August 16, 2009

The Christianities I’ve Lived

Posted in Faith Transformations, feminist theology, Relationships, religion, Soul tagged , , , , , at 9:54 pm by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

Since 6th grade, I have grown up in the protestant evangelical charismatic movement. For all of you who don’t know, or need to be reminded of what that means, well, for me at least it included the following: mission trips, FIRE (which was a 6 month period of no television, no music or reading not Christian-focused, and weekly meetings), Bible Quiz, youth church on Wednesday nights, Sunday morning and night services (where the night service was more Holy Spirit filled and might go on until who knew when), raising hands and falling slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, dancing and waving flags around or whatever you wanted to do during praise time in the church, sorrowful deep weeping confessions, loving Jesus more than anything, revivals, big televangelists coming as visiting preachers, MY preacher on television, prosperity preaching (preachers with big beautiful white houses and large Washington D.C sized gated lawns), the Left Behind books, Christian romance, praying and telling other people about Jesus, speaking about abstinence at Youth Leadership Conference, listening to on the radio and singing at school talent shows CCM (Christian Contemporary Music), buying clothing at Mardel Christian bookstore, knowing that it was creation and not evolution that caused the world that breathed God, understanding the devil was a real entity that wanted to bring you down and especially would be after you the more you belonged to Jesus, being awed and terrified of my literal reading of Revelation, and reading the Bible everyday and everywhere, and praying/talking to God as much as I could.

Christianity, in some ways, is a culture with language and dress and behavior, definitely a worldview, of its own. Like a person from any country will have adopted and understand the codes of her country’s culture/society, the Christian culture has been inside of me, and I have not and will not probably reject it. That said, where I am at now in my late 20s is a very different place than I was ages 12-18. How?

UNDERGRAD: I went to a private Christian church that allowed my evangelism to pause since everyone around me was already a Christian (scotch-taping the “footprints” poem to the inside of bathroom stalls would be “sweet” and not subversive). And the conservatism of the school (women were not really allowed a leadership role, Christian music was actually of the devil) allowed me to see myself not as self-righteously more conservative/pure/godly (I just couldn’t be!) than those around me, but rather as more liberal. Which in a way, pushed me to a certain freedom to explore that liberality. Also, (thank godde), my professors were progressive Christians. They challenged me to question the assumed male gender of “god” and asked me to respond to the parallels between the stories from the Bible I had known to be sacred and absolute and the stories from classical Greek and Roman and even earlier mythologies; they allowed me to see evolution and sexuality as something other than a threat to my faith. And just being in college in general helped me realize that there were so many ideas out there and so much knowledge I didn’t know, uncertainties that were real.

GRAD SCHOOL: I moved from the midwest to the east coast and came into contact with people very different than me. My Christian undergrad was a safe place to start wandering around in possibilities because I knew that my professors and the people around me were exploring and they were so strong in their faith. In graduate school, I did not have any Christians around me. I was forced to look at people of different religions and views or no religion at all and see them as okay people, even good (whatever that meant), even more moral than I. Which was a new idea, because I had been taught growing up that it was religion, the Christian religion specifically, which made people moral. I took an interest, via my feminist classes, in feminist theology (I hadn’t even known there was such a field), and started to let myself be critical of my faith tradition, understanding that the sacred text was also a historical text in the sense that it was created in a specific time and has been used for specific reasons not necessarily inclusive or liberating for everyone. Graduate school was a rich time of awakenings and explorations, and so it was also a gorgeous time of fear and depression too. But it was something I needed to go through.

MY RETURN TO UNDERGRAD: But this time as a professor. And as a professor, I was to integrate faith and learning, which I enjoyed doing, especially since Christianity had started to become so nuanced for me. I tried out serious theological issues with my students and encouraged them to consider alternatives to what they had thoughtlessly assumed previously. During my time there (about two years), I realized that I wanted to completely focus on religion, but this time, from a feminist standpoint.

NOW, NEW GRAD SCHOOL: So here I am, in a Women’s Studies and Religion program, with girls and professors who are all together considering the endless possibilities of what godde, spirituality, Jesus, and our relationship to other faiths and people mean. I love this exploration, and it feels good and safe and right. And I want to continue to see where it leads. My theology now is more defined by social justice and Jesus not as one who wants to be worshiped, but as one who gave up being God for a moment to show us that idolatrous worship was not what he wanted. He demonstrated the message of liberation for the impoverished, for women, for all who are oppressed. And my theology is also pluralistic, because I feel, even though Christianity is the right path for me, other faiths carry a similar message. Evangelism is no longer a part of my Christian faith. That is just how it is, and I’m sorry if you don’t agree with it or feel that it is wayward or something. But evangelism does not feel ethical for me personally.

Advertisements