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In this new column, Black Women & The Divine, Lifestyle Editor Keyaira Kelly sits down with women all over the world to explore their different faith systems. This week’s edition is dedicated to Charise Frazier, News Producer and writer for HelloBeautiful.com
How do you pray?
I usually take about 15 minutes each day whether in the morning or at night to give gratitude to God. I do this sometimes with mediation, or sometimes it’s brief like a quick “thank you” when I reach my destination safely. Then there are days when it’s just such a beautiful day and I feel blessed to be alive so I say that out loud. For me, I feel my spirit and mind is closely intertwined with the God. I spend a large part of the day checking in with the creator and making sure I continue to feed that connection.
What is your religion?
For all intent and purposes I am Christian, but I consider myself more spiritual than religious in practice.
What were you raised to believe in? Did your faith system change from how you were raised? If so, why?
I was raised in the Baptist Church. My parents weren’t avid churchgoers growing up, but my mother was raised Baptist, while my dad was raised in the AME church (African-Methodist-Episcopalian). However, they are both believers and instilled a sense of spirituality in my life. I grew up in California where I attended a Baptist church with my close friend and her family.
I still consider myself to be Christian but there were a few things along the way that in my adulthood made me think deeper about what I was taught and if that still aligned with what I believed.
How did you come to adopt this belief?
I think I became a bit separated from strict religious practice after noticing the treatment of women in the church. I remember seeing that women weren’t allowed to sit in the front row of the church and when I questioned why the answer, “Because that’s where men sit,” didn’t jive with me. At a young age I saw that women were oftentimes placed lower on the totem pole and some of the sermons seemed to deem women as the origin of sin and evil. That narrative directly affected how I saw myself, which I didn’t realize until much later (in my early 20’s).
I also became hesitant of some of the strict belief systems after one of my really close male friends came out to me during my freshman year of college. Knowing what I had been taught about the LGBT community in church (that they were full of sin and going to hell) and seeing the pain on my friend’s face made me in direct conflict of what I thought I knew/was taught. I started to seek answers, to understand that the Jesus of love I came to know would never abandon any his children. I don’t believe that all Christians are against the LGBT community, but I do believe that the church community should work harder to address the wounds that exist, especially in LGBT communities of color—a group that at times has felt ostracized by the church.
How do your beliefs influence your daily life?
I believe that wanting to be more patient, loving, gracious and caring makes me operate in a double-sided mind state. What I mean by that is that I try to come to a place of understanding. I always want to know the “why” of people—what are their motivators/triggers that make them act in the way they do, speak in the way they speak and pursue the goals they dream of. This practice has helped me diminish some of my judgmental tendencies and makes me more human. In practicing compassion I believe we are tapping into the God that exists inside of ourselves, for the creator is wholly loving and accepting.
What criticisms have you received about your belief system?
At times my mom and I have differed on my belief system because she is very Scripture based. I admire that so much about her, but we do differ on ideals. For instance, once I challenged the idea of saying “he/or she” when I referred to God and we had a heated discussion over it. I understand that a lot of Christian values are also based in patriarchy and as I evolve more as looking at myself as a womanist, I see it has changed some of the ideals I believed in, while also challenging them.
Do you have a daily practice you participate in? Please describe.
I keep a prayer journal in which I write down my conversations with the creator. Like any relationship, you have to be invested and give of yourself. It makes me feel like we are deeply connected because I do believe that God lives inside of our hearts. Using words to connect to God had a two-fold importance to me because words are the gift that I was given. God has given each of us a gift and I believe the purpose of life is to tap into it and use it abundantly. I always love the line from “The Color Purple” where Shug says to Celie, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” I feel that it’s true–although the creator is humble, it also wants to know that you are appreciative of what you have been given.
Do you have a favorite quote/scripture/ or verse you live by?
I don’t have a favorite verse per se, but the Scripture that has kept me grounded lately is 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.”
Basically: God won’t put more on you than you can bear.
What is the most misunderstood aspect of your faith/religion and why?
I think people mostly believe Christians are out seeking to change and enforce a conservative will on people. But most of the Christians I know are some of the most forgiving, loving and understanding people I know. I hope that more public examples of Christians in which there is a willing acceptance to embrace each other in our humanity. Humanity to me means the totality of a person—even if they do look, act or speak in a way that makes you uncomfortable, I believe it is still necessary to love past our comfort zones.
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