A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast

Sexual Exploitation in the Bible w/ Camille Hernandez

July 20, 2023 Simon Doong and Lee Catoe Season 1 Episode 140
Sexual Exploitation in the Bible w/ Camille Hernandez
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
More Info
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
Sexual Exploitation in the Bible w/ Camille Hernandez
Jul 20, 2023 Season 1 Episode 140
Simon Doong and Lee Catoe

Question of the Week:
What are your thoughts on megachurches? Have you ever been to one? Are there things that they offer that more "traditional" churches do not?

Special Guest: (23:45)
Camille Hernandez, Black & Filipina Author of The Hero and the Whore: Reclaiming Healing and Liberation through the Stories of Sexual Exploitation in the Bible

Guest Question:
How are we to understand stories of sexual exploitation in scripture? We rarely hear about them in sermons and worship services. But there must be some relevance for us in our current time. How do we find it?

The Hero and the Whore: Reclaiming Healing and Liberation through the Stories of Sexual Exploitation in the Bible

For Listening Guides, click here!
Got a question for us? Send them to faithpodcast@pcusa.org!
A Matter of Faith website

Show Notes Transcript

Question of the Week:
What are your thoughts on megachurches? Have you ever been to one? Are there things that they offer that more "traditional" churches do not?

Special Guest: (23:45)
Camille Hernandez, Black & Filipina Author of The Hero and the Whore: Reclaiming Healing and Liberation through the Stories of Sexual Exploitation in the Bible

Guest Question:
How are we to understand stories of sexual exploitation in scripture? We rarely hear about them in sermons and worship services. But there must be some relevance for us in our current time. How do we find it?

The Hero and the Whore: Reclaiming Healing and Liberation through the Stories of Sexual Exploitation in the Bible

For Listening Guides, click here!
Got a question for us? Send them to faithpodcast@pcusa.org!
A Matter of Faith website

Speaker 1:

Well, hello everyone and welcome again to a matter of Faith, a Presby podcast, the podcast where we respond to your questions around faith, justice, and church life. Don't forget to write in and send us your question. Why should people do that, Lee ?

Speaker 2:

Because Simon, if it matters to you and it matters to us, and it just might be a matter of faith , and we are back. Y'all we're not on vacation anymore.

Speaker 1:

That's right. We are not on vacation anymore. But if you don't care about how anything went with our lives <laugh> or about our introductory question segment, you can feel free to just stick , uh, skip to the timestamp in the show notes, which will tell you where the conversation with our guest starts. But we hope you wanna stick around because Yeah , we are back baby. We are back.

Speaker 2:

We are back. Yes. And I missed you Simon and I missed talking to all of our listeners, but it was a great time off. And Canada is beautiful. Seattle was beautiful. The weather was wonderful, and now it's hot as Satan's toenail outside

Speaker 1:

<laugh>. I haven't heard that expression before. I , uh, so I went back , uh, to the east coast and to the beach over the 4th of July holiday and a little bit time afterwards. And something that I had never really thought about is, you know, I have, I'll be honest, I have complained about how long the winter was out here in the mountain west region.

Speaker 2:

Indeed. How

Speaker 1:

Cold and long this winter was. And everyone tells me this winter was exceptionally long and now it is summer here. Right. It's very nice.

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Speaker 1:

And then I went back to, it's back to the East coast and I was like, I forgot what humidity feels like . <laugh>.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And now I'm like, I am spoiled by this dry heat that we have out here in Idaho, which makes even hot days much more bearable.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And it was something I just , I just had this moment of revelation. I was like, all right , just because you may not have a maybe appreciated one part of the year, that doesn't mean you don't appreciate other parts of the year in this area. Right. Like

Speaker 2:

Exactly.

Speaker 1:

To each their own. And I was like, okay, fair enough. And it's very funny because I am originally from the East coast. That's all I've known really? Is that humidity? Yes . You take me out of it now and plot me back in. I'm like, I used to do this. Oh,

Speaker 2:

<laugh> . Yeah. Yeah. It's rough. Yeah. The air is

Speaker 1:

Big . I was born in Satan's toenails. <laugh> . Yeah. Actually no , well actually I'm kind of surprised

Speaker 2:

Its nasty toenails because

Speaker 1:

You're from South Carolina, which I am imagine . And, and I'm imagining that is more humid than where I grew up in the Maryland DC area . Oh yeah . Yeah. But even still right now, you would say it's humid.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Well I will say DC is a swamp. Literally, you know, DC was built on the top of a swamp basically. And it is very humid, even, I mean, it is probably about the same as it is in South Carolina, but South Carolina, being from the country, you at least had a breeze and you at least had some sort of relief. But here in a city it's a little bit different. There's a lot more blocking the wind and things like that. But also heat here gets trapped because of all the concrete, the asphalt, everything else. That's, that's true. And so it makes it a hundred percent more unbearable than it would be from where I'm from, where we would just like sit on the , sit on the porch and like at least have a breeze and sit in the grass where it's like cooler , uh, go hop in the pond somewhere. I sound like I'm like on Pedic Cote Junction or something. Um Right . If you even know what that is, that's a TV show y'all. Um, but it is like a , an interesting difference in how you experience heat cuz it just gets absorbed here and you're literally frying on pavement, like frying on a piece of concrete sense . So ,

Speaker 1:

So weird . Yeah. And I felt that in New York as well. I will say that something that was very particular about the experience in New York though was that because where I was along the Hudson, we always had this breeze coming through along the river, which does help. So yeah , it really depends also on just that . Yeah. It depends also just sort of on the geographical features, but Yeah, that's true.

Speaker 2:

But climate change, y'all climate crisis right? Is here. Arizona just experienced its hottest record day of 117 degrees and Right .

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Y'all, it's just, it's like, there's like, just like a heat strike. And speaking of strikes,

Speaker 2:

<laugh>, the earth is on strike and

Speaker 1:

So are actors and writers. Why don't you tell us a little bit about that, Lee?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Y'all, we, in the church world, we might not think that this is any way connected, but it really is because writers, actors, we all see them as celebrities because the only ones we really see are the ones that like, make it big or like are at that celebrity factor and they make millions of dollars. But most of the time within these unions like SAG and the one for writers and their partner unions, most of the makeup of these organizations are people who are not celebrities. Like most of them are barely making ends meet. Most of them barely make enough to even get the insurance that is provided by the unions, which is like, you have to make $26,000 to get the insurance from the union. And many of them don't make that, even if they're like on a TV show or they're like a guest appearance and, and all these different things. And like, because of all of that, we are, we are advocat , they're advocating for the people who are the poor folk and the people who don't get a lot of the opportunities even within that what make , which makes up most of SAG and most of the writers unions as well. So it's , this is not a strike for celebrities, it's a strike for people who are actually trying to get paid what they're worth. And I think it's important for the church to pay attention to this because a lot of the contracts that many of the corporations within media are giving these people, it's absolutely ridiculous. And AI is involved. So one of the things that they talked about was an extra, and I've been an extra in a TV show and it sucks. Like it really is terrible. Long hours of doing and being in heat. It's not fun. I've, I've had to experience that. But like extras are for AI to get the image of an extra and use it no matter how many times the likeness of a person. This contract says that companies can use the likeness of a person as many times as they want without residual payment for it. And so that's one of the big things . But AI is becoming more and more of a conversation now and we should not sleep on that . Like this is something that could either be something that enhances the work of people or something that absolutely takes agency from humans human ability away. Yeah . And that goes for churches too. Like who gonna write your sermons? Is AI gonna write your sermons or is AI gonna create your, you know, bible studies? Like

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

You know,

Speaker 1:

And yeah. And once again, it's also just a question about fair compensation. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> , I was watching a a again, granted it was like a Facebook store , um, Facebook, short or real, but there was a , a clip from an interview with Bob Iger , I believe the c e o of Disney. Oh yeah. Talking about how this is, you know, this is really b like the , just that these strikes are are bad and you know, you sort of gave some reasons why. And then it cut to a interview with , uh, Sean Gunn, who is an , um, an a , I believe an actor may also be a writer mm-hmm . <affirmative> and whose brother is well known director James Gunn. Yeah. And what Sean was saying is that you also , you know, he said Bob Iyer can say what he wants, but you need to remember that, you know, what was it, 30 years ago, the person in his position, the CEO of Disney made, what was it like 40 times what the lowest paid worker at Disney made ? And now he makes something like 200 times. Yeah , that's wild . What the lowest paid worker at Disney makes. So the wages and compensation have not kept up with the times at least especially in with regards to the compensation for higher ups . And so yeah, it's a question about justice, it's a question about compensation. And we should pay attention to these things because they do matter. Yeah . And like you said,

Speaker 2:

And it's the arts.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

It's the arts. We need to pay attention to the arts. And that's something that, you know, it was in our realm, we're a part of the humanities and part of all those things. And lastly, who would've thought Fran Drescher the nanny, which is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, is on the front lines of this cuz she's the president of SAG and now she has like, there's a lot of people, she's done some very questionable stuff and she hasn't been the best, but when it comes to this, she has actually been a huge proponent for actors and writers and a huge proponent of unions, which this denomination has also has policy for that. And she, she even wrote within some of the con context of the nanny about unions and crossing the picket line and things like that. So she's always had this in like, her, her her wheelhouse . But to see that is also very fascinating. And to hear the things that she is saying and advocating for people , um, is absolutely wild to , uh, to kind of see. But yeah, y'all don't sleep on this kind of stuff because this may seem at a far reach, but churches are also have corporate entities, and I'll just throw it out there. They have corporate entities that can also be, in many ways, I don't, I don't know if , uh, if abusive is the right term, but they have ways to not treat workers and things like that fairly. And I think we should not sleep on this.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And also as you're thinking, as we're thinking about like the entertainment industry, I know that it , it's not just Disney. Let , let's be honest. No, no . It's, it's every, it's all of the entertainment companies that includes things like Netflix, which are relatively new to the game. People are asking for Netflix to be way more transparent about compensation and to also to do more fair compensation. So even with evolving sort of technologies and platforms and providers of entertainment services, it doesn't mean the problem has necessarily gotten better.

Speaker 2:

Right. Yeah. And all of us watch tv.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. We all do movies.

Speaker 2:

Yeah,

Speaker 1:

Yeah . You know, and everyone likes a good show and, and speaking of a good show, wow . That's a terrible segue to

Speaker 2:

We're , but there is a show about this, which I'll mention later.

Speaker 1:

Okay .

Speaker 2:

<laugh>.

Speaker 1:

And , and first of all, I should back up. I don't want to sound like I'm hating on our, on the topic for our actual first introductory question , um, which is about megachurches. Yeah . The reason I am even made that segue is because as we're about to talk about megachurches, just that one element that is true of a lot of, of , not a lot of, but some worship services in megachurches is that it can feel very sort of performative. Right . Not that it can't in traditional churches as well, but to the main question to begin our conversation for today , which reads, what are your thoughts on megachurches? Have you ever been to one? Are there things that they offer that more traditional churches do not. And I will say that something that these, let's define what a megachurches is first. Megachurches usually, and you can correct me Lee , it's a congregation that is a fairly substantial size, usually is also pretty, I would say fairly decently well off monetarily, partly because of the sheer number of people attending and giving often more evangelical and usually not always associated with a denomination. That is not true though always. Right . For example, I think the largest church, the largest Presbyterian church is in South Korea and it's huge like multiple worship services, multiple pastors. Yeah . Like tons of people. So not always evangelical per se, not always not tied to a denomination, but in the US context that generally is kind of true. Yeah. And something that these large churches do offer is this feeling when you go to church of like being one of the masses, sort of, that is something that I think is appealing for the same reason that some people like going to like a really large Catholic mass going to a megachurch. There is this kind , there is something kind of neat about like being in the space with that many people. Some people may feel like there's a lack of intimacy and others might feel that that actually makes them feel more connected because there are so many people around. So yeah , that's one thing that I do think that they offer. But there are some things that also, you know, I don't know if you've been to a megachurch before. I think I've maybe been to one worship service at what I might call a megachurch. And it was interesting because it was very, again, I use the word performative and just that, you know, it was very p crazy in terms of its worship style. Um, and I think something else that's often but not always true that megachurches sometimes can feel a little bit more casual mm-hmm . <affirmative> than traditional churches. And some people, for some people that really resonates with them. Yeah. But what's your experience, Ben ?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I, I am very familiar with them . And, and, and there's also this article out that's kind of been shared around from NPR called , and it basically says that megachurches are growing even as church in a traditional sense is the membership is declining and even talked about the specific church, liquid church, which I don't know about that name, but <laugh> , um, this particular church has seen, it's kind of like one of those big churches that also has satellite churches as well. And if you, and if you're not familiar with that, it's basically like the ma have the main hub and then other churches are being planted and the services are being streamed in. Sometimes it's not always like that, but it's, it's, it's saying that many people in churches that are closing are, are going to these churches. And some may stay , some may not. But how the culture of these churches work now, I do think it is in some ways a misconception. And there are mega churches and churches out there and even small churches that are very fundamentalists, very evangelical, very even politically driven in like right wing stuff. But I think in the majority of these mega churches, and I'm not saying that the theology is not conservative, I would say that theology doesn't attempt to touch politics whatsoever in that they, because of the magnitude of the church, they actually have more diversity within political discourse than we may realize. And they even , they have more diversity in makeup in general. So these churches are some of the more integrated churches in our country, which is also an interesting thing to think about when we think about mainline churches. A lot of white churches, although there are churches of color, there are black churches in mainline denominational stuff as well. But it is very much true that these big mega churches, non-denominational churches are some of the more diverse communities within the Christian tradition. Which we should be asking the question why that is. And some of it is because they're so big. You can find your place wherever you want to find your place. You can come in and leave and nobody would ever know. You can be as involved in it as you want to and leave as as you tend to whatever you wanna do. But it's also very family-centric. Uh, people are usually younger and so younger people are attracted to these places. And I'm talking about like young adults and youth and kids . Because when kids see other kids in a space, they just wanna be there. They wanna like, and the music is engaging, they can dance, they can do whatever they want. And I kind of love that freedom too. Um, I am of the, the school, I wish there was a , a , a melding of some of the things that these kinds of non-denominational churches offer and what maybe more mainline denominational things offer too . Because for me, I can see the appeal of it and I don't wanna trash these churches, but some of them are very homophobic, transphobic , um, race, there's a lot of like, things about racism and things like that, even within the diversity of the makeup. And so I don't wanna like paint a funny of , of a good picture of it. But yeah, there are some things and I think sometimes we, as progressive people and church traditions, we often play them down and we often think that they're just like, so they're just like, we're not even gonna deal with that, but we've slept on that too much and they're doing something that we can glean from that I don't think we realize.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think that's definitely true. We can't just put them all in a very specific box and say that that's what they are. And some people might say, oh, well you can't do that with more traditional mainline churches as well. That's true to a , that is true to a point. But I think especially because a lot of these mega churches are pretty young. They don't have the history that the mainline denominations have to the point that they could be described as a monolith. Right. In the same way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah .

Speaker 1:

Um , it also means that, and , and not to rehash what we've talked about pre on previous episodes about evangelical churches, but there is also usually because they're folks who are younger that are in attendance, it also means that they're leveraging technology in ways that more traditional churches might not. Right . Um , I , and I've mentioned this before, I think about how much effort it took to get a TV put in the sanctuary or a screen in the sanctuary at my home church, just to make it easier for some people to be able to read hym lyrics. Yeah. Because they can't see it on, they can't cuz they can't see it in the hymnal.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Um, whereas in some of the, in mega churches and, you know, some of the more , uh, evangelical churches, like if there's not a TV that's weird. If there's not a screen, there would be something missing. Yeah. And there're , and there're a little bit more on top of tr uh, tech trends. And so again, whatever works for someone I think is fine. But just make sure that you're aware of what values and messages are a part of that church and that faith community. But I also think that it's important that we do what you said Lee , think about where , what are ways that we can take sort of, for lack of a better word, a best of both worlds. Could that, could that melding be possible? And what would that look like? What would we have to relinquish in order for that to happen? But also what would we gain? I think it's an interesting question.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Or, and take it seriously. Right? And to approach these types of churches with some uncon with a little less expectation. Because I do think we are very, we are in a privileged space to where we can break down stuff like this and all day long. But also if you are skeptical of 'em , just go to one. If it's, if you feel like it's safe to do , um, and if not, definitely don't. But I think like the more we understand something, the better. And yet this, this might not be, this is not everybody's cup of tea and that's fine, but it's also asking ourselves the question, why do we have such a as progressive as a visceral reaction to this when there are so many people out there that find something in it. Even if it's just, it makes me feel good because honestly sometimes that's what church should be. Church should be a space to make us feel good. And at times we might can get addicted to that way of church. And maybe there needs to be a little more justice talk within these spaces. But I'll never judge somebody who wants to get away from their life that they're just trying to get by and survive. If they're gonna go into a space that makes them feel as though they are part of something that, that God is within their presence, I'm not gonna judge anybody for that unless they start coming at and dehumanizing everybody in the world. But I do think there is a balance of how we need to understand these spaces instead of judging them solely based off of our progressiveness. And I put that in quotes everybody.

Speaker 1:

Well folks, why don't you write in and let us know what you know, what your experience has been with megachurches. Have you ever been to one? What was it like? Let us know. Write in@faithpodcastpcsa.org. And we also hope that you will enjoy our conversation with this week's guest, which is , uh, who is Camille Hernandez, who is a black and Filipino author of the Hero and the Who reclaiming healing and Liberation through the stories of sexual exploitation in the Bible. It's a really in-depth conversation. I think you'll really enjoy it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And just to give everybody a trigger warning, we do talk a lot about sexual abuse and exploitation. And so if that is a trigger for you, please take care of yourself, know that we love you and that we are with you and all of that. So just take care of yourself.

Speaker 1:

Well we are so excited to be joined on this episode of A Matter of Faith a Presby podcast by a very special guest. Joining us is Camille Hernandez, who is the wonderful black and Filipino author of the Hero and the, reclaiming Healing and Liberation through stories of sexual Exploitation in the Bible. Camille, thank you so much for being with us on the podcast.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Camille, it's good to meet you and to have this conversation with you, which this is a hard conversation, but this is a space and we'll put out a trigger warning definitely at the beginning of the podcast. But we'll do it here now of to just to stick it out there that we will be talking about some things and if you need to take care of yourself, feel free to pause, do what you need to do to take care of yourself. But we do have a question to get us started in our conversation. And the question reads, how are we to understand stories of sexual exploitation in scripture? We rarely hear about them in sermons and worship services, but there must be some relevance for us in our current time. How do we find it? So how would you respond to that question?

Speaker 3:

Hmm . So the thing about sexual violence and sexual exploitation, cuz sexual exploitation is one degree of sexual violence. There's multiple types, is that it intersects everything. Sexual violence , um, intersects the labor market. It intersects immigration, it intersects , um, economics, education, everything. It's in everything cuz it , it is a very ultimate power play that is made , um, and a a power play that is made to control the masses or control communities or control individual people. But it is a form of control. Um, and yeah, when it comes to sexual violence, we need to understand what it is outside of knowing what sexual sin is. Cause I feel like, like I , I know for myself, I've been raised in three different faith traditions. So I've been in my childhood as Roman Catholic in my teens and early adulthood I was in the white Evangelical church. And then , um, in between that and my college years, I was in a black missionary Baptist church. And so I've had a lot of conversations on sexual sin. Um, but those conversations of sexual sin also allowed sexual violence to happen. And so if we are to understand what sexual violence and sexual exploitation are in scripture and the strategies that it actually helps us have a better understanding and a wider lens to view things that are happening in this day and age in a interpersonal level community. And even like in a greater societal level,

Speaker 1:

I found the space bar . There we go. Okay.

Speaker 3:

<laugh>,

Speaker 1:

We've only been recording how many podcasts over a hundred Lee and sometimes I still can't find the unmute button. Yeah,

Speaker 3:

Hard

Speaker 1:

I appreciate that perspective that you gave us, that it's not like sexual exploitation and sexual violence exists in a vacuum. And that actually even the , the conversation around sort of like whether it's sex and on this podcast we've talked about things like purity culture before as well. Yeah . And that actually that can set parameters or set the grounds for said sexual exploitation and also for just sort of a lot of it creates dynamics that are problematic mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but that also make it hard to talk about it because of the parameters that it creates. Yeah. And so, especially when we're thinking about scripture than it's interesting because in , I grew up in a more progressive, I grew up more progressive Presbyterian, but we didn't talk about this either in that context, which is interesting that, as you were saying from the , some of the co faith communities that you've been a part of in the past, it's like, oh, we talked about it, we did talk about it, but we talked about it in this like, sort of very specific way where it had this very specific , um, attitude or perspective around it. So I'm curious how, sort of getting to the original question when we're looking at scripture, how do we find sort of the, the relevance in some of those stories for ourselves today? Because some of those things are also just really hard to, they're hard to talk about, they're hard to understand. They're also in scripture for a reason mm-hmm . <affirmative> though . And not to get into, into too mu too ahead of ourselves, but Lee and I have also had conversations about like, is it possible that maybe there are certain scriptures that just really are not redeemable or just not the , you know, they're , maybe they exist to tell something about the time that they were in and that we shouldn't be spending lots of time with them. Mm-hmm . There's just sort of, what are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's like five questions.

Speaker 1:

Sorry. I just,

Speaker 3:

It's all good . It's all good . <laugh> . I was just like, oh, that's a lot. Um, so let's first start by saying that a larger conversation on sexual violence has been made possible because of the me Too movement. Right? So this is, this is new in the wide realm, but there are activists and healers and anti-violence workers who have been doing this stuff forever, but it's been more underground out of the scene . And it's because they were like, there was focus on healing those in the community who have experienced the violence and helping them gain language for it. So first and foremost, this is not a conversation that is easy or has been made possible publicly ever. And that's not to say, like I'm , I'm not trying to like boost myself and say like, Hey, I'm, I'm bringing this in the forefront. Look at me, her flip. But there is this , there was a level of acknowledgement in knowing, like as I was writing this book, I'm, I'm reading scriptures that are not in the case redeemable because we still have to be able to, to look at them. And in my mind, like understanding scripture as redeemable means that we have to, like, it means that we have to like look at scripture with like this fairytale lens. But I think of scripture is just like a, a very common set , like a very consistent set of cautionary tales of like, these are all the ways people messed up. And the thing about violence is it's not new, it's new to us cuz we've been around for like a blip in the whole scheme of time. But the dynamics of power, of privilege, of exploitation, of violence, of imperialism, of colonialism, all of that has happened in scripture. And we can still learn from that and we can learn from that. So as , so as to keep ourselves accountable and not perpetuate those same things. And that's, that's hard work. It's not like I haven't spent like a decade of my life dedicating <laugh> myself to this study. I had to change my entire relationship with scripture , um, and stop looking for redeemable stories and start looking for lessons and how a power dynamic works so that I can understand what healing could look like for a specific character. And maybe that specific character doesn't get healing. So then what does that mean for us? Right? Because you can heal and you can be liberated. And those are two different things. And unfortunately they're not, like, they don't happen together for a lot of our characters in the Bible. So then that means that we carry on that legacy of liberation. We learn how to heal for ourselves, and then we carry, we, we essentially carry the torch, I guess is the metaphor I'm thinking of, of what creating a liberated reality looks like from learning from them and also learning from the violences that we've experienced. What does it look like to say never again and really dedicate ourselves to not perpetuating those same dynamics. And it's hard.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's, it's hard work. And if you've been, if you've been someone who has experienced sexual violence or exploitation in both religious trauma in the religious setting, but also just wherever you are in your own context and how we approach these things and also how we receive these things. I think, I wonder how, talking about stories about sexual violence in a sermon or in a worship service and how one receives that, but at the same time it will depend on like who that person is. And so for me, sometimes that is a more risky thing to do than to kind of set it up in a learning or educational way. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> . And so what would you say about that and how we kind of begin these conversations if that is not something that people are doing and we know people aren't doing that we can even talk about sex in general. How, how can we begin to kind of cultivate that kind of culture? Because I feel like the first time I ever heard someone talk about sexual violence alongside of a scripture mm-hmm . <affirmative> in a sermon, it really did hit me in a weird way because I hadn't dealt with a lot of things in my own Yeah . Context and my own history mm-hmm . <affirmative> and it brought things up within me within a context that was very public. And I was like, what do you like, how do you like deal with this in this context? So I wonder about that too. Like how do we kind of begin these things and so we're not re-traumatizing folks, but also like creating a healing space that, you know, can, can further someone along in how they're processing all these things. Because it can be very hard.

Speaker 3:

It can be hard.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

You know, the iron , so I'm a preacher and the irony of the pulpit is that it's easier to revoke someone's agency in preaching than it is to say that I believe you to amass. Right. And I'm using this as my own, as an example. Recently I did a sermon on Bathsheba. Um, and it was very much in inspired by the chapter that I wrote on Bathsheba. And that chapter was a , a part of that chapter is explaining what rape culture is and like explaining what rape is. That rape is not about sex, it's about power. And it was through , um, the church was called Safe Harbor Orange County. And the series was on like the, the sermon I've never heard before. So I was like, yeah, I'm talking about this. And as I was preaching it over and over and over again, I can't, I , I felt like I, at one point I was like, wow, I feel like I'm only saying this in a sermon, but I just kept on saying like, you may have not received this because I know Bathsheba did not receive this, but let me tell you that I believe you, I believe what happened to you. And you don't even have to know the right language to express it. Whether that is in words, in writing, in art, in, in your emotions, like wherever it is. Like, let me be the first person to say that I believe you from this pulpit. Right. That's really hard work cuz you don't know what's gonna happen. Like you don't know what's gonna happen. And , and in Right . I've been in so many faith traditions and the pulpit is very different. Like, can you imagine like the Catholic church versus like the ba black missionary Baptist church, right. <laugh> , like , you go from like a very controlled, centered way to like hooping and hollering and falling out in church, which I love both. Um, I value the second one more than the first, I'll let you know that <laugh> . Um, but we, we, my relationship with the pulpit as a preacher , um, cause I don't, I don't lead worship, so it's very different for me. But my relationship with the pulpit is recognizing that it's easier to say something that keeps people quiet than to say the truth. And that is, that is why I, I personally prefer facilitation over preaching. But hey Andy , both. Um, because in facilitation you start with the boundaries, but with the pulpit you don't because you don't, you don't really know who's coming. You don't know what's gonna happen. Um, and so I , I guess like my word of advice as a preacher is yeah, start with the trigger warning. I like to do somatic practices while I preach. So like either telling people to take a deep breath , um, or to practice like clenching your fingers or clenching your fists and then un unclenching it. And like kind of seeing that as a spiritual practice , um, in the middle of a sermon or other, other things like that. Because when you're sharing words and stories that validate some of the darkest things that people have gone through, some of the hardest things that people have gone through, you're doing a disservice by not inviting them to be gentle with themselves. And so it is very, very difficult in my opinion, to get to a point as a preacher where you can say, I'm gonna preach on something really, really hard and I want you to be disembodied through all of it. Like that, that is, that is kind of the ex expectation that you expect people to be disembodied when they're listening to a sermon. The harder thing to do, well I should say the harder thing to do is to say I'm preaching on a really hard thing and I want you to be very aware of how your body is reacting. And if you need to leave, it's okay. If you need to sit down and talk to someone, these are the trusted people in the room. Right. If you need, if you need someone to pray over you, these are people that I as a preacher have spoken with that you can pray with. There's significantly more care and attention that goes into preaching truth on hard things that I think as a church we just need to really take into consideration. And I, I have seen it a few times and I would love to see the model replicated.

Speaker 1:

It's sort of a , a trauma-informed approach to a hundred percent preaching. Yeah. Uh, which I love because it just allows you to think about who I, I don't know who is in the audience. I don't know who's in the pews. I don't know what they've gone through. But you also started with a place of I see you, I hear you. Even if you never directly tell me your story or as you said you don't know how to articulate it right now, I see you, I hear you. Let's go on this journey of talking about this thing in scripture together, but take care of yourself and let's also try to take care of each other and all of this, which is like so much upfront acknowledgement that as you said, there's not always boundaries when you're at the pulpit or the at least ones that are not clear.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. There is like this, I don't know which fit tradition I got from it, but there's like this old, old story like wives tale that when the devil left heaven, he fell from heaven into the pulpit and into the choir chamber. Right. That like we and I , I think about that a lot. I mean, I'm a trauma informed minister, so I think about this a lot where I'm like, oh yeah, like these are the hardest places to actually ex exert trauma-informed care. Cuz there unfortunately there is a little bit of performance based in them , a lit a lot of bit , um, of performance in them . And so we have to reconsider what trauma-informed we have to consider what we are sharing and what trauma-informed care looks like. But that also means that like you, you need to get rid of you collectively. We as a church need to rethink our relationship to grandeur in order to care for those who've experienced trauma. Cuz the truth is what one in four people have experienced sexual violence , um, in their childhood, that's not adulthood. Right. That's before the age of 18. And those numbers in increase according to different intersections of your identity, whether you are , whether you are black, indigenous, Asian, Arab, Latinx. Like if you're , if you are a person of color, those, those intersections change if you were poor, that intersection changes. And so it, it's one of those things where it's like, eh , we don't know where we're gonna get. But there actually is space for a lot where a lot of people need healing because this is, it might not be talked about, but it's happening and, and it's happening more because people are not talking about it. In order to engage the conversation, we need to create safety. And we do have to do a lot of upfront work first in order to do that.

Speaker 2:

And I also wonder about the accountability of the church space. Mm . Cause that within and of itself is a space where sexual violence and exploitation has happened, continues to happen. Hopefully not happen in the future if we are kind of like having this also stance of accountability within this conversation. Because I've often had conversations about this and I appreciate, like you saying, this is a very intersectional conversation because it happens to a lot of us that you may not really understand or even even have any inkling that this could happen to somebody. And I think that that's important. And at the same time of how the church has also perpetuated this mm-hmm. <affirmative> and also a space of accountability and having those honest conversations, not just in like the extreme things that we see with like the Catholic church, but this happens in progressive spaces. This happens in spaces where they're all kind of intersectional mm-hmm . <affirmative> identities mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and how those things happen very differently. And how I've, I've been a part of conversations where the conversation is manipulated because of its progressiveness in a way. Yeah . And oh, a

Speaker 3:

Hundred . Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And I wonder about how we continue to have accountability even in, even in very progressive spaces where the words like sex positivity and all these things that can often blur lines if they're kind of in a power dynamic, if that makes sense. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> , if I'm making sense at all. But there's always these things that can, can be manipulated to kind of perpetuate sexual exploitation and violence. Even in the, the most progressive of circles as I see. And sometimes being a podcast within a denomination like the Presbyterian Church, u s a , we kind of always take a higher ground when it comes to stuff like this. And I'm like, this stuff is happening in, in here. Like it's happening everywhere there , everywhere. And so I wonder how we kind of also keep that in front of us that, that that consistent accountability as well within our spaces.

Speaker 3:

I hold sorrow for those who have, who have survived, which means they've had been victims of what's happening. I have a lot of thoughts. I mean, I wrote a whole book, but I have a lot of thoughts on this specifically. Yeah . Um, because there's, there's like one aspect of it where we have to realize that sexual violence and sexual exploitation , um, honestly, we look , we kind of think about the worst thing, which is a , which is great. Like, I'm glad that we're thinking about like molestation. I'm glad we're thinking about rape. I'm glad we're thinking about quid pro quo , quid pro quote sexual , uh, exploitation. But we don't think about things like sexual labor or sexualized labor. So sexual labor is like, it's not sex work. Very different. Sex work is prostitution, but sexual labor is essentially like the emotional, it's like a microaggression. It's the emotional work you do to when you are in a space and you have to like, hear about discrimination based on your, like, the intersections of your identity. And so a really good example is like cat calls being in, like being in women . I'm laughing cause I like, look, you have a really hard time being in women's ministries. Um, but like being in men , women's ministries and like being told how you have to look act every summer hottest to modest is a part of sexual labor that everybody deals with, right. These things that have become perpetuated and normalized , um, within the church. And yeah , there are progressive spaces that are like, ick , I hate that. But they still put people in power dynamics where they have to, where they feel like they, where they feel like the best way to get to know Christ is to obey dynamics instead of exist outside of them. The hard part is like, people are people and people will be peeing . And a part of peeing is that we, we pursue power because we think that's gonna elevate us. Right? And so the question then becomes w well, if, if we are pursuing power, then that means that in the back burner someone's being exploited. Are we willing to look on the backend to see that? Because I've met many progressive pastors where first and foremost I was like, wow, you suck. Like you suck as a, you just suck as a human being, as a pastor, you seem great, but as a human being, like, I can tell that you treat me differently. A because I'm a woman of color. B because I am like affirming and also identify as. Like, there are all these things where I'm like, it doesn't matter how progressive you are. I, I also know and recognize that unfortunately you care too much about the grandeur and the image and the celebrity than you actually do about the people. And there's also like, there's just, there's a lot that's like one example that I have. But , um, you know , recently I had to say no to being in a progressive , um, Christian space. And the reason why I had to say no to it was because , um, I had, I had applied to speak there. I got in , I was really excited, and then I was like, oh, wait, I didn't talk to, like, I didn't talk to people in my community about this specific Christian progressive space. They just, they upheld them really well, themselves really well . And once I talked to the community, I learned a lot about that specific space. And one thing that I learned in that specific space that was like very well replicated in a lot of progressive liberal spaces was that they wanna market liberation, not liberation. They wanna market social justice as fun. And in doing so, there's very little consideration for what is safe. And the hard part about the hard thing about this as Christians is that we will choose comfort over safety because we've been taught spiritually to choose comfort over safety. And when we look at stories specifically of sexual expectation in the Bible, you cannot choose comfort over safety. You have to choose safety in order to honor the survivor. But how many of us do, how many of us have been given a theology or we honor this survivor?

Speaker 1:

I'm curious either in your, well, I guess in particularly in your preaching, there's an element of the trauma, the , the trauma-informed approach that I think is so powerful. But for folks who are not expecting it when they walk into church mm-hmm . <affirmative> and sit down in that pew , uh, probably can be somewhat maybe disarming or just like very surprising. And for some folks that might resonate with them very strongly because they're like, finally, I'm not just hearing about Jesus is good. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and everything's gonna be okay <laugh>. But for other folks, they may walk in and be like, I only come to church to hear that Jesus is good and everything is going to be okay. And yeah . So I'm curious how you navigate that, because you've got some folks who are like, please, please, more. Like, I wanna, I wanna hear it , it might sound strange, but I wanna hear myself in these stories in a way that means something. Mm-hmm . And to other folks who are like, oh no, we can't go there. Like, as you said, we've been conditioned to always value that comfort. And part of that comfort is always hearing only about like the good stuff and not talking about these more difficult things mm-hmm. <affirmative> . And you've got all of those folks in one room. So I'm just curious, like what, how have you, what have some of the reactions been and and how have you navigated that?

Speaker 3:

Mm . I don't navigate it alone. That's my first question. My first answer is, I'm lucky to have been to be a part of a preaching team of a church that has repair as one of its pillars. And is always looking into like, how do we pursue the repair work, knowing that like, there's always trauma, there's always repair. Um, and I am thankful to , uh, have preached at churches and in spaces that, that seek the same, how do we do repair work that take community intentionally and also have like, like the benefit of like psychologists on <laugh> . And that sounds like, now I think about it , it sounds like pretty pri like economically privileged, but have the benefit of people who do take trauma-informed care seriously and being able to be available for the congregation. Going back to that little story of how the devil fell into the pulpit and fell into the choir. I forgot what it's called, but like the choir, the choir Pitt is what I'm gonna call it too . Um, I ha that's also a reminder for myself that like, these are not individual spaces, right? Yes. I go on , I , I go preach important, but I preach knowing that there is a team of people who are able , who are able to step in and be present for those who can't, who are feeling an illicit reaction, experiencing illicit , illicit reaction to the hard stuff. And this doesn't mean that I go like, I, like d i swan, dive into the hard things. You know, like I , there there is a , there is a lot of care and attention in how these stories are told esp especially from the pulpit, especially if I'm like a guest preacher. But yeah, there have, I've had people walk out, I've had people, I've, we've had discussions where somebody who was very much against talking about like the experience of women , um, in a war torn country. Like how that relates to Jesus. You know, we've, we've had arguments, emails, like all of it. But at the same time, like I'm a woman of color. I'm very, very use to people disagreeing with me. That's not like, it's not new to me. You know? And if I was able to disregard the words of like my spiritual fathers who told me that women shouldn't preach, then I can very much handle like the conflict that ensues from me preaching. You know , that's like my mentality behind it. But when it comes to preaching and speaking, it is done in a team. And I, I am grateful for the people in on the team who are like, okay, if this person's walking, like, I know this person's history. If they walk outside, I'm gonna sit with them . And sometimes I'm like, you know, these are some sematic practices that help. These are some that don't help. Like give them space. You know, there's also coaching and like what are coping mechanisms that we can help people have when it comes to like letter, like emails and correspondences of people who disagree. Then there's a part of me that's like, I am aware that you're triggered, but that I don't own it. It's not like I, I know who I speak for and this is not a, like I speak on behalf of God. Like no, I speak for people who are survivors because I'm a survivor. And at the same time, like if there is conflict, usually when it comes to conflict, I've experienced 98% of the time the expectation is for me to apologize. And for me it's like I won't, because if I apolo , if I apologize to one person because they felt triggered to the point of anger because they were not receiving like the lovely Jesus smoke machine experience, then that means that I have released my own authenticity and released my own story to appease this one person. And that's not gonna work. But if someone is triggered because of a memory that was suppressed, or an experience that they have not yet processed, I don't know how this sounds so you can let me know. It sounds messed up or not, but we try to position it in a conversation of like, I think you need to, I think we should take this as an invitation to be in community, to be with, to find people who are safe. But also like, let's talk like, I'm always a boundaries person. Like let's talk about like who are safe relationships and how do we have a boundary? I , I love churches that are like, these are therapists that we trust and like, here are people that we, we support for you to talk to. Like it , the healing work is like the healing work is not done in the pulpit. Like heaven for , oh my god, heaven forbid that'd be so messed up. <laugh> <laugh> . But the healing work is, is done in the community. The pulpit is just like a , a , a conversation starter. You know, and it's really important that, that the entire community is, is essentially like , uh, trained and available. And how do we, how do we have trauma-informed care? Because before I was preaching, I was working in a trauma-informed , um, care like , uh, Christian rooted organization. So we were , we were always being, there's so much training and we were trained on adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs, which is a huge public health study that has impacted the way public health is moving forward. And ACEs, you know, these are childhood traumas. The goal is to like slowly diminish, slowly, not as in like we're intentionally going slow, but knowing this is like a generational movement to lower the amount of childhood traumas within po within the mass populations so that we have people and communities that are healthy and able to thrive. And so when we take that perspective of like, you know, there's adverse experiences, childhood trauma, ACEs, all of these things that are being addressed in the Bible. Cuz the Bible is a story of many traumas. It's a vulgar, violent series of really ridiculous stories. If we confront those with honesty, then that means we have to have a community of security because we are now addressing the hard things that people have gone through in their lives. But isn't it a glory of God that we can connect them to the hard things in the Bible? And then also not like, like use Jesus as like our, you know, shining star, like oh my God, Jesus. But also like, show them that what has happened to you has been happening, but we as a church are committed to stopping it. That's really hard to do. And I guess the thesis of this, I keep on going on <laugh> is that like, I don't preach in every church. I preach in churches that are already doing the work.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And it's so important, I think for people to hear and for like church leaders or faith leaders to hear that like, a lot of us are not equipped to, to handle a lot of this and we should be honest with ourselves about it and do that work to connect. I know a lot of, I know a lot of leaders in the church, like churches are getting smaller, their staffs are getting smaller, but this stuff is gonna continue to happen mm-hmm. <affirmative> . And it's just a calling for them to continue to connect with as many people as we can. Because again, we're not taught this in , I mean, I was lucky enough to have some sort of background when I went to seminary to have conversations like this, but that is rare in a lot of seminaries, in a lot of places where people get a theological education. And we are not therapists and we are not counselors unless we are trained to be. So, and I think a lot of the time when you talked about ego, Hmm . That ego also takes over so much so that we are, we can continue to harm people because we think we can do it all and we can't. There's no way. And these things are deeply embedded within us, so much so that it takes years to to, to process it. Yeah . And I think it's also a lot of people giving themselves permission to say, I don't know how to handle this, and that doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me actually aware that our community should be able to, to kind of lift us up and to figure it out together. So I really appreciate that because there are times where preachers enter into a space that they just cannot and do not know how to handle. Yeah. And I think it's because of the culture of the church. It's like you just, they just think that they can do it. And it's like, you need more than Jesus in a book to, to handle what's happening with people. And I think that that also could be liberating in a sense because I feel like people have, I mean, done probably more worse than they have Good in that sense. Um mm-hmm. <affirmative> . But I really appreciate that and we do wanna give you time and for us to talk explicit , uh, especially about your book and all that's like, not all that's in there. Of course it's, there's a lot. But I wonder like, what are some things that people can look for? What are some things that people can expect? Because this, this sounds like it's very much needed and it sounds like a wonderful resource for people to have in this thing we call fate. So yeah. Mm . Thank Tell us a little about your, your book.

Speaker 3:

Thank you. I appreciate that. My book, I'm very proud of it and because I'm so proud of it, I have a hard time explaining <laugh> it, but it's analysis of 12 different victims of sexual violence in the Bible. The thing about theology or , okay, I did not go to seminary. I studied social justice under amazing abolitionists and like historical , uh, activists. And so this is not a fluffy theology book. And this is definitely not like a women's ministry Hahaha Jesus book like that. Mm . I don't do that. <laugh>. This is a characters that have been silenced, that we gaslight, that we overlook. This is, this is an analysis of who they are, of what they've gone through , um, and what they did afterwards. And so, you know, we're go . We're looking at Eve, I'm not gonna name everyone, but there's Eve, there is Hagar, there is the dynamic between Joseph and ER's wife. There is Leah , um, Jayel , Rahab , Beth, Shiva , on and on and on, right? But it's not specifically women because I think what we expect is, when I talk about sexual violence, I only talk about women because there's also like, like I said, Joseph was a target of sexual violence. You know , we also have non, non-binary , um, and individuals in the Bible who had experienced sexual violence. But it's also looking at their stories and taking two frameworks with it. The first framework is , um, it's a feminist article written by Iris Marian Young, and it's on the Five Faces of Oppression. And then the second one is the United Nations definition of sexual violence. So these are not theological frameworks. These are like real studies that have been done to analyze how violence happens. And instead of applying it to the whole world, I've applied it to scripture so that we can see what a violent , what a violence dynamic looks like. One example that I'll give is the dynamic between Abraham, Sarah , and Hagar. I remember when I was a little girl from Catholic school, the story of Abraham and Sarah . It's like the first story that I memorized, I still can imagine. I can still see in my imagination the pictures that were used of like Abraham and Sarah snuggling each other and looking at the stars in the sky. And like hearing God's promise, Abraham was a trafficker. He had trafficked Sarah at least once. Um, and I am very clear on the, at least, and Sarah was a victim, but she also was so dedicated to Abraham's image that she too became a trafficker, not image, but his goal that she too became a trafficker. And it didn't matter that the goal was a promise made from God. What mattered was that she became just as violent as Abraham, if not more, because in scripture it says she it, it says that she had trafficked Hagar in order to have her baby. And then when she got tired of Hagar, Abraham said, do what you want with her. And she became more violent to Hagar. Right? And that is just one dynamic in this entire book that I have written. But in this dynamic, we see that the trafficker has a victim. The victim, instead of fighting for her own freedom, does exactly as a trafficker does, and then has her own victim there. They both exploit and take advantage of Hagar. And let's also add these intersections. Hagar is like Abraham and Sarah , technically migrants. Hagar is her form of sex. This this form of sex trafficking that is done to her is one that crosses borders, right? Migration based sex trafficking, right? Hagar, you know , and race, the social construct that was created recently. But if we add the dynamic and the vision of race in it, Hagar is of a different ethnicity, different nationality and different racial makeup than Abraham and Sarah . So Hagar exists in this space where not only is she exploited, but she's marginalized many times over in this specific story. So when we're looking at the, the healing and liberation of Hagar, it's how does Hagar, how does she stand up for herself? How does she hold herself and how important is it that we have a God who sees her? And yes, Abraham and Sarah, like they get what they want. This happens unfortunately, but it's the power, the d the dynamic of power and privilege that they have taken against Hagar's own body, against Hagar's own will is what we're analyzing. Um, and then we're looking at what does Hagar's liberation and freedom look like and how does it become generational? Because not she, she becomes free. Yes, by the grace of God, but she also becomes free of her own volition cuz she ran away twice, you know? But in her freedom, she takes her baby. And then it says in the scripture that like Hagar and her child, Ishmael, like they live free on their own because she fled with her child. You know? And so this is, this book looks at these stories and says, okay, let's talk about power and privilege. Okay, let's talk about violence and exploitation. Let's talk about imperialism, let's talk about these things. And it's not just looking at these stories in a vacuum, but it's also , I'm also taking historical examples because I am black and Filipino , so I know power, privilege, exploitation, violence, oppression very specifically in my own histories and in my own cultures. And I pull from my own histories and my own cultures to understand like, okay, what does healing liberation look like for us? What have we done , um, as black people, as Filipino people? And is that model in scripture? What does that look like? And how do we hold that? So it's, it's, it is a very wide net <laugh> cast, but the idea is to make connections that we before have not been able to connect or see in the hopes that other people can do the same.

Speaker 1:

Well, that sounds absolutely really interesting and very nuanced. Even just what you've said has already a illuminated for me dynamics that I had never thought of in the story, for example, of of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar. And so I look forward to checking out the book, which will come out in October. We also have a link to the book in the show notes so that folks can check it out for their own reference. And Camille, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Thank you for the work that you are doing. Thank you for this wonderful book. We are all so grateful to have you here and we hope the book does well.

Speaker 3:

Thank you very much. I really appreciate being on here with you all.

Speaker 2:

Thanks everyone for listening to this week's episode of a Matter of Fate, a Presby podcast. And thanks to Camille for being with us and for that wonderful conversation. Y'all check out our book. We hope you subscribe, and we hope you leave us some reviews wherever you get your podcast. And we want you to visit our website, a matter of fate podcast.com. And if you have any questions for us, send them to fate podcast@pcuusa.org and we will talk to you again next week.