The Prophetic Voice

I am a self-diagnosed Aspie.* One of the ways this has tended to manifest itself in my life is my big mouth. “Authority” was only meaningful to me if the person in charge demonstrated to my satisfaction that they knew better than I did; if they couldn’t do that, it didn’t matter who or what they claimed to be, obedience and agreement were no longer guaranteed. If they said something I didn’t think was right – whether factually or morally – I spoke right up. If they didn’t admit I had a point or at least that I was very clever and had given them something to think about, I came back the next day with evidence.

As you can imagine, this has not always been in my favor. When I was an adorable little girl, adults tended to be blown away by that and hailed my maturity. Other than a few trips to the principal or the school counselor, there wasn’t too much blowback. Oh, sure, that kid in my civics class who told me to “show him some fucking respect” and then invited me to shave my back was a bit of a bother, but he was the first person to ever call me a bitch, and since I had already been reading feminist and witchy writings about that term, I was kind of delighted that I’d earned my badge of honor. As I’ve gotten further into adulthood, I find people more and more set in their ways and suffered more real consequences for being the person who always brings up the inconvenient elephant in the room or points out when there’s a fact that clearly ruins the pet theory (even if it’s the one I was championing a few minutes ago). Even in Paganism there’s only so much room people want to make for the cawing crow.

And then I became a Christian. Well! It’s even harder wearing those dark feathers as a Christian. For one thing, I’m quite confident that right now, even people who know who I am are putting “argumentative” and “Christian” together in their heads and squirming with discomfort as they imagine what an “argumentative Christian” usually looks like. Meanwhile I was also maturing more in my thinking about intersectionality, various –isms, where I’m seen as an insider and where I’m seen as an ally (at best). Remembering stupid things that have come out of my mouth at earlier points in my development, you know, like you do if you’re introspective. And I had battle scars by then, and I was getting tired of arguing.

And maybe it wasn’t even a Christian thing to do, you know? I talked to my priest about it: she generously dubbed it “the prophetic voice,” and agreed that perhaps it was good to learn how to control it. Now, I can’t blame the rest of it on her. After all, she’s not trained in how to talk to the Aspie. But I added this suggestion to the fact that there’s a strong streak of liberal Protestant “smile politely and shut your mouth” ethic in my church.

And I decided that what was best for my soul was to withdraw from all arguments entirely. No matter how trivial or how noble, how personal or how global. Smile politely and shut my mouth.

I tried that for a couple of years, even. Those of you who know me will be shocked to hear that in the long term, it didn’t work. I could do it for a while, and I felt very serene and spiritually developed. I also felt increasingly silenced, isolated, and devalued, because during that time I had to face down –isms that applied to me or those close to me without one of my main tools, smiling politely and shutting my mouth. And that does. Not. Work. As a means of getting your difference seen accurately and treated with some shred of dignity.

And even then I was trying to hold onto it, because despite the examples of innumerable saints and holy people who have spoken up, I didn’t trust myself to do it, and I didn’t trust my faith to see me through doing it (partly because I didn’t trust myself to pick the right battles).

The final nail in the coffin came while I was watching the Pantheon Foundation’s Pagans of Color internet conference panel, because one of my friends was on it (jazz hands!). It was all excellent, and available for your viewing convenience at the bottom of the post. A fair deal of it was addressed to allies and would-be allies, and one thing that stuck with me was said by Elena Rose. She talked about how frustrating it was when “allies” let all the real work fall on others, even when they saw someone being victimized or ostracized at first hand. How many people stay silent, and then creep over when no one’s looking and say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

That hits me, because I’ve been the person who gets that useless apology, more than once. I’ve been the one left thinking, how does that help me? Surely they see how hollow that is? How all they’re saying is “I don’t care enough to help or risk anything myself, but I’d like us both to pretend I came through for you, all right? Because the important thing is that I don’t go home feeling bad that I totally stood by while that happened.”

Why in the world would I aspire to be the kind of person who gives that apology?

So I learned, and again this will shock everyone who knows me, that what I’m really aiming for is a dynamic balance. It is absolutely worth being the person who stands up and says “No, I can’t be a party to that.” For my own sake I may have things to learn about when and where and how to do it, but I didn’t inherit the “prophetic voice” to lock in a box and throw into the basement.

I don’t even have a basement.

*It’s a long story for another time, but every trait that made me suspect Asperger’s/mild autism in my child, which was verified by lengthy tests by medical professionals, is a trait he got from me. Every single one. So while it’s not official and I acknowledge that for those to whom it matters, I feel pretty confident in the self-assessment.


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