Firefly’s “Broken Bible”

If the Bible’s broken, can it be fixed? You owe it to yourself to watch some of the old tv series Firefly, even if you were one of the lucky few who caught it when it was first broadcast. In the “Jaynestown” episode, idiot savante River gets ahold of Shepherd’s Bible and sees how little makes sense on the surface.  “Noah’s ark is a problem,” for example. So she sets about setting things right, marking up pages and tearing some out. When he catches her, she explains, “It’s broken. Doesn’t make sense.” Shepherd’s response: “It isn’t about making sense… It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith. It fixes you.” Depending on how one interprets the context of the whole episode (the “heroism” of Jayne and its efffects on the oppressed, e.g.), you may or may not agree with Shepherd.

Bible at the Movies… Again

Job and Proverbs. Texts from those (very different) biblical books launch the two movies that I’ve seen most recently — Secretariat and True Grit. Stories about determination and perseverance, success in the face of misfortune and seemingly impossibilities. But this wee post isn’t about the movies so much as to note how they begin — with biblical texts, both from the Old Testament, yet opposite in sense. The character Job in the Bible is described as a righteous man who nevertheless suffers tremendously. He challenges the accepted theology that he must have done something to deserve this corrective punishment from God. (We readers know that he has do nothing wrong.) The whole book questions this situation of undeserved suffering and God’s role in it. When God finally answers, it’s not an answer per se (though some find an answer in it). Rather, God goes on and on about the intricacies of the natural world. It’s a strange response with some intriguing implications, which I explore a bit in Bible Babel. And it’s frankly quite beautiful. The poetry is exquisite and the images evocative. Among them, praise for the graceful, strong, and swift horse. So that’s how Secretariat begins. True Grit begins with a pithy saying from Proverbs, a book full of pithy sayings. What those proverbial sayings have in common is a solid sensibleness — that everything follows as it should. So, live responsibly, work hard, be decent, and you’ll enjoy good reputation, health, and material success. Quite the opposite of Job. But “the wicked flee when none pursueth” is a fitting beginning to the story that True Grit tells. (Interesting: a Coen brothers film; the Coens also made A Serious Man, based on the book of Job.)  It also lends the whole a kind of biblical righteousness patina… and so invites faith-based interpretations and contemplation such as and but doesn’t require Bible-based religious faith to appreciate. And I’ve been thinking: how about a True Grits restaurant? Love the grit(s).

Book of Eli — My God

Did you know that “Eli” means “my God,” in Hebrew? Yup. In one form, anyway. So, even if you’d missed all the previews, reviews, and commentary in between on the movie “The Book of Eli,” you still might guess that the book in question is the Bible. The English translation King James Version, to be precise. I’m no film critic, so I’ll leave that to the pros. But I can say that the movie gives viewers some interesting Bible things to think about, like: Is Washington’s character somehow protected supernaturally in his quest to bring the Bible west — protected by God, or by the Bible itself? If he is, what does that make of God, of the Bible? And: the KJV is undeniably a valuable literary artifact, even if one doesn’t believe in it at all. So it would make sense to include in that post-apocalyptic library on the west coast. But does the movie suggest that that particular version is The (one and only) Bible? And do you think that a person knows the Bible if he or she has memorized a particular version? [Me? I think yes… and no…] Then of course there’s all the violence. Our Bible-toting hero is no turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy. Timeless question: when should one and when should one not be such a radical pacifist? Finally, how about the evil megalomaniac, certain that if he had that book, his power to control and manipulate toward his own twisted aims would be complete? Does he know the Bible so well? Questions to contemplate, debate…. 

Bible Babel cover art’s in!

It’s in! Check out the cover for Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time through the “Books” link on the home page. Because the book is for all kinds of readers, includes lots of popular culture references, and doesn’t present a particular religious perspective, we wanted it to look hip and edgy rather than staid and pious. Hopefully, the cover accurately suggests that this is indeed a book to help people learn some basic information about the Bible — that it can help readers make sense of the Bible references that permeate our culture without dissing religion on the one hand or promoting a particular interpretation and faith beliefs on the other… and that just may be fun to read! What do you think?

The Jesus of Gran Torino

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet seen Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, don’t read any more here.

Clint was all Clint in his latest, Gran Torino, but he did a mighty fine Jesus, too. I’m assuming, given the spoiler alert above, that you’ve already seen the movie. I loved it, especially for its ending. But of course the power of that ending would be nothing without the story and character development that led to it.

By the end, we long for a dramatic blood-letting, a great ass-whooping of the nasty thugs, and we know that Clint is just the guy to do it.