Friday, November 25, 2005


The Best Known Bible Verse that Isn't

A survey shows that the best known Bible verse in America is "God helps those who help themselves." Some 82% of us think that's in the Bible.

Anyone reading this knows the Bible doesn't say that. Not that those who are not reading this think the Bible does say that; but they might. Now, I don't want to offend my 6.446 billion non-readers by accusing them of ignorance. On the other hand, kudos to my readers - both of you - for knowing what the Bible actually says.

Hasty conclusions about the moral decay of a culture that elevates a selfish maxim to Biblical proverb tempt one like chocolate twinkies. Bemoaning the Biblical ignorance of Christians - something I indulged in here - is all too easy. And fun, too.

I first read about this survey over at every thought captive . Mr. Steiger reacts by asserting that we must all admit to original sin, and that only God can save us. Not exactly a turn-on, but I agree with half of his program. (By the way, exactly where in the Bible is the term "original sin?" Leviticus?)

But have Americans always been so ignorant? Was there a time when virtually everybody went to church? When everybody read the Bible and went to Sunday school? How long ago was that, and what happened? Is there some way to pin this on television?

Probably not, so I blame the conservative right wing movement.

Biblical ignorance actually represents the fruits of a right wing Republican plot. The hugely wealthy benefit most from the elevation of this false maxim to Biblical proverb.

Just think about it. The data shows that the bulk of the nation's wealth is controlled by a very small minority. The top 1% of the nation's population controls nearly 40% of the nation's wealth. The bottom 40% of the population controls 2%. If you had all the wealth and power, wouldn't you want to appropriate the blessing of God rather than his approbation? If you believe the saying is in the Bible, then wealth is proof of God's special favor and love.

If, as I believe, the Bible actually teaches "God favors those who help others," ignorance of the actual Bible aids those who have helped themselves the most.

My theory is the right wing zealots are too darn darn busy spreading their gospel to learn the real one. I'm talking about the guys Pat Robertson speaks for. They spend all their energies spreading hate; hatred against homosexuals, hatred against Jews and muslims, hatred of those who disagree with them, hatred of Methodists. They pray for the deaths of people they don't like, interpret natural disasters as God's wrath, and threaten Dover, PA, with destruction. (Look out!) This keeps them so busy they don't have time to study the actual Bible, much less to teach it to others.

See, it's all the fault of those fellows I don't like. I'm willing to bet a dollar - make that two - they're not reading this either. But just in case you do happen to read this and disagree, know that both Jesus and I love you. How can you stay mad after that?

As church leaders, the best we can do is to teach Jesus. To quote him as often as possible. To invite others to partake in Bible study.

Incidentally, I'm very excited to offer to my own adult Sunday school class Invitation to the Old Testament. This is a 10 week course that surveys the Hebrew Bible. Some very new archeological discoveries are covered as well. It requires some reading, but is worth the effort. I'm hoping to offer the companion course on the New Testament later next year.


It also speaks to the power of Ben Franklin to write aphorisms.
I must admit: I'm anti-muslin. Don't care for linen much, either. :)
There's so much that Jesus had to say (negative) about people who act and preach like Pat, makes you wonder if they ever read the RED LETTERS.
ed: Ben Franklin: I learn something new ten times a day.

bob: found and fixed. Copyedit me anytime.

tracy: The more I study Jesus and his life, the more amazed I become.
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