Fortress Press, 132 pages | Published May 16, 2023
Instead of ceding Scripture to those who misuse and abuse it for their own purposes, Walter Brueggemann uses it to make a broader case. Ancient Echoes is a polemic against eight “truth claims” of the far right, as delineated by Kurt Andersen in Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History.
Andersen’s eight “truth claims” of the far right are 1) government is bad, 2) belief in our perfect, mythical yesteryear, 3) establishment experts are wrong/science is suspect, 4) we’re entitled to our own facts, 5) short-term profits are everything, 6) liberty equals selfishness, 7) inequality’s not so bad, and 8) universal health care is tyranny. For each of these claims, Brueggemann selects passages of Scripture as a rebuttal, expounding on how these views do not align with the Word’s witness. Brueggemann’s goal is to make the case that the Bible, although ancient, is still relevant for our situation today, writing “The summons that echoes from the Bible … is that we human agents are recruited into that work of well-being, in the shaping of social practices, policies, and institutions toward justice, and into the daily practice of generous compassion.”
While Brueggemann addresses the book mostly to pastors (and occasionally to rabbis), it is more appropriate for moderate or right-leaning Christian laity who have little familiarity with Scripture. The scriptural analysis would provide an elementary starting point for people who have only heard the Bible being used to prop up far-right politics. Mainline pastors might recommend Ancient Echoes to ex-vangelicals who are just beginning to question the claims of far-right Christians.
I appreciate and support Brueggemann’s argument that the Word is relevant for today’s situation as its witness echoes through the ages. However, I recommend dusting off his earlier works, such as The Prophetic Imagination or The Land instead, or simply reading the prophets in the Bible itself. The echoes of Scripture will always find a way to resonate in our own time.
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