By Geila Rajaee
This past week I had a conversation with some of my co-workers about how many copies of the Bible each of us own.
Not surprising, the count was definitely high.
There was the issue of differing translations, various types of study Bibles, text print size as our eyes aged, and the necessity of simply getting something that isn’t threatening to fall apart at the seams after years of use! I have multiple (read: three) copies of just the New Revised Standard Version alone and I’m pretty sure that might be overkill.
But what does my (our?) glut of sacred texts really say about what I know or how invested I am in the scriptures?
The Hebrew Scriptures, Gospels and Epistles are considered the sacred text of Christians everywhere and American Christians have the ability to get our hands on copies of it everywhere. But does that really make a difference? Does the person who owns more Bibles than his or her neighbor really have any more understanding of scripture?
History has shown us biblical texts that have been used to affirm and encourage slavery, to suggest that wealth is a sign of God’s favor, to create indicators for inclusion or exclusions of the “other,” and that poverty is a simply a “Biblical” fact of life. And this, sadly, is just a short list.
In my role as a Chaplain, it is no longer surprising to me when people assign words to scripture that aren’t even there. (My favorite pseudo-scripture – “God never gives you more than you can handle.”) Or, who take words that were written for a particular context and internalize them – sometimes positively, more often negatively – for themselves. On one hand, this gives scripture the ability to be “new” and gives new breath into a person’s life. But on the other, it becomes a constant bludgeoning tool of scripture taken way out of context.
In both of these previous examples, my sense is that people are not actually familiar with scripture but merely with the use of it. It becomes an instrument to support a person’s (or community’s) values or biases. But what would happen if we really took the time to investigate scripture (and I’m not just talking about proof-texting here) and to see where it connects with the themes and threads of God’s greater story of love for humanity and all of creation?
For me, this beautiful, sacred text is a shared history, a rooting in my relationship with God, and an opportunity to grow more connected with the larger Church community (yes, I mean the big “C” church).
What it comes down to for me is this: does it really matter how many Bibles are out there if we don’t read them or, if we do, that we don’t listen to God’s voice as a challenge to our beliefs and values? Can we read scripture and allow for it to shape us today?
At the end of the day I still own many, many copies of the Bible and I really hope they keep working on me.