Day 23: (UN)CONSTANT/(UN)FAITHFUL
Galatians 4:16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
I lost a few Facebook friends this year – but then, who didn’t? My second cousin unfriended me after she insulted a friend in her comments and I called her out on it. A couple of former congregants unfriended or learned to ignore my posts after several heated exchanges about politics and racism. I didn’t get uninvited to Christmas dinner, like a few people I know, and no one assaulted me or fired me or took away my credentials, like some others. But I know my words have troubled some and angered several.
I am, for the most part, okay with that.
Life feels more honest and roomier, these days. I threw off a few constraints on my own speech – both personally and professionally – and others got removed for me. This Advent writing practice has felt, for the first time in a very long time, like me writing myself, in my own voice.
It’s pernicious, the way censors sneak into our own consciousness, the ways we voluntarily oppress and silence ourselves after so long of paying attention to the external boundaries and accepted rules of play. I know that I inhaled, digested and breathed back out some nasty, oppressive, silencing bullshit from former contexts in which I desperately wanted to succeed and for which I was eager and willing to cut myself short.
I’ve just finished (4 more books to go on the 2016 reading goal!) Rebecca Solnit’s essay collection, ‘Men Explain Things to Me,’ about all the ways that women are silenced – casually and violently – in our present-day American capitalist culture. If you don’t know what mansplaining is, read the title essay. Be dumbfounded.
And yet, here I am, a woman given not only permission and privilege but a literal pulpit, a flesh and blood congregation. I preach. I am a preacher. I still get silenced, on the regular. But my day job involves speaking up and speaking out.
I am sometimes unconvinced about the power of words, even though it has been words that so often changed my life. I struggle to appreciate the power of naming, calling out, reframing, suggesting, wondering, broadening, rebutting, truth-telling.
It’s a thing I do literally every week: this group of committed and faithful people allows me – pays me, even – to spend time thinking and reading and praying and listening for some good word and then writing, editing, speaking and preaching it. From a pulpit. And: wonder of wonders – they listen. They respond. They send me thoughtful emails mid-week about how they are still wondering with me.
It is a huge privilege, to do this for my life’s work. And it is a huge responsibility. It requires – as I see it – a commitment to honesty, and a commitment to rooting out all those oppressive, silencing constraints.
I am lucky, and blessed, and bewildered that this group of committed, faithful people seem to be okay with that part of the deal, seem to be okay with what one brother named this week as ‘the audacity to question.’ It has not always been my experience of preaching, this valuing of questions, truth-telling, wondering, breaking open…this valuing of honesty.
Who knows. Maybe these beloved sisters and brothers will be the ones unfriending me in several years’ time. Maybe that’s how truth-telling works. But maybe…maybe not. Maybe there is a place for honesty, even in this day and time, even in the church.