As part of my election recovery, I decided to try to take time to contemplate and be grateful for seemingly ordinary things. For instance, I am much more grateful for leaders who are embarrassed and ashamed over their bad behavior. That’s an easy one. Here is another, first the seemingly ordinary thing: Each year ten thousand religion scholars come together to geek out over churches and sects, the Bible, archaeology, spirituality, history, and a lot more. And every year HarperOne celebrates this confluence of academic conferences by holding a sale on many of our best titles (see the links at the bottom of this post for details). Because of this new digital age, the sale is now made available to everyone and not just those coming to San Antonio this year or Boston next year.
Now for the gratitude part: I am grateful that we live in an age where the best religious and biblical scholarship is only a click away, which is truly revolutionary; that we have such a robust economic system where such wisdom costs only as much as dinner at a fast food restaurant (amazing); that we have schools, churches, seminaries, ministries, and other institutions that encourage thoughtful and wise teachers to speak to the issues of our time. I could go on.
Feel better? I do, too—a bit.
But I can’t stop with gratitude. The contemplation part of my exercise has filled me with a new sense of urgency. Witnessing how this past presidential election was conducted and covered made me appreciate the holy nature of our efforts to creatively and effectively publish works that make deep and mysterious realities understandable and accessible. Without those teachers who desire to bring deep truths to a wide audience, we are vulnerable to those who spin simplistic truths to manipulate the masses.
Despite the importance of this teaching task, it is by no means easy. There is a reason why most scholars only write for scholars and experts for experts. Speaking to one’s own tribe is easier and skips the necessary work of creative translation needed if one wishes to be heard and understood outside one’s tribe. The majority of attempts at crossing this divide fail. Which gives us all the more reason to cherish, celebrate, and, especially, read those books that have proven themselves, that have found an audience, get taught in classes, and have inspired others. Yes, I am grateful for this event, this sale, these authors, and these books, but I also feel a more urgent need to challenge myself, to go deeper in my understanding of the world and my soul. Because it is now obvious to me that pursuing knowledge and wisdom is a necessary and needed political act.
Michael G. Maudlin
Senior Vice President and Executive Editor