On bias and its effect on interpretation

It’s election season, which means that presidential debates are happening and everyone is getting all fired up. Also, Rachel Held Evans just released a new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which is making all sorts of waves in segments of American Christianity.

It is utterly fascinating to see what people say about the *exact same* debate and the *exact same* book. Many times during the presidential debates, I saw statuses/Tweets of conservative Republicans and ardent Democrats juxtaposed on my news/Twitter feed. These updates were talking about the same part of the debate…and coming to completely opposite conclusions, every. single. time.

Certain conservative evangelical complementarian Christians have a huge problem with Rachel Held Evans’ book – they feel that her salvation is in doubt and that her book is mocking Christianity. Meanwhile, other less-conservative possibly-egalitarian still-evangelical Christians love the book and appreciate what it is trying to say.

In both of these situations, the bias is crystal clear. The conservative Christians I mentioned earlier cannot see the good in Rachel Held Evans’ book, because their paradigm makes them so biased that it is *impossible* for them to see it. In order to see the good, they would have to accept the possibility that she had something good to say – but their paradigm tells them that isn’t possible. For the Republicans and Democrats, it can be the same thing. The conservative Republican paradigm does not allow for good Democratic policies, or for Obama to want good for the US. For the more extreme Democrats, the idea that the Republican policies could be good for the country is an impossible thought.

We are all biased, of course – it’s impossible to avoid. But sometimes, bias takes on the character of absolute truth. When we use our “absolute truth” as an excuse to treat people with disdain and even hate instead of kindness and compassion, we create a horrible mess. But in too many cases, that’s exactly what happens. I think it’s time to stop the crazy and start thinking the best of others again, when at all possible.

A plea for decency

Recently, a retweeted tweet crossed my Twitter feed. It contained some witty slogan against Santorum. In some of the replies to that tweet, people said they thought Santorum’s head should be separated from his body. Really?! Then there’s this recent deal with Rush Limbaugh talking about Sandra Fluke. Really?! Sadly, there are so many more examples of this type of thing, on ALL sides of politics and religion.

Just because someone thinks or believes differently than you does not make them less human. People can be intelligent, thoughtful, caring, passionate, good people and come to different conclusions about hot-button political issues, religion…everything. The fact that someone disagrees with you does not legitimate calling them names, wishing evil on their children, or worse. When you do that, you demean yourself and them. Also, the fact that someone disagrees with you does not automatically make them a stupid, thoughtless person.

So, can we agree on one thing? Can we agree to engage others on the issues calmly, with respect, as we wish to be treated? Can we agree to give those we disagree with the same goodwill that we give to those who agree with us? Can we wish them well and seek to understand? We’ll probably still end up disagreeing – but when we see the other person as human, we can actually have a conversation instead of talking past each other.

I’d rather have a conversation. What about you?

Bible in 90 days – Finished!

Back in July, I started reading the Bible in 90 Days. I finished in 84 days. During those days, I also read the extra parts of Daniel and Esther, Baruch, and I took about four days and read Sirach as well. I actually got behind fairly quickly, so I was very glad I was able to catch up and even finish early.

I’m very glad I participated this challenge. It means that I finally managed what I tried to do at least 4 times as a child – read the Protestant Bible cover to cover! It’s a very different experience from the skipping around which made it possible for me to read the Bible through the first two times. Naturally, some parts of the B90Days challenge are harder than others. I found Psalms hard to read through at such a fast pace – I wanted to stop and linger over it. The New Testament epistles are easy to read quickly. Doing so provides the background to properly understand the sections and verses we study closely at other times.

I am surprised how reading that much of the Bible became a habit for me. Now my Bible reading is something I nearly always get to, without thinking about it. I find it helpful to try and read my Bible as soon as I can during the day. For me, that’s during/after breakfast.

If you want to read the Bible, I think reading it at a quicker pace than the stereotypical year can be a wonderful thing. Doing it in 90 days is hard, but oh so rewarding. I hope to do it again someday.

Now I’m not really sure what to read in the Bible next! I’m starting the Bible over again with a friend, and we will be reading through the narrative books. For myself, I’m starting to skip around the Bible again, book by book. I’m not sure if I’ll keep doing that or if I’ll go with a more structured approach. I also purchased a small copy of the Message today for $7 and will probably work that into my devotional reading somehow.

I’ve also switched main Bible translations. The NABRE notes were distracting me from the Bible in a negative way, so now, thanks to the aforementioned friend, I have an NRSV! I’m especially pleased with the edition I have; it is single column in the prose books and double column in the poetry books. I’m looking forward to making this Bible my own.

in spite of myself

I wish faith was easy.

I wish it was true that all I need to do is say a sinner’s prayer and I’m saved forever, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am. I wish I could just read my (66-book) Bible and go to church and listen to the preacher and take sermon notes and follow Christ and be comfortable while still growing in faith, because even comfortable faith requires some growth. I wish I could decide what I believed based on how I felt it measured up to my interpretation of the Bible, and toss out the hard things that I don’t understand.

Now, about that 66-book Protestant Bible…

And my pretty little simple faith comes tumbling down.

I don’t really want to be Catholic. It’s hard. I don’t get the birth control thing (and following that is going to be so, so hard). I get the Mary thing to a point, after which I start whispering “Seriously?!?!?” under my breath. Same thing happens with praying to saints. I’m sure there are other, smaller things..things that just don’t make much sense to me. But I can’t pick and choose, because if the Catholic Church is right, then they’re right and what she says goes. So I cross my fingers and hope that somehow I can get out of this.

Then I look at history, and I realize there is no way I can reconcile any other denomination of Christianity with it and still be intellectually consistent. I also realize there is no way I can choose to be intellectually inconsistent and still live with myself.

So, I’m becoming Catholic. Still. In spite of myself.

Real life

My daughter just went to sleep and it’s almost midnight. Her sleep schedule (or rather her normal routine) was all out of whack today, probably because she’s teething or she didn’t take a morning nap or we’re in the process of moving or life is just too exciting or any combination of the above plus somethig I haven’t thought of yet. She’s so antsy and when she’s awake (which, if you haven’t figured out yet, is most of the time) it is impossible for me to get anything done. So I spend a lot of time watching tv shows on Netflix. My primary emotion towards my daughter today has been frustration and I feel guilty about that. I don’t know how to get un-frustrated.

We are moving. We will be so much closer to my family and it will be so much easier for me to get out and be around people and get help with the baby. This will help. Also I am going to go see a counselor. Really. The whole moving thing happened and derailed my plans.

My faith is all confused. Well not quite. I’m becoming Catholic. I’m convinced. But life is hard, with hard questions and answers which so often seem, or are, inadequate. So living this faith is anything but easy. I’m still stumbling along. On a related note, I am about five days behind in Bible in 90 Days. But that’s okay because I will still read the Bible much faster than I ever have before.

This is the part of the blog post where I’m supposed to put a spin on all this and make it into an awesome lesson or inspiration or something. But honestly, I don’t have one. I can tell you that my daughter is so cute, and I love her in a way I never knew existed. I love my husband and he is so good to us. My life is still beautiful. Even though I struggle. But at the end of the day, I still feel like I fail at life. I’m having a hard time adjusting. And…that’s my life right now.

Still going strong with B90Days

It’s been a week since I started trying to read the Bible in 90 Days. Somehow I’ve managed to keep on track with the reading, despite a weekend road trip. I managed that by reading a bit ahead, reading snatches in the evenings, and reading in the car! During this first week, we read Genesis and Exodus.

My new morning routine: Get up. Change baby’s diaper. Put baby on the floor with toys. Get breakfast. Eat breakfast while reading Bible. Keep reading Bible until baby gets fussy (usually about 30 minutes, maybe less). Go take care of baby. When baby calms down, return to Bible reading until baby gets fussy again. Repeat until Bible reading is done.

It’s actually working pretty well, and the feeling of accomplishment helps give me the boost I need to actually get other stuff done (besides the fun stuff, like reading, journaling, etc)!

I’ve reading Genesis and Exodus about 4 or 5 times before this, but I’m still noticing new things. For instance, I somehow missed the part where a baby goat could be sacrificed instead of a lamb in some cases. I’m also wondering how in the world Jacob would have missed the fact that the woman in his bed wasn’t Rachel!!!

I’m also reading the New American Bible with the Revised Old Testament (aka the NAB-Revised Edition, or NABRE). It’s a translation I’ve never read before, and I’m finding it rather interesting. For some reason, the translators don’t put quotation marks around the Lord’s speeches, unless there is a physical theophany. It strikes me as quite odd. I’m actually enjoying the notes at the bottom, when I glance at them. The NAB notes are really more like a study Bible’s notes, but they come standard with every NAB. Some of them I vehemently disagree with, but others provide very helpful context!

So, that’s this week. Hopefully I will be able to keep going with this and not let other things get in the way!

Reading the Bible…in 90 Days

When I was a child, I wanted to read the Bible. I started at the beginning…

probably 4, 5, more times…

and never got past Numbers.

Since then, I’ve read the (Protestant) Bible through in its entirety twice, and the New Testament twice more. But I’ve never read it through, cover to cover.

Well, I’m going to try that this time around – and I’m going to try and do it in 90 days.

Yep, it’s a bit crazy, but I think I can do it. And I think it’ll be good for me.

I’m not doing it alone – I’m joining over a thousand other people at Mom’s Toolbox. Together, we can do this. I am super excited.

I’m working on reading the deuterocanonical books, too. I’ll read the extra parts of Daniel and Esther when I get to those books in the 90 Days plan. I’ve read all the others except for Baruch and Sirach – I’ll read those two after I finish the 90 Days.

Here goes!