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Friday, March 28, 2014

I'd Give the Bible Five Whopping Stars on Amazon

     This is gonna be quick, because I’m writing possessed this week, trying to keep up with the momentum behind my latest WIP. It’s about a girl who is abducted and abused at five years old, and then miraculously returned to her family. Now she’s a teen and she’s understandably fighting off some demons. The story is about her struggle to grow up to be a functional person in the face of the abuse she's endured. It’s also about how a community responds when one of its members is victimized.
     Today the small thing I’m grateful for is the experience of teaching Sunday school. Before you go accusing me of being pious, let me remind you that Lizzie Borden taught Sunday school. I'm not a deeply religious person. I signed up because I like kids and they said that if I taught it, my kids’ catechism would be free. Plus, the church needed help desperately. They’re always looking for catechists. The requirements are about the same as what's needed to work at McDonald's (breathing) with one added thing: you should be Catholic.
Some light reading. Not.
     I went in riddled with doubts, because I’d recently considered swearing off religion for good. Still, I figured I could convey the basics of the Bible to the kids in my charge as well as the next person. At the very least, I'd earn the catechism tuition. Never did I expect to come out feeling like I'd been exposed to the work of a master storyteller!
     Yes, at the end of my eight weeks, I might as well have been to the best writing conference in the world. Part of it was the kids, and their responses to the stories we read, but most of it was due to the book itself. I’m telling you, if you need help in your writing endeavors, pick up a Bible. You’re guaranteed to be inspired.
     I guess my main objection all these years has been sexism. I'd hate to think it was the enormity of the text that kept me from reading it, because that certainly didn't stop me with A Game of Thrones. The Bible gets a bad rap for having women characters that seem to take a backseat where the action is concerned. They come across as wimpy and inferior, destined to be subjugated. Let me assure you, this reputation is undeserved. (Plus many other books objectify women far more.) 
     I now believe that, contrary to the uninformed interpretations to which I've been previously subjected, the women in the Bible aren't meant to be seen as submissive secondary characters. If they seem that way, it's probably due more to culture of the times than to a purposeful sway of the stories. In fact, I’d argue that if you want some model depictions of strong female characters, look no further. Think about it: Mary, Mary Magdalene, Sarah (the wife of Abraham), Eve (way more interesting than that dorky Adam), Jezebel. I had to rub my eyes when I saw a whole book devoted to a woman: Ruth. (I've been a Catholic all my life and didn't know this. Shame on me!) Ruth was a gentile to boot. Now, the people in Biblical times weren't exactly known for embracing outsiders, so I'm pretty sure that her inclusion was meant to make a statement. Which means a woman has the honor of being the sole Biblical person with her own book who was not raised in the Jewish faith. If you think they’re all submissive dunderheads, you're wrong. Meet Jael, the chick who hammered a tent stake into a guy's head while he slept in her tent under the assumption she was helping him hide from his enemies. Katniss Everdeen eat your heart out. (Disc.: There are no instances of heart-eating in the Bible. That’s Indiana Jones.)
    Above and beyond this, the Bible has everything a great story needs:
A charismatic main character (male this time) with an interesting backstory and (Spoiler alert!) a tragic end. Trust a Master Storyteller not to let the backstory--however brilliant--bog down The Beginning. Genesis is well-paced, right down to the day!
Gore—lots of it! Blood flowing eternal, people being torn in half and rising from the dead, bushes set afire, wars a plenty, bondage, starvation, plagues, FLOODS...are you absolutely sure that Michael Bay wasn't around in Biblical times? It's no small wonder they’re making movies with this stuff now. That's what you call stellar material.
Insight into the depths of human nature: People in the Bible are constantly faced with scary circumstances and hard decisions, which they meet nobly—for the most part.
An epic, on-going battle between good and evil.
Enough allegorical imagery to give Plato a hard-on. (Kind of puts his little man cave to shame!) 
An apocalyptic fantasy: Revelations rivals any on the bestsellers list.
     'Nuff said. That, my dear friends, is why people study the Bible. (And here I'm just starting to read it!)
     Today I’m celebrating the small awakening that resulted in a HUGE religious tie-in for my WIP. Almost has me believing in divine intervention.

13 comments:

  1. I'm glad you're celebrating teaching Sunday School! Great job. You and the kids are learning things and enjoying it. You already have the talent of being a story teller so this is a great way to use it!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm definitely going to keep at it--maybe even once my kids are out of the religious education program.

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  2. I think everyone should read the Bible at least once. It's impossible to understand western art, literature or even culture without a basic knowledge of the Bible. But I also think we should all read the Koran and the writings of Confucious and Buddah and all the writings that form the backbone of modern cultures.

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    1. You are so right, Kate! If the study of religion had the reputation for being inclusive of everyone's beliefs, it definitely wouldn't have taken me this long to embrace it! Our religious class also toured a Jewish temple and it was amazing!

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  3. The Bible is the best of all to celebrate, Jennifer. The history, wisdom, drama, conflict, even the murder and love stories are very inspiring, and the women very strong. Even the women mentioned in passing were noteworthy eg. Lydia, in the New Testament, who was a business woman, a seller of purple (very expensive in those times) and she was a believer.
    Great post.

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    1. Oh my! I'm definitely going to have to research this seller of purple!

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  4. Great post! You make ex-Catholic agnostic me want to pick up the Bible again, if for no other reason than for a writing tie-in of my own.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Marianne. Try viewing it as just another book (I know, this sounds almost blasphemous!) But only after all the religious stigma was removed could I appreciate the structural genius of it!

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  5. Wow, what a post! I 'm glad I stopped by! (And, as a Sunday School teacher for many years before I moved, I have to say that the children themselves are revelations. You see things so freshly through their eyes...) Great post!

    Diana at About Myself By Myself

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  6. Your WIP sounds very intense and well worth writing. I hope you get a lot of writing done. Remain positive! (I'm now following you!)

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  7. The Bible continues to surprise me. Just finished a book of a minor prophet (can't remember who without checking my notes) that celebrated the upcoming destruction of Ninevah. The ending verse, everyone pretty much went, "Hooray!" Definitely not how I was expecting that to end.

    Yes, the Bible certainly has a Master Story Teller. Glad you enjoyed your time teaching Sunday School.

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  8. There are many amazing stories in the Bible - adventure, conspiracy, love, war. Even my teens are amazed sometimes by the stories. As to the women, you're right. They aren't really as submissive as we're usually led to believe (why were we taught this, I wonder?). They obviously fit in w/ the time and culture, but they were not weak. Glad you enjoyed Sunday School; teaching kids is always an enlightenment :)

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  9. Interesting take.
    I was in a bible study class once many years ago. Everyone went around reading a section, and then the next section, and so on. As a guest to the group that day, I was a bit lost, but didn't work out why until it was my turn. I had a different version than they did! Not extremely different, mind you, but mine had very formal wording and text, where the version they used was simple, modern, "friendly" English.

    So I guess I'd have to ask WHICH version/copy/edition of The Bible would get those five Amazon stars? Or wouldn't it matter?


    Stopping by from the #atozchallenge !
    @JLenniDorner

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