All Reading is Local

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress Tip O’Neil once said, “all politics is local.” When I say that we read the Bible locally I am speaking confessionally. Growing up in Dayton Ohio in the Church of the Brethren, a denomination historically dominated by a German immigrant ethos, even though I was in a Black family I learned to read the Bible from a German immigrant perspective.  Moving to Chicago required a more sophisticated reading strategy but still privileged a European American perspective.  The Chicago I experienced in the early 1970 was still dominated by various types of European immigrant communities and African American neighborhood built in the great immigration form the South.  Things changed for me living in Atlanta. It was a “chocolate city”. Atlanta had recently elected Black Mayor Maynard Jackson and experienced an ever increasing appreciation of the power of the strong Black middle class and emerging Black ruling class. As I was finishing my Ph. D. at Emory University I was doing a post graduate work at Interdenominational Center in Black Church studies.  I learned to read the Bible in Black and White. I could go on but I think these examples are sufficient to posit a question whether our place is not another factor in our reading perspective.

I am coming at the issue of cultured space from a different angle. Congratulations on coining such an interesting and helpful phrase.  I think that the city functions as “cultured space”. Reading the Bible in Chicago, Berkeley, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.  rovides valuable data.I was thinking that I could learn a lot from cohorts of pastors and maybe rabbis reading poetic texts in great U.S. cities. But that requires a grant but it is a idea who is growing. I want to explore how thinking like a metropolitan/cosmopolitan reader compels us to leave a narrow Euro-centric perspective.

Christl Maier in her book Daughter Zion, Mother Zion describes the city, Jerusalem as the mother city. The term we now know as metropolis. The sense of urbane vision is captured in the works of two insightful writers Kwame Appiah on Cosmopolitanism and Steven Johnson on Where Good Ideas Come From are informing my re-imagined interest in urban vistas.

I was in the midst of writing an introduction to Hebrew poetry for English readers when it struck me that my other books paid more attention to race and ethnicity. I want to continue to pay attention to those issues but allow the city to compel me into a reading informed by the diversity of a place like Chicago. What is it like to read the Bible under the Houston moon?



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