Erin Lane Beam, a feminist writer/book publicist, grew up Roman Catholic, and has stayed in the faith — though sometimes the fit is less than comfortable.
I admire this more than I can say. I left church because the fit suited me like a choke collar. I have since heard from several of my cohorts from my fundamentalist days (as if those ever end…) that the church of Christ has changed, that in the last 15 years it has become more inclusive, more welcoming to women. Even from my own church in Joplin, Mo. (though it’s moved to the nearby Webb City), I hear that the chains that bind are a lot looser.
Fine, I say. Let me come speak to the church for 20 minutes — and turn the mic on — and then I will believe that change has come. Or, if not me — I’m not the best speaker I know — let another woman, a faithful woman, come give a guest sermon. And teach an adult Sunday school class. And lead singing. And then recite out loud that Methodists/Bahais/Muslims/Jews have as much a shot at heaven as the rest of the elect. Because I really do think that’s what our holy text says.
But that sounds so arrogant, doesn’t it? That’s the change I would have to see in order to embrace that theology whole-heartedly. If change has come, that’s wonderful. I wouldn’t know. Whatever has changed, I have the sad sense that it’s too late for me, though much of my girlhood faith still makes sense to me. (Surprised? I write a book about my leave-taking, but even a passing glance at the chapters show that I. Miss. Church. And even though — like Erin — I love a good fight, the battle over the years grew to be too wearing.)
Anyway. I admire people like Erin who stay and try to effect change from within, because in my own true church, once you’re gone your voice is — at best — muted if not ignored completely. I understand that. I promise I do. But dammit.