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Book Examines "Reading the Bible from the Margins"

Posted March 25, 2002

HOLLAND -- Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre of the Hope College religion faculty has just published "Reading the Bible from the Margins," with Orbis Books.

The book maintains that anyone who reads the Bible does so from a particular social location. "We are all born into an on-going society that shapes us," said De La Torre, who is an assistant professor of religion. "When we turn our attention to the biblical text as the source of our theological perspectives, we participate in a dialogue between the written word and the meanings our community taught us to give to these words."

"Many of us have been taught to read the Bible through the eyes of white, middle-class males," he said. "Yet, can the text liberate those who are oppressed because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or class? To do so, it must be read with the eyes of the disenfranchised."

"Reading the Bible from the Margins" explores how the Bible can be used to liberate those who suffer race, class and gender oppression within the United States. Specifically, the perspectives of African Americans, Latina/os, Asian Americans, gays, and the poor are examined.

The book is based on a freshman class De La Torre presently teaches at Hope by the same title. The primary aim of the book is to expose the reader to a new way of "seeing" the biblical text. The book analyzes different biblical narratives from the perspective of the "underside" of normative Christian interpretations to show how the powerless within U.S. society find spiritual empowerment.

Besides biblical references, communal and personal anecdotes are used throughout the text to make the material more accessible to the reader. The book does not question the authority of the Scriptures. Rather, by claiming its authority, the book challenges how the dominant religious culture forged its interpretations, interpretations which at times mask power structures.

In a recent review of the book, Cain Hope Felder, professor of New Testament at Howard University, wrote, "Miguel De La Torre offers a remarkably honest and even self-indicting primer in biblical interpretation. This innovative resource is filled with considerable multicultural capital that can help many better understand the sad persistence of many 'great divides' in a nation that is so ready to proclaim to the world, 'United We Stand!' This is not another 'angry minority voice,' but one that provides balm for those who have become accustomed to reading the Bible in a manner that would both disguise and justify their own socio-economic, racial, or gender preferences. De La Torre intentionally extracts elements of his own pilgrimage in America to form a prism through which others of us who have suffered in the unique American hierarchy of social and economic pain might view others with a compassion that would foster helping solidarity."

"Reading the Bible from the Margins" is the second book Dr. De La Torre has published this academic year. The first was "Introducing Latino/a Theologies," which was released this past October, also by Orbis Press.

De La Torre just completed two other books which are scheduled for release within the next year: "The Quest for the Cuban Christ" with University Press of Florida; and "La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics are the streets of Miami" with University of California Press. Additionally, he is presently working on two other books: "Introduction to Santerķa: A New U.S. Religion" with Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; and "Handbook on U.S. Theologies of Liberation" with Chalice Press.

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