At 11:45am on Wednesday, February 15th, Concordia University, St. Paul hosted JoBe Cerny, the voice of the Pillsbury Dough Boy, for a convocation titled, "The Word of Promise: The Bible as an Audio Book " in the Buetow Music Auditorium. JoBe shared a few stories from the three-and-a-half year process of creating the audio book of the Bible, and explained its conception adding that funding for the project is still being worked on. A nine-minute clip of highlights from it was played that was shocking for the audience because it was so similar to a Hollywood-like drama filled with opera singers, loud symphonic music, and the voice of a weak human Jesus about to be crucified. Afterwards the audience asked JoBe questions related to the book such as, "Why did you choose the King James Version of the Bible versus another?" or "Is this going to be translated into different languages?" Each question had a decent answer, but sometimes he would go off on tangents instead telling stories that were not necessarily relative.
The clip which was played during the convocation from the audio Bible itself confused a few audience members. Some could see the ministry in the audio book of the Bible portrayed in this Hollywood-drama popular way, in drawing audience members to this new-take on the Bible, but others could also see this whole thing ending badly in taking people away from reading the scriptures themselves. The apostle Paul said that faith comes by hearing, but that was in a time when silent reading quite peculiar, so now that we have the ability to read or hear the Bible, which is better? Which is right in the eyes of the Lord? Does it matter? Most Christians would agree there is power in reading scripture, but maybe it does not matter whether it is being read or listened to because, according to Martin Luther, it is not the scripture itself but the Holy Spirit which fills one with faith. However, the idea of replacing a reading of scripture in each congregation with this pre-recorded Hollywood version is rather uncomforting. How would this affect Sunday school services, or the way that people learn about God? When discussing those who say "there must be a God, just look around you, just look at nature, there has to be a God," a professor of mine once raised the question, "what does this tell you about your God?" The way we view the things of God have a huge impact on how we view God, so will kids who grow up listening to this over-dramatized version of the Bible always view God in wrathful ways or expect their lives to be like movies? Will they be able to relate to the scriptures at all or look past their lessons and only see the literal stories at hand?
I believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through us. When someone does the reading for the church service there are so many more variables added to how one views the reading compared to if it were pre-recorded. If it is the same pre-recorded scripture heard again and again, eventually one would be able to predict the tone of voice, the inflection, the cries, etc., but with readings no one knows how it will be done. Yes, it is the same words being read in that sense, but it just seems wrong to just press play whenever it is time for a "reading from the gospel according to John". There is a time for these sorts of things, and perhaps it is more appropriate for a bathrobe drama, but for a Sunday service, a Bible study, or even a personal spiritual journey, I do think it is better to leave more room for the Holy Spirit to speak to us through a live reading. Perhaps I am just afraid of change, but I do seriously think scholars of the church need to think about this before we just start replacing humans with pre-recorded voices.
Also, something about JoBe Cerny did not sit right with me. Some of his stories brought some inspiration, and yes, they were interesting, but I failed to see the Christian side of things. He vaguely touched on the fact that it was a ministry reaching out to people in a whole different way, and I guess, I did not really believe the stories. I am not sure if the story of the woman not recognizing the "script", which was the Bible word-for-word, was a good thing or a bad thing. What does it mean that she did not recognize the words of the bible if she was truly well versed in the scriptures? Did the Holy Spirit fill her after she heard? I felt more like they only completed the project of creating the audio Bible to say that it was done rather than for the purpose to spread the "Good News", bring one closer to God, or share the scripture with others.Was this just something done to make money, or can it be funded in a way by organizations as to add some spiritual message to it?
A suggestion for the marketing team of the audio book would be to get involved with an organization that would allow them to donate one audio book to specific organizations for each one sold or even just donate money for each one sold or something. Or an organization could fund the entire project as to get the audio Bible available for all ears everywhere so that none are excluded from this opportunity to, "hear scripture an entirely different way". I suppose that would take a while, and is not completely realistic, but e
ither way I do not feel the spiritual movement in this thing. While I understand the artistic side of its creation, I do not know whether or not this is right. Maybe in the future this will prove to be an excellent foundation for a new sort of ministry, but until then I will continue to read my hardcover, paper, silent Bible.