Little White Lies – Abraham, God and Who Said That??

By on April 8, 2011

By Janelle Alberts –

My first job out of college was at a writing clinic where I didn’t write at all – I checked people in at the door.  I kept the appointment book.  My desk was bolted to the floor in a hallway.

I hated it.

But when asked, I’d say, “I work for a writing clinic!  Such a challenge!”

Not a lie exactly.  A little misrepresentation perhaps.  Anyway, who wants the sad desk-bolted-to-the-floor-I’m-scared-I’ll-never-use-my-degree details about someone else?

Well … pretty much everybody.

It’s the same for Bible characters.  We’ve gussied the characters up into … not a lie exactly.

Abraham for instance.  He’s referred to in churches as “Our Father in Faith,” “Righteous Forefather Abraham,” and there’s even a kiddie song called “Father Abraham” where the kids can do the hokey-pokey while they praise.

Even non-scholars get the message that Abraham was a big, big deal.  A hero, one might say.

No disrespect, but it turns out he was a bit of a mess.

Sure he obeyed when God told him to head for Canaan.  Abraham built an altar to the Lord and everything.  But a few sentences later, Abraham pawns his wife off as his sister to get in good with an ungodly Pharaoh.  I get it that the Pharaoh might’ve otherwise killed him, but still.

It’s just not the behavior of a fairytale hero.

Maybe this behavior is a rarity.  Maybe cracks are inevitable and start to show after a long and exhaustingly faithful life.

Except that I’m only on page 10.

And Abraham did it twice.

So… we don’t highlight that in our Catechism.  Or adult bible studies.  Or hymns.

We set up our heroes to be more heroic.  Who doesn’t?

Well, um.  God.

God’s text sets Abraham up to be what kind of man?  A human.  His combination of personal triumph and regrettable mistakes makes me think that it’s possible the story of this Abraham guy could be … true.

And if the hero is weak, we’re driven not to the man, but instead to his God.  We ascribe not to man’s benchmark for success, but God’s.

Success might be just looking for God’s benchmark at all.

Maybe I’m overreacting.  Perhaps God’s key characters become more movie-character clear as the stories read along.  Maybe Moses will in fact bring to mind Charlton Heston and Satan will sport a spiky tail and horns.

Now I’m on page 11.  I’ll keep you posted.

Janelle Alberts spent her early career managing crisis communication needs for Microsoft, UPS and Wells Fargo. Alberts joined the Akron Beacon Journal online religion page in the summer of 2010. Alberts sets out in The Bible Book Club to observe the messaging strategy of one historical icon who is consistently quoted but inconsistently represented – God and His world’s best-selling book, the Bible. You can find Janelle at http://ohio.webfactional.com/faith_folly/.

 

 

 

Janelle Alberts

About Janelle Alberts

Janelle Alberts spent her early career managing crisis communication needs for Microsoft, UPS and Wells Fargo. Alberts joined the Akron Beacon Journal online religion page in the summer of 2010. Alberts sets out in The Bible Book Club to observe the messaging strategy of one historical icon who is consistently quoted but inconsistently represented – God and His world’s best-selling book, the Bible. You can find Janelle at http://ohio.webfactional.com/faith_folly/.

One Comment

  1. Liz Jansen

    April 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I love the perspective this article explores. So interesting to think of the motive behind God showing flawed characters- I love the viewpoint of “success might just be looking for God’s benchmark at all”. A wonderful way of helping us feel that the journey of trial and errors is exactly what God had in mind for us- how else do we learn and grow if not through exploring this human, imperfect world.

    Thank you for the inspiration- such a fresh and candid voice!

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Little White Lies – Abraham, God and Who Said That??