Using Wayne’s post as a springboard, I want to draw your attention to the changing meaning of “publish” in the 21st century. Just as archaic English used “publish” to mean “proclaim or announce” and in the modern era it had came to have the restricted meaning of “print and distribute” now in the postmodern era “publish” is once again being redefined. As more of our consumption of literature is done online, the amount of Bible reading done online is also increasing. I’ll be honest with you and say that I don’t really like reading things online. I like books. They’re nice to hold. They’re easy to carry. Readings in a book tend to be more coherent than readings online. The hypertextuality of the online experience leads to a certain lack of focus. Because we’re bombarded with everything we focus on nothing. Imagine if in the margin of your Bible you had little pictures and cross references that popped up and broke your concentration every time you turned the page.
While this is a bother for old fogies like ourselves a new generation has arisen that lives in a constant state of information sifting and distraction. Young people sit in a room together while talking, watching TV, browsing the web on their laptop and trading messages on their cell phones. All this at the same time! Most twenty-year olds that I met while in the US last year seldom think about anything for more than 60 seconds before switching to another topic. My sister studies for her Masters while the TV is on and the laptop is open and messages are continually popping up on her cell phone. I’m guilty as well. I find sustained concentration on any topic to be difficult. My mind hyperlinks from one idea to the next until I’m literally lost in thought. Thus, the traditional concept of “daily devotions” is difficult for the postmodern mind. The open question is whether the new generation has a short attention span or is the previous generation slow-witted?
One way to address this situation is to reject it. Turn off the TV. Hide your cell phone. Leave the computer at the office. Take your Bible reading and devotional time “off the grid.” The spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation are worth considering in this era whirling with information yet starved of meaning. Another option is to “mashup” our Bible reading with the rest of our online consumption. Add your Bible reading to your RSS feed. Stick a gadget in iGoogle or a widget on your blog. Mix Scripture readings into the playlists on your mp3 player.
The better Bible of the 21st century will look a lot different from the better Bible of the 20th. And perhaps those twenty-somethings that live in this world of social connections and media sources will find a way to integrate the Bible into the mix and in the process make it relevant to a new century in ways that we can’t imagine.