The new year has begun, and many of us take this marking of time as an occasion to set intentions, goals, plans, or resolutions for the year ahead. For us feminists, the year ahead holds clear challenges. We know that the bodies, spirits, minds, hearts, and souls of women, racial and ethnic “minorities,” and all sorts of vulnerable people will be attacked. We know that the protections secured under the law for these bodies, spirits, minds, hearts, and souls have been eroded and continue to be dismantled in the name of… well, what exactly? Justice? Life? Religion?
We’ve seen voting rights eroded in the name of democratic ideals. We’ve seen challenges to bodily autonomy in the name of life. We’ve seen state-sanctioned murder in the name of law and order. We’ve seen a rise in religious intolerance in the name of religious liberty. Our work in this age must be to continue to expand our collective understandings of these ideals. This is the gift we offer to the world.
This year—and beyond—I intend to live out an embodied, incarnational faith. A faith with legs and arms and a voice. A faith that literally moves me into new spaces. A faith that kneels in prayer and stands up to be heard. A faith that carries words beyond the page. I’m scared to do these things. But faith does not mean the absence of fear. Faith means I have a power to persist anyway, in faith that a divine presence that accompanies me in these tasks. So with fear and trembling, I will move and act and speak. Audre Lorde has said it so plainly:
When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.
I’m so deeply, profoundly afraid of the world we are inhabiting. Perhaps I should have been more fearful all along. I am grateful that I was not. This past year unveiled, for me, unknown depths to political hostility and persistent cultures of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance. I might have lapsed into an intractable state of defeat or cynicism at the power of these hateful forces, but 2016 revealed so much more to me than hate.
As the year progressed, I experienced a deeper and broader sense of God’s love and the interconnectedness of all of creation. I started off 2016 with a plan to develop contemplative spiritual practices, hoping they would provide an anchor in my overwhelming, hectic life. Although I was so imperfect at it, I sustained these practices well enough to discover what the great mystics have shared: when we seek the divine, we discover that it has already been seeking us. In my Christian tradition, we call this grace. My imperfect attempts to connect with God were met with the assurance that I was already, immovably placed in the heart of God, and in that, I experienced profound love and joy. I know the power of that love is stronger than hate.
The past year prepared me for the year to come. I enter 2017 with faith, hope, and love strong enough to carry me through fear, sadness, and doubts about whether the champions of justice will be heard or welcomed. I will continue to seek a connection to the divine through practices of prayer and liturgy. I’m intensifying these spiritual practices, too, because I’m no longer seeking just an anchor in this world, but a lifeline to hold to as I walk through the storm. And I’m taking some people with me.
Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
-From Alice Walker’s Definition of a “Womanist” from In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose Copyright 1983.
Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.
Categories: Activism, Christianity, Community, Ethics, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Gender and Sexuality, God, Healing, In the News, Justice, Politics, Power relations, Resistance, Social Justice, Womanist Theology