40 Christian women, 40 points of view
In “Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith,” 40 essay writers under age 40 have given voice to things they don’t usually talk about publicly. Editors Erin S. Lane and Enuma C. Okoro told each of the writers to talk about what’s taboo and let them loose with the topic.
It took guts for the women to speak those taboos, Lane said. The result was a range of essays about young Christian women of varying denominations dealing with life, work, relationships, expectations, their place in their faith and their place in the world. Some of the writers also participated in a discussion series this summer at the Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South, in Durham, though many of the writers are from across the country.
Lane, Okoro and contributor K.D. Byers read from their “Talking Taboo” ($16.95, White Cloud Press) essays this week at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham. The book was published last week as part of White Cloud Press’ I Speak For Myself series.
Okoro and Lane, both graduates of Duke Divinity School, met a few years ago at The Regulator when Okoro was reading from her spiritual memoir, “The Reluctant Pilgrim.” Lane came up to Okoro after the reading. Okoro said they developed a rapport, knowing that “God would do something with us.” Okoro said that after being Lane’s spiritual director, they began working on the book. They each brought 19 writers to the project.
Lane read from her essay, “Married Without Children,” about being married for years and not having a desire for children, something challenged by other Christians. She writes about what Christian theology says about having or not having children, and the emphasis on marriage resulting in children in Catholicism, the denomination in which she was raised.
“Could being married without children be the coveted middle ground whereby one knows Christ through the intimacy of marriage but is free to serve Christ through hospitality toward neighbors?” Lane asks in “Talking Taboo.”
Byers’ essay, “A Woman of Many Questions” begins with an incident during college Bible study, when another woman told her she talked too much. Byers, who received her master of divinity from Duke University, writes about how “the church has romanticized womanhood into a fairy tale. … But the Christian walk is not a Disney fairy tale. Jesus is not your boyfriend and he is not going to rescue you like a knight in shining armor.”
Okoro’s essay focuses on having a crush in a platonic friendship with a married man, and how to address it. Other writers, like Bristol Huffman, address Christian societal expectations of relationships. She had a long-term, chaste relationship that didn’t end in marriage and left her feeling like a failure.
“The model for relationships that I’d grown up with had let me down, and I needed a new one,” Huffman writes. She lives with her current long-term boyfriend and wants to get married eventually, but not today.
Julie Clawson, a former pastor and now a theology grad student, writes about the lack of female superheroes for her daughter. Lara Blackwood Pickrel writes about noticing and naming sexism in the church and the dismissive response of “I’m just old fashioned.” Author Amy Julia Becker, an evangelical, shares her thoughts on male headship in her marriage. Sarah McGiverin writes about her first marriage ending in divorce, and the criticism from fellow Christians who find out. Many of the 40 contributors read from their essays at “Talking Taboo” events this past week. Hearing their stories read aloud, Okoro said, made her excited for the collection and the conversations it will start.