For those unfamiliar with the name, Walter Brueggemann, he is the Stephen King of Old Testament studies and theology (= the message of the Old Testament for our day). Actually, compared to Brueggemann, Stephen King is just a weenie (only 60+ books and counting); according to his website Brueggemann has published 125 books (and going strong; though still no comparison to John Creasey’s 600+ novels under 28 different pen names – the first not until he had received 768 rejection letters). For those who know about Brueggemann, well you already know him. He is not always the easiest to read, he likes unusual words and phrases. But if you can wade through the water long enough, soon you will be swimming with the current.
Recently, I’ve been reading one of Brueggemann’s books from 2014, Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks (Eerdmans); written during the 2012 Summer Olympics (at least in part). These dates are critical reference points for the reader: the book is written four years before the presidential campaign and election of 2016 that sent Donald Trump to the White House. Brueggemann does not speak of Prophetic Tasks as if the preacher or pastor must become a prophet in the sense of an inspired spokesperson for the divine, with God directing every word the prophet speaks. That said, when I first began to read, I thought the book must have been written during the election campaign or maybe had been rushed into print since the election. Instead, the claims Brueggemann made five years ago sound like observations made this morning about our culture of privilege, confident exceptionalism—and (our) intense denial of reality (see why you won’t like this book? Trust me, it just gets worse). I cannot say more without badly misrepresenting his finely-nuanced observations from the Old Testament and the history of Israel, his careful analysis of American history, and his call to our urgent prophetic task.
I predict that you will not like this book. It’s not a fun book to take on summer vacation; but to be read in small snatches in the quiet of the early morning or evening (or not, if you have nightmares), followed by time to digest and reflect. It will not be any fun and you may even hate the book, and that’s all the more reason to read it. When we spend all our time reading what we like, it is unlikely that 1) we will ever be challenged, and 2) we will grow. So while you may not like it, Reality, Grief, and Hope may prove to be one of the most important books you have read in years.
Off my rocker and off the bookshelf,
Walter Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014). On Amazon at: http://amzn.to/2sEX8eG
Glenn Pemberton is a minister turned professor turned writer. After serving churches in Texas and Colorado, Glenn completed a Ph.D. (Old Testament). He then taught at Oklahoma Christian University before coming to Abilene Christian University in 2005, retiring as professor emeritus in 2017 due to a severe chronic pain. Glenn now spends his time writing for the church. Along with short essays he has published four books, including The God who Saves: An Introduction to the Message of the Old Testament (2015), and Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (2012). Glenn and his wife Dana continue to live in Abilene, Texas.