A colleague of mine whose interest was piqued by last week's discussion of publishers' attempts to contextualize the Bible for urban youth went and purchased a copy of Real: The Complete New Testament. He reports that it really is "Da Shizzle BAM Bizzle."
Here's the basic idea: notes have been inserted dealing with "timely" topics in hip terms that, frankly, try much too hard to make the Bible cool enough for street punks. Some of the inserted material is so clumsy and so tasteless (not to mention racist) that I wouldn't even try to give a full description here.
But to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, let's just say that smack in the middle of Acts 7 and the biblical account of the stoning of Stephen, there's an utterly inappropriate sidebar about sex, titled "How far is too far?" discussing whether a certain technique technically qualifies as "fornication."
Then there are top-ten lists throughout, including "Hot 10 Ways to Know if a Man is Into You." (Number six: "Brings you around his boys.")
And then there's the "Hot 10 Best Cars" (starting with "Rolls Royce Phantom" at number 10, and culminating in "Maybach" at number 1.) Just what urban youth need to be encouraged to think about, huh?
There's also a list of "Hot 10 Movies You Should Have in Your Collection"starting with "Dogma" (an overtly blasphemous and ostensibly comedic cinematic catastrophe); including "Lord of the Rings (trilogy)"; and culminating, predictably, in "The Passion of the Christ." (The trilogy counts as only one movie in urban math, so young gangsta couch potatoes will be happy to know that there are actually a dozen movies in the must-have "Hot 10.") I can hear a budding gang-banger protest, "But ma! My Bible says I need to have 'Remember the Titans' in my collection."
Directly across the page from the movie list is a sidebar where a smiling girl answers the question, "What has been the greatest source of pain in your life?" Now the gang-bangers might have a hard time relating to this girl, for two reasons: 1. she doesn't seem angry enough, what with that smile and all. (See cover for some folks with more street cred.) And 2. her answer suggests she has been isolated from the normal pains of urban culture:
"What has been the greatest source of pain in your life?" The most pain I've ever experienced was when my ex-boyfriend broke up with me. I was all into him, but he wasn't feeling me. I did some crazy stuff to try to hold onto him. Some of the stuff I did made me look crazy. I learned that if it's love you don't have to go off all the time.
Eugene Peterson: take note. In the next edition of The Message, that would be a good paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:5: "If it's love you don't have to go off all the time."
Finally, here's an item from page 240. A gentleman with rasta dreads answers the question, "What has been the greatest source of joy in your life?"
My mother is the bomb! I have the dopest mother in the world. We can hang, kick-it and talk to each other.
There's a CD glued inside the back cover. I didn't have the courage to listen. All the "Christian" rap music I've ever heard is just too dope for me, if you know what I mean.