Deconstructing and Reconstructing Love by Chasity Jones

Note: This is based on a podcast which can be heard here.

“Black love exists and Black women deserve love that does not require pain.”

What is love? What’s love got to do with pain and suffering? Are they related? Pain and love? Must one always be present with the other? In this blogpost I explore pain and suffering through a womanist perspective (centering the perspectives and lived experiences of Black women) and discuss how to live into wholeness and wellness. This is especially important because the Black community/women in particular’s experience in the US (and globally) has been and continues to be defined by pain and suffering. What are the theological implications?

How have Christian frameworks at associating love with sacrifice and pain justified the pain and suffering of Black women? How can we decolonize love so that liberated Black women are empowered to embrace a love that does not hurt first with false promises of rewards later in life or afterlife? Black women, pain does not equal love.

Framework of womanism:

“Womanism is rooted in the rich historic soil of black women’s experiences of suffering and affliction during the centuries of chattel slavery.”           

(M. Shawn Copeland, Wading Through Many Sorrows”: Toward a Theology of Suffering in Womanist Perspective, Moral Issues and Christian Responses, Fortress Press, 2013. 38.)

Copeland in particular uses narratives of enslaved Black women as the source and framework used to interpret with.

As a Black girl in this country I distanced myself as much as I could from Black Womanhood because no matter where I looked, Black women’s lived experienced and lives were determined to a great degree by pain. Black women have been praised for their ability to endure or tolerate enormous amounts of pain and we suffer for it in the United States Healthcare system in delivery rooms and beyond. Our pain is not believed or recognized. 

I was inspired to revisit this topic again after a conversation in which the overarching themes were that love is associated with sacrifice, and risk of pain and suffering. Enough was enough as I draw the line in the sand, I thought. I have to rebel against the theologies and world views that continue to tell Black women that love requires sacrifice, suffering, and pain. We must put an end to this for the sake of Black women’s self recovery everywhere. Black women deserve both love and loving theologies that give and sustain life.

The nature of suffering:

  1. Suffering is universal and inescapable

“Suffering is universal, an inescapable fact of the human condition; it defies immunities of all kinds. Suffering despoils women and men irrespective of race or tongue, wealth or poverty, learning or virtue; disregards merit or demerit, reward or punishment, honor or corruption. Like sun and rain, suffering comes unbidden to the just and the unjust alike. Suffering always means pain, disruption, separation, and incompleteness.” (37)

2) Does suffering equate pain?

Suffering and pain are connected/attached. Experienced together.

3) What is the nature of pain?

Pain steals our freedom and growth, development arrests. (Copeland, 10.)

Pain and suffering is experienced as life threatening:

“A working definition of suffering is the disturbance of our inner tranquility caused by physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual forces that we grasp as jeopardizing our lives, our very existence.” Copeland

This definition makes it a little easier to understand why people take their own lives during prolonged seasons of suffering. Our very existence is jeopardized. Suffering should not be trivialized.

In the words of Kendrick Lamar, “I grieve different.” Coping and grieving manifests in diverse ways. Liberation and wellness are actualized when Black women are able to grieve and heal authentically and holistically.                 

To suffer is to be alive. There is no living without suffering.           

Black women’s suffering is described as “enormous” and “transgenerational” meaning it travels from generation to generation. (Shawn Copeland, 38)

If Black Women’s pain is enormous and is inherited- then- this could very well mean that Black women alive today carry the most pain than any of our ancestors- Because pain is compounded.

Reconstructing Love: Love is

“Three generations of Black women prioritizing healing and love at the edge of the ocean that our ancestors were forced to cross.”

Transitioning into 2023, one way I can love myself is giving myself permission to redefine what love means or in the words of bell hooks, how I “know love.”(bell hooks, All About Love, HarperCollins Books, 2001, 173) . Love is not sacrifice, pain and suffering. Love is……..YOGA/ UNION- love is union or “yoking matter to spirit, body, and mind, personal to universal, and mortal to immortal” (Anodea Judith, Chakra Yoga, Llewllyn publications, 2017, 8.)

Love is the ability to be held, enraptured in loving, empowering, and compassionate energy and support. Love is as much receiving as it is to serve and sacrifice. For without the action of receiving love (which is also an act of self love) love cannot be experienced in this life- not the unconditional love of the Divine nor love from another. Love cannot be experienced without the capacity to receive said love. And for those groups of people who have been conditioned to give themselves until there is nothing left, receptivity can be as challenging as any decolonizing practice. In esoteric spiritualities, feminine energy is characterized by the nature of receptivity, flow-state, strategy, and ability to give life. This is the love that I must center and ground myself in as I move forward in a life that is inseparable from pain and suffering. 

No more will I accept pain for love. Or be told that the more I endure pain and suffering, the more assured my reward of love is.

I can no longer be guided by theologies and philosophies that do not take into consideration the pain that I have accrued from my ancestors in addition to my own pain.

Further deconstructing love is pain, I remind myself that the first restraint or Yama in the 8 limbs of yoga is ahimsa – nonviolence.

“Even with the absence of make up, designer brands, and hair extensions- we deserve to know love and to be reminded of our natural beauty.” 

If I just remove myself from this worldview which claims that Christianity is the full range of human experience – I can allow myself to receive what is life giving for me and that is a definition of love that does not hurt.                            

In my thirtieth year on this planet, I consider myself a student of love and strive to embrace a love ethic in which I don’t practice love but AM love. bell hooks reminds us, “Awakening to love can happen only as we let go of our obsession with power and domination.”

I am a devotee of the majesty of love and the power that she commands. I am also a voice shouting in the wilderness to Black women…..”WE DESERVE TO KNOW LOVE.”

BIO: Chasity Jones, M.Div is a Louisiana native and came from a conservative, Evangelical background until moving to Seattle, WA to be a interfaith community organizer. It was here she began to challenge traditional mission work in the context of colonialism and began her own process of liberation and decolonization. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in history and a master of Divinity (’22) from Boston University School of Theology and a certified yoga teacher. She is currently a spiritual advisor at a substance use recovery center.

She has recently launched Fourth Wave Revolution, a consulting agency, in an attempt to educate as well as decolonize! Fourth Wave Revolution is committed to digging deeper. Chastity is the host of SpiritualiTEA with Chasity podcast that explores the intersection of decolonization and spirituality through a Womanist and yoga lens. To contact, collaborate, or connect with Fourth Wave Revolution please email fourthwaverev@gmail.com



Categories: Black Feminism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Herstory, Love, womanism, Womanist Theology, Women's Agency, Women's Suffering, Women's Voices

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. So good to see you here on FAR again, Chastity. As you note, the world is much, much bigger than Christianity with its popular understanding of how love functions. Love this.

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  2. Although I empathize with Black women, as a woman with Native American roots I have lived with invisibility, ridicule pain and suffering all my life… the very ground we stand on is full of the blood of the First Peoples. I can FEEL that anguish beneath my feet… There is so much injustice in this world and what we need to do is to come together to mitigate the suffering.

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    • I take it upon myself to create and carve out spaces for Black women to be centered because there is often an unconscious bias against Black women being centered. I stand in solidarity with my Indigenous siblings, and also have Indigenous ancestry. My family is a culmination of Black and Indigenous peoples and cultures.
      However, when there are spaces carved out to center Black women the least we can do as lovers of liberation is to empower them be centered.

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  3. “Love is the ability to be held, enraptured in loving, empowering, and compassionate energy and support.” What an immensely wise statement. I always learn so much from you and am so glad that your share your life experiences and perspective here at FAR. Besides your powerful words, the photo of the three generations at the ocean is beautiful, hopeful, and speaks volumes about love and its many both infinite and deeply personal aspects, ever-unfolding in our lives.

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