John Savely bought his daughter, Debbie, a Bible for her seventh birthday. Before she graduated from high school, her father had died. That Bible became a revered keepsake, but she lost it in 1974, while attending Tennessee’s Volunteer State Community College.
Yet, last year, that Bible made its way back into Debbie’s possession. A college officer from Volunteer State found the Bible in a box of debris from a 2006 tornado that almost destroyed the college’s campus. The winds that splintered buildings uncovered the lost Scriptures.
With Debbie Savely’s name inscribed within, that college officer went to work trying to find her; and by way of relentless pursuit and the marvel of the internet, John Savely’s gift was returned to his daughter forty years after it was lost. She and her nearly ninety-year-old mother were jubilant beyond measure.
What makes this story so remarkable is not that a Bible was salvaged. If the book had been a copy of “Green Eggs and Ham,” it would hardy have been any less miraculous. Besides, I doubt that Debbie needed a Bible. She, like all of us, had access to millions of Bibles to read, still the best-selling book in the world.
What made this particular copy of the Bible special was its source. It had been given to her by her father. Her attachment to it was as sentimental as it was spiritual. So it wasn’t as if she had recovered the original stone tablets of Sinai or the Dead Sea Scrolls. She had something more important: She had a link to one who truly loved her.
What if we learned to approach our own Bibles with the same heartfelt sentiment? What if we concerned ourselves less with the “miraculous” nature of how the Bible arrived in our hands, and focused more on the link the book is to One who truly loves us? What if we stopped deifying the Bible (worshipping “God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible” as it were), and embraced it as a pointer aiming us in a more Jesus-like direction?
How do we do this? By being Christians, not Biblicists. A Biblicist is one who reads the Bible, “flat;” that is, every word is given the same weight and significance, because “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” So, “He that curseth his father or mother shall surely be put to death,” is given the same credibility as, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (A drastic but accurate example).
Yet, Christians might be better served to see the Scriptures with a bit more texture. Our faith and practice would be healthier if our interpretive lens was Jesus Christ. He, as the living Word and Source, is the peak of revelation. So, we look to him as we read, using his words to hold ourselves to his way, and, dare I say it, to hold the Bible accountable as well. Refusing to do this, schizophrenically puts the Bible and Jesus at odds with each other.
Maybe this is what Kurt Eichenwald was trying to get at in his recent Newsweek diatribe, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” He railed against biblical abuses, ignorance that impedes science, the foolishness of uniting church with state, and the suffering inflicted on this world by those who misapply the Bible. My response was, “Amen! Preach it, brother!”
He couldn’t hear my agreement, though, because his words were so thunderously angry; as were the vitriolic words of his critics. And while I believe Eichenwald was largely telling the truth, nothing will change about this state of affairs until Bible-reading, Bible-loving, Bible-believing people stop treating the Bible like it is God. It’s not, no more than that storm-torn Tennessee testament was Deb Savely’s father.
I love the Bible, but not because every passage can be reconciled with Christianity. I love it because it helps me stay connected to the Source, to Jesus. After all, he is the foundation of my faith, and even as the Good Book says, there is no other.