"I chose this Gospel because saying the Bible is one's favorite book is both too glib and too broad. For this list, I leave aside questions of my own faith (which I consider a private matter), for clearly the book stands on its own as a piece of literature, philosophy, and a means to understanding our culture. I never read the Bible as a child, and I expected that it would be full of fire and brimstone. This notion had only been reinforced by hearing one angry, hateful person after another claim to represent all Christians, as they wagged and pounded the Bible. Reading the Bible disabused me of any sense that a hateful person could represent this faith. The book is beautiful and exquisitely written—but it is characterized by one quality that colors every page: love. Beyond giving me a way to question the theological firmament of "tax cuts for the rich" by invoking "the eye of a needle" and "a rich man," reading the Bible made it harder for me to accept its being used to propagate damaging and small-minded beliefs in the name of Christian values. In the Book of Matthew, those values sound like this: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.""
Recently I came across this book review by Ben Affleck. When asked what some of the most important books he had ever read were, one of them was the Book of Matthew. His thoughts after reading it are sobering and, I am sure, not unique. Coming from someone who has never had the chance to read it and didn't grow up around it, his perspective is terribly insightful.