April 18, 2007


Caption: This man likes to dress up for church.

This week's Goat Rope involves musing on biblical themes among many other things and was inspired in part by recent surveys that suggest many Americans--even those who claim to believe every word literally--are biblically illiterate.

But first, there is a vicious rumor out there that El Cabrero would like to put to rest.

The rumor is this: that Episcopalians don't read the Bible. That is like sooo not true. We do...in case we're ever on Jeopardy.

I actually (now) consider myself lucky to have been dragged to Episcopal services throughout my childhood by my Maternal Unit in part because it really steeps you in biblical literature. In general, Anglicans of our variety don't take it literally (as a biology, geology, or astronomy textbook, for example) but do take it seriously.

A typical service involves at least four readings, including a psalm and another reading from the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), one from the gospels, and one from the other New Testament writings. A lot of the rest of the liturgy is also drawn from biblical texts.

As a result, I wound up as a kid involuntarily memorizing sections of psalms, canticles, and other passages. There was no way not to.

I noticed something strange in the inevitable religious discussions with other kids. While some viewed the Bible almost superstitiously as a magical oracle, they had little idea of how it went aside from a few "proof texts."

(Proof texting is a vile habit that has probably done as much as anything else to promote biblical illiteracy.)

One thing I got out of all that was the lifelong habit of reading it, regardless of how my religious opinions morphed or occasionally disappeared over time. It's some of the best time I ever spent.

When it comes to religion, El Cabrero's mind is kind of like an AM car radio driving on mountain roads; sometimes you pick up a signal and other times it's just static, although I seem to have would up pretty much where I started.

Question for you, Gentle Reader. What role has the Bible, positively or negatively/by its presence or by its absence, played in your life?

IT'S HOW THEY'RE COUNTED, as we like to say about votes in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia. In this case, however, we're talking about poverty. This editorial from the New York Times is about more accurate measurements than the old federal poverty level:

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 37 million Americans — 12.6 percent of the population — were living in poverty in 2005. That means that four years into an economic expansion, the percentage of Americans defined as poor was higher than at the bottom of the last recession in late 2001, when it was 11.7 percent. But that’s not the worst of it. Recently, the bureau released 12 alternative measures of poverty, and all but one are higher than the official rate.

The alternative that hews most closely to the measurement criteria recommended by the National Academy of Sciences yields a 2005 poverty rate of 14.1 percent. That works out to 41.3 million poor Americans, 4.4 million more than were officially counted. Those higher figures indicate that millions of needy Americans are not getting government services linked to official poverty levels.

It calls for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and early childhood education to help combat poverty.

MEDICARE PART D. West Virginians United for Social and Economic Justice and the WV Citizen Action Group issued a statement yesterday calling for negotiated prices on the prescription drug benefit. This could save WV taxpayers $225 million per year ($30 billion at the national level.) The press release drew attention to this report by the Institute for America's Future.



clem g. said...

I commend El Cabrero for attending such an open-minded church. Apparently, not only is it okay to be a dog, but cross-dressing dogs are accepted, too!

El Cabrero said...

Shucks, Clem, we might even make him a bishop!

Anonymous said...

"Episcopalians don't read the Bible. That is like sooo not true."

Um, I'd say there's a difference between reading the Bible and having some guy in a white smock with an NPR voice read it too you.

-(catfish eater

El Cabrero said...

Good point! But you usually can't take them with you when you're on Jeopardy.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that what the Jeopardy announcer is? (though he does sound a little brush arbor the way he yells out the opening of the show. Maybe he's just a shoutin' Methodist.)

-catfish eater

Anonymous said...

Is it the Episcopalians where "whenever there are four, there's a fifth"? Or is that the Anglicans?

El Cabrero said...

Two replies.

First, Alex would make a good Episcopal priest.

Second, Anglicans and Episcopalians are pretty much the same thing, although now the words seem to be acquiring different meanings due to internal fighting.

One thing we don't usually fight about though is alcohol consumption. It's like the eighth sacrament or something. An Episcopalian that doesn't drink is on the slippery slope to Methodism...

Anonymous said...

We used to say that the only creed you could get all Episcopalians to agree to was, "I believe I'll have another."

-catfish eater

El Cabrero said...

We'll recite about anything, as long as it's in the Book of Common Prayer but if you're talking about what we really believe, I think you're right!