We've hit pretty hard lately. Our post on the religion/ministry dean's unilateral search for a fundamentalist Bible prof is already the most-viewed post in Save OBU's history. We've revealed President Whitlock's departure from the rigid orthodoxy of SBC elites on women deacons and the Baptist World Alliance. I'm sure his boss, Dr. Jordan, and his friend, Dr. Norman, have corrected his liberal heresies by now.
Time for a softball question -- one that I hope many of you will answer. In Friday's post on OBU's new Women in Ministry course, an anonymous commenter noted that his/her life was changed after reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. I received several emails to the same effect. (Let's see how long it takes for Provost Norman to ban the book from OBU's curriculum...)
It got me thinking... What books changed my life at OBU? And I want to ask: What books changed yours?
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is a beautifully-told story of a young man who struggles to reconcile the desires of his heart with the expectations and obligations of his family and community. It's one of the few books I've read multiple times. For many emotionally difficult years of my life, I resonated with the angst of the protagonist, a young lawyer named Newland Archer. Ultimately, I hope to find the right balance between reason and passion, monotony and adventure, responsibility and excitement -- all themes the novel explores. Also, though there is no sex, the story oozes with sexual tension. Kind of like Bison Hill, haha!
It sounds cliche, but the most life-changing book was and is the Bible. I had read it a lot over my 18 years, but usually only a sentence or two at a time. At OBU, I really read the Bible. OBU encouraged me to read the text seriously rather than literally, and I guess you could say my life was never the same after that. I also read books about the Bible that helped me synthesize my new knowledge with a theology that I could believe honestly and with integrity.
Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. The book made sense of what I was learning and what I had experienced. It argues that the divide in American religious life is between legalistic and compassionate religion --- between the "Church of Law" and the "Church of Love." I eventually ended up accepting this stranger's invitation to attend his church, where I worshipped regularly during the later part of my time in Oklahoma. Though I am unknown to him, I count the church's minister, the Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers, as the pastor who influenced most greatly and most positively.
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture. In this book and a dozen others, Spong lays out a vision for what theology might look like if we take the Bible seriously rather than literally. Of course, few of my classmates affirmed this kind of thinking or believing, and none of our professors would have endorsed it. But for me personally, as I was struggling to reconcile what I was learning about the Bible with what I believed about God, salvation, ethics, and the church, Spong was tremendously helpful to me. On page 24 of this book, Spong writes, "A literal Bible presents me with far more problems than assets. It offers me a God I cannot respect, much less worship; a deity whose needs and prejudices are at least as large as my own. I meet in the literal understanding of Scripture a God who is simply not viable, and what the mind cannot believe, the heart can never finally adore."
So, that's my story. Now I'd like to hear from you. Please share in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter, what book(s) changed your life at OBU!