Before we go any further I need to put some warnings and caveats on this post!
Firstly, it’s another poem, for which I apologise to all who understandably hate poetry. Secondly, it’s not a particularly good poem. It doesn’t rhyme (much), its only metaphor is a bit of a cliché, and it’s not much more than an event recounted and reflected on in patterned speech.
Thirdly and most importantly, it’s potentially quite offensive. Certainly an older (or rather younger) version of me would have been upset by it, and I apologise in advance for any offence caused. It contains no sex or bad language, but it does contain violence to a sacred object – or perhaps to a sacred idea.
Because the other night I burned the Bible. (Not really, but sort of, in a sense – as you’ll see.) And I’m still not sure whether that was a terrible and blasphemous thing, an important thing, or a meaningless thing. Perhaps all three. Hence this poem.
Last night I burnt the Bible
Last night I burnt the Bible –
Or strictly photocopied A4 sheets of given verses
Helpfully arranged to cover all of life’s eventualities
And difficulties, made simple by the application of God’s Word.
I’d thrown them out in the recycling
Along with pages showing how to give evangelistic presentations
And answers to the common questions and objections –
Answers that I genuinely needed once,
Which nonetheless hold little meaning for me now.
I wanted one last flare upon the bonfire
To delight my son,
So out of the recycling came newspaper
(Which seems so perfectly designed to burn)
And Bible verses.
I paused for just a moment,
Then reckless, ripped them up and threw them on
And watched them curl and catch,
And flare and char, be lifted up into the air
Becoming spirit in the flame once more
The black-and-white translated into light.
What did I feel?
A little guilty, little scared
As if daring the Fates;
Perhaps a little free as well.
Perhaps sometimes the Bible needs to burn
For it has burnt,
Destroyed the human image
(which is also the divine)
Branded like bonded slaves with its defining print.
The scourging bonfires of its hells
Have scorched too many searching souls.
Whereas the Bible needs to burn
Within our hearts
By nothing else but making Christ alive to us,
– In us, through us –
To set the dried-up husk of world alight with grace
The searing flame of all-consuming, all-transforming love
In incandescent incarnation.
Or else its pyre-pure pages and its perfect print
Are all already all but ashes in our mouths.