I remember church picnics where everyone went. From the newest baby to the 90-somethings everyone came. The picnic was usually held at a local park with a large pavilion in which tables were covered with potluck.
This was back when churches actually scheduled church-wide events, something almost unheard of today even in smaller congregations. Today we have options, so each generation if not each individual exercises their freedom of choice by going in several directions at once. It makes for comedy but not community.
Same can be said for versions of the Scripture. I’m by no means a “King James Version Only” guy (yes, there are KJV Only guys), but I do sense a trade-off, if not a loss, that’s come with ever multiplying presentations of the Holy Writ.
When I was a kid in Sunday school, “Jet Cadets” (What a name, right? I’ll tell you that story another time), DVBS, i.e. Daily Vacation Bible School, and later teen groups I memorized verses from the KJV. Those verses are still in my mind today, complete with all their “thees” and “thous.” In fact, they’re still in the minds of anyone over, say, 40 who memorized Scripture in his or her youth.
It’s amusing: a preacher reads his sermon text from the church’s selected newer version of the Scripture. He begins preaching. Later as he’s in full flight the Spirit of God brings a verse to his mind that he had not planned to use. He quotes it—in the King James Version, and this he does no matter what version du jour he read earlier.
It’s bemusing: The Church no longer has a common vocabulary. With each church exercising its Christian liberty to choose whatever version of Scripture the fellowship likes we move farther apart. If we memorize Scripture at all we learn different words and will not necessarily recognize the same verse from another version.
If this is a challenge within the Church, think how much more confusing it is for a public increasingly distanced from biblical knowledge.
It used to be that I could say “He’s willingly ignorant of that issue,” and people around me would know that I had just borrowed a phrase from Scripture. But if I say this now most people will not recognize the biblical allusion because most haven’t heard the language of the KJV (2 Peter 3:5, KJV).
Old black and white movies from Hollywood’s Golden Era feature many references to biblical themes, characters, verses, or theology. Someone says, for example, “That woman is a Jezebel,” and culture knew what that meant. Today’s films are mostly sanitized of biblical references, but even when they’re included many viewers miss the connection.
I was reading an editorial a while ago and the author said, “As Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Well, during the Civil War President Lincoln did say this, but he was paraphrasing the book of Matthew (12:25) and other Gospels.
I am not against different versions of the Bible, nor do I think it’s improper for churches to select the version that best fits their ministry. I’m simply saying that we’ve embraced this newfound freedom with little discussion of its implications for community long-term.
And I believe we’re losing or among young people have already lost a common language of the faith. We're increasingly pulled apart by the centrifugal social forces of culture and we have little remaining centripetal influences of the faith pulling us together again.
Maybe we need to resurrect the church picnic.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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