Loving In The Loser’s Club: The Gospel According To Stephen King’s IT

“A frightening possibility suddenly occurred to him: maybe sometimes things didn’t just go wrong and then stop; maybe sometimes they just kept going wronger and wronger until everything was totally fucked up.”

“OH SHIT! I BELIEVE IN ALL OF THOSE THINGS!” he shouted, and it was true: even at eleven he had observed that things turned out right a ridiculous amount of the time.”

“There was power in that music, a power which seemed to most rightfully belong to all the skinny kids, fat kids, ugly kids, shy kids—the world’s losers, in short.”

One of my favorite things about Autumn is October because, well, Halloween. I mean, Hallowen. HALLO-FREAKING-WEEN. As I wrote elsewhere, I believe Halloween can be observed in a very Christocentric manner, all month long.

My main way to observe this sacred time has been to reread through Stephen King’s masterpiece, IT, once again. I cannot rave about this book enough. If you are even vaguely interested in reading it, please for the love of everything holy and uholy, read it. Haha, get it? IT. What’s that? Puns are evil? Nah.. oh.. okay..

If you haven’t read IT and are still interested in reading this post, please check out this brief plot summary so as to make sense of this gibberish I’m conveying. However, if you’ve seen the original film adaptation, that should be sufficient. If you’ve only seen the first part of the recent remake, be aware there are spoilers ahead.

There are many themes I would love to draw out, but for the sake of brevity let’s tie some random threads together and hope we acquire something sensible! Seriously, though, this book conveys many beautiful truths: the Christocentric gospel, mimetic theory, death anxiety,  and the centrality of love (here I mean agape, not eros) in living a satisfactory life. To name a few.

The first thing I’d like to point out about this book is that Stephen King manipulates the ‘haunted house’ horror trope. He expands this common microcosm from haunted house to haunted town (ie: Derry). Pennywise doesn’t live in a house, It lives in Derry.  Pennywise appears to be an almost omnipresent being in Derry. It can appear just about anytime and anywhere. Derry is Its town – one could say It owns Derry. It influences people and events. In this way, Pennywise is symbolic of the zeitgeist of a town. Now, the dictionary definition of zeitgeist reads as such:

the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time

and while I am using it in this way, I’d like to expand a bit. The zeitgeist is not simply covering a particular period of history, although it certainly embodies that. It can also mean the cultural atmosphere of any place, period of time, or group of people . For example, here are some questions that can get at the zeitgeist of one’s workplace: how casual is one permitted to dress, what goals does one’s workplace have and how does it seek to implement them, and what are the policies for showing up early or late? In relatively simple terms, I’m referring to culture. On a smaller scale this means the culture of a house, a workplace, a family, a person (ie: one’s psyche and way of thinking). On a larger scale, this could look like a county, a state, a nation, a non-geographically connected group of people.

The thing about culture is it is very real, and many ways even tangible, but it is often overlooked. People live in it, and often follow its mandates, without consciously thinking, “I’m obeying the rules of my culture.” Those who don’t obey get punished whether most explicitly via prison, mental asylums, or social stigmatization. Most people do not go through life self-examining themselves to choose what they want to consciously absorb and meld into and what they don’t. People just go with the flow.

Some, though, consciously follow the rules for fear of being cast out. They may theoretically disagree with an aspect of their culture, but we live in the postmodern age, and who knows what the hell is right…right? Let’s just do this thing, or go with this motion – why stir the pot and be looked down upon?

This is Pennywise. It manipulates Derry through apathetic ignorance and fear, just like the zeitgeist. Pennywise is simultaneously Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann. It is in-your-face evil, but It is also the type of evil that apathetically pushes papers and blindly follows orders, irregardless of compassion and empathy.  It is not mere malice, it is willful ignorance, which, I would argue, is just as heinous.

“I started after him…and the clown looked back. I saw Its eyes, and all at
once I understood who It was.”
“Who was it, Don?” Harold Gardner asked softly.
It was Derry,” Don Hagarty said. “It was this town.”

See, almost all of the residents of Derry ignore Its presence. It is implied they are all very well aware of It, but they refuse to really acknowledge It, think about It, talk about It. They quite literally just live with It. But they can’t just ignore the mass murder of children. They have to put the blame on someone or something, even if that blame is not directly or consciously related to the initial problem. In other words, the people of Derry conjure up some form of scapegoat.

This sort of thing plays out everyday in a multitude of ways. On a microcosmic scale, imagine a father having a terribly stressful day at work, not dealing with the problem directly and consciously, but instead taking out his frustrations on his unassuming child. The child becomes the scapegoat for something unrelated to him, and the father’s stress may be relieved (sort of…not to speak of the guilt that should come from within). On a macrocosmic scale, one need only look at the current state of American politics – we have two generalized political bodies blaming the other for seemingly every problem in the nation state. It’s scapegoating on a broader scale.

More specifically I am referring to the Mimetic Theory proposed by Rene Girard. If you are unfamiliar, please read here. Briefly, the scapegoat functions as the guilty person/party, whether directly involved with the issue at hand or not. The scapegoat may be a person of blemish, embarrassment, quirkiness, etc… they just have to be an easy target which the larger body of people can unify against. In Christian theology, the scapegoat is Jesus Christ. On a practical, socio-politic-historical level, the political powers of His day (ie: Caesar) and the religious authorities (ie: the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc…) used Jesus’ crucifixion as a means to unify the people in the midst of political and religious crisis. On a theological metanarrative level, the Trinitarian God lets humanity kill Him in order that His love may be known, and the absurdity of violence and vengeance is shown. In other words, Jesus Christ functions as the scapegoat for humanity’s own self-inflicted harm. However, unlike other scapegoats, the victimization of Jesus Christ leads to the eventual end of violence and the absolution of sin, therefore ending the need for a scapegoat mechanism.

Now, in Stephen King It, the scapegoat just happens to be The Loser’s Club. As stated above, this scapegoat process is hardly conscious. There isn’t the clear and coherent thought: “We have to ignore Pennywise, but deal with this problem. Let’s indirectly take out our frustrations and qualms with the inhumane aspects of our zeitgeist (personified in Pennywise) on these weird kids.” I’d like to point out, as well, that The Loser’s Club may not be the only scapegoats. Because the narrative is centralized around this group of people, they are the scapegoats given, but that does not mean they are the only people of blemish in Derry. For example, King writes that Derry is extremely hostile to the LGBTQ+ population. This group of people are also scapegoats in Derry’s zeitgeist.

The Loser’s Club consists of a ragtag band of outcast kids who all have some sort of turmoil or social abnormality that makes them just not quite…right. These social quirks make them easy targets. Many would consider them to be a curse – but it is these very oddities that bring The Loser’s Club together in the first place. They bond over them, gain the strength to face Pennywise, and learn to love themselves and each other in the process. (Blessed are the persecuted.) The Loser’s Club comes together over their own insecurities and abnormalities to form a community. This community is guided by the gentle voice of the Turtle. The Turtle appears to be an omniscient Being of benevolence. The Turtle occasionally steps in to guide and assist The Loser’s Club toward agape love and victory of evil personified. The Turtle represents the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit.

In Christian theology, the Holy Spirit guides humanity toward truth, holiness, and love. The Turtle in It does the same, and while I think this comparison is the biggest stretch I provide in this analysis, I still think it works. Some Christians may argue it is a bit blasphemous because the emphasis in the narrative is obviously on the power of love as found in The Loser’s Club and the Turtle is only in the background helping out. The kid’s do not explicitly worship the Turtle, and care far more about loving those around them. But that’s just it – Christ himself calls the Church his body, and therefore any true agape love found in the Church is also the love of Christ manifested on Earth.

Which leads me to my next point: The Loser’s Club is the Church. Now, you may be thinking, “hold on a minute. You’re comparing the scapegoat, outcast, loser group with one of the most powerful religions in the history of mankind?” but just bear with me a second. I do not in any way mean the powerful church, lower case c. I mean the Church, capital C.

Okay, that probably doesn’t clear things up all that much. I’m sorry. What I mean is that I believe the Church is always powerless. If the Church has political power or privilege, it is not the Church, just some piece-o-shit sham. In fact, that church is Pennywise. A modern day example: Pennywise embodies many aspects of the American Evangelical Church movement. This movement, culture, zeitgeist, is full of middle/upper class, white privileged, cisgender, powerful men and blindly submissive women that knowingly (or often more common: willfully and blindly) use their power to oppress many groups of people and spit in the face of Christ. Now, I’m not saying that if you or someone you know considers themselves to be an Evangelical in America that they (or you) are equivalent with Pennywise. But I’m definitely saying there is some truth to the claim that, by and large, American Evangelicalism is heinous, blasphemous, and evil.

Before you flip and get pissed at my statement, I’m not saying that other forms of Christianity aren’t evil, either. I’m pinpointing a group of people I myself am a part of. I’m not singling it out to, well.. scapegoat it. I’m using American Evangelicalism as an example because I am well acquainted with it, and feel more comfortable critiquing my own circle than another’s.

But what does this mean for the real Church? The real Church is, according to the precepts of the ‘world,’ powerless. It is all those Christians who consciously attempt non-conformance to the evils found in the institution of Christianity. It is those who refuse to simply go through the motions to make themselves feel better – to numb themselves with the opiate of the masses, as Marx so eloquently put it. Those actively working against the principalities and powers of the zeitgeist – they are Its explicit enemies. But they don’t work against people, they work for people, all people, seeking the reconciliation of everyone.

The real Church is often oppressed, sometimes willfully so. Oppressed not by “happy holidays,” or some non-existent Islamic overlord, but by choosing to live with the oppressed. The real Church works to end the oppression of peoples everywhere, all the while taking residence with them, if the oppressed are so willing to accept them into their community. The real Church gives up its power to become one with the powerless. The real Church is a co-suffering Loser’s Club. And just like the Loser’s Club, the real Church flips the principalities and powers on their head to reveal it holds true Power, thanks to the co-suffering love given by the Trinity.

The Loser’s Club overcomes the evil of Pennywise twice. The first time is while the members are children. During this period they defeat It, but don’t kill It. However, they hope it is over and finished. They promise each other if It ever comes back, they will reunite and fight It again. Almost 30 years pass, and It resurfaces as strong as ever. They reunite and fight It, of course succeeding because, c’mon, all you need is (co-suffering) love.

All this is sweet and thematic, but the thing I’d really like to point out here is the 30 year gap. King tells us that The Loser’s Club almost completely forget about It as they ‘mature’ into adulthood. Only one original member stays in Derry, and while he does his best to remember and stay vigilant, he eventually forgets. The perspectives of all members as adults are shown to us one by one. Some of them appear content while others appear discontent. All of them are comfortable though – even those in abusive relationships. They are comfortable in what they know, or refuse to admit. But none of them remember any of the others, and life has completely moved on.

Until Pennywise’s activity is made aware to Mike by the Turtle. Once Mike remembers he reluctantly phones each of them. The individual club members are forced out of apathy to confront the zeitgeist, to confront the true way the world works. It wrecks one of them, driving him to the point of suicide. He simply couldn’t deal with the difficult journey of non-conformity.  The rest forcibly move out of the comfort of their blind stagnant lives, and decide to face the current.

But for about 30 freaking years they conformed. They grew into the adults society told them they should be. Self-absorbed, afraid, loveless (agape-less). Despite a very explicit face-to-face victory against evil incarnate, they succumbed to blind ignorance. They assumed one battle, one victory was enough. But that’s not how the zeitgeist works. Evil is paradoxically constant and malleable. As soon as it is conquered (if it ever truly is this side of life), it manifests itself anew. This is why political revolutions just never work. The Church always trips up here. It justifiably stops to celebrate a victory, but quickly gets lost in said victory and loses focus. It quickly conforms to the status quo and trots forward.

Herein lies one of the most important lessons of King’s masterpiece: as a unified group, we are able to maintain our focus. We are able to encourage each other to keep moving, to stay the course. Separated, we become weaker, the temptation toward apathy grows stronger, and we lose sight of everything we once strove for. Agape becomes impossible if we are isolated – there is no one to love.

The other important bit we cannot forget lest our undoing ensue is found in a simple quote from It:

“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”

The point is we are all, always, a little bit apathetic, a little bit compassionate. A little bit evil, a little bit good. One may outweigh the other at a given point in time, but we are ever-moving creatures, always growing, always changing. We are nuanced and beautiful, even at our worst. The person you have demonized as evil is still a person, there is still some good in there somewhere. The person you have glorified as divine is still a person, there is still some evil in there somewhere.

In the novel, people are not the problem that must be overcome. The evil is Pennywise. As stated above, Pennywise is the zeitgeist incarnate. Evil manifested. One must work to lovingly change and challenge the cultural zeitgeist of one’s place. One must fight those things, not people. Love people. Our enemies are institutions, principalities, cultures. Our enemy is Pennywise. Not the people It manipulates. People are always precious. No nuance about that.

While King himself may not agree with this interpretation, and while I have taken some liberties, this shows only a fraction of why I love this piece of literature so friggin’ much.  It’s the gospel in horror narrative form. Many Christians I know find it to be abhorrent, find horror and Halloween to be abhorrent. They’re missing out.

Perhaps they’re too blind to see that

“…God favors drunks, small children, and the cataclysmically stoned…”

 

Peace be unto you this spooky season. May you learn to overcome the ego and the fear of death so as to truly live a life in and for Love. ❤

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Prophet’s Playlist: Thanksgiving Edition (November 2017)

Welcome to a special edition of Prophet’s Playlist – just in time for Thanksgiving. The theme tying these songs together will be the genocide of the Native American people and the theft of their land. Many people around the United States will be gathering with their families, celebrating what they are grateful for. A lot of those families will tell tales about the brave pilgrims who came here and made friends with the Native Americans. Much will be left out about the slaughter and thievery.

Therefore, let us not forget that what we have, we hold because the crimes and heinous deeds done by those who came before us. Let us recognize that the Native Americans who fought so valiantly to prevent the recent pipeline lost another battle due to our collective apathy and gratuitous blindness. The pipeline was built, not heeding their wisdom, and now, just days ago, 200,000 gallons of oil have polluted the minute amount of land we so ‘graciously’ granted to them.

We may have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season, but there are many who are lacking.

Indulge, but do so knowing that there are those who don’t have that opportunity.

Live, but do so knowing there are those who are dying.

Be grateful for what you have – and seek to share it with those that don’t have it.

Most of the videos below have lyrics included. For the ones that don’t, I recommend looking up the lyrics while listening.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Blackfire – Prove Them Wrong

 

Queen – White Man

Anthrax – Indians

 

Five Iron Frenzy – Banner Year

 

Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills

 

Europe – Cherokee

 

Neil Young – Cortez The Killer

 

Silent Planet – Native Blood

 

Jethro Tull – Hymn 43

 

Jimi Hendrix – Castles Made of Sand

 

Bruce Cockburn – Indian Wars

 

Skoll – Wounded Knee 1890

 

Grace and peace.

Ashley Jackson (Guest Post): “Will I Always Have To Suffer Silently?”

I attended a Christian university. Stereotypically Reformed in theological outlook. Pretty whitewashed, lacking much diversity.

I have mixed feelings about the university which filled up two years of my life.

My personal experience was great. I’m a white male who, despite his heretical theology, maintained pretty strong relationships with peers and professors, generally did well in academia, and got along just fine. I can’t say the same for many a person that I know.

That said, I made so many genuine friends in those two years. It was/is full of beautiful people, such as the writer of this article.

I met Ashley Jackson my first semester as a Freshman. She seemed so full of joy, laughed at just about everything I said, and could maintain conversations about deep and real topics. I could talk to her and feel like I was legitimately being listened to. I can only hope she feels like she is being listened to.

Basically she was, and is, a rad person. And I am so excited and grateful to share a portion of what’s on her heart and mind here on this blog.

Now, I don’t claim to understand the experiences of people who are not me. I mean, let’s be honest, I barely understand my own existence, let alone the mental and emotional phenomena that happen in someone else’s sacred space. But this piece by Ashley broke my heart. I’m sorry Ashley. I’m sorry you don’t feel like you can be open about how society at large, and specific individuals, affect you on a daily basis. I’m sorry for my complicity, and I’m sorry if I’ve ever directly hurt you. Please forgive me. Forgive me as I stumble toward Christ and reconciliation with you.

Spoiler alert: Keep an eye out for new material from Ashley on her upcoming blog. 

Below is Ashley’s article. If you are white like me, I pray that you read it, reflect upon it, pray about it, and frankly just…feel it. Attempt to realize that your subjective experience of reality is not reality, but only a very small fragment of it, and that you need people who are different from you to expand your heart and mind to what is, well, truly true. Let us move toward the spaces that Ashley writes about where she may talk freely about what pains her.

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us (white community) – sinners. Draw us to reconciliation with our minority sisters and brothers so that we may also know true reconciliation with You.

Lord Jesus Christ, be with Ashley (minority communities at large), as she (they) struggle(s) with who to trust, and where to go.

Will I Always Have To Suffer Silently?

“He was kind and steadfast.”

These were the words used to describe an African American professor. He was being recognized by the predominantly white school he worked at because of his kind and steadfast attitude. As I read this, I became a little heartbroken. He is one of many African Americans who I have seen be respected for their gentle spirits.

This professor makes me think about my own life. I think of the many times I have had to tone down my message/feelings/words when it comes to speaking of injustices and what I experience as an African American woman. Then I think of this professor and wonder if he had to do the same thing. If he was overlooked by other professors because of the color of his skin. The disrespect he may have received from students because of his race. If his opinion wasn’t taken seriously because he was a minority. I think of how often he may have had to suffer silently through his many years at this school and no one would have even known.

I just wonder if he would have been respected or esteemed so highly if he voiced any angers, frustrations, or irritations he had. Would people have listened? Would he have been taken seriously? Or would he have been told to soften his message? Would people have said that he was being too aggressive and he would have to keep his feelings to himself?

Why do minorities have to suffer silently? This is a question I wrestle with a lot. Especially when I find myself in predominantly white settings. Will it ever be okay to actually express what I experience on the daily as an African American or do I always have to keep it to myself?

There are moments when I want to blow up at people. When I want people to know every microaggression I encountered in one day. But I don’t know if I can.

So what do I do with these feelings? When is the right time to share them? Is there a right time to share them?

I would love to see what different spaces would look like, where these feelings and thoughts would be verbalized, discussed, reflected on, and then acted on globally. I hope that day will come soon.

 

White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Blogging Through Pt. 3

Feminist theology is a very broad term ranging a variety of theological traditions. This makes sense, given the nature of Christian theology, which is far from homogeneous. Without giving a detailed analysis of each tradition, which Grant does provide a brief overview, let’s look at the general goals and themes within Christian Feminist theology as a whole.

Grant suggests there are four main themes, or “goals,” of feminist theology. The first of which is to develop a wholistic theology. By wholistic theology, she means a theology which more accurately represents all of humanity. Most theology has emerged out of the minds and experiences of only half the human race (men). Thus, “feminist theology seeks to bring about a more realistic and wholistic picture of the universe by developing a more wholistic theology.”

Second, feminist theology seeks to eliminate the notion of patriarchy. Patriarchy is “characterized by male-domination and female submission and subordination.” In a patriarchal society/church, men are considered to be superior in strength, intelligence, spirituality, and the like, while women are considered weak, dull, and incapable of asserting themselves. Thus, feminist theology seeks to show that such a notion is false – these traits can be found in various manifestations in the complex personalities of any given human being – whether male or female.

Third,  feminist theology seeks to create and offer freshly positive images and archetypes of women. Given the fact that most, if not all, of society and institutions therein function under a patriarchal paradigm (as mentioned above), to provide a more equal understanding of both (and all) genders, positive metaphors and images must be provided for women. Women have often been associated with snakes, witches, temptresses, prostitutes, and single mothers (which is often a derogatory term…in this case, the single mother should be an image turned into one of strength, not one of mere failure). “These negative images must be changed to reflect reality.”

Fourth, feminist theology must analyze male articulated doctrines and theologies. Any doctrine or theology developed by a man under a patriarchal system will, inevitably, perpetuate the patriarchal foundation. If feminist theology challenges the system, it will likewise challenge the doctrines, and vice versa.

This brings us to the focal point of the book: the doctrine of the God-man, Jesus Christ. God has been referred to as Lord, King, Father, and Master – all terms that generally carry a masculine association. Very rarely is God ever referred to as Mother by theologians (even if God is referred to as such in the Judeo-Christian scriptures). Feminist theology seeks to bring the feminine qualities of God to light, not necessarily to deny the masculine aspects of God (although some feminist theologians do this), but to balance out an image of God – one which says God is as masculine as God is feminine. But how do feminist theologians do this with Jesus Christ – the incarnate God who appeared to us as a man? And what is the significance of his incarnation and message for women?

It is that question that drives us ever forward.

 

White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Blogging Through Pt. 2

“What is women’s experience?” That’s a good question – I was wondering that myself, being that I’m not a woman and whatnot! I’m glad Grant is going to define her terms. It will, I’m assuming, prove helpful throughout the book.

She answers her own question with, “women’s experience is a complex of events, feelings, and struggles which are shared by women in various circumstances of life. It would be possible to examine several dimensions of women’s experience – the historical, political, psychological, social, religious and theological.”

While this is true, given that the primary focus of her study is Christology, and therefore the church, her focal point will be the church (and by implication the “larger societal question regarding women”).  Since women’s experience is not solely political, it will become evident that the struggle of women in the church is not solely one of the political process of ordination/leadership, but also theological issues. One of these theological issues she mentions is whether or not women can represent Jesus Christ. This seems to be a hot topic in the current cultural climate as of late, given the recent release of The Shack on the big screen. It seems Grant will have much to say on the matter.

Before we get to that, though, some preliminary matters must be brought to light. One such issue is the particular versus the universal. More explicitly, women’s experience versus men’s experience. Grant suggests that most of theology has been constructed by men, men whom have tried to show that their theology comes out of a universal experience, something that is self-evident and true for all people at all times. One thinks of Karl Barth’s claim that the absolute starting point of theology is the Word of God. However, this is a very patriarchal and oppressive way to do theology, especially since many of these men have been privileged. They are, well…men. Up until recently in the human narrative, men basically owned women. What men said and thought was what was done and to be. More often than not, these men were (and are) also white, upper middle class (or upper class), straight, and educated. They were/are the dominant force in the world – even if they don’t realize it or don’t want to be. These factors will most certainly play into their approach to theology – especially their view that their version of truth can be universalized and fit to match all people (including those whose experience they know nothing of). This isn’t, of course, to say that there is no universal truth, just that the fact these theologians have rarely, if ever, included other voices in their theological formulation is not only a huge issue, but one that degrades the truth value of their claims.

It is at this point that liberation theology (and frankly, the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Derrida, and other postmodern philosophers), as a school of thought, becomes very helpful. “Recognizing inherent problems in the universalist approach to the doing of theology, liberationists propose that theology must emerge out of particular experiences of the oppressed people of God.”

As James Cone, author of God of the Oppressed, and famed Black Theologian, writes,

Because Christian theology is human speech about God, it is always related to historical situations, and thus all of its assertions are culturally limited…Although God, the subject of theology, is eternal, theology itself is, like those who articulate it, limited by history and time….[Our] image of God is a finite image, limited by the temporality and particularity of our existence. Theology is not a universal language; it is interested language and thus is always a reflection of the goals and aspirations of a particular people in a definite social setting.

If that isn’t postmodern, I don’t know what is. Anyway, that isn’t to say liberation theology (or postmodernism) isn’t concerned with universal principles, but that to get to the universal, we must start with the particular, rather than the universal to get to the particular.

An example of this, is again, James Cone. His work exemplifies the use of the particular/universal approach to Christology: “The Jesus of the black experience is the Jesus of Scripture. The dialectic relationship of the black experience and Scripture is the point of departure of Black Theology’s Christology.”

With all of this in mind, how does one construct a feminist Christology? Pretty much by smashing the “male universal foundation of theology.” Given that experience is the place which theological interpretation takes place, women must forcefully (if need be) take and claim the right to name themselves and their experience (identity politics!) so that their christological reflections can be authentically their own. As Grant writes, “Historically, the woman’s experience has been consumed by ‘generic’ (male) experiences and camouflaged by generic (male) language regarding that universal (male) experience.”

Grant then gives a brief description of various women who have begun to tackle this issue and construct their own means of theological formulation. The one that stands out most to me is Sheila Collins, who makes experience an actively integral part. She differentiates between theology and theologizing: “Theology is a ‘systematized body of knowledge about God,’ whereas theologizing is ‘that dialectical process of action/reflection which generates ever new questions.” This is direly important, because it opens up theologizing to participation with many, and frankly, all people. People can begin to theologize out of their own contexts – cultural, political, social, relational, etc…

While feminist theology has begun the work of constructing sufficient Christologies for women, I think Grant is arguing, or will argue, that this feminism is one primarily rooted in the white women’s experience, and is therefore not entirely adequate, nor truly reminiscent of liberation theology. I think she will go on to argue that the Christology we must begin with is that of womanism.

White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Blogging Through Pt. 1

I lived with my mother throughout childhood (not that my father wasn’t present – he most certainly was!). Most of my close friends have been women. I am, according to American culture, probably about as feminine as masculine. Despite all of this, I am still a lower middle class white male. I do not fully understand the experience of women, especially lower class minority women. That said, I’d certainly like to try.  One place to start is with Jacquelyn Grant’s book, White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response. Given that I not only claim to worship but seek to follow and imitate the God-man Jesus Christ, I am inclined to think it would be helpful to understand a feminist and womanist christological framework to both expand my understanding of Jesus and women. There will definitely be failure. Intercultural communication, whether via textual document, person, or what have you is difficult. My unconscious sexism and racism will manifest. I ask forgiveness and grace amidst my privilege. Let this be not only a lesson in womanist Christology, but also my own inner workings.

Now… to the book! The synopsis on the back of the book reads:

Christology is especially problematic for feminists. Because Jesus was undeniably male and because the Christian church claims him as the unique God-bearer, feminist christology confronts the dual tasks of explaining the significance of a male God-bearer for women and creating an adequate christological model adequate to feminist experience. This work rehearses the development and challenges of feminist christology and argues that, because it has reflected the experience of White women predominantly, it fails to reflect the concerns of non-White and non-western women. In response to this failure, and as distinguished from feminist theology, the author proposes a womanist theology and christology that emerges from and is adequate to the reality of contemporary Black women.

Here is where my experience with feminism and womanism fails me. It fails me because it is tiny or nonexistent. I have read only a handful of books on feminism and absolutely none on womanism. This little book on Christology is also going to function as my introduction to womanism.

If you’ve taken a basic theology course, you probably know what Christology is. It is, in its most basic form, a theology of Jesus Christ – whether that theology is one of divinity, humanity, or both, there is no Christian theology without Christology. Pretty simple right? Well, yeah. Sort of. “Throughout the history of Christian theology, European and American white men have formulated christologies in the continual response to Jesus’ question, ‘Who do you say I am?’ ” It is generally white (or privileged) men who concoct our theologies. Men whose exegesis is rife with the eisegesis of privilege. In other words, the theologians who formulate our well accepted christologies are men who, generally, are granted privilege (because of their manhood, social status, or ethnicity) – privilege which plays an unconscious role in their manner of doing theology.

Black and other Third World theologians have argued similarly – that theology (and therefore Christology) are not unrelated to social, political, and economic realities of human existence. Grant shows us the basic argument:

  1. Human condition results from the conscious (or unconscious) ethical decisions of human beings
  2. The divine reality is on the side of the oppressed poor, the outcast, the wretched, the downtrodden
  3. Therefore the gospel reveals that the primary intention of God in the incarnation is one of liberation.

Grant believes that the theology constructed by Europeans and Americans is rendered useless to the majority of human beings because of their given context. Theology needs to be contextualized, and therefore, the oppressed throughout the world must play a vital role in our construction of theologies, and in this specific instance, our christology. That is, in very brief description, what this book seems to be about.

More explicitly, Grant will provide feminist answers to questions such as “can a male be a savior to women?” “Why is Jesus used as a ‘weapon’ against (the ‘progress’ or ‘advancement’ of) women in the church? “What is the relationship between the maleness of Jesus and the salvation of women?” “How did Jesus challenge the established order-particularly in reference to women- or did he accept what was said about women by status quo oriented people?” “In what way(s) can Jesus be considered the savior of women?”

After providing the feminist answers, she will respond with the challenge of Black women’s experience. Grant will

“argue that racism/sexism/classism, as a conglomerate representation of oppression, is the most adequate point of departure for doing the kind of wholistic theology and Christology which, as we shall see, feminist theologians advocate. Black women representing an embodiment of this triply oppressive reality possess the potential for an wholistic analysis that can provide for the development of wholistic theological and christological construction which are wholly rather than partially liberating.

I am excited and nervous to dig into this book. I hope and pray it opens up my heart, mind, and soul to the experience of an other.