Public Bible Study
by Noah Lugeons
I spent the day yesterday doing my civic duty. I did jury duty once before in a small town down south and I was in and out in two hours, but in NYC it’s a bit different. Here you go into a large room and sit there for eight hours while they play bad movies so loud it’s hard to read. They call names and you leave and go do something, but I’m not entirely sure what it is, as my name was never called. So I basically sat in a large, uncomfortable room where I wasn’t allowed to use my phone for eight hours.
Luckily, I had some reading I needed to catch up on. We won’t be covering Exodus on the show until episode 13, but that’s no excuse to slack off. So I brought my Oxford 4th Edition Annotated NSRV Bible and I brought a notepad in case jokes or segment possibilities occurred to me while I was reading and I brought a highlighter, as I’ve taken to highlighting every passage in the bible where god does something horrible. And for some reason, it never occurred to me what kind of reaction this was going to draw.
So there I am, whittling away very long hours at a table with a bible that I’m clearly studying intently. I shouldn’t have been at all surprised when a very friendly Christian woman (or, as I would discover, a Christian woman with a very friendly facade) walked up to me, pulled up a seat and said, “I don’t want to interrupt your bible study, but if you don’t mind, are you in seminary?”
For the record, I could not possibly look less like I was in seminary without the addition of facial tattoos.
Now, three answers occurred to me, but none of them seemed socially acceptable:
- “Atheist. Just reading it to make fun of it later,”
- “Oh please,have a seat. Anything to interrupt me from this horrible fucking book” and
- “I’m boning up for an interview for the new anti-Christ position.”
And honestly, there are a lot of situations where I would have run with any of those, but in this instance it wouldn’t have been appropriate. After all, I was inviting the conversation by publicly reading a bible to the point of highlighting and taking notes. It was a fair question and she was probably a really nice person and I was going to be stuck in a room with her for most of the rest of the day, so I scratched all of those answers.
Then my mind started automatically looking for excuses. I was clearly reading and writing in English so I couldn’t go with the old, “¿Que?” and it would be hard to pretend that I actually had porn hidden inside it unless I could actually make with some porn (and remember, I wasn’t allowed to bring in my phone).
Ultimately I opted for the truth and that pissed her off so much I wish ended up wishing I’d just been a dick.
“Actually I’m an atheist and I’m studying it for debate purposes,” I said in as friendly a way as possible.
“So you don’t believe a word of it?” she asked incredulously.
“Well, I mean… I believe some of the geography and stuff.”
She made several false starts at speech at this point. She clearly wanted to say several things that Jesus wouldn’t let her say. Finally she settled on something like, “Well I hope you find some answers in there because I don’t envy your soul.”
“Okay, well… you know… have a nice day or whatever,” I offer back and she welcomes the opportunity to end the conversation. She takes a seat well across the room and kind of half-ass glares at me a bit.
At this point I realize that unless I want to do this a few more times, I should put the bible away and read something else. I suppose she took it as a personal insult that the other distraction I brought was “The God Virus”.