It begins

So, David Plotz is hitting the chatty circuit to promote his forthcoming literary effort – Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible.

Catchy title.

If you don’t feel like paying for the book, read Plotz’s original Slate blog, and you’ll get the idea. Also, you’ll likely spare yourself the inevitable biographical context needed to give this series of snark columns enough publication padding. Seriously, Plotz’s columns were funny, but his observations were retreads of those done by actual, you know, theologians. It’s the latest in what I like to call the Jewish Journalists Rediscover the Faith genre. A.J. Jacobs started it, but his book was dragged down by his obsessive-compulsive whining. Daniel Radosh did a far better job aiming his poison pen at white trash fundies.

I figured I’d take a shot at this genre for the hell of it, except that I’m not Jewish. A takedown of the Talmud would not suffice. I need another marketing angle.

For Christmas this year, my mother blessed me with the signature book of my clan. The clan is the Anabaptists, and the book is the Martyrs Mirror. My mother – raised orthodox, old-0rder Mennonite – used to have to read this three-inch thick tome as punishment for her occasional insolence. Clocking in at 1,141 pages, my former managing editor would have easily classified the Herald Press version as a “cat killer.” I’ll follow up with some better dimensional stats in a future post.

If you aren’t familiar with the Martyrs Mirror (aka The Bloody Theater), it’s a collection of Christian martyrdom stories compiled in the late 17th Century. They are nothing if not horribly gruesome. Among the usual beheadings, crucifixions, burnings, hangings and wild beasts is a whole kalidoscope of tortures that usually involve nudity, laceration, third-degree burns and gouging. It reads like a revolving snuff film, seemingly aimed to horrify and indoctrinate.

So far, I’ve breezed through a few hundred pages, stopping only to note a particularly interesting bit here and there. But, I’ve decided to really read this thing and really write about it. It’s a project that could take years (it took poor Thieleman J. van Braght three years to compile it), but, if I’m lucky, I’ll have a readymade book when I’m done.

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2 Responses to “It begins”

  1. Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks Says:

    I wish my parents were as nice as yours! But count your blessings – you didn’t get the book when you were an impressionable eleven years old.

  2. OriginalSinnick Says:

    I read bits and pieces of this tome over the years. It is actually two books in one. It tells the stories of those killed for their faith and also traces the evolution of doctrine espoused by the so-called “True Church”.
    Essentially, it is another treatise on man’s inhumanity to man.

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