Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Bible in Perspective

The history channel is offering "The Bible" each Sunday for two hours - (according to its website)
The Bible comes to life in HISTORY’s epic new series. From Genesis to Revelation, these unforgettable stories unfold through live action and cutting-edge computer-generated imagery, offering new insight into famous scenes and iconic characters. Created by producer Mark Burnett and featuring an international cast that includes Roma Downey, this 10-hour docudrama explores the sacred text’s most significant episodes, including Noah’s journey in the ark, the Exodus and the life of Jesus.
As I have watched the docudrama and reflect on the stories they picked for it, I came across two good articles that got me thinking about the Scriptures we read:

R-rated: How to read the Bible with children
Christian Century - Feb 25, 2013 by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson
When my son was very small, his favorite story in The Beginner’s Bible was the one about Rahab from the book of Joshua. It must have been because of the pictures: Rahab shrugging her shoulders innocently at the city soldiers while the Israelites’ bulbous eyes peer down from under a thatched roof; then the Israelites clambering down a rope while Rahab leans precariously out a window. The heroine is cute, blonde and dressed in a pink robe. She rushes to her eventual husband at the end of the story in cheerful exuberance. It’s a nice story about rescuing the good guys from the bad guys.

Of course, this retelling omits a few details. Like the fact that Rahab was a traitor. That she gave over the entire town’s population to slaughter in exchange for the immunity of her own kin. Or that the reason she met the Israelites in the first place was her line of business, namely prostitution. It’s odd to include this of all stories in a children’s Bible, given the amount of bowdlerization necessary to make it palatable. But then who am I to criticize Jesus’ great (times 29) grandmother?

The simple fact is that the Bible is not a book fit for children, neither in its unsavory parts—murders, rapes, genocides, betrayals, mauling by wild animals, curses, divine retribution and apocalyptic horrors—nor in many of its neutral or even uplifting parts, including statutes and ordinances, proverbs, genealogies, geographies, prophecies, censuses and pretty much all of the epistles. It’s no surprise that most of these sections get dropped from children’s versions altogether, though at some point we may begin to wonder with what justification they still call themselves Bibles. Scripture is definitely something to ease the little ones into, not drop them in cold. So what’s the best way to go about it?  (Read more! Follow the link above.)
The Bible: What's up with that?
Abbey Letter, Easter by Br. Martin (pg. 5-6)
We need to acknowledge that when it comes to violence and depravity in
religious writings, precious few can hold a candle to the violence and
depravity that is condoned throughout the Bible. (It is important to say, given
the situation throughout the world, that the Quran doesn’t even come close
to the Bible. Christians who claim otherwise clearly have not read the Bible,
much less the Quran). The Book of Joshua, a text that sanctions genocide and
ethnic cleansing, justifying it as commanded by God, is a quick example. All
through the Bible, the so-called “good guys” commit the same atrocities as
the so-called “bad guys.”
So what’s up with that? And how is it that we can call these stories divinely
inspired, and encourage even children to read such horror stories as the
Exodus and the conquest of “the promised land?” After all, I have read and
know of Christians who use these stories to argue in favor of torture, and
criticize President Obama for stopping it. (Read more! Follow the link above.)

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