Saturday, 28 March 2015

Tom Petrie

I remember travelling to Petrie as a child to play against the Pine Rivers soccer team.  It seemed like a long way away.  Reading Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland makes it seem even further.  

Tom Petrie was born in Scotland in 1831.  In that same year his father Andrew accepted a post as supervisor of works in Sydney, and in 1838 the family transferred to the penal colony in Brisbane, then a ramshackle affair just over a decade old.  When Queensland was opened up to free settlement a few years later and his position was abolished, Petrie senior refused the offered transfer back to Sydney in favour of setting up his own building business in the younger colony, and the Petries became pillars of early Brisbane society.

All this meant that Tom had a very unusual childhood.  Brisbane in 1838 was not really a community, it was a prison.  Although there were some women prisoners the population was dominated by male convicts and soldiers.  There were virtually no European children.  Even Petrie's own siblings were much older than he was, virtually young adults by the time they arrived in Brisbane.

Young Tom also seems to have had a freedom of movement unthinkable for a child in 21st century Brisbane.  As a result, he sought out the only potential playmates available, the children in the Aboriginal camps at York's Hollow (the current Exhibition Grounds and Victoria Park), Bowen Hills and elsewhere around the settlement.  These were predominantly Turrbal people, the original custodians of the Brisbane area, but there were regular visitors from further afield.  He became an accepted presence in these camps, learned their languages, observed their ceremonies, and even travelled with them as an adolescent to the annual Bunya Nut Festival in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  

All this made Tom quite unique among the European residents of early Brisbane.  Most Europeans seem to have viewed Aboriginal people with a mixture of scorn and fear.  Nor was the fear entirely misplaced.  A number of Europeans were killed by Aboriginal people, although the killings were far from unprovoked.  Yet Tom rarely if ever had cause to fear, and even worked closely with a number of Aboriginal people suspected of "murdering" Europeans.  His personal friendships and understanding of their cultural boundaries meant he managed to avoid offence and negotiate more cooperative relationships.  

A good example was his decision to settle in North Pine in the 1850s.  A number of previous European farmer/graziers in the area had been killed or abandoned their properties for their own safety.  Tom, however, consulted with the Aboriginal elder D'alipie (whom he had known since childhood) about where he should settle and, with his blessing, set up his station at a place he called "Murrumba", the Turrbal word for "good place".  D'alipie and his family subsequently spent a lot of time at Murrumba, helped Petrie establish the place and cared for it while he was away.

In the early 1900s Tom Petrie's daughter, Constance Campbell Petrie, decided to record some of his stories for posterity.  These appeared first as a series of articles in The Queenslander and later in a more extensive form in Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland, first published in 1904.  

This is a very important document in the history of Queensland, especially for its record of the languages and cultural practices of the Turrbal and other original South-East Queensland peoples.  It includes detailed descriptions of their hunting and gathering methods, food preferences, medical practice, marriage customs, child rearing, initiation ceremonies, mourning practices and the ritual battles which ended many of their large gatherings.  It is appended with a substantial list of Aboriginal place names and other words, although it is not entirely clear which language or languages these come from.

It's also not clear exactly how Constance Petrie gathered the stories and information she uses in the book.  Tom himself was still alive when it was published and it's possible he had some hand in it, but there's not much sense of his active involvement in its production.  I wonder if perhaps he was unwell by the time it was written.  Sometimes the stories are told in his voice as if Constance has recorded them verbatim, but more often they are told in the third person and some of the sections on Aboriginal culture seem to use other ethnographic sources too and read more like a work of anthropology than a memoir.  Did Constance and Tom sit together and work on the book, or is Constance remembering stories he told her in her childhood?  Did Tom write some of this down himself over the years, or is it all from his memory?  Are we meant to take all the stories as fact, or are some of them campfire yarns and classic Aussie tall tales?

This wasn't the reason I felt uneasy as I read this book, though.  You can't expect a memoir to adhere to high standards of scholarship.  

The first thing that made me uneasy was the clear assumption of European superiority.  Certainly Tom treated his Aboriginal companions fairly, kindly and even respectfully, and it seems they returned the favour.  Yet once he is an adult there is no question that he is in charge.  The book tells a series of stories about Tom's timber-getting expeditions to the Maroochy River in the company of a group of Aboriginal men.  At one point 25 of these men ask him to brand the backs of their hands with a "P" using traditional scarring methods.  He complies.  It sounds disturbingly like slavery.  There is certainly no suggestion in the book that his Aboriginal helpers were paid wages.  They seem to be working for rations.  

The second and even more nagging unease was about what happened to them.  The book is vague about dates, but seems to peter out by about 1870.  Where were the characters mentioned in it in 1904?  It is clear that some of them were still alive because Constance Petrie mentions a visit she made to the sanatorium at Dunwich where some of the elders were sent to end their days.  She says they received her very warmly as Tom's daughter and that they remembered him fondly despite not having seen him for decades.  He doesn't seem to have gone with her on this visit.  None of them seem to have been consulted on the stories in this book, or asked to tell their own versions or their own stories.  We don't know if they had children.  If they did where were they when the book was being written?

And this is where I was really squirming.  We know from other sources that there was a strong Aboriginal presence in the area around North Pine right up until the late 19th Century.  However, in 1897 the Queensland Parliament passed the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act.  One of the effects of this Act is that over the following decade virtually all the remaining Aboriginal population of South East Queensland was forcibly relocated to Aboriginal missions like Cherbourg and Woorabinda. This process was under way as Constance Petrie was writing this book.

You wouldn't know it, reading the book itself.  It reads as if the Aboriginal communities belonged to the distant past.  Even in Tom's youth, according to Constance, the strong, athletic and energetic people he first met were turning into torpid, unhealthy alcoholics in the urban camps, courtesy of the alcohol, tobacco and sugar they received from Europeans.  She doesn't quite say it, but she conveys a sense that they were dying out, the few elderly people at Dunwich the last of a once-proud people.  Their demise, she seems to be saying, was sad but inevitable.

It is true that there was much destruction over Tom's and Constance's lifetimes.  People were killed by European settlers, by the Native Police, by imported influenza and other viruses, by poisoned flour, by alcohol.  To her credit, Constance doesn't sugar-coat this, and she makes it clear that many of the European settlers were killed in revenge for attempted poisonings.  Their culture was irreparably damaged by their steady eviction from their traditional land, forced beyond a boundary that kept on expanding.  The 1897 Act finished the process of cultural genocide, forcing the remaining Turrbal, Jagera and Kabi from their lands and splitting them up between the various reserves.  

Yet for all this they didn't 'die out'.  There is a kind of bitter irony in the fact that their descendants are now forced to look up the details of their languages and cultures in Constance Petrie's book.  It's likely that Tom Petrie was the best friend they had in the European community but it seems that in the end his friendship was like that of the king of Egypt, "that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it".  

Friday, 20 March 2015

Lifestyle Choices?

Tony Abbott wants to be the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Australia.  Then again he also wants to be the Minister for Women.  When he was asked what he had achieved in this portfolio he said he had abolished the carbon tax.  Perhaps as Prime Minster for Aboriginal Australians his main achievement is stopping the boats.  Only 227 years too late but I guess there's no use crying over spilt milk.

Now Abbott has flagged another seminal achievement in Aboriginal affairs by supporting the Western Australian Government's decision to stop providing basic infrastructure to approximately 150 outstations - small Aboriginal communities, often remote, that have been set up by Aboriginal people since the 1960s as overflow from the towns and larger Aboriginal communities.  The Western Australian Government says continuing to provide services to these communities is too expensive, and Abbott says that governments shouldn't pay for the people's "lifestyle choices".

"What we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if these lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have."

As usual Abbot is historically blind, and on a grand scale. Aboriginal Australians were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands (that is to say, by police and soldiers) over the period stretching from first contact to the early 20th century, and confined to missions in out of the way places.  There they were given minimal education, forced to live wherever the "Protector" ordered them to live, and worked for wages much lower than those paid to non-aboriginal workers for the same jobs.

Because they were in remote areas they were the hardest hit by the restructuring of rural industries in the post-war years and unlike the farmers who could at least sell out to agribusiness companies, they had no assets (even the land they lived on was owned by the government) so had nothing to fall back on. When they finally got control of the communities created by the missionaries they had no economic base. When they moved to the cities and towns they felt out of place and suffered discrimination and extreme poverty.  Add to this the grief of dispossession and destructive "child welfare" policies and you have the cycle of poverty, alcohol abuse and violence that characterises large parts of the Aboriginal community today.

Outstations were one of their ways of trying to break the cycle of destructive behaviours. We see a lot of footage of dysfunctional outstations but rarely see footage of the many which operate as quiet refuges from the larger communities where things have gone wrong and places to recover something of their original cultures. They are an attempt by people to take control of their own lives and reconnect with family and culture away from the dysfunction of the larger communities.  From the government they asked for no more than basic supports - help with housing construction, navigable roads, power, water and basic communication infrastructure.  These were provided but in a niggardly way.  These are not Club Med, they are very basic places to live.

The current move to close a large number of these settlements is the latest step in a policy trajectory which began with the Howard Government's abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 2005.  ATSIC was created by the Hawke Government in 1990 as a way of giving Aboriginal people control over the delivery of services in their communities.  It consisted of a heirarchy of elected regional councils which then fed into a national body of elected officials.  This body had control of a substantial allocation of resources to provide services to Aboriginal people - health, housing, infrastructure, legal services, employment, community development and so on.  This was a serious experiment in self-determination.

ATSIC was certainly not without its problems.  In the early 2000s both its Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson were tainted by allegations of criminal conduct, although most of these were never proved.  At the same time, the organisation's effectiveness and connection with ordinary Aboriginal people were questioned.  A large number of critics, both in the Aboriginal community and in mainstream politics, agreed that there needed to be change.

However, not many Aboriginal people think that the changes the Howard Government made are the ones that were needed.  Most wanted to see the blundering ATSIC bureaucracy replaced by a greater level of local grassroots control.  Instead, Howard went for an approach based on the mainstreaming of services.  Health was to go back to the health departments, housing to the housing departments, infrastructure to local and state governments, employment to the Jobs Network,

The result is that a somewhat dysfunctional process of Aboriginal control was replaced by no Aboriginal control at all.  Every part of the system was run by predominantly white bureaucrats.  Like everything else, service provision was either done directly by mainstream departments, or was tendered out to private and non-profit service providers with the big winners being consulting companies and large charities - many of them run by the churches that used to run the missions.

Of course the blame for the complex and deeply rooted problems of Aboriginal communities was placed at the feet of Aboriginal people themselves.  The fact that ATSIC didn't manage to solve these problems could be used as evidence against self-determination.  White people needed to come in and save Aboriginal people from themselves.  This dynamic was ratchetted up with the 2007 Intervention in the Northern Territory, where reports of high levels of child abuse led to a declaration of a "State of Emergency", the imposition of even higher levels of government control (overseen by an authority led, ironically, by a senior military officer) and the removal of more Aboriginal controlled programs such as the CDEP, the sole source of work for many in remote communities.

The next logical step in this process is a major shift from Commonwealth to State provision of services.  Because mainstream health, housing and infrastucture services are delivered by state and local governments, it was only a matter of time before responsibility for the now-mainstream Aboriginal  services went the same way.  There was considerable haggling, because State governments were hardly likely to accept responsibility without extra funds.  However, this process is now pretty much complete.  The result is that cash-strapped State Governments now inherit the problems that neither ATSIC nor the Commonwealth Government managed to fix, in exchange for the pitifully inadequate funds the Commonwealth originally allocated to not fixing these problems.

In the case of the outstations issue, the relevant pitifully inadequate funds are those allocated to infrastructure and housing.  On housing there has, at least, been a serious effort.  Commonwealth and State Governments have agreed to a 10-year program worth about $5b to upgrade existing housing and build new housing in remote Aboriginal communities.  That sounds like a lot of money, but alongside overdue repairs to existing houses the program will provide only 4,500 new houses over a ten year period.  This will barely keep up with population growth over that period, never mind seriously addressing overcrowding.  Apropos of "lifestyle choices", a policy decision was made that none of this money would go to outstations - it is all being spent in the main communities.  As a result, outstation housing will continue to deteriorate while houses in the larger communities are repaired and rebuilt.

On infrastructure, there is no such program.  The Commonwealth doesn't think this is its responsibility so it has simply passed on the money it used to spend and washed its hands.  In Western Australia the amount to be passed over was $40m per year for the whole state in 2012.  Broome Shire estimated that for its local government area alone (which includes five Aboriginal communities on the Dampier Peninsula) the infrastructure needed $125m of capital spent to upgrade it to normal community standards and then $25m per year to operate it thereafter.  This didn't include any spending whatsoever on outstations.

Given these prior decisions, its not surprising that the WA Government has decided it can't afford to spend any money on outstations.  Still it's funny how things become impossible or unaffordable when you don't want to do them.  Since 2008 the WA Government has spent over $5b on regional infrastructure projects under its Royalties for Regions program, but a few measly millions to upgrade outstations is "too expensive".  Pardon my cynicism, but it seems that the drive to give back to the communities that get turned on their head to provide the resources doesn't extend to giving anything back to the country's original owners.

What is the upshot of this?  Aboriginal policy has gone almost full circle since 1970.  The gains in self-determination made between the 1970s and the early 2000s have almost all been undone.  Aboriginal people are now told where they can and can't live.  The services that used to be provided by Aboriginal community councils and community-controlled organisations are now delivered by government departments and outside contractors over whom they have no control,  Programs like CDEP which gave people meaningful work and a stake in their communities have been replaced by passive welfare and pointless training programs while the infrastructure the now idle CDEP workers used to maintain steadily deteriorates.  If they complain about any of this, they are told that the problem is that they are not integrating well enough, not having "the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have".  In other words, they are not white enough.

Aboriginal people find themselves thwarted at every turn.  But worst of all, whenever something goes wrong, it is portrayed as their fault.  It is absurd that we gradually narrow the range of choices they are able to make, then turn the question back on them as if their desire to have a choice was somehow selfish and a drain on the community.  If Abbott wants to be the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Australia, he will have to do better than this.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Future Commodore?

This young girl is my hero.

She appears in an advertisement for Holden Commodore which has been on high rotation on all the commercial TV channels recently.  In it a group of children present their designs for the Holden Commodore of the future.

Holden (the Australian arm of General Motors) announced last year that it would stop producing cars in Australia by the end of 2017.  This is, of course, not a popular move with the Australian public and GM are very keen to convince us they have a future here even if it is only virtual.  What better way than to use children?

The children are asked to create pictures of a future Holden Commodore (Holden's flagship vehicle) and then explain them on camera.  I can't find anything online that tells me how genuine this is.  Did each of the children really sit down and draw their imagined car of the future, or is it all staged and scripted?  But let's assume for the sake of argument that these are real juvenile creations.

Not surprisingly, most of the kids have drawn ideas from popular science fiction - a car that goes at 1,000 km/s, a turbo-charged engine, a car that can fly out of traffic.  Some also have science fiction accessories - hypnotic wheel hubs, alien detection devices....

My young heroine is the only one to buck the trend.  Not only does her vehicle come with its own pony, it also appears to have some kind of wind turbine and its engine appears to have been replaced by a rabbit.  Given that there is no trace of any engine, one has to assume that what appear to be flames coming out of the rear of the vehicle are actually a feather duster.

Of course it could be just that she loves animals and is not very interested in cars, but I like to think she knew exactly what she was doing.

All the super-powered vehicles created by the other children, with their blinding speed, multiple capabilities and high-end engineering, have to use a lot of power.  You can see combustible fuels being burnt in enormous quantities in some of them.  In the others, it is not clear what sort of power they use.  What we do know is that speeds of 1,000 km/s and vertical takeoff are supremely power-hungry manoeuvres, while all those hi-tech extras have to be an extra drain on resources.

Only our clever young horse-lover seems to be aware that fossil fuels are rapidly running out, and are in any case doing immense damage to the planet.  We are in the early stages of a rapid transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables, and this is likely to mean we will have to build technologies and economies that are less energy-intensive.

Of course some aspects of her design require a little more development.  I'd like to hear some more detail on her plans for a rabbit-powered motor and I suspect it may have animal-rights hurdles to overcome.  It's also not clear in the drawing (or the video) whether the wind turbine is attached to the car itself or is on a hill behind, generating electricity to power a hidden battery.  The latter would certainly make more sense, but then you need to have stations in place to recharge the battery and current versions of this technology only allow for relatively short journeys.  In our post-carbon world there may also not be enough electricity to go around, and if that's the case rationing may limit the use of the battery anyway.

Which of course is where the horse comes in.  When you are using the battery it can ride on a side platform, conserving its energy and sharing carrots with the rabbit (perhaps the rabbit is not intended to power the car at all and is just there to provide cross-species conversation).  When the battery runs out, wherever that may be, the driver just needs to hitch up the horse and get it to pull the car/cart the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, all the fancy super-powered science fiction cars will be rusting in one of those big barns we read about every now and then.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Bible Tells Me So

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and for a while after that I kept coming back to the subject.  I stopped eventually, partly because I ran out of things to say, and partly because it was like shooting fish in a barrel.  The idea of an inerrant Bible just doesn't make any sense once you've read it and realised what kind of book (or collection of books) it actually is.

However, at the risk of going over old ground and boring everyone, I've just read a fantastic book by Peter Enns called The Bible Tells Me So...Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It.  Don't bother reading my laboured posts on the subject, just read this book instead.

Enns is an Old Testament scholar.  He currently holds a chair in Biblical Studies at Eastern University in Pennsylvania.  His book jacket also tells us that he has taught at Harvard, Princeton and Fuller.  Interestingly it doesn't mention Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he taught from 1994 to 2008.

In 2005 he published a book called Inspiration and Incarnation, in which he brings biblical scholarship to bear, often critically, on various key Evangelical approaches to the reading of scripture.  He felt that Evangelicals often take a defensive posture when confronted by new ideas and research findings, and that this leads to significant cognitive dissonance.

He had been teaching his students this for years, but Inspiration and Incarnation created a storm among the conservative Presbyterians who run Westminster.  The Chair of the Board of Trustees asked the members of the faculty to investigate whether the content of the book violated his oath to uphold the Westminster Confession, required of all staff.  After a lengthy process and much debate the faculty concluded it did not but the Board, who had never intervened on theological matters before, overrode them and sacked him.

This shows you three things.  One is that his theology is orthodox enough that he was prepared to sign up for the Westminster Confession, and most of his peers didn't think he had strayed from that.  The second is that he is intellectually honest and serious enough about his scholarship to be prepared to take risks.  Thirdly, it's a bit sad that the college felt the need to shield its trainee ministers from his ideas - after all, if your education doesn't challenge you what's the point?

Anyhow the good news is that not only did Enns get another teaching job (presumably at a less conservative college), but he was free to write this book without further censure.

Enns is a serious Bible scholar with a PhD and lots of published papers in academic journals, but this book is very much for lay readers.  There's no jargon, no dense historical and theological reasoning, just a logical flow of ideas expressed in plain English.  It even has jokes - many of them are quite funny.

The heart of Enns' message is this.

Many Christians have been taught that the Bible is Truth downloaded from heaven, God's rulebook, a heavenly instruction manual - follow the directions and out pops a true believer, deviate from the script and God will come crashing down on you with full force.

If anyone challenges this view, the faithful are taught to "defend the Bible" against those anti-God attacks.  Problem solved.

That is, until you actually read the Bible.  Then you see that this rulebook view of the Bible is like a knockoff Chanel handbag - fine as long as it's kept at a distance, away from curious and probing eyes....

When you read the Bible on its own terms, you discover that it doesn't behave itself like a holy rulebook should.  It is definitely inspiring and uplifting - it wouldn't have the shelf life it does otherwise.  But just as often it's a challenging book that leaves you with more questions than answers.

His challenge to Christians is, do you want a tame Bible that answers every question clearly and simply, or do you want the one we actually have?

To get the party off to rollicking start, he begins at the most obvious point.  In the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua, God is portrayed not simply as turning a blind eye to genocide, but positively requiring it, even punishing his people when they fail to carry it out with sufficient thoroughness.  How do Christians square this away with the view of God as Love, of Jesus dying on the cross for all humanity, with turning the other cheek?

His answer is that, of course, you can't.  It's impossible to reconcile the two.  So how should Christians treat these stories?  Well, for a start we should understand that they come out of a tribal milieu, in which each tribe and nation was at war with its neighbours and each nation had a God who they saw as sponsoring them.  Israel was no different, and its God was Yahweh, the God of Israel.

These stories, then, need to be understood as the stories of a tribal people about their God, expressed from within their cultural milieu.  The evidence of archaeology is that they are not even true in a modern historical sense.  The Bible is written by real, ordinary humans, tied to their moment in history and their place on the globe.  It is not somehow removed from this, as cosmic message direct from God.

This means we are free to approach it critically, to learn from it what we can learn without being required ourselves to adopt this tribal mindset.  God, he says, likes stories and this is how he chooses to reveal himself to us.  Not all the stories say the same thing.  Often they are in tension.

This applies even to the parts of the Bible you might expect to be the clearest - for instance the Wisdom books, intended to provide practical guidance for how to live your life.  He gives the example of two successive verses in Proverbs 26.  Verse 4: "Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself".  Verse 5: "Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes".  So which is it?  Should you argue, or not?

Wisdom isn't about finding a quick answer key to life - like turning to the index, finding your problem and turning to the right page so it all works out.   Wisdom is about learning how to work through the unpredictable, uncontrollable messiness of life so you can figure things out on your own in real time.

Both of these proverbs are good, wise and right - the question is when each is good, wise and right.  And that "when" depends on the situation you might find yourself in.

This variability applies to a lot of other parts of the Bible too.  For instance, what is God like?  Sometimes he is all-seeing and all-knowing, while at other times, like in the Garden of Eden, he seems to be in the dark about our doings and requires explanation.  Sometimes he is so angry he lashes out, like in the story of the Great Flood or, more inexplicably, when he destroys Aaron's sons for offering the wrong kind of incense.  Other times he is "merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love".  Sometimes he us unchangeable, sometimes he regrets what he has done.  All these pictures of God convey something to us about his or her nature, but none is a complete picture.

When we come to the New Testament we can see that Jesus and the apostles understood this much more clearly than we do.  As Biblical Studies Professor Enns puts it, "Jesus gets a great fat 'F' in Bible".  He and his apostles, especially Paul, quote verses out of context, give them meanings no-one would have thought to put in there, and generally fail to treat the Bible like a good Christian should.

The result is that the stories of the Old Testament are given a radical new meaning, something no previous Jewish interpreter would have dreamed of, a re-purposing of the Old Testament stories to provide a universal human message based around Jesus the Christ in place of the tribal message about Yahweh and his people Israel.

Nor does this stop with the Old Testament.  The New also provides us with a collection of stories and points of view, different interpretations of the life and meaning of Jesus.  The Jesus portrayed in John's Gospel, for instance, is significantly different to the way he is portrayed in Matthew, Mark and Luke; and even though the Synoptic gospels are much closer to each other than they are to John they still present us with different viewpoints and emphases.  As Hans Kung said, there are already a number of different theologies present in the New Testament.

You can see, perhaps, why a conservative college wouldn't want their students hearing such stuff.  But then again, this is nothing new.  I didn't read anything much in The Bible Tells Me So that I hadn't read before.  Nor does Enns claim otherwise.  He is not trying to break new ground.  Rather, he is trying to reach out to people like the students at Westminster who study the Bible deeply and with the aid of the best scholarship, find the same disturbing things that Enns himself found, and find their faith (as he did) under threat.

Too often such people find no help in their conservative colleges because teachers like Enns who could have helped them are turfed out and replaced with those who will toe the line.  Bart Ehrmann is a good example of what can happen - the weight of scholarly doubt destroyed his faith and he is now one of the world's best known atheist Bible scholars.  Of course it's not always like that.  Marcus Borg, for instance, describes himself as having been a "closet atheist" for much of his career as a seminary teacher and Jesus scholar before experiencing a late life spiritual awakening.

What Enns is trying to do is leave these things a little less to chance.  He wants ordinary believers to know what they are getting themselves in for when they read the Bible, to be ready for it and to have some tools to cope with it.  His faith is alive and well.  When you get rid of illusions, what is real remains.