I am reading Rachel Held Evans final book right now Wholehearted Faith. I am taking it slowly and pleading in my heart for it to never end. I have read the Prologue three times. I have not even gotten to Chapter 1. I am finally getting to where I can get through it without tears, but it is more than pacing myself and tears that is causing me to read the Prologue over and over. She is saying some really important things that have been on my heart and mind ever since it all fell apart for me. “It” meaning faith as I once knew it.
We have been giving our Why as to why we give to our church, Wilshire Baptist Church, these past three weeks. Y’all, I almost gave up on giving to church, and for good reason. Not Wilshire, of course, but let me get there. It is because the church as whole has not been good news for women. Not anywhere—not just in the West. But I will say that the Protestant church devaluing Mother Mary so much to not compete with Jesus’ glory did even greater damage to women and to our theology of humanity than what was already being done. God said creation was good, including humans. Male and Female are both created in the image of God. And not knowing Proverbs 8 as much as we know Genesis 1-3 is a huge misstep. Real lives have been affected by bad theology. Women are always victims to this sin.
Rachel brought up how weird it is that she never heard a woman preach until she was in her twenties when our faith literally hinges on the testimony of women. I was thirty-seven (I am 44 now, this is still new to me) before I heard a woman preach. All of us can give examples of how we came to our faith because of women, but rarely will we hear it is because we heard a woman preach. Why are we continuing to perpetuate this false story to children about women in our churches just because we have told it a certain way for two thousand years? There are churches that know they are wrong about women but are not doing anything about it because of money and tradition. Why should women give to churches when our humanity is treated like this? This is a question the church at large needs to answer.
Thankfully, I found Wilshire. I love this church with all of my heart. And I am loved back. There are people who are unsure about me, I am not living immune from critique and suspicion here, but I am being given the space to ask these questions—and to teach and PREACH. How I went from resisting seminary to agreeing to it as long as I do not have to preach to I AM GOING TO PREACH is the wildest story of my life. And none of this would have happened if a church had not believed in me even when I did not believe in myself (and maybe a bit unsure about church too), or gave up on me when my wounds started showing. This is my Why for giving to Wilshire and for staying in the faith tradition of my youth. It will be lived out differently than how I was taught, though. I am still honoring my former teaching because the teachers handed me Jesus, and I do believe in Jesus—and in all the women who believed and said yes first.
In church, we talk a lot about living by HIS example. I find it odd we never say to live by HER example. There are so many women who have said yes to life and no to empire in scripture and who have been overlooked intentionally. Even the women of scripture are still having to prove themselves. When the empire needs order, women’s freedom is the first thing sacrificed. Creating order is the given reason and we just have to accept it, they say. Unity, folks! And it still true today. When we were talking in class about having an interfaith discussion and creating unity, Christian women were explicitly told to stay quiet by the author we read. As if we are treated so well by our faith!!! But even if we were, that is systematic silencing. It is not order. It’s s hidden chaos and pain.
It is time for a deeper theology on how good it is to be human. How good it is to be a woman too. Rachel says we do not like to think of God needing anyone. This is so true. That is what got me hammered on Twitter not long ago when I was questioning if God needs the universe to exist. This was a great question brought up by a thoughtful person, and I got questioned quite harshly by progressive Christians who were making me feel like I was not a Christian if I believed any of what I was saying as possibilities. It was scary to me and made me realize how spiritually malnourished we are. The fact we cannot wonder about who God is and how God works because we have set doctrines telling us how to believe or we are not a Christian is really uninteresting. I am not playing that game anymore. I want a faith full of questions and a faith that is a lot more playful. We all need back on the playground to learn. Not just our children.
We are designed to need each other and we are created in the image of God. Why wouldn’t God be needy too? I think this is a great question that could inspire people to want to start searching for Sunday again.
God needed women to survival. Before Jesus fed us with the bread and the wine, the body and the blood, Jesus himself needed to be fed, by a woman. He needed a woman to say: “This is my body, given for you.”Rachel Held Evans, Wholehearted Faith, page 5.