This week marks the official release of my new book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. You can pick it up at a local bookstore or order online, but before you do, there are a few things you should know:
1. It’s a little weird. One chapter includes a sonnet I wrote to the beast of Revelation 13. Another features an original short screenplay that renders the story of Job into a dramatic conversation between colleagues in a college cafeteria. Between chapters 6 and 7 you get to choose your own adventure. So in addition to the personal, memoir-style reflections you’ve come to expect from me, Inspired includes some ventures into new genres—poetry, fiction, soliloquies, and vignettes—all while integrating into the narrative biblical scholarship that I hope will help you read and engage the Bible better. I wrote WAY out of my comfort zone with this one, and I think…I hope…it works.
2. I’m far more insecure about #1 than I’m letting on.
3. It’s not for everyone. If you routinely use words like “clear,” “straightforward,” or “plain,” to describe the Bible, if you remain unbothered by the Bible’s most violent stories and troubling instructions, if you use the term “biblical manhood” un-ironically, you probably won’t like it. But if you’re eager to encounter the Bible in a way that engages your skepticism, imagination, hopes, and doubts, and if you’re willing to confront the Bible’s most difficult passages head-on without relying on simplistic explanations, then I wrote this book for you.
4. For those keeping tally, this book includes one Arrested Development reference, which I believe brings the grand total for all my books to six.
5. I researched the heck out of this book. I’m not a Bible scholar, but I’m the kind of person who likes nothing more than to spend a Saturday night in my pajamas curled up with a good Bible commentary. What I wanted to do with Inspired was share some of the most interesting, paradigm-shifting, and life-changing scholarship I’ve encountered over the last few years in a way that is accessible and personal. What does it mean that Genesis 1 is better understood as an ancient Near Eastern creation narrative meant to stand in contrast to other popular Babylonian creation narratives encountered by the Jews in exile? How in the world does that information impact our day-to-day lives?
That was my challenge in writing this book, and I had an absolute ball doing it. I was also hyper-vigilant about crediting my sources, and I ran this manuscript by more people than any previous manuscript, including Old Testament and New Testament scholars. I don’t expect every reader to agree with every word—not by a long shot—but I did my homework. (If you’re interested, the most influential scholars for this project were Walter Brueggemann, Peter Enns, Delores Williams and other womanist scholars like Wil Gafney and Nyasha Junior, John Walton, Ellen Davis, Amy-Jill Levine, Phyllis Trible, N.T. Wright. Timothy Beal, James Come, Eugene Boring, and James Brownson. I also rely heavily on what I’ve learned in recent years from Jewish midrash and Ignatian spirituality.)
6. I really hope you will consider reading this one with a group. More than any other book I’ve written, Inspired is intended to be read, wrestled with, discussed, debated, and creatively engaged in the context of community, precisely because I believe the Bible invites us to do those things. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be sharing additional resources, including a 40-page reading guide, for those of you who choose to read Inspired for a book club, in Sunday school, as a class project, or with your small group. So keep an eye out for that.
7. This will always be my “baby book.” I started writing “Inspired” shortly after the birth of my son in 2016, and we are publishing just three weeks after the birth of my daughter in May of 2018. This is the book I wrote in between nursing sessions and on just a few hours of sleep. It’s the one that required hauling my exhausted ass to libraries and coffee shops for just a few moments of quiet to crank out 300 words here and 1,000 words there. It’s the book I was writing when the corners of my world both expanded to encompass reaches of love previously unknown and contracted to attend to the daily tasks of waking, feeding, diapering, and laundering. Every book takes a village, but this one took a veritable city of friends, family, agents, and editors, willing to give of their time and work at odd hours to ensure I could continue writing. I am so, so grateful.
8. I need your help getting the word out. With a new baby at home, I’m not able to do a book tour or many media interviews, so I’m relying heavily on my readers and on social media to generate sales. One of the most effective things you can do to help is to take a picture of your favorite quote from the book and share it with your friends. Use #InspiredBook for that. Posting reviews to Amazon and Goodreads is also appreciated.
As always, thanks for your readership and support. It never fails to humble and move me that you would want to spend time in the company of my words. May they challenge you to see the Bible, and the world it illuminates, in ways that inspire.
© 2018 All rights reserved.
Copying and republishing this article on other Web sites without written permission is prohibited.