Note: This is based on a podcast which can be heard here.
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.
Authors: Irie Lynne Session, Kamilah Hall Sharp and Jann Aldredge-Clanton
Publisher: Wipf & Stock, 2020
Womanist theology is a form of theological reflection that centers on Black women’s experience, sensitive to issues of race, class and gender. It originated in the United States in the mid-1980s and has grown in scope, sophistication and influence, but until recently there has been no expressly womanist church. This book charts the founding and development of a womanist church from the perspectives not only of its pastors (Irie Lynne Session and Kamilah Hall Sharp) but also of its ministry partners (Jann Aldredge-Clanton and others). Continue reading “The Gathering: A Womanist Church BOOK REVIEW by Mary Ann Beavis”
One of the things I love most about being an educator is introducing my students to the thinkers who have inspired me. I am especially delighted when I can share things I’ve learned from meeting and hearing these scholars speak. One of the joys of “coming of age” as a religious scholar in the early 21st century is that I have been able to meet some of my heroes. I’ve conversed with scholars whose writings about justice, liberation, hope, love, and religion’s potential to be a moral force in a hurting world inspire me. I’ve been able to hear them speak at conferences and workshops where I’ve felt the truth and power of their words in my body. One of the most inspiring women I’ve met in my academic journey was Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon. She passed away on August 8, and although I was not one of her students, I grieve and mourn this recent loss. I remember her and honor her for her spirit, her scholarship, and her soul’s work.
Katie Cannon was a pioneer. Her scholarly work was integral for defining the womanism in religion and theology. She took black women’s lives, their writings, and their struggles seriously. She challenged the presumed universality of the dominant ethical systems to identify moral resources and Christian teachings that could address the challenges of people oppressed by their race, sex, and class. Dr. Cannon’s vocational journey demonstrated her willingness to transgress racial, gender, and class boundaries. She was the first African-American woman to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). She grew up in a North Carolina town she described as “a modern-day plantation,” but excelled in elite academic spaces, earning her Ph.D. and then leading many others in their academic pursuits. Continue reading ““Do the Work Your Soul Must Have”: In Remembrance of Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon by Elise M. Edwards”
Within the Christian tradition, this week – l known as Holy Week – is perhaps the most significant week on the Christian calendar. During this week Christians are called to contemplate and to remember the core events of Christian identity—the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Given the focus of this week for many Christians I am sharing my theological reflections on the crucifixion-resurrection event.
As I begin this reflection, it is important to recall that which I and others have pointed out in other places. In Jesus’ first century Roman world crucifixion was reserved for slaves, enemy soldiers and those held in the highest contempt and with lowest regard in society. To be crucified was, for the most part, an indication of how worthless and devalued by established power an individual was. It also indicated how much of a threat that person was believed to be to the order of things. There was a decided crucified class of people. These were essentially the castigated and demonized as well as the ones who defied the status quo of power. It is in this respect that I believe Jesus’ crucifixion affirms his identification with the marginalized and outcasts. Indeed, on the cross Jesus fully divests himself of all pretensions to power and anything that would compromise his bond with those most othered in the world. The reality of the cross further affirms the profundity of god’s bond with put-upon bodies..
As a “Christian womanist theologian” I was very engaged by the recent dialogue concerning “Gendered Imagery of God” (March 13). In response to that very thoughtful post, it was asserted that Christian womanist have not addressed this issue, especially as it concerns the maleness of Jesus. In fact, christological concerns have been a central focus within womanist theology, particularly given the centrality of Jesus and the cross for the black faith tradition. With this being the case, the maleness of Jesus has not been ignored. It has been addressed by womanist religious scholars from the early beginnings of womanist theological reflection. This issue, however, has emerged not from a discussion of God or Christ apart from issues of “survival and wholeness” for the black community, male and female. Continue reading “The Black Christ by Kelly Brown Douglas”
A while back I gave a talk on feminist trinitarian theology to an audience of mostly progressive academics, including feminist and womanist scholars of religion. In the course of analyzing what I called the ‘trinitarian imaginary’ in Christianity and its often-patriarchal and masculinist forms, I suggested that transforming that imaginary might require recognizing the hypothetical character of theological statements until the eschaton, a theme that has been developed in depth by a German theologian named Wolfhart Pannenberg. Now, Pannenberg is decidedly neither a feminist nor a progressive theologian. To name just one example: in his three-volume Systematic Theology, his few explicit references to feminist or female theologians include a brief mention of Mary Daly (volume 1, p. 262) in connection with a critique of feminist theologians for projecting (!) masculinity into God in their readings of divine fatherhood, and a critique of Valerie Saiving and Susan Nelson Dunfee’s positions on the traditional Christian doctrine of sin as pride (volume 2, p. 243). So when I mentioned Pannenberg as a resource in my talk, one of the feminist scholars in the audience audibly gasped and flinched – it became clear in the Q&A that she had significant concerns about whether I could count as a feminist at all. After all, to mine someone like Pannenberg for constructive feminist theological work might imply an endorsement of his other positions, or might entail taking over aspects of his system that would taint my own project in anti-feminist directions – all legitimate concerns. Continue reading “When Feminists Disagree by Linn Marie Tonstad”
After considering Virginia’s Transvaginal Utrasound Bill in light of the womanist critique, I wonder if religiously-motivated lawmakers considered that they alone do not have access to God’s intentions, but that the divine spirit is operative in a pregnant woman as well, would they be so willing to negate her moral agency?
On Tuesday, the senate in Virginia approved a law that would require women to get an external ultrasound before an abortion. This is a scaled-back version of an original bill that mandated transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortions. According to this Washington Post article, opponents like Sen. Janet D. Howell describe the measure as “state rape,” since it is the state, not the woman and her doctor who decides that she must undergo this procedure requiring the insertion of a probe into the vagina. Although proponents of the bill say that it is designed to give women more information about a fetus’ gestational age and development, most would agree that it is ultimately intended to discourage the women from having an abortion. This is why bloggers like Kendra Hamilton believe that religion is the motivation behind this and the other 5 abortion-related bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly connected to issues of women’s sovereignty over their bodies. Yet, as I heard about these bills, another religious response came to mind – one that expresses horror and condemnation of coercive practices regarding women’s childbearing. Continue reading “Get Your Laws off my Body! by Elise Edwards”