Guest Post: Anna Broadway’s Company for the Desert

Anna Broadway

Anna Broadway

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.)

Disquiet Time event in Berkeley, Nov. 8! Join me, the editors and other contributors Nov. 8 at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, 7 to 9 p.m. Learn more

Disquiet Time event in Berkeley, Nov. 8! Join me, the editors and other contributors Nov. 8 at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, 7 to 9 p.m. Learn more

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?

CONTINUE READING ANNA’S POST HERE.

Guest Post: Steve Beard on Wrestling Disquietly with the Bible

Steve Beard of Thunderstruck

Steve Beard of Thunderstruck

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.

Read the full text of Beard’s review HERE.

Guest Post: Katherine Willis Pershey on Celebrating Disquiet Time (and Ellen Painter Dollar)

Katherine Willis Pershey

Katherine Willis Pershey

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.

Disquiet Time contributing authors at Prairie Path Books in Wheaton, Ill., Monday Oct. 27, 2014. Front row (L-R): Tracey Bianchi, Caryn Rivadeneira, Katherine Willis Pershey, Prof. David Fletcher, Anthony Platipodis. Back row (L-R): Kenneth Tanner, Cathleen Falsani, and Jennifer Grant.

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.

Read Katherine’s original post and learn more about her writing HERE.

Guest Post: Ina Albert on Changing Faces of Spirit

Ina Albert

Ina Albert

    “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.

Of course.

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.

Guest Post: Tim King on Curiosity, Humility, and Disquiet Time

Tim King. Photo via Sojo.net

Tim King. Photo via Sojo.net

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.

Third, I learned some more humility. That verse from T.S. Elliot ends,cover

“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.

Guest Post: The Rev. Kenneth “Kenny Wayne” Tanner Asks, Have You Had Your Disquiet Time With The Lord Today?

Christ Pantocrator - ancient icon of Jesus Christ from the Monastery of St Catherine, Sinai.

Christ Pantocrator – ancient icon of Jesus Christ from the Monastery of St Catherine, Sinai.

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a stranger about God? It’s not really supposed to be done. Or so we’ve been told and so a lot a lot of thoughts—some dark, some brilliant, some silly, some scary—go unspoken and (perhaps more importantly) unheard.

Even among family and friends it’s too often considered impolite to talk about religion or politics, especially how we feel about God; or about what convictions we hold or no longer hold. At the deepest core of ourselves we have doubts or quandaries we find hard to express. We hedge our bet. We play it safe. We avoid stirring the pot.

Then there’s our tendency to wall ourselves into rooms of like-minded folks who see most everything the way we do, piling the stonework so high we no longer hear or see the people who differ from us.

Nowhere are these differences sharper than in our reading of Holy Scripture. Sometimes within our walled-off compounds the disagreements are yet more pronounced, battle lines are drawn and there are casualties.

Now imagine there’s a well-lit comfortable room with large armchairs, couches and rugs where all of the walled off people are now together and they’re talking, saying whatever they like about God, wrestling with the hard stuff, and at the center of their conversation is…incredibly…the Bible.

True believers and fierce doubters, honest sinners and disappointed saints, are gathered around a fire. And they’re doing something so rare in our culture it’s almost heroic: they’re actually listening to one another’s stories about what the Bible means to them or no longer means, or what they hope it might come to mean if they just keep at reading it.

The stories are by turns funny, sad, real, inspiring, tough, straight, courageous, encouraging, cutting, bright, and beautiful, and it’s at once both hard and enjoyable to listen.

coverJennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani brought this room of storytellers and stories together in their new book, Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Faithful, the Skeptical, and a Few Scoundrels.

There’s a conviction that undergirds the book and it’s that God can handle our questions, our feelings, our honesty, our shouting, and our doubts about the Scriptures because he is that big.

There are 46 contributors. Some known (Brian McLaren, Susan Isaacs, Ian Cron) and all admired within their circle but all of them—all of them—get a grip on your heart and you don’t want to let go until they bless you.

Eugene Peterson (who penned the introduction) says the contributors have at least two things in common: they don’t have an enemy they’re writing in response to (refreshing!) and they aren’t trying to fit God into their story but seeking to discover how they and their lives fit into God’s good story.

I am grateful to have an essay in this conversation about an icon that means a great deal to me.

I hope you will take a chance on this lovely, fierce, entertaining book. With 46 voices you really do get your money’s worth.

You’ll find Disquiet Time as challenging and strangely edifying as anything you’ve read in a long time. My wide network of friends are loving it.

The book can be ordered at Barnes & Noble and many other online retailers and independent booksellers. (Visit IndieBound.org to find the independent bookstore nearest you.)

I’m buying a copy for the first reader who correctly identifies the writer of the following verse and the street he grew up on:

“Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.”

Read more HERE

Guest Post: Christian Piatt on How Revelation Ruined (And Saved) His Life

PIATT

Christian Piatt

I was asked to contribute a chapter to a new book called “Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels.” The volume, an edited compilation put together by Cathleen Falsani and Jennifer Grant, takes on many of the weird texts in scripture that we either gloss over or completely ignore because they’re just too…well, weird.

Of course there are plenty of spiritual oddballs to choose from, but as soon as I got the invite, I knew I wanted to write about the book of Revelation (note that there is not “S” at the end; there is no such book as Revelationsssssssss in the Bible). Suffice it to say that my relationship with the last book in the bible is a little bit complicated. In fact, it ruined my potential career as a lifetime Baptist. A number of you may have heard bits or pieces of the story about how I got kicked out of church as a teenager, but may not know all the details.

Well kids, you can blame it all on one freaky Bible book, one intransigent teenager and a floppy-Bible-wielding youth minister. But although the experience pushed me out of church for a solid decade, it didn’t forever ruin my search for the divine. But this particular story isn’t about that. It’s about how I got one particular youth minister so red-faced and flustered that he cussed me out and almost hit me square in the noggin with the Good Book.

Read on…

* * *

The book of Revelation and I have a complicated relationship. We flirted a little bit, back in high school, at least until it got me kicked out of church. I suppose I had a little something to do with it, given that I was an uppity teenager, full of questions and doubts in — of all places — a Baptist church in Texas. But mostly, it was Revelation’s fault. That’s how I remember it, anyway.

Ironically, my youth leaders at the time had invited us to pick our next Bible study topic, and I was the one who requested revelation. At the time, I was into heavy metal and horror movies, and it seemed like Revelation was the closest thing to a visual complement to the soundtrack of my life. I mean, what’s not to like? Fire, destruction, dragons… all the good stuff without any of those rules about being kind or giving all your stuff away. So I was in.

The problem was, it didn’t take long before we got into the long and growing list of all the folks in my life who were headed south for a permanent vacation, if you know what I mean. The list included all of my Jewish friends from school, who were among the most faithful and kind people I’d ever met. They invited me in to take part in their Passover Seders, their Bar Mitzvahs and their Hanukkah celebrations. They seemed to live the way their faith directed them to live, and many of them believed that Jesus was a great prophet. Heck, maybe even with a little divinity sprinkled on top.

The thing is, they hadn’t been baptized or made a (translated: the one and only) public confession of faith, so they were screwed. The whole lot of them. And then we moved on to my dad, who wasn’t a church-going kind of guy. But to me, he was my dad, my hero. So to have someone so easily write off his immortal soul was more than a little bit of a shock. When I asked what they suggested I do about it, they told me to go home and tell him to invite Jesus into his heart.

Ummm, yeah.

Then there was the matter of biblical interpretation. I had always taken the fantastical stories in Revelation — among many others in the Bible — to be just that: stories. I figured they had some truth or greater wisdom to offer, but I didn’t every really think they were meant to be taken literally. Of course, I hadn’t shared this little secret with my youth leaders, but this particular day, my sense of discretion was fairly clouded by my distress about the fate of most of the earth’s population, including most of my friends and loved ones. So, I figured, what did I have to lose.

“Seriously, guys,” I finally said, “you’re telling me that actual dragons are going to fly down from the sky…”

“Yes.”

“And rivers will literally be turned to blood, complete with plasma and corpuscles and stuff?”

“Yep.”

“How does it keep from clotting?”

“Excuse me?”

“These rivers of blood. I mean they’re exposed to air, right? So how do they keep them from scabbing over?”

This went on for a good 15 or 20 minutes, by which time we had laid out on the table a number of revelations of my own, including that:

  • I didn’t believe the earth was 5,000 years old;
  • I didn’t buy the conspiracy theory that scientists secretly manufactured the fossil record to accommodate their nefarious anti-God agenda;
  • I thought their God was a real jerk, and I wasn’t particularly interested in spending eternity with a brazen sadist;
  • Nonetheless, I thought they were wrong, and that God’s love was likely big enough to offer grace to (gasp) Jews and (what?!?!) maybe even atheists, and;
  • Any God who would set his son up to be slaughtered to satisfy some contract with the same people who killed him was a pretty crappy dad, by all accounts.

You could have heard a gnat fart by the time I was done. But damn, it sure felt good to get it all out, all the stuff I’d been sitting on for years. I’d go to this school five days a week where they challenged me to think critically and ask questions, and then I’d come to church, where I was expected to absorb and assimilate without question. For the first time, I recognized the ideological line in the proverbial sand, and not unlike Adam and Eve in the metaphorical garden, I realized I was over here, and the rest of my church folks were somewhere waaaaay over there.

“If you can’t believe every word in this book, exactly the way it’s written,” said my youth leader, his face turning six shades of crimson as he wielded his floppy King James Bible over his head, “then it doesn’t mean shit!”

And then he threw it at me. Yes, he threw the Bible and nearly hit me in the head with it. Soon thereafter, we both agreed it was probably best if I found another place to frequent on Sundays, as it was clear the whole “Christian” thing just wasn’t taking.
Thanks a lot, Revelation.

Read Christian’s original post on his Patheos blog or on Huffington Post