Last week I was at the Christian Scholars Conference At Lipscomb University. Being in Nashville was a blast, and I enjoyed both the conference and getting the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. Here are the highlights:
- I presented my thesis research on a panel with several others from ACU. It was the first time I've ever done anything like that and while there are some things I would change, it was definitely a learning experience and I was very pleased with how things went overall.
- I got to hang out with my lovely thesis chair. I know it sounds nerdy, but me and my chair got very close over the year we worked together. He was kind of like a proud dad when I was presenting, and it was nice to spend a little time with him and his family. It did however remind me of how difficult it will be not to be in Abilene. I love New Orleans, you all know that, but I sure did leave a lot of lovely people back in the lene.
- I got to eat lunch with Ashley and Kathy Musick and Jana Beck (the lovely wife of my thesis chair, Richard Beck). It was delightful. I don't really know Jana, but she is just as lovely as everyone says. Ashley is leaving this week for Brazil, and then moving to Argentina for a year to teach English. Kathy moved to Abilene a year ago and I was so privileged to be her friend since then.
- John Patrick Shanley, the playwright of Doubt, gave a brilliant keynote address about what it means to live in the tension of uncertainty in our lives. It was so creative and funny but also profound. He also opened his speech with some comments about New Orleans, which of course sold me immediately. I attended a few other interesting sessions, one on the future of the church of Christ, one on Thomas Kincade art, and one about justice (which made me understand why I'm not a Libertarian).
- I met a lovely author named Susan Campbell who recently wrote a book called Dating Jesus. Her book is about growing up in a fundamentalist CoC as a woman and I can't wait to read it. She was very funny, incredibly nice, and although I was only around her for a short time, she managed to challenge and encourage me to stop apologizing for what I think about things because I am afraid of how others may react. Her book was reviewed at the conference by 3 PhDs and then she responded. She did an excellent job speaking from her heart. When I finish the book, expect a full review.
- While most of the people at the conference were in the fine arts (this years theme) there were quite a few sessions dedicated to the same general topic as my thesis research. All this time I've been writing about benevolent sexism, or as I call it, subtle sexism. While this phenomenon certainly is alive and well in the church, what I have been sort of avoiding is talking about the overt sexism in the Church of Christ. In my religious tradition I have already reached the highest 'achievement' or status I can: baptized believer. Men on the other hand get baptized when they decide to dedicate their life to Christ. Then they often start waiting on the table, leading singing, and leading prayer at church services. After stumbling through young adult hood they can become a minister if they feel so called, or, if they are married, may eventually become a deacon or elder if they are really spiritually maturing. The church has a built in a way to help men grow in their walk with the Lord and train them up as leaders. If boys express an interest in ministry at a young age they are encouraged whereas girls are told they can't. You don't believe me? I have an older brother who thought he wanted to go into ministry at an early age. My parents and grandparents encouraged this. My brother preached a few sermons in high school and my parents even sent my brother to shadow a youth minister for a while. Although he was not a good student and probably would have benefited from doing a year or two at community college, he was encouraged to go to Bible college to get ministry training. I on the other hand was told I couldn't pray aloud around boys when I was 7. When I was 10, I got up one day to bring the communion tray to the next row (the man serving had overlooked us and I was on the end) and was scolded by a woman in the congregation. When I was in H.S. I led singing during VBS for kids while the adults were in the room, where once again more people in the congregation were uncomfortable because I was upfront at church. My brother is a great person, and certainly had a genuine desire for ministry at one time, and I don't begrudge him that. In fact I am happy that he wanted to share his faith. I'm also not saying that things haven't loosened up a bit around my church. What I am saying is that me and my brother should have both been encouraged to pursue our gifts. This lack of structure to help girls mature into women of faith angers me. What about the girls I teach in Sunday school? What if I ever have a daughter? Will I have to tell them to be quiet because it's "inappropriate?" And what about the boys/men in our churches? When there is injustice to one, everyone suffers. It's a lot to think about. I certainly don't have all the answers. But I do know that I won't apologize for my opinion anymore.