I am handicapped in my reading. Over the years I have allowed the short attention span of media and the internet and social media drain my ability to read deeply. It is hard work and I’ve too often allowed myself the bad habit of skimming and skipping.
Scot McKnight has a good article on deep reading… which is behind a paywall… so I’ll give some snippets that are useful to me.
Can we be responsible Christians, and by that I mean intelligent, informed Bible-soaked and tradition-rich Christians, if (1) we don’t read the Bible often enough to know its contours, (2) if the Christian tradition we know does not go beyond our local church, and (3) if we spend our time being consumed by skimming and social media addictions? One of my pastors once told me “social media is the most spiritually forming instrument in our world.”
It is an honest battle with me to begin my day in prayer and Scripture rather than open up social media and figure out what I should be mad at today. I have this battle in my own life.
We too often read the Bible with our echo chambers fully engaged. We can’t understand or see the contours of Scripture in that echo chamber. If we go to a church that more often is comfortable because of our consumer wants (“I like their music,” “I like their preacher,” “I like their children’s programs”) or our political bent, we miss the historic Church and it’s needful traditions, such as Advent or Lent.
Deep literacy has wondrous effects, nurturing our capacity for abstract thought, enabling us to pose and answer difficult questions, empowering our creativity and imagination, and refining our capacity for empathy.
It is still startling to me (though I see tendencies in myself from time to time) how people do not want complexity. We truly have lost our sense of imagination. Again, this is something I find as a struggle, though I still don’t mind complexities and hard answers. It’s a difficult world and we need to be more comfortable with ambiguity.
And the kicker in our current time:
Populism, left and right, reflects the utter absence of deep thinking and deep reading. When Christians become populists of this type they have fallen pray to the demagogues.
There are con artists waiting and taking advantage of whole swaths of people who have given up deep thinking… and it does not dwell on just one side of the political spectrum. We fall prey to this as a country. We are falling prey to it as believers. (The irony, of course, is seeing someone who falls prey to their own echo chamber calling out the same behavior in someone else they don’t agree with!)
While I fall prey to skimming and skipping, I still have the hunger for deeper reading and observation. It’s not completely stripped away from me. There are times I fall prey to a “hot take” and other times I know I need to sit back, stay quiet, and observe. I am thankful for the times I take that pause.
We need more of it as believers.