Baby-gro laid out with an ultrasound photo nearby. The baby-gro says "For this child we have prayed". Text over the top: Children of prophecy and prayer in the Bible: which parent did God tell first? Light in Grey Places

Children of prophecy and prayer in the Bible: which parent did God tell first?

The angel Gabriel famously announced to Mary that she would become miraculously pregnant with Jesus, and later the same message was given to Joseph (presumably by Gabriel, though the text doesn’t say). However, by my count, there are 13 stories of special pregnancies or prophecy over newly-born babies in the Bible. For each of them, I ask which parent did God tell first?

Continue reading Children of prophecy and prayer in the Bible: which parent did God tell first?

Does the Bible speak against marital rape? Yes… I think it’s hidden in Jesus’s teachings on divorce.

Content note: this post discusses purity culture, divorce and marital rape.

The UK only formally recognised marital rape as a criminal offence in 2003. That is, within my adult lifetime. 

It took that long partly because of something the Chief Justice said centuries earlier. It was published in 1736: 

“But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract.”

Sir Matthew Hale

In 1991, the House of Lords deemed this statement as “based on a fiction.”

Their ruling was part of a landmark case where a husband appealed his guilty verdict of attempted rape. The couple had already separated when he came to where she was living, physically assaulted her and attempted to rape her. He said it was not possible in law for him to rape his wife. The lords disagreed and upheld the guilty verdict.

Continue reading Does the Bible speak against marital rape? Yes… I think it’s hidden in Jesus’s teachings on divorce.
Close-up of a bride's bouquet with pale flowers. Text: Proving My Virginity: Deuteronomy, Pap Smears and the Hymen Myth. Light in Grey Places

Proving My Virginity: Deuteronomy, Pap Smears, and the Hymen Myth

In writing this post, I was one of the Top 15 2020 CBE Writing Contest winners

This article first appeared in CBE’s blog, Mutuality, on September 23, 2020 (www.cbeinternational.org).

In a couple of places I have reproduced the text of the relevant verses; in the original, only references were given.


When I first received a letter offering me a routine pap smear test, I replied saying I didn’t want one. Why? I wanted my hymen to remain intact until I was married. 

The nurse who followed up took some persuading when I said I was celibate, but she respected my wishes and conceded that the risks of cervical cancer were significantly reduced while I was sexually inactive. She did however express some bewilderment at how many young women, especially those with religious backgrounds, turned down cervical screening. It’s offered free of charge in the UK where I live and can be lifesaving.

The risk of cancer had never entered my mind. All I was concerned about was doing abstinence, marriage, and sex the “biblical way.” That meant leaving my hymen alone until I had penetrative sex for the first time, which I hoped wouldn’t happen until I was with my husband, on our honeymoon. Then, and only then, did I want this thin membrane inside my vagina to break and bleed.

Well, I didn’t bleed. 

Continue reading Proving My Virginity: Deuteronomy, Pap Smears, and the Hymen Myth
Page from Luke 15 where Jesus tells the parable of the lost son. Text over the top: I wrote a play about the prodigal son's mother, step-mother and half-brother. Wanna read it?

I wrote a two-act stage-play about the prodigal son’s mother, step-mother and half-brother. Wanna read it?

People have asked about the prodigal son’s mother, but I’ve never heard anyone ask what Jesus’s parable would look like if the two sons had different mothers. But that’s what I’ve done in this play.

I believe Jesus told this parable to deliberately target honour violence. Compare it, for example, with Deuteronomy 21:18–21, the law of the “stubborn and rebellious son.” It has a very different ending.

What’s more, if you look it up, you’ll see that just before that law there’s another one about a father dividing his property between two sons. Except in Deuteronomy 21:15–17, the sons have different mothers. 

That was my hook.

Continue reading I wrote a two-act stage-play about the prodigal son’s mother, step-mother and half-brother. Wanna read it?

Everything wrong with the Nashville Statement: Article 01: the meaning of marriage

You remember the Nashville Statement, right? No? OK… 

Imagine Martin Luther in 1517 when he nailed his 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, inviting a public debate on the church’s flagrant injustices. 

The Nashville Statement was nothing like that. 

Though it was published in a year ending with the number 17. 

Fourteen articles, from conservative evangelical Christian leaders (some of which were prominent Trump supporters), the Nashville Statement was an overtly sexist, homophobic and transphobic exercise in ideological line-drawing, dressed in theological language. 

CONTENT WARNING: This post reproduces some of its sexist, homophobic and transphobic language and arguments. 

Continue reading Everything wrong with the Nashville Statement: Article 01: the meaning of marriage
Toy version of the rose from Disney's Beauty in the Beast within a glass ball. Text over the top: Transformation isn't powered by love, but by a person. Some thoughts on the Holy Spirit (and my favourite Disney movie)

Transformation isn’t powered by love, but by a person. A few thoughts on the Holy Spirit (and my favourite Disney movie).

The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?

Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast

Disney’s animated adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was the favourite of my childhood years. One cold winter’s night, an enchantress asks a young prince for hospitality – offering him a single rose. But the prince selfishly refuses and as punishment, she turns him into a beast. 

When Disney’s live action adaptation was released, I went to see it in London. Many of the audience came in costume, buzzing with excitement and taking selfies, particularly in the foyer where there was a life-size replica of the enchanted rose.

As I watched, I actually found myself puzzling. Why people were doing this?

Continue reading Transformation isn’t powered by love, but by a person. A few thoughts on the Holy Spirit (and my favourite Disney movie).
Picture of Hebrew to English dictionary open on the word sakab meaning to lie down, rest, or sleep with. Text over the top: What was the Hebrew word when David had sex with Bathsheba and does it imply anything about her consent?

What was the Hebrew word when David had sex with Bathsheba and does it imply anything about her consent?

TL;DR two different Hebrew phrases are used and no, neither one implies that Bathsheba consented. 

CONTENT WARNING this post discusses accounts of rape in the Bible. 

Continue reading What was the Hebrew word when David had sex with Bathsheba and does it imply anything about her consent?
Picture of the feet of a man and a woman standing, facing each other in the middle of the road; the woman wears high heels. Text over the top: The prodigal and prostitutes -- and the surprise gender-flip in Jesus's parable

The prodigal and prostitutes – and the surprise gender-flip in Jesus’s parable

For a little while, now I’ve been furrowing my eyebrows at one particular line in Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son. It was niggling at me and puzzling me in equal measures of concern and confusion. 

Until I realised that the line in question was a very deliberate gender-flip. 

It even challenges that ancient double-standard where women are stigmatised for certain kinds of sexual activity, but men aren’t.

Allow me to explain. Grab a cuppa, this post is 2,000 words.

Continue reading The prodigal and prostitutes – and the surprise gender-flip in Jesus’s parable
Black and white drawing of a man being fired from his job and leaving the building. Text on black background: The six most satisfying decisions I made in 2020 (#4 commissioning this artwork) workthegreymatter.com

The six most satisfying decisions I made in 2020

I want to remember some of the positive things that came out of 2020. 

Disclaimer: I’m sharing this post because giving myself permission to do these things was a big deal for me; maybe my story will encourage other people. But I wasn’t living under a rock. I know I was lucky to be able to invest in myself in these ways. Investing in other people was also a big priority in 2020 – it’s just not one I want to blog about. 

Here are the six most satisfying decisions I made in 2020 (not necessarily in order).

Decision #1: Starting singing lessons

In Christmas 2019 I thought it might be fun to record my favourite carol: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Recording my voice has long been a dream of mine. I even bought a pre-amp before I had any microphones to plug into it. 

Anyway, by 2019 I had my mac, GarageBand and a Røde microphone – and knew how to connect them. So, I recorded myself. 

It sounded rubbish. 

Continue reading The six most satisfying decisions I made in 2020
Woman sitting on a rock, wearing jeans, facing away, watching the sea. Text: Initiative is not a sin. Even when you're waiting on God. workthegreymatter.com

Yeah, I know Sarah didn’t wait on God, but choosing to act is not a sin.

When I was growing up, there was a lot of talk in church about discerning God’s will and waiting for God’s timing. Your career, your finances, your health issues, your love life — nothing was exempt from the Good Christian’s responsibility to talk to God and hear what he had to say.

And if he didn’t answer, we had to examine ourselves — because maybe he had answered and we weren’t listening? Maybe we just didn’t like what God was saying?

Maybe we were the problem.

As I sit down and reflect back over the last 20 or so years of my life, I’m beginning to see how this has been problematic for me. On several levels.

Continue reading Yeah, I know Sarah didn’t wait on God, but choosing to act is not a sin.
Teal backdrop with vase of purple tulips on wooden slat floor, with the words: I took the biblical book of Esther and wrote a one act stage play. It's a duologues, called "I Will Hide My Name." Wanna read it? workthegreymatter.com

I wrote a one act stage-play based on the biblical book of Esther – wanna read it?

I’m not sure who exactly out there might be looking for a theatre play about the book of Esther, but if you are and you’re reading this, please do get in touch in with me. Because I’ve written one and I’d love for it to be performed. It’s titled: I Will Hide My Name.

Short synopsis:

For people who don’t know the book of Esther: Haman, the highest official in Ancient Persia, interviews a Jewish prisoner, who appeals to him to spare her life and that of her people. But why is this prisoner wearing the robes of royalty? And does Haman even realise?

For people who already know the book of Esther: Before approaching the king, Esther appeals Haman to revoke his decree to annihilate her people. He scorns her petitions for peace and only too late does he realise she’s the queen.

Continue reading I wrote a one act stage-play based on the biblical book of Esther – wanna read it?
Picture of woman's hands holding a closed Bible close to her ribs, with the words over the top: "Why are you still a Christian? What keeps you in faith?" My answer to a friend who asked me these questions workthegreymatter.com

“Why are you still a Christian? What keeps you in faith?” My answer when a friend asked me these questions

A friend recently asked me why I’m still a Christian. She asked because she was having trouble holding onto her faith, especially with Christian politics in the USA being what they currently are.

This is my answer to her. I don’t know if it will help other people, but it’s my story. Grab a cuppa, or bookmark this page, this post is about 3,000 words long. Continue reading “Why are you still a Christian? What keeps you in faith?” My answer when a friend asked me these questions

Woman bearing a rucksack standing on crest of a hill overlooking a misty sea with hills in the distance, over the top are the words: Wait, what if Rizpah's one-woman protest against King David shaped the laws of Deuteronomy?

Wait, what if Rizpah’s protest against King David shaped the laws of Deuteronomy?

I was recently listening to a compelling sermon by Austin Channing Brown, that was all about Rizpah. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she’s a woman in the Old Testament who undertook a months-long one-woman silent protest. Her actions eventually persuaded King David to bring an end to something which he had commanded. (If you want to hear the sermon, it’s on episode 2 of the Evolving Faith Podcast.)

Brown’s sermon focussed on speaking truth to power and she applied Rizpah’s story to racial justice today. But as I sat and thought through Rizpah’s actions, I realised they may have been much more far-reaching, even in her own time, than just changing David’s actions.

And while I’m yet to visit the library and validate my suspicions here, I’m now willing to bet that Rizpah’s protest changed the law.

Twice.

Allow me to explain.

And CONTENT WARNING this gets a bit gory. Continue reading Wait, what if Rizpah’s protest against King David shaped the laws of Deuteronomy?

Wooden slats with two red felt hearts pegged onto a string in the top right corning. Text over the top: Actually, sometimes it's right to say 'love your neighbour' more often than 'love God' (and it's always right to remember context) workthegreymatter.com

Actually, sometimes it’s right to say ‘love your neighbour’ more often than ‘love God’

OK, so I know that deconstructing bad tweets on Christian Twitter is often a soul-destroying sport, but hey – this one overlapped with the subject matter of a book I’ve just started reading, so…

The tweet was this:

“The most pervasive — and pernicious — false teaching of our day is that “love your neighbor” is the greatest commandment in the law.”

It was written by a Southern Baptist pastor in the US who later doubled-down with a looooonnnng thread about the law and what Jesus meant when he talked about the two greatest commandments. (For those less familiar: these two commandments are (1) to love God and (2) to love your neighbour.)

If you’re wondering why I’ve given no direct links, that’s because a couple of weeks later he followed up with another tweet (which I didn’t see but was screencapped) about the Old Testament law and slavery. When that thread blew up he deleted his entire timeline. He then said people should be able to ask questions and acknowledged that his thread had caused hurt, but did little more.

Sigh.

I’m not interested trolling a particular person, but I do care deeply about how Christians understand the Old Testament and apply it in their everyday lives. Because that application – for good or for bad – can have far-reaching consequences.

OK, let’s talk about this.

Continue reading Actually, sometimes it’s right to say ‘love your neighbour’ more often than ‘love God’
Spotlight shining into the darkness, with the words: Cancel culture: how it works, what it does, + four useful examples to have at your fingertips (Because if it's not all bad, we need to explain why) workthegreymatter.com

Cancel culture: how it works, what it does, plus four useful examples to have at your fingertips

I’ve seen a number of stories recently about individuals and organisations standing up for what they believe is right.

Some left me with fuzzy warm feelings. Others not so much.

In their midst is much talk of “cancel culture,” though most uses have negative connotations of “intolerance”, “outrage culture” and “mob mentality.” And it makes me ask: when does cancel culture become bullying? Because withdrawing support for public figures isn’t always a bad thing.

To wrap our heads around this, I think there are a few things we need to appreciate. Continue reading Cancel culture: how it works, what it does, plus four useful examples to have at your fingertips