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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bibles for Beck

The Rev'd Dr. Serene Jones is President of Union Theological Seminary in NYC. She is the first woman president in the Seminary's 172-year history. She is the Roosevelt Professor of Systematic Theology.

She has written a letter to Glenn Beck which she has graciously shared with the rest of us, which appears on The Huffington Post.

I hope you'll take a moment to read it and then allow yourself the luxury of the watching the three minute, fifty one second video put together by some Union Theological School's seminarians and graduates.

It is not to be missed. Trust me on this.

Dear Mr. Beck,

Serene Jones here. I'm President of Union Theological Seminary in New York, home of James Cone, the scholar featured on your liberation theology program this week.

I write with exciting news. Bibles are en route to you, even as we speak! Kindly let me explain. On your show, you said that social justice is not in the Bible, anywhere. Oh my, Mr. Beck. At first we were so confused. We couldn't figure out how you could possibly miss this important theme. And then it hit us: maybe you don't have a Bible to read. Let me assure you, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Many people live Bible-less lives. But we want to help out. And so, as I write this, our students are collecting Bibles from across the nation, packing them in boxes, and sending them to your offices. Grandmothers, uncles, children, co-workers -- indeed, Bible-readers from all walks of life have eagerly contributed. They should be arriving early next week, hopefully just in time for your next show. Read them with zeal!

Oh, I almost forgot: we've marked a few of the social justice passages, just in case you can't find them.

But as good as this might sound, that's not all! You express such a fervent desire to interpret the rich faith of the gospels that we have decided to offer you a substantial scholarship to Union for advanced theological studies, should you matriculate. Indeed, a fundraising campaign is already underway to offset the cost of your education. It is true that in your case you may need some remedial study before Master's level work can commence, but we are willing to work with you as you come up to speed with the rest of our student body.

In this regard, may I recommend preparatory summer readings? Have you heard of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion or Reinhold Niebuhr's Nature and Destiny of Man? Both are Caucasian men -- not that it matters -- and they have lovely discussions of religion and politics. You'll just eat them up!

And now a final piece of good news. Your show has clearly stirred renewed interest in liberation theology and in the work of our esteemed faculty. Our own media department works tirelessly to promote their many books and articles. Somewhat embarrassingly, I have to admit that in all these years, we have never achieved a video campaign comparable to the exposure achieved by your own video segment's showing. We were astounded to see so many people hearing about the work of our seminary. In recognition of this free publicity, we want to offer you a reduced housing rate on our campus if you enroll as a student.

Do write soon so that we can discuss the terms of your application, scholarship, and housing. And let us know when you receive the Bibles -- especially if we can further assist you in any way with your reading and study.

We anxiously await your reply. In the meantime, please enjoy this video compilation of welcomes from our students:

Graciously yours,

Serene Jones
President
Union Theological Seminary

26 comments:

Josephine- said...

Oh I LIKE her! Thanks for sharing this.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Isn't it the BEST? Serene Jones totally rocks. HARD.

Joie said...

She looks like and IS badass!

RevMama said...

Oh hooray for the students at Union. And Serene Jones is the best seminary president ever. Well done!

JCF said...

JCF, UTS: MA '92, EdD 04 . . . and proud!!!

Jane Ellen+ said...

I saw this earlier. CLASSIC.

Lisa Fox said...

This is wonderful! and hilarious.

Hooray for her making it clear that Beck has never read the Bible, given his ignorance.

David |Dah • veed| said...

You know that it really is not Glenn Beck's fault. He is a Latter-day Saint. He is not used to reading the Bible that much. I think that he probably spends his time reading the Book of Mormon.

Steve said...

David makes a good point. Glenn Beck belongs to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. He's not a Christian. I wonder if the smarmy and condescending letter and video would have been written to a Muslim, an atheist, a Buddhist; none of whom would accept the Christian scriptures as authoritative and none of whom should be expected to possess exegetical knowledge of our texts. Contrariwise, the text and video remind me more of the Pharisees' judgmental disdain toward the unclean than of Christ's inclusive compassion for those outside his community of faith.

Muthah+ said...

Wonderful! Is he really LDS? I didn't know that.

Geeklet said...

Oh, this is just fantastic!

...now I want to take theology classes. If Beck doesn't take them up on their offer, can I go?!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Gee, Steve - I think, if Mr. Beck doesn't take President Jones' offer, I suggest you seriously consider applying for the position. You may be a better candidate that Mr. Beck.

Raymond F. Gildner said...

Seriously... I'd like to send a Bible, too. How can I help?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Raymond - I suggest you contact UTS in NYC. I'm sure they would be delighted to hear from you.

MarkBrunson said...

If Beck is not Christian, his commentary on the Bible was both idiotic and arrogant - I would expect no less a response should an Imam begin telling us what the Gospel said, nor would I expect different response should a Christian priest try to explicate the sutras.

Besides, Pharisees were humorless and grim, and this was intelligent and amusing. Of course, humorless and grim still appeals to Pharisees, and they are repelled by those whose wit exceeds their own.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

She is a better Christian than me!

suzanne said...

Just a little commentary on Glenn Beck. He was born and raised a Catholic, first marriage ended in divorce, and the prerequisite of his second marriage was that he convert to Mormanism.
Check out Glenn Beck biography on google.

David |Dah • veed| said...

I did not say that Beck was not a Christian. I said that he was a Latter-day Saint. If we go there, then we start eating that can of worms regarding the soon-to-retire Bishop of Utah, whose only baptism was as a child of the LDS Church.

First off, I was attempting to be silly. Imagine, me being silly!

I just meant that Beck's scripture study time gets divided among more than just the Bible. He has 4 books of scripture to study; Bible, BoM, Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. All of which actually have plenty to say regarding what we would label as social justice.

(As for the video, I was not impressed. Really poor production values and a bit childish in the commentary.)

Gail F said...

That is one of the most condescending videos I've ever seen. It is not the "best" and it is not "intelligent and amusing." It is arrogant and sarcastic. I've never had a high opinion of Union, and my opinion is now even lower.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lemme guess, Gail: you listen to Fox News.

Justin Miller said...

I do not watch Fox News, but I agree with Gail F. I am saddened and deeply disappointed that the president of a Seminary, an institution devoted to the study of God, would encourage such a juvenile display of contempt for another person. I myself do not agree with Mr. Beck and I believe that he often does more harm than good, but for Serene Jones and Union Theological to stoop to this level demonstrates that they do not have in mind "the things God but the things of Men".

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Justin, the point has to be made, and sometimes, the only way to make a point is to make it in a way that Glenn Beck will understand - and see himself echoed in.

Justin Miller said...

If Serene Jones and Union Theological really want to reach Glen Beck in a substantive way and not just an antagonistic and condescending way they would be well advised to rethink their strategy. Instead try talking to Glen Beck as a human being. Treat him as a Thou and not an It to use Martin Buber's terminology. Otherwise the whole exercise is nothing more than a polarizing preaching to the choir designed to reach only the people who already agree with it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

While I can agree with you in theory, Justin, I must say that your theory has not been effective with Mr. Beck. So, if he's not going to listen or even consider entertaining ideas other than his own, I understand the impulse to try this tactic.

I suspect it won't be effective. I don't think anything will.

Justin Miller said...

Indeed, anyone can understand the impulse to resort to this kind of school yard tactic. However, the president of a Seminary should be above it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Justin, when you are a seminary of a dean, I'm sure you'll act differently.