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Despair, Grief, Subject, Restoration...?

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Something is restless in my spirit today, though I am aware of a curious contentment too. Grieving, brooding, transforming are the words that touch into the feeling.

Not quite sure what led me to investigate, but I landed in a Brill publication by a new colleague at United, Cheryl Bridges Johns. Some of my interest—podcast of last week, now this text—comes into sharper focus. She has co-edited a compilation of Pentecostal feminist writings on hermeneutics called Grieving, Brooding, Transforming: the Spirit, the Bible, and Gender. It is a compilation of essays from the Journal of Pentecostal Studies, I think.

Not to be Presby-snooty, but as a Presbyterian, I'd never met a Pentecostal feminist. I honestly didn't know the words could co-exist.

So imagine my surprise as I read Johns’ opening essay, with tears of recognition and a sense of FINALLY. She writes, worth citing at some length…

In regards to the intersections of gender and the Bible, it seems that we have come to the end of ourselves. I am most grateful for those sure-footed individuals who have done the difficult text critical work, helping tease out ‘what the Bible meant in the era in which it was written to what it means about women’. But, all their good work never seems enough in convincing people to move beyond their prejudice. To be honest, as of late, all the hermeneutical work regarding the ‘biblical view of women’ is not enough for me. It is not enough when I open a Bible and find a world in which women are deemed chattel, viewed as unclean, valued for their production of sons, raped and their body parts distributed to others, and on and on. There are days when, listening to the Bible read with its male language and imagery that I cry within my spirit, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I need more than ‘the right interpretation’ to save me from despair. …in terms of women, hermeneutics alone cannot save us from the grief of finding little to match the sound of our own cadence.

She then concludes her introductory remarks: What I wish to offer is a view of the Bible as living subject whose existence is grounded in the economic life of God. As such, the Bible serves as a sanctified, Spirit-filled vessel in service of restoring creation.

Despair. Grief. Living Subject. Restoration. All of them sign-posts for me these last years. Even just this last week. Hmmm...

I no longer share her interest in Scripture, but... Grieving starts the work for her, which aligns with what I’m learning in other spaces. Brooding is an interesting addition. An elder-stateswoman of the Church of God (???? Again, not where I would have looked...???) finally named (my own) despair of anything holy left in Scripture's interpretation alone.

And she begins with gratitude, without anger, clear on grief, forsakenness. Finally, her hope is toward a living subject, serving toward restoration of creation.

I am the one making all the connections here, but this is precisely how the universe speaks to me—little buoys of creation, finding their voice in another...Connected.

I’m listening…

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