The interviews in this project make evident the ways that theology is a matter of life and death. One interview even uses this language.
In my first semester of seminary, one of my professors shared that our theology and hermeneutics or Biblical interpretation is a matter of life and death. That has stuck with me, and I have often found myself echoing that. While I didn’t begin to really think through what that means and looks like until seminary, in some ways, that is the reason I attended seminary. In my lifetime, I’ve attended Baptist churches and nondenominational churches, neither of which really require any sort of theological training or preparation. Yet, when I accepted my call to ministry, I knew that attending seminary would be a part of that journey. The role of a minister or pastor is not one to take lightly because we are responsible for caring for the bodies and souls of the members. Just like I would go to law school if I were to be a lawyer or medical school if I were to be a doctor, I knew that I would get the theological training necessary to be able to care for any souls and bodies who may be in my care. Theology and Biblical interpretation are a matter of life and death, and I didn’t want to cause any harm in my ignorance or in aimlessly teaching and preaching the religious and cultural traditions that have been passed down.
I came to Candler with an awareness of my call as facilitating healing in and through the Black Baptist Church. While I always thought the focus would be racial justice, I found that that was not the area that I gravitated to. As someone who enjoys watching shows about relationships and has watched many a video on how to find a man, how to prepare yourself for a man, how to prove that you’re a future wife, etc. I found myself gravitating toward questions of gender, relationships, sex and sexuality. These are areas where the Church has caused a great deal of harm. These are areas where I have been complicit in the harm in what I’ve taught in Bible Studies and in what I’ve repeated as it relates to things I heard in pulpits. This is an area where the theology and hermeneutics of the church, even if it doesn’t recognize it has been deadly. It has been physically deadly in pushing people to die by suicide because of a lack of acceptance of their gender identity. It has been communally deadly in singling out young girls who got pregnant, but never the children’s fathers, and alienating LGBTQ+ people from their families. It has been deadly in that it has robbed women and LGBTQ+ folk of abundant life, of pleasure, of joy, of the love and acceptance of God. And there are so many instances of harm, trauma, and toxicity that could be listed here.
Theology and hermeneutics is a matter of life and death, and I have come to understand that I am called to teach and preach a liberating and life-giving theology. I am called to teach and preach the inclusive and affirming love of God. I am called to speak truth. I am called to wrestle with the Biblical text to understand its true meaning in context and the liberating and life-giving ways that we can apply it to our lives. (Neither purity culture nor this idea of love the sinner, hate the sin when it comes to LGBTQ+ folk is Biblical in the sense that we preach it and teach it as such.) I am called to provide resources that invite people into new understandings of God and themselves and their bodies and their sexuality and sensuality. I am called to uplift the voices and narratives of people who are freeing themselves with an understanding that their stories may free others. This project is my commitment to life-giving theologies around gender, relationships, sex, and sexuality.