THE BLOG

The Bible for Non-Religious People. Part 2: Decisions Are Made by Those Who Show Up

05/01/2014 17:29 GMT | Updated 05/03/2014 10:59 GMT

You don't consider yourself a Christian - or a religious person in any way, in fact. So why should you read the Bible - surely that's just for people who go to church every Sunday?

You should read the Bible because decisions are made by the people who show up.

Can't stand how the Westboro Baptist Church insist that 'God hates you'? Baffled by people arguing against women becoming bishops? Got no time for Archbishop Welby saying we should pray for the terrorists in Nairobi? Believe it or not, those aren't necessarily the only ways people understand and apply the Bible.

But unless a wide diversity of people, reflecting a wide diversity of experience and opinion, are engaging with the Bible, there's a danger that whichever narrow slice of people do 'show up' will decide how the Bible is used by default.

You may not realise it but debates about what a 'biblical worldview' looks like are happening all the time - not just amongst scholars or theologians, but people from all sorts of background trying to figure out how to deal with life as they find it.

Just as a couple of random examples: how come people get on their high horse about all kinds of 'biblical sins' but seem to make an exception for things like greed? Is marriage for you? Is the global financial system turning human beings into consumer goods?

All valid and, indeed, important questions to consider, I'd say - whether you're 'religious' or not. And, whatever your opinion, it will carry a lot more weight if you've actually engaged with the source material. And, who knows, you might find new or challenging or unexpected insight along the way.

For this reason, one of my favourite discoveries last year was something called 'The Bible Project Blog: one gay author's journey reading the Bible for the first time'. It's a sort of diary of one man doing exactly what I'm suggesting: making sure that he at least 'shows up' in debates about this hugely influential book.

I found it fascinating - and delightful, frankly - to see what he saw in biblical stories and teachings.

Now, there are bits where I think he's missed something from the story, or where cultural lenses are unhelpfully distorting the meaning or what-have-you. But it's not as if I have all the right answers about how to understand the Bible. And the point is that his voice is now in the debate - whether it's just my own internal debate about how to translate the Bible into my life, or a society-wide debate about a hot-button topic like gay marriage, here's one more person who has shown up.

I'd love to see more people doing the same.

Just one quick suggestion before you jump in and start seeing what you find in the Bible: keep an open mind. There's limited value in trying something new if you've decided in advance what you're going to think about it. As Isaac Asimov (my favourite sci-fi writer) said, 'your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.' Or, as the Bible has it, in Proverbs, 'the simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.'

Don't let decisions be made without you. Consider the Bible for yourself.