The Fetzer Institute and StoryCorps are sponsoring the third
annual National Day of Listening
this Friday. The idea is to inspire people to listen to the stories of their
friends, families and neighbors. StoryCorps offers a free guide to gathering
stories, including a list of questions.
“Tell me a story.” No bedtime liturgy would be complete without these four magical, sacred words, or the four magical words that follow: “Once upon a time. . . .” Story shapes us. Fantastical bedtime stories fill us with fervent hopes for lives full of high adventure and romance, through which we learn chivalry, fidelity and courage.
Fresh out of graduate school, in my first faculty appointment as a professor of English, I was invited to teach an undergraduate course on “The Bible as Literature.” I’ve never stopped teaching it. For over three decades I have had the privilege of guiding students in the encounter of the biblical texts.
A 2007 Kelton Research survey revealed that people know more about what goes into a Big Mac than they do about the Bible; they can name members of the Brady Bunch better than they can name the Ten Commandments. Twelve percent of adults think that Noah’s wife was Joan of Ark, and about half don’t know that the book of Isaiah is in the Old Testament. The situation might have comic possibilities for Jay Leno and other comedians, but for preachers working to craft a biblically based sermon, the situation is confounding. If parishioners can’t follow references to significant people, places or things in the Bible, they may miss or misunderstand the whole message.