You know American society has gotten off the track when it takes a politician to propose a government-sanctioned recognition of the Bible and it’s place in American history. Oh wait…flashback to the good ol’ days of New Wave music, the Cold War and the Moral Majority, and you’ve got the Year of the Bible 1983. Apparently it’s been so long since we’ve had a Year of the Bible that Americans have forgotten how important the scriptures are.
President Ronald Reagan first thought America ought to honor it’s debt to the Good Book, and as quick as you could say “Gorbie, the bombs are on the way”, Proclamation 5018 was signed. I was 21 at the time and you know, I don’t recall 1983 as the year America en masse became a devoutly Christian nation again. Churchgoers still went to church; Americans who already read their Bibles were doubly grateful to God for something they already knew was special to them, and all the rest - the atheists, Democrats, the Church-Staters, got themselves in a hot-and-bother that lasted about as long as a music video hit on MTV. When the new year rolled around again, people were more aware of the irony that, in the midst of the Cold War and fears of nuclear holocaust, it was also the year of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
I don’t want to argue that appreciating the Holy Bible is unimportant, because as an Orthodox Christian I think it is the unique and God-given written tradition of the Christian faith and the written revelation of God’s salvation of mankind. I challenge someone to show me a greater devotion to and veneration of the Bible than is found in the Orthodox Church. Our services are primarily composed of the scriptures. We sing them, we pray them, we hear them preached. We venerate, we kiss, we bless ourselves with the Gospel book itself as the written icon of Christ, the Logos or Incarnate Word of God. The Christian faith, ergo, the Bible, is the foundation of traditional American society and Western democracy. But as America struggles with recession, joblessness, and heavy-handed political correctness in an increasingly secular, liberal and pluralistic society, I think the general feeling is that this is a pretty ho-hum piece of legislation. Oh, the Right is going to push this as a return to the glory principles of God-fearing America; the Left is going to get all riled up with anti-Christian brain bashing, and the sum effect is going to be a big ‘who cares’. Efforts like this rarely seem to make much of a difference. We already set aside whole months for cholesterol education, camping safety, dental hygiene, gay and lesbian history, and even procrastination (December). The only one I seem to be honoring to its fullest is Procrastination Month.
My “appreciation” of the Bible and it’s place in American society is in my freedom to attend Church, to evangelize for what I believe is the True Faith, to speak or blog about my beliefs, and criticize or comment about whomever and whatever I want. I believe in
The Holy Scripture [as] the domain of Wisdom, Word and Spirit, of God in the Trinity: in it He clearly manifests Himself: ‘The Words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,’ (St. John 6:63) said the Lord…In Holy Scriptures we see God face to face, and ourselves as we are. Man, know thy self through them, and walk always as in the presence of God.
St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ: Part 1)
The Holy Bible is more than a political tool (though funny how it gets used as one all the time). The great early 20th Century Serbian Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich states in his Prologue From Ochrid, what the Bible clearly is and what it means for mankind:
The word of God is food for the soul. The word of God is both strength and light for the soul…. All the saints emphasized the necessity of reading the Holy Scriptures. St. Seraphim of Sarov says: ‘The soul must keep itself nourished with the word of God; because the word of God is, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, the bread of angels that feeds the soul that is hungry for God. Most of all we must read the New Testament and the Psalms. The understanding is enlightened by these. It is a very good thing to read the word of God in solitude, and to read the entire Bible with understanding. God gives a man His mercy for undertaking this exercise more than for other good deeds, and He fills him with the gift of comprehension. When a man nourishes his soul with the word of God, then he is filled with the understanding of good and evil.
Can I suggest that instead of creating some hokey year of the Bible, why not spend the next year reading it instead?