In this space, we have generally committed to not reviewing books before they were actually out and on shelves. But you and I both know that your head is all Holy Week and Easter- all the time. Or maybe too many funerals. Or perhaps community support in election season or with the March for Our Lives. Whatever your plate is full of right now, let’s pray for you to have a break in about three weeks, around April 7.
Present Me is offering Present You a chance to give Future You a gift. Slide on over to your bookseller of choice and pre-order Austen Hartke’s Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. I know you’d like to read it right now, but you’ve got liturgy to write and a few freezer meals to cook for yourself so it’s not all fast food all the time (or no food all the time) on Good Friday. Pre-order that book and know that it will be waiting for you right as resurrection rest becomes a real thing in your life.
I received a review copy of the book from NetGalley and it’s so good. Hartke has woven together the writing, research, and life stories of transgendered Christians into a book that is eloquent, informational, and readable. That’s the holy trinity of accessible publishing. This isn’t the book I would buy to try to change someone’s mind. It’s the book I would give to a well-meaning ally who needs help fleshing out their reasoning, understanding the biblical precepts, and for a deeper and broader theological vision across a faithful life.
The last chapter of the book is “The Transaffirming Toolbox”, but- frankly- the whole book is a toolkit. The Christian who is willing to sit with the pain of the stories, the stress, and the rejection of other children of God and willing to be a part of creating together a brave, welcoming, and healing space for Divine Love will be equipped by this book.
Like the best theological books, the biblical lessons are not simply plunked down- like a too-large, too-stale communion wafer for you to swallow, dry-mouthed and confused. Instead, they are integral to the lesson Hartke is teaching. The Bible is full of stories of people, places, and situations that are not binary, but are both/and/other/same. His exegesis of Scripture, with reflection on original languages and audiences, leads the reader not in a straight line, but on a carefully structured scavenger hunt. It is at the conclusion of this hunt that, treasures in hand, that the reader can understand that the blessedness of all creation lies within its vast mystery and reality, not in neatly categorized “facts” that are neither factual or truth.
I serve a congregation that has worked and is still working to be as inclusive, welcoming, and broad as possible. We’ve hosted workshops on understanding language and are active in being a safe place and supporting brave witnesses. But I know that I don’t know everything. I found Transforming to be the most helpful book I’ve read on the topic of being faithful to God alongside my transgender Christian neighbors, friends, and fellow travelers on the Way. I highly commend this book to you.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit.
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