2016: The Year of the Dumpster Fire
Before I transitioned to blogging, I had a tradition of giving reflective words that eloquently transformed the memories of that year into some deeply profound soliloquy of life. I suppose it would be a disservice to not continue that tradition as a blogger now. In all transparency, there is not a lot of good and warm feelings that I can attribute to 2016. From its onset, it has been a year shrouded in emotional, political, and social upheaval. Surprisingly, this is not just my individual attributions of 2016. It has been an (seemingly) universally bad year for so many of us.
Listen, 2016 has been so bad it’s literally been memed as a person. Let that marinate.
Still, in my last TUC post for 2016 I hope to offer a fair and balanced perspective of how 2016 transformed my life for better and for worse.
1. Life After Death is Real…Hard
2016 has been encumbered by a multitude of death. I distinctly remember my Dad calling me to tell me that his best friend’s mother had transitioned a couple days into this New Year. Two days later, I’d be making the same calls to tell others that my beloved Father too had transitioned. A week to the day of my Dad’s passing, my childhood pastor also passed away. Three deaths. 2 weeks into the year. And thus set the tone of my 2016. Death and loss seemed to be a near weekly occurrence. Last month, I buried three more people that I loved who died a very violent death. I have spent this year in a permanent state of mourning.
Though loss is a gutting experience, it has also been a period of self-discovery. I have learned that I cannot compartmentalize my emotions neatly into stages. I have always been one who is more logic-driven than emotionally led. I have always lived my life as one of clockwork processes. Death has, in its omnipresence, served as a reminder that I am not in control. Through grief, I no longer view my sadness or emotional expressions as a sign of my weakness but as a reminder of my humanity. My uncontrollable tears and memories of loved ones lost have been cathartic to the evolution of my womanhood. Though I continue to feel raw, robbed, and emotionally wrought, I am grateful that this year allowed me to feel a range of emotions I’ve tried to suppress.
2. Racial Injustice Cannot Be Loved Away
Earlier this year, I wrote a post imploring white Christians to raise their voices against racial injustice. I asked earnestly how we could serve the same God but be so divided on the recognition of our humanity. Instead of hearing my (and others) voiced concerns, 85% of white evangelical Christians voted to elect Donald Trump. Their support of a man whose views/actions are the antithesis of Christian ethos spoke at a volume that I could no longer rationally ignore.
There is absolutely no room at the cross for reconciliation gospel. White Christians willfully, gleefully even, voted for a “politician” whose sole goal is the eradication of marginalized people for the sake of comforting small minded assholes. They voted for a man who will likely back Ted Cruz’s “First Amendment Defense Act” [link] under the guise of religious freedom. It is a bill that evangelical Christians will pat themselves on the back for as a defense of God’s kingdom. For me, it is a reminder that salvation of White Supremacy is bought with the price of my oppression. And I can’t get jiggy with that.
3. My Theology Has Evolved
I grew up profoundly religious, complete with the homophobia, sexism, and classism inherent within the Black [Christian] Church. My evolution into The Unfit Christian has been transformative to say the least. Finding my voice to speak out against the normalized oppression of the church has been akin to coming out of the closet (and I apologize in advance to any LGBTQ folks who feel that I’m co-opting this experience).
I realized a few years ago that I disagreed more with what I’d been taught but I couldn’t bring myself to divorce my belief in God. I couldn’t reconcile my belief of God as love and freedom with the “terms and conditions apply” brand of faith that church had sold me for years. I couldn’t sit through sermons of dogma whose only intent was an emotional reaction and not a spiritual deliverance. I struggled to be party to feel-good theology that only brought good feelings at the expense of someone else’s liberation in Christ.
It took a long time, but I got free. The articulation (the way in which I understand, believe, and practice) my faith does not fit well within conservative evangelical Christianity. My faith is practiced through the lens of womanist liberation theology. More technically, my voice is based in socio-theological pragmatism. In short, I have begun the work of understanding the word of God through the vantage point of my lived experience: Black and feminist. I choose to liberate my theology from practices that oppress the fullness of who I am. And I choose to be a light of that freedom to and for others.
4. The Birth of The Unfit Christian
On April 10, 2016, I published my first post entitled “I’m A Christian Atheist” and thus, this space was born. Since then, I’ve published 51 posts that included not only my words but the compelling stories of guest authors as well. I’ve had over 117,000 views since my inception. I’ve made fans and I’ve made enemies (Hey, Heather Lindsey & the Heather Hive). But most importantly, I’ve begun to fulfill my purpose.
I built this space to inspire people to believe that there is room at the table (and subsequently the cross) for all of us, no matter how radically different our approach to God. I want to motivate people to be courageous and bold in who they are, what they believe, and walk without fear of questioning everything.
I use this platform as an outlet to grapple with my own religious struggles. I have been lucky to find audience with so many who hear, understand, and relate to where I am coming from. It has provided sanctuary to people like me. It is also the first time I’ve ever been called both a minister and heretic for the things I’ve expressed. What it has been is a reminder that I define my truth. Others’ interpretation of my character are not based on my truth but merely on their perspectives and experiences. I am not for everybody, but I am for the people who need me to amplify their thoughts and feelings. And I’m proud of that.
5. Black Women Can Author & Experience True Sisterhood
After the virality of my “Hoes Ain’t Won, You Just Lost” post, I launched another dream venture: building a safe space for women to cultivate their whole self. Early this summer, I birthed Becoming Her Tribe. I set out to prove that I could defy the stereotypes of women’s friendships: catty, jealous, and unsustainable. I endeavored to create a sisterhood that understood the necessity of safe spaces for women to be everything that the demands of her life do not allow her to be: broken, raw, weak, and real.
300+ members later, we continue to become our best selves by finding resonant perceptions of ourselves as women, daughters, sisters, friends, and lovers. Sisterhood has not been without its conflicts. We’ve experienced growing pains. I’ve made mistakes in leading the effort. But above all, I’m proud that I’ve helped to create a space that allows women to embrace the beauty of vulnerability and sisterhood.
Although this has indeed been the year of garbage juice and I don’t intend to acknowledge its existence again, it has not been without its joy. I have accomplished a great deal in this year that I am proud of. I have seen visions that I’ve only imagine become manifest in the flesh. I’ve had my best professional year yet in my career. I’ve met and befriended so many amazing people. I even reconciled with the love of my life and have enjoyed the fruit of our labor of love. I’ve allowed my evolution to happen and its changed me for the better.
But this year has not been without its losses, tragedies, or sadness. As the holidays rapidly approach, I find myself consumed with thoughts of those that I have lost. I find myself oscillating between anger and sadness with God for their absence. So much has happened. I just need time for the world to stop. Since I know that it won’t, I’m taking time to pause and bow gracefully from the world. I need time to process, grieve, and replenish my spirit so that I am prepared for what 2017 will bring. Every year, I hope for the best in the next year to come. Honestly, my only hope at this point is to make it out of this year and into next alive. If 2016 has taught me anything, it is to simply be thankful for the grace of each day as it comes.
So with today’s grace, I’ll take the opportunity to say thank you for reading. Thank you for your support over the last 8 months since the launch of this space. Thank you for supporting me even when I go a month without posting. Thank you for every comment, share, and like you’ve given The Unfit Christian this year. I exist as a voice because you help to amplify me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I’ll see you all on January 16, 2017!