The other day here on the blog I wrote about why biblical literalism fails -- a subject to which I return with some regularity.
In fact, I'm returning to it today to tell you about a study done recently by a Baylor University student. Samuel Stroope, a researcher in the department of sociology, found that, in the words of the press release announcing the study, "regardless of a person's educational background, he or she is less likely to approach the Bible in a literal word-for-word fashion when surrounded by a greater number of church members who went to college."
Why would this be?
Here is Stroope's thought on that: "When you go to Sunday school and everyone is talking about the cultural and historical background of a passage and its literary genre -- a way of reading often learned in college -- it's likely to rub off on you."
Well, certainly that's part of it. But I think it goes beyond that. When someone goes to college he or she gets exposed to truths and realities that inevitably are in conflict with a literal reading of scripture. Geologists, for instance, simply laugh at the idea that the Earth is a few thousand years old, not 4.5 billion or so. (As they should.)
That's not to say that scientists are right about everything and literal Bible readers wrong about everything. But it is to say that it's increasingly difficult on a college campus to defend the absurd. And that's a good thing.
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ANALYZING THE WARREN JEFFS CASE
In the wake of the conviction of Warren Jeffs on sexual abuse charges, the San Angelo Standard-Times, the paper in the Texas city where the trial was held, has published this excellent editorial pointing out how the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abused religion. That's one of the roles of a good editorial page -- to sum up what has just happened in a community and to make meaning out of it.
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THE BOOK CORNER
Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings -- Annotated & Explained, annotation by Mary C. Earle, with a forward by John Philip Newell. What is it that Celtic spirituality has to offer the wider Christian community, and, indeed, the wider faith community? My friend Philip Newell aims at a brief answer in the forward to this helpful little book when he calls attention to "the essential oneness and sacredness of everything that has being." Mary Earle, an Episcopal priest and author, has selected critically enlightening readings from the Celtic tradition and then has given readers helpful notes about how to understand what's being written. Anyone who digests this volume cannot help but have a much deeper understanding of the gifts of Celtic spirituality and especially of its practitioners' lovely way with words. My only small complaint is that for some reason editors chose to put the piece being annotated on the right page and the annotations on the left -- before, in other words, one encounters the reading being annotated. But after some annoying confusion I got used to it. If you've always wanted to taste the Celtic tradition, this book is a wonderful place to start.