Sunday, April 27, 2008

Theologizing in Exile

Deryn Guest discusses the concept of being in exile from one's spiritual home in When Deborah Met Jael. It's a good concept, and one that I think fits my experience with Christianity better than some of the metaphors I've thrown around.

I'm an exile from CofCdom. I could not remain a part of the CofC out of fear for my soul, yet I find if difficult act like the rest of America and ignore the CofC's existence, find some other spiritual home, and get on with life.

I feel pressured at times to simply be silent about the degree of hurt I feel from the CofC. I feel as though I am supposed to just get out and stay out, and never speak to the damage done by their exclusionary practices -- of being shown each Sunday that I was unworthy of distributing the Eucharist (okay, they didn't use the word Eucharist), unworthy of speaking to God publicly, unworthy of sharing my thoughts with the congregation. I have been sexualized in unwelcome ways by being told that if, as a girl, I was allowed to formally debate the boys, then I "might dress provocatively in order to distract them." (Ha!) My right to existence has been constructed as entirely contingent on entering into a patriarchal marriage, and my sanity and the existence of a heart have been questioned because I had no interest in doing so. I have mocked by peers and teachers for being nothing more than young, immature, and anger -- all of which might be true, but none of which should result in open disregard and mockery. CofCdom -- at least, the Tennessee version -- is hostile to my sense of myself and not above using spiritual violence to try to break down and reform my sense of self. I have felt abandoned by God, created only to be an anathema and scapegoat. And yet, I'm supposed to not take it personally, get over it, and move on. Forget, forget, forget -- and definitely don't talk about.

I do not mean to suggest that my injuries are cases of extreme spiritual violence. They is far worse done on a daily basis. I acknowledge that the majority of the people who have hurt me and attacked my person never intended to do so, and yet, this doesn't change the fact that violence was done. Violence of a more systematic than individual nature, but violence did happen. If I repress that, how am I supposed to move past it in any real way? And if I remain silent, how many more of my siblings will be injured by the unjust structures that govern CofCdom?

Despite all this, I have a sense of loyalty to CofCdom. I have been shaped by indelible ways by Restoration Movement thought. I'm an exile, an expat. I left my home behind, and I despair of ever being able to return, but still something in me continues to hope. To hope that the regimes and structures of CofCdom will change, and it will be a space that doesn't do violence to my person.