Dear diary, the title of this entry does not mean that I will propose to save the souls of grizzlies by sending them free copies of scripture; what it means is that, while letting my thoughts wander, I began obsessing about the Bible and ended with a brief reference to bears.
Why does this happen to me so often! Do I need to wear, at all times, a No Soliciting sign around my neck? It must be due to the fact that I live in the Midwestern U.S., also known as the “Bible Belt.”
Yesterday a proselytizer handed me a tract and tried to coerce me into joining his Christian cult. The small pamphlet contained a few verses from the biblical book of Romans, purporting to constitute “God’s message to humankind.” The church that printed the tract believes that “the Bible is the only true Word of God.”
I thought to myself: These people do not believe in reading the Bible—they say that they do, but their actions prove otherwise—this pamphlet that they hand out is their actual Bible. The real Bible is too big of a book for them to manage; that’s why they printed this tract—it’s like they’re saying to God: “Dear Lord, you’re just too wordy; you’ve got thousands of unnecessary pages in this scripture that you wrote—but our tract that we composed is better, more concise: straight to the point.” These evangelists are like executives from a movie studio telling a director that her 15-hour masterpiece needs to be cut down to a 30-second ad.
Truncation establishes a new work. Exegesis and apologetics imply that humankind is required to clarify God’s longwinded babbling. To quote, highlight, or emphasize sections of a text is an act of authorship. If God wanted certain portions of the Bible to have more importance than others, isn’t God capable of saying so, either by writing plain words to that effect and including them in the text itself, or by choosing to make a pamphlet from the get-go?
But if God were to want to publish a tract, how would God do it? If God truly authored the Christian Bible, how did God go about it? From the dictation to the inscription to the redaction to the publication of scripture, God worked through humans—none of these tasks were performed by God in person.
So maybe the church’s pamphlets are a work of God. Maybe God is indeed inspiring the humans who edit and print those pamphlets. But, when mortals compose a message that seems to have spiritual potency, if it is true that we may call such a text “a message from God,” then why not declare the writings of Franz Kafka to have come from God? What makes the Christian Bible so special that we declare it alone to be the Word of God?
My own answer to that last question is: human tradition. That is all. None of these books are really and truly divine; but all of these books are divine as it were, because humans say so.
As long as they derive from a religious source, parents need not bother to confirm the truth of the rumors that they pass on to their children. And the children laugh at these rumors: in their youth, they rebel; but, as soon as these children produce children of their own, anxiety over the safety of their offspring causes them to accept and transmit to the next generation the same religious rumors they were taught by their parents. Brainwashing begets brainwashing.
When we see someone standing in the street, and a bus is speeding towards them, so that they will be killed by this bus if they do not immediately move, should we leap forward and push the person out of the way of the bus? No: we should write a 10,000-word textbook about avoiding traffic, and pray that the person gets saved.
I think that the Male Christian God simply doesn’t understand the brevity of human life. It’s as if He assumes that we have thousands & thousands of years to spend studying the thousands & thousands of words that He spoke at us. I think that maybe the Bible was written for vampires: its sheer length, and the density of its poetry help to pass an overlong existence; and all this talk of blood sacrifice makes for a mouthwatering page-turner.
But I’m upset with myself for writing so much about the Christian religion lately. If something is as wrong as Christianity, then the best thing to do is ignore it: let it fade into oblivion. Attacking it only keeps it alive and on the mind. Plus, to commit myself so thoroughly to this Antichristian viewpoint makes for dull writing, because the reader knows exactly what to expect from the likes of me. It would be far more exciting if there were a genuine chance of my becoming converted to Christianity. What would have to happen for that to come true? And how would I go about breaking the news? I guess I would just say, straightforwardly: “I have ranted and raved against the Christian faith in the past, but now I have learned that I was wrong—it turns out that Christianity is correct after all.” Here is a passage from Emerson’s essay ‘Self-Reliance’:
If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I not know that, with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution, he will do no such thing? Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side,—the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation. Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right.
I suppose that an anti-preacher can run into the same trouble as a preacher. And, like the question of “art and anti-art” (which I resolve by saying that all art was once anti-art), maybe every preacher was once an anti-preacher. By that term anti-preacher, I guess I just mean a dissenter. And by preacher I guess I mean a party man.
One dissents from a party. If one’s dissenting view is persuasive enough, it becomes a party of its own. Ultimately one must dissent from one’s former dissent, in order to avoid becoming one’s own blind follower. Marcel Duchamp said: I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.
With this blog, I wanted to write in a manner different from that of my books (which are wild and weird, because I am a fad product of my fad environment)—I wanted to compose something more like a diary, with entries that are simple and clear and true to my heart. But then I found out that I don’t really have much of a heart. And now I’ve fallen into the bad habit of correcting Christian insipidity. I need to remember to act and not to react.
How would we feel about seeing a bear endure its baiting with indifference? We might think that we had found the Bear Messiah. But, then again, perhaps the bear was just ill.