To Live Biblically: a Preview

To Live Biblically: a Preview February 26, 2018
To LIve Biblically
A.J. Jacobs book cover from

Chip decides to spend a year studying the Bible and living fully from the commandments he finds there. In other words, he will seek to Live Biblically.

I absolutely loved the book by A.D. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Question to Follow the Bible as LIterally as Possible.

I read it when it first came out and just re-read it after I had the opportunity to preview the CBS comedy, starting Feb 26, based on the book.

You can see a short preview here; I had the opportunity to see the first three episodes, so I got a pretty good idea of the plans for the comedy.

Quick synopsis: a reasonably successful and essentially non-religious young man hits a life crisis that causes him to seriously re-think his life, and especially his lack of any real faith understanding. He decides to spend a year studying the Bible and living fully from the commandments he finds there. In other words, he will Live Biblically.

Now, in the book, the author is Jewish, but in name only; in the TV show, the protagonist is a lapsed Roman Catholic. The book concentrates mainly on living out the biblical commands found primarily in the Hebrew Bible; the TV show focuses more on the Christian Bible, but both give the protagonist a wide range of informed and grounded spiritual advisors who play key roles.

The book is genuinely funny, but the humor mainly comes from Jacob’s writing style. He is serious about his quest–there is no making fun of religion here. He sincerely wants to understand what it means to live from a literal understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Along the way, he offers us fascinating insights into his rapidly changing spiritual life.  Jacob’s questions are real, and he is lovingly concerned about how he and his wife are rearing their son (and the twin sons that are born during his year-long quest).

The writer of the TV show, Patrick Walsh, set it as a comedy, which, I fear is a bit problematic for the central premise: how DOES one genuinely live “biblically?” And yet, even as a comedy, there is no making fun of religious belief here, at least on the part of the protagonist, Chip, played by Jay R. Ferguson. (The full cast is here.)

The Year of Living Biblically screenshot
Screenshot: Camryn Manheim and Jay Ferguson; Manning plays Chip’s boss in the TV show.

I very much appreciate the work that has gone into this show and the tender treatment of faith issues. I do not know, however, whether it is possible to integrate the seriousness of Chip’s quest within the framework of comedy and the accompanying one-liners and laugh-tracks.

I would like to say, “This is going to be a wild success,” but I know I have hesitations about it.

Nonetheless, the more episodes I watched, the more I enjoyed the show. I nurture hope for its success. It may actually give a forum for people to discuss faith issues in a non-threatening way. It definitely opens the door to an understanding that there are forces in the universe way beyond human understanding.

Watch it. Give it a try. Let it grow on you. Perhaps if we all learned to approach these issues with a sense of humor, we might be able to find ways to bridge the gaps and misunderstandings that conversation about faith matters seem to inevitably generate.

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