Desire for a Radical Chrisitanty

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

It is important to note that for the purposes of this article, the word “radical” is used in the sense of desire for drastic social, political, economic and cultural reform. It is also important to note the privilege that I, as a white christian writer, have in using that word. I encourage everyone to consider their own personal reaction to this article and its title if we had substituted Islam for Christianity. 

So let’s get this out of the way… I am a radical, anti-racist, sex-positive queer feminist. Oh and one more thing, I am a Christian.

As such I believe in the unconditional love of God, and in living a life dedicated to  the service of others. I believe in the power of prayer, and the power of the Bible.

I also believe we live in a racist society that privileges white skin over lack and brown skin. I believe that, as  Dossie Easton put it, “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you”.I am pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-gender neutral bathrooms.  I know that many people, indeed even some people reading this very article may think, may believe that my beliefs are incompatible with Christianity. Some may even think that my desires, my beliefs, cause me to be separated, or distanced, from the love of God.

I however, believe the opposite. There is a passage from the Bible that is often cited by my friends over at Faith Aloud, at times when people see their work, or a woman’s reproductive choices, as keeping them from God.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love –Romans 9:38-39 The Message Bible

I can turn to God’s love and know that I cannot be parted from the love of God, no matter what anyone else says. My beliefs, my desires, my thoughts, and even the opinions of other Christians, cannot separate me from my God.

Yet, for me I want more than to be able to claim that my beliefs aren’t separating me from God. I need, I yearn for, and I call for a view of Christianity that embraces these beliefs. In fact, I demand a Christianity that reflects the radical politics of that totally radical guy, Jesus, whose message was one of radical love, radical action, and radical welcome.

Riffing on Flavia Dzodan’s awesome article on intersectional feminism, I  would say that my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. Let me say that again, my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. I don’t think this means everyone’s Christianity needs to be as radical as mine, but I do desire to have a place in the world of Christianity. I need a powerful Christianity that challanges me to be a better adovocate for justice in this world, but I also know that my desires aren’t everyone’s desires. 

I desire worship services that reflect my beliefs, I desire churches that seek out and support marginalized people, I desire sermons that discuss how difficult and revolutionary love can be. But mostly, I desire a racial Christianity that worships this Jesus:o-JESUS-570

Yet, I am well aware that many people have no desire for the view of Christianity I am talking about here, and I think that is okay.  I am also called by the Bible to honor the fact that no one’s belief’s can keep them from being loved by God, and that I am called to love people whose views are different than mine. Indeed, love for each other, and everyone else is what defies us as Christians, or as the writer of John puts it:

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.–John 13:35

We are all human, our desires are infinite, but we all deserve a place at the table, a chance to voice our desires without judgment, and above all, we all receive, whether we deserve it or not, the unconditional love of God.

Unfulfilled Desires

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

The things I have wanted that I don’t have could fill a book. Sometimes it is hard not to look at life as a list of unfulfilled desires: the PhD program that I didn’t get into, the marriage that didn’t work out, the job I didn’t get. Sometimes it seems like my path is strewn with only what I don’t have. Given the current state of the world, I know I am not the only one who has unfulfilled desires, I am not the only one who feels the harsh sting of failure, who has done the hard work of mending a broken heart.

So today, when my head started spiral into that negative space, I pulled out my Bible and began to search for wisdom. Now, while I have several bible copies, some pristine, etched in gold, but the Bible I search through isn’t one of those. It is full of highlighted sections and notes in the margins.  It is bookmarked by prayer cards from every funeral I have ever attended, and mementos from many years of bible study. Often, this Bible simply falls open to a page, which seems as good of a place to start as any.

As it happened, today the Bible fell open to one of my favorite passages:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1

So there it is. The wisdom I have to share today is to simply have faith. I have to keep walking on my spiritual journey, even when things look bleak and when my hopes end up as unfulfilled desires. I have to trust that I am co-creating something beautiful and meaningful with my God, with my comrades, with my lovers, my friends, and my family.  In short, even when desires remain unfulfilled, when prayers seem unanswered, when wishes are not granted, I must have faith…for the bible tells me so.

The Back and Forth of Starting Over

By: Autumn Elizabeth

By some ways of looking at my life, I have spent the majority of the last few years starting over. Starting to reclaim a new spiritual path after my church refused to marry me and my partner, starting over with a new life in Europe after that unsanctioned marriage ended. But the truth is, I am not sure starting over is even possible.

Starting over spiritually has not meant giving up my lifetime of faith and starting fresh. On the contrary, starting over has led me both forward and backwards. I have rediscovered some of the beauty and radical justice buried in my Catholic heritage, and I have found deep wells of solace and a place to pray in my yoga practice. I have also kept a deep admiration for my church as they struggle to more radically embody the love of Jesus and move to embrace all types of love.

I think starting over is always about moving both backwards and forwards simultaneously. No matter how much someone hurts us, no matter how broken our hearts, none of us really forget, we keep tiny pieces of all the people we love in our hearts forever. For me, in times of heartache, starting over often looks a lot like going back to the people who knew me before my heartache, and it also often involves finding new relationships of love and support. So it seems, for me at least, that starting over is more a process of growing in wisdom and love than a process of erasing our past.

For me starting over has been a process of going back and moving forward. I am blessed to have found solace in both places. 2015 stands to be a big year for me in both directions. Looking to the future I will graduate from my master’s program, and I will celebrate entering a new decade of wisdom. Looking back, this site will turn two and my oldest friendship with turn 21. To me, this is what starting over looks like—it is the growing of new branches while my roots grow deeper too. This January, may your new year be rooted in all the blessing of your past, and all the possibilities of the future. Here’s to staring over, and to keeping all the wisdom we’ve already gained.

Starting Over After Charlie Hebdo

By: Autumn Elizabeth

IMG_0524I had a totally different post written for today, but then I had to start over.

I had to start over because journalists and cartoonist, as well as those who worked with them and to protect them, were killed and injured yesterday, about ten minutes from where I am writing these words.

The news, and the news media, which are two very different things in my humble opinion, will reveal plenty of details in the coming days and weeks, but what matters to me as I sit here, writing a new post for today is that people were killed, were injured, were frightened because of their ideas, their words, their humor. What matters today for me personally is that violence has once again disturbed a place that I call home.

Today, like many days recently, I am forced to face the reality that this is the world we live in. A world of bombs in front of NAACP offices, of genocide, of police brutality, of terrorism, of xenophobia, of hate crimes. This scary world is not simply a generalization of global problems, it is personal. I live in a world where my friends get teargassed for speaking out against racist systems, where people who share my profession get murdered for making jokes, and where violence and fear are used to create and maintain power.

This is a world that needs starting over. We can begin to start over by seeking new systems for justices and new methods for peace. We can continue to start over by speaking up, standing in solidarity, and living with love.

I titled this post “Starting over after Charlie Hebdo” but the truth is, there is no “after Charlie Hebdo”, just like there is no “post-Ferguson”, because these things are still the reality of all our lives, or at least they are the reality in mine because #JeSuisCharlie, because I still believe that #blacklivesmatter, and because I refuse to stay quiet about either.

Millennial Activist United started a powerful tradition of using a quote from activist Assata Shakur as a rally chat, and so standing in solidarity with them and that movement, I will leave you with these words as my prayer for everyone here in Paris, for journalist and cartoonists all over the world, and for all the other activists for peace and justice.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.   –Assata Shakur 

Amen.

Faith and Fear

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget. –Isaiah 54:4

It is often said that if we trust in God, we need not fear. But here’s the thing. I am afraid. I have not forgotten the hard times of my youth. The disappointment of being a millennial looking for a job, the pain of enduring the violence done to my body and psyche, the hopes dashed, the dreams broken, I still feel them all, and it makes me afraid.

I am afraid to make anything permanent, for fear it will be taken away again. I am afraid of showing my passion for justice; for fear that the world will beat it out of me. I do not yearn for confrontation, yet this is what our world gives me. I am afraid that the world will continue to throw away all the lives, black, brown, queer, female, trans*, that don’t matter to those in power.

Yet, I know that for myself, as a follower of the radical Jesus, I cannot let this fear win. Perhaps, that is what all those passages in the bible are about. Maybe when they say “do not be afraid”, they mean “do not let fear own you”.  I cannot stop fear, but I must dare to move beyond it.

I have to dare to co-create a better world side-by-side with the spirit of universal justice. I have to dare to believe that we can all be valued and safe in this world.  I have to dare to show my heart to the people I love, and to show kindness to the people I don’t know.

I have to dare to believe in a better world, because I believe in a loving God, a powerful force that holds every creation dear. I believe in a God that does not victim blame, does not value some lives more than others. I believe in a God that moves with me in this world so that even the smallest acts of service, of change, of care, matter.

Yes, I am afraid. My faith does not erase my fear, but neither does fear annihilate my faith. They walk hand-in-hand with me as I travel through this messy, broken, and beautiful world.

Changing Together

By: Autumn Elizabeth

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I am the change. You are the change too. This point was proven yesterday the the People’s Climate March, which took place all around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people came together, ignored their differences, and marched to make change.

In Paris, where I was marching, the vegans weren’t throwing things at the people wearing leather shoes. Greenpeace wasn’t jostling with the World Wildlife Foundation for the best space. Christian groups weren’t bashing the Atheists.  Everyone coexisted to create change.

This coexistence for change is at the core of my faith and my life. I believe that to create a better world, to create the kin-dom of God here on this earth, in this time, we have to work together. I am not suggesting that my belief is to ignore difference, but rather that I believe we must embrace it and work together anyway.

Being the change also means supporting justice for everyone. Reproductive justice organizations like Planned Parenthood attended the People’s Climate March yesterday, because environmental justice affects reproductive justice. In the same way, men must work to end patriarchy, and white people must work to end racism. If we want change, we have to support each other.

I don’t think I would be a very good representative of Jesus, if I only wanted to help Christians nor would I be a very just feminist if I wanted to oppress men. To make change, we all have to be open. We have to be willing to embrace differences, to help one another, and to unite for global justice.

I am the change, you are the change, and together we can make change happen!

 

A Prayer for Moving On

By: Autumn Elizabeth

I am getting ready to move on again. I am moving from one European country to another. Leaving friends I love behind, hoping to meet new ones. During times like these, you know, the stressful ones, full of bittersweet emotions and a need to let go, I find myself turning to prayer. So here is a prayer I wrote to help me move on, from a bad situation, or a good one. It is about movement and about change.

 

A Prayer for Moving On

Dear Spirit of Movement,

Let me embrace the new movements in my life,
help me release the past’s grip on me,
so that I may find space to embrace a new future.
Bless my new path with relationships that sustain me,
wisdom to guide me,
and love to empower me.
Help me find the strength to move on,
from this place, from this time,
into the bright unknown that is my future.

Amen.

All are Welcome

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This is a story that is quite personal.  It involves my home church, and our struggle together to witness the equality God has shown us. This is not a story with a happy ending, or a story that is meant to chastised. This is the story about how I asked my church to marry me, and how this request was denied.  This is a story about what it means to ask for radical welcome.

When I joined the Disciples of Christ Christian church, I left behind a church where, as a woman, I was seen as unequal, and where I couldn’t embrace me whole self. Living now, far away from the home church that denied me the nothing except the one thing I asked for aloud I have come to face the heart breaking reality that although I still firmly believe in a Jesus who would have fought the police at Stonewall and a God that suffered along side Matthew Shepard, my faith in humanity finds itself on softer ground.

I several years ago, I asked this welcoming church to bless the marriage of my same-sex partner and I. There was hesitation. There was discussion, there was love, there was support, and then there was an answer. That answer was “no”.  The church continued to journey towards a place where that answer might someday be “yes” for someone else. But the truth remains, before I came along, no one stood for me. Before I asked these questions no one asked. Before I argued, no one made a peep. I do not mean to imply that I was alone among my fellow chruch-goers in my sexuality, far from it in fact. But the de facto “don’t ask don’t tell” policy of many christian churches, where LGBTQ people are not shamed, but not welcomed, meant that I had to be the one to ask, and I had to be denied.

My favorite Disciples of Christ quote is etched on the side of my home church. “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity.” Indeed this is the quote most often shown to me as a claim that I must not force any church to be open and affirming of LGBTQ people. Yet, when one looks closely at this argument, it becomes clear that despite the importance of “all are welcome”, welcoming all people, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender identity is actually not essential. Thus, I use this quote to disagree, to advocate that welcoming everyone means equality is essential in the eyes of God.

As long as the single most important essential of disciples doctrine remains “all are welcome”, then in fact, there can be no questioning, no doubt. In all things we must offer charity, we must always have our hearts, our hearths and our doors open. What I offer you, I cannot deny to the person who asks me next. Acceptance of all people, blessing of all unions, welcoming of even our enmities is an essential tenant of Christianity, or at least it is an essential tenant of any Christianity I want to believe in. As people who beleive in the radical love of God, the impossible expanse of God’s welcomeness, we must let everyone participate equally. This radical equality means we must love and accept all who enter our churches’ doors, and it means LGBTQ people must be allows to participate in every ritual of the church. It also means that as LGBTQ people, we cannot deny ourselves access to being full members of our faith groups, nor can we deny ourselves the freedom to be open and honest with our fellow church members about who we are.  Finally, the radical love of God insists on all of us, that we not wait for someone else to ask for justice, whether we are part of LGBTQ communities or not, we all must demand that our faith communities act with justice, act with love, act with radical welcome.

My faith in human nature now rest, as it often does, on the next generation, and in the fact that, despite the outcome of my personal request I have done my part. I have ensure that when the next generation stands, they will not do so alone.  They will be able to look back on this moment, when I asked, you denied me..will you deny them too? They will know that someone, hopefully many someones, have stood up for the radical love that Jesus preached, and asked again and again until their voices were heard, “When will you truly welcome me to the table?”

Strength to Endure

By: Autumn Elizabeth

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I love the Ramones. Their music has always spoken to me, so it is no accident that the title of this post is also a title of one of their songs. I have been honored this past month to see the amazing post about the strength of people around the world to bear burdens, to survive hardships, and to live with grace and laughter. Yet I cannot help but notice, that most of these posts deal, in one way or another, with the burden of womanhood.

Since I was a very small girl I have been aware that there are burdens many women know that many men will never face. I have been aware that it requires a special strength in order to endure the label  “girl” and the labels that come with it like “whore”, “sweetheart”, “bitch”. The recent tragic events in Santa Barbara, California, have only made me more aware of what can, and does, happen when patriarchal ideas are taken to a violent extreme.  (For an intelligent summary of this check out Laci Green’s video on Elliot Rodger and the media reaction to this tragedy. It is worth watching but may be quite disturbing for anyone who has a brain and a heart). In light of this, and other tragedies, both personal and global,  it seems that we all must be more aware than ever of the strength it takes live in this world.

But here is what this month has taught me: we women, we who have endured  more than our share for so long, we have the strength to endure. Moreover, I have seen proof that despite tragedy and suffering, the strength of the human spirit, across all genders, sexual orientations, races and religions,  will always endure.  We all have the strength to continue to walk along the  never-ending road toward justice and equality.

Which brings us to this month’s theme of Equality. This month is not just about gender equality, it isn’t just about LGBTQ equality either. This month is about how if we all have the strength we can create of would that treats people with an equal love, equal respect and allows everyone equal rights. So show the world your strength, your commitment to equality and submit now! I, for one, can’t wait to see the hope and strength of spirit this month brings. And let’s all remember the wise words of the Ramones:

I have the strength to endure
And all the love so pure
I have the strength to endure
Because… because…

-The Ramones, Strength to Endure

A Prayer for Strength

 

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Dear Universal Source of Strength,

We pray for the strength to listen to the burdens of others, and the strength to bear burdens of our own.

We ask for help in negotiating the fine line between personal strength and public aggression.

We hope the we show our own strength in the wisest of ways.

We pray for those who must summon strength all too often, those who battle, those whose suffering seems unfairly immense.

We hope that their strength is honored, not exploited.

We ask that you continue to show us the ways we can support the strength in those around us.

We ask for strength that comes from a friend’s hug, a warm cup of tea, and a good meal.

We hope that we find this strong support easily.

We pray for those for whom the strong support of loved ones is not available.

We hope that when we search ourselves for strength in times of trouble, we are able to find it.

We pray that when we cannot find it ourselves, someone does us the kindness of showing us our own strength.

We ask for the wisdom to recognize our own strength, even when it comes in quiet forms.

We pray that the strength of this world, this time, be a strength of compassion, love, and tenderness toward all things.

Amen.