The Common Good

Reading Scripture Through the Shutdown: A Voice for the Silenced

Setting an away email with no date of return was almost as odd as leaving work and not and knowing when I’d be back. This unexpected time off gave me the opportunity to do everything on my to-do list and spend ridiculous amounts of time at the dog park. Naturally, it also gave me time to catch up on reading and visiting with other furloughed friends. But this past Wednesday I was beginning to feel a bit hopeless about the whole situation.

Photo by Brandon Hook / Sojourners
Angela Kissel reads Scripture at the #FaithfulFilibuster last week. Photo by Brandon Hook / Sojourners

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Scrolling through Facebook I noticed Sojourners updates on its #FaithfulFilibuster and it truly made me ashamed of my hopelessness. I was ashamed because I forgot who was in charge. I was ashamed because I forgot where my hope lies. And I was ashamed because I was so wrapped up in my own struggles of furlough I forgot about the families that were already struggling and now also dealing with a loss of paychecks.

On Thursday I saw another update from Sojourners, and despite the rain, I felt compelled to go check it out. I expected to do nothing but observe and admire faith leaders stepping out to reclaim hope and speak for the millions of silenced voices in this country. However, when I arrived, something different happened. I was asked if I wanted to participate, handed a Bible, and stepped to the podium to read.

This may not seem like a momentous occasion, but for me it was divine. You see, on Wednesday, a very well-intentioned pastor told me my place in the church was limited to specific roles because I’m a female. He told me it was against Scripture for any female to preach and roles for leadership are clearly only for men, the “father” figures of the church. In response, I listed every female prophet and leader. I went through the patriarchal lens in which parts of the Bible are written due to culture and general misogynistic norms of the time. I noted the hypocrisy of highlighting some Scripture while blatantly overlooking others when it doesn’t fit the current agenda. And lastly, I walked through Jesus’ ministry and discussed how he went against cultural norms to illustrate the equality of women to the extent of choosing a woman to tell the world the full story of the Gospel. After an exhausting 65 minutes, we agreed to disagree, prayed, and ended the conversation. I walked away drained and slightly defeated. I wondered why God had put something on my heart and empowered me to speak up, when he knew I’d lose the battle. I also started to question myself and wondered if I should just stop fighting.

But then, not even 24 hours later, God used something so much bigger than me to affirm not only that this passion came from him, but also, that shutting up and letting agendas get in front the creator was not an option. The cultural norms in biblical times used to silence the poor, widows, women, orphans, and the foreigner are echoed in our society today. We fashion ourselves to be followers of the Word, but if we need Bibles that highlight every word of God that has to do with how the vulnerable should be treated then I’m afraid we are following a convenient Christianity. Real Christianity is a difficult, tiring, and sometimes dangerous path.  It’s not meant to fit our agendas. The true Gospel is counterintuitive to every natural selfish motive we have. Sometimes it means physically caring for others, sometimes it’s standing in the gap when people are in need, and sometimes it means reading scripture in front of the Capitol to affirm the word of God and pray for our leaders. We are all children of God, created equally in the image of our creator. Silencing or limiting anyone’s voice is against the nature of God and against the redemption that all Christians should be working to usher into this broken world. I stand with Sojourners and all the faithful who are committed to speak light into darkness and stand in the rain until the Gospel is heard.

I thought I was walking over to observe something wonderfully holy, but I had no idea that God was going to use to this to encourage me. Being asked to step to a podium and read the word of God a day after I was told it wasn’t my place brought me to tears. We serve a God who has put passion in the hearts of all of his children. If we silence even one of those voices we are missing out on a precious piece of God’s redemptive plan for this side of Eden.

Please pray for our leaders and use your voice to reaffirm God’s love for the silenced.

Angela Kissel is a twenty-something Jesus feminist who's never met a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne she didn't like. She's originally from the Midwest, but thinks it might be nice to stay in D.C. for a while. She enjoys long walks with her dog and believes religion and politics are best discussed at the dinner table. 

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