Last night, I met up with an acquaintance of mine — A pretty hard core Christian, even compared to many of the devout religious people I know.
One of the topics that came up was PZ Myers‘ recent desecration of a communion wafer.
I’m not condoning everything PZ did, but I told my friend I thought he made a good point. That is: A communion wafer is not actually the body of Christ, regardless of your religious beliefs. It’s a symbol. And symbols only possess whatever meaning you give them.
My friend seemed to agree here. He’s a Christian after all. He thinks the wafer is a symbol, too (as opposed to the actual body of Christ).
As it turned out, my friend had a Bible with him. So I asked him a hypothetical question: How much would it bother him if I ripped a page out of his book? I mean, I would be pissed off if you ripped a page out of any book I own, but outside of that destruction of one’s property, would that torn page actually offend him?
Or, how about this: Would he ever be willing to rip a page out of his own book? Not because he wanted to mock his God or show any disrespect, but because it’s just a book and his faith was stronger that that.
His response really shocked me.
“I would rather die than purposely destroy this Bible.”
“What?… but it’s just a book.”
“It’s the Word of God.”
“But you have several other copies of the Bible. There’s nothing all that special about this particular copy.”
“It doesn’t matter. If someone put a gun to my head as I was preaching and told me to spit on the Bible or he would shoot, I hope I have the courage not to do it.”
“… but doesn’t your God know what you’re thinking? He would know your faith is strong and you’re just in a bad situation. Plus, it’s just a book. You still know God’s Word whether you have this Bible or not…”
“I wouldn’t want my congregation seeing me spit on a Bible even in that situation.”
And it went from there.
In case it’s not clear, I’m not making fun of my friend, and the conversation isn’t verbatim. But the idea remains. He considers a symbol of his faith worth dying over.
On my way home, I was trying to think of whether there was anything in my life similar to that — a reproducible symbol — that I would give my life for.
I couldn’t come up with anything.
I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Though I feel that holding symbols in such high regard can’t lead to much of anything positive…
What do you think?
Is there anything symbolic and reproducible — in other words, we’re not talking about your loved ones — you hold that dear?
Is it a good thing to put a symbol on such a pedestal?