Do People Care About the Bible?

Do People Care About the Bible? December 31, 2023

Bible with Barbed-Wire Heart
Image of Bible with Barbed-Wire Heart by James Chan from Pixabay

12/30/2023

About two years ago, I started to study and write about Biblical history and the many interpretations people have made of the Bible.  I had no clear idea at the time where this was leading.  Originally, I had thought I would write a book outlining what I believe to be important from say…creation on down.

As I began to study and learn, I quickly realized that that was unlikely to happen, given that I have a limited number of years left in which to work.  Along the way, I have encountered the work of scholars who have spent many years learning Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Latin, Coptic etc. and who have become experts in the analysis of the extant Biblical texts.

Man leaning against wall
Man leaning against wall image by Pexels from Pixabay

What was the conclusion?

Realizing that at my age, those pursuits were unlikely to be successful for me, I have embraced learning by studying the translations available and taking non-credit courses at both traditional and evangelical seminaries in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Once I believed I had learned some important things about the Bible and about how religion has been used by the religious to control the behavior of other people, I felt the need to write something about what I had learned.  This was the source of my first major disappointment.

Where did this lead?

I started a blog and invited my friends and family to read a post and give me some feedback on what I was writing.  No one would do it. Not one soul. I had experienced the same thing when I asked the same friends and family to react to my songs.

Something was wrong, I thought. It did not surprise me that people did not gush over my songs.  Why should they?  I’m not Willie Nelson or Guy Clark.  I suppose I could haven applied the same logic to my blog posts about the Bible and the people who use and abuse it.  I’m obviously not Bart Ehrman or Joel Baden.

Man thinking about the Bible Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Man thinking about the Bible Image by Pexels from Pixabay

How did I resolve this?

Because I believe in the profound importance of this subject, I persisted in trying to get people to read my carefully researched, impeccably sourced and proud scholarly discourse.  I was forced, however,  to choose between conclusions: either my writing is as bad as my songs or people just don’t care about my subject matter. Maybe my writing is that bad; I don’t know, but I quickly realized that scholarly prose is not going to attract any readers at all. I decided to find an outlet that would allow me to write about the subject in a lighter, less dense manner.

This might be the answer for me.

So here we are, writing for Patheos and trying to attract readers.  The first month has been pretty dismal.  I have had people tell me why they will not engage with my writing.  Universally, they say they are just not interested in the subject.  Quite honestly, I believe that what people have done with the Bible and how it has been used and abused is vitally important to enable us to understand how the world has reached the current level of insanity.

No one escapes the Bible’s influence!

People might not be interested in learning what the Bible says and how it has been interpreted to the detriment of humankind but everyone, every day is affected by it whether they choose to believe it or not.  In our society, it is nearly impossible to name an aspect of life not affected by someone’s interpretation of the Bible:

  • Legislation regarding pregnancy for adults
  • Legislation regarding pregnancy for children
  • Legislation regarding immigration
  • Legislation regulating the private sexual activities of adults
  • Legislation allowing the enslavement of human beings
  • Colonization and imperialism of Christian countries during the Age of Exploration
  • Tax-free religious properties and tax-free incomes of every kind of religious fund-raising
  • The divine right of kings to rule
  • The right of English kings to rule Scotland, Wales and Ireland and destroy native culture
  • The execution of apostates of all kinds
  • The Holy Inquisition
  • Israeli government murder of Palestinians
  • “The Troubles” in Ireland
  • The Western patriarchy
  • Puritanism and its results
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • U.S. and Canadian government-sponsored genocide and destruction of native culture

These and so many more things are directly related to the Bible nd how it has been used and misused by people since its publication.  The Bible has fueled law-making and war-fighting since it was first read by people in power.

Why do people believe the Bible is irrelevant?

Here are some of the reasons and objections that people cite to me as to why they have no interest:

  • None of it is true; it’s all made up
  • It’s all “just stories”
  • It is what fuels the patriarchy
  • Its only purpose is to control other people
  • It is against women
  • The language is too hard

So, what is my bottom line?

While I will certainly not argue with parts of  these statements (they all contain various degrees of truth), I would point out two things:

  • these statements and attitudes are simplistic and do not represent a rational form of critical thinking
  • that it is precisely because some of these things are true that we need to pay closer attention to the Bible and how it has been used.

Whether we are, ourselves, believers in any or all of the Bible’s teachings, to toss it aside as irrelevant is a very dangerous and socially irresponsible attitude which we will explore in subsequent articles.

 

About William T. Orr, Jr.
William T. Orr, Jr. is a retired educator, most recently the principal of a high school named in the Top 10 in the nation by Newsweek magazine. Orr has a B.A. in English Language and Literature, a M.Ed. in Education Administration and Supervision, and an Ed.D. in Education leadership. He’s also completed Postdoctoral study at Yale Divinity School and Dallas Theological Seminary. You can read more about the author here.
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