I call myself an accidental Baptist. I joke that I want a teacher that says “Not that kind of Baptist.” I assure people that my church is “Baptist, but doesn’t function that way” I have all sorts of coping mechanisms to explain my denomination away. But today I am sure that God is calling me into the tension of it.
Prior to Atlanta I had always been a part of a denomination that (aside from some “extremely churched” people) no one knew anything about or had opinions on (Disciples of Christ as my growing-up church, Christian Missionary Alliance in College.) But now, I am a Baptist, and Southern Baptist, and for better of for worse, people have opinions about the Southern Baptists. They seem to know more about it.
I know the reason I explain it all away, brush over it, joke. I am not totally comfortable with the label either. How can I be both a feminist and a Baptist? In the past I have been quiet or jokey with one side while I was with the people of the other. Coming out as a feminist at a church marriage seminar once I was told I couldn’t be I didn’t hate men. About two weeks into our car-pool relationship, my lesbian friend referred to me as “not-evangelical” because I hadn’t yet told her to “turn or burn” and I wasn’t really planning on it.
I feel like a poser in either circle, like at any minute someone is going to question my credentials, kick me out. Sometimes at church I wonder if people role their eyes, “there she goes, you’ll have to forgive her, she is a feminist after all.” Sometimes in especially academic circles I wonder if they too are rolling their eyes. “Can she really be a feminist; she tithes to a church without a single female elder, to a denomination that will not ordain women.” I wonder if I am truly welcome in either place, even though both places have always welcomed me. What if you really knew me, I wonder, would you still value what I have to say?
I am aware of the accusations made about people who read the Bible and come away with an egalitarian view. I used to wield those swords myself, and oh how I am repentant of those swipes. The Lord calls the body to unity, and there is nothing grace-filled about dismissing someone’s honest and struggled-to conclusion of scripture as simple, easy or conveniently cultural. Just because you and I have come to different conclusions about biblical interpretation does not mean that one of us is unwilling to trust or believe in the sanctity and inerrancy of God’s word.
I have avoided this conversation because it is controversial. I have let women like Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans handle it because they are better writers and have a larger following. I can just quietly sit on the sidelines and nod my head. Nice work ladies. Mostly, I have avoided speaking up out of fear.
I am afraid of being rejected by everyone, and then where would I be? Whose tribe could I claim? It is hard enough to walk in the tension of my own heart. How am I supposed to walk this tension out on the internet for the whole world to read? I have more than once questioned the wisdom of raising two daughters in a church that will only affirm them to a point. But my church is my family, and they love Jesus desperately. Even when we disagree on what the Bible says about women, I can see the Spirit moving in their lives. They want to be Jesus Lovers too.
It is time I stop dancing around who I am. I am a Baptist, I signed the papers, dedicated my babies, and give regularly to a Southern Baptist Church. This is where the Lord has called me. And I am a feminist. I believe that God created man and woman, in His image He created them. Equally. And I have come, by a pretty serious and prayerful search, to the conclusion that this is the view the Bible supports.
I am not always sure whether you can be both at the same time. But I suppose Jesus was a proponent of the paradox.