Sunday, August 17, 2014

Things I Did: Read the Bible from Cover to Cover

So recently -- within the past month or so -- I actually finished reading the entire Bible from cover to cover. I vaguely remember doing that once before as a pre-teen or something just so that I could say I did. However, I had yet to do it as a full-fledged adult that occasionally enjoys doing things solely for the enrichment value. It took me about a year to do it, as I thought I'd have better luck digesting it in small bites as opposed to wolfing it down in huge chunks, but I did it. I also have some takeaways that I'd like to share. 

I should probably warn you in advance that they're not what some my atheist friends probably hope they're going to be. I'm not going to tell you I think the Bible is nothing but a fairy tale or expound upon how full of shit the church is. However, I'm not going to simply parrot back what the average Christian has to say on the subject either. What I am going to do is record some things that I don't think non-Christians really realize about the Bible. They're also things I think a certain breed of so-called Christian tends to leave out because they don't really suit some agenda they have. Obviously what I say should be taken with a grain of salt (or fifty), as I'm new to serious Bible study, but yeah.

The Bible isn't a rule book for "how not to enjoy your life".

This was by far the biggest lie I think I ever semi-believed about the Bible at any point in the past -- that it is more or less filled with rules and directives that shame people for being human. It's wrong to like to eat, or drink, or fuck, or enjoy being alive in any way whatsoever. It's wrong to make mistakes. It's wrong to want to do anything else with your time besides work or pray. It's wrong to want to be successful. In other words, I thought that only self-hating people that are allergic to fun really read or tried to live by the Bible and I thought that for a really long time.

In actuality, the Bible doesn't say any of those things. There's a lot in the Bible that even says food, drink, sex, and all the other wonderful things in the world are gifts from God that we're supposed to be enjoying. However, we're supposed to treat those things with the respect they deserve and we're supposed to treat our bodies with respect. We're not to fall in love with those things to the extent that they become harmful or negative, which is really just common sense, as far as I'm concerned. In other words, reading my way through the Bible actually assured me in many ways that I live a pretty exemplary lifestyle. I enjoy my life to the greatest extent possible, but I do it in a very responsible way. That's what God actually wants.

As far as enjoying your time off or celebrating once in a while, there's definitely nothing in the Bible that says you're not supposed to be doing it. In fact, you're required to feast or celebrate on certain days and rest on certain days (especially Sundays). Work has its place for sure, but so does rest and relaxation. And it's OK to want to prosper and be successful. Just don't let money become your God. 

The Bible doesn't tell you to hate or discriminate against anyone.

In fact, the gospels tell you over, and over, and over again that you're not to ever judge others or harbor hatrid for them. You're to love everyone, even when you find it impossible to like them. Even Jesus himself hung out with people that most of us probably would look right through if we encountered them in everyday life -- the unrighteous, the sinful, and the deformed. He saw the good in them and he made it a point to lift people up through love. All people. That's what the Bible tells you to do, actually. 

As for most of the stuff from Leviticus that you're constantly seeing pulled out of context -- like the verses against homosexuality, or eating pork, or anything else? As I understand it, those principles as rules for living changed when Jesus showed up as "the new covenant". To oversimplify things really badly, it's a total "that was then and this is now" situation, among other things. Plus, I have this theory that most of those older rules originally existed as sanitary measures to keep people from getting sick or spreading disease, but that's something I'll need to explore in more detail some other time.

For now, suffice it to say that the Bible doesn't preach hatrid or discrimination... at all. That becomes clear once you actually take the time to sit down and read the thing. Anyone that spews that kind of nonsense might call themselves a Christian, but they're not. In fact, people like that would have far more in common with those responsible for killing Christ in the first place. That being said, they're not to be listened to or taken as proper mouthpieces for Christ or Christianity. If you want to look at someone that appears to be doing it right? Look at Pope Francis. That guy is probably the closest thing I've seen so far to a real person that acts like Jesus.

You most likely agree with most of what the Bible has to say.

Seriously, unless you actually think cruelty, or discrimination, or malice are down principles to live your life by, your thinking is probably more or less in line with what the Bible teaches already. Mine certainly was. Really, like I said, I was prepared to pick this thing up, read it, and feel terrible about my lifestyle and my belief systems by the end of it. I don't. If anything I not only feel better about myself, but I feel pretty darned good about my choices and my place in this world. I don't think I expected that and I don't think other people would either.

Some of that may have to do with the way people tend to equate God to their parents and other authority figures from their childhoods. If your parents were strict, you expect God to be strict. If your parents didn't or don't approve of you, you simply assume that God doesn't either. If you had trouble feeling like your parents loved or accepted you enough, it only stands to reason that you assume God is the same. Well, God isn't the same and the Bible isn't basically a rerun of whatever your parents told you. It deserves to be processed and evaluated as its own separate thing. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do that.

Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what the experience of reading my way through the entire Bible was about. However, in a nutshell, suffice it to say that it was a very positive experience for me. I feel even better about my decision to start seeing the world, and myself, and God through a Christian/Catholic lens and I'm excited to see where that decision takes me in life. Hopefully I'll feel more moved to write about the process than I have lately. In my defense, some things are really very hard to put into words at times.