Last month, Rep. Corrine Brown appealed to Luke 12:48 while criticizing a House vote on food stamp reduction. "The Bible says, ‘to whom much is given, much is required.' This is a sad day in the House of Representatives," she said. In May, two Congressmen from opposite sides of the aisle both claimed a verse from the Book of Matthew for their respective stances on the same issue.
As politicians continue to bring the Bible into policy debates, we've been thinking about the wisdom of trying to force literal interpretations of ancient religious texts. So we revisited this TED talk by journalist A.J. Jacobs, who, in a quest to underscore the limitations of finding modern relevance in the Bible, subjected himself to an extreme experiment.
Jacobs, a writer for Esquire magazine known for immersing himself in his subjects, decided to spend one year living out all the rules of the Bible - literally. Concerned with the rise of religious fundamentalism, Jacobs wanted to show the logical conclusion of following every law (he compiled over 700 from multiple versions) to the letter. From the 10 commandments to more obscure writs, Jacobs obeyed them all.
Some of the takeaways were positive: Jacobs credits the Bible with an early understanding of cognitive psychology and with enhancing his sense of gratitude. Others highlighted the danger in understanding a large, complex and very old text in a literal sense.
"How can the Bible be so barbaric in some places, and yet so incredibly wise in others?" he asks. "If we are to find any meaning in this book, then we have to really engage it, and wrestle with it."
Watch the whole talk above and leave your comments on his incredible project below.