My Sources of Inspiration–past and present

Marta Rusek interviewed me for her regular column, Words By Friends, the FGC Quaker News. Marta had questions about my Transfigurations presentation, which is now a film. In fact, I think it is the first time someone asked me to share my sources of inspiration for this work.

Marta first asked:

Who inspires you and the work that you do? Are there individuals/groups in the world of Friends you admire that our readers should know about?

If we are talking about long gone folks, I have been influenced by the words of Walt Whitman, Issac Pennington, Caroline Stephen, and Logan Pearsall Smith. I have been guided and challenged by the words and witnesses of Lisa Graustein, Trayce Peterson, John Calvi, John and Debbie Humphries, and Kody Hersh to name just a few. I am inspired by Quaker performers and artists like Evelyn Parry and Amanda Kemp. Now that I am engaged in climate work, I have found much comfort and insights in connecting with Eileen Flanagan, Gretchen Reinhardt, Beverly G. Ward, Ruah Swennerfelt, and Jeff Hipp.

Marta then digs into Transfigurations specifically:

Your latest film, Transfigurations, examines variations of gender in the Bible. It’s a refreshing look at the Biblical stories we all know (and a new take on ones we aren’t as familiar with). What motivated you to make this film? Why did this perspective on gender in the Bible need to be shared?

I had been performing Transfigurations live for ten years. Some of this material I shared during my Bible Half Hour presentations at the 2012 FGC Gathering. I wanted to get it out to people who do not have the opportunity to see a live performance. In fact, it had been my dream for many years to make a film version, but it had to be well-done, not just a recording in front of a live audience. So much can get lost when a piece goes from stage to screen. Unexpectedly, I received a generous unsolicited donation to make the film. As a result, the movie is a high quality rendering of the performance with gorgeous camera work and editing, lots of intimate close-ups, and a well-orchestrated soundtrack.

Many people have been traumatized by religious people using the Bible as a weapon to destroy a healthy sense of self. LGBTQ people have been attacked in the name of God. Providing interpretations of sexual and gender minorities who are celebrated in the text is useful work in recovering from religious abuse. There are also non-LGBTQ people who look to the Bible for inspiration and guidance. Some of these folks have been painted into a corner in regards to LGBTQ issues. There were told that the Bible discriminates and gives them moral authority to also discriminate.

I come with good news. There are other stories in the book that have been overlooked or hidden from sight. These positive portrayals of people who do not fit certain well established notions of gender can serve as bridges to help traditional Bible believers find a loving and respectful way forward.

You can read the entire interview: Exploring Gender in the Bible Through Humor.

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