I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the importance – indeed, the necessity – of reading. Most blog readers are readers in general, but interestingly, I keep running into people who envisage reading and readers with skepticism and sometimes even disdain. Certainly, not everyone enjoys reading on the same level or can read with the same speed and comprehension as others, but in the last year I’ve heard some really distressing news regarding readership in America.
The news can be summed up by saying this: Most people don’t read! One thing I can tell you about “most people” is that the ones who truly don’t read are not producing in work and life at the level they should. They are not leaders or influencers in their fields, not great followers and are making big mistakes that others have already made in every area of their lives. To my horror, I’ve heard the following recently, (1) after attaining their final level of education, most people never read another non-fiction book; (2) “I just don’t see the point” (of reading), and (3) “I just don’t have the time.”
These are troubling statement if for no other reason than it has been proven throughout the centuries that it is through reading that cultures advance, that technologies emerge, that discovery is made, and that better ideas evolve. To not read is dangerous, not just for the person, but for society as a whole.
As a matter of fact, people who choose not to read (and reading is volitional) are saying at least these four things:
1. I Can’t Handle Complex Ideas. Complex ideas (and the most important issues in life are complex; religion, politics, life and death, meaning, etc…) cannot be handled in an hour on TV or in sound-bytes. Complex ideas have to be unpacked, there are foundational philosophies that have to be explained and advocated and books are the best and fullest way to do this. A friend of mine has said of theology, “Never believe anything that can be reduced to a bumper-sticker.” Yet that is what people frequently do. We reduce complex ideas to nuggets. In church contexts, when we do this, we shouldn’t be surprised when thinking people pose questions to us that we don’t respond well to. In response to legitimate questions, we come up with something pithy but vacant. Or worse, we believe things that are popular, but wrong.
2. I Know Everything Already. If I’m right and the most important and complex ideas need unpacking and we do so by engaging ideas in reading, then to not do so means we think we know everything we need to know already. At the very least you may be saying, “I may not know everything already, but I know all I want/ need to know.” This is deliberate ignorance. Newsflash: You didn’t learn everything you need to know in kindergarten! By not reading, the world is passing you by. New information, new perspectives on old information, news, analysis and insight are passing you by and eventually, without reading, you will become obsolete.
3. I Don’t Like to Be Intellectually Challenged. The very nature of good reading places the reader – somewhat – under the influence of the writer. Many folks don’t like this. I’ve known and know some people who cannot stand being intellectually challenged. For some, being challenged is tantamount to saying everything they’ve ever known is wrong. But you can see the obvious weakness of this position. Everything any of us have ever learned we learned only because we didn’t know it already.
4. Spiritual Life is Unimportant to Me. The world is made of words. Genesis’ account of creation tells us God “spoke,” and John tells us that Jesus is “the WORD made flesh.” Yet these are spiritual commitments and interpretations that some may not share, so I’ll go one step further. Research has repeatedly demonstrated the 2nd strongest factor for teenagers adopting the Christian faith is reading. Simply put: The more one reads the more likely they will develop faith. Faith and reading are sojourners. You cannot do one well without doing the other.
Let me put it simply: If you’re not reading you’re failing and falling behind. Don’t do this to yourself