By: Jonathan Fischer
“When modern people read the Bible, we think it’s primitive, violent, and backwards. Its first readers found it progressive, dangerous, and revolutionary. What happened?”
This is the question Kevin Makins seeks to answer. About 2 years ago, the founding pastor of Eucharist Church in downtown Hamilton went on a bike trip through Ontario to stop at bars at night and speak about the Bible. His sermon/show, Holy Shift, is powerful, entertaining, and intellectually stimulating. Luckily, it has been recorded and is finally available online — for free! You can find it at kevinmakins.com. To gain some insight on the creation of this show and the thoughts behind it, the Crown took some time this month to interview Kevin on his work.
When did you have this idea to bike all around Ontario, stop at bars every night, and speak about the Bible for over 60 minutes?
I think a lot of people reserve talking about the Bible for a certain time and place — usually Sunday morning around 11am. But that also tends to limit the conversation. People smile and act polite and ignore lots of really strange things in the Bible, including the parts that make us uncomfortable. But if you go to a bar, sit down in a chill environment, and drink a pint; it’s amazing how quickly people will start to open up with their real thoughts and questions.
Were you ever worried no one would show up?
Oh, absolutely terrified. And worried that if people did show up, they would be disappointed or confused by the content, because the show has some weird stuff in it. But fear is a crucial part of the creative process. Stephen Pressfield says, “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” So the fact that I was terrified was really a good sign.
What was your motivation behind Holy Shift? What compelled you to write it?
As a pastor in a secular city I talk to people all the time who feel like Jesus is compelling but the Bible is… well, you can insert your word: primitive, sexist, homophobic, violent. To them, one of the largest barriers to Jesus is actually the Bible itself! That got me thinking more about it. However, when other Christians started coming up to me with the same concerns, I knew this mattered.
I knew I could give people books that would help answer their questions, but ordering and reading books is a high barrier to entry. I thought: What if we made a funny, engaging 60 minute video that gave some answers? Would that be an accessible option?
Tell us more about this show.
Holy Shift lives somewhere between a a sermon, a TED talk, and a comedy special. It was filmed live in front of over 150 people and walks through the parts of the Bible we find most confusing (the Bible is full of penis laws) and disturbing (women are treated as spoils of war). The show then explores what the Bible is doing to its original audience and what that means for society, human progress, and for you as an individual. It’s designed to make you think, make you laugh, and make you cry; and I’m not sure in what order.
Do you think a lot of 21st Century evangelicalism is getting the Bible wrong?
Absolutely. But this show isn’t trying to argue that this is “the only” or “the best” way to read the Bible. I’m adding to the conversation and trying to open up new and possibly more faithful ways to understand the text. All of what I am saying has been said by smarter scholars and theologians — I’m just making it accessible, free, and with more inappropriate jokes.
So the Bible is still relevant today?
More than ever before! We live in this fast moving culture, where the only things worth engaging have been around for, what, six months? A few weeks? Everything is hyper fast, immediately satisfying, and highly disposable. In that sort of busy world we desperately need an anchor to a story that is older, wiser, and bigger than us. We should also learn how to read it well!
Who did you make Holy Shift for?
Holy Shift is for anyone who has ever read the Bible and asked “Why is this here?” or “Why would God do that?” It’s for anyone who has friends or family that ask hard questions about the Bible. Finally, it’s for anyone who is interested in having good conversation — the show isn’t meant to be watched alone! So grab some friends, whip up a bowl of popcorn, watch the show together, and talk about it afterwards.