The Bible is still part of secular Australia – and the world

Meredith Lake updates her award-winning book

The Bible has been in the news “more than ever” since historian Meredith Lake released her award-winning book The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History over two years ago.

In November, Lake will launch an updated edition of her book which has sold around 6000 copies.

“People are talking about the Bible, in some ways, more than ever.” – Meredith Lake

The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History has also picked up a swag of awards, including Australian Christian Book of the Year in 2018. Last year, it won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Australian History and the NSW Premier’s History Award: Australian History Prize. It also collected this year’s Nonfiction Award at the 2020 Adelaide Festival Awards.

The second version features a new cover and an extensive new preface titled “Political Bibles”, in which Lake reflects on the reception to her book, as well as her personal connection to the topic of the Bible, how the Bible is visible in the world now, and our pandemic situation.

“What’s surprised me since the book came out two years ago, is that people are talking about the Bible, in some ways, more than ever,” Lake tells Eternity.

“We saw [US President] Trump hold up that Bible at the height of the Black Lives Matter protest, when he stood outside the church in Washington. Wielding it not in the context of devotion but as a kind of political weapon, as an object with a kind of totemic power.”

“We’ve seen protestors on the streets of Hong Kong singing a hymn as their protest anthem – Sing Hallelujah to the Lord. And one of their leaders, Joshua Wong, talking about his vision to be salt and light in the community, taking his cue – for the sake of his citizenship, as an activist – from those lines in the Bible.

“Even here in Australia, Christos Tsiolkas’s novel Damascus that came out last year, and Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence, which talks about the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness not overcoming it; she [is] quoting from the Gospel of John.”

Lake adds: “I think the Bible is still part, and sometimes a very surprising part, of the world we live in, and even in what might seem a secular culture.”

The Bible in Australia second edition

The Bible in Australia second edition

In discussing the second edition, Lake notes another attractive update: the new format of the book is smaller and more compact and it’s also cheaper.

In addition to the updated edition, Lake has also narrated an audio version of  The Bible in Australia to be released in December – a fitting offering from the now well-seasoned host of ABC’s Soul Search podcast.

The audiobook will be released by Wavesound Australia, and Lake says she expects it be available through local libraries.

When asked if there are any more books on the boil, Lake replies: “I’m actually really enjoying hosting Soul Search and being part of the religion unit at the ABC. I think it’s incredible that our national public broadcaster has a religion unit with a whole range of radio programs. There’s about five different religions shows every week on Radio National, not to mention Compass on ABC TV. You don’t find that anywhere else really in the mainstream media landscape in Australia.”

“So I’m thrilled to be in the seat on Soul Search. Now we do around 47 episodes every year. That takes up a lot of my imagination and energy and curiosity.

“I think I’m learning how to do that better, more generously and, I hope, more helpfully for our wider community. That’s the priority for me at the moment.”

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