Sorry David Stowe–I have no plans to run for office

Over at Religion in American History, David W. Stowe offers a dispatch from last week’s “Bible in the Public Square” conference at Duke in which he asks if I have ever considered running for political office.

No thanks.  I think I will stick to blogging.

Here are a few snippets from Stowe’s entertaining summary:

Politics was a concern throughout, from a session on the Bible and America’s Founding Era, which included a stem-winding talk from John Fea (Has this man ever considered running for office? He’s got the stature and vocal chops to make a fine congressman at the very least), who took on the work of David Barton, explaining that though the American Revolution was surely drenched in Biblical language the literalists were actually on the Loyalist side. Shalom Goldman delivered a paper on “God’s American Israel,” which detailed the centuries-long American fascination with the Hebrew language and tropes (not so much actual Jews), evidenced most strikingly in Mormonism. “If Israel hadn’t been created,” Goldman asserted, “the U.S. would have had to invent it.”

My powers of concentration were admittedly flagging by late afternoon, but two long papers on the Bible and Middle East Policy by Yaakov Ariel and Mordecai Inbari didn’t add much to what I could remember about the End Times from Boyer, Marsden, and McAlister. The final session included refreshingly crisp presentations from Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center, Melissa Rogers of the Wake Forest Center for Religion and Public Affairs (those southern lawyers can really orate), and Mark Chancey of SMU, one of the organizers of the conference, who in addition to his scholarship on the New Testament and early Judaism has been active in public interest groups working to ensure that religion courses taught in public schools honor the First Amendment (who spoke as well as a southern lawyer).

The longest session focused on the Bible and Popular Culture.  Adele Reinhartz focused on the Bible in Hollywood, speaking mainly of DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and the 2007 film In the Valley of Elah.  David Morgan examined the Bible as material artifact in people’s lives.  As the Bible has been gradually excised from school classrooms over the 20th century, the flag and Pledge of Allegiance have been substituted in as sacralized objects/rituals (though that hasn’t ended the ongoing struggle to get the Bible into the public square).  Reviewing the way in which Bible stories like Cain and Abel have been represented in Christian comic books (chiefly the “Brick Testament” in which Bible scenes are created from Legos), Reuben Dupertuis argued that these texts function as translations, which generally work to domesticate stories from unfamiliar contexts, i.e. 1200 B.C .E., but sometimes to “foreignize” them.  My own talk presented my ongoing research on Psalm 137 as America’s longest-running protest song.