Publication in FIVE magazine

Posted: August 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

Greetings friends and followers!

I have five poems appearing in the Aug. 22nd issue of FIVE magazine. This is big for me. I would love it if you popped over to the website and picked up a copy. I would love it even more if you told all your friends to do the same.

If you don’t read poetry, this is a great way to start. If you do love poetry, you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks ahead of time.

http://www.fictionmagazines.com/magazines/five/

Darrell Hugueley

I have intentionally been absent from all the recent hullabaloo about the SCOTUS legalizing gay marriage. Most of it has just been the polemics of one side against the polemics of the other side. Each side is so wrapped up in Us v. Them that it largely just makes me sad and tired.

But sometimes other people come up with or come out with a thought that I wish I had written myself. Very very few people can exactly articulate what I feel about this whole thing. But this guy does. His name is Buzz Dixon. I don’t know him, but he agreed to let an extremely conservative evangelical ask him “40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags.” It’s an incredible read. I did not pick apart each point of the argument for each side, as I imagine there are flaws in each. But something compelled me to keep reading.

I hit the jackpot when I got to the following part of the “interview:”

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

It’s all baloney if we don’t love one another.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

I am more committed to the Church (i.e., the body of all believers in Christ) than ever before.

I am dubious about the worthiness of many local churches and denominations, but won’t stop anyone who finds meaning in them from worshipping there.

That’s where I’m at. Perfectly enunciated and perfectly clear. I just can’t say it any better than that.

Please read the entire article here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2015/07/40-questions-for-christians-now-waving-rainbow-flags/

POEM

Posted: June 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

SOLSTICE, SUMMER

How are we to manage

all this light

while so far away

from the sun?

X-Ray sun

PARABLE

Posted: June 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

And the kingdom is like this, apparently: Jesus had gone away and left us with certain “talents.” To some he gave an abundance of these “talents.” To others, a bit less, and to some, whom we will call the institutional church, he gave only one talent.

The first group is, say, The Red Cross. Jesus gave them a heart for helping others and they are Johnny on the spot with aid when there is a crisis, a catastrophe, or a disaster.

The second group, is say, a local group like MIFA (Memphis Interfaith Association), or any such group in any such city in America. They have a heart to feed people and they do it with programs like Meals on Wheels.

The third group is the church. And I’m sorry, but to keep it within my own experience, I will say the local Southern Baptist church.

So run get your shotgun, here comes Jesus. Back from his whatever it was he went off to. He comes to the first group.

“See,” says the Red Cross or some organization like it, “we knew you wanted us to help people who were facing catastrophe and disaster, so we built an organization that does that and we reach millions of people with our help.”

“Terrific!” says Jesus. “You did the right thing. That’s great! You extended your influence and helped some folks. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

He comes to the second group.

“See,” says MIFA, or any similar organization, “we fed some folks with a lot of personal investment of time and labor and what other money we could collect. We fed thousands of people each month and kept people from going hungry.”

“Excellent,” said Jesus. “You did the right thing. That’s great! You extended your influence and helped some folks. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Then he comes to the third group.

“See,” says the church, “we built this enormous building that has giant surround sound speakers, audio visual stuff that could be from Star Wars, plush carpeting and professionally designed interiors (mood lighting, soothing colors, tasteful accessories and wall hangings, etc.), the most comfortable seats you ever landed your tush on, digitally controlled temperature so that no one can complain about the heat or the cold, a parking lot so big we run a shuttle out to the farthest spaces, landscaping with three fountains, and boy oh boy wait till you see the rec center-cum-gymnasium that features an Olympic sized swimming pool, two-level walking track, basketball, racquetball, and tennis courts, and oh yeah we have a fleet of cutting edge buses that have DVD players and—”

“Wait,” said Jesus, “I just—”

“And the programs!” continued the church, “man we have a programmed, cyclical curriculum to make sure every conceivable age group, social category (like divorcees, singles, blendeds, etc.) believes the right thing, our athletic teams reach out to the athletically gifted of our community, and we even do all sorts of mission trips to Guatemala, Honduras, and we raise money to send to China and the Philippines, and—”

“ENOUGH!” Jesus cried.

“Enough? We did enough? Oh hallelujah!” cried the church.

“NO! I mean, stop already,” Jesus cried again. “Who did you do all this for?”

The church gazed absently for a second, imagining the scope of its bragging. “Why, for you, of course.”

“But you were supposed to do all that for the poor, the widow, the infirm, the elderly. You were supposed to be Me to Them.”

“Well, we know how concerned you are about right belief, Lord. We know that your dad spent a lot of time establishing what to believe and how to behave, so we built…all this,” the church said, waving its arm across the broad spectrum of empire, “for you. We reach out to people that are needy, of course, but we get them in here with all these distractions—excuse me, I mean attractions–and we get them to believe the right thing. Right belief, right?”

“You totally misunderstood me,” said Jesus. “I wanted you to multiply your influence so that people would have their needs met.”

“Oh!” said the church, “ ‘multiply our influence.’ My bad, I totally neglected to mention our marketing department. We have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. Every staff member has a blog. We have an interactive web page with links to all our programs and services, podcasts of every service, as well as the traditional forms of marketing like mail-outs, billboards and newspaper ads.”

Jesus put his head in his hands. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” he sighed.

“Yep! That’s the slogan we put on our coasters.” The church leaned in a little and whispered, “We had a team of our burly deacons sneak these into a local bar.” The church snickered.

“So what is the monetary value of all this,” Jesus asked.

The church whipped out its smart phone. “Got that on an app right here,” the church smiled with pride.

“Whoa,” Jesus said, looking at the number. “That’s impressive.”

“Now who is multiplying their influence and helping some people?” the church said smugly.

Jesus handed the phone back to the church.

“Sell it,” he said.

The church stood in stunned silence, as if it hadn’t heard the words of Jesus. “What, the phone?”

“Sell it, every bit of it. Half of the liquidated assets I want you to give to the Red Cross or some other like organization. I want you disburse the other half among ten local organizations like MIFA, organizations that are actually putting food in mouths and clothes on backs. Or you can give it to schools if you like. But get rid of it. All of it.”

“Oh my Lord,” the church whispered. “We can’t do that. For we are very wealthy. Very wealthy indeed.”

“No, your are rich. You have made yourselves rich with my wealth, knucklehead. It was never meant to be hoarded. You have stored up these earthly treasures where any thief can break in and steal it. You have made an Empire, and done only a little for the Kingdom. Do you know the story of the gleanings?”

The church brightened for a moment in recognition of the familiar Bible story of the farmer who left the corners of his field unharvested so that the poor and the widows could glean them and thus have food to eat.

“Yes,” the church said weakly. “That’s what we did.”

“Right. But not as a matter of course. You made it a matter of purpose. You intentionally enlarged your own portion just to leave the little gleanings of mission trips and mission offerings out of your surplus for the others. It was all supposed to belong to them. You weren’t supposed to keep any of it. You got it exactly backwards.”

The church began to slowly back away, its head hung low.

“Where are you going?” Jesus asked.

“I’m late for a worship planning meeting. We’ll show you,” the church said, “we’ll show you how much we love you with the best service we’ve ever had this Sunday.” The church walked away.

A tear escaped Jesus’ eye. “I won’t be there,” he said softly.

Jesus wept.

It is Thanksgiving morning and I am cutting onions.

I have a chef’s knife and I am parsing a nice yellow onion to saute with some celery to add to the dressing. I have already cut the celery, been up at four to season and put two turkeys in the crock pots (the only way to do it, by the way), crumbled up the stale cornbread for the dressing and now I am crying like a girl. It’s the onions, of course.

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I know of ways to do this so that I don’t have to cry; cut the onions under running water; chew some spearmint gum; light a match and hold it in your teeth (after it has burned out of course); wear some sunglasses; or all of the above. That all seems like a lot of effort, though, to avoid the fumes that come from the onion when you slice it.

Let me have my tears.

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I have been the main cook in our family for many years. My wife is a high-powered executive and does not have the energy for cooking after running a multimillion dollar corporation. I have several go-to recipes that we faithfully rotate. I have a signature lasagna that has won wide acclaim from many people. I can bake a mean loaf of artisan bread if I have half a day free. I can also manage a thing or two on the grill–roasted peppers is where I shine there, though I have yet to perfect a perfect steak.

In all the years I have cooked I have learned a lot of shortcuts, but I still enjoy a few procedures. I worked in food service and watched a lot of Emeril to learn some essential basics. I love making a good Italian gravy. I try to make it a day ahead of time so the flavors can set. I know the perfect time to put the chicken on while I peel the char off the roasted peppers to pull it all together at the same time. I love dipping my hands into a batch of risen dough and shaping it into a perfect loaf. I love having “Pirate Beef” ready in less than twenty minutes. (Recipes for all available upon request).

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Crying when you slice the onions is a measure of authenticity in the process for me. It is what you go through when you do it by hand. Before you leave me comments to the effect, I know I could put the onions in a food processor. But somehow doing it with a knife and shedding a few tears makes the process more personal and gives me more satisfaction. If I cry, I am really cooking. If I take an extra day to set some flavors, I am really cooking. If I put the dough on the table and let it rise for three hours I am really baking. Tears lend authenticity.

Tears also come at some other regular times for me. I have been known to be taken by surprise by tears. The sudden onslaught of emotions can be embarrassing, I admit, so I have learned to let people know ahead of time that I am going to cry when I know it’s going to happen.

I cry every single cotton picking time I watch It’s a Wonderful Life. I never cry at the same place, though. Sometimes it is Zuzu’s rose petals, sometimes it’s during George Bailey’s triumphant run through town after Bert finally finds him on the bridge. Sometimes it’s when Mary whispers in young George’s bad ear. Mostly it’s when the bell rings on the Christmas tree and George look up from the copy of Tom Sawyer and says, “Atta boy, Clarence!” A recent local production of the stage play by the Tennessee Shakespeare Company, presented as a radio show from 1947, had me going practically all the way through.

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I cry at this time of year when I hear the Dan Fogelberg song, “Same Old Lang Syne.” I can make it through the part about saying goodbye to an old girlfriend, the conversation lagging, the awkward silence, but I never get past the snow turning into rain. Cornball irony, I know: Snow turns to rain, cue tears.

My wife and I took my daughter to see the charming and almost perfect film, About Time a few weeks ago. (Possible spoiler alert) There is scene in which a young couple in love are running through a London subway tube together in a montage that covers the passage of time. There is a band playing in the subway, and they dance and laugh and kiss while the band plays. I have done exactly that. I have gone through a London tube station with my wife while on honeymoon in London, and stopped, taken her by the hand and danced to musicians playing there, and then kissed her. Yep, during the movie, here come the tears. I was overwhelmed by the memory and had a Woody Allen-esque moment, feeling myself practically stepping into that movie.

I have already written here about my daughter’s triumphant journey this year with epilepsy and how trying her recent brain surgery was. My wife has been facing some health problems as well, and I have been saying that when I get my daughter stabilized after her surgery, and my wife stabilized on her meds and on the road to recovery, I am going to go away somewhere for about three days and have me a nice little breakdown.

But now that Christmas break is coming and I am looking at some extended down time, and the daughter has made a remarkable recovery from brain surgery, and the wife has pinpointed some issues to address and has made some equally remarkable progress, I am thinking about my promise to myself. I am looking around cautiously, knocking on wood, grabbing my rabbit’s foot, and testing the waters to see if anything is going to happen, and if not, would this be the time for that good old fashioned breakdown.

Only…I don’t feel the need to do so now quite so strongly. I have had my tears along the way. I have cried while I chopped the onions. It’s been authentic. I have been fully present in every moment on this long journey, and when the moments have drawn up tears from my soul, I have not held them back. I have let them come, silently for the most part, and maybe I cut them off before they had completely run their course a few times, but every experience that has been shaping my soul has been authentic and fully felt. I have had my tears along the way, and find myself now at Thanksgiving and the Advent season prepared to rejoice, seasoned to welcome the celebration of the Saviour in a way I would never have imagined had I tried to ward off the well of tears.

So chop some onions. Watch some good movies and listen to some good music. Be fully in the pain, the joy, the bitter and the sweet, the laughter and the tears. Feel every thing God has brought you to so that you can know him when he speaks through it. And keep some tissues handy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmVXYOJzAJM

I have dear, dear friends that are missionaries in Santiago, Chile. They have been on the mission field for about sixteen years now. They are the type of friends that we can pick up with right where we left off, no matter how long ago it was that we last saw each other. I value that more than just about anything. It is a deep comfort for me not to have to worry about presenting a certain kind of image or show a certain face to these friends. I am always at liberty to be who I am and feel no pressure to apologize for it.

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I had an interesting long distance convo the other day with Coli, who graciously allowed me to post it here. It all started with Jim Palmer. Jim Palmer is a blogger and emergent Christian. He published Divine Nobodies a few years ago, and I enjoyed reading it. It has an honored place in my emergent library for its unflinching appeal to the mundane quality of the spiritual journey. He advocates the recognition of the divine in the messy, fleshy, complex daily existence of postmodern Christianity. He lives down the road in Nashville, TN, and there is a good chance that we have sat in the same churches in our experience here in the Bible belt.

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Another group of ne’er-do-wells, Unfundamentalist Christians, (https://www.facebook.com/UnfundamentalistChristians)  re-posted one of his blogs on Facebook and I, in turn reposted it on my Facebook. Here is the original post:

5 Child Damaging Doctrines — Jim Pamer

(1) “Telling children that they are born into this world intrinsically bad, absent of inherent worth, and repulsive to God.
(2) Telling children that their sinfulness is so bad that it left God no choice but to brutalize, torture and kill his son.
(3) Telling children that there is nothing good inside of them and that they should not trust their thoughts and feelings.
(4) Using fear or shame as a means of binding children to certain beliefs or practices related to God.
(5) Teaching children that the rejection, hatred or diminishment [sic] of other human beings is an expression of devotion to God.”

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matt 23:37 

(Sorry, didn’t get permission to recopy: how about a link – http://www.unheardwordz.com/2013/08/5-child-damaging-doctrines-jim-palmer.html )

That ‘s the post in its entirety. No comment or exposition. I like the simplicity of it and the heart of it, protecting children from the abusive polemics of fundamentalism.

No sooner had I posted it than I got this response in my inbox from my concerned friend:

Today I opened my FB & saw you posted “5 Damaging Doctrines…” I have taught children for years using the Holy Bible, God’s inspired word, to help them understand Truth and our condition from God’s perspective. That we are born with a sin nature. That we all sin….we think, say, & do things that dishonor God. Matt 15:18,19 says out of our heart come things that defile us. All through the Bible it is taught that Christ came to die for us as the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice so that we could have forgiveness, a relationship with a Holy God, and spend an eternity with God. There is none good, no not one. If Christ’ s sacrifice doesn’t take away our sin, we are without hope and remain in our sins. Did you post that because you no longer hold to these core beliefs? Have you abandoned the Holy Bible? A friend wants to know….many years have passed since our [early Bible training] days, but I have always assumed we believed the same doctrines….

Here is how I responded:

Dear Coli, I am so sorry if you were offended or alarmed at my FB post. Jim Palmer is a writer I have followed for a few years. He lives up the road in Nashville and has written some pretty interesting things. Our journey intersected a while back when I was doing extensive reading among emergent authors. His writing appealed to me because he primarily responds to the institutional church of the Bible Belt, and it is likely he and I have been in the same churches and heard the same pastors.

The things he says in the post I shared this morning are reactions to a style of talking to people that is negative and condemning. There is a big difference in telling children about their sin and their need for salvation and telling them that God hates them and will burn them with fire if they don’t live up to imaginary expectations. I have a real problem with telling children that there is not anything about them worth saving. Why would God be interested in them in the first place if that is true? Or any of us for that matter? I think he has witnessed the tactic of “using fear as a means of binding children to certain beliefs.” That is unconscionable, wouldn’t you agree? You and I did not learn to do that from the Bible or our early training together.

Religious belief has become a matter of polemics in the US. It is not a matter in America that you believe the right things, but that you hate those that do. Some extreme fundamentalists actually make it a practice to teach children to “reject, hate, and diminish” other people if they don’t believe the right things or accept certain beliefs. I must admit that I was taught to do that in my childhood. But I hardly think you would be motivated to, for example, be a missionary in a foreign country if you grew up thinking that way.

While teaching doctrine is one thing, teaching hate is another thing. While teaching Biblical knowledge is one thing, it is a grave error to use it to reinforce a denominational position for purposes of empirical allegiance. Both Palmer and I have witnessed this first hand and we both find it abhorrent. …

A big part of the context of the writer I posted is the problem with knowing what the Bible says, but not fully understanding what it means. God does not require from his followers allegiance to him at the expense of our relation to others. That is ideological suicide because God has the same love for those we teach our children to hate and they are just as valuable to him as we are. Chin up, dear heart. We are still on the same team!

While I was a little disappointed that such a long time friend would automatically assume I had abandoned the Bible and its teachings, I reassured her that the Bible is still the basis for my beliefs. She went on to say:

I am thankful you took the time to explain the reason for the post & your position. Teaching children to reject, hate, diminish” those who believe differently or using scare tactics to force a conversion among children sounds way out there for the Bible Belt. It seems it would only take one child having nightmares or telling his mom what the teacher said for the sunday school teacher to be exposed & relieved of “duty”. I have been gone for 16 yrs, so I cannot deny that just because it is outside my realm of experience, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Our world is changing rapidly & more & more shocking to me. The writer of the article was saying much more than just “don’t use scare tactics to get a conversion or don’t teach them to hate those that believe differently”. He took biblical truths and distorted them to persuade the lector to agree that the method AND the biblical truth were BOTH WRONG. That was what was so unsettling. That is why I took them one by one to refute the truth attacked. The message of salvation taught to children is on the basis of God’s love & many verses are used to give example. Wordless bracelets always include God’s love as one of the 5 basic truths that God wants everyone to know. The tone of each one of the 5 is surely not the way anyone would speak to a child or they would never come back to Sunday School. If this has been his & your experience growing up or have seen it first hand, then I understand your desire to expose it. But, those entries say far more than that, which gave me great concern for my friend, if he was in agreement.

This kind of dialogue has become more prevalent lately in my conversations. Since I am officially and publicly unaffiliated, I get the response most often from people that they are unhappy that I am not a Bible believer any longer, assuming that since I have left the church I must have left the Bible behind as well. In their eyes, I have the Us to join up with the Them.

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Nothing could be further from the truth. It is my position that if more people followed the Bible and truly followed Christ, they would follow Him right out of the church and right out of beliefs held solely for their traditional value. Allegiance to a denominational tenet or belief is akin to idolatry, if the purpose is to keep a person enlisted in the ranks of the institution. It becomes abuse when it is used to force belief on children. Palmer and other emergents prefer to depend on intuition and the natural spirit of willingness to believe the Bible as the Holy Spirit uses it to speak to their open hearts, rather than use spiteful rhetoric to goad and control young minds.

The overpowering, overwhelming and overarching message of the Bible is that humans are precious to God in spite of our sinful condition and he deeply, strongly desires to restore fellowship with each of us. I don’t know how a follower of Christ could see it any other way – that is, if they are truly following Christ and not a prescription to a system of right belief. That doesn’t sound like the good news: that sounds like Great News to me.

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Coli and her husband James fall in this category, believers who quite literally followed Jesus out of the church and into the mission field. Their hearts are so filled with love for Christ that they have given their whole lives to the people of Chile. James and Coli are permanent friends and devoted followers of a loving God. Where I have broken away is in affiliating with so many who are committed to seeing that everyone has the right beliefs about doctrine.

Once you get past a Loving God Who Is There, and the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for the propitiation of sins, it is pretty much all up for grabs anyway. That is why we have such denominational diversity and disagreement. Jesus is the only way, but there are many roads to Jesus. 

I read an article recently about the frustration some teachers have with modernizing the plays of Shakespeare for contemporary audiences. I am very glad to see that Shakespeare is alive and well in the classroom. As the effusive words of the Bard illuminate young minds all over the country, teachers try to make the Elizabethan Age come alive in their hearts as well as their brains. Students concentrate on the syntax, disentangle the weave of grammar and iambic pentameter, and o’erleap the boundary between performance script and literary tome.

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The problems begin as soon as an instructor begins to attempt to make the words relevant. Shakespeare’s English is obtuse and frustrating. The rhythms of rhyming meter get in the way of meaning to the untrained ear, and many a young scholar flails away, guessing and unraveling words to get at the central message or idea.
Once the muse visits with understanding, the student clings to meager confidence and boldly strides through the text. It gets easier after a certain point, and soon the mysteries of esteemed ideas and enlightened struggles are laid plain, split from the nave to the chops, as it were.
I first taught Macbeth, my favorite Shakespeare play, to eighth graders at an inner city school in Memphis. I was teaching students the majority of which had never been outside of a triangle made up of their school, their home, and their church in their whole lives. I introduced the tortured Thane to students who felt privileged, after a spell, to know that they could do something so esoteric as read and understand Shakespeare.
I have taken students to several performances of Shakespeare over the years, but I have never gotten to take them to a performance of Macbeth. I was all geared up one year to take a group to see a local production of Macbeth. I was to take them on a Tuesday. I attended the play the previous Friday, and was shocked at what I saw. The play was set in a distant dystopian military future. The witches were prostitutes. The swords had become knives and guns. Macbeth’s “vision” of the witches’ equivocations was a drug-induced delirium while strapped to a gurney. Image

There was no way I could responsibly expose the contents of that production to my eighth grade students, worldly and street wise though they were. In discussing the play they were fazed not in the least with the violence and bloodshed in Shakespeare’s script, but it was a different kind of catharsis to see it on stage.
So we refunded money and I gave my kids extra credit if their parents took them to see the play and they brought me a program as proof.
Last week my daughter sent me an article about a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The production cast the star-crossed lovers as racially mixed. This took the whole premise of the play to another level, infusing it with messages and themes it was not designed for. The director was taking a play about class and gentry and trying to force a civil rights message into it. Why? Why use that particular play to do this? I understand that Shakespeare’s language can be open to modern connotation. Believe me, as a Language Arts teacher I know it better than most. But to force the discussion of race into the mold of this tragedy was irresponsible to me at worst, and strained at best. (Disclaimer: no, I did not see the actual production.)
I once heard Paul Bogart, who directed a host of episodes of the All in the Family TV series, speak when I was in college. He said one of the wisest things you could do with a script was to play it straight. That was how he directed some of television’s most memorable comedy episodes. He directed the actors to play it straight.

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Play it straight. In my humble opinion, there is no better way to experience Shakespeare than by seeing it played straight: Elizabethan costumes, spare sets, some theatrical pyrotechnics and special effects, and full-bore, no-holds-barred emoting. Trying to dress it up to make it relevant reduces the very relevance a production would hope to achieve.
Now here is the point: why don’t we do that with the Bible? Aren’t we forever trying to modernize it, extrapolate contemporary applications, give it a familiar setting, or force catharsis with rhetoric?
I know it is hard to read the Bible. It is about a long-ago time and a long-ago place, about a people with a different culture than ours, in a world that no longer exists in any real sense except as quaint traditions in severely remote third-world regions.
Why can’t we just play it straight with the Bible?
When we read an ancient text addressing ancient problems in an ancient world, why can’t we just take it at face value? In fact we engage in sort of the opposite that we do with Shakespeare: we force the rules and expectations of a non-existent world upon a drastically changed milieu. And then we sit back and wonder why Christians are so confused about what it means to live a life of faith. WE get hung up on what the Bible says, and forget to ponder what it means, for those that lived it and for us reading it today.
The most obvious examples are New Testament admonitions for dress, the roles of women, the definition of the word “church,” and so forth. Old Testament examples are homosexuality, the rules of Leviticus, and the history of the nation of Israel.
We fall into dangerous habits with Scripture. We easily dismiss instructions about two unlike cloths being woven together because that represents an outdated understanding of textiles. But we take as literal the account of creation in full defiance of known scientific laws. We take very easily to heart the supposed moral commands of an ancient culture and use them as the standard for contemporary political issues. Our 21st Century agenda cannot be forced onto the ancient texts of the Hebrews any more than the modern civil rights issue of race relations can be forced upon the story of Romeo and Juliet.

Approach with no agenda: play it straight.