Fashion magazine GQ disses Bible, annoys Catholic writer

Fashion magazine GQ disses Bible, annoys Catholic writer May 8, 2018

Last month GQ took a swipe at some of the world’s best known books, saying that ‘some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring’.
On the list of “21 books you don’t have to read” were such classics as The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. But what upset John Clark, writing for the National Catholic Register this week, was that the Bible came in at 12th place:

The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.

As with all the other books on the list, GQ suggested a better read. In the case of the Bible it was Agota Kristof’s The Notebook:

A marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.

Clark responded by writing:

It would not be unfair to dismiss the GQ article as irrelevant claptrap which did little more than cater to the world’s well-dressed agnostics. Yet it provides an opportunity to briefly address the issue of greatness regarding The Holy Bible. 

These issues include the fact that:

Millions of people throughout history – from ancient Rome to present-day North Korea and Iran – have willingly risked their lives to read the Bible and share it with others.

And that:

The Bible has influenced the vast majority of persons, societies, and governments for almost two millennia. Its impact has been vast, indelible, and enduring. No other book in history can come close to making that claim. 

Well, just to take two examples, it certainly influenced Adolf Hitler, whose private notes show the influence of the Bible on his racial views against the Jews, and it influenced  the Calvinist rulers of South Africa, who built the entire apartheid system on holy Scripture, and in the process blighted millions of lives, mine included.

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  • 1859

    The bible has always been presented by the believers as the word of their god. I’ve always wondered why satan himself didn’t get in on the act and write a book – a sort of anti-bible?

  • Pocomouse

    I think the GQ article very fairly reviewed the Bible. I’ve read it cover to cover and found some good parts and a lot of boring drivel. It’s not the greatest book ever written by a long shot.
    That said, it is worth a read through. One of the most enjoyable classes I took in college was The Bible as Literature. We read it without all the religious baggage and discussed it’s merits and inadequacies as a collection of stories. Very enlightening.

  • StephenJP

    I rather agree with Pocomouse. Part of the problem with the Bible is that most of its readers and teachers feel constrained to regard it as “the word of the Lord”, at which point all intellectual effort and interest come to a stop. Reading it as literature, and as a collection of good tales, is one approach. Another is to treat it as one would treat any other collection of ancient texts, and ask questions such as: Who wrote this? Why, when and where? Has it been tampered with over the years? Is any of it historically reliable? And so on.
    That said, I also rather agree with the RC apologist who described the GQ article as a whole as “irrelevant claptrap”. Many of the mini-reviews are deeply superficial and irritating. But, you know, I just think it might have been written with the aim of being provocative and annoying..

  • Lurker111

    I’ve always thought that Catcher in the Rye was overblown and kinda pointless, y’know–like as if the author was a Real Phony, y’know?

  • Broga

    Lurker111 : “I’ve always thought that Catcher in the Rye was overblown ” I liked the “Catcher in the Rye” and still remember some of the phrases e.g. “Where do the ducks go in Central Park in the winter” and “Strictly from hunger” when looking at a girl.
    What I concluded was total bullshit, although others told me that it is a work of genius, i.e. my brother-in-law -was James Joyce – I remember something about “moo cows”. However, others raved about it and said I just lacked the mental equipment to understand the book. I liked Joyce’s short stories.
    The book, I know, depends as much on the reader as the author, for understanding and pleasure.

  • AgentCormac

    It would seem that Clark isn’t the only catholic working themselves up into a slaver about perceived disrespect for their church. The recent ‘Heavenly Bodies’ theme of the Met Gala has got some whining that the event ‘should not have happened because it involved celebrities sexualising, commodifying and undermining the Catholic religion and church.’
    Such thin skins!

  • Brian Jordan

    Not from the list of books to ditch, but I do like thi s Mark Twain quotation – rather milder than Thomas Paine’s but just as telling:
    There are those who scoff at the school boy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the school boy who said, Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.
    -Following the Equator, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar

  • L.Long

    “contains some good parts..” Really and what are those? Some half baked poetry you can find most everywhere, some minor moral issues that were most likely stolen from surrounding cultures. And LOTS of hate, bigotry, self-hate, and intolerance and really bad advice. Sorry, but I can never recover the life lost reading the book o’BS!

  • gedediah

    @ 1859.
    Maybe he did. That would explain why it’s so hard to find the diamonds in the dungheap.

  • andym

    The Devil was going to write his own book, until he read the Old Testament. He realised his work was done , and retired to Florida.

  • AgentCormac

    Florida at the weekends, Washington DC during the week.

  • Laura Roberts

    I have to say I kind of like Clark’s dismissal of GQ. “Irrelevant claptrap” sums up my attitude toward nearly every popular magazine I’ve read (sadly, I’ve had to add National Geographic to that list). I read the Bible and “Catcher in the Rye” both as a teenager. Although I was religious at the time, I found the Bible mind numbing, tedious and a bit childish. By contrast, I found “Catcher in the Rye” captivating all the way through and immediately after, consumed “Franny and Zoey”. Possibly I’d feel differently about Salinger now, as an adult. Perhaps I’ll re-read one of those.
    GQ does its readers a disservice by suggesting they skip any particular books. No one can say which books will resonate with a particular reader. More than that, I think it is lazy and pretentious to criticise or praise any book one hasn’t bothered to read.

  • Vanity Unfair

    Back about 1968 I read Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without, by Brigid Brophy, Michael Levey and Charles Osborne. I remember it being absurdly opinionated and often outrageously funny. The preface stated that it did not include the Bible because translations were outside its remit. (Unless I’m thinking of something else altogether.)
    From somewhere else: Catcher in the Rye makes more sense when read aloud in the voice of E. L. Wisty. I can’t read it any more.

  • John the Drunkard

    And let’s not forget the Confederate States of America. The one that DID have ‘god’ in its Constitution. And was so firmly connected to the Southern Baptists, who’s sect was founded to defend slavery

  • tonye

    When I was young, and easily influenced by popular opinion, I was determined to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
    That was three weeks of my life that I won’t get back.

  • L.Long

    The LotRs is a good set of books…but to really have fun read it out loud to your kids!!!! Thankfully the movies are now all out!!!