2022 Introduction - Old Testament

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Welcome to 2022 with The Faithful Feminists podcast! In this short episode we wanted to introduce ourselves, reflect on our past work, and look forward to Old Testament goodness in the new year.

Link to Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thefaithfulfeminists

Transcript by the fantastic Heather B!

Channing: [00:00:00] Hi! I'm Channing.

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:12] We focus on feminist interpretations of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me manual as a guide for study. We understand scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with The Divine, others, and ourselves. We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred texts with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture.

Channing: [00:00:41] While Mormonism with its iconic floral foyer couches is our background, we follow our faith and our God on the winding path of spirituality over institution, and connection over condemnation.

[00:00:56] We are fellow wanderers, weavers, and doubters. If you’ve found yourself feeling a little too faithful for some and not enough for others: Welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. This podcast is funded by our listeners’ generous donations. If you'd like to support our work, connect with us on Patreon or on our website at www.thefaithfulfeminists.com.

Elise: [00:01:22] Welcome back everyone. And welcome to 2022. 

Channing: Yay!

Elise: Holy smokes. Wow. We're here for another year of sacred text and we are so excited to explore the Old Testament. So to set the stage for this year, we wanted to create a mini episode, introducing ourselves, reflecting on our past work and talking about what to expect from the podcast in the new year.

[00:01:45] So if you're new here or you just love us so much you want to hear more about us: My name is Elise and I was born and raised in the church. And I think over the years, my faith has really grown and changed. And right now I'm understanding my faith as being ultimately concerned and for me, this state of ultimate concern really looks like love and hospitality and community.

[00:02:07] And this is a type of faith that takes courage and questions, doubt, and action. And it's not really… My faith is not a pinky promise to the church institution that I'll never critique it and I'll never leave it and I'll never change. That's not really how I understand my faith right now. I am a Pisces water queen, just so you know.

Channing: Yes you are.

Elise: [00:02:26] And when you, when you hear about Channing's astrological sign too, you'll see just how perfect of a balance we are for one another. I think one of the things that I love about being a water sign is that I think that I go with the flow really well. I'm kind of even-keeled. I am drawn to compassion and peace and I try and bring all of those things to the podcast, which is not to say that there have not been episodes where I've been super fired up and really, really angry about something that the text has made me confront.

[00:02:55] As of recently, my spiritual practice includes scriptures and stories. It includes taro cards, praying the rosary, poetry, study. If you know anything about Channing or I, you'll know that we love research and I find it very, like, meditative. And so I really, really love that. 

Channing: [00:03:11] My name is Channing. I was also born and raised in the church, but I lived in Las Vegas for most of my life so my experience with the church was like, yes, very traditional, but not traditional in the, like, Utah-Mormon sense. It wasn't as enmeshed in my culture as, you know, other people's experiences have been. Right now for me, my faith is kind of just, I really feel like that wandery, weavey, like, path-like exploration really fits into what I understand my faith as being. I understand my faith journey to just take me wherever it takes me, wherever my current interest is, or my next question.

[00:04:02] I'm always following a path that I hope brings me closer and closer to a fuller understanding of The Divine and a fuller understanding of myself and how to bring that full and whole and loving self out into the world and share it with others. And sometimes that path means walking out of a church institution. Sometimes it means taking a little bit of the church institution with me and sometimes letting go of it altogether and exploring brand new frameworks and brand new ideas and charting new territory. So faith for me is a very exciting endeavor and it is quite easy for me to get bored. So sometimes the frustration that I feel with the text arises out of sheer boredom and I'm okay admitting that. Where Elise is this really, like, gorgeous calm, flowing, Pisces water queen, for me, I strongly identify with all of my fire signs. I am a very fiery woman. I enjoy the image of me being this, like, tiny little fire-breathing dragon. If you've ever seen Frozen 2, the fire lizard is basically me in a nutshell. I love creating havoc and I love, like, just watching everything burn and I can get really, really hot headed sometimes.

[00:05:29] But I also, like, enjoy sharing my warmth and excitement and friendliness with others. And, you know, I just recognize these things about myself. And I think that my fireiness actually makes me really fun. And I like to think of myself as, like, a clever, witty, strong, determined, and, like, fiercely independent and authentic being.

[00:05:59] I don't know if I would like go as far as to like call myself the fire queen, but definitely a fire lizard. I like that very much

Elise: A salamander. 

Channing: Yes. So my spiritual practice also includes scriptures. It includes so, so much reading. I also enjoy integrating pagan spirituality and animistic worldviews and animistic spirituality.

[00:06:22] Very strongly involved in ecofeminist spiritualities and, yeah, exploring pre-Christian and ancient spiritual practices. I love working with the runes. I love working with plant spirits and animals and just exploring more and more and more about what this life and this embodied experience on earth is all about, and that honestly is such an adventure in and of itself.

[00:06:53] But I also continually find myself fascinated by my Mormon and more broadly Christian upbringing. I find myself deeply involved and interested in theology, mostly focused on feminism, eco-feminism, and trauma and embodiment. So basically my interests are, I feel like they're very wide and all encompassing, but they're also like pretty niche.

[00:07:18] So I don't know. I'm just a paradox. I'm a paradoxical fire lizard. It's fine. When I'm not working on the podcast, I work in the home and I'm raising two young kids and just, yeah, fostering my creative and spiritual growth. So I just love being here. I love talking about spirituality and theology and scriptures.

[00:07:40] So this is honestly like, My fire lizard heart is very happy here. Yes. 

Elise: [00:07:46] Oh, we are so, so lucky. And I don't think that we mentioned it, but hopefully our listeners can pick it up. We're best friends, obviously. Best friends who are really, really in love with each other, and that will never change. 

Channing: Nope.

Elise: And so if we move on now to reflect on some of our past work, we actually started the podcast in the beginning of 2020, where we worked through the Book of Mormon and then 2021, we worked through the Doctrine and Covenants.

[00:08:09] And even though we spent a lot of our time and our research and our efforts standing on the shoulders of many other feminist theologians and researchers, this project, our podcast, at least from what we can see, was really the first of its kind to offer a chapter by chapter interpretation of Mormon-specific sacred texts through a feminist lens.

[00:08:31] Did we know exactly what we were doing? No, of course not. But we did feel called to the work and we tried our best to chart some path through the thicket and we learned so, so much. For me, I really grew to love the Book of Mormon. And I saw it far more as a tragedy than I ever had before. And for both works, both the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, I came to realize just how messy people are and just how wild things can get when we start putting people and politics and our understandings of God together and we just smash it all into a story that has long lasting consequences for both practice theology and theological ideas in general. 

Channing: [00:09:12] As we engaged more and more with the texts we also learned just how much stories can unfold when we spend close time with them. And with each story, we not only encountered aspects of ourselves, but also continual invitations to engage with The Divine through meeting other people. And this is a concept that we are continually finding no matter what texts we're involved in.

[00:09:38] And it seems to be a common thread that at least has woven itself through the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. And I won't be surprised if it also appears in the Old and New Testament. So I'm excited about that. We also, both of us finally learned how to use our mix properly after like, honestly, probably like six months of recording with our microphones backwards.

Elise: [00:10:03] We, you know, we're trying, we're just out here trying our best. We're using like twenty-five dollar mikes and we're trying to put on this whole project. And so thanks for sticking with us through all of our challenges 

Channing: [00:10:15] For sure. For sure. Probably no one knows this and I don't even know if you, Elise, if you had the same experience, but probably for the first, like, couple of weeks of the podcast, every time we would record an episode, I would have to go upstairs into my bedroom and change all of my clothes, because I had been sweating so bad. Because I was so nervous to record and release these and you know, over time I can now wear the same outfit the entire day. I don't have to change because I'm less nervous. And I think that that's because we grew a little bit more confident, both in our ability to wrestle with the texts, but also in our capacity for critique.

[00:10:56] I think that we both learned that we don't get to rush to celebrate the text as is without first walking through the critique. We've had a couple of experiences where listeners have offered some feedback or criticism or call-out for some episodes where we've done that and we've been so, so grateful for that because it's changed our approach in really, really important ways.

Elise: [00:11:18] Absolutely. And I think as we were kind of stepping into our confidence and our ability to critique and celebrate, we also noticed that some people grew more weary and kind of suspicious, or maybe even intolerant of us as the years unfolded and maybe this is because of some misconception around our podcast name.

[00:11:37] At least for me, I think that people can often take our title of “The Faithful Feminists” to be a podcast about how to be faithful, which I think is often misunderstood as abiding by the church no matter what, never critiquing it, staying- air quotes- “fully active member,” whatever that means. So a podcast about how to be faithful in those terms and feminist, as if believing in Heavenly Mother and wanting more women to speak in general conference is all that it takes to be feminist.

[00:12:06] However, for our understanding, this could not be further from the direction and the spirit of the podcast, because honestly our understanding of faith is bigger and more expansive than the institution. And our understanding of feminism is one that requires critique, sacrifice and widespread societal change.

Channing: [00:12:25] Yes. I think that distinction is so important. We've said on the podcast before, well, I hope that we’ve said it on the podcast before, but if not, we're saying it now: that The Faithful Feminists podcast isn't faithful to an institution, it isn't faithful to the church or any specific kind of dogma. I think at the end of the day, the faithful part of The Faithful Feminists podcast is a stubborn willingness, or curious willingness to follow the thread of The Divine.

[00:12:55] And sometimes it surprises us and ends up looking different than what we thought it was. And in relationship to that, I think that ends up surprising lots of other people too. One of the frameworks that I like thinking about faith in is the concept of an empty room. So my house, my home is one of my favorite places in the whole world.

[00:13:17] It has a lot of rooms and all of them serve a purpose. The kitchen is where I prepare and eat food. The bathroom is where I brush my teeth and take care of my body, and the bedroom is where I rest and drink. The room that someone would enter when they first walked through the front door is what we call the family room. Its size and its layout make it a particularly difficult room to decorate. It's too small for a couch, the window is too big, and the natural light it provides is too sacred to obscure. And the focal point is a fireplace, but it also competes with the window. And while I love all of these elements, decorating this room was seriously so frustrating for me, like, since we first moved in. And so over the years, the decorations have changed. The room had a vintage couch, then it had sitting chairs, a full-sized couch, a coffee table, some side tables, bookshelves, plant pots and stands, and so, so much more. But in the last year or so, as I sat in the room and thought about how it was being used, I realized that the room needed and maybe even wanted to be empty. At first an empty room felt really uncomfortable for me because it's the room that everyone sees when they first walk into the house. I kept telling myself there needs to be something there to prove to the people who visit my house that people live here. But as I cleared the couches and the tables away, the room breathed. I felt lighter there and there was a sense of freedom in the open space. The longer I kept that room clear of furniture and most of its decor, the more I realized that the room was never really empty. It always had something in it.

[00:14:59] There were dance parties in it. My son always builds his elaborate train tracks in the wide open floor. There's plenty of room for a yoga mat, there are Amazon boxes that are turned into cars and houses for imaginary cats, with the power of scissors and markers. There’re indoor picnics, and there's a dog staring longingly out the front window.

[00:15:21]  In time, I have learned how to relish the sacredness of this empty room. It's a space that is expansive and infinite in possibility. There's room to spread out, to dance, play, explore, and imagine without it having to look picture perfect or pretty. And I think that this idea of an empty room is a compelling framework for faith.

[00:15:42] Sometimes we think that faith is having the expected beliefs that furnish our room. Maybe these beliefs are a hand-me-down couch that you got from your parents. Maybe it's a new trendy letter board, or a certain look or style that someone can categorize or understand. But what if faith is not the things in the room, but the room itself, but what if faith is having an open, expansive, empty space that is ready for anything. It's ready for surprise. It's ready for play and exploration, and it doesn't have to be, or do anything other than exactly what it does- empty and open. So as I move into the Old Testament in the next year, this is the idea or the framework of faith that I'm holding within the text.

[00:16:32] And we invite you, maybe if it feels right for you to imagine or create a metaphorical empty room of your own. Some of the ideas that we'll come across this year might be challenging. They might be big. They might bring up resistance in you, but if there's an empty room for them to play in, then you can spend time with it there without threat.

[00:16:53] And decide if it's something that you want to welcome further into your home, or invite to go back out the front door without any judgment, but that empty space, that empty room, that soft landing spot for possibility to happen, that is an area or an opportunity for growth. And I'm excited about the possibilities that it brings to the text next year.

Elise: [00:17:17] From there, I think if we look to this next year of the podcast, unlike the Book of Mormon and the doctrine covenants, I feel incredibly unfamiliar with the Old Testament. And so I'm really, really looking forward to exploring it with all of you this year. And even more than that, unlike the book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, where we were standing on the shoulders of other feminist theologians but charting our own path, 2022 and 2023 usher in a whole new realm of feminist interpretation, because it's about the Bible, which is an incredibly important sacred texts across many faith traditions and one that has shaped many aspects of US culture and values. Thus, unlike the last two years where we were one of the primary sources this year, we will be one source among many, many other sources and among many other voices who are significantly more researched and more brilliant than we are because they've been studying the Bible through a feminist lens for their entire lives or their entire careers.

[00:18:17] For example, when we talk about or refer to feminist Christian or Jewish theologians, for many of them, it's the Bible that's their primary text of study, as opposed to in Mormonism, we really place most of our emphasis on the Book of Mormon. So this year, we'll be diving headfirst into the deep end of feminist biblical interpretation and we're going to do our best to swim and make sense of things. We'll also do our best to offer our own insights while knowing that probably someone somewhere else has discovered or said it way better than we have. And because we both love research so, so much we'll be doing a lot of reading and we'll of course share our articles or any sources that we come across with all of you. And look at the end of the day, just like one of our listeners said to us once we're just two best friends with the microphone and honestly, we wouldn't have it any other way. 

Channing: [00:19:08] And one final exciting development that we have for the year 2022, which is new, something that we haven't done for the podcast ever before is we have at the request of our listeners and followers created a Patreon. So if you value our work and are looking for a way to set up monthly donations to the podcast, we've created a Patreon account with five tiers for donations.

[00:19:32] Unlike other Patreons that you might've signed up for, ours does not offer additional, extra or bonus content. I mean, we're kind of already doing the best that we can to keep up with a weekly podcast and an Instagram page. In another life, we might've been able to offer bonus content, but in this life, the podcast is our passion project and not our full-time moneymaker.

[00:19:55] We hope that you consider donating as it helps fund all the behind the scenes technical processes of publishing, as well as support our efforts and researching and producing with a simple two person team. [00:20:11] Friends, we're so excited to have you join us as we study the Old Testament this year. We know it's going to be a challenging and amazing year, and it's a real privilege to have you along with us, for the ride. We love you so, so much, and we'll chat with you super duper soon. Love you. Bye.

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