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Congressman Pushes for "The Year of the Bible." You're Joking, Right?

It's no joke. With the onslaught of the second great depression, Republican Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia has decided to push for a bill that will make 2010 the Year of the Bible. Year of the Rat (2008), Year of the Ox (2009), and now the Year of the Bible?

With Congress' approval, Ronald Reagan made 1983 the year of the Bible. And Broun wants to bring back this super hip, retro Christian idea. (Maybe we can bring back ‘80s music, tight jeans and huge hair while we're at it.) When Jewish and Atheist congressmen and congresswomen read Broun’s bill, they freaked out. A few even threw political temper tantrums, which must have been fun to watch.

What's hilarious about the reactions to this bill is that Jews share 39 sacred biblical books with Christians, but Jewish congressmen have been some of the most outspoken people against this bill. Unless someone from the Jewish faith is infuriated because of the church and state issue, I can’t wrap my head around why they would oppose this bill. But, even if separation of church and state causes someone to oppose this bill, there is still a problem with their understanding of the usage of the Bible. People and organizations outside the church use the Bible as well. There are even whole non-profit societies dedicated to studying the Bible that are not religious at all, like the Society of Biblical Literature.

What is fascinating about this whole fiasco is not the bill itself, but the reaction. Atheist leaders all over are saying that they are not even worried because church growth is declining and atheism is on the rise. “Right now, we’re seeing atheism on such a rise,” said David Silverman, vice president and national spokesman of American Atheists. I don’t know about you, but Silverman’s remark sure sounds like it stems from a cultic religion to me. Just replace the word atheism with Mormonism and suddenly things sound a little different, “Right now, we’re seeing Mormonism on such a rise.” When you read it with that word substituted, it’s jarring, isn’t it? Atheists aren’t worried because their religion is growing.

To be quite frank, I think the bill is nonsense and makes Christians look stupid. But at the same time I am all for anything that gets people to read the Bible. No matter what side you take, I think we can learn some things from the bill proposal. Broun recently said, “we must … not forget to protect and celebrate our fundamental freedoms that the Bible has influenced.” Broun is right. The Bible (directly and indirectly) influenced the constitution and the bill of rights. The Bible was at the center of moral and religious thought of the century, and continues to be so; even if atheists wish to deny it. The morals in the Bible have infiltrated culture so deeply that we don’t even notice them anymore. Where do you think the golden rule came from?

Are you okay with the Year of the Bible bill? Would you sign it? Does it make Christians look stupid? Does it accomplish anything for our nation? Drop a comment and let me know.

Source: Victoria McGrane, "The Bible bill?"

Comments

An additional thought:

We love to believe we aren’t religious, but we all are. It’s just a matter of to what extent we believe in something, and what extent we don't. Not believing in God is a a belief that God doesn't exist, and a subsequent belief that you will never meet that God, and never be judged for the things you have done wrong.

--John

I would love to sit across the table with this Congressman and find out his motivation. If this is something that he has been called to do and he is being obedient to a prompting of the Holy Spirit, then what people think is irrelevant. Sometimes God calls his people to do things that seem stupid. On the other hand, if this is a personal crusade, then it - like many other Christian actions that are based on personal crusades - not only makes Christians look stupid (and desperate), but might actually do damage in the long run. I think we've seen a lot of the latter over the past decade.

Joan,

Yep, the prophets were indeed called to do things that seemed stupid at times. Since I don't know the congressman's real motivation, I can't say either way. It would be nice to know, though.

Anyone want to comment on the notion of having a "calling" to do something political that Joan brought up?

--John

Hello, John!

I think the congressman is responding to what he sees happening in the world--many people are desperate--and is trying to bring hope to others. The Bible has always been a source of comfort to many in times of trouble, so I don't fault the congressman for trying to help.

A number of years ago, I was talking to God about my perception that the biggest problem with the Bible was a reading problem. Part of His answer to me was opening the door for me to teach high school English. On a daily basis, I see students who can tell me what selections say but not what they mean. Since the Bible is such a complex anthology, understanding its meaning is challenging, to say the least. I am praying that God will help people find the answers they need in the Bible, and if this bill will encourage people to read the Bible, then I hope it succeeds.

Patricia,

Thanks for your feedback. I am with you on many levels; if the bill helps people to read the Bible, then it is indeed a good thing.

I am also with you on your second comment. Many people do have trouble determining what the Bible means -- this is precisely why I am for teaching the Bible in public schools, for example. The main reason why I am not a fan of this bill is because we are in the midst of an economic crisis and I am not sure it is the best use of any congressman or congresswoman's time right now. But I am willing to be convinced otherwise.

Anyone want to add to what Patricia said, or comment on what I said in the original post? Should congress even be working on a Bible bill right now?

"Since the Bible is such a complex anthology, understanding its meaning is challenging, to say the least."

Not sure I am with you on this, Patricia. I believe that God can speak to even the marginally literate through Biblical texts. In fact, I believe that those who are convinced that they have intellectual understanding of it as opposed to viewing it as a living, breathing, changing text frequently miss things that less "learned" people who come with open heart and mind catch. Not opposed to learning about it, but I also trust the spirit to fill in the blanks. That may be why we are asked to come as little children...

Hi, Joan,

To use an analogy, the Bible is like a treasure chest for each individual, and it is just waiting to be found by those individuals. I first became interested in the Bible way back in 1969 as a college freshman. As I read more of it on my own, it wasn't long before I was asking God for the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom it contains. My life is my relationship with God through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

That said, because the Bible is complex, many believers have come to rely on doctrinal and mission statements as the basis for what they believe. Quite frankly, the state of Christianity reminds me of a spiritual game of telephone, and one of the biggest reasons for that is a reading problem. Many times I've heard that the Bible is hard to understand, and it is. That's why I'm praying--my prayer is that people will begin to not be intimidated by the Bible and will begin to look at reading and understanding it with new eyes. And, yes, God can speak through His Word to "marginally literate" people, but oftentimes what they receive is more like a snack than a feast. I know that sounds harsh, but going beyond just what the Bible says into what it means (as shown to us by the Holy Spirit) will open new understandings of the absoluteness of God's love for us all and may well bring about a revolution of life to our world.

The whole idea is dreadfully tacky, and the main proponents of the bill probably need to be reading something besides the Bible. So better: Year of Reading. Or, Year of the Library.

John, I thought it might be good to point out that Society for Biblical Literature draws heavily from Judeo-Christian academics. To the point that SBL no longer holds their conference concurrently with the American Academy of Religion, the most inclusive and larger Academic religious society in the United States.

My guess is that the AAR membership would be much less likely to support a "Year of the Bible" than SBL membership. Of course they all might just be grateful that religion in general is receiving the attention...which I think is the bigger issue: that a "Year of the Bible" is culturally irrelevant.

It could be passed by Congress and if I forgot to read the papers that day I would never have known, like I never knew there was a "Year of the Bible" in 1983. Was 1984 the year of "Science Fiction Novels That Don't Happen, Kind Of"?

Paul,

Thanks for the comment. I am aware that Society of Biblical Literature leans towards the Judeao-Christian side of academics. (I am actually a member and regular presenter.) I am personally glad that they are focused. Nonetheless, SBL is a non-denominational, non-confessional group of biblical interpreters. Bringing personal religious views into an SBL session is actually frowned upon by most members of the society. I think societies like SBL help make the case that the Bible can (and should) be read by people from various viewpoints, cultures and religions.

I would tend to agree with you that AAR would be less likely to support a year of the Bible. I am not sure which way SBL would go.

--John

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.