Don’t panic, but I’m about to jump on the Fifty Shades bandwagon. Though not in the way that you might think. I’ve read some brilliant articles - Martin Saunders wrote a great comment piece - about the moral and social implications of the badly written S&M trilogy (which started life as online Twilight fan fiction, I still feel compelled to point out) appearing consistently in top ten lists across the country. My issue is not of the physical copies that occupy entire blocks of shelves of Tesco – though I am perturbed at the visibility – my issue is about the unseen copies. Or rather, the copies only visible to the reader.
With the e-reader revolution steadily pushing down sales of the paperback year on year, discretion reigns. We can download thousands of books to our one device and never have to show anyone what we’re reading.
Last week, I was with a group of friends. One of our group had left their Kindle on the table, and another picked it up to casually inspect it. The Kindle owner more or less slow-motion jumped across the table with a high pitched scream to stop anyone reading the books she owned on there. Eventually we got an admission that there were a plethora of embarrassingly titled self-help books on there that she wouldn’t be caught dead with in paperback in public. I was left to imagine the titles – “How to increase your marriage potential by up to 60%” perhaps, (an actual book, surprisingly not available on guilt-free Kindle).
Explicit books like Fifty Shades can be read without shame in front of dozens in a packed commuter train, because all they can read is the product code on the unassumingly grey back panel of the e-reader.
Admittedly, I’ve been glad to have had my trusty iPad available to read on my commute, and not the familiar black and red book covers that would out me as a Twi-hard.
But what about the books that we shouldn’t be ashamed of? One book in particular.
For those of us who might swipe through their daily Bible verse on their commute with our shiny devices, are we in a little way hiding our lamp under a bushel?
Obviously, reading your Bible for all to see isn’t exactly going to see millions come to faith, but it does make it visible to the people around us, ensuring that it’s not an unusual sight to see someone reading a Bible, or even the latest Rob Bell controversy, on a train.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can have the Bible in my pocket 24/7, and that people who found the word of God inaccessible before are now able to completely immerse themselves in it. Thanks to ministries like YouVersion and their Bible App, people are connecting with it in their daily lives like never before.
But is it visible enough? As well as our digital devices, should we be making more of an effort to whip out a physical Bible, Christian book, an Alpha booklet or even a copy of Sorted Christian Magazine for Men (you’re welcome, Steve) to make it look just as mainstream as the copies of Fifty Shades read in secret a hundred times a day?
I think my question to you is, are there ways we can we have both digital and physical visibility when it comes to the Bible and the wider public, who need to see that Christianity is breaking out all over our country, and not just under a layer of pixels?