I often myself in the crossfires of dueling polarities. Here are a few.
- I’m a working mother who stays at home with her kids as much as humanly possible.
- I’m a feminist, LGBT-inclusive biblical scholar who usually worships at evangelical, nondenominational churches.
- I’m a white suburbanite who has often found herself visiting family in an inner-city, black neighborhood.
- I’m an academic who thinks first with her heart.
- I’m a Democrat who’s deeply unnerved by the rhetoric that most of my party leaders have about abortion.
- I’m a Christian whose piety has been deeply informed by time in the Muslim world.
- I’m an introvert who often functions as an extrovert.
- I’m a white mother to two little brown girls.
- I’m a self-respecting woman who has also been known to watch The Bachelor(ette). (SHAME.)
- I have strong and passionate opinions about many issues, but I hate debating.
Because I live within the crossfires of these polarities, sometimes I feel like a bit of a chameleon. For example, I’ve often avoided talking about my church attendance to my academic friends. And I’ve often avoided explaining my academic work to my church friends. I think I’m pretty good at “passing” in whatever context I’m in. I often internally cringe at myself in my chameleon moments, willing myself into a more “don’t-give-two-cents” stage of existence.
Sometimes, in my bolder moments, I feel like a bit of an interpreter. I try to explain to my secular friends why I love the Bible and worship Jesus. I try to explain to my church friends why feminism helps me love Jesus and read the Bible. I try to explain to my politically conservative friends why I oppose the death penalty. I try to explain to my politically liberal friends why my views on abortion policy are complex. I try to explain how I can relate to folks whose life experiences have led them to quite different positions than my own. Mostly, these efforts fall flat (as in the last point in the bulleted list, I really don’t enjoy debate).
Sometimes I wish that it were a little simpler to place myself in a box. My fellow box-mates would be my people, and the people outside the box would be those people. But I believe that there’s a gift to nuance, to being, at times, a flesh-and-blood contradiction to those polarities. There’s a freedom in resistance to simple definition. There’s a freedom outside the box.
Maybe there’s a peace between the polarities.