This is a New York Times Bestseller that has bestowed onto me many guffaws, and as such, it is a blessing worth sharing.
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by Esquire editor, A.J. Jacobs is really, just about that. But what can be a potentially dry, off-putting topic becomes one long comedy set-up that has just the right doses of sincerity and substantial research to make this an enlightening read.
I love how how this self-proclaimed human guinea pig who is Jewish “as the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant” comes to terms with growing Moses-like facial hair (see pic above), chucking out mixed-fiber clothing, stoning someone in Central Park, purchasing a shepherd’s staff online and of course following the Ten Commandments. All this is done with the help of devout/”expert” Christians and Jews of varying denominations, of which he makes it a point to interact with and do some immersion journalism, including partaking of a drunken Hasidic dance and attending an Evangelical serpent-handling sermon.
His hilarious accounts are also peppered with some interesting reflections too:
“The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just moderates. Fundamentalists do it too. They can’t heap everything on their plate. Otherwise they’d kick women out of church for saying hello (“the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak …”—1 Corinthians 14:34) and boot out men for talking about the “Tennessee Titans” (“make no mention of the names of other gods…”—Exodus 23:13).
But the more important lesson was this: there’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. I’ve had some great meals at cafeterias. I’ve also had some turkey tetrazzini that gave me the dry heaves for sixteen hours. The key is in choosing the right dishes. You need to pick the nurturing ones (compassion), the healthy ones (love thy neighbor), not the bitter ones. Religious leaders don’t know everything about every food, but maybe the good ones can guide you to what is fresh. They can be like a helpful lunch lady who—OK, I’ve taken the metaphor too far.”