A year or so ago, the Vicar delivered a copy of Margaret Feinberg’s book, Scouting the Divine for my exploration of the Biblical themes in rural life. With a trip across country planned to visit the Vicar and Vicar’s Dad, I tossed the book into my bag. I opened it up in Dulles airport, and after changing planes in Denver, closed the cover at about Grand Junction, CO. While it is a quick first-read, Ms. Feinberg provides a lot of references to browse back through.
Ms. Feinberg’s journey in Scouting the Divine begins with her accumulation of Biblical reference to agrarian metaphors. Her premise is that many Christians and readers of the scriptures have a superficial understanding of passages because we no longer live in farm communities. Her methods of inquiry is more anthropological, than academic. Rather than delving into ancient language epistemology and root words, she seeks out shepherds, farmers, beekeepers, and vintners. As the Vicar would be likely to point out, they appear to be seeking her out as much as she, which would be the divine hand in their circumstantial meetings.
In each case, she spends a few days visiting these people who engage in modern day agricultural life, observes how they carry out their tasks, and ask them what meaning they derive from different Biblical passages. Their responses fill in the details about shepherds lying before the gate of the barn, farmers looking forward when plowing, honey bees working industriously, and vinedressers pruning each vine for the best quality harvest. Through these examples, Ms. Feinberg brings writings that have carried meaning for thousands of years closer to our lives, and brings us closer to a heritage that our technological society insolates us from.
Living on the side of a mountain, in a forest, surrounded by our gardens and goats, I found the images in Scouting the Divine easy to comprehend. I wonder for her usual reader, whether her explorations would remain abstractions or quaint touchstones to the past. Then, while the Vicar and I prepare to make lunch salads, we ask the Vicar’s Dad whether there is any lettuce, he directs us to Momma Suzanna’s vegetable patch behind their suburban manufactured home. I step out to harvest from four lettuce plants, next to a couple of herbs. Between the patio furniture and the paving stones, I find a hint of the divine.