So my dad emailed me (and some others) a joke:
An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”
The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.
“Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”
The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”
And then she went back to reading her book.
I won’t go into the different things I find amusing about this joke—some of which Bible devotees will agree with, some totally different. I will say, though, that the joke does encapsulate my desire to finally read the Bible: when it came to being able to discuss what the Bible does and doesn’t say, I want to finally “know shit.”
I am no Bible scholar, but I am fairly diligent reader. And having completed the Old Testament—taken careful notes, posted on each book, processed the info, fielded feedback from others—I am in a much better position to discuss this important book.
In some ways the Old Testament met my expectations and surprised me (in positive way) in others. I was expecting a fairly dry read, pages and page full of dictates on how to live life. Oh yeah, and a lot of fire and brimstone and miracles.
Although chunks of the Bible are dry, in between are fairly interesting stories about people trying to make sense of their lives, and/or stepping up to be courageous in the face of bad odds. Yes, a few books contain the listing of laws and dictates (Leviticus) that are interesting from a historical perspective but—in some cases—laughable in a modern context (really, no clothes containing multiple fabrics?).
But I learned very early on that although I was prepared to have a bone to pick with the Bible, my issue was not with what was written. My issue has always been with the unfortunate ways people USE the Bible for their own agendas.
Now, the Bible is used to do a LOT of good in the world—it encourages organizations to assist impoverished communities, for example. However, when it’s used for POLITICAL agendas, there’s a problem.
Having read this major section for the Bible, I now know WHY I cringe when some politician—especially a woman—launches into defending a position by stating “It says in the Bible…” I want to ask these politicians—especially the females: “Oh, that’s what it says in the Bible? If we followed the Bible, you wouldn’t be an elected official.”
Clearly, that would be a ludicrous position—and I hope all Americans would understand that. However, when this good book is used to justify bigotry against gays and lesbians, that same reaction is, sadly, absent at times.
I fail to understand how people in good conscience—and with a straight face—assert that they agree with parts of the Bible but clearly not others (like what not to eat or wear or when to work). Doing that basically declares that you have more insight than God. That seems like a stretch.
Still, I’m glad I’ve finished this huge section of the Bible, have a better understanding where people are coming from, have picked up on a number of references to the bible in other works (movies, novels, etc.), and am curious about what’s ahead in the New Testament.
But before I get there, I have some more thoughts on what I’ve read coming up.