Cathleen Falsani Interview

It’s a book full of filthy words, and controversial ideas that you might not agree with. But enough about the Bible, the book is called Disquiet Time, and Cathleen Falsani is one of the editors (along with Jennifer Grant) of this quirky, beautiful, often empathetic collection of “Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels.” I recently asked Cathleen a few questions and this is what she had to say:

You wrote a book about grace called Sin Boldly. I always like to ask: How did you first encounter grace, or was it a concept that was always there for you, as a Christian?

I think seeing and experiencing grace is something I was (and we all are) hard-wired to do from birth. I couldn’t tell you the first time I encountered grace but I’m sure it was long before I had the language to call it “grace.”

Reading Disquiet Time, to me, was a solitary experience compared to reading other Christian works. There was a different mouth-feel to it, if you will. I never felt like the writers were over-spiritualizing their experiences or hedging on their honesty. It was refreshing. To what do you attribute that type of honest and freedom?

It was likely the result of a two-part invention: we (Jen Grant and I, as editors) offered them the total freedom to “speak what we feel, not what we ought to say” and the authors–each one of them–had the guts, courage, and audacity to take us up on it and actually write from the deepest places of their hearts and minds. To a person, they opened a vein and didn’t self-censor. I think that made all the difference in the world.

Was there a piece in Disquiet Time that you felt explained, or explored, something in a new way to you personally? (For instance, your piece Slut!, was an eye-opening look to me at the girl who would be called Salome.)

It’s terribly difficult to narrow it down to one piece, but I can say there is one in particular that I keep returning to almost daily: Susan Isaac’s chapter “The Bible Full of Sound, Fury, Sarcasm, and Poop Jokes.” I adore Susan, her mind, sense of humor, and humble faith. It’s the passage in there that talks about Jesus employing sarcasm–my native language–that gave me teh gift of seeing his humanity in a different way, a facet I hadn’t noticed before, and one with which I resonate deeply but long had thought (and been told by some of my coreligionists) didn’t belong in the life of a Christian–particularly not in the life of a girl or woman trying to follow Jesus. Take that, naysayers!

One thing I see in Disquiet Time is a freedom to explore and question one’s faith. Why do you think it is that we’re so uptight about doing that as followers of Jesus?

In a word: FEAR. We’re so afraid of “doing it wrong,” of doubting and doubting, of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, questions-without-answers, and not knowing that we’d rather “fake it” than authentically, genuinely, honestly engage with scripture on its own terms and ours. It’s as if we somehow believe God doesn’t really know what we’re thinking or feeling about what we read in the Bible (or anything else for that matter).

I always like to know what fellow writers are reading. So, what’s on your bedside table right now, Cathleen?

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. The Soul of Rumi by Coleman Barks, Shantaram By Gregory David Roberts, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste by Lester Bangs, and Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver.



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