On Monday nights in October, Dr. Dale Allison of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary will be speaking about two of his favorite subjects: George Harrison of the Beatles and Jesus of Nazareth. These events will be hosted at the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community in the South Side and are free and open to the public.
On Monday, Oct. 1 at 7pm Dr. Allison will share some of the insights he recorded in his book, "The Love There That's Sleeping," about the unlikely intersection between spiritual devotion and pop music that Harrison created in popular songs like "My Sweet Lord."
If it also seems unlikely that a professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christianity at a Protestant seminary would take such an interest in a British guitar player who journeyed from Roman Catholicism to philosophical Hinduism, Dr. Allison assures us that there are plenty of connections.
"Although he ended up seeing the world through Hindu eyes whereas I have ended up seeing it through Christian eyes, we often see things in a similar way," Dr. Allison observes in his book.
Charting the depths of Harrison's musical catalogue, Dr. Allison finds an eagerness to praise God, a sober confrontation with doubt, questions about the ultimate value of physical existence and, above all, a recurrent emphasis on love.
"It may sound quaint, but surely the world would not be a worse place if popular musicians more often invited us to pray to God to give us love and peace on earth," he concludes.
Such broad connections encourage people of all faiths to reflect on mutual concerns and the event's hosts hope for an evening of interesting dialogue.
"Whether you are a fan of the Beatles or just interested in the relationship between religious feeling and artistic expression, this will be a great night of discussion," said Mike Holohan, director of ministries at the church.
Then, on the following three Monday evenings - October 8, 15, and 22 at 7pm - Dr. Allison will pursue his primary interest by unpacking the difficult sayings of Jesus collected in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Passages like "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" are often quoted but are they meant to apply literally to everyday life?
In his book on the subject, "The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination," Dr. Allison sees the "sermon" not as a summary of the Christian faith or as proof of its superior ethics as some have suggested but as a collection of teachings designed to inspire the Christian community to a different way of life.
"It is primarily the relationship of those sentiments to one another and, above all, their relationship to the person of Jesus and his story that gives them their unique meaning for Christians," he writes.
The author of more than 20 books and numerous articles on the New Testament and the historical Jesus, Dr. Allison has been regarded as a foremost authority on the New Testament since the completion of his three-volume commentary (with W.D. Davies) on the Gospel of Matthew in 1997. He has been lauded by colleagues as "the premier Matthew specialist of his generation in the United States," "one of the best American exegetes of his generation," and "North America's most complete New Testament scholar."
He has been teaching at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary since 1997.
The church can be reached at 412-481-4010, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at www.hotmetalbridge.com.