Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Defacing the Bible - The ULTIMATE sin ... NOT!

OK, I am probably going to catch some flak for this one. I read this news story and laugh. Now before you come to my house and put a stake through my heart, let me explain. I am not laughing that people are defacing a Bible, I am laughing that people are getting upset over it. Now let me go on a bit.

To believers, the Bible is the word of God. To non-believers, the Bible is anything from a collection of ancient Semitic myths to pure poppycock. That sentence could be turned around for just about any religious book. There was uproar about a soldier at Guantanamo flushing a copy of the Koran in front of prisoners (turned out it never happened), so they have the same problem. I saw a news story about a Mormon missionary who was extremely upset when someone was tearing apart a copy of the Book of Mormon in front of him, so they have the same problem. I bet there are some Scientologists who would be upset if they knew that you threw your copy of L. Ron Hubbard's works in the trash. Relax, no one is going to hell for tearing up a book.

Let's examine what is special about our religious books. If we believe that they contain the word of God, does that mean we should reverence them? No, the paper and leather cover itself is not sacred, even the ink that is used to make the words is not sacred. It is the words, the ideas, the doctrine that is sacred. The Bible you tote around with you did not come from Heaven. It was probably printed by Simon & Shuster or some other such publisher. If you elevate the book itself to holiness and can allow nothing to defile it, are you then not setting it up as an idol? And didn't Jehovah write some words on a couple of stone tablets about those?

So why do people destroy religious books to make a statement? Merely because it will tick some people off and they can get a lot of publicity about it. So the simple way to stop it from happening is to quit getting so ticked off about it. If I remember correctly the Bible has been printed about 7.5 billion times since that first one off of Gutenberg's press. It ain't going anywhere. In fact if we burned all of the Bibles in a power plant, we would be able to produce enough electricity to power the entire nation of North Korea for one year (completely truthful but totally useless fact).

When the NEA was funding artists who put crucifix in a bottle of urine or a scatological version of the Virgin Mary, I was upset. Not because of the treatment of religious symbols, but because some people would attempt to pass this off as art. And others would believe them. And the government would support it. I would have been just as mad if the item in the jar of urine was a screwdriver or the scatological display was of an iguana.

I've long ago realized that people don't care diddly about what you think is holy, so make sure you understand what is holy. If you find some object as being holy, be prepared to have it ridiculed and made a public mockery.

The information age has got to put a quandry on some of these people's minds. Let us assume that you find consider the Bible holy (I mean the actual paper it is printed on). Does that mean if you pull up the Bible on a website it, then your computer is holy? So if you leave the website and then empty your internet cache are you destroying the holy word of God? What if you download a copy to your Palm an then decide later that you need that room for Solitaire instead? Have you committed a sin by writing over the Word?

Let me tell you how I handle it. I had an old copy of a Bible when I was a kid. When I was baptized one of the gifts I recieved was a new set of scriptures. I threw the old Bible away. Didn't even give it a second thought. The scriptures I have now are almost 20 years old. I recently bought a new set but I haven't thrown the old ones away (even though they are pretty trashed. It isn't because I think they are holy. It is because I have 20 years of markings and notes that I don't want to lose, and am too busy right now to transfer them to something else. But one of these days I may just say, to heck with it, part of reading religious books over time should be that your understanding of them grows and so the next 20 years will give me further insights beyond what my old scriptures contain. At that point I will just chunk them.

Would I burn them? If I had a wood burning stove I would. When we lived in a house with one we burned lots of things (including books - my kids are brutal to books). Christmas was a nice warm time in our home, wrapping paper ignites quickly! Besides, throwing it in the trash is sort of a waste. One of the things I believe is that God has given us dominion over the earth and it is up to us to take care of it (that does not mean radical environmentalism though). So burning it would be a way to garner just that last bit of use from the tattered paper. Good imagery too. Incense was burned to invoke the image of prayers ascending to heaven. By burning your well-used Bible, you would be symbolically sending it back from whence it came.

Would I take it too a shooting range? Again, if it has lived out its usefulness, why not? I prefer phone books because they are plentiful and the colored paper is sort of like confetti when hit with birdshot.

By this point some may ask if I am being serious or facetious? Let me be perfectly honest. I am being very serious. I don't worship the Bible or any other object. If you take offense at my view of how people should view religious books, be careful, I may burn one on your driveway just to see your reaction - not very Christian of me, but then again, I ain't perfect.


  1. Great post. You are right. The printed book is not what is holy, I write many comments in mine.
    My wife's bible looks like a college text book that has been bought and resold a dozen times.

    I find it ironic that the people who say we must be more tolerant of OTHER religions are always so willing to put down Christianity.

    I consider it much like burning the American Flag...I'll defend your right to do it. But I will also work to make a physical assault in RESPONSE to such provocation a very minor crime, say punishable by a $5 fine.

  2. By reading this it brightened my morning! (and I have to be at work by 3:45 AM).

    Although burning the Bible is pushing it a little, you have brough new insight into my view of the Bible itself!