Update: A Facebook friend has reported that I misremembered the Hitchhiker’s guide, writing “Not My Problem” field for “Somebody Else’s Problem” field. Due corrections have been made! I have left the title intact, though, for the sake of the alliteration….
In the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as fans well know, the setting is the fictional Southern California city of Sunnydale. Sunnydale just happens to be located on top of the literal gates of Hell–the Hellmouth, as it’s called in the show. Because of this, Sunnydale is chock full of vampires, demons, and monsters of various sorts. The ongoing joke in the series is that everyone in the city is completely oblivious to all of this, attributing supernatural events, murders, and general mayhem to anything but their real causes. The explanation given by Giles, Buffy’s Watcher, is that most people subconsciously block out anything that conflicts with their picture of ordinary reality. They literally can’t see the weirdness.
In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (consisting actually of five volumes by Douglas Adams and one by Eoin Colfer), there is mention made (in Life, the Universe, and Everything, I believe) of the SEP field. It is explained that invisibility is extremely difficult to produce. Therefore, if someone wants to hide something (in the novel, an invading spaceship), it’s easier to use the Somebody Else’s Problem–SEP–field. Humans have a natural propensity not to want to get involved with anything that is “somebody else’s problem”. The SEP field amplifies this natural tendency, so that while the object to be hidden is perfectly visible and in the open, no one actually notices it.
My contention is that most people who read the Bible are much like the people of Sunnydale; or to change similes, they read the Bible as if under the influence of an SEP field.
Those who are old enough might get the Brady Bunch reference in the title of this post. If not, well, you’re on the Internet already–use a search engine and figure it out.
I’ve been talking about the Bible of late: how I came to read it all the way through, not once but twice (third time in progress), what some of the intrinsic limitations in understanding it are, and some of my reactions as I re-read it for the first time in thirty-odd years. In last of these posts, I left off noting how appalling the violence in the Old Testament is. That’s where I want to pick up here.
I’ve already noted that the sheer quantities of sex and violence in the Bible truly amazed me the first times I read it as a teenager and an early twentysomething. Amazed me, but didn’t make too deep an impression. Youth is like that, I guess. I never really thought of it as an issue of theology–or theodicy. I guess I just stashed that away in the heap of contradictions that most people hold in their mind regarding religion. God is a God of Love, and all that Old Testament stuff where He kills people or orders them killed, by the droves–well, that was way back then, wasn’t it, and–hey, what’s for lunch? Read the rest of this entry