Writes Stephen L. Carter, Yale church/state scholar and novelist:
It is no accident that the great Western religions rely heavily on sacred texts—texts, moreover, that believers are able to touch and feel and carry about. The weight a
nd heft of a Bible, its solidity, itself implies eternity. Matthew Brown of the University of Iowa, in his pathbreaking study of early American devotional texts, has pointed out how their form— “short and tubby, as thick as a brick” —formed a part of the aesthetic experience of the reader. One did not only read God’s word; one touched it. Many of us are old enough to remember when families routinely kissed the Bible. It is difficult to imagine lavishing the same loving attention on the computer screen.
Which is why, writes Carter, the feds should bail out publishing.
Oh, wait — that’s not why. Something about “democracy.” That’s good stuff, too.
Jeff Sharlet is a founding editor of Killing the Buddha, coauthor with Peter Manseau of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (2004) and co-editor of Believer, Beware (2009). Sharlet is also the author of Sweet Heaven When I Die, (2011), C Street, (2010), and the New York Times bestseller The Family (2008).