Friday, March 21, 2014

Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

I remember being in Mrs. Taylor’s English class back in the tenth grade. One of the things we covered in the class was a read through/study of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter”. 

When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. I read far more back then than I do now – I’m ashamed to admit. One thing I’ve never been good at: read more than one book at a time. Today I do read blogs, magazines, and the bible, and have no issue reading all of them at the same time. But I only read one book at a time. I think this falls more so into fiction than nonfiction reading. I can only really grasp one STORY at a time. 

When I started Mrs. Taylor’s class, I asked her if she would give me a week or two notice before we were to start “The Scarlet Letter”, to give me time to finish the current book and hold off on the next one. And that she did. She was a good teacher. 

The issue I found when we got into “The Scarlet Letter”, was something that has since framed how I look at a lot of literature – and that includes such things as the bible. During the class, Mrs. Taylor kept trying to get us to understand what Nathaniel Hawthorne MEANT when he wrote certain passages. The overall book was full of nuanced social and political issues that he apparently was trying to address.

My opinion of “The Scarlet Letter”? Nathaniel Hawthorne was trying to make a buck! That’s it. Nothing more. Sure, there were cultural things around him that affected how/what he wrote, but how in the world could we understand what he MEANT? He didn’t leave us a commentary track on the DVD (or whatever).

When I read devotionals and listen to various preachers talk about certain passages, sometimes their idea is to pull out some nugget of information that has never been addressed before, and help you see more of what God MEANT when a passage was written. They take a verse from this book of the bible and connect it to that book of the bible and try to convey something about something.

You know what? The bible is a giant story of the relationship of God to mankind, and mankind to God. That’s pretty much it. Sure there are cool things like prophecies that we see fulfilled (AFTER the fact – nobody caught the meaning of the prophecies WHEN they were given), but most of it is a collection of stories showing how mankind – full of flaws – is loved by a God without any.

Sometimes a story is just a story. Yes, there are lessons to be gained, but sometimes a story is just a story. And that’s okay.

© Emittravel 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment