Yahweh or the Highway

Sarah Mourra enjoys sunsets, long talks about religion and she's a Gemini. Send her a sign at [email protected]

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If there's anything that would tick off the messiah it would have to be getting called by the wrong name. So says Dave Temple.

Who is Dave Temple? I'll give you a clue-he looks like Moses, has a belly to rival any sixth-year senior, and wears a blue T-shirt more popular than the "I agree with Paul" movement that vomited orange all over our campus last year. Most of you know him as Yoshua.

For a long time I had made several assumptions about the man. He was homeless. He was crazy. He could potentially host the Christian Friends Network along with the woman with huge hair and acrylic nails who is always crying about seeing Jesus's face on a square of toilet paper.

It's not as though I had any reason to believe that Dave/Yoshua wasn't any of the above. After all, in Berkeley, if you stand out on Sproul and yell, you are automatically diagnosed as one of the local crazies-in the same mushpot as the drum-banging Hate Man, the supremely witty Stoney, the toothless "Happy Happy" guy, and the smelly man in a poncho who advocates letting senior citizens live in teepees on public lands.

So you can imagine my shock when I found out that Yoshua isn't insane at all. And he's not homeless either. In fact, he's more normal than most of the people I know.

In a spontaneous tete-a-tete with the guy, I discovered that he has a real name, a wife, a law degree, and extensive knowledge of the Bible. In his free time he goes shopping with his wife of three years (he met her after he baptized her at the University of Mississippi), feeds the birds and sees movies. His favorite movie? You guessed it-"The Ten Commandments."

So what's his beef with Christianity? And what's with all this "Yoshua is messiah" verbal diarrhea that he spouts out at every opportunity? It's not that complicated. As he explained to me, "I don't want to get too preachy here but my whole point is that Christians are calling the messiah by the wrong name."

Upon further probing I discovered that, according to Dave, everyone is worshipping the wrong God. Sometime in the B.C.E. years, the Greeks were putting pressure on Jewish scholars to translate the Torah into Greek-a gentile language. These scholars didn't want to do it, but would be punished if they didn't translate the Hebrew text. So they messed up the translation intentionally to prevent the secret name of God (Yoshua-which is short for Yahweh-shua, or "the salvation of God") from getting into the hands of the Greeks.

Stay with me here. Anyway, in what Dave calls an "inside joke," they substituted the word "Iesus"-or "Son of Zeus" in Greek-for "Yoshua," which is where the name Jesus comes from. Dave's point is that the Christians are worshipping the right guy but the wrong name. This has led Christians off the righteous path and into moral transgression. This is how Dave explains atrocities like the Nazis, the Inquisition, and his divorce from his first wife. And according to Dave, "you have to get out of Christianity to find Christ because Christ was never a Christian." It's just that simple.

Dave is really quite rational as he explains this-and the closest he comes to spitting hellfire is a mild case of coffee-breath. He was born into a long tradition of Methodist ministers, went to seminary, attended law school, defended El Salvadorean refugees, came to the whole wrong-name realization, was baptized in the Merced River 10 years ago, and has been preaching "Yoshuanity" ever since.

He's been beaten up by a maddened bicyclist at the University of Arizona but insists that "there is no need for mace. Yoshua protects me." He also speaks passionately of Abraham getting circumcised at the age of 75 and heralds the importance of baptism as part of the conversion process.

The baptism includes sitting up to your waist in water while Dave dunks the rest of you in a symbolic Jordan River. The Jordan River can pretty much be any body of water-the bay, his bathtub, Strawberry Creek, and even the fountain on Sproul (colored water is fine-but he doesn't do foam). The perks of being baptized? A free YOSHUA T-shirt.

Sitting in front of Dwinelle listening to Dave, I found myself reflecting on my own religious training-which consisted of a chinless man named Ron trying to explain to my apathetic Sunday school class that Israel was our real home. Unfortunately, everyone seemed more interested in discussing Ron's hair plugs than the dynamics of our homeland. Trying to learn how to make kugel while a muumuu-clad woman named Cookie scolded the boys who kept gleeking in the pudding mix further contributed to my distaste for religious education.

The fact that one of my grandmothers is Jewish, the other Catholic, and my grandfather a voodoo priest turned Mormon who would try to slip me Mormon youth magazines when no one was looking certainly didn't help.

Things only got worse when my fifth-grade class made a holiday mural with a life-size Santa Claus and my best friend's mom threw a Jews-are-the-minority-in-Orange-County-induced fit at the PTA meeting and insisted that we put a rabbi next to the Santa. So, with fingers already raw from cutting and gluing construction paper, we made a rabbi holding Santa's hand-which prompted the rest of the school to start teasing us about Santa and the rabbi being gay.

After this, I limited my religious life to lighting a menorah once a year, eating the occasional potato pancake and dying easter eggs.

Talking to Dave really gave me a new perspective. Not to say that I'm ready to hop into the Sproul fountain and be baptized alongside floating Golden Bear Café sandwich wrappers. But the guy knows what he believes and he's passionate about it-which is something that seems difficult to find these days. And it makes me a bit less skeptical about the big guy up there. You know. What's-his-face.


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