The memory unspools like a film clip.
My mother is seated in front of the computer in my living room. My 11-year-old daughter, Caitlin, stands next to her, one arm resting on her grandmother's shoulder. They are completely absorbed in each other and their latest round of a "Jeopardy"-like game that came with our computer in the late '90s.
Mom is a hit-or-miss player in all but one category: the Bible.
So many years later, I can't recall the exact questions in Mom's favorite category. I do, however, remember the ritual that unfolded between Grandma and her beloved Cait:
Mom turns away from the screen and places her hands over her eyes. Cait leans in to click the mouse and reads the question. "Okay, Grandma..."
"The river Jordan!" Mom yells an answer.
"Correct!" Both of them giggle.
Mom nails one question after another with the enthusiasm of a circuit preacher.
"Assyria, the rod of mine anger!"
"Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses!"
"Wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging …"
Every time, my daughter swoons: "Grandma, you are amazing."
For years, my mother's triumphant sweeps through the Bible category were my only exposure to computerized religion. She loved her God and her church, but she never used her Christian faith as a weapon. Her response to crusading nonbelievers was a wink and a God-bless-you hug. End of discussion.
If Mom were alive, she surely would shake her head over the new wave of iPhone applications meant to arm atheists and Christians in the debate most of us pray never will catch fire at a dinner table near us. Think of it as a whole new way to alienate friends and offend total strangers — for God's sake, you understand.
Francis Dierick promotes his "BibleThumper" app, at $1.99 per download, as "the perfect Atheist bible companion":
Next time one of those bible thumpers starts proselytizing, you will be able to answer in kind with the juiciest quotes straight from the holy bible. Included are a selection of the most funny, irrational & strange quotes from the bible.
How useful is "BibleThumper"? A sampling of customer reviews:
I love this idea. it shows just how ridiculous the bible and Christianity is.
Finally a good use for the bible other than weighing down hotel drawers so they don't blow away.
This is really going to fuel civil discourse; I can just feel it.
Over on the other side — wa-a-a-y over — we have "Fast Facts, Challenges & Tactics," which LifeWay Christian Resources offers for 99 cents. This app offers responses to nonbelievers' questions, which we are encouraged to think of as "challenges" to be answered with questions.
Challenge: There is no truth.
Tactic Employed: When someone says there is no truth, ask them, "Is that true? Is it true there is no truth?" If it's true that there is no truth, then it's false that there is no truth. Why? Because it's true there is no truth! Obviously, this claim is contradictory, and self-contradictory claims are false.
Challenge: You shouldn't judge others.
Tactics Employed: This challenge is often given in response to a moral judgment, as for instance when you say homosexuality is wrong. Respond by asking, "What do you mean by 'judge.'" Most people will respond that judging means telling someone they are wrong. But aren't they telling you that you are wrong? So they are contradicting themselves. To expose this fact, ask them, "Are you telling me I am wrong?" If they answer yes, point out that they stand condemned by their own definition. Then explain that judgment is simply the act of making conclusions about right and wrong. We all make judgments. The question is which judgments are correct. Now the discussion can take a more fruitful direction.
Whew. Talk about building bridges for the Gospel.
Just for fun, I Googled "Bible Jeopardy" and found there is an entire game of it now, and it's free, at CrossDaily.com. I clicked through topics and could imagine my mom shouting out the answers:
"Pride goeth before destruction!"
A little girl swoons: "Grandma, you are amazing."
Yes, she was.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine.
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