Friday 20 October 2006
An Unconventional Bible College
"I invite you to walk with me some of the steps of the way, like going to a strange land and back again."
I was delighted to discover John Morgan's book Flying Free earlier this year. It is the story of life in the Worldwide Church of God over several decades, told from the perspective of a fellow Kiwi. I recommended it without reservation, and I still do.
Just this week I was made aware of another book which also relates the WCG experience from a personal perspective. Greg Doudna was a student at Big Sandy during the turbulent Seventies, and this is his story. Like Flying Free, Showdown at Big Sandy seems to be mercifully free of the hobbyhorse apologetics that spoil many books of this sort. This is, in addition, more than just an AC alumnus on a nostalgia trip. The author, who later returned to his Quaker roots, is in fact something of an authority on the subject of the Dead Sea Scrolls, with articles in The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures and The Bible and Interpretation, and an 800 page text published by Sheffield Academic Press entitled "4Q Pesher Nahum: A Critical Edition." Be assured, however, that Showdown seems anything but a dense academic dissertation, and will be compulsory (and perhaps compulsive) reading both for those who attended Ambassador College in its heyday, and those of us who are simply fascinated by the history and evolution of Armstrongism.
Showdown at Big Sandy was first published in 1989, but has been out of print for some time. Greg has now updated and reissued the book. From what I've seen so far, I'm very glad he has. He has previously written of the book:
"It is a light-hearted, but also serious, memoir of the fundamentalist experience from one who was there (me). I sought through humor and the foil of myself as the innocent, believing, naive, but growing young mind at this Bible college, to show the way forward and out of such thinking. Everything in the book is true yet I wrote it as a story with plot and theme. The theme revolves around about a dozen or so creative papers I wrote mostly when I was a sophomore student..."
By clicking across to http://www.lulu.com/content/435005 you can preview some of the content for yourself. Or even better, try www.scrollery.com, which is a dedicated website. The book (540 pages) can be downloaded for under $15, or ordered in print form for around $30. A full review will appear here a little further down the line.