Wednesday, July 29, 2015

No Place in the Church For a Black Girl Like Me

There is no room in the Catholic Church for women leadership even when women lead the church and make up most of the church. 

I used to eat , breathe , and sleep the church . I was an avid churchgoer involved in every church activity . I was in the choir even though I couldn't carry a note . But the music and the fellowship always moved me . When my church wouldn't allow any girl altar servers , I protested and made sure to become an altar sever . I made sure to be in any leadership position I could while at church . I used to visit a group of Black nuns every weekend . I would cook with them and chat with them . At one point of my life I wanted to be a nun . At another point in my life , I convinced myself that I wanted to be the first women pope . I was madly in love with the church . I was never an extremist but I used my Christian faith to guide me through my social justice lifestyle . I equipped myself with the story of Jesus and how he came and lived among the poor and oppressed to effect change. I shielded me with the teaching of love. Love is the most important thing of all. 

Up until a year ago , I used to go to church every Sunday . For the last three years , I have hopped from one church to another longing for a home or safe haven . As my consciousness grew about the world , I could no longer do it . I could no longer lie to myself and act like this was a safe place for a Black girl like me . 

The Catholic Church has no room for women leadership . The Christian religion has no room for women leadership. Even though women do most of the work in the church , we gender pastor and priest as women . In 2016, the Catholic Church is still using an ancient book to decide whether or not women can be priest . 

My separation from the church began when I began seriously reading the bible . I have always been a progressive thinker and if I could just find the right passage then everything would solidify my thoughts . Everything from LGBT rights to premarital sex to the concept of virginity to gender roles to marriage . If I could just find a passage to verify my conviction for justice and truth , everything would be okay . 

While I did find passages to back up my claims , I found many more harmful passages . War, death, Rape, oppression of women all in the name of God . I spent months researching Jesus relationship with women to show that Jesus was a feminist and that he cared deeply for women . That Jesus made no distinction between the ability of women and men . I found some but I didn't think I could use such an oppressive book to make a claim . Every time I took a couple steps forward , I was pushed back a mile . 

I realized I was fooling myself . There is nothing universal about morality. Morality is man made . Human beings are social beings that join together to create social contracts . There are 7 billion people in the world , how could we all come to terms with what's right or wrong . What is right or wrong depends on context and history . I didn't need a book to tell me that . And if the bible has any good , it is simply a supplement for life experiences and many other literary works that discuss philosophy , human nature , history , and social well being . 

Humans beings need to face the fact that we are capable of doing bad and good . No one is free from harming anyone. 

I've Been to many different churches . I actually found a home church in San Francisco. A Black Catholic Church that felt like home with a gospel choir that gave me deep chills and took me on a high.  I loved it. I loved the priest. Every fixture in the church was of a black person . We celebrated black holidays and sang black songs . All black everything. I fell in love with all the older Black women who would ask me "how do we get the young people to church ". I fell in love with their joy. I miss them dearly and I need to visit them soon .  But still something was missing . How could churches founded on the wrongful death of a man be so silent on all the harm in the world . While I fell in love with the people, so many things have triggered me. 

I Once had a Nigerian priest tell me 1) Bill Cosby didn't rape anyone and that the women brought it upon themselves 2) hiring women is a liability because they get pregnant , have babies , get married and move with their husbands 3) women are not oppressed . 

I once had a white priest say in a sermon 1) Catholic Churches bringing the "word" around the world was a good thing 2) the church harmed no one by bringing their religion 3  the church is the safest place for children. 

I once had a pastor pray over a newborn baby asking God to prevent the baby from being gay . 

I once attended a convention and spoke up about the need for addressing the suppression of women voices in the church . I was shut down.

I've been harassed by old men in church . 

I've had men use the bible to validate why I am inferior . 

I've been "hit on" and objectified by priest.

I've sat through so many sermons at many different churches bash and shame women ( both married and single ). 

I've been in churches filled with white people who sing and pray about justice all day yet stay silent when injustice happens to black people .

How arrogant of white people to call everyone around the world barbaric because they didn't practice their religion or worship the same gods. This practice continues today as Christians call other barbaric no believers who won't "make it to heaven ".

The church (in my opinion ) gives you very little agency to think on your own. Everything in the church is built on guilt . The first thing you learn is that 1) we are not worthy 2) Jesus died for our sins 3) we will spend the rest of our lives being unworthy and may or may not make it to heaven . As a girl in the church you are born guilty . Everything about you is suppressed . I spent many years battling with the church to include me but the church was never meant for people like me . 

How could the colonizers and colonized be praying to the same God . What kind of God allows the massacre of innocent people , the raping of young girls and older women , the pillaging of one's continent . What type of psychological torture did colonizers and slave owners carry out to make so many people devoted to their cause.

When I left the church I felt a sense of shame and guilt be lifted off my shoulders . I felt free . I could finally be unapologetically me without running to a book to tell me what I know is best for me . I have learned much more about myself from other people and other books than I have in that book . My whole life has been me trying to have a voice in the church . And all I have been met with is disappointment .

But while I recognize the harm and the oppressive nature of the church , I recognize the liberation found in the church. For many enslaved and colonized Africans , the church has been a source of refuge . To many the holy spirit represents  hope in a world that sees you as worthless . It is an escape from pain . Sundays are every family's safe and peaceful day . It is a day you can rejoice with family and friends and just be at ease . It is the place where communities could gather when their native oracles and community centers were burnt down . It was the only place they could meet without interruption . It is the foundation of many rebellions. It is the place. Where Black women can express their fashion sense and agency as ironic as that may be . Many Nigerian organizations in America have grown out of the church . I recognize that the church can be a great source of healing for our community and I know it has been for my parents and family. I can respect that . I can respect groups of people gathering with one another and leaning on one another for something greater than themselves. But I recognize this is not the only place it can happen.

I have created so many beautiful spiritual bonds with my friends, family, and loved ones. I have created so many strong bonds with Black women who are unapologetically them and for that I am grateful. I have been moved by the writings of radical men and women who have been persistent in the face injustice. I have been revived by those who have simply said “ No more”. There are so many great people in this world doing great work. There are so many things I have yet to learn about myself and about the world. Each day I fall in love with myself. And....

I am perfectly comfortable in the unknown. I am okay with no knowing everything . I am okay with knowing that what I believe today may not be what is tomorrow. I feel no desire to identify as anything . I feel like I have been battling with the church since I was a child . I know it's hard for a lot of Black kids to come to terms with their uncertainty with this belief system . Writing this is difficult and I know I will get a lot of backlash but I needed to write down these thoughts for me and anyone else struggling with this . I left the church over a year ago and I am happy . I am a believer in all things justice , whatever form that takes . 

No institution is perfect . No human being is perfect . But that does not mean I have to settle for less . That does not mean I can't find alternative unconventional ways to fulfill my desires and needs . There is no place for Black girls in the church but we sure do have a lot of magic. 

21 comments:

  1. By far one of the best posts I've read from you yet. I relate to you with this on so many levels and to have you speak openly about it is just brave. Yes you will receive backlash but know that you aren't alone and there are many other black women and women in general that share your feelings. Thank you for this.

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    1. Thank you for reading. Glad many people relate. Love you sis <3

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  2. Very eloquent Nnenna. I have a question, when you say the Church, you speak only of the Catholic Church yes?

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    1. Hey Ugo! Thank you so much for reading and for your comment! I mean the Church as a whole. Organized religion as a whole. I am completely at peace with not identifying or believing in anything. I wants able to capture that all in my piece because I am still working through how to articulate it given the shame and guilt that I am still unlearning.

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    2. So is it safe to say that you do not believe in Jesus Christ anymore?

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    3. "I am perfectly comfortable in the unknown. I am okay with no knowing everything . I am okay with knowing that what I believe today may not be what is tomorrow. I feel no desire to identify as anything . I feel like I have been battling with the church since I was a child . I know it's hard for a lot of Black kids to come to terms with their uncertainty with this belief system . Writing this is difficult and I know I will get a lot of backlash but I needed to write down these thoughts for me and anyone else struggling with this . I left the church over a year ago and I am happy . I am a believer in all things justice , whatever form that takes . "

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  3. Thanks for writing this post! This just delivered me as I have been recently dealing with the internal struggle of letting go of the church because I have had very similar experiences.

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    1. Many people have and I'm glad i could create something that so many people relate to . Gives me encouragement to stand in my truth . Thanks for reading sis

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  5. This wonderfully articulates what I have been feeling for a while. Very well written. You may receive some backlash, but know that you have helped a lot of people secretly thinking the same to realise that they are not alone. So thank you for having the courage to share.
    The Bible is a valuable text for its emphasis on love of self and neighbour, but there are other books/writings that are less contradictory, and also advocate social justice for both men and women, as well as animal rights. So there's no reason the Bible should be the alpha and omega of moral writing. The church's sole focus on the Bible and ancient traditions mingled with systemic hypocrisy is what breeds the social injustice we find in the church.

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  6. hey first of all great piece! i think quite a few things you say are things members of both genders can relate to. i myself have been feeling a sense of dissonance regarding how much emphasis some pastors put on amassing wealth, tithing, the phrases they use in describing how the devil attacks us let alone the controversial statements/actions you hear or see from time to time.and its like you say, the issue of morality is not as universal as we may like to believe. the number of individuals who i have come across from both christian and islamic backgrounds trying to advocate that only through those religions will you realise there are more important things in life than "buying nice clothes, eating good food, enjoying life" is evidence of this. i still believe in god, but im also becoming aware of the inconsistencies, especially when you consider the similarities between christianity, judaism and islam, let alone the controversial nature of quite a few of the stories they tell.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! I think it is good to keep asking questions! Even when we never arrive at concrete answers. That is the beauty of life. I think religion is used as a tool of oppression in many countries and we see this evidenced in places like Nigeria where pastors are God and can do no wrong while accumulating wealth.

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  7. I feel the same way. I was very into the Catholic Church from my childhood up till my teens. I wanted to be a nun also. My questioning started when I completely my "read the whole Bible" challenge. It made me realize that the Bible was written for men, with lots of inconsistencies and sexism. I admire your courage and clarity. Great piece.

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    1. Thanks for reading sis ! Glad you share my sentiments

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  8. Intrigued. Truth is quite simple - you can always help the church, it really is between you and God - the wise deed is saving souls. Spot the difference between "Man" and "God" in "Man of God" by studying that living book and having it in your heart so you recognize the sound of truth when you hear it. Jesus was an incredibly remarkable man, Christians follow Jesus- who was indeed a Muslim(submission to God's will). A bit deep logically, the Quran confirms the Scriptures, we not as different as perceived. I believe you are on the right path by letting your spirit lead you...Just stay true in the discernment of what is real and what is bare noise. You shall be fine. Bless

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  9. @ Nnenna
    Written as a true seeker.
    Keep up the good work.

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  10. Please check out Joseph Prince on youtube. You will hear the real gospel from him. Furthermore, when you read the Bible from beginning to end, did you ask God and wait and listen for Him to explain to you areas that bothered you?. I did this and I got some GREAT answers that showed me that men have misinterpreted the Bible and that God is not misogynistic even if religion is.
    Here are some websites that God led me to:http://juniaproject.com/translation-1-timothy-212/

    http://juniaproject.com/phoebe-servant-or-minister/

    I still have like a few more questions, but I'm asking God and waiting for the answers. Hope this helps. Please do check out Joseph Prince.

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    1. I have no interest in revisiting the bible or christianity but thanks for reading =)

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  11. No problem. It was an interesting read. May you have good success in your law career.

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