All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
How to start a blog? This is how I start: I just start. It’s that easy. Think about your driving concerns–the things that go beyond interest in your life, the things dominating your thoughts right this minute. Connect with what really matters to you . . . in your heart. The words will come. Will they be read? The Bible says to sow the seed broadly. More seeds, more harvest. Why is starting easy for me? I won’t call writing my passion. The expression is so over-used it’s virtually meaningless, my opinion of course. I do avoid expressions batted around in the back and forth of our national conversation–no buzz words if I can help it.
So I start, then what? For me, the words are always too many. The problem isn’t getting started but the dead wood that piles on afterwards. I write a column on the Bible for the local newspaper. It’s an exercise and privilege I’ve loved for more than a dozen years. But the opportunity came with a limit–one page. That’s no small task for a wordy person, and the topic fires my thinking. Unless I put on brakes, it can burn up the hours. Polishing, editing, deleting—that’s the hard part. I have to remember: Getting rid of extra words makes for power, the Hebrew Bible an example. The number of Hebrew words in Psalm 23 is half, as compared to the English total. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob inspired King David, or shepherd-boy David. Psalm 23 is an inspired expression of faith, of beauty and undeniable power. For centuries, this psalm has been memorized. The brevity increases the power of it.
Now, about my topic. Since college years, I’ve seen how we’ve distanced ourselves from the Bible. Even Christians don’t read it. Americans are abysmally ignorant. It isn’t cool to know the Bible. We’ve tried to erase prejudice from our society, but it’s still okay to scorn the “Bible thumpers.” The Bible itself is held in low regard. The label “Bible believers” turns into a pejorative. All this grieves me. Changes in education account for some of it. As a schoolchild (~1910-1920), my mother did exercises–penmanship, say, or memory work, or grammar and syntax–in words and phrases from the Bible. It was the given, the authority.
The changes in our country, rampant since my mother’s school days, are dramatic. Consider how crude and contentious our national style has become. Anything goes. On the other hand, what a shock if someone refers to prayer and wisdom from the Bible or allows the outpourings of a worshipful heart brimming with gratitude in praise of Jesus Christ. Who will put up with talk like that? It’s become controversial, even in the military, for ministers and chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus. We tolerate many things today, but these topics are deemed intolerable. Should open expressions of Christian faith be so embarrassing they’re the new obscenities? It grieves me that biblical topics and Christian concerns are vanishing from our national conversation. Look around. What I see is a picture of cultural devastation–perhaps an objective correlative, to borrow T.S. Eliot’s term, for a culture in decline. Does the loss of the Bible parallel many of the losses within our common life? A friend of mine cannot resist comparisons to Rome the mighty as it began to fade from history. Do we say nothing?
At our peril, we forget the Bible–or worse, reduce it to a mere historical or religious text, one of many available today. We lose its power as a resource when we dismiss it. This is a supernatural library of writings, a book that reads the reader. Humanists of today reject divine revelation, preferring a cultural, “many-ways-to-God” approach. There are many texts for seekers on that path, many voices urging this religion or that. The Bible deals in absolutes and they ain’t us! To be apprehended by Jesus Christ is to become less uncomfortable with all that. It means choosing against relativism and living a lie, a false position like telling myself, for example, that if I miss or misplace one dot in an email address, it will be delivered anyway, or like refusing to think twice before jumping off my roof to show my disbelief in gravity. The absolutes are context and they are real. The Bible talks about absolutes, and if we talk about the Bible but don’t read it, we’re the losers.
So what does this have to do with how a writer gets started? For me, starting a piece isn’t the problem. I just have to watch pushing my own button, spinning out the paragraphs. Control is the challenge, not getting started. Wordiness may be a personal quirk, but I’m guessing it has more to do with the intensity of my concern. I want to remind anyone who will listen that the Bible is more than a treasure. It is life. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:33). Revised from a conversation posted on sigridfowler.com