(Christian Week – Friday, August 15, 2014)
HAMILTON, CANADA ✦ The sad truth of the matter is that when we stop reading the Bible with any faith or confidence, when we stop discussing it at dinner with our children, when we stop wrestling with it in our meeting places and home gatherings and while lying in bed, we’re no longer connected to the grand sweep of it, to history, that is His Story, which is also our story.
Which is to say that without our story we’re detached from life itself, ignorant of the fact that, in our core we’re royalty, yes, just a little lower than the angels, but also naked, muddy, more needy and hungry than imagined, starving, really, all beggars in need of the same bread.
The freezer is full, after all, and we can always find what we need there. And if we’re still feeling down, we can always buy a new TV, or take a trip, or at least invite over company which, today, means a handheld device.
The Bible? Yes, it’s a fine heirloom. But there’s dusting and other housework, the days are that busy to stop and actually read it. And, well, we’ve discovered the big book actually makes a better doorstop than anything. At this point, its contradictions seem that irreconcilable.
This, from recently-released Canadian Bible Engagement Study that shows even believers are giving up on the Bible. Just five per cent of Canadians now read it daily, 11 per cent weekly and 14 per cent monthly. Apparently 55 per cent haven’t read the Bible. Ever.
Is the older generation finishing strong? Fifty per cent of Canadians who read Scripture weekly in 1996, now don’t.
Two-thirds of Canadians identify as “Christian.” But that was 90 per cent in 1981. And, without any faith’s canonical text, one wonders what its disciples are following.
The survey—80 questions asked of 4,500 respondents—shows, not surprisingly, church attendance invigorates Bible reading. But weekly attendance is now just 16 per cent.
So we live in, as Flannery O’Connor eloquently put it, a culture haunted by the memory of Christ.
Like Paul, we might bring an awakening toward the God that the Greeks recognized serendipitously as the “Unknown God.” We might speak into the plethora of ideas in today’s marketplace. But now, no, this unknown God is too unknown even for us, people bearing His name. So they simply don’t know. Neither do we know.
We don’t know we’re the one praying in the lion’s den. We don’t know we’re the prophet running, then thrown into the sea. We don’t know we’re the Prodigal. Or the brother, righteous and bitter. Or the woman at the well, so astonished and forgiven.
We don’t know we’re the man left on the roadside, robbed, beaten by life, really, left for dead, desperate, dear God, for anyone’s help. We don’t know we’re the religious travellers scurrying past.
No, we no longer see our own depth, don’t know of the cosmic battle raging in each of us, that every time the rooster crows with everyday events, we’re in the fight. We know neither how utterly desperate we are, nor how we’re loved, insanely, with a love as high as the heavens.
Someday we may know these things again. One wonders, though, what might have to happen first.
For now we’ll manage fine, thanks very much, with simple pleasures at best, a stiff upper lip at worst. It’s our sort-of Independence Day. No need to hear from any dead men. Or any God-Man either