We began this breakout session, led by Rabbi Jill Jacobs from JSpot and Radical Torah, by going around the circle and each talked about blogging sacred texts and what that means for us. (For me, it's blogging the Torah portion of the week regularly at Radical Torah; for others, maybe working within the Christian lectionary, or talking about the Qur'an and its interpretations.)
Rabbi Jill asked, is there a difference between blogging our texts and, say, using texts in a sermon or something like that?
Blogging our texts may allow us to reach a broader audience. Thurman talked about close readings of Scripture; Tim noted that in a sermon one might not go into a close explication of what a word meant, or a sociocultural practice that illuminates the text, whereas in a blog post one might. He was told in seminary that you can only offer one theological concept per three minutes! But in writing you can offer something chewier.
Islamoyankee talked about how in interfaith work he doesn't necessarily use text in the same way that he does in his own community. "Scripture is a vocabulary that's not present in American society, particularly as it relates to Islam," he said. The Qur'an sees itself as being part of the same revelatory experience as the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. But how can we teach that in the broader community?
I suggested that blogging scripture can be a little bit Talmudic, in a way -- it implies what Judaism calls hevruta, paired-study and dialogue. Giving a sermon is top-down, presumes that I'm the Speaker and others are the Listeners; blogging about a text presumes that others are joining in the conversation.
Thurman noted that in blogging we can link, so in talking about our texts we can link not only to those texts but to things we've said about those texts in the past, and things others have said about those texts, and so on.
Rabbi Jill added that blogging is perfect for Jewish text study! Think of how a page of Talmud looks: the central text, the commentaries in the sidebars, the inter-referentiality of the commentators. So what are the possibilities of that kind of discussion, and what are the wise boundaries?
Islamoyankee noted that people look at the Qur'an based on the biases they bring from their own tradition(s). This can be a challenge in interfaith dialogue, or in reading across traditions.
The question was posed, how do we each decide in our blogs how to relate to authority, having the authority to speak about our texts? How do we claim authority, or not?
Reverend Bruce suggested that we might look at the ten commandments as a place for dialogue. Reb Arthur asked, "which version?" (And we all laughed.) Exodus or Deuteronomy? How about the very-similar passage in the Qur'an? How can we use that to build dialogue and community?
And then we broke for lunch. Mmm, lunch.