Posts Tagged 'through the eye of a needle'

Introducing Red Egg Review

RERlogoLast summer, I was part of a conversation that was lamenting the state of some higher-profile efforts at Orthodox intellectual and cultural engagement. They tend to be reactionary, so the discussion went, they tend to be anti-intellectual, and worse, they tend to be filled with poorly-written reactionary anti-intellectual diatribes masked as legitimate intellectual engagement. I certainly have had my own experiences with various instances of this problem over the years, and while I’m not exactly the lefty that some of the other participants in the discussion were (here I must stress this as the money quote at that posting: “I am as strongly suspicious of a group claiming right-wing politics as being coterminous with the Christian faith as I would be of similar claims about the relationship of Christianity to left-wing politics”), I nonetheless shared many of the concerns.

Anyway, after the planning discussions seemed to point to a particular course of action that I didn’t think I would have much time to be actively involved with given my other organizational commitments and what I was trying to accomplish this academic year, I retreated into passive observer/occasional respondent mode. Then, last fall, the editors contacted me, asking if I’d be willing to write a review of Peter Brown‘s latest book, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD. I could be, I suppose, referred to as a “great-grandstudent” of Brown’s; my advisor was an advisee of John Matthews, whose D. Phil. Brown supervised. For a seminar a couple of years ago my advisor was able to get a draft chapter of Through the Eye of a Needle from Brown for us to read, so I was already ostensibly familiar with where he was going with it, and I needed to read it for my exams, so I was happy to sign on.

I’m happy to announce that Red Egg Review is now live, as is my piece on the book. I haven’t had a chance to read all the other articles yet, but the other contributors are a great group of friends and colleagues; Daniel Greeson is a dear friend for whose wedding I was a groomsman, Davor Džalto spent a year here at IU and attended All Saints during that time, Terry Cowan and I got to know each other a bit at the 2011 Byzantine Studies conference, and while I haven’t met the others in person yet, among them Sam Noble is somebody I’ve been corresponding with for some time about various issues scholarly, Arabic, and beyond, and he’s one of the good guys, to say the least.

Anyway, it looks like those conversations from last summer have turned into something worth your time (whether or not my book review actually is, never mind that now, but it was a useful exercise for me, at least). I don’t agree with everything my colleagues throw out there, and that’s entirely okay; the point is not to present an ideologically monolithic point of view — neither Terry nor I, at least, would have been asked to be involved if that were the idea. Rather, the objective is to present a model of Orthodox Christian intellectual and cultural engagement where the participants are able to present, in a manner both honest and consistent with the Orthodox faith, a diversity of viewpoints, while also seeking to do so in a way not entrenched in unhelpful political or ideological narratives. At first blush, at least, it looks like they’ve succeeded with this initial effort, and I hope it just gets better from here. I’m proud to have been involved in whatever minor fashion; may God give the increase.


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