Thursday, July 20, 2006

If God Blogged...

Surfing around online for something to read but nothing has caught your eye? Try Slate. "Try Slate" is great advice for most any occasion, but in the context of this post, I am specifically referring to Slate's "Blogging the Bible."

Writer David Plotz, who describes himself as a "proud Jew, but never a terribly observant one" found himself at a rare visit to synagogue recently and sat through the service both confused and bored. Trying to stay awake, he reached into the pew-back in front of him, snatched up the Torah, opened it at random and began reading.

He soon found himself engrossed in a story he'd never read before and couldn't put down. Not only was it a fascinating read, but at first glance it seemed to directly contradict things he'd been taught as a child. What was going on?

While he assumed he knew most of the Bible, especially its more colorful parts, it turned out he was ignorant of much of the Scripture. I doubt he is alone in that assumption. His ignorance rattled him. If just one story unsettled him so much, what else was in there that he'd missed? Plotx decided to revisit the Bible, his first time as an adult. And to blog about it as he went along.

He's not blogging with the intent to offend, or look for ways to insult those who look upon the Bible with utmost reverence. He doesn't feel his comments are necessarily wise and insightful. He simply wants to "find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based."

His observations are both challenging and hilarious, sacred and occasionally profane. But they are always honest. And they are always interesting. What he reads moves him, stumps him, humors him, horrifies him and encourages him. Sort of what happens when I read it too.

Check it out his opening comments here and the first of his installments here.


Anonymous Nate said...

Wow! Just last night I thought about calling you and asking if you were reading his Leviticus entries. They are fantastic, and illuminating.

I find it hysterical that the Christian right points to that one verse in Leviticus about the abomination that is a man sleeping another man, and yet make no mention of the rest of the book.
I admit to being horrified at parts, as you claim you were, but you were encouraged as well, really? I suppose at the parts that Plotz points out as being especially humanistic in values, such as "you will have one standard for stranger and brother alike"?
Well, I suppose I could be encouraged too. Except that, still, we are both cherry-picking, which is what we accuse the other side of doing.

This is possibly the most directly confrontational I've been with you regarding your faith, but I must ask the question that I spent some time pondering last night:
I choose to obey that particular verse, and the one about honoring thy mother and father, and not stealing, and not killing. Why? Because they just happen to synch up with my own values. I know this because I also choose to ignore the one about the shrimp, and the menstruating women, and so forth. These do not synch up with my values. We act like we know what the true meaning of the scripture is, but we don't. We pick the parts that make the most sense to us in our concept of a civilized society.
If that's the case, what good is it? Why not call a spade and spade and admit that my values - the ones that just happen to be validated by parts of the Good Book - are my values, or were passed on to me in my environment?
I find nothing encouraging in that whatsoever. Sure it says love thy neighbor. It also says stone to death those who speak the name of God. Either it's a guide, or it's not a guide. If I say, sure I'll love my neighbor, but I'm not stoning anyone to death for the utterance of a word, well, then I've already entered my own judgment into the mix, and that judgment comes from something internal, or something external from both me and the Book. In either case, the Book is not the source of the "thou shalt not kill/love thy neighbor" value. Something else is. Why are we not looking to that source then, whatever it may be? The Book merely happens to articulate it along with a lot of other things.
That was long and redundant several times over, but I find it troubling and hysterical at the same time, and I am just not feeling particular generous towards dogmatic religions of any sort right now, what with stem cells and the Middle East and gay marriage bans and all. Sorry I take it out on your post.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Not yet having read the bible blog, I do intend to, I just wanted to quickly respond to what Nate said and the whole idea. I don’t know the Bible as well as I would like and I like this idea of blogging the Bible. Here are a few thoughts:

Loaded questions were asked in Jesus’ time as well with as much if not more conniving intent as they are now. I love his responses to so many of those questions: Whoever has no sin can chuck the first rock at the sinner. After everyone clears out, Jesus doesn’t condemn the sinner even though the others were. He did these types of things time and again. I know it sounds trite and commonplace but he really did put a lot of things in perspective that others just took for granted.

Then there’s Paul, whose works were never intended to browbeat non-believers into behaving and acting as the believers. They were corrections and instructions to believers and new-believers. How often are his writings applied to non-believers?

I admit to looking at the OT through a NT lens and hope that I do so with the lens Jesus had. I must admit that I rarely succeed, but it is my goal.

And I agree, Nate, picking and choosing what one uses, especially in the same text, to uphold or ignore is ludicrous.

Hope that was appropriate and lucid,

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Thanks for the thoughts Paul. If you'll indulge me in a couple more pestering questions:

So, because you think it's ludicrous, do you not pick and choose (or you are attempting to get there at some point)?
Or do you agree that it's ludicrous but have resigned yourself to picking and choosing because it would be impractical to lock your wife away one week out of the month?

What does that mean, looking at the Old Testament through a New Testament lens? That's just soft-shoe for throwing a lot of the Old Testament out isn't it? Do you stone people to death? Do you forego pork and shrimp? Or does looking at the Old Testament through a New Testament lens mean, say, not stoning people to death. That would then be picking and choosing. Genuinely curious.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

"Looking at the OT through an NT lens" to me means that, yes, the Laws and all that were ordained in the OT are no longer applicable. I don't know the verses or the exact words, but as I understand and believe it, Jesus is the way to the Father. I really leave it at that. That implies that I believe others are damned who do not believe as I do... that's what the text implies also, but do I believe that? My human heart, which God gave me, says "no way!" There are myriad reasons people don't believe, and just because God doesn't choose them, is not acceptable to my limited mind. If God cared enough to send His Son for MY, and who am I, sins, then doesn't He care enough for others to not condemn them through little to no fault of their own, such as where they were born or who their parents were.

The argument about homosexuality being an abomination in Leviticus should not hold water for Chistians from my point of view since Christ's death made the old laws null and void. However Paul lists homosexuality as one of the sins that ought not be committed but that is listed along with drunkeness, gossip, and other sins of commission I and many others are just as guilty of. I try not to pick and choose but I, in my human mind, sure think homosexuality is worse than drinking too much or uttering a blasphemy. So I guess I do pick and choose, but do I consider those an abomination as Leviticus describes? Well, we're all abominations if you ask me, but we're reconciled through our faith in God's Son and what all that did for us, drunk, gay, gossipping or worse.

I think the arguments and factionism that goes on regarding the "gay issue" makes God and Jesus seek each other's shoulders on which they take turns weeping uttering, "They just don't get it. Now what can we do for these poor humans?"

But again, the issue is picking and choosing what sins to cast a person out for or continue loving them regardless as Jesus called us to do. As I said, Paul's writings were meant mainly for other believers, yet believers routinely impose these on non-believers. That's not fair. Those non-believers often have no desire, nor any background in avoiding the things we Christians take pride, another sin, in avoiding.

Final thought on the NT lens: the only people actually stoned in the NT were the "saints." So perhaps that's where the stoning should occur in this day, to those who are morally right or superior to others. No stoning sinners. Tongue in cheek aside, we are called to help and judge our brothers, and spread the word; not judge those outside of our faith and stone them. So I'm not sure who should be stoned right now.

Did that answer your questions, Nate?


12:23 PM  

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