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Monday, March 31, 2008
Book Discussion: The Year of Living Biblically
by A.J. Jacobs

"My quest is this: to live the ultimate biblical life. Or more precisely, to follow the bible as literally as possible." So begins A.J.'s year-long sojourn, which he has made into a funny, informative and thought-provoking book. You can learn how You too can live biblically, see before and after pics of A.J's hair (see if you agree he resembles the unibomber,) and view a link on How to be good at at A.J's website.

At the project's start, A.J. decides to get himself some good biblical studies resources. Upon walking into a Bible bookstore, a sales clerk offers A.J. some advice, as he points to a suggested bible, which is, "designed to look exactly like a Seventeen magazine: An attractive (if long-sleeved) model graces the front, next to cover lines like, 'What's your spiritual IQ?" Open it up and you'll find sidebars such as 'Rebeca the Control Freak.'"

"This one's good if you're on the subway and are too embarrassed to be seen reading the Bible,' says Chris, [the sales clerk] It's an odd and poignant selling point. You know your in a secular city when it's considered more acceptable for a grown man to read a teen girl's magazine than the Bible." (p 9)

This interchange caused me to think about this quandry/opportunity:

1. What does it mean to be unapologetic and open about our humble walk with God when so often we feel ashamed and very apologetic about certain aspects of our religious "families of origin." and the dogmas that often supplant life in the Spirit? What can we claim from our origins that abides in light, love and truth in place within our spirits where deep calls unot deep? And what could it look like when we let that Light shine?

On page 39 A.J. writes:

...one of my motivations for this experiment is my recent entrance into fatherhood. I'm constantly worried about my son's ethical education. I don't want him to swim in a soup of moral relativism. I don't trust. I have such a worldview, and though I have yet to commit a major felony, it seems dangerous.
I thought it was funny to observe that A.J. actually agrees with fundamentalists about relativism, even though this is the view he espouses. I wondered,

2. Is there an alternative to relativism and absolutism?

3. Have you wrestled with "what to tell the children," either in your family or spiritual community? I am curious particularly in areas of sex, salvation and evangelism how your own journey/ambiguity or ambivalence impacts what you say, avoid saying or otherwise communicate to a younger generation.

4. What approach do you take to instilling, offering, modeling and otherwise helping nurture young disciples, whether they are your own children or spiritual children you feel are entrusted into your care in friendship and/or ministry?

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posted by Jemila Kwon at 12:17 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3/31/2008 08:34:00 PM, Anonymous Charlesmmelazzo@gmail.com

    Maybe we should try not being ashamed of scripture.

    There is something sad... a huge disconnect in fact, when Peter and John were glad to be counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name... but we are ashamed of scripture... worried what people might think of us if we are seen reading it.

    I think there is also a huge issue when we see a life according to scripture as being a one year experiment... or good source material for a funny book. "Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance... but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct... since it is written "you shall be holy for I am holy"

    please don't misunderstand me. I don't think we all need to be carrying around huge embroidered copies of the KJV Bible... but I think there might be a legitimate issue when we are embarrassed by carrying a bible... One we need to ask God to guide us through...

    And don't think I am a legalist... We have been set free from the law... The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. But shouldn't we seek to have a heart like David... a heart which begged God to increase his heart, so that he might walk in His ways. God is good... his law is good... shouldn't we hope and seek to be like Him? Or better yet... shouldn't we do what Hebrews commands us and "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith... who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross..." Shouldn't we seek to become obedient to the father... as He did?

  • At 3/31/2008 08:46:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Charles - I think taking a good look at what we mean when we say that we are living according to the bible is a helpful thing. This book was written by an atheist seeking to make a point, but who was transformed in certain ways along the way. He reveals for many of us blindspots in our walk and helps us to evaluate our faith. Just saying we obey the bible means very little unless we examine the theology behind which parts of the bible we obey and why. This book helps start that discussion.

  • At 3/31/2008 08:51:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    To answer question #3 - I do struggle with this issue a lot. Over Easter, my three year old daughter was asking many "why" questions about the Easter story. At one point I was completely lost for words. I found myself about to give an answer I had grown up saying and I realized that I didn't really believe that answer anymore. I basically myself unable to explain the atonement to a toddler in a way that didn't cheapen it or turn it into something false. Depending on rote answers is easy, but being truthful and faithful to my faith as I try to answer my daughter's questions is hard (especially when I realize that she was really asking for a theory of atonement by asking why did Jesus die on the cross...)

  • At 4/01/2008 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    1. What does it mean to be unapologetic and open about our humble walk with God when so often we feel ashamed and very apologetic about certain aspects of our religious "families of origin." and the dogmas that often supplant life in the Spirit? What can we claim from our origins that abides in light, love and truth in place within our spirits where deep calls unot deep? And what could it look like when we let that Light shine?

    I've been thinking about this over the last couple of weeks. What stood out for me is to embrace my dependence on Jesus in the normal everydayness of life. I had ABC situation. I needed help. I prayed. I received help in the form of a God-coincidence. It's the daily he is the vine we are the branches lifestyle that is nothing to be ashamed of and easily communicated to a nonbeliever.

    With regard to feeling uncomfortable with our spiritual family of origin I can relate. My childhood was populated by wellmeaning way legalistic people who loved me and loved God. The kind of church I would never invite a lost person to.
    I remember hearing a parenting CD and the speaker said "what kind of Christianity are we inviting our children to? Are we inviting them to legalistic tradition or freedom and life?" This same principle applies to sharing our faith with friends. I don't want to pass on Churchianity. I want to share my unedited imperfect walk with Jesus, just telling my story in a natural organic way with a note of gratitude and not afraid to tell on myself. Like I said in a blog post not too long ago, "his grace bailed our sinful asses out for sure! (laugh)"

    I'm starting to learn that the best thing I can do for my unsaved friends is to live a life of being real with Jesus and getting honest with Him about my needs because he will meet them and then I have a genuine story to offer. NOT that I feel I have to be fake and act as if everything is okay when it's not. NO. I am likely to say, "Oh friend I am up to my ass in alligators I've got so much going on at work and with my kids (or whatever) and I'm not sure how Jesus is going to show up for me in this situation but I wish he would hurry up and in the meantime I will keep asking and expecting a nudge to do the next right thing. Could sure use a hug. argh!"
    Being real and acknowledging a dependence on God. Does that make sense?

  • At 4/02/2008 07:06:00 AM, Blogger Deb

    First of all, I think a young man reading the Biblezine would generate more odd looks than the Bible itself. But I digress.

    Our kids are 16 and 12 (summer birthdays coming up soon!) and it has been our experience that they have always responded better to actions, not words.

    SO if you talk about "not letting the sun go down on your anger" and then you storm around the house screaming at them to pick up their socks... well...

    As far as the conundrum of moral relativism vs knee-jerk Christianity... by the time AJs son is a teenager, the expression and means of explaining and living out live in Jesus will have an even different experience than it does now.

    My way of staying culturally aware and not submitted to the Media Machine is to read the newspaper with an eye to God's redemption plan in its paces. Sometimes the Style section points out the best analogy of good/bad theology, better than the Christian trade press (sorry, but Christianity Today has become an advertising venue for pop Christian idols... more like "Rick Warren Today"). So as I read about "Living in the Snark Ages" or "Dear Amy" and her advice to the 20somethings, I can hear God's truth ringing out clearly. Sometimes it is in contrast. Sometimes it is applauding God from the sidelines. (rare but it does happen)

    I've also found magazines like "Engage" from CPYU (http://www.cpyu.org/Default.aspx) and other bloggers to be more helpful than the status quo complementarian stuff from Focus on the Family.

    rambling on... time for more coffee..


  • At 4/02/2008 08:27:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I hear ya Julie -- also wonder what to say about why Jesus died when my five almost-six-year-old asks about it. I tend to focus on the fact that the people in power felt threatened because Jesus' message of loving everybody and not following laws if it wasn't the loving thing to do was threatening to the people who wanted to keep their power. I also focus on the "He's alive again!" aspect, and also the idea of new life, beginnings, of being made new and having a fresh start when ask Christ to live inside us.

    I really don't believe God the F had to punish God the S to forgive us, but I do believe we all get enslaved to our egos/sin nature, as well as collective sinful energy fields that destroy Life, and that In Christ we can leap into a new energy field that will liberate us from what ensnares so that we can be the Image of God and abide in grace, truth, light and love.

    SW -- I agree, it's all about the walking everyday leaning into our Creator and being open about that. And I love what you wrote about the Christianity we are offering our children and friends. Our very best attempts at defining our faith ultimately will result in religion, not spirituality if we assume that our doctrine is truth, and simply words that can allude to the One who Is.

    I like your ideas about connecting with those who do not identify with the Christian faith, yet I am not a fan of the language of unsaved/lost, because I think being Found and becoming Whole (ie saved,) is an ongoing transformation that is happening in the lives of people in and outside of official church doctrine,and isn't about who is in and who is out. What do you think? Is it simply alternative words I'm using?

    Deb, you convicted me on the sun/anger thing! I am grateful. I wish Christian business could disentangle from commercialism, but I guess in the world, that is almost an oxymoron, at least once an organization gets to be a certain size.

    Even blogging I wrestle with, like how much of it is sharing, growing as One across the distance, and how much of it degenerates into ego-stuff? I have to watch myself on this one.

  • At 4/02/2008 09:14:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    When I say "lost" I don't mean "those sorry unregenerate pagan less-than others (spoken with a look of distaste)"

    I mean "lost" as in "my precious child who belongs here at home where I can love him and care for him is lost and adrift in a mean dangerous world".

    The friends that I have that are not currently allowing themselves to experience the love of Jesus...I weep for them like a mother weeping for her lost child. Deep motherly intercession laced with grief. I believe I am experiencing a taste of Jesus' heart for them when I do.

  • At 4/03/2008 01:13:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    SW -- I think I understand where you're coming from. I can empathize with the longing to see someone for whom you experience God's love to also taste and know this for themselves.

    What about people who are living an authentic, life giving spiritual life in connection with I AM, which is expressing itself in a fulfilling life of growth, love and service, but who do not espouse traditional doctrine *about* Christianity?

  • At 4/03/2008 02:25:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    Lord have mercy, Jemila, I have no idea!and I'm not too proud to admit it. There's plenty of room at the table.

  • At 4/03/2008 02:39:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    I don't mean my earlier reply to sound flip.
    I'm just back in front of the computer after 24 hours of wondering whether or not I have a fatal illness and just found out I do not. I'm not afraid to die, but I am afraid to be sick. I don't know that my brain can give you a better answer than that. And I wonder if perhaps the childlike response of "I don't know, Dad will have to sort all that out" is the right one after all.

  • At 4/04/2008 06:08:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    SW - I am glad you are going to live a long life and do not have a fatal illness!

    I think "I don't know" is a wonderful and liberating place to be oftentimes.


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