burning questions with ronna detrick: faith + feminism

Ronna Detrick looks you in the eye. And she listens. And when she speaks, you can see her pulling down wisdom from St. Theresa to Simone de Beauvoir through the filter of her own lived experience, to give you gem of grace – or grit. And, she can write – like a poet on a practical mission. Like a feminist with faith.

Women! (And the fine men who adore us,) come to the Red Tent of White Hot Truth. Ronna is in the house.

1. Let’s start with a big one: how do you define feminism?

I define feminism as more of a personal characteristic than a political or social statement. It’s who I am, how I am, and yes, certainly what I am. It’s an honoring of the strength, power, and inherent worth in women. It’s a naming of the places in which those realities aren’t honored. It’s a way of being that says, “I will not be silenced; I will live out loud. I will not edit or censor myself; I will tell the truth. I will not be safe; I will be dangerous, provocative, risky, and bold.”

2. Another whopper of a question – because you’re a massive spirit, Ms. Ronna, what’s FAITH got to do with FEMINISM?

Mmmm. A tough one. Much I don’t know. Lots of answers I don’t have. But here’s what I do know: the two are not mutually exclusive. Faith, whether it be in ourselves, God, Goddess, Buddha, Mohammad, or the powers of the Universe, is a potent and beautiful thing. It enables hope. It invites desire. It softens and strengthens and sings. As a feminist I want to be able to embrace and embolden every aspect of my life and my world. I want to be able to believe deeply and speak definitively. I want to be able to hope fervently and work my ass off for change. I want to have faith in “truths” beyond myself and be an agent in creating the realities I desire and deserve for myself and those I love. Maybe another way to say it is that I am a feminist with faith; indeed, I must have faith. It’s sometimes all that enables me to hope, believe, and persevere!!!

3. What was the dumbest thing that you used to believe in?

I love this question! I used to believe that saving people’s souls mattered. Now I don’t. My understanding of theology has dramatically changed over the years and, in turn, my understanding of God’s heart (no matter how that power/deity is understood). The process of people coming to believe in things greater than themselves is not mine to coerce, demand, or enforce. So, you won’t see me handing out tracts, repeating any spiritual laws, or quoting Scripture to convince you of one damn thing. If I’m going to be an “evangelist” at all, it’s going to be for great, honest, and provocative conversation. That’s salvation at it’s finest, baby!

4. What’s the best advice you were ever given in terms of business?

There are two statements I keep coming back to. Tell me if they sound at all familiar to you, as you are the one who proclaimed them on my behalf! “I don’t care why you’re stuck. I don’t want to analyze. Let’s just declare that you don’t need to know why and you’re going to rock after this!” and “All of this is going to be easy…let it be easy. You don’t have to work so hard!” I didn’t pay you nearly enough for either piece of this amazing wisdom!

5. What book(s) are you always telling people to read?

Whenever I’m talking to women who are trying to think in new categories about their faith – particularly if they’ve come out of a more conservative tradition, I recommend Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd and its fictional counterpart, The Secret Life of Bees. The classic of In A Different Voice by Carol Gilligan is super important for women trying to understand their own and cultures’ silencing. Favorite novels are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. And then I always recommend The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Oh, and now I tell everyone to download (and read quarterly) A Brief Guide to World Domination by Chris Guillebeau. It is sacred text to me these days!

6. What’s your favorite belief these days?

Here’s what I believe: if I follow my heart, not editing or censoring, always telling my truth, and living out loud I will know deep and profound experiences of both life and God; both are made manifest in powerful and impossible-to-miss ways when I am my most passionate, most beautiful, most alive self. Isn’t that amazing? And when I actually believe it, when I actually believe in myself? I change. My world changes. EVERYTHING changes! What could be better?!?

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