Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Proper 11, Tuesday, Year 1 - St Macrina

1 Samuel 25:1-22

I have mentioned before that for this two-year lectionary cycle I am studying with the King James Version. This evening I was reading along, following a typically awful Old Testament-style story of betrayal and bloodshed in 1 Samuel (the chapter which begins, by the way, with the death of Samuel...even though there are five more chapters to go, plus 2nd Samuel) but was taken aback when I got to the last verse of the lesson where David is praying to God for assistance in avenging an insult by slaughtering a bunch of innocent people, vowing by morning to have killed "any that pisseth against the wall."

Come again? LOL.

Curious, I turned to the other translations on my shelf (the NRSV, the NIV and the NKJV), all of which instead simply (and preferably...) refer to "men" or "males."

I Googled the phrase, and while admitting it's not like I spent hours of research on this, it does appear that in fact the King James has the more literal rendering of a Hebrew idiom for "men." (The phrase "that pisseth against the wall" appears in the KJV a second time in 1 Samuel 25, and in four verses of 1 & 2 Kings.)

But what really blew my mind was a video that came up of a Baptist pastor citing these verses to insist that God wants men to pee standing up. I won't link to it, you can find it yourself, if you're of a mind.

He relates a story about visiting Germany and seeing signs over toilets asking men not to pee standing up, and, explaining that his wife is German, he asked her, "Is this a joke?" and she apparently said, "No man in Germany pees standing up." "That's where we're headed in this country," says Pastor Steven L. Anderson.

Where to start?

I lived in Switzerland for a year and have visited Germany a couple of times. I lived in a university dorm in Zurich and, yes, there were signs over the toilets in the restrooms saying that peeing standing up was verboten. Now, this isn't because Switzerland has been taken over by anti-Christian feminist zealots, it's because, well, some men have really terrible aim, and no one likes to have to wipe someone else's pee off a toilet seat before using it. Duh. It's called etiquette.

But the idea that there is some sort of Teutonic cultural prohibition against urinating in a vertical position on principle is ridiculous. Any public restroom -- especially in train stations, etc -- will have urinals. In fact, in Switzerland, where the German dialects are sprinkled with French words, the common name for a men's restroom is a pissoir, where there's not a toilet in sight, and not even individual urinals, but just one long porcelain wall (!!!) with a drain at the bottom.

Moreover, "Sitzpinkler" -- which literally means "one who sits to pee" -- is a very common German derogatory word for a less-than-manly man, specifically one who can't stand up for himself.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with poor St Macrina, whose feast unhappily coincides this year with this particular lesson, and who deserves a better post.

Pastor Anderson goes on to caution his listeners against judging him for using bad language by arguing that this word "pisseth" comes directly from the mouth of God, via the Bible. He rails against other translations, including the New King James, for rendering the euphemism as "males" instead of keeping the word-for-word idiom, and cites this as evidence of the extent to which anti-Christian feminizing political correctness has infested even the church itself, in what basically amounts to a xenophobic, sexist, homophobic rant where a holy concept of "masculinity" can be so narrowly defined as to require certain orthodox, patriotic postures for peeing.

I lament that this is the sort of sermon that gets regularly posted to YouTube, and this is what has the potential to go viral. When I think of the hundreds or even thousands of thoughtful sermons that must be given in all kinds of churches every Sunday, to think this is the sort of pathetic nonsense that will form or reaffirm some people's ideas about Christianity and the Bible, I am filled with anger and despair.

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