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Jiminy Cricket and the Gnostic gospels

December 15, 2011

So I have been receiving some minor flak from my fan about slacking on writing new posts. I can see all the naysayers over there in the corner, celebrating my molasses speed (who had the under on posts-per-week? Am I post-shaving? etc.) but today I defy them. Please do bear in mind that these posts are free, and therefore you get what you pay for. However, if you are dissatisfied, I will give triple your money back. Guaranteed.

If you are a relative of mine or otherwise have been forced, you might have read my former post entitled “That’s What Jesus Said.” So far, we have had as many contest entrants as we have had posts on the Hotdog since then, which is to say, nil. Today, I hope we can break through both of those invisible barriers and move on up to positive integers for both entrants and new literature to peruse while one should be working on other things.

If you did read the last post, and I hope you did, you realized that it focused on satirical misapplication of Scripture verses or other Jesus traditions to diverse situations and sundry manners. (See, there’s another one right there for you KJV fans.) The flip side of this coin is unfortunately revealed when you realize that no one actually knows what you are talking about, and that fact is not carried in your delivery but rather in your audience’s scanty knowledge of Scripture. Let me give you a rather depressing example from the last few weeks.

Don't you think this guy could come up with a Scripture?

As part of my job responsibilities, I help evaluate some freshman-level responses to a code of ethics. One of the requirements for these submissions is that they interact with at least one Scripture passage. Despite this clearly worded directive (which actually counts for four of seven criteria), students continually omit or misuse the Bible in their essays. Now, I know that not everyone is a theology major, nor should they be, but if you have to come up with ONE scripture for an assignment, don’t you think that you should be able to do so? Unfortunately, most of the essays lead me to believe that some students (and this at an overtly Christian university!) simply do not have even one passage to refer to when so required.

So there I was, reading along and evaluating these essays. I distinctly remember wishing that my boss would buy me a hazelnut latte from the coffee shop, but I also knew that that probably wouldn’t happen. I had half a thought to send the student worker, but I realized that I had no money left on my card. Bummer. As I loaded up the next document to read, I was pleasantly surprised by the coherence and the easy readability of the submission set before me. The student was on his way to a perfect score, until the following phrase jarred me from my reverie: “Because the Bible says to let your conscience be your guide……”

Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? I mean, I’m obviously not intimately familiar with every page of the Scriptures, but I am pretty sure that such a phrase was not lifted from the Bible. Two points if you can name the actual source. Go ahead and Google it; I’ll wait.

Still waiting.

OK good. I see that you now can share my amusement at Jiminy Cricket’s encouragement to Pinocchio being passed off as Holy Writ. I wrote in the student’s feedback section something a bit too snarky, so I thought better of it and redacted it to a milder rebuke. (And if you’re out there reading this, Jiminy Cricket man, don’t despair. You’re only a metonymy.) I did, however, tell everyone else in the office who shared my amusement and horror at the type of error incurred by this aspiring scribe. It would be one thing if this writer had a terrible essay top to bottom; such errors would therefore be par for the course. It would be still another if the error was an isolated occurrence across myriad solid essays, but unfortunately it is representative of a larger issue endemic in Christianity today, and I think especially in younger generations of Christians. It merely is the error with a licensed Disney character and therefore the most internet-ready.

The apostle himself!

The problem is two fold: the first, as we have been addressing here, is a lack of knowledge about what the Bible actually says. I’m not even talking about divergent interpretations, I’m just talking about a complete information gap. The second problem, which feeds it, is a topic for another post (or series of posts) entirely–that many do not find the Bible authoritative. Basically, even if we could be sure what the Bible is saying, many do not think that such information binds us to a course of thought or to certain actions. For them, its cultural context, alleged errors, or some other flaw has not ruled it out completely but marginalized it to a “conversation partner” which which to dialogue, not as a final arbiter of faith and practice. This being a blog, we should probably stick to one problem at a time. Let’s look at that information gap for a second.

Thinking about information always reminds me of my grandmother. She, like me (and some others of a dying breed) enjoy Jeopardy! on television. She, unlike most others, endeavors* to watch live, partly because she can’t conceive of another way to do it and partly because she can’t figure out the DVR. But I digress. (PS: I love my grandmother). I’m not talking about Saturday NIght LIve’s Celebrity Jeopardy, which I also enjoy, but real, live, honest-to-goodness Ken Jennings/Watson/Alex Trebek Jeopardy!**

*I spelled this the British way and my spell-checker flagged it. And all this after a use of “nil” earlier in the post! I have been reading too much about Henry VIII lately.

**If you’re scoring at home, I do like horsies. And If you don’t know Ken Jennings or Watson, I weep for America. And no, Watson isn’t the volleyball from Castaway. And while we’re scoring, I’m really tough to beat at Jeopardy! for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

I think people have put information about the Bible into a Jeopardy!-type category. It may be good for our grandmothers and maybe a nerd or two along the way, but it certainly doesn’t have any relevance to the general population, who, by and large, would rather watch Deal or No Deal.* What’s that? You don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick quiz about Biblical information and see not only if you can answer them,** but if you think your ten closest friends at church would be able to.

*Deal or No Deal is a really dumb show. You don’t even have to do anything at all for the money! I remember this one episode where Donald Trump was the guest banker and the family kept giving advice to the contestant along the lines of “he’s made his fortune by screwing people out of theirs! Stick it to him! NO DEAL!” All this despite the deals being FAR to the mathematical advantage of the contestant. She ended up with something like $5,000. Trump, after the show, gave her money in a trust for her kid’s education, but only after making a point of telling her that she could not touch it at all because he didn’t want her to waste it. As he put it, her kid needed a chance. Ouch.

**Obviously, readers of the Hotdog are in a higher plane with respect to information. After all, they’re reading this online and can Google it.

Enough digression; let’s get to the quiz:

1. Who wrote the Psalms?

2. Who wrote Romans?

3. Name three kings of ancient Israel, other than Saul, David, and Solomon.

4. Put the following figures in chronological order: Abraham, Moses, Noah, Adam, Paul, David, Jesus.

5. Name the fruit of the Spirit:

BONUS: What do the Gnostic gospels (mentioned in the title) have to do with the subject at hand?

 

So how did you do? A quick Google search should turn up the answers.* Did the questions cover overly obscure subject matter? Did you find them somewhat irrelevant to modern Christianity? See, I don’t think they’re irrelevant at all. They’re central in many ways to understanding our ancient faith. By the same token, I doubt that very many churchgoers in America today would get them all right. I also think that most of them would say that it doesn’t matter; Jesus doesn’t care about our test scores. In some ways that’s right, but I find it to be an incomplete understanding of the situation. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore putting this knowledge gap to good use (by bridging it) and how to apply these factoids to your spiritual condition. Along the way, we might even learn something.

As always, thanks for reading.

*I figure if I say Google enough in these posts, eventually I’ll get sponsored.

 
 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2011 1:09 am

    One time I said something about iron sharpening iron to a friend (who also earned a degree from a Christian University), and he said, “That’s cool. Where is that from?” I looked at him like he was joking and when I realized he was not, tried not to be demeaning as I spewed out, “It’s from the Bible!”

    • December 17, 2011 6:13 pm

      I enjoy your subtle use of Revelation 3:16 as you retell the story. You’re on your way.

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