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Goodbye, Church (part 2)

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This past Fall I started seminary full-time. Being a recovering christian, it’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? (To see the irony, read intro, part 1, part 3, and part 4 of this mini-series)

When I was looking at what classes to take this Fall, I saw a class titled “Interpretation as Resistance: Womanist, Feminist, Queer Approaches to the Bible”. I read that title was like, “Holy ****! That class was MADE for me.” So I signed up for it immediately and couldn’t wait for that class to begin.

I can tell you, that class did not disappoint.

Holy schmoly, I have never read such rich, diverse, brilliant books in my life. Books written by Jewish, Muslim, and African American scholars. Books and articles written by feminists, womanists, and queer folx. My mind was blown open!

Where had these resources been all my life??

When I read Jewish, Muslim, and Black interpretations of passages in Scripture, I felt like I found a treasure trove full of wisdom and insight I never knew existed. Their interpretations were so life-giving and rich that it made my evangelical interpretations seem oh-so-incredibly anemic.

The evangelical interpretations I had been given and held to my entire life paled in comparison to these other points of view. And I was frustrated, to say the least.

Why wasn’t I ever taught diverse perspectives on the same passage in Scripture?
Why was I only ever taught one view?
Why were experts and scholars of other religions never brought in to share their take?

Were we afraid they might have better interpretations?
Were we afraid of being wrong? (God forbid we be wrong once in awhile!)
Or were we just afraid of those who looked/dressed/thought differently from us?

Through this class and my readings, I felt like my worldview went from black and white to an explosion of color, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

///

Every week this past Fall I carpooled with a classmate, Max Brumberg-Kraus, who describes himself as a cosmic pessimist, a Jew, and just downright grumpy. He’s also freakin hilarious. 

Every week I peppered him with so many questions because I found his point of view and his take on life/Scripture/religion/God/anything and everything to be fascinating.

In fact, he was the first non-messianic Jew I had met.

So I was hungry to learn as much as I could from him.

I would joke to John that my conversations with Max would cause me to have a mini-existential crisis every week, but in the best of ways.

I loved learning his perspective.
I loved seeing how that held up (or didn’t hold up) to what I had been believing my entire life.
I loved wrestling through these issues out loud, in public, in my carpool with Max and in my classes, with full safety and sanctioning by my professors and classmates.

I left a world where all my teachers, pastors, and instructors were white straight men and entered a world where my instructors were black, queer, Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim. It was and is freakin beautiful. 

///

One afternoon I attended a Spiritual Care brainstorming session at my seminary.

As I sat at one of the tables, I was in awe of who was leading the session.

There was a…
black Buddhist gay professor,
white Mormon straight professor,
and an Asian Presbyterian straight chaplain.

And the three of them were coming together to share how to provide spiritual care to those from all walks of life.

I couldn’t help but smile.

Because this is what the world looks like!!

It’s diverse and beautiful in every way, and I yearn to be in a space that represents the world as it is. Where each person is fully welcomed into the space and invited to teach us their truths and wisdom. 

What I have learned from the diverse faculty and student body at my seminary cannot be captured in words. It’s been so life-transforming that I wish for everyone to experience a day in the life of a United Theological Seminary student.

In fact, it was due to the rich and safe and supportive environment of my school that I decided to come out publicly when I did. I was scared, but I knew my professors and my classmates had my back. They have empowered me to be the most authentic version of myself, and I couldn’t be more grateful!

The beauty in their diversity made me see the beauty in my own diversity. 

So to remain a part of a religious institution and community that looks, acts, and thinks white was no longer viable for me.

So I left the Church. And I couldn’t be more grateful. 

To continue this conversation, check out the Liturgist’s podcast Evangelical Part 1.

[Featured Photo: Sharon Pittaway]

4 Comments

  1. Grace on March 26, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    What were some of your favorites books and articles from that class? Id love to check them out!

    • Nikole on March 29, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      Yes! There are soooo many. I especially loved:
      – Engaging the Bible in a Gendered World by Carolyn Pressler (my prof!) and Linda Day
      – Womanist Midrash by Wilda Gaffney
      – Take Back the Word by Robert Goss and Mona West
      – I Found God in Me: A Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader by Miitzi Smith
      – Hagar, Sarah and Their Children: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Perspectives by Phyllis and Letty Russell
      – Living Waters, Living Stories: African-American Women and their Biblical Sisters by Bebe Baldwin
      – White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response by Jacquelyn Grant
      – Anti-Judaism in Feminist Christian Interpretation by Judith Plaskow

      All of these are amazing!!!

      • Grace on April 14, 2018 at 6:07 pm

        Thank you!!

        • Nikole on April 16, 2018 at 6:55 pm

          you’re welcome! 🙂

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