“I don’t care what the bible says.”

Lemme start by saying I do so care what the authors of the bible have written. Particularly about what Jesus teaches. But y’notice the title of this article is in quotes… because I’m referring to when other people don’t care about the bible. Because sometimes they don’t.

Back when I was 7 or 8 years old or so, my Sunday school class was doing some activity, and one of the other kids was interacting badly. Picking fights or swearing or some other less-than-Christian behavior, and our Sunday school teacher decided to correct him by quoting bible at him. “You know, Joonas, you ought not do that, because the bible says…”

“I don’t care what the bible says,” announced little Joonas.

And the rest of us backed away before the lightning struck him down. Except it didn’t, because we follow Jesus, not Zeus.

But the teacher was likewise taken aback: How, how could he not care what the bible says? Everybody cares. Or should.

Now yeah, when you’re a kid, especially when you’re sheltered kid, it’s entirely possible to grow up with no idea other people don’t respect bible. I was no such kid. I have an atheist dad, and obviously he doesn’t respect bible. I could tell him, “Because the bible says” till my tongue goes numb—I actually used to try this line of reasoning on him!—and it made no difference, because he thinks it’s poorly-written fiction which only children and retards believe. He preferred to believe Rush Limbaugh.

So that inoculated me from the idea everybody believes as I do. Other Christians don’t grow up that way at all. In the Bible Belt in particular, you can have absolutely everything in your culture suggest everybody, absolutely everybody, believes and respects and follows bible. Only ignorant heathens don’t; only depraved psychos won’t. And certainly there are none of those people in their communities… and if they can just ban immigration altogether, especially when it comes to Catholics and Muslims, they can guarantee there never will be. (Yep, that’s why they have those politics. It’s not racism so much as religious bigotry. Although often it’s also racism.)

I don’t live in the Bible Belt, but I do live in the United States, and even in non-Bible Belt states we have certain towns, certain communities, certain pods which share the very same Bible Belt mentality. Everyone they know, respects bible. (Or appears to; naturally there are hypocrites among ’em.) Nobody they know, doesn’t.

So when they find an exception, they freak out a little. Triggers the fight-or-flight instinct. Although for some of us it takes a few seconds to kick in… much like a deer surprised by an oncoming car, who hesitates, and dies. But freaking out is definitely the fight instinct.

And y’know, if we Christians are working on our self-control as we should, we shouldn’t run on instinct; we should be wise. Okay, we just discovered someone who doesn’t respect bible. So… do they know Jesus? If not, share! If so, find out why they don’t respect bible, and see whether you can steer them in a direction which does.

The overly sheltered Christian.

Frankly I’m not a fan of growing up sheltered, or in enclaves. It’s horrible, inadequate preparation for sharing Jesus. If we live in predominantly Christian communities, we need to leave. Not permanently; just on a regular basis. ’Cause how else are we gonna interact with pagans and share Jesus with them?

And no, “over the internet” isn’t a good-enough answer. They need to see our good works, not just read about ’em secondhand, nor hear us talk about doctrine but never witness us living by it. For all they know, we’re stereotypical Christian hypocrites, who talk Jesus but don’t live like him, and think grace makes that okay. They use it as an excuse so they don’t have to take us seriously, and the only way to undermine that excuse is to physically be there and prove it wrong.

So every Christian should have encountered people who don’t believe the bible. It shouldn’t stun us like an ox who just hit the electric fence: “What… what do you mean you don’t care what the bible says? You don’t believe the bible? Who doesn’t believe the bible?”

Duh; pagans. You can’t expect someone who’s not Christian to consider the Christian scriptures authoritative. Same as you can’t expect someone who is Christian, to do the same with other religions’ scriptures. A Christian isn’t gonna say, “Well the Quran says it; I believe it; that settles it”—to us, the Quran’s an iffy revelation about God at best, and devilish at worst. It’s not our scripture! So it should come to no surprise when those who aren’t Christian won’t respect bible. Should be more of a shock when they do.

And yet all my life I’ve seen Christians who quote bible as if it’s supposed to be the final word… and when it’s not, they’re knocked on their rear end: “What was that? And now where do I go?”

Yeah, I blame the fact we Christians can deliberately shelter ourselves way too much. I’ve met a lot of sheltered Christians in my life. I met a bunch in seminary, taught a few when I taught at a Christian school, and I got family members currently being raised that way. Their parents orchestrate their lives so the kids never, ever interact with anyone or anything which might disturb their worldview. Usually they’re homeschooled specifically so they never have regular interactions with pagan behavior and perspectives. (You can’t guarantee this at a Christian school. Not that some Christian schools don’t try.) All their friends are pre-screened Christians. All their media—all the books they read, movies they watch, websites they visit—are pre-approved.

Hence it’s entirely possible for them to go through life having met nobody who doesn’t respect bible. And if their parents never inform them such people exist, what d’you think’s gonna happen once they meet such a person? Right: Shock and awe. “Oh my goodness, this person is going to hell.”

The Christian who doesn’t know any better.

But I should also point out plenty of “found” people—plenty of Christians; far too many, really—might also lack respect for the scriptures.

Because nobody ever taught ’em why it’s important. How the Holy Spirit uses it to straighten us out. Why we therefore read and study and memorize it, and double-check our beliefs and doctrines with it. Too many Christians think being saved by grace means we needn’t do good deeds, grow, learn, and become more like Jesus. The bible’s less important to them than other, easier, less challenging, more fleshly Christian activities. It’s way easier, fr’instance, to give money to missions than to actually love our neighbors. Way easier to listen to K-LOVE than learn self-control. Way easier to switch to light beer for Lent, than to memorize the beatitudes and actually try to live by them.

And lots of Christian parents suck at teaching their kids anything about religion, including the point of the scriptures. Hence there are too many Christians who consider them to be good advice, not authoritative. Nice stories, not salvation history. Clever ideas, not revelation. Something they can quote out of context if it proves their points, or helps ’em win an argument. But if it actually defeats their arguments… well they don’t care about bible. Never really did.

Lastly there’s the people who grew up in cults, or among legalistic Christians, and when they finally cast of their legalism, they decided to likewise cast off bible. Or Christians who were looking for more knowledge, found heretics, and adopted heretic beliefs about the bible—which sometimes include the idea the bible’s irrelevant, or large parts of it don’t count. They don’t respect bible either, but from all the other “Christian” activities in their life, you’d never suspect ’em of being heretics.

Yep, I run into all these people too. They don’t surprise me. They shouldn’t surprise you, or any other Christians: We should be ready for them, ready to share Jesus, and ready to talk about why we think the bible’s useful and valid. Don’t flinch in panic; use your head.