As young people reach college age, they have a serious propensity to question most of the world around them. Thoughts, ideas, and assumptions that at one time seemed rock solid suddenly seem to be balancing on very shaky foundations. It is a time when they search for better answers to much of what is happening around them. Many of the questions have been asked for generations, but sensible and comforting answers still elude young minds. I began that journey more than 35 years ago with Woodstock, Vietnam, and Watergate all thrown into the mix to confuse me further.
At the same time that I searched for these answers, I was studying statistical analysis as a business student in college. In true Woodstock Generation form, I was also reading a book titled How to Lie with Statistics. The conflict between the course and the book was dramatic. In the classroom, I was learning about effectively gleaning information from surveys and studies, while the book was pointing out how statistics could easily be, and were being, manipulated regularly. A strong case was made throughout the book that, if properly structured, you could prove almost anything.
During this same stretch of my life, I encountered literature professors who seemed able to read amazing things between the lines of almost every book ever written. At first, I tried to write it off as drug-induced hallucinations by my instructors. I later came to believe that it was a way for them to have job security. If they could visualize amazing unwritten stories (often involving sexual issues) in the midst of very innocent phrasing, they might create a need for their services. Sometimes, I still think that Hemingway was just writing about an old dude who wanted to go fishing and happened to catch a whopper.
I recently talked with two students who attend a Baptist university. It is an extremely conservative and fundamentalist school. These students complained about some of the speakers who addressed them at their convocations each week. The problem, as they saw it, was that speakers felt that they could say almost anything, as long as they then quoted a passage from the Bible. One student indicated that he thought the Bible was being twisted to fit a situation. The Bible was being used to justify thoughts and actions. They both agreed that some of the speakers were trying to hide behind the Bible.
My knowledge of the Bible is very limited. I know it is man's interpretation of what took place many centuries ago. I also know that there are many versions of the Bible. I would be hard pressed to quote any passages, name all the 12 disciples, or even name all the Gospels. However, I do know how I am supposed to live my life. I am a believer in faith, but not a big believer in religion. Religions, at times, try to hide behind the Bible. Even though my knowledge of the Bible is limited, I do know it is not meant as a hiding place; it is there to guide. In these challenging times, it is more important than ever that we ask ourselves, "Am I hiding behind the Bible, or am I reaching out and living the message?"