Friday, February 22, 2008

A Year of Living Biblically

One of the things I did while on retreat this week was finish A.J. Jacobs' book A Year of Living Biblically. I really enjoyed it but thought the publisher had a weird idea of how to categorize it. The book is listed as a humour book but while there are humourous things in it it isn't really a yuk yuk book. Instead it is really a lovely exploration of what happens when you begin to try to shape your life based on a literal reading of the Bible.

Jacobs expects to find that it is impossible to take the Bible literally and he does. Part of what he is doing is motivated by a secular liberal assumption that Biblical fundamentalism is highly problematic and in a way that is what he ends up confirming. But what seems to surprise him is that in the process of trying to observe the commandments he finds himself changing. He finds himself becoming more thankful and less angry. He begins to feel more connected to people, more generous, more aware of the needs of others. He discovers that by acting like a believer he begins to be a believer.

I remember hearing Tony Campolo say something similar about some students who wanted to work in his project in the Projects. He told them that they had to live like the Christian students and they said no problem. He warned them that they mind be changed by the experience and they laughed it off. By the end of the summer, however, they were Christians. In a way this is confirmation of the AA saying, "fake it 'til you make it." It runs counter to our tendency to think that feeling leads action/belief/commitment.

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