Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

"The New York Times's visual Op-Ed columnist" Charles Blow cites a poll taken last summer (Heaven for the Godless?, December 26, 2008) that shows Americans have (in general) fairly loose restraints on who they believe will get a ticket to Heaven when they die. For Christian Bible-sticklers, this flies in the face of a traditional reading of New Testament canon. But that is just the way it is, hangwringing aside.

That does it for humans, but what about our furry friends? J.M.G. stated flatly, All Dogs Go To Heaven. That may be a bitch of a stretch, but one reader took issue: "okay, but as a side note, dogs don't actually go heaven since Jesus didn't die for their sins."

O ye of little doggie-faith ...

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." "Yes it is, Lord," she said. "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Then Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Matthew 15:21-28 Today's New International Version

(It is interesting to compare the above translation with a popular paraphrase:

From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, "Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit." Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, "Now she's bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She's driving us crazy." Jesus refused, telling them, "I've got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel." Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. "Master, help me." He said, "It's not right to take bread out of children's mouths and throw it to dogs." She was quick: "You're right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master's table." Jesus gave in. "Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!" Right then her daughter became well.
Matthew 15:21-28 The Message

Indeed, in Derrida's web of language, there is nothing outside the "text". (This is something for the literal/figurative deconstructionist to chew on, like the dogs in the story.)

Now this may "answer" the question for dogs, but cats have little to go on: There are no house cats in the Bible.

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Speaking instead of a bad dog (leaving a big dump on the floor), Bill Krystol thought poet Maya Angelou's reading of "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 demonstrated "American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline," but thinks that Elizabeth Alexander (Obama's selection for the inaugural poet) will "be a big improvement on Angelou." Like he's a poetry critic now, too.

Let's see, Kristol + poetry = ... Kristol-meth?

(Or imagine if Ann Coulter wrote poetry.)

But Obama has shown some tone-deafness on this one (not that the current selection is bad in any way), given the Rick Warren miscue. To mitigate the Warren pick he could have picked one of today's two prominent gay poets*:

Kay Ryan, current U.S. Poet Laureate

or (my pick):

Mark Doty, Winner of the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry

Now Barack "published" two poems in 1981 when he was at Occidental College. Not bad. But he is a bit gay-deaf and poem-deaf in missing this opportunity.

* not counting me, of course ha ha