Still, we now have two functioning cars to take to work, rather than my having to drive my husband to and from the factory, so I have no complaints. Of course, #1 son has my car right now, but I’m planning a domestic day and a bit of work to make up for all the time spent on the car lot. It’s amazing how long it takes to buy a car.
#1 son was over last night for dinner and a good chat about Bible story heroes. He’s taking a course called “The Bible as Literature.” He feels that it’s a lot like Sunday School, though. His teacher talks in “this old lady voice,” he says. “It’s like Sunday School, so it’s familiar and comfortable and it’s easy to go along with it,” he said, showing with his face and body language how all the students in his nice Bible Belt class drop right into Sunday School mode. “She’ll say, ‘Put yourself in his shoes,'” — here he clasps his hands in imitation of this teacher — “and then it gets religious.”
His objection is that his teacher puts all kinds of extra interpretation into the stories. He complains about his British Romantic Poetry class for the same reason, mind you, but I see his point. I have the same problem sometimes with Bible study, and I don’t object to religious interpretations.
Esther, for example, doesn’t strike him as all that heroic. Esther is the one who dared to enter the presence of King Ahasuerus even though she could be put to death for doing so, admitted that she was Jewish, and interceded for her people, saving them from extermination. There’s a lot more to the story, but for the purposes of this discussion, that’s the main outline; you can read about Esther, Purim, and the delicious Purim cookie called hamantaschen at NPR. So few possibly mythological heroines have a really good cookie to go with their story.
Anyway, I read out Mordecai’s warning to Esther that the king wouldn’t spare her, in order to persuade #1 son that she actually was in danger. “She was his wife,” he kept saying. “She’d made him a feast.” This was said in #1 son’s special patented scornful voice. I think it’s a good sign that he can’t imagine a husband being cruel to his wife, especially after a good dinner, but it may suggest that he didn’t pay proper attention during Sunday School.
He also didn’t think that Boaz fell in love with Ruth. Again I turned to the text to support my claim that he was at least interested in her. “He didn’t even know who she was,” I said, “and he told his workers to leave her extra to glean and let her hang out with his handmaidens to keep her safe.”
“He knew who she was,” insisted #1 son, using the special scornful voice. “It was a small town. You don’t think everybody was talking about Ruth and Naomi?”
The story of Lot, he felt, was more like Greek mythology. He’s right. Turning people into a pillar of salt is a bit out of character for our particular God, and the incestuous bit does seem more in keeping with those saucy Greek gods than with the Bible.
When it came to the parables, though, I just couldn’t agree with him. The parables were the stories Jesus told to make points about religious topics. We may disagree on the particular point being made (and that’s a good thing, or why have sermons?), but the parables were certainly teaching stories, and no one is suggesting that they are intended to be understood as history.
I think that the character issues that bother #1 son — why is Abraham a symbol of faith when he had all those doubts? how can Joseph be a symbol of good triumphing over hardship when God kept him from experiencing any hardships? stuff like that — I think these things can be explained if we are willing to consider the possibility that these were real people. Real people aren’t as good at being characters in a story as fictional ones. They do things that don’t advance the plot, say stuff that isn’t worth recording, and have messy relationships that spoil the dynamic of the story. This is probably why our lives are so badly structured from the point of view of narrative.
The flowers in this post are from the front garden, such as it is. It has finally gotten cool enough for the plants to bloom, now that we’re entering fall. I guess maybe we’ll be having normal summer in the fall now, followed by harsh and extreme winter, then a bit more summer, and then some hellish uber-summer before getting back to summer the following Autumn. I’d rather have spring and fall, but nobody asked me.
By the way, the novel I’m reading right now is a shameless knock-off of the Stephanie Plum mysteries, if that’s something you’ve been wishing for.