A Badge of HonorBy Amy Kaherl (MA ’08)
I remember getting to Fuller and thinking: “If Rob Bell could come out of here with wisdom and treating people as humans, maybe they will treat me as an equal here.” See, I had come from a small conservative college and left feeling alone and small because I was a woman, and wanting to connect with social justice and the arts.
Caring and acknowledgment are what I experienced in my three short years at Fuller. Professors like Barry Taylor and Ralph Watkins saw talent and energy in me and had enthusiasm for the questions that I was asking. Every time I went back to Michigan to visit my family there was a part of me that felt I should stay but my mother would say, “What would you do here? Go back and live out your passion!” I would get back on the plane and every time, something wonderful and magical would happen at Fuller that was so much bigger than myself. I was able to be a teacher’s assistant for classes with both professors Taylor and Watkins. I researched topics on art, hip-hop, justice, and body theology. I don’t think I was an academic superstar but I was so hungry for knowledge, connecting the dots between culture and theology and recognizing the value that was adding to my life.
I was changing, my philosophy was changing, and above all else I grew in confidence and love for myself and for the idea that church could be better. I had been lied to in the past and now the truth was being revealed. I had two wonderful men in my life, fellow students, who became (and still are) my best friends. They forced me to say that I was a theologian and it is now something I say with pride, as a badge of honor.
I walked away from Fuller someone who claims a liberation womanist theology. I was challenged to think of justice and love as my way to interact with people in my life, most of them claiming no faith practice at all. Barry Taylor helped push me to the edge of my convictions, helped me to drop the baggage and weight of a faith that didn’t feel like my own. He helped me to hear people share their stories and explorations through art with compassion and to acknowledge that there was so much to learn about this world and our spiritual ties to it.
Here I am five years later and I believe I am living those ideas out. I am now a DJ and the Executive Director of SOUP. Many people are surprised to hear that I studied theology, but the ones who can see the beauty of the collaboration smile and give me hugs. I am blessed beyond words and walk with the understanding daily that I am loved, gifted, and talented. I couldn’t have done that without my time at Fuller and the awareness and kindness of a few good men and women.