I didn’t grow up in a bible-crazy church.
That may sound like an unnecessary disclaimer, but it’s the kind I feel myself wanting to make these days.
There was plenty of scripture in the Episcopal services — more, I’ve been told, than you’ll find in your typical Sunday service at an Evangelical church — but there wasn’t a real emphasis on bringing scripture into your daily life. We weren’t encouraged, for example, to memorize verses. I was never put on the spot to recall scripture or to draw connections between the ordinary stuff of my life and the events in the lives of Bible characters. We heard the readings on Sunday and that was about it.
But now I find myself excited about the Bible. The New Testament, specifically. Tonight I even proposed starting up a Bible study with a few members of the church I’ve been attending. My enthusiasm was impossible to hide, and it looks like we may start to organize one soon.
I think the bible-craziness started when I picked up a copy of the The Kingdom New Testament a few days back at Powell’s. The translation has completely changed the way I think about reading the Gospel. The work by N. T. Wright, former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and current chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews, is amazingly approachable. I’ve flown through the Gospel of Matthew in no time at all. Couldn’t put it down.
I haven’t really paid attention to the Bible for years. It wasn’t a part of my paradigm as a Pagan. We were not a People of The Book (although many say lovingly that Pagans are a People of The Library). But now, after the chaos from the recent developments in my life is starting to calm, I’ve been opening up to scripture again. In fact, I’m been turning to it for comfort and solace. I’ve been reading without a clear agenda, and this new translation makes it even easier to do that. The language is so common, so approachable (while still being praised for its good scholarship in translation) that I feel like I’m being offered a richer, more digestible take of the meaning of Jesus’s life and death.
I’m reading the Gospels as entire books, too, rather than parsing them out section by section. There’s value to doing that of course, but each Gospel has a particular arch that you don’t pick up on if you’re dissecting it verse by verse. It’s nice to finally be able to view that arch more clearly.
All of this feels new and fresh, and a little foreign to me. I feel myself drawn to meditation on scripture. The stories are captivating me. They’re pulling me in. The scriptural readings from the Daily Office and the Lectionary have been speaking to me in very intimate, personal ways.
But I wonder — is this how people in the bible-crazy churches feel? Do they feel inspired to read the Gospel the way that I feel right now? For me, it’s like there’s something hidden in those stories of Jesus that I can’t put my finger on. I think that hidden thing may be connected to the feeling of being called into closer relationship with God. It’s also connected to the consistent pull I’m feeling toward some kind of service. Do they feel that way, too?
Maybe “bible-crazy” is too harsh; too sweeping.
I think biblical literalism is crazy. And I think that using the Bible as a weapon against others is also crazy.
But being inspired by scripture? Being drawn together in community around the reading and reflecting upon scripture?
Is that so “bible-crazy”?
Or is that just an organic, meaningful component of being a Christian?