Inspired

Letty M. Russell, “Each community of faith has its own paradigm of what constitutes authoritative tradition for that community, but insofar as that community is in touch with the wider Christian community, it has formed its theological understanding about scripture, tradition, reason, and experience of the community.  Feminist theologies are also formed out of communities of faith and vary in their understanding of what constitutes authoritative tradition.  Many find not only that Christian tradition does not have authority for them but also that worship of the Goddess or another form of spirituality is more liberating and freeing for them as women.”[1] (emphasis mine)

It is my greatest fear that in a time where there is a need to fight for women’s rights; where women’s voices are barely heard, much less believed; and where the church is seen as the patriarchal enemy full of abusers of women and children, I will be forced to choose between the Christian Church (meaning the universal church mentioned in the Apostle’s Creed) and standing up for what I believe is right. 

I am frightened that the political far right has claimed exclusive rights to the evangelical Christian church and that that claim is believed by so many Christians, that it is difficult to express faith without apologizing for what is happening in our nation.  The word ‘evangelism’ has become taboo, its meaning altered to fit a political party instead of the mission of the church, that those on the far left refuse to use the word, even when talking about The Great Ends of the Church[2].  And why is the church being split by right and left politics anyway?  The Church’s One Foundation is a hymn that declares “that beyond any theological differences, cultural divides, and variances in practice, we are all part of the same body, the body of Christ.”[3]  But why does this unity have to seem so patriarchal anyway?

I am frightened that most days it seems easier to be ‘spiritual but not religious’, to give up on the church, and to work out some sort of individual faith in a goddess of my own making.  I’ve never been more frightened by the idea than I was this past Easter.  What kind of pastor walks into worship, on Easter no less, angry and hurting?  A human one.  Where is my hope now that my heroes have gone? is the blog post where I tried to work out the hurt and anger of having none of the women, not even Mary Magdalene, mentioned in the liturgy that spoke about the resurrection of Christ.  Not to worry, I’m not another pastor leaving the church (although, I understand why many do).  My faith, my baptismal identity, is too integral to my whole being to walk away from Jesus.  (Nothing but the Blood of Jesus).  I know that I have been called into ministry, all of me; my hopes, my doubts, my anger, my hurt, my white-middle-class-female perspective on life.  My whole messy self belongs to God, the God who thought the PCUSA could use me, the God who hears my prayers (or complaints and struggles) and loves me anyway. 

So, now what? 

I don’t have words for how I’m holding onto faith in a political climate where polarizing voices use Bible verses (mostly Leviticus) as weapons to defend or attack the positions held by (mostly privileged white male) politicians.   But I found the words in a book described by Nadia Boltz-Weber as “a love letter to scripture.”  NBW’s comments on Rachel Held Evans’ book “Inspired” really fit what I was feeling as I read it, “Inspired is a love letter to scripture.  Evans takes what has been weaponized against so many of us and she beats it into a ploughshare.  She shows us how to love the Bible; how to see its flaws, beauty, strength, and spirit at the same time.  That’s love.  Not worship.  Love.  I’m so grateful for this expertly written, timely book.”

I’m looking forward to reading it again and using RHE’s study guide.  I bought the book a while ago, but finally had the opportunity to sit and read it during a long flight.  Of course, I didn’t have sticky notes or a highlighter or even a pen with me, so I dog-eared a few pages (even though it felt like wrong to crease the corners) so I would have easy access to: the sources she relied heavily on for the writing of the book, her thoughts on Jephthah’s daughter and where to find liturgies to remember her, her comments on the passages I use for the Period Sermon (because now I have some ideas for up-dating it), and of course, her wisdom about faking it until you make it for faith, “Go to church. Take communion.  Show up at the homeless shelter. March in the protest. Pray for healing. Rebuke the chaos.”[4]

So, I’m going to take her advice… and some of my own.

Go to church. 

Take communion. 

Remember my Baptism. 

Show up at Days for Girls sewing events.

Have lunch with other clergy women.

March in the protest.

Pray for peace.

Pray for healing.

Pray for… everything and everyone.

Rebuke the chaos.

Love.


[1] Letty M. Russell, “Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church” 1993 p.39

[2] The Great Ends of the Church: The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind, The shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God, The maintenance of divine worship, The preservation of the truth, The promotion of social righteousness, The exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world— Book of Order (2017–19), F-1.0304

[3] https://hymnary.org/text/the_churchs_one_foundation

[4] Rachel Held Evans, “Inspired” 2018, pages 187-188

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