There are a growing number of programs for Christian millennials that offer opportunities to walk in the footsteps of the Bible and encounter modern Israel. They aim to create the next generation of leaders who appreciate and support the Jewish State.
Passages is one of those programs that expects to bring 10,000 students from the United States to Israel by the end of 2020. The Times of Israel article “US Christian students come to Holy Land to connect to biblical and modern Israel” (14 Jan. 2020) reports on a group of 500 practicing Christian college and graduate students from all over the United States for a 10-day trip to connect with the biblical roots of their faith and experience life in Israel today.
Such trips are important at a time that the younger generation may not continue the enthusiasm for Israel of their parents and grandparents. A recent study conducted by LifeWay Research has found that positive perception of the country of Israel are strongest among the age group over 65 and least among millennials.
In the Language of Digital Culture
It is important to speak in the language of the ubiquitous digital culture shaped by smartphones and social media. It is the language that Christian millennials understand best.
There are many books written that set out the case for Israel based upon the biblical narrative. I have found, however, that none speak in the language of the ubiquitous culture shaped by smartphones and social media.
To address this absence, I wrote Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. It creates a dialogue between digital texts and images that teach how biblical insights can transform smartphone photography and social media into imaginative ways for seeing spirituality in everyday life. It speaks to Christians with an abiding love of the Bible by inspiring the creation of a lively dialogue between emerging life stories and the enduring biblical narrative.
It teaches creative ways for the college students visiting Israel to transform their smartphone photographs of their Israel experience into biblical narratives that become mirrors for seeing themselves. The chapter “Looking Beyond the Image” in Through a Bible Lens demonstrates how to use smartphones for spiritual seeing through traditional methods of Bible study for seeing beyond the photographic image to reveal fresh insights. It presents to all generations the most up-to-date thoughts on the biblical significance of new technologies in contemporary life.
I have explored the vibrant interface between biblical thought and the digital age in my research, artwork, writing and teaching as professor at Columbia University in New York and Ariel and Bar-Ilan University in Israel and as research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies.
My artworks exploring biblical imagery and digital technologies have circled the globe via AT&T satellites and are in the collections of museums throughout the world. See my current artwork Global Tribute to Rembrandt, a digital homage to the great artist on the 350th anniversary of his death. I am launching Rembrandt-inspired cyberangels from Israel into thirty museums on five continents from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
I have explored biblical thought in relation to the impact of digital technologies on contemporary life in Through a Bible Lens and my books The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness and Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology and Culture (both published by Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press), and Dialogic Art in a Digital World (published in Hebrew in Jerusalem).
Reviews of Through a Bible Lens
I have posted several reviews of Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media by Christian spiritual leaders and experts on art and digital culture. They relate to my book from alternative perspectives that reveal the essence of its message. See them all at the book’s blog http://throughabiblelens.blogspot.com. Read some of them below.
“Through a Bible Lens offers a unique and personal challenge to the reader to integrate Bible Study, the creation that surrounds us, and our personal experience into a “living journal.” Written from a Jewish Torah loving perspective, this book will be a joy to any lover of the Bible, Christian or Jewish. I not only endorse it, I look forward to integrating these ideas into my personal encounter with Scripture.” – Dr. Jim Solberg, author of Sinai Speaks; USA National Director of Bridges for Peace
“The iPhone has changed our culture and our ways of thinking and acting in the world. This book brings together spiritual thought, everyday practices of communication and interaction and profound insights about meaning and purpose in contemporary life in a brilliant and sustained exposition. Once again, Alexenberg has carved out a unique point of view that deserves the highest praise and a large readership. Great book!!” – Dr. Ron Burnett, author of How Images Think; president, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, Canada
“Who would have thought that there would be a way to connect smartphones to the ancient world of the Bible? Professor Alexenberg has the expertise and experience to do so. This is a unique and fascinating book.” – Dr. Gerald R. McDermott, author of Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and Land of Israel, professor at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama
“An intellectually exciting book that stimulates the sensory palate. Dr. Alexenberg shares in-depth, meaningful insights about encountering God in the creative process through photography. Using photography as the vehicle, we are guided, one idea at a time, to an understanding of what the author means by, ’looking up, looking out, and looking inward.’” – T. Mandel Chenoweth, head of the Art Education Department, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma
“For those of us familiar with the diverse and exhilarating work of Mel Alexenberg as an artist, educator and profound thinker, this latest book offers precisely the things we would expect. The narrative thinks brilliantly outside the box. It crisscrosses disciplines, from science and technology to philosophy and mysticism to art as both historical and creative phenomena. Finally, the entirety is managed in a style both accessible and inviting. This is one of those books that other thinkers will wish they had somehow thought about how to write, and to which readers of diverse sorts will simply respond by saying: wow!” – Dr. Ori Z. Soltes, author of Tradition and Transformation, professorial lecturer of Theology and Fine Arts, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, Through a Bible Lens offers a template, a guidebook on how to experience innumerable images of the Divine in every moment and use blogging technology to disseminate them worldwide. Professor Mel Alexenberg invites us to share the story of our own Divine journey through the wisdom found in this unique book.” – Bishop Robert Stearns, Executive Director, Eagles’ Wings, New York
“In Through a Bible Lens, Alexenberg offers us a magnificent and original approach that interconnects art, creative processes, religion and new media technologies. The book is an important contribution to the study of media and is a must read for anyone interested in our contemporary culture.” – Dr. Lucia Leao, author of The Labyrinth of Hypermedia and The Chip and the Kaleidoscope: Studies in New Media; professor of Communications and Semiotics, Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil
“Mel Alexenberg offers a scintillating experiment in creativity. His work is an invitation to deepen your spiritual sensibilities as you extend your imagination. An interesting and relevant approach to spiritual practice and creative expression.” – Jan Phillips, author of God Is at Eye Level: Photography as a Healing Art and Finding the On-Ramp to Your Spiritual Path: A Roadmap to Joy and Rejuvenation
“The most recent, and arguably one of art’s most complete and compelling integrations of the sacred and profane. Mel Alexenberg shows the way to the divine via digital imagery and heightened perception of its presence in the moving face of every person, place, and thing. It reads like a swift and soulful breeze. I love every “byte” of it.” – Dr. Shaun McNiff, author of Earth Angels: Engaging the Sacred in Everyday Things; university professor of Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Inspiring on many levels. I really enjoyed it because it gives us an amazing perspective on our own existence, especially in the age of the interconnected iPhone culture.” – Prof. Michael Bielicky, head of Department of Digital Media/Postdigital Narratives, University of Art and Design/ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
“There are many parallels in Christian thought and deed that should allow this excellent book to resonate with many people of faith. When I picked up Prof. Alexenberg’s book, I happened to be reading a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer by an anonymous 14th century Christian mystic whose words find a parallel in Alexenberg’s exhortation to seek the Divine out in the world in all that you see and photograph, and with love. He has succeeded in creating a program for photographers, on a daily basis, to explicitly weave their faith into their art and ultimately, back into their worldview with a fresh perspective.” – Bob Weil, co-author of The Art of iPhone Photography: Creating Great Photos and Art on Your iPhone
“In his sophisticated and highly literate book, Prof. Alexenberg weaves in a playful way the threads between contemporary digital culture and traditional Jewish wisdom. In an original way, he invites us to connect the networked world of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, WhatsApp and Blogspot, with the concept of the unseen God. Using the metaphor of the camera, he provides interesting and surprising intersections between new-media culture and theological issues.” – Dr. Yael Eylat Van-Essen, author of Digital Culture: Virtuality, Society and Information; art faculty at Tel Aviv University, Israel
“Alexenberg proposes that text and image—something as simple as photos taken with a smart phone, and multiplied in their resonance by the internet—can be used as a consciousness raising tool, at once personal and collective. With such simple means, we can attune ourselves to the sacred dimensions of our lives from moment to moment. – Peter Samis, co-author of Creating the Visitor-centered Museum; associate curator, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
“I can feel your joy, warmth and good humor in your images. Your approach, while fundamentally spiritual and fired by a kindred spark as my own passion for seeing, is a mirror of a different sort of our mutual exploration of our humanity.” – Julie DuBose, author of Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind and Heart; director of The Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography, Colorado