Some kids were driving on frozen Irondequoit Bay, spinning round and round the way we all love to do in wintertime Rochester, [BTW, nearby Redfield NY has 11 feet of snow, all in the last 2 weeks!] when they discovered the bay was not so frozen as they had thought. Near shore, the ice gave way and down went the car! Of course, this was top news for the Democrat and Chronicle, whose lead story showed the car's top poking up from the bay along with this gem: "It's likely to cost thousands of dollars to retrieve, said one towing expert."
It was true. Neighbors and cops and ice fishermen and bay officials converged on the scene and debated what the final price tag would be. Would it be $1? Or $10? Or maybe that figure was too low. Maybe it would be a million dollars! Nobody had any idea, but then they called a "towing expert" who opined it was likely to cost "thousands of dollars." Blown away by his confidence, they gave him the job and....sure enough....when he hauled the thing out, he charged thousands of dollars!
They tried to be gentle at first, but in the end they salvaged little more than scrap metal, just like that engine repair you did where you started with the screwdriver and box wrench, then escalated to the vicegrips and crowbar, then escalated again to the jackhammer and cutting torch, then gave up and bought a new car. The drama took three days to unfold, and each day the dunked car was front page news, trumping Bush, Iraq, Hillary, Spitzer, everything.
No wonder nobody knows anything! They're dumbing our papers down and we can't do a thing about it. The D&C is practically a comic book now, and if you have any doubt, go to the library and check out some issues from decades back. They are scholarly tomes by comparison. Ditto for the newsmagazines. Ditto for all kinds of popular press as they follow reading skills to unheard of depths, desperately trying to keep readers who hate to read. Even my beloved Watchtower is right there riding the trend, just like Slim Pickens astraddle the falling bomb. What choice do they have if they want to reach people? Since trends like this are usually too gradual to notice, the fact that we can notice it is depressing.
In 1990, documentary producer Ken Burns presented The Civil War on PBS. For nine evenings PBS stood toe to toe with the big networks. People didn't watch the usual tripe, they watched The Civil War. The series won 40+ film and television awards. Burns panned through thousands of archived photos, narrated scores of personal stories, diary entries and letters from great men and plowboys alike. And you cannot sit through the program without being struck by how literate they all were back then. Not just the educated people. No, but also the bumpkins, the plowboys, the commoners. Not only did they narrate facts clearly but, more remarkably, they expressed emotion gracefully and without embarrassment.
But that was then. Now is now. Several years ago Watchtower released the brochure What Does God Require of You? The writing is extremely simple, perhaps (just guessing here) 3rd grade level, so that you run the risk of offending people when offering it, in case they are scholars reading at the 4th or 5th grade level. But you must have a tool for everyone and the brochure's plus is that it offers a complete overview of God's purpose, along with what we must do to fit in with it. It's no good to write everything like the New York Times and thus miss 80% of the population. Anyway, simple people respond more readily to the Kingdom message than do educated ones. It's not the education that messes people up. It's the pompous and full-of-themselves baggage they tend to pick up along the way. God despises pride.
For Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees;
But the lofty one he knows only from a distance Psalm 138:6
For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are....
1 Cor 3:26-28
So if I offer that brochure and I'm not sure about reading level, I avert trouble by saying up front that it's written very, very, very, very simply. Think of it as an outline. We could make it big as a phone book if we wanted, but we've deliberately written only enough words to glue the scriptures together, to bridge from one to the next. That way the Bible stays front and center, not our own pontificating.