“The Hebrew Bible is a misreading waiting to happen.” Jacques Berlinerblau’s The Secular Bible is a book containing much wisdom. My only real concern is that by having published it with a university press Berlinerblau may have inadvertently ensured that it would be read only by biblical scholars. Although yours truly was once such a credentialed scholar, I read The Secular Bible with its intriguing subtitle, Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously, looming in my mind like a great raptor. This is an important book. With so very much of our lives heavily influenced by the Bible, eloquently argued by Berlinerblau, we have secularists who don’t know the Bible fighting the impossible battle to subvert it. The rationalizing, leveling influence, for the past two centuries, has come from the much castigated and discarded biblical scholar. Can I get an “Amen”?
Berlinerblau demonstrates unequivocally that we need Bible scholars and Qur’an scholars who know how to speak to their own traditions. Instead we have secularists who belittle and then wonder why the religious strike out. The pattern has repeated itself so many times that it defies reason that intelligent people would delude themselves that religion is a passing fancy. The Secular Bible argues what I’ve said time and again: if we want to avoid the dangers religion can bring, we must spend the resources to understand it. Instead we close departments and force those who know the field credibly well into unemployment. And we wonder why there’s a reaction.
“Self-critical religious intellectuals have never been much appreciated.” Instead we put the extremists on television so we can laugh at them or gape at their ability to do the unthinkable in the name of religion. Ironically, there are thousands of trained experts in the field, many of them languishing in un- or under-employment while towers crumble and mobs burst into violence. I do wonder what future generations will think of us. We have the resources handy, indeed, many of them willing to serve for a fraction of the cost of a business professor or basketball coach, but we choose to ignore them. As Berlinerblau states emphatically, we in the western world have the Bible so deeply ingrained that we can no longer even exegete all the ways in which it plays out in our society. If such influences were at work in a human body, we’d pay a doctor well to understand. Instead, we let the most foundational text in our society be used for duplicitous purposes while the simple reading of a book like The Secular Bible could save us all an eon of grief.