Tuesday, July 07, 2009

the invitation

One of the most powerful things about the Friday morning panel at the Christian Scholars Conference, which I blogged about below, was the simplicity of it. It was, simply, a time and space created to let women talk: to say the things that are scary or straightout forbidden to say at other times and in other places. We need more opportunities like this. Part of the problem is that the institutional structures of our churches define when and where things may be publicly shared, and who may share them, and this rarely includes women. Even in those public spaces and times when women may speak, these experiences and stories are not the ones being sought. Why would they be, when they are cries of pain and stories of exclusion, and prophetic condemnations of the injustice of the way things are? You can hardly respond to the great challenge of being the first woman to teach a class in your church, or lead communion, or preach a sermon, by sharing truths that are so unedifying and disturbing.

So: we need more of these times and spaces. We need them convened in the flesh, and God bless the CSC and the brave folks whoever they were who organized those sessions. Let's do it again. In the meantime, let's do it here. Let me know if you'd be interested in guest-blogging. If you want to be anonymous, email me and I'll post for you. I want women's stories and women's voices, but men, if you've got a story to tell, bring it. I want stories of staying and stories of leaving. I want stories of heartbreak and stories of hope. I want it all. We need to hear it, all.

Here is the introduction and the prompts from the CSC discussion, moderated by Dr. Ken Cukrowski:

As the church and the academy have addressed the topic of women's roles, various theological resources have been brought into the discussion. Not surprisingly, given our heritage, Scripture has played a significant role in our reflection. Reason has also played a role, although this issue understandably stirs emotions, which sometimes strains our use of reason. Tradition--what we have always done--has played a huge role in actual practice. The use of experience--of women specifically--however, has been rare or absent, for at least a couple of reasons. First, there are few opportunities when women are invited to speak in public; second, it is culturally difficult for a woman to ask for the floor without negative connotations. So, women's stories have gone untold and unheard.

Our goal is to provide a place where those stories can be told and heard. Specifically, we'd like to know how has being female in CoC has affected you over your lifetime? How has it affected your religious experiences (e.g., in church, with other members, your own spiritual life)? How has it make you feel? In short, how has your gender affected your heart, mind, faith, and families?

I will ask specific questions, more or less moving across the life cycle:

1. What's your first memory of realizing that being female meant something different in terms of opportunities or expectations?
2. How did being female in CoC affect you as a teenager, in college, in your dating relationships?
3. How has being female in CoC affected you as an adult?
4. How has being female affected your church life?
5. How has being female in CoC affected your marriage relationship?
6. How did has being female in CoC affected your interaction with children (yours and others' children)?
7. Last question: What would you like to say? What do we need to hear?

If you've been silent, not because you thought it was biblical, but because you thought no one wanted to hear what you have to say, this invitation is for you. If you've been silent, because you've never been asked to find the words for your experience, this invitation is for you. If you've been silent, because you're too busy seeking ways past the scandalous obstacles placed in your path to even bother with thinking about or sharing your experiences, this invitation is for you. If you've been shouting because it's been impossible to get anyone to stop and listen, this invitation is for you. If you've been crying, because the time for words is past and all you've got left is tears, this invitation is for you.


Indie Pereira said...

I think I might do this. I've been trying to write my spiritual autobiography and all of my feelings about these things are being drudged up.

Carolyn said...

I'm so glad you're doing this -- it's very important. I'll send you another email soon, and meanwhile I'm going to link to this on my blog, if that's alright with you.

JTB said...

Carolyn, if you haven't already, of course linking is okay. And thanks. :)

kbeck said...

I have re-read the questions posed for reflection in this post and have a question of my own - Are these your questions or did they arise from the CSC? I'm curious to know who crafted the questions b/c that information may impact my response to them.

JTB said...

These were the original CSC panel questions, as reconstructed by Dr. Cukrowski. Use them as prompts if you need them, but if you don't, just tell your story as you like. If you need more than one post that's cool.

my email address is connected to my profile, just send something my way whenever you like, and let me know how to attribute it (anonymous, initials only, full name, whatever).

Jenny said...

Sounds cool. If you're still looking for participants, I'm interested!