–By Donald Hanna
The Bible is pure genius. From time to time I’m reminded about just how much this is the case. Last Sunday, as I read again the story of Ahab and Jehoshaphat debating about whether or not to go to war, I found myself smiling from ear to ear. After consulting 400 prophets who all tell Ahab, “O yeah, do it, you’ll totally kick some Ramoth-Gilead rear end,” Jehoshaphat wants to be extra sure and asks, “Well isn’t there just one more prophet.” Ahab relents. “There is one more. But I hate, H-A-T-E, HATE him! He never says anything I like!” And of course from there it just gets better and better – unless of course you are Ahab, and then it ends with the dogs licking your blood.
My love affair with scripture really started several years ago. I was given the Bible on CD at a time when I had to do a lot of driving for work. I would pull up into the parking lot and sit and listen, savoring every word. And while I was in working (I was a copy repair guy at the time), I’d be itching to get back to the story. What was going to happen to David?! I just couldn’t wait to hear what was coming. And the translation I was listening to was the King James Version. I was listening to it so much, pretty soon I found the random thee and thou working its way into my vocabulary. “Wilt thou show me thy copy machine? Pray tell, what manner of ill has beset the thing?”
I think about how excited I was about scripture, about how many wonderful little nuggets are in there, and then I look at people’s attitudes about it, or ignorance about it. You hear things like, “It’s like a rule book.” And it’s so much more fantastic than that. Then I look at some of the kid’s storybook Bibles and it seems that often they are trying to hit kids with theological platitudes. While the stories that are told are good, they end up skipping from tale to tale, going from Adam and Eve, to Samson, to David and Goliath, to Jonah, and in the process missing out on some of the sheer literary awesomeness that is in there.
I bring all this up because I’ve been struggling a bit with how to get across to my wee ones my excitement, my love for scripture. Of course, some of the problem is that there is a lot of the Bible that just isn’t suitable for children – rape, incest, murder, tent stakes through the skull and the like. And part of it is that a lot of scripture is told in a way that is very foreign to modern ears. There is a lot that is left open for the imagination to run wild with, and that’s just not how things seem to be done these days.
But this said, I feel that it is important to share scripture with my children. I’ve always looked at scripture as a conversation partner, and the more you have of the Bible, the richer the relationship with that partner can be. And so as my kids grow, I want them to be excited about scripture too. I want them to love it too. I want it not just to be some “rule book” that is never cracked open, but part of their story – the good, the bad, and all the in between; the poetry, the wisdom, and the narrative; the down to earth, “the rain falls on the good and the evil alike,” and the out of the world, “another portend appeared in heaven: a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns..;” but most of all the good news, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
So far what I’ve got is to read the Bible to the kids (even if it is storybooky and missing out on some of that chewy literary goodness), to let them see me read scripture, and to be excited about it (which I am anyway). I hope this gets them into it. I feel like as Biblical literacy declines in the world around us, we really are losing something important. And even in church, when scripture is pared down to a few verses, and those are then mined for some truth, we lose out, because we miss the story, the overarching narrative. We miss sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to hear what’s coming next, and I believe that often that is how God speaks to us – through story. I just hope that as I bring up my kids, they might come to see just how good a book the Good Book really is!
Donald Hanna serves as pastor of Alamosa Presbyterian Church