Reprinted with permission from the July – August 2011 issue of The Fourth R.
Westar’s Passionate Advocate
“Vatican II is the main line that intersects my life,” said Bernard Brandon Scott. “ It opened lots of doors for Catholics like me. I am one of a group of New Testament scholars who grew up Catholic, attended Catholic schools, and then felt comfortable enough to go through Protestant New Testament Ph.D. programs.
“When the promise of Vatican II was betrayed, I left the Catholic seminary, St. Meinrad’s School of Theology, where I had been teaching for 16 years because I no longer felt free to pursue my research wherever it would take me.
“I am still Catholic today. I’m just not Roman Catholic. Too much of the Roman Empire is still in the church! Though on occasion, I do ask myself, ‘if Jesus wasn’t a Christian and Paul wasn’t a Christian, why am I one?’”
Brandon grew up in Louisville and then studied at St. Meinrad’s in southern Indiana. He earned a master’s degree in religion from Miami University in Ohio, followed by a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
The author of 16 books, including the groundbreaking Hear Then the Parable and The Trouble with Resurrection, has been a part of the Westar Institute from day one. Westar’s founder, Bob Funk, was one of his professors in his Ph.D. studies at Vanderbilt.
Early Jesus Seminar meetings focused on the parables, and Brandon wrote the initial report, which was later incorporated into the red-letter edition of The Parables of Jesus published in 1988 by Polebridge Press.
From the very beginning, Brandon has maintained a strong commitment to Westar. He has taught more Jesus Seminars on the Road than any other scholar, has published many of his books with Polebridge Press, and serves on the Westar Board of Directors.
He and his wife, Margaret Lee, have also been strong supporters of the Campaign for Westar. A New Testament scholar in her own right, Margaret is the Dean of Learning Assessment and Student Success Strategies at Tulsa Community College, with Doctor of Theology degree from the Melbourne College of Divinity. Together they wrote Sound Mapping the New Testament, published in 2009 by Polebridge Press.
Brandon holds strong convictions about the importance of Westar. ”I believe religious literacy is critical to this society,” he said. “We have people making public policy pronouncements on issues like abortion, gay rights, and global warming, citing biblical sources that are plainly wrong and terribly misleading. That’s why reaching out to people through our Jesus Seminars on the Road is so important. This is a very effective way of getting new scholarship into the churches.”
This same passion informs his teaching at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he is the Darbeth Professor of New Testament. “I’m not sure where religion is going, but it needs to be given a chance to evolve into something new and different,” he said. “I challenge my students all the time because they will be leading the charge in helping this evolution take place.”
Another passion he shares with Margaret is birding. “I love the observation of nature and habitat that comes with looking for birds,” he said. Brandon generally attends every Westar meeting and Jesus Seminars on the Road with camera in hand, having scouted the area for any unusual birds. At a recent JSOR, he went out early in the morning and much to his joy saw a swallow-tailed kite, which would be a rare sighting in Oklahoma.
Fortunately, through his writings, his teaching, and his speaking engagements, Brandon is anything but a rare sight in the life of Westar where his passionate advocacy for the cause of religious literacy inspires us all.