As summer ends, my time to engage with Nibley’s social criticisms has begun to return. Of course, I say that the week before classes begin, so a couple things I want to point out before we get started: first, this is a long, detailed chapter.
This chapter (understandably) overlaps significantly with the previous chapter, Gifts. These are, after all, discourses he delivered at various times, to various audiences, with common themes. I’m reading them separately, though, and different things hit me at different readings. So, like always, I won’t discuss everything Nibley focuses on (and I’ll try to not spend too much time on things I’ve discussed previously). With that out of the way, on to the chapter.
Another confession: I had a really hard time with this chapter. And it’s not just because I read it sitting in an airport waiting for a plane that was delayed for an hour and a half. Rather, it’s because of the way Nibley speaks of the wealthy. Certain of his descriptions feel, to me, so laughably one-dimensional—so moustache-twirling, tying-the-heroine-to-the-tracks—that I find myself fighting both his prose and my instincts to not just dismiss his entire piece out of hand.
Now that I’ve read my first chapter of Approaching Zion, a couple more caveats before we get started. First, I’m not going to bother summarizing what Nibley said. Instead, I’m going to try to engage it, responding to ideas that engaged me, whether I agree or disagree. Second, I’m not going to try to engage with the full text; in Chapter 1, there were two things that really spoke to me, and one more that I’m going to mention and defer until a later installment. Feel free, in the comments, to engage with what I’ve engaged with, what I’ve said, or something else in the chapter that you feel needs to be responded to. With that, let’s go!
I have a confession to make: I’ve never read Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion. I’m serious. I mean, I bought it years ago, probably before my oldest daughter was born. I’ve lugged it through at least six or seven moves. And it’s sitting on my bookshelf, taking up valuable real estate. But, though I’ve nibbled here and there, I’ve never even read a complete chapter.
It seems an odd oversight, frankly: in Approaching Zion, Nibley describes what constitutes a Zion society, and what we need to do to establish such a Zion society; I’m deeply interested in how society and the law can promote social justice and a better world. So it seems like a natural fit, right?
Because Nibley’s Approaching Zion has 18 chapters, the Approaching Zion Project will eventually include at least 19 posts. You can find a link to the full text of Approaching Zion here, and links to all of the installments of the Approaching Zion Project below: Prologue 1. Our Glory or Our Condemnation 2. What Is Zion? A Distant View 3. Zeal Without Knowledge 4. Gifts 5. Deny Not the Gifts of God 6. How Firm a Foundation! What Makes It So 7. How to Get Rich 8. Work We Must, but the Lunch Is Free 9. But What Kind of Work? 10. Funeral Address 11. Three Degrees of Righteousness from the Old Testament 12. We Will Still Weep for Zion 13. Breakthroughs I Would Like to See 14. Change Out of Control 15. Law of Consecration 16. The Utopians 17. Goods of First and Second Intent 18.The Meaning of the Atonement