It’s not a mothering problem, Albert Mohler.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and professional dehumanizer of LGBTQ people, does not approve of my parenting.

That’s not hyperbole — Albert Mohler is so concerned about Target’s removal of gender signs in their toy and bedding departments that he took to his podcast yesterday morning to criticize me, personally, as a mother:

Jessica Contrera, writing for the Washington Post [link] says that two months ago, an Ohio mom’s tweet went viral when she called out Target for separating building sets and girls building sets. […]

The incredible confusion our culture is now embracing is demonstrated by the mom identified as the one who sent that tweet complaining about the fact that there were girls building sets in the target aisle according to signs, but it turns out she doesn’t have a daughter at all, instead she is the mom of three boys, ages 7, 9 and 12. And according to the Washington Post, these boys,

“Used to have no problem picking out or playing with dolls.”

The next sentence, remember coming from that mom about her three boys, ages 7, 9 and 12 is this quote,

“These days, they’ll say “Eww, I’m not going in that aisle, that’s girl stuff.”

She goes on quote,

“And we just have to have those conversations, that you can play with anything you want to and there’s nothing wrong with girl stuff.”

Well, you look at this article and what you have are three boys, 7, 9 and 12, who aren’t living up to their mothers understanding of how open they’re supposed to be with going into the girls toy aisle and playing with what they perceived to be girls toys, specifically identified here as dolls. As the article makes clear, her real problem in terms of her worldview isn’t what she finds in the Target store but what she finds in her own house and let’s just state the obvious, changing the signs at Target isn’t going to change those three boys, in terms of their willingness or eagerness to play with dolls. It’s not a signage problem, mom.

Well then: Here is my response to Dr. Mohler. First of all, Al — can I call you Al? Since the people who are qualified to comment on my parenting are generally people I’m on a first-name basis with — I’m just going to sidestep your unspoken, but very clear, implication that I’m disappointed that I don’t have any daughters, and that I’m somehow trying to make up for it by trying to girlify my sons. That’s a pretty disgusting thing for you to imply about me, and it indicates some rather ugly things about your character.

FullSizeRender

I’m happy to tell you that these days, my boys are over being dramatically grossed out by walking past the pink aisles at Target. You see, there was a time in their lives that they didn’t think about gender stereotypes when they chose their toys, but as they got older and were exposed to more people’s views on gender, that began to change. They began to believe that some toys and hobbies were only for girls, and girls were gross, and girls’ toys and hobbies were gross.

But that’s not an innate idea, Al. There’s nothing about toy grocery carts and baby dolls and the color pink that God has ordained to be For Females Only. And there’s certainly nothing innate or God-created about the idea that girls are gross and inferior. That’s all culturally constructed.

The good news is, my boys have since learned better. It has taken loads of work on my partner’s and my part, but we have helped our sons to understand that there is nothing wrong with kids pursuing their hobbies and interests and playing with the toys that they like, even if those things don’t fit inside their gender stereotypes. It has taken work because it is un-teaching gender roles that is counter-cultural. There is absolutely a movement towards abandoning gender norms and seeing gender for the construct that it is, and I am thrilled to see that progress happen; but for now, the vast majority of messaging that my children encounter tells them that there are certain specific ways to perform boyhood and girlhood that they are responsible for conforming to, and it tells them to shun people who stray outside of those borders.

My partner and I teach our kids to reject messages that tell them there are certain limited ways of being a boy or a girl. Instead, we teach them that all people are made in the image of a boundless God. We teach them to honor the image of God in other people by embracing the vast diversity of humankind.

Better yet, my kids and I are active members of a vibrant faith community that helps them learn these things. See, Al, your condemnation of my mothering is worthless to me, because you don’t know me, and you are not a part of my life.

You know who does know me? My priest, Mother Debra. On Sunday, when the Good Morning America producer called me, I was at church having coffee hour. I ducked out of the room to take the call, and when I came back in — rather stunned, because Good Morning America — I told Mother Debra about it. FullSizeRender-1

“How exciting!” she said, hugging me. “Well, you be sure and tell Good Morning America that you’re part of the [church name] family, and you tell them that all of us are so proud of you and that we support you a hundred percent!”

You are not my people, Albert Mohler. My church family, the people who know me and who are part of my sons’ lives, the priest who leads us and the community that surrounds us — these are my people, and they are the only ones who are qualified to comment on my parenting or my faith. My sons, my partner, and I are known and loved there, and that is enough.

And frankly, if I’m the kind of woman and mother and Christian who meets your disapproval? That’s a badge of honor.

Local Mom 2: Electric Boogaloo

Before I get too bogged down in TargetGate news — I’m on SheLoves Magazine this month talking about quitting as a spiritual practice:

Quitting dieting was the first step, the hardest. After that it got easier, faster, the rush of it. It was the gateway drug to a lifestyle of quitting.

Before I quit, dieting was the thing that defined me. Dieting had been demanding my attention since I was 10, when my father hung a graph-paper chart on the inside of the bathroom cabinet for me to chart my weight every morning, a line graph that only ever climbed up and up toward failure. Dieting held me tight, whispered shame-secrets dressed up as promises, for twenty years, until I decided: Enough. Enough counting Points and measuring portions; enough tying my self-worth to a number that never goes down far enough, always springs back up; enough wasted energy trying to make an unruly body conform to what society calls good. I cancelled my Weight Watchers account and threw away all the unworn jeans purchased a size too small. Enough purging money into a six billion dollar industry designed to tell me if I wasn’t thin, I wasn’t worthy.

I’d had enough.

was enough.

You can read the rest of the post here. (And if you’re my family and this post raises some questions for you, maybe we could chat about that? How about sending me a text, for minimal awkwardness?)

///

Now, for the exciting part: Target heard us! They’ve announced that they’ll no longer be merchandising their toy or kids’ bedding departments by gender. I wrote about my reaction to this news for TIME.com:

But we don’t have to teach our kids to live inside the narrow confines of gender stereotypes. This is why Target’s announcement that it’s removing gender identifiers from its toy and kids’ bedding department is a big deal. When toys aren’t color-coded pink or blue or labeled “boys’” or “girls,’” kids are freed up to play with what they want and pursue their own interests. No longer boxed into their half of the toy section, children of all genders can be nurturers and builders, scientific and creative, peaceful and rowdy, chaotic and organized, homekeeper and adventurer. Our kids contain multitudes, and we owe it to them to let them explore their full range of interests without anxiety or limitation.

You can read the rest of my TIME article here.

Because my tweet to Target back in June was seen as a catalyst for Target’s decision, I was interviewed for articles discussing the change in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Washington Post, and for a hot second I was on Good Morning America. (Remind me sometime to write about how surreal it is to have a camera crew in your living room.)

Perhaps most importantly, Target’s decision seems to have gotten under the skin of the evangelical complementarian camp: Denny Burk and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have some stern things to say about gender, and Albert Mohler thinks I’m a bad mother.

More on this later, but for now I’m basking in the fact that well-behaved women rarely make Al Mohler’s podcast.

Local Mom’s One Weird Trick for Fleeting Internet Fame

It has been a very weird couple of weeks, dear Internet.

Earlier this month I tweeted a photo of an aisle sign I saw at Target. It got retweeted a few hundred times, an online news site caught wind and interviewed me for an article, and from there it bounced to TV news. A lot of very concerned people flooded my Twitter mentions, Facebook messages, and email with their very valid concerns, such as how I was a big fat ugly fat fatty who hates children and loves ISIS and doesn’t understand how gender or the free market work.

My So-Called Face was my favorite early '90s teen tv show

I did a few interviews, particularly for The Daily Dot, Huffington Post, and CNN. And I was on TV.

When everything settled down, I wrote a reflection on the whole thing for xoJane.

That’s been my summer vacation so far. What’s new with you?

P.S. Oh, I nearly forgot – I’ve made it through my first year of grad school, and it was exhausting and exhilarating and existential-crisis-laden and basically the best thing ever, amen.

Elsewhere: Her Face

 

I’ve been wearing her face my entire life.

Even before she died, people used to tell me: “Oh, you look so much like your mom!” I’ve never been quite sure what my response is supposed to be: Thank you? Once she died it became my job to wear her face around, to perpetuate my mother’s nose, her cheekbones, the way she laughed from deep inside herself, the way she stroked the rough skin of her elbow when she was thinking.

She was thirty-three when her body first betrayed her, when the lump formed in her breast. The breast was removed and replaced with a flat pink scar, but not before the lump sent cells scattering out into her bones, eating away at the infrastructure of her body like termites. Now I am nearly thirty-three, and I wonder if something is waiting inside me, if my body will betray me too. My mother looks at me from behind my cheekbones in the mirror as I examine myself braless, feeling for lumps, trying to imagine the shape of myself without my breasts, flat pink scars on my chest….

Read the rest in SheLoves Magazine

#FaithFeminisms: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be “Allies”

This week I’m writing alongside some amazing women about our faiths, our feminisms, and the ways that they inform and shape each other. Here is my contribution:

—–

Earlier this spring I was chatting with my sons about the classes I was taking that semester. “What’s ‘Women in Film’?” one asked. I explained that examining the way women were shown in movies could tell us some things about how society thinks about women.

“But it isn’t fair to have a class about women in film and not one about men in film,” my son protested.

I took a breath while I thought about how to reply, but just then another of my sons said, “They don’t need a class about men in film, because in movies men are almost always the heroes.”

These are the moments when I feel like I’m getting somewhere as a feminist mom of boys – these moments when they show that they are beginning to internalize these proto-feminisms.

At our house, 101-level concepts have been translated into elementary school language: Consent means that you get a person’s permission before you start a wrestling match or pillow fight with them. Gender norms are when people say that boys aren’t allowed to wear nail polish, but we know that if someone likes wearing nail polish they can wear it if they want to and let’s practice some things you can say if people make fun of you. Racial, gender, and body diversity and different kinds of families are found in the library books we check out and the photos my friends post on Facebook and the people we go to church with.

But as my sons grow older, I desire for them to move beyond these basic proto-feminisms. I want them to identify structural inequalities and injustices, and be motivated to work towards making a more just world. I want them to understand privilege and recognize their own.

They are white, middle-class males*. The deck is stacked in their favor. They will be playing the game on the lowest difficulty setting there is.

I want my sons to be informed by feminism and intersectionality…but I do not want my sons to grow up to be “allies.”

 

Read the full post on FaithFeminisms.com.

Join us in talking about the interaction between feminist theory and your theology! Tweet using the hashtag #FaithFeminisms or add your post to the link-up. And check out the voices joining the conversation on the podcast 30 Seconds or Less all week long.

The morning after

Last night I wrote and wrote because I was angry.

This morning I woke up, and I packed the kids off to school and got a shower and drank some coffee, and I am still angry.

Listen. My relationship with both evangelicalism and my old church is like a relationship with an ex who shares custody of your kids and who also massively influences U.S. public policy. I don’t know how angry I should allow myself to be with someone I broke up with, and how much I should shake my head and say, Yes, this is why I left, and move on.

It has been eight months since I left my church. I left because it hurt like this nearly all the time. I left because I was angry more often than I wasn’t, and because I had to work so hard at being not-angry. I left because I couldn’t separate the things that frustrate me about white American evangelicalism from the specific culture that existed at that one single white American evangelical church, and because I didn’t see that one church making any effort to distinguish itself from the most toxic parts of the culture anyway. Walking away hurt, but staying there hurt more.

(In the eight months since I left, no one there has noticed that I’m gone or reached out to me in any way. That hurts, too, but it certainly reinforces my decision.)

But.

It has been five months since I went on my own to a service at the tiny Episcopal church that I first attended once last summer with a friend. Five months since I sat in the priest’s office after the service and cried, because I was lonely and lost and I didn’t know how to do church anymore or if I even could, and because for the first time I had hope that someplace new could feel like home. And five months since Mother Debra — an unmarried woman of color: exactly the sort of person who never would have been allowed authority where I came from — told me that I was welcome there, could call it home if I wished.

“But,” she added. “You should know that we have quite a few gay people in our congregation. I hope that won’t be a problem for you?”

And I laughed. Which was probably not the best response. But I laughed, because here was this priest, telling me that I was welcome at their church but that making me comfortable as a straight person wasn’t a priority. That their church was a place where accepting LGBT people is the norm, and it is up to me to adapt to that, not the other way around.

And this is why that’s my church now. The church where I bring my children on Sunday morning, where my boys and I take the Eucharist alongside gay people and straight people and families and single people and people of different colors and ethnicities and people with autism and just people, and where it is expected that this is their church, and we are welcome to worship alongside them. A church where my whiteness and straightness and able-bodiedness isn’t privileged.

This is what unity in the body of Christ feels like. And it gives me hope. It makes me remember that white American evangelical Christianity isn’t the only Christianity. It makes me want everyone else to remember that too.

—–

If I could add to the canon of scripture, besides Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, I would include Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation.” It’s about Mrs. Ruby Turpin, a southern woman who is very confident in her place in the hierarchy of God’s children, and how she has an epiphany about what it means for the first to be last. Here is the ending:

Until the sun slipped finally behind the tree line, Mrs. Turpin remained there with her gaze bent to the hogs as if she were absorbing some abysmal life-giving knowledge. At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk. She raised her hands from the side of the hog pen in a gesture hieratic and profound. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were tumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black n***rs in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They, alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

At length she got down and turned off the faucet and made her slow way on the darkening path to the house. In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.

Hellelujah. Lord, have mercy on us sinners. Hallelujah.

Mostly I am yelling.

This is the blog post you write because you’re angry.

This is the blog post you write because you’re angry at men. And you’re angry at evangelicalism. And especially you’re angry at white, American, evangelical men.

You’re angry because today, two days after they announced plans to begin hiring gay, lesbian, and bisexual people (I have no illusions about including the T of LGBT here – that would be a bridge waaay too far) who are in same-sex marriages that are sanctioned by their home churches, in addition to the celibate LGB people they were willing to hire before — two days later, in response to enormous pressure from pearl-clutching conservative evangelicals, World Vision announced that they’re dreadfully sorry for taking such a controversial stance (hiring gay people who aren’t even sorry for being gay! the horror!) and they’re not going to hire same-sex-married people after all.

You’re angry because scores of evangelicals pulled their support — their promised, life-giving support — from needy families and communities because doctrinal purity is more important than helping the least of these. Because making sure LGBT people know that they’re in no way welcome in the body of Christ is more important than helping the least of these.

Because feeding the hungry and clothing the poor and helping the sick — those are all well and good, but when it comes down to it, those children are really just pawns in the culture wars. 

And so you write because people you care about are hurt and angry and surprised (but not really surprised — this is not nearly as surprising as it should be) at World Vision’s reversal, and because when your friends express their hurt and anger on twitter and on their blogs, white evangelical men show up and tell them that they are responding too hastily. That their anger needs to be tempered by time before they are allowed to express it. That it’s okay to question this decision, but do it carefully, because unity. 

Because showing unity with people who are willing to further alienate LGBT people is more important than being angry at them for the injustice they are perpetuating. 

Because what’s really important — no one is saying it but it comes through loud and clear — is doctrinal purity. (Where doctrinal purity equals rigid gender roles and policing people’s sexuality.) Because God desires mercy, not sacrifice, unless there are gay people involved and then it turns out what God really desires is the sacrifice of hungry children on the altar of Law. Because mercy only triumphs over judgment insofar as we’re not judging (gasp!) sexual sin.

You’re writing angry because once again, you’re confronted with the inescapable reality that evangelicalism is a gendered religion. In evangelicalism, you’re subject to a specific set of rules and roles that change depending on your gender and your sexuality. Men are to behave like this, and women like this. Marriage is encouraged, idolized even (God help the single 30-something member of an evangelical church), but only if you’re straight; if not, suddenly celibacy is a high and holy calling, and all of those verses we trot out at weddings about love and marriage and cords of three not being easily broken don’t apply to you the way they do to everyone else. Searching the scriptures and studying the Bible are important, but if you are a woman it doesn’t matter how spiritually strong you are; you must have a husband to be your spiritual leader, and you must not ever, ever teach a man, nor — heaven forfend — presume that God is calling you to be a pastor.

This is the blog post you write because tonight your son went to midweek programming at your old church (get it, programming as in what you do to a robot) and you came around the corner where his class was playing just in time to hear him yelling NO and crying, because one of the leaders had tried to pick him up without his permission and he said YOU’RE HURTING ME and the leader said, Whatever, you’re fine, you’re not hurt. Get up. Because it’s not enough to get in his personal space without his consent, but then when he tells the leader that he is hurt, when he tells the leader NO, the leader argues with him about what he’s feeling, doubles down on his own right to pick up a child without their permission.

Because what midweek programming is for is to teach boys how to twist themselves until they fit into narrow gendered boxes, and the box marked “male” includes nothing about bodily autonomy and consent and emotional vulnerability, and everything about wrestling and unwanted physicality and denying one’s feelings. The box marked “male” is the one where they tell boys to “shake it off” and “be a man.” Boys play dodgeball and go to wood shop, while the girls are off in their programming making crafts and planning their father-daughter dance.

And you are angry because when you confront the leader, instead of backing down, instead of apologizing, he ignores you and condescendingly tries to explain to your son what he meant. You are saying “consent” and “bodily autonomy” and “boundaries,” and the leader is talking past you to your crying boy about “I was just” and “all I meant was.”

And so you are sick to death of white, evangelical, cisgender heterosexual American men. Sick of patriarchy and condescension and those narrow gendered boxes. Sick, utterly sick of the evangelical idolatry of gender roles that is carried on the backs of hungry children and hurting children and children caught in the crossfire while the adult world of the culture war rages on around them. 

Because hell yes, you are angry. 

O Holy Flesh

There’s a collision that happens in my heart at Advent, this year more than ever. There’s the never-ending semester cycle when the busyness of the cerebral world of my classes crescendos hard into sforzando, there’s navigating the push-pull of family holidays, there’s food upon food — the pendulum-swing from ordering pizza too often because there isn’t enough time to cook, to flouring the kitchen with Christmas-cookie baking, to the too much food and not enough wine of extended-family meals. This year, too, as I’m wading into Episcopalianism, there’s the added sense of family-ness as I articulate the same beliefs and pray the same prayers week after week alongside the community of saints near and far, forward and backward through time; and the physicality of the Eucharist, gathering around the table of an embodied Christ, flesh and blood.

This Advent more than ever I am thinking about this God who became embodied: what it really means to believe in God with us and the Word became flesh and this is my body, broken for you. A God whose wounds you can touch, whose mother nursed him as a baby and comforted him when he was sick, whose tears fell salty in the dust and whose laughter rang loud and holy in the desert air. An infant God wrapped in cloths because his tiny body was cold, swaddled tight to soothe his startle reflex.

This Advent I am thinking about how if my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, then this flesh itself is sacred — this same substance worn by the God of the universe, and shaped into God’s image. If I really believe in the words I recite every week, the resurrection of the body, then this is not some temporary meat-costume I will abandon so my soul can flit off to an immaterial heaven, but the too too solid flesh that will dance in the hereafter.

And I am thinking about Advent in a physical, tangible world, a world where the days grow shorter and colder, a world of gray sky and gray naked tree branches and gray muddy snow. An Advent season that piggybacked onto the old ways, waiting for the solstice and lighting fires against the dark. I am thinking about a star that burst into the holy darkness, showing the way out of the night.

This Advent I am thinking about darkness and earth and skin, scratchy blankets and prickly straw, hot breath and cold night air, sacred incarnation, holy flesh.

A Benediction.

For my friend Aaron.

Blessed are the losers.

Blessed are those who can’t catch a break. Blessed are those who fight and fight and never get ahead, who feel the riptide pulling them backward no matter how hard they swim. Blessed are the Sisyphean.

Blessed are those who are too tired to fight, who feel the waters closing over their heads. Blessed are the drowning.

Blessed are the lonely, the forgotten, the invisible.

Blessed are the empty.

Blessed are those denied a seat at the table. Blessed are those who long to be seen, admitted, accepted, welcomed.

Blessed are those who know that if a table is closed to the marginalized it is not a table of communion but of the money changers. Blessed are those who overturn the tables.

Blessed are the wounded. The beaten-down. The jaded and the cynical. The anxious and the hurt and the angry. Blessed are the bitter.

For theirs will be peace. Theirs will be rest and quiet. Theirs will be family and welcome and, at last, joy. For they will be known, and they will be accepted. They will be filled.

Blessed are the losers, for they will be loved.

Telling God’s Story ch. 2: What the Bible Isn’t

So sorry this post is so much later than intended — it’s been a massive week, with a couple of late nights writing papers. The problem with going to school to become a better writer is that it doesn’t leave me with a lot of time for, well, writing.

Anyway. On to Chapter Two, “What the Bible Actually Is (And Isn’t).”

Enns’s argument in this chapter is a familiar one to me, as it’s one he covers in the first handful of chapters of Inspiration and Incarnation — albeit in much friendlier, less academic language, which is a relief. His point is this:

Christianity teaches that Jesus is, mysteriously, both God and human. He is not half one, half the other. He does not appear to be one while “really” being the other. He is both: all God and all human all the time.

Now think of the Bible by drawing a parallel: In the same way that Jesus is both completely divine and human, the Bible also has divine and human dimensions. (19, emphasis mine)

Don’t expect Jesus to be something he isn’t: a king dressed in fine robes, with servants and armies. He was lowly. He came to serve. Likewise, don’t expect something from the Bible it can’t deliver. Don’t expect it to be high and lofty, detached from the ancient world in which it was written. (21)

I like this analogy (and he stresses that it is only an analogy, and so it’s incomplete in some ways) a lot. For me it helps to bridge the gap between the idea I got growing up that the Bible was somehow dictated by God word-for-word and therefore contains only timeless, transcendent wisdom direct from the Divine, and the fact that the Bible is clearly a product of the very human times and cultures it came from. 

Enns writes about what we should, therefore, do with the Bible:

The first thing to keep in mind when we read the Bible is the hardest: Don’t go straight to the question “What does this mean to me?” . . . [We must learn] to ask questions that the text is raising. Our first struggle in reading the Bible is to move from the “What about me?” perspective to the “What does this tell us about God in that context?” question. . . . Before we can ask the hard questions — for example, “Is Genesis 1 in harmony with scientific thought? Or does Genesis 1 trump scientific thought?” — we must ask a more foundational question: What do we have the right to expect from God’s word as a book written in an ancient world? (18-19, emphasis Enns’s)

There’s a lot in this chapter about what not to expect from the Bible. And it’s important stuff. He knows that in some ways what we as Christians, and as Christian parents, want a Bible that will tell us what to do. Give me a road map, tell me what rules I need to teach my children to live by, give me a concordance that tells me everything I need to know about my finances and my marriage and my garden if I can just flip to the right chapter and verse.

Sarah Bessey writes about this expectation as well, in her new book Jesus Feminist:

People want black and white answers, but Scripture is a rainbow arch across a stormy sky. Our sacred book is not an indexed answer book or life manual; it is also a grand story, mystery, invitation, truth and wisdom, and a passionate love letter. . . . I’ve often heard the bumper-sticker phrase, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” But that’s not really true, is it? Whether we admit it or not, as people of faith, we sift our theology through [the pillars of] Scripture, Church history and tradition, our reason, and our own experience. . . . [And] we are relying on our own imperfect and subjective interpretation of those pillars, too. (56-57)

Okay. So. I’ve made — or am making — peace with what the Bible isn’t. (This isn’t an easy first step, since, as Enns writes, “There are many things about [the Bible] that we would not expect from a book called ‘God’s Word’ [21]. I’ve been wrestling with this aspect of the Bible for quite some time, and if this is a new perspective for you, I’d urge you to spend some time processing — and even grieving! — this shift.) What what do I do with what it is?

Bessey writes:

Since, admit it or not, we interpret Scripture through our own lens of context and history and culture, we must learn more about culture and context for the Bible. We need to read it in the way that the writers meant it and the way their immediate recipients would have read it. (59)

In order to do this, we have to educate ourselves about what the historical context is, and Enns recommends getting “a good, thorough study Bible” to help with this, as well as the books Old Testament Today by Walton and Hill; Encountering the Old Testament by Arnold and Beyer; The New Testament in Antiquity by Burge, Cohick, and Green; and Encountering the New Testament by Elwell and Yarbrough (18).

But more than that, we must use “the single most important biblical  concept for living a Christian life, not only today but during any era: wisdom.” He explains: 

. . . [M]any of the decisions we are called upon to make every day we make, not because of a verse here or there, but because of the wisdom we have accumulated over the years. That wisdom is acquired through the study of Scripture, prayer, life in a Christian community (not just “going to church”), and plain old life experiences (otherwise known as learning from your mistakes). (24-25)

This part is tough for me. Because even though I know that the Bible, in itself, isn’t a rule book or a road map, what I really want is a road map rule book that will tell me how to read and apply the Bible. “Wisdom” is subjective and vulnerable to my own self-doubt (and believe me, as a person — a woman, no less — who did time in the “teach your children that they are deeply broken” branch of the church, I’ve had years of being conditioned to think that my own wisdom is untrustworthy). So I read this chapter thinking, Yes, okay, I agree, now tell me what to do.

Maybe he’ll get to that. After all, Telling God’s Story is supposed to be telling us how to teach the Bible to our kids, and we’re only on chapter 2, so I’m hopeful that the rest of the book will answer some of these questions that it’s raised for me. I feel like I’m understanding how the Bible doesn’t work; now I need him to tell me how it does.