Wackier than Wacky


One of the books presently on my reading list is Beowulf on the Beach. The book is a summary of all the classic books through the ages that we should all read at one time or another. The book is filled with humor, insight, and just in case you never get to read all the classics at least you learn something about them.

A while back I got to the part of the book that talks about the Bible. The author of Beowulf on the Beach, Jack Murnighan calls people back to reading this text as a very important one. But in the call there is a world of humor. Just a few quotes from the book

"What the Old Testament lacks in conventional reader-friendliness it more than makes up for in diversity and sheer, fascinating, almost incalculable weirdness. Page after page you're blindsided by things you thought you'd never see in a religious book..."

"It's wackier, than wacky, not short on plot, and I can guarantee you'll never read anything like it.”

"In reading the Old Testament stories, every time we think, "Why is he sinning? Doesn't he know the Lord will punish him? we are probably supposed to pose ourselves similar questions, …fornication this morning; what was I thinking? That kind of subtle lesson would account for the constant backsliding and repetition in the Old Testament, which does, I admit, get rather exasperating."

What I enjoy about Murnighan's take on the Old Testament is the straight reading that causes wonder, confusion, laughter and so much more that many Christians miss because they read the book with a piety that misses the fullness of human life and human screw-ups that are seen. A friend of mine, Tom Kragt, points out that as an alcoholic he couldn't see things in his life that a six year old could tell him were wrong. Sometimes it takes a person from the outside of Christianity to help us see what a six year old could tell us--the Bible is much wilder, crazier and more wonderful than we have noticed or let ourselves see.

But this outside perspective also speaks to how we preach to a culture that when they read the Old Testament, in particular, respond as Murnighan does. Do we simply tell people that they need to get in line and accept the Bible as we have? Do we somehow acknowledge that parts of the Bible can seem crazy and the people in them even crazier? Do we just pretend that everything we are reading is normal (even though if we found a story like  Genesis 38 in a novel we wouldn’t read it out loud in a group of people)? 

How does your church or you church plant approach teaching and preaching the Old Testament knowing that people like Murnighan find it “wackier, than wacky.”

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