- I’m going to read the Bible and blog about it.
- I will read each book of the New International Version (NIV) Bible straight through, then re-read and make notes, then compile a blog post sharing my notes about that particular book.
- I plan to read a book per week, with a new post every Saturday.
- Because I want to understand the book better.
- I grew up with a strange smattering of religious education: a little Baptist Sunday School, a few years of Catholic school, invitations to Passover Seders, a few years of Unitarian-Universalism. That combined with simply living in the Western culture has given me exposure to many Bible stories. I know the Garden of Eden story pretty well. I’m a fan of Moses’ story. But there are plenty of cultural references that are Bible-based that I don’t really know.
Case in point: I was recently at the Storyline conference in San Diego. It’s a Christian-based conference that welcomes all kinds. I don’t consider myself a Christian but I went to experience the process (which is terrific and deserves its own post) of values clarification and life-planning. Since the majority of the crowd were church-folks a lot of the speakers made references to Bible stories. One speaker’s presentation was all about the story of “The Prodigal Son.” It was assumed that everyone already knew the story, so I was at a disadvantage. I’d heard it used many times in plays and movies and such: “Ah! The Prodigal Son returns!” But that night I had to go look up what it meant, and it meant the opposite of what I thought. [I’ll save the rest of that story for when I get to it in the Bible.] In part I want to read it so I know what people are talking about when they drop references like that.
- Because I want to understand Christians better.
- I don’t consider myself a Christian. Some of you reading that sentence might not find it particularly intriguing but others reading that might be a bit scandalized. Even though my family wasn’t particularly religious, I grew up in a community where people generally had some sort of church affiliation. Let me put it this way: In college I said casually to a friend “I’m not a Christian” and she turned to me, shocked, and said “Then what the hell are you?”
What I am is a spiritual person who believes in a higher power but can’t prove its existence. A person who thinks Jesus Christ was a wise rabbi who had good lessons we could all benefit from following. I don’t believe there was a literal resurrection from the dead, but I think that story is a fabulous and worthy metaphor. I also think Buddha was a wise and wonderful teacher and I don’t doubt I would find wise and wonderful teachers in lots of other religious traditions.
But Christianity, has had a huge hand in the shaping of the western world as I know it. Christianity, particularly conservative evangelical Christianity, has a huge say in the United States of America today. I’m a liberal, generally secular person and I’m tired of the divisiveness that the “religious vs. secular”, “conservative vs. liberal”, “right vs. left” paradigm has caused in our culture. I think it’s a false paradigm, and I think the only way to undo it is to start understanding the “other” side.
This is going to freak some of my liberal friends out.
I’m comparing this effort to one I did a few years ago, in the same vein: Like I said, I’m a liberal. But a few years ago I decided to take handgun lessons. It was some sort of Living Social coupon at a nearby place. I was intrigued by the offer because I was afraid of guns. I had a situation once where a loaded handgun appeared in a place where my toddler could have found it and I froze with fear. I screamed for my husband to come and handle it. I was afraid to be anywhere near it.
Some of you reading this might think “Good! You shouldn’t go anywhere near it.” but here’s the thing: What if I had needed to? What if my husband hadn’t been around and I needed to handle it myself? What if, going forward, I was in some sort of situation again where I needed to handle a gun? (To take it away from someone, to prevent it from hurting someone, or even, in a rare and unfortunate situation, to use it on someone?) I didn’t like that I had frozen up in fear. Heck, I have a butcher block full of large, razor sharp knives in my kitchen. Do I freeze up and walk around them like they’re radioactive? Of course not! They’re tools. I have a very healthy respect for them but I’m not afraid of them. That’s how I wanted to be with guns. And it worked! The class was fascinating and very well done and I’m glad I did it. But afterward I had friends and family say “Oh, wow! Are you going to go buy a gun now?” Uhhh, no. I just wanted to learn about them.
That’s how I want to be with Christians. I don’t want to have someone tell me they’re a Christian and immediately feel a wall come up between us. A wall that says “You believe this and I believe that and so we’re of completely different worlds and we can’t be friends.” It’s a fake wall. I want it go away.
This crazy project is my attempt at disabling that wall. Will there be people who think “Oh, Leslie’s a born-again Christian now”? I dunno. Maybe. Who cares? What other people think about me is none of my business!
If you’ve read this far you know my intention now. I plan to be really honest about what I read and very direct with my thoughts so if criticism of The Bible causes you butthurt this probably won’t be the series for you. Otherwise, I hope my plan intrigues you enough to subscribe to this blog (see the small subscribe button to the right) and to comment freely. I’m looking forward to some interesting conversation!