Everything2 Quest: the PC Bible
"PC" for "Post-Christian" or "Politically Correct"
If ever there were a book that needed a substantial re-write, it would be the Bible. C'mon, admit it. Haven't you ever wanted to write a new Bible? A Bible which doesn't contradict science but embraces it? A politically correct Bible? Just for fun, as a writing and thinking exercise? You know you want to.
The original Bible was written by many different people, at many different times, and in many different styles. So what better way to write a new one, than make it an E2 Quest? That will guarantee that the PC Bible has the same glorious incoherence which gives the original its timeless charm. I propose doing a "remake" without God as a deus ex machina, without sexism or homophobia, and without anachronisms, such as rules for how to sell your daughter into slavery.
Believers with any interest in apologetics (persuading the infidels) should consider the diificulties in explaining the story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22) to a contemporary audience. To be sure, this is a difficult story, and it is supposed to be. On the other hand ... animal sacrifice? Hello? Who does that, anymore? We can talk about faith and sacrifice without the anachronism of animal sacrifice, perhaps by talking about acts of sacrifice people actually engage in today, like charity, mercy and justice.
Of course, the PC Bible won't be "The Bible" and won't have any religious authority or historical validity. It's just a writing and thinking exercise, not God's Word. The "No God" rule for submissions makes it a more challenging exercise, but also precludes putting words in God's mouth.
Disclaimer: This Quest writeup, and any submissions accepted, remain the property of their respective authors, and the opinions expressed therein are solely the opinions of their respective authors and are not endorsed by E2, the E2 administration, or the University of Michigan.
Make your own node or use an existing node title. Do not use the Quest node: Everything2 Quest: The PC Bible. Submit entries to the Quest by sending a message to me ("/msg haze") with a link to your entry. Accepted entries will be hardlinked to an index in the Quest node and given "C!"s and "blessings" (heh) by me, the sponsor. (Maybe later I'll collect all the accepted writeups under a single node.) Rejected entries can claim the status of "the block which the builders rejected" and found their own religions.
An acceptable quest entry must comply with these rules:
No God. God is a crutch used by writers to cover up plot holes and half-baked ideas. For quest submissions: no God, no Angels, no miracles: none of that supernatural stuff. No science fiction, either: no faster-than-light travel, anti-gravity, aliens, etc.
It must be "politically correct". No racism, sexism, homophobia, human sacrifice, slavery, or genocide.
It must be easy to read. I'm looking for something like the koine (pidgin) Greek of the New Testament.
Node for the Ages: No obscure, unexplained contemporary or local references.
This Quest runs from now until May 1,2006.
Suggestions for entries:
Creation: I've taken a stab at Creation. If someone can do better, then have at it.
(or "The origin of moral consciousness") Can you tell these stories without indulging in deus ex machina, such as God creating a single fully-formed human out of dirt? (That forces narrative choices like: "Who was created first? Male or female?", and invites distracting questions like "Where did Eve's sons get their wives?") Perhaps the story of the Fall could be retold through the lives and experiences of early hominids. When instinct no longer controlled their behavior, they had to make choices regarding "good" and "bad": where to live, how to get food, and how to behave towards one another. At some point they confronted decisions on things like cannibalism and war. At some point they started telling their children which choices were "good" and which were "bad". Of course this didn't happen all at once, but like Jean M. Auel, you can speculate and compress time a bit to make a good story.
The original tale made a great Hollywood movie, starring Charleton Heston. Rather than compete with that, we can tell the story of the struggle for freedom with examples from modern history and biography. So this one is for fact noders. I'd like to see inspirational stories, not factual recitations. There should be no ambiguity about who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys". Entries in the "Exodus" category must fit a mythic structure: escape from "Egypt" (Europe, the Dark Ages, ennui) to the "Promised Land" (the New World, the Enlightenment, wit). Noders in the United States (most of you) are familiar with the mythic resonance of immigrant tales: the Puritans came to America to escape religious persecution ... and so today we eat turkey and watch football.
There are many such stories to be told. African-Americans came to "America" in chains, and so their Exodus wasn't complete on arrival, and telling their tale will require a bit more subtlety, but there are lots of people to write about: Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. Spanish Jews (conversos) came to New Spain to escape the Inquisition, but did not get to freely practice their religion or force it on others, but rather had to conceal it for so long that they forgot they were Jews). For the uppity non-US noders, may I suggest that the "New World" can be a world of the mind or culture: your "Moses" can be Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Oscar Wilde ... anyone who lead people from somewhere "bad" to somewhere "good" can fit the Quest. Tragic ending for your "Moses" (burning at the stake, etc.) would be a plus, but is not required.
Laws: (Leviticus, Deuteronomy, etc.)
Making fun of the Ten Commandments is just too damn easy. That's not comic genius. For every tired maxim of allegedly universal application, there is a witty rejoinder. "Do not do unto others as you expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same." (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman). Find these; make up new ones.
For a serious entry in this category, try to think of the consequences and exceptions. If you give me something facile like the Ten Commandments (e.g. "Thou shalt not kill") I'll reject it and demand a comprehensive list addressing every conceivable exception and qualification (war, self-defense, justifiable homicide, to save the life of the mother, etc.) Some legal ideas seem to have universal application, e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Consider it a first draft for the human species.
Also, re: Leviticus: if you can explain the germ theory of disease and/or the basics of sanitation or proper nutrition in simple terms that a child could understand, please do so.
"God helps those who help themselves" is not from the Bible, it's from Ben Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanac. But dammit, it should be in a Bible. And now it can be. Special Rules for "Proverbs": (1) real quotes, (2) with attributions, (3) a dozen, at least. (The "No God" rule is suspended for "Proverbs" entries only).
Any improvement on Thomas Jefferson's cut-and-paste job would be acceptable, but you might want to do some background reading, like Quest for the Historical Jesus or the Jesus Seminar, if you want to impress the sponsor and score extra "blessings".
Revelations was about justice. This was a book written by the oppressed, for the oppressed, to answer the question: when (and how) will bad people be punished? The writer(s) borrowed the Judgement story from Plato's Republic, added symbolic allusions to the fate of unjust empires (Persia, Babylon), and a whole lot more I can't pretend to understand. This was seditious stuff, and had to be written in code. A re-write could be a little more bold, explicit and perhaps a tad less hallucinogenic. I suggest loading up your iPod with a bunch of reggae, (Toots and the Maytals's Pressure Drop; Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come; Bob Marley,Peter Tosh) and meditate upon that glorious day when justice rolls on like rivers, and righteousness like a mighty stream.