Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Living off the Bible"

Jeff Sharlet on The Revealer reviews Brett Grainger's new memoir of his Plymouth Brethren family, In The World But Not Of It: One Family's Militant Faith and the History of Fundamentalism in America (Walker, 2008). Sharlet comments: "Most compelling is Grainger's insider/outsider observations of his grandparents' everyday religion, such as the following passage describing in terms as perceptive as any I've read the relationship between religion and media, the ways in which the physical embodiments of faith reveal the nuances of a religion that from the outside may appear to be nothing more than a blunt cudgel of doctrine. It's worth reproducing in full:

Everything in the daily life of the Brethren revolved around reading and digesting the Word. They lived off the Bible the way the Great Plains Indians lived off the buffalo. No part was waste. Horns, spleen, tail -- everything had its proper use and purpose. All Scripture was inspired of God and worthy for instruction. Even the vast intestinal stretches of I Chronicles, the endless coils of begats, were laid in the sun to dry, then used to carry water. Not a day passed when they did not search the Scriptures for comfort or correction. The Word waited on the nightstand. It stared down from bookcases and dozed in glove compartments. Women carried a small, tidy volume in their purses. The men's were considerably larger. A believer's Bible was expected to age at roughly the same pace as his body. Elderly brothers carried copies that were battered and falling to pieces, with sagging spines and missing pages. Such Bibles were highly prized. They marked a man well acquainted with the Word. My grandfather's Bible was little more than a patch of rawhide wrapped around a ragged sheaf of pages. The binding was broken and whole chapters were missing or out of order, but he always seemed to be able to find what he needed.

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