Currently viewing the tag: "Bible"

zantia - Bible

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?

My inbox over Thanksgiving weekend was flooded with talk of — you guessed it — blood sacrifices.

The debate raged over whether making blood sacrifices, a practice strongly rejected by my tradition, ADF, is worth consideration. After all (the argument goes), the ancients did it. Plus, there’s a case being made for the awareness of a meat-eater’s own bloody relationship with food. If we can eat it, should we not be able to kill it? And if we kill it, should there not be some acknowledgment of the Kindred in the form of a ritual blessing and offering?

Some might, I imagine, like to see some sort of Druidic Kosher or Pagan Halal put into place. Others, understandably, are concerned that any time a Pagan gets blood on their hands — literally — the crazies come out with their pitch forks chanting “Satanist!! Satanist!!”

Even just talking about blood sacrifices is messy.

(This man was not harmed in the taking of this sardonic photo.)

The timing of this sanguine debate lines up with a different conversation, one that was concerned not with literal blood and tissue but rather with the metaphorical heart and all of its messiness. This was what I planned to write about today. I was even going to call it, Sacrificing the Heart: A New Pagan Tradition. 

My idea was that we need to examine our own hearts, and perhaps allow them to be offered up — to one another, to whatever we think the Gods are — in order to know better what our raw materials for religious practice are made of. We produce those raw materials, after all. Shouldn’t we take a closer look at what we’re working with? Shouldn’t we seek to know our own heart?

This leads to more interesting questions. What is the heart, anyway? Is it the seat of the soul? The center of our energetic body? The location of our inner-knowing? Is the heart the author of our UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis), or is it the translator?

All this and more came from the idea of offering one’s own heart as a sacrifice. The richness of the discussion that (I think) could be born out of a talk of sacrificing one’s own heart is made possible by the fact that we aren’t talking about literally cutting out one’s heart and laying it on an altar. We’re talking in metaphor, and using metaphor as a way of becoming aware of a deeper meaning.

“Offering” by Katherine Harper (CC)

I’m reminded of conversations that took place years ago in the adult forum of my former Christian church. It was asked whether the Bible was laying out for parishioners an instruction manual for living (a “How-To” book, basically), or if it was intended to be used as a tool for unlocking the inner mysteries.

Some believed, as many Christians do, that the Bible was instructive and prescriptive. These were the folks that favored the legalistic books, the ones that spelled out clearly what was allowed and what was not.

Others favored the mystic writings of John or the poetic book of the Psalms, because these works were steeped in metaphor and clearly intended to evoke something in the heart.

The legalists believed that their actions would, in some way, bring either God’s favor or his wrath. The mystics, on the other hand, relished in the idea that God was the greatest mystery of all, and that seeking to appease him with “right action” did more to make a deity into a human than anything else.

I wonder if something similar is happening here.

Is the talk about literal blood sacrifice too one-dimensional? Is it without the rich, layered meaning of a metaphorical sacrifice of the heart? Or, is there something to the argument that Pagans need to make our religions more visceral?

Do we believe that the Gods want blood in order to be in relationship with us? Do we think they want the full engagement of our heart? Perhaps they want from nothing from us at all, and we are simply projecting our idea of “wanting” onto our idea of deity.

How do you sort through the messiness of sacrifice?