Teach the Bible Like Stephen King? Horrors!

I’ve come to the place in my reading and studying the Bible that a fresh angle is refreshing. I know the traditional interpretations, the safe and comfortable writers, the orthodox perspectives, the insights from people like me – white, middle-class, educated, men. These days, I long for a different angle.

Jesus in a straw bed manger

The angle can be stretched a bit too far or absurd, sometimes. As a young minister, I remember a retired (twice-over) pastor said to me, “In 50 years of preaching, how many ways can you preach the Christmas story? Yet you must preach it every year. One year, I preached it from the perspective of the straw in the manger. That was a new low.”

But without a new angle, we find nothing exciting, we teach nothing intriguing.

This week, I read a book of writings about writing by the horror writer, Stephen King. I have never read a Stephen King short story or novel. I am not into thriller/killer books. But King must be doing something right to attract so many readers. Here are three excerpts from Stephen King’s book – and some questions I am beginning to ponder to help my teaching:

The Secret Garden seen from the Secret Window

“One day…I stopped in the laundry room of our house to drop a dirty shirt into the washing machine. Our laundry room is a small, narrow alcove on the second floor. I disposed of the shirt and then stepped over to one of the room’s two windows. It was casual curiosity, no more. We’ve been living in the same house for eleven or twelve years now, but I had never taken a good hard look out this particular window before. The reason is perfectly simple: set at floor level, mostly hidden behind the dryer, half blocked by baskets of mending, it’s a hard window to look out of.

potted plant

“I squeezed in, nevertheless, and looked out. That window looks down on a little brick-paved alcove between the house and the attached sunporch. It’s an area I see just about every day…but the angle was new. My wife had set half a dozen pots out there, so the plants could take a little of the early November sun, I suppose, and the result was a charming little garden which only I could see. The phrase which occurred to me was, of course, the title of this story [Secret Window, Secret Garden]. It seemed to me as good a metaphor as any for what writers do with their days and nights. Sitting down at the typewriter or picking up a pencil is a physical act: the spiritual analogue is looking out an almost forgotten window, a window which offers a common view from an entirely different angle…an angle which renders the common extraordinary. The writer’s job is to gaze through that window and report on what he sees.”1

A question for the Bible teacher

How do we Bible teachers find new angles? How do we “render the common extraordinary?”

Sewing a story

“I’ve always thought that my job, in a way, was to sew two pieces of cloth together. On this hand, you’ve got everything that is real and everything that is ordinary and everything that’s humdrum. And on the other side, you have everything that’s unreal, the vampires, werewolves, and all the things we’re afraid of…. We enjoy these things because we understand that when we close the book, the terrors go away. At least until you turn off the light and hopefully they come back. The writer’s job, if he’s going to be successful, you try to bring those two pieces of cloth together and sew that hem so fine that the reader doesn’t really know when he or she crosses over from the land of what’s real to the land of what’s unreal.”2

A question for the Bible teacher

As Bible teachers, we take the cloth of real, daily life and hem it with the dream of God, the Kingdom of God. How can we “sew the hem so fine” that this dream seems possible?

wine glasses

“I believe in an afterlife….and the reason I think I do is that we’re too good to waste. We’re not Dixie cups. We should have some sort of a life where most of us are fine crystal. You wouldn’t use a fine crystal glass once and throw it away.”3

A question for the Bible teacher

As Bible teachers, how preciously do we regard our class members? How does this compare to how God regards them?

  1. Stephen King, Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing (New York: Book-of-the-Month Club, 2000), 362f. []
  2. Ibid, 382f. []
  3. Ibid., 385. []

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