How the Bible is Like Honey Boo Boo

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a reality show featuring six-year-old Alana (nicknamed Honey Boo Boo) and her family at home in rural Georgia.

America got its first look at Honey Boo Boo in another reality show, Toddlers & Tiaras. This show gave a backstage look at child beauty pageants, and it was a look that upset many viewers (see the photo of a four-year-old beauty pageant contestant, above). Should little girls be pushed into beauty pageants? Does makeup and acting like a teenager sexualize little girls? Looking at women who did this as children, is it a net positive experience?

Many people think that the place for little girls is the playground, not the stage in a beauty pageant. In the same way, using the Bible to address modern social and moral issues is like pushing a four-year-old into a beauty pageant—it’s simply a poor fit.

The Bible demands genocide, because it comes from a time when that was a reasonable response. It supports slavery, because it comes from a time when that was used with both fellow Jews (slavery for six years) and people from other tribes (slavery for life).

The Bible might have made sense in the context of Palestine 2000 years ago. Perhaps its laws were more humane than those of nearby tribes. But dragging the Bible from where it came from and demanding that it perform in the 21st century is putting it where it doesn’t belong.

The Bible belongs in the domains of history, literature, or anthropology, like the Iliad, Gilgamesh, or the Egyptian Book of the Dead. At best, it can provide insights or lessons by showing us what worked and what didn’t in another culture. That’s it.

At worst, we put it on a pedestal, demand that it speak, and then treat its inept words as divine. It’s as out of place as a four-year-old in a beauty pageant.

Life is meaningless. …
I think it’s absurd—the idea of seeking meaning
in the set of circumstances that happens to exist
after 13.8 billion years’ worth of unguided events.
Leave it to humans to think the universe has a purpose for them. …
There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it. …
Life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can,
taking pride in whatever you’re doing,
having compassion, sharing ideas, being enthusiastic. …
It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one meaningless life of yours.
— Tim Minchin

 

Photo credit: babble

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  • RichardSRussell

    I suppose this may be a more benign form of child exploitation than religious indoctrination, teaching them the high likelihood that they’ll burn in hell forever, but I foresee this crazy stage mom still living off her poor little girl after she’s become Honey Boobies.

    • Guest

      … or Honey Twerk Twerk. :)

  • stanz2reason

    I thought you were going to go with: “Both are exploited by red necks to entertain & brainwash masses of people who really should know better, prompting the rest of us to look at them, scratch our heads, and say ‘What the f*** is wrong with those people?’”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Well … that’s not a crazy interpretation either.

  • Highlander

    Ok, I had never heard of that show. I had to google it. I feel sorry for that little girl. With a family that has terrible eating and exercise habits, and the penchant for beauty pageants, I foresee a life of eating disorders for her.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I was going to go with a photo of Honey Boo Boo herself, but the actual girls in the Toddlers & Tiaras show are scarily adult looking. This 4-yo makes the point much better.

  • Itarion

    So… First I wondered what a doll had to do with Honey Boo Boo. Then I wondered why you said that a doll was a small child. Then, I was thoroughly disturbed.

  • smrnda

    The whole kid pageant thing is creepy, I mean, grown women in beauty contests is a big enough issue as it is, this is so much worse. It also seems like something kind of wrong to force kids so young into; should you really be putting a girl that young in a situation where she gets judged on looks?

    All said, those defending the Bible as ‘good for its time’ should then tell us what books and sources are good for our time.

    • Itarion

      umm… Let’s see. I liked A Brave New World. 1984. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Harry Potter.

      You want to teach kids some good morals? Hand them that. (assuming they’re old enough for the darker half of the series.)

      • smrnda

        That reminded me of something very funny. My brother lives in China, and there is some textbook they use in schools on ‘contemporary world culture’ and it said “In our world, three books tower above all others in relevance. The Bible, Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, and Harry Potter.” I’d argue *only the last* had decent morals.

    • Kodie

      I have to say it’s technically worse than merely judging little girls on their looks. This is judging how well a grown-up can groom a little girl into a singing, dancing, dressed-up living doll. This is not just judges judging her at the pageant, but her parent or coach judging her every day. But I wouldn’t say it’s worse than any other activity for a child at this age that they are coached to excel at. Being judged and pushed every day by an adult coach to attain perfection in anything at that age, to me, is destructive. This is not necessarily moreso just because of the clothes and make-up. Performing is performing, it could be a sport, or recitations, or anything.

      Every once in a while, you see on a talk show some 3-year-old who can recite the US presidents in order. I think that’s just as much a freak show, even though it appears educational. That doesn’t happen because the kid is smarter than other kids.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        I don’t have strong opinions on the subject. I’m sure there are people for whom pageants taught poise, self-confidence, and hard work. It’s the sexualization that raises flags for me.

        That was the aspect I was hoping to grab readers with to make the “inappropriate domain” connection with the Bible.

  • Greg G.

    The Bible might have made sense in the context of Palestine 2000 years ago. Perhaps its laws were more humane than those of nearby tribes.

    The Romans are famous for their bloodsports and public torturous executions but even they thought Jewish laws were barbaric. Remember that the Sanhedrin had to get permission from the Romans before they could execute someone. That seems to have eliminated the penalty for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, for example.

    • Ron

      From what I understand, the Romans only involved themselves with direct insurrections against the state or for failing to honor Caesar, but pretty much left every other public matter in the hands of the locals.

      • Greg G.

        There’s the Josephus passage about the death of James, made famous because he is identified as “the brother of Jesus, who wss called the Christ”. IIRC, the new governor was enroute when the high priest had James killed but he was replaced by Jesus Damneus when the governor arrived. That wasn’t insurrection.

        In the gospels, Jesus had to be taken to Pilate with testimony of insurrection before he could be executed. If the Romans only got involved with insurrection or failing to honor Caesar, they could have executed him for blasphemy or something. The Pilate story wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t require a Roman blessing.

        Perhaps the Romans only allowed the death penalty for insurrection and for rejecting Caesar while barring it for trivial offenses.

        • Ron

          How much authority the Sanhedrin had to execute people is subject to debate, but Josephus makes clear that both Herod the Great and the Herodian tetrarchies which followed had full authority to manage their jurisdictions any way they saw fit, and goes to great lengths to explain just how brutal these men were in carrying out their goals. In fact, Herod Archelaus’ first order of business was to quell a Temple riot the day before the Passover, which resulted in the slaughter of thousands.* He was later removed from office because even the Romans thought he was too extreme.

          Which is why the whole Jesus before Pilate story makes no sense. Barring threats of insurrection, what reason would he have had to embroil himself in Jewish religious affairs?

          * Antiquities, XVII, 9.3 – How The People Raised A Sedition Against Archelaus, And How He Sailed To Rome

        • Greg G.

          ITYM Herod Archaleus who was deposed by Augustus in 6AD when a prefecture was installed in Judea. It wouldn’t surprise me if a military government required local courts to get permission before executions which would eliminate capital punishment for trivial crimes.

          I think the gospels are complete fictions but that taking Jesus to Pilate could be an exaggeration of a known practice of getting permission to execute by trumping up the charges to sedition so the Romans would carry it out.

      • Greg G.

        In Matthew 15, the Pharisees point out the disciples plucking grain on the Sabbath and Jesus replies, “Oh yeah? Well, you don’t kill kids for dishonoring their parents!”

        That tradition may have been too unpopular to enforce for a long time but it shows that the Sanhedrin didn’t bother with some parts of the law.

      • R Vogel

        I thought that too, but I was recently reminded of the story of Stephen. He was stoned to death supposedly not long after the death of Jesus and I don’t believe the Bible mentions the Romans being involved. Seems like yet another inconsistency. The reality is probably closer to the fact that the Roman wanted to kill Jesus for seditious acts and speech, and the whole Sandhedrin deferring to Rome was a later fabrication.

        • Greg G.

          The death of Stephen in Acts 7:54-60 appears to be unhistorical. It has Saul there as the hat check attendant and in Acts 8:3, it has Saul going door to door dragging people to prison. But in Galatians 1:22, Paul says he was unknown to the churches of Judea 3 years after his conversion. It would be unlikely that everybody would have forgotten him.

          Luke used Josephus as an encyclopedia and as a muse in his gospel and in Acts. It’s likely Luke modeled Stephen’s death on the Josephus account of James’ death.

          In the Josephus account, one procurator had died and the replacement had yet to arrive. The high priest took advantage of the procurator’s absence by calling the sanhedrin and doing the execution. The new procurator had the high priest removed to show that was not going to be permitted.

        • R Vogel

          There is also a pretty good case that Rome was simply doing to Sanhedrin’s bidding is also a fabrication conceived much later by Hellenized Chirstians who sought to down play the Roman involvement especially after the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/damekellen/ Dame Kellen

    There is an “uncanny valley” effect going on with that photo. I can’t tell if it’s a girl, a doll, or a doll photo-shopped onto a girl.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yeah, pretty freaky. It’s a girl–4 years old, based on some vague clues.

      • https://www.youtube.com/user/damekellen/ Dame Kellen

        My brain must have an automatic love-of-humanity protection algorithm, because it’s refusing to believe it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I think it’s like a manga thing. Children have bigger eyes and heads, so if you dress them up like women … well, I don’t know what happens.

        • https://www.youtube.com/user/damekellen/ Dame Kellen

          You scare the bejeebus out of me, that’s what happens.

  • SparklingMoon

    The Bible might have made sense in the context of Palestine 2000 years ago…… in the 21st century is putting it where it doesn’t belong.
    —————————————————————————————-
    What distinguishes man from other animals is the very important fact that human beings, while they are so much alike, are at the same time so very different from one another. The animal world is distinguished by a dead uniformity. They seem to obey one uniform law.But man is different. Human individuals come into the world with the same kind of body. They have the same kind of appearance, and their limbs and sense organs also seem to be very similar. But in respect of
    their mind and in respect of what they think and feel they are very different from one another.As the world has advanced,it has made effort after effort to approach this ideal.

    In the Old Testament, to a very large extent, social ideas and ideals have been
    combined with material conceptions,and both centre around religion. But this attempt of the Old Testament can be described as a first attempt only and not a finally successful attempt.Moses gave to Israel both a religion and a civilization. But his teaching proved too rigid to answer to that variety of urges of which human nature is capable. As soon as the people of Israel began to think along new channels and to entertain new ideals and objectives and to break new
    ground, the teaching which Moses had left for them began to fail.Mosesic Law did not succeed in making good citizens out of the new generations of Israel. True, they continued to attach themselves to this teaching but they became either rebels or hypocrites.Christianity, therefore, could not but compelled to
    proclaim that the Law was a curse.

    The Message of Jesus, however, was delivered many centuries after Moses.The Mosaic Law was like a coat made to the size of a child, which no longer fitted adult Israel.Jesus saw the futility of grown-up and able-bodied adults trying to put on frocks made for little children. The spirit of Jesus rebelled against this.We should rather say that from the depth of Jesus’ heart came the voice of God to say: “This people has gone far ahead of the time when they received their
    teaching from Moses. This teaching was enough for them as long as they remained in their earlier condition. But now they need a new teaching, a new coat to fit their increased size.”

    But the new teaching which Jesus proposed for Israel or,to be exact,the teaching which Christians coming centuries after Jesus attributed to him, may be summed up in the phrase,”The Law is a curse.”There is no doubt that food which is above the digestive capacity of a person is a blight, not a blessing;but it would be wrong to conclude from this that the food as such is a blight and not blessing. It seems to us,therefore,that to attribute to Jesus the teaching that “The Law is a curse” is cruel. All that Jesus must have said and meant was that the version of the Mosaic teaching current in the time of Jesus had become a curse for the people of that time. If he meant this, it was but truth. But the followers of Jesus have mutilated this piece of wisdom into something preposterous.

    In any case, in his time the human mind had advanced far from what it was in the time of Moses. It needed now a new guidance,a new ethics,a new civilization and a new culture.But the Mosaic teaching restrained the mind of Israel from advancing beyond Moses’ time,unless it was in the form of rebellion or hypocrisy. Christian teaching made man free from all obligations and induced the belief that the Law of God cannot raise man to any moral height. Man took over from God, as it were, the duty of planning for his salvation. The result was that the very religion which thought that the sacrifice of God was necessary for the salvation of man began to teach that for the moral advance of man the guidance of God was not necessary.( Introduction to the study to the Holy Quran by Ahmad Bashiruddin )


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