When I was fifteen, I began my ten-week Driver’s Education class at my high school. Some students were blasé about the whole thing, some were nervous, some were excited. I was petrified that I would fail and never get my license.
One of the first things our teacher—also one of the PE teachers—did was hand out driver manuals. This, he told us, in a very serious voice, is what you need to know to not only pass your driver’s tests but also to be a good and conscientious driver.
I studied it, and months later, I passed my written as well as behind-the-wheel test. The first six months or so of my driving, I was terrible, often distracted by the radio or really anything else. I eventually got a bunch of experience and became a good driver.
And like most drivers—both good and bad—I could tell you the important rules from the driver’s manual but not every single one. I retained the ones that “mattered” and discarded the rest.
It’s hard not to see this same type of thing happen with the Bible and its devotees—even its well-meaning devotees.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy contain so many useful lessons and some remarkable stories, ones that are worth reading and retelling. This is why so many people (I’m guessing) embrace the Bible. The issue, for me, is when people rely on the Bible, they probably only recall the parts that stick out, the “important” parts. But these parts are set within and against a lot of shaky parts, parts that would probably give a person pause if he or she were told (or reminded) of them. For this reason, I still find it difficult to overlook them when people use the Bible as justification.
One thing I skipped in my earlier posts is mention of a concept that surfaces in Numbers: the Nazirite. This was a process by which an individual could be voluntarily separated from the Lord. When said person decided to return to the fold, he made a series of offerings (Numbers, 6:13-15).
I had no idea that people could take a sabbatical from the lord. (Apparently this idea is explored in depth later in the Bible.) I find the whole idea fascinating, for this policy suggests that questioning beliefs is welcomed. For if not, why allow it and why allow someone to return? Therefore, there must be deep faith in the Lord’s teachings.
This makes me think of what the Amish encourage with their period between childhood and adulthood, called Rumspringa. (You can read more about here: http://www2.etown.edu/amishstudies/Rumspringa.asp). In that culture, this period allows individuals to choose what they believe, and after experiencing (sometimes) outside influences, the individual decides what to believe. Apparently, this confirms their traditional beliefs, probably because they are afforded freedom, not coerced into believing.
This seems like a good lesson, something the mention of the Nazirite practice echoes.
Perhaps if more people were encouraged to explore more and arrive at their own ideas—rather than carrying on what they were raised to be—people would be more inclined to adopt a stronger organized faith? It might also allow for some of what is written here to be adjusted to fit to a modern culture. After all, we don’t still stone people (do we?), so why still cling to so many other outdated rules (such as those related to homosexuals or merely people who choose to live differently than most (transvestites, etc.)?