Blogger of the Month for December 2006
Brandon Wason Interviews Loren Rosson III
Editorial Note: Loren Rosson authors The Busybody at http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/.
BW: Thank you, Loren, for agreeing to do this interview during such a busy time of the year.
LR: Thank you, Brandon. It’s an honor.
BW: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
LR: I’ve lived most of my life in Nashua, New Hampshire, though between ages 8-13 I lived in a Christian community in a nearby town. I also served two years in the Peace Corps (in Lesotho), teaching high school. If you read Money Magazine, you could get the impression that Nashua is one of the greatest places on earth to be. Twice it’s been rated the #1 city in the United States. Imagine that? Nashua doesn’t even have a movie theater.
BW: What is your profession and where do you work?
LR: I’m a librarian at the Nashua Public Library, which, incidentally, is the largest public library in the U.S. north of Boston.
BW: What drew you to biblical studies, and what do you find most fascinating about it?
LR: Though I grew up in a religious community (a mix of Episcopalians and Methodists), and had plenty of religious education in a Roman Catholic high school, I was never really interested in the bible prior to my agnostic years in college. In the last of those years, I took intro courses to the Hebrew Bible and New Testament with Dr. Richard Rohrbaugh, and the rest, as they say, is history. Dick is a member of the Context Group, and an exceptionally lively instructor who could make an atheist love the bible. Which is a good thing, since the student body of Lewis and Clark College was/is extremely liberal.
The most fascinating thing about the bible is that it comes from a culture which many of us find alien and unpalatable (honor-shame), and that it can provide only limited support for modern agendas, however liberal or conservative. That’s what makes the book so vibrant on its own right, even to me as a non-Christian. Ironically, I find it easy to warm to the biblical writers in all their flawed and convincing personalities. They were struggling to make sense of the world as they knew it, sometimes commendably, sometimes not. Funny thing is, I don’t know that we do much better than they did.
BW: Which scholars or other people have been most influential to you?
LR: Dick Rohrbaugh above all. He knows more about the culture of the bible than most, and taught me how to appreciate alien ways of thinking even when in disagreement. Philip Esler would be a close second, for similar reasons. Dale Allison has been remarkably influential to me, not only for his specific ideas about Jesus, but for the way he insists on letting history speak for itself regardless of how unattractive the results, and only afterwards, if possible, building bridges with the modern world. I’ve learned a lot from Mark Nanos for the way he thinks outside the box in creative and credible ways. More recently, Mark Goodacre and Stephen Carlson have been influential; I think their contributions are part of a trend which will do a lot to propel scholarship out of love affairs with later documents, phantom documents, and hoaxes, and inject some healthy skepticism in all of us.
BW: What books do you read? (This isn’t limited to biblical studies)
LR: I read about a lot of things, but mostly biblical studies and the medieval crusades. To me they represent the two most fascinating points in Christian history.
BW: When did you start blogging? What attracted you to this medium?
LR: I began blogging in July 2005. Three bloggers in particular — Mark Goodacre, Stephen Carlson, and Michael Turton — inspired me to give blogging a try. It proved to be timely. Lately my library director has been emphasizing that “blogs are in, listserves out”, and it’s true. Look at the archives of the Crosstalk mailing list, for instance, and compare the number of posts made in 2006 with those of previous years. Then think of all the biblioblogs born recently. Blogs are where the action is these days, and they’re a perfect forum for experimenting with ideas.
BW: Before blogging, you were a contributor on email lists. How would you compare blogging to email lists? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each?
LR: I’ve been losing interest in email lists over the last two years. Blog networks can essentially accomplish what listserves can, and more; and feed aggregators make blogs just as convenient as email programs. The advantage to blogging lies in autonomy and freedom of creativity. Bloggers are their own moderators, and they can post about whatever they please. This can, of course, backfire if a blogger abuses the platform he’s built for himself, but there’s no denying that blogs have more character than the somewhat rigid e-lists.
BW: Earlier this year, you held an online version of an unpapal conclave. Tell us about this and how successful it was. Do you have plans on having another?
LR: The unpapal conclave was an attempt to experiment with the idea outlined in John Meier’s A Marginal Jew series, and see if any consensus could be reached about who Jesus was, what he did and said, and meant. I managed to assemble twelve participants (two atheists, two Jews, two agnostics, two Protestants, two Catholics, one evangelical, and one Unitarian). Our results were modest. It was successful, I think, if the goal was to identify possible points of consensus about Jesus. The logic being that any points of consensus would stand a good chance of being objectively true if a committee this diverse could agree on them. But if the goal was to get consensus on a lot of issues (which I don’t think it was), then it wasn’t very successful. I don’t foresee any follow-up to this experiment in the near future — though some of us did try, briefly, at Chris Weimer’s Ancient Mediterranean Cultures forum.
BW: Who is Leonard Ridge?
LR: Leonard Ridge is my alter-ego, and a nasty critic. He was born a few months ago when Rick Brannan suggested the “Opposite Blogging” Day. Leonard decided to stick around, and he will continue to make occasional blog appearances, just to keep me honest. Like many alter-egos, I suppose Leonard speaks up when I’m second-guessing myself over cherished ideas, particularly regarding multiculturalism. But he’s not very nice, and has shocked a few readers with the things he says about me.
BW: Which blogs do you read most often? Why?
LR: I try to keep up with most of the biblioblogs, because I’ve found that they all have something to offer. NT Gateway and Hypotyposeis are classic favorites, and I really like two of the Hebrew Bible blogs — Tyler Williams’ Codex Blogspot and Chris Heard’s Higgaion. Tyler is well-rounded (he has great postings on film and music), and I think Chris is one of the finest thinkers in biblioblogdom. And I always enjoy Crossley’s lobbying for more secular voices on Earliest Christian History. But as I said, there are many blogs I like to read; if it’s not on my blogroll, it’s probably in my feed aggregator.
BW: Who would you like to see blogging who isn’t currently?
LR: Dale Allison, Philip Esler, Mark Nanos, Jeffrey Gibson, William Arnal, Paula Fredriksen, and Richard Rohrbaugh.
BW: How do you spend your time away from work and reading?
LR: Is there anything but? Aside from socializing and watching films, most of my free time is devoted to writing a novel about the crusades which I’ve been sweating over for some time now. I wish I had more time for it.
BW: Is there anything you would like to let others know about you that they wouldn’t know from reading your blog?
LR: Well… I had fun composing some (very minor) pranks in my college years, and that’s probably why I saw through the sham of Secret Mark when I first began reading up on it and Morton Smith’s character. It takes a hoaxer to spot one, as they say, and we project ourselves, and our motives, onto those we admire and thrill to. What that says about me, I’ll let the reader decide.
BW: Thanks again, Loren. We appreciate your blog and taking the time to answer these questions.
LR: You’re welcome, Brandon. Thank you.