Sunday, February 10, 2008

Our stories, ourselves

On Friday, I heard a remarkable piece by Barbara Bradley Hagerty on NPR titled "Understanding the Gospel According to Huckabee."

In it, she cited several of Mike Huckabee's biblical references--and the surprising lack of people, including evangelicals--who failed to get his point. For example, Huckabee said in his Super Tuesday victory speech:
"Sometimes," the former Arkansas governor told his supporters, "one small smooth stone is even more effective than a whole lot of armor."
Well, to me that was obvious: he's referring to David and Goliath. No brainer, for those of us who went to Sunday school and learned all these stories, right? Not according to the people NPR interviewed, and not according to Boston University professor Stephen Prothero, author of the book Religious Literacy, who says that "Half of Americans can't name any of the four Gospels, and that includes the Christians."

The interviewer goes on to ask people what Huckabee might have meant by his reference to the widow's mite ("Is it a spider?") or the feeding of the crowd of 5,000 with two fish and five loaves. (Although Huckabee tells it as a boy feeding the crowds, and in my memory it's an adult Jesus, am I correct?) And people just don't know what he's referring to. No idea. And these are people who said they were evangelicals. So I was strutting around like a peacock when I learned that I understood ALL of Huckabee's biblical references--every single one.

Now here is the point where I say that I haven't gone to church in quite some time. I guess you could say I'm agnostic now. I'm not a Huckabee supporter. But I was raised a Baptist, and I remember these stories from my childhood. For those of us who care about stories that speak to the human condition, they resonate. David vs. Goliath? The little guy can prevail, if right is on his side. The widow's mite? It's not how much you can give, it's the commitment. The loaves and the fishes? Faith can make a difference. These are stories, human stories. I'd be willing to bet that other writers raised in the Christian tradition would recognize Huckabee's allusions as well; they are damn good stories indeed.

My novel in progress uses Daniel in the lion's den as one of its prevailing themes; it's about the willingness to walk into the fire believing in the faith of your convictions.


patbrace said...

You are correct, it was an adult Jesus who distributed the loaves and the fishes.

I had a "revelation", such as yours, decades ago when I was dating a very nice man who had no religious background at all. This was a first for me, raised a Catholic. It was almost as if we spoke a different language.

The literature and poetry of the English language is laced with Biblical allusions, (I won't even go into ART!!!), and although every good story can stand on its own, symbols and metaphors based on the Bible were once the writer's stock in trade. There is a depth and richness there (Grapes of Wrath...duh!) that cannot be accessed without the Biblical background to draw upon. One does not have to embrace the Bible as a believer to appreciate it as literature. But it seems to me that we are losing that link. It's a tragedy.

AudioBible said...

Biblical illiteracy is huge problem, not just because people don't know the stories, but because they don't know the God of the Bible. The Bible says, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." People don't know the truth these days, the truth about God, about Jesus, about His Word, about salvation.