#FaithFeminisms: Loving Eve and Ham

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#FaithFeminisms has been the slowest conversion of my life. There was no flipping of a switch, no church service revelation, no falling to my knees in wonder. It was borne slowly, tumbling and kicking inside, peeking out to see if it’s safe, grasping and begging for air. The midwives of friends, authors, sisterhoods, mentors and preachers it has taken to help her live would form quite an extensive list- crisscrossing the country, reaching from heaven to earth.

It almost never was. There was too much of “Eve is the reason sin entered the world” and “Ham’s curse is the reason Africans were enslaved.” What is a girl to do knowing she begins curses with one hand and embodies them with the other?  There was nothing redeeming about my womanhood or my race in Scripture. Eurocentric depictions of the Divine didn’t help either. Sunday school Bibles, archeological documentaries, feature length films all created a white, male God.

But then I grew up. With a great deal of encouragement from incredible role models, I learned to study The Word on my own and found myself. I found myself in an African princess who saved the life of Moses by defying the decree of her father Pharaoh. Yes, a princess only too happy to work across ethnicity, class and politics to form a sisterhood that would let Moses live. I found myself in an African woman who would lead a people to freedom alongside Moses (and once again save his life). And they weren’t the only women I found. Far from being naturally inferior beings, I discovered women who took risks.  I found myself between Ruth and Orpah, one who stayed the other who travelled- both making the best decision for her life. I found myself between Vashti and Esther- one who walked away from the palace to preserve her self-dignity and the other who risked her life for the sake of her community. I found myself in Deborah who would lead a battle, Jael who would finish it and Abigail who would stop one from occurring. I found myself in Eve who was not created as an inferior version of Adam but was formed purposefully by the hand of the Divine to be a good and accurate reflection of Truth and Love. I found that Ham wasn’t cursed at all.

My feminism began the moment I learned the Bible was not shaming me. If the Divine was not ashamed of me, I need not be shamed either. These women pointed the way toward a womanhood that was not dependent on male acceptance of who I am or what I want. In them I found courage to choose my own way, to defy social convention, to resist oppression, to.be.myself.

Before I knew it, I was maturing. My feminism was finding the intersection of race. It was exploring my own privileges while acknowledging the oppressions. It was expanding to include all women, all races, all classes, all forms of social injustice. It was expanding to seek equality, wholeness, rightness- shalom. It’s still expanding as I walk with friends down intersections unknown to me.

But there are some things I know for sure:

My feminism will always live at the intersection of race. It recognizes the Divine within all black women, all women of color, all women, all people. It doesn’t erase me from the Bible or make me the scourge of it. It proclaims the innate goodness of womanhood.

My feminism isn’t afraid of American history. Doesn’t erase my narrative from the American story. Doesn’t deny slavery, Jim Crow or their consequences for black women. Doesn’t diminish Jim Crow or its impact on black communities. Doesn’t ignore the social statistics of women of color and the ways our suffering lives on.

My feminism breaks through despite being afraid. It builds movements and pushes them forward, thriving on the edges and at the margins. It seeks new ways of being. It imagines beyond what it can see. It’s rooted and prophetic, often risking materialistic desires. It doesn’t need to step on others to rise.

My feminism loves as hard as it fights. It basks in the glow of sisterhood. It nurtures relationships. It gives generously, protects fiercely, laughs freely, weeps courageously, dances with child-like abandon. Like shared wine and chocolate cheesecake with her best friends at midnight, it drinks deeply.  It lives.


 

Austin Brown_2Austin is a Resident Director and Multicultural Liaison at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. She loves collaborating with various Christian ministries who are moving forward a vision of racial reconciliation and socioeconomic understanding. Austin writes at austinchanning.com. You can follow her @austinchanning on twitter.