Wholly Bible: A View from the Pew
By RAY WADDLE
Ah, the '60s. Will they ever end? (Not in our lifetime.)
It's a job just keeping up with the reporting on the 40th anniversary of various 1969 summer milestones -- the first moon landing, the Manson murders, Woodstock, Hurricane Camille. The recent deaths of Walter Cronkite and Robert McNamara, icons of those times, underscore the decade's dramas.
America hasn't been the same. And neither has church. A perpetual revolution has burned
ever since youth liberation, anti-government feeling, the triumph of the electric guitar. In
religion, the fallout has meant membership losses or realignments, worship experimentation, new media, new technology, new mission outreaches, new divisions over sexual expression.
This only proves one thing: Turbulent history is a wild ride, ever shifting, no matter what the
decade. So amid the latest surge of Facebook individualism and embittered squawking heads
on the TV talk shows, I hope and pray two things don't change: community worship and
Bible fascination. Both, of course, keep the gospel story alive. More to the point, both
churchgoing and Bible-reading keep people plugged in to a story that has a larger purpose,
a bigger viewpoint, than the fickle priorities of national agendas, celebrity A-lists and
personal gale storms of panic and uncertainty.
Religious belief and tradition and outreach are the only forces strong enough to stand up to
the twitchy intensities of political hysteria, Internet misinformation and other sideshows that
distort conversation and moral purpose.
I believe church and Bible provide a literally physical bulwark to our anxieties. Over time, the
rhythms of worship, the act of reading and rereading Scripture, sink into the bones. They
come to inhabit the body, with providential reassurance.
The body of Christ is a mystical idea, but it is also practical: the body of Christ is each human
body carrying around the Word on earth, the Bible's story of creation, fall and redemption.
Belief is a matter of embodiment -- getting the body moving in certain directions, following
the Christ figure. It's a matter not of reciting biblical catch phrases to win points. It's not a
matter of see-and-be-seen at church. It's a matter of action, witness, remembrance and
The furious passing parade of history is awesome and exhausting and half-crazy, but it
passes. The great story of belief does not.
--Columnist Ray Waddle, author of two books published
Upper Room Books, lives in Bethel, Conn.