On Defending My Space.

If you’ve been reading this blog for, well, any time at all, it should be pretty clear that I am, shall we say, vocal.

I have no hesitation in sharing my opinions, beliefs, and views. I enjoy debating and, to a somewhat sadistic degree, arguing. But I also believe that theology should be cooperative, i.e., my beliefs and your beliefs, not competitive, i.e., my beliefs or your beliefs.

People harp on moral relativism, but I think it makes things easier. At least in theory.

As annoying as I may be, this has gotten me far. I graduated from a prestigious, male-dominated Bible and Theology program with honors in 2012. I’ve maintained this blog for over two years and have picked up some writing gigs on the side. I’m a MA senior who has established herself as a significant player at her school. I am damn good at theology, and I owe that to my relentless desire to make myself heard.

But there are limits to anyone’s tolerance for BS.

My school is 48% women, 51% men, and 1% other, according to our 2012 stats. Women make up, essentially, half of this campus. And yet, if you listened in on a class, you’d never know it. Far more men speak up than women.

My school is 27% ecumenical and 73% ELCA. Again, you’d never know it without asking. I’ve read Luther for all but two classes thus far (excepting my consortium classes taken at another school). I have read Wesley once, Calvin never, Aquinas twice, and once, for a Pentateuch class, I read a Jewish author whose name I cannot remember. Hell if I’ve read anything by an author outside of the Judeo-Christian traditions. My professors teach Lutheran theology, and rarely leave room for ecumenical voices, unless they themselves are ecumenical. Lutherans get more of a voice than ecumenical students.

Furthermore, I am the ecumenical student representative for student council. I do not have the figures, but considering the other constituencies, I can reasonably put forward that I represent the greatest number of students for any representative, and yet I have one vote.

I am not a person of color, and I cannot speak to the experience of a POC at my school. Nor am I LGBTQ, so, likewise, I cannot speak to the experience of a person who identifies as LGBTQ. I am not a person with a physical disability, so I cannot write about what it is like to live that experience. I do not know the experience of most oppressed groups here. If you want to know the experience of a person who fits into these or other categories, you will have to ask them. What I do know is that I only occasionally hear POCs speak in class, I have never heard a student who identifies as LGBTQ associate their beliefs with their orientation, and my school isn’t even ADA accessible, so the few students we have who have physical disabilities are a definite minority and do not speak to their experience often.

The point of this is to say, we hear the voices, mostly, of white, able, straight men who are usually ELCA.

And when someone who does not fit those criteria speaks up, we get emails telling us we need to be less vocal in class.

Or we are asked to qualify our beliefs based on our experience (e.g., “As a woman…,” “As a non-Christian…,” etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for identifying our contexts. But if I have to, everyone has to.

I am tired of defending the space I take up.

I am confined by labels–some true, some not–and those labels allow others to not have to deal with what I have to say.

At least once every week, I get asked, “So why are you here?” This is not a friendly conversation about my life journey or why I want to study theology. I have never heard this asked of any of my friends who fit the norm here. The answer is obvious for them, and they don’t upset the status quo.

But me, I rock that boat with such fervor and fury that I think some fear they might just fall overboard.

What is it about opposing views that we are so damn scared of? Why am I more of a threat than my brothers who are white, male, able, straight, etc.?

And it’s not just me. I know I’m intense but I’ve seen it with others. People are mocked behind their backs for being vocal about their views, and I can only imagine what’s said about me.

I am the only person who gets to decide how much space I take up. I don’t want to dominate conversations. God knows I do not want to run this school. I just want to be heard, really heard, without being an outsider.

I am tired of defending my space.

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