What the frank? The word is out.

Adobe Photoshop PDFIt’s official. The anthology I’ve been working on with Enuma Okoro for over a year now – Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank about Faith – is available for pre-sale today. (See our brand spanking new video here.) But I’m not going to ask you buy a book. I’m going to ask you to take a risk.

Okay, fine that risk might be financial, but we’re getting there.

I was in divinity school when I really noticed the problem. There was a lack of honesty and humility in Christian communities around certain topics. For instance, I could talk freely about the sexual line my husband and I had drawn before marriage but I was rarely encouraged (or even asked by friends) to get specific about our sex life after marriage, how many times a week we did it, what kind of lubricant we preferred, if we were working through any hangups. It seemed there were plenty of issues to be debated but little space for the details of lived experiences.

I don’t know about you, but I think God – not the devil – is in the details.

Like when Talking Taboo contributor Carol Howard Merritt shares the perils of negotiating a salary as a female pastor or Patience Perry writes about using menstrual blood as fertilizer. I love when aja monet starts her essay off with a poem about the theology of daughters, and I laugh when Meghan Florian writes about learning “the man’s part” as a single woman at swing class. Yes, I say to myself, tell me more about how you live and what you love and when you feel at home. Because that is how I will feel at home, too – hearing your story, honest and humble.

Brene Brown puts it this way: Empathy is the anecdote for shame.

A few weeks ago, the Barna Group published its latest research findings on Christian leadership, and I was appalled. The most desired quality in a leader was integrity – sure, that’s nice, who’s going to argue? But one of the least desired? Humility. Because why would anyone who had integrity – defined by the researchers as doing the right thing – need to admit their frailty?

There is a problem when integrity is defined as living rightly rather than living wholly. What if integrity meant being honesty about the fragments of light and shadow that make up the whole of who we are? What if honesty meant telling the truth about our very humanness that grows in the dirt of humility? What if we risked showing up in the world as our unashamed, unfinished selves, in all the details?

Talking Taboo is that risk. And I hope when you read Talking Taboo, you’ll want to risk telling your own unspeakable stories to a partner, a community, a pastor, or even at our new website www.webetalkingtaboo.com. I hope you won’t rely on the comfort of the abstract or the safety of an argument. Instead, I hope you’ll speak for yourself, as the forty women in this anthology have committed to do.

We know books aren’t just books, after all. They are conversation partners, dialogue starters, movement makers.

That’s why we are trying to raise money through a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. In the next forty days, we want to sell the equivalent of 1,000 pre-sale copies of the book to show book buyers that there’s a need and a desire for new Christian voices who are willing to break out of the same-old-story mold. There are all sorts of incentives for your generosity from a What the Frank? badge for your blog or website to an in-person conversation with me and Enuma. You can even choose to have books donated to a local women’s nonprofit of your choice. Since White Cloud Press is a small publisher, the money raised also supports our efforts to promote the book more widely, market events related to the book in churches, on campuses, and through community centers, and support our contributors in raising their voices and being heard.

Even if you don’t identify as a Christian, I hope you’ll agree with the authors of Half the Sky who argue that the most effective change will come from  “bringing together feminist organizations and evangelical churches and everyone in between.”

I was heartened by one statistic in particular from the Barna Group survey. Christians under forty rated humility as a key leadership trait at four times the rate of the overall group. Transformation is afoot. Will you join me in this movement of truth-tellers and risk-takers?

5 responses to “What the frank? The word is out.

  1. The way churches are set up now, at least the malestream ones, humilty might be a contradiction in terms. The job for pastors is male designed, and men are expected to be “leaders”– they might pretend humility once a year like the pope does SHOCKINGLY washing one woman’s feet at eastertime. But really, the sex division in most churches doesn’t allow humilty at all. You find it out in the world, and it is my favorite male trait. I love it when men shut up, let women talk, let women lead and just be humble and self deprecating. I love it when men do all the cooking for the party, all the clean up, and all the emotional meet and greet work they normally foist on women. Let’s keep men humble good idea. Let’s drop this idea for women, not a good idea. Good luck with the book. Are lesbians writing for the book as well? Are lesbian stories there, or lesbian relationships discussed in the book? If there are a few, I’ll get it and promote it.

  2. Hi Audrey,

    We have two contributors in the book who identify as “queer.” We had sought ought quite a few more GLBTQ folks but each declined for various reasons. I would love to continue the conversation about why lesbian relationships continue to be taboo in the church — and even among “progressives” and those writing for progressive outlets.


  3. Lesbian relationships are not taboo in all churches. MCC is a church run by a lesbian as moderator, it started in 1968. I don’t think lesbian existence is taboo Erin, I just think that women like you aren’t very courageous and too conservative within the church. “Queer” is not lesbian. “Queer” is a term that makes lesbians invisible, and it is a hipster term for straight people who can’t face well being straight. I’m not a liberal or a progressive, I’m a radical lesbian feminist. We’re the kind of folks who want to overthrow male supremacy and patriarchy, we’re the folks you used to come to when you were raped, and we created the rape crisis centers. We broke down the doors of male supremacy in the church, we were the pioneers of the women’s revolution, the longest revolution.
    Straight women get very caught up with their lives. So this will be a shortcoming of your book. But you don’t have to be shortcoming in terms of this blog. It really could be a lot more radical and visionary. Carter Heyward, pioneering lesbian Episcopal priest, Mary Glasspool, out lesbian episcopal bishop of Los Angeles. Google search, there must be thousands and thousands of lesbians all across the nation who could speak to both lesbian self and Christianity. MCC has the highest proportion of lesbian ministers to male ministers of any denomination in the world. If I can hang with straight women millionaires, surely you have lesbian friends? 🙂

  4. I will be happy to contribute to the conversation. I don’t do dialogue, which is useless, but I do do intense uncompromising conversation. And no, I don’t want to talk to men; it is a waste of time for me. But straight women, there might be hope for you I don’t know for sure. You’re the next generation, we’ll see. Why would being over 40 and lesbian be an issue–from your other comments???

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