This is a guest post from Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, author of the new devotional book Femmevangelical: The Modern Girl’s Guide to the Good News. I’ll let her introduce herself:
I am a progressive, liberal Christian minister in New York City who was raised a fundamentalist evangelical Southern Baptist in Birmingham, AL. It’s been a long road, and I call myself and that religion out in some funny, embarrassing, and even painful stories in the book. My goal is to help others along the spectrum find language, images, symbols and practices that help them live into the freedom, feminism, and equality of the real gospel of Jesus.
While we lament headlines like the Duggar molestation and its extremist religious excuses, or presidential candidates using rigid religious rhetoric to automatically secure knee-jerk primary votes, we must speak up loudly, tell our stories, and show another way of exercising faith: with inclusivity, empathy, respect for women and our autonomous personhood, and equal rights for all.
Things won’t change if the loudest religious authorities are only elite, white, heterosexual, hierarchical, uber-conservative men who believe God put them at the top of the food chain. We need your voice.
Here’s just a little excerpt, after a break-down of the gospel and a discussion about how our view of God is often taught to us in damaging, damning, limiting ways. Especially for women, who are often taught we were made by God as secondary, or “for” men. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.
Believe With All Your Heart, Mind, and Strength
(from the chapter entitled “A Modern Muse”.)
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” — Maya Angelou
In order to fully believe in God, we must also believe in ourselves. In order to believe in a God who loves us unconditionally and completely, we must be able to love ourselves. In order to believe in a God who bestows upon us potential and purpose, we must also know without doubt that we possess these things. In order to follow Jesus, we must develop our personal agency, affirm our power to choose and act, and take our rightful places. We have to believe we were born with the capability, and have what it takes. We must believe in a God who believes in us too.
Traditionally, women are taught to love and trust God with all our hearts, while being undermined by that same God’s “word”. We cannot love and trust God in such a way without being taught and allowed to equally love and trust ourselves. Inevitably, the equation of relationship with God breaks down. Because of this dislocation, we miss true revelations of who we are, who God is, and what must be done in the world. We fail to hear, believe and learn from that still, small voice inside ourselves. We listen to every other voice instead. And, just because they are loud, male, and authoritative, does not mean they are speaking our truth, or any truth at all.
It is time to realize the power and value of our stories—or our songs, as Maya Angelou says—and realize God is in them. We were created to reveal God and help bring the new realm, just as a bird was born with a built-in song to sing. A bird desires nothing more than to sing her song; likewise, we were meant to be authentic to ourselves. The institution of religion puts the bird in a cage “for its own good.” Living faith, on the other hand, encourages the bird to freely sing its own song for its own good, the good of others, and the love of God. Women’s stories have been historically silenced, and we have often remained silent out of shame or intimidation. But as feminist poet Audre Lorde once said, and many of us have learned the hard way: Your silence will not protect you.
When we recognize this, we know that faith is not about one elite group telling everyone else who God is, or ordained men brokering that relationship for us. When we truly know ourselves and our stories, and we begin to recognize our unexpected interactions with God, everything looks different. We can believe. As C.S. Lewis said, miracles are a re-telling in the small letters of your every day experience, the universal truths that apply to us all. This is the faith mission of the modern muse: to inspire new narratives, language, metaphors, and symbols by which God’s miracles are extolled.
I recently attended a gathering where the musician India.Arie debuted songs from her album “SongVersation.” She said, “Every time I perform, I bring my spirituality out on stage with me.” Her voice, lyrics, experiences, stories, passion, talent, and presence with an audience are her spirituality. They are her relationship to, and expression of, God. Yours may look and sound different, but yours also changes the atmosphere. “There is never a time I sing when I don’t just bring it all and go there, creating new energy,” she said. No matter what naysayers may tell you, your energy and essence makes a difference in the world. The most Godly thing you can do is commit to be fully yourself, tell your stories, sing your songs.
We weren’t meant to just believe or tell the good news; we were meant to live it. We work alongside the God who says, “See, I am doing a new thing”.
We are about to discuss, dismantle, and disable the three primary culprits that hold women back: Biblical literalism, doctrinal damnation, and hierarchal control. I will not say across the board that the Bible, church doctrine, or church hierarchy are intrinsically bad or immoral. There are good things about each, when used responsibly and sanely. I do not suggest we throw religion away entirely. What I will suggest is how to understand it differently, and use that knowledge to move forward with a faith that supports your real life. Knowing more about how things came to be the way they are will put them in perspective and create room for what is next.
There are a lot of stories waiting to be told, and you are God’s modern muse.
Rev. Jennifer Crumpton earned a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and is affiliated with Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan. Come say hello at Femmevangelical.com or @JenniDCrumpton. Use discount code BLOG35 to get 35% off Femmevangelical when you order at Chalice Press.
published July 6, 2015
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