Monday, November 21, 2016

The Church Where I Grew Up

I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. The Southern Baptist Convention is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States and their beliefs are highly gendered. I was once told at a Southern Baptist summer camp when I was younger that men could be missionaries and pastors, while women could be missionaries' wives. When I was younger this embroiled an anger in me I could not control, and then a frustration that I could only internalize because it seemed that I was the only one who saw something wrong with that idea.

Now, looking back, I wonder what it meant for the boys at that camp to hear that same message. Did they suddenly feel a surge of destiny, of belonging, of possibility? Perhaps even a hint of power and dominance lurking on the edge of those words. Obviously I can never know for sure.

Even though I have now left the Southern Baptist church, its messages remain. I can only think of the children who will learn this message, who will be hurt like I was, or who would learn to hurt others because of it. When we talk about the social institutions that inform us of gender expectations, I always think of the church. It is a powerful mold to break, and I say this from experience. And yet it is quite possibly one of the most important molds to break on the path to a universal freedom, regardless of gender.

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