Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week Eleven

Reading Reflections & Vocational Discernment:
Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies
(part one)
            This semester, I had the opportunity to read and review Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies. I was introduced to Schussler Fiorenza’s work in Methods of Biblical Interpretation, and chose to review Rhetoric and Ethic for Introduction to New Testament. While I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the book, a book review was not the proper context for me to reflect on the vocational discernment that was fueled by my interaction with Schussler Fiorenza’s work. Thus, I would like to spend the next couple weeks reflecting on different aspects of Rhetoric and Ethic. For this week, I would like to discuss the concept of biblical scholarship as responsible citizenship (Schussler Fiorenza 61).
            As an undergraduate student of biblical studies who is considering a career in the field, I found Schussler Fiorenza’s description of the scholar as citizen to be a refreshing one for two reasons. First, her discussion about the current state of biblical studies as obsessed with scientific objectivity and value neutrality rather than ethical responsibility made me realize that my experience of biblical studies at Bluffton is an extremely limited one (Schussler Fiorenza 1). In many ways, I think the biblical studies program here is a small example of the type of scholarship for which Schussler Fiorenza calls. So, first and foremost, reading her arguments in Rhetoric and Ethic was refreshing because it reminded me once again of the unique opportunity I have to engage in politically and ethically responsible scholarship here at Bluffton. Second, her description of scholarship as citizenship is appealing to me because it is a vision of biblical scholarship as a way of life and identity; further, citizen scholars are to engage the biblical text in politically and ethically responsible ways for the liberation of all people (Schussler Fiorenza 102). Schussler Fiorenza’s vision of the biblical scholar as citizen in Rhetoric and Ethic is not only what I want to do, but who I hope to become. Ultimately, that is what biblical scholarship is about— not only proclaiming, but becoming.

            This week I read two articles from the Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. In her article, “Building a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence in a Context of Oppression,” Palestinian peace activist Jean Zaru reflects on her experiences working for peace in her homeland for the past 40 years. Specifically, she shares the ways in which her experiences have given her great hope that it is possible to create a culture of peace even in the midst of great oppression. She also reflects on the ways in which her religious commitment has interacted with her political activism and work for peace; she says, “for more than forty years, I have been walking that edge where the spiritual meets the political. For me, the two have always been integrated” (Zaru 2). She also says that for her, religion is “to re-link…to bind one to the other” (Zaru 2). I especially appreciated these reflections, as my faith commitment is both the foundation and sustaining force of my commitment to nonviolence. Finally, she reflected a great deal on the power of nonviolence, and I especially appreciated this succinct statement that goes a long way in explaining the overall concept: “the peculiar strength of nonviolence comes from the dual natures of its approach: the offering of respect and concern on the one hand while meeting injustice with noncooperation and with defiance on the other. These seemingly contradictory impulses— to rage against while simultaneously refusing to destroy— combine to create a force worthy of nothing less than a revolution” (Zaru 6). So far, in all my reading on nonviolence, this quote is likely the most complete and accessible explanation I have read about how nonviolence works. On the whole, this was a helpful look at nonviolence from a very different perspective than my own.
            I also read a book review of Understanding World Religions: A Road Map for Justice and Peace by David Whitten Smith and Elizabeth Geraldine Burr. The book was reviewed by Andria Wisler and Bethany Haworth, and while it is a textbook, it sounds like an interesting read. I chose to read this book review because I am interested in religion as a resource for common ground and peace, so a book about world religions specifically as a “map for justice and peace” is very appealing to me. While it sounds like the majority of the chapters are on the worldviews of each religion, Wisler and Haworth noted valuable chapters on active nonviolence and the just war theory, exploring each of these concepts through the lens of the major world religions. Overall, this is not a book I am likely to own in the near future as I already own one textbook on world religions, but reading the chapters on nonviolence and just war could be interesting and valuable for me as I think about religion and peacebuilding.

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