March 10, 2018

Interrupting Silence by Walter Brueggemann [A Review]

(Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher; however, nothing was expected except an honest review.)

When it comes to books by Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, I have a pretty simple rule: read them. His newest book is no exception.

In Interrupting Silence: God's Command to Speak Out, Brueggemann explores the importance of breaking silences. He does this by exploring eight biblical passages where someone interrupted silence. He examines a variety of texts from both testaments and in different contexts. For instance, the silence can come from internal pressures (Psalm 32), royal power (Amos 7), a crowd of people (Mark 10), societal expectations (Luke 18), or other factors. In his chosen texts, those interrupting the silence are those who are oppressed or outsiders.

"All of these silence breakers have come to see that silence is a strategy for the maintenance of the status quo, with its unbearable distribution of power and wealth," Brueggemann explains. "Silence breakers characteristically insist that the old patterns of power must be disrupted and reconfigured."

With that introduction, Brueggemann captures the critical role silence can play - especially forced silenced. In my graduate studies in communication, I often found silence - and breaking of silence - associated with issues of power. Brueggemann brings that important understanding to our reading of scriptures. In doing so, he challenges Christians to side with those voices interrupting the silences.

"The church has a huge stake in breaking the silence, because the God of the Bible characteristically appears at the margins of established power arrangements, whether theological or socioeconomic and political," Brueggemann argues. "The church at its most faithful is allied with artistic expression from the margin that voices alternatives to dominant imagination."

With that goal, which builds on Brueggemann's arguments from The Prophetic Imagination and many other works, Brueggemann accomplishes in this book exactly what he praises various biblical characters for doing: interrupting silence. With attention to application and the present, his analysis of the stories challenges us to think about silences and when we need to break those silences. As he breaks the silence, I suspect most readers - like me - won't always be comfortable with his book.

Due to that silence-breaking purpose, its easy-to-read style, and the way it led me to reconsider some biblical accounts, I highly recommend Interrupting Silence


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