We are starting a new Bible study at my congregation this fall. Well, actually, it's not a "Bible Study" in the tradition sense, but sort of a course in "How to read the Bible". There's a video, and a study book, but we do spend some time in the Bible as well.
One of the things that I like about the course, and the author, is that he is honest about the fact that he enjoys reading the Bible, but also about the fact that he didn't always enjoy it. The Bible is a daunting book, after all, and sort of strange, too. It has this small print and footnotes, and it comes from this very strange and far away culture that we don't know much about. It is a story, but probably not like the stories we might pick up in the airport and read on vacation.
One of the theses of the book is that we might not like reading the Bible in part because we think of it as a sort of textbook, or answer book, or encyclopedia of facts, and really, who likes to read those? The power of the Bible, though, is that it tells stories, and that those stories can change our lives. I love one example the author tells about his daughter, reading one of the "Little House" books, was inspired by a Christmas story from one of the books to collect and donate toys to needy children.
That has how reading has been to me. I have gone down the rabbit hole with Alice, out to the prairie with Laura and her family, tried to sell stories with Jo from "Little Women." I have opened the magic door to the Wardrobe with Lucy from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and have discovered things that have changed the way I look at the world. Reading has changed my life. But it is not so much reading for information. It is reading to enter stories, go to new places, hear new voices.
So I resonate with this study, and I think it could help people read the Bible with more enjoyment. Not only that, I think that people might find their lives shaped and formed by the stories they encounter there.
What if the problem is not HOW we read? What if the problem is not that we are reading the Bible in the wrong way? What if the problem is that a lot of people don't read anything at all (much less the Bible) for enjoyment?
I recently read an article that stated that a strong and growing minority of people don't read anything at all. Maybe they did read at one time, when they had to, but they really now longer read anything at all, not the dictionary, not a good novel, (or a bad novel, for that matter), not memoirs or the newspaper.
What does this mean? And what does it mean for a faith that is dependent on a written word? What if, for some of us at least, it's not a matter of learning to read to be enchanted rather than simply to get information? Is 'post-literate' a word? Are we becoming post-literate?
I still know a lot of people who read. But, I know a lot of people who don't, too. And I do believe that the central premise of stories -- that they are a means to enchantment offering us entrance to other worlds -- is true. But I'm wondering how, in the future, people will be enchanted, if the future is, indeed, in some sense, 'post-literate.'
What do you think?