I was delighted to have a coffee with my theological mentor Norm Habel yesterday and to chat about things that came to mind of common concern.
Norm has written yet another book, which will be out soon. It draws together a lifetime of biblical research related to one of his great passions of justice for indigenous peoples. But more fundamentally, to argue the case for an interpretation of the Bible that stands against its cooption and distortion by patriarchal, white, male, western, cultures of self-interest.
One might think of the outright rejection of the recent ‘Statement from the Heart’ of Australian Aboriginal peoples by the Federal Government.
What I think is critical at this time is to connect the fundamental work of theologians like Norm with ordinary people who have rejected ‘religion’ out of hand on the basis of its now so obvious privileged abuse. By choosing religious illiteracy we throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have to have fundamental religious debates in the public arena to expose ignorance and abuse. And particularly to call out abuses by the churches.
Otherwise the Royal Commissions will roll on without exposing underlying aberrations of beliefs at the heart of systemic disfunction and without calling on those whose role it is in our community to contribute scholarship in the religious domain.
One only has to think about the cooption of religion by American politicians to gain power ad then to justify all kinds of violence.
One immediate issue is how does one get a book like Norm’s into the hands of ordinary people, when most have rejected religion for good reason? For without Norm’s kind of exposure, we fail to understand the deepest motivations that have brought us to where we are.