Monday, March 01, 2010

God, Fear, Archeology and Agragianism

A youth pastor friend I trust handed me the following: That Deity Formerly Known As God by Jarrett Stevens. It was a quick read, but a good one for me to see and perceive (yet again) how other authors are framing and constructing their texts. This book as far as the argument and thesis was really quite simple - though it was also filled with the modern "vibe" that comes with many "youth" centered texts that I have read. The text was filled with several images, poems, artistic renditions, quirky polls etc. In a nutshell, the author Jarrett Stevens has done a very simple thing. He read J.B. Phillips Your God is Too Small and attempted in this text to rewrite it for a modern generation. I, personally, appreciated J.B. Phillips text over this one. This one, it seems to me should have been titled something like That Deity Formerly Known As God - with lots of images and things to keep you busy on pages in between. The text was simply "too busy" - in the final several chapters, the author offers sermons over a handful of texts. Not a bad text, but not one I would normally read. Yet more perspective for me on what books are "selling" these days and how they are constructed for their audience.

Read Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World by Harold Kushner. Kushner is of course famous for his text: When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Sadly, the only thing I have to say about this text is that I have nothing to say about this text. Kushner tells many stories. He talks about peoples fear. Ultimately, he spends the entire text explaining that it is his belief that God does not want us to be afraid but to have hope and courage. He ends with a quote from the philosopher and psychologist William James, "These, then, are my last words to you: Be not afraid of life area believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact." Kushner spends 171 pages of 172 pages tellings stories to support this phrase. That is all.

I picked and and viewed each of the segments of the DVD teaching tool for the text, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts - the DVD was entitled: The Bible Unearthed: The Making of A Religion. I often tease my students in class before I show a video that they have to be prepared for the fact that this video I'm about to show. "Every Bible video," I say, "contains boring Bible-man." I say this with some tongue-in-cheek with the students - because they know I do not want to be a boring Bible man as I teach - and I try not to do this. But, I am aware of the fact that we who are Ph.D's in some "dead" texts are not exactly cool! That being the case, I was delighted to watch this DVD set because it seemed to have a very good balance of scholars sitting in their offices waxing eloquent about biblical texts, while also showing good images of real archealogical sites that were under investigation - let by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman. The images and camera angles that were used did not look antiquated (and they were not) and the presenters did not seem terribly scripted such that they came across as boring Bible men! (and, they were mostly men.) A teaching tool I will come back to review in more detail so that I can use for future teaching.

What a delight to have read Ellen F. Davis's text Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible. While Davis journey is more mature than my own - both in terms of her ability and work as a scholar - and in her aged wisdom - this book felt "right at home with me" or I felt right at home with it - because in it David documents her own coming to awareness of agrarian issues that dominate the background culture of the Old Testament. Further, she cites directly and explicitly in several places the fact that her reading of the Bible has been shaped or configured afresh in the past decade (or slightly more) by the consistent and clear call of Wendell Berry. - While I do not think I have read everything that Berry has written - I am certain I have read much (and most) of what he has published. I fell in love with his essays and articles, and his poetry and fiction many years ago and soaked up his words. For reasons of personal stewardship and materialistic acquisition - I read many, many more library books than books that I have purchased for my own library. After having reading this text from the library, though, I am excited to know that my personal copy will be arriving in the mail soon (since I have ordered it) At some future date I will have opportunity to read again this excellent text - and I will no doubt duly "mark up" the copy that I will own and use it as a regular resource in teaching the ethics of stewardship - and Agrarianism - that Davis highlights as a central concern of the fundamental principles and social basis of life in the Old Testament. A great text.

1 comment:

Mike McVey said...

Thanks for the reviews. Almost everything that I have read from Davis has been very awesome. I look forward to reading this selection sometime in the next few years.