You Got to be Kidding: The Cultural Arsonist’s Satirical Reading of The Bible
By Dr. Joe Wenke
Published by Trans Uber, LLC (2012)
You Got to be Kidding is an honest and humorous book, but I stress the honesty over the humor because, truth be told, there’s very little satire.
The book itself is as divided as the text it satirizes, not in the sense that it’s written chapter & verse—although I do support that—but in tone and style.
The Old Testament (OT)
It’s primarily this section I’m referring to when I state that the book provides very little satire, especially in regards to mocking The Bible. Most of the jokes rely off of letting the source material speak for itself. And, having read The Bible, I can honestly recommend this book for anyone who hasn’t read said text.
Nothing Dr. Wenke mentions in his book is untrue about The Bible—with mild exceptions for the betterment of jokes. Dr. Wenke summarizes the stories concisely and delivers direct quotes from The Bible itself, in case you find yourself an ironical skeptic, thinking, ‘That can’t be true.’
Now in some respects, this is fair as there are plenty of rapes, genocides, and inaccuracies backed by double-standards to warrant such an approach. And—granted—there is an audience for this, since most people follow religion because they’ve been raised into it and haven’t actually read the text it’s based upon. So for them, this can be a real “eye-opener.”
The problem is that the book is supposed to be a comedy, so if you have read the Old Testament, then this is old news. Yes, “if you read the Bible literally, you get satire instead of fundamentalism,” but why not put that quote in the preface and throw in some more jokes and theories to the Old Testament?
Unlike the latter half of the book (which I’ll jump to in a minute), the OT is not heavy on analysis or theories, but rather, narrates The Bible in layman’s terms. The book might better be named The Holy Bible: Abridged or labeled as a “Sparknotes” equivalent. This is why I would highly recommend the first half of this book to anyone who hasn’t read the Old Testament.
See, The Bible is about as difficult to read as a third grader attempting Shakespeare (or an English graduate attempting Stephanie Meyer), so Dr. Wenke does provide a simple solution by summarizing the OT in an hour’s read; allowing readers to understand the Old Testament without having to struggle through oddly-worded language or archaic text. But, for anyone who has read the Old Testament, the most this half of the book has to offer is a nod of the head, and a vague implication that God suffers from the sunk-cost fallacy (see the Hebrews in the desert).
Note: I will say, I am a diehard fan for mathematical jokes (i.e. the dimensions of Noah’s ark to fit two of every animal and be reasonably accommodated, and how many miles the Hebrew people would have walked if they walked for ten miles every day for 40 years).
The New Testament (NT)
Here’s where Dr. Wenke excels. He focuses very little on summarizing the New Testament and more on the analysis of modern day religion and why Jesus rocks.
To start with, he mentions how Jesus may very well have not existed and how the accounts of the apostles are less than trustworthy, but quickly shelves these preconceptions to talk about characters.
1. Judas’ absence.
Dr. Wenke doesn’t bother with Judas. In fact, Judas’ name never appears in the entirety of the text. Why? Perhaps as a satire on the Book of Judas’ omission from The Bible, but I think it’s because Dr. Wenke has the best defense for this so-called villain, and to truly see it, you need to turn your blinders on.
Citing The Bible, Dr. Wenke mentions how people are told, early on, to expect betrayal. Betrayal is crushing because it is personal. And so, what Wenke points out is the grand, overlooked betrayal of the remaining 11 Apostles. Jesus said he would rise in three days, “you would think they would have been camped out waiting for him” rather than be met with disbelief. This is a tremendous betrayal, this means at Jesus’ death, the apostles abandoned him.
At least Judas made Jesus realize his destiny.
2. Paul’s the Guy.
This is where Dr. Wenke makes his point perfectly clear. Paul is the foundation for modern, institutionalized religion. More specifically, Paul is the reason people supported slavery, feared sexual thoughts, hated homosexuality… the list goes on and most of it continues today. That’s your villain. Paul is reason the religious institution is broken.
3. Jesus is cool.
This is the part of the text that I was most looking forward to, because like it or not (devout Catholic or stark Atheist), Jesus is cool. The man may not have existed; he may have been the bastard child of a Roman guard and Mary, but it doesn’t matter. Jesus is the product; Jesus gets the credit. You have to be a real asshole to not like Jesus, and Dr. Wenke backs this up astoundingly well. He even sheds light on the all-man/all-God concept in his analysis of Jesus’ actions.
In fact, all the chapters about Jesus (his temptation with the devil, his one childhood episode, his miracles, the day he got pissed off at a fig tree) are extremely entertaining. Dr. Wenke’s voice, throughout the majority of the text, is akin to that of an action-flick junkie. He describes the miracles in the OT & NT with such charisma that it doesn’t come across as a man mocking the story, but a man having a rollicking good time with the fireworks.
Conversely, Dr. Wenke’s enthusiasm for the action does not appear to be in jest as all the moments of Jesus’ betrayal are written with such poetic empathy that it feels sincere despite the author’s known disbelief in Jesus. This exemplifies the author’s point that you don’t need to be a fundamentalist to get something from The Bible—hell, you don’t need to be a believer to get something out of The Bible.
You Got to be Kidding is a good book that never loses its lightheartedness, despite some occasional vulgarity—but hey, if you read The Bible, it’s pretty tame by comparison.
I will say the ending gets a little muddled, with Revelation reading more like the first chapter to a short story (or a colossal inside-joke) and the following Epilogue (-ish) comes across as strangely spiteful.
Otherwise, it is a good book and I would highly recommend Wenke’s Old Testament in place of the Biblical version, but would entreat everyone to Dr. Wenke’s New Testament analysis.
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