Smart people saying smart things

Sandra M. Schneiders, in Women and the Word

Jesus’ parable about the father actually constitutes a radical challenge to patriarchy. The divine father, who had been understood as the ultimate justification of human patriarchy, is revealed as one who refuses to own us, demand our submission, or punish our rebellion. Rather, God is one who respects our freedom, mourns our alienation, waits patiently for our return, and accepts our love as pure gift. In the parable God tries to educate the older brother, and through him all disciples who prefer the security of law to the adventure of grace, to the true nature of the God who is love. Not only does Jesus say plainly that God is not a patriarch but he definitely subverts any attempt to base human patriarchy on an appeal to divine institution. The power God refuses to assume over us is surely not given by God to any human being. Since the revelation of God to Jesus the claim of divine sanction for human patriarch is blasphemy.

Hillary Clinton: “Helping Women Isn’t Just a Nice Thing to Do”

Too many otherwise thoughtful people continue to see the fortunes of women and girls as somehow separate from society at large. They nod, they smile and then relegate these issues once again to the sidelines. I have seen it over and over again, I have been kidded about it I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in board rooms and official offices across the world.

But fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to do. It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands to spend doing that. This is a core imperative for every human being and every society. If we do not complete a campaign for women’s rights and opportunities the world we want to live in the country we all love and cherish will not be what it should be.

Benjamin Franklin on taxes, letter to Robert Morris, 1783

All Property, indeed, except the Savage’s temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.

David Badash: “Surprise! Rand Paul Is Just as Uninformed on Same-Sex Marriage as He Is on Everything Else”

The problem with the libertarian mindset is it starts with the “get off my lawn” old man and elevates his hermit-ness into a political philosophy. While it might, in certain circumstances, be nice to have the local, state, and federal governments  — get out of our business — that position requires that the other actors, say, your neighbors, or the oil companies, or North Korea, all act with the same largess and all come from humanitarian positions.

But then the real world shows up and you’re left with the BP Oil “spill” or fraud or other bad actions and you’re left undefended.

Russell Brand: “I always felt sorry for her children”

The blunt, pathetic reality today is that a little old lady has died, who in the winter of her life had to water roses alone under police supervision. If you behave like there’s no such thing as society, in the end there isn’t. Her death must be sad for the handful of people she was nice to and the rich people who got richer under her stewardship. It isn’t sad for anyone else. … What is more troubling is my inability to ascertain where my own selfishness ends and her neo-liberal inculcation begins. All of us that grew up under Thatcher were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people’s pain is not your problem, that pain is in fact a weakness and suffering is deserved and shameful. Perhaps there is resentment because the clemency and respect that are being mawkishly displayed now by some and haughtily demanded of the rest of us at the impending, solemn ceremonial funeral, are values that her government and policies sought to annihilate.

"In a lot of countries, but it's named for the region- for reasons I've never ..."

LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’
"[sniggers] "Vergina"!"

LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’
"Yeah. Some sort of cosmic anglerfish seems like the most likely possibility."

LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’
"Now that's a story I'd read."

LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’

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  • LoneWolf343

    Huh, Russell Brand can be eloquent when he wants to be. Who knew?

  • Citizen Alan

    I was quite astonished at the Russell Brand piece. I literally cannot listen to the sound of his voice without my eye starting to twitch, but as a writer he’s quite good.

    Somewhat less so, the Schneiders piece. I’m not sure I buy the idea of the Prodigal Son story as being a commentary on the Patriarchy since, after all, there are no women even mentioned in the story. I am not certain what “the Patriarchy” means as a concept outside of the context of gender relations, but I am happy to be educated. It is also possible that I am biased due to my visceral dislike for the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or as I usually call it, the Parable of the Silly Old Dad Who Blatantly Favors One Child Over the Other. Assuming, as most people seem to, that Dad is God in this scenario, I’ve never been able to read the Prodigal Son story other than to say that “God will blatantly favor some people over others, and if you’re not one of his pets, you should just shut up and accept it,” which I don’t think reflect well on God at all. I do admit that my reading is something of a minority view.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Off topic, but in case anyone’s interested, is the Kindle book and the paperback book of a four-story anthology containing two stories by yours truly.

  • arresi

    Patriarchy technically means “rule of the fathers.” In a patriarchal system, the male head of house, or Patriarch, doesn’t just have complete or near complete control over his wife, or daughters, but his sons (as well as any servants or slaves, male or female). Think Abraham sacrificing Isaac, or even “honor thy father and mother.” So, yeah, women don’t need to be present for it to be a patriarchy.

  • The premises sound decent. No Kindle, unfortunately, so will have to either wait for a NookBook version or until after vacation so I can order the paperback. Does sound like something I’ll have to get, though.

    Also, apparently I’ve gotten used to thinking of you as Ellie not-male-not-female Murasaki, because neither Elizabeth nor Anne seem to fit you. ;p I’m kind of surprised you didn’t use a pen name.

  • EllieMurasaki


    That is a pen name. For both of us, actually. (I’m Elizabeth.) And Kindle for PC is free, and there’s no DRM so if you have Calibre, or you could wait till summer because we’re probably taking it off KDP Select when the ninety days are up, at which point we will not be bound by KDP Select rules and will therefore be able to put it in all the formats on Smashwords.

  • reynard61

    On my wish list. My birthday is coming up and I’ll probably order the paperback then.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • We’ll see which limit runs out first: patience, reading material, money or publisher rules. XD But yes, expect to see your ledger increase by your nickle’s share of the profits sometime SOONEVENTUALLYPROBABLY.

    With all the published authors I’ve been running into lately (friend introduced me to one who’s got four books to her name, and I discovered my ex-from-hell published something too), I really need to hurry it up and get this bloody thing written…

  • Practically any interview the guy does. For someone who specializes in acting like an idiot, he’s pretty brilliant.

  • I remember a thread some months back in the same vein; there were a lot of great ideas there. I’ll check it out!

  • LoneWolf343

    You can actually read Kindle books in a web browser at

  • Am not so good at reading lengthy works off a computer monitor. I think it’s the lack of the sense of feedback of actually going from one page to another. Even if I stick the file in paginated form, my eyes just glaze over and I’ll re-read the same part three times. <.<;

  • Will order when I get home, if I remember :)

  • The Cricket

    “God is one who respects our freedom, mourns our alienation, waits patiently for our return, and accepts our love as pure gift.”
    I love that part, if you ask people what was Gods greatest gift to man they always say Jesus or love or life. But it never occurres to them to look at the root of it all. Free will, we were given the option of worshipping or sinning, of loving or ignoring, and after all that were given Jesus as a way to be redeemed if chose wrong.
    That’s what beautiful it has always seemed to me that above all God just wants our love. Yes there are guidelines but really their not that smothering or strict all mostly just be a good person and love Him. And let’s be honest most people forget these things. Being a Christian and a good person aren’t mutually exclusive when it should be.

  • The_L1985

    I’ve started looking at it in a different way. The Prodigal Son refused to consider the possible consequences of getting the inheritance early, so Dad let him experience those consequences, brutal as they were.

    The return at the end, to me, is sort of “Son, you’ve learned your lesson. I don’t think less of you for having to learn it the hard way. Welcome home.”

    The father even tells the older brother “Your son was lost, and now he is found.” The Prodigal Son had been lost in his own short-sighted greed, and now he had seen the light. His father was celebrating that he had learned a valuable life lesson and returned in one piece.

    But, as with all parables, YMMV.

  • AnonaMiss

    I had to stop reading the Russel Brand piece when he started going on about suckling on the steel teat. Mother fucker. The lady revolutionized (for better or worse, I won’t pass judgement, it was before my time) your country and you still have to reduce her to her body and her absence of ‘femininity.’

    My disgust will only be retracted if someone can point me to a published reflection on the death of Reagan or similar which makes note of how suckable or not his metaphorical cock was, or equivalent.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yeah, but it loses all of that sparkle and prettiness when you take it one step further and realize that the very act of giving us free will created the entire need for us to be redeemed in the first place. Sinning is supposedly bad, yet if you believe that the bible is absolute truth, then its absolute truth that, thanks to God giving people free will, we can’t not sin.

    So, really, God put himself in the position of having to “mourn our alienation,” and (if you believe in some sort of eternal punishment) condemned all of mankind to it himself. We never had any choice in the matter. We’re not responsible.

    Where’s the love in that, again? This is one of the main questions that drove me from Christianity, and I’ve never been able to get it realistically answered.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Well, you could say that the way they hero worship him is a sort of cock sucking…It’s not really based in reality, though.

  • Dogfacedboy

    I just purchased the paperback – looking forward to reading it.

  • Carstonio

    While I detested Thatcher’s defense of economic privilege and her just-world ideology, I also condemn the sexism in much of the vitriol directed at her, past and present. But some of the over-the-top adoration of Thatcher by US conservatives could arguably be sexist, because often they sound like they’re mourning an adored mother.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • CharityB

    Honestly, I’d consider that aspect of the sexism argument to be a huge stretch. I think a lot of them adore her because they think that she validates what they want to do here. (“See? Social democracy was a disaster for Britain, and Thatcher saved the UK by getting rid of all that nonsense.”). They do the same thing to Ronald Reagan; is that sexist too?

  • Carstonio

    My point is about their tone and their level of emotion. To me, they seem to treat Reagan and Thatcher as parents. The latter has overtones of sexism because of the cultural context of motherhood being wrongly normative for women, and because of the conservatives’ long opposition to gender equality. Even Maureen Dowd, who’s no conservative, peddles the notion that there’s a paternal aspect to the presidency.

  • Dylan

    On the piece about Rand Paul: in the past month or so (coinciding with the “red equals” campaign), I’ve suddenly heard the “get government out of marriage!” line quite a bit out of different people, and I can only figure one of two things are happening:

    One, this is a calculated political shift to stay on the popular side of the issue, much like the “evolving position” line you hear on the left,

    Or two, people are starting realizing their position on gay marriage conflicts with their position on freedom vs. government. Since changing one’s mind is a sign of intellectual weakness, this must be reframed as “our limited-government philosophy has had the superior answer to this problem all along!”

  • CharityB

    Overtones, maybe, but I have a hard time seeing that unless any hero-worship of an older female figure conveys motherhood. I don’t really think that it does but I definitely can see how that impression might come through though.

  • Carstonio

    Part of the impression is that we’re talking about folks who generally believe in “traditional” gender roles, even the old-school economic conservatives. Their allies on the religious right extol male headship while falling over themselves to praise Sarah Palin.

  • Launcifer

    I have a suspicion that part of the pro-Thatcher thing, at least when it comes from conservatives in the United States, is to do with the fact that she was actually recognisable *as* a Conservative to American eyes or by more recent standards of US conservatism. I doubt I can say that about any other Conservative Prime Minister, with the probable exception of Churchill.

  • “How can you call that which was forced on me a gift?
    I have free will, but not of my own choice. I have never freely chosen
    to have free will. I have to have free will, whether I like it or not!”
    (Is God a Taoist?)

    That dialog remains my favorite theological take on free will.

  • Patriarchy is literally rule by fathers. It’s built around the family unit as headed by the father who literally owns every other member of the family (remember where the word comes from) as projected onto the society as a whole.

    Which is to say that a key component of patriarchy is that it’s hierarchical. It’s not just that men are above women, it’s that men are above other men. If you have equals you’re not in the ruling class because the model projected is one where there’s a single head of household, and if that person’s father is still alive he’s theoretically in charge of that household as well as the household of each of his other sons if he has other sons.

    It’s as much about men ruling other men via a fatherly hierarchy as it is about men ruling women.

    Androcracy, which usually takes the form of patriarchy, is the term when it’s just men rule but not specifically about the form of a patriarchal family used as a model for society.

    When someone, as someone did (but the quote is from memory and probably inexact), says, “I don’t think anything I wouldn’t let my daughter do should be legal,” that’s patriarchal because the person is using fatherhood=head of household as a model for society at large. Laws should be what a father would have for his children.

    If someone just said, “Women should not be part of the ruling class,” that would be androarchal and misogynistic, but not necessarily patriarchal. That said, it would probably be patriarchal because every androarchal system (formal or informal) I know of is also patriarchal.

    Now the parable in question is tied up very much in patriarchy and the standards of the day.

    Other people can come forward as experts on Hebrew standards, they have in the past when it was brought up, but given that at the time the parable was spoken Israel was under Roman rule I can speak to it somewhat since Roman law applied.

    The father in the story owned both sons. If you want to understand the extent of control he had, if he wanted to he could legally put either or both of them to death with no repercussions whatsoever.

    Each son would, if he had a wife or children, own his family, but by virtue of being owned by his father the son’s family would be owned by the father as well. We could add another level if the grandfather were still alive but apparently he wasn’t.

    So when the prodigal son comes up and says something that amounts to, “I wish you were dead. Pretend you are so I can have my inheritance now,” the father could, under the existing legally enforced patriarchy, respond by saying, “Well I wish you were dead,” and put the son to death.

    Likewise when the other son says what amounts to, “I wish you were dead, I just never said it out loud before but I’m still pissed off at you for not psychically knowing I wished you were dead and letting me pretend you were dead with my friends by using your property in a way that’s only culturally acceptable if you were dead,” the father owns the person saying that. He could respond with, “I wish you were dead too,” and kill him on the spot. Totally legal.

    Now assuming that the father, whose sons have both told him in no uncertain terms that they wish he was dead and have the opposite of respect for him, isn’t about to commit filicide that still leaves open the fact that he owns both sons. He could order the prodigal not to leave. He could order the other to come inside and join the party. They would be bound by law to obey. He doesn’t order.

    He pleads.

    I always forget that the story ends where it does. We don’t know if the elder son was convinced to go inside or not. If he didn’t we don’t know whether the father stayed outside with him or went back inside.

    The story cuts off without an ending leaving us to wonder.

    Like I said, I always forget that. In my mind the story ends with the father, having failed to convince the elder son, heading back inside alone while the elder remains outside. But my mind is not the text, and in the text we don’t know what happened.

    We hear the Father’s response to the Elder son’s response, but not the Elder son’s response to that.

    I don’t think it makes sense to say he favors one over the other. One asked for something that was completely unreasonable by all of the standards of the day (and of today as well, but in fewer ways today) and the father does it for him. The other doesn’t ask for something that is likewise completely unreasonable by all the standards of the day (but not so much today) and is pissed off the father never did the thing he never asked for.

    There’s nothing in the story that indicates that the father wouldn’t have been just as wiling to go along with the non-prodigal son’s unreasonable wishes if the wishes had actually been requested.

    The position of, “I’m going to stick by your side and pretend to like you in hopes that I’ll be rewarded by getting what I want without ever saying what I want,” is the position of Internet Nice Guy(TM) which is not a good position to be in. But it’s also a position that doesn’t allow us to know what would have been done if the person had just said what they wanted.

    Maybe the Internet Nice Guy(TM) would get the girl if he bothered to actually ask her out. Maybe the elder son would have been allowed to have his, “I’m pretending my dad is dead,” feast with his friends if he’d simply asked. And, actually, the implication is that the father of the story would have been fine with it if the son had done it without asking. Meaning that the story implies that the only reason that the elder son didn’t get his completely unreasonable under the then-present patriarchy wish fulfilled is that he both didn’t ask and didn’t try.

    Of course, depending on the exact formalities of a feast (and this would require me to know more about ancient Hebrew culture than I do) the father might be an asshole too for not calling the other son back immediately.

    One bit about ancient Hebrew culture that I do know is that the celebration hadn’t started yet. The music and dancing heard were part of the prep work for the celebration. Sort of like how if you go to a concert before it starts (as I often do because my mother is in a concert band and I tend to get my ride to the concert with her) you’ll hear music even though the concert hasn’t started.*

    The celebration cannot begin until the elder son comes inside. So says the rules of the then-present patriarchy.

    If the father leaves the elder son outside, having failed to convince him to come in and refusing to order him to do so even though he could, he’d be saying, “Fuck the rules,” and any merriment that followed would be as far outside the rules as the elder son’s desire to have “Pretend my dad is dead with my friends,” feasts and the prodigal’s to have a, “Pretend my dad is dead to get half of his goods,” windfall.

    If the father doesn’t say, “Fuck the rules,” and continues in his position of pleading rather than ordering, then the elder son holds all the power. The elder son is not supposed to hold that power. It goes against the patriarchy. The very same patriarchy that the elder son argues he has been following the rules of. The elder son is supposed to be subservient to the father who owns him, the father is never supposed to plead with him because an order is enough. But by not giving the order it makes it so the choice whether to return or not is in the elder son’s hands.

    The celebration that everyone’s been preparing, cannot start until the elder son comes in from the outside to start it with his father (again, unless the father says, “Fuck the rules,”) so whether or not the prodigal son gets a celebration at all is in the hands of the elder son.

    We don’t know which of these two things happens because the story ends before one can.

    Regardless, everyone is breaking the rules.

    Prodigal son breaks the rules when he takes the money and runs. Elder son wanted to break the rules with his stated desire for, “Pretend my dad is dead,” feasts and did, more or less, break the rules by refusing to come inside. The father sort of broke the rules by letting his sons do as they wished and, if he did have the celebration for the prodigal son after the elder son refused to participate, actually broke the rules by having that celebration. If the celebration didn’t happen because the rules said it couldn’t happen without the elder son and the elder son refused to come inside, then the father sort of broke the rules by letting the decision be in the hands of the elder son, not his own.

    Basically, a lot of screwing with the patriarchy. Even the elder son, the one who represents the good little patriarchal subject, breaks with patriarchy when he says, “What the fuck?! I followed patriarchy even though what I wanted, and what I’m pissed off at you for not giving me, was against the rules of the patriarchy.” The patriarchy of the time said he should have gotten his ass in the house as soon as the father hinted that that was what he wanted. The father didn’t merely hint, he pleaded.

    Or, for the short version, patriarchy is about more than just misogyny. The story of the prodigal son is one where everyone says, “Fuck the patriarchy!” even though all the characters are male.

    But, since patriarchy is about more than just misogyny, saying, “Fuck the patriarchy,” isn’t necessarily an anti-misogynist statement. While the, “Fuck the patriarchy!” in the story of the prodigal son can be compared to anti-misogynist versions of, “Fuck the patriarchy!” it is not, in itself, anti-misogynist.

    * Earliest music is the conductor leading the band through things he thinks might be problem areas so they have one last bit of practice right before the concert, then (once the conductor is satisfied) the music becomes a strangely pleasant whatever-the-not-bad-version-of-cacophony-is as each member of the band does some final practice on what they think might be personal trouble spots.

    Then, when it is finally time for the concert to begin the music stops, pitch is checked, and the music of the concert actually starts.

  • Carrying Baby Raptor’s reply a little further, it’s even less pleasant when you’ve grown up surrounded by people who insist that free will is the root of Satan’s power, and that a good Christian gives up their will to God and allows him to guide their every thought, move, emotion and action, because any other possible course of action is sinful and leads straight to Hell.

  • Citizen Alan

    I’m sorry, but I absolutely do not understand how you get from

    “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your
    orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate
    with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (the only words attributed to the older son at all)

    to “I have always hated you and wished you were dead but I never said anything because I’m a passive-aggressive asshole.”

    I admit I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of ancient Jewish social customs. But the only actual words spoken by the older son seem to me to be saying “I have given you my complete loyalty and slaved these years, and not once have you ever shown my the slightest consideration or hint of gratitude. Even now, as you are throwing a huge feast for my brother, I had to stop a servant to ask what was going on because you couldn’t be buggered to send someone to tell me. How am I supposed to interpret that other than to think you love him more than me?”

    To which the father replies: “Everything I have is yours… except the sandals, the robe, the ring, the fatted calf, the money spent on the musicians for the feast, and anything else I choose to spend on your brother in my remaining years. Now stop bitching, come inside, and lavish your affections on the precious snowflake like I do.”

    Has anyone ever considered that if the older brother had followed the prodigal’s lead — liquidated his inheritance and skipped town — Dad would been destitute and starved to death?

  • Lori

    I’ve never been able to read the Prodigal Son story other than to say
    that “God will blatantly favor some people over others, and if you’re
    not one of his pets, you should just shut up and accept it,” which I
    don’t think reflect well on God at all. I do admit that my reading is
    something of a minority view.

    It’s worse than this. It’s closer to “God will blatantly favor some people over others, and if you’re not one of his pets, you should be happy for the pets for being so super special.”

    In general it’s a minority view, but if it makes you feel better there are quite a few people here who share it.

  • Lori

    I’ve never seen anyone argue about the Prodigal’s role in the story or even about the father’s response to it. As you say, Prodigal does something dumb, father let’s him learn his lesson, Prodigal crawls home lesson learned, dad takes him back. Fine, fine.

    It’s the situation between the elder brother and the father that’s the sticking point.

  • hidden_urchin

    I’m just trying to figure out why God would want or need humanity’s love.

    Also, I agree. I hate it when I’m busy exercising my free will and it doesn’t go right someone will inevitably say that clearly it wasn’t God’s plan for me and all I need to do is what God wants. What good is free will if you have to follow the plan or get screwed? It reduces free will to a bounded choice.

    Personally, I resolved the issue with agnosticism but if you push me on it I’ll admit to being a bit of a dystheist.

  • High school level common knowledge:

    “Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends,”

    The only reason the father would have to give the goat is if he wasn’t the one leading the celebration, since the goat is (in the contrary to fact hypothetical) being given to the son not one of his friends it means that the son is leading the celebration, the only way the son is allowed to lead the celebration is if the father is dead.

    I could go into more detail about various things. But the key point is: the only way the son needs to be given the goat is if he’s leading the celebration, and the only way he’s leading the celebration is if the father is dead or, as in the case with the younger son, they’re acting like the father is dead.

  • Ben English

    I don’t know how you can attain that reading from a story that’s so didactically in your face about its moral being that ‘God is forgiving, and you shouldn’t be angry about his forgiveness of others because you’re not perfect yourself.”

  • LL

    It does explain a lot of patricide. Maybe men should have reconsidered giving everybody a really good reason to want them dead. If the only way people can advance is by the death of their immediate superior, that doesn’t bode well for the leader’s long-term survival. Nor the stability of the system overall.

    Same thing with when women could only be in charge of anything in the event of a husband’s death. Quite frankly, I’d have to really, really love my husband to not be incentivized to arrange an “accident” for him so I could be in charge of my own earnings or my own children.

  • Lori

    It’s no such thing. You read it that way and if it works for you, fine, but that’s not the only reading.

  • Bought, and cheaper than expected too. The shipping and handling cost almost twice as much as the book itself XD

  • hf

    My disgust will only be retracted if someone can point me to a published reflection on the death of Reagan or similar which makes note of how suckable or not his metaphorical cock was, or equivalent.

    Not “published” in the sense you probably meant, but I think it still makes this a poor example. (Found the link by googling the obvious phrase.) I do agree that questioning her skills as a mother probably contains sexism.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • hf

    That’s not “high school level common knowledge”. I’m not even sure it’s true, though it sounds quite plausible. What school were you thinking of?

  • P J Evans

    I suspect that it’s because they’re still trying to find a way to deny marriage equality. If marriage is legally a contract, then government is in charge of it, not churches; therefore, ‘get government out of marriage’ and the churches won’t marry same-sex couples. That this is how the laws are written, and ministers are acting as agents of state government when they marry people, completely goes past them, because they believe marriage is religious (for this purpose, anyway).

  • I should have replied to more than one part of your post initially rather than do this in two parts but the whole, “You’re only allowed to do that if your father is dead,” thing seemed so important it deserved it’s own post. And I was originally planning on leaving the response at that.

    People have a habit of rewriting the parable, I’ve written a version of it myself as those who have been here for a time can attest, but the problem with rewriting is that you add information, take it away, or change it.

    Your rewriting seems particularly in need of response you say:

    But the only actual words spoken by the older son seem to me to be saying “I have given you my complete loyalty and slaved these years, and not once have you ever shown my the slightest consideration or hint of gratitude. Even now, as you are throwing a huge feast for my brother, I had to stop a servant to ask what was going on because you couldn’t be buggered to send someone to tell me. How am I supposed to interpret that other than to think you love him more than me?”

    No. No that’s not true. The words spoken are

    τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ Ἰδοὺ τοσαῦτα ἔτη δουλεύω σοι καὶ οὐδέποτε ἐντολήν σου παρῆλθον, καὶ ἐμοὶ οὐδέποτε ἔδωκας ἔριφον ἵνα μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου εὐφρανθῶ: ὅτε δὲ ὁ υἱός σου οὗτος ὁ καταφαγών σου τὸν βίον μετὰ πορνῶν ἦλθεν, ἔθυσας αὐτῷ τὸν σιτευτὸν μόσχον.

    “Father of mine look, so many years I’ve been a slave to you, and never disregarded your command, and to me you have never given a kid in order that I might, with my friends, rejoice; and when this son of yours who devoured your life/livelihood with prostitutes came home, you sacrificed, for the same, the fatted calf.”

    Now that’s a painfully literal translation to the point that I’ve even tried to preserve word order where possible.

    Your, “not once have you ever shown my the slightest consideration or hint of gratitude,” is not in there.

    He complains that he wasn’t given a kid. Well his brother wasn’t given an animal when he returned either. (Before that, yes, but he doesn’t draw a parallel from the kid thing to that part.)

    The fatted calf is being used by the father, not being given to the brother, yet I think we can agree that the brother is getting a bit more than the slightest consideration upon his return even though he is given neither kid nor fatted calf.

    So saying, “I never got a kid,” isn’t saying, “I never got the slightest consideration.” If it were then it would mean that the prodigal son isn’t getting the slightest consideration at this point in the story and… he is.

    “Even now, as you are throwing a huge feast for my brother,”

    that’s BS, the feast can’t start until the elder son is inside the house playing the role of elder son or the father decides, “Fuck the rules of feasting,” the second of which would be worthy of note and yet appears nowhere in the text.

    You’re adding that part to a narrative in which it does not appear. In fairness, I tend to do the exact same thing (but at a later point in the story) until I go back and look at the actual text and realize that it doesn’t say that happened.

    “I had to stop a servant to ask what was going on because you couldn’t be buggered to send someone to tell me.”

    This is one of those parts where I’d need to know more about Jewish feasting customs in the time period to know if it’s assholic or not.

    It may be the case that as soon as the feast was decided upon the polite thing to do would be to send someone out to get the elder son, in which case I agree the father was an asshole there.

    On the other hand it might be the case that it was considered rude to interrupt what someone is doing with news of a feast thrown by their father at their home when the feast wasn’t ready for them yet. In which case the father was being nice by waiting on the preparations before disturbing elder son.

    As an aside, it was pointed out one of the previous times that when the celebrations begin is… difficult. Like most things in life there’s a process that goes on. The feast isn’t officially on until the father and the elder son start it together. But perhaps you think the beginning of celebrations is when people first went to get instruments with which to make music. The text gives us when the process began but not when it was completed and they were in full celebration mode because that could only happen after the situation with the elder son was resolved.

    How am I supposed to interpret that other than to think you love him more than me?

    That’s also not in the text. There’s a neat rhetorical twist in the text which makes it difficult to tell whether the elder son is comparing himself to his brother or his father. You’ve got two things with obvious parallelism, each of which consists of two parts, but in the first part both parts refer to the same person and in the second part they refer to different people.

    The elder son has been a slave to his father where the younger son devoured the father’s livelihood with prostitutes (according to the elder son.) This compares the elder son to the younger son.

    But when we look at the second parts of the thing, the elder son never got to sacrifice a kid where the father got to sacrifice the fatted calf. The elder son is comparing himself to his father. He’s rather explicitly not stating that a kid was never sacrificed for him. He’s not stating that a previous fatted calf wasn’t sacrificed for him. Because in those cases the thing wouldn’t be given to him it would be sacrificed at the fathers command and (if Jewish sacrifice customs are anything like the ones I’m familiar with given to everyone) less the parts that were set aside for God.

    So it’s possible the point is, “You love him more than me,” but that would ignore his final word on the subject where he’s comparing himself not to his brother but to his father and it has more of a, “You think you’re better than me,” kind of vibe.

    Which makes the father’s response make a bit more sense because if all that he has is the son’s, then he’s saying that the son can make sacrifice and lead a feast any time he wants to, thus responding directly to the substance of the son’s complaint.

    Has anyone ever considered that if the older brother had followed the prodigal’s lead — liquidated his inheritance and skipped town — Dad would been destitute and starved to death?

    Yes. Many, many people.

  • Public school in southern Maine.

  • LoneWolf343

    Well, the question I would ask “How could you have wanted free will if you didn’t have it in the first place?”

  • LoneWolf343

    That’s a funny way of reading what was basically said as “You have everything! Let him have a little something too.”

  • Lori

    That’s your reading. There have been at least two long discussions of this story on this blog (one of them might have occurred when Fred was still at the old site, but the 2nd was after the move) and those discussions made it quite clear that your reading is not the only one.

    The relationship between the father and the elder son hits a lot of buttons for a lot of people. Their reading is not wrong or illegitimate because it’s not yours.

  • Lori

    I ended up an atheist, but otherwise this is true for me as well.