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Biblical bulimia ill-equips spiritual heads of their homes or leaders in the church
> I do feel strongly that our men seemed ill-equipped to be the
> spiritual heads of their homes or leaders in the church.
Nancy, I fear you are right about far too many men. I do not find that
true of men in the Coptic community, however. I have been blessed to have
many Coptics in my bible course at Rutgers, and I have never met a Coptic
Christian, male or female, who is biblically under-nourished, nor one
who is ignorant of the essentials of Coptic Christianity. They are not
uniformly bright or insightful, but they are uniformly literate. They do
not give just lip-service to Christian education.
In Egypt Coptics are persecuted by being denied the right to religious
education and risk it anyway, knowing that a faith community dies without
understanding who it is. How sad that in much of the Episcopal Church we
are blithely doing _ourselves_ in. How long can we hope to survive with
such high levels of biblical illiteracy?
I used to think the problem was faced primarily by my fellow liberals, but
the more that I have moved among the congregations of my conservative
friends, listening carefully, I have discovered just as many pablum-fed
Christians. At a Promise Keeper gathering recently, I was shocked by the
biblical illiteracy of the men in a bible study break-out group with me,
and was pleased to witness the power of the text on their lives.
We won't address the need unless we make major changes to do so. Those
who get all their exposure to the Bible in the worship and sermons will
remain biblically bulimic, often without knowing it. The lectionary and
even the best sermons about it are not designed to make people biblically
literate, nor, given the other purposes they do serve, should they be.
Nor do we train people to be biblically competent if they approach the 66
books only for spiritual uplift or to bolster a received opinion, be it
liberal or conservative. We do not respect the Bible if we ignore its
vast range of discourse, its rich subtlety, the hundreds of years over
which it was revealed. Its characters are not a group of moderns dressed
up in bathrobes for a Christmas pageant, popular misconceptions to the
Most parishes do a fair job with 'favorite verses' or 'set pieces' of
biblical texts, such as those in sermons or Sunday School lessons. We need
sustained study that even a 45-minute Sunday class cannot provide.
Everyone knows what a professor means when she begins, "This is not a
Sunday School class." That is, unlike Sunday School, this class will be
serious; you will work hard; you will be respected for your knowledge and
insight, not just for your attendance. What a sad commentary on the
perceived state of most Christian Sunday Schools!
Most Christians know far more about their automobile and their favorite
sport and their favorite vacation area than they know about the bible; for
where one's treasure is, there is one's mind as well as one's heart.
I am not talking about intellectual snobbery here: I am talking about a
serious faith commitment. I have led and have participated in several
bible study groups that were informed and informative even when the
majority of the participants had no more than a high school education. I
have taught the bible to seventh graders who could reach high standards.
Most men know where they have little authority, and rather than say so,
most listen quietly or just don't hang around that scene. They will
reverse those patterns only as we can feed their spiritual hunger with
more than an emotional quick fix.