Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Recommendations for Life in DC

I have two recommendations for you if you are planning to live in DC. These suggestions are perhaps exportable to other major cities.

The first is to take advantage of every opportunity to hang out with friends when they are in town. So yesterday, I hung out with my good friend Christy and her husband Abel. They were in town visiting folks and checking out DC while en route to Christy's sister's wedding. Christy and I were Mission Interns in the same class--she did awesome work in Nicaragua while I made Excel spreadsheets in Jerusalem. Christy and Abel met in Nicaragua, where he is from, and now they live in Managua. We met up for lunch and chatted about life and work and where other Mission Intern folks are living now. It was great to get see them and get caught up. So that's recommendation number one.


Here is recommendation number two:

Read the Bible in public.

I've said this many times and will say it again. One of the things I love about the blog medium is that I really don't know who reads this thing. So I have no idea what your faith experience is, whether you'd even use that language, whether you've ever read the Bible, whether you would ever want to, etc. But even if you have no desire to read the Bible, you should get one and pretend to read it in public. You get into the most fascinating conversations.

Before I met up with Christy and Abel, I was in Starbucks reading my little Bible, which one of my profs gave me after I gave my old one away. I was specifically looking for psalms for a few friends who are really kind of pissed off at God right now. Not, "take comfort, everything will be OK" psalms. I'm talking about "What the hell is wrong with you, God?" psalms.

So I'm reading Psalm 74, and this guy comes in who was chilling on the sidewalk outside of Starbucks juggling pool balls, and he sits down at a table next to me, puts some sort of solution into his water bottle, looks at me, and says:

"Is that the King James?"

Oh boy, I thought to myself. This is going to be good.

It was.

After I informed him that I was reading the New Revised Standard Version, he told me this:

"I have a lot of problems with that book. I mean, I never thought I could scream at a book. But I've screamed at that one."

Now, the rest of the conversation was fascinating in its own right. He moved over to my table and we talked about the Greeks, aboriginals, Alexander the Great, intertestamental literature and the apocrypha, layers of text, demons, and, at one point, I told him about the story of Jesus calming dragons in one of the apocryphal gospels. He--his name is Daniel--was pretty pumped about that one.

But what I'm going to carry away from that conversation is this guy telling me that he has screamed at the Bible.

"Yeah," I said to him. "It's a book worth screaming at."


We ought to scream at our texts.

Like I said, I don't know if you, faithful reader, read the Bible. But whatever you read, do yourself a favor and scream at it. Struggle with it. Argue with it.

The psalmists who I was reading when Daniel started talking to me certainly knew something about screaming at texts. Saying, "Where are you, God?" Saying, "Whatever happened to covenant?" The psalmists. Jacob wrestling with God. Jesus crying out on the cross. We have permission--more than that, we have a responsibility--not to take texts at face value. To talk to them. To get frustrated with them. To scream at them.

Screaming at texts. It's a cure, I think, to fundamentalisms of every kind.

So I thank Daniel for that. Even if he has some weird beliefs about Lucifer.


So that's recommendation two. Read your Bible in public. You never know who's going to talk to you, and what you're going to learn.