There once was a day when people were able to listen to, or read, lengthy discourses on problems of the day. They understood what was being said or written and knew the difference between statements that were logical and coherent and those that were self-contradictory. Most people in North America have lost that capability.
Today we are bombarded with sound bites and visual images, most of which have no relevance to our lives. News has become entertainment, giving us the impression of being informed without giving us any useful information. Events in distant corners of the world are made known to us as soon as they happen, but no context is given to understand why or what it may mean. Local events are reported with the same lack of context or coherence, leaving us more and more estranged from our neighbours.
This is the thesis of Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. It was first published in 1985 and is still as illuminating as it was then.
Something similar has happened in Christian circles. Many people take a hop, skip and jump approach to Bible reading, trying to get to all the interesting bits without bothering to have to figure out the context. Reference Bibles reinforce that approach, making it easier for people to find those interesting bits. Most of them subtly offer their own analysis of what those bits mean, which is often not quite what you will find if you actually read the whole book.
Bible Story books for children do much the same thing, picking out the events that make the best stories. The lessons they draw from those stories don’t always coincide with what you will discover if you read the whole story in the Bible.
Expository preaching seems to have largely fallen out of favour, people’s attention spans having grown shorter than they used to be.
What can be done? May I suggest that we abandon all the so-called helps and go back to reading the Bible, the whole Bible. I realize that to most people that may seem like a recommendation to tedious drudgery. But people in past generations found the Bible interesting, engrossing, hard to put down.
Some of us still do. So, I guess our task is to talk about the Bible and how interesting and meaningful we find it to be.