Seventh-day Adventist Church,Sabbath School,Prayer meeting

BETTER Parenting – Interview with Melvin Bray

February 7, 2017

Image provided by Melvin Bray Hi Melvin, welcome to Unfundamentalist Parenting. We are excited to talk to you about your new book BETTER: Waking Up to Who We Could Be! There were so many things I loved about your book, especially the way it relates to the work I do here on Unfundamentalist Parenting. Let’s get right to it: You call yourself a recovering fundamentalist. So am I! Tell us a little bit about your faith trajectory, and how you think that affects your parenting. Let me start first with my fundamentalist bona fides. I was raised in The Seventh-Day Adventist Church, where I attended Sabbath School and worship and prayer meeting and bible study and Pathfinders (our co-ed version of scouts) and other youth oriented stuff weekly, faithfully. I went to Seventh-day Adventist schools from first grade through college. And I loved the bible stories my mom would read me almost every night until junior high. As I am apt to say on occasion, it was the Jesus story that radicalized me. This is what I understood parenting to be. So when I had my own kids, that’s what I started doing for them, reading to them about Jesus and the other Bible heroes as often as I could. I even tried to use some of the same Bible stories series I’ve been raised on. But the more I read the stranger those very familiar words started to feel in my mouth. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the inane triumphalism, patriarchy, pro-us-and-our-way-of-life that infested each page. And then the images were so Anglo and culturally Western, when the stories themselves came from the Middle East region, which is in North Africa. As an adult with a knowledge of history and critical analysis, this was disturbing because I understand what it was meant to cultivate in the minds of those who encountered it. As I talk about in the book, I found myself in the awkward position of trying to rewrite the stories on the fly. When my kids would ask whether David or Esther, Mary or Jesus actually looked the way they were depicted, I knew there were only so many times, “That is just one person’s imagination of how it might have been,” would cover the multitude of sins to which I was exposing them. My only recourse was to begin to re-tell the bible stories from scratch, which is not altogether unpleasant for one like myself, but my heart goes out to those parents less disposed to such flights of fancy. I launched a story project called The Stories in which We Find Ourselves. With it, I continue to collect and create what I hope are better tellings of our faith stories rooted in the ethic of beloved community. You frame your book, BETTER on the idea of COMPOSTing stories, faith stories that lead to more just and virtuous living in community. Can you relate this to parenting and raising children; why do you believe this is important for parents of faith to do this with our kids? It may be important to note that by story I mean both narrative and ritual, which mythologist Joseph Campbell spoke of as “story embodied”. Primarily, I am talking about those particular stories that literature teachers refer to as “myth” (which doesn’t mean lie or legend, as most people use it). Myth means the stories around which we organize our lives. So I’m talking about those personal, communal, and national stories...

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