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Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Best Selling Book of All Time

If you ask people to name the best selling book of all time, some will say "The DaVinci Code" or one of the Harry Potter books, but most will correctly name the Bible as the all-time best seller. Amazingly, in spite of the great sales numbers, it is also the least-read book in America today.

Don't get me wrong; most people in America own a Bible, and a large number own more than one. But to borrow the line from a less biblical question, 90% of people don't read the Bible, and the other 10% lie about it. Even many regular churchgoers in the Bible Belt only dust their copy off long enough to carry into Sunday services; they then toss it into the back seat of their SUV until the next week.

We weren't always biblically illiterate; only a generation ago most Americans were at least familiar with the majority of the Bible stories, if not the theology. That's not true anymore, and if you think I'm exaggerating, consider the following responses to some simple Bible knowledge questions:

In the first book of the Bible, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain, asked, "Am I my brother's son?"

Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients.

Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the Ten Commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.

Samson slew the Philistines with the Axe of the Apostles.

Lot's wife was a pillar of salt during the day, but a ball of fire at the night.

Noah's wife was Joan of Ark.

It was a miracle when Jesus rose from the dead and managed to get the tombstone off the entrance.

Keep in mind that these responses came from children ranging from elementary to high school, most of them in Catholic schools. How much worse would the average "man on the street" do, since many can't find the Pacific Ocean on a map of the U.S.? But that's another rant for another day.

I raise the issue of Biblical illiteracy because it goes hand in hand with our growing illiteracy overall. Whatever your religious affiliation, the fact is that many of our laws are based on the Bible, and much of the great art and literature of the Western world was inspired by the Bible. Not knowing anything at all about the Bible is as unacceptable as knowing nothing about the Constitution, Shakespeare, or Michelangelo (all three of these owe the Bible at least some debt for their content).

So here's a challenge: try reading the Bible for 15 minutes a day, focusing on things like the lives of Moses, David, and Jesus. Try either the New International Version or the New Living Translation (rather than the King James Version) as both are extremely readable. And before you misunderstand my goal, I'm not trying to convince anyone to convert; rather, I'm trying to convince everyone to read.

Whether you're Anglican or Agnostic, Buddhist or Baptist, I think you will find that by reading this best-selling book, your literary, historical, and cultural literacy will improve considerably. Plus it's got wars and romance and treachery and heartbreak and redemption, just like a good novel. And if you read close enough, you may even learn the amazing fact that while God isn't a Republican or a Democrat, he is a reader. After all, he gave us a book.

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