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]


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]


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. 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:

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]

See also

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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 women of color, especially 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". 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.

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James H. Cone American theologian

James Hal Cone 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.

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Kairos Document

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"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.

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.

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.

Marcia Y. Riggs is an American author, the J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics, and the 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 Seneva Williams is an American Presbyterian 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.

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.

Postcolonial theology is the application of postcolonial criticism to Christian theology. As is in postcolonial discourse, the term postcolonial is used without a hyphen, denoting an intellectual reaction against the colonial, instead of being merely sequential to it.

Kelly Delaine Brown Douglas is an African-American Episcopal priest, womanist theologian, and the inaugural Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary. She is also the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral. She has written five books, including The Black Christ (1994), Black Bodies and Black Church: A Blues Slant (2012) and Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (2015). Her book Sexuality in the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective (1999) was groundbreaking for openly addressing homophobia within the black church.




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.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Mitchem, Stephanie Y. (2002). Introducing Womanist Theology. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (published 2014). ISBN   978-1-60833-199-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Walker, Alice (1983). In Search of our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose . New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN   978-0-15-144525-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Williams, Delores S. (1995). Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-talk. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Willis, Gladys J. (2016). Alice Walker's Influence on Womanist Theology. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN   978-1-4257-2061-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)[ self-published source ]

Further reading