22 September 2007

Living Biblically for a Year

I have long enjoyed A.J. Jacobs work in Esquire magazine, as well as his book, The Know It All, about the year he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

His latest book is called The Year of Living Biblically. Here's the plot: Jacobs spent one year following every single rule found in the Bible. He consulted with a Hasidic Jew, an Amish, and a Jehovah's Witness to make sure that he had all his bases covered.

How did it go? Jacobs grew out his beard (see picture right). He cut out the cursing and the coveting. He built a hut in the middle of his New York apartment and tried to wear white, as recommended in Ecclesiastes. He celebrated the Sabbath. And when he met a man who admitted that he had committed adultery, Jacobs politely asked to stone him.

I'll look forward to reading the book, although I'll probably wait to borrow it from my local library. When asked by MSNBC if the book changed him, Jacobs admitted that he changed from "an agnostic to a reverent agnostic."

Having grown up in Seventh-day Adventist communities, I know my fair share about living biblically: what food to eat, what I can (and can not) do on the Sabbath, what not to wear, etc. It's easy for me to eat & dress like a fundamentalist, but like St. Paul, I felt that "living biblically" was an imperfect route to the Father; furthermore, when I 'lived biblically' it empowered people around me to criticize my actions and motivations. Now that I live for Christ, I don't have to put up with that stuff anymore.

Jacobs, however, felt empowered by the experience:
The experience changed me in big ways and small ways. There’s a lot about gratefulness in the Bible, and I would say I’m more thankful. I focus on the hundred little things that go right in a day, instead of the three or four things that go wrong. And I love the Sabbath. There’s something I really like about a forced day of rest.... One thing I learned is that the outside affects the inside, your behavior shapes your thoughts. I also really liked what one of my spiritual advisers said, which was that you can view life as a series of rights and entitlements, or a series of responsibilities. I like seeing my life as a series of responsibilities. It’s sort of, "Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God."
The book comes out next week. Jacobs also has a feature story in the latest issue of Esquire about his one-year efforts.

1 comment:

Norman McNulty said...

Does living Biblically as an SDA put itself in contradistinction with living for Christ? Your post makes it sound like SDA communities live Biblically while those who are not SDA live for Christ and don't have to worry about being Biblical. Since when does being Biblical mean that you are un-Christlike? Please clarify