Waking Up to Community & Empire with Marc Ellis

Dr. Marc Ellis is renowned thinker and a Jewish Liberation Theologian. In this interview with Bo & Tripp  he speaks candidly about community, empire, Biblical scholarship, Israel, the Apostle Paul, Evangelics, and legendary people that he knew (like Dorothy Day).

Marc Ellis is widely regarded as a prophetic voice and an original thinker. He is a Professor of History at Baylor University and the Director of the Center for Jewish Studies. He has authored many books including:

He is also under a cloud of controversy right now! Please go to this website:  https://www.change.org/petitions/ken-starr-president-of-baylor-university-stop-persecution-against-prof-marc-ellis and sign the petition to protect his job and his right to speak freely! 

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9 comments
Lucas
Lucas

Bo, It's not a line of reasoning. It's simply a concern I'm raising. I'm not sure who you know that is "close to the situation". I'm going off of people I know who are close enough to have some opinion on the matter. I'm also saying let's see what comes out of the situation. It's interesting that with the lack of real details and information in this that it has already been framed in a particular way. When I first heard about it back in the fall, I signed the change.org petition right away. I love Cornel West and Rosemary. When I brought it up with some people I know, they were less quick to jump on the bandwagon behind him. I wish this was all transparent and we knew the details about accusations and complaints etc., because then it wouldn't be an issue. I understand the politics of the situation. I went to Truett and I live in Waco. I am very aware of Baylor politics. I'm no fan of Ken Starr or any Baylor president except David Garland (because he was the dean at Truett, an awesome guy and only there as interim). I also have a tendency to take the other side in a conversation, even when i agree with what someone is saying. So, maybe that's all it is. I can also see how easily us and them dichotomies get created. As Marc himself said in the interview it's not that particular Christians or Jews ARE Empire, but they are moving int hat direction. P.S. I'm also bored at work today and it feels good to stir up a little controversy myself. ;-)

Lucas
Lucas

Hey Bo, Sorry for the confusion. You guys didn't really address the controversy in the podcast except in the setup. But it is sort of how he gets framed and I'm concerned it's not the whole story. At one point in the podcast he even addressed how you act in the workplace, with your kids, etc. and I have heard complaints about how he treats his students. I certainly don't want to start rumors or slander him in any way, but I get worried sometimes what we are willing to sacrifice or compromise for the "greater good". Like I said, I agree with 99% of what hey says, bu his actions matter as well. When I had him in class he came off as pretty arrogant and confrontational (perhaps a product of the position he is in not fitting in easily in any camp).

Lucas
Lucas

I know this podcast is pretty old, but the controversy with Marc Ellis and Baylor continues. I went to Truett Seminary and he came to my world religions class. I agree with much of what he says, but also know some folks who work at Baylor and have said that he has a very strong personality and is not always the nicest guy (I'm redacting what i was actually told). I'm not saying he should be fired. As far as I know the accusations are still secret. What I am saying is that painting the situation with the broad brush of him as martyr and victim, is not the whole truth. While I may agree with some of his ideas, I also believe we as people of faith and strugglers for truth and justice must also have integrity. It's hard to tell from the facts what is really going on. I'm sure there is an element of truth on both sides. It's not helpful, in my mind, to distort the facts in order to achieve the goal of justice, allowing the ends to justify the means. We'll have to wait and see what ultimately comes out of it and if we can discover more of the truthiness.

BoDaddy
BoDaddy

Ya know, this is something that seems to surface more and more frequently as we become more self-aware and self-critical. But it can quickly lead to an 'analysis paralysis' . I find this when Tony Jones criticizes Hauerwas, then people levy the same sort of concern against Tony. I think it is all missing the point. My concern is to concentrate on how it FUNCTIONS in the community. The role that is played. A person with a book deal can still play a prophetic/critical role. A Professor can still function in that capacity for her students. I just think we need to steer away from all-or-nothing, purity ideal. My concern is whether they play a prophetic role, if they function in that capacity.

Joshua Brockway
Joshua Brockway

I agree, this is probably one of the best podcasts of the year. It's challenging, uncomfortable at times, and yet really insightful. Even without the Baylor blowup, this is a key conversation. I will be listening to this one again soon. The one question that kept circling my mind when I turned off the ipod revolved around his understanding of prophetic. Is it possible for someone within the institution (church or academy), who has tenure and book deals, to be really prophetic? Or are they so embedded in an Empire system that the prophetic is lost? Great episode guys!

Mark Longhurst
Mark Longhurst

I think this podcast with Marc Ellis is one of your more important ones, and timely, too. Thanks for the dangerous conversation! I am particularly struck by two things: 1) his observation that Christians have been trailing far behind the cause of justice in Israel/Palestine is hugely important and I hope listeners take it to heart. As a Christian minister, I believe this reveals our own imperial underpinnings across the evangelical-mainline divide. I valued Bo's ability to hear that critique. 2) I'd love to hear some other comments about messianic and prophetic views of Jesus in Christianity. I keep thinking about his thought that the messianic must be downplayed in favor of the prophetic in order to create a community rather than imperial based faith. This rings so true to me but the implications are enormous. I've long been drawn to biblical scholars/theologians that re-interpret Jesus as subverting kingship, such as folks like Yoder and Ellul. But, it seems to me that even reinterpreting Jesus as a subversive prophetic king is still operating within an imperial "kingly" paradigm. A cue beyond this comes from many feminist scholars who seek to do away with all 'Lord" language and theology. Schussler-Fiorenza, for example, would have Jesus be a prophet of Wisdom and not himself God (because as Daly famously said, If God is male, than male is God.") This view of Jesus as prophet and not king or God, of course, directly contradicts the Nicene Creed (and I loved Ellis's quip about creeds being poetry of the empire, or something to that effect). I agree with Ellis. But Christian churches, at least the ones I've been around (and I've been in a fair amount of them!), are not ready to fully embrace this in a public, explicit way-even the most "progressive" ones. So we've got our work cut out for us.

Bo Sanders
Bo Sanders

Thanks for clarifying Lucas. I will keep my ears to the ground on this one -Bo

Bo Sanders
Bo Sanders

I don't know Lucas ... :( While he does have a reputation for being a tough cookie, those who are close to the situation say that is NOT what this is about. That is not what is going on here... so I am leery to go where you want to steer this. Let's see what comes out and then we can weigh in. Being a prophetic voice, from a different religion, at an institution (in Texas) where Ken Starr is now in charge might require a little extra mustard as they say. I'm just a little uncomfortable with your line of reasoning here. sincerely -Bo Would I be correct that IF he is being targeted and slandered (IF) then this is exactly how they would do it... these are the charges they would bring?

Bo Sanders
Bo Sanders

Lucas, I appreciate your sincerity but I am a little confused. Are you saying that we painted the picture with a broad brush? We let the man speak for himself. Or do you just mean people in general? -Bo p.s. we are monitoring the situation daily on the Facebook group for Academic Freedom.

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  1. [...] do I approach this?  I have mashed together what I have learned from Cornell West, Slavo Zizek and Marc Ellis to say that all churches in North America fall into 3 primary categories: Prophetic, Therapeutic or [...]