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bell hooks, engaged pedagogy, and preaching

I posted a series of posts a while back about preaching, fueled exclusively by books written mostly by preachers about preaching in Christian churches.  There are a lot of these books, some better than others.  I have a lot of books like this that I really like on my bookshelf.  I will probably read and collect more of them some day.  For a while, though, I’m going to set down some of the more traditional preaching textbooks and instead read books about preaching that were not written with the task of preaching in mind.

A few years back I took a doctoral seminary on the history of preaching and found it fascinating to trace the practice of preaching through the past few thousand years.  Of particular interest was the diversity of approaches, styles, shapes, structures, influences, etc. used to communicate a consistent message.  Preaching has always been shaped by culture: there is not one singular way to preach and there is no one right way to construct a sermon.  So, I am hoping to cast a broad net and stretch how I think about sermons and preaching.

I would love to hear some thoughts on this, whether you agree, disagree, love, or hate.  Let me know what you think.

bell hooks is a professor, writer, and teacher and I recently started reading her book Teaching to Transgress: Education as a Practice of Freedom.  Her work falls within the critical pedagogy movement in educational theory and, based on the first few essays of hers I have read, has a great deal to offer to preachers (even though she directs her work toward teachers).

She writes this:

When education is the practice of freedom, students are not the only ones who are asked to share, to confess. Engaged pedagogy does not seek simply to empower students. Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process. That empowerment cannot happen if we refuse to be vulnerable while encouraging students to take risks. Professors who expect students to share confessional narratives but who are themselves unwilling to share are exercising power in a manner that could be coercive. In my classrooms, I do not expect students to take any risks that I would not take, to share in any way I would not share. When professors bring narratives of their experiences into classroom discussions it eliminates the possibility that we can function as all-knowing, silent interrogators. It is often productive if professors take the first risk, linking confessional narratives to academic discussions so as to show how experience can illuminate and enhance our understanding of academic materials. But most professors must practice being vulnerable in the classroom, being wholly present in mind, body, and spirit.

– bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress, 21.

Belongs in a homiletics textbook, don’t you think?


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