Saturday, November 27, 2004

Book Reading: When Jesus Came to Harvard

Harvey Cox is a Hollis Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School. He'll be do doing a book reading this Saturday evening, 6 pm, at Politics and Prose.

Cox's latest book, When Jesus Came to Harvard, he explains how Jesus' stories from back in the day apply to today's world, and he relates stories of his undergraduate students.

You can catch a clip of Cox and a few other biblical-types on this PBS NewsHour show called 'Tests of Faith', which addresses gay marriage and its implications for the church. And the Boston NPR affiliate has a show called OnPoint on which Cox does a radio panel about George Bush's use of religious rhetoric.

Cox also writes articles for BeliefNet.

UPDATE: Professor Cox was really good. He talked about a bunch of interesting stuff. I'll mention a couple that I remember, in no particular order.

The 'concept' of Jesus has outgrown the church - influencing many people, in many religions, which is a good thing. The rules and regulations and traditions of the church are not always best for folks' spirituality, so this Jesus-lives-even-outside-the-church phenomenon is a good thing, Cox said. Jesus was a big rule-breaker himself - not following the religious traditions of his own time. The founder of Hasidic Jusaism was a bit of a troublemaker in his day, too.

Ghandi always said his life was most influenced by The Sermon on the Mount, yet he never became a Christian. Harvard now has a Roman Catholic member of the School of Divinity, as well as a Muslim, and a Buddhist. The Professor was, as I expected, very critical of the right-wingnut preachers like Falwell. He said 'being gay' or 'gay sex' was mentioned zero times in the Bible - which didn't jive with what I've been hearing quoted on wingnut tv (??), but poverty and war are mentioned umpteen times. He implored us not to let the right wing steal this 'values' argument. He said the wingnuts never mention Jesus when they talk about 'values'.

He also said something to the effect that he thinks the ACLU and right-wingnuts need each other - implying that they liked the way things were because it justified each of their existences. Well, I'll take a stab at the ACLU p.o.v. on that one - I'm guessing the ACLU would love not to have to teach Americans that torture is bad and morally wrong. That's just a guess, so on that, the Prof was way off - imho.

For one of the Prof's classes, he had his students read lots of material from all sorts of big religious-type thinkers in multiple religions. The idea, I think, was to move the students in a direction of self-learning - especially as it related to making moral decisions. To do this they examined people's life stories - Ghandi, Jesus, and others. Jesus' life could be examined by reading the Bible because the Bible is, among other things, a bunch of stories/parables about Jesus' life. The Prof asked his students, of all the people they'd read about through classwork, whose stories - which person - had the most influence on them? The answer was Dorothy Day. I'd heard the name, but that's about it - so I went home and looked her up.

A couple of Cox's former colleagues were there to ask him some tough questions, including his former boss/dean. And the usually-overly-serious Politics & Prose crowd didn't overdo things like usual with the tirade/speeches-posing-as-questions to the author during the Q&A. So, that was real nice.

And, as per usual, I'm waiting for the softcover to come out.

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