Amphitheater of Madness
The best part about being a creative type is the ability to detach from reality. However, at the ripe age of 42, if I decide to take a trip to Neverland, I must return home before dark. My responsibilities of family and ministry give me healthy limitations, but I do believe a whimsical spirit keeps the eyes undefeated, along with a good piece of fictional literature.
The mind is a beautiful thing to waste, if it means subjecting it to an epic Sci-fi story. When I was younger I can remember forcing myself to believe in U.F.O.’s. I can still recall the frustration I had with God for ever denying me the experience of being abducted by aliens. I would have been happy with just one account. Those unanswered prayers, I would think, contributed to my deism later on in life. Even now when I read in the Bible that we are aliens who are not of this world, it sparks a bit of hope that by some chance I could at least have the opportunity to feel extraterrestrial from time to time. However, this is unlikely being that I am very orthodox in my theology, but I did find a great alternative in Ray Bradbury.
I remember the first time I let this author slowly loosen the gears in my head—one bolt at a time until my whole brain rattled loose on its own. Bradbury starts off by sailing one word at a time across a person’s sphere of thought. Harmless, until those words eventually develop into some sort of black hole that begins to rest at back of your mind. It gradually siphons the gravitational pull that’s attached to your sanity. I think he purposely knocks your equilibrium off of its axis so that you no longer have the motor skills to shut the spine of his book. So you see why, after putting one of his novels down, I always felt like I just had a frontal lobotomy. You especially feel this way after realizing that Mr. Bradbury had no intentions of ever putting any parts back together that happened to fall into the cracks of your cerebellum floor. If you’ve ever read The Illustrated Man, you understand.
Can you imagine if Bradbury was actually hypnotizing some of us through his writings? A call to subconsciousness if you will. Well, you might be sure of it after my last three paragraphs. Nonetheless, it’s not a far stretch for someone like me to imagine those tattoos beginning to appear on my skin as the sun begins to set on the cheek bones of the earth. How exciting to fall asleep every night as my body becomes an amphitheater of madness.
See, I was getting lost in my head again. I am an analytical person’s nightmare I would guess, and the imp in me is perfectly fine with that. However, before anyone starts to ask if I’ve taken my meds today, I must spoil the fun and admit that my logic does kick in right after I close the pages of a science-fiction book—well, soon after I close it. Like most people, I understand the genre of the book that I am reading. And although my whimsical spirit has this love-hate relationship with the rules of hermeneutics, I do abide by them. Those who refute these rules are truly lunatics, and that profile is reserved for those who are unconsciously captivated when reading The Catcher in the Rye.
Let us pretend no one ever told me that Bradbury’s books were fiction in genre? I might have figured it out sooner or later, but imagine if after every chapter I couldn’t click back to reality—like a kid with Santa Claus. Oh, how wonderful of a playground that would be (at first), but like St. Nick’s flying reindeer, not very practical, logical, or Biblical.
As you can see, genre is important when reading a book, and even more so when picking up a Bible. Did you know that not all 66 books were written in the same genre? When moving from Isaiah to Galatians, we have to switch the gears in our head…. or run the risk of rattling them loose. You mustn’t read Genesis (a book of history) like a Ray Bradbury story. Most of the heresies alive today, dispensationalism for example, have come strictly from bad hermeneutics. Pure deception. But what’s stranger than fiction is when folks read a book from the Bible that is prophetic in nature (Daniel) as if it was an epistle/instructional (James). The world and the church alike deems these people lunatics, and rightfully so. But if these same lunatics read a book that is historical in genre (Genesis), and then interpret it like a book of poetry (as Michael Gungor has), they are deemed intellectuals. So talent covers a multitude of crazy? This is nothing more than a 6th grade English mistake, and an erroneous one at that.
I love to read and encourage people to pick up a book to color the walls of their mind, but if you do not consider genre when reading, and especially when reading the different books of the Bible, it might be you that we find on the bottom floor of your cerebellum looking for loose parts. This is all to say, learn the different genres of each book of the Bible before you take a stab at its interpretation, but if not, do us all a favor, and stay away from The Catcher in the Rye.