Friday, March 1, 2013

Unreading the Bible for Lent

Those of you who've read other posts on this site probably realize that I'm a big fan of the contemplative seasons of the church calendar. Lent is perhaps the best known of these. (Although this knowledge may still be lacking as most would probably identify it as the season of countless fish sandwich commercials and listening to friends frequently proclaim that they can't eat any sweets.) The most obvious way for people to return to Christian contemplative traditions is through prayer and time spent reading Biblical text. I've noticed that in the years since my Evangelical exodus, this is no easy task. I still have a Bible by my bedside and will often pick it up. But as I open the pages, I freeze. It isn't fear or anxiety that paralyze me at that moment....It's the fact that when I read the words within they leave me cold. I struggle to find what is actually there. Thick lenses of Christian culture linger, distorting the beautiful poetry within, twisting and reshaping it into the rigid and impersonal structure of an owner's manual or a to-do list. 

The words ring hollow, devoid of meaning due to the trivial ways they were employed. Worse yet, they violently lash out bringing with them their former usage, intent on shame and self-doubt within those they were used against. Every time the Bible becomes a brick to bludgeon others, more and more of its beauty is locked away, hidden from sight. The longer this continues, the more difficult that beauty becomes to recover. Sometimes I stare at the book within my hands and it seems as though its pages have been covered with mud. How do you remove such filth from paper without destroying it altogether and losing everything? 

That is why in this season of Lent, I cannot make the promise that many others do to spend more time reading my Bible. Such efforts have merely become a propagation of the abuse these words carried in my past. Rather, these 40 days will be those where I finally unread my Bible. A time where I confront the filth and misuse that has enveloped these words for so long, deconstructing what they have been fashioned into in hopes of recovering what they actually are, and in the process catching a glimpse of the beauty they once carried. 

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