August 16, 2009

Thou Shalt Read This

I just finished reading The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Author A.J. Jacobs is an Esquire magazine editor, a secular Jew who immerses himself in the biblical world for 365 days. In doing so, he made the Bible come alive for this reader, instead of just a set of weird stories, wise parables and scary rules. He visits the Amish of Lancaster County, the Creation Museum, snake handlers in Tennessee, the Holy Land, Jerry Falwell's Church. He meets with gay evangelicals, atheists and out-talks a Jehovah's Witness. He assembles a dream team of spiritual advisers and spends holidays with Hassidic Jews. In the meantime, we get to know him and his growing family, and see hilarity (or not) ensue as he strictly obeys biblical laws. (ever try writing sections of the Good Book on your doorposts? Or not sitting on chairs where a menstruating woman has sat on?) For all his claims to the contrary, I think Mr. Jacobs did change his heathen godless ways after his one year experiment. Reverent agnostic my sandalled foot!

I was born and raised Roman Catholic. But I always felt like I should be Buddhist. I am fascinated with Jesus AND Buddha, and curious about other faiths. So I guess you can say I am a seeker. I am ambivalent about organized religion, yet I believe in the power of prayer, cling to my faith, and adhere to SOME of Catholicism's rituals. One of the things on my to-do list is to read the Bible, cover to cover. (Still working on that.) I am what some people would derisively call, a Cafeteria Catholic. After reading this astutely funny, inspiring, cheeky yet mostly reverential memoir, I am proud to be a Cafeteria Catholic. Religion and spirituality is very complex. Nothing should be set in stone (well, except for the Ten Commandments on Moses' stone tablets) Anything at both ends of the religious spectrum could only lead to extremism and fundamentalism. And we all know how well that always turns out.


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