Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sweeney Clod

Sweeney's Swine*

Further proof that Christians need to continually remind the mainstream media of the most basic facts concerning their faith: San Francisco Chronicle religion writer David Ian Miller's failure to correct Julia Sweeney as she utterly mangles a story from the Gospels.

Former (way former) "Saturday Night Live" star Sweeney makes her Bible blunder in an interview with Miller to promote her new book about how she became an atheist. She says that she began to doubt God's existence when, at 38, she attended a Bible study class at her Catholic church and learned what was really in the Good Book:

Well, the most surprising thing overall is that anyone takes it seriously at all. Even if you were, say, Margaret Mead looking at Catholic Christian culture in America and you said all these people believe this thing—every week they go and hear quotes from this book, and everything in this book is so sacred to these people—I, as the Margaret Mead character looking at this, would be stupendously shocked that it was so contradictory and so obviously the result of a historic tribe trying to make sense of an unpredictable environment with limited scientific knowledge and a need for culture and cohesion.

It isn't that there aren't wonderful parts to the Bible, but it's just shocking to me that anyone spends their time defending it as anything more than a culturally special book. In terms of really taking it seriously as the word of God, I can't.
It is surprising that anyone takes the Word of God seriously in our culture when the materialist messages we get from our media and our surroundings go against it. That makes the gift of faith all the more miraculous. However, Sweeney's main argument—that she doubts the Bible because she knows it—falls a bit flat with her next bon mot:
To me, the Iliad offers more insight into human character and lessons than the Bible. You know, like Jesus was angry a lot. When he turned all those people into pigs and made them run off a mountain, it was so hateful, not just to people but to pigs. I felt upset for the pigs!
I am reminded of the line in "Beyond the Fringe," where Dudley Moore tells a priest that the Gospels are awfully cruel, what with all that talk of putting a needle through a camel's eye.

The fact that interviewer Miller just rolls right along, not even pausing to ask Sweeney if she realized she was mistaken, says volumes. Apparently, it is too much to expect a San Francisco Chronicle religion writer to have the Bible knowledge of a 7-year-old Sunday-school student.

To learn what Jesus really did that involved pigs—and, trust me, no humans were transmogrified—read Mark 5:1-20.

*Headline changed following admonishment from the Raving Atheist (see comments). Thanks to J. Michael Walker for the new headline.