Recently during worship, I mentioned something I am trying this year. I thought it may be helpful to explain my plan, and the reasons behind it, more fully. You could call it a New Year’s Resolution if you like. For me, however, it is more of an intentional process of engaging different perspectives. During this year I have committed to focus my reading on people who are not like me. So, my goal is to read 24 books during 2020 written by people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
On the one hand, that is a pretty open list of authors. I’m only excerpting straight white guys. But, on the other hand, people like me have been very prolific writers and we tend to get a lot of press. Especially in the area of philosophy and religion.
I first heard about this idea from a colleague whom I deeply respect. They talked about how transformative this experience was for them when they engaged it several years ago. I first heard about this idea last fall and immediately started thinking through all the books I had been reading last year. I was shocked by how many of the authors looked a lot like me! So, I committed to taking this journey in 2020.
I anticipated that I would be challenged by some of what I read this year. Only one month into the process, I can confirm my suspicions. This is going to be a challenging year! I didn’t realize the extent to which I assumed that everyone experiences life similarly to how I experience life. Sure, I knew there were differences based in socio-economic background. I knew that gender and race impacted the way others experience life. But I was living with the assumption that those impacts were largely negligible. I am barely into the second book and I can already tell you that perception has been shattered!
I am beginning to question whether or not I will be able to actually read through the planned 24 books this year. I always considered myself to be a quick reader. I can usually read books very quickly. If the topic and writing captivate me, I can easily read a book in a couple of days. Not this year! I am captivated by the writing, and by the topics, but I am finding the perspective so different that I have been reading much more slowly than normal. Which is, I believe, a good thing.
Although this project is still in its infancy, I am finding this look at the world from a different perspective is having a positive impact on my study of the Bible. I didn’t realize just how much of my own perspective I foist back upon the biblical writers. In seminary I learned how to think about the original author(s), the original audience(s), and the context in which each book (and sometimes parts of books) were written. And yet, I still have this set of assumptions I bring to the text every time I open the Bible. Whether that is reading to prepare for a sermon, thinking about a lesson I am preparing to teach, or in my personal devotional time, I bring a LOT of who I am into my studies. While that may not be a bad thing, it is something about which I believe we all must be aware.
This year is shaping up to be an interesting one already! I hope and pray you are finding exciting ways to learn more about yourself, others, and God this year as well!