From David Currie's "Born Fundamentalist - Born Again Catholic" (Ignatius Press), we have the statistics that he observed: a (Roman) Catholic mass with 26% being either direct scripture (or very close paraphrase), an evangelical congregation in NW Chicago with 6% of the service as direct scripture, and a fundamentalist congregation in Indiana at 2%. As Lutheran Christians in the greater western catholic tradition, we do not need to hang our heads low and have doubts about the source of our liturgy. Every time we pray and sing the liturgy, we are rehearsing/memorizing scripture.
Item: One of the best book investments I made in the last year was an NRSV New Interpreter's Study Bible. It is chockful of commentary, helpful footnotes, excursuses and guides for interpretation. Schlepping this volume around to my training days is a little like dragging around The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare, but -- well, I can stand to tone up my upper arms. It's a great study Bible.
Item: Last week I decided to take the "Bonhoeffer Challenge," or a modified version thereof, and venture beyond the daily lectionary readings. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested a plan of reading Scripture book by book, chapter by chapter -- one chapter of Old Testament and at least a half chapter of New Testament -- morning and evening. Since this schedule is a bit overmuch for even a religion-and-lit geek like myself (I'm lucky to get out of the house in the morning wearing two shoes of the same color, let alone with two chapters of biblical edification under my belt), I've dialed it down to once a day. And since I've never read through all the Old Testament Apocrypha, I added a chapter of that. (Tobit is turning out to be an interesting story. For one thing, I've learned the importance of not letting sparrows doody in my eyes. But you'll just have to read it yourself.)
Why do this? Well, as many of us heard in church yesterday morning, from the third chapter of I Peter:
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.
In addition to all the proactive impulses leading me to reacquaint myself with the Scriptures, I must also credit a succession of online fundamentalist antagonists for steeling my resolve to increase my biblical smarts, first by following the daily lectionary and now by reading the Bible book by book. I just got tired of always being put on the defensive. So, ironically, they've helped make me the increasingly well-read Christian I am becoming. And -- I know there's probably a sin in here somewhere, but I admit to deriving a certain satisfaction in flummoxing someone who assumes that I am a degenerate heathen, by demonstrating that I am not. It's fun to be a conundrum.
So to any fundamentalists out there who have stumbled upon this blog: Thank you ever so much for spurring me on to bigger and better things, Bible-study-wise. And...be careful what you pray for.