First off, I’d like to thank you for being so gracious to allow me to interview me.
You’re even more hot in person – and remarkably taller than I was led to believe.
Well, I’m 6′ 3″ (ed. not, that’s less than two metres for those unfamiliar with Americanese), and I’m not sure, you being me, who told you otherwise.
(Silence. Nodding. Followed by more silence.)
But I do have a remarkable amount of animal magnetism.
Down to the book. You have a new e-book out called Shout It from the Rooftops: Finding the Message of the Bible in a New Era . What was the impetus for this tome?
It originated with an ongoing series of articles I was doing on my blog, Left Cheek, on American Evangelicals, what they believe and how that affects their view of the world and how that affects those around them.
And it affects….?
Pretty negatively. I’ve come to believe that the bible – if we read it as God’s word to us – is, to cop from Donald Miller, story. And if it is, it moves in certain order. I don’t want to fit this whole Ancient Near East text written over a several hundred year span and tackling many different eras and from the perspective of many different authors and superimpose a modern and Western meta or mode of talking about narrative over it, but to me it seems to be talking about relationship, loss, and then redemption. I don’t know how universal that is, though…
Is this gonna be a long answer?
Don’t interrupt me.
As I was saying… One thing I’ve come to find while working and developing the blog, from reading biblical scholars and reading about early Christian history is that American Evangelical Christians tend to have an outlook on society that contradicts what Jesus, the prophets and the early Christians had. And that this contradiction is actually very harmful to the Christian witness, to the name of Jesus, and to society at large.
When you say “harmful”…
I mean actually, physically, spiritually, and violently harmful to other people also made in God’s own image. Sometimes those other people live next door, sometimes they live remotely, sometimes our own family – but always our neighbors. Like stuff you don’t expect the Good Samaritan to do. Stuff that’s hurtful, that may or may not be intentional. I actually don’t think it is intentional. But I believe that Christians need to be above the defense of, “But I meant well.”
So, this is part of a series, then?
Right. This book is the first volume of what I see now as being perhaps three or maybe more. I also see this as being a type of progression – I want my brothers and sisters to see that what we are doing to our neighbors is harmful and anti-Christ. But in order to do that, in order to actually become involved in a discussion of “What happens next?” we have to get rid of the elephant in the room. And in order to do that, we have to recognize that we just may be in the wrong room.
You like mixing metaphors, don’t you?
I do. It adds to the disorienting effect that I think is essential to the work of an artist.
But you’re an educator. How does disorienting help to disseminate information when you want to be as clear as possible?
Kafka talked about the necessity of art being like a pick-axe, breaking through the ice of our hearts and intellect. There are studies out there showing that the more educated one is, the less likely she or he will see a need to change his or her opinions – no matter how wrong we are. So just presenting facts doesn’t work for most people; and in fact, it may present more damage over the long-run. It can give scientific garb to the most ridiculous and obscene untruths.
Remember when they “disproved” man-made global warming as some sort of “hoax”? People who don’t know how to read scientifically were convinced that scientists were trying to cover up their “lies” when in fact they were discussing hoe to best graph their findings. This was the result of the work of people who are not experts in climatology or related sciences who had much to gain or lose trying to convince the world that the actual experts in the field – who didn’t have much to gain or lose and who obviously were not being bribed because there’s no real money in environmental regulation (it just mean we consume much less) – are not trustworthy. THAT was the big scam. In this case those with much to gain and lose (industrialists, oil companies, refineries, etc.) were buying off those who did know better to present as “plain facts” that which was neither plain nor facts.
Are you mixing metaphors?
Horribly, I am.
In all, though, you’re suggesting that we are looking to highly compromised non-experts to answer questions that are best left to the experts?
Yes. And, ironically, I’m no expert.
I caught that. But you’re a bit of an artist.
I’m also arguing in the book and here that we need a foundational way of reading the Bible in a take-away approach that we can use some two thousand years, several languages, multitudes of scientific discoveries, reigns of empires, and thousands upon thousands of miles removed from the text itself.
That is the way of finding the message of the Bible in this new era?
Yes, that is love. Love as both the means and the end of our biblical exegesis so to say.