Let me tell you a secret: I’ve got a chapter in a forthcoming Oxford book. [Above, two women, one in a red sweater and one wearing a blue top, face the camera as they drink from coffee mugs. The woman in the red sweater has leaned in close to her friend to share a secret.]
[Imagine us circled around a table upon which rests two cups of coffee. Soft but serious music plays in the background, like we’re in a commercial for a new pharmaceutical drug.]
You: It’s so hard to keep up with the news these days.
Me: Yes. Things are happening so fast!
You: Like, in Arkansas, state senator Jason Rapert got a new monument to the 10 Commandments installed on the grounds of the capitol–
Me: And then some guy drove his car through it! [Shaking my head.]
You: And what’s with the Kentucky governor supporting a new effort to teach the Bible in public schools?
Me: Matt Bevins? Yeah, he said the the curriculum won’t violate the Constitution but will just present the Bible in historical and literary context. Then out of the other side of his mouth, he said that “even atheists” should be able to get something out of the Bible because its got “a lot of wisdom” in it, which lets us know that he has a religious audience in mind. I’d be cautious if I lived in Kentucky,
You [putting your coffee cup down with frustration]: I wish there was some resource I could turn to for help understanding these debates–where they come from, why they are important, and why we can’t seem to settle them.
Me [reassuringly patting your hand while wiping up the splatters of coffee on the table with a napkin]: It’s okay, friend! We’ll find you the help you need. In fact, I’d like to share a special book with you that might just do the trick! [Reaches into bag and pulls out The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America, edited by Paul Gutjahr.]
With 42 chapters examining how the Christian Bible has been produced, interpreted, and used; its role in American art, history, and culture; and how specific traditions, including Judaism, Catholicism, evangelicalism, fundamentalism, and Mormonism, have approached it, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America* offers readers insight by top scholars of religion in the United States. You’ll learn about how the Bible appears in the law, education, and politics as well as pop culture and sports.
Authors include evangelical scholar Mark Noll, Paul Harvey, the author, most recently, of Christianity and Race in the American South: A History, Randall J. Smith, who, among author books, wrote The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South, James S. Bielo, who is about to release his yet another fantastic book, this one called Ark Encounter: The Making of a Creationist Theme Park, and Sue and Bill Trollinger, whose work on the Creation Museum is fantastic.
You: Thank you! Where can I learn more?
Me: You can pre-order your copy at Oxford.com, or tell your local librarian that you think the library should add the book to its holdings. The current projected date is late fall 2017, which will be here before you know it!
You: But will it be soon enough to help me slog through the most current religion news?
Me [with a wink]: Well, friend, that’s why you have me and Joel Mathis at SixOh6!
*Side affects of reading The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America may vary. Talk to your spiritual advisor or a religious studies professor–or just post your questions here–if you have any concerns.