Untidying with Kate Boyd christian community, faith and history

“Untidying” with Kate Boyd

~ing podcast Season 3, Episode 18
Full Episode Transcript

Season 3, Episode 18: “Untidying” with Kate Boyd was released on May 2, 2023. The audio recording is available on all major podcasting platforms. More information is available here.

Episode Description:

In today’s episode, host Allison Maus sits down with Herald Press author, Kate Boyd, to talk about themes from her new book, An Untidy Faith: Journeying Back to the Joy of Following Jesus. In this conversation, Kate explains how history and community can provide space for big questions about faith and what we believe as part of the Body of Christ. This book, available now from Herald Press, is for those who long to disentangle their faith from all the cultural baggage and recapture the joy of following Jesus.

Ben Wideman, Allison Maus, Kate Boyd

Ben Wideman  00:00
It’s season three of ~ing Podcast, a production of MennoMedia’s Leader Magazine. What does it mean to authentically follow Jesus?

Kate Boyd  00:09
I have come to my convictions with a lot of time and prayer and study, and conversation. And I’m trusting that all of us are doing our best to be faithful. And that’s sort of like the place that I want to start from, from a lot of conversation. And then ask questions to get at the heart of like, where we’re actually differing and why, and if we can still have conversation with each other in that way.

Ben Wideman  00:34
Join us as we talk with people of faith who are creatively thinking, growing, and being… people who are reimagining and exploring what it means to enrich faith in a complex world. Our conversation begins now. Join us as we journey together.

Allison Maus  00:53
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of ~ing Podcast. We are so glad that you are here with us listening. Allison here. I am here today with Kate Boyd, who is an author, speaker, podcast host. Hi, Kate, how are you today?

Kate Boyd  01:13
I’m great. Thanks. How are you?

Allison Maus  01:15
I’m doing well. I’m excited to talk to you and learn more about the work that you do. Congrats on your recent book release of An Untidy Faith: Journey Back to the Joy of Following Jesus. I’m so excited that your book is out in the world.

Kate Boyd  01:33
I know! It’s still very weird to think about. But it is exciting.

Allison Maus  01:37
Yeah! Can you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit more about the work that you do the things that you study? Yeah, who you are?

Kate Boyd  01:46
Sure. So by day, I actually do communications work at a university here in the Dallas area. And then later in the day, I go to seminary part time getting a degree in Biblical Studies. And then yeah, later in the day, I have a great community of people between my podcast or my social media that we really focus on. I sort of focused on helping, you know, these weary and kind of wounded Christians who are maybe feel separated from the church or the tradition that they grew up in, to rebuild their relationship with Scripture and community. So that’s kind of what I’ve, what I focused on, as far as you know, some of the work I do, and then some of the work that you might see in an untidy faith.

Allison Maus  02:35
That’s definitely something that feels so common in the group that I work with. I’m in State College, Pennsylvania, working with mostly grad students, college students, right. And I think that there are so many people who are this generation kind of asking, like, what is the role of my faith? And what is the role of church in the current world? And I don’t think that’s a new question that people are asking, right, understanding how it all fits into our personal lives. But it does feel like it’s a different conversation, or there’s a new angle to it. That maybe has happened in the past.

Kate Boyd  03:15
Yeah, I think every era has its unique challenges. And I think there is this sense of, we’re in a time of extra communication and extra information. And so a lot of people are sort of wrestling with the information that maybe they’ve encountered, whether that’s about the people that they looked up to growing up or the ideas that they had, and maybe the impact that, that that has had on different communities, or individuals that they know and so really just kind of like trying to wrestle that back into, you know, if they still believe Jesus is good, and they still believe that there is something good about Christianity and church, but figuring out what that looks like for them in a way that respects the people and experiences that they have to and that’s that’s what I sort of have found. People are are working through right now.

Allison Maus  04:10
Yeah, I think one of the blessings have it feeling more, I don’t know, like more communication, more openness about it is that there are more opportunities for people to find community, right? To like, hear your podcast or connect through social media. Whereas maybe before it kind of was like, I don’t know, more more isolated or easier to push away. It’s interesting. So we’re recording this in the the week between the first Sunday of Easter and the second Sunday of Easter. And, you know, the text that always comes out after the Easter is the doubting Thomas passage. Right. And so, it’s been really interesting to reflect every year on this Doubting Thomas passage. And thinking about it in terms of this conversation, like, what are… What are the ways that we need to identify with those disciples? And with Thomas, in in light of the Resurrection, like, what does the does this mean for us in the midst of this conversation that we’re having today?

Kate Boyd  05:21
At least in the tradition I grew up in, which was very American Evangelical in nature, there was sort of this emphasis on certainty and stability of like belief and kind of like staying staticly faithful in a very specific and uniform way. And when you sort of encounter new ideas, or new things, like for me, and some of the stuff that I talked about in the book is I went overseas and got to see how the church was expressed. And how, you know, people lived their faith in very different contexts. And it made me have to then come back and parse out what was, you know, Christian, and what was cultural. And I think that’s sort of what’s also happening. Now, maybe they don’t have, maybe there’s not this big, glaring difference between, like, you know, someplace on the other side of the world and our own culture, but we are sort of now being hearing stories of people in our own backyard, you know, that have either experienced hard things or harm within church circles, or we’re just sort of like encountering different ways that people have lived their faith, whether that’s in marginalized communities or even different, you know, denominations and connecting with them across, you know, online platforms and things like that. And so we are now being sort of asked to have like a bigger, more expansive view of what Christianity is. And when you’ve built a lot of your faith on the foundation of like, certainty and stability, that can be really disorienting. And so I’ve certainly related to Thomas a lot, and even to like Peter, and a lot of his doubts and like his denial and a lot of those things, because I think it’s really easy to kind of like, latch on to the fact that they like doubted and like wavered and like made mistakes. But I’m not even sure that like doubting, and wavering are necessarily mistakes. And Jesus doesn’t seem to like call them on it too much, right. Like with Thomas specifically, he actually walks up to him, and he like, lets him, you know, see all of the wounds and understand that it is actually him. And, you know, that was enough for Thomas. But that, but that Jesus didn’t condemn him and even later, right, when we see Peter, on the beach, you know, with Jesus, and Jesus is just asking if he loves it, Peter loves him. And that’s all that was really asked. And so I think there is a sense in which, though, we are feeling disoriented, we can still cling to a couple of things that sort of can help us feel like stable and secure. While we allow for like a lot of other messy things to be happening. It can be really hard. And I think we’re sort of experiencing that on like a cultural level and not just like an individual one anymore.

Allison Maus  08:22
Yeah. So I feel like we’re kind of tapping into what your book is about. And I would love to hear more about your book. Why this book for this time? Yeah, share a little bit about that project.

Kate Boyd  08:35
Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it comes back to a lot of what we’ve been talking about, there’s sort of been a rising discussion, or conversation that’s been happening over at least the last few years, more publicly, over the word deconstruction, right? You’ll see it a lot in Christian circles, and some people are leaning all the way in and some people are deconstructing is bad, don’t ever do it. And, and we sort of get like these extremes of people either sort of like double down on on that certainty and stability, or some people will have sort of seen too much to feel secure under the Christian umbrella and sort of like de convert leave their faith altogether. But there’s a whole lot of people who are in this other place where they are still, like, really compelled by Jesus, and really love God’s vision for what the world is and can be, and what his people are meant to do. And are wrestling through like, I call it disentangling, right from those cultural or traditional beliefs and trying to figure out how they can be faithful people, but with different viewpoints than maybe they had before on certain things. And so, like I mentioned, for me that took place because of some overseas experiences and those There stories that I share in the book. But then I also talk about a lot of the topics that like, have been really coming up for, for us lately, at least for all of my people. All the people that I talked to who are, you know, come from evangelical backgrounds, like, what is the role of justice in the Gospel? And what is like, Is there space for Christian nationalism? Or is that like, not a thing that we’re supposed to be a part of? And what is it, you know, are we really persecuted or are we not and then it also goes into some of the other things about what it looks like to practice together and what you know, what we look for in leaders and how we shape people, within our communities to be hold disciples, and, and things like that. So it kind of goes in like belief and in practice, of what it looks like to, at least through my lens, and maybe giving them some different permission and perspective to unpack their own their own ideas so that they can kind of find a place that they feel a little bit more comfortable in what they believe, even if there’s a lot of humility and wiggle room there.

Allison Maus  11:14
Yeah, that’s… I love that you’ve focused in part on the practical there, because it does often feel like we’re invited to maybe a third way or a middle ground with Jesus. But it feels or it can feel so impossible from our like human or human vantage point and to enter in, especially in recent years, where it feels like so much of our politics or culture has been radicalized. And we’re called to step into certainty, with our faith, but also, within other realms of our lives, that it does feel a lot more exhausting to enter into those middle ground spaces, at least for me recently. I’m curious if through your podcast and your social media in this book, how how do you practice cultivating safe space for that for people to come in? And even just, I don’t know, ask the questions.

Kate Boyd  12:18
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that I sort of set as my personal foundation is like I, I am still very, like, quote, unquote, Orthodox, right? Like the Creed’s are still sort of my thing. And so if we agree on that, then I understand that there’s actually a wide variety of ways to look at most of the other issues, whether that is theological or social in nature. And so there’s the side, for me, it’s really just like, understanding that I could have it wrong, that there are legitimate other, you know, interpretations of scripture on these issues in order to come to different things. And then, also, you know, though, I am open about a lot of my positions. When people come at me from those spaces of, you know, saying that I’m wrong, you know, that I can respect that they have a different conviction. And, and so I think there’s just sort of the sense of, I think humility and curiosity are sort of our biggest tools in in a lot of these conversations. Because if anything, my deconstruction or disentangling journey has really helped me see how much of everything is tied together, right, like in even in my own experiences, so my ideas are connected to these experiences, and to like, what I was told, and what they were told. And then that sort of came from this other thing that maybe like historical or some other document or something. So there’s all of this stuff that sort of built on on each other. And so knowing that it’s not just my personal opinion, it’s my personal opinion, because of all these other things. And so just being willing to, like, unpack that and ask questions with people, and also say, like, I, I have come to my convictions with a lot of time and prayer, and study, and conversation, and I’m trusting that all of us are doing our best to be faithful. And that’s sort of like the place that I want to start from, from a lot of conversations. And then ask questions to get at the heart of like, where we’re actually differing and why and if we can still have conversation with each other in that way. And so that really is sort of the attitude that I start with and that I try to lead with and let other people know is how we cultivate conversations around the spaces that I’m in so that there is, yeah, humility and curiosity as we enter, engage.

Allison Maus  15:06
Asking questions is one of my favorite tools in my toolbox, right? Because I do feel like it, it helps you practice those humility and curiosity. That the act of listening that you’re practicing and doing that instead of, alright, here’s my defense mechanism. Here’s the statement I want to rebut you with, right? It, it forces you to, to step outside of that a little bit, even if maybe you don’t really care to hear the answer. Even as you’re asking the question. It still is a practice that can be developed and offers dignity, I think, for yourself. I know, I feel much better about a conversation if I asked lots of questions, versus if I just like left the conversation being like, wow, I just like was on my soapbox that whole entire time. Right. So I think I think those are beautiful things to highlight. As we all step forward to, you know, live in Christian community, which always seems so much easier in the Bible than it sometimes feels in real life.

Kate Boyd  16:15
Yeah, they just gave us the highlights! I feel like yeah, and, and maybe not really, I mean, if you even look at the Bible, the way that they wrestled through living together, it’s part of it’s one of the reasons why we have so much of the New Testament is because they had so many hard times that Paul is writing letters to them.

Allison Maus  16:32
Yeah. Yeah. I think that sometimes that’s hard, because then it feels like, “oh, Paul had the right answer.” We should just like, do what he says. Instead of the like, okay, the real… yeah, practice of this. But that is a good reminder. I feel like oftentimes, when I picture early church, I think about like, the like, idealized Acts church where they’re sharing, and they’re all of the same mind. And I look at my congregation, I go, “wow, if we could be all in the same mind of something that would be a real Easter miracle.” So Right.

Kate Boyd  17:09

Allison Maus  17:38
I’m curious, you talked a little bit as you were talking about your book of like, are there limits to this? You mentioned having kind of the structure of the Creeds for agreement. But as we continue to, you know, discern to the Spirit. How do we get hold openness, but also, like, Are there limits to things that we should be open to? Whether it comes to social justice issues? Or, you know, things that feel like big changes to the ology in terms of our traditions?

Kate Boyd  18:18
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think that there are limits in the sense that, I think there are things that pretty universally we recognize as evil, bad, wicked things. And you know, like murder, no one’s on board with that. And so I think there are some of those things that are universally like, that doesn’t feel like it will ever be, even if there are like exceptions or ways of doing that, that is less bad, like in a self defense or whatever, nobody’s excited, nobody’s happy about something like that happening. Or shouldn’t be, and that in itself would be evil and wicked, as far as like, traditions and, you know, other things like that. I mean, my honest answer is, I don’t know. Like, I know, I think and I think if we’re being honest, that’s really the only honest answer because we’re all coming at it from different perspectives. And we all sort of have our own boundaries around things that are important to us. Like for me, it’s the Creeds for other people, that’s not a big deal to them. And so I know where I would set my personal limits, but I also have to find myself having to be okay with the fact that there are a wide variety of beliefs on a wide variety of topics and, and that if we are, you know, honestly and earnestly discerning, not just individually but in community with other people, especially within the context that we live in In, then I have to trust that the Holy Spirit is is guiding someone else, even if they land in a different place. And so I think there’s a sense of, you know, I, I know the convictions that I have that I’ve come to, but most of the time, I can’t fault someone for their conviction, because I can also see where they get that and where that’s from. And so there may be limits, but I, I don’t know that I’m the person who can, who can draw those lines, you know what I mean?

Allison Maus  20:32
Yeah, sometimes I get stuck in the like, there’s value in Christian community, despite our differences is kind of the the mindset sometimes I get stuck in, instead of recognizing and living into the journey and being together is purpose, right, the not reaching the destination, but being in the midst of it and in discerning and listening for the spirit and right, we have these other things like scripture Creed’s, that, that also get to be a part of the conversation. And that that’s the beautiful and purpose of, of our faithfulness. Here, instead of this, like a, the church is a headache, but it’s a necessary like part of faith. Right? No, like, it is. It is, it is the purpose to be together and to practice the love. And it is a practice,

Kate Boyd  21:31
Right. I mean, and even and even something like the Creeds is really just conversation and community with believers in history. Right? Yeah, there’s a sense in which I think… we think, and don’t hear me say that, you know, local, physical relational community is not bad or even not necessary. But there is a sense of like, I think we think of it only in those terms. Sometimes when we can actually engage with different traditions, different people, different backgrounds, through things like books, or creeds, or whatever. And I think even practicing, having conversations with people that are outside of, quote, unquote, outside the lines, is helpful for us in discerning that. And so yeah, I mean, I think that I think what we have sort of thought of discipleship or formation is sort of like this straight upward trajectory, when really, it’s like, a ball a mess of things, you know, yeah. And then it’s gonna look like down and it’s gonna look like questions, and it’s gonna look like, you know, denial or despair. And it’s gonna look like a whole bunch of different things. And everyone’s journey is gonna look like that. And so I think it’s a matter of, like, releasing this sort of, like, perfection idea, or this ideal, like you said, this ideal of what community or discipleship is, because the reality is, is much more messy than, than any of that. And so we kind of have to be willing to enter into the mess and to make space for other people, and to allow for that engagement. You know, and that and know that that makes us better, it makes us because I think we often think of like, we need to believe and we need to practice, but I also think the fruit of the Spirit show us that we also need to become a certain way. And I think that it is by engaging in conflict, you know, constructively or even with people that we don’t always agree with, or that we don’t get along with or have the exact same homogenous viewpoints. That is one of the main ways that the spirit develops that. And so I think we need a lot of practice in that in order just to sort of be a different people in a world that looks, you know, different to what the church should be. Because if we just only ever double down on what we’re supposed to look like, and never engage outside of that, then we’re going to have a hard time actually doing the work of God in the world. And so I think those are some of the skills, that being in community, especially with different people and different ideas, whether that is local and present, or the Church throughout history is really, really vital to how we you know, engage and learn and disciple one another.

Allison Maus  24:33
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s one of the I know biggest assets the church can play in culture is it is this common ground for people to gather with, you know, people who are in different age, demographics, racial demographics, political demographics in ways that you don’t find in other places in the same way, especially with the intention of these are siblings of mine that I’m coming to be with. And I’m going to practice loving with a real intention. I think that the church, while while there’s so many conversations about like the church dying, I just like… I feel like the church is so needed if we can really focus on on some of that, yeah, holding the holding the common ground embracing the untidy or the messy, is so valuable. Yeah. I’m curious, as we are talking about the church, if you could offer a blessing, a word of of peace for the church, or of hope for the church. What would you say?

Kate Boyd  25:55
Well, I’m not very poetic, but…

Allison Maus  25:58
You wrote a book, I’m sure that you’re plenty poetic and good words!

Kate Boyd  26:06
I think sometimes we get caught up in the details. And we forget about just this sort of, like big vision of the work of God. And maybe for some people, that’s not helpful, they really need the concrete details. But I know, one of the biggest things that has pushed me forward is this idea that that the world is going to be restored and that it’s partly my job now like living as part of the Kingdom. In today, bringing heaven to earth is to work toward the restoration of the world, and its people. And so that’s sort of like, where I would encourage people to keep their eyes on is that knowing, and, and help that sort of shaped the way that they talk to other people, or, you know, the ways in which they care for their communities, is knowing that there is this wholeness and hope that’s still there. And, and that’s sort of what I mean, it, it gets me up in the morning, and it makes me excited, and it’s how I sort of focus and filter any of the work that I do. And I know that it has been crucial for me in that regard. And so, yeah, I would just just say, like, keep your eyes up, keep looking at, you know, the finish line, which is more extraordinary than we could have ever written ourselves. And, and that that can be sort of our, our lighthouse, our guiding point to, to make it through and make an impact while we’re here.

Allison Maus  27:56
Thank you so much for this conversation. It’s been really lovely to reflect on these things. And I’m grateful that your book is out in the world and that, yeah, you’re exploring and building community around around this conversation. I’m curious if if our listeners want to hear more from you, besides finding your book? What are ways that they can follow along and engage with you?

Kate Boyd  28:24
Sure. So my podcast is called Happy and Holy. And it’s where I and a few of my friends walk through a couple of chapters of Scripture every… every episode. So right now we’re going through First Samuel, and it’s been really interesting. And then on Instagram is where I mostly hang out on social media. And that’s @KateBoyd.co. And on Twitter @theKateBoyd is where, is another place to find me pretty regularly. And then of course, An Untidy Faith is out. And so you can get that you know on the MennoMedia website, or I’ve linked up all the places to buy at anuntidyfaith.com to make it easy for people to find it from their favorite retailers.

Allison Maus  29:08
Wonderful. Okay, thank you again for having this conversation with me today. I am yeah, grateful to spend this time with you. And thank you to everyone who spent time listening. I hope that something today brought you hope or inspired you and again, thanks for listening. Bye.

Ben Wideman  29:31
Next week on ~ing podcast, we’re sitting down with Zack Hunt, the author of a brand new book from MennoMedia called Godbreathed: What it Really Means for the Bible to be Divinely Inspired. As always we’d like to thank our guests and all who support ~ing Podcast. Thank you for joining us on the journey. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review in your favorite podcasting app. And if you have something to share, send us a message at [email protected] or by leaving us a voicemail. ~ing Podcast is hosted by Reverend Allison Maus and Reverend Dr. Dennis Edwards. And produced by me, Ben Wideman. Views and opinions expressed on ~ing Podcast are those of our hosts and guests and may not represent that of Leader Magazine or MennoMedia. ~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit publisher that creates thoughtful Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more, visit us online at MennoMedia.org.