I found Emily Maynard through a fellow Christian writer’s tweet.
The tweet contained a link to a beautiful article Emily had written, “Four Reason I’m Glad I Left Church“. From this post, I wanted to learn more. I was drawn to her humor, wit and inspiring transparency in everything she writes. I’m so humbled to have Emily participate in this interview series.
Emily Maynard is an outgoing introvert from Portland, Oregon. She writes, speaks, and tweets about being a twenty-something person navigating dating, friendship, faith, and culture. You can find her at: www.emilyisspeakingup.com or on Twitter: @emelina. She’s not the Emily Maynard from The Bachelorette.
How would you describe Christianity?
In my own life, Christianity functions on two levels: it’s the religion and culture that I grew up in, so in that way, it significantly affects my language, my thinking, and my experiences. But as an adult, I’ve grown in my own practice of Christian faith. It’s personally meaningful, challenging, and still the framework through which I understand the world.
Do you see the Church heading in a particular direction?
I was raised in an Evangelical church tradition, so much of my research and stories come from that realm even though I recognize that it hardly represents all Christianity. I think the most interesting forces for the church right now are globalization and internet communication. Soong-Chan Rah, in his book The Next Evanglicalism, talks about how the fastest growing populations of Evangelical Christians are people who are non-Western, non-Caucasion, and non-male. This absolutely changes the direction of the church.
Because of the internet, we’re also experiencing elements of deconstructing old power structures, abusive practices in churches, and theological deserts. I was raised one way and told that was the only/best way to practice Christianity, but through my relationships with people and research on the internet, my spiritual practice looks very different than it did before.
Do you believe there’s a gap between what Christianity is (or what it has come to represent) and what it should be?
Absolutely I do, especially in America today. Churches are often known more for political policies and power-grabbing than justice, love, and peace. There are always exceptions, but I think it says something that, as a group, Christians are seen as homophobic, greedy, and inconsistent to the point of nonsense on issues of science, morality, etc.
How would you like to see Christianity progress over the next generation?
I can’t control the way the Spirit moves, but I think justice and freedom in the Church are really important. I’ve been exposed to Liberation theology in the past year, and it resonates so deeply with my soul. I think freedom – not from others, but with and alongside them – reflects something beautiful and important about the Gospel. I’d love to see Christianity break down more cultural, social and economic barriers than it creates.
In your opinion, what (or who) is the biggest motivating factor in the younger generation’s faith?
I think that young people want to be taken seriously, especially by faith leaders. We’re so often dismissed as silly, flakey, or bitter, but I have only experienced young people passionate about their faith. It might look different than the faith practice of our leaders, but it’s just as real. I also think honesty is really important. We’ve had enough BS, and we don’t want to participate in it, but if faith can be more than that, we’re so passionate.
What is an encouraging trend you’ve seen in the Church recently?
It feels like an agonizingly slow turn, but I think the Church is moving more towards equality between genders, or at least trying it. I’ve also seen an acceptance of dialogue and relationship across cultural or theological lines.
On your website (emilyisspeakingup.com) you originally published a post in 2012 speaking out against “The Modesty Rules and sexism and silencing and shame.” Since then have you seen any change in Christian culture regarding sexuality and acceptance?
I’ve seen some small shifts in structure or the culture of Christianity that I consider positive, but I also find that old, abusive messages are being sanitized slightly and passed off to my generation of Christians. The biggest change is the number of people talking about these things. I joined a chorus, and now it seems like there’s an entire stadium singing along. Every person who adds their story, experience, analysis, and hope for change makes a difference.
Do you do anything specific to live Christ out in your daily life?
Prayer is very important to me, whether it’s connecting with God, quieting myself, or taking the emotional space to be with someone in their pain or joy before God. I also think listening to people has an element of holiness for me. I can tend to rush around, so slowing down to breathe and relate to people honors the image of God inside me and inside them.
What steps can individuals take today to show the love of Christ in their lives?
I think it helped when I stopped taking it so seriously. By that I mean that I used to be consumed with doing GREAT THINGS for God, or proving my love for God to myself or other people. Right now I’m in a space where love looks a lot more like small connections and actions. Relationships aren’t just built on grand gestures, but with curiosity, kindness, passion, and fun.
Do you currently support any movements or organizations our readers should know more about?
I write with an amazing community at A Deeper Story: DeeperStory.com. Those people show me faith and reality like nobody else. And they write well, too!
I’ve been enjoying The Salt Collective: TheSaltCollective.org. There’s a diversity of voices and perspectives that is pretty rare and absolutely worth listening to! I love online spaces that make me think, and these people inspire and challenge me regularly.
I also am just getting involved with Level Ground: OnLevelGround.org. Their goal is to dialogue about faith and sexuality through art. It’s an exciting concept with some tremendous people behind it and I’m looking forward to being involved on their road show to Portland!
I hope and pray you received as much encouragement from Emily as I have. Now, we’d like to hear from you!
What do you believe Christianity has come to be known for? How do you live out Christ every day? Leave a comment sharing your thoughts!
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