I first saw A. J. Jacobs on the Today Show being interviewed about his new book "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible". Now to be honest, I have had my share of experiences attending and working in churches and christian schools where I lived around people who thought they were living the Bible . . . as literally as possible. And quit frankly, I am still dealing with the scars of those experiences. But as I listened to Jacobs I realized that this was going to be very different than an ultra-conservative elitist smugly looking down on everyone else. In fact, Jacobs confesses to being a liberal New York agnositic who after having his first child, realized he wasn't to excited about our culture instilling its morals and values as the primary source of socialization for his son. So he decided on giving Christianity a good hard look by living it out as literally as possible, following ever rule in the Bible for one whole year. And the results are hilarious, enlightening, inspiring and in may ways an incredible sermon that exposes the Law for the very thing it was intended to do: to show the insane impossiblity of trying in our own power to live according to the Law. Jacobs first off, becomes completely overwhelmed with the amount of laws there are to follow. But as he becomes more and more conscious of the law, he begins to realize just how often he is more of a law-breaker than he ever realized: coveting, lusting, lying, etc. Jesus delt with those who thought they were living up to the law in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus knew that many of the religious leaders of the day were dumbing down the law to make it achievable so that they came off looking oh, so righteous! But Jesus pushed the Law to the fullest extent showing that the Law isn't for us to attempt to achieve it but to show the IMPOSSIBILITY of keeping it, thus the point of a Savior!
Jacobs maintains a great sense of humor through the whole experience. He even goes so far as to stone a real adulterer. That story alone was worth the price of the book. But I guess the thing that took me by surprise was that there were many instances where I was genuinely challenged, convicted and inspired to grow in my faith - despite the fact that Jacobs does not convert to Chrsitianity at the end of his project! His work with the homeless, the lessons he learned about thankfulness, the significance of prayer, and the humanity that he portrayed in all of the people and places that he visited was incredible. His experiences at Thomas Road Baptist Church, the snake handling church, Israel with ex-uncle Gil, The Red-Letter Christians, his Jewish friends, The Purpose Christian Life and the rest of the Chrsitian culture that he explored showed a humanity and diversity of people within the church that was all amazing. In many cases where I thought he was going to see the pockets of insanity within the church he actually saw real people trying to the best of their abilities to live out their faith. Jacobs used humor not in a way to make fun of people but more often to make fun of himself throughout his quest. So A. J., thanks for sharing your journey! My only challenge to you is to read a book on the grace of God to balance out all of the lessons you learned about the Law (Philip Yancey's "What So Amazing About Grace?"). Then I think you will get a complete picture of the message of the Bible. Then after that, I sooooooooo want you to go back to the snake-handling church and complete the conversion!