Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning

By David I. Smith; James K. A. Smith | Go to book overview

Reading Practices and Christian Pedagogy:
Enacting Charity with Texts

David I. Smith


Questions about Reading

When Christians (or folk in general, for that matter) discuss reading, most of the energy tends to go into judging the acceptability of particular books. Publications on Christianity and literature tend to consist of faithinformed commentary on significant works, or debates about what books should be read by whom, or whether they should be read at all.1 This is a fine and necessary enterprise. This essay, however, is more concerned with the kinds of readers that we have become or are becoming, and about how much responsibility teachers bear for that process. I will be examining how reading is nested within the practices of teaching and learning, and what this has to do with faith; but first allow me to set the stage with a few points of reference.

There is a long tradition of discussion of what we might call spiritually engaged reading. This includes the development of specific practices that seek to move the reader beyond mere decoding of information and to slow and enhance his or her ingestion of words with a view to personal transformation. Eugene Peterson, in a recent popular contribution to this tradition, has this to say about the “discipline of spiritual reading”:

[It is] the only kind of reading that is congruent with what is written in
our Holy Scriptures, but also with all writing that is intended to

1. The majority of the scholarly articles published on Christianity and literature (for instance, in the journal of the same name) have focused on interpreting works or developing literary theory, while more public Christian debates about reading are often of the “should children be allowed to read Harry Potter” variety.

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