It has been a really long time since I decided to blog. In part it was because I had entirely too much to say or at times not enough. I am experiencing and sorting through a myriad of thoughts and emotions at the moment.
I realize more and more how grateful I am for having a Dad/Father in ministry who challenged me to think for myself while engaging the academic rigors of seminary and finding my way through the beginnings of answering "the call." I love him for that forever. Dr. Kelly Miller Smith, Jr. taught, trained and developed, stretched, applauded, encouraged and tussled with me about all things ministry in efforts to help me to be able to hear, heck to at least engage in conversation and value the perspective of others when I disagree. I have amazing friends and colleagues who help me to do the same. To each of you I am indebted as well. What I learned from my family community was to not be so rigid in my identifying with one opinion, cause or viewpoint that I only identify or work toward that end. For example, I posted a challenge to social media for all community leaders, mentors and advocates in the Christian faith to see the movie Straight Outta Compton. The post indicated the need to attempt to understand cultural and contextual issues of those who are different or respond differently; even if it is negative because of "isms." When one cares enough to seek understanding and meet in the middle for discussion, whether there is agreement or disagreement; respect is earned. Validation results and you have gained an audience and sometimes a friend, or you have helped to lead someone to a transformative encounter/experience that can lead them to a more excellent way. Someone thought it offensive that I would post that due to the misogynistic tone of the movie. We bantered but honestly my purpose in that moment, for that post was to encourage dialog and empathy in a religious context that often joins in ostracizing those outside the proverbial mold. In a nutshell the church has been guilty collectively of ministry to its sacred self alone. Not the model of the radial Christ of whom we are ambassadors.
But I've learned I am not just for one "cause." I must be concerned that all people are treated with dignity and not abused, misused, cast-off or considered less than... Even when it seems justifiable I must resist because hatred costs too much and hinders my sensibilities and capability to love and lead. Because there are conservatives there has to be liberals. The slave trade made abolitionists necessary as much as bigoted clansman and Jim Crow made boycotts, sit-ins, protests and Black Panthers unavoidable and requisite. We are "free" to operate in many ways but intentionally harming and degrading in the names of isms. REALLY!!!??? Is that the advantage we seek from our platforms?
I noted all of that to say that RESPECT IS IMPORTANT. Everybody brings something that is useful to the table. A conservative talk show host tweeted a comment about a Republican female presidential candidate saying she went "full vagina" in the last debate. WHAT?????!!!!!!!!!! Who? What!? How can....? Ahhh! the freedom of speech and liberties afforded us are to be treasured but what of the consequences brought about as well. As a female minister with several years of ministry experience, with about half of them being paid full-time staff, I can speak to both sides of the coin. The opportunity to be able to preach and teach the foundational truths of my faith is a tremendous blessing. True, life-changing ministry is my love. It has birthed and nurtured an unbridled passion and many favorable occurrences, trips, meetings, etc. that I cannot explain nor contain the joy because of. However, almost two decades of often being the only woman at the table or in the room have been challenging to say the least. The grossly inappropriate comments, innuendos,advances, outright dismissive laughter and actions along with non-responsive antics are ever present and my guess is that they will continue in areas where they are allowed; and especially within the church and religious arena for many sisters in ministry; credentialed and qualified or not. After all, not very much challenge there in many a denominational context. But still, that's not all.
What of the derogatory and demeaning perceptions/perspectives and propagandizing of black and brown men AND women AND children or of folk who fail to reach the socioeconomic status. The stuff that has desensitized us to the point that all are not moved by the wailing, gut-wrenching tone of grieving mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers and countless communities in turmoil. What about the still separate and unequal living conditions, food deserts, lack of proper educational funding, healthcare coverage and the pipeline to prison industrial complex systemic evils? What of a society that expresses more care about the well-being of animals than its sun-kissed citizens? Who has believed the lie that the church should not engage awareness of and call to accountability of the systems and institutions that are oppressive? What about Deborah, Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah? And what about JESUS whose radical compassion, healing, acceptance and embracing of those considered unworthy or lesser squashed status quo and made folk mad enough to kill Him. Is it our lot to simply talk amongst ourselves or to not even mention it at all whilst we pray? Why does calling folk out and demanding justice have to mean I am playing the victim?
Why is it ok to devalue the contributions of a credentialed woman to her corporate, societal or ecclesiastical context then resort to disdainful name calling or practice? I am not really impressed with any of the presidential candidates but that fires me up! She went "full vagina?" Did he really tweet that?! So does that mean the males are going full penis? Stupid isn't it?
My point is that somebody, anybody, everybody ought to say something, do something about some of the things that are dividedly conquering us. Engaging the isms is not a mere distraction from the spiritual as some believe but we each have responsibility to move toward justice, renewal and equality in our own spheres of influence be it: church, work, political arena, community centers or coffee shops.
I do not have answers to all the ills. They are indeed complex. No quick fixes to any of it but are we bothered enough to change it? Are we bothered at all? "FULL VAGINA?" REALLY!!!!?????