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  • Writer's pictureMennonite Church USA

Called to be Bad

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“Okay, let’s go around and share our deepest, darkest secrets …”

This was my favorite sleepover “game” to play in middle and high school. I wanted to know about everyone’s crushes, regrets, embarrassing moments … everything. Surface-level conversation was far too boring. Bring on the nitty-gritty.

Turns out, this impulse to get to the heart of things hasn’t changed much since my teen years. There is nothing quite like watching someone’s eyes light up when talking about their favorite niche topic or special interest. I crave the kind of communion that occurs around a campfire, when the comfort of night and good company lends itself to vulnerable sharing. As Ann Voskamp said, “Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.”

As a pastor, I have taken on the sacred mantle of bearing witness to the stories, fears, beliefs and meaningful moments that color the lives of my community. Unfortunately, the church has not done its job of being a safe place, in which raw honesty and vulnerability are met with grace. Well-meaning attempts at creating “good” communities of “good” Christians with “good” theology have done unspeakable damage to people’s bodies and spirits, especially those who are marginalized due to their gender, race, sexuality, economic status and/or ability.

What if the church were a place of curiosity rather than condemnation?

The Called to be Bad Podcast is my attempt at creating a community steeped in safety, storytelling, and a refusal to accept the damaging and lazy binary of “good” and “bad.” Called to be Bad digs into the intersections between good and bad, pure and profane, holy and ordinary. In each episode a guest reveals a “bad” topic they are passionate about. By “bad” I mean strange, scandalous, taboo, non-traditional — something that goes against the status quo of what it means to be faithful. If the Christian church has labeled a behavior, identity, theology or topic as bad, shameful or sinful I want to investigate why. We have had episodes on bad words, religious trauma, toxic secrets, leaving the church, purity culture, hell, shame-free sex and more.

During the Called to be Bad MennoCon23 seminar, we will use the podcast as a case-study to explore the life-giving possibilities for virtual community. Instead of lamenting the rise of technology and internet communities alongside the shrinking number of people in pews, how can we re-imagine church and community? There will also be opportunities to share about any “bad” topics participants are passionate about or would enjoy hearing covered in a podcast episode.

What better place than convention to say yes to the call? Come, let’s pass the popcorn, tell some secrets, shed light in the dark spaces and watch as shame melts away. Why? Because sometimes the scandalous is spiritual, deviant is divine and bad is beautiful.

Mariah Martin (she/her)

Pastor, Faith Mennonite Church

Host, Called to be Bad Podcast

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