One of the reasons most Christians don’t read the Bible is that they find it boring. This doesn’t show much commitment, but it can be rationalised with the fact that people get involved in Bible studies and listen to sermons. The main point of this post is: what makes it boring? Not whether or not these rationalisations are valid.
One of the major problems is that most westerners are brought up on Bible stories. Things may be different in other countries, but up until recently schools in South Africa still had Religious Education classes (cleverly named since they didn’t teach you about religion, but about Christianity). A friend of mine in England recently started reading the Bible, from the beginning, and somewhere early in Exodus she said something to the effect of wanting to read something she wasn’t familiar with. Obviously it isn’t really interesting reading through stuff you know as children’s stories, so this is one reason people find it boring.
Obviously the genealogies are often cited as boring, you know, all that “and [so-and-so] begat [so-and-so]” stuff. But in light of a law book (Leviticus); a Hymn book (Psalms) and the repetitive stuff (1 & 2 Chronicles; the sanctuary plan; Numbers 7 etc.) the genealogies seem like pleasant reading. While the repetition seems mundane, it’s probably there for a reason, even if we haven’t worked out what the reason is. That said, I haven’t made reading those bits more interesting.
Between the stuff we think we know, and the repetitive nature of things, the Bible seems to be something that doesn’t stand a chance. The thing is, it is filled with all that stuff that we choose to fill our television stations and cinemas (and minds) with as we munch on monosodium glutamate laced popcorn while drinking sugary softdrink fulfilling our recommended daily allowance of unpronounceable non-nutritives. You have genocide; homicide; fratricide; infanticide; sex; incest; entire cities razed; true love; human sacrifice and much, much more. I’d love to see the short, “coming this summer…” But it’s still boring for most people, even the ones who consider this kind of stuff entertainment.
The thing is, regardless of what you believe, you still see the Bible as something that is supposed to be true and Historical. Consider this, war movies do really well in general, but most people don’t want to study History, even if they focus largely on war and conquest. War and conquest speak to us of great men (sometimes women) and great deeds, but distant men, and distant deeds – larger than life, superhuman, actions. While this is great in movies or fiction books where suspension of disbelief is part of the game, it doesn’t work for historical books (or, for non-Christians, books that are intended to be historical).
It reminds me of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. The players explain why death must be acted in order to be entertaining and believable:
“[I]t’s the only kind [of dying] they do believe. They’re conditioned to it. I had an actor once who was condemned to hang for stealing a sheep – or a lamb, I forget which – so I got permission to have him hanged in the middle of a play – had to change the plot a bit but I thought it would be effective, you know – and you wouldn’t believe it, he just wasn’t convincing! It was impossible to suspend one’s disbelief – and what with the audience jeering and throwing peanuts, the whole thing was a disaster! – he did nothing but cry all the time – right out of character – just stood there and cried…Never again. “
We’re conditioned to seeing the Bible as some olde time History book, or mythic fable of the bronze age. We associate it with boring Sunday sermons and old men in black cloaks.
While I think all of these contribute to making the Bible a boring book to read, I think there is another problem. The Bible is not an easy book to understand as a whole, it seems to be contradictory and even many of the modern translations say things we just don’t understand. While I can’t offer a solution to any of the aforementioned problems, the purpose of the upcoming Bible read through from this blog (I still need to make the page), is to create a situation for those involved to ask questions and share information, and hopefully to come to a better understanding than we start with. Hopefully with a group, we can also find it less boring, and feel less alone in our endeavour.