By Kevin A. Stoda
A month ago, I was rereading Douglas Jacoby's THE GOD WHO DARED: Genesis-from Creation to Babel (1997). When I came to the final chapter, I was astounded to find the appearance of the sort of code language shared so often by FOX News, Christian Broadcasting Network's Pat Robertson and others who have blindly supported the rightwing and conservative-Christian marriage which ultimately led to the Neo-Con takeover of the White House in the early part of this century-and all the related endless wars plus helping jumpstart a further growing division between rich and poor in America.
I had been planning to share Jacoby's 1997 book (and to discuss its contents) with a young Christian from India at my own church who at that time was studying the book of Genesis in his own free time.
However, disturbed by the consistent usage of particular phrases by Jacoby in his chapter of that book, entitled "The Infernal Tower: Babel and Beyond", I determined not to share that book with the young non-USA Christian.
I had found the phraseology in that chapter (and to some degree in some earlier chapters of Jacoby's book) to be so objectionable that I had quickly decided I would write a blog about the terminology and code language used.
Happily, a good friend persuaded me to contact Douglas Jacoby at his own website on-line and ask him whether Jacoby now (ten years later) regretted a lot of his word choices in that ultimate chapter of that study of Genesis.
Hoping to provoke an on-line discussion about the usage and abuse of certain language which had led to very poor politics lived out by many mainstream American and right wing Christians over the last 3 to 4 decades, I wrote Jacoby as follows on his discussion board:
"In the chapter called THE INFERNAL TOWER in Jacoby's THE GOD WHO DARED (1997), the author's tone of voice and word choice moves away from his approximately 90% balanced narration-i.e. used in most parts of his work on Genesis--to one verging on "Neo-conservative Right-wing ultra stubborn Christian Culture War style" of writing-i.e. more common to Dobson and Robertson. In this final chapter Jacoby spends considerable time and uses numerous narration techniques calling the folks at Babylon "liberal humanists". Would he like to rewrite the chapter? The author seemed to be implying to conservatives Christians who believe in the God of Capitalism that it is OK to invade a sovereign country and try and rebuild a regime in their image. If the author had a chance to reword the chapter, would he?- Kevin"
Within one or two minutes, I received the following e-mail reply from Douglas Jacoby himself:
"Politically I am on the exact opposite end of this interpretation! Anyway, the book is out of print. The 2004 GENESIS, SCIENCE, & HISTORYis similar (included 33% of original book and another 33% rewritten) but not quite the same. So maybe make suggestions based on GSH Thanks for writing BTW, you have completely misread me. Please search the website and youwill see that I am not your typical right wing Christian! Far from it. Best wishesDJ"
Next, I asked Jacoby to send me a copy of his newer book on Genesis, and for the subsequent two weeks I have continued to ponder whether or not to bring this matter of "language choice" in Christian bible studies to either an article- or blog format, i.e. in order to invite further reflection and discussion about who audiences are and what they might read into certain code words or catch phrases which have a tendency to pander to a particular political-economic narration of the world and the Word.
CAPTITALISM, ORTHODOX CHRISTIANDOM, AND HUMANISM
Being an evangelical Christian who lives in the Middle East and tolerates the evangelisms of Muslims and other theists sharing the country and planet with me, I have tried to live out in words and life the beliefs I have about how to make the world a better place for the old and the young.
Previously, I have also worked in the country of Japan where both Shintoism and Buddhism have held sway for far longer than Christians (or many Christian ideals)--who first approached that island state's shores less than 500 years ago for the first time.
It strengthens one's self identity in many ways to either (1) live abroad or (2) live as a minority in any land. This is why Americans or Brits living overseas often hang out with each other and identify memories and traditions more clearly as part of their heritage when living far from their friends, family, and other fragments of familiarity. Similarly, Muslims or Buddhists who move to the U.S. or Europe in some cases over time take on clearer cultural and religious identities than they manifested when living in the land of their birth.
For example, I know of several Palestinian and Turkish women who started to wear headscarves or other traditional coverings of their native lands only after they had lived in the U.S. or Europe for a number of years. Similarly, some people who are not strongly religious at home begin to seek our support groups among peoples of their own or of other faiths while living abroad.