I have a confession to make. Of all the books we’ve selected for The Red Couch this year, I’ve least looked forward to this month’s selection.
*hangs head in shame*
Here’s the thing. Before The Red Couch strives to be a different kind of book club. We wanted to read a variety of genres and authors, men and women, global voices, different backgrounds, races, and so on. We wanted to encourage a deeper conversation and we wanted to push people a little bit out of their comfort zone.
We wanted to push ourselves out of our comfort zones.
Getting Involved With God: Rediscovering the Old Testament is definitely out of my comfort zone.
Somewhere around high school, I began viewing theology as dull, boring, and inaccessible. I don’t remember being exposed to much overt theology before that, not even at my Christian grammar school. Sure, we had Bible class every day so I learned about God and the Bible but I’m fairly certain my teachers never touched on different theories, traditions, or stances.
Quite a few theological terms weren’t added to my vocabulary until I started attending a Baptist church after my sophomore year of high school. I went there because of my youth group. I endured the sermons regularly peppered with “sanctification” and “hermaneutic” and “justification.” “Eschatology” still makes me shudder.
In my mid-20s I decided to give theology another chance. After all, it’s important to understand why we believe what we believe and what other schools of thought are out there. A good friend led several of us through parts of Systematic Theology, parts of which interested me. We called ourselves the Dead Theologians Club and it lasted for a few months. But honestly, I couldn’t figure out why sides mattered so much and why this stance was so clearly more right than that one.
This may be why I never entirely fit in at that church.
To this day I can’t keep Calvinists and Armenians straight or why it matters. Half the time I can’t even remember what they call themselves. I also can’t remember what “anthropomorphism” means. I have friends who regularly use big theological words in conversation and half the time I smile and nod as if I know what they’re talking about. I’m interested because they care, while completely owning how much I don’t care.
Don’t get me wrong. I have opinions. I also have the ability to see things from every point of view. We may not agree on things but I can generally understand why you believe the way you do. I easily live in the tension and mystery and I believe God is big enough to encompass it all.
While I see the value in commentaries and other biblical resources, they’re not my wheelhouse. But I trust my friend Kelley’s judgment and she had high praise for Getting Involved With God when we were determining what The Red Couch should read.
She was right.
Every time I’ve sat down to read Ellen Davis’s words, I’ve walked away with a new insight. It’s accessible, it’s fresh, it’s compelling. Anyone who advocates for the cursing psalms and makes space for lament is fine by me. Her take on Song of Songs made me sit up straight. It’s worth giving her work a chance.
Am I going to turn around and go on a theology book binge? Not likely but I plan on checking out more of Davis’s work. I had the chance to hear her speak this past Saturday as part of an event with Wendell Berry and Norman Wirzba. (RIGHT?!) I was struck by her humility and willingness to discourse on difficult topics. She’s my kind of theologian.
We’re doing things differently this month. Instead of a big discussion at the end, the next 3 weeks will focus on specific chapters. No matter how far you’ve read, please join us in the comments. We’re excited to welcome two guest posters Wednesday May 14 and 21. Kelley Nikondeha will close out the book on Wednesday May 28. Join the Facebook group to share quotes and discuss the book throughout the month. On Twitter, the official Red Couch Book Club hashtag is #redcouchbc.
- The Art of Biblical Narrative– Robert Alter
- Who Are You, My Daughter?: Reading Ruth Through Image and Text– Ellen Davis and Margaret Adams Parker
- Journey to the Common Good– Walter Brueggemann
Will you be reading Getting Involved With God with us?
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Image credit: Kamil Porembiński