Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sometimes, The Bible Just Gets Me Into Trouble

It's my own fault. I shouldn't engage people in conversations. Theproblem is that I just enjoy a good argument about a book every now andthen. Living in The South, the one book that everyone has read at leasta bit of is The Bible. Somehow, even after years of living in The Southsurrounded by fundamentalist Christians, I forget that they haven'tread it as a book to be explored, discussed and analyzed; instead, manypeople around me read it and believe its every word.
Maybe it's aconsequence of going to Catholic schools, where they taught us to lookbeyond the meaning of the words on the pages - I specifically rememberFather Scott explaining it as "Do you really thinkJonah spent three days in the belly of a whale?" - to figure out themain point of the stories as a whole. Maybe it's the fact that I feelthe need to justify my English degree by having good debates overwritten words every once in a while. Maybe it's my father's family'sgenes coming out - they love a good argument discussion.

On my March weekend at the library, I worked with a woman who is a lotmore religious than I knew about. When we came in on Sunday she asked me if it would be ok if she asked me some questions about theCatholic Church. I wouldn't call my self a Defender of the Church (Ithink the British monarchs still lay claim to that title - even thoughthey're not Catholic any more. But that's another story), or even anApologist - but I have knows so many people in this state that havewarped opinions about the Church as a whole and Catholics inparticular, that I've gotten used to the "let's put the Catholic undera microscope" routine.

So this lady, umm...Jenny, started out by asking me if it's true thatCatholics call their priests "Father." This was about the tamestquestion I've gotten, so I said sure; it's a sign of respect and thatmy priest is Father So-and-So. Her response?
"Then the Catholic Church clearly doesn't follow The Bible where it says "You shall call no man Father."

I looked at her. I have heard, many times, the opinion thatCatholics aren't Christian - most memorably from a worker at aChristian book store. I had never had any one go about it in quite thisway. She went on to ask several more questions - drinking alcoholicbeverages really shocked her, especially when she found out that wineis used in church, not grape juice. After each answer I gave, she'dgive me some quote from The Bible and tell me that Catholics don'tfollow THE BOOK. Finally, she asked what book Catholics base theirreligion on. When I said the Bible, she laughed at me, and said that ifwe were Christians we would follow the Bible, but it was pretty clearwe didn't, so therefore we must not be.

None of this particularly upset me - people have their religious ideaspretty well formed in their head, and it's pretty rare that you canchange them. And I do not feel the need to proselytize or convertanyone. But I'm always up for a good debate. And that's when I get intotrouble, especially on a slow Sunday afternoon at work. I couldn't stopmyself from asking what she thought about all the times that The Biblecontradicts itself - and then giving examples. And then trying to getinto a discussion about different translations of the Bible. Which ledher to explain to me that if people were translating it correctly inthe first place, then every translation would be exactly the same. Andthis is where I forced myself to stop having the conversation, and walkaway to find something else to do. It's simply no fun to have aphilosophical discussion with someone who only believes that onephilosophy is correct and worth discussing.

So why bring all of this up three weeks later? For a couple of reasons.The first is simple - since I got back from vacation (and I've onlyworked 3 full days so far) she has left me several pages of quotes fromthe Bible on my desk. I'm still trying to figure out what point theyprove, because they seem to contradict each other. I'm certainly notgoing to ask any questions! :)
But this conversation has beenbouncing around my head, and I don't know why. She certainly didn'tinsult me or my personal beliefs (I may go to a Catholic Church, butI'm basically just a really great Agnosticat this point in my life). I'm smart enough to know better than toenter conversations like this with people that I don't know very well. A friend of mine told me the reason this whole thing is stillbouncing around my
brain really very simple: for 9 years, I was surrounded by academics atschool and in my personal life. I basically learned to question,analyze and discuss things 18 out of every 24 hours. Now I'm workingwith a lot of people who don't feel that need, but I (apparently) missthe intellectual stimulation, so I'm trying to drum it out of peoplethat can't give it to me.

Well, I don't know about all that - for one thing it makes me soundreally smart, so I kinda thought she was being a smart ass. But itsounds good, so I'll think about it.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Well, you could try slipping a few quotes onto her own desk.

“If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit. (Matthew 15:14)”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and don't lean on your own understanding. [Proverbs 3:5]”

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

"I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person."

OK, that last one isn't actually in the bible anywhere, but it probably should be.