Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Defending the Bible

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Praise the Lords! And Ladies! All of them! One is the loneliest number.

I don't know what happened to Follower #78, but I'm down a notch. All three of you who are sticking with "The Gods Are Bored" during lean times, will you please drum up some more business for me? I'll bake you a pie just as soon as I have a moment to spare.

Have you ever seen a person who just can't stop asking annoying questions?

(If you answered no, have you ever looked at your own patterns of questioning?)

I have several students who like to steer my class off topic. Duh. Students live for this, don't they? Let's talk about anything else except transition words! Can't say I blame them much.

Today, however, the conversation in class was not about transition words, but instead about euthanasia. My sophomores have been reading a novel called Stuck in Neutral, about a teenager with cerebral palsy. "Mercy killing" is a theme in the story.

This afternoon I asked my students to write a position statement about euthanasia. And my off-topic questioner piped up. It went something like this.

Student: Miss Johnson ...

Self: Yes?

Student: I know this is off topic, but...

Self (to Self): here it comes, today's attempt at diversion....

Student: Have you ever wondered if the Bible was written by a crazy person? I mean, I go to church every Sunday with my grandma, but I still think about it. What if the Bible was written by someone who's nuts? I mean, look at all the stuff in it. There's some crazy shit in there! Ooooops! Sorry, Miss.

Self can see another student in the front of the room that Self knows is very religious. This student is quietly fuming. Self does not blame her.

Self: This is off topic, Student.

Student: I know, I know. But look. There's all this stuff about Moses going up and getting the Ten Commandments, and a bush that's burning. It's like, who wrote this?

Other Student: God wrote it.

Class erupts in spirited debate, all at the same time. Self is thinking Self is about to be fired.

Self: Please note that I'm not saying I go to church, or even what religion I am. But the newest parts of the Bible are 2,000 some years old, and the rest of it is older than that. I think if all the stuff in it was crazy, people would have discarded it by now. (To Self: Am I actually saying this?)

Student: Why do we read it anyway, if it's so old?

Self: I appreciate your questions, Student, but this is off topic and also off limits. You're asking me to comment on religion, and the Constitution.....

Student: It's just STUPID! Give me one reason why people read the Bible.

Another Student, to Student: If you don't believe in God, why do you waste every Sunday at church? That's retarded, yo.

Self: Look. We need to get back on topic. But I will address your question, Student. Here's what I think. And once again I want to preface these remarks by reminding you that I haven't said whether or not I believe in the Bible, or whether or not I go to church. I don't think the Bible is stupid. I don't think it was written by a crazy person. (To Self: Liar, liar, pants on fire!) The reason the Bible has been around for thousands of years is that it does contain some good advice about how to get along with other people. (To self: I can't believe I'm defending the Bible.) Now. We were talking about euthanasia, and whether or not people should be able to choose to end their own lives when they have no hope of cure for their illness. Would you all please write a paragraph stating your opinion on euthanasia, pro or con? Thank you.

Student: Miss. You are always trying to make us work!

Self: (Evil laugh) Yep. So do it!

There you have it, my ten faithful readers. It is not humanly possible to get through a school year without having to debate the relative merits of Christianity in a classroom. And yet I want to dodge this grenade with every ounce of my being. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to defend the Bible when one student was just trying to steer the class off course, and another student was clearly upset by the new course the discussion was taking.

Moral of the sermon: Love it or hate it, the Bible has endured because it was not written by a crazy person. Some of its writers might have been a little trippy, but when I think "crazy" and "long book," I think Thomas Pynchon. Nobody is going to be reading Thomas Pynchon 2,000 years from now. So the Bible was not written by Thomas Pynchon.

Emmmm...... I'm starting to babble. It's a long day, teaching. Don't let anyone tell you different.


Xanister said...

I think as a teacher you did a very noble thing by not addressing your own religion, I wish half my teachers way back when in high school had done something similar. I always say, the Bible is the best fairy-tale ever written with some great morals.

Hecate said...

Yeah, it was written by crazy people. See, e.g., Revelations. :)

Maebius said...

Belief or no, there's some really really interesting stories in the Bible. In fact, I jsut blogged one particualr question about what some think is the Biggest story, and how each of the 4 Big Gospels (Matthew, MArk, Luke, & John) each have a different slant/bias on the Death of Jesus.

Taking the religion aspect aside, it's still an interesting read, and as you said, tells some good moral lessons, amidst the Crazy.

Scholarly note. was written by many, MANY men, so the question is not "was it written by a crazy man?" but rather "How many of the books were written by Crazy men, and which simply had alterior agendas?" :)

Anonymous said...

I would hope they would not fire you for simply answering the student's question, even if it were about religion. I'm not sure how I'd handle that situation. I think I'd probably have a different take on whether or not it was written by crazy people....

THE Michael said...

In the spirit of tolerance and understanding, I once picked up a copy of the Koran at my local Books-a-Million. I really, really tried to make sense of it, but the more I read, the more insane the author of this religios publication seemed to me. Then I really thought hard about many of the stories I was taught in catechism and realized how scary THEY were when taken in the context of sanity. No, I do not believe any of the Bible was written by sane people, nor the Koran, and sadly, I might discover the same should I delve into just about any other tract. When you combine "turn the other cheek" with "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"...well...where do you go from there?

Maebius said...


Without defending the Bible more than I should, the Old Testament (Before Jesus was born) is much more severe and has a few good "horrible" stories like killing witches. The New Testiament has it's share of scary stories, but is slightly more "Turn the other Cheek" in it's tone. They really are two completely different books if you think about it. The first half is Judaism, while the second half is Christianity (HUGE oversimplification there).

/Gets off pulpit and puts ex-Minister-collar away, as he returns to Mystical Druidic robes :)

Pom said...

It's unfortunately popular conversation in schools right now. Oddly your Christian student wasn't the one dominating the conversation as they do here. Typically my daughter is asked several times per month whether she believes or not - and then condemned to hell. She promises to take marshmallows.

The only other way I could imagine this being handled would have been the cop-out answer of "religion is a very personal thing and it's up to each person to decide for themself how they feel about it. Insanity is also relative." lol

Marshall said...

pie!?! love it!!

Souris Optique said...

I think you did an excellent job!
I don't think I could be so diplomatic.

greekwitch said...

I know i could not be so diplomatic. i would probably answer: "Ah, ...Yeah!".
Thank Goddess i do not

Lori F - MN said...

Anne, Love your blog. Is the bible mental? Well, that depends on your point of view. If you take every word as factual.
I have always wondered how the bible would have read if women had translated it.

Rick Loftus, M.D. said...

Personally I like Karen Armstrong's take on the Bible; she critques it as someone who has gone from simple believer (contemplative nun) to more objective academic. And she makes an important point in her books: The reason why the Bible, like so many sacred texts, seems "crazy" to modern people, is because we operate purely from a rationalist, materialist view of the world, what she calls "logos." The Bible is a poetic text, and cannot be read as if it were a science book (the Universe being made in literally 6 days; Eve being made from Adam's rib; the voice from the burning bush, etc.) The Bible must be read as "mythos," where the truths in the stories are allegorical. It's not the text that's crazy, necessarily--it's how one approaches it that may be crazy. And I'm not one for bashing other religions; organized religion creates LOTS of problems, but mystics of any tradition tend to derive the same appreciation of the divine. The Koran may seem violent, but the Sufis, who are Islamic, are anything but.

GreenWheel said...

Well handled in the classroom :-)

kimc said...

"When you combine "turn the other cheek" with "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"...well...where do you go from there?"

What that tells us is that it was written by several different people who got really different points out of the religion. Movements turns into their opposite, and sometimes really fast. I think all religions die with their founders, only the bark lives on....

Sarita Rucker said...

lol Somehow I missed this post, and have only read it now.

Good story. You must have a LOT of fun with your kids. :)