Alban Weekly | Reading the Bible in public

3 months ago

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Reading the Bible in public
When politicians read the Bible, they almost always end up merely echoing their own partisan commitments. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for example, recently cited Romans 13, he was using the text to justify the administration's policy separating migrant children from their parents -- and was roundly criticized by scholars, clergy and others from across the religious and theological landscape.
But the controversy was about much more than misinterpreting a handful of verses. At its core lies a far deeper and more important issue. How do we read Scripture in public? That is, how do we rightly read the Bible in the midst of public conflicts and crises, including the political issues of our time?
After all, perhaps our representatives are merely reflecting the way too many of us read the Bible. The truth is that many of us often read the Bible self-interestedly, using it to shore up our own partisan leanings instead of inviting Scripture to teach us anew the shape of God's grace. When it comes to much of our reading of the Bible in public, a lens of fear and a lack of theological imagination predominate. Such reading betrays the good news of Jesus Christ and serves only to intensify crises both political and theological.
If we are to read and interpret the Bible faithfully, then we must renew our theological imagination, learning anew who God is and who we are as God's children and neighbors, one to another. For too long, too many churches have told a misshapen and misshaping story about who we are, whence we have come. They have pronounced upon who is in and who is out, who is saved and who is lost. And they have fed partisan positions about immigration and race alike that assume scarcity and loss rather than abundance and the hope that draws communities together.
Before such a marred imagination consumes us, we must look elsewhere to find the fabric and shape of a new imagination. It is precisely in Scripture that Christians can find the resources to renew our theological imagination, filling it with the generosity, hope and grace granted to us by God.
What would a more imaginative, more generous, more faithful reading of Scripture look like?
 Read more from Eric Barreto »
Reflective Leadership Grants offer Christian leaders "balcony time" to reflect on accomplishments, broaden perspectives and discern next steps.
Leaders must simultaneously manage immediate needs and look ahead to what is coming next. In today's rapidly changing context, leaders often spend so much time reacting that they don't have the time or space to "get on the balcony," stepping away from daily obligations and focusing on the long view.
The Reflective Leadership Grant program offers lay and ordained Christian leaders up to $15,000 to step away from their current work to reflect on accomplishments, broaden perspectives and discern next steps.
Learn more and apply »
The Rev. Dr. Eric Barreto moved around a lot growing up. Born in Puerto Rico, he moved with his family to Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas and upstate New York -- all before he went to college in Oklahoma and then seminary in New Jersey. This experience taught him how to incorporate himself quickly into new communities as well as sharpen his own sense of identity within those communities. It's a skill he uses -- and teaches -- as the Frederick and Margaret L. Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. 
In his conversation with "Can These Bones" co-host Laura Everett, he talks about why it's important to bring events of the world into the classroom, what he has learned from teaching online, and why he is excited about the millennial generation.
Read or listen to this podcast »
How do I listen to a podcast? » 
The formation of scriptural imagination
Learning to read the Bible well and developing a scriptural way of living requires slow reading, sustained attention and community, writes a New Testament scholar at Duke Divinity School.
Read more from Kavin Rowe »
A guide to four types of Bible study learners
Just because you gather people in a room and call it Bible study doesn't mean everyone learns in the same way, says a Baptist pastor from Texas. Here are the four types of adult learners he has found in church small groups.
Read more from Mark Wingfield »
Scripture addresses social issues before they were cool
Trends may come and go, but life in Christ is eternally relevant, writes a pastor from Lansing, Michigan.
Read more from A. Trevor Sutton »
 Discerning God's Will Together: A Spiritual Practice for the Church
by Danny E. Morris and Charles M. Olsen
Bible study, research, and fieldwork merge in this book of practical principles for decision making by spiritual discernment. The step-by-step approach can be used to help any size group learn a new way to make decisions -- a way that is interactive, spiritual, and rooted in faith practices and community. Small groups, committees, church boards, church leaders at all levels, and seminary professors will find this book valuable. 
This is a revised and updated version of the book, originally published in 1997. This new version includes revised and updated material, as well as a new introduction by Charles Olsen.
Learn more and order the book »
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