Bielo, “Literally Creative”

Bielo, James. 2015. Literally Creative: Intertextual Gaps and Artistic Agency. In Scripturalizing the Human: The Written as the Political, edited by Vincent L. Wimbush, 21-33. New York, NY; Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Excerpt: “In this chapter I approach Ark Encounter as a grand act of scripturalizing. Following scholarship on the social life of scriptures, an ethnography of this biblical theme park-in-the-making focuses not on scripture as text but on “the signs, material products, ritual practices and performances, expressivities, orientations, ethics, and politics associated with the phenomenon of the invention and uses of ‘scriptures’” (Wimbush 2008: 3). With the example of Ark Encounter, we can add to this list the cultural labor that must be invested to bring new scriptural forms into being. Ark Encounter is scripturalizing imagined, sketched, colored, sculpted, materialized, and engineered. Ark Encounter emerges from a long tradition of scripturalizing performed by a familiar set of scripturalizers: conservative Protestant biblical literalists. What I aim to show in this chapter is that the frame for their work—a religious theme park that promises edification and entertainment in equal doses—requires that scholars seeking to understand Ark Encounter engage in some analytical recalibrating.”

Juzwik, “American Evangelical Biblicism”

Juzwik, Mary M. 2014. American Evangelical Biblicism as Literate Practice: A Critical Review. Reading Research Quarterly. Early online publication.

Abstract: Practices of Biblical reading and interpretation are central to the literacy lives of those who call themselves evangelical Christians. More than one third of the U.S. population identifies as evangelical Christians, making evangelical Biblicism a pervasive and influential—if under-the-radar—literacy practice in U.S. life. Scholars of American evangelicalism have traditionally understood belief in the Bible as authoritative as one defining characteristic of the evangelical subculture in the United States. However, scholars interested in language, interpretation, and textual practices are only beginning to map out the contours of the literacy practices and ideologies entailed by American evangelical Biblicism. Critically reviewing scholarship across history, anthropology, religious studies, and sociology, I characterize evangelical Biblicism as an interpretive tradition mediated by a complex set of sociocultural practices and textual ideologies. From this standpoint, Biblicism involves the unceasing work of establishing and sustaining a transitive relationship among biblical text, right beliefs, and righteous actions. This set of relations gives rise to an interpretive tension that evangelicals have historically navigated between the necessity of interpretive freedom, allowing the Bible to live anew for each generation of believers (presence in the world), and the unchanging Truth of God’s word (the purity of the Word). Evangelicals dialogically mediate the transitivity among text, belief, and action—and attendant tensions between the purity of the Biblical Word and its presence in the world—in textual communities. Bibles themselves function as mediating literacy artifacts and articles of commerce in a global evangelical print culture. This understanding of American evangelical Biblicism as literate practice raises new questions and issues for literacy scholarship, related to how young people are introduced to evangelical Biblicist traditions and practices; how evangelical Biblicist traditions, practices, and ideologies travel around, across, and beyond textual communities; and how evangelical Biblicism shapes teaching and learning in schools.

 

Durbin, “For Such a Time as This”

Durbin, Sean. 2012. “For Such a Time as This”: Reading (and Becoming) Esther with Christians United for Israel.

Abstract: A great deal of work on contemporary Christian Zionism focuses on the apocalyptic eschatology of premillennial dispensationalism, critiquing it from an idealistic perspective that posits a direct line of causality from “belief” to action. Such critiques frequently assert that since Christian Zionists are biblical literalists, they read apocalyptic texts such as Revelation and Ezekiel with the goal of making the events they find predicted in these books come about in the world. This article takes a different approach. Although many Christian Zionists can be considered “literalists,” they read themselves into the text typologically. Special attention is paid to the book of Esther which is shown not to function primarily in a prophetic or apocalyptic role, but as a tool to help Christian Zionists understand political action, construct identity, and strengthen faith.

Abraham, “Review Essay: Biblicism, Reception History, and the Social Sciences”

Abraham, Ibrahim (2011) “Review Essay: Biblicism, Reception History, and the Social Sciences” Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception 1(2):xx-xxx [Advanced Copy, Specific page numbers not yet available]

Article Excerpt: “The works from anthropologist James S. Bielo, an ethnographic monograph of an Evangelical small group Bible study in Michigan and an edited collection, released within a few months of each other, focus and develop the study of “Biblicism.” Abidingly an anthropological undertaking pioneered, in part, by Brian Malley’s earlier ethnography, How The Bible Works, these studies and the broader emerging field offer interesting parallels, insights and divergences when considered alongside somewhat similar developments in the analysis of scripture and society within, in particular, reception history. In his essay comparing processes of exegetical and pastoral authority amongst mainline and charismatic Catholics in Guatamala, Eric Hoenes del Pinal gives us a nice definition of Biblicism as a question of “the ways that social actors construct certain understandings of and relationships to sacred text, and how those understandings and relationships order their religious practices”. As this sandwiching of scripture between the recognition of social agency and the broader process of religious practices suggests, the biblical text is not where the analysis begins or ends.

The social scientific studies presented here are particularly relevant in an interdisciplinary light given recent debates around the practice of recep- tion history within biblical studies. A rather loose term for comparative analyses of diverse understandings and uses of biblical texts in diverse cultures and eras, the manner in which reception history has been carried out to date within biblical studies is exemplified by collections such as John F. A. Sawyer’s, which gives us the Bible in Calvin’s Geneva and the Bible in Barnum & Bailey’s circus. Roland Boer sees within the loosely defined discipline a Bourdieusian distinction between scientific/theological biblical exegesis carried out in the academy that seeks—under appropriate supervision—to uncover an original or authoritative meaning of the text, and the explanation and analysis of comparatively deviant (ab)uses of the text. To cite examples from the two texts under review here, the distinction Boer sees as foundational to reception history would be between the exegeses of the “strange guild” of biblical scholars and scholar-priests in secular and ecclesial academia on the one hand, and the exegeses of the small Evangelical Bible study group that meets for breakfast in a Michigan restaurant featured in Bielo’s monograph  and the exegetical dialogue between anthropolo- gist John Pulis and his interlocutor Bongo (a mango farmer and Rastafarian “bredren”) featured in a chapter of Bielo’s edited collection on the other hand. In a response to Boer’s criticism, Christopher Heard denies any claim that reception history, as a loosely defined discipline, asserts “ideological primacy to singular textual meanings,” but doesn’t quite get to the nub of Boer’s complaint that the very existence of a subdiscipline of biblical scholarship called “reception history” implies that there is a form of biblical studies that is not reception history. There is an echo, then, of Adorno’s act of distinction within twentieth-century music; that which he certified “serious” was suitable for scholarly engagement and philosophical reflection, while that which he proclaimed “popular”—the mass-produced products circulated amongst a browbeaten proletariat—was suitable only for sociological explanation . . . ”