The Ain't I a Woman blog examines the many ways Christian culture lets women know exactly who they should be. We deconstruct those messages that we find troubling--and, in the process, construct a different message: one that allows Christian women to be all that God intended.

Feeling like a Princess (of sorts): About The Faculty Lecture

momanddadWhen we are recruiting faculty to teach at George Fox University, I love to give them my marketing spiel: about how special this university and the community of Newberg is to me; about how I dreamed, as a student, about coming back to teach at George Fox; and about how I can’t imagine working or living anywhere else.

My hard-sell approach hasn’t always been successful; we’ve had candidates say no to an offer to teach here, which is their loss, for sure. But my marketing spiel is definitely sincere. My love for George Fox and for Newberg is so deep that one of two recurring dreams I have is that I am forced to move back to the Midwest and leave my job, my friends, and my family behind. I usually wake up from such dreams feeling unbelievably sad.

A few weeks ago, I had a once-in-a-career chance to share my research with the communities I love in a Faculty Lecture I was required to give as a recipient of last year’s GFU Undergraduate Scholar of the Year award. Doing this lecture filled me with fear: in part because my research critiques the very culture I teach in; in part because my research partner, Kendra, wouldn’t be around to help me with the Bible questions I might receive; in part because I was speaking not only to my professional community, but also to friends and family who don’t usually see me in this context. (My mom and dad–pictured above with me–were in the audience, for goodness sake!)

I did what I could to combat my fear and trembling: I had my personal stylist and all-around amazing friend help me pick out a kick-ass outfit and give me pep talks. I practiced talking to myself. I invited another friend—someone who knows the Bible and our evangelical culture well—to serve as my respondent. And I asked my kids to come watch, probably because I knew they would diffuse any overconfidence I might have. (That strategy worked: I could see them in the back, eating cookies and jabbing each other with elbows.)

And then, when the lecture was over, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for this community and for their support: for my students, willing to add one more lecture to their over-packed schedule; for my colleagues, who have nurtured and supported me and helped me become the seasoned scholar I try to be; for my friends from the community, who allow me to be someone other than a professor most of the time; and for my family, who have helped me become all God means for me to be.

I’m grateful, too, for others who live far away from Newberg and have asked to hear my lecture. These folks represent people from other stages of my life, many who have helped me become all God means for me to be—and who continue to encourage me, from afar.

Everyone should feel so loved and supported. I am exceedingly grateful.



Taking the Bible Seriously

Teaching the Bible—and what I mean is teaching people how to interpret the Bible—is dangerous business. Pay too much attention to details such as what the Bible actually says (as different from what people want it to say) or its historical context, and people retreat in droves, seeking instead to hunker down into the comfort of ignorance.

But, who can blame them, really? When almost all people hear today are shallow endorsements of how the Bible supports their message, what more can we expect from people with little genuine interest in knowing how to read a religious text, even one they claim to hold dearly (down to its leather cover and gold-dusted pages)?

Today, for example, as I read with interest Sheila Wray Gregoire’s assertion that “Your Husband Can’t Make You Happy,” she noted that instead of trying to fix one’s husband (which, let’s admit, they really all need!) women should pursue joy. This sounds like good advice and I’m not necessarily adverse to the idea that 1) I will be happier if I don’t spend my days trying to address all of Bryan’s issues; and 2) that it generally is a good idea to seek joy.

To buttress her point, however, Gregoire quotes PS 37.4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV). Taken entirely out of context, she uses this statement to support her idea and then moves on to her next point of taking responsibility for one’s happiness.

This is the kind of Bible teaching that not only is rampant among many Christians today, but it also does not take the Bible seriously, nor those who wrote it. If Gregoire had spent even a minimal amount of time with PS 37 she would see that the idea of delighting oneself in the LORD is tied directly to the idea of doing good, a contrast to those the Israelites were dealing with because of their consistent acts of injustice.

In other words, this Psalm has at its heart a context of doing justice; of living in the world as God’s ambassadors of responsible living. “Delighting in the LORD” was an encouragement to those who were discouraged by the injustices all around them, helping them not to become tired of doing good, of being justice-seekers. Its message is not some isolated statement about joy or happiness for an individual and yet this is the assumption put forward by Gregoire and accepted by Christians who have become accustomed to this kind of Bible usage.

For those seeking to dig deeper, to consider more seriously what the Bible might say to us today, we hope you will check out our book, If Eve Only Knew. In each chapter we not only provide an overview of some of the most common artifacts evangelical culture uses today, we delve into a more honest assessment of what the Bible actually says. It’s a prospect we think you will find delightfully rewarding, even joyful!

Kim Davis, Jennifer Bird, and the Bible

I am teaching an Introduction to the New Testament course this semester. It is the course I love—and hate—most.

You see, teaching the Bible is scary business. Oh, it’s fine if you don’t ruffle any feathers; if you allow students to maintain either their ignorance for holy writ or their ignorance of its historical context. Let students who enter the course maintain their certainty that “what the Bible says to them” is what it meant to people some two-thousand years ago in a very different culture, and all will be well.

On the other hand, if you ask them to become informed readers of the New Testament, then be prepared for an onslaught of resistance that usually comes in the form of animosity that surely will rear its ugly head at the end of the semester, just in time for student evaluations.

It would be so easy to give up requiring students to open their minds if not for the pesky and persistent problem that knowing how to read the Bible matters; really matters.

A case in point occurred this last week when Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk, was jailed for her refusal to provide marriage certificates to gay couples following the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Davis is an excellent example of someone whose deeply held beliefs stem from presumed biblical mandates that are not actually so clear as she—and others—believe.

When Jennifer G. Bird penned an open letter to Davis calling attention to the Bible’s lack of clarity on the very issue Davis went to jail to assert, Davis’s supporters did more than defend Davis, they piled on Bird in the form of mean-spirited comments. Bird, however, had been kind and considerate to Davis even as she pointed out that determining what the Bible means can only occur when we first ask why. In other words, without understanding the historical and cultural context in which the Bible was written, there can be no definitive conclusion about what it might mean today.

This is the kind of work, though, that many so-called serious Bible readers eschew in favor of assuming there is very little difference between America in the 21st Century and the Mediterranean of the first.

Today as I spent time working on my notes for Mark’s gospel, I was struck once again by the call of Jesus that to be a follower, one must embrace the way of suffering. It’s a key theme for this gospel, but not one that goes over very well. Nor do we like that the way this gospel was originally penned ended with an empty tomb and the women saying nothing because they were afraid. Later writers would change the ending, making it more palatable. The risen Christ would meet the disciples and give them some last minute instruction, his triumphant image surpassing that of an empty tomb.

Despite my preparations, tomorrow when I share these insights with my class, most will find ways in their own heads to dismiss this new information, keeping their old beliefs safe from real scrutiny, believing they are protecting their precious Bibles.

For me, I’ll trust in the power of the empty tomb, the seed of doubt. Maybe there will be one or two whose hearts and minds converge in such as way that they begin to see the Bible points not toward doctrinal certainties or self-centered theologies, but instead illumine a path of compassion for others, justice for all, and love of God. I know this shift is possible because it is one I traveled, too.


More reflections on the Bible can be found in our newly published book, If Eve Only Knew, available through Amazon and Chalice Press.

Time as a Feminist Issue–Especially in Late August

We are in liminal space here, friends. Using the word “liminal” makes this space sound pretty cool, somewhat ethereal, a space I might just want to occupy. It’s also one of the words I have to look up every time I use it, and—like alterity, unpack, and deconstruct—is used amply by literature professors at academic conferences, especially when they want to show how smart they are.

What I should probably say, then, is that we are in an anxiety-ridden, soul-sucking, exhausting liminal space: that transitional time at the end of August when my husband and I are back at our teaching jobs, and my kids are still at home.

I suppose we should be used to this by now. My kids are in the eighth grade, so we’ve had a number of years where we scrambled for that one week between the start of our school year and the start of theirs. By scramble, I mean calling in favors from parents and friends, patching together our schedules so one of us can be home, and generally botching up our lives just to get through the week.

Or this year, not scheduling, botching, or patching anything whatsoever, so that on Monday morning, Ron asked me what I had arranged for the kids that day, and my response was “Nothing. You?”

They are almost old enough to make it an entire day without supervision. At thirteen, they are more a danger to each other than to themselves; and if they can manage to avoid fighting over who gets to watch what on the big TV, they might be okay. Our parenting strategy this week has included letting them stay up as late as they want, then sleep until noon, thus saving us a morning of trying to figure out supervision for them.

I’m sure the authors of Raising Kids God’s Way would see this as a successful technique, right?

On Tuesday night, when life seemed especially bifurcated between home and work, my boys and the students I teach, I read this article by Brigid Schulte about why “Time is a Feminist Issue.” She describes a life with which I am most familiar this week: when I’m trying to meet my sons’ basic needs, teach my classes, do the laundry, drive kids to practices, meet with overwhelmed students, talk to my husband, figure out the family schedule, and sleep.

She described this as “confetti time,” when women’s lives are so fragmented, so full of interruption, that even leisure time is “devoted to what others want to do . . . and make sure everyone else is happy doing it.” Which is why in the few moments I have some evenings, when I’d rather be sleeping, I watch TV shows with titles like “Call of the Wildman” or “North Woods Police.”

And the thing is, though Shulte was writing specifically about women who work outside the home, I think her idea about “confetti time” could apply to about every woman I know, who is trying to hold their lives together, and also the lives of their kids, their spouses, their parents, their friends; and whose lives are fractured and fragmented, so that even down time is subject to constant interruption.

As Shulte suggests, confetti time is almost always the provenance of women, and that men—especially those with privilege, power, prestige—have far more uninterrupted time in which to work and relax. Some would say that this is because of “God’s Design,” and that women are by their very nature built to handle the multiple interruptions they receive each day, so all is well. Men, designed by God to thrive in public spaces, need more time to do the important work of protecting and providing. (These assumptions about gender roles hold true even in places that are, for the most part, egalitarian: I’ve been asked countless times this week what I’m doing with my kids while I’m at work; I doubt my husband has received many similar inquiries.)

Shulte’s article narrates her own attempt to get away from confetti time, and to a place where her life is less fragmented, where she has more space for meaningful work, meaningful relationships, and meaningful rest. Hers is an endeavor I hope to take on this year, so that I can also escape the chaotic work and home life that often leaves me feeling scattered and exhausted.

And this week more than any other of the year, when I’m trying to do a million things and my kids have nothing to do. Still, I know we are running out of late August weeks when I will have to be in a million places at once. Things are changing, have already changed. Just last week, it seems, I was handing off Baby Benjamin to Ron in the hall outside my classroom. Was it really ten years ago today when I was picking up three-year-old Samuel in India? I swear that happened yesterday. SamandMe

Now, they only have five more years of school and five more late August weeks. Then they will be on their way to other things, to their own experiences as adults. They won’t need me to drive them places, or cook their food, or do their laundry, or arrange their rides.

Like I said, my friends, we are living in liminal space.


An Addendum: Our normal frenzy was intensified on Wednesday when I was in a car accident.  A college student who was probably frenzied as well ramming into my nice, newish Mazda, which rammed into a pickup. Down to one car and feeling a little more beat up, I had to call in even more favors, and others (fighting their own confettied time responded). That’s the thing about having amazing people in my life: I know I am not alone in my fragmentation, and that others will fragment their selves even further, just to help out a friend.

The Problem with Proverbs 31

sewing buttonsI am officially ready for the start of another semester. And by ready I mean that I have successfully re-attached two wayward buttons to the pants where they belong.

Each spring when I hang up my “work” clothes for another season, I promise myself that I will go shopping before the fall semester and purchase at least a couple of new items to spruce up my tired wardrobe and, perhaps, replace my thread-bare pants. And, each fall when I return to my closet the night before my first day back, I remember the promise I have so skillfully dismissed for another year.

This recurring cycle is how I came to the absolute dire necessity of affixing two wayward buttons. I suppose I shouldn’t feel slighted, they’ve put in a good 6-7 years. But still, I was pretty miffed when I pulled on my pants just in time for the all-faculty meeting only to discover that there was no way either button had any hold left.

For some of you, repairing my pants by reattaching two measly buttons may hardly seem like a feat to mention, much less in public. Truth be told, I am a wee-bit embarrassed to admit that sewing two buttons onto two pairs of pants took WAY longer than it should have. And, if you must know, yes, I did, in fact, learn how to sew on a button in a Jr. High home-economics class required for girls (which was the ONLY reason I was in the course, as my teacher can attest). Still, that was ages ago and while I resented then the idea that as a girl one of the requirements I had to achieve was attaching a button or repairing a sock, I still find the thing a chore—so much so that I would rather live with pants that could become undone at any point rather than break out a sewing kit (if you can call it that) and get to work.

So, if by now you are wondering why I am belaboring this point of sewing and buttons and what they have to do with being ready to teach, here it is: as a young Jr. High school girl I keenly felt the sexism embedded in the assumption that girls must be taught home economics while boys needed to know their way around saws and cars. I did not get to make a choice about what I wanted, which was to build birdhouses and checkerboards. Instead, I learned to make pudding and potatoes and cut out McCall’s patterns and somehow get the pieces to look vaguely like clothing.

The roles society deemed appropriate did not fit me then and I knew it intuitively even though I had yet to understand the social underpinnings of these so-call necessities.

Now, years later, I still resent the idea that this is a skill I should have, so much so that I have refused to become adept at something pretty mundane. The irony is, of course, the one thing I must do in order to be prepared to teach (with my feminist convictions) is to sew on buttons, a task that has been—and mostly continues to be for many—women’s work.

Maybe one day we’ll actually move beyond these baseless assumptions about gendered roles and tasks. That time is a long way off, though, if you look at any of the latest gimmicks devised by Proverbs 31 proponents.

“In many ways, the Proverbs 31 woman is evangelicalism’s Martha Stewart, minus the jail term. The Proverbs 31 woman decorates her home well, dresses in fine clothes (marked by the K-mart brand if necessary), and makes fabulous meals for her family. Compare many of the Proverbs 31 websites with Martha Stewart’s Real Simple magazine, and you see little difference: images of beautiful (white) women standing in well-appointed homes (or, inexplicably, in fields of grain); links to recipes, decorating ideas, and child-raising tips; and day-by-day resources to help make a woman’s life manageable and perfect.” (If Eve Only Knew, pg. 40)

The problem with this Proverbs 31 image is that a serious reading of Proverbs shows this is not intended to be an idea of the perfect woman. This is an image of Wisdom Woman, a feminine image of God.

Is it any wonder women are frustrated when they can’t live up to this divine reality?

For further reading about Proverbs 31 we hope you will check out our new book: If Eve only Knew.

Does Having a Period Make You Heroic?

Kendra and I are relieved that our book, If Eve Only Knew, is finally here! You can order online at Amazon, or at Chalice Press; or you can support your local bookseller and order from them (for those in my area, I suggest Chapter’s Books). You can also read a review of the book here. Let us know what you think! We’re also looking for speaking gigs where we can talk about our research, so if your book group, Sunday school class, congregation, or college course is looking for guest speakers, feel free to contact us.

Periods have been much in the news the last few weeks. And I’m not sure what to think about this.

Okay, that’s not entirely true: I know what to think about Donald Trump’s stupid comment to FOX commentator Megyn Kelly at the first Republican debate. His implication that Kelly is a raging wild woman because she’s got blood running out of her eyes and—ahem, other places—is misogynistic and stupid, but I wouldn’t expect any less from The Donald, whose so far seemingly successful run for the presidency must be causing other GOP politicians to wonder What the hell is wrong with me? and They like that guy, but not me?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just projecting a bit.

The other story about periods that’s been in the news recently is more puzzling to me, as a feminist and a marathon runner, and also as someone whose bullshit meter is sometimes too highly sensitive.

You’ve probably all seen the story, about a 26-year-old rock band member who decided to run the London Marathon while on her period, but without any kind of feminine hygiene products. Kiran Gandhi, the drummer for singer M.I.A., ran with her blood “free flowing,” saying she ran with “blood dripping down [her] legs for sisters,” for those many women around the world who don’t have access to any kind of tampons or pads. kiran gandhi

She was lauded by some folks as heroic for taking this approach, and for drawing attention to the plight of women in developing countries, including girls who cannot go to school during their periods, meaning they miss up to a week of school every month. Gandhi also said, months later in an interview with People magazine, that she wanted to “remove the stigma of menstrual cycle” by allowing her period to be on public display. “If we don’t own the narrative of our own bodies,” she said, “somebody else will use it against us.”

And, to be honest, I can see merit in those who would view Gandhi as a hero, using the London Marathon as a way to highlight a biological process that is heavily stigmatized, still, despite the preponderance of advertisements in the U.S. about period-related products, many of which promise to be discrete. We tend to act as if women don’t have periods—or, acknowledgment that this is a part of women’s lives is often done in the vein of Donald Trump, making jokes about raging lunatics on the rag and PMS bitchiness.

Still, a lot doesn’t sit right with me about Gandhi and what she has suggested is her performance art piece. Rather than making an intentional decision to highlight the plight of women in developing countries, Gandhi concluded the night before the marathon that she would forego tampons while running. She started her period, worried that wearing a tampon might not be comfortable while running the marathon, decided to just let her blood flow freely, and then apparently came up with a cause to support what seemed, at least initially, a choice made on the basis of her own sense about running with hygiene products.

(And a silly choice at that: I’ve run countless races while on my period, and the presumed discomfort of wearing a tampon never even crossed my mind. Gandhi was more likely to experience chaffing from bloodied underwear and tights than any damage a tampon might do.)

More troubling to me, the entire event smacks of privilege that Gandhi herself fails to acknowledge. Running a marathon is itself a very privileged act: you need both time and money to train for and compete in a marathon; even beyond the entry fee, you have to have ample time to train, time that most people in the world do not have.

But she also has the privilege of making the choice to wear protection or not while running. I imagine if impoverished women had the opportunity to let their blood flow freely or wear a tampon, they would choose the latter, and would no doubt wonder what kind of crazy-ass woman would make a different choice, if she had the resources to do so.

Some have argued that Gandhi was showing how periods are natural, that by bleeding freely, she was challenging us to see the menstrual cycle as part of a woman’s biology, and thus nothing to be reviled. All well and good: I agree that women’s bodies and reproductive capabilities have for too long (read: all of history) been seen as abhorrent and shameful.

I’m not sure, though, that letting blood run freely is the best antidote to this stigmatization. Because, by extension, we might say defecating is also a natural part of the digestive process, but I can’t imagine many people would see a runner’s poop-filled shorts as heroic. Though as most runners will tell you, not pooping in your shorts can sometimes demand heroic effort.

I may be missing something in this story. Maybe I should see Gandhi as a feminist hero. Maybe I should be grateful that she’s brought attention to the plight impoverished women worldwide, recognizing that I’ve done little (okay, nothing) of similar magnitude. Yet something doesn’t sit right with me about this. I may need convincing that Kiran Gandhi is actually helping all women be exactly who they were made to be, blood flowing freely or not.

The winner of the London Marathon issued a statement yesterday about Gandhi. Her name is Tigist Tufa, though few people know that, because she hasn’t received any press, despite winning one of the world’s major races. Tufa points out the disparity, that although she won the race, Gandhi’s stunt is featured, taking attention away from, according to Tufa, “what really fights sexism”: beating thousands of men in a race, and showing the strength and power of women’s bodies.

If I wasn’t sure before that Kiran Gandhi did nothing heroic, Tufa’s statement convinced me. But maybe I’m wrong. Anyone want to explain what I’m missing?

Getting Inked, Middle Age, and Surviving Crises

I got a tattoo a few weeks ago to celebrate my mid-life crisis.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. My crisis has been in full swing for awhile now, and the tattoo was—at least ostensibly—a way to celebrate my amazing sister and the wonderful friendship we share. (And to experience a little pain together, though she told me it wasn’t going to hurt. Pshhh: It did hurt. A lot.)

The tattoo was a Reiki symbol for friendship, and is supposed to symbolize the essence of God we see in each other, and in ourselves. It also has a “S” swirled into it, which we decided denoted “sister” and “Springer,” our maiden name.

tattoosHaving a little bit of ink makes me feel somewhat bad-assed, I won’t lie. I told a few close friends that I will need to find new, inventive ways to show my tattoo off in class, so my students can see me for the hip, relevant professor I’m purporting to be. Will it seem too odd if I teach with my leg up on a desk, so everyone can view my tat?

Anyway, I convinced my husband that getting a tattoo with my sister was part of my middle-aged crisis, and probably better (Cheaper? More modest?) than buying a new sports car or splurging on surgical enhancements, the stereotypic symbols of middle-aged crises that often make us snigger at the fools who are struggling so mightily with half their lives behind them.

When I was younger—like, in my 30s—I assumed this middle age crisis thing would never catch me, that it was media-manufactured or, in the least, the provenance of vain people who couldn’t stand getting older.

Boy, was I wrong, something I discovered a few years after turning 40. And, in conversations I’ve been having with my same-aged peers of late, it seems we are all grappling with similar core concerns, no matter how we’ve spent the first part of our grown-up lives, either well entrenched in a career we loved; or staying uneasily in a job because it provided steady income; or being home with children, who are now growing up.

Our life crises look something like this: We wonder if we are doing exactly what God wishes for us, if we’ve chosen the best vocations. We wonder if we’ve made the best choices for our families—and for ourselves. We wonder if we are making a difference in our worlds. We wonder how we are supposed to spend the next part of our lives.

And also, we are beginning to see the natural entropy that accompanies being human. That damn unwanted belly fat is one thing, but we also experiencing—or witnessing—peers going through serious medical issues. We are witnessing our parents getting older, less the capable adults than they once were, when they made our teenaged lives miserable. Those people who served as mentors are also aging and dying, making us wonder who will we look up to for the next 50 years. Who will serve as our guides, our wise teachers? Will we be forced to navigate life on our own?

No wonder so many of my middle-aged friends feel in acute crisis. Because on top of all of this, we are told by the media (of course) but also by our church communities that being middle aged means we are no longer as relevant. Think about how many articles have been published in recent years, wringing hands about those millennials who are leaving the church, or how churches can appeal to millennials, or how millennials need something more than what the church offers, because they think more deeply about scripture, long for social justice ministries, have rejected the creeds and songs that older folks must like. For middle-aged women in the church, the news is even worse: according to most Titus 2 ministries, the best opportunity we have is to mentor younger women in the domestic arts, our own vocational aspirations now a thing of the past.

Turns out, being middle aged can make one despair completely, to sink into darkness, turn to addictive substances, or choose to abandon a family or career in quest of something better, a chimera promising happiness if only things were different. I know plenty of people who have taken these paths. Suddenly, just getting a little tattoo seems a fairly benign response to turning 47.

Benign, but also symbolic. At least for me, and not because I want to prove myself to still be bad-assed, still hip and relevant.

The symbol my sister and I chose suggests we see the essence of God in each other, and in ourselves, that we recognize and embrace what is holy in each other. And not only in each other, but in the people around us who reflect God to us each day. This has been the most pleasant surprise of my middle-aged life, that—now more than ever—I see clearly the ways God works through the people around me, a community of people willing to reflect the essence of God to me and to others.

If I need a touchstone, a mentor to guide me, I need only look to the folks around, peers my age whose pretenses have been burned away by youth, failure, grief, success and disappointment. More significantly, while these folks still believe deeply in Jesus, they’ve also relinquished the clichéd bullshit that sometimes counts for conversation in religious communities.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still stuck in the middle-aged trenches with plenty of others, feeling their crises. And in moments of clarity, I’m still grateful that I have a chance to be middle aged, knowing this is in itself a gift, one that plenty of others never have opportunity to experience.

But to be honest, I’m looking forward to 50. Oprah says life gets immeasurably better when a woman turns 50, and Oprah is always right, you know. Until then, I’ll keeping seeking the essence of God in those around me, all the while feeling a little bit edgy and relevant with my tiny tattoo.

A Biblical Response to SCOTUS

Along with everyone else I have closely followed my facebook feed this Friday in the wake of the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality. Wanting to fully experience this historical moment, I’ve simultaneously watched cable news while reading how my facebook friends responded to today’s ruling.

While many celebrated the news I noticed one who posted a link to Christianity Today where a group of Christian conservatives had already penned a rebuttal, signing their names as if their gravitas among evangelicals and fundamentalists would somehow stem the tide of social momentum.

There is no doubt about it: the ruling in favor of marriage equality will be fodder for an increased backlash among this group of Christians who claims to be marginalized, trounced beneath the cultural wars as America stampedes into the abyss.

I find it interesting, however, that this alliance of Christians—pastors, university leaders, popular writers—speaks so dishonestly about the Bible. They say the Bible “clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman.” Arguing this truth is non-negotiable, the signers urge evangelicals to remain steadfast to this belief while resisting an accommodation to culture.

Those familiar with the Bible—people who know it doesn’t speak with one voice and in one time and place—realize the Bible makes no such claims. Abraham, the great patriarch himself, had multiple wives as did others including King David, the so-called man after God’s own heart.

Instead of deepening this cultural dividing line by establishing their “declaration” of rightness, wouldn’t it be more biblical—and thus more godly—if in lieu of making such simplistic claims, arming people for epic social wars, these leaders decided to take the Bible seriously? What if, for example, Christians sought to practice the simple concept of loving one’s neighbor? How might that decision change the conversation post SCOTUS?

In timely coincidence, I happen to be reading Is the Homosexual my Neighbor: A Positive Christian Response by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. First published in 1978, they cogently argued for Christians to not only understand homosexuality more fully, but also to be more biblically literate, especially with passages that have been used to malign and discount people who are homosexual. As I read what they wrote almost forty years ago, I’m struck by how little has changed at least among the most vocal evangelical leaders (although this is changing for most younger people).

I’ve been reminded, too, by Scanzoni and Mollenkott of the importance of historical context and how disregarding it enables people to misinterpret the Bible (usually to support an already formed perspective). For example, the often quoted narrative of Sodom and Gomorrah is used to condemn homosexuality even though one of the well-accepted approaches to biblical interpretation requires studying how the Bible explains or illumines itself. In this case, there is no mention of homosexuality as the sin condemning Sodom and Gomorrah, but rather their inhospitable actions: greed, pride, excess, lack of care for the poor. When Jesus speaks of Sodom, it is not homosexuality that he addressed but the lack of hospitality.

So, what would it look like for Christians concerned with biblical morality to respond to the SCOTUS decision differently?

It would begin with hospitality rather than arrogance and ignorance. Placing one’s morality or theology at the center of a response is a self-centered act. It is saying that one’s own position is more important than that of one’s neighbor. Such actions are never reflected in Jesus’ own life as recounted in the gospels. The good news was that he welcomed all people, not placing them in categories or treating them differently depending upon who they were. Jesus’ ethic illustrated that loving one’s neighbor was more important than fulfilling the religious law, that relationship trumped righteousness every time.

Instead of signing statements of beliefs and declarations of certainty, I would hope Christian leaders and people of faith would reach out in affirmations of love, making their own commitments to learn to practice hospitality, the true biblical message.