Derek Penwell’s new book is called Outlandish, and it is published by Chalice Press. It makes the case that Jesus was “a lousy Messiah” – and for that reason precisely the Messiah we need. Here’s the blurb I wrote for the book:
In Outlandish, Derek Penwell shows what it can look like when a model of Christian activism is built upon the foundation of the latest biblical scholarship. Unconventional questions are explored in a thoroughly engaging way. Penwell doesn’t merely ask whether Jesus was sarcastic, he does so with a view to how sarcasm might serve as part of the arsenal of Jesus’ followers today as they stand against unjust powers that be. Penwell explains why Jesus was a lousy Messiah, but also precisely the sort the world needs, now as much as then, and how Jesus’ subversive character should find expression in communities that offer a courageous alternative to the religious, moral, political, and economic status quo.
It was a delight to have Derek talk with me on the podcast. I was particularly delighted by his choice of headphones, and asked for permission to share a photo of what I saw on Zoom before we switched over to audio-only for the purpose of recording. Here it is. Please do let me know whether it makes you more or less likely to read the book (or to listen to the podcast if you have not already done so):
Liberal Christians love the Bible. No, seriously. We love the Bible. We just refuse to treat it as though it is a set of timeless golden tablets that says all that needs to be said once and for all about everything of importance. (It doesn’t say anything, for instance, about why the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years.)
We liberals refuse to treat the Bible as a casuistical rule book for every conceivable eventuality, or as a precise blue print for every possible organizational contingency.
Liberal Christians aren’t liberal in spite of the Bible, but because of it. They don’t pursue justice for LGBT people because they haven’t read Scripture, but precisely because they have. And in the arc of the narrative of God’s interaction with humanity, liberal Christians find a radical expansiveness, an urgent desire to broaden the embrace of God’s hospitality to include those whom the religious big shots are always kicking to the sidelines.