The New York elite have spoken out once again. For us unsophisticated illiterates who live outside the cultural center of the universe, prepare to be enlightened. According to a New York City-based magazine, the Bible is overrated.
First, it was the New Yorker Magazine who published an article on April 13th titled, “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City.” Bemoaning the arrival of this Atlanta-based restaurant, the author confesses it “feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”
Now, on April 19th, the editors of GQ Magazine, a publication dedicated to men’s fashion, grooming, and all things superficial, insist that not all of the Great Books have “aged well.” After all, “Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring.” In a piece titled, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read,” (1) these paragons of literary fashion enlighten us by giving men “permission to strike these books from the canon.”
The 21 “boring” books may surprise you. Included among them are novels by Hemingway, David McCullough, and Mark Twain. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” is considered “barely readable.” And the Bible? Well, the GQ editor writes, “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.” GQ suggests Agota Kristof’s “The Notebook”, as a more appropriate substitute.
Now they tell me. To think how much time I wasted in Sunday School.
My apologies to the sophisticates of the Big Apple, but I beg to differ. They must be reading a different book than the Bible I read. Boring? Foolish? Really?
I am reminded of a story shared by the Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, in his book, “Walking from East to West.” Ravi recalls the time he spent in Vietnam ministering during the height of the Vietnam War. It was 1971. An energetic young Christian, Hien Pham, served as his driver and interpreter. After the war, Hien was arrested by the Viet Cong and imprisoned for supposedly working with the CIA. Beaten, he was constantly berated and told, “There is no such thing as God.” After days of relentless punishment, exhausted and depressed, he went to bed one night telling himself that when he woke up the next morning, “No more God, no more prayer.”
The next day, Hien learned he had been assigned the most indignant of all assignments — latrine duty. Cleaning out the trash cans of soiled toilet paper, Hien noticed a piece of paper with English print. Eager to read English again, he quickly rinsed off the filth and quietly tucked it into his pocket. Later that night he pulled it out to read. It was a page from Romans, Chapter 8. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” For, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Reading the Scripture, Hien began to cry. Romans 8 spoke the words he most needed to hear. He started to pray again. The next day, he requested latrine duty. The commanding officer, thinking he was being mocked, ordered him on indefinite latrine duty. Hien soon discovered that this same officer had been using pages from a Bible as toilet paper, never realizing, of course, that Hien was cleaning every page to use as a devotional that night. Years later, having escaped Vietnam and now living in the United States, Hien related to Ravi how these events helped him develop a true intimacy with God. I suspect Hien does not consider the Bible to be boring or foolish. But then, he probably doesn’t have a subscription to GQ Magazine either.
If I am to be honest, I must confess my motivation for responding to this GQ article is also a personal one. True, there have been times when reading Scripture seemed more of a chore than an adventure. But in 2011, just weeks after losing my wife of 38 years to cancer, I struggled with my faith and prayer life. Using the Psalms to give my prayers a voice, I came across Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Overwhelmed with a sense of God’s presence, these words renewed my soul and gave me hope. Boring? Foolish? Hardly.
GQ may be the premier men’s magazine on matters of style and culture, but they are quite clueless when it comes to that which feeds the souls of men.
And, I bet they don’t eat Chick-fil-A sandwiches either.