I mentioned a few weeks back that I had the opportunity to contribute an essay about male and female roles within marriage for the new book Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith (see my post Should Men Be the Head of the Household? for the beginning of my essay). I’ve now had a chance to read more of the essays within this book’s pages, and I’m grateful for the diverse cast of topics and voices represented by these women. Today, I’d like to share with you a few questions with Enuma Okoro and Erin Lane, the book’s co-editors, and a few questions for you the reader at the end:
Amy Julia: What prompted you to address this issue? What convinced you that there are “taboo” subjects for women in the church?
Enuma Okor0: Both I and my co-editor Erin Lane, were raised in the Catholic Church AND we are both pretty opinionated and thoughtful women who take our faith seriously enough to wrestle with the challenges we encounter, both in scripture and in tradition. I was born here but raised in a few countries on a couple of continents. My experience of mainstream American Christianity has rarely been one in which strong female voices are given a hospitable platform without criticism or challenge from one corner or another. With Talking Taboo, Erin and I wanted to give Christian women in general, a chance to speak their own experiences of how faith communities have consciously or unintentionally created or maintained unsafe spaces for particular issues or circumstances.
AJ: Do you think someone could compile a similar set of essays from men? Is it faith that creates taboo topics, or gender?
EO: It would be fascinating to hear what men considered important but taboo to talk about in mainstream Christianity. Both faith and gender create taboo topics. So by the way does race.
AJ: Were there any common themes that ran through the essays?
EO: There is a good variety of topics covered but a number of contributors wrote around issues of leadership in the church. It’s disheartening that this is still such a widespread issue that still needs addressing.
AJ: Did anything surprise you in what you received?
EO: Yes, the range of issues that Women considered important but taboo! Women wrote from topics of divorce, addiction and recovery, not wanting children, and miscarriages, to the lack of faith-based narratives about mothers and daughters. It really is a deeply personal book because of how forthright and forthcoming the contributors were.
AJ: Can you speak to the meaning of the word taboo and why you chose it for the title?
Erin Lane: We first understood taboo as something considered off-limits, out-of-bounds, unspeakable in the course of every day life. But taboo also means, in the ancient sense of the word, something sacred, which is why it must be approached with reverence. We hoped by choosing it for the title, we would be indicating how sacred, how personal, how ordinary, actually, these experiences of faith are to young women, and why they can’t be ignored.
The topic that comes to mind for me as “taboo” within the church is wealth. What question or issue would you want to see addressed (whether you are a man or a woman) when it comes to talking about faith?