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‘This Is My Body’ Traces A Search For Identity Within The Evangelical Church

Cameron Dezen Hammon reconciles her feminist and evangelical Christian identities in her new book, 'This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession.'
Cameron Dezen Hammon reconciles her feminist and evangelical Christian identities in her new book, 'This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession.'
Cameron Dezen Hammon reconciles her feminist and evangelical Christian identities in her new book, 'This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession.'
Credit Courtesy Cameron Dezen Hammon
Cameron Dezen Hammon reconciles her feminist and evangelical Christian identities in her new book, 'This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession.'

From the time she was young, musician and writerCameron Dezen Hammoncraved a spiritual connection with the world around her.

For this edition of Embodied, host Anita Rao talks with musician and author of the book 'This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession.'

As a kid, she tagged along with a friend to synagogue where she was gripped by the ritualism of the robes, the chanting and the scrolls. An an adult, she followed that desire for a spiritual home and eventually found herself part of an evangelical megachurch community in suburban Houston, Texas. There, her work as a musician intersected with her spiritual life and she took up a role as a music minister.

In her new communitity her identity as a feminist clashed with her participation in a system that upholds men as leaders and women as helpers. Hammon documents the story of her journey of faith, love and self-exploration in her new book “This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession” (Lookout Books/ 2019).

Hammon speaks with host Anita Rao as part of the series “Embodied: Sex, Relationships and Your Health.”

Cameron Dezen Hammon on craving spirituality from a young age:

I was just a very spiritually curious kid. Much later a friend would tell me that I'm a super spook — someone who just was always interested in the unseen and mystery and magic. And that kind of manifested first for me in just being very drawn to religious practice, because it was just different from my family. We were not religious, and so it always felt very special and very other. And even the exclusivity of religious spaces felt exciting to me, you know, that I was an outsider always looking in kind of drove me to pursue that as I got older. 

On how contracting an STI spurred a period of sexual shame: 

I just kind of spiraled into this incredible amount of sexual shame just around, you know, this experience of getting this STI. And it was really the first time that I saw my body as vulnerable. I mean, when we're young very often we think we're invincible. I thought I was invincible. And it reoriented me in a way toward my body that wasn't positive. I wish I could go back and talk to that 25 year old and say: It's okay … So I was sort of ready-made for I guess what we could sometimes now think of as purity culture.

On reconciling her identity as a feminist and a believer: 

I thought I brought my feminism with me into Christianity. I was raised by a single mother in New York, you know, a liberal Democrat, it was just my birthright. And I thought that surely the church has progressed, and I was very naive to think that. So as I was kind of walking through this life of serving churches as a music minister, I, again, was hiding that part of myself. I was introduced to the idea that the word feminism can be offensive to people. I mean, I had never as a kid growing up in New York, as a young woman, and on the East Coast, I'd never heard that. I didn't know that that was a thing. But in conservative Christian communities, like it was almost a bad word.

Note: This program originally aired November 6, 2019.

  

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Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.
Laura Pellicer is a producer with The State of Things (hyperlink), a show that explores North Carolina through conversation. Laura was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, a city she considers arrestingly beautiful, if not a little dysfunctional. She worked as a researcher for CBC Montreal and also contributed to their programming as an investigative journalist, social media reporter, and special projects planner. Her work has been nominated for two Canadian RTDNA Awards. Laura loves looking into how cities work, pursuing stories about indigenous rights, and finding fresh voices to share with listeners. Laura is enamored with her new home in North Carolina—notably the lush forests, and the waves where she plans on moonlighting as a mediocre surfer.