Jen and Cathleen are guests on their pal Steve Brown’s radio show today. Steve also has a marvelous chapter in Disquiet Time, btw, which is on sale at Amazon.com for 30% off if you use the promotional code HOLIDAY30 at checkout!
Listen in to Steve’s interview with Jen and Cath HERE or below.
I was nurtured in a Christian tradition that encouraged the daily practice of what was called a “quiet time.” This involved sitting down — preferably early in the morning — reading some of the Bible, reflecting on it, and praying.
All good things, all good things.
For me, the experience of “the quiet time” was wrapped in conflict and confusion for some simple reasons.
You were supposed to get spiritual inspiration from whatever it was you were reading.
And because I was a devotee of those One Year Bibles — where you read a section of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, a selection from either Psalms or Proverbs, and a section of the New Testament every day, so that every year you read through the whole Bible — it was really quite often a stretch to find something spiritual and ‘inspirational,’ especially when I had no idea what I was reading or why, for that matter, it was even in the Bible. Such as the Song of Songs. Or the slaughter of the Canaanites. Or those interminable lists of who does what and who carries what and what seemingly arbitrary thing renders a person unclean for however long a period of time.
Don’t read me wrong: I think there was something of value in all of that.
Even today, when I read the Bible, there is a lot I don’t understand and that doesn’t seem particularly edifying or inspirational or whatever. But it seems valuable to wrestle with what is actually in there, even if the result is less “quiet time” and more, well, disquiet time. The Bible is an ancient text, a demanding text. It is not so easily condensed into uniformly palatable, reassuring thoughts to make your day happier.
Released in late October, Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels is the brainchild of Jennifer Grant (a fellow contributor to her.meneutics) and Cathleen Falsani (an award-winning religion writer and journalist) who co-edited the book.
Between them, they have written several books, and the two are close friends. They asked their pastors, friends, and colleagues to write about the verse in the Bible they find most confounding, or most entertaining, or most comforting and to explore the ways they continue to wrangle with, or connect to, a part of Scripture. I was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to Disquiet Time and grateful for the chance to ask Jen and Cathleen some questions about this project:
AJ: Disquiet Time is a collection of essays by more than forty writers. What was it like to curate these chapters?
JG: Humbling, really. We were both surprised by how vulnerable our contributors were. Many of them, even though several are Biblical scholars and others are members of the clergy, have never been asked what part of Scripture has most affected them personally—either in their early formation as children or as adults. Reading their heartfelt and candid chapters was a privilege.
AJ: Eugene Peterson wrote the foreword to the book. Did it take any persuading for him to contribute to this decidedly not PG-rated compilation?
CF: No, not at all.
He begins the foreword quoting something he wrote years ago. “Stories are verbal acts of hospitality,” he said. We both love that, and we both feel very grateful to our generous writers.
In his foreword, Peterson goes on:
This gathering of stories…is fresh confirmation of that notion. The stories all have two things in common. They all take the Bible seriously, and, like Jacob at the river Jabbok, they take it seriously enough to wrestle with its meaning in the context of their own lives. More often than not, also like Jacob, they leave the river alive and safe but limping.
Read the interview in its entirety on AJ’s blog, Thin Spaces, HERE.
When my biggest crisis of faith (to date) began, it felt like I had not just lost the main road, but gotten so lost I wasn’t even standing on a trail of any kind — just marooned somewhere in an unknown, unmapped, sprawling stretch of wilderness.
Where was civilization? How could I get back?
At 21, I still thought that most of life’s disasters could be prevented by forming adequate plans in advance. On account of this, I’d begun making up and refining my future courtship story in childhood, whispering new installments to myself in the dark until my parents finally shushed me for the night. (I didn’t know all that rehearsing would leave me still single at 36.)
By comparison, I spent far less time imagining the future state of my relationship with God, but I had vague expectations that things with God would gradually but steadily improve as life continued.
When big, honest, questions about God, the Bible and Christian faith began to surface — and refused to subside either quickly or without answer — I freaked out. Was this the start of my spiritual divorce, a rift that would not just sever me from God, but deeply disappoint all the loved ones who had helped rear me in faith?
We are so proud of Sarah Heath.
We are proud of and endlessly grateful for the friend we call “Mini Rev” all the time, really, but particularly so today.
Sarah contributed a chapter to Disquiet Time where she addresses scripture often used to argue against the ordination of women. Sarah is, if you already weren’t aware, an ordained United Methodist minister and pastor. And she’s a great one at that.
Frankly, Sarah has one of the most obvious pastoral gifts we’ve ever encountered (and many of us go to church for a living.) She has a gift and she uses it with amazing grace, joy, and artistry.
This past Sunday, someone decided to lash out at her by posting an ersatz “theses” to the front door of the church she shepherds, castigating her and denouncing her flock as “apostate” for having a woman lead it.
Click HERE to read Sarah’s most excellent response.
You go GRRL!
My glorious friend Cathleen Falsani has just co-edited a collection of writing by folk who might identify or be identified by others as ‘misfits,’ reflecting on their relationship with the Bible, a text that I was immersed in, growing up in northern Ireland, got so used to that I can’t imagine a time when I wasn’t thinking about, and for me defines the challenge of having to wrestle as human beings with the fact that most glasses are both half empty and half full, life is lived in the in-between spaces, and the point is learning to love it.
I love the poetic explorations of Scripture, and I sometimes feel threatened by what some of us have done with it. The book is called DISQUIET TIME: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels, and you can find out more about its mystery and wonder HERE.
I’m happy to be counted among its wandering contributors, and here’s the opening of my essay in the book, which is about how my passport was stolen when I visited Golgotha.
My earliest memories are colonized by celluloid dreams – flying over spectacular lit-up Manhattan with that guy who wore red briefs over his blue tights, or with Mickey Mouse magicking an accidental flood into an angry sorceror’s parlor, or bicycling over the moon. We experience movies the way we remember things – Norman Mailer once wrote that the resemblance of cinema to the memory of death is one of the least theorized yet most obvious perspectives through which to view the art. Our memories of the dead are pictures we keep in the paradoxically ever-deepening tunnel, yet ever-expanding kaleidoscope of our minds; there’s not much difference between a photograph of Harrison Ford holding a sword on a rope bridge in India and a memory of a person we love whose body is now mingling with the dust of earth. So when I’m remembering my childhood, I’m remembering something that is, in one very real sense, dead. When I’m remembering movies, I’m remembering something that in a very real sense died when the final print emerged from the dark room. When I’m remembering dead people, I feel like I’m at the movies.
What, you may ask, and I wouldn’t blame you, has this to do with the collection of writings, authorship or coauthorship uncertain (and depending on the tradition, we don’t even agree on what those writings are), that we who may be a little lower than the angels usually simplify to being called ‘the Bible’? Well, it’s like that too. My youth was formed in the crucible of northern Irish civil strife and angry, divisive religion; whose light side included more than a healthy dose of possibly randomly selected (certainly not all) and selectively interpreted biblical stories as the only foundation for living. I heard Daniel in the Lions’ Den and David & Goliath and No Room at the Inn and Jesus on a Donkey and Crucify him! Crucify him! so often that it was hard to distinguish between those tales and those of Elliott & ET, the Goonies & the treasure map, or Marty McFly & the DeLorean. So while there’s a lot of beef to be had with the way scripture has been used to divide and conquer, or how religious institutions have corroded the difference between the spirit and the law to the point where both are emptied of meaning, or of how my – and your – very personhood has been subject to death-dealing social practices justified by an appeal to either testament, and entrenched by the unarguable-with ‘all scripture is God-breathed’, such analysis or angst or alternativizing is not my focus here. What I want – or sometimes think I want – is to be able to return to a time when I didn’t ‘know’ what the Bible said. I’d like to experience it as if it wasn’t the undergirding text of the imperialistic culture into which I was born, whose privileges I inherit, and whose sins I cannot deny. I wish bad interpretations of the text had not been woven into a discordant symphony of autobiographical background music. I’d like some distance. In short, I’d like to remember the Bible as if it were not a movie.
If you’d like to read the rest of this, I encourage you to support the independent writing found in DISQUIET TIME. Thanks!
Read Gareth’s original post HERE.
When Cathleen asked me to contribute to Disquiet Time, the new a collection of essays by “the Skeptical, the Faithful and a few Scoundrels,” I didn’t think twice about saying “yes,” nor did I worry much about which category might best fit me.
Cathleen and I have been friends since our roommate days in college, which was pre-email, pre-cell phone, and pre-Kim Kardashian.
Yes, we are approximately ancient.
Anyhoo… The assignment was to write about a passage of Scripture that troubles me. I kept coming back to Proverbs 31—or, as it’s fondly called within Christian circles, “The Proverbs 31 woman.”
Proverbs 31 is an ode to the “virtuous wife,” and often is used as a prescriptive for what a “godly woman” looks, acts, and cooks like. The Proverbs 31 woman is to some circles what Barbie is to elementary school girls — the ideal woman. Never mind that the dimensions don’t add up.
I won’t rehash the essay here, but the nutshell is that I don’t have a problem with the passage itself as much as I have a problem with how it’s typically taught, which is as a primer on domestic divahood. That the Proverbs 31 woman is clearly a working woman is conveniently overlooked by those who choose to use it as a prescription for “traditional” gender roles. (Traditional unless you have to work because you are poor or from another culture or maybe had to get divorced. In which case, carry on.)
I feel like I’m in the Hot Tub Time Machine just writing that sentence. I spent a lot of time thinking about gender roles when I was in college, back in the late ’80s, and it’s kind of funny to me (not funny ha-ha but more funny odd) that I ended up writing about this in Disquiet Time. At this stage of my life, I am too busy being a mother, wife, and professional to analyze it much.
When I read about the Duggar girls (from the TV series 19 Kids and Counting) working so very hard to embody the qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman, I cringe but in the same way I cringe when I watch The Real Housewives series. It’s like being at a zoo and observing exotic animals that are one step removed.
I’m not so removed that it doesn’t cause some disquiet. Which is what this collection of essays is about. Those things in the Bible that you wish would go away, but won’t. Because they have to do with the most profound expressions of what it means to be human.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to wrestle publicly with things that make me uneasy and even irritable.
And I’m grateful I’m not alone in that endeavor.
Linda Midgett is the founder of Midgett Productions, a boutique production company that recently created the hit motorcycle adventure series Neale Bayly Rides: Peru.The series aired on the SPEED Channel in June 2013. She is an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and showrunner with a proven track record of developing hit and critically acclaimed series. She has supervised more than 600 hours of programming for networks such as NBC-Universal, The History Channel, PBS, The Weather Channel and Investigation Discovery. Her credits as Co-Executive Producer include Starting Over, the Emmy-winning syndicated daytime reality series produced by powerhouse Bunim-Murray Productions; The History Channel’s groundbreaking series, Gangland; and Investigation Discovery’s FBI: Criminal Pursuit.
Though Linda enjoys producing pure entertainment, she isn’t afraid of tackling difficult topics such as poverty and mental health. In 2012, she produced The Line, a riveting documentary commissioned by Sojourners that told the first-person stories of Americans in poverty. The film is available at http://www.thelinemovie.com. Her other independent documentary work includes Through My Eyes, which tells the stories of teens struggling with suicide, depression and eating disorders. Through My Eyes won the national Voice Award for excellence in mental health programming. Linda is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Over at Thuderstruck.org, Steve Beard writes a compelling review of Disquiet Time, one that we wanted to share with you.
Beard writes in part:
With nearly 50 different contributors, this isn’t an authoritative text on biblical interpretation. Instead, it is more like a funky theological jam session – no sheet music, brother riffing off of sister, guitar solos, tooting of the horns, banging of the drums, thumping of the bass – testifying about both estrangement and enduring love for the Bible.
As I delved into the book, faces popped into my mind of people in my life who could relate to certain chapters. My son and nephews would howl at the offbeat but serious treatment of the use of “dung” in the Scripture. My mom would probably choose to skip over that chapter.
In all honesty, there is much beauty and brokenness and vulnerability in Disquiet Time. The easy endeavor would be to collect testimonies of those who’ve left the faith because of disillusionment with the Bible, hypocrisy at church, and unanswered prayers from an invisible God who is often difficult to understand. Instead, Disquiet Time lassoed up writers in the throes of wrestling with the challenges that thoughtful faith provokes. Many of them lay out their struggles with great honesty.
Today, Jen and Cathleen were guests on Dr. Alvin Jones’ podcast where the trio discussed Disquiet Time.
Have a listen by clicking on the audio link below.
Visit and listen to the interview on Dr. Alvin’s website HERE.
It’s my turn to host the blog tour for the fantastic new book, Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels. I’m so pleased and proud to have a chapter in the book.
The diverse cast of voices delves into a broad range of thorny biblical passages – often the sort of passages people prefer to avoid. While the contributors are clearly smart people who know their way around a biblical concordance, I love that the anthology isn’t academic in nature. Rather, the essays grapple with the profound impact the Bible can have on individual lives — for good and for ill.
Disquiet Time reveals how biblical interpretation — and misinterpretation, as the case may be — is formative in a world in which more than 100 million bibles are sold or otherwise distributed each year. The biblical text isn’t dishonored with this book, but is rather given the honor of being taken seriously enough to be spoken of with unsparing honesty.
One of the things that is most striking to me is that it lives up to its grand promise of truly divergent perspectives. It’s not merely the skeptical and the faithful sharing the same binding; Christians of both conservative and liberal hermeneutics are present and accounted for. You just don’t see that happen very often.
Last night, I gathered with seven other contributors – including Cathleen Falsani and Jennifer Grant, our fearless editors – in a packed room at Prairie Path Books in Wheaton to celebrate the book’s release. It was a delightful evening – funny, poignant, irreverent, meaningful. When it was my turn to talk I said a few things about my chapter – which, in a nutshell, is about how “apocalyptic gospel” is not an oxymoron – and then made the people sing the refrain to REM’s “End of the World as we Know It.” Such fun.
So, all of that is to say that you should totally read this book. Good luck getting it at Amazon, because Jericho Books is an imprint of Hachette. But Barnes and Noble, Hearts and Minds, and your local book shop are all great options.
But the other thing I’d like to do with this blog post is draw your attention to the author and blogger Ellen Painter Dollar. There are two main reasons for this.
The first is that I wouldn’t have been invited to contribute to Disquiet Time if Ellen hadn’t introduced me to Jennifer Grant and the other gifted members of the Ink Collective. Ellen approaches social networking with a spirit of generosity, mutual respect, and collaboration. I try to follow her lead.
The second reason I’m singing the praises of Ellen Painter Dollar is that I just read her chapter in Disquiet Time, “Broken and Bent.” It’s a three-tissue essay, full of wisdom, beauty, and pain – like much of Ellen’s work. When you’re done with Disquiet Time, check out Ellen’s first book, No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction.