Q&A WITH MATTHEW R. ANDERSON, AUTHOR OF PAIRINGS: THE BIBLE AND BOOZE

From apple cider (Genesis) to bloody Caesars (Revelation), Matthew Anderson’s offering of vintage biblical texts paired with alcoholic and alcohol-free drinks reveals a rich complexity of scholarship while remaining satisfyingly easy on the palate. Pairings opens up generous undertones of prophetic justice and plush and full-bodied humour. In this Q&A, find out more about this fresh approach to delving into biblical texts.

Pairing Scripture with particular drinks (with or without alcohol) is a creative approach to helping readers explore parts of the Bible. What gave you this idea? 

We teachers (I’ve taught biblical studies for more than 20 years) are always trying to think of new ways to teach! A few years ago, based on an idea I heard from the actor Rick Smith, I invented a lecture series called “The Gospels and the Beatles.” I got people to play a game matching each of the four New Testament gospels to Ringo, George, Paul and John. That turned out to be so much fun I tried to think of other “pairings.”

How can our sense of taste help us encounter the word of God in a fresh way?

Spirituality is never just a “head” thing. We bring our minds, bodies, and emotions to everything we do and are. Faith is no different. Foreign-language teachers, for instance, are showing how when we engage multiple senses, what we learn sticks better. Besides, the Bible itself is chock-full of references to eating and drinking: Isaiah is made to “eat” a scroll, and in the Psalms we’re told to “taste and see that the Lord is good!”

How did you choose the 10 Scripture passages for the book? What spoke to you in this selection of readings?

I always started with the Bible, not the booze or the alcohol-free drink. Some of the passages, like Psalm 139 and Isaiah 55, have been my favourites for years. Sometimes, like with decolonizing our drinks, I had a theme in mind and realized that a Bible text really fit. And I wanted to be sure to start with Genesis and end with Revelation.

How do you suggest readers delve into the book: All at once? Every so often? Alone or with friends?

You can “drink from” this book any way you want. Several book clubs are sharing a chapter a week of Pairings with the drinks as accompaniment. I know of other folks just perusing it themselves. One person even told me they read it to their partner on a long drive instead of listening to a podcast or the radio (without any alcoholic drinks, of course!).

Often people hear Scripture proclaimed at church but are unlikely to pick up a Bible and read. How can those who aren’t used to reading the Bible become more comfortable with this practice?

The Bible can look daunting. But it isn’t really one book – it’s a collection, sometimes of very different styles and purposes. More like a “Farmer’s Almanac” than a novel. Pairings: The Bible and Booze shows that it’s okay to dip into the Bible and focus on smaller, manageable segments and themes.

Do you have any final comments or thoughts to share?

Mainly, I hope readers have fun with my book and learn from its strong social justice message. Despite the differences in the Bible’s many books, they all consistently lift up the poor, the foreigner and the outsider. Not all Christians realize that. A professor friend saw this book and quipped: “Always consume sacred texts responsibly.” That’s a good theme for Pairings. And for life!

Matthew R. Anderson is Affiliate Professor in Theological Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. Find his blogs at www.somethinggrand.ca and www.unsettledwords.com, and his podcast “Pilgrimage Stories from Up and Down the Staircase” on your preferred podcast platform.

Pairings: The Bible and Booze is available from your favourite bookseller or from Novalis.

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