Our team is passionate about accessibility and making theology (what we think when we think about God) public. We believe in making clear public commitments and disclaimers about how we as individuals and a team approach this work.
First, we offer a working definition of “public theology”:
Public theology is “critical thinking, with others, about religious faith and public life.” (David Bromell)
For the past two decades I (Shaleen) have been edging toward the sphere of public theology. I have dabbled at the intersection of faith and public life as a director of Young Life on a college campus, as a public speaker, and preacher. However, this is the first time we have started this conversation online.
I journey through deconstructing and reconstructing my Christian faith, and a persistent voice inside cannot be silenced. This voice provides many of the questions that drive the work we do at Desert Voices:
- What is “social location” and how does it inform our faith?
- How do we speak truth to toxic power over people?
- How do we integrate our spirituality with our humanity?
- What does an embodied spirituality look like?
- How do we (non-violently) topple the patriarchal religious systems of toxic power we grew up in?
- We seek to challenge, but not hurt the men we LOVE. Men who raised us well, but taught us their conservative religious views as inarguable fact.
- How do we stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ siblings against an exclusive religious system designed and committed to keeping them out in the name of God?
- What does anti-racism work look like in our lives, the church, our culture?
- How do we affirm, advocate, and elevate the voices of female and minority teachers, preachers, and elders in every church and seminary?
- How do we push against and dismantle the colonial mentality too many claim is Godly?
- Why do most Christians in the pew not know or understand the term “penal substitutionary atonement theory” when it dramatically informs their faith and props up violent God images?
- Why does so much of Christian culture operate in “us vs. them” dichotomy?
- How do we help our Christian culture begin to see ourselves as ONE human family, belonging to God and one another, when thousands of years of Christian teaching and preaching state otherwise?
- What is a mystic and a contemplative?
- How can mystical and contemplative spirituality reform the Christian faith?
So many burning questions…what is my role in wrestling with them?
I believe one must name their own social location when beginning this kind of work. Both Holland and I are white, cis-gendered, straight women married to men and have six kids between us. We both grew up in middle class, evangelical/fundamentalist church culture of the Arizona desert. In the process of deconstructing my embedded theology, I realized that ambition, addiction to affirmation, arrogance, propensity for aggression, willingness to grab onto toxic power over others, and fear kept me near silent in the larger arena. I spent two decades wrestling with my “shadow” deciding that once I overcome these “faults” in my character then I’d be equipped to speak up and speak out.
The voice of Audrey Lorde calls to me…
“I was going to die, if not sooner than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”
The time of silence is over.
Therefore, as we begin this process of speaking up and out, we are presenting a list of public commitments and disclaimers with which Desert Voices enters the space of public theology.
- We commit to using our voices for the betterment of humankind.
- We commit to curating and deeply listening to a diverse range of voices.
- We commit to do the hard and deep inner work it takes to be grounded, healthy, whole connected persons.
- We commit to integrity, faithfulness, and non-violence in our private and public lives.
- We commit to calling out bullshit when we see it.
- We also commit to allowing others to call out our own bullshit when it shows up (which it will.)
- We commit to taking up the cause of the ostracized and most vulnerable in our communities.
- We commit to social justice work.
- We commit to critical and analytical thinking.
- We commit to questioning the status quo, authority, and ourselves.
- We commit to take public responsibility and seek forgiveness in instances when we hurt another, hopefully unintentionally, but let’s be honest, we are two enneagram 8 women so it may occur intentionally.
- We commit to the work of emotional and spiritual INTEGRATION.
- We commit to staying involved within an authentic community of people who know us, speak into our lives, and who journey through life with us.
- We commit to serving others with everything we have.
- We commit to ongoing anti-racism training in our personal lives and in our work.
- We commit to a culture of full inclusion for all humankind.
- We commit to doing the hard work of vulnerability (knowing it’s one of our core fears).
- We commit to seeking out regular professional help from trained therapists, life coaches, and/or spiritual directors.
- We commit to ongoing professional development, training, and certifications as life long learners.
- We commit to healthy boundaries in our personal and professional lives.
- We commit to remaining anchored to Jesus Christ, and if our faith shifts away from Jesus, we will clearly communicate this journey.
- We commit to presenting ourselves through Desert Voices in an authentic manner.
- We will not succumb to the allure and temptation of “celebrity” culture by offering up airbrushed, fame-seeking, branded personalities.
- However, we will NOT refrain from having fun with professional pictures, branding, and conducting ourselves in a professional manner! But it does mean you will see every side of us along this journey: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- I am theologically trained, ordained, and credentialed to do this work. May 2021 marks 112 hours of theological graduate work, a Master of Divinity (MDiv), professional certifications in Spiritual Direction, Enneagram Training, iEQ9 Training, Life Coaching, and Executive Coaching. I am committed to further education as a lifelong learner, and am pursuing doctoral work.
- We do not claim to be experts. We are students of life.
- We are flawed individuals. All of us have childhood wounds we are working through with professional help. You will undoubtedly hear this come out at times in our voice.
- Shaleen Identifies as an Enneagram 8 with a strong 7 wing. Ryan Identifies as an Enneagram 4 with a 3 wing.
- We do not agree with ANYONE across the board: not each other, not our spouses, and not even ourselves sometimes. Therefore, all views expressed on this site are our own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which we have been, are now, or will be associated with in the future.
- Likewise, the views and opinions expressed in this resource hub are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.
- This site quotes and references copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are using such material in an effort to educate and inform others who are deconstructing and reconstructing their faith. We believe this constitutes a “fair use” of the material in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
- I (Shaleen) am dyslexic and passionate, which means even with trained editors, you will still see typos in my work, mispronunciations on our podcast (I have a tendency to add consonants), and mixing or transposing words. I am asking for grace here and permission to make mistakes. The authors of this resource hub, including myself, assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content of this site.
- We operate in thin liminal spaces: too progressive for the fundamentals, too fundamental for the progressives, too liberal for the conservatives, too conservative for the liberals, too much of this or too little of that…we recognize this and work to embrace it.
- We have left authoritarian context and do not hold to extreme relativity. We value relationality and aim at ethical, interconnected, social living.
- We believe comments on this website are the sole responsibility of the writers and the writers will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation from something written in or as a direct result of something written in the comments. Therefore, feel free to kindly challenge us and disagree with us in the comments section – but we reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever (abusive, profane, rude, etc.) – so keep it polite and relevant. Please!
- Our egos are still attached to us. We endeavor to befriend them, listen to them, and reign them in when necessary. However, we are no longer concerned with attempting to sever them from our being.
- We reserve the right to change our minds at any time. We are critical-thinking human beings, always learning and evolving, our views are always subject to change, revision, or rewriting at any time. Please do not hold us to them in perpetuity and we will offer the same regard to you as you engage with our work.
- We are doing the best we can.