Killjoy Prophets: Troubling and Broadening Our Visions of Liberation

As a Filipina who is passionate about combining racial justice and feminist activism with my Christian faith, I can tell you my journey has been both turbulent and life-giving.

Emily Rice

The isolation I have felt because of this commitment to both racial justice and feminism in secular spaces has been painful. As a woman of color I refuse to be segmented. I refuse to be forced to choose between my commitments to ending both racism and the oppression of women. Intersectionality is not just a theory, it is a lived experience that I and many others navigate every day.

But the most painful and isolating experiences for me as a woman of color have been when I’ve worked to bring together racial justice and feminism in Christian spaces — especially in progressive ones.

Over the last decade or so, it was often through progressive Christian bloggers and authors that I found some respite and healing from many of the rigid, shame-filled narratives I internalized during my conservative Christian upbringing. These voices gave me hope that I didn’t need to abandon my faith altogether, that seeking liberation and pursuing justice ought to be a core part of our expression as followers of Jesus, and that it was safe to ask challenging questions about the dominant narratives of Christian theologies. That is, until I started noticing how some questions weren’t as welcome as others.

I wish I could tell you that my experiences speaking out about racism and sexism in progressive Christian spaces have always been embraced. I wish I could say that women and men of color were consistently supported when they asked questions which challenge the centering of whiteness in faith-based justice movements.

The reality is that far too often we are silenced for our questions.

We have been labeled “toxic” and “divisive” and chastised for not showing enough “grace.”

We have become cast as the problem for pointing out the problems of heteropatriarchal white supremacy.

All that can feel pretty damn isolating.

Thankfully, isolation was not the end. For me it has become a new beginning. I’ve had the great blessing to connect and build friendships with several others who, despite their own painful and isolating experiences of being silenced for speaking up about white supremacy and patriarchy, choose to continue to bear prophetic witness in our churches, the communities in which we live, and the online spaces we inhabit.

We started asking ourselves questions that trouble dominant progressive Christian narratives on liberation and justice. Questions many of us could hardly whisper in our faith communities, like:

What happens when the very voices who have pointed us towards liberation shut us down and silence us? 

What do we do when we realize the visions of “liberation” our heroines and heroes were painting didn’t actually include ours as women of color/people of color? 

How do we respond when others’ ideas of “justice” serve to maintain oppression in marginalized communities?

We founded the Killjoy Prophets Collective to make space for people of faith (especially Christians) to continue asking these questions, to amplify the whispers and to continue troubling the dominant narratives of justice and liberation while we also seek to imagine what liberation might look like from the perspectives of the most marginalized themselves. We work to affirm power and agency among those whose voices have for too long been spoken over.

We refuse to settle for a “racial reconcilation” that envisions the goal as representation and recognition by whiteness because our aim is to dismantle white supremacy altogether.

We seek to disrupt the dominant narratives of white Christian feminism by centering women of color feminism and activist politics.

We work to interrogate how Christian institutions and theologies — from conservative to progressive — have remained complicit in perpetuating systems of oppression.

We dare to raise our voices and ask these questions even though we know others may reject our messages simply because they feel we do not speak in a way that is “kind” enough.

But we also dare to hope that you will listen and allow your visions of liberation to be troubled.

And we hope that you will join us in broadening our collective visions for liberation by centering the needs of the most marginalized among us.

 

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