The Youth Minister gave a new meaning to, “throw the book at him.” Originally the phrase meant to charge someone with as many crimes as are possible. Consider it throwing all the law at someone. Maybe, that is in fact what happened. Rather than take his questions seriously, the Youth Minister found it easier to apply as many legalisms as possible to Young Christian. So much for grace.
When Christian Piatt began interrogating his faith, what the late Robert Webber would describe as a period of questioning one’s faith, his Youth Minister threw his Bible at Young Christian. That he missed may well serve as a metaphor for what the Bible is not, something one uses to throw at another.
Critical Thinking Is Not to Be Feared
But some do.
Fear critical thinking.
Enter Sheldon Cooper. Yes, that one, the one on Big Bang Theory. The writers of the award-winning sitcom spun off a prequel. In the new show, Young Sheldon, we get the backstory for Sheldon.
Several episodes fill in the gaps as to why Sheldon finds little help in his childhood experience with church, with faith. His questions were summarily dismissed. We would like to think we are witnessing a caricature. We are not. Questions, the sort of which we observe Young Sheldon asking, appear to be uncomfortable and dismissed. These responses hardly endear Young Anyone to seek out how to reconcile faith with, in this case, science.
Just ask Young Christian.
Surviving As Metaphor
Maybe Christian Piatt intends surviving literally. He survived a near direct hit as his Youth Minister threw his big floppy Bible at his head after he asked a question in their small group. Christian left the church for quite some time. It seemed his youthful questions were more irritation than an opportunity for the Youth Minister. How many young people never return when their inquiries are dismissed?
Then again, after our conversation, it is clear that surviving is not less than literal but it is much more. Christian pointed to a survey of Christians that revealed only 9% had read the Bible all the way through. Nine percent. If you have ever read the Bible from cover to cover, then you know what often happens. People don’t survive the begats of Numbers, the seeming endless laws in Leviticus or the retelling of the law in Deuteronomy. Surviving in that sense is a matter of endurance.
Maybe surviving includes moving beyond the 9%. That is, if such a narrow band of the Sacred Text is engaged, it means, at least, a stunted view of the Scriptures. Gutenberg may have provided a copy of the Sacred Text for anyone who wants one, but the printing press could not read it for them or us. Imagine what questions stem from a y0ung person reading more than 9%.
Our mutual friend, Tripp Fuller, tells the story how in the 4th grade, Fourth Grade, he was reading the Passion Narratives in the Synoptic Gospels. He charted the way the story was told by Matthew, Mark and Luke. He then panicked and sought the counsel of his pastor/church planter father with, “My Bible is broke!” They did not all tell the story the same way. Their conclusions were different.
Fortunately, his Dad did not panic but took his questions seriously.
It won’t do to dismiss 4th graders, adolescents, high schoolers or curious adults with gobbledygook. Their questions provide an opportunity rather than an uncomfortable irritation.
Christian’s latest book is the first in a three-part series interacting with the Revised Common Lectionary. The RCL provides a means to cover more than 9% of the Bible over a three-year cycle. For example, this coming year, beginning with Advent, is Year B. The primary Gospel narrative comes from Mark.
Taylor Mertens introduces Strangely Warmed, Crackers & Grape Juice’s Lectionary podcast, asserting the RCL provides four readings from the Scriptures as a means to bring the great narrative of Scripture before the congregation without being constrained by the choice of the preacher.
Christian takes the readings for each week and provides these sections providing a devotional look at the Bible: Texts in Brief, Bible Decoded, Points to Ponder, Digging Deeper, Heads Up, Prayer for the Week and Popping Off.
If you are looking for an honest grappling with the Bible, then pick up a copy. If you are interested in how Christian faces the questions he finds while reading the Scriptures, pick up a copy. If you could use a different voice than your own or those in your in-group, pick up a copy. If you need a contemporary devotional, pick up a copy. Or, you could pick up a copy for any number of other reasons.