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In which I stand for them :: a guest post by Amena Brown

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

From Chapter 3: Tangled Up Roots

How did your parents’ stories or family history impact your understanding of God and your place in the kingdom?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, spoken word poet and writer, Amena Brown is responding to our question.

***

I come from a long line of preachers, musicians, ministers, praying people, and altar builders. My great great great grandfather was a runaway slave. When he made his way to freedom he discarded his slave master’s name for a name he chose for himself, John Dabaptist Brown, which is how my dad’s side of the family inherited Brown as a last name.

My great grandfather, John David Brown, became a bishop in the Church of God in Christ. Most of his children became ministers, including my grandfather, John, who I grew up watching preach. Bishop Brown’s grandson, my dad James, also became a minister who played keys and built altars with his bare hands.

On my mom’s side, my great great grandfather was a sharecropper and pastor. My Great Grandma Sudie never held a ministry position or title, but she taught me my first hymns and bible books. My Grandma, affectionately known as Mother Lee, played piano for church choirs starting at the age of twelve. My mom’s relationship with God was my first testament that Jesus was not a fictional character or a religious figure; that he was real and present and that connection to him was life changing.

I always have a moment, right before I go on stage, a moment where I don’t feel sophisticated, or awesome, or worthy. A moment where I still feel like the girl with the unfashionable mushroom hairdo and big glasses, the nerd who would rather find her face in a book than have an awkward conversation. And I wonder why would God choose me? Why should anyone out there listen to me or hear what I have to say?

Then I think of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ancestors throughout my bloodline who I never had the opportunity to meet. I remember that I come from a line of righteousness. Not perfect people, but hard-working, bible-reading, Jesus-preaching people. I remember that many of them prayed for me even though they knew they’d never get the chance to meet me.

I’ll remember my Grandma Sudie gathering the mothers of the church in her living room and feeling their prayers like dew on my skin while they held hands and waited for the Spirit to move. I’ll remember sitting in the wood pews of a church my great grandfather built, where my grandfather learned to preach, where my dad directed the choir and played piano.

I remember the joy in my grandma’s fingers when she played the piano keys with such strength as if the weight of her fingers could force more hope out of those hymnal words. I remember how my mom can hear worry or doubt or hopelessness in your voice, how she won’t just promise to pray for you later. To to her any conversation is a few words away from being a prayer. She’ll talk to God about you right then, in the middle of your tears, in the middle of your mind’s curse words.

I think of them and remember when I walk on stage with my head up and shoulders back. I stand for them; to represent the lives they lived, what they sacrificed, that they are a part of the reason I’m here. Hopefully I stand here in my generation, so someone else can stand in the place they are called to long after I’m gone.

I’m reminded that it’s God who makes me worthy and that I’ll never quite understand why he chose someone with all of my insecurities, misgivings, and weird things, but he did. So instead of fighting him on that, each time I walk with him, right up to that microphone, standing on the prayers of righteous people that were here generations before me, hoping to speak the truth, hope, love, and grace that they lived and died for.

As I walk offstage, I’ll hum a hymn my grandmother taught me and be thankful.

 

Continue Reading · family, Guest Post, Jesus Feminist · 23

In which women are people, too :: a guest post by Sarah Schwartz

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)

From Chapter 1:

Does it seem radical to you that God thinks women are people,too?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, Sarah Schwartz is responding to our question.

****

It is radical, in a world where 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime.[1]

It is radical, in a world where the worst thing you can call a man is a girl.

It is radical, in a world where women are half the world’s population, do half of the world’s work, earn one tenth of the world’s income, and own less than one percent of the world’s property. [2]

It is radical, in a world where domestic violence causes more death and disability in women ages 16-44 than traffic accidents or cancer. [3]

It is radical, because the abuse and deprivation of women, as former President Jimmy Carter has so aptly stated, is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation in the world.

With so much around us shouting that women are disposable, it is radical that our God believes women are people, too.

But isn’t that just like Him? Isn’t that just like the kind of Abba we’ve read about in the worn pages of Scripture? Isn’t that the kind God we’ve known Him to be?

Because this whole story He’s writing, Genesis to Revelation to now, isn’t the whole thing truly and deeply radical?

Enemies become friends, God becomes man, the dead sit up and talk. The last are first, the poor are blessed, the person who gives everything away gains it all in the end. Kings wash feet and the only way to live is to die. It’s nothing if not revolutionary.

Of course, of course, He calls us up from the margins, us, the unlikely and the left out. We’ve got His breath in our lungs, His image on our souls, and try as they might to tell us we’re less, He comes roaring in to remind us we’re more.

And some would try to tell us that yes, we’re people, but not to get any crazy ideas. You’re people, but you’re a certain kind of person who should know your place and understand your role. Don’t take this personhood thing too far. Fold your hands and bow your head, take up as little space as you can. Your kind is supposed to follow, not lead. You’re here to support, not dream your own dreams.

But we’ll just smile, and shake our heads, because we know this is no tale of partial redemption, or half restoration. We know this a story where all of us, men and women alike, get to be our child-of-God-selves in fullness.

We know the Kingdom needs all of us; it needs our boldness, leadership, and vision as much as it needs our teamwork, humility, and kindness. This is not an either/or scenario where we only get to participate if we can fit into the mold of what they tell us women are supposed to be like. There will be no fragmenting of personhood here, no narrow definitions or burying of talents.

What there will be is freedom. Freedom to live and move and have our being in the One who fashioned us as whole, complete people.

We’ve tasted too much of the good news to believe it’s not good for us, too.

SarahSchwartzSarah grew up on a little farm in Oregon that her Mama’s family has called home for over a century. While her heart belongs to the northwest, these days you can find her in southern California trying to finish seminary, love a few people really well, and make her therapist laugh. She’s captivated by the idea of resurrection, and a God who brings dead things back to life. She writes because (to borrow from Biedma) most days she wants to be a poet, but deep down, what she really wants is to be a poem. Follow Sarah on twitter @SarahSchwartz, and on her blog.

 


[1] George Mason University, Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics, 2005

[2] Barber Conable, former President of World Bank

[3] “Violence against Women.” - Gender Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

Continue Reading · Guest Post, Jesus Feminist, women · 36

In which it’s Jesus Feminist Book Club Week!

In the back of my little yellow book, there are discussion questions. They are meant for small group discussions or perhaps your own journalling, but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books and introduce you to a few of the writers I’m loving these days.

I also wanted to encourage those of you who enjoyed the book to work through the discussion questions within your own churches or communities and friends.

book club

Every day this week, we’ll tackle one of the discussion questions as a community. I’ve already read the answers from the contributors and let me tell you – they are seriously so good. I wanted to stand on my table and cheer. I cannot wait for you guys to read these, you’ll love them.

You’ll hear from Sarah Schwartz, Osheta Moore, Tamara Rice, Zach Hoag, Jerusalem Greer, and Amena Brown.

I know, right? An amazing group. You won’t want to miss a day.

Then, we can all weigh in with our response to the day’s question in the comment section. Even if you haven’t read the book, feel free to jump in with your response to the day’s question. Your opinion, your story, your perspective, your response is welcome.

Every day, one random commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

The Jesus Feminist Book Club will kick off tomorrow with Sarah Schwartz’s answer to a discussion question within Chapter 1 about whether or not it’s radical for women to be considered people, too.

See you back here tomorrow!

Continue Reading · Jesus Feminist · 1

In which I admit that I didn’t like Paul

live openly

I never liked the Apostle Paul very much.

(Apparently you can type a sentence like that and not be struck by lightening. Who knew?)

Like many Christians, I am drawn towards certain personalities or characters within Scripture. My heart has always aligned itself with the Apostle John. My sister has always had a soft spot for Peter. Someone else identifies with David or Mary or Leah perhaps.

But Paul?

I had Some Big Thoughts and Feelings about the Apostle Paul.

He wrote a lot of the Scripture that is used against women’s full equality. To me, he was a misogynist.  He was narrow-minded and bossy. He was snippy. As a feminist, I was suspicious of Paul. I even avoided his words in Scripture.

I mean, sure he wrote a lot of the New Tesatment but instead I camped out in the Gospels, in John’s epistles, in Hebrews, in the Psalms and Proverbs. Kelley taught me how to love Exodus and Isaiah and the Old Testament prophets.  As I grew in the faith, of course I began to read the whole canon of Scripture but I almost had to forget that Paul had written it – it was easier to receive the words, if I forgot that Paul was the one who dictated or scribed them.

Paul, late have I loved you.

Late, perhaps, but not too late.

As I was writing Jesus Feminist though, the strangest transformation took place: I began to love Paul. Really, truly love him, as a brother.

Yes, it was actually precisely because I was writing about life on the other side of the gender debates, advocating for the full equality of women, that  I rediscovered, appreciated, and began to love my brother, Paul.

It started with those clobber verses – you know the ones, 2 Timothy, Titus 2, Ephesians 5, and so on. I had already done my research long before the day came to write, but as a refresher, I dug out the commentaries and books again. Responsible author, I wanted to make sure I had my hermeneutical ducks in a row.

But as I worked my way through the passages of Scripture that I used to hate, I began to see Paul more clearly, to understand Scripture even better. I began to see his wisdom, his subversion, his heart. When I looked at his full ministry – how he praised and esteemed women in leadership in the Church, how he turned household codes within a patriarchal society on their head, how he used feminine metaphors, how he subverted the systems, how he passionately defended equality – the verses that used to clobber me began to embrace me.

The truth broke through. I wasn’t fighting AGAINST Paul – I was fighting WITH him.

I read Paul’s words in Scripture and I began to realise I had not known him. I had been silenced or shut down by people putting words in his mouth or intent in his words that he never intended and I had missed so much. I had to repent.

Now I think that if Paul knew how a few of his words had been twisted, misinterpreted, and misapplied to be used against women, he would be broken hearted. 

After all, this is the apostle who wrote these words:

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 because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us (Romans 8:39 MSG)

I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. (1 Corinthians 10:29)

Love never gives up, Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t struct, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies. (1 Corinthians 13:3-7)

I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)

And on and on and on….Galatians has been my home for months now and I will never be the same. Never.

In fact, that is my new assignment for fundamentalists: read Galatians 5 and 6 every day. That should cure it.

Page after page, word by word, the theology of freedom is settling back into my bones again.

Oddly, I began to love Paul for the very humanness of him: his frustrations, his love, his exhaustion, his passion, his intelligence, his impatience. All of it.

I’m so thankful for his unedited self.

He wasn’t perfect. He was complex, yes, but oh, such diamond-like multi-faceted brilliance. Poet theologian, evangelist and pastor, leader and thorn in the side. A radical contradictory shit-disturber, a truth-teller to power and a tender father heart, a broken and humble servant, all Paul.

His crazy beautiful words about freedom with responsibility, about mutual submission, his trust in Christ and not the law, about loving one another, about our Jesus …. he is my brother, indeed. His story is changing me. I love Jesus better because I’m hearing about him from Paul.

Maybe you either love him or you hate him. Either way, this Jesus feminist loves Paul.

 

Continue Reading · faith, Jesus Feminist, scripture · 51