When God Tells a Woman to Return to Her Abuser

I was invited by Sojourners to contribute to their series “Troubling Texts: Domestic Violence in the Bible.” This is my take on Hagar, Sarai, and Abram, inspired by upcoming book Women, Rise Up! on biblical women resisting oppression. 

Slavery. Forced marriage. Surrogacy without consent. It’s no wonder I never heard the story of Hagar growing up in church! Now it’s one I often turn to in my advocacy work for gender justice, because it speaks to the experiences of countless women and girls today whose lives are ravaged by domestic violence, labor trafficking, child marriage, sexual slavery, and other abuses.

When the story begins in Genesis 16, Sarai and Abram have been struggling with infertility for a decade. But Sarai sees a solution: she will have Abram take her slave Hagar “as a wife” (16:3), and she will become Sarai’s surrogate. When Hagar becomes pregnant, however, Sarai does not feel relieved; she feels threatened. The scripture says that Hagar looked upon her mistress “with contempt” (16:5), but I’ve often thought that this verse reflects Sarai’s insecurities about her infertility and her status as Abram’s wife. I imagine Sarai finds Hagar’s very being offensive.

Read the rest of the piece over at Sojourners here.

On Staying and Leaving

I wanted to share my most recent post on Feminism and Religion on staying, going, and how both are sacred.

Katey HeadshotThe pastor couldn’t have been more than five minutes into his sermon when I starting getting antsy. I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “He needs to be careful with this.” We were visiting a new church, an experience that nearly always puts me on edge. Whenever I attend a worship service for the first time, I come prepared with my mental checklist of liturgical offenses, ready to check each one off, so I can tally them up later and justify why we need to eliminate yet another congregation from our list of possibilities.

I recognize that my attitude about church is downright terrible, and that if I want to participate in a faith community, I have to find a way to deal with this impulse to judge so quickly and fiercely. Up until that point I had been working really hard that morning not to go to that negative place in my mind. If that meant cutting the pastor…

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Congrats, Mom! Now, Back to Work

In light of last night’s Presidential debate, which among many topics covered the issue of paid family leave, I’m sharing my recent article in Sojourners magazine on how the church can become a pro-family place by leading in this area.

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LAST NOVEMBER, when my daughter turned 2 weeks old, I returned to full-time work. Five days after her birth I was on email. Within a week I was taking work calls. I wasn’t a workaholic. I was a new mom without paid family leave.

Several years earlier, when I was single and singularly focused on my career, I’d been hired as a contractor for the United Methodist Church to direct a grassroots campaign on maternal health. I never stopped to consider what effect my employment status might have if I decided to have a child of my own. When my husband and I got pregnant, I faced the stark reality that there were no policies in place to protect or support me.

Read the rest of my article over at Sojourners.