Friday, December 28, 2012

Reading the Bible Because . . .

16 2 Do Unto Others
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I know someone who has been struggling with her family’s faith and her own lack thereof.  Social media seems to be exacerbating the situation.  The things we would not say when sitting with family at a dinner table ends up being shared promiscuously online.  One family member shares a Christian meme and another shares it or shares another and then the skeptic shares a science related meme.  So one family member feels offended and does the “mature” thing by unfriending the "Doubting Thomas" who then feels hurt and says something inspiring another family member to justify what they are sharing as a sincere expression of faith, etc.

Thankfully, there is a lot of love and, as the Bible says, love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).  There has been reconciliation between the family members and all is well but there are delicate and hurt feelings on all sides.  I suggested to this person that she might want to read the Bible for herself.  So few Christians do, after all.  Rob and his mother were oblivious to what translation of the Bible they read and both were raised in the church.  I’ve had many Christian friends who have never successfully read through the Bible although most claim they have tried.  Tried and failed because it’s too hard and some of the parts of the Bible are so boring.

So this person and I will be reading through the Bible, cover-to-cover, in 90 days, give or take.  I say “give or take” because we’re allowing a little space to maybe read it in four or five months rather than three but I had reasons for wanting to do it in less, rather than more, time.

One, there are parts of the Bible that are tedious to read even when you believe each and every word is a direct inspiration from God.  But when you do not believe this or hold any skepticism about this, these sections become unbearable.  Faith in what you are reading can be a strong enough reason “why” to keep you reading when you are suffering through these sections.  Where there is no faith, however, it becomes easier to bog down in “Why am I doing this again?”

Two, reading quickly allows for making connections where none would have been made otherwise.  If you read something in January and then, in October, read something else, you may not remember what you read in January well enough to make the synaptic connections that come with critical and intelligent thinking.  However, when you are reading only through March (or April), it is easier to remember that bit you read in January and the recollection can be better related with the more recent reading.

Three, I’ve read through the Bible in three months’ time before and I was not aware that now it is “a thing” complete with special Bibles and programs in churches and . . . well, you know, it apparently is oh so trendy.  That isn’t really the reason for me to suggest it, however.  Frankly, having done it before, I remember really enjoying the experience.  Also, I don’t really want to spend an entire year reading the Bible.  When another person I knew and I decided to study Catholicism, I read through a Catholic Bible in six months’ time and that was mostly because I was 1) doing it with her and I loved her enough to read the Bible again and 2) I was curious about Catholicism in general and wanted to read the “Apochryphal” books.  It was an interesting experience but it didn’t result in my eagerly picking up the Bible again when I was done.

My hope in reading the Bible this time is to help someone for whom I care a great deal to come to terms with a few things about her own faith (or lack thereof) and her family’s beliefs.  Perhaps she can see how expressions of faith, made by sincere believers, are meant to be a mitzvah, a blessing, a gift.  After all, sharing something you love with someone you love should be considered an act of love. 

Feeling safe is important and, for this person, reading the Bible with her family members wouldn’t be an option because they would feel compelled to help her “see the light” and read the Bible the same way as they, believing as they do and interpreting it through their faith rather than having an openness for discovery beyond doctrine and familiar teachings. 

Not that she is completely oblivious of church teachings because her family sent her to a Christian school and her step-father occasionally preaches.   They are Methodist and I am not.  We won’t be studying the text.  We won’t even be interpreting the text.  The purpose is to just read it, to become familiar with it.  If she wants to take it deeper, we can always do that later but, for now, a quick read through is all either of us is interested in doing.

As for the translation, the family’s church officially uses the Revised Standard but I recommended the New International which I feel is easier to not only understand but to appreciate.  And that is all she wants to do, to break through the feeling that she’s having other people’s faith shoved down her throat.  If I can help her build some bridges, that would be an honor for me. 


And who knows?  Maybe by the time we finish reading the Bible everyone involved will figure out how to use the filter and mute features in facebook because a lot of this drama could easily be avoided if everyone showed a little compassion and consideration.  But that's how I interpret the Golden Rule.  Treat others as you would be treated.  Sometimes this means saying nothing.  Sometimes this means speaking out.  Never does it suggest that you should say what you want to say, knowing that the other person not only does not want to hear it but does not need to hear it.  And therein lies the problem because sometimes people think they know what someone else needs and feel justified in doing what they do.  But I'll write more about that in another post, I'm sure.

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