Liberation Theology

In the blog post, Antiracist feminist pastor and a Matthew 25 Church I shared part of my antiracist work and the Matthew 25 initiative that Third Church has signed onto with other churches in PCUSA. At the time, I was preparing for the Liberation Theology Series at Chatham University. In preparing for this series I read two books at Dr. Higginbothan’s recommendation. They are books she uses when she is teaching college courses. The first is Miguel A. De La Torre’s “Reading the Bible from the Margins”, and the second is Stephanie Y. Mitchem’s “Introducing Womanist Theology”. I enjoyed reading both books.

De La Torre has other liberation theology books and a much more extensive (longer) Handbook of U.S. Liberation Theologies. I’ve added his handbook to my hope-to-read-someday book list. The book I read in preparation for the theology talks I hope to use at Third Church soon. I loved reading familiar bible passages and hearing a (new to me, but actually not new at all) perspective. It’s going to be interesting going chapter by chapter with a small group.

The womanist theology book was also wonderful in that it helped me to understand broader concepts in womanist theology. And it provided some ideas for where I might want to dig in more deeply. With both womanist and feminist work, I’ve been reading books by individuals and didn’t have all of the big picture stuff in my grasp. I decided to purchase the introduction to feminist theology from the same publisher (Anne M. Clifford is the author). My favorite part of womanist theology is that it cultivates a community (including men) and shares collective wisdom (Mama said) that can be wisdom from your mama or mine or auntie or grandma or someone not-blood-but-who-is-like-family or the collective wisdom of the group.

Sharon also suggested Jacquelyn Grant’s White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response as a good place to begin understanding how feminist and womanist interact. I purchased that but haven’t begun reading just yet. It was already on my list so I’m sure someone else had also recommended it too.

Okay, so that covers the homework and the follow-up homework. The talks themselves were so much fun: sharing, storytelling, listening to other perspectives is difficult to document. What I’m learning about antiracism and liberation theology is that reading is great, but dialogue is better. (And I need to start being more active, reading is ‘no risk’ and dialogue is ‘low risk’, and requires very little from me). Sharon is gracious and warm and very easy to engage with. I really enjoyed our time together. I am still struck by how different our experience in church was and is. Even in the small examples and stories of our church experiences it was clear to see that race is a major factor in our interpretation of scripture, who Jesus is, and what the work of the church is. I realized that much of my white church experience was about believing the right thing and less about doing the right thing. My faith experience was about personal relationship with God and personal choices and beliefs (purity specifically) that was good/polite behaviors (God loves you, keep your legs crossed). Sharon’s experience was more communal and focused on discerning prayerfully and doing what was right for everyone. For her, church was the safe place to talk about what was going on in the community and in the world. For me, talking about social issues or politics was “not polite” in a church setting and was discouraged. For example, in my white church experience we gave to the food bank but I could’t ask why people where hungry. And when there was an answer it was someone was sick or lost a job and I was made to feel that it was only temporary (systemic poverty wasn’t part of the dialogue).

Juan Mendizabal, the Assistant Director, Interfaith Cooperation and Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion introduced Dr. Higginbothan and Pastor Karie to the students as people who are ‘safe’ to talk with and shared briefly his own experience working with us. It was honoring and humbling all at the same time. I hope that I can live up to that introduction.

The students were engaged in their groups and the questions that came up were thoughtful. The discussions continued into lunch too. Challenging white supremacy and patriarchy seemed to be something they were already engaged in and thinking about the way that intersects with faith seemed new (and exciting/challenging) to most of the students. A couple of students are interested in doing more liberation theology talks as a podcast and I’m excited to see what they come up with. I imagine they will find ways to include other marginalized groups in the conversation too.

The Holy Spirit was definitely up to something in and through and with those of us who participated and I am hopeful about what God will do in the future.

Flyer from Chatham University

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