How I Choose to Present Myself to the Bible

I choose to read the bible with my imagination engaged. I seek not the “correct” answer, nor the commentaries, nor the assent of the decorated, nor an unchanging constellation of received versions. I ask What if?

What if the bible is an abridged account of relevant goings on from way back, and it is the duty of our imaginations to connect the dots in smooth curves of best fit? What if those curves can take any number of courses, and what if those courses describe a myriad of shapes, depending on the free and clear exploration of the person reading the holy scriptures?

What if, say, the gospels are a just-the-facts-ma’am account, squeezed dry of subtlety, of mood, of humor by the exigencies of global doctrinal pollination?

What if the bible is just one big coloring book, and we’re supposed to clench a fistful of crayons and go wild? Don’t you think the bible can stand up to that? Don’t you think the word of God is strong enough to withstand the carefree hands of little children?

What if we were allowed to think?

I love letting my imagination walk as I read the bible. The book is full of adventure, magic and miracles, epic journeys across desert lands spanning decades upon decades, matter-of-fact mentions of dragons, and casual gravity defiance followed by a light lunch of wine that used to be swamp water. For all its abandon and gusto and seemingly arbitrary feats of prestidigitation, the bible makes Tolkien look like an office stapler. Why not get lost in such a yarn? Why not surrender to the continuous popcorn burst of epic storytelling that lights up the bible like the 4th of July?

Why not add our own imaginations to the swirl?

Oh, that’s right. Because we’re afraid someone we love will disown us. We’re afraid of judgment by robed experts whose several severe degrees in taking all the fun out of the scriptures supposedly qualify them to experience the bible for us, digest and rehash it, process and reprocess it, package it into sausage skins and feed it to us. We’re afraid to destroy the fragile unity we’ve achieved in our churches by the tried and true method of desperately enthusiastic agreement.

We’re afraid to lose God in the cacophony of creativity.

Well I say we can have our bible and eat it too. We can have both our direct experiences and our unity. We can mindmeld and become as one in our worship rituals, in our common tales, and we can whoop-whoop and high-five without losing the precious freedom and volition that Christ himself offers each and every one of us when we surrender it all to his gracious Light. The joy in him is transcendent; all disagreements will be resolved by a heavenly calculus beyond human understanding. We needn’t fear our own minds. Our brotherhood is stronger than that.

We are both one and many. Our minds, our souls are droplets, and each droplet is an ocean in an ocean of oceans. There is room for thought. There is room for creativity. There is room for grace.

There’s room for the imagination to roam when reading the bible.

So that’s how I roll. That’s how I present myself to the bible. I interpret freely, letting my God-given mind roam the landscape of the story. I ain’t ascared of no holier-than-thou churchsters busting my balls. I have fun with it!

Ain’t no wrong way to do it, is my point. Just crack that book and let ‘er work its magic.

Note: I seem to have suddenly burst into slang. That’s weird. Is that weird?

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3 thoughts on “How I Choose to Present Myself to the Bible

  1. In essence you just described the hermeneutic circle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutic_circle).

    The idea is that we allow ourselves to be changed by the text and then we bring that new self to the text for the next bout. We can’t not bring our imagination to the table. The really tragic thing is the holier-than-thou set think they are being truly objective. They’ve lost the will to imagine and so assume that the inner workings of their minds are, somehow, immune to the fancy-flights of humanity.

    I like imagining the time scripture ignores. What did Moses feel like for the 40 years he hung out in the desert before seeing the burning bush? How did Peter react to seeing Judas swinging from the tree knowing that could have been him?

    • Nice! The hermeneutic circle. Imagining the gaps. I like it. The gaps alone seem like a wonderful way to get to know the bible. They force you to engage more of your mind. Beats the hell out of ignoring it.

      • I’m so enamored with the emotions that aren’t on the page of the bible. We get so little of a limited omniscient narrator that lets us peek into the minds of the characters. But that’s where I live so often — in my emotional, mental fog — that it can be hard to identify with the characters in the bible.

        We just get these sweeping, epic acts of faith but we don’t know what it felt like for Joseph to be in prison for years after being sold into slavery and falsely accused. What the eff did that have to feel like? How awful! Maybe he was in prison for years because that’s how long it took for him to pick up the shattered pieces of his life and find some sort of faith again.

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