Oral fixation – Biblestick project and Faith comes by hearing

Bible_sticks_small_new2 I've been getting back into running again. So much of my life is spreading in all directions then perhaps  my waistline is a good place to start a regime of restraint. So every other morning I am up and pounding round the streets. Which always raises the question What do you do while you are running?  Well writing blogs in one's head is a very easy thing to do. And pleasant too. Trouble is if the run is of any length you generate so much material that work takes a back seat. I've tried prayer as a way of preparing for the day and engaging with the community I am running through in some mystic sense but find that something of a struggle – even more tiring than running.

So I'm experimenting with something else. Bible Society are trialling a programme called You've got the Time. Here's how it works. They have put the whole of the New Testament on a USB stick powered by a AAA battery. They will send you one for free. The idea is that you listen to the whole New Testament. At the end of which they want you to make a donation. Which will cover your stick and pay for another to be used in another part of the world in another language.  40 days of roughly half an hours listening a day and you will have heard the whole of the New Testament. I strongly suspect that those who put the programme together imagine people will sit in chairs or walk the dog listening to this thing. Me – I'm happy to listen to it and keep running.

The recording is more than a single voice reading – a cast of voices are used and there is an atmospheric music backdrop. Its not exactly National Theatre. The beggars whine a little too much, the Pharisees and other baddies sound as if they have been to public school – just like in old English films,  Jesus sounds a bit like a social worker – and the atmospheric music strays a little towards coool jazz at times. But its easy to listen to. 

Bolivia_group_500 The programme is part of the Faith Comes by Hearing project which looks to put audio bibles using solar powered playback devices, windup players and CDs in communities all over the world where literacy is limited. Apparently 40% of the planet is illiterate. Each village gets a player.  And the player is only the start. The idea is to build discussion groups around the players. The scale of the programme is huge. We're not talking a couple of dozen players here. The Latin American programme has 40 languages and 365,000 listening groups.

Its a technology mediated version of the base communities in South America from which Liberation theology and land reform sprang. There has been a lot of criticism of missionary activity as a post colonial way to spread Western ideas.  Which ignores the reality which is that Christianity is increasingly a southern hemisphere religion whose adherents are among the poorest inhabitants on the planet. Putting an audio bible into a community can have unpredictable results. It won't necessarily turn them into western dressing, hymn singing compliant Anglicans. If anything the opposite. Because the community are left to contextualise the Bible for themselves.  That's the whole point of viral Christianity. It needs to take an authentic local form.

Back to the Biblestick  and You've got the time. The programme has been in test in the UK in 25 churches and will roll out in the next couple of months. Here's the website reference to find out more and reserve your stick.



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