Does It Matter If the Bible Stories Really Happened?

Krista Dalton has a great reflection on what she’s learned from Jews about the historicity of our sacred text:

Krista Dalton

I remember early on in my academic career when I was startled by a revelatory statement. I was sitting in my advisor’s office, attempting to understand Jewish interpretations of the Exodus, naively wondering how the historicity of the event would alter participation in the Passover ritual.

Suddenly realizing my error, my advisor interjected, “You know, most Jews don’t believe the Exodus literally happened, in the very least, not the way the biblical text recounts.”

I’m not sure why I was so surprised by that statement. In my own academic work, I knew scholars doubted the historicity of the Exodus account. Yet, to think Jewish participants were conscious of this, when many of my own Christian peers rejected the notion, was shocking to me.

My advisor explained, “Jews know this didn’t happen, but they just don’t want to hear about it on Passover.”

This conversation led me on a journey in pursuit of the answer to the question: “If one is not remembering a literal fact, what is one remembering?” I thought of my own Christian tradition, particularly the memory-ritual of communion, and found myself mimicking my advisor’s words, “I know not everything happened as the gospels recount, but I just don’t want to hear about it when I partake of the bread and the wine.”

Read the rest: Lessons from the Seder: The Belief of Memory in the Communion Story « Krista Dalton @KristaNDalton.

More Evangelical Islamophobia

I asked Bishop Solomon (Lutheran) about the threatened Bible burning. He wasn’t concerned.

Last September, Brian McLaren called on evangelicals to choose whether or not they would continue with their Islamophobia. In a post that garnered nearly 9,000 comments, he cited emails and articles meant to gin up evangelicals in their fear of Muslims.

So it was interesting to me, as I round out my week in a majority Muslim country, to read this headline, screaming out from the front page of the American evangelical rag, The Christian Post:

Malaysia ‘Bible-Burning Festival’ Over Use of ‘Allah’ Threatens Country’s Stability

Here’s what’s interesting: unlike the reporter of this article, I’ve spent the last week in Malaysia. Indeed, I’ve spent it with Christian pastors of many stripes, with the Lutheran bishop and the Methodist district superintendent, and at the leading Malaysian seminary.

And no one is the least bit interested in the Bible burning.

[Read more...]

Responding to Mark Driscoll with the Bible

In my New Year Predictions, I noted that Mark Driscoll had generally kept his pie hole shut recently. That ended with a tweet this week:

A high-profile Seattle clergyman delivered a jarring note as clergy across the country delivered best wishes to President Obama at the launch of his second term in the White House.

Mark Driscoll, founding pastor at the Mars Hill Church, tweeted: “Praying for our President, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”

It has been retweeted more than 2,700 times.

He repeated the comment on Facebook and got more than 7,800 “likes.”

To this verbal diarrhea, I have just one response. It comes from the Bible, that book that Mark supposedly reveres so highly. It comes from Jesus, the manliest man he’s ever followed:

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Lauren Winner Is in Prison

I’m guessing those cat eye glasses set off the metal detectors.

Lauren Winner has the semester off of teaching at Duke, but she’s teaching a seminary-level class in a women’s prison (so much for a sabbatical). Her experience in prison is changing the way that she read the Bible, as she writes in this week’s lectionary post at The Hardest Question:

Gospel Reading: Luke 4:14-21

For Sunday, January 27, 2013: Year C—Epiphany 3

I am writing this from the classroom of a women’s prison in central North Carolina. The classroom is in a trailer, kind of like the trailer in which you might have had overflow classes at your middle school.

I come here each week to teach a course on prayer. I never ask the students why they are in prison, but by now I know: some of them are here for killing abusive husbands or partners. Some are here for drug crime. Some are here for failing to intervene in a husband’s sexual abuse of their children. Some are only here for a year or two; others have been in the prison system for decades.

And here comes Jesus, quoting Isaiah, coming to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.

Read the rest: Visiting Prisons.