An American pastor objected to the labels he spotted on some Bibles in a store.
Caleb Kaltenbach, pastor of Discovery Church, came across the Bibles while shopping for a gift and tweeted the picture on Friday with the comment: “Costco has Bibles for sale under the genre of FICTION Hmmmm…”
That didn’t sit well with members of his congregation.
“I was completely offended. It’s wrong, and I believe that the Bible is real,” Shellie Dungan told KTLA-TV.
The Costco retail chain apologized, saying the Bibles had been mislabelled. Rather cravenly, they made no attempt to bring out the funny side of the situation, and Kaltenbach himself was equally earnest about the whole thing. I suppose it would be naïve to expect a pastor in an American outfit with a name like Discovery Church to be as urbane and as capable of safe, minor expressions of irreverence as an old-school Anglican vicar, but still.
For a flippant atheist like myself it’s easy to say that the Bible belongs in the Fiction section of any bookstore, but I don’t think that’s actually true. The Fiction section is for deliberate fiction, perhaps based on a true story but always written with explicit artistic licence. Embellishments, omissions, distortions and outright fabrications are all fair game. If there aren’t any intentional and unmarked examples of those things, the Fiction label is probably inappropriate.
The Bible may contain some stories that were known by its authors and compilers to be false, but considered by them to be morally instructive or simply beautiful. The bulk of it, however, seems to be dead serious – just badly flawed from the perspective of history, science, philosophy or indeed common sense. The Bible bears a closer resemblance to Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods? than to Pride and Prejudice or The Heart of Midlothian. Perhaps the Paranormal section would be appropriate. What do you think?