QWERTY vs. The Art of the Fika
READING/LISTENING: Genesis 16-18, Psalm 5, "The Covenants" video
So yesterday we began reading Genesis 16-18 and Psalm 5. I'm keeping today's post short to leave you room for that reading but also because I'd like for you to watch The Bible Project video "The Covenants" (https://thebibleproject.com/videos/covenants/) and read this beautiful essay by Dr. Russell Moore on the the irreducibility of Biblical narrative. https://www.russellmoore.com/2018/01/17/you-cant-have-ethics-without-stories/
It's rare for a contemporary article to move me as much as Dr. Moore's did, but so much of what has frustrated me about pop-evangelical treatment of the Scripture is addressed in this essay. He writes:
"Most of us who are conservative evangelicals rightly reject the idea that the history of the Bible is merely illustrative–stories not grounded in fact but that point to the “real issue” of some experience with God or some demonstration of the way to live. The problem is though that sometimes we use the Bible the same way, only with the understanding that these stories really happened in space and in time. That’s true, they did in fact happen, but we sometimes assume that the narrative is simply the way God is feeding us the abstractions of moral principles or doctrinal axioms."
I don't know if you remember the QWERTY section of the Veggie Tales videos, but the little jingle went like this:
"And so what we have learned applies to our lives today,
and God has a lot to say in His book.
You see, we know that God's word is for everyone
And now that our song is done, we'll take a look!"
I get why Veggie Tales did this. It's a standard teaching technique for elementary-aged kids. But when reading mass-produced Christian books, you'll often find a QWERTY section at the end of a well-formed adult narrative--a few sentences in which a writer includes a forthright moral or axiom to complete a powerful story. Sometimes this works. Other times, it feels forced and cheesy, as if the writer doesn't trust the reader to engage with the story.
So I was deeply relieved, both as a reader and as a writer, that Dr. Moore is addressing the problem of narrative reduction. It's something the Christian community needs to consider.
My oldest son just returned from six months in Sweden, and one of his favorite Scandinavian traditions is called fika, a mid-day coffee in which friends and co-workers put the to-do list aside and sit down together to catch up. Workers who skip fika to be "productive" aren't admired; they are seen as selfish. Swedes realize that taking time to listen, and to really listen, is valuable.
Swedish conversation tends to be more focused, and Swedes are comfortable with longer periods of silence between sentences. They take time to think before responding, not desperate to fill up all the room, but respecting concepts enough to let them sink in and roll around.
When you are reading the Bible, perhaps the concept of fika can free you up to encounter the narrative in a much deeper way. Instead of rushing, you can linger. Instead of checking off boxes and driving to QWERTified conclusions, you can slow down and absorb a story as a whole. And God can meet you there--not in just in bullet points or axioms--but complex and holy as mysterious as living beings always are.