Our little library is literally just that — quite little — but it has a generous attitude toward ordering inter-library loan books for patrons, and our family must use up a good portion of their budget each year.
We read about nutrition, genetic modification of our food supply, the corporatization of our society, history, and a lot of theology — many of these being books that are not mainstream thought, but which (unlike many mainstream books) actually provoke the reader to thought.
Most of it is not quick, easy reading, but then again, the asking of questions and seeking out thoughtful, intelligent answers is not necessarily quick fare. This is not to say that quick fare is bad; I love an Agatha Christie mystery and have spent the last few weeks absorbing myself in the Dame’s world.
But quick fare, like quick food, isn’t something to which we should limit ourselves, which, we unfortunately do. Our TV shows, even the “news” and “commentary,” are divergent from provoking the viewers to analysis, and any movie attentive to reflective contemplation that can make it out of a prominent film production company generally languishes, barely breathing, in the theaters.
We don’t want thought; we want action and snack chips. Like bread. And circuses.
It is for this reason that I am grateful to Jane Austen, an author whose command of the English language and ability to convey nuances of meaning in her prose is so at variance with the latest sado-masochistic, dystopian fairy tale of wizardry and and vampire romance simultaneously targeted at 15-year-old adolescents and 45-year-old women.
Austen’s complexity and depth is also disparate to much of what we call “Christian” fare, which as far as I can tell has the words Jesus in it somewhere, whether it’s an affectedly shallow romance knock-off (“He kissed her gently and murmured, ‘Praise the Lord how Jesus has brought us together,'”) or a one-sided political diatribe thinly veneered by Bible verses that not so subtly instructs its reader how to think (“Hate these people. Worship those.”)
Not so long ago, I was chastised by a reader for what he considered snobbery on my part about people’s reading abilities; my article had to do with poorly written, pretentious “Christian” fare that was sold more on the basis of the writer’s name than the content of his (and his obscurely unreknowned “co-author” whose name was much smaller but who was probably responsible for most of the actual work) book.
“Are you criticizing people because they don’t have a high enough reading ability?” he wanted to know.
No, I’m not.
I’m criticizing people who do have a high enough reading ability to pick up, now and then, literature written above the fifth grade level, but never do.
I am concerned about those literate Christians — who belong to our Father and are charged with the joyous message of telling others about Him — who consider the Bible itself beyond their ability to analyze, comprehend, study, and read, and thereby rely upon pap fare — the kind with the author’s name larger than the title — to interpret deep, significant truths that they will never discover for themselves because they’re not looking to do so.
I agonize, and pray for, people who cannot read, or read well, because I know that those in power use this as a weapon against them — it’s hard to argue against someone when you can’t find, understand, and use resources to counter their claims.
And for this reason I call out to those who do have the ability to read, and read things much more difficult than what they generally do, but refuse to do so. The dumbing down of our society has not happened, and does not continue to happen, without the complicity of many of its members who should know better.
The ability of prominent voices — in the “sciences” especially, and the atheist camp — to make sweeping announcements of what constitutes truth, and how society should bend itself to it, is able to assert itself so strongly because Christians — who are to seek and follow truth — lack the confidence, or the knowledge, to counter speak — because they don’t read.
Reading is a precious gift, my friends, and unlike watching television, it does not involve the glazing over of one’s eyes, the drastic reduction of one’s metabolism, the apathetic propensity to just absorb what we are seeing and hearing. (If this sounds like hypnosis, well, maybe it is. Natural News has an interesting article on the subject.)
As with any gift, reading is meant to be used — with joy, anticipation, wisdom, and regularity — as a means of saying thanks to the Giver.
“Fix these words of minds in your hearts and minds,” God says in Deuteronomy 11:18. “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
We don’t have to do a small-group Bible study on sticking verses on Post-It notes throughout our household; we just have to pick up the book and read.
And from there, as we realize that the Bible really isn’t beyond the ability of a reasonably competent reader (which, one assumes, should be the status of those who have made it through our public school system, and certainly those with post-secondary degrees), we can keep reading — other books, on different topics, by various authors whether we agree with them or not — gaining knowledge and wisdom and discernment, so that we can counteract, with confidence and ability, the voices of non-reason that rule our world.