The Theological Work to be Done

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Language and words are important to me. I am a writer and a speaker. The articulation and presentation of thoughts is something that I take very seriously because it provides the foundation for how ideas are transmitted and relationships are formed. I often start by defining words, phrases and concepts so that a common understanding exist and that there is clarity in the exchange of information.

That being said, let me begin with a word about who I am. I am a self identified womanist theologian. This means nothing to you if you don’t know what a womanist is and how that forms a theological framework. Womanist is a term coined by the venerable Alice Walker in her work In Search of our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose. She defines womanist in the following ways:
  1. From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one. Interested in grown up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown.” Responsible. In charge. Serious.
  2. A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally a universalist, as in: “Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige and black?” Ans. “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.” Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
  3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless.
  4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.

I am a theologian – one who studies God and concepts of God. I operate from a practical framework, one that is pastoral in nature. This means that I understand who God is through a pastoral care lens, one that takes seriously the care of, compassion for and fundamental humanity of God’s creation.

So as a womanist theologian, I draw on my experience and the larger experience of black women and their context of experiencing interlocking systems of oppression to understand who God is and how God moves in a caring relationship with God’s people. The purpose of this study is to uncover a fuller understanding of what it means to experience abundant life and ultimately liberation. This does not end with the black woman’s lived experience, it only begins there. A key aspect of womanist theology is that the liberation and wholeness of all of humanity is lifted up. Did you get that?

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