I wanted to include a list of more general resources about the Bible for those readers who might want to dig deeper into scripture. I asked my Facebook friends what books they would recommend. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans was suggested by at least four different people! Check your local library, because this one is super popular!
Ms Evans is a beloved Christian author who passed away suddenly, earlier this year (2019). Except for a passing quote from the Rev. Allyson Robinson, Ms Evans does not talk about transgender experience in Inspired. However, Ms Evans does provide a lovely introduction to biblical studies, which would be useful to anyone returning to the Bible while seeking more liberating perspectives:
When when you stop trying to force the Bible to be something it’s not–static, perspicacious, certain, absolute–then you’re free to revel in what it is: living, breathing, confounding, surprising, and yes, perhaps even magic. (Evans, page xx)
My aim with this book is to recapture some of that Bible magic, but in a way that honors the text for what it is–ancient, complicated, debated, and untidy, both universally relevant and born from a specific context and culture. (Evans, page xxi)
In Otherwise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, I mentioned empire in passing as I discussed the need for resistance. However, the topic of empire deserves more attention. Ms Evans does a lovely job in chapter 5 (“Resistance Stories”) of introducing that conversation.
It’s easy for modern-day readers to forget that the Bible was written by oppressed religious minorities living under the heels of powerful nation-states known for their extravagant wealth and violence. For the authors of the Old Testament, it was the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Persian Empires. For the authors of the New Testament, it was, of course, the massive Roman Empire. (Evans, page 117)
For too long, the white American church has chosen the promise of power over prophetic voice. We have allied ourselves with the empire and, rather than singing songs of hopeful defiance with the exiles, created more of them. We have, consciously and unconsciously, done the bidding of the Beast–not in every case, of course, but in far too many. (Evans, page 128)
In my epilogue, I point to the difference between the way Jews and Christians typically read scripture. Ms Evans follows a similar thread:
While Christians tend to turn to Scripture to end a conversation, Jews turn to Scripture to start a conversation. (Evans, page 24)
This understanding of themselves as a people who wrestle with God and emerge from that wrestling with both a limp and a blessing informs how Jews engage with Scripture, and it ought to inform how Christians engage Scripture too, for we share a common family of origin, the same spiritual DNA. (Evans, page 28)
I was particularly moved by Ms Evans reading of Hagar, inviting… or, more accurately… charging each of us to tell our stories of deliverance as a way to mark our journey through the wilderness:
So when we join with our spiritual ancestors in telling our stories of deliverance, we must remember to name each wilderness, to mark those spots where, when all hope seemed lost, we encountered God– at a desert well on the road to Egypt; on a bridge in Selma, Alabama; at a shabby airport chapel in Chicago; in a labor and delivery room on candlemas day. (Evans, page 50)
In chapter 25 of OtherWise Christian, I referenced the work of Shannon Kearns making a related invitation. Indeed, it is powerful when OtherWise folk claim our own stories as sacred text. God knows, we spend enough time in the wilderness. This is why I’m eager to begin work on OtherWise Christian 2: Stories from the Front Lines.
All in all, I do recommend Inspired as one good starting point for reading the Bible again. As a self-described, memoir writer, Ms Evans does a wonderful job of reclaiming the Bible as a story, both human and divine.
Inspiration, both in the English language and in its ancestral languages, is rooted in the imagery of divine breath, the eternal rhythm of inhale and exhale, gather and release. … God is still breathing. The Bible is both inspired and inspiring. (Evans, page xxiii)
May the story continue!
Rachel Held Evans’ website: https://rachelheldevans.com/
More about or from the author: Interview about Inspired, Another Interview about Inspired, 8 Things about Inspired, The False Gospel of Gender Binaries, RHE’s Follow Transgender Christians, Highlighting Lisa Salazar
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige in July 2019.
Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.