As I walk through this journey of simplifying by getting rid of stuff, I have arrived at the bookcase in my living room. Keeping with the pattern of all the other clearing out I have done, I take each book and consider it carefully. I am choosing to keep books that have a special meaning to me or that I think someone I know might like. The rest I plan to pass along to the Friends of the Library for their used book sale, but I find that some of the books are so marked up with my pencil or pen that I cannot possibly do that. The last time I did this cleaning out of books, I actually took the time to attack these with an eraser but this time I am too lazy to do that. So I have decided to throw a few of these into the trash…or recycling, I should say.
Here is the truth about marking books. I never go back to re-read what I have underlined. Never! So I have to ask myself why I do it. I realize that I am doing it as a form of study. It is what I did in school when I highlighted the texts I was reading. But then, it had a clear purpose. I did go back to those passages when I had to write a paper or prepare for a test. Why, after all these years, have I continued this practice? I guess I don’t know. So I made a resolve. No more marking! If I think I might use a passage, I can put a post-it note in the page.
I came across a book that I think I have never read. It is the kind of book I would have marked up, for sure, and there are not markings in it. The title is “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture’” by John Shelby Spong. I remember a Quaker friend of mine who really liked Spong’s work. I may have gotten it from him. I just finished reading another spiritual book for my book club, so I thought, “Well, here it is, the one I should start on next.”
In a few recent posts, I told you about some of the awful things I am reading in the Bible as I revisit it after quite a few years (Samson – Biblical Hero, March 2 and Samson – 2, March 3). I have been struck more deeply than in the past by the awful behavior of Old Testament “heroes” and that of the chosen people, shockingly, under the direction of God. Reading the first few chapters of Spongs book, I can see he had the same reaction I had. He made reference to the same passages that I mentioned in my blogs and many more. This morning, he mentioned some passages from the New Testament that I hadn’t really considered.
Spong promises in these early pages that he will be presenting a new way to look at the Bible, a way that one can appreciate its deeper messages beyond literalism. Meanwhile, I feel like I am having a conversation with a friend who is seeing the same thing I am seeing and is just as disturbed. It gives me comfort to know that I am not alone in my questioning.