheel you wouldn't mind having a dragon on the fire escape!
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:September 21st, 2012 09:07 am (UTC)
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I've always wondered about the shepherd analogy as a kid. I always felt that wandering after the lost lamb is nice, but what about those who stayed nearby as they should? They get eaten. And that's not a problem because they'll receive their reward in heaven. And THAT imo is the whole problem with christianity and many other religions. They want to make us believe there's a reward *later* (when we can't report back and tell others it's a hoax) so they can manipulate us into the pyramid scam right now. Religion is generally a good thing. Organized religion is what every powerful organization does: Exploit their own. 'nuff ranted.

So, make the dragon and give it to someone so they have to place it and dust it. Two flies with one flap as we say :)
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From:chookfair
Date:September 21st, 2012 02:22 pm (UTC)
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You could suspend the dragon from the ceiling, if the design was such that it wouldn't randomly claw people who walked underneath it.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 21st, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
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We do have a pretty high stud.. hmm..
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From:labelleizzy
Date:September 21st, 2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
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I... really like this train of thought.
No, LOVE it.
Return on investment, being practical and all that... some non-farmer, non-shepherd scholar somewhere probably really liked the metaphor and Put It In The Book...
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