Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'll Take Bible Questions for 500, Alex.

I love to watch quiz programs on television that test the knowledge of the contestants.  Two of my favorites are "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and "Jeopardy".  I watch them often and try to guess the answers to the questions while the contestants are doing so.  "Millionaire" is a multiple choice game, giving the contestant four choices and all they have to do is choose the right one.  Yesterday, I was watching this middle aged woman playing "Millionaire".  She was neatly dressed and about my age, I would have guessed so I figured she should have known a lot about the world around her and a lot of subjects.  The poor woman did not last but half the first group of questions before she had to leave.  One of the questions that she had to jump over because she had no clue was about the Bible.  As soon as they put the answer choices on the screen, I knew the answer.  The woman on the program looked at the choices and she made terrible faces, groaned a bit, and finally told the host, "I will have to jump this question.  I have no idea what the answer is."

I groaned too because it was so simple, at least for me.  The question was "What phrase used does not come from the Bible but from the story of King Arthur?"  The choices included, "The Ten Commandments", "The Crown of Thorns", "The Holy Grail" and one other that was very biblical in sound.  Many people should have known that "The Holy Grail" is not mentioned in the Bible in any place but this poor soul had no clue.  I guess she thought that since The Holy Grail is mentioned in the movies by the character Indiana Jones as being the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper then it could be in the Bible somewhere.  She jumped the question and lost some money she could have banked because of her ignorance.

Now, I as a pastor, was watching the program and yelling at the television set---"O come on, surely you know the answer to that one.  Give me a break."  I do the same when Jeopardy has Biblical categories.  I am amazed at the lack of knowledge of people when it comes to the Bible.  I guess just because I grew up in a church where learning what was in the Bible was practiced regularly resulting in my being able to locate most books of the Bible without having to consult the table of contents and am familiar enough with it that if you ask me where something may be located I may have a reasonable guess, that I think everyone else should too.  The truth, however, is my experience with the Good Book is out of the normal realm of experience of most other people.  I am the proverbial odd duck when it comes to Biblical knowledge.  Many pastors are in this same situation.  We use the Bible in our occupation regularly so we are expected to know more than the average person on the pews.

Does that mean that if one knows little about the Bible, they should be considered "Bible-illiterate"?  Or, does it simply mean that their past experiences have not offered them the opportunities to read or study the Bible?  Does knowing a lot about the Bible mean that one would be a better person than others who know nothing about it?  Not necessarily....it would seem that what one does with one's knowledge is more important than simply having a great amount of knowledge about anything.  My congregants know that I know little about mathematics, something that I readily confess.  When Jeopardy or Millionaire features math questions, I am the one who quietly thumbs through a magazine until they change to something more relevant to me.  I really do not care about higher level mathematics or physics or chemistry because I studied little of those subjects in the past and my knowledge in those areas is very limited.

Some people with great Biblical knowledge use it for the wrong purposes, such as to persecute or mistreat others based upon their interpretations of the Bible.  Some in religious circles in past eras used the Bible to keep minorities in their control.  One can defend the mistreatment of women or slaves based upon certain biblical passages.  One can tell others how they must dress or what they can eat or who their friends or partners in marriage could be based upon certain biblical texts.  Many religious leaders in the world have done these things and continue to do them based solely on their interpretation of verses found in the Bible.

Jesus said he came to give people life and life that was abundant.  He said he came to bring freedom from captivity.  When the Bible is used to oppress or control others, biblical knowledge is used wrongly.  When people are allowed to read and decide what they think scripture means for themselves, light can shine to reveal what God would say to them.  God's Spirit can guide us all into new truth that can liberate and bring about positive change in the world.

The Scriptures are meant to be a light and a lamp to illuminate our paths.  That is the most important answer to why one would even want to read the Bible and use what is said in its pages to direct one's life.  Knowing answers to questions for television programs is just a bonus.

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