“Butler’s writing is personal, imaginative, accessible, and compelling. I found it to be an empowering page-turner.” —Walter Bruegemann The Bible has been hijacked. We’ve all seen examples of sacred scripture being used and abused to justify racism, sexism, reactionary politics, and even violence. If you have ever found yourself wondering what Bible some of your fellow believers are reading, then you are not alone. With a foreword from Brian McLaren, Who Stole My Bible?: Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny shows how the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is an inspiring handbook for finding your voice for resisting oppression of any kind. Jennifer Butler loved the Bible and her Christian faith, but then was disillusioned when it was used against her as a woman. Instead of leaving religion, she found a fresh approach to faith as liberation, and would go on to become an ordained minister and founder of Faith in Public Life, an advocacy organization. Scripture is replete with stories of those who followed God’s call to resist oppression and fearlessly pursue compassion, justice, and human dignity. Chapters focus on the liberating God of the Hebrews, the authoritarianism of King Solomon, the dream team of women in the Bible, and how Jesus came to bring truth and expose the lies of rulers. Each chapter illustrates the lessons of scripture with true stories of courageous religious communities countering authoritarianism and white supremacy in America today. This book will help you connect with generations of prophets and leaders who followed God’s call and prevailed against power to establish justice and community. If you have been burned and disregarded by the church, this book is for you. If you are on the verge of leaving your church because of the bigotry you see among Christians, this book is for you. Jennifer Butler once again rediscovered her Christian spirituality and her love of understanding the Bible in this work, and if you want to deeply connect your faith with your commitment to a more just and compassionate world, this book is for you.
Jennifer Butler is committed to amplifying the connection between faith and social justice, has a heart as a community organizer, and is an ordained minister. She is the founding Executive Director of Faith in Public Life (faithinpubliclife.org), which works to change the narrative about the role of faith in politics, wins major policy victories, and empowers religious leaders to fight for the common good.
Jennifer spent ten years working in the field of international human rights representing the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the United Nations. She’s the former chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships and was an international human rights advocate. While mobilizing religious communities to address the AIDS pandemic and advocate for women's rights she grew passionate about the need to counter religious extremism with a strong religious argument for human rights.
She is also the author of Born Again: The Christian Right Globalized, which calls for a progressive religious response to Religious Right efforts to take the culture wars global. She now blogs about progressive faith on Patheos and her writing can be found in Sojourners, The Hill, and Religion News Service.
Jennifer served in the Peace Corps in a Mayan village in Belize, Central America. A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, she also studied public policy and community organizing and graduated with an MSW from Rutgers University. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary. She lives in suburban Washington, D.C. @RevJenButler RevJenButler.com.
What a fabulous book Reverend Jennifer Butler has crafted! I had not heard of her until I read a spot-on op-ed she wrote for the Huffington Post. I was especially impressed when I learned that she, along with Reverend William Barber II, helped craft the Moral Mondays that presented the progressive Christian message in North Carolina. What a difference they have made both in that state and across the nation!
I received an advanced reader copy of this book for free.
This was an interesting book which broke down several bible stories and discussed how they related to our wider call for justice. It gave step by step ways to think about scripture and how it can be used to resists those who are unjust and who do not care about the least of these. This book was set up well if you wanted to use it as part of a small group study or a self study on the topic.
Each Chapter contains the following sections:
Our Past: Which is a relatable and personal retelling of a bible story from the point of view of the characters. Understanding the Text: Which provides historical context to the story America Today: Shows parallels between the story and our current cultural context in America A Lesson For Us: Which gives a takeaway Modern Models: Which highlight individuals and communities which are living out the pervious mentioned takeaways. Questions: Each chapter ends with questions for further thought
Who Stole My Bible? faces, with Biblical scholarship and political experience, the struggle people of faith endure in holding the polarities of allegiance to country and allegiance to God. As one of those people of faith, a progressive Christian pastor of 37 years, I found this book readable, thought-provoking and ultimately helpful in placing political history in the context of broad, sweeping Biblical narrative. This is not a book of proof texts excised from scripture to prove our president and his followers a collection of buffoons. That would be too easy. This invites us into Biblical narrative as it might have been shared around campfires or dinner tables, as tales that formed the fiber and faith of a people following a relentlessly just God. I wanted to read this book because I had read and taught Timothy Snyder’s huge little book, On Tyranny, and was hungry for a way of understanding our contemporary national and global bending toward isolationism and worse from within the narratives of my own faith tradition. Jennifer Butler has gifted us with a rich, readable, teachable, sharable volume that will bear fruit in helping each reader hold allegiance to God and country with a new sense of wonder and a willingness to question the emergence of an unhealthy relationship between the two.
As a middle-aged white male pastor who is beyond thrilled to see the young people taking to the streets demanding justice and speaking the truth that the emperor is, indeed, naked, I appreciated Butler’s summary pieces that remind us that such action is not new and must continue. “All social change starts with imagination. A people who can imagine that the world can be different is a people that cannot, will not, be controlled.” It is a line that confirms the inspiration of the young and sparks the re-imagination of those who have been engaged “in the conversation” for quite a while. It is no surprise, at least to me, then, that the Butler quote that keeps coming back to me is, “Our role as faith leaders is to challenge, not blindly follow those in office, even those we admire.” This is a very helpful time for a time that is feeling decidedly unhelpful. I recommend it.
Nine chapters. Nine short chapters and my world has changed. Taking an overarching narrative view of Scripture, Rev. Jennifer Butler forces us to re-evaluate the lens through which we, in the evangelical Christian world, tend to prooftext and manipulate Scripture into our arguably heretical and most-certainly emotional and politically-charged worldview. Enough of this nonsense, she emphatically states. “Nothing could be more important than reclaiming this radical book called the Bible and acting to make its vision for radical justice, equality, and liberation a reality.” (pg xxiv)
Furthermore, she argues, implicit within specific texts, and explicitly overarching from cover-to-cover, are the most “democratizing revelations” in all of human history. “At Sinai, we learn immediately that God –not a king-- is the powerful author of all goodness. All Israelites are charged with advancing this goodness and being a model for other nations.” In these two statements are the sub-themes for her work: (1) No man, no King, and certainly no President is intended to ever replace God as the supreme leader of God’s people. and (2) We, collectively and democratically, have been granted the authority and the ability to disseminate this “goodness” in His name.
By placing biblical stories at the center of each chapter's narrative, then stepping up to the rafters, Rev. Butler posits Believers as both the agents and the recipients of change in our world. Moreso, she reaffirms that ALL humanity, rightfully, is at the center of God’s great love.
THIS is the mandate of faithful leadership given to God’s Chosen People. THIS is the call for Christians in reclaiming our original charge. And THIS is the "City on a Hill" toward which America should be striving - a narrative she claims (and I completely resonate with!) has been hijacked by the Far Right and abused by high-profile evangelical leaders.
From Creation to the Book of Revelation, Who Stole My Bible is a must-read for any thoughtful, socially-engaged Believer. Especially if you feel like you are swimming upstream against your own. I assure you, you are not alone!
Just as the Prodigal’s Son journeyed home, so does Rev. Butler’s work feel like a long-overdue homecoming. Run, quickly, fellow Followers of Jesus! The Father is waiting. Come home.
Does it sometimes feel like someone has stolen the Bible you know and love and replaced it with something else? Or have you given up on church because what they claim is so different from what they practice? If so, you might enjoy this book.
So many peole look down on Christianity these days because too many people claim the name of Christ but often do the opposite of what Jesus taught. It's time for Christianity to get back to the teachings of Jesus and get rid of "Christian" Nationalism, which is nothing less than idolatry. If we can actually live the life Christ taught us, we will once again bring honor to the name of Christ.
A book that helped me feel not alone, especially in this divisive time. It is the first time I finished a book and wanted to go back and reread it immediately, this time with a highlighter and notebook. I am excited to share this book with my church in a book study in the coming year!
I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
“Who Stole My Bible?” is both a challenging and inspiring book. Challenging in its call to action; inspiring in its intensely personal and practical tone.
I am a Canadian, not an American, but we north of the border have watched in dismay, even horror, at recent health-related, political, and racial threats in the not-so-United States. I am not claiming that we have “it” figured out any better in my country, but know too that “a threat to democracy anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere.”
I like to think of myself as having a keen desire for equality and justice, without ever having become an activist and a spokesperson when facing strong evidence of inequality and injustice. There’s my “Canadian-ism” I suppose – kind, passive, and tolerant of all. I need to acknowledge my privilege as a white, cis-gender woman. Rev. Butler’s book, being imminently practical, has given me ideas for ways I can better live out my faith and life of following Jesus.
I stopped reading my Bible quite a while ago, too troubled by its patriarchy and violent depictions of God, among other things, but Rev. Butler has given me pause to read it anew, with a new lens, as anti-empire, subversive literature that starts a conversation that needs to continue in our critical day and age. As Brian McLaren writes in his introduction, “Instead of writing about the Bible in general, Jen guides us deep into nine specific passages of Scripture. Instead of telling us how the Bible can be better used in theory, she shows us in practice.
Rev. Butler summarizes it as follows: “For me, Scripture is at the same time ‘God-Breathed’ and an account of an imperfect people struggling to draw near to what is holy and good. Scripture was written by people with often-flawed perspectives, translated by people with agendas, and is preached by people with blind spots. The overarching theme of Scripture is God’s intervention in history as One who hears the groans of oppressed people and acts. We understand the Bible best when we try to join that story.”
Thank you, Rev. Butler, for that compelling invitation and challenging opportunity.
title: Who Stole My Bible? Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny author: Jennifer Butler date: 2020 publisher: Faith in Public Life
Rev. Jennifer Butler, a Presbyterian minister who leads a movement called Faith in Public Life, address some of the questions that have been raised about how the Bible has been used to defend judgments and practices at cross purposes with the goal of a beloved community. Butler writes: “For me, Scripture is at the same time ‘God-Breathed’ and an account of an imperfect people struggling to draw near to what is holy and good. Scripture was written by people with often-flawed perspectives, translated by people with agendas, and is preached by people with blind spots. The overarching theme of Scripture is God’s intervention in history as One who hears the groans of oppressed people and acts. We understand the Bible best when we try to join that story.” Butler lays out each chapter, which looks at a different bible story, with the following sections: Our Past: A personal retelling of a bible story from the point of view of the characters. Understanding the Text: Provides historical context to the story America Today: Butler, highlights some parallels between the story and the current cultural context in America A Lesson For Us: A takeaway Modern Models: Highlights individuals and communities which are living out the takeaways. Questions: Each chapter ends with questions for further thought. You may not agree with all her conclusions about the text, but you will start to ask some fresh questions of the text. And the Bible will come alive again.
DISCLOSURE: I received this book free through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Rev. Jennifer Butler, in her new book, “Who Stole My Bible? Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny,” places the Bible in one hand and a vision of the span of our U.S. history in the other hand. Then she enfolds the two as she compares and contrasts how humanity has responded to God’s call to salvation. This wonderful book, with its extensive bibliography, helps readers delve deeper into their faith and into means for social action. Butler’s meeting point is TODAY – a U.S. election and the future of democracy. The book is truly a ‘handbook’ for what we must do after the election results are tabulated. Starting with creation in Genesis and ending with the new heaven and new earth in Revelation, Butler uses scripture to enlighten contemporary events and the historical backdrop to what is happening today. She asks us to do the same through questions at the end of each chapter. Butler says, “I hope the texts will give you courage for the facing of this hour in our nation’s history. I hope these stories will empower you to move from intent to action. I hope they give you courage to speak, whether to friends and family or in the public square. Your voice as a Christian, respectful of all faiths and ethical traditions, is desperately needed so all may live in dignity and peace.” I have gained much hope by reading and pondering this book. I'm on my second round. I too want to offer it to friends! Jean Schafer
This book by Rev. Jennifer Butler was just what I needed right now. The title intrigued me, but I had missed the subtitle until I was done reading the book and thinking about what to write in my review. The subtitle definitely describes my thinking and quite honestly I had never read the Bible, in total, as resistance literature. That was a wonderful, enlightening piece this book brought to me.
"Who Stole My Bible?" is a thought-provoking and hopeful book. It shined a light on the role of female leadership throughout the Bible in one chapter (though these important contributions have often been minimised or ignored) and confronts our nation's original sins of white supremacy and slavery in another, (will we finally, as white people, face our past and bring justice to all the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color we as a country have wronged?) I have hope that we can change things and begin living in a more just and equitable society.
Rev. Butler also has discussion questions at the end of each chapter-great for small groups. A list of resources is at the end of the book and I plan to make full use of it!
Excellent, worthwhile read! I will go back to it many times.
I was provided an advanced copy of this book by the publisher and this is my honest opinion based on my reading.
“Who Stole My Bible: reclaiming scripture as a handbook for resisting tyranny” is particularly timely. The author looks at the Bible in the context of the time it was written, and how radically Jewish and Christian beliefs contrasted with other cultures of that time.
For example, in writing about the Genesis creation story and the current focus on science vs the Bible, she reminds us that “Genesis wants to tell us what kind of God created us, not how we were created.” She then goes on to compare the Genesis creation with another culture’s creation story.
There will be people who disagree with this challenge to their view of scripture. I am not one of them. I found it gave me a deeper understanding of scripture and was thought provoking and insightful. At about 130 pages plus appendices, it’s not a large book, but there is much to ponder and chew on. I would love to be part of a discussion of this book, especially with those who hold other views. Respectful and stimulating conversations, even or perhaps especially when we disagree can lead to a deeper understanding of scripture and how it applies to our world today, even if we don’t come to any consensus on it.
I will definitely be reading this book again and sharing it with others.
We are more conditioned than we realize to read the Bible with a whole set of pre-conceived ideas, impressions, and social nuance, but here is a book that will help you break free and see a freshly authentic take on some key passages and a core theme to Christianity: liberation.
As Reverend Jennifer Butler explains, "Christianity has been hijacked to serve empire and tyranny." Ultimately, Christianity is liberating, personally and politically. Yet religion, including Christianity, has been entangled with power and corrupted by those who abuse it for exclusive gain, historically and presently.
I especially enjoyed her take on one of those Old Testament books that American evangelicals often avoid or have trouble understanding: Ecclesiastes. In her view, "I have come to see the story of Solomon and his Temple as a cautionary tale about the unacceptable costs of authoritarianism and empire rather than the story of a wise ruler." In our rush to create a Disney version of the Bible, we miss its irony and the provocative nature of its narrative arc.
We all need to work on better habits for reading and understanding the ancient, sacred texts of our amazing traditions, and Who Stole My Bible? is a tonic and a help.
"Who Stole My Bible" causes me to pause, to cringe, to wrestle, and to argue with myself about my own attitude about the Bible and how it has been used and misused by so many. Rev. Jen Butler finds the nails of my discontent and hits them squarely on their heads, which not many do with grace and objectivity. In Chapter 2, as she describes a "good" God, I found myself wrestling and asking the question about how much more we lean toward the God of the Babylonians rather than the God of Creation, described in the Book of Genesis. We are supposed to image God, she writes, and I wholeheartedly agree, but the reminder in her book saddened me because so many of us do not image God at all. Her inclusion of the current political climate adds thickness to the gravy of belief she makes with her words, making the point that there is a difference between Christianity and Christian Nationalism. I read this book in bits and pieces, because I have to chew on what I've read. It's a good book, and a challenging book as well.
My first, and lasting, impression of this book is that it is a good book for a church reading/discussion group. In it, the author explores some familiar Bible stories and a smattering of biblical history from a social justice standpoint. In the main, she does a good job of it, though I often found her second person narratives a little strained.
The questions at the end of the chapters really could make for good discussions in that church reading group, and could easily spark some interesting conversations.
I fear it is not destined to become a classic, however, because it will rapidly date itself and age out of relevance. Even though this is a new book, written before the 2020 election, many of the political and cultural references already seemed out of date to me. I fear it could be really stale in 10 years or so. 'Tis a pity.
All in all, this is a good book right now for those unhappy at the hard and often hateful Conservatives who have laid claim to religion and the Bible to foster hatred and division.
Butler takes familiar passages and helps us see how they apply to America today. Her book is a reminder that there are many ways to read and interpret Scripture. Her readable book includes discussion questions that help remind us that we, too, can read the Bible and redefine our relationship with a book that is often used to condemn rather than to free.
Her discussion of idolatry helps us see that we all have "golden calves" and that we aren't that far from those who, many years ago, replaced God with a god of their own making, creating God in their own image, rather than realizing that we were created in the image of God.
The book reads as if the reader was having a conversation over a cup of tea, and at the end of the conversation, you realize that you have been changed by it.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for spiritual grounding in these tumultuous times.
Jennifer Butler has written an excellent and accessible book that seeks to recover the Bible's message of liberation and resistance from the many powers that have so successfully domesticated it. By creatively and skillfully weaving neglected and misunderstood biblical stories with contemporary incarnations of these stories, Butler connects the long-obscured dots between the biblical narrative and justice movements today. In doing so, she offers a life raft for individuals and communities who are reluctant to abandon their sacred texts but have felt alienated from so much religious discourse that has offered comfort to those perpetuating injustice. Butler's book is unlikely to shift the perspectives of any who are disinclined to see a progressive agenda within the Bible, but it will surely provide encouragement and hope for those who have been longing for these connections between the spiritual and political made so clear and compelling.
I will be honest that I was not sure what I was getting into when I started to read "Who Stole my Bible" by Rev. Jennifer Butler. I received an advanced copy from the publisher and was both surprised and pleased by what I was reading. Rev. Butler's words really challenged me on certain issues which is really timely in the day and age we are in. I also appreciated the way each chapter was laid out, looking at scripture from a story-telling perspective, really getting to understanding the Biblical text, and then the lesson it teaches us today. Each chapter ended with discussion questions that helped solidify the concepts. I am very glad I had the opportunity to read this book!
"Nothing could be more important than reclaiming this radical book called the Bible and acting to make its vision for radical justice, equality, and liberation a reality."
I could have stood up & applauded this book!
The author states “I felt lost. I read Scripture for myself, but what I read did not match up with what I was hearing from the pulpit and from the Moral Majority.” This statement is like healing balm for my heart. I have felt for years like I did not have a spiritual home because of trying to rectify what I felt in my heart but what I was seeing through others actions.
This book will be one of those books that I will come back to over and over again.
I'm so grateful to Jennifer Butler for distilling so much wisdom - both hers and others' - into this accessible and totally engaging book. The way she connects scripture to today (and especially to today's political climate) gave me confidence as well as tools for talking about these concerns. For those of us newly concerned about the health of our very democracy, this makes me hopeful that by following Jesus, learning scripture, and using what we learn today, we can find our way to a place of freedom and liberation. I'm now in the process of continuing to learn about the writers, theologians and leaders she draws on to paint this picture. Thank you Jennifer!
This book challenged me to think in ways I had not before. I thought that how we treated each other and the changes in the course of history-had improved to include all people. Instead, we have become lax as to treating others unfairly-by way of gender, ethnicity, religion, in politics, morals, and in other ways. I appreciate how Dr. Butler shares her experiences, insights, changes seen throughout history and scripture from the Bible, to bring this book together. I was challenged to admit that bias takes place in many different forms all across the world-but just as much in recent days-right here where I live. We all need to take an introspective tour of our thoughts, feelings, reactions and views. To also take personal responsibility for how we treat one another. God is the center of all of this. We can hold strong together in faith and make the changes necessary to better our world for His kingdom.
It's Election Day, I'm a mainline Protestant pastor with folks on both sides of the aisle, and I have HOPE because I just finished "Who Stole My Bible?". The title alone is a classic; when did thinking Christians give up the right to read and interpret scripture for themselves?! We must read to "resist tyranny." America IS the Empire from which Jesus came to set us free. Finally, I'm not alone in my questions about the Religious Right (which is, in fact, neither). Rev. Butler invites the reader to enter the very stories of people in the Bible, with riveting awareness.
Rev. Butler has helped me realize how numb I have become to suffering, which is unhelpful as a protective measure and worse, perpetuates harm. As a lifelong Christian and now pastor, I appreciate her interpretation of Scripture, convictions and creative storytelling. She has inspired me to approach the news with more empathetic prayer, to learn more about our history, and to bravely resist tyranny as an act of faith. This book can be part of our collective healing process and I'm excited to share it.
The title of “Who Stole My Bible?” resonated deeply with me as I’ve watched the Bible be used to defend behavior that seems entirely at odds with the Christian principles I hold so dear. This book has inspired me to dive back into Scripture with new eyes to look for some of the richness I might have missed in the past. I hope people read “Who Stole My Bible?” and are inspired to accept God’s invitation to create a community built “on love of neighbor and human dignity.” Note: I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher, and this is my honest opinion about the book.
Excellent book on the subject of living out faith by upholding justice, mercy. There are many followers of Jesus who are concerned about how Scriptures are used to justify actions that are not in line with the teachings and heart of the Gospel. I have also heard Jennifer Butler speak and she is both loving and realistic, gentle and strong. I appreciate her explanation of Revelation which is much more Biblical and different from what many have taught in recent times. I did a lot of underlining while reading this book!
Jen Butler's voice cuts through a religious landscape that too often paints religion and progressive action as if they were mutually exclusive. Through compelling stories and deep work with Scripture, she beautifully articulates the liberative heart of Scripture, and shows how it can be a guidebook for robust and faithful civic engagement. Definitely recommend to anyone who's looking to rebuild a faith that works for freedom.
I am currently reading this wonderful book. Biblical scriptures are being misrepresented to serve very perverse political ideologies. Reverend Butler has a very readable easy to understand style of writing which lays out the above premise of this book clearly and concisely. This is very readable by folks also who may not be believers or churchgoers but nevertheless is accessible to anyone. I will add to this review as I finish and re read portions of this insightful book.
Rev. Butler has written a terrific resource for Christians who want to resist authoritarianism and autocracy but have been nurtured in Christian traditions that instruct believers to submit to authority rather than questioning it. Digging into scripture and history, she raises the questions we all need to answer, helps the reader develop needed tools for discernment of right action, and offers encouragement that it is not too late to change the world.
Excellent book. I like the way she uses scripture and scripture stories to connect us to what’s happening today. The issue for me is that she is talking to the choir. I agree with her thought processes. Those who do not may never read this book. It would make an excellent study book for small groups.
Returns this book back to it’s original purpose as a guide for change and resistance. This is what Christianity was meant to be, a guide for the common person, without the addition Roman embellishments. Worth your serious consideration.