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Reading the Bible with the Damned Paperback – September 19, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"This book by Ekblad …moves the Bible away from safe, conventional church venues and reads afresh among the alienated and marginalized. The effect of such a new interpretive context is that the text takes on a poignancy and sharpness that bespeaks the stirring of God’s spirit. We may be led by Ekblad to read the Bible yet again, as if for the first time." --Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary, and author of several Westminster John Knox Press books, including An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination and Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes.

"Bob Ekblad is more like Jesus than most people I know…How different the world will be when more of us share Christ’s life and heart in the same way. I say when, not if, because this book will hasten the transformation." --Marva J. Dawn, Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and author of Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society and Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God.

"Bob Ekblad has raised an ominously serious question…what does the Bible say to the suffering down our street - across our town and city - and out in the fields where our supermarkets get our produce? The responses are both enlightening and challenging, and Ekblad has written a book to teach all of us about the Bible, faith and liberation, and the realities of our own social system." --Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, Professor of Old Testament, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and author of A Biblical Theology of Exile.

About the Author

Bob Ekblad is Executive Director of Tierra Nueva and The People's Seminary in Burlington, Washington. For ten years, Tierra Nueva has worked with migrant, impoverished, and imprisoned populations in northwestern Washington state. Ekblad is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and is known internationally for his courses and workshops on reading the Bible.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (September 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780664229177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664229177
  • ASIN: 0664229174
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Reading the Bible with the Damned is gripping, even from the title. The book emerges from the work of Bob Ekblad, a jail chaplain and director of Tierra Nueva and the People's Seminary in Burlington, Washington. Ekblad examines the hermeneutical and pedagogical issues that arise from encountering the Christian scriptures with the marginalized, namely inmates and undocumented immigrants. The purpose of the book is to provide a resource for people of faith who endeavor to "bridge the gap" between the mainstream and the marginalized. Ekblad's thesis is that these two realms must learn to read and interpret the Bible together, in order to formulate a fuller and more transformative vision of the Christian faith.

The book begins with an identification of the pitfalls many mainstream readers encounter in their more traditional readings of the Bible, whereby the message of the Bible is made to support the status quo or dominant paradigm. Ekblad encourages his readers to challenge these theological assumptions by reading the Bible with those outside one's own nationality, race, gender, class, or economic status.

The rest of the book focuses on reading specific portions of the Bible in this new light. There are chapters on the Creation narrative, Cain and Abel, the Patriarchal narratives, Exodus, Isaiah, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Pauline Epistles.

This book is the product of a class taught at the People's Seminary in conjunction with Regent College. I attended this class when it was taught last year and it proved to be the single most transformative experience of my graduate education. I walked into the class with one career plan, and walked out with another.
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Format: Paperback
The title of this book really sucked me in. I had only a vague idea of what it was about when I ordered it. I thought it had something to do with liberation theology and work with the marginalized. It sounded like an interesting approach.

When I began reading chapter 1, I couldn't help feeling like I had walked into the middle of a conversation. With very little preliminaries, Ekblad starts going through an explanation of how he selects topics for his jail Bible studies and the procedure he goes through in facilitating them. I was left wondering about things like why he was doing this, what he hoped to accomplish, what his underlying theology was, and so on.

Then I got to chapter 2 when he began relating actual experiences he has had with the men in Skagit County Jail and how God has touched their lives through their readings of the Bible. Wow! This stuff is dynamite! Going from chapter 1 to chapter 2 was like going from a lecture on the physics of roller coaster construction to actually riding the roller coaster.

Let me tell you, it wouldn't matter if Bob Ekblad had no writing skill whatsoever (though he actually is a pretty good writer). The stories he has to tell about God stepping into the lives of men living at our society's margins are so powerful, so eye-opening, that they completely shine on their own merits.

Seriously, buy this book. If you're put off by the idea of liberation theology, don't be. He doesn't really put forward a hardcore liberation theology. His main message is the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and in any case this book isn't about theology, it's about rubber-on-the-road practical application of the Gospel in real people's lives. This is great stuff.
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I knew I had to read this book after feeling weepy perusing a scholarly paper that was in large part based on Ekblad's work. And I'm not at all disappointed that I did. Just to place my response: I'm a Bebbington evangelical who regularly reads much broader than my own views, a charismatic, and a political moderate who wishes to see immigration reform. Although I have *major* reservations about some of Bob's premises and conclusions, there is much to love here. It's a very worthwhile book for someone who's read a good deal of theology already and wants to be shaken up a bit regarding how it applies to real life and, specifically, life on the margins (the indigent, the incarcerated, and the illegal aliens). I think I will avoid loaning the book to Calvinists (ironically, since Bob is PCUSA), those who believe penal substitution is the only valuable way to read the work of the cross, and those who are gung ho right wing politically or whose families are quite tied to the judicial or law enforcement system (which are depicted almost exclusively as evil powers). But those who read and think broadly (even if they toe a conservative line) will appreciate some of the insights into scripture, find themselves cheering campesinas and inmates on as they connect the dots on how Scripture applies to their lives, and be strengthened in the conjunction of their spiritual and sociopolitical skills--more able to see the needs of people who live between the lines of the dominant voices. Bob is trying to coach readers in an open and maximally unintimidating method of Bible study that could encourage and inspire people ministering in a much wider variety of contexts (for instance, the wealthy unchurched).
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