The first time I heard the name Mephibosheth I laughed, a belly laugh.
Maybe it was in the first or second grade. I got a case of the giggles so bad I disrupted the class. Despite my attempts to control myself, I don’t think I did until my teacher said she would talk to my mother.
Every time I read a story that references Mephibosheth I remember that moment.
Sitting here writing up this post to introduce my conversation with Stephanie Buckanon Crowder brought this back to mind. We did not talk about Mephibosheth. We did talk about his mother.
Who Is Rizpah?
One of my favorite stories is of King David did the unthinkable by showing kindness to his former enemies children. Regime change includes a cleansing of enemies, not kindness.
“Is there anyone left from the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness?”, David asks. Enter Mephibosheth. Lame in both feet and cared for by others, King David made a place for Mephibosheth and promised food and attention. Huge for someone characterized as physically disabled.
I have preached that story more than once.
But I never knew Mephibosheth’s mother until I talked with Stephanie. She did not mention Mephibosheth. She did talk and write about Rizpah.
Without Rizpah and Saul, there would be no Mephibosheth.
She is a mother.
Why Does It Matter?
Mothers matter. Few would disagree. Solomon instructed those reading his proverbs, don’t reject your mother’s teaching. Have you considered that after Solomon’s birth we find little to nothing about Bathsheba?Not until the prophet Nathan enlists her help? And, that when all is said and done, it is Bathsheba that steps in to ensure Solomon becomes the next king of Israel. Maybe he had that event in mind. Not just what she said, but also what she did.
In When Momma Speaks, Stephanie Crowder relates six stories of mothers in the Bible: Hagar, Rizpah, Bathsheba, Mary, The Canaanite Woman, and Zebedee’s wife. Her project reminds us that we do not read any text neutrally. Even more importantly, we must be careful to consider the way our reading, even if considered dominant, lacks.
We must listen to others in the room. Specifically, Crowder challenges that when talking about the biblical text we need to hear others in the Christian room whose lens are different. Stephanie approaches these stories from the combination of three lenses – African-American, Woman, and Mother. Her work with the stories reveals a more robust read accompanied by an uncanny way of bringing the situations forward into our day.
The Text Is Not Flat
The notion the earth is flat is making a comeback. Most of us shake our heads in disbelief. We have seen the photo images from space. Metaphorical descriptions, the ends of the earth, read as literal flatten out the emphasis.
We want to be careful flattening out the bible in the same way. Reading the Scriptures from only one lens – white, male, father – will end up with particular emphases. When pressed as the only read of the text, Christians make a Freudian error.
Freud’s observations influenced our understanding of childhood development. Only later was it realized Freud’s control group comprised of only boys did not take account of the female child’s development. Startling as it was, there are very different experiences with rules and play, the social and the structural.
When Momma Speaks provides an illustration the Sacred Text is not flat.
However, to leave it at that is to reduce Stephanie’s work in a way that would in the end flatten it out to a one dimensional work.
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I hope you will listen to our conversation. Let’s talk about it in the comments here.
Remember, “Listen to your momma!”
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