Monday, 25 September 2006

Point of Inquiry

What do David Hulme and DJ Grothe have in common.

They're both former WCGers, and both have recently interviewed Amy-Jill Levine.

DJ Grothe? Amy-Jill Levine?

I discovered DJ courtesy of an entry on Robert McNally's blog. McNally reveals that “DJ Grothe is an Ambassador College graduate and former member. But these day’s he’s a tireless advocate of science and skepticism, and the host of the leading humanist and skeptical podcast Point of Inquiry.”

A quick click across revealed that DJ has an online interview with Amy-Jill Levine, the New Testament feminist scholar. The last time I came across that name was in the David Hulme DVD on the Apostle Paul, where the COG-AIC boss trotted her out as one of his talking-head authorities (see Armstrongism in drag.).

Lucky Amy-Jill, running into two very different ex-WCG types eager to cite her as confirmation for their views (it's not obvious, though, that Levine produced the answers either gentleman wanted to hear. The POI interview is actually quite a good one despite the leading questions.)

Intrigued I did a little more digging. First quote:

"I'm the right's worst nightmare," jokes D.J. Grothe, who came out as both gay and atheist at Ambassador University, an Evangelical Christian school in Big Sandy, Texas. Coming out as atheist, he says, was by far more difficult. "I was the Christian in my dorm in college who reminded people that they weren't behaving like Christians," says Grothe. "I had my little niche, and it appealed to my spiritual vanities." Then, in his sophomore year, he read ex-nun Karen Armstrong's A History of God (1993), which treats the Creator as a cultural construct. When he attempted to discuss the book, one of his favorite professors suggested he throw it away. Shaken, Grothe had a minor nervous breakdown... "If God exists, you ain't gonna prove it on paper, you need personal experience. And I never had it. God never spoke to me."

Tempted to leave the school, Grothe nonetheless decided to remain in what he generally found to be a loving and secure environment. The very professor who had discouraged his reading made a trip to his room to see whether he was okay. He remained discreet about his atheism, telling only a few friends and professors. Still, word spread: "I wasn't shunned, but it was a shock, and it sent ripples. I got emails saying, 'you of all people, this is a test of your faith, you'll be a minister, just wait and see.'"

End of quote. I gather DJ gave up waiting.

And Amy-Jill Levine? Second quote: "A self-described "Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Protestant divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt," Levine combines historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity, and a frequent dash of humor with a commitment to exposing and expunging anti-Jewish, sexist, and homophobic theologies."

Levine has a new book due out early in 2007 called The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. It's sure to raise a little hell. Just what was David Hulme thinking when he went cap in hand to secure an interview with a figure so distant from his own narrow views.

Grothe and Levine both sound interesting people, one born-again atheist and one stroppy freethinking Jewish scholar. Beside these two you'd have to suspect that Hulme, the patriarchial, besuited sect leader, might appear just a tad colorless. What is his purpose in pointing cameras at Levine and other Biblical scholars who agree not one whit with his own distinctive beliefs and probably find his hierarchical inclinations offensive?

Perhaps DJ might like to invite him onto a future Point of Inquiry and ask just that.

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