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?
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.
“Religion is an agreement between a group of people about what G-d is.
Spirituality is a one-on-one relationship.”
~ Conscious Way Magazine
It was the 1960’s and I went to the right rather than to the left.
Someone gave me a copy of Atlas Shrugged and I swallowed it whole. Especially the part about altruism and religion being irrational and atheism being the only intellectual alternative.
As a follower of Ayn Rand and Objectivism and a Republican-for-Goldwater, I rejected my Jewish heritage and announced that I had become an atheist at a family dinner.
My mother cringed and asked, “What about the children?” (I had sons ages four and six at the time.)
My father looked at my mother and said, “She’ll get over it.”
He was right.
But the reason I returned to Judaism was not a deep-seated belief in G-d. It was Judaism’s conviction that being Jewish could not be denied. No matter what, I could not be excommunicated. I could question whatever I wanted and still be “kosher.” Denying G-d in front of the altar in the synagogue, blaspheming the Torah, refusing to have my boys circumcised, would not release me.
I was Jewish, and once a Jew, always a Jew.
Why? Because now and forever Jews have had to adapt to change. As we moved from society to society, the community integrated some customs in their new home and rejected others. Certainly the Spanish Inquisition is the prefect example. Jews had to choose between being burned at the stake or converting to Catholicism, so they became secret Jews, lighting the Sabbath candles in wine cellars and basements and praying secretly on the holidays. Called Maranos or Crypto Jews, they developed their own hidden culture. Like their ancestors, they re-adapted to Spanish society where acceptance was conditional at best.
Yet Judaism grew in each new circumstance. The most sacred music was created during the Inquisition. Once a year on Yom Kippur, Kol Nidre – All Vows – sings the musical withdrawal of the covenant that forced them to become Christian. Their individual survival demanded that the vow be made, but the survival of Judaism accommodated this necessity with a heroic statement that is now sung in every synagogue in the world to reaffirm commitment to Judaism—no matter what.
Once a Jew, always a Jew.
So what became of my vow to become an atheist? I found that, where Judaism obligated me to ask questions and discover my own brand of spirituality, Objectivism did not. It was rigid, dictatorial, defined on only one level of human experience. It failed to support curious minds, human kindness, and intellectual growth.
In Judaism I found ways to explore everything from orthodoxy to Humanistic Judaism in which G-d plays no part.
Where did I land? I’m still in process. But my connection with G-d is clear. I feel it every time I meditate, every time I pray, in every walk in the woods and in the eyes of each person I meet. G-d’s energy is with me and with all creation. I feel it, experience it and have no doubt that it exists.
The new book Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels, to which I contributed a chapter, offered us authors the opportunity to explore our beliefs out loud. And to listen louder to each other. It explores the essence of religious freedom that allows us to express our spirituality as a one-on-one relationship without boundaries or restrictions.
Disquiet Time has created a sacred space between all of its contributors and you, our readers.
Thanks for listening.
Ina Albert is co-author of Write Your Self Well…Journal Your Self to Health, finds that listening is her most valuable quality as she grows older. Her new children’s book, Granny Greeny Says…Listen Louder, tells us how it’s done.
During my senior year of high school I began to lose faith in Scripture.
Then my freshman year of college, I read the entire Bible — cover to cover — and that pretty much destroyed whatever confidence I had left.
The Bible, I had discovered, was full of polygamy, incest, murder, rape, genocide, adulterers, inconsistencies, impossibilities and a whole bunch of screwed-up people who never seemed to get anything right.
The more I studied the “perfect” word of God, the more I expected that doctrine would become clear and consistent, the authors exemplary and the stories contain distinct and readily discernible meanings.
When I read, I found I had more questions than answers, concerns than affirmations and was more likely to feel disrupted than tranquil.
I almost gave up entirely.
But with the help of some good teachers, I soon realized that since the Bible was full of polygamy, rape, genocide, adulterers, inconsistencies, impossibilities and a whole bunch of screwed up people who never seemed to get anything right, it was also fascinating.
I discovered that even though it seemed the doctrine wasn’t always clear and consistent, the authors weren’t exemplary and the stories didn’t always contain a distinct and easily discernible meanings, that is exactly what makes it such a rich foundational text for faith.
I found I had more questions than answers, concerns than affirmations and disruptions than tranquility and this was a good thing.
The same things that had caused my faith in scripture to crumble helped rebuild it.
I had taken an icon intended to point to the Creator and turned it into an idol that fed back to me only what I expected to see, I had mistaken the indicator for the indicated and a divinely inspired document for the Divine itself.
What I had started to see as fatal flaws and defects became the most compelling, intriguing and beautiful parts.
Here are three reasons I didn’t give up on the Good Book.
First, the character of the Divine is revealed throughout the entirety of scripture. If one verse, or story seems off, that doesn’t mean it’s ruined the whole picture. Spots that are confusing, inconsistent or impossible are transformed when read with an understanding of the rest scripture, placed within its historical context and understood in conversation with 2,000 years of tradition. Some of the most troubling passages are now some of my favorites as they illuminate deeper themes, draw us into a mystery or beautifully paint a picture of paradox.
Second, I started looking for companions in failure rather than just exemplars of success. The very real imperfections and doubts of the heroes of the Bible became a source of comfort and encouragement. Scripture doesn’t hide that many of the people lifted up in Hebrews 11 as examples of faith doubted, wrestled and screwed up regularly. Their lives were considered faithful in their entirety but if you stopped and took a point in time analysis for any of them it might not look the same. I love T.S. Elliot’s words in the Four Quartets:
Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
“The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.”
There is always more to learn from scholars who have devoted their lives to understanding the book. It takes some humility to acknowledge that their always might be more for us to learn or understand that could change the way we understand God and the world around us. And in another sense, it also takes humility to still come to the Scriptures with the curiosity of a child and allow familiar texts to surprise us over and over.
That’s why both contributing a chapter for the new book Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels and now reading it has been a breath of fresh air. The wide variety of takes, stories and interpretations spark your imagination as to all that is in the Bible. You don’t need to agree with every reading of scripture that I or the other authors propose for Disquiet Time to renew your sense of curiosity, wonder and humility about everything that is in that good, good book.