The Common Good
January 2014

The Sounds of Silencing—And Speaking Out

by Angela Kissel | January 2014

Her pastor told her it was 'against scripture' for females to preach.

When furloughed Peace Corps worker Angela Kissel showed up to support Sojourners’ Faithful Filibuster on Capitol Hill in September, she was surprised to be handed a Bible and invited to read from the podium some of the more than 2,000 biblical verses related to poverty and justice. —The Editors

Photo illustration by Ken Davis

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READING SCRIPTURE outside the Capitol may not seem like a momentous occasion, but for me it was divine. You see, the day before, a 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, that 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 scriptures 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. We 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 God 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 God, but also that shutting up and letting agendas get in front of 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 literally 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 ushering into this broken world.

I thought I was walking to the Capitol to observe something wonderfully holy, but I had no idea that God was going to use 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 God’s 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. 

Angela Kissel is a 20-something Jesus feminist who’s never met a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne she didn’t like. A version of this essay ran on the God’s Politics blog.

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