Pulpit+ Exchange Presents: “How The New Testament Became White (And How To Start Reading It Differently)” with Dr. Eric C. Smith
Iliff’s Pulpit+ Exchange Series (supported by the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative from Lilly Endowment Inc.) provides space for a diverse array of ordained clergy and lay leaders to gather for a meal and grapple with challenging issues. One of the main goals of the Pulpit+ Exchange is to build congregations who will authentically study, worship, walk, and act together across difference to create a just and equitable world.
Come for a light meal (5:00 pm -5:30 pm MT) and stay for a lecture with a Q&A session to follow (5:30 pm – 7:00 pm MT).
About The Night’s Lecture
“How The New Testament Became White (And How To Start Reading It Differently)” with Dr. Eric C. Smith, Assistant Professor of Early Christianity and Contemporary Christian Practices
When white supremacists massed in Charlottesville for the Unite the Right rally in 2017, citations from the New Testament covered their placards. When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in 2021, they quoted the New Testament as justification. Before a man opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego in 2019, he posted a manifesto that included passages from Matthew, John, 1 Thessalonians, and Revelation. Incident after incident has shown how entangled white supremacy is with Christianity and its texts. But it’s not just acts of violence where racism and the New Testament show up together. Similar (but subtler) patterns can be found in local congregations, Christian education curricula, seminary classrooms, and the scholarly field of biblical studies itself. In recent years, some biblical scholars have begun to grapple with this problem, pointing out places where white supremacy permeates the study of the New Testament and asking whether it’s possible to ever study and read the text apart from patterns of domination. This evening, we will examine how the New Testament is recruited and claimed by white supremacy and used by white supremacists, and how scholars, pastors, students, and laity can begin reading it differently.
About the Lecturer
Dr. Eric Smith, Assistant Professor of Early Christianity and Contemporary Christian Practices, teaches in the fields of biblical studies and early Christianity, co-directs Iliff’s Doctor of Ministry in Prophetic Leadership program, and serves as liaison to the Disciples Seminary Foundation. His research and teaching center on a constellation of interests in the world of late antiquity, including identity formation, material culture and materialist approaches to religion, and both ancient and modern interpretations of biblical texts.
Smith is the author of four books and several articles and chapters. His book Sovereignties, Spaces, Subjects, and Spirits: The Necropolitics of the Acts of the Apostles (SBL Press, forthcoming) undertakes a postcolonial reading of the violence and belonging embedded in the text of Acts. An earlier book, Jewish Glass and Christian Stone: A Materialist Mapping of the Parting of the Ways (Routledge 2018) examines material objects as markers of identities in Judeo-Christianity to tell the story of the “parting of the ways” through the material lives of Jews and Christians. Aimed to popular audiences, Paul the Progressive? The Compassionate Christian’s Guide to Reclaiming the Apostle as an Ally (Chalice 2019) attempts to reclaim the apostle Paul for progressive Christian communities. Recent and forthcoming articles and chapters focus on materialist, postcolonial, and queer methodologies.
Smith is past co-chair of the Early Jewish Christian Relations and Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity program units of the Society of Biblical Literature, and he currently serves on the Art and Religions of Antiquity program unit. He is the co-editor of the Christianity section of Religion Compass. Smith is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with ministry experience in the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.