in the midst of my craziness the past... oh say... six years? i decided at the last minute to cancel my weekend plans and attend a retreat with the graduate student fellowship.
this is my second church retreat-- the first was one i was 8 or something. anyway, i went because all my life i have felt distance from God. for the most part i grew up in a church but i never felt the way other people seemd to feel or even knew the Bible all too well. since i started college and became more and more passionate about doing work in social justice, there has been huge tension between my faith in God and my passion for work. the amount of passion and convinction i feel in my work ('used in general terms, not just my paid work) i have never felt in God. this never sat well with me, but never bothered me enough to really do anything about it.
last year i joined a women's small group in my church, in hopes to find a community of Christians who would help me strengthen my faith. the women in my small group are wonderful, but sometimes i would feel this disconnect. my life is experienced through a gendered, raced, and classed lens. because of this, when i share my thoughts, feelings, or concerns that are filtered throug this lens, i felt like sometimes people wouldn't know what i was quite talking about, thought i was "too much" something, and/or i was asked to explain. many times i tone down what i would normally say to soften the blow. once i said something about learning to work w/ white allies and i think some people thought i was racist. always accommodating. so frustrating. so voiceless.
the contemporary western Christian church does seem to care about social justice issues. however, i feel like it is usually addressed at a global level (poverty or AIDS in other countries). if it is domestic, it seems to be incidental (Katrina) or a form of class inequity (homelessness). a part of me cannot help but feel like this is a sanitary, non-threatening way to addresses issues of equity. like someone else' country is messed up, not ours. or there is a failure to interrogate the intersections of power, ESPECIALLY race/ ethnicity, which lead to inequity. a lot of these sorts of thougths keep me from feeling at home in a community of Christians.
ironically, what pushes me away from God is what also draws me to Him; the Bible has a very strong message about justice and love. i feel very strongly that i am put on this earth purposefully to be working with people who live on the margins. so this is a small part of what draws me back and makes me long for a solid faith.
i went on this retreat and again there was this tension. it was on my mind the whole time. many of the grad students are in mathy/ sciencey/ computery fields. there are some grad students who are in fields i would guess would make them progressive, but they say stuff that is slightly shocking. and then bc this is UC Berkeley and b/c this is a GRADUATE student fellowship, many ppl come from privleged, privleged backgrounds. so many times i felt displaced and alienated from people simply b/c i could not identify (in my car was the daughter of a mathematician,the son of a dean of engineering, and the sone of someone else equally impressive. they were talking about how their parents professions influenced their learning/ careers. i was like... okay... how can i relate to this when my mom went up to junior high?). other times ppl said stuff that totally pissed me off and made me feel like i had to go into my "working class, woman of color, educator mode". the blessing was that i also saw glimpses into ppl who care about injustice. their work may be in physics or astronomy or electrical engineering, but they do think about things i care about. the bigger blessing was that i was able to start seeing people as what they are, rather than what they are not.
did i witness a miracle? am i now w/out hesitation and fear able to proclaim to people that i am Christian? definitely not. but i am rethinking, rearranging things in my mind, which is always good. i think i learned that being a Christian does not demand that i be complacent. in fact, it demands the very opposite. after the retreat i went to church today and the sermon was about just that. the connection and oneness between worshiping God and human relationships.
click here and then on the 9/10 sermon to listen it was very relevant to me.
today i had my first meeting w/ the youth who are interested in helping me start an APA youth program in Richmond. i'm so pleased with them. excited to start. scared as well.