Transgender Review – “The Cultural Arsonist’s Literal Reading of The Bible” By Dr. Joe Wenke
You may not have heard of Joe Wenke (yeah we know there is an English gag here but it is pronounced ‘When~Key’), after all he is in the USA. However he is one of those bright stand-ups you think you already know. Someone who immediately reminds you of Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry, or a comic straight out of the Cambridge Footlights. One look at him and you can see a touch of the cool Physicist Brian Cox, approachable yet academic. I think more of a Dr like Dr Brian May (of the band Queen) than the dusty old teachers I knew.
When we were first asked to review this book, we immediately said, “what connection does this have to transgender issues?” However, that’s a rather naive way to think in this instance, there are a number of links to very modern problems in this book. First and foremost Joe is a popular LGBT Huffington Post writer and standup comedian – he has a very dry wit and an almost Jack Dee view of the world – so supporting that alone is a start. His take on religion is very personal; especially since he was born the oldest of eleven children in a strict Catholic family in South Philadelphia. It is tailored to the LGBT community in many ways; Gisele the notable transgender fashion model graces the cover (above). And that image alone challenges the Bible. A transgender woman in a religious pose.
At a time in the UK where the whole issue of same-sex marriage in church is being passed through the UK Parliament, this could not be better timed, and women Bishops have been turned down by the General Synod, but to be fair the Bible is extremely misogynistic anyway as the author demonstrates. We have to wonder how we are still on this planet in one piece after living beneath it’s shadow for so many years, our ancestors must have been some tough individuals. One must also ask if the Bible were to be read and taken literally, do these arguments, doctrines that have lasted for 1000s of years still hold water? – We will get onto Noah later.
So Joe I think reads this in the same way we would read the leaflet or book of anyone today who stands up and says he is the ‘chosen one’. We can all state many religions that are questionable, and most have some dodgy back story that were it not for fear would probably get some laughs too.
There is something ever so slightly ‘naughty’ about laughing when reading this book. I went to a convent school growing up and it was run by the rather stern Sister Bernadette. I can only imagine what she would have done to me had I been caught reading this. I have images of a nun chasing the kids through the passages of the school holding a wooden rule. However, I think it is unfair to see this book as ‘blasphemy’ in the same sense that Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ (1979) is a modern classic and not offensive – well not to me anyway. I just could not help thinking that Joe captures that same spirit – but being 2013 just pushes it a little more.
So what is it all about?
“Life of Brian’ for the 21st Century” – TransgenderZone.com
Joe is no fool, he examines what is being said in the Bible rationally, and in the same way we would question anyone making these claims today. How can this be? Why did that happen? Why did people agree to carry out such heinous crimes? Well it was all God’s will of course, a god that is full of contradictions and to quote Joe, one who does loosen up when Jesus comes along.
“A good laugh! Sorry Sister Bernadette!”
From page one I laughed, if you step back and see this for what it is, you’d think it was just the ramblings of a madman on stage, or some Eddie Izzard’esqe’ away with the fairies on a journey down through history. But this is chapter and verse, this is taken from one of the most important books in our history, not the scribblings of a drunk student.
Many paragraphs and one-liners stood out to me amongst the very readable 186 pages, It examines the books of the bible starting from Adam and Eve, which was very funny and ends with Revelations. He touches on the New Testament and plays the juxtaposition between the OT and NT very well indeed, citing the more hippie Jesus as being a good guy, but the real ‘juice’ is in the Old Testament. The Thunder and plague God that frightened children till this day. Don’t upset that guy he will have you for breakfast, and I immediately remembered that line from ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984)
Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!
Mayor: All right, all right! I get the point!
Yeah! This book is kinda like that. [Smirks].
We can also see why the Bible held so much power, after all, the Spanish taking that with them to South America, it is no wonder they converted the natives so quickly. And kinda explains why witches were hunted down and murdered much later.
“Chapter and Verse.”
Some of my favourite lines are quoted below and gives you just a taste of what to expect:
On Adam and Eve – “Cornered [sounds like a modern Quentin Tarantino movie] Adam puts most of the blame on Eve, [as you do] but implies it is sort of God’s fault too since creating Eve was his idea.” […] “So the serpent is in trouble and God really knows how to throw the book at him” […] “Before he’s done, he makes sure that childbirth will be excruciating for Eve and all future women, and makes Adam her boss. In fact, he makes men the boss of women forever more. For his part Adam is going to have to work his ass off to even feed himself.”
On Noah – Anyone who enjoyed Ricky Gervais and his take on Noah in his acclaimed show ‘Science’ where he mocked Noah will love this. Think of Ricky Gervais across an entire book about the Bible taking it literally! In Joe’s words. “You get the impression that there was nothing but sex and violence going on 24/7. God gets fed up and wants a do over. So he decides to kill everybody – not just the adults but the infants and children too – start from scratch. Even the animals have to go, although it isn’t clear what they did to deserve the death penalty […] the fish get away with it though. Except those that lived in freshwater rivers”
“The original humour that was meant in the bible was lost in the translation and the hands of the pious..!!!! The book is a great talking point and could start a new religious movement, it is merely the case that it is a view of the literal words of the bible seen in the context of today’s society and understanding this in a modern world .. a good starting point – discuss….”
Rona Rees – Transgender Broadcaster, Activist and Support Worker.
On Abraham and circumcision – “God sort of has guys that he sponsors. Noah was his guy, and Abraham was his guy too. Later on, it’s Moses, and then of course, Jesus, the ultimate guy, because he was God’s only son – and God too, which is extremely confusing, and of course it only gets more confusing when you add in the Holy Spirit, who’s a sort of bird – but anyways I digress…”
On What Gets You The Death Penalty – A long list of this of course that were they actually enforced today in the West would lead to a total social breakdown, to quote Joe: “Pretending to be a virgin – if you get married and your husband thinks you’re a virgin and you’re not and he hates you for whatever reason, he can have you stoned to death. […] If you communicated with the dead (a medium) you get to join the dead, John Edward [or Derek Acorah] look out!
On What is OK – Another long list but some that stood out that are shocking in a gallows humour kinda way: owning slaves, selling your daughter into slavery. Having sex with another man’s slave is OK as long as you sacrifice a ram afterwards.
On Jesus – “Did Jesus become a miracle worker? Did he just wake up one day and perform his first miracle? Did he have to practice? Did his early miracles always go well, or were there some embarrassing failures? I wonder if Jesus had a sort of Harry Potter period where he was learning to be a miracle worker. I really doubt that he started right off driving out demons or raising the dead.”
On Homosexuality – “No doubt about it. God is anti-gay.”[…] In the Old Testament, there is no mention by God, Moses or anybody else about woman on woman, so you might think that there’s a loophole, and maybe it’s OK with God to be a lesbian. But I doubt it.”
“It took a while to get into the humor of Joe Wenke’s style, but once you get a handle on it, the humor comes through. If Joe, could get to the Edinburgh Festival at some point, it would be a great asset.”
Janett Scott, Beaumont Society.
I think if anything would get people back to reading the actual Bible, ironically it is this. The Catholic church has got it all wrong, Joe speaks our language – I just put the Real Bible on my Kindle (its free on Amazon). Well I need a confession now and a cold shower.
Get it on your Kindle or take it on a trip, the time will fly by – boring this is not!
It has a very bite-sized chapter appeal, so you seem to hammer through it and you do not get bogged down into what could essentially be preaching – pun intended.
Enjoyable. And great transgender cover art.
If there was one thing wrong with it it was that there were not enough eunuch gags – well that’s the nearest to transgender we have (as after all, many were probably voluntarily castrated in the same way Hijra culture in India are today) .
If you want our take on the Bible and Religion and how it is not all bad click here. I will finish this review on two interesting and trans-focused lines we found in it taken from our library pages, before you think all trans will go to hell, there is hope:
[…] “neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
My advice would be for ‘Horrible Histories’ to buy the rights to this now! As it is funny, but at the same time shocking to think people lived their lives to the heartbeat of this book – and still do.
We are all going straight to hell with no supper, as is probably most of the Catholic church – he covers Hell too btw [wink].
4/5 Tzone Stars – Good.
Available on Amazon.co.uk (use your own Amazon for your country obviously).
Click here to visit the page.
Special thanks to mediamuscle.com
The Official PR for the book…
MOVE OVER BOOK OF MORMON, HERE COMES THE BOOK OF JOE
When it comes to the Bible, author, satirist and cultural arsonist Joe Wenke has a lot of questions. Why did God turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt? Were there no other seasonings available? How come no one noticed that Samson’s hair grew back and he was super strong again? Who lost Jesus’s baby book? The story of the Devil tempting Jesus—did the Devil or Jesus report it? And why does the Holy Spirit like to show up as a bird?
As irreverent as the musical The Book of Mormon, “YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING!: THE CULTURAL ARSONIST’S LITERAL READING OF THE BIBLE” (TransÜber, LLC; November 2012) is an engaging, provocative and often hilarious investigation into the bestselling book of all time. Written to “cause trouble” and provoke deeper thought during a time when religious fundamentalism is gaining strength around the world, Wenke, a marketing executive, former corporate speechwriter and keen observer of human gullibility, lures readers out of their mental closets and tempts them to more closely examine the stories they think they know about the Bible.
Drawing upon the same pool of incendiary and cerebral humor as Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and the late, great George Carlin, YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING! follows a trail of talking angels, fratricidal siblings, divinely sanctioned massacres and surprised lepers from the Old to the New Testament pointing out the impossible, the illogical and the unrealistic. Among the stories laid bare, are:
- Noah’s Ark: How big was that boat—and who cleaned up after the animals?
- Jonah and the Whale: Just how does one survive being digested for three days?
- The Three Wise Men: If they were so wise, why did they get lost?
- Jesus, Miracle Worker: Where did Jesus learn how to perform miracles—at Hogwarts?
YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING! is a call for humor to restore our sanity and our ability to think for ourselves. Just as it was written in the Bible—or was it?
Joe Wenke was born the oldest of eleven children in a strict Catholic family in South Philadelphia and attended a long line of Catholic schools including the University of Notre Dame where he received a B.A. in English. He received an M.A. in English from Penn State and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Connecticut. A former corporate speechwriter, he is the owner of a leading event marketing company.