My name is Amanda Pilbrow. Like you, there are many parts to who I am. Creatively interwoven are strands of being an artist, a theologian, a speaker/presenter/guest lecturer, a mum, a wife, a tattooed pixie-cut introvert that loves gin and single malt whiskey. Open water gives me a sense of breadth, room to breathe, a sense there is more to life, a hope for the future. I can do small talk but prefer real connections, listening to peoples lived realities. I’m an x-pastor, who through her breakthroughs and breakdown, discovered a loving, inclusive, pursuing God. I have recently completed my master’s in applied theology: Navigating Faith, Sexuality, and Wholeness in Aotearoa New Zealand: Seven LGB-Christian Narratives. While this is finished, I sense it is just the beginning of my next chapter.
Breaking down stereotypes that form and contribute to a sense, or indeed a lived reality of second-class citizenship glues my soapbox firmly to the ground. I grew up believing, without any opportunity to question, that men ruled – they had the last say, the deciding vote, the position of privilege. Don’t get me wrong – I love men – one fine man in particular for over 30 years. He holds a mighty high standard for others to meet. In saying that, we have been on this journey together, discovering equality, mutual respect, honour, and believing the best of each other.
The journey was not without incident, without debate, without apology. How do you unlearn so much that has undergirded your upbringing? Moreover, how do you crawl out from under that second-class citizen rock, find the courage to climb up, and even more, stand in the place you were always meant to be – equal – wholehearted – authentic? How do you help the other crawl out? To lift some of the burden? To cheer them to climb further.
For me, I can only describe this painful process as a holy conviction, an invitation, an awakening that changes how I see – forever. As a woman who was meant to know her place, God, or the Divine, or the higher power – whatever fits well with you – called me to discover who I was. And here’s the catch. Once you discover or is it uncover, the dark shadow of imposed second-class citizenship it becomes impossible not to see it in other places; in other people; woman and children. It is also impossible to not recognise the structures and belief systems that enforce, intentionally or otherwise, power and cultural structures that secure and support inequality, that enable violence, that ensure subjugation, causing some to exercise power and control over others.
This ‘seeing’ became so uncomfortable for me; it formed into ‘righteous’ anger. A sense of disorder that continually left me feeling off-balance. An anger and disorder that became an unrelenting hunger to learn, to read, listen, interview, and write and ultimately change. A hunger to discover peoples lived realities as they found themselves in marginalised and un-equal situations, violent or simply overlooked.
From this place, my master of applied theology thesis was conceived, gestated, and delivered. My sense ofmarginalisation forced me, in the very best way possible, to see the marginalisation of others. And while the theme ‘orange’ is focused on violence on women, as we crawl out from this particular rock, find the courage to stand and be heard, may our voices reach and be heard far and wide and high to other areas of marginalisation and diversity. As we uncover and expose the culture and power structures that enable and even incite violence against women, may we too be caught into seeing violence towards otherness and be righteously angry, disordered and off-balance so that we have to act? So that we can peel and take a bite of the orange on behalf of others.
I’m not sure I ever considered myself an activist until now. Perhaps more a peacemaker – as opposed to a peacekeeper. A resistance fighter if you like, rather than a status quo bystander. But what if an activist is a better fit? What if acting on my righteous anger and discomfort means standing on that rock and claiming equality and equal citizenship for others, for all. What if, by exposing the culture and structures that divide people causing such destruction, wholeness and authenticity prevail making us all safe, valued, equal, seen, and known? These thoughts continue to invite and awaken me to act in 2020. I hope to extend the invitation into righteous anger, discomfort, and a sense of being off-balance. I hope my research will encourage and permit others to listen to the lived realities of others. I hope to promote the unlearning necessary to re-learn and re-discover equality and hope.