Category Archives: Read and Write

Why I Told My Truth

I did something really scary (so scary I pretty much stopped talking about it right after I did it):

I told the truth.

Actually, that’s not entirely correct. I wrote the truth. The truth of my story, which is really the only truth I know.

I wrote it down and sent it to someone else to read and then suddenly I was in a crowd of other young women of faith writing the truths of their stories, and now suddenly we’re here.

Talking Taboo Cover

We’re here sharing our stories with anyone who wants to read them. We’re here sharing our stories with you.

After I did this horribly scary, possibly foolish, completely uncomfortable thing, I wasn’t totally sure why I’d done it.

Why risk telling the truth of my story when it might end up really hurting or embarrassing me?

Why write it down in a way that it can’t be forgotten or edited or hidden under a mountain of rocks somewhere, never to be recovered?

Why talk about what it means to really live my Christian faith — in the gritty, authentic, this-is-not-a-fire-drill kind of way that’s easier to hide than to admit?

I wasn’t sure why I’d written my story until last week when I mentioned this feat of stupidity courage to two of my close friends and co-workers.

I told them I had a secret I wanted to share, and then I told them I’d written an essay that was getting published. They, predictably, squealed and praised before asking why I’d keep something like that a secret.

I wrote about my personal life, I told them, and how it intersects with my faith. I wrote about how the church can be overwhelming and suffocating at the same time as it can be welcome and grace-filled.

All of us, the dozens of truth-telling women in this book, wrote about these things. We wrote about sex and abuse and dating and love and marriage and fear and relationships and desire and purity.

Not in an abstract, clinical way, but in a raw, honest way. We wrote about our own experience with these things. My friends understood immediately why this was something terrifying for me (but they didn’t take back their squeals and praises).

And then? Then we talked.

It was like some secret door had been opened in the space between us and suddenly they both wanted to tell their stories, to speak about their experiences with religion and taboo.

Our stories were different; our lives are different. But each story matters, and we were all relieved and excited to have someone to share with.

People are hungry to have this conversation! They are searching for a safe space to be honest about their lives in a way they often feel they can’t be. We are all longing to be our whole selves, right where we are, and to share those whole selves with each other.

After my conversation with my friends ended, I realized that was why I had risked telling my story. Integrity is not an easy thing, but it is a precious and powerful thing.

Every time I have taken a step into a space of courageous authenticity, I have found that so many shining, sparkling souls are standing right there with me.

We are already standing right here with you. Come share in the story and be part of the conversation.

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Want to learn more? Check out these posts by the editors, Enuma Okoro and Erin Lane or go visit the Indiegogo site for Talking Taboo to watch a video of these fabulous ladies chatting about the project.

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Filed under My Faith Journey, Read and Write, Theology and Faith

Guest Post: Why I Believe in the Devil

I’m so excited to be posting some writing by my colleague and dear friend, Daniel. We love to talk theology, even if we don’t always agree. This is probably the first time either Karl Barth or the devil has made an appearance on my blog — my thanks to Dan for courageously tackling the tough topic of evil.

source

Renouncing the Devil

I’ve always thought of the Devil or Satan as an interesting character. This person/demon/spirit/snake appears throughout Scripture generally making a mess of things.

Much of Christian tradition associates the snake who slyly convinces the proto-couple to eat forbidden fruit and bring God’s curse upon their own heads with Satan (Gen. 3:1-7). In Job, Satan is described as an “angel” or a “messenger” who appears before God with the proposition to toy with Job’s life to see how much suffering it takes to break a faithful person (Job 6:1-12). Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by the Devil in an attempt to make the Son of God seek honor and power in the stead of suffering and service to humanity (Mat. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).

In my denomination’s (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) baptismal liturgy we have preserved an early church practice of reciting certain vows before receiving this sacrament. The one receiving baptism or someone on the baptized person’s behalf is asked, “Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?” to which the respondent says, “I renounce them.”

I myself have made this renouncement and as a pastor-to-be I will be asking others to make this renouncement. I have to ask myself though, do I really believe in the Devil? Is he or she a real force that occupies this world?

Encountering the Other

In much of religion, I believe that we humans are constructing metaphors to describe some teeny, tiny, unfathomable aspect of a reality outside of ourselves- divine and demonic. In the case of God, he/she/it is simply too big for us to grasp. God is too “Other” for us to fully comprehend. Karl Barth wrote that the Gospel (a revelation of the Other God to us)

is not one thing in the midst of other things, to be directly apprehended and comprehended… The Gospel is therefore not an event, nor an experience, nor an emotion— however delicate! Rather, it is the clear and objective perception of what eye hath not seen nor ear heard.
(Taken from The Epistle to the Romans)

I love that paradox. Our experience of God is such a clear, obvious encounter with the invisible, unencounterable Other. When we give words to God we are speaking something cannot be spoken and we are given vision to something that is invisible. Revelation doesn’t stop being inaudible or invisible, but we try to construct something audible or visible to something that is beyond sensory or cognitive apprehension.

I do not know who God is entirely. Saint Augustine, Billy Graham, John Calvin, Ignatius of Loyola, Abraham Heschel, Martin Luther, and I may say things about God, but that is only what has been revealed to us in our very limited comprehension. God is beyond words or thoughts.

This is why I feel that I can faithfully believe in and pursue interfaith relations. My understanding of God does not grasp anywhere near the entire reality of who God is and what God’s salvific actions entail. I have no right- in fact, I believe it is grave sin to claim an exclusive knowledge of God.

In short, I know God in my faith, but I do not know God in anyone else’s.

God’s incomprehensibility is why I think we can use so many beautiful or disturbing metaphors. God is a warrior (Exo. 15:3), God is a father (Mat. 6:9; Luke 11:2), God is a mother (Hos. 11:3-4), God is a judge (Psa. 7:11), God is a potter (Isa. 64:8), God is a king (Psa. 95:3), God is a chicken (Mat. 23:37), God is a lion (Hos. 11:10), God is a lamb (John 1:29). Anything we say of God can only be spoken in metaphor simply because we do not have the faculties to speak directly about what the incomprehensible All-Mighty.

Incomprehensible Evil

To an only slightly lesser extent, I believe the same can be said for evil. Our world is broken and most people are too aware of that fact. Poverty, hunger, injustice, disease, and death. The church has historically called these shortcomings of goodness “sin.”

In my understanding, “sin” comes in three main varieties. First, sin may be our individual shortcomings. For example, I have sinned when I say a cutting remark to that person who has just been annoying me for far too long. Second, sin may be corporate. Our nation’s racial-economic inequalities are a corporate sin that too many of us contribute to. Third, Sin is outside or Other. Something is broken with our world on an elementary level. We may see it in death that strikes suddenly and with disregard for age or goodness.

The classic question of theodicy haunts suffering humanity, “How can evil exist in the world when a good God created it and continues to sustain it?” or more simply, “Why does God allow suffering in the world.” I firmly believe that anyone who claims to have a convincing answer to the problem of evil’s rule of our world is either delusional or a liar. No answer is satisfying when someone asks, “How could my little girl die of leukemia?” or “What good purpose was achieved in the drought that led to multitudes of starving people?” At times, evil which rebels against goodness so strongly is nearly as incomprehensible as the idea of God itself.

This is why I believe in the Devil. I see the Devil not merely as a red man with a pitchfork and horns, nor as a conniving snake, nor as a rogue angel. The Devil is those forces within humanity individually and corporately that tirelessly seek to upset the good of this world- evil inclination. The Devil is also the aspects of our lived experience that we may know viscerally to be wrong- chaotic evil.

The Devil is embodied Sin.

I do not believe that the Devil is a snake or a fallen angel any more than I believe God is a lion or a chicken. When faced with realities- good or evil- that are more real than we can imagine, we humans can only speak in metaphor. The Devil is real and we just do not have the words to speak directly about that incomprehensible, beyond understanding force of destruction.

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Want to read more of Daniel’s essays and sermons? Go check out his blog at  Eisenblogosphere.

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Filed under Ethics, Guest Post, Theology and Faith

Peacemaking: Play as Resistance

I’m so, so honored to be guest posting over at The Smitten Word today! Suzannah has been writing for 31 days on the topic of peace, and I added my voice to the conversation today.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his followers multiple times that children know something special about the Kingdom of God, something that adults seem to be missing. If you can’t accept the Kingdom as children do, Jesus warns, you will never figure it out.

My first year after seminary, I worked in under-resourced public elementary schools in Oakland, a city strained by urban poverty and racial tension. The children I met there showed me what it means to be Kingdom builders, peacemakers who make peace with their bare hands and sheer tenacity.

When the Occupy movement took up residence in downtown Oakland, I was working at a large public elementary school a few blocks away. I was doing school recreation in service of building positive school climate, so I spent most of my day outside playing with the students, most of whom came from low-income immigrant families. Inner city kids have an incredible resilience; they just play on like nothing is happening. I, on the other hand, had to adjust to Occupy’s impact on the city.

That learning curve of adjusting was steep.

Please join me at the Smitten Word to read the rest

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Filed under Ethics, Guest Post, My Faith Journey, Theology and Faith