Monday, March 30, 2009

good book


Bizarre, hilarious and amusing,
though it’s supposed to be inspiring,
is the Bible. Thus, accusing,
David Plotz, quite unadmiring
of the irony that lies
behind each story we may sample,
God cut down to human size,
the size of Plotz, as an example.
The tragic stories that disturb
such squeamish readers contain lots
of insights that are quite superb,
misunderstood by David Plotz
perhaps because he reads them just
as titillating TV tales
which, drenched with lots of blood and lust,
remind him of the Bible’s males
and females with their sitcom lives,
he seems to think. Near Santa Monica
I live near desperate housebound wives,
but Bible ones are far ironicer,
some practicing Big Love while others
like Sopranos in New Jersey,
cheat the rednecks who’re their brothers,
killing many without mercy,
all like characters within
the Good Book David Plotz derides.
But since derision is no sin,
praise him at least for bona fides
and verve and great vivacity,
which link him to the Bible’s blighters,
as well as the audacity
of all the Bible’s brilliant writers,
than him, I think, more perspicacious,
aware that life is more than odd.
controlled––why not?––by an audacious
and ironic Guy called God.
Inspired by Rich Cohen’s review of David Plotz’s book, “The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible,” in the NYT Book Review, March 29, 2009:
What’s the deal with Yahweh? Is the guy crazy or what? First he’s schmoozing, walking in the garden and whatnot, then he’s so angry he turns into a column of smoke, and here comes the scary voice, and here come the waterworks, the smiting and rivers of blood, and don’t get me started on his weird DeMille-like obsession with the firstborn. This is a God who loves the camper but hates the counselor — see all the little brothers who prosper (David, Joseph, et al.), and all the big brothers who get smoked. And yes, I know, I was supposed to put lamb’s blood on the doorjamb so the angel of death would pass over, but I am human, I was tired, I forgot. Does that mean the kid had to die? And what the heck does Yahweh even mean, anyway? Forty years to cross 120 miles of desert? They shouldn’t call him Yahweh, they should call him Wrong Way. This is me as Seinfeld doing the Bible, and I can go on like this forever, but won’t — partly because there might actually be a Yahweh and this is exactly the kind of stuff he’ll punish first, and partly because it’s been done better and more thoroughly than can ever be done by me in “Good Book,” in which David Plotz, the editor of Slate, reads the Hebrew Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, riffing as he goes. It’s CliffsNotes for Scripture — screenplay by Plotz, story by God — which is by turns entertaining, serious, shallow, profound, literal-minded, cute, ingratiating, hilarious…. In the end, though, the book is made by the spirit of the writer, who on page after page struggles with the divine, or the Bible’s picture of the divine, even if it leaves him “brokenhearted about God.” “After reading about the genocides, the plagues, the murders, the mass enslavements, the ruthless vengeance for minor sins (or no sin at all) and all that smiting . . . I can only conclude that the God of the Hebrew Bible, if he existed, was awful, cruel and capricious,” he writes. “He gives moments of beauty — sublime beauty and grace! — but taken as a whole, he is no God I want to obey, and no God I can love.”

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 3/29/09

1 comment:

  1. When I was a little girl, I was beginning to read, and I somehow found the last few pages of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament, which promised if you ever removed any of the words of the bible you would be blotted out yourself. I also noticed at that time some missing pages where I had accidentally tore them, at a younger, nonreading stage of my life.
    That cinched it for me. I knew I was consigned to hell before I even knew what had happened, so I immediately gave up all pretense about trying to get into heaven (if there was such a thing). It was already too late for me, obviously. I'm still amused to this day by people who find the bible a useful helpmate. It
    took away my hope when I was still just an impressionable child. I was too mortified to ever tell anyone else about my "terrible sin".
    Such was the result of reading the bible, for me.