God cares about people that the church has often forgotten.
Today’s podcast contains two different interviews that I’m personally passionate about, and I wanted you to hear. I came across both of these people on social media, was immediately intrigued, and knew that I wanted to bring it all to you.
First, my social media started going nuts about two months ago when abuse advocates starting posting YouTube videos of sermons by Winston Bosch, a pastor in Ottawa (near where I live), talking about divorce. It was so encouraging to hear a pastor speak so passionately that the thing God really hates is abuse, not divorce. He gave a three-part sermon series, and I brought him on the podcast to talk about it.
Next, I interact with author and teacher Jasmine Holmes quite a bit on Instagram, and I was so intrigued by her book Carved in Ebony, about ten African-American women who did amazing things in America’s history–but they’ve been largely forgotten.
I thought as we’re nearing Christmas–the time of Emmanuel, or God with us–it’s a good time to reflect on how God is close to the brokenhearted, and how God sees those the church too often ignores.
And I hope that we can start seeing as God does.
Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:
Timeline of the Podcast
2:00 Let’s discuss divorce & forgotten women
4:30 Winston joins to discuss his divorce series
14:00 What prompted Winston to do a sermon on divorce
24:30 Jasmine joins to discuss her book
31:00 The women in ‘Carved in Ebony’
53:30 Latest positive reviews to end the podcast
Does God Hate Divorce?
Winston Bosch, of Jubilee Church in Ottawa, did a 3 part series on divorce this summer. I think what really affected so many divorced women and abuse advocates was how passionate Pastor Bosch became.
Bosch isn’t trying to be big online, and his sermons are on YouTube mostly for his congregation. But this first sermon has 15,000 views, about 150 times normal.
And honestly, this is one of the best biblical defences of divorce for abuse that I have ever heard.
So many people have asked me to explain what the Bible says about divorce, and this will now be the go-to place I send them.
Carved in Ebony
God does not like men more than women; white people more than black people; Americans better than Kenyans. Yet if you look at the face of the church, what do you see?
When I ask that question, we usually think of it in terms of racial injustice, which is certainly true. But in reading Jasmine’s book, I had another profound thought.
As a church, we lose so much when we silence some people’s voices, and we forget the histories of others.
My goodness, the ten women Jasmine chose for her book were brave! They are incredible role models. They have incredible stories that can inspire us even decades or centuries after their deaths. I took so many notes as I read this book because there were so many quotes I wanted to remember.
I’ll let Jasmine explain the reasoning behind her book:
It is from this perspective that I seek to tell you the story of 10 incredible Black women. I tell you about their plight in our nation not to rub America’s nose in her corporate sin but to proclaim the glory of the God who heard their cries and answered their prayers and used them mightily in spite of their country of origin. I tell you about their struggles and their triumphs not to elevate their blackness but to elevate God’s grace in creating that brown skin in His image. When I tell you the story of dignified black womanhood, I do so to combat the opposite narrative. Yes. But I also do it to point to the inherent dignity and worth of women whom God created in His image and for His glory, God’s image carved in ebony.
Things Mentioned in the Podcast
- Our Patreon! Support us for as little as $5 a month, and get access to unfiltered podcasts, more merch, and an exclusive Facebook Group!
- Our Merch! Makes great last minute Christmas gifts, and check out our Be a Biblical Woman or our Love & Respect collection, or even our new Fixed it For You!
- Winston Bosch’s Sermons: What God Hates More than Divorce (Mal. 2:16): Jesus and Divorce; and Paul and Divorce
- Jasmine Holmes’ book Carved in Ebony, plus find Jasmine on Instagram!
- And, of course, here’s The Great Sex Rescue! It’s on for just $2.99 on Kindle right now!
What do you think of Pastor Bosch’s argument? And how can we elevate other voices in the church, so that we can learn and be inspired by those history has forgotten? Do you have a hero from history most have never heard of? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila: Welcome to The Bare Marriage podcast. I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to strip away all the toxic, unhealthy marriage advice that we often get in churches and Christian circles and even in the world and get back to what God really intended. So we are all about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage. And today I have a little bit of a different podcast for you. I have two different stories that I want to tell you. I’m on social media a lot. And often things pop up in my social media feed, and I just find them super interesting. And I go down these rabbit holes, and I just want to share them with you. And that’s what this podcast is about. Before we get started though, a couple of quick thank yous. As always, thank you to our patrons, who support us for as little as $5 a month and help us do what we are doing. Their money helped support our huge survey that we did last year for our mother daughter book that’s coming out in the spring. We have two more big surveys planned for the year ahead and so much more which we will be filling you in on more in January. So join our Patreon group. We have an awesome Facebook group that’s patrons only. We have unfiltered podcasts. We have merch that’s exclusive to our Patreon group, so it’s a great community. And I invite you there. It’s just patreon.com/baremarriage, and the link is also in the podcast notes. And another way that you can support the blog and also support other people at Christmas is getting our merch. We have merch that can make people talk and make people sit up and take notice. We have awesome Be a Biblical Woman merch. We have our Love and Respect mugs. We have some new Fixed It For You merch. So go on over and take a look at that. Just go to baremarriage.com and click on store, and you will find all of our merch. Okay. So here is what we are going to talk about today. So I was on Instagram, and I saw some really interesting stuff on Jasmine Holmes’s Instagram page about a book that she wrote, Carved in Ebony, about some of the women that the church has forgotten. So she is coming up later in the podcast. But then also about two months ago, the abuse community stood up and took notice and started applauding and started sharing a number of videos from a small church in Ottawa focusing on divorce and how God does not hate divorce as much as He really—what He really hates is abuse. And the pastor just spoke so eloquently and so forcefully and with such authority over this taking a look at some of the passages that we’ve really interpreted badly. So I want to open this podcast with Winston Bosch from Jubilee Church in Ottawa. He’ll be coming on in just a minute. But he did this three-part series on divorce for abuse and how we need to understand that when we say that women can’t divorce for abuse, we are actually doing the exact opposite of what God said in Scripture. And it’s just such an interesting way of looking at these passages. It was really refreshing. I’m going to put the link to all three sermons in the podcast notes. But here is just a taste to get you started, and then we’ll bring on Pastor Winston Bosch.
Winston: Than what these men are doing. Divorce would be better than what these men are doing. There is something worse than divorce. And the thing that is worse than divorce are men who are unfaithful and treacherous and who break the unity of love, who abandon the wives that the Lord has joined to them and send them away, to reject them and spread violence over their lives, wreaking their lives within marriage, and all the while enslaving them within it by not divorcing them. And this is something that the Lord of hosts hates. It’s not that the Bible here is saying, well, divorce is a good thing. But it’s saying that there is something worse than divorce. The spreading of violence over your marriage and the enslaving of your wife. And I am sick to death of having to speak to women who are living that kind of enslavement only to hear from the mouths of other believes and office bearers that God hates divorce.
Sheila: Well, I am so glad to bring on the Bare Marriage podcast Pastor Winston Bosch from Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church in Ottawa. Hello, Winston.
Winston: Hi, Sheila. So happy to be here.
Sheila: Yeah. Now everyone listening—you might notice that Winston and I—we have the same accent. We say out and about the same way because I’m actually interviewing—I think this is my first time I’ve got someone on the podcast—or pretty much close to the first time that actually sounds like me. Other than my family. So that’s exciting. So yay. Yay for Ontario people.
Winston: Go Canada.
Sheila: And eastern Ontario people for that matter too. Now you caused quite a stir a couple months ago—a month ago maybe now—when you did a sermon series that got picked up on social media. I saw about it there. On divorce. And I was hoping to talk about what led up to that sermon series. But before we do that, I’m going to ask you to do something that every pastor hates.
Sheila: Could you summarize your sermon in 5 minutes? Because your take on Malachi 2:16, the verse that we often hear interpreted as God hates divorce—that’s—you said that’s not what God meant. And people ask me this all the time, “Well, what did God mean?” So I’m just going to turn it over to you. What do you say to people about that?
Winston: Sure. So you’re right. Oftentimes we think that that verse says God hates divorce. But that’s because that’s what it said in an older translation. But newer translations don’t say that anymore because we’ve got more accurate original sources now. Ever since the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know that it doesn’t say that. And so instead what it says, it says God hates men who are being faithless to their wives and who are divorcing them. But the word divorce used there is the—not the word that’s use to write a certificate of a divorce, which was allowed in the Old Testament in order to give women their freedom after they—if they were no longer married. Allow them to get remarried, for example. But it’s the word to send away. And so the prophet is saying that the Lord is upset, is angry, and will not listen to the prayers of men who are being faithless to their wives and who are sending them away. And so I sort of summarize that as saying there is something that God hates more than divorce, and that’s when men are treating their wives faithlessly and are enslaving them in a marriage where they would be more free if they, indeed, were divorced.
Sheila: Right. And which is so interesting. So I watched your sermon series. Were there three sermons in it? Maybe I’ve only—I’ve watched the first two anyway. They were really, really good. And I will put a link to those in the podcast notes. They are must watch for you, so I will put those. And my listeners can see those. But yeah. You were making this point that there are two words for divorce that we think of. There is one where people were being set free, so the marriage was ended so that you could go on. You could remarry. And then there’s one where you’re just leaving the person, but you’re not setting them free. So they have no way to remarry. They have no way to take care of themselves, and you’re just leaving them helpless.
Winston: Yeah. So those two words you find in Deuteronomy 24:1 where it’s a certificate of divorce. That’s one word. And then it speaks about sending somebody away. That’s another word. And so the provision in the Old Testament was to say if someone is to be sent away—in other words, if you’re going to separate, they ought to get a certificate of divorce so that they’re no longer technically married to the person who has sent them away and so, sort of, in this enslaved position. And so the word in Malachi is just the one that has to do with sending away. It’s not the one that has to be—has to do with writing a certificate of divorce.
Sheila: So when Jesus picks up on this and when Jesus is talking to people, how did you explain what you thought He meant about that?
Winston: Yeah. So in Matthew 19, you get this interesting situation where Jesus is being tested by some Pharisees. And they’re kind of—they’re—you kind of get your head wrapped around the test that they’re trying to give them. They’re trying to say, “What’s your interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1,” because there is two schools of rabbinical thought at the time that said, “You can divorce somebody because they don’t find favor in your eyes,” or, “You can find—you can divorce somebody only for some sort of very serious thing like adultery.” And so they’re kind of asking Jesus, “Which side are You on?” And Jesus does His stereotypical thing where He doesn’t immediately engage and sort of just goes above it all and say, “Hey, you should respect marriage.” But then He does take a stand where He says, “We ought not to divorce for anything, but we ought to divorce only for very serious things.” And then He gives an example. A example. One example. Where He talks about the case of sexual immorality. And so that would be one example that Jesus lays out for where divorce would be allowed.
Sheila: Okay. Now here’s where things get tricky. I think, if I’m reading into what you were saying in your sermons—this was one of the main reasons you did these sermon series—is that there is a thought, in many Christian denominations that you can’t divorce for any reason other than adultery which means you can’t even divorce for abuse. And what you were saying in your series is, “Look. God hates abuse way worse than He does divorce. And in fact, divorce can be saving people.” So how do you—what do you say to people who say, “But Jesus said only adultery?”
Winston: Yeah. So if that was the case, then why would Paul later on in 1 Corinthians 7 give a different reason because Paul talks about desertion. So if Jesus really meant that there was only one thing, then why—how would Paul—did Paul contradict Jesus? So those same people would say no. But we also have to understand that Jesus doesn’t just say adultery, which we often think of—two married people, one of the cheats on the other. But He uses—He says sexual immorality, which is a much broader word. So the word is porneia, which we get the word pornography from. So He says porneia is the reason for divorce. And so porneia is sort of this—I describe it as a junk drawer term. It’s sort of like you throw everything in there that is not healthy sexual activity between a husband and a wife. So it includes things outside of sexual activity in marriage but also includes things inside sexual activity in marriage that are harmful to somebody. So if you look at it like that, if you just look at what that term means, well, then you understand that it’s a lot more than just adultery. It can also be harmful sexual activity within marriage. It can be marital rape. It can be unrepentant, persistent pornography use. It can be a whole host of sexual abuse situations. And that those would, according to Jesus Himself, be reason for divorce.
Sheila: Right. So you gave your first sermon, and I saw it being shared by several abuse advocates that I’m friends with. And then I shared about a week later. Did you have any idea this was going to be picked you the way it was?
Winston: No. And so there was two kind of funny things that happened. One was is I had some members of my church that alerted that to me. “Hey, do you know that this is going—quite shared?” And then I had about four people from church say, “Do you know that Sheila Gregoire mentioned it on her Facebook page?” It still is a little bit surprising to me because I try my best to preach to a local congregation. I reference obscure—for most people, obscure documents from the 1600s, our Reformed confessions. I think that if people watch it they sort of get the idea that I’m really not trying to tailor this to an Internet audience. So I’m trying to preach to my own, local church. So it surprised me. But then it also just—it just made me sad because it’s so obvious that there are so many people that hunger for some reasonable, biblical teaching that demonstrates that God loves the people in marriage more than sort of the institution of marriage. And that we ought not to be fighting for no divorce at all costs, but we should be fighting for healthy marriages.
Sheila: Yeah. I love that. So when you gave this sermon series—I mean this was flying in the face of some of the things that even your friends, your denomination, whatever, normally preaches, isn’t it?
Winston: I don’t think so. Although maybe I should rephrase that. Probably for—there is some of my colleagues that would not preach those sermons. That’s true. But I belong to a denomination where we—as a pastor, I have to sign that I agree with our confessional documents, but they don’t mention anything about divorce. So our federation of churches has no stance on divorce. And so it really ends up differing from church to church. So no. I received no negative feedback.
Sheila: That’s wonderful. I’m surprised by that, but I’m also really gladdened by that.
Winston: No. I’m sure there were, maybe, some people that disagreed with me, but they—they’re not the ones that contacted me.
Sheila: Right. So if I can ask, was there something—and you probably can’t answer this if it was personal. But was there something that prompted you to do this series? Because there were several times in it where you really did get quite emotional. And it is really moving. Your sermons were really moving.
Winston: So I did two sermons on marriage last year. And in those, I said, “Hey, I would like to do a series on divorce but in the future.” And I sort of postponed it. But then I had two things. One was is I have somebody who is relatively close to me that is in an abusive marriage and has been speaking to me about that. And so that’s made it alive and current for me. I’ve had experience with abusive marriages in the past as a pastor, but this one was somebody who was quite close to me. And then the other really significant event—thing that prompted me to do it was—is a friend, who kept on kind of pestering me to say, “Hey, when are you going to do that series on divorce?” And it’s somebody who, herself, has been going through a separation and a divorce and found her interaction with her church very frustrating. And so she kept on pestering every couple of months, “Hey, are you going to do that divorce sermon series? Are you going to do that divorce series,” and sending me some articles to read. And so that was really helpful. That was—it was somebody for whom this was—is a daily thing that’s consuming her life. And she kept on pestering me asking me to do it. So I’m thankful for that because I would like to say that I would have done it a couple months ago either way. But her pestering really helped me.
Sheila: That’s actually good for all of us to hear. So hey, people. Maybe there is someone you need to be pestering right now as you are listening.
Winston: She did it really well. She would send me helpful articles and say, “Hey, you did say that.” And she contacted me every 2 months or so. And so, yeah. And she was sending me really good material as well and things to think about. So yeah. That was very helpful.
Sheila: Do you think that the teaching within seminaries is starting to change? Or let me ask you another question. When you were in seminary, what was taught about the reasons for divorce?
Winston: Yeah. So—yeah. I only have experience in one seminary. I went to a small, little, French Reformed seminary in Montreal. And there we spoke about divorce, and we spoke about abuse. But we often didn’t link them. So you would have counseling courses on how to help people who were being abused or people that were abusers or sections of courses that talked about church discipline and talked about those things. And then you would have something that would talk about divorce but didn’t necessarily link those. So I’m hoping that that’s changing. But in my own experience, those were not particularly linked.
Sheila: Right. And do you get a sense among your colleagues, among the magazines you read, or whatever that there is more openness to divorce for abuse now?
Winston: Yeah. I think so with the growing openness that people are sharing their abuse stories, sharing what’s happened in their lives. I think that that reality is waking more people up to the horrors of what goes on in some marriages. And then I think that if you take that seriously then you’re just sort of confronted with this reality even before you begin to dig into the Word of God. You’re confronted with this reality that this is not right and this cannot be something that God would consider right to continue or that—yeah. You’re just sort of confronted with that in a very real way.
Sheila: Right. I sometimes wonder too. I don’t know if this is true. But I sometimes wonder if Canadians—if—because I don’t know why it is that I’m doing this work, why you can do that sermon, and you haven’t had a lot of negative feedback. Is there something about Canadians where we’re just more willing to look at the realities of abuse perhaps? I don’t know.
Winston: Yeah. I don’t know. I’ll tell you an interesting story though that maybe plays into that is I have a gentleman in my congregation about—I’m probably guessing like 45 years ago when he was a child. His mother, in Canada, went to her church leadership and said, “I need help for—to separate from my husband. I need help to have a legal separation.” She didn’t want a divorce, but she wanted a legal separation because her husband was abusive in various ways. That was 40 years ago. And her pastor and her church leadership said, “Absolutely. We’ll help you do that.”
Sheila: That’s so good.
Winston: But then fast forward—fast forward by about 40 years or—30, 40 years. Now this same gentleman—his daughter was in an abusive marriage, went to her church leadership for help, and they did the classic, “Well, let’s do everything we can to keep this marriage together.” And so for me, the big question is what changed over that course of time? And I wonder—I don’t know. I don’t have any evidence for this. But I wonder if it’s just the huge development of the American evangelical book publishing market and a lot of people reading stuff from a broader scope and that getting a lot of stuff that’s south of the border that they’re reading that is giving a different perspective on marriage.
Sheila: Yeah. I have seen a lot of hardening too since the 80s. The 80s were very different. I think there was a lot of openness towards abuse issues or certainly were when I was a teenager. And it seemed like, in a lot of evangelical churches in Canada, that did switch. But I’m hoping. I just wanted to tell you and I wanted to have you on the podcast too just to say personally how much those sermons meant to so many friends of mine who have left abusive marriages and who have been so harmed by churches. And they said, “To hear a pastor say it.” You didn’t say anything they didn’t know because they’ve studied this stuff their whole lives. Ever since they left. But to have a pastor say it and to have him say it with such authority and with such compassion meant so much to them.
Winston: Yeah. That was probably the majority of responses I got. People who are like, “Yeah. I didn’t learn anything new. This is what I know myself from reading Scripture. But thank you so much for saying it publically.”
Sheila: Yeah. And I don’t mean that you didn’t say anything. I actually learned some new stuff. I mean you didn’t change my mind, but some of the stuff about the Dead Sea Scrolls—I found that really fascinating. So there is some really, really great historical stuff. But these women have been totally immersed in it for so long that they know it all.
Winston: What I’m hoping and praying for is—it’s a good thing to hear people’s response. But I’m hoping that what it’s going to do in my own local congregation is that all of the kids who are listening to that and all of the younger people who are listening to that, the people who are embarking on their first romantic relationship, or the people who are thinking about getting married, I want them to be able to enter into those relationships with a clear understanding that divorce can be a part of your vocabulary because it’s part of the Bible’s vocabulary. And yeah. Understand what is to be considered sin and reason for divorce in relationships and know that your church leaders are going to be on your side in that.
Sheila: Yeah. And I hope that’s true. I hope that’s true. And I just want to tell people if you go to a church where the church leaders wouldn’t be on your side, that’s not safe. But please know there are church leaders who would be on your side. Winston Bosch has proven it. He’s one of the guys. But there are—
Winston: Yeah. And to be fair, I’ve had two guys reach out to me who were elders in their congregations and say, “I’m realizing now that I dealt very poorly with abuse cases in the past. Please give me a reading list. I realize that I’ve got to change.” So yeah. I think that there’s also people out there that they need the lights turned on. And when they do turn on, they’re willing to do something different.
Sheila: Yeah. And maybe one of the ways those lights can be turned on is just sharing Pastor Bosch’s sermon series. So, again, we’re going to put the link to that in the podcast notes especially the first one—was just excellent. I mean they all were. But the first one was really about the idea of divorce for abuse. So please take a look at those. And maybe there is someone that God is prompting you to forward that sermon to so that that sermon can be useful in their lives as they go on in church leadership. So I just want to say thank you again for being here and for giving those great sermons and for encouraging so many people because it really did mean a lot. A lot to the group that I’m part of.
Winston: Thank you so much for having me.
Sheila: Yeah. I really did find his sermons so interesting and really well argued. And, again, they were just so meaningful to many of the women that I know and that are often on social media who have gone through abuse in their marriage. And so please take a look at those sermons. And there’s another group of people that have been marginalized. And I think maybe that’s the commonality. I said these were two different stories that don’t have much to do with each other that we’re sharing in these podcasts. But I think they actually do have a lot to do with each other in the sense that there are often groups of people that we forget about in our church whether it’s abuse victims, whether it’s different minorities, but the church tends to see things from a certain lens. And then often those of us who aren’t men, those of us who aren’t white, those of us who aren’t North American, we can look at the church and look at the big media and look at the celebrity pastors and feel like the Christian message isn’t meant for me or where do I fit because I don’t see myself represented. And that’s what I found so amazing about Jasmine Holmes’s book, Carved in Ebony. And I want to bring her on so that hopefully you can be inspired too. I am so glad to bring on the Bare Marriage podcast, Jasmine Holmes. Jasmine is a teacher and a writer, and she is passionate about seeing the image of God in all of humanity. Jasmine, thank you for joining us.
Jasmine: Thank you so much for having me.
Sheila: I know. We have gone back and forth trying to schedule this, and I really, really wanted to talk to you in August. And it didn’t work, but I’m so glad to have you hear for the Christmas season because I think this message is really pertinent for this time of year as well. You’re a really beautiful writer.
Jasmine: Oh, thank you.
Sheila: Can I just say that? I have just finished reading the book, Carved in Ebony: Lessons From the Black Women Who Shape Us. And there are 10 women in here, and there’s so much that I want to go into. I just loved it. And it’s kind of funny this white, Canadian woman talking to you about the African-American experience throughout history. But I think there is so much to learn here just about how we advocate for ourselves, but also I really loved what you said in the book about your own journey as you learned about these women. That really resonated with me. Okay. So I got a bunch of questions. We’re going to start at the beginning.
Sheila: So you opened by talking about how the Bible—a lot of the Bible is a story. And we forget that. It’s a story—and it tells a story so that we don’t forget God’s faithfulness. Explain to me what you mean by that.
Jasmine: Yeah. So when I wrote the book, I was actually in the middle of reading the Bible through in a year. I have been a Christian since I was 6 years old. And I had never finished reading the Bible in a year. I would always get to—sometimes I would get to the end of Genesis and be like, “All right. I want to do what I want to do.” Or I’d get all the way to Psalms and be like, “Now I want to go to Colossians. Don’t tell me what to do.” So this time I finally read the Bible in a year. And what I saw over the course of reading it was how much of a story it is, how much of a—just how much it has all of the elements of a really good story. So it starts in the garden and then the climax at the cross and then the ending is when Jesus comes back. And so seeing that big, wide landscape of history and seeing where I fit in and where America fits in and where the West fits in was a really transformative experience.
Sheila: Yeah. I love it. I just got back from vacation in the fall. And part of that was being in Israel. And I think Israel and the Jewish people understand story maybe a little bit better than Christians because we focus so much on the Epistles, I think. And not that the Epistles aren’t great. But we forget that most of the Bible is a story, and it’s a story using people. But like you said, the actual story is about God.
Jasmine: Yeah. Yeah.
Sheila: And I love that. Okay. I want to read—this is a quote from the book. Okay. And this is how you were describing how you saw America and why you wanted to write this book. You said, “What if instead of putting Uncle Sam in a cape and putting Lady Liberty on a pedestal we told the story of America as the story of God’s faithfulness and not our own?” That’s amazing. Tell me what you mean by that.
Jasmine: That was, again, just continuously reading about Israel and her just abject disobedience to God over and over and over again. And what I saw when I read the Pentateuch and the books of history when I was reading the Bible through was how much God reminded Israel of her own unfaithfulness. It was just like, “Hey, remember when you all were wandering in the desert for 40 years because you didn’t listen to me. Remember when?” And then also reminding of His faithfulness. “Remember how I got you out of Egypt? Remember how I brought you to the Promised Land? Remember this? Remember that?” There’s so much remember. And when it comes to American history—at least the way that I was taught it and I feel a way that a lot of people were taught it—it’s not so much remember. It’s kind of like gloss over. We’re not going to talk about how we did this thing and disobeyed God. We’re not going to talk about because our priority is that America would be glorified, not that God would be glorified. Because if our priority is God’s glory, then we’re going to point to all the ways that He’s been faithful and all the ways that He has brought us to this point. And I think it was also really important for me to clarify in the introduction I don’t think that America is Israel by any stretch of the imagination. But just trying to learn from God’s nation what it means to remember and what it means to uphold His faithfulness instead of kind of painting a rosy image of ours.
Sheila: Yeah. I think it’s so important because there is such an emphasis today in our political system in patriotism that goes too far because our citizenship is not here on earth. Our citizenship is in Heaven, right? And it’s fine to be happy that you live in the country you live in. It’s fine to be very proud that you live in the country you live in, but it’s not okay to see that country as perfect because none of us are. And I think this is such a better way of looking at it is let’s look at the story of God in our country rather than—yeah. Let’s just elevate our country to the place God should have. I know, as a Canadian, one of the things we’ve really been grappling with especially for the last year but this has been a problem for many years is our history with residential schools. Where we took the indigenous community and we took their kids away, and it was largely the churches that did that. And now there’s all these mass graves that have been found outside those schools. And so we’re still grappling with that. And that doesn’t mean I’m not proud to be a Canadian, but I got to understand that we did that because that’s part of the whole story, right? Yeah. And if we gloss over it, then we forget what God did. Okay. I’m going to give you a little bit of a sermon here from Jasmine because this stuff gave me shivers. Okay. So in your book, Carved in Ebony, you’re talking about 10 different African-American women. And I’m going to read a longer quote because this is just awesome. But let me read what you said on page 16.
“It is from this perspective that I seek to tell you the story of 10 incredible Black women. I tell you about their plight in our nation not to rub America’s nose in her corporate sin but to proclaim the glory of the God who heard their cries and answered their prayers and used them mightily in spite of their country of origin. I tell you about their struggles and their triumphs not to elevate their blackness but to elevate God’s grace in creating that brown skin in His image. When I tell you the story of dignified black womanhood, I do so to combat the opposite narrative. Yes. But I also do it to point to the inherent dignity and worth of women whom God created in His image and for His glory, God’s image carved in ebony.” That’s beautiful. And tell us about the phrase carved in ebony.
Jasmine: It actually comes from one of the women in the book. Amanda Berry Smith was a Methodist evangelist. And most of her preaching was done to white crowds. And her autobiography just focuses on the Gospel. She is very—she’s just very God centered. So you’re like, “What’s it like to preach in front of all these white people?” And she’s like, “I suffered some indignities.” And you’re like, “What kind of indignities?” And she’s like, “Let’s talk about Jesus.” But because of the way that she was, she got the nickname from people who listened to her of God’s image carved in ebony. And it’s so interesting because when I first came across the phrase and connected it to Amanda Berry Smith I was ecstatic. But after I was already done with Carved in Ebony, I had written it, had already had the galleys, was moving on, I actually found out that the phrase predated Amanda Berry Smith. Olaudah Equiano used it. He was a British formerly enslaved man, who wrote a narrative that was really impactful. And also these two white pastors used the phrase in a book of biographies about black excellence, which I thought was so cool because that’s what I was doing.
Sheila: Yeah. Oh, that’s lovely. And so much of what you write about is really about that idea of seeing the Imago Dei. And that’s what you said. “It’s about the Imago Dei, the image of God, and the fact that even during a time in history where their personhood was being consistently questioned, cast aside, the 10 women profiled in this book stacked their claim to the dignity that all of us who have been made in the image of God do,” because that’s where it all comes from. It’s like we are made in the image of God. And that should impact us. I found it really sobering what you said too about how slaveholders often wouldn’t tell their slaves the Gospel because, if they did, then the slaves would have—they would have a reason to claim equality because that’s what the Gospel is.
Sheila: It’s flattening everything. It’s getting rid of all distinctions that shouldn’t matter so that we celebrate and we coalesce around God. And yeah. I just found this interesting. But what I really liked about the book—I mean the 10 stories are amazing, and I’d love for you to tell us your favorite one in a minute. For sure. Because I don’t want to go into all 10, we don’t do it justice. I would rather go deep into one. So I’ll let you choose which one. But you talked about what really struck you was the strength of these women and how you didn’t always feel strong. And can you tell us about that?
Jasmine: Yeah. So I grew up. I always say it’s fundamentalist adjacent. I grew up very homeschooled, courtship. What are some other words?
Sheila: Oh yes.
Jasmine: You know what I’m saying? Just to paint a picture. I didn’t go to college. I went to college online. But I didn’t go to college because I was staying home to prepare to be a good wife and a good mother. My husband laughs now because he’s like, “We got married in 2014.” And a lot of people will be like, “Oh, Phillip. You radicalized her. Now she’s talking and being more vocal.” And Phillip is like, “She was like that when I got to her. She just needed some space. I gave her room to be what was already going on.” And I feel like these women kind of did the same thing for me. They gave me room. They gave me space. And so seeing just the legacy of their self advocacy made me feel more empowered to advocate for myself and to advocate for others and to, ultimately, advocate for the Gospel in ways that not knowing about them and not knowing that they had existed never really did. And so they were a huge part of—not to make it about me, right? But they were a huge part of my journey towards understanding more about myself and being able to speak up for myself and feeling emboldened to do that as a woman who loves God, seeing them as prophetic, and feeling free to be prophetic was just a huge part of researching and learning for this book. And so I’ve definitely—I’ve changed. My tone has changed. I think I wrote my—well, my second book, but we don’t talk about my first book because I wrote it back when I was 19 and still very much in that phase—fundamentalist adjacent phase of life. But my second book, Mother to Son, which I still cherish and love—it’s a book of letters to my son about race and justice. At the time, I just had one son. Now I have three. So it’s for all of them now. But when I wrote it, the tone was very important to me. It was very important for me not to sound authoritative. I wanted to sound very convincing. I wanted it to be very winsome. I wanted to put people’s guards down, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is a time and a place for that. But even between Mother to Son and Carved in Ebony, there is so much more, “Well, this is just how it is. If you’re not okay with it, maybe come back when you are okay with it.” And then from Carved in Ebony to my current project is even more of a—my editor was like, “Whoa. Okay. Tell them what you really think.” And so I feel like that growth could not have been accomplished without learning about these women.
Sheila: That’s beautiful. I kind of have a similar story too where I was just trying to have the right tone for so long, and now I’m like, “No. I don’t even care.” As we think about—I think a lot about this time of year the whole idea of Emmanuel, God with us, and that’s what I always meditate on in December is what it really means to be God with us. And I realize what a privilege I have in that there have been a lot of stories of what God with us looks like for white women. But it must—I think maybe that’s what you’re saying. And forgive me if I’m putting words in your mouth. But to see what it actually looked like for so many black women because there aren’t a lot of those stories out there.
Jasmine: Yeah. I didn’t know that they existed. Yeah. That was a litmus test actually for the women in the book. The only one who I had heard of before writing the book—there were two that I had heard of. Elizabeth Freedman and Maria Fearing. The others I had never even heard their names before I started researching for this project which is crazy because now they’re like—they’re in my head all the time, right? They’re such important people. But I had never heard of them. And that was one of the—how I decided who to write about was, “All right. Well, who do I want to learn about?” And yeah. I grew up hearing about Mary Slessor and Amy Carmichael and Gladys Aylward and still—they’re still amazing. But there’s something really special about seeing women who look like me and seeing women, who, in different ways, just paved the way for me. So that even though I identify with some of their struggles, I don’t identify with all of them. And that’s, in part, because of their amazing work.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing. I love that. And in the book, you’re very clear that these women were not perfect. None of them—they weren’t perfect. And they weren’t always consistent. But in the end, they saw a problem, and they advocated even if it wasn’t for them, themselves. They were advocating for those around them. I love the story. Oh gosh. I forget which one it was now. The teacher who wasn’t—she was mixed race, and so she wasn’t as dark skinned.
Jasmine: Oh yeah. Sara G. Stanley. Mm-hmm.
Sheila: Yeah. That’s right. And she would just get so incensed whenever the darker skinned teachers would be treated worse, and she just went off on a tirade.
Jasmine: She loved to tirade. She was one of the first people that I started writing about. I remember. I just saw her name in a book. And literally, it was a list of names. And so what I—this was back in the very beginning. I’m trying to research and trying to figure out what I was going—who I was going to write about. And so I would just read books and type people’s names into Google and see what popped up and then go from there. And I found an article about her where she told somebody that they needed to go back and learn the ABCs of the Gospel. And I was like, “I like you. Let’s explore this.”
Sheila: That’s awesome. So who is the—if there’s one—and I know there’s 10 that you love, and so this is like asking you to choose your favorite child. But if there is one that you feel has most impacted how you see God or how you see yourself, can you tell us her story?
Jasmine: So every time I get asked this question, I pick somebody else. In that moment, I’m convinced that it’s several. I have said Sara G. Stanley before. I have said Francis Ellen Watkins Harper before. Today I think I’m going to say Charlotte Forten Grimké. I’m very excited. A historian is finally going to write about the Grimké family, and I preordered the book yesterday. I’m so stoked, and I’m hoping that nobody writes about the Fortens before I can get to the level where I can write about them because the Forten family is incredible. So it’s Charlotte’s grandfather, James. He was born free because his grandfather came over to America literally on a slave ship from West Africa. And his son was able to work to gain his own freedom. And so James, when he was 14, the Revolutionary War started. And he joined the war effort, was like in ships, and fighting and helping. And he became a prisoner of war on a British ship. And that was a really precarious situation, but he befriended the captain’s son. So he was able to survive and get traded back. And then he goes to England. And then he comes back to America and makes his fortune as a shipping magnate. So Charlotte is born into comfort because her grandfather is one of the richest black men in America. And he spent his entire life devoted to abolition. And I love Charlotte as an individual. What’s really neat about Charlotte is all of her connections. So the women in her family are amazing. They started anti slavery societies. They were poets. They were writers. They were teachers. One aunt never got married. She spent her entire life just teaching and educating. And when her dad got old and feeble, she took over her family finances which is unheard of in the 1800s. And so Charlotte was born into this legacy. And her whole life just felt like she didn’t really measure up to it. And so there’s a lot of—her journal is the primary source, which is amazing. And she just writes, “I’m not that remarkable, but I’m going to do my best.” And honestly, when you look back on her in the past, you’re like, “You’re at this prestigious school. You’re the only black girl there. You’re the first black teacher of white kids in Massachusetts. You’re going down south and teaching the formerly enslaved.” She’s doing all these incredible things. But she’s like—she’s living in her family’s shadow. And as a pastor’s kid, that is something that I completely relate to. And so learning from her was incredible because there were so many things that she said in her journal and so many things that she said about her work that resonated with me especially when—so when she was in her 20s, the Civil War starts. And there’s this experiment called the Port Royal Experiment. Basically, it exists to prove that the formerly enslaved can become gainful members of society by working and be paid for their work. Crazy concept. So, right? It always makes me laugh that it’s like an experiment because, obviously, these people can work. So the experiment is that you’re going to pay them now.
Sheila: Yeah. The experiment is really can you handle it.
Jasmine: Right. Right. Right. So Charlotte goes to Port Royal, and she is the only black person there that is not enslaved. Everybody else, who looks like her, is enslaved. And everybody, who was not enslaved, is a white Union soldier. And so she’s just—I mean down there in the thick of it. And what’s incredible about Charlotte is that she probably had tuberculosis. And in the 1800s, there’s this thing called consumptive chic. Very interesting.
Sheila: Oh right. Yes.
Jasmine: Yes. Consumption, tuberculosis, is seen as this—it’s a disease that good people get. That really pure people get. Really poetic—it’s a poetic disease. It makes you skinny. It makes you pale. It puts fever roses in your cheeks. And so she, this black woman, had this disease that was for frail, white women. And she was constantly known for just kind of being like, “Oh, I’m so weak. I’m so feminine. Help. Help me.” And she used this to her advantage to be able to—I mean can you imagine? Trying to navigate life with being surrounded by white soldiers and, eventually, being surrounded by other white teachers, she really used it to her advantage. And there are people who critique her about it. And there are people who are like, “She was just always talking about how faint she was and always being this demure.” But it was a survival tactic. She was surviving. And so I just—there’s so much about her that I love and so much about her story that I relate to and especially when she decides to go—when she decides to go, she’s like, “I’m going to go be with my people finally,” because she’s been—she has been at the school surrounded by white teachers. And she’s been teaching white students. And so she says, “I’m going to go. And I’m going to go finally be with my people, and it’s not going to be this uphill battle. It’s going to be a coming home.”
Sheila: Mm-hmm. I love that. I think sometime—I can just see. “Oh, I’m just so demure. And I’m just so weak.” And you say that. And then on the next breath, you say something like, “And you’re really racist, and here is what we’re going to do about it.”
Jasmine: Yep. Yep.
Sheila: You can get away with it. It kind of covers it. I love that. I love it.
Jasmine: She did. That’s exactly what she did.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. It reminds me earlier in the book you were talking about the two different sides of femininity, supposedly. White women’s femininity was very, very frail. You need men’s help. You can’t walk over puddles. Yeah. And you need protection. And then there’s black women, who are just working so very, very hard. And so how could these black women even be feminine when the idea of feminine is weakness essentially?
Jasmine: Yeah. Yeah.
Sheila: And I think, as you articulated it, over the years that idea of the strength of black women that is very inspiring. And it’s hard even to talk about it because it sounds like it’s even racist to say that. But I think that there’s—there is this generational thing that you just learn. And we know that about generational trauma and about generational all of these things that are even imprinted on our DNA. They’re finding out more and more, right?
Jasmine: Yeah. They are.
Sheila: But the strength of black women, I think we have so much to learn. And yet, we haven’t listened to those voices as a church, I don’t think.
Jasmine: And it’s always really important to note that it’s not a choice. If I am not strong, I don’t survive. So there’s this whole movement of black women who are like, “You know what? I’m weak. Treat me like I’m weak. Treat me like I’m fragile because I am. And I need to be allowed to be.” But it’s this—I feel like this generation of black women are some of the first in awhile to be like, “Hey, I’m actually not strong. Could you take care of me? I’m actually not resilient. Could you stop traumatizing me?” And that’s become such a powerful thing to see and notice because I definitely was raised—I was raised by a black woman. And so I was raised with phrases like, “Hey, when your white friends cry, that’s—they’re sympathetic. That’s a sympathetic thing that they do. When you cry, you’re hysterical, and nobody is going to take you seriously. When your white friends say they can’t do something, somebody is going to rush to help them. When you say you can’t do something, they’re going to move on to the next person who can do what you said that you can’t do.” And so there’s just all of this—there’s so much of it is inherited and—through trauma, but so much of it is taught. Not because my mom was a mean person who wanted me to suffer but because she wanted me to be able to survive. And even looking back, I would cry, and my mom would just be like, “You know what? Save those tears. You’re going to need those tears later.” You know what I’m saying? And part of that is generational. But a big part of it is being a black mother trying to raise her black daughter to survive and be taken seriously in this world.
Sheila: Well, and I’m sure you feel some of that raising black sons in an era where it isn’t necessarily safe for black men.
Jasmine: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. It was a big part of even choosing—I was at my son’s parent teacher conference the other day. I was just telling his teacher—he’s in first grade. And he’s never not had a black teacher, which I think is amazing. And I chose that school that he’s at on purpose because when I noticed—so I’m—and I talked about this in Mother to Son. I’m a very emotional person. I used to be. Trauma kind of got in the way. I am an emotional person, but I am very keep it—try to keep it inside. My husband is like, “You can cry in front of me. We’ve been married for 8 years. I think it’s okay if you want to cry. I don’t know.” But my son is me as a kid before all these conversations and before all the trauma. And so any, at the drop of the hat, this child will cry and fall out and just like, “Oh my gosh.” And we love his tender heart. But when I considered putting him in the school I was teaching at, a predominantly white school in our area—and when I really considered putting him in the class for him to be the only black boy, very tall—my husband and I are tall people. Very emotional. So effusive. He’s going to stand out because he’s black. He’s going to stand out because he’s tall. He’s going to stand out because he’s going to make his voice heard. It was really important for me that he not be also the only black boy in his classroom because I didn’t feel safe for him to be. I didn’t feel—not that bodily harm would come to him, but that he’d be marked as a problem kid. Or a kid who throws tantrums or a kid who does this or a kid who does that. And so him being at a school where he is in the majority and he doesn’t stick out and is just allowed to be himself without being the only was so important for me and something that I didn’t have that I’m really grateful that I’m able to give to him.
Sheila: Right. And it’s these things that you need to think about that, quite frankly, I don’t.
Sheila: And it’s hard to have these conversations in this political time. It is. But it’s so important because none of this—you should not have a harder time than me. You shouldn’t have a harder time raising kids than me. And it is an affront to Jesus that you do. And it is an affront to Jesus that people deny that you do. And just as the women that you profiled in the book so well spoke up and said, “This is not okay with me. And this is not okay with God. And we need to change where we can,” I think that’s what we all need to do too. And I’m so glad that you’re doing it so that little girls have other names to think about other than just Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael. So that’s wonderful. What are you working on now? You told us you were working on something else.
Jasmine: I am. So I have a book about shame coming out in February. On Valentine’s Day actually. So I guess when this goes out it will be 2 months away. So I’ll be—
Sheila: We’ll have you back on that for that for sure.
Jasmine: Yeah. I’ll be deep in the, “Buy my book,” phase. You know how it is.
Sheila: Yes. Yes.
Jasmine: So it’s called Never Cast Out. It is a book that I never thought that I would write because it’s very vulnerable but just about shame and the Gospel and how Jesus puts an end to the shame that we feel and the shame that we operate with particularly as women. So, again, this book is really for women.
Sheila: Right. Oh, I’m excited. Yes. We will definitely have you back on for that. That will be a great conversation that I think a lot of people relate to. So Jasmine, how can people find you? I know I know you from Instagram. But tell us where you are.
Jasmine: That’s where I am. I’m always on Instagram. People who can keep up with more than one form of social media at a time—my hat is off. But Instagram is my spot. I also have carvedinebony—the name of the book—dot shop. I have a lot of resources available there. One of my major things with Carved in Ebony was just wanting teachers to be able to use it. And so there’s a young reader’s version of the book, and there is also just—I have a lot of printables and downloadables and things like that on the shop.
Sheila: That’s great. And I know we have a lot of homeschool moms who listen. And get this book. And not just—get it even if you are not African-American. Okay? This is about the tale of humanity and people fighting for justice. And I think that’s universal. And I really enjoyed it. So get Carved in Ebony. Get the young reader’s edition. Read it with your kids. That’s what I was thinking when I was reading it is, “Oh, man. I wish I had this when I was homeschooling my kids.”
Jasmine: Yeah. Yeah. And I wrote it as somebody who was homeschooled and then who somebody who was a teacher for a decade. I was like, “Okay. We need another version of this for the classroom.”
Sheila: Mm-hmm. So that’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it, and I will put links to all those things in the podcast notes too.
Jasmine: Thank you for having me.
Sheila: I really appreciated getting to talk to Jasmine. She and I have interacted a little bit on Instagram, but this was the first time that we met. And after we recorded that, we talked for a little bit. She’s going to come back on—I think maybe in February or March. She’s got a new book coming out on shame, and I’m so excited to talk to her about that. So it was a great connection to make. And I think she’s wonderful. Go check her out on Instagram. And so I hope that as we’re getting ready for Christmas, as we are looking at Emmanuel, God with us, that God took on the very form of a baby, of a human, so that He could walk on earth because He wants us to know that He notices us, that He understands, that He knows what it’s like to live here, that that is the kind of God that we serve. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. And I hope that maybe today we can just get a different view of that God. That He isn’t someone who leaves people out. That He isn’t someone who asks us to endure horrific things as if that makes Him happy. But that He is, instead, a God who wants to walk alongside us and be there in our pain and who says, “You matter. And I notice you.” I think that’s lovely. And that’s the Christmas message that I want to remember. Before I go, one more thing. We passed a big milestone on Amazon this week. The Great Sex Rescue hits it’s 2000th review. It is still 5 stars on Amazon with 2,000 different reviewed and ratings. And I just want to read you one of the latest ones. I haven’t done this in awhile at the end of the podcast. But I want to read you this again. So Natalie writes that, “This was truly a life raft in the sea of bad theology.” And she says, “Christian teachings on sex from the mainstream, big, evangelical players today are truly horrendous. I grew up in a very small, nondenominational church that didn’t really teach me very much about how sex should work in a Christian marriage. So before we got marriage, my husband and I went out searching for the best Christian sex advice we could find. We read all the popular books. I thought the advice sounded fine on paper. After all, I wasn’t taught very much. I wanted to be a good Christian, and I had absolutely no sexual experience like many young Christian brides. But once we put it into practice, it did not go well. I believed that my husband and I would have been better off if we hadn’t read any of those popular Christian books. They created a problem for us that otherwise would not have been there. Thankfully, I found Sheila’s work. She put into words what I was feeling and helped me resolve it. This book is a breath of fresh air, and a weight off your shoulders. It is not graphic and uncomfortable like many other Christian sex books. And the advice is generalized so it applies to many people. Please check out this book even if you have a great sex life. It may challenge the ideas that you’ve grown up with and have harmed so many people. Thank you, Sheila.” So that was wonderful to read. There’s a bunch of new ones from men too. Kirk calls it “a truly life-changing book”. And he says, “I can’t share our story in detail. But I’ll just say we have a story. Something in our marriage needed to change in a significant way, and this book was literally the catalyst God used to spark that change. This book saved our marriage, and I am forever grateful to Sheila.” So really great stuff to read. Thank you for everyone who has left a review. It was wonderful to get to 2,000. So if you were looking for a great book to give at Christmas to a newlywed couple in your life, do check out The Great Sex Rescue because it does change lives. Thank you for joining us on the Bare Marriage podcast. We will have 1 more podcast before Christmas, and then we will be taking a break for a bit. But I hope, and I wish, all of you a very happy Christmas, a very meaningful one, and that you may be able to rest in the idea that God is with us. Emmanuel. Amen. Talk to you soon.