No, I’m not going to have a long pity party.
I’m just wondering if human beings are actually capable of communicating without feeling the need to bludgeon one another.
This past week I got an IM from my friend Jim. It was one word, “NOVA.” Apparently, PBS was running a Nova special on “Buried Secrets of the Bible.” Don’t let the name fool you, this wasn’t a “DaVinci Code” conspiracy theory program. Actually, the two hour program was one of the best discussions I’ve seen aout the origins of the Tanakh, Monothesism, and Archaelolgy that I’ve ever seen on TV. In fact, I was so impressed with it that I pulled it off my DVR and made into a DVD so I wouldn’t loose the material.
Granted, I’d have to tread carefully bring a lot of the material in the special to Central, given that I doubt most folks have ever heard of the Documentary Hypothesis. I have no problem stretching faith, that’s my job, but I do have a problem doing violence to the faith of the people I shepherd. It’s a fine line, but I walk it as openly and boldly as I can. Pastorally, I’m actually caught between a rock and a hard place. Central has folks who would shrug and say, “OK, no worries” to the material in this special. It also has folks who have been convinced that the authorship and dating of the Bible are part of the culture war and will wonder at my salvation if I shared a good portion of this material with them. We also have a good amount of children growing up in a world where evangelical atheists are making a lot of claims about the Bible that are (loosely) based on work akin to what this Nova special presents – and when these kids get to college they are going to need more than a discontinuous string of “Bible Stories” to engage with folks respectfully and intelligently while still landing in their faith. This is important to me, yet I wonder if it’s even possible to help folks engage this material without setting off a flame war.
Why do I say this? I say it because I, decided that it might be fun to go on to Nova’s message boards and see what the discussion was like. It turns out that the folks posting on the boards tend to think this excellent program was garbage. Conservative Christians wanted people from “the other side” of the discussion the origins of the Bible – as though there were only two sides regarding the origins of the Tanakh. Evangelical atheists as well as folks who seem to think that every opinion counts (no matter how fringe it is) complained that the show didn’t include the “revisionist” school (a school of thought that believes that the entire story of the pre-exilic kingdom is a made up tale), and that this lack of inclusion meant that Nova was just shilling for religious ideology. The reality is, in scholarly circles the schools of thought trumpted by both Conservative Christians and Revisionists are considered fringe by the academy (Jim can share stories about revisionists from SBL). Nova cut down the middle and gave an overview of what the mainstream academy is doing. They did a good job, not perfect, but good. I just wish people would stop being so thin skinned that they can’t even appreciate an attempt if it doesn’t agree with their views.
Anyway, the DVD is pretty nice (I had to put it on two disks). I kinda wish I taught at an academic institution so I could interact with the material in a classroom setting.
Author’s Note: I’m really not responsible for the titles of the automatically generated “possible links” titles. So if you’re offended it’s not entirely my fault. I’ll have to work on my tags a bit.