Slate columnist David Plotz has been taking a lively tour through the Old Testament at Blogging the Bible, a series that combines chapter-by-chapter plot summaries with humor and contemporary cultural references. The column’s subtitle, “What happens when an ignoramus reads the good book?”, captures the essence of the project: reading the stories with fresh eyes, unencumbered by a religious (or anti-religious) agenda or the stiff piety that shies away from the Bible’s earthiness and flat-out weirdness. As Plotz said in an interview with Christianity Today:
The danger is that if you sound too casual, then people might think you’re not taking the Bible seriously. But it would be a lie for me to write in portentous language. If I were using high liturgical language or high rabbinical language, that wouldn’t be me.
Also, the Bible is often taught like that—in a formal way with moral lessons attached—but you miss the fact that this is an incredibly bawdy, hilarious, fun—hellacious, even—text. There’s a lot of sarcasm and wordplay and glee and craziness. Sometimes, I think to myself, I can never be as crude as the stuff in Judges. Or, I can never be as sarcastic as Elijah.
So, no, I don’t think I’m being too flip. The Bible is flip all the time….
There’s a notion that the Bible is pure and holy and full of family values. Thous, thees, shalls, shants—that’s all there. But what’s also there is human behavior at its most base level. Behaviors that are weird and gleeful and strange.
The writing is like that, too. There’s no stiffness to it. It’s loose and playful. So I feel like the blog should be like that, too. Obviously, I’m making allowances for my own writing, but I think there’s license to do that. You misunderstand the book if you think the only way to write about it is in an awed, distant, timid way. It’s a book that demands appreciation for all its liveliness.