This absurdly long post post originally began—as so many of my absurdly long posts do—as a comment. (Take a moment to absorb the horror.) I was on Goodreads.com, adding a few more books to my Bibliotheca, when I decided to add my Bible to the list. (Take a moment to absorb the horror.) As many of you know, I am a recovering Christian, so yes, I have a Bible, and yes, I have read the Bible. In fact, Christianity is still a major part of my life as I come from a family of devout Christians, and still live with my parents. (Take a moment to absorb the horror.)
I’ve come a long way in my development as a person and a pagan when it comes to my issues with Christianity. I’m very happy to report that I am a far more compassionate and understanding person towards those who believe differently than I do…which these days means Christians (ironic, isn’t it?). I’m able to appreciate the beauty and wisdom in many of Christianity’s tenants and philosophy, and I openly embrace its followers with love and friendship. I can see the value in it and even embrace many of the teachings. I have learned to separate the religion from the politics, and the individual from the crowd. I have healed from my failed relationship with it, and can now look back and see the fault and validity of both sides without loosing focus on what is spiritually important.
That being said, I still have shit tons of issues with the text. So here we go. Enjoy.
This is the Bible I bought when I was trying to reconcile my childhood religion (conservative Baptist Christian) with my adult spirituality, intelligence, education, and sensibilities. I was looking for a more accurate translation of the original Hebrew and Greek, and something small but complete. My then-pastor recommended this version, as it was the one he used and was rather controversial (at the time) for it’s supposedly superior religious scholarship.
Beyond (thankfully) escaping the wildly inaccurate and misogynistic trappings of the King James translation, I was disappointed to find no difference at all. I don’t remember what I had expected to find, as it was still a Christian book, translated with a linear perspective, and designed to result in a literal understanding of the text. So, instead of reviving my waning beliefs and supporting the teachings of my childhood, it became a catalyst for my spiritual evolution to a nature-based, pantheistic spirituality…for which, I am immensely grateful.
What essentially happened—for anyone who wants to know one of the ways to become an ex-Christian—was I kept asking questions. Christianity discourages questions. And for a good reason. It can’t handle them. It was decided long ago that the Christian religion, God the Father, The Words, and the meaning of The Word, would be unchangeable (I still think they got the concept of “eternal” mixed-up with “stagnant”). This shuts-down all discussion. The Bible then, is no longer communicative, as the conversation is closed. How can you hope to understand what cannot be questioned? How are you supposed to absorb a book that isn’t meant to be understood?
Christianity abandoned the roots of its origin in the Judeo language and culture, and with it, any hope of truly understanding their own text. Essentially, as I see it now, they have built a religion on a completely different cultural and linguistic foundation that has long since been buried, forgotten, or openly rejected. (No wonder it’s confusing as hell.) And because they have relegated their deity and belief system to finite absolutes, the general Christian depth of understanding of the deeper mysteries (which is what this text is about) is extremely shallow. Since they cannot proffer definitive answers to questions beyond the surface level—and even superficial questions can get hairy rather quickly—they don’t generally tolerate questions at all.
After I learned (and unlearned) what I needed to find a spiritual path that coincided with nature, reality, and my own experiences, I had hoped to be able to revisit my spiritual and cultural upbringing with a new outlook and a broader understanding. I found, however, that the same issues I had previously with its religious ideologies had not been resolved despite my own development. Its basis on this text, now modified in my mind as a reasonable source of mythological, religious, and cultural history still fell flat. Why?
Ideally, I had hoped to find it somehow transformed into the rich, intricate, complex combination of cultural tales and spiritual meaning that it espouses to be, and that other mythologies successfully impart. Even after I learned to abandon the teachings and false expectations of its ability to embody the essence of the divine and the meaning of life, it still lacked authenticity. Again, why?
Now that I have delved into Judaism and Jewish mysticism in my comparative religious studies, I am just now just beginning to understand what has been missing, and what it was that I so wanted from this mythology that I was not getting before. Namely, it is missing context. Context and true meaning. This is not a book about linear time. It is not to be taken literally, nor is it a historical text. These are metaphorical, mystical, lyrical, and highly contentious stories. They are meant to be argued about. They are meant to arouse thought, ideas, and debate. You are supposed to ask questions. You are supposed to doubt a cursory understanding of their meaning, and find the concepts that define the conflict between humanity and the divine. Above all, it is supposed to be understand through its language. Otherwise, it’s just gibberish, and totally devoid of meaning.
The importance of language in the Abrahamic faiths is something I will expound upon later, as that is a whole other post. For now, I want to know how you feel about the Bible. Do you have a similar or other experience with a religious text? I would love to hear about it! I myself, am still discovering the role storytelling and mythology in religious and cultural philosophy. You can comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love and Literature,