The Function of Freedom
The function of freedom is to free someone else.
- Toni Morrison
I have been blessed with freedom twice over to be born a Negro and a woman.
- Belle (2015)
Over the past three years of graduate school, I have invested a great deal of effort into discovering and pursuing the freedom to "just be" in Christian environments. I have had many run-ins with individuals who willingly embodied whiteness and the many facets of power and privilege it entails.
Other times I have encountered persons who seemed to genuinely love me, yet I felt unsafe disclosing certain aspects of my identity. Having recently graduated, I reflect upon my time in at an evangelical university as a season of I remember that time as fragments, frames, and frustrating unacknowledged emotions. I honestly still do not know how to “fit” my time in graduate school into the process of regaining my freedom.
Freedom to me means, existing no fear: fear of the future, of not being able to reconcile my present with my past. Freedom means being able to live and thrive in a community of people who desire to see me flourish. It means being able to show my rough edges to safe persons, while trusting them to call me on my bullshit. Freedom means being able to be broken, without being beyond healing - being empowered to discover wholeness and joy instead of seen as a project to be fixed.
I desire the freedom to explore what it means to be a bisexual Black woman who is not married or even dating. I want to express my desire for a partner without shifting back to the demands of purity culture. I have come to want my own desires and dreams, (regardless if they come to fruition), and letting them fall to the wayside if they start to weigh me down.
This means having the freedom to be my full self, and not squeeze the life out of myself concocting a watered-down version of myself others find palatable. An integral part of my faith journey is learning that following Jesus ought to lead to this freedom. I deserve safety in expressing my deepest emotions, including loneliness, joy, boredom, and a myriad of other thoughts. I am learning that accepting the "good news" of Christ does not mean allowing my identities (black, queer, woman) to be "swallowed up" and erased. Instead, they are all an integral part of who I was created to be.
The longer I am out from under the stifling dogma of Evangelical communities, the more easily I find space to breathe. I feel liberated from their erasure and compartmentalization, free to roam the vast expanses of my identity and recover the aspects of myself they sough to strip me of my consent. I am learning to question the conditioning, to dismantle the internalized narratives that were instilled into me. Having escaped the need to find my "identity in Christ," I feel free to explore my faith while embracing my whole self. and this has led me toward a much healthier and clear head and heart space.
Over the course of later posts, I will use the working definition of freedom as has been embodied in followers of Christ who have found a home elsewhere. Far away from the sneers, judgmental whispers, and feigned niceness from fellow religious folks, and into the tender and loving arms of those who embrace and celebrate all facets of who they are.
There is a community that is committed to liberation, life, and overall flourishing, one that allows for mistakes, growth, and questions. I cannot point to a specific location where this community of loving and lovely folks dwell, but I have been able to communicate with some people who want to see an end to systemic abuse at the hands of the Church. Whether fellowship has happened via social media or over the phone, I am witnessing and have become a part of this imperfect community.