Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

March 31, 2013

Bible stories — then and now

— — One of this week’s Daily Telegraph poll questions asked readers if cable channels and networks should develop more biblical-based programming. The response was overwhelming. More than 80 percent of voters wanted additional programs. The question was prompted by the success of “The Bible” on the History Channel.

Living in the Bible belt, where churches dot the landscape of rural America, it isn’t surprising to hear locals talk about the series, and approve of its message. Even around the water cooler, Monday morning conversations have changed from weekend blockbuster movies to Sunday’s night episode of “The Bible.” It has been a nice change, discussing Moses, Abraham and David instead of Hollywood’s movie stars. The mini-series “The Bible” wraps up tonight on Easter Sunday, but the DVD will be released on April 2.

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The History Channel describes the miniseries as “epic.” The Bible has always been epic, but thanks to technology and a good marketing team, it is more appealing to new generations. We are an audience use to big budget films, elaborate sets and visual effects. The executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett — husband and wife team — should be congratulated for their insight into America’s need for biblical truths and powerful visual effects.

My introduction to the Bible didn’t involve any technology. My first Bible was a small pocket New Testament; it was white and fit perfectly inside a white purse. I marveled at the crisp pages, the tiny words and smooth cover. I ran my hands over each page, smoothed out the wrinkles and studied the words in red — Christ’s words. I was too young to understand, yet I knew I held something extremely important.

Childhood Bible stories centered around workbooks, designed like a coloring book with small lessons and a craft. Sunday School lessons ranged from Old Testament’s David and Goliath to Easter Sunday’s resurrection. I also learned a lot of stories through different programs like AWANAS and Vacation Bible School. But perhaps my favorite lessons were the felt flannel board stories. A teacher would set up an easel with a flannel board background. Often these backgrounds were green hills, a palace, the sea or a desert. The characters — Old Testament prophets, the Apostles and Jesus — would magically stick to the board. The lesson came to life. I stopped wiggling or looking around the room. I paid attention to the board as the story of Jesus played out in bright spots of felt and color.

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In Mark 16:15, Christ tells his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” The disciples spread the gospel by preaching and traveling to various cities and towns. On Easter Sunday, crayons, felt characters, songs, sermons and workbooks will tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrections. The story isn’t new; it has been told for hundreds of years by pastors, authors, poets and believers. The way we tell the story has changed, but the hope in Jesus’ sacrifice continues to change hearts and lives. Tonight millions of Americans will gather around the TV to watch the final episode of “The Bible.” The success of the mini-series is evidence of how the Easter story isn’t confined by four walls and a steeple.

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Visual effects or not, there is something pure and true about the Easter story. Take away the flashy scenes, the high-definition TVs. Put away the crayons and workbooks and the greatest love story —Jesus’ love for mankind — still speaks to hearts and minds. That will never change, even if someone changes the channel tonight or forgets to watch the final episode. If not, you can always learn or rediscover God’s word in the crisp, white pages of a Bible. Our poll only represents a small part of the country, yet it is a good indication of the importance of religious values and freedom.

Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at jparsell@bdtonline.com or on Twitter @BDTParsell.

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