I got a forwarded e-mail today that was surely intended as an exhortation to read my Bible more:
CELL PHONES VS. THE BIBLE I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones? What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets? What if we turned back to go get it if we for got it? What if we flipped through it several times a day? What if we used it to receive messages from the text? What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it? What if we gave it to kids as gifts? What if we used it as we traveled? What if we used it in case of an emergency? What if we upgraded it to get the latest version? Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we dont ever have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill!
I thought this was kind of cute. I immediately, of course, took pot shots at it:
What if we could switch our Bible to vibrate?
What if it had games and music and cool ring tones built in?
What if we read from the Bible in a really loud voice on the train or in restaurants or during movies?
What if we read the Bible while we were driving?
What if the people who sold us our Bible kept calling and e-mailing and text-messaging about system upgrades and supplemental junk that we didn't really need?
But I did think about the cultural message we send with our cell phones. Cell phones interrupt us all the time; we privilege potential phone conversations over the actual conversations we're having. We content ourselves with looking insane as we talk on a hands-free device while walking down the street. We've turned the Bluetooth earpiece into a fashion accessory.
That's the one that got me. I've just finished reading Girl Meets God, a memoir of one woman's journey through Orthodox Judaism and evangelical Christianity. She talks quite a lot about the lifestyle accommodations that Orthodox Jews make out of fidelity to their faith. Among them is the phylactery, a leather box worn on the arm or the forehead by Jewish men. Stuffed inside the phylactery is text from the Scriptures. You can't not notice phylacteries, and the message they send is shouted from Mount Sinai: "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One!"
Christendom is awash in messagewear--Jesus fish, Jesus mints, pop culture images plundered and reconceived as Christian messages--all kept within easy reach for the unlikely spontaneous spiritual conversation with a non-Christian. I'm reminded of the Jetta commercial, in which Jetta drivers pass luxury and sports cars whose drivers shout through megaphones: "My parents never loved me!" "I'm compensating for my shortcomings!" The intended audience is barraged with a message it's often not interested in receiving.
The phylactery is not so much like these. It's more like the Bluetooth earpiece. The world looks on and gets one message--"I'm wearing something you're not accustomed to seeing"--and is left to wonder who's on the other end of the line, what's in the leather box. The wearer, meanwhile, endures the discomfort of looking odd in order to gain the benefit: a message intended for them, setting the course for their day.
I hate cell phones. But I kind of like phylacteries. To top it all off, their batteries never go dead.