I’ve been reading ‘The Irresistible Revolution; Living as an ordinary radical’ by Shane Claibourne for the last few weeks (an incredible book which has the ability to make you feel both inspired, and at the same time completely despondent about your own life), and while writing a post about it, I’ve come up with about 10 tangentially related topics. This is one of them.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really bad at bible. Given that it and I have been hanging out for a while now, we still don’t have the intuitive connection that I’d like. If there’s an incorrect way of interpreting it then I’ll probably go in that direction, and hearing passages read out loud usually leaves me bemused and puzzled (seriously, if it was a relationship we would be in so much trouble). I tend to make everything about universal health care and gay rights, so I’m fairly sure I’m bringing my own issues into it. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes the Bible really is just smiting people willy nilly.
Well, I’m not bad at reading it exactly. It’s understanding that’s the problem. I’m great at reading it. I do it all the time (I’m really a class A christian, you know) but my understanding seems to be a shallow one that I later find to be pretty much inaccurate. I’m not sure what the problem is, but I seem to have to work oddly hard at truly getting to the heart of what is meant.
And I spend a lot of time saying, ‘I really don’t understand this bit’.
This ties in with my early dislike of studying English. I haven’t studied it since year 11 when I found the analysing and pulling apart of a perfectly good book so irritating that I swore never to do it again. I would read and read, I pledged, but I would have no need to engage too deeply or understand the wider context in order to enjoy the book.
I sincerely want everyone to know that I realize how bad that sounds.
I’m not sure whether pride or ego is my biggest vice. They are both fairly solid contenders at this stage of the game, I’d say.
(A touch of ‘I think our brains must be too highly trained, Majikthise‘)
I can’t get away with that kind of thing here, though. I need to go deeper. Which I’m actually glad that I’ve come to terms with, because the really cool and fun stuff comes with a deeper reading. The kind of reading when you make connections and see resonances within the different gospel stories; the kind that you really get when you have a bit of context.
This is how my bibles end up looking these days. I’ve blurred the words because after hearing this bit of Mark discussed at church today I realised that, not unsurprisingly, I had the wrong end of the stick again. It’s my thing, apparently.
I studied a unit last year that involved writing an exegesis (basically studying a bit of scripture from a particular viewpoint) and went from ‘Oh ffs how and why would someone want to write 2000 words on this little bit of Matthew, please kill me’ to ‘This is the funnest thing ever, I wonder if I could get a job doing this full time, I love it’, so sticking to my preconceived guns is clearly another thing that I’m not very good at.
Of course I’m not going to carry out an exegesis on every bit of scripture that crosses my path, but clearly I think that persisting with delving into the Bible is worth it. If nothing else, this new way of being that I seem to have fallen into has done wonders for my powers of determination and persistence. Even now, after all this time, I would find it much easier to argue for an atheist viewpoint than for the spiritual. That doesn’t mean that I agree with that paradigm any more, it just means that it’s still the mindset that I fall back on most naturally. which is something that I don’t love, but there we have it.*
But at least I’ve been able to come to terms with the fact that the Bible is highly nuanced and layered, worthy of a lifetime of contemplation and meditation. And also, more often that I’d like, I need to stick at difficult things to really see how great they are.
*This does have its upside though. If anyone comes at me with ‘the eye could not have evolved by chance’ type arguments I can rebut them pretty effectively. Well, to my mind anyway. Incidentally, I discovered recently that both my husband and my mother assume that I don’t believe in evolution anymore because I’m a christian. Which is just fucking dreadful on so many levels that I don’t even want to get into it.