A few days ago a pair of Dutch comedians, Sacha Harland and Alexander Spoor, decided to perform the sort of lame prank that is guaranteed to pull internet views. They wrapped a Bible with a cover reading “Holy Quran” and then read excerpts to random people in the streets to get a reaction.
The creators explained the experiment thus:
“Muslims have been accused of following a faith that has no place in our Western culture. What about Christianity? A religion that has influenced our culture greatly.”
The people were surprised by what they heard, and strongly disapproved of it. Imagine their surprise when they found out that all that nasty stuff was actually in the Bible after all! Comedy gold! The general impression for the viewer is either,
“Hey, these Christians don’t even know what’s in their own Bible!”
“See, the Bible and the Qur’an are basically the same thing!”
These are the two reactions that the film-makers were going for.
And they are both ridiculous.
Let’s first consider the methodology. The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in the world, and only about one third of the population even identify as culturally Christian. So how is it reasonable to expect a random person on the street to recognise a single out-of-context quote from a 2000-page book, when they have already been primed to expect that it comes from a completely different source?
So, sure, selected individuals in a non-religious country are unfamiliar with scriptures that they don’t believe in. That’s a shocking finding. (In related news, selected Canadians were unable to identify the last 5 Dutch monarchs!)
More importantly, the reason that we shouldn’t take random quotes from the Bible is that it is not a random collection of quotes. Every passage has a context, and a place in the overall Biblical narrative. And in that sense, any particular passage in the Bible does absolutely relate to orthodox Christian theology, but only in its context.
So looking at what random verse you can pull out of the text is meaningless. What is more relevant is what orthodox Christianity teaches, which is in turn all based on a contextual understanding of the whole Bible.
The vast majority of journalists who are writing articles on this episode are displaying a complete lack of understanding of the Bible, the Qur’an, and the differences between them. The film-makers show the same lack of understanding.
So perhaps they proved their point, unintentionally?