Like most contemporary charismatic Christians, I’ve been taught that I should read the Bible, study the Bible and know my Bible intimately. In fact, as a Christian, I’m obliged to do so. And I have. I’ve been a Christian for thirty years and have spent a lot of time getting to know my way around a Bible. I even studied at Bible College and received a qualification, in fact, I’m probably more qualified professionally to pastor a congregation than most professional pastors are. However, I’m not a pastor, mainly because the demands of the job – and the restraints – don’t suit me, either personally or ethically. And also because nobody wants to hire a snarky middle-aged, writerly type, foul-mouthed woman with dreadlocks and tattoos to shepherd their flock. So I’ve decided to work in mental health instead.
I’m about to begin studying the equivalent vocational qualification that I already hold in pastoral care, this time in mental health. Once I’ve completed this, I’ll be basically considered qualified to work in this industry with the people serviced by it. I can’t wait. I am hungry to learn, and happy to comply with what is now an industry requirement across the board.
Mental health as an industry has changed and evolved over the years, as of course we would have expected. Diagnoses and methods of treatment and rehabilitation have become more complex. While the texts clinicians would have used a few decades ago would make interesting reading, they would hardly provide the kind of comprehensive training and information we need access to now. Less than a generation ago, we were giving lobotomies for what would be considered now easily treated mental health disorders. We know better now – and it’s just as well – because as our society grows more complex, and the habits and practices and abuses we exercise also grow in complexity, the old information we had just isn’t going to cut it.
In mental health, we need to keep evolving the information. We need to continue to develop our ideas. We need discussion, criticism and creativity, otherwise we risk becoming not just irrelevant, but ineffective.
Back to my original comment. I love the Bible. It’s a treasured text in my household and in my heart – I refer to it often, both as a sacred text, and as a source of advice, support and comfort. However, I no longer study it the way I used to. I don’t read it every day. I was taught that this is a shameful thing, and I ought to read my Bible every day in order to be using it properly. But now I wonder if it’s possible to read the Bible too much. I wonder what would happen in my work if I read the same set of mental health texts religiously, never taking into consideration the new material on the subject or entering into discussions or criticism? I wonder what would happen to the industry? I wonder what would happen to the service users?
I know that the Bible itself says we must dedicate ourselves to reading the scripture and applying to our lives. But as a writer, I know that all the ideas and inspiration I have are subject to my readers personal exegesis, and filtered through their experience and prejudices. My writing will be criticised. It will be rejected. They will also be perhaps considered to contain elements of truth, and some I will be able to claim are in fact truth, if truth means that what I said happened really did happen. And I wonder if the writers of the scriptures – being as they were writers after all like me – ever thought the things they wrote would become off limits to all the natural elements all other writing through the ages has been and will be subjected to?
And by the way, what if God never intended to finish writing the Bible?
What will happen to Christianity if we never stop expanding it the way our world and our collective intelligence and conciousness is expanding?
In Christianity, for the sake of those who seek value in it as a faith system, we need to keep evolving the information. We need to continue to develop our ideas. We need discussion, criticism and creativity, otherwise we risk becoming not just irrelevant, but ineffective.
Personally, I don’t believe the Bible is finished. The whole idea of a God who freezes ideas in time and circumvents the creative process is against everything I know and believe about who He intrinsically is. After all, He is God.