“How are we as humans shaped, influenced and constrained by the culture in which we live?” Scott Monsma, a sociology professor at Northwestern, expands on this question in an article he wrote titled, “Retelling the Fragmented Story of Michal.” The article was published in the Journal for Sociological Integration of Religion and Society in October.
Monsma’s interest was sparked after he read “Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)Versions of Biblical Narratives” by J. Cheryl Exum. This book discusses the stories of narratives and women in the Old Testament. The specific narrative in Fragmented Women that caught Monsma’s attention was the story of David and his wife, Michal.
“I like to read stuff that messes with your thinking and I found this book very fascinating,” Monsma said. “I was especially interested in the story of Michal. I started going back through the Bible and stringing all the different pieces together of her story.”
It’s traditional for most Christians who are aware of the narrative’s story line to view Michal as the offender and David as the victim because of how Michal critiques David’s form of worship. However, Monsma took a different perspective toward the relationship between David and Michal.
“We first hear how Michal had no right to say to David to not worship in a certain way,” Monsma said.”But, maybe if we look at Michal’s whole story we can see that we got the understanding wrong and that maybe Michal is actually the victim.”
Although Monsma took a feminist approach to this biblical text, he does not argue that there is one specific way to read it. Rather, he believes Christians can learn from one another by being exposed to other interpretations.
“There is a certain strain to modern Christianity that leads us to think we have to be absolutely right about everything,” Monsma said. It’s not about being right but how we dialogue about the text that makes us shape our faith. The best way to understand faith is listening to people on the margins about how being privileged shapes the way I read the bible.”
Prior to writing his article, Monsma first spoke on the story of David and Michal in chapel during 2010. He also had the privilege to speak at the Association of Christians Teaching Sociology conference in 2011 on this topic. It was after these two events, that the opportunity to write the article presented itself.
“I found that the audience at the conference took the story quite well,” Monsma said. “After that, through some connections I have with the Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, I heard that the Journal for Sociological Integration of Religion and Society was looking for articles to be submitted for their journal.”
The Journal for Sociological Integration of Religion and Society is a publication from Oxford Graduate School. The journal strives to provide a forum with the latest research that integrates Christianity and society.