This is the first of a series of guest posts by our friend John Dehlin.
How could I teach my son the way I was taught by my father, and not drive him away from Torah? Because this is America, Reuven. This is not Europe. It is an open world here. Here there are libraries and books and schools. Here there are great universities that do not concern themselves with how many Jewish students they have. I did not want to drive my son away from God, but I did not want him to grow up a mind without a soul. I knew already when he was a boy that I could not prevent his mind from going to the world for knowledge. I knew in my heart that it might prevent him from taking my place. But I had to prevent it from driving him away completely from the Master of the Universe. And I had to make certain his soul would be the soul of a tzaddik no matter what he did with his life. — Reb Saunders, The Chosen
I am truly honored to be invited as a guest poster here on BCC.
Over the past several months I have been pratically consumed by Jewish author Chaim Potok (The Chosen, The Promise, Davita’s Harp, My Name is Asher Lev) — and have been profoundly struck by how much we, as Mormons, could learn from 19th and 20th century Judaism. In so many ways — the Jewish struggle chronicled in these books make the “Mormon modernity” questions seem almost cliche (in the best of ways, I might add). More significantly (for me, at least) — these books have caused me to feel more committed to the church than I have in 20 years. No kidding. I’m even singing in the
I see the series of books as a parallel (in many ways) to what has been going on over the past 40 years within Mormonism. The Chosen (along w/ the others) deals with issues like: historicity of scripture, science and academia clashing w/ traditional beliefs, the marginalization and even excommunication of intellectuals, the beauty of ritual, the perils of unbridled intellectuality and liberalism to the soul, the importance of orthodoxy to the vitality of a religious movement, apologetics, family, community, etc., etc., etc. I can’t think of a better book as a platform to discuss Mormonism in the 21st century. These books (for me) walk a very moderate line between approving of submission to an authoritative orthodoxy and encouraging individualistic adaptation of tradition…exploring the good and bad of both ends of the spectrum.
So move over, Oprah! It’s time for the inaugural BCC Book Club. Here are
the steps I’d like to propose:
We’ll give you all a week to dust off, purchase, borrow, or check out “The
Chosen.” Each week we’ll cover a few chapters here on the blog (via a blog post).
After each post/discussion has run its course, we’ll hold a follow-up conference call/discussion with a few interested, headset-owning, Skype-savvy souls (posted as podcasts?)