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In this episode of Faith for Normal People, Grace Baldridge (known by the artist name Semler) joins Pete and Jared to talk about the moving target of faith, whether leaving church is leaving God, and Grace’s journey as a queer person in Christian music. Join them as they explore the following questions:

  • How did Grace get into Christian music?
  • What is Grace’s story of adapting faith?
  • What drew Grace to the world of Christian music and what has been her experience there as a queer artist?
  • How has music helped Grace process the grief and loss of a changing faith that had to leave others behind?
  • What is the good news to Grace when it comes to faith and/or Jesus?
  • How does Grace process the Bible now as an adult?
  • What does Grace think about the future of Christian music?


Pithy, shareable, sometimes-less-than-280-character statements from the episode you can share.

  • Little by little, as I started allowing myself to be who I was created to be and honoring myself as an image bearer, it was amazing how my whole world cracked open and my curiosity for faith cracked open. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • Kindness towards myself then inspired me to be kinder to others. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • With regards to coming back to faith, I really had to first come out of it. I had to come out of the systems, the belief, and the frameworks that were hurting me, and the things that were just not serving me, that were confusing to me. For me at least, it was nothing for a while. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • I wanted to just have a bit of a break to clear my head and figure out what I wanted my relationship with God to be…and I needed some space, some nothingness to clear that out. It was nice to rebuild on what felt like, for the first time, a clean slate. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • I think faith is just a moving target, and that makes it exciting. That’s the dynamic God that’s very compelling to me as a believer. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • Sometimes the places where I experience God are rarely in church. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • For those who take issue with the songs that are more prayerful because of who I am and how I have wound up here, then I don’t know. I’m trying to create an album that is reconciliatory for me. And I can’t make everyone happy. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • I get excited about God when I remember that we are all created in God’s image, and that the way that we get to understand God in this lifetime is through other people. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • [I’m] feeling thankful that I’m at a place in my life where I can write about God as an openly queer person and [grateful for] how that would have shifted things for me as a kid and as an artist. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np
  • [It’s] a great kindness to be able to extend a hug to your younger self metaphorically. — @gracebaldridge @theb4np

Mentioned in This Episode

Read the transcript

Jared: You are listening to Faith for Normal People, the only other God ordained podcast on the internet. 

Pete: I’m Pete Enns. 

Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.

[Intro music plays]

Pete: Before we get into our episode today, we have a big announcement about our 2024 classes. 

Jared: Yeah. This year we’re taking our cues from the academic calendar and bringing you a spring and a fall semester with summer school in between. Apparently the academic calendar for people who need to go to summer school

Pete: Right. [laughs]

Jared: But for the spring, we’re taking a deep dive into the Old Testament with three classes taught by the world renowned, our very own, Peter Enns. 

Pete: So first up in March, we have “Origin of the Old Testament: How did we get here?” And in this class, we’ll cover major assumptions of the origins of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and why they can be sometimes problematic, the historical messiness of the canon of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, and also the development of canonical consciousness. If you don’t know what that means, we’ll get into that in the class. 

Jared: And here’s the coolest part. From March 1st to the 15th, the class is Pay What You Can. And you’ll get to watch it right away when you purchase it. These are pre-recorded classes. So, we’re talking instant gratification here. Each class will come with its own study guide, so you can stay engaged as you watch. What’s more, there’s a Q&A with Pete himself that’s going to be at the end of the semester. So if you join this class, you’ll be a part of that Q&A as well. 

Pete: Right, and now after March 15th, it will cost $25 to access the recording, so just budget for that. But listen, you know, if you’re a member of our online community (an even better way to budget) The Society of Normal People, you’ll get automatic access to the class and study guide on March 1st plus a bonus roundtable video featuring our Amazing nerds-in-residence.

Jared: And that’s just for the SoNP members. And of course when you become a member of SoNP you get access to all of our past classes plus an amazing online community of folks asking questions about the Bible, faith, theology, and of course, an ad-free version of podcast episodes. So for more information and to sign up for the class, head to

Pete: Today on Faith for Normal People we’re talking about Christian music, among other things, with Grace Baldridge, also known by the artist’s name Semler. 

Jared: Grace is a queer Christian singer-songwriter who is known for being the first openly gay artist to hit number one on Christian music charts with the EP Preacher’s Kid. Grace has a brand new record called Night Aches and also has been nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism for an episode of the documentary series State of Grace.

Pete: Now, don’t forget to stay tuned at the end of the episode for Quiet Time as we reflect on the conversation. 

Jared: All right, folks, let’s get into it. 

[Music plays over teaser clip of Grace speaking]

Grace: “The Christian genre is unironically one of the more exciting genres to me in music today, because you’re only bound by theme, but style should be just your oyster. It should read the most creative type of music, because you can do anything to express how you are wrestling with or understanding divinity.”

Pete: Grace, welcome to our podcast!

Grace: Thanks so much for having me.

Pete: Absolutely. Yeah, we’re so, we’re excited to talk with you about all sorts of things. So let’s begin with this. Can you just give us the skinny on your whole Christian journey? 

Grace: Wow. 

Pete: You know, just in about three seconds.

Jared: [Laughing] I was going to say, that’s an oxymoron.

Pete: I know, but not the whole thing. But maybe your childhood, how you were raised and your own, just how your thinking changed over the years. So help us understand that.

Grace: Sure, so, my father is an Episcopal priest, and I grew up in a rectory mostly in Waterloo, Belgium, so that’s a very, what I think of as a very secular country. I guess that term is bizarre to me now, but growing up, that’s how I thought of it.

So there was a little bit of awareness that there was a world outside of Christian media, even though I was raised in an environment where it was all Christian media all the time. And mind you, I was not complaining, like DC Talk slapped. I was so excited about Reliant K. I was very happy kind of in my bubble, but then around middle school, kind of teenager years, I started becoming more aware of my bubble and that correlated to going through puberty, which is when kids are often spoken to about sexual brokenness. And becoming aware of how I was different from my friends, which was for gay reasons. And, uh, you know, having some confusing messages—not preached from my dad, the Episcopal denomination at that time, I don’t know, I guess they were affirming. I really couldn’t get into the specifics on this, but I know that, uh, it was kind of a don’t ask, don’t tell. It certainly was not like how things are these days, where you’ll see some churches have pride flags out front or something, or they’ll say—they’ll be really specific in their language.

I grew up in an era where it was like, “yeah, there’re gay people, but like, [whispering] we don’t talk about them”. 

Pete: Yeah. 

Grace: So that’s how I grew up. And then I was huge into basketball to sort of distract from some of the turmoil in my heart. And I was like, that’s going to be my ticket to not deal with some of the fraught things that I was going through, was just focusing on basketball forever. And then I’ll just be in the WNBA for the rest of my life and I’ll never have to deal with my inner demons. And so I went to the United States for college basketball, immediately tore my ACL, everything came flooding back. Um, everything I was trying to run away from. And on top of that, I was very homesick and culture shock.

And then my parents moved to Kentucky and I just didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. I was writing music about what I was going through the whole time, but I learned that I should keep these songs private because what I was talking about was confronting, and I think challenging, and I wasn’t ready to have some of those conversations with people in my life.

By the time I graduated from college, I wound up in North Carolina where I graduated. I was out to pretty much everyone, and I moved to Los Angeles on a one way ticket. I loved the city. I still love LA. It’s where I live currently. It’s where I will, um, or I have a family now. And I just really felt like this was a place where I could be myself.

And little by little, as I started allowing myself to be who I was created to be and honoring myself as an image bearer, like really believing that and taking apart, stripping back some of the things that people had put on me that were not divinely inspired, pretty foreign from that actually. It was amazing how my whole world cracked open and my curiosity for faith cracked open. Kindness towards myself then inspired me to be kinder to others. I was able to be more honest in my songwriting, I was less afraid of what the fallout was, because I think that, um, secrets keep you sick, at least that was the case for me, and repression wasn’t healthy, and songwriting has always been almost like this free form of therapy that I’ve had since I was really little. 

I feel like science and music are two ways that we understand God. And I am bad at science, really bad, [Pete and Jared laugh] but I have some understanding of music since I was a kid and that feels so fortunate and so blessed. Then during lockdowns when we were all really kind of alone with our thoughts was when I felt ready enough. I was really starting to get right with myself. I started writing about my childhood, my upbringing, in ways that I had not before. In ways that I was now having those conversations with family that I had been putting off for decades.

And we got through it, we really did, and I released this EP of really rough demos called “Preacher’s Kid”, and it went number one on the iTunes Christian Music Charts, and opened up a whole new career path for me in songwriting, and writing and performing music that I love so much, and the fact that I am a Christian recording artist is so funny because I really wanted to break out of that Christian media bubble as a kid. And now here we are, we become, we become what we come from, really. [Jared hums in thought]

Pete: If, if Grace, if you can fill out for us a little bit more, this transition for you to become at ease with who you are and your Christian faith. And you know, I’m hearing how music was a part of that. But was there a church body that you were a part of or just how did this happen? Because I think that’s a question a lot of people have, like how can I get to a point where I’m just comfortable in my own skin?

Grace: Yeah, I think that for me with regards to coming back to faith, I really had to first come out of it. I had to come out of the systems, the belief, and the frameworks that were hurting me, and the things that were just not serving me, that were confusing to me, and just have, for me at least, it was nothing for a while. I was not going to church. I wasn’t interested in church. I’ve always had a rich prayer life. I’ve always felt connected to God and that’s been important to me, but I wasn’t interested in just continuing to be part of a church organization because I had to. 

I mean, I grew up in the church. I was that person. I was in church more than I wasn’t, sometimes multiple services in a day. And so the way I rationalize it in my brain at the time, it wasn’t even that deep. It was like, I think I kind of earned a little bit of a break. [Pete laughs] Like I’ve done more church than most people will in their whole lives. Like I, I memorized the service so much, my dad would have to tell me to stop mouthing it back to him to distract him when he’d be preaching, you know? 

So I wanted to just have a bit of a break just to kind of clear my head and figure out what, you know, what I wanted my relationship with God to be and who I am and like, what am I bringing to the table? And I needed some space, some nothingness to clear that out. And then it was, it was nice to rebuild on what felt like for the first time a clean slate. And it was Easter, I can’t remember exactly when, but it was before my wife and I got married. It was sometime around Easter. We both sort of had to come out to each other as like, “you want to go to church on Easter?” Like you don’t have to, but you know, because as queer people, there’s, there’s a tension there. 

Pete: Right. 

Grace: And we both, yeah, wanted to go to church on this Easter. And then we were like, all right, let’s find an affirming church. And we attended the small church community and we really loved that. And it really helped sort of restore my faith in the things I really loved about going to church growing up. It was really a very restorative community for me. And then it sort of freed me up as like, to find other churches, especially when we were in lockdown of like where you can go online. And I’m, I’m really believe in finding a pluralism of perspective for me when it comes to, uh, practicing my faith. I like to hear from different preachers and thinkers rather than just go to one body and have sort of this like loyalty to, I have to go here. Maybe it’s just because of how I grew up. I get a little stir crazy. I like to hear from a lot of different perspectives. 

Pete: Yeah. 

Grace: Yeah. That’s kind of where I am today. 

Pete: Well, I mean, some people go through, you know, I guess, I mean—I hate to put it this way, like an atheist phase or something, because that diminishes the journey to call it just a phase. I don’t, I don’t like saying that, but it sounds to me that, I mean, for what I’m picking up, Grace, that your journey was more, you needed to like, cleanse the palate a little bit from the system that you were a part of, [Grace hums in agreement] but that doesn’t necessarily, you didn’t leave every semblance of some sort of faith, did you? 

Grace: No, no. I think that like if someone had asked me at that time, “Are you a Christian?” I would have been like, “Why are you asking me? This is a Denny’s.” [Pete laughs] Um, no, I’d be like, “Uh, yeah, I am. And it’s a long story and I’m kind of figuring it out.” And what I’ve learned now is that I think faith is just a moving target, and that makes it exciting. That’s the dynamic God that’s very compelling to me as a believer, and I think that I was lost and feeling disheartened in the stagnancy and in this culture of like repression and oppression.

I had to just totally get out of it and kind of just be disinterested in anything about church. I was just really, I was never disinterested in God. And I think moving to Los Angeles and having my world just really open up, I thought about God more and more. I don’t know if it’s the case with y’all, but sometimes the places where I experienced God are rarely in church.

It happens that it’s in church, but a lot of times it’s random places, meeting surprising people. It’s a view that strikes you out of nowhere. It’s a song that, you know, was so comforting to you as a kid that somehow came on shuffle and you’re like, what? Then you’re really kind of astonished by the presence of it all. So I always had those moments. It was just figuring out the organization and I think I’m just going to be figuring it out for my whole life. I don’t have any prescriptions and I certainly should not be considered an expert on the subject. But I am at peace with where I have arrived today. 

Jared: I appreciate how you, how you put that. Cause I do think a lot of people are in a similar place of God extends beyond the churches. And in some ways, I feel like churches as an institution are trying to catch up to this work that’s happening outside of, of their walls. And in some ways I like that. It feels empowering to see and to really call to account for churches to, you know, innovate and change and evolve and adapt to the world that we live in. So, I, I, I’m excited about that and appreciate, um, hearing more about your story with that.

[Ad break]

Jared: Thinking of kind of the Christian music industrial complex and that world, what drew you to releasing “Christian music” particularly, and I, I use that in air quotes, Christian music, when that world has historically, you know, excluded queer folks by design. What’s been your process, um, with, getting into that world. And what’s been your experience in that space? 

Grace: Well, it was the first music that I remember. It was Christian music was so formative for me. I hear my favorite artists in my songwriting today. And now as an artist, I mean, that’s such a compliment when someone says that they’ve inspired you to create something and share your own story. And it just was the case in my home that my dad was a concert promoter at the University of Delaware, and he also was an associate rector. This was before we moved to Belgium at that church. And so he would book so many Christian acts. And then when we moved to Belgium, we would get like a big box—I think about once a month—of just Christian music and media, movies, merch.

And it was like Christmas whenever this box would arrive. And I remember when we would get like a TobyMac sweatshirt and it was just like the biggest thing for me because I was so, I had such an appetite for music. And all the music I was getting was, was Christian music. It just completely raised me. And I’m thankful for that. I really am thankful for that. 

I think the way that the genre has changed today is that it’s really a worship-centric genre. But as I was growing up, it was a storytelling genre about a person’s experience with faith. And I was really inspired by that. And when it came time to write my own music, when I was ready to be honest and release things pretty raw, which was what Preacher’s Kid was, it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that that was the tradition I leaned into, which is what I grew up with.

Pete: Yeah. 

Grace: Songwriting, storytelling about my faith, and it’s unconventional because of who I am and where I’ve landed, but it doesn’t make it less part of that genre. It’s just kind of a forgotten genre. I mean, the Christian genre technically still exists, but if you look at some Switchfoot records that came out under the Christian genre, I doubt that they would still be considered that today if the records were to come out. So that’s sort of the category that I fall under. And especially with the music I’m working on currently, like I have a new album coming out hopefully this year, I’ve just been thinking like, all right, I’m not, I’m just not a worship singer, but I am a Christian artist like this sometimes. And then there’s some songs where I’m not at all. And I just need to be good with that and the people who get it get it and the people who don’t never would and that’s alright.

Pete: It’s like the book of Psalms, you know, it’s like all over the place just depending on the mood.

Grace: Yeah it is! A little bit of it—a little bit of love making, and a little bit of prayer saying, and it’s all okay to be on the same record I think.

Pete: A little bit of anger with God, all that kind of stuff. So yeah, right. 

Grace: Mm hmm.

Jared: That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about how the genre has changed to being more worship specific, but that makes a lot of sense. 

Pete: It sells. 

Jared: Yeah, well, and I do think, I mean, I guess my, my optimism is maybe this secular Christian divide isn’t so staunch. I just think of it when I was growing up, I think Grace, you and I probably had a similar upbringing around Christian culture.

And there was just this sense of separateness that it’s like, the Christian genre could afford to have more storytelling because there was a clear demarcation of is it coming from a basically an evangelical perspective or not? And so, you know if you were DC Talk, you could talk about whatever you wanted because you were sort of in that camp. And so I’m hopeful to think that well, maybe it’s because the Christian genre has bled into sometimes you can just be a Christian and produce music and it doesn’t have to be called a Christian album.

Grace: Yeah. Yeah. 

Jared: That’s my hope. I don’t know if that’s been your experience at all. 

Grace: It’s something I’ve thought about. I mean, I don’t want to be in spaces where I’m not wanted with a great deal of frequency. I believe in taking up space as a form of peaceful protest, and it’s certainly something that I’ve practiced in my career thus far. But I also don’t want to belabor points that I think have already been made. So I think about this heavily with the new record actually, which we’re in pre-production on. I’ve been thinking about—alright, some of these songs are kind of undeniably Christian and are talking about my faith and are oddly kind of worshipful in how they are talking about my blessings and things I’m happy about and things that I’m thankful to God for.

And then there are other songs that are not dealing with those same feelings. So how do I categorize this album? And I think if this was coming out 20 years ago, it still would be a Christian record, but given the current landscape, do I want to try and fight this battle? I just don’t really want to fight with people that much anymore. I don’t have the bandwidth for it. I, I think I’m, I’m really trying to just focus on the people who understand where I’m coming from, cause there’s more of us than we think, and let that be what it is. And for those who take issue with the songs that are more prayerful because of who I am and how I have wound up here, then I don’t know. I mean, they can, they’re free to take issue with it I suppose. I’m just trying to, I’m trying to create an album that, um, is reconciliatory for me. And I can’t, I can’t make everyone happy. 

Pete: You’re giving voice to a different kind of Christian journey, I think. And—

Grace: Yes. Yeah. 

Pete: And what, you know, it really has struck me—we talk about, you know, Christian music and Christian record labels. It’s evangelical Christian labels. There are a variety of ways that Christian music can be created. I mean, the way Jared mentioned before and what others are doing as well as, and, you know, of course you’re doing it too, that doesn’t fit into that very particular narrow, to be cynical, money making genre.

That, you know, certain things, it’s like Bible translations. You have to be very careful what you say because people won’t buy it, right? So, it’s the same kind of thing, but as independent artists, for example, can just make a different, not an impact, just make a statement and just be, be Jesus differently, you know, to the world out there. You know, and, and, and you do that by telling your story. 

Jared: Speaking of that, you talked about taking up space and some of your lyrics, I think for me, what’s related, been very relatable is some of them deal with these relationships that you have with people who you’ve lost touch with, that you disconnected with, or disengaged with over faith.

You know, I’m thinking of Jesus from Texas

My best friend found God, so we lost touch. 

I guess a savior beats a friend who thinks you’re good enough. 

I hope she finds love and peace. And if her kid comes out, I hope she calls me.

It speaks to these relationships. And so you saying that you, you, you’re intentionally taking up space. It makes me think about the relationships that you’ve had, that I’ve had to shift because I know from my perspective and a lot of our listeners. Just even wanting to still be Christian in a way that maybe wasn’t acceptable to certain spaces or certain congregations or people that we grew up with, has been painful. And for some people they just sort of like sayonara i’m out of here See ya and for others they stick around and have to navigate family relationships and close friendships in the midst of these faith differences, so I don’t want to project, but is that your experience as I as I see these things? And how have you navigated some of these closer relationships with having boundaries, but also wanting to take up space? And how do you have the wisdom to figure that out?

Grace: It’s another moving target that I will imperfectly be trying for. For the rest of my life. But you are correct. It’s something I’ve gone through with loved ones and it’s brutal. I have so much compassion if you have any listeners that can relate to this experience. It is so frustrating, and I have as always tried to write through the heartache of it all. And I don’t know, sometimes I regret some songs that I’ve put out about it that maybe I’ve shared too much because for me, I think that in a practical sense, you can’t keep doing the same thing and having the same conversations over and over again and expecting a different result.

And that is the impasse that I think we arrived at. And also in a heart sense, when you love someone, you can’t just tell your head to stop loving and caring about them. And having a boundary is really difficult. So for me, where I’ve arrived is that I have this boundary, it’s understood by all parties involved, it’s respected, I will not cross it, uh, nor will others I think—unless something should change, which has been expressed, if that ever changes, then please, I will do everything to mend the hurt. But when it comes to like, who I am and my family, it’s like, I, I just can’t, that’s, I don’t know what, I don’t.

It became really confusing. Even as I talk about this out with you, and this is something that’s been in my life for so long at this point, for years at this point, I still come up at a loss of what am I supposed to do? I can’t change who I am. What do you want me to do? Get divorced? Like, what do you want me to do? We just had a baby! Like what? What? This only gets worse if the views on one end are so insurmountable—for me. How can I feel welcome? I can’t. 

And so with that being said, I don’t feel welcome. I love you though. I really do. I, I actually really, I really understand why you feel this way, like why you’re coming to this conclusion because I, we drank the same lemonade. So like, I understand, I understand why. Unfortunately, I have to remove myself and you should too, because from, from that perspective to imagine sitting across from your friend and just, and having these thoughts about them, how heartbreaking that is for both of us. So we got to, we got to call it, but you know, I’ve made it clear. And it will remain true for as long as I am on this side of heaven—If anything should change, we will go out for dinner, I promise you. We will figure out how to get through it. But I just, at a certain point in time, like, is Jesus—you have to think about it, like literally, is Jesus loving this interaction? No, he’s not. Like, who’s, who’s having fun here as we, like, text, block texts back and forth, these shower arguments. Like, who are they for? Is God being like, “Oh, my good and faithful servant!” Like, no, everyone’s sad here. This is a bad situation. And we love each other too much to continue perpetuating hurt in the other party’s life. So there you have it. It’s an awful situation. I feel so badly for people who have to go through it. It sucks.

Jared: Absolutely. And I think it’s, it’s, it’s actually a lot of people over the last handful of years, for sure, who are going through that. So thank you for being honest about your experience. And it, you know, it, it does remind me a little bit of what you said earlier of just needing to, to take a breather or take a break from church and you know, sometimes that it feels like that break or that boundary is hurting a relationship and in some ways it may be protecting it. Because the more you know, you try to engage and send those texts—I just, this is my experience. The more you try to do that, it’s like the hurt builds up because it’s like we’re not actually healing. We’re actually just hurting each other more and more and more and digging that hole deeper. 

Where if we just had a boundary and said, let’s just, let’s call it for a while. And you know, if things change, I’d love to come back and re engage in this relationship. At least then when we come back, we’re not having to dig through all the baggage that we’ve created by, you know, working through that. But I think that’s where the wisdom is. It’s really hard to know when each one of those is appropriate. Yeah, I, I agree. It’s a very, it’s very challenging.

[Ad break]

Pete: The question is coming up here in my mind, Grace. I hope I can articulate it simply enough. Okay. I hate this question when I get it. Cause I’m like, I don’t know what to say, but maybe you’ll be better at it. What, what, what is good news for you in all this Jesus business? I mean, what’s the benefit? Because I mean, we’ve, we run into people all the time who—that’s the question they’re asking, you know, what’s, what’s the benefit of all this and you have your own experiences and your own your own journey? How would you put it? 

Grace: I get excited about God, when I remember that we are all created in God’s image, and that the way that we get to understand God in this lifetime is through other people.

That’s how we are interpreting scripture, how we are living out scripture. A Christian faith is an action. It’s a practice. It’s not something that just exists within four walls, but it’s something that you get Live out and seek out and you get to do that by just meeting your neighbors and like being in your community and loving your family well and showing up for yourself, seeing yourself as a person who was created in the image of God.

How stunning is that? That’s what I get really excited about. And it’s really—I remember the first time that someone told me kind of after I had, I moved to Los Angeles, I wasn’t really going to church that much anymore, and I don’t know how it came up, but someone just said that we always forget the part of, you know, love your neighbor as yourself. And you think about that as a kid, it’s one of the first things you, you hear about in Sunday school. Yes. It’s so important to love your neighbor and to be kind to your neighbor and this person emphasized, but as yourself, are you caring for yourself? Because if you’re not, you’re not going to show up for your neighbor in the way that God has asked of us.

And that sounds silly now, but it was such a lightbulb moment for me of like, oh, we, we have to tend to these, to these vessels. We have to tend to who we are, to our spirit. And that’s going to help us show up for each other. That’s the good news that I get excited about, that I think is a, is a Christian ethic that I’ve really clung onto as I’ve gotten older: is that every person has a story and a value and that’s always accessible to us to understand each other better.

So, that’s the, that’s the good news, that’s the, the Jesus good stuff that I, I think about pretty frequently, that we see God in other people and that’s available to us with every new day. 

Pete: Yeah. Along those lines, do you struggle with the Bible? And please say yes ’cause everybody else does.

Grace: [Sarcastically] Nah, I pretty much get it for sure. I actually don’t have any questions. 

Pete: [Wheezes from laughing] Okay. 

Grace: I know that, I know that book for like, back of my hand. It’s a real good one.

Pete: It’s not so much que, I mean, it’s not so much questions, but you know, are there parts that are difficult for you? I mean, there are for me, you know, just, well—

Jared: Maybe even, I think that, but if I can envelop it in the larger question of, yeah. How has your views on the Bible shifted as you’ve shifted in your faith? And then, you know, maybe with that to punctuate it, are there parts that give you trouble in particular? 

Grace: Well, my appreciation for the Bible has expanded tremendously as an adult because when I was a kid, I did not understand what they would announce before they did a reading. I was just like, oh, this is the voice of God when God talked to Peter. Like, it was all God. For sure, just only exclusively God’s voice and he spoke down from the heavens, which is a major bummer that he doesn’t seem to do that anymore, but he did it a lot back in the day and he would like, talk to Luke and he would say this.

I didn’t understand that these were people who were documenting their experiences during certain times in human history, that the letters from Paul were letters. It just, you know what I mean? Like, it just didn’t occur to me that they were, that it was mail.. 

Pete: We’re reading somebody else’s mail, right?

Grace: Yeah, exactly. It was, someone said that exact, exact expression. We’re reading somebody else’s mail. And I was like, no, we’re listening to the voice of God that Paul transcribed verbatim in English. And when, when I got older, and understanding how the books were compiled together and certain books that were left out of the Bible, um, I have a, a deeper appreciation for it because I mean, you, you just have to look at the, the wisdom from however many years ago and everything that was passed down and what was seen to be relevant.

And then there’s something that haunts me. I think it’s in the Gospel of John where he, it’s like the last thing that he says, I think it’s in John, but if I’m wrong, then that would be, um, usual of me. So maybe I’m incorrect, but he says something like, these were some of the things that Jesus did, but there are many more things, I just can’t put them all. 

Pete: Yeah. 

Grace: And I’m that blows my mind. I was like, “Sir?!” This, did you not, he just didn’t think you can just in that. It’s so evident. It’s so evident that he didn’t know he was writing the Bible. He wasn’t like, and this is called the Bible. It was like, he was writing down his memories of the life of Jesus.

And then at the end, someone must have been like, so John, is there anything else you want to add? And he’s like, Oh, there’s a lot of other stuff he did. I just don’t really have the time to do it right now. And that’s the last sentence of his gospel. It’s like, there’s more, but like, whatever. 

Yeah. So as an adult and diving into my faith and—I appreciate the Bible, I think for the first time for what it is, because I understand what the text is. And so now I can sort of take it for what it is and the value that it brings into my life. The things that are hard, obviously the clobber verses, but that was really what first started me to understand what is the Bible? Is this the voice of God? 

Pete: Yeah. 

Grace: That’s telling, I mean, we forgot in the letters of Paul, he’s writing to people being like, Hey, by the way, when I get there, will you have my coat ready for me?Because I forgot my coat. Is that the voice of God? Did God forget his coat? Like what? [Pete laughs] I don’t, it’s confusing. So I appreciate the clobber verses because it inspired myself and many queer people, though I will not speak for queer people, to crack open a Bible and be like, all right, they’re talking about me, like what’s going on here. Let me get into this.

Pete: You know, something, Grace, you just said reminds me of a student a few years ago where I teach who grew up with the Bible and was sort of tired of it, you know, and so you have to take these Bible classes at a Christian college. So and getting into how the gospel stories differ significantly in places, and that actually helped her because she said “Oh, these aren’t children’s stories. These are people actually think—” and like you just said, you’re figuring out something about what the Bible actually is. And it’s, it’s not a rule book, you know, that gives you all the information pretty much there in 10 points. And you know, it’s, there’s multivocality in the Bible, different opinions and different, different perspectives. And that’s part of it. And that’s a beautiful thing to discover because then you sort of start dealing with it in a less magical way. But also I think for this person, it was like, I want to read this more.

Jared: Well, and not even just magical, but relatable because I, I relate to what you’re saying, Grace, about for me, there was always this nostalgia for the old times. Oh, in the olden times, God spoke, I guess, to everybody, and it was just sort of like, God’s always around and telling everyone what to do, and now God’s, like, nowhere to be found and never telling anyone what to do.

Pete: Basically in half of Genesis and part of Exodus, and then prophets take over. Like, God does actually very little talking. 

Jared: Right. Yeah, exactly, but—the way, the impression I got growing up was like, this happens all the time. 

Pete: Yeah, sure. 

Jared: And now, so then now, it feels like, It’s just not relatable. Like that seems like a totally different time where God just dictates to everybody what to do and how to do it. And now we’re just left to fumble here 2000 years later with no direction except for this book. It just, it just seemed not relatable. And so I think for a lot of people to see like, Oh, it’s just, it’s human people wrestling with their experiences of God and figuring that out in community.

I was like, Oh, well that’s, that’s, that’s kind of what I’m doing too. 

Grace: Oh yeah. And that pluralism of perspective on faith lets us know that that’s okay. That that’s part of the faith tradition that we’re in, because it’s in the Bible. 

Jared: Right, it’s modeling it for us. 

Grace: Right. It’s that sometimes you’re made to feel like you’re the outlier because, you know, you’re the square peg round hole type thing that you can’t fit. And then you go into the Bible and there’s different accounts of certain events, and there’s lots of misfits type people that are sharing their own stories and perspectives on divinity. And then you have this, another light bulb moment of like, “Oh yeah. And that’s, I’m not so different from that.”

Pete: Yeah. And it’s, I think it’s great for a Christian artist storyteller, you know, to connect with the Bible in that way and to bring those things out, you know, in, in the reality of maybe your lyrics. And that’s the, to me, that’s, I mean, you said music and science, right? You said before, I agree with you, I would maybe expand it to the arts, but there’s something about music, about just, just the melody and, and lyrics that really move people. And I’m one of those too, you know? So yeah. Having a Bible that actually reflects the vagaries of life and for a storyteller like yourself, I think that’s just a great combination. 

Jared: Maybe we can, I appreciate you turning it back to some of the musical elements there, Pete. Grace, what would you say is your imagination for the future of, of Christian Music as you think about that as a genre and I’m asking this as someone who—I really appreciate that you are part of that tradition, you know that great ancient tradition of CCM and Audio Adrenaline and you know, DC Talk. What kind of what’s your vision for that? Like how, how what’s the future of Christian music as you see it? And how do you see yourself as a part of that or not as a part of that? 

Grace: I think that the Christian genre is unironically one of the more exciting genres to me in music today, because you’re only bound by theme. But style should be, in an ideal space, just your oyster. It should read the most creative type of music because you can do anything to express how you are wrestling with or understanding divinity from a Christian perspective, and especially in the United States, where that is the dominant religion, there are people that are going to be interested to hear about that, and interested to see if they can relate. Because I mean, so many of us grew up in the church. So I think it’s a really exciting space. There’re really cool people who are up and coming and writing about what they’ve gone through, what they’re looking towards. And I feel honored to be part of that.

I continue to write Christian songs, not exclusively, but it’s certainly going to be something I talk about for the rest of my life. And not only have I made peace with that, I think I’m pretty good with it. It’s not just that I’ve made peace with it, it’s really feeling thankful that I’m at a place in my life where I can write about God as an openly queer person and how that would have shifted things for me as a kid and as an artist, that’s such a great kindness to be able to extend a hug to your younger self metaphorically. And I’m excited about that. 

And I just hope that the gatekeepers of the genre, I hope that there’s some curiosity to accept different perspectives and to kind of take a bit of a risk on voices like mine and others, that we have something to say and that there are more people that are curious to receive it than they might think, because it hasn’t really been tried from like a label perspective. So I’m curious to see how industry insiders and execs adjust, but I will continue forging a path and I’m excited to see who’s along with me. 

Jared: Well, thank you so much, Grace, for jumping on the podcast with us. And just sharing a little bit about your story. I think it’s going to be very relatable for a lot of people. And, um, I appreciate your vulnerability and honesty in talking about it. So thank you.

Grace: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. 

[Music plays to signal beginning of Quiet Time segment]

Jared: And now for Quiet Time…

Pete: with Pete and Jared. Well, one thing, Jared, from this conversation with Grace that really struck me is how as out of the ordinary as she is—a queer record artist who’s number one on the charts, right—her spiritual journey still it echoes what it’s so common. You know, and it’s, it’s so relatable, I think, to people, whatever their walk of life is. And, you know, one thing that struck me really is early on, she said just, it seemed like a throwaway line almost, but faith is a moving target. And she meant that as a positive. And I don’t know, what do you think about that?

Jared: I think it was a fantastic way to start the conversation because that was ringing in my head the whole episode, was faith is a moving target. I think it encapsulates so much of what we’ve talked about on Faith for Normal People for the last season and a half now, around what faith is. Faith is the journey instead of, you know, I think sometimes we grew up with the idea of you start with faith, you have faith, and then that’s the beginning of your faith journey—

Pete: And that doesn’t change.

Jared: That doesn’t change. No, it can’t change.

Pete: Right.

Jared: It can’t change. It’s the presupposition. It’s the foundation. It’s the prerequisite for having any kind of faith at all, is to be certain that you have it. And then you, you know, you kind of quote work out your faith with fear and trembling, kind of. But to remind ourselves again and again, as Grace did so well, that faith is the moving target. And we’re, we’re, it’s a journey. We’re moving toward it. I would say, I don’t even know if it is a target. I don’t know if we ever get there, but it was a good thought, I think. 

Pete: Yeah, I loved it. And it’s something that, I mean, others would use language like evolving faith, right?

Jared: Or adaptive. 

Pete: Adaptive faith, right? I like that language, evolving faith. And faith by its nature is something that is moving. And, and even to say it’s a moving target. I’m not sure I want to be shooting at it. I mean, I understand the point, but it’s like, it’s a different metaphor has to come into play that really calls into question a common assumption.

Like you said, faith is this thing that it begins everything. And you have to keep coming back to that faith you had, you know, when you accepted Jesus in church or something like that. It always has to come back to that. The idea that it would evolve or change or that the content of the faith and the nature of the faith is moving and changing, that’s a foreign language to a lot of people. But I mean, you know, from my point of view, it couldn’t be more obvious. 

And Grace mentioned as well, the Bible itself embodies that. Right? And it’s like, yeah, I mean, you got my attention there. I’ve written a couple of books on that topic because it’s true. You know, it’s like, I think sometimes you have to be on the margins to see that, right? It took me a long time to get to that point because I had my nose stuck in it in graduate school and I had to come to terms with it. But that was, you know, a little later in my life. That was in my thirties already at that point where I was really starting to come to terms with it because I’d never had to.

Jared: When that narrative is comfortable to you and you have a lot to gain from it, it’s really hard to see it differently. But that’s the, the beauty of following in the footsteps or learning from queer folks or folks on the margin, is that they can see things that people like you and me have a hard time seeing.

Well, and speaking of that, then, you know, the other part that I think was for me, important, was this conversation around how to handle relationships. You know, I wrote Love Matters More and how do we disagree with people well? And just having a real heart for people who have to have relationships in the messy middle in the transitions of faith and life where we’re not we’re not quite sure where we’re gonna land, and yet we have to be called to account—Well, what do you believe? How do you believe that? 

Pete: Right. 

Jared: I can’t be your friend if you’re here and where are—it’s like I don’t know. I didn’t even want to be here. I’m just kind of going down this slippery slope, I wish I was at the top. What are you talking about? And so it’s just, it’s a very lonely isolating place to be. And, and I really appreciate Grace’s ability to articulate it so well of, of the ambiguity of it, of the, I don’t know, what—how do you have a good boundary with this? It’s so circumstantial. Every situation is different. And that can be painful because you could step into it and realize the way you tried to handle it with a different friend or a different family member isn’t going to work with this family member. And you don’t know that until you get hurt by it or you get your hands slapped or something like that. It’s just a, it’s a real ping pongy, you know, pinball bouncing around kind of time of life. 

Pete: Yeah, or life. That’s just the way, right?

Jared: Well, I do think there is, I would just say for me—I do think there is a, there’s learning that happens over time. I do think you get better at knowing and Intuiting what relationships can handle more of this kind of conflict and disagreement and what ones you Just need to wipe your hands of earlier.

Pete: Right. That comes with experience, I think so. 

Jared: Have you, I can ask this question for you? In the spirit of that kind of evolution and learning, do you feel like that’s gotten easier for you? I mean, do you have close relationships where this is still very painful or is it something where you’ve, you’ve been able to cultivate the relationships within the tension that can handle it, and you’ve been able to let go of the relationships that can’t handle it. 

Pete: Yeah. I mean, that’s pretty much it. I think of my life and I haven’t had that many people who we would trigger each other too much about things. I mean, it did happen with institutions that I was a part of, whether it’s where I was teaching or, you know, in particular denominations.

And, um, I mean, that connects very much with something, you know, Grace talked about—leaving the church is not leaving God. They’re not the same thing. And sometimes, she used the word I think “stagnation.” You feel stagnated in a church setting and you have to leave it, which can cause tensions with people because then I mean, if you’ve ever left the church people—they stop talking to you, you know? And it’s not like because they’re bad people, it’s just you’ve left our social boundary and now we really can’t have much to do with you. And I appreciated how you know, we really shouldn’t equate church with God or with the Christian faith because they’re not the same thing 

Jared: Yeah, it’s interesting. You know, we’ve been talking about this, this season, meaning season eight of Bible for Normal People and season two of Faith for Normal People, how different things we equate with God. We think the Bible and God are the same thing. We think church and God are the same thing. And it’s a liberating process in my experience to start parsing that out and saying, “Oh, those aren’t the same thing at all.”

Pete: Yeah. And we’re just bumbling around sometimes. We’re, we’re, we’re in deserts of our own making and thinking that, you know, we’re in some oasis or something, but it’s humbling and it’s really refreshing, you know? I mean, really, I’ve had evolutions in my life, you know, that really began in seminary. Yeah actually, you know, before I even went to graduate school where it’s like, you start realizing, I just don’t know very much about this stuff. I just, I just don’t, you know, and that’s why I like listening to people, whether it’s Grace or whether it’s a scholar or whether it’s a practitioner or whatever, just from their own experience talking about the Bible or the Christian faith or Jesus or whatever. And it’s very liberating to know that I don’t know. And that I can’t possibly wrap my arms around all of it. It just takes the pressure off. Then you have to believe in this graceful presence, and if not, I think we’re all screwed. 

Jared: Yep. Thanks, everybody. 

[Outro music plays]

Jared: Well, thanks to everyone who supports the show. If you want to support what we do, there are three ways you can do it. One, if you just want to give a little money, go to

Pete: And if you want to support us and want a community, classes, and other great resources, go to 

Jared: And lastly, it always goes a long way if you just wanted to rate the podcast, leave a review, and tell others about our show. In addition, you can let us know what you thought about the episode by emailing us at 

Outro: You’ve just made it through another episode of Faith for Normal People! Don’t forget you can catch our other show, The Bible for Normal People, in the same feed wherever you get your podcasts. This episode was brought to you by the Bible for Normal People team: Brittany Hodge, Stephen Henning, Wesley Duckworth, Savannah Locke, Tessa Stultz, Danny Wong, Natalie Weyand, Lauren O’Connell, Jared Cazel, Jessica Shao, and Naiomi Gonzalez.

[Outro music ends] 

[Beep signals start of bloopers]

Jared: Should we end there? 

Pete: Yeah. 

Jared: “If not, we’re all screwed.” ?

Pete: [Laughs] We’re all screwed. Anyway, folks, on that kind and wonderful and uplifting note, we’re all screwed. There you had it. You’ve, you’ve heard it here first. We’re all screwed. 

[Beep signals next blooper clip]

Jared: Uh, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with, uh, Bible for normal people or faith for normal people, but, um—

Grace: I’m familiar after y’all reached out. 

Jared: Oh.

Grace: Then I looked y’all up.

Jared: Okay. That’s good. That’s fair. That’s fair. Um, you know, we’re a big deal in Europe, but, um, just kidding. [Pete laughs heartily] Uh…

[Beep signals next blooper clip]

Jared: Um, for kind of talking about faith or faith expressions. But if something, if you use something kind of esoteric, like, you know, eschatology or the rapture or something and be able to like, we need to take a minute to explain that.

Grace: Oh, I see. I probably won’t talk about the rapture, but it’s [laughs]

Pete: No?!

Jared: That’s unfortunate.

Pete: That was the topic. Grace, that was the whole topic! [All laughing]

Jared: Aren’t you an expert in the rapture? 

Pete: I can’t believe this. What a disaster. What will we talk about? Music, I guess. 

Grace: [Laughing] I suppose we’ll have to pivot. 

Pete: We’ll figure it out. 

Grace: Predictions: who’s going to make it? Semler weighs in.

[Beep signals end of bloopers and end of episode]
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.