Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bored by the Bible

FT and I had lunch the other day with someone who does children's ministry in our congregation. While  telling us about some of the things she was doing with the younger members of our church she confessed that she was finding it difficult to keep the youngsters interested in Bible stories. You see, she's a masterful storyteller who can make up tall tales on the fly; and the kids, frankly, get much more engaged in her own highly imaginative stories than in the Scriptural stories the tall tales are intended to lead into.

I have to admit that, many if most days, I'm with the kids here. Sometimes, to me, the Bible is pretty boring. Sometimes boring on the level of slogging through the Gilgamesh saga, one of my recent Great Books projects and one of the most neuron-numbingly incoherent and dull stories I've ever encountered; sometimes boring on the level of, say, sitting in a church council meeting where some concrete thinker has spent the last 20 minutes parsing an obscure line in the church constitution that may or may not really have anything to do with buying a part from Home Depot to fix the broken furnace, and while sitting there wearing your meeting game face you're actually thinking (unless you've already dozed off), "Who the hell cares what it says in the footnote to line 10 of subarticle D?"

Leviticus...Numbers...I and II Chronicles...great swaths of the New Testament epistles...Revelation...for me they're kind of like the Gilgamesh bromance and/or the Council Meeting From Hell.

Yes, it's true: It is sometimes very difficult for me to engage with Scripture, especially the non-narrative texts, in a lively way. I can fake it by reading commentaries and contextual aids, looking for new insights there, or by reading sermons and essays describing what other people in my religious milieu have gotten out of their own Bible reading; but just reading it to read it-- not so much. 

I'm sure some of my readers will find this distressing or appalling. But in the spirit of Lent, even in the context of my very minimal observance of Lent this year (which is pretty much, "Oh -- I'm observing that now it's Lent), confession is good for the soul. 

The last time I was really geeked about Scripture was when I was in training for lay ministry and got to study and discuss it  in an academic way with professors who knew what they were talking about and who were able to convincingly articulate the idea that the whole of any given text, and of the canon of Scripture as a whole, was greater than the sum of its parts. But that mojo is hard to keep going outside a particular kind of supported atmosphere.

It makes me wonder how other non-fundamentalist Christians -- people who don't have an oracular, magick-book approach to reading the Bible, but who read and study it in different ways as part of an ongoing spiritual discipline -- power through the drearier parts. What keeps you reading? Have you ever consigned a particular book or part of a book to the land of  "been there, done that, ain't readin' it no more"? What are some pluses of tackling the entirety of Scripture -- good, bad, ugly, boring? I'm genuinely interested in how others deal with this dilemma...or if it even is a dilemma.


Kathryn said...

Not something for someone raised as i was to admit, but i do very little Bible reading. I keep telling myself i need to do it - but am struggling. I WAS raised "fundamental/evangelical" and reading the Bible and praying was suppose to be as natural as breathing. But the interpretation they put on it has made it very hard for me to do that. I still tend to read it with their twist in my head.

I think most "favorite verses" are badly taken out of context. Jeremiah 29:11 is one such verse. Everyone seems to want to believe that this means that God has a specific plan for our lives, even down to the minute details of a day. But looking at the larger context, this verse was written to the People of Israel as a NATION. It does not speak to an individual. When i have, on occasion, pointed this out, no one wants to hear it. They LIKE the idea that God has every step pre-planned.

Of course, i'm struggling with attending church in general, so that i'm struggling with Bible reading isn't a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Numbers. And Ezekiel.