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Old 07-04-2009, 01:26 PM   #1
Gideon
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Post Online Theology Book Club

Wearing one of my other hats in life, some friends and I started a theology book club. We're all over the country, however, so we're going to be doing it online via video and regular text chat. Many others were also interested, so we've gotten a bit bigger than we originally imagined.

We're going to be talking about books on theology and religion that are often rooted in respectable academic work but not so academic that a person with a decent religious education can't appreciate what is going on. The group is not affiliated with any particular group (its founding members were an Episcopalian, Methodist and Presbyterian) but lean towards "progressive religion" in general.

Our first book is going to be John Caputo's On Religion you can see some multimedia content and supplementary material here. We'll be meeting on Thursday, July 16th at 8pm EST. We're discussing our picks for the next book here and here.

We're working off the Emergent Outliers site, but the group itself is not necessarily involved with the Emergent Church movement (though many are in some way or another) - so don't let that put you off it isn't your cup of tea. Everyone who can engage in a civil and interesting conversation with a modicum of religious education is welcome.
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Old 07-04-2009, 02:54 PM   #2
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Sounds great but the methodology and timing make it all but impossible for anyone in Europe to take part - if they need sleep that is.
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Old 07-04-2009, 03:18 PM   #3
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Yeah, we're aware of that but there really isn't any way to resolve that issue well. No Europeans asked to be a part of it during formation, and we actually established the day and time by asking everyone interested for their availability and that particular day and time was the golden spot - everyone could come.

There's really no way to accommodate that level of difference in time zones - we can't have the meetings at 1pm EST anymore than we can at 2am EST. I actually spent a few years managing a project that was multi-continental and it really was a nightmare trying to have a meeting time good for Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders and Americans!

As to methodology... does TokBox not work in Europe?

So.. that being said, if a group in Europe wanted to do this they are welcome to use the 'facilities' on the website, etc to do so. If this is successful we might be forming multiple groups anyway, as the video chat functionality really doesn't scale beyond 20 or so all that well.
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Old 07-04-2009, 05:32 PM   #4
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As to methodology... does TokBox not work in Europe?
I'm sure it does. Just not as a way of opening your discussion to more than a fistful of time zones effectively limited to one country. I suppose I assumed from your advertising it on a site with world-wide reach that you were interested in spreading your discussion beyond the borders of Uncle Sam -- but your answer makes it clear that that would be inconvenient.

Anyway, good luck.
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Old 07-04-2009, 05:46 PM   #5
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I'm actually quite interested but it isn't a real option in regards to this specific way of talking to each other. There are other methods to facilitate that part of the conversation, the blog, forums, facebook group, twitter, etc. I have, regrettably, very little control over the issue of time zones.

Most of the people involved in this have jobs, families, etc.. they don't have universal availability. Not unless, as you say, they want to get any sleep or work, etc. I'd love to involve as many people and as many perspectives as possible, but the ideal of that cannot get in the way of what will actually work. I'm not going to try to make it at a time that allows for our few European friends to be involved that is at the expense of 20 people here. If it was the other way around, it'd be the same way - I'd make the meeting at 1 pm and the Americans would have to just deal with it.

There might be things in the future where we can pull off an international chat, but right now I'm essentially working with a 7pm EST - 11pm EST window because that is what the people who wanted to be involved could do.

And through some of the more international channels of the Emergent church movement as well as my own connections to other religious people in Europe and New Zealand, I've made it clear that our setup is available to all who might want to create such groups on a local level as well.

I'm not sure what about my answer makes you think that my attitude is so U.S. centric.. it's a pragmatic and honest answer. You're the first European (and we do know quite a few, but this wasn't their cup of tea or something they could do right now) who has been interested but at the moment it isn't something I can accommodate as much as I'd like to, unless I alienate everyone else.

If you have some better ideas, I'd be happy to hear them and if they work, happier still to implement them.
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Old 07-04-2009, 07:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gideon View Post
Wearing one of my other hats in life, some friends and I started a theology book club. We're all over the country, however, so we're going to be doing it online via video and regular text chat. Many others were also interested, so we've gotten a bit bigger than we originally imagined.

We're going to be talking about books on theology and religion that are often rooted in respectable academic work but not so academic that a person with a decent religious education can't appreciate what is going on. The group is not affiliated with any particular group (its founding members were an Episcopalian, Methodist and Presbyterian) but lean towards "progressive religion" in general.

Our first book is going to be John Caputo's On Religion you can see some multimedia content and supplementary material here. We'll be meeting on Thursday, July 16th at 8pm EST. We're discussing our picks for the next book here and here.

We're working off the Emergent Outliers site, but the group itself is not necessarily involved with the Emergent Church movement (though many are in some way or another) - so don't let that put you off it isn't your cup of tea. Everyone who can engage in a civil and interesting conversation with a modicum of religious education is welcome.

Interesting concept.

Of course, I *STILL* can't get the image out of my head that popped in there when I read the thread title. For some reason I parsed it as a club discussing the various religions concerning online ebooks.

Derek
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Old 07-04-2009, 08:04 PM   #7
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That's ok, I can't get the "an Episcopalian, Methodist and Presbyterian walk into a bar" sort of joke out of my head.
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Old 07-04-2009, 08:11 PM   #8
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Everyone who can engage in a civil and interesting conversation with a modicum of religious education is welcome.
Is it likely to be a theology discussion group, or an Abrahamic monotheism/Christianity discussion group?

I love theology & religion discussions, but find most of the ones created by Christians to be too firmly grounded in monotheism to be able to participate. (At least, without turning into a bickering flamewar. Which can be fun, but generally isn't the intended purpose.)

I'm not meaning to be argumentative; I am very interested in religious discussion, and I do understand that most of the ones organized by Christians are Christian-focused, with "general religious group" used to mean "multi-denominational Christian, plus some awareness of Judaism and Islam." (It's annoying, but I'm certainly used to it.)

I'd like to find out whether there's any chance I'd feel welcome in the discussion group. I expect I'd be plenty welcome to watch; I'm asking if I'd be welcome to participate, or if that would just wind up with me being frustrated and some of the other people being annoyed or uncomfortable or both.
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Old 07-04-2009, 08:46 PM   #9
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I'd say this one is definitely going to be "strong Christian focus." There isn't any particular aversion to other religious groups in this group (most of us are pluralists, I think - I know I am) but part of the reason this came about was an a way for those of us who are in the religious boonies to have an intellectual, religious outlet. We want to be able to experience that part of our faith and for whatever reason have a difficult time where we are (I'm neck deep in Christians in Oklahoma, but my options for a conversation like this are almost nill!)

But as to it being rather open... for instance, we really want to read Zizek and Millbank's "Monstrosity of Christ" soon - Zizek is a materialist Marxist and Millbank is... well, not - and so a non-Christian would probably have something to say (as Zizek does), but the focus is still very much on Christian theological issues. That being said... if we get into any medieval theology (can God make a non-virgin a virgin again, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or anything by Scotus - I'm OUT OF THERE!).

That being said.. our first book, Caputo's "On Religion" has themes that I think are both religious and secular and while I don't know how the conversation is going to go, I think given the content it would be fairly open to anyone.

This is out first time out of the gate, though, too... this may go some different places and personally I'd love to have non-specific religious book groups meeting as well. And if enough people start talking on our forums, then something like that would be able to happen in that context certainly. Anyone is certainly welcome TO participate... but I think a lot of the texts are going to lead towards pretty strong intra-Christian issues, and if you're cool with that I'm certainly happy with that.

But I don't know about the forums.. I've not seen a forum succeed that wasn't tech driven or very controversial in a long time. It is too early too tell.

So... I'd invite you to come and see what you think, and hopefully it won't get too annoying for either one of us!
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