I told you last time I wrote that my god is a little bit on the wild side. Be like, my god isn’t a tame god. You’d be really surprised how many people’s is. Well, perhaps you wouldn’t as we’ve hung out so often that we have rubbed off on each other. Coffee and conversation is a kick arse combination for putting the world to right, agreed?
We’ve spent long conversation turning over the meaning of things we have found in religious scriptures and pushed the supposed limits to find something that has that feeling of being correct. Let’s remember that it’s mind and spirit on the path to enlightenment. We are those who ask questions and our experience is, that God loves to reply. God never ceases to communicate with us one way or another.
Well, that said, I have come across people who want to tell me religious text are to be taken as literal. If a scripture says a thing then that’s it. Take it at face value. Now I would agree that the obvious interpretation should be our primary interpretation but sometimes we have to allow for the fact that the obvious is not actually what we should be understanding. Sometimes a separation of 3000 years means we need to give a little thought. Maybe the origin of the writing from a culture we’ve never experienced should cause us to pause. Or the fact that it has been penned by people whose history is a mystery to us and whose language does not have the meanings ours does should cause us to think, just a little.
So when someone tells me I need to take everything literally I’m like: “Really”. A world created in seven days? Let’s think this through. A talking snake that leads a woman astray and she, in turn, leads the man astray. I’m sure that must have been written by a man. Whimp, take responsibility for yourself.
Plagues, ethnic cleansing and more. I’m being told I have to buy into this wholesale. And though I’m no expert I’m sure that most of the other world religions have adherents who take the same view. If it’s written in the text then that must be exactly what happened.
We split the atom, we perform surgery of incredible intricacy, carry devices that send signals around the world and yet we look at writings thousands of years old and want to believe them without a question. Incredible! And in doing so we want to invest meaning that actually isn’t there.
Let me give you an example that’s closer to home. We English have a hero in our folklore called Robin Hood or Robin of the Hood. Historically there is actually little known about him. He appears in a number of chronicles in various details but this little known outlaw has become a hero played by more actors than can be named in this letter, has gone to Hollywood and turned into a virtual saint. There was, no doubt, a time when England needed the hope of a hero who championed the case of the poor against injustice and so the myth grew.
Other cultures have their heroes. So, may I dare suggest that within scripture are accounts that are there to deliver just such characters or heroic events. So a question. How much of what you believe, base so called faith on, is actually as recorded?
Malcom Gladwell has written some excellent books, one of these being called David and Goliath. I’ve read it twice. In this he begins by recounting one of the major faith stories of both the Jewish and Christian religions, the tale of, you guessed, David and Goliath. I’m sure at Sunday school you heard this several times. But Gladwell doesn’t tell the story in quite the way you’ll have had it read to you. No, he cuts through the myth and recounts the fight of an infantry soldier against a slinger. He explains that a trained slinger was a formidable weapon for any army to have and the devastating effect of a well aimed sling shot. That, understand this, Goliath was actually the underdog and your money should have gone on David.
Then he examines the description we are given of Goliath. How he is led to the field of combat by his shield bearer. How he was of abnormal height. How he apparently had poor eyesight, which Gladwell gleams from details in the story. All of this leading him to suggest that Goliath suffered from a condition known as acromegaly. You’ve never heard it like this before?
When I discussed this recently someone said to me that, told like this the shine comes off the story. Actually I would suspect many would not want the story this way even if it is true. But the account, more detailed than I’ve laid out, works for me. At least as a very possible explanation. But we need our myths. We need to believe in the power of the so called underdog, how else do we introduce God into the story? The teenager overcoming the seasoned warrior.
However I want to suggest that Gladwell’s presentation doesn’t diminish the story and what it’s trying to tell. It tells me that God has an answer in the back pocket when humanly all is lost, when Israel can find no champion. Returning to an early letter it reinforces my belief in synchronicity as David rocks up at exactly the right moment. It reminds me we can rely on the Universe to do right if we put our trust there. It shows me that with trust in the Divine we can take actions that surpass our fears. There’s so much good stuff here without ever having to build a myth around it. But then on his path to being king I guess David would have needed some good PR, a good spin doctor or two.
Here’s a thing. We are those who seem to want our truths sanitised, touched up and presented in a manner fit for a movie. The edges taken off, the details modified and reassembled. If it defies belief we want to believe it absolutely without examination. We want to take stories handed down through generations, before finally being committed to writing, at face value without reference to culture or context, language or setting. I think we fear losing the shine, the effect, but we won’t. If God was involved it will be just as awesome when we unpack it, maybe more so.
Pogue, there was a time not so long ago when I told you that I had chosen not to find out about my heroes. Their music was great, their writing was great, their achievements were great but when I found out more about them they were human just like you and me. I wanted heroes who were better.
So lets commit to pursuing truth when we read out texts. Let’s understand we are dealing with humans. Believe me, it will be far more convincing when we add a great god.
Yours, debunking a myth or two,