I got my hands on Relevant Magazine for the first time when I was in high school. I had just begun my long, difficult, joyful, and so very complicated journey into white evangelicalism. I grew up in a fundamentalist baptist church filled with latino immigrants, much like my own family. We memorized the proper verses to save souls in the traditional and exclusively God-inspired Reina-Valera. G-d was the mean old man who only existed to guilt you into getting up on Sunday mornings or to begrudgingly give you a ticket to get into Heaven. The fluffy white buddy Jesus I found as a teenager was deeply comforting, new, and a relief. Well, for a little while anyway.
At 19, I discovered podcasts. It was the year 2006 and there were probably like ten available. I worked an office job and found solace, laughter, and comfort in the Relevant Podcast. And I’ve listened every week since. It’s been almost a decade. I am definitely no longer an evangelical Christian (or am I? Ah, that’s another post for another day), but I still tune in. Sure, I mostly fast forward through their interviews and many Hillsong performances over the years – I just listen because of the cast. After listening for so long, they became a ritual – friends I downloaded on Fridays, who lived across the country that “I knew,” but didn’t know me. The countless inside jokes, ridiculous segments, and sincerity kept me around.
It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized how incredibly white everything was over at Relevant. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure they’ve only had one woman of color on the cover (Mindy Kaling). I was so used navigating the white terrain of my youth, to ignoring that I didn’t quite belonging, that I got desensitized to it. And then it wasn’t so okay anymore, it wasn’t so okay to be invisible. Recently, Relevant published a list of “10 Books Everyone Should Read by 25” – 10/11 white authors, two women. And of course, the article was written by a white author to go along with their mostly white authors and audience.
I’ve had to come to terms with my own lack of diversity in books and reading. It was mind blowing to realize that most of the authors I was reading were white. Actually, it’s downright shameful. Immersed in years of white Christian culture, I wonder if some racist self-loathing seeped into me. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Probably some of both.
Here’s the thing. I am not shocked that Relevant didn’t have a diverse listing of authors. Nor am I particularly outraged. I’m actually surprisingly hurt. Both at their own omission and ignorance as well as my own. It’s been a few days since the criticism arose, and still not a peep from Relevant with an apology or a revised list. Not even any lip service about “doing better.”
The culture of white supremacy in Christianity leads to indifference to people like me. And having bought into this in the past, made me actually believe that my story and my life were of no consequence either.
I exist. Women like me exist. We are brown skinned, feminist Christians. Some of us are heterosexual, many of us are queer. And we love Jesus. Not only do we exist, but we stand concretely in our places in the Church – proudly and with no apology (and have been for generations, long before the Church “let us.”)
You’re missing out on a helluva conversation, Relevant. You’re missing out on what G-d is doing in the lives of black and brown women.
The annoying thing is that I still like actually enjoy Relevant. I’m a subscriber and have been for years. Maybe I don’t give up because it’s one of my last ties to the Christianity that was once such a comfort for me.
But it really isn’t so comfortable anymore.