Beginning over two years ago up until last Fall I was a regular participant, sometimes presenter, and co-organizer with what began as a joint effort between a local Methodist organization and the MN Atheists group to get together and discuss perspectives of the Bible in modern scholarship, history, culture, philosophy, and religious studies between those of faith, those with none, and those in between. It was very successful and drew great local attention and even some national attention of other groups who had tried and failed at such an effort.
Beginning last fall I backed away from my regular participation with the group, feeling I needed to shift my focus into another area of personal growth for a time. In other words It had lost interest for me. The group had gotten somewhat smaller and lost the diversity that gave it its always stimulating dynamics. Last night I attended again for the first time in seven months after learning they had shifted venue and sponsorship to a Unitarian church. I thought that would be interesting to see what new infusion of dynamics to the group discussions that might bring with the now co-sponsorship of a Unitarian church.
Amazing turn out! The medium-sized room was packed with people. It was like the early days where the first turn out had about 80 people. I estimate last night was around 60. We had Nate who was a graduate of the U of M present on the history of the Old Testament, demonstrating the influence of other cultures on the Hebrew's laws and myths. It was a fascinating presentation. Those there who were the strongest in modern Christian beliefs (more literalists), were visibly uncomfortable with it, and one occasional would voice objections to the material.
That's fine. That's what it's about. It's about opening dialog from differing points of view. Nate pointed out the difference between a deductive and inductive approach, and how scholarship takes the inductive approach which often times comes to different conclusions than the deductive approach which begins with a faith in the end picture. The presentation took the whole time, and in two weeks we meet to have the discussion with each other about the material in which we bring our individual perspectives into it.
This is what that group needed. A fresh infusion of points of view to create dialog. I'm hoping them success as I do feel there are so many people out there trying to sort all this out for themselves, those who grew up in this culture, often in Christian homes where the traditional understandings don't speak to them, and now try to find some way to understand all that. I think dialogs such as these are very important to society and culture, open discussions between those of widely diverse perspectives who share the same culture.
I'll see how it works for me in this version 3.0 of the SBS for the time. I still am in purusit of my own development that builds on what that offered for the time, and I'm not sure if it still fits into that for me now. Perhaps so, or perhaps a different venue lays ahead. For the time, this has peaked my interest in it again.