I was invited to a Bible Study here at the 55-and-older complex. I’ve been three times now. It’s not a Bible Study. It’s a local Baptist Church’s evangelism outreach to the old folks. In fairness, this church doesn’t use the word “Baptist” anymore. The “study” is in a small paper-backed study guide (published by the Baptists).
It uses certain Bible verses now and then to provide documentation for the lessons. But the lessons, themselves, are “standard protestant evangelical Christianity”… with no enhancement or correction by the verses in between the chosen ones and no discussion of other possible interpretations. The people running it are nice. And I’m not opposed to the “standard points” of this version of our religion, either. I am sure the motivation is loving.
As people age they generally get concerned about what happens when we die. So I am not surprised that “Jesus died for your sins so you can go to Heaven instead of Hell when you die” is the name of the tune. But like I said, it’s advertised as a Bible study. It’s not crystal clear that the theology of propitiation and the modern emphasis on self are Biblical. What of not being afraid to live? What of sharing all we have with others? What of caring for the planet and the less fortunate? What of challenging unrighteous political systems? What of Love?
I was asked last night what I thought of this Bible Study. It was a social setting and the person asking attends this church. So I was kind. I just said that it makes me feel like we’re at the best restaurant in Seattle, holding the amazing menu in our hands, and told we can only order a serving of Kraft Mac and Cheese. I got a puzzled look. I am sure she wanted to hear “I’m just so happy that we’re going to heaven when we die, thank you Jeezus, amen” but I couldn’t muster the required tone of voice to not sound sarcastic (then or now). None of us has long to live and around here that’s painfully obvious.
Preachers have made much of surveys that show this is the “least churched region of America.” I read those surveys and the question has to do with how many times a person attended church in the last whatever time period. Well, yeah. This area has a large population of immigrants from non-Christian places. And the Evangelical Conservative Protestant Church often aligns itself with hurtful policies, some anti-immigrant in fact. This is a liberal area with lots of college students who question institutions that have thrown their lot in with anti-Science and mindless-belief-systems. I see groups here doing the things Jesus advocated but without the religious rhetoric. They are dynamic and healthy groups. Perhaps the answer church-folk are seeking is to be found in the parts of the Bible they skip over? Perhaps people are hungry for items on that rich menu and are bored with “Jesus died for you, so be overwhelmed with gratitude and stop sinning (doing the things we don’t want you doing) and turn off your brain (and let us tell you what to think)”?
What I think is that Jesus is attractive enough without the help of little paper-backed study guides. One just has to meet him. I’m still looking for a Bible Study and I don’t think our Church is interested in organizing one. Seminary classes at UW are expensive and most require that I know Greek and Latin. I dunno… I’ll just keep reading on my own, but discussion would be so nice.