We finish reading the book of Acts this week, chapters 22-28. I think this is the first time I’ve read the book of Acts all the way through, and it strikes me how prominent a role Paul plays in it. I’ve tended to think of him as “that dude who wrote those letters that everyone has an opinion about and who inspired others to write similar letters in his name that everyone also has opinions about” without always considering his context and who he was as a person. Matthew Skinner notes, “Paul’s ability to continue his efforts as a witness to Christ, even while held captive under imperial authority, intimates that God is able to manipulate and incapacitate Rome’s ostensible power to limit the ministry of the word. The final verse of Acts, underscoring Paul’s freedom to proclaim the kingdom of God “with all boldness and without hindrance,” even while captive, likewise suggests that the word of God is capable of making use of or overcoming mechanisms of sociopolitical control. Acts does not depict an outright revolutionary gospel, but a gospel that will find venues for its proclamation despite any forces – political or otherwise – that threaten to restrict it.” (p. 386)
As the United States’ moral imagination appears to become more concerned with what and who is legal, rather than what is ethical, compassionate, and kind, it is important to remember that it is possible for God to work anywhere, with anyone, in any situation. At the same time, we must always be watching and listening for signs of God’s presence and work in the world so that we can be a part of God’s work in the world.
This week we read Part 3, “Managing Your Fears,” Chapter 11, “Fear,” of the T+P+A Big Read 2019, The Lifelong Activist. Like anger, Rettig reminds us, “Fear, in itself, is not a bad thing – it can help keep us out of trouble. Just as it was in our remote ancestors’ interest to be scared of terrain likely to harbor predators, it is in our interest to be scared of certain risky situations. The problem is when our fears are excessive, irrational or otherwise an impediment to our growth and success.”
And: “Failure and success are red herrings. Enjoy success when it happens, learn from failure when it happens, and always try to locate the element of success in any failure. But in each case, whether you succeed or fail, your job is to keep your eye on your Mission and move quickly on to the next step.” I used to be so afraid of failure that I would let it prevent me from taking any action at all. Somehow or another I found the mantra, “failure isn’t fatal.” As Rettig reminds us, enjoying success and learning from failure are secondary, in the service of our Mission.
For June and July, in honor of Pride Month (and beyond) we are reading and praying over Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology by Pamela R. Lightsey. This week we read Chapter 3, “Enable Queer-y.” Lightsey discusses the importance and cultural nuance of the way language is used in African American culture: “Although we are sexual beings, the queer life has to do with so much more. To the extent that we live, move, and have being, queer life should be understood to encompass the whole of human behavior. Finally, describing oneself as queer in the African American context in some respects can be thought of as signifying. We are taking back what was insulting and are embracing it and performatively throwing it back out so as to read those who would dare insult us.” (p. 34)
What are the ways in which you use language beyond its literal, dictionary meaning?
C’mon over to People of the Books, our online book club in which we discuss this book and whatever else is on your mind or heart!
Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world! What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.
- Goss, R. Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up, 2002.
- Guest, Deryn. The Queer Bible Commentary. Edited by Robert E. Goss, Mona West, and Thomas Bohache. London: SCM Press, 2011.
- Guest, Deryn. “The Conversion of Lydia.” The Queer Bible Commentary. Edited by Robert E. Goss, Mona West, and Thomas Bohache. London: SCM Press, 2011.
- Hall, Suzanne DeWitt. Transfigured: A 40-Day Journey through Scripture for Gender-Queer and Transgender People. D.H. Strategies, 2018.
- Hall, Suzanne DeWitt. Where True Love Is: An Affirming Devotional for LGBTQI+ Individuals and Their Allies. D.H. Strategies, n.d.
- Isherwood, Lisa. “Queer Theology.” Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
- Lightsey, Pamela R. Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2015.
- Loughlin, G. Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body, 2007.
- Luther Seminary. “Enter the Bible,” n.d. http://www.enterthebible.org/.
- Rettig, Hillary. “Solving v. Dithering” in The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way. New York, NY: Lantern Books, 2006. http://lifelongactivist.com/part-iii-managing-your-fears/8-adopting-the-three-productivity-behaviors-a-process-for-creating-behavioral-change/
- Skinner, Matthew. “Acts” in Theological Bible Commentary. Edited by Gail R. O’Day and David L. Petersen. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
- “Stonewall Uprising.” PBS: American Experience, 11 June 2019. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/.
- White, L. Michael. Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2010.
- Willimon, William H. Acts. Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988.