Reading the Bible with the Damned is gripping, even from the title. The book emerges from the work of Bob Ekblad, a jail chaplain and director of Tierra Nueva and the People's Seminary in Burlington, Washington. Ekblad examines the hermeneutical and pedagogical issues that arise from encountering the Christian scriptures with the marginalized, namely inmates and undocumented immigrants. The purpose of the book is to provide a resource for people of faith who endeavor to "bridge the gap" between the mainstream and the marginalized. Ekblad's thesis is that these two realms must learn to read and interpret the Bible together, in order to formulate a fuller and more transformative vision of the Christian faith.
The book begins with an identification of the pitfalls many mainstream readers encounter in their more traditional readings of the Bible, whereby the message of the Bible is made to support the status quo or dominant paradigm. Ekblad encourages his readers to challenge these theological assumptions by reading the Bible with those outside one's own nationality, race, gender, class, or economic status.
The rest of the book focuses on reading specific portions of the Bible in this new light. There are chapters on the Creation narrative, Cain and Abel, the Patriarchal narratives, Exodus, Isaiah, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Pauline Epistles.
This book is the product of a class taught at the People's Seminary in conjunction with Regent College. I attended this class when it was taught last year and it proved to be the single most transformative experience of my graduate education. I walked into the class with one career plan, and walked out with another.
Bob, through his teaching and friendship, reminded me of things I had long since forgotten about the very nature and purpose of the Christian life. Ambition and achievement must always take a back seat to serving "the least of these" as though they were Christ himself. Real life happens outside in the cold, not inside a classroom. Bob is aware of this and manages to gently lead his students, sometimes literally, outside of their comfort zones, and into labor camps and back alleys.
This book reflects Bob's work, and so I recommend it as strongly as I can. Whether one is clergy or laity, newcomer or veteran of street-level ministry, this book will revolutionize and hone your skills in reading and/or teaching the Bible. It is a book for anyone who has ever wondered whether the Bible has any "good news" for those outside the dominant economic, political, social, and religious structures.