By John Pierce

A fellow church member came into the coffee shop this morning.

“Didn’t see you yesterday,” she said.

“I was in Jasper, Ga.,” I replied.

“What were you doing up there?”

“Preaching at First Baptist Church. The pastor retired recently.”

We chatted a bit more, but I had outed myself to the larger caffeinated gathering. It was too late to vaguely say, “I’m in publishing.” Or to outright lie — “I sell Volvos” — as I’ve done on long flights.

As I approached the door to leave, a man who overheard the conversation stopped me.

“Are you a minister? I have a question.”

My Monday morning mind raced to retrieve long-stored information in order to address whatever theological issue would follow — from the Problem of Evil to the validity of other world religions to whether the latest despised political leader is the anti-Christ referenced in Revelation (or Revelations, as it’s often called when such questions arise).

But none of that was needed. He wanted to know the proper way to dispose of a mostly-destroyed Bible.

His late wife loved old copies of the Bible and was often given them as gifts. His new dog thought one of the old Bibles made a good chew toy. So rather than hiding its words in his heart, he hid some of its pages in his stomach.

Not having a good answer at hand, I suggested he check the American Bible Society web site or just search online for “How to properly dispose of a Bible.”

Curiosity led me to my own search. Some suggest burial of a severely tattered Bible. Others recommend recycling, noting that the pages of paper and ink themselves are not what make a Bible holy.

“It would be a good thing to make it useful, and one way to do that is to recycle it,” Jacquelyn Sapiie, library services supervisor for the American Bible Society, told The Newton Kansan, according to “Recycling is an honorable act and that is fitting for a book such as a Bible.”

Respecting a damaged copy of the Bible is a good thing. I’m glad this man was concerned enough to ask rather than simply throwing the well-gnawed pages into the trash. 

But, of course, there are other less literal ways to destroy or dispose of the Bible — by ignoring its clear message of love and grace or by cherry-picking isolated, out-of-context verses to weave into a defense of one’s personal agenda that reflects nothing of the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Bible, in all of its literary diversity, really addresses just two subjects: how we are to relate to God and to one another. Those two matters deserve our primary attention — and daily recycling.

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