Now the exclusivity of acceptable words and Christians' ideas that they have the power to judge something Christian or not, is rearing it's ugly head again, over the word vagina. Rachel Held Evans wrote an amazing book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, in which she examines what it means to live out the words that scripture has in regards to women, literally. I'm halfway through her work, and it is a wonderful examination of scripture that has been used to hurt and subjugate women for years. Words used out of context. Rachel examines different cultures within Christianity and how they live these words out, and she does so with grace, gentleness, and humility. She also does it with honesty and correct anatomical language, she says the word vagina. That word apparently disqualifies her work. The Christians at Lifeway have decided that her book cannot be carried in their stores because of the word vagina. They seem to care more about the offensiveness of that word, than the discrimination women have faced because they were born with a vagina. The message of Rachel's book is lost to many because of a word.
Censorship in the vagina-gate form, or in the form of not accepting something as Christian because it doesn't say Jesus, is hurtful and has no place in Christian community. Worrying that we are going to offend someone in our presentation of the gospel just because we used a word, is limiting what God can do and is doing through us. I do not try to create controversy when I speak in front of groups of people, be they groups of youth or a congregation of people on a Sunday morning. I speak the message that God and I have wrestled with, the words he has laid on my heart. I speak honestly in the language that comes naturally to me. When speaking to certain groups, I do try to be sensitive to those that are hearing me. I try to know my audience and present my message accordingly. I do not want my message to go unheard because I offended someone. If a word like crap slips out, or sucks; I expect some grace, especially from a Christian audience. If I mention the problems of homelessness, the environmental crisis, people terrorizing abortion clinics, or my tattoos, I don't expect to be censored, and yet I have been. The entire content of my message was lost due to these things, I was branded liberal by some and unchristian by others. It seems we Christians have little tolerance for words or each other.
Jesus used a lot of words, they are the red ones in that book in the hotel drawer, in case you were wondering. He used words that shocked his audience, because as a "rabbi" he talked in everyday language, so that every person could see and understand God. He used words that turned his audience's way of thinking upside down, like when he said, "blessed are the poor". The words that Jesus said were not okay to say, were the ones used against another person, to hurt them. Calling your brother raca was elevated to murder. Elsewhere in scripture we are encouraged to use only words that build one another up and encourage. Jesus also talked about not judging. His emphasis seemed to be not on the words used, but how they were used, were they used hurtfully?
A major Christian chain deciding not to carry the book of someone who has spent over a year researching scripture and earnestly trying to live it out with grace and humility, because they used the correct word for a part of the female anatomy, is hurtful. Christians should be more offended by the fact that people are treated differently or badly because they have a vagina, than the word itself. This form of exclusivity is bullying. It is saying, "you don't talk like me, so you don't fit in here, you are out". It's equivalent to sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, "la, la,la" because someone is saying something you don't want to hear. When, when will we Christians be able to focus on living out the words of Jesus, and not the words we hear or don't hear from our family of God?