Skip to main content

In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Pete and Jared talk with Emilie Townes about womanist ethics, interpreting the Bible, and hope as they explore the following questions:

  • What is womanist ethics?
  • Where did the term “womanist ethics” come from?
  • How does the Bible fit into womanist ethics?
  • What are the limits of using the Bible in ethics?
  • Does the Bible still have things to say to people today?
  • What is the role of community in biblical interpretation?
  • How do questions of religion help us stay engaged in other people’s lives?
  • What are the benefits of asking questions about the Bible and God?
  • How does seeking certainty and absolutes close us off to others?
  • What is the purpose of having hope?
  • What is the difference between God’s transcendence and imminence?
  • What gives Emilie hope?


Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Emilie Townes you can share. 

  • “Scripture… may have meant something to the people in that era that that passage comes from, but it could mean something completely different now because things have changed.” @emtownes
  • “I think we must wrestle with scripture and we often don’t. We want to come up with something that more rubber stamps our opinion as opposed to looking at the complicated world of the Bible.” @emtownes
  • “We so often in the church act like God can’t handle our questions.” @emtownes
  • “Genuine community is more like a cacophony rather than barbershop quartet harmony. It’s really having to recognize the kind of chaos the world was called into being through and to recognize that we all don’t have to agree.” @emtownes
  • “As an ethicist, I use the Bible very carefully because I have been trained to literally use the Bible. That does not mean that I’m really representing the diversity of thought that’s in the Bible as I have a viewpoint.” @emtownes
  • “I think the Bible is best engaged in community.” @emtownes
  • “More often than not we undersell the Bible, mostly out of our fear and our doubts, our “I don’t knows,” rather than taking it as an opportunity to dive right in there and try, as I say, wrestle with it in community to see what we come up with.” @emtownes
  • “If one can take seriously trusting in God and then living in that trust in God, then I think it opens us up to worlds we can’t see because we’re so invested in a straight and narrow view of the world where there’s certainty and absolutes. I don’t think that’s the biblical world, and I don’t think that really gets us into deeper faithfulness.” @emtownes
  • “Trust in God is a risk, it’s not something that you know.” @emtownes

Mentioned in This Episode

Read the transcript [Introduction]


Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People, the only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.

Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.

[Jaunty intro music]

Pete: Hey everybody, welcome to this episode of the podcast which is a reissue of our interview with Emilie Townes from way back in November of 2020, and it’s called “The Wisdom of Hope.” And this episode is full of both of those things. Enjoy.

[Music signals start of reissue episode]

Jared: Today we’re talking about the wisdom of hope and we’re talking about that with Emilie Townes, the Dean of the Divinity School and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University.

Pete: Oh, man folks. I’m telling you. This is one of these podcasts that started out one thing and it wound up being something very, very different and very great and very beautiful where we just sort of wove in, actually Emilie wove in community, Bible, love, messiness of communities, and a lot of wisdom and it was just a great time having her talk about this stuff. It was just wonderful. It’s nice when things don’t turn out the way you plan.

Jared: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And it actually fits in exactly with some of the themes that we talk about in that messiness of community when things don’t go as planned.

Pete: Right.

Jared: Well, let’s get into it.

Pete: Let’s do that.

[Music begins]

Emilie: More often than not, we undersell the Bible, mostly out of our fear and our doubts, our “I don’t knows,” rather than taking it as an opportunity to dive right in there and try, as I say, wrestle with it in community to see what we come up with.

[Music ends]

Jared: Well, hello Emilie, welcome to the podcast, thanks for joining us.

Emilie: Well thank you for having me.

Pete: Yeah, it’s great to have you Emilie. So, let’s just begin by defining what womanist ethics is. That’s going to be a new term for a number of our listeners, and it would be really great to just define it.

Jared: And maybe where it came from.

Pete: And where it, like its origins and things like that.

Emilie: There is somewhat of a debate among people who use the phrase “womanist ethics” about what it means, but for me, I’ll put it that way, for me it means being concerned about issues through the lens of gender, class, race, ethnicity, sex/sexuality, and centering Black women’s thought in the midst of that. And by that, I mean what do Black women think about these things? Black women who actually may be very involved and usually are very involved in various religious communities. One of the reasons the term emerged was because in the 70’s there was a lot of talk about Black theology and a lot of talk about feminist theology. Neither one of those theologies really took into account the religious worldviews of Black women. And so, Black women in the 70’s, if you had any leaning towards liberation, ideas, you often qualified yourself as being a Black feminist. Well, Alice Walker, the writer, came along and decided to try to develop a word that captured Black women’s moral thought, Black women’s ethical thought, Black women’s religious thought, and being a Southerner from Georgia, she turned to a folk expression, “womanish.” And that was when you were a little girl who often asked questions the adults couldn’t answer, so you were told you were acting grown and being grown, and she took that term and transformed it to a noun “womanist” and then came up with a four part definition when her editor asked her to define womanist when she put it as the subtitle of her landmark book of essays In Search of Our Mothers Gardens and the subtitle is “Womanist Prose.” The first definition is really the historical one where it comes from the transmission of knowledge from older women to girls and the fact that little Black girls often have to grow up a lot faster because they’re living in a world that often doesn’t appear to want them there.

Pete: Mmm.


Emilie: The second definition is more communal and she moves through the ways that people are tied to whether one another sexually and emotionally, either other sex or opposite sex or same sex, and then finishes that second definition with a nod to the underground railroad when the speaker says “mama, I’m gonna take a bunch of folks off to freedom” and the response of the older Black woman, the imaginary older Black woman, is, “it wouldn’t be the first time.” So, a sense of communal responsibility and the diversity of the community, the different shades of darkness in Black communities. The third definition really looks at the image of women in our society, and one, the ideal woman, very few women I know could ever look that way, Black, white or brown or beige, just wouldn’t happen, but for Walker, she says, loves herself regardless. And then the fourth definition is womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender, and that was a critique of how feminist thought had not really incorporated the diversity of women within it. Be it color, class, sex/sexuality, ethnicity, it was at that point in time in the mid 70’s, largely a white middle class movement and so she’s pushing that. Well, there were a group of women who were students at Union Theological seminary in New York: Katie Cannon, Delores Williams, and Jacqueline Grant. They were all working on their PhD’s: Grant and Williams were in theology, Cannon was in Christian ethics. This definition came out and they had study groups they were looking at this and said, maybe there’s something there for us to explore from our own vantage points in our programs. Womanist thought in religion was born. It’s one of the few times we can say, yup, they were in this place doing this thing where this idea, this movement in religion takes off. And the whole impetus behind it was to get Black women’s religious voice into conversations, be it in the academy or in the church or in public. But to say these, women have been thinking religiously for a long time, Black women have been thinking religiously for a long time, and here’s what we think.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: So…

Jared: Wow.

Pete: That’s extremely helpful, thank you.

Jared: Yeah! That’s great. So, this, you know, this religious connection with womanist theology and ethics comes from union, you’re a Dean at a divinity school. So, how does the Bible shape or get shaped by the work that you do in theology and in ethics? What role does the Bible play in that?

Emilie: Well, as an ethicist, I use the Bible very carefully because I have been trained to literally use the Bible. That does not mean that I’m really representing the diversity of thought that’s in the Bible as I have a viewpoint, here’s a passage, it seems to fit, let me slip it in, and I’m off and running. I don’t like that kind of ethical shenanigans for lack of a better way to put it.

Pete: [Laughter]

Right. That’s a good word, that’s a real good word.


Emilie: So, for me, I take seriously the training I got at the University of Chicago Div School where if you’re going to preach, you need to look at folks who’ve thought about scripture and know more about scripture than you do. So, the biblical scholars and further, you don’t read just one, you read widely from more conservative thought to more radical thought. You take all that together and then you sit, and you think and where is my thought in this, what is my experience of this passage as I’m trying to think through what the passage has to say to me. So, that takes a lot of time and energy to do that and to do it well, so I’m very circumspect when I use scripture in my work because of that. If I haven’t done that deep dive, then I have no business trying to use scripture in whatever my argument is because really what I’m doing is abusing scripture or using scripture more as a political tool or a social tool rather than a biblical tool that is both guide and prod and caution and doesn’t answer everything because for me, God’s revelation is ongoing. So, that scripture at that point may have meant something to the people in that era that that passage comes from, but it could mean something completely different now because things have changed.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: So, how do we take that history with us, not leave it behind, but bring it along as part of the information that we need to know about the passage itself and if we’re going to be bold, then say, “thus says the Lord.”

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: And that to me, is a very sacred task and not one that I take lightly.

Pete: Yeah. So, what I’m hearing you say, Emilie, is that, you know, to say things like the use of scripture is a little bit simplistic and probably misleading because it’s sort of presumes, you know, you’re just going back to the Bible. You’re interested in a very different kind of really conversation, it sounds like, and engagement with other people and coming together around this Bible, letting that, I think you used the word prod, is that right?

Emilie: Yeah.

Pete: Yeah. That’s, I think that’s incredibly helpful. That’s a great way to think about it.

Emilie: You know, for me, I think we must wrestle with scripture and I, and we often don’t. We want to come up with something that more rubber stamps our opinion –

Pete: Right.

Emilie: As opposed to looking at the complicated world of the Bible. My goodness! Those folks are up to all manner of things.

Pete: And the history of interpretation!

Emilie: Yes!

Pete: And like you said, the different scholars and people living in different eras and I think, you know, for probably a number of our listeners, and I know Jared has this background and I do probably to a lesser extent, but when the Bible is seen as an authoritative rulebook, you tend to just go to that and that intervening conversation is just human tradition. It doesn’t mean anything; you’re going to get the straight scoop right from the Bible itself.

Emilie: And the Bible is so much more than that.

Pete: Yes.

Emilie: It’s poetry, it’s narrative, people in it are very complex, I don’t tend to think of David as a good model for how one should behave.

Pete: [Laughter]

Emilie: So, we pick and choose the good part of David and leave the problematic parts on the page.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: That’s not wrestling with the Bible.

Jared: Can you say more about that wrestling, because I think that’s new for people but it’s something that really resonates with me around, we respect what the Bible is and the scholarship that’s been, you know, diverse scholarship that’s been taking it seriously for thousands of years and yet, there’s this, almost this fear and trembling that we have to then step out into our current context and we have to make it mean something relevant for us today. Can you say more about the tools that you use to do that in a modern context? Because I think some people wrestle with, they kind of move from like Pete said, well, the Bible just speaks directly to me and then we come to this realization that, oh, well this is an ancient text. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to say to me. How do you bridge that gap?

Emilie: Well, you know, the Bible has a lot to say to a lot of people all at the same time and it may not be the same thing.

Jared: Mmm.

Emilie: So, for me, I think the Bible is best engaged in community. That’s what, I have when I pastored, now years ago, I used to call our Bible study time fearless Bible study because we so often in the church act like God can’t handle our questions.

Pete: [Laughter]


Emilie: Or our doubts. Therefore, we would be disrespectful to God to say I have a question, or I have a doubt. When in reality, we’re just not being honest about the fact that we are hesitant to dive deep into our questions. I was talking to a local pastor when I was on the faculty at Union Seminary in New York, a Black pastor, and we were walking down the hallway, and I was taking about fearless Bible study, and he was like, “yeah, I like that Doc. But I don’t know! I don’t think my people are ready for it.” I said, “Is it your people or is it you?”

Pete: [Laughter]

Jared: [Laughter]

Emilie: And we both stopped, and I was smiling, so he knew I wasn’t trying to attack him. And then I said, “you know, God can handle anything we throw at God. Why not take God up on that?”

Pete: Which Biblical writers do too.

Emilie: Oh, gosh yes!

Pete: Yeah.

Emilie: They do!

Pete: There’s holy precedent for that sort of thing.

Emilie: Yeah, so, it’s so, I just think more often than not we undersell the Bible, mostly out of our fear and our doubts, our “I don’t knows,” rather than taking it as an opportunity to dive right in there and try, as I say, wrestle with it in community to see what we come up with.

Jared: Yeah that’s, I think that’s a risky proposition –

Emilie: Absolutely.

Jared: Because it doesn’t necessarily get us to a place of certainty. And maybe, can you say a little bit more about that because as we were preparing to have you on, I saw a video that you were in and you said “the study of religion doesn’t give you final answers. I find it gives me more questions.” And then you actually say, which I think ties really well into this fearless Bible study, which I love, it says, “it helps me stay invested in the lives of other people.” Can you talk more about how religion –

Pete: Yeah.

Jared: And this idea of questions helps you stay invested in people’s lives?

Emilie: Mmm. I remember saying that and at the time, wondering, wow, that sounds really good. What do I mean by that?

Pete: [Laughter]

Jared: [Laughter]

Sorry to call you on it.

Emilie: No, it’s fine because I have been thinking about it because people quote it back to me a lot. And this is something that if you were ever in a class I teach, I teach classes by asking questions, not coming in with solutions. And my bias is, if you can come up with a pretty good question, that’s gonna take you a lot further than trying to come up with an answer that may not even fit the situation. And I think we tend to do that often, we want answers, we want them now, we want certainty, and for me, faith is all about trust in the unknown. It’s the evidence of things unseen. I just preached about that two Sundays ago. If one can take seriously trusting in God and then living in that trust in God, then I think it opens us up to worlds we can’t see because we’re so invested in a straight and narrow view of the world where there’s certainty and absolutes. I don’t think that’s the biblical world, and I don’t think that really gets us into deeper faithfulness.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: Trust in God is a risk, it’s not something that you know, you know if you hit this number every time, it’s gonna come up 3’s or 4’s or 5’s or whatever. It’s being open and if I can be open, then I can in fact listen to what other folks are saying, what they’re feeling, what they’re seeing, how they’re communicating. And not assume, you know, we have a tendency sometimes when we’re talking to someone that we’re busy formulating the answer before they stop talking.

Jared: Mm hmm.

Pete: Yeah.

Emilie: That’s not listening, that’s not being present. That’s some sort of contest of some kind. It doesn’t get us into being a real community of the faithful. And for me, that is so important especially in today’s world.

Pete: So, you have to let go of that quest for certainty, in a sense, to be authentic community.

Emilie: I think so.

Pete: Yeah.

Emilie: I think so, and I know runs counter to a lot of folk’s religious worldview, but I think that worldview has not gotten us in very good places.


Pete: Right. Well, it’s a little simplistic, but it’s really nice to blame the enlightenment for a lot of things because it sort of deserves it, but it is the legacy of Western patterns of thinking that have been dominated historically by men and by men who are white and of a certain class, which I think, you know, in my mind at least ties in very well with what your life is about and your career is about and what your thinking is about, womanist ethics, which is community based and not scholastic and top down sort of peer model thinking, and yeah…

[Ad break]

Jared: With this, maybe there’s a way I can say this that just as you guys were talking about saying questions, and more questions keeping us invested in the lives of others, I was thinking that you know, questions are an invitation for the person I’m talking to to share but they’re also an invitation for me to stay curious and to listen and sometimes, I think, maybe when we feel like we have the answer we stop listening.

Emilie: Mmm.

Jared: And if community is sort of core to our faith, there’s this relationality that it just requires us to stay, what I hear you saying, is stay open, that we need to keep our ears open and keep listening to people who are different than us.

Emilie: Mm hmm.

Jared: And can you say a little more about the impact of the community on the way that you practice your faith and read your Bible?

Emilie: Well, it’s messy as all get out. Genuine community is more like a cacophony rather than barbershop quartet harmony. It’s really having to recognize the kind of chaos the world was called into being through and to recognize that we all don’t have to agree. Sometimes, we have to sit in the midst of the disagreements and still figure out how we’re going to get this, how we’re gonna get this church built? How are we gonna get this community healed? How are we gonna get the services we need in blighted communities? We don’t always have to agree. But one of the things about community for me is that it is agreement to try to do this together. Whatever this “this” is.

Jared: Mm hmm.

Emilie: It’s understanding that there is something bigger than, for me, the big bigger is new heaven, new earth. If I can sign on to trying to work with people and be with people who are trying to work with God to bring in the new heaven and new earth, then I need to one, listen; two, humble myself; three, talk if I see something and then really then listen again to the responses because it doesn’t, it’s an imperfect thing, community.

Jared: Mmm.

Emilie: Which is it’s perfection, I think. It doesn’t quite ever get to where it should be, but the closer it gets, the more we see the new heaven and new earth breaking in. I like to think I’m a realistic optimist, but it’s very, very much for me rooted in hope. I don’t think hope is a namby pamby word. I think hope is hard.


Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: I think hope really requires a lot of fortitude and wisdom and it takes a lot of people trying to figure it out together. How do you hold on to that? And one of my favorite, James Cones stories is years ago, when I was working on my book on Black healthcare, and Cone was very much a health, what we would call a health nut, and he was interested in the book, he knew I was working on it. He came to Kansas City where I was teaching to do some lectures at our school, and so the minute he got in the car from the airport he said, okay, where’s the book? And I had gotten to the last chapter and the book is just, it’s written as a lament because of the state of Black health that has not changed that much, actually, to today. And I said, I don’t understand Jim, I know all this stuff about Black healthcare and Black healing, I know all this stuff and it’s not good. It’s not good at all, but I still have hope. And Jim raised up in the seat and he looks at me and he says, and I will not do my Jim Cone imitation, but he says, “Emilie, you must have hope, you’ve got to have hope because if you don’t, the only alternative is despair and then they’ve won.”

Jared: Mmm.

Emilie: And I sat back in the car, I’m still driving, and I went, “darn,” or something equivalent to that.

Pete: [Laughter]

Emilie: I… I… yeah! He’s right! I was not raised in a theology of despair. I was raised by folk who believed in the power of hope and lived it every day. Two weeks later, the book was done. I was just like, okay! I know I have hope.

Pete: [Laughter]

Emilie: This is what I cut my teeth on growing up and all these years, that somehow, someway, there’s going to be a better day and my job is to work with other folks to bring it in.

Jared: I think that’s a great segue into another question that I had for you, because you’ve used these, these terms that we wouldn’t normally put together. You talk about a new heaven and a new earth, kind of that which is up there and we think of as perfect and earth as imperfect. You talk about community as really messy, and yet you talk about this hope. So, it’s kind of this disparate parts, and that made me think of another video I was watching, sorry to keep bringing these back and call you to account for these, but in a tribute to Toni Morrison, you said, you know, “what she taught me above all is that the holy is both radically immanent and radically transcendent.” And those are words that we’d be familiar with, but our listeners might not be familiar with that. And I was curious, can you explain what that means? Because I hear a lot of that in the language you’re using around hope and yet messy, new heaven and new earth and yet, kind of this cacophony of concepts that don’t often jive well together.

Emilie: Mm hmm. Yeah, transcendence, that’s when, especially when I’m thinking about God or the holy, transcendence is a vertical relationship. God is on high; I am down here. And, you know, God drops in on occasion, but mostly God’s on high and I’m down here. Immanent means inside me. God is inside me, inside of everyone else, and speaks to us on a very regular basis, that’s immanent. So, I don’t want to do either/or, which is something that people will tend to do. Either God is holy/other or transcendent, or God is entirely inner or immanent. I don’t have, I don’t have the authority to put God anywhere. What I have is to recognize God is everywhere and that’s what I mean about the new heaven/new earth, but also working like crazy in the now and being present in the now with others to bring in the new heaven and new earth.

Pete: Mm hmm. Well, Emilie, this is 2020.

Emilie: Mmm…

Pete: I’m not sure if you noticed, but we have.

Emilie: Oh, Lord.

Pete: I know. Well, good, okay.

Emilie: [Laughter]


Pete: I’d like to get back to hope, because that is so intriguing and I’ve just been sort of sitting here silently thinking about that and maybe you can help us understand, what, flesh out more what gives you hope.

Emilie: Mmm.

Pete: Not just not being in despair and then, well what do I know, that may be the core to it, but can you articulate more, you know, for the benefit of the people listening. What gives you hope? What motivates you to keep going?

Emilie: You know, every new academic year when we welcome the entering class, I just well up with hope.

Pete: Mmm.

Emilie: Here’s some more folks that believe the world will be better if we could just figure out how to live our faith better. And there, and there, and you know, all of our entering classes anywhere across the country is going to be a motley crew. And so, it’s wonderful for me to see this new entering class with its excitement and scared beyond all knowing and being and not trying to show it. That gives me hope. Here’s another, here’s some more help coming. Here’s some more questions unfolding. Here’s some new ideas, here’s, you know, I don’t know what’s going to be in this entering class until they sit here long enough and manifest themselves. But the possibilities they present give me hope. The same thing happens at commencement. They’re people who I shake hands with, and I know the world is, I know wherever they go the world is going to be a better place. Whatever they do, the world is going to be a better place, and being able to have that as part of what we’re doing and being is so much, it reminds me, this is not all on me.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: And my charge, my ordination charge by David Bartlett, may he rest in peace. David said to me as part of his charge to me, “leave some work for the Lord.”

Jared: Hmm.

Emilie: My mother never let me forget that for the rest of her life.

Jared: [Laughter]

Emilie: On occasion she would say, “aren’t you, are you leaving enough work for the Lord to do? It seems to me like you’re taking on a whole lot!”

Jared: [Laughter]

Emilie: “You know, some of that God needs to take on!” And usually she was right, although I wouldn’t admit it to her. So, watching the new come in and leave –

Pete: So, letting the Lord do some of the work, really, for you means that next generation or these new people coming in and moving out again.

Emilie: But also the people I see every day and I’ve known my whole life, or not. I mean, you know, it, I don’t have to do everything.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: I really don’t. There’s, there’s a lot of talented people who could probably do some things a lot better than I can. Don’t try and do what they can do; do what I do. That’s enough. That’s enough. Hope for me also comes just about every time I see a baby.

Jared: Hmm.

Emilie: Just about every time. And to just –

Jared: Wow.

Emilie: And especially if I have the privilege of watching them grow up, even in the terrible twos and threes.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: But the, that sense of here’s just a little ball of possibilities. This is good stuff.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Emilie: Who am I to try to live my life as a nihilist?

Pete: What right do we have to do that, right?


Emilie: It’s just downright selfish, so –

Jared: Are there any other, hearing you talk, you know, I think that’s a great, leave some things for the Lord to do. Are there other things that maybe words of wisdom or words of advice for our listeners, maybe, who are trying hard to see the Bible in the way that we’ve talked about here today or to live a life in the way that you’ve envisioned it here in terms of this community based hope filled, yet messy way of being in the world. Do you have any other words of wisdom for people as they try to take their next step in that?


Emilie: Yeah. Take time, don’t rush it. Take time every day, give yourself a space and I’m not talking about hours and hours. Maybe sometimes it’s only five minutes, but give yourself space to simply sit and listen to God’s mysteries in the world. That will open you up in ways you can’t believe and the when you pick up a Bible or a lesson plan or whatever, you’ll go, you’ll come to it with new eyes and a much more open heart and know that this is something you practice your whole life. You don’t get it perfect; this is not about perfection. I’m too much of a Baptist to believe in perfection.

Pete: [Light laughter]

Emilie: But it is about the possibilities of how we really can grow by picking up the Bible and letting the Bible do its thing in our lives as we ask it questions and realize sometimes in questions we have today, answers may not be there, but they might be in the community that’s studying the Bible with you.

[Ad break]

Pete: Yeah, don’t put it all on the Bible, but the community’s responsibility.

Emilie: Mm hmm.

Pete: That’s a great word.

Jared: Yeah, I just think to tie with what you were saying earlier of, you know, we, this sense of community can be risky and it can feel like we’re taking a chance and we don’t have control over the whole thing, but the flip side of that is we also don’t have all the weight and all the responsibility.

Emilie: Right.

Jared: And that’s sort of that, that faith and hope and trust in God, kind of transcendentally, but also God more horizontally and immanently in the community and in each of us.

Emilie: Yeah. Well put.

Jared: Well, it’s been an honor to have you with us on the show today. It’s been great to, I’m kind of sitting here pondering all the things that you’ve been talking about, and I’m sure we’ll both be thinking of that for quite some time.

Pete: Why didn’t we book two hours?

Jared: I know!

Emilie: [Laughter]

Pete: What’s wrong with us?

Jared: But, where can people find you or your work either online or other ways that people can stay connected?

Emilie: My email address is on our web pages at the divinity school and I actually answer my email.

Jared: That’s good, so you’re clearly not a millennial.

Pete: [Laughter]

Emilie: Well, I mean, if it’s email and it’s sincere and honest, I mean, every once in a while I get email that it’s clearly not interested in a conversation, you just want to tell me I’m going to hell and, you know, that’s not helpful and there’s no conversation to be had there.

Jared: Mm hmm.

Emilie: But I answer my email, so that’s one place. So, don’t hesitate to drop me a line and ask me a question or two. It may take a little bit for me to get back to you because the pandemic has thrown off all sense of normal time, for I think all of us.

Jared: Mm hmm.

Emilie: So, that’s one place. I do have a Facebook page, it’s not very imaginatively named, it’s Emilie Townes. And I do, on occasion, post things there or pass on information that I really think is important, so you can find me there. I have a Twitter handle, it’s @emtownes, that’s my latest challenge is to get up and running with Twitter.

Jared: [Laughter]

Pete: Oh, you want to talk about messy community, there you go.

Emilie: Yeah.

Pete: You’re going to have as much as you can handle.

Emilie: I’m trying to decide if I really, really want to do that.

Pete: Yeah, you might want to think twice about that.

Jared: [Laughter]

Pete: That’s just my opinion, that’s okay. Are you working on anything now, Emilie, any projects, any public speaking coming up, or any maybe articles or essays or books or anything?

Emilie: Yeah, actually, I did President Angela Sims was just inaugurated at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School yesterday and on Monday she had a panel I was on with Eboni Marshall Turman and Melva Sampson and Marla Frederick was the moderator on “Womanist Words: When and Where I Enter.” That’s up on the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School Facebook page, so –


Jared: Okay.

Emilie: You can hear what I was thinking about. I was given a word and the word I was given to talk about was toxicity.

Jared: Mmm.

Emilie: So, I played with that for about ten minutes or so.

Pete: That’s all?

Emilie: That’s all I was given.

Pete: Okay.

Emilie: I try to do, when people ask me to do “x” number of minutes, I try to –

Pete: You do it.

Emilie: Stick to it unlike –

Pete: You’re my hero, that’s fantastic.


Emilie: I know. People are like, you’re really done? I said, “yeah, you gave me ten!”

Jared: Nice. Well, thank you so much for being so generous with your time here and for giving folks an opportunity to send you an email. I just think you have a lot of words of wisdom for folks, so I hope people take you up on that.

Emilie: Well, thanks.

Jared: Thanks again so much for joining us, we really appreciate it.

Pete: Yeah, thank you so much Emilie.

Emilie: Thanks for having me again guys.

[Music begins]


You’ve just made it through another episode of The Bible for Normal People! Thanks to our listeners who support us each week by rating the podcast, leaving a review, and telling others about our show! We couldn’t have made this amazing episode without the help of our Producer’s Group: Lori Volkle, Myles Dance, Elia Vazquez, Patricia Schmidt, Elizabeth Petters, Clyde howell, Philippa Mcloughlin, Amanda Oster, Leroy Prempeh, Peter and Mary Wall. As always, you can support the podcast at, where for as little as $3/month, you can receive bonus material, be part of an online community, get course discounts, and much more. 

This episode was brought to you by the Bible for Normal People team: Brittany Prescott, Savannah Locke, Stephanie Speight, Tessa Stultz, Nick Striegel, Stephen Henning, Haley Warren, Jessica Shao, and Natalie Weyand!

[Music ends] [End of recorded material]
Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.