GQ Magazine recently ran an article called, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.”
They roll through some of the classics that people pretend to like, but the editors have found reasons to dislike.
Lonesome Dove is taken down for it’s “cowboy mythos.” The Catcher in the Rye is called a “waste of adolescent’s time.” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is called “tedious” and “meandering.” Lord of the Rings is “barely readable” as is Gulliver’s Travels
For some, these are fighting words.
But there are other books that thrown into the pit that we might all agree on, like the Keith Richards memoir, Life. Or Slaughterhouse Five.
But in the middle of this list is a curious choice. The Holy Bible.
Here’s the narrative that accompanied the selection.
“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned. …..Jesse Ball, ‘Census’”
They are right. There’s a disconnect.
Here’s what Jesse Ball gets right. There is a huge disconnect between those who claim to be people of The Book and yet have never read it. Our biblical literacy is plummeting. The pastors in the pulpit who ask the congregation to turn to a passage while he reads it are far and few between. Instead, they project a verse or two on the screen and call it good.
Growing up, I remember flipping pages, trying to keep up. “Joel. Amos. Obadiah. There, got it.” And I used the acrostic Gentiles Eat Pork Chops to remember Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. We memorized the Bible, short and long passages. We actually studied the Bible.
Beyond flipping pages, it’s obvious the writer is correct. We don’t know our Bible. Just look at the rush from the pulpits to embrace gay marriage and such concepts as ‘everyone goes to heaven’ because ‘God is love.’ Newly created views on hell, sin, humanity, and Jesus himself become social causes and fads that sweep up believers at an alarming rate.
We aren’t reading the book we claim to contain truth
According to Christianity Today, a LifeWay Research study “found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. And a little more than 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible.”
And if we aren’t reading our Bible, then where does Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, and the Good Samaritan fit into our cultural lexicon. Are they just fantastical stories, or are they part of a mythos like Superman, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Hunger Games.
The culture is biblically ignorant, just watch the show, “Living Biblically” for a lesson on that. (see my article here about the show) They think The Bible is an awkward book of rules for another time and place instead of a book about a living relationship.
Just look at history
Throughout the annals of time, the Bible has been used in unbiblical ways. We all recognize the crosses on iron chests, swords slaying the unbeliever as a stretch of application. Some have taken the book and pound societies and peoples into submission. I will acknowledge those deeds if you will acknowledge that billions of lives throughout history have been powerfully changed for the better because of its words.
GQ gets it wrong in simply calling it a book of literature. Sure it’s not always consistent with its phraseology, its literary value, or its images. It counts dozens of authors over a span of thousands of years. From an English professor perspective, it might be overrated.
But ask the history teacher. The Bible has been censored for thousands of years. Leaders have seen its value in changing lives and have consistently tried to minimize it or eliminate it altogether.
There’s a reason for that. The Bible ultimately points believers to an authority higher than government and gives answers that have stood the test of time. It has changed billions of lives over the centuries and continues to do so today.
And for this reason alone, it’s not overrated. However, it would be even more powerful if we actually start to live it.