It used to be that Christianity had a reputation of respectability, even among those who don’t adhere to it. I recently heard a British podcast where one of the guests reminisced about the deference that townspeople would show to their local clergy not too many years ago. In the Western world, family and church were the bedrocks of civil society.
That’s not the case anymore, especially as far as Christianity is concerned. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far that Christians and the church are the objects of hate. Even the Bible, which we used to hear people call “the Good Book,” is a target of open hatred.
Witness GQ and its recent list of “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.” In it, the magazine’s editors pick apart a list of (apparently) classic books — some of which I’ve never heard of — and suggests alternatives. In one example, the editors toss away The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and one editor suggests Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave instead, you know, because racism. (Really, we should read both.)
Imagine a magazine for men rejecting classics because they’re too masculine and you’ll get this article. But they save some of their most bizarre — and hateful, save Mark Twain’s racism — commentary for the Bible. Jesse Ball has this to say about the Word of God:
The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.
There’s nothing about homophobia or the treatment of women in Ball’s analysis; instead, the Bible just isn’t that great of a read.
So Ball apparently doesn’t consider the Bible the inspired Word of God, given directly by the Almighty to those He chose to record what would become scripture. But to call it “not the finest thing that man has ever produced” comes across as shortsighted, and to refer to it as “ill-intentioned” certainly doesn’t project respect for Christians — or Jews for that matter. Not that Ball cares.
It gets even better. Ball suggests some alternative reading to the Bible: a novel called The Notebook. No, silly, not Nicholas Sparks, but the Hungarian-Swiss author Agota Kristof. Here’s why Ball recommends The Notebook:
If the thing you heard was good about the Bible was the nasty bits, then I propose Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.
So there you go. The only thing worthy about the Bible in the eyes of Jesse Ball is “the nasty bits.” How’s that for hatred?
Should stuff like this shock us? Absolutely not. After all, Jesus told us that we should expect to be the world’s object of disdain. As He told His apostles:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
The Apostle John — whom scholars sometimes refer to as Jesus’ best friend — reiterated this fact in his first epistle when he wrote, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13, ESV).
The world may not even know why it hates believers, as Tim Challies points out:
Your goodness unmasks the badness of the unbelievers around you. Your light illumines their darkness. Your truth exposes their error. Your holiness declares their depravity. Your life stands in judgment of them, it convicts them of their guilt, it shows them who God expects them to be. And all of this is true even though you are so far from perfect…
The fact of the matter is that the world hates what it doesn’t understand, but that shouldn’t stop faithful believers in the God of the Bible from living their lives by His Word.