It’s all Chik-fil-A’s fault, really. This past summer (2012), their CEO, founder, or somesuch said some really unacceptable things about gay people, and the Internet, as it is wont to do, exploded. In the midst of this hullabaloo, Rachel Held Evans’s blog post on the topic went viral. I liked what Evans had to say. It seemed sane, a rare enough commodity on the Internet.
Coincidentally, a couple of months earlier, Kate Conner’s “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenaged Girls” also went viral.
Reading these two got me turned on to Alisa Wright. There are a couple of other bloggers I’ll occasionally check out when they’re featured in weekly round-ups and such, but these three got added to the daily RSS feed.
The things that they all have in common are they’re sane, they’re funny, they hold most of the same social and political views that I do (which are pretty liberal, at least for a US citizen), and they’re what I grew up calling Evangelical Protestants, more commonly, these days, Evangelical Christians.
Now, I’m not going to get all “OMG, you guys, liberal Evangelicals!” …except that maybe, possibly, that might have been my first gut reaction. Sort of. Exactly. Which is pretty humiliating as I’m the liberal Roman Catholic you never knew you knew. Or knew existed.
Which may have been why I felt a certain kinship with these women. They are, by their own accounts, outliers in their religious communities. They struggle with attitudes that simply boggle my mind. The first time I read about the patriarchy movement, I was stunned. Bring back the patriarchy? When we’re working so hard to get rid of it? And while women’s ordination remains a fantasy in my own church, the idea that some people and congregations thought that women shouldn’t even speak from the pulpit absolutely floors me. What is this, 1950? 1850?! And these women, Rachel, Kate, Alisa, all handle it and discuss it with such good grace and humor.
Being a Mid-Atlantic, primarily Irish, Catholic I had this conception of most Protestants as being various flavors of Episcopalian. And there were Evangelicals, whose extroverted enthusiasm for Jesus made my pan-UK-ethnic Catholic reserve twitch just to think about. I saw the rise of the religious right, but I thought their convictions to be mostly of the social-political realm, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, etc. (I know. I know. Generalization at its worst.)
I knew there were ultra-conservative outliers, of course, just as Roman Catholicism has its own outliers, like Opus Dei. But they weren’t widespread, right? They were limited to one relatively small congregation per community, right?
I can imagine a fair number of you reaching out to pat my head and tell me how cute I am. And wow, would you be totally justified.
But getting back to my trio of Evangelical bloggers, I see them tackle questions important to themselves and their communities.They’re fighters, and their battle is to improve the groups to which they belong, to spread information, and to introduce their readers to the other, whether that other is an atheist, a liberation theologian, or a transgender person. In doing so, they take the capital-O out of other, making him commonplace, making her nothing to be feared or reviled.
I admire these women, and I realized that I want to be one of them. I want to fight–to continue to fight–for what I believe would be improvements in the Roman Catholic church: women leading from altar, following vocations; priests pulled down from the ivory tower, having families; a church that is truly transparent and Christ-centered, reordering its priorities. It occurs to me that perhaps the debates within the Church have been framed all wrong all along. Conservatives think we who advocate change are only looking out for ourselves, but we are actually looking out for the entire church. I know that the Curia is, too, but their methods are leaving people unministered to at best, abused and broken at worst. The age of the shepherd protecting his flock from doubt and distress is over. The sheep got an iPad. And they read Evangelical bloggers.