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jesus the radical pastor | exploring the life and mission of the 1st century Jesus for our 21st century » Blog Archive » The New Lifeless, Limp Bible (TNLLB)


Popular Evangelical Bibles

I knew she could do it. My friend, CK, an accomplished water-color and pastel artist, did a do-over of Salvador Dali’s limp watches painting. I asked CK to exchange the watches with Bibles. Why?

A few posts back I wrote about “the Dali-ization of the Gospel and the Bible.” I mentioned a visual remake of Dali’s painting. CK did it.

It’s not so much what has become of the Bible itself, but what we as USAmerican evangelicals have done to the Bible. We’ve made it limp. We’ve sliced and diced it and boiled it down to tasteless mush. We’ve drained it of any energy whatsoever. As a pastor I see it and I hear it: most Christians are bored silly with the Bible. It’s become a boy scout manual or a recipe box. It’s a medicine bottle of spiritual pills for what ails you. It’s an “ouchless” band aid for a bad conscience. It’s a coloring book for the kids. It’s no longer tough meat; it’s tofu. People sit around crying, “Pastor, pastor, feed me, feed me” and out comes the pablum. 

Nice people need a nice book. The Bible is not a nice book. It’s real. It’s graphic. It’s ruthlessly honest. But it’s not nice. So, the grand American evangelical tradition kicks in and we’ve made the Bible nice. The Bible is like the movie “Crash” and we’ve made it into “Leave It to Beaver.” The Bible presents bloody battle fields; we turn them into funeral parlors with make-up on the corpses with the lighting just right. “Why, they look like they’re asleep.” Have you noticed how pretty we’ve made the cross? I guess Mel Gibson, as an honest Catholic, had enough and gives us the passion of the Christ. How awful! The cross is nice, we’ve been led to believe. Get one for her as a gift. What?

We have made Jesus into a flannel-graph figure. He has become a two-dimensional character at our mercy to move around and talk about the way we want. We can’t endure the wild-eyed Galilean prophet who bit off first century Judaism, chewed it up and spit it out. We like a Savior who is meek and mild. We refuse a leader who invites us into a life of insecurity and danger. We like a stained-glass Jesus who decorates our religious moments. We flee the blood-stained Jesus who shouts, “Pick up your cross and follow me, if you dare!”

We are so bored by the Bible these days that we have to prop it up with notes. You know, notes from Dr. So-in-So or camping notes or cowboy notes or leadership notes or genX notes or women’s notes or Native American notes or CEO notes or dietary notes or archeological notes or how to fly an airplane notes…anything but the text of the Bible. Limp. Dali-ed to death.

The robust Story of God has been diluted into the Cliff Notes of harmless USAmerican evangelicalism.

Thanks, CK, for the picture. It says more than my paltry words could ever say.

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