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DVD Review: Bill Moyers: Genesis – A Living Conversation

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Miss Bob was the children’s chaplain for our church’s “Mothers’ Day Out” program when we lived in Baton Rouge.  She would get ideas from internet sites for stories that she would later embellish and use for the children’s sermons.  Then one day, she busted the minister!  Our minister had obviously used the same site as a source, but instead of using it for inspiration, the minister downloaded and read the sermon in its entirety. 

Genesis — A Living Conversation is a great resource for inspiration for sermons and also for conversation starters.  Bill Moyers, in a series done for PBS, has put himself in the position of moderator for several group discussions and challenged his skills at managing group dynamics.

Each of the 10 episodes begins with a “Storyteller” giving a dramatic reading of the subject stories for that session.  Readers are actors Mandy Patinkin and Alfre Woodard who are on camera in front of the library/sitting room set with empty chairs for a backdrop.  Moyers hosts seven guests in each session and after a brief introductory comment, one of the participants opens the discussion.

Participants include theologians, biochemists, psychotherapists, writers, scholars, law professors, community activists, playwrights, composers, and novelists.  With one exception, each episode’s guests are representatives of a variety of those professions.  In Episode Three, “The First Murder” all seven guests are novelists.  To no surprise, this session seems to be the one with which Moyers’ skills at managing a group are most severely tested.  He does well.

The topics begin with “In God’s Image”, “Temptation”, and “The First Murder” on disc one and continue through “Apocalypse”, “Call and Promise”, “Family Affair” and “The Test” (sacrifice a son?) and “Blessed Deception”.  Disc four closes with “God Wrestling” (with Jacob) and Joseph’s survival of  “Exile”.  A bonus feature is included in the final disc, Bill Moyers’ biography.

A 12 page viewer’s guide written by host Bill Moyers comes with the four DVD set, and after an introduction, provides readers with the host’s thoughts on the structure and themes of Genesis, a look at who wrote Genesis, and comments on the four biblical translations used in the series. 

Previously seen on PBS, Genesis — A Living Conversation will be available on DVD November 9, 2010.  Would I buy it?  Yes, to stimulate discussions in Sunday school class or as a gift for a preacher who wants another resource for sermon topics.

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  • Reese McKay

    This sounds interesting. I always liked the kinds of forums and discussions that Bill Moyers organized and moderated. This one would be perhaps more interesting than usual in some ways. I will have to check this one out. But, my first reaction was a slight measure of surprise when I saw that you had done a review of something by Bill Moyers. For some reason I would have thought you might find Bill Moyers a bit too boring or conventional in his Methodist viewpoints. You continue to surprise me with the range of authors and topics that you like to review. A lot has happened in the last 25 years, and I truly did lose track of so many of my old friends. Life takes us all in unexpected directions. Some of my friends have grown more militantly conservative, some have become more extreme in various fundamentalist religious ways, some have grown more disillusioned with life and the world, and others, including you, have continued to expand your horizons and kept an open mind to a wide range of possibilities. It gives me some cause for optimism.

  • doug m.

    What would have been interesting is a mention of one of the guests who joined Moyers. Or are they not as well known as Bob from your church?

  • MaxMBJ

    Not to hurt anyone’s feelings here, but Moyers is an a-hole. In this wonderful Genesis project he included all these wonderful voices, as you have written … except one. He would not allow a Christian fundamentalist (read, Southern Baptist) in on the discussion because they would spoil the fun. He allowed Muslims, Jews, and all other Christian persuasions but Moyers, you see, is not really a lover of diversity. It’s all just a ruse like the one he tried to pull on LBJ aides where he accused them of homosexuality.

    Sorry to throw water on this party but you really need to know that Bill Moyers is an a-hole.

  • BGW

    To MaxMBJ I assume you have looked into Moyers’ biography? He is an ordained Baptist minister. He has worked to liven our democracy and journalistic responsibility in the democratic process his entire career. You sir are merely offensive.