reading / listening
The first posture that we assume when we come to the Scriptures is that of reading and with it the act of listening. But this posture is not passive, as our objectively scientific world would have us think. We are subjective beings that carry baggage, some welcome and others unwelcome, everywhere we go. In a not so complete list, our baggage includes our culture, family, friends, varied personal experiences, worldviews, stories handed down, and emotional temperament. So, when we read, we read through a lens. It is a lens that might be similar to the person sitting next to you in church, but it remains distinctly your lens. Just as you are not static, but move, breathe, and change so your lens will change.
Reading is an opportunity to listen. A time to stop talking and focus on that which is being read. Why do we talk so much? We don’t like silence. We feel as though we have to explain ourselves. We don’t think others will understand our actions. We don’t place enough importance on others so that we actually care about what others say. This impulse to talk is transferred to our relationship with God. We don’t like silence. We feel like we have to explain ourselves and our actions before God. We are afraid that we may not here his voice. So when we come to the Scriptures, we come listening. We come in silence, waiting to hear from God.
The concept of reading should not be thought of in the isolation of a literate Western culture. Globally, the majority of people do not have the literary proficiency to read and comprehend the entirety of the Bible. There are even oral cultures (yes that is hard to think of in our “civilized” context) who do not view literacy as a gateway to education and success. Historically, again reading was for the privileged few and oral cultures were even more prevalent. Until the advent of the printing press, mass production of books was impossible. It took an incredible amount of time to copy and “publish” a book, thus it was incredibly expensive, leaving literacy to the elite, monasteries, and the clergy. The only opportunity for the common person to hear Scripture was through the liturgy of the word at their Sunday gatherings. With these considerations in mind, is it right to place such an importance on the reading of Scripture, when it is beyond the reach of so many? Is it still important when it seems like it is a privilege of the elite?