Union Theological Seminary recently hosted a documentary about the origin of Womanist Theology through the perspective of some of its early adherents. The 12-minute video below is a preview of the full documentary, Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, which will be shown at the American Academy of Religion meeting this fall in San Diego, California, USA.
A social and spiritual look at female theologians and ethicists of African descent…Union Theological Seminary will premier Journey to Liberation, a 50-minute documentary on the founding of Womanist theology, an African-American feminist liberation movement. Filmmaker Anika Gibbons takes a deeper look at the radical spirituality and scholarship within the lives of the founding mothers of Womanist theology and Womanist ethics. She focuses on their significance as figures in African-American theology and history, and on the role played by Union in that founding.
For a summary and commentary on the event, see Womanist Theology at Union: A Past, A Present– A Future? by Jamall Calloway (H/T to Jason Harris and Postcolonial Theology Network Facebook Group)
For more videos, including an introduction to the film and resulting panel discussion about the current state of African-American women in theology and Womanist perspectives, follow this link.
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Michael Shepherd is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University. He is the editor of GlobalTheology.org and lives in Fullerton, CA, USA with his wife and son.
Artist Joey Novak has an installation of minimalist interpretations of books of the Bible (LINK). Out of respect for his work, I will not post the images here, but encourage you to follow the link to see for yourself.
Questions to consider:
What symbols carry the most power in his art?
How do we assign meaning to symbols (enough meaning that they can convey so much more than words)?
What other symbols exist that we can use to communicate the gospel and discipleship?
How do we incorporate the cultural expectations of our particular locations in our own theological development? What elements inform our community’s imagination and supply meaning to its spiritual vocabulary? How can we communicate effectively who Christ is and the significance of the gospel?
In 1927, Po Ch’en Kuang viewed the Chinese religious classics Analects, Mencius, and the Book of Songs and Rites as comparable to the prophets, Psalms, and Deuteronomy of the Hebrew Scriptures that were included in the canon by non-Hebrew Christian groups. As Kwok Pui Lan summarized his argument, “since the Bible contains the important classics of the Jewish people which preceded Jesus, he could see no reason why the Chinese would not include their own” (“Discovering the Bible in the Non-Biblical World.” Voices from the Margins. R.S. Sugirtharajah, ed. 1991, 302).
Some Christian communities in India exemplify this approach through the incorporation of Vedic Hindu Scriptures. The Vedas and Hindu traditions define the lexicon of the spirituality and so to access this subsystem of the culture requires fluency in the associated terms and grammar. Thangaraj describes the possibility of viewing the Hindu scriptures as a type of “Old Testament for Indian Christians” and the need to “…read the Hindu Scriptures in the light of Christ, just as the early Jewish disciples of Jesus had done with the Hebrew Scriptures” (“The Bible as Veda: Biblical Hermeneutics in Tamil Christianity.” Vernacular Hermeneutics. R.S. Sugirtharajah, ed. 1999, 136). This perspective takes seriously the extent to which the Hinduism and the Vedic scriptures have shaped the culture and religious expectation in India. One must mine the cultural influence of the Hindu Scripture to present an image of Christ that is recognizable and incorporated into the lives of the community.
Within these convergent communities, local theologians utilize the existing thought forms and archetypes to mold their unique Christologies. As a North American example, Gabe Lyons, in his book The Next Christians (2010), labels some communities of North American Christians restorers, in clear differentiation from a former buzzword, relevant. A defining characteristic of these communities is a countercultural relationship with the majority culture. The term “countercultural” is not void of meaning to this community, however, as they possess preconceived images that define it. To view Christ as countercultural places him in a category of other iconoclasts and may conjure images of Che Guevara, Malcolm X, or Bob Dylan. Elements of the lives of each of these men find greater definition when applied to Christ, such as commitment to societal change, redefining oneself in relation to one’s commitment to faith, or using poetic language to convey a message of hope and love. A more contemporary example of the countercultural iconoclast is the street artist Banksy, an anonymous activist known to beautify public places in an attempt to bring attention to injustices or awaken people to a life of deeper significance. The theologizing of the restorers follows the pre-existing pattern to determine the type of countercultural figure Jesus is and the manner in which the community can align their lives after his in discipleship. For this community to comprehend Christ, they begin with the images with which they are familiar and then seek the direction of scripture to add greater definition.
What elements exist within your community that form its “lexicon of spirituality”? How can these be used and re-interpreted to convey the gospel?
This essay was excerpted from “Form, Re-Form: Religious and Cultural Identity in the Formation of Christian Theology” , by Michael Shepherd. The full material can be found here and is open for dialogue and review.
I have always liked this song for its simplicity. The band (mewithoutYou) is one whose use of imagery and lyricism is pregnant with meaning and the connection toward the spiritual.
There is much hand wringing in the western church over the growing margins of people who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious” or specifically “Christian”. This song speaks to this strata of people looking for spiritual significance in a world that is increasingly distant.
The song makes no explicit mention of Christ or salvation, yet a cursory glance at the lyrics makes several theological declarations. (more…)
Today’s guest post comes from Brainerd Prince. The comparative essay examines the leadership style of the Jedi–and its emphasis upon masterhood–and draws implications for Christian pastoral ministry leadership. For disciples to become more like Christ, a pastor must become more like a Jedi-Master. (Click to Tweet)
Jesus, after he was gone, wanted his disciples to be masters like himself rather than contemporary pastors! This is neither to be provocative for the sake of it nor purely an attention-grabber. I am deliberately positing the image of a master in opposition to that of a pastor with a view to get behind these images and seek an ultimate reconciliation. I will begin with the master-image. Jesus was a master and in his becoming the ‘servant’ and ‘friend’ he was equally elevating his ‘servants’ and ‘friends’ to masterhood. That is why he was able to say to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and great works than these he will do; because I go to the Father’ (John 14:12).
Being a master is a bit like being a Jedi-Master in the world of Star Wars, the highest rank of the Jedi order (more…)
Open Theism views God as entering a guided partnership with humanity to actualize our history. God desires to work out our future with us rather than dictate it to us and, to that degree, created a world with a largely unknown future (i.e. “open”). By being responsive to human activity and prayers, God engages with us daily through Christ and the Holy Spirit in achieving the Kingdom’s reality here on earth. The doctrine is also referred to as Openness Theology or Free Will Theism, and is a distinct departure from Classical/Reformed traditions.
The Global Theology Countdown breaks down a large topic into more easily accessible parts, linking to other sites for those who would want to go deeper.
- 4 Keys to Understanding
- 3 People to Know
- 2 Blogs Worth Reading
- 1 Book to Read Immediately
Marilynne Robinson is an American author whose writing has carried subtle Christian messages and found resonance among wider circles, most recently a review in the New Yorker magazine. Allison Backhous has a recent piece in ThinkChristian.net considering her approach to creativity and the impact it can have on society.
This leads her to a question, can art be both true and evangelistic? (more…)
Have you ever considered how the environment around you shapes your perspective of life? how the buildings, streets, and neighborhoods influence who we are?
A few months ago, we had a piece on the theology of the Built Environment and the video below goes into more detail about the Parish Collective on Churches, Places, and Spaces
Where are those places where the whole church is in the whole neighborhood?
A series of short films, titled Self-Sabotage, by Scott Brignac to accompany Derek Webb’s Feedback album convey graphically the significance of the Lord’s Prayer as experienced by several people.
Self-Sabotage: the deliberate subversion of oneself. Destructive or obstructive action that hinders the person who acts. See also: the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is inherently violent towards the one who prays it.
Self-Sabotage is an exploration of the Lord’s Prayer based on and inspired by Derek Webb’s electronic all instrumental album ‘Feedback’. It follows six characters in a narrative with no words – only the music to parallel the stories.
This film has come to pick a fight, and any viewing that fails to recognize that may put the viewer at risk in one way or another. Self-Sabotage rests firmly amidst the tension between the prayed and the praying; the single-minded character and vision of the Lord’s prayer serves as the sub-text through which we enter into the lives of its characters. Their lives, like moving icons, open windows into the great mystery of communion through self-dethroning sabotage.
Christmas is all about a migration story. I am not referring to Santa’s Christmas Eve sleigh ride around the world—that’s travel, not migration—and it’s also not what Christmas is all about.
Even Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’s escape as refugees to Egypt just after the visit of the Magi—while certainly a formative experience in young Jesus’ life and an experience upon which we would do well to reflect upon—is not at the very center of the Christmas story. (more…)