Taking Our Ability to Read for Granted

by Mark Votava

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In the church, there is a lot of focus on reading the Bible but not much else.  The problem with this is that we usually approach the scriptures with an individualistic, Western lense that filters everything through the culture we know in our country.  Maybe if we were a culture that liked to read all kinds of stuff about the world, culture, spirituality, sociology, community, poverty, race, gender, power, psychology and social justice: we would be better off.

I love to read!  It has been hard for me to read the Bible sometimes because of the individualistic approaches that people have taken to it.  So I have learned to love books that help me understand the world.  This has helped me to have a new appreciation for the Bible as I now read it through a lense of love, community, hospitality, compassion, simplicity and honesty.

All truth represents love, not propositional theological statements from a Western, individualistic mind.  To me, that doesn’t make sense anymore.  All scripture should lead me to love, compassion and humility.  If it doesn’t, it is a waste of time and will create much damage in the world.

And we see a lot of the world damaged by an individualistic church in the name of God.  I think that this has happened because we do not aspire to learn and read throughout our entire lives.  When people get older it is said that only two percent of us read books.  We have become a society that does not like to read.

It seems that we only read the Bible sometimes because we are afraid of punishment and consequences if we don’t (not being able to hear God or something like that), which is a form of manipulation by the church.  I am coming to see God does not just speak through an old book.  God speaks throughout all of life in many diverse ways through small pockets of love in the world.

  •  The gift of reading

The Holy Spirit is calling us to this gift of reading, if we are able.  This discipline of reading could revolutionize the body of Christ in the parish.  Reading will help us with discipleship, relationship, community and our commitment to place.

  •  Spending more time reading

“Few of us,” writes Debra K. Farrington, “give much thought to spending more time reading and studying as a discipline…” 

  •  The discipline of reading

We need to devote more time to the discipline of reading.

  •  Our imaginations become bigger than our egos

The discipline of reading cultivates the mystical imagination within us in mysterious ways.  Our imaginations become bigger than our egos.  The imagination communicates vision for an embodied practice of beauty through our bodies in the parish.

  •  Every book that we read becomes a building block

As we begin to become lifelong learners, we start to become more aware of the mystical imagination within us.  Every book that we read becomes a building block to our interior life as a part of our personal practice in the parish both collectively and individually.  Our motives change, our intentionality intensifies, our loves deepens, our humility is more engrained within us and we experience everyday life in a holistic way.

  •  Reading is co-opted by consumerism and entertainment

The Holy Spirit has gifted so much of the body of Christ with the ability to read.  This is not the case with everyone maybe, but for those who can read it is such a precious gift that often times is co-opted by the empire through consumerism and entertainment.  It is common for truly visionary people to be readers.

  •  Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton

I have read biographies of people such as Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.  These biographies say that they were ferocious readers.  They had a healthy discipline of reading in their lives and this contributed to their passion, their relationships and their life’s work.

Have we taken our ability to read for granted or do we cherish it as a gift?