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"Black Theology and the Black Woman"
- in Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought (1995)
- Liberation theologians assert that the reigning theologies of the West have been used to legitimate the established order. Those to whom the church has entrusted the task of interpreting the meaning of God's activity in the world have been too content to represent the ruling classes. For this reason, say the liberation theologians, theology has generally not spoken to those who are opposed by the political establishment.
- p. 320
- In examining Black theology, it is necessary to make one of two assumptions: (1) either black women have no place in the enterprise, or (2) black men are capable of speaking for us. Both of these assumptions are false and need to be discarded. They arise out of a male-dominated culture, which restricts women to certain areas of the society. In such a culture, men are given the warrant to speak for women on all matters of significance.
- p. 322
- Black men must ask themselves a difficult question. How can a white society characterized by Black enslavement, colonialism, and imperialism provide the normative conception of women for Black society? How can the sphere of the woman, as defined by white men, be free from the evils and oppressions that are found in the white society? The important point is that in matters relative to the relationship between the sexes, Black men have accepted without question the patriarchal structures of the white society as normative for the Black community. How can a Black minister preach in a way that advocates St. Paul’s dictum concerning women while ignoring or repudiating his dictum concerning slaves? Many Black women are enraged as they listen to “liberated” Black men speak about the “place of women” in words and phrases similar to those of the very white oppressors they condemn.
- p. 323
I can agree with Karl Barth as he describes the peculiar function of theology as the church’s “subjecting herself to a self-test.” “She [the church] faces herself with the question of truth, i.e., she measures her action, her language about God, against her existence as a Church.”
On the one hand, Black theology must continue to criticize classical theology and the white church. But on the other hand, Black theology must subject the Black church to a “self-test.”
- p. 325
- If the liberation of women is not proclaimed, the church’s proclamation cannot be about divine liberation. If the church does not share in the liberation struggle of Black women, its liberation struggle is not authentic. If women are oppressed, the church cannot possibly be “a visible manifestation that the gospel is a reality”—for the gospel cannot be real in that context. One can see the contradictions between the church’s language or proclamation of liberation and its action by looking both at the status of Black women in the church as laity and Black women in the ordained ministry of the church.
- p. 325
- It is often said that women are the “backbone” of the church. On the surface this may appear to be a compliment, especially when one considers the function to the backbone in the human anatomy. ... The telling portion of the word backbone is the word “back.” It has become apparent to me that most of the ministers who use this term have reference to location rather than function. What they really mean is that women are in the “background” and should be kept there. They are merely support workers.
- p. 325