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Reaching Our Biblically Illiterate Culture
by Tom Goodman
February 20, 2008

In celebrating his Super Tuesday victories, Mike Huckabee told his supporters that despite his shoestring budget "the winner's might has more effectiveness than all the gold in the world."

At least, that's the way ABC News reported it.  Actually, the former Baptist pastor spoke of "the widow's mite," from a story in Mark 12.  The reporter isn't the only one to misunderstand the former Baptist pastor.  NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty called his frequent biblical references a "Huckabese" that few people get.

Ours has become a biblically illiterate culture.  Presidential candidates have to deal with that reality, but so do you and I.

The Huckabee story reminded me of a Newsweek story from two years ago.  Jerry Falwell was asked about his Liberty University debate team's impressive wins.  "We are training debaters who can perform assault ministry," the newsweekly quoted him saying.  Except that he said that the debaters were training to be "a salt ministry," a reference to Christ's call to be "the salt of the earth" in Matthew 5.  He was saying that his university was training lawyers to become culture shapers.

That wasn't the first time Newsweek failed at "Bible 101."  During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the magazine described Jesse Jackson holding hands with the Clintons and reciting "the fifty-first Psalm, David's prayer for mercy after he had been seduced by Bathsheba."  Oops.

Then there was the essay that Frederica Mathewes-Green remembers from the glossy highbrow, Harper's, where a writer asserted that the Bible ranks hope along with faith and love in Psalm 23.  That would be 1 Corinthians 13.

And reaching back still further, recall the line from the 1980s anthem, "We Are the World," written to raise money for hunger.  Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson sang...

As God has shown us
By turning stone to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand

Not exactly the way the story went down.

How do we respond to our culture's inability to get their Bible references right?  Some believers just shake their heads and take smug comfort in their superiority to their biblically ignorant neighbors.  But there's a better way -- the way of love.

Our outreach will bring people into our fellowship who are unfamiliar with the Bible.  So, we need to respond with graciousness when someone makes a comment on the Bible that isn't quite accurate.  We need take the time to explain our "Christianese."  We teachers may need to cover less biblical material so we can take the time to explain details that aren't obvious to new listeners.

We want our church to be a place for our community to check out the Bible for themselves.  We want to be a place for Austin to find and follow Jesus together.  I'll cover more about that mission task this Sunday, February 24, at 9:30am and 10:45am.

Drop By the Blog, Leave a Comment.  At my weblog, "Get Anchored," every Sunday I post a new "Song of the Week" (This week, Oscar-nominated "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova).  Also, every Tuesday I post some entertaining and informative "Links to Your World."  In addition, this week I've provided more information about our surprise worship leader Jaime Jamgochian, news about my new Anchor Course in March, why you should launch your own Anchor Course this Easter, an important new resource for spiritual seekers by Tim Keller, a free download from Baylor alums "Addison Road," and the continuation of my LeaderLines series called "unChristian Christianity."

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