Solomon knew what he was talking about. Intuitively we know it to be true. Experientially we take in the reality.
We have grown accustomed to the exception, the event where a mother leads poorly. Even if we hear more incidents than we care, we should not create a new rule.
How Did She Become So Wise?
Your mother may not have been omniscient. Mine was. At least it seemed so. Like the time when I skipped class in high school and showed up at Taco Bueno. How did she know I would be there?! She played it real cool. Rather than embarrass me in front of my friends, she waited to talk with me after school.
Then there was that time in the third grade where I was expressing my new-found vocabulary on the phone. How did she know to pick up the extension to discover my new verbs and adjectives? Spooky I tell you.
Over time we learn that mothers often develop a special sense. Call it intuition if you will. Or, maybe they pay attention to the threads that helped them develop into the people they become, the mothers they are.
Solomon begins his poetic instruction with, Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction. Who could, or would, omit the influence of relationships?
We are preparing for a summer preaching series through Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. N.T. Wright describes the difficulty in forming a hard and fast opinion since at nearly every point a footnote may show another perspective. His position on issues related to the letter have changed over time. He writes,
Having studied this letter intensively for much of my adult life, I of course, believe that my current opinions on its historical and theological meaning, though humble, are accurate. But the example of others, and the memory of my own past changes of mind, leave me under no illusions as to the provisional nature of my conclusions. (The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10, p.395. Italics mine.)
Refreshing. World renowned New Testament scholar admits to the provisional nature of his conclusions. Could we get an Amen!
Biblical scholars spend an amount of time working to understand the context of the particular book of the Bible they study. Michael Bird, for instance, takes time to suggest what prompted Paul to write to the Roman Christians in his recent volume in the Story of God commentary series. (The Story of God Bible Commentary: Romans) search included looking for internal evidence that together would help shape a better perspective from which to explicate the narrative behind Paul’s letter.
It is important to consider the influences that shape the way Bird, Wright, or any other writer approaches the Bible.
Stephanie Crowder provides an illustration.
I first heard the term womanist applied to theology during a conversation with John Franke some ten years ago. We were talking about how our personal location, our own setting, prods us when reading the Bible and doing theology. John remarked that it was important to listen to a variety of people, particularly those with different lived experiences. Womanist refers to African-American Women.
Alice Walker coined the term. It would be too easy to say it is African-American Feminism. On a deeper level the term calls attention to the way the African-American Woman experiences life, particularly in America, different than White Women.
Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder picks up the Womanist thread and enjoins readers to consider the way gender, race, class and motherhood prompt the reader to hear the Bible as specifically attuned to the plight of African-American Mothers. Crowder’s new book, When Momma Speaks: The Bible and Motherhood from a Womanist Perspective, provides the reader with a simple introduction to Womanist thought, demonstrates her particular nuance related to motherhood and explores. She writes,
Hence, I began playing with the idea of womanist maternal thought. I first noticed “womanist” while reading Alice Walker’s book, In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden. Whereas she includes an extensive definition of the term, what struck me was the line “loves herself.” I did love who I was as a preacher, teacher, and author. I definitely loved who I was as a mother; and thanks to a conversation with another woman, my scholarship would reflect this. (When Momma Speaks, Loc. 87, Kindle Edition)
Did you know Bathsheba helped Solomon become king? Here is how Crowder introduces her chapter that points up the instinct of the mother to fight for her children particularly present among African America mothers,
In examine the story of Bathsheba as a fearless mother, there is a bad-woman-good-matricar-bad-woman tension. Ask anyone who Bathsheba was, and the most immediate answer: “She is the woman, bathing on the roof, who slept with David.” Rarely will anyone note Bathsheba’s role in securing the kingdom for her son, Solomon. Even if readers mention this, they revert back to the “woman who caused David to kill her husband Uriah.” Society likes a good story but loves the bad stuff. This chapter seeks to move Bathsheba from an eroticized voiceless object to a savvy, articulate matriarch. (When Momma Speaks, Loc.1397, Kindle Edition)
The reader will appreciate the skill Crowder applies to figures like: Hagar, Rizpah, Bathsheba, Mary, The Canaanite Woman, and Zebede’s Wife.
We may need a fearless spirit when preparing to listen to others. Claims of perspectivalism generally flare from those whose dominant opinions become shrouded in something other than humility. Remember, someone as convinced as N.T. Wright considers our opinions provisional, formed from our own lived experience. The point is not to undo your opinion. Rather, the project calls for us to develop a breadth beyond ourselves.
For that, I say think you Stephanie Crowder.
I think you will too.
(I am hopeful to interview Stephanie in June for an upcoming podcast. You won’t want to miss that one.)