Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 57 seconds.
Christians, by their very nature, are less literate than the general public. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it, to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, and they are less able to change the world in which they find themselves. As a tribe, Christianity will continue to fall behind educated society because it lacks a literate membership. And while Christians continue to demonize others who are different than they are, the truth is, they need to teach their children to read and enjoy books besides the Bible. And the parents should read as well.
Reading wide and deep provides escape, information, context, freedom, and empathy. There is much to commend about each of these concepts. Take empathy: Empathy is a tool for building people into citizens, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals. When one reads, you find: The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different. Reading helps one lose the victim mindset and provides information to be a better individual.
Christians are told a fundamental lie at an early age. That the Bible is the greatest book ever written. Many of them are told it is the only book worth reading. And so as children they try to read this poorly edited, poorly written, difficult, and irrelevant book. And as they valiantly make an attempt, somewhere around the books of Leviticus or Numbers they give up. And as I have observed over my sixty years, most of which have been immersed in this tribal culture, the majority of Christian children despair of understanding the Bible in their formative years and into adulthood give up reading altogether.
That is why authoritarian leaders (men, almost always men) such as mega-church pastors, Catholic priests, and Trump hold such sway. These draconian men make it easy for illiterate people to falsely believe they know the truth because the autocrats eloquently and charismatically tell them what to think. Christians have little if any knowledge of the classics, world history, psychology, and philosophy to know better. And ironically, most of the autocratic and tyrannical leaders I’ve encountered are illiterate as well. They are just highly skilled at spinning words and spreading bullshit.
Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and empathize, and understand.
Perhaps instead of the Bible, in Sunday School we should start our children with Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The books, NOT the movies. I feel strongly they would find a love for reading not from a book of eternal “begats” and wanton genocide and archaic rules, but rather from books that provide a world of lions that can talk, and white witches, and magic wardrobes, wolves and fauns, and fairy godmothers, Peter Pan, Rapunzel, and Little Briar Rose. Worlds of imagination rather than dogma, of freedom rather than control, of originality instead of cloning.
The most significant political and personal movements in history all began with people imagining another way of existing. We have an obligation to imagine—to read. It is easy to give up and pretend that nobody can change the turmoil that is wrecking America. That we are in a country where society is enormous, and the individual is less than nothing—that’s what Christians have been told all their life—that they are depraved, sinful, and good for nothing—a filthy speck of sand on a seashore.
But the truth is, individuals, change the world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by reading widely and imagining that things can be different.