Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood


Happy Psalms. P.S. Ask Your Doctor Before Reading the Bible

posted by Jana Riess

Since I began the Twible project, people have sometimes asked me what the hardest parts of the Bible are to tweet. I didn’t have an answer for them at that time, but now I do, and it’s an unexpected one: the Psalms of praise.

The Psalter is rife with these cheery hymns: Praise him with the trumpet. Make a joyful noise. Bless the Lord, my soul.

If I’ve hit my Twible waterloo with the Psalms of praise, it’s because if you’ve read one you’ve read them all. Conflict drives good storytelling, and these happy songs have no conflict. In fact, the absence of conflict is precisely their point.

I’m glad these Psalms exist, and I enjoy hearing them sung in worship. But I don’t connect with them emotionally in nearly the same way that I connect with the laments, or even the visceral Psalms of imprecation (“May my enemies fall headlong into a ravine!” etc). Happiness bores me. My own happiness is dull, and other people’s happiness is downright nauseating.

I’ll probably be wishing for a taste of that tranquility some months hence when we’re knee-deep in the exile and the BYOZ* books like Lamentations and Jeremiah. But right now I could use a jeremiad or two. Uh, praise the Lord.

 

*BYOZ = Bring Your Own Zoloft. Always ask your doctor before reading the Bible. Reading the Bible can cause deleterious side effects such as headache, head-banging, sexism, racism, heartburn, and Restless Heremeneutic Syndrome. Portions of the Bible have soporific effects, so do not combine reading the Bible with barbiturates or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of the Bible. Excessive Bible reading has been linked to addiction. Consult your doctor about a safe daily dosage.

#Twible Ps 98: Let the rivers clap their hands. Afterwards, please stop taking the hallucinogens that caused you to see rivers clapping.

#Twible Ps 99: G’s enthroned upon his cherubim. They considered complaining about being badly squashed like that, but they’re too cherubic.

#Twible Ps 100: Worship checklist: make joyful noise, worship, come, know, enter, give thx, & bless. Happy people have a lot to remember.

#Twible Ps 101: King’ll be a Boy Scout, practicing integrity, good deeds, & honesty. Oh, & eviscerating the wicked w/ a Swiss Army knife.

#Twible Ps 102: I’m deathly ill, groaning in the night like a lost owl. I’ll wither like grass, but G’ll last forever. It’s an odd comfort.

#Twible Ps 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” Did you realize when your granny said that, she was actually quoting the Psalms? Who knew?

#Twible Ps 104: Israel’s version of Egypt’s Top 40 “Hymn to the Aten,” their sun god. But G’s lord over sun AND moon AND stars. Top that.

#Twible Ps 105: Did you doze thru the Bible’s first pages? No worries, mate, b/c it’s all here in miniature: Genesis & Exodus for Dummies.

#Twible Ps 106: Q: Who can utter the Lord’s mighty acts? A: Our Psalmist, apparently, who then does so for 48 verses. The takeaway: G rules.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ellen

    Good lord. I’ve known a couple of cool Mormons, but I’m currently jealous as hell that I’ve never met a Mormon like you in real life. As a Unitarian Universalist, I loved your entry on Bell’s book and especially Universalism. (I also learned a lot about Mormonism as well from that entry, I didn’t know that they were universalists as well. As an atheist who is fascinated by religion but at the same time just doesn’t get it, it’s incredibly refreshing to see someone who is not only deeply devoted and faithful, but also able to look rationally and critically at their own spirituality. You’re like a Unitarian who also believes in Joseph Smith, which is never a sentence I thought I’d ever write. Thank you for this blog.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/ Jana Riess

    Ellen, it’s great to e-meet you. I am glad you like the blog! A Unitarian who also believes in Joseph Smith . . . hmmm. I like the basic idea. (But just as a point of clarification, I don’t “believe in” Joseph Smith, who was a human being and not a divine one, for all his calling as a prophet. I believe in Jesus.)

    Mormon universalism is a fascinating and complicated question, because on the one hand Mormonism is a religious movement founded by the grandson of a Universalist and predicated on many of the principles of Universalism. On the other hand it’s a movement that claims exclusive religious truth and prophetic authority. Once a few years ago, I was invited to represent Mormonism at an interfaith festival. All the speakers were given the assignment of finding a) at least one thing in their tradition that would seem to indicate that their religion respects the truth found in other faiths, and b) at least one thing in their tradition that suggests its claim to specialness or unique truth. It was no problem finding both strains in Mormonism. Most religions, including Mormonism, hold these in tension and find their energy in that tension. I, of course, tend toward the universalist bent of that spectrum. (More power to us, Ellen!) But thriving religions need both kinds of people to succeed.

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