Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.
The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history’s most influential book with new eyes.
Jacobs’s quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All. His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations—much to his wife’s chagrin.
Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.
Jacobs’s extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers both secular and religious, The Year of Living Biblically is part Cliff Notes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down.
Included in the collection are “The Rest of the Story,” wherein the author retells select Biblical stories and parables supplying heretofore expurgated details with an exquisitely agonizing truth; “Ten Mistakes God Made,” which treats with candor religious politics, elitism, and the unexplained nature of what makes us believe; “The Trouble with Eve” and “Redemption,” which are at heart stories of how one grapples with, avoids, questions, and finally resigns to—love; and “Chicken Soup for the Damned,” a fable cum corporate biography retelling of the Savior’s story.
Charles Marshall is a comic expert on daily living, because life is crazy and so is he. More than a decade of experience in comedy has given Marshall a quick wit and sharp edge, and his love of God and people has cultured a warm heart. He's already shared his outrageous insights with thousands through his syndicated column Laughing Matters, as well as entertaining audiences at hundreds of stand-up performances across the nation. Now his versatile and vibrant humor has been collected in this new book. Each of these hilarious sketches gracefully segues into an encouraging and pertinent Christian message, reassuring readers that life may be a zany ride, but God is at the controls.
When Sarah overhears God tell Abraham that she will give birth to a son, she laughs. She laughs to herself at the impossibility of her, in her old age, bearing a child (Gen 18:12). But God's ways are not Sarah's ways; God is far more wonderful than Sarah imagines. Of course, Sarah does give birth to a son and names him Isaac, whose name means to laugh: God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me (Gen 21:6). Surely, the ancient audience 'aware of the many incongruities in this story 'did laugh. But can we in modern times recover the divine humor, the paradox and promise, in this and other biblical accounts? Can we use that sacred laughter as a means to evangelize a world that longs for God every bit as much as the ancients did? In Laughing with God: Humor, Culture, and Transformation, Catholic priest and cultural anthropologist Gerald Arbuckle helps us do just that.
With Arbuckle, readers will enter many rich biblical stories and come away laughing, not laughter as in response to a joke or comedy, but a profound laughter of the heart. Readers will laugh at Sarah as she laughs at God, and they will laugh together with Sarah and God. Readers will discover divine humor in the parables of Jesus and even in his suffering and death, the ultimate paradox for Christians. In addition to uncovering and recovering humor in Scripture, Arbuckle's work is a treasure trove of modern examples of humor 'from literature, movies, and television 'that surprisingly can be a means of transforming cultures to better reflect the kingdom of God. In the end, readers will want to turn the phrase, He who laughs last, laughs best, into, They who laugh with God, evangelize best.
Gerald A. Arbuckle, SM, PhD, is co-director of Refounding and Pastoral Development, a research ministry, in Sydney, Australia. He is internationally known for his expertise in helping church leaders minister effectively in a postmodern world. Arbuckle's most recent books include: Confronting the Demon: A Gospel Response to Adult Bullying; Violence, Society, and the Church: A Cultural Approach; and Healthcare Ministry: Refounding the Mission in Tumultuous Times (2001 Catholic Press Association Award), al published by Liturgical Press.