Sunday, May 22, 2005


Lance Mannion reports that the lack of knowledge of the bible of our buddy on the right, Ricky Santorum, is not so big a deal -- that Catholics aren't really supposed to read the Bible, and that in fact it is considered naughty for them to do so.

Catholics aren't required to read the Bible.

In fact for a long time the Church actively discouraged it.

Universal literacy is a Protestant invention. Protestant churches encouraged their flocks to learn to read so that they could read the Bible on their own in order to have a direct, personal connection with God.

But the Catholic Church wanted to keep the priests between the people and the Bible because the Bible is a very strange book, full of internal contractions, bad history, dietary laws appropriate for living in a desert but without much application in the Italian alps or the bogs of Ireland, fairy tales, allegories of doubtful origin and meaning, lunatic or drug-induced ravings by mad holy men (Ezekial, Revelation), and just plain weirdness---
Lot's daughters, the Levite's concubine---all presided over by a God of unstable temperament with a distinctly split personality.

The Church insists that the authority of its teachings is Scriptural, but it is also adamant that the interpretation of Scripture is a job the Faithful should leave to the Church's scholars and that individuals who usurp the job for themselves are risking their immortal souls.

A Catholic whose faith is based on a personal, emotional encounter with Scripture is a heretic.

I grew up among the Catholics in New Orleans, but I'll admit I didn't know this. But then I only went to mass a few times with my friends a few times, and hardly ever could figure out what was up.

This could explain a bit about certain members of the religious right -- they're ignorant about their own text cause they're supposed to be -- but not the Evangeligal Protestants.

And, as Mannion goes on to report:

* Perhaps 15 percent of Americans participate in Bible studies.
* The number of people who read the Bible, at least occasionally is 59 percent. * Less than 50 percent of Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis).
* Only 1/3 of Americans know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (more people identified Billy Graham rather than Jesus).
* Twenty-five percent of Americans don't know what is celebrated on Easter (the Resurrection of Christ, the foundational event of Christianity).
* Twelve percent of Christians think that Noah's wife is Joan of Arc.
* Eighty percent of born-again Christians (including George W. Bush) think it is the Bible that says "God helps them that help themselves." (Actually it was said by Benjamin Franklin.)

This correlates with the five separate classes on Bible as Lit I have taught, btw, all of them stacked with Christians, most of the Evangelical Christians, nearly all of them Protestant Christians, most of whom did not -- even after I had made the reading assignment, mind you, after they were supposed to have read the text for my class, never mind coming into the class -- know the most basic things about the text.

Like, just what is the deal with the golden calf and Moses?

Or, what curse did God lay on the snake after he beguiled the woman in the garden?

Or, how many magic trees were there in that Garden? (Hint: It wasn't just one.)

Or, Who is it Abraham is supposed to sacrifice on God's command?

Or, What does Jesus say about forgiving your enemies? How many times ought you to do it?

Or, what is Jesus's opinion on capital punishment? (Hint: there's this woman taken in adultery, and some guys with stones...)

Or, how does Jesus feel about wealth? *Does* he want us to collect it? (Anyone who thinks Jesus is in favor of capitalism and the accumulation of wealth needs to dust of his text and start reading again, that's all I'm saying. The text is pretty damn plain.)

And -- excuse me? -- God helps him who helps himself?

Yeah, that sounds exactly like something Moses would say. And Jesus too. Mr. Love your neighor and give all you have to the poor and whatever you do to the least of these you do unto me, he'd be spouting that one, oh, you bet.

Not that I don't like Ben Franklin -- I do.

But he wasn't a Christian, folks. He was a deist.

Be a pretty good idea not to get those philosophies mixed up.

I'm just saying.


Diane said...

Many years ago, I worked at an agency that provided psychotherapy services. The agency had a child protection conract, so we would get a lot of child abusers. One of our interns was a folksy, soft-spoken wife of a Baptist minister, and she was our secret weapon.

We would send her in to talk to the bible-toting child abusers. It would go something like this:

"Oh, I hear you read the bible every day."

"Yes m'am."

"I'm glad to hear that. I do too. My husband is a preacher."

"Yes m'am."

"I hear you were talking about 'spare the rod and spoil the child.'

"I sure was."

"Then, since you know your bible, you know it's talking about a shepherd's rod and how you're supposed to guide your child."


zelda1 said...

Parents don't want their children to know the bible. If they did, they wouldn't send them to sunday school. Have you ever been to one of those classes? It's about coloring and eating cookies and learning one bible verse out of context. Then the older ones have these rooms with pooltables and music and they talk about school and all the sports and they don't even talk about the bible. Then the preacher goes into tirades about money or infidelity as if that was all that matters. Three boys from the church I used to attend beat, shot, and then dumped the body of a friend, who was still breathing by the way, into a well. It was in November and the wounded boy froze todeath. The three are in prison where each have found God and say when they get out they will be preachers. My point, most churches don't teach the Bible. They are too busy trying to keep attendance up and you do that by having fun not learning. That's why you have ignorant students or ignorant concerning the Bible.