Saturday, February 2, 2008

Book probes Bible's dark stories for God's presence

Telegram Staff Writer

The Bible spreads its Good News with a slew of R-rated stories.
Countless biblical figures endure pain, rape, incest and abuse until Christ saves mankind at the end of the New Testament.
In Genesis, a prince rapes a woman whose father then sells her for the highest price. In Judges, the body of another raped woman finds itself chopped in 12 pieces.
And in Acts, the very place the phrase 'Good News' is shouted, a man wonders the land desolate and unloved because his male sex organs are mutilated.
'That's right, the word is penis - and that's how I preach the story of the Eunuch,' said Diana Garland, a social work professor at Baylor University in Waco. 'The story is undermined when we try to make the story sound better than it is.' The desire to share the 'ugly stories' of the Bible and rejoice in their lessons prompted Mrs. Garland and her husband, David - the dean of Baylor's Truett Seminary, to write 'Flawed Families of the Bible: How God's Grace Works Through Imperfect Relationships.'
It's the seventh book in a series that seeks to build stronger families through better communication and realistic self-perception.
'There's no such thing as perfect,' Mr. Garland said. 'Ugly things happen, and happy endings don't always happen. That's life, and that's the Bible.'
God's not going to fix the ugliness.
'But he's not going to leave you alone,' Mrs. Garland said. 'These stories of rape and abuse, they show that God's with you, feeling what you feel.'
Those lessons, the Garlands said, are what people need to hear the most.
'After hearing the story of the concubine who was chopped in 12 pieces, women will come up and say, 'God knows my story. He knows,'' Mr. Garland said. 'She finally knows she's not alone. That can give her the strength she needs to heal.'
The Brazos Press book has been in circulation for just a few months, but it has already gotten widespread attention.
A Lampasas pastor said the book is full of valuable lessons in an article he submitted to the January edition of the Baptist Press.
'It shines a reliable spotlight into dark corners we need to see,' said Rick Willis, pastor of the Lampasas First Baptist Church. 'We frequently hear discouraging statistics about family life in the United States - failed marriages, sexual abuse and chaos.
'But we don't frequently hear reminders that the Bible brims with stories of the same problems. Now we have a wise guidebook that shows 'how God's grace works through imperfect relationships.''
Several area churches have ordered copies of the book for group study.
'The majority of the people wanting to study the book have been young married couples and young adults,' Mr. Garland said.
South Main Baptist Church in Houston has ordered the most with an interested congregation of more than 1,000.

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