Saturday, September 27, 2014

On Reading the Bible

Old book, old stories,
memories of my earliest childhood,
Jonah and the whale, 
Noah and the Ark,
David and Goliath,
Daniel in the lions den,
Jesus walking on the water,
old stories that shaped 
my first ideas about
what the world was like.

What do I do with them now,
as an adult?
I thought I’d put all this behind me,
like a good agnostic,
but these old stories still
enchant me, inspire me,
disturb me, 
even cause me pain,
in my head and in my gut.

What do I do with these old stories,
as I try to get on with my life?
How do they still shape me?
And how do I move on?
What do they mean?
Why can’t I just call them
silly old fables and be done with them?

Because these silly old fables
still speak to me,
though I can’t believe them
in the way I used to.
How can I believe them,
after learning things like
how vengeful God can be?
Or how the Exodus probably
never happened,
or how most of the stories
were written centuries after
the events they describe,
and sometimes for 
overtly political purposes?

I thought it would be fun to
re-read the Bible as a 35-year-old agnostic,
but the more I read, the more serious
it’s becoming, an intense journey
leading me back to times of trauma
and pain, when I first lost my faith.

Part of me wants to just stop,
stop reading, so I won’t have to
have all these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings,
so I won’t disturb family and friends 
who still believe, as I used to.
But I can’t stop.  That’s cowardly.
I will keep reading, and
 writing about what I read and learn.
If God exists, he/she/it cannot 
be afraid of learning and honesty.
So I’ll keep reading, 
even if it pains me sometimes.
The more I read, the more
I’m convinced that the Bible,
like all great literature,
is not supposed to make me feel only good.
It’s supposed to make me feel 
all the strange and terrible and tragic
and beautiful things 
that human beings feel.

So I’ll keep reading,
and see how this story ends,
and hopefully on the other side,

I’ll emerge a wiser man.

Felt board Bible stories

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