I just read a book that referenced the Reverend Dr. Wil Gafney (a RevGal!), Gangnam style, X-men, and biblical idolatry. To be clear, they didn’t all happen in the same sentence or even the same chapter. The book makes liberal use of #hashtags and the chat-speak notion of putting an action in asterisks *wonders if this explanation is necessary*. Furthermore, the book walks the reader right up to the line of eisegesis and helps that reader understand that no matter one’s intentions, one is always on the eisegesis side of the line. Awareness of that fact then brings awareness of the possibility of exegesis in context and amid the world’s body of exegetical approaches.
Making Love with Scripture: Why the Bible Doesn’t Mean How You Think It Means is the book that many established pastors are likely to overlook, but many people in their pews would like to read. There are not many books out there that try to make a wide variety of theological interpretations and theories (queer, feminist, Latin@, African American) accessible and then explain why context matters in reading scripture. Additionally, because we are each in our own skin, we have to be open not only to other interpretations, but also to their rightness and ways of bringing life in their own contexts.
Jacob D. Myers is the (an?) assistant professor in Homiletics at Columbia Theological Seminary. This book would be awesome as a Ted Talk because it would be great to have the sound of his voice to see his animation in flipping back and forth between the deep intellectual points he is making and serious playfulness with which he employs modern cultural memes to make his point.
I confess that as I read the book, I sometimes wondered if a woman who was Myers’s age peer would have been able to get this type of book published. I seriously doubt it, but I also appreciate that Myers seems to perceive that fact. He has a strong awareness of his privilege and one can almost see the framework of the bridge he is building to try to reach out past and over it. (Which this reader did appreciate.)
All theologies are local theologies. All interpretations are contextual interpretations- and these declarations too are local and contextual for me. How can universal and absolute theologies of scripture still be a thing for those of us who are called to love our neighbors as ourselves? The church must respond that maybe it’s still a thing because it’s a tool of the oppressor that is us. (69)
Myers’s self-awareness in his writing- even as he writes about the death of the author- helps the reader navigate a river that could swamp the canoe of one’s biblical, theological, and personal self-understanding. And Myers would argue that perhaps the canoe does need to be overturned. Perhaps each of us needs to be dumped into the river we’ve created out of our understanding of God’s Wor(l)d (Myers’s construction) to see to whom the water is toxic, including possibly to us.
The book contains reflections on different scriptural stories from various interpretive perspectives. Myers does not presume to make his own queer or mujerista theological readings, but draws upon experts in these fields. His extensive endnotes are not mere citations, but offer context within the original writing. This does help the curiouser reader to seek out more of something that gives them life.
I confess that I was sometimes put off by the extremely contemporary and “pop” style of the book. However, I did read and review Ta-Nehisi Coates first book, The Beautiful Struggle. In that review I noted that I had to look up many words because black American culture is not my cultural context. I had to learn and that was good.
“Pop” culture is also a sub-section of culture where I am not a frequent traveler. Many of Myers’s references were third-hand to me (dammit, Jake, where was Hamilton?!?). However, that does not automatically invalidate (or validate) them. I know from the Facebook and Twitter feeds of much of my congregation that there is plenty that goes on in the world that I don’t experience or appreciate first-hand. Yet, I can still learn from it. I would caution those who might react to those references in the book to reflect on their pushback.
In addition to receiving the book for review, I did receive a study guide as well. I did not get to use it yet because I have not organized a group to read the book, but I would like to do so. People who might really like this book: college Bible/book studies, persons in your congregation or context who are considering seminary or other church service vocations, people who like to read anything and learn something, persons who are always hoping that you’ll have a church movie night, your entire church pub trivia team (do only I have one of those?), or anyone else who is curious about different ways of being met and changed by Scripture and deeper self-knowledge.
This book is part of a series. This review is NOT an endorsement of the series or any other book therein and may not be construed as such.
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