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Friday, October 31, 2008

Jesus in an Age of Terror Part I (inc. blogs)

The book will be set out in three parts, each containing two chapters. Part I looks at the ways in which New Testament and Christian origins scholarship has historically been influenced by its political and social settings over the past hundred years or so. One of the main points here is to look Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model of manufacturing consent in the mass media and Chomsky’s analysis of higher education to the academic study of the Bible. In particular this chapter looks at the ways in which debates are framed by dominant interest groups and how the results reflect, in general terms, the dominant interests and how dissenting views are marginalised. This particular chapter also looks at the role of what is deemed ‘radical’ in higher education and NT studies, particularly the ways in which a scholar can think they are being radical but in broader political terms they are effectively neutralised. Think in terms of NT scholarship how Wright believes his views on physical resurrection are a threat to power (which couldn’t be further from the truth in the grand scheme of things) or how people think Crossan’s Jesus is radical when it is, in terms of political power, tame and only annoys various Christians. It’s when people follow their beliefs that threats to power occur, the most obvious example being certain liberation theologians who are deemed a very serious threat in certain circles of power. In many ways what gets through in the scholarly world is what is culturally and politically palatable or the masses of material that it largely irrelevant in terms of political power (I mean the latter as neither a compliment nor criticism).

Here, then, we start moving to present day scholarship and the new arguments. The bulk of chapter one is dedicated to showing how historically the discipline has been swayed by dominant ideologies. Chapter 2 provides some very important examples of contemporary scholarship explicitly discussing political issues namely…bloggers. Biblioblogging is very important because it is a forum where we don’t simply have to infer political views but where they are expressed openly in many cases. In the case of biblioblogging, bloggers have (unconsciously, so to speak) adopted the mechanisms of the manufacture of consent from the mass media as analysed by Herman and Chomsky. I look at some of the big political themes that Herman and Chomsky use to investigate the mass media and see how these are discussed in biblical studies. I look, among other things, at the portrayal of the ‘war on terror’, Islam and Arabs, myth of unique suffering, and Middle East conflicts. While I do discuss some of the more openly right wing and ‘very conservative’ (to steal NT Wrong’s term) bloggers, I also emphasised the more ‘moderate’ and ‘liberal’ bloggers because I think the dominant agendas of the mass media filter through there certainly is a manufacturing of consent. However, one difference: the mass media faces the restraints and dominance of corporate power in their output which bloggers don’t to anything like the same degree so the future is open for blogging to change should people of different persuasions become involved. But that’s another story.

What we really need are many more NT Wrongs (the bishop came too late, I’m afraid – sounds like a bad bishop joke, I know).

2 Comments:

OpenID tomverenna said...

This looks like a great study you've got here, James. Really looking forward to reading it!

October 31, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ps if Andrew Bourne gets to reading this: just email me if you want to come by SHeffield

James

October 31, 2008

 

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