Womanist theology

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Womanist theology is a religious conceptual framework which reconsiders and revises the traditions, practices, scriptures, and biblical interpretation with a special lens to empower and liberate African-American women in America. Womanist theology associates with and departs from Feminist theology and Black theology specifically because it integrates the perspectives and experiences of African American and other women of color. The former's lack of attention to the everyday realities of women of color and the latter's lack of understanding of the full dimension of liberation from the unique oppressions of black women require bringing them together in Womanist Theology. The goals of womanist theology include interrogating the social construction of black womanhood in relation to the black community and to assume a liberatory perspective so African American women can live emboldened lives within the African American community and within the larger society. Some of its tasks are excavating the life stories of poor women of African descent in the church and to understanding the "languages" of black women. [1]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Feminist theology is a movement found in several religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and New Thought, to reconsider the traditions, practices, scriptures, and theologies of those religions from a feminist perspective. Some of the goals of feminist theology include increasing the role of women among the clergy and religious authorities, reinterpreting male-dominated imagery and language about God, determining women's place in relation to career and motherhood, and studying images of women in the religion's sacred texts and matriarchal religion.

Black theology, or black liberation theology, refers to a theological perspective which originated among African-American seminarians and scholars, and in some black churches in the United States and later in other parts of the world. It contextualizes Christianity in an attempt to help those of African descent overcome oppression. It especially focuses on the injustices committed against African Americans and black South Africans during American segregation and apartheid, respectively.

Contents

Etymology

The term womanish was commonly used in Black daily language by mothers to describe adolescent daughters who act outrageous and grown-up, in contrast to girlish. Womanist was then developed in 1983 by black writer and activist Alice Walker in her collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose . In this text, she makes the point that "A Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender." [2] Hence, while womanist referred primarily to African American women, it was also for women in general. Walker's works would have significant impact on later womanist theologians. [3]

Womanism social theory deeply rooted in the racial and gender-based oppression of black women

Womanism is a social theory based on the history and everyday experiences of black women. It seeks, according to womanist scholar Layli Maparyan (Phillips), to "restore the balance between people and the environment/nature and reconcil[e] human life with the spiritual dimension". The writer Alice Walker coined the term womanist in a short story, "Coming Apart", in 1979. Since Walker's initial use, the term has evolved to envelop varied, and often opposing interpretations of conceptions such as feminism, men, and blackness.

Alice Walker American author and activist

Alice Walker is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist. She wrote the novel The Color Purple (1982), for which she won the National Book Award for hardcover fiction, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She also wrote the novels Meridian (1976) and The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), among other works. An avowed feminist, Walker coined the term "womanist" to mean "A black feminist or feminist of color" in 1983.

<i>In Search of Our Mothers Gardens</i> book by Alice Walker

Published in 1983, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose is a collection composed of 36 separate pieces written by Alice Walker. The essays, articles, reviews, statements, and speeches were written between 1966 and 1982. Many are based on her understanding of "womanist" theory. Walker defines "womanist" at the beginning of the collection as "A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mother to female children and also a woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women's culture. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female".

Development

The roots of modern womanist theology grew out of the theology of James Hal Cone, Katie G. Cannon, Jacquelyn Grant, and Delores Williams. Cone developed black theology which sought to make sense out of theology from black experience in America. In his book A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone argued that "God is black" in an effort to demonstrate that God identifies with oppressed black Americans. Then, Grant, a first-generation womanist theologian, argued that Cone did not attend to the fullness of black experience – specifically that of black women. She argued that the oppression of black women is different from that of black men. Grant pointed out that lower-class black women must navigate between the threefold oppression of racism, sexism, and classism in her books Womanist Theology and White Women's Christ and Black Women's Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response. For her, Jesus is a "divine co-sufferer" who suffered in his time like black women today. Grant concludes that black women are more oppressed and in need of further liberation than black men and especially white women. Delores Williams took the work of theologians such as Cone and Grant and expanded upon them. She suggested that womanist theologians need to "search for the voices, actions, opinions, experience, and faith" of black women in order to experience the God who "makes a way out of no way." She defines womanist in the following way:

Jacquelyn Grant is an African-American theologian and Methodist minister best known as one of the founding developers of womanist theology. She is currently the Callaway Professor of Systematic Theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. Grant has written the notable White Women's Christ and Black Women's Jesus.

Womanist theology is a prophetic voice concerned about the well-being of the entire African-American community, male and female, adults and children. Womanist theology attempts to help black women see, affirm, and have confidence in the importance of their experience and faith for determining the character of the Christian religion in the African-American community. Womanist theology challenges all oppressive forces impeding black women's struggle for survival and for the development of a positive, productive quality of life conducive to women's and the family's freedom and well-being. Womanist theology opposes all oppression based on race, sex, class, sexual preference, physical ability, and caste. [4]

Approaches to the Bible

Womanist theologians use a variety of methods to approach the scripture. Some attempt to find black women within the biblical narrative so as to reclaim the role and identity of black people in general, and black women specifically, within the Bible. Examples include the social ethicist Cheryl Sanders and the womanist theologian Karen Baker-Fletcher. Some approach the Bible "objectively" to critically evaluate text that degrades women and people of color and to offer an African-centered form, to resist male domination and bias, or what could be termed anti-women or androcentric attitudes and forms. Others draw on resources outside the Bible to enhance the plurality and cohesion of the texts along with our life experiences and reject scripture as a whole or part which is seen to serve male interest only. These methods are not separated and can be endorsed together.[ citation needed ]

Patricia-Anne Johnson writes that "Renita J. Weems, a womanist professor and scholar of the Hebrew Bible, examines scripture as a world filled with women of color. Through the use of womanist imagination, Weems helps students to understand female roles, personalities, and woman-to-woman relationships during the time when the biblical texts were written." [5] Johnson, quoting further from Weems, also shows how Hagar and Esther can be seen as models of resistance for black women: "Womanism may be envisioned as a post-colonial discourse that allows African-American women to embrace a Jesus and a God free of the imperialism of white supremacy." [6]

Renita J. Weems is a Hebrew Bible scholar. Her work in biblical studies is frequently cited in feminist theology and womanist theology.

See also

Related Research Articles

Liberation theology is a synthesis of Christian theology and Marxist socio-economic analyses that emphasizes social concern for the poor and the political liberation for oppressed peoples. In the 1950s and the 1960s, liberation theology was the political praxis of Latin American theologians, such as Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay, and Jon Sobrino of Spain, who popularized the phrase "Preferential option for the poor".

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christian theology:

Union Theological Seminary (New York City) Independent, ecumenical, Christian seminary in New York City

Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is an independent non-denominational, seminary in the Christian tradition, located in New York City. It is the oldest independent seminary in the United States and has long been known as a bastion of progressive Christian scholarship, with a number of prominent thinkers among its faculty or alumni. It was founded in 1836 by members of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., but was open to students of all denominations. In 1893, Union rescinded the right of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to veto faculty appointments, thus becoming fully independent. In the 20th century, Union became a center of liberal Christianity. It served as the birthplace of the Black theology, womanist theology, and other theological movements. Union houses the Columbia University Burke Library, one of the largest theological libraries in the Western Hemisphere.

James H. Cone American theologian

James Hal Cone (1938–2018) was an American theologian, best known for his advocacy of black theology and black liberation theology. His 1969 book Black Theology and Black Power provided a new way to comprehensively define the distinctiveness of theology in the black church. His message was that Black Power, defined as black people asserting the humanity that white supremacy denied, was the gospel in America. Jesus came to liberate the oppressed, advocating the same thing as Black Power. He argued that white American churches preached a gospel based on white supremacy, antithetical to the gospel of Jesus. Cone's work was influential from the time of the book's publication, and his work remains influential today. His work has been both used and critiqued inside and outside the African-American theological community. He was the Charles Augustus Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary until his death.

Cain Hope Felder American theologian

Cain Hope Felder is an American biblical scholar, serving as professor of New Testament language and literature and editor of The Journal of Religious Thought at the Howard University School of Divinity. He also serves as chair of the Doctor of Philosophy program and immediate past chair of the Doctor of Ministry program. He has been on Howard's faculty since 1981.

Mercy Amba Oduyoye is a Ghanaian Methodist theologian known for her work in African women's theology. She is currently the director of the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana.

"Africana womanism" is a term coined in the late 1980s by Clenora Hudson-Weems intended as an ideology applicable to all women of African descent. It is grounded in African culture and Afrocentrism and focuses on the experiences, struggles, needs, and desires of Africana women of the African diaspora. It distinguishes itself from feminism, or Alice Walker's womanism. Africana womanism pays more attention to and gives more focus on the realities and the injustices in society in regard to race. Africana Womanism is geared to be absolutely African-centered. Even in the naming, Africa is at the center and in African cosmology, nommo is the proper naming of a thing which calls it into existence. Clenora Hudson-Weems sought to create a ideology specific to African women and women of African descent. Hudson-Weems believes that the creation of the ideology separates African women's accomplishments from African male scholars, feminism, and black feminism. In attempt to avoid being grouped in with other groups of people, Hudson-Weems decided it was time African women had their own ideology established by them. Thus, the terminology Africana Womanism, more appropriately fits the Africana woman, who is both Self-Namer and Self-Definer. Such realities include the diverse struggles and experiences, and needs of Africana women.

Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas is an American author and educator. She is Associate Professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Floyd-Thomas is a Womanist Christian social ethicist whose research interests include Womanist thought, Black Church Studies, liberation theology and ethics, critical race theory, critical pedagogy and postcolonial studies. Specifically, her work addresses tripartite oppression and religious responses to these forms of oppression. Race, class and gender are three social categories that contribute to the oppression of black women, and Floyd-Thomas' work addresses how religious commitments, particularly Christian sensibilities, work to either ameliorate these forms of oppression, or perpetuate them.

Jane Dewar Schaberg was the Professor of Religious Studies and of Women's Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy from 1977 through 2009.

Clenora F. Hudson-Weems is an African American author and academic who is currently a Professor of English at the University of Missouri. She coined the term "Africana womanism" in the late 1980s, contending that women of African descent have always been Africana womanists by their very nature, dating back to Africana women in antiquity, even before the coinage of the word itself. Africana Womanism, a family-centered paradigm, observed this phenomenon, then proceeded in naming and defining a paradigm relative to who Africana women are and how they go about their daily lives in both the home place and the workplace.

Marcia Y. Riggs is an American author, the J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of ThM Program at Columbia Theological Seminary, a womanist theologian, and a recognized authority on the black woman’s club movement of the nineteenth century. She was one of six Luce Scholars named by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. as Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2017-2018.

Delores S. Williams is a theologian notable for her formative role in the development of womanist theology and best known for her book Sisters in the Wilderness. Her writings over the years have discussed the role intersecting oppressions of race, gender, and class have played in the situation of black women. As opposed to feminist theology as it was predominantly practiced by white women and black theology as predominantly practiced by black men, Williams argues that black women's oppression deepens the analysis of oppression in theology. In Sisters in the Wilderness, Williams' primarily develops a rereading of the biblical figure, Hagar, to illuminate the importance of issues of reproduction and surrogacy in black women's oppression. According to Aaron McEmrys, "Williams offers a theological response to the defilement of black women.... Womanism is an approach to ethics, theology and life rooted in the experiences of African-American women". The term "Womanism" was coined by a contemporary of Williams, Alice Walker, used in her 1979 short story "Coming Apart" and again in her 1983 essay collection In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. Williams wrote the eighth chapter of Transforming the Faiths of our Fathers: Women who Changed American Religion (2004), edited by Ann Braude.

This is a bibliography of works on Black theology.

Political theology in sub-Saharan Africa deals with the relationship of theology and politics born from and/or specific to the circumstances of the region. Arising from the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and nationalist campaigns of the mid to late twentieth century elsewhere, the increasing numbers of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa has led to an increased interest in Christian responses to the region's continuing issues of poverty, violence, and war. According to the Cameroonian theologian and sociologist Jean-Marc Éla, African Christianity "has to be formulated from the struggles of our people, from their joys, from their pains, from their hopes and from their frustrations today." African theology is heavily influenced by liberation theology, global black theology, and postcolonial theology.

Asian feminist theology is a Christian feminist theology developed to be especially relevant to women in Asia. Inspired by both liberation theology and feminist theology, it aims to contextualize them to the conditions and experiences of Asian women.

Kwok Pui-lan Hong Konger Christian feminist theologian who formulated Asian feminist theology

Kwok Pui-lan is a Hong Kong-born feminist theologian known for her work on Asian feminist theology and postcolonial theology.

References

Footnotes

Bibliography

Johnson, Patricia-Anne (2002). "Womanist Theology as Counter-Narrative". In Ruether, Rosemary Radford (ed.). Gender, Ethnicity, and Religion: Views from the Other Side. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress. pp. 197ff. ISBN   978-0-8006-3569-5.
Mitchem, Stephanie Y. (2002). Introducing Womanist Theology. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (published 2014). ISBN   978-1-60833-199-4.
Walker, Alice (1983). In Search of our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose . New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN   978-0-15-144525-7.
Williams, Delores S. (1995). Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-talk. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.
Willis, Gladys J. (2016). Alice Walker's Influence on Womanist Theology. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN   978-1-4257-2061-2.[ self-published source ]

Further reading

Sweeney, Hyacinth (2000). "The Bible as a Tool For Growth for Black Women". Black Theology in Britain: A Journal of Contextual Praxis. 3 (5): 21–32. ISSN   1462-3161.
Thomas, Linda E. (1998). "Womanist Theology, Epistemology, and a New Anthropological Paradigm". Cross Currents. Vol. 48 no. 4. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
John, Joby. Probing Womanist Existentialism: A Reading of Alice Walker's The Color Purple . Retrieved 25 November 2017.
Riggs, Marcia, ed. (1997). Can I Get a Witness?: Prophetic Religious Voices of African American Women: An Anthology . New York: Orbis Books. ISBN   9781570751134.