My grandmother used to say to never talk about religion at the dinner table. Religious issues are too divisive, she said. Many people share these sentiments, and they phrase these ideas in terms of privacy. Indeed, our faith is very personal and private. Even a popular tattoo reads, ‘Only God can judge me.’ The bedrock of American freedom of religion is that no one can coerce another to follow a certain religion, or punish a person for his or her religious beliefs.
Yet one glance at the news reveals that religion is not just a personal issue. Many people make political proclamations on the basis of their faith convictions. Wars, hate crimes and discrimination occur on the basis of religion. Indeed religion can be divisive.
As an ordained minister and professor of religion, I am passionate about speaking publicly about religion. I believe that religion can heal. For over 15 years, I have worked at the intersection of speaking out against sexual violence and church communities. I also speak and write about the relationship between depression and faith. In these arenas, I have seen how religious teachings can exacerbate the pain people feel. I also know that religion can be a source of community and comfort. While I believe that sexual violence and depression are public health issues, I am also aware that they disproportionately affect women. I’m proud to be a feminist-womanist voice for faith. I’m excited about ways that I can grow as a public voice for religion through writing op-eds.
Monica A. Coleman is Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions at Claremont School of Theology. An ordained minister in the AME Church, Coleman is the author or editor of five books including “The Dinah Project: a Handbook for Congregational Response for Sexual Violence” and “Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression.”