Monday, November 23, 2009

A religious experience.

If I don't get a bunch posted today, it's because I'm busy reading The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible,in which one slightly neurotic non-observant Manhattan-dwelling Jewish guy decides to live as religiously as possible for a whole year. As it happens, there's a lot more involved than giving up bacon. A surprise relief is that poly/cotton clothes are okay, since only mixing linen and wool in your garments is specifically verboten. The book is by turns hilarious and insightful, and author A.J. Jacobs has a refreshingly self-deprecating wit; he knows that touching the shower head four times after turning it off puts him somewhat out on the skinny end of the OCD bell curve, and he doesn't try to hide it.

I'm a little past halfway in and he's still married, which I'm taking as a good sign, or at least a sign that his wife should be sainted next time they're doing such things out Vatican way. If you've read it already, don't spoil it for me in comments!

(For the spiritually confused and/or not easily offended, Reno Sepulveda has posted a handy dandy religion selector flowchart. It all comes down to bacon, as I long suspected.)

21 comments:

heyercapital said...

The purpose of the Law is to show our need for the Savior. None of us can keep the Law perfectly.

Rest assured, dear readers, that Christ fulfilled the Law. Our sanctification doesn't come not buying alcohol on a Sunday. Christ finished it.

We need only believe on that promise of salvation. Faith is not a 'decision' but comes from hearing the Word.

Tam said...

"Heyercapital",

Maybe you missed the word "Jewish" in the post.

It is good to see a man secure in his faith, though.

Wolfwood said...

heyercapital's point, though, is that the proper lesson to be learned from a sincere attempt to follow the Law of Moses is to recognize that it is realistically impossible for a person to do and that he must become radically dependent on God for sustenance and redemption.

Looking through Isaiah and Daniel, it is only Jesus Christ who can provide this.

Tam said...

Wolfwood,

I know that is what Christians (or at least some Christians) believe. There are other Christians who keep some or most of the Old Testament commandments.

And then there are Jews, who believe that what you just said is poppycock.

And then there's me, who wonders how come any mention of religion at all is like pulling the string on some people, and launches them into canned tract-speak.

Joanna said...

In my expierience, the most easily offended of any religion are the ones who don't know how or why they got there except that someone else told them that was where they should go, and they've never bothered to find out for themselves if it was actually so.

Same goes for politics. And brand loyalty.

BobG said...

“The Bible was written by sheepherders and fishermen, and everybody knows how they stretch the truth.”
-my dad

Tam said...

Joanna,

Constant examination of one's belief structure is, I think, a good thing. Reading a book where someone shares their thoughts as they talk their way through the process is absolutely fascinating to me.

Jacobs writes a good book. If you want to read it when I'm done, you can borrow my copy.

Jay G said...

But, but, but...

I really f*cking love bacon *AND* hummus!

Looks like it's muslim or Jehovah's Witness for me...

Wolfwood said...

And then there's me, who wonders how come any mention of religion at all is like pulling the string on some people, and launches them into canned tract-speak.

I bring it up precisely because it's not the commonly-perceived understanding of the role of the Law of Moses. If you ask most people, Christian or not, the Law of Moses is seen as being one of several paths instead of a necessary precursor that, as an entity, is no longer in place.

What I'd be interested to learn is if the author reflects on the role of the Law of Moses in modern society. Some put forth the idea that one reason for the Law was to keep the Israelites separate from the surrounding peoples (and for a fascinating story relating to this, read up on the Lemba and Great Zimbabwe). What does the author think of this view in a society where Jews have been highly assimilated, both culturally and genetically? It seems to me that it's not a big issue for a "spiritual" view of Israel, but would be a big one for a "bloodline" view.

In any case, sounds fascinating.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I liked the moment where he and another guy dressed all in white spot in each on a city bus and experience this "click" of mutual recognition, even though they do not know each other's spiritual path (or degree of nuttiness, take your pick).

WV: "marysta" -- hip-hop follower of the BVM.

red said...

Great book, got it for Hanukkah from the Mrs. last year.

Joanna said...

Tam: I may take you up on that. I was interested in reading it a while back when it first got published.

OA said...

Seems most are playing fast and loose with the word "bible", using it as a general (in singular, no less) rather than a specific. What exactly is spoken of? Talmud, Tanakh, New Testament?

It would be interesting to see the Christian bible before so much was lost in the numerous translations and changed by those with agendas. I suspect that's what makes "living biblically" an impossibility for Christians rather than a widely believed contradictory nature of God.

D.W. Drang said...

A surprise relief is that poly/cotton clothes are okay, since only mixing linen and wool in your garments is specifically verboten.
Linsey-woolsey is (was) tref? Who knew?

karrde said...

Interesting choice of reading material.

Preface to my response: I've generally shied away from Latest And Greatest Book About Religion!-style publishing, figuring that most of the stuff published by religious-publishing-houses are the spiritual equivalent of the modern Romance Novel.

This practice may keep me from reading something really good until 5-10 years after it comes out; it also filters out a heck of a lot of noise.

Anyway, that's probably why I didn't read The Year of Living Biblically, and paid little attention after one or two book reviews crossed my screen.

Seeing that you're enjoying it, maybe I'll kick it up off of the Unknown Quality Stuff pile and onto the Good Stuff I Haven't Read Yet pile.

Out of curiousity, what travails has the wife gone through so far?

Kelly said...

I picked that book up from the humor section, and was impressed with just what makes it funny. I'm betting not much of it seemed funny as it was happening, but it's difficult to look at it from the outside (especially with the way he tells the whole thing) and not end up thinking, "He's kidding... did he REALLY say that to her?" and bursting into giggles. At the same time, there were parts where I nearly cried, usually when he realized something about himself that he'd never seen before because of his lack of experience with religion. My sister has asked for advice in dealing with trying to give her kids some religious background without teaching them "This is what you MUST believe." Maybe I should loan the book to her.

Hunter said...

AJ also wrote The Know-It-All, about his feat of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, A-Z.

He has a great web page, ajjacobs.com. His latest book is The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.

(And no, I'm not his agent, relative, employee, or boss.)

Anonymous said...

Did he follow the guidelines for the procurement of slaves, objectification of his wife, and the murder or homosexuals and disobedient children?

OA said...

"Did he follow the guidelines for the procurement of slaves, objectification of his wife, and the murder or homosexuals and disobedient children?"

Sounds like Stalin. What church did Uncle Joe pray at?

Will Brown said...

On the topic of (further) reducing your wishlist, check your e-mail.

Mikael said...

Anonymous refers to the old testament, which is the only part of the bible that would be relevant for a jew living biblically. Like rebellious sons shall be put to death by stoning.

There are commandments from god for human sacrifice in there too(they are to be burned, the smells is pleasing to the lord), which I would hope he is ignoring. For example leviticus 27:28-29, and deutoronomy 13:13-19.