Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Booing the Bible

Can you imagine booing in church? How about blowing a raspberry in your synagogue or mosque? Well, that is what one Nashville rabbi is suggesting— oh, that rabbi is me; I’m suggesting we do this. For a moment I thought I worked for the New York Times. But it’s true. I think we ought to boo in church.

Imagine this: You are sitting in synagogue on a Saturday morning during the Torah reading. Imagine further that you actually understand what is being read, and, because you do, you hear the reader chanting, “When God brings you to the Land to possess it, He will thrust away many nations from before you…and you will smite them—you shall utterly destroy them… break apart their altars; smash their pillars; hack down their sacred trees; and burn their carved images” (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). And imagine that you realize that this is divinely sanctioned genocide, and that you are opposed to such genocide. So you boo the Bible. Out loud. Out loud loudly.

What would happen? They could throw you out, but so what? Your action might cause a few people to think about what they are reading and to Whom they are offering their loyalty and love. Or a rabbinic court might ban you from the community, and people will talk about what you did to deserve this. Or the rabbi might ask you why you are booing and you could engage the congregation in a dialogue about divinely sanctioned violence. Regardless of what happens you win, and, more importantly, sanity wins.

Or imagine you are in church and the reading is from the New Testament and Jesus is damning the fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season. Or he is threatening his opponents with eternal damnation. Or St. Paul is ranting about keeping women silent and in their place. And you boo. What is the worst that could happen? OK, eternal damnation, but what is the second worse?

Or imagine you are in a mosque and the Koran or imam is calling for the killing of the nonbeliever, or the fellow Muslim who believes a bit differently than the imam does. And you boo. What is the worse that could happen? OK, don’t think about that. Just boo.

Booing may be the key to freeing humanity from the insanity that passes for holiness in so many religious settings today. Booing is all-American. We boo politicians, comedians, and movie stars when they do or say things that offend us; why not boo religious texts, teachings, and teachers when they do the same? Booing what is evil or absurd in our religions might just free them and God from the madness that threatens to set the world on fire.

So here are three suggestions for fomenting a religious revolution: 1. Boo whenever you hear injustice and cruelty preached in your religious community. 2. Print and display bumper stickers that say, “Boo if you love Jesus (God, Allah, etc.).” 3. Use the video function on your cell phone to capture the mad teachings you are booing and post them on YouTube.

What do you think? Don’t boo me, now.

1 comment:

Huw Richardson said...

The San Francisco style is to hiss. And I've heard hisses during Bible readings...

But my favourite is open laughter. (as when reading pauline passages about women shutting up in church).