Happy Ash Valentine’s Day!
For this Lenten season, I will be following Jesus on a journey of discovery as he leads me through heartscapes of human violence that are continually being transformed by his love into mercy and compassion. My vehicles for this journey will be prayer, meditation, and a Bible study guide called Seven Stories: How to Study and Teach the Nonviolent Bible by my friend, previous Raven award winner and hope-timist extraordinaire, Dr. Anthony Bartlett.
Dr. Anthony Bartlett is a former seminary professor who has taught at Bexley Hall Episcopal Seminary in Rochester, General Theological Seminary in New York City, and Le Moyne College in Syracuse. He has written scholarly examinations of Christianity shaped by the work of René Girard with his books Cross Purposes: The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement and Virtually Christian: How Christ Changes Meaning and Makes Creation New. He is also the author of Pascale’s Wager, which is the Gospel in sci-fi form. He and his wife Linda, who edited the Seven Stories coursebook, founded the “Wood Hath Hope” Bible study and prayer community, from which Seven Stories emerged.
You can listen to the MP3 above or watch the recorded video below.
Highlights from this interview include:
- Tony explains the process of writing Seven Stories and how the writing of his novel Pascale’s Wager helped him trace the trajectory of scripture as story and condense nearly 20 years of Bible Study meetings into an easy-to-follow narrative format.
- Learn why Tony believes that René Girard’s mimetic theory is “the most relevant and transforming and significant set of tools that Bible scholars have had since the Reformation…”
- Each of the Seven Stories explores a semiotic shift. “Semiotics is the study of signs and their meaning. A shift is brought about by means of a set of words and a story which change the way humans think.” (Seven Stories, 57) Tony explains how God changes our thinking by taking signs and symbols from our culture and shifting their meaning, guiding us from violence to nonviolence. He uses the examples of “The Good Samaritan” and the Exodus as examples of stories in scripture that God uses to transform our minds away from violence.
- One of the coolest things about Seven Stories is that, at the end of each story, it references the ways the Gospel permeates our culture by connecting the scriptures to popular motifs in movies, music, and literature that draw on scriptural imagery, really showing how Jesus has shifted our understanding at a cultural level. Shout out to Linda Bartlett, Tony’s wife, for connecting the “cup of wrath” that Jesus drinks when he is crucified (wrath that we discover is human, not divine) to the cursed goblet that Dumbledore drains to retrieve the horcrux in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
- At the end of the interview, Tony points out another inbreak of the Gospel. Referencing a controversial commercial that featured in the 2018 Super Bowl which appropriated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon to sell trucks, Tony points out that, although the use of King’s speech was cynical, the commercial doesn’t diminish King’s message; rather, King’s message of the value of service comes through no matter how crass the vehicle.
Each of the seven stories in this Bible study is divided into 3 lessons, making it a perfect Lenten Bible study, as readers can take a couple of days with each lesson and get through all 40 days and Holy Week. The intriguing titles of the stories are: “Oppression to Justice,” “Violence to Forgiveness,” “The Land and its Loss,” “Wrath to Compassion,” “Victim to Vindication,” “The Temple and its Deconstruction,” and “History to its end.”
As I travel this journey of semiotic shifts, opening my heart and mind, I will post reflections on the Teaching Nonviolent Atonement Facebook Page. I hope you will join me in conversation and let the light of Christ, filtered through Anthony Bartlett’s Seven Stories, guide us toward a life-changing and world-changing peace.