About a year ago I started developing a new way to read the Bible that would make reading it fun, and give me a better chance at getting something good out of the story. It started with giving myself one rule:
I started reading the Bible really, really slow - only one chapter a week, re-reading it every day. This was actually really hard because not only do I have an American work ethic that always tells me I should be reading quickly and “getting through” the material. Moreover, my religious upbringing had a rule of thumb that the best Christians read the most Bible.
Surprise! Once I slowed down and stopped treating the Bible as a way to prove my religious worth, I started observing a lot more great qualities in the text. Crazy how things get better when it’s not about you. One of the things I had time to notice, now, is that the stories are STORIES - there’s a plot! And characters! And recurring themes and literary devices! Rad.
So, I thought, if we’re dealing with stories, how can I break them down as we go along?
Well, since we’re dealing with the Bible, these are (mostly) stories about God - God is a character that does things. And then the human people are characters too. Each writer of a book in the Bible is telling a story about God and people, and what happens with them.
Crazy idea: what if instead of trying to read the Bible and figure out what the “right” meaning is, what the right ethical or moral teaching is, what the right belief we are supposed to believe is… we just looked at what the God character and the People characters are like?
This is how I ended up with the first two Lo-Fi Questions:
- What is God like?
- What are people like?
Suddenly I saw all kinds of new dynamics between all the people in the story, and between them and God. I’d been taught that reading the Bible is all about learning to believe the right beliefs, but never paid much real attention to the story and the character of God, first.
Also, I realized a dark lesson: you can come away with great beliefs or moral lessons from scripture, but along the way, if you ignore the story, you miss God’s character. Even worse, you can get the character wrong, and end up with beliefs that seem right, but make God a monster.
The more I messed with this simple format, the more I loved it. It was easy to remember, stripped down, and took the raw material of the story more seriously. Focusing on these two questions alone doesn’t require bringing a lot TO the text, or require trying to get to much FROM it. It felt punk rock - no baggage of production. It felt Lo-Fi, hence the name.
And I thought: you don’t even have to be religious to approach the Bible stories to answer these two questions. Anyone who is willing to read the text can do it.
If you haven’t been able to really enjoy reading the Bible, I invite you to give this way a try. Read it slow, and just look at the characters - what are they like? How do they relate? When God shows up, which characters do well with God? What kind of people are they? Which ones don’t do well, and why? If “God” isn’t active in that part of the story - what are the people like to each other? What’s their personality?
And be ready to be surprised at what you find.