Jesus Wasn’t A Slut-Shamer or How Conservative Theology Harms Black Women

I’m a feminist who believes in God. Raised Christian, I still attend church.  But what I am not is a person who will willingly check her brain, political convictions, or academic training at the door in order to enter the house of God or to participate in a community of faith. Express homophobic views, tell me that God requires me to let a man rule my house because I have a vagina, or spout a prosperity theology premised on the idea that poor folks are poor because they lack faith, and you are likely to see me get up and walk out.

I love Jesus, and I remain a person of faith, because I know, to put it in the parlance of the Black Churches of my youth, how good God has been to me. And while that kind of God-talk doesn’t play well in secular academic contexts, it doesn’t have to. My Christianity isn’t about trying to save anyone else’s soul but my own. I know that’s not what a good evangelical is supposed to say, but if you haven’t figured it out yet, a good evangelical is not what I’m trying to be.

U.S. Black women are the most religious demographic in this country and most of that religious identification falls within the bounds of Christianity. But if Black feminism does not grapple with the fact that Black women still love the Black Church, still sustain that institution in startling numbers, it will miss a significant segment of the population. And that is untenable because conservative evangelical Black Churches are one of the central places that black women pick up harmful gender ideology.

 

A few weeks back Toni Braxton, the daughter of a preacher and product of a conservative Christian family, released a memoir in which she discusses her one-time belief that her son’s autism was a punishment from God for having an abortion. Luckily she has revised her thinking, no longer seeing autism as a form of God’s judgment.

Autism is not a punishment. It is a different way of learning and being and encodes different kinds of ability. Disability is not a punishment. Disability is a fact of life. And it is an opportunity if we are mindful to think about how to make our built and lived worlds more hospitable for each and every person that has to live in it.

As abortions go, we really need to think about whether a loving God wants women to have children that they don’t want to have or can’t afford to have.  We need to ask ourselves if God conscripts women’s wombs in service of His purposes (sorry for the gendered language but evangelical God is always male.) And if God does such things, as the story of Jesus’ mother kinda suggests, we need to ask ourselves if we have the right to disagree. (Like what if Mary had said no, when the angel came to her?) We need to think about whether God actually dictates that a fetus’ life is more important than its mother’s life. We need to ask ourselves if God values our reproductive capacity over valuing us.

Moreover, abortion ethics in the church are steeped in shame, shaming women for having sex outside of marriage,  while assuming married women don’t have or need abortions. But it is clear to me from the biblical story of the woman caught in adultery, a woman who Jesus saved from being stoned, that Jesus was not a slut-shamer. He didnt permit his community to cast stones at another woman because of her sexual practices, but he invited that community to consider their own practices. And in so doing, that story demonstrates among many other things, that our impulse to judge and harm others, is fundamentally about all the things we don’t want to confront in ourselves.

 

Conservative theology, of the evangelical sort, is rooted in a view of God as a great judge who metes out divine retribution for our sins. Because of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, we are allowed to have a personal relationship with this God, but we better toe the line. God loves us and forgives us, but we better be in a continual state of confession, repentance, and trying to live right. Otherwise, our sin will bring us terrible consequences, because even though God loves us, the divine Homie don’t play that.

 

Sin is a word that is used often in conservative evangelical churches. There’s a whole lot of talk about individual sin, the preponderance of which seems to be of a sexual nature. A whole lot of talk, a lot of fear, and a lot of guilt. Individual sin, in this theological reckoning, separates us from God and puts us outside the realm of God’s blessing, puts us beyond “the hedge of protection,” where all manner of evil will befall us. And it’s all our fault, because of our failure to deal with our pesky sin.

 

We don’t talk much though about the sins of capitalism, or racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or militarism or the evils of the prison industrial complex. We tell women to wear longer dresses and boys to pull up their pants. We seem to believe that if we merely conquer our individual sins, God will protect us from the effects of all the other isms. We in the Black Church have allowed church philanthropy to take the place of radical social critique. It’s incredibly short-sighted.

 

From this angle, punishment looks like God holding us from achieving the very societal ideals that these systems hold up as carrots – a fancy house and car, a beautiful partner, lots of money. Instead of questioning our investments in these systems, we think serving God will give us greater success within them.

 

 So many of us have a faith built on theologically thin terrain.

This brings me to Sherri Shepherd, one of the co-hosts of The View. Back in 2010-2011, I watched fascinated as she candidly discussed her courtship with Lamar Sally, and her choice to remain celibate until she married him. She routinely expressed shame over the multiple abortions she had in her youth. Her deeply conservative evangelical commitments made her and Elizabeth Hasselback unlikely bedfellows on the show.

 

According to conservative evangelical scripts, Sherri Shepherd “did it God’s way.” She courted Lamar properly, waited until after marriage for sex, and should now be on her way to happily ever after.

 

But she isn’t.

Recently Sally filed for separation papers, prompting Shepherd to file for divorce. In a bizarre addendum to their prenuptial agreement, leaked to TMZ, Sally made several troubling demands of Shepherd. The revised agreement included statements like:

“I, Sherry Sally, am a happy, godly, attractive, and sexy wife. I provide a peaceful and pleasant haven for my husband to come home to. I respect my husband’s opinions and recognize him as the leader of our home. I always speak well of my husband to others and look for specific ways to compliment his fine character and behavior. I enjoy having sex with my husband. I crave intimacy with him and want to be uninhibited and free in our lovemaking together. I care about my appeareance and take effort to look attractive and stay fit. I am a fun person who loves to laugh.”

 

It goes on to say:

“It is my joy to submit to my husband as a way to honor God. Even if my husband doesn’t respond the way I’d like, I will respect him and be loyal to him.”

 

Say what now?

 

So you need a prenup to tell your wife that she enjoys sex with you? You need a prenup to ensure she gives you compliments?  And you need a prenup to make her “joyfully submit” to you?

 

My head aches. And so does my ass.

 

All of this language is straight out of conservative Christian theological doctrine. In fact it reminds me of an unfortunate experience I had in a class I took at my former church several years ago called “Marriage without Regrets.” When the author of the study, famed Christian writer Kay Arthur started railing against wayward women who had stepped out of their rightful place causing the downfall of society, I knew that something had gone incredibly wrong.

But what was more striking was the fact that the Marriage Without Regrets class was overwhelming populated by single women, all hoping to prepare themselves and positions themselves for a “godly mate.” In order to do so, we were supposed to endure 16 weeks of study about “what the Bible says about marriage,” and how to style our lives to meet such goals. I dropped out at week 3, right around the time that the facilitator told us that as women, we were “biblically mandated” to manage a household.

 

My household management skills suck. And since I’m utterly uninterested in the domestic arts, I don’t anticipate that they will get any better.

 

Moreover to riff on one of my favorite womanist preachers Dr. Renita Weems, I already have a head. I’m not looking for a man to provide me one. Or as I’ve heard more than one popular Black minister put it, I’m not interested in letting him be the head while I be the neck. What the entire…? (Well, I’m talking about Jesus things today, so let me not show out with the profanity).

 

But I know a whole lot of women who think like Sherri Shepherd. I used to roll hard with chicks like Sherri Shepherd. They have this view that celibacy and proper courtship are “God’s way.” They have a view that following this plan to marriage will insure God’s blessings and a happily ever after.

 

It seems in this case that all this God-talk covered up the screwed up beliefs of a deeply controlling man that sees women as property, views sex as being primarily for his pleasure and thinks women serve an ornamental function of looking pretty and keeping him happy.

 

I wonder how much better our relationships and partnerships might be if churches spent less time regulating our intimate space and more time dealing with the lack of emotional and spiritual maturity that plagues so many unions.

 

Moreover, I long for the church as an institution, to stop touting this biblical literalism and biblical inerrancy madness. It encourages a shallow faith, grounded in false notions of security, propped up by people who have been discouraged from thinking for themselves.

 

When I see the way the Old Testament demands that women marry their rapists, I have a problem with that.

 

When I see the ways in which the Old Testament seems to sanction genocide so a chosen group can get to their “Promised Land,” I have a problem with that.

 

When I see the proscriptions Paul or the Pauline writers place on women in the New Testament, the calls for silence and submission, I take issue with that.

 

When I see discussion of queer people as an “abomination,” I disagree.

 

And when Paul tells “slaves to be kind to your masters,” I wholeheartedly reject such thinking. And I’m so glad Harriet Tubman and Harriet Jacobs and Freddie Doug and all the rest rejected it, too.

 

The idea that we can’t struggle with the Biblical text, that we have to agree with and live by every thing it says is not only impossible, but unhealthy. For Black women to agree to live by it all is for us to sign up  for silence, submission, and slavery. Literally. And that would mean that the Bible and Christianity offer us no greater alternative than what white folks dreamt for us when they drug us to these shores.

 

We deserve more than that. And God wants more for us than that. And this means that we have to stop letting these preachers toss the Bible in our face as a rule book. We have to stop letting them manipulate us with fear of divine punishment for asking questions and coming to different conclusions.  Based on this conservatism the church exploits and appropriates Black women’s time, labor, and money, while giving back to us a theology that does not serve us well. I’m not denying Black Christian women’s agency, experiences of God, or accusing them of false consciousness. I’m saying that we have bought into some ways of thinking that don’t serve us well, that limit us spiritually and that often do us harm.

 

At my most conservative, I was incredibly resentful and angry with God because I felt I could never live up to the standard. I suffered perpetual guilt and anxiety and got little joy. I know better now.

 

Now I view the Bible as an invitation. An invitation to come to the table equipped with stories of other people’s faith journeys and to use their stories to grapple with my own journey with God. I come able to see and call out racism, sexism, patriarchy and homophobia in the text. While we will never live in a faith journey outside of these contexts, the text becomes instructive for thinking about who we are, what we’re capable of, what we want to be and what we don’t want to be. And we learn about ways in which God showed up for generations prior to us, and are perhaps encouraged that God will show up for us, too.

 

So many Black women have full-bodied commitments to church – we give our mind, heart, spirit, body, time, labor, and money to the church. We deserve for it to serve our needs. We deserve for the theologies we hear to be liberatory. We deserve for those theologies to help us to create healthy full,  loving lives, whether we have partners or not, whether we want marriage or not, children or not, sex or not.

 

Bad theology is harmful. It misrepresents who God is and who we are. But we must give ourselves permission to construct a new way to live if spiritual matters are going to retain their importance to us.  I am actively in the process of reconstructing an informed theology that works for my life by reading people like Delores Williams and Katie Cannon and Wil Gafney and Rachel Held Evans and Brian McLaren and Jay Bakker. And if you didn’t know it’s in our spiritual Black feminist legacy to do exactly that. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Anna Julia Cooper:

 

“And I do not mean by faith the holding of correct views and unimpeachable opinions on mooted questions, merely; nor do I understand it to be the ability to forge cast-iron formulas and dub them TRUTH. For while I do not deny that absolute and eternal truth is – still truth must be infinite, and as incapable as infinite space, of being encompassed and confined by one age or nation, sect or country – much less by one little creature’s finite brain. To me, faith means treating the truth as true.”

 

So I encourage y’all, to figure out what is true for you, and have enough faith in yourselves and your God to treat those truths as true.

 

crunktastic

49 thoughts on “Jesus Wasn’t A Slut-Shamer or How Conservative Theology Harms Black Women

  1. “Bad theology is harmful. It misrepresents who God is and who we are. But we must give ourselves permission to construct a new way to live if spiritual matters are going to retain their importance to us.”

    YES! As always this post is excellent, but I had to say extra special thanks for these words!

  2. This is so sad.Why don’t Christians follow Christ’s teachings not the churches.He said “Love one another”.If one does that
    One takes care of self and those one interacts with and honors any creator one believes in.Practically one also is a good steward of the earth,and one’s community in loving one another.All this other nonsense like Sherri submitted to and so called Christian teaching never read Jesus’ words.

  3. If you didn’t walk yourself right out of my thoughts and speak!”I got a problem with that” has yelled at me from behind my eyes when reading the Bible too many times for me to be able to ignore it.

  4. This is strange to me. I don’t like the same things you don’t but I don’t think that means I get to substitute my own judgment for God’s. You don’t like what the Bible says, so you are going to make up a new theology that you like better, think is healthier, and makes you more comfortable? Sounds like fun, but very prone to error! Who are you to speak for God? How do you know you aren’t just making up lies because they are more convenient? How can you call yourself a Christian, if you don’t believe the Bible is literally true (in the places that aren’t obvious metaphor and poetry). If you reject what the Bible says in parts because it’s not all true, how do you trust any of it? I think these are valid questions and while I think women like you are onto something, I can’t answer these questions for myself in a way that makes sense. I don’t see how you are reconciling your feminism and faith. The God of the Bible isn’t a feminist and he endorsed slavery and genocide and stoning, as you point out. I’m not okay with that either. I’m pretty much at the point of just throwing the whole thing out. Because if that stuff isn’t true and isn’t from God, then why believe any of it? Just believing in the parts that make me feel good is cherry picking, and I don’t need the Bible or Christianity for those parts. Anyway, thanks for the interesting read. I will keep thinking on these matters.

    • All theology is made by human beings. And conservative theology cherry picks as well. All theology cherry picks. What I dislike is the idea that God doesn’t empower us to grapple with the scriptures and live them out in a way that makes sense for our lives and social contexts. But look, there is no objectivity here. I still believe in God because I have personal experiences that I understand to be God-experiences. So to reject God because of the harmful ways theology has been used feels equally problematic to me. So this post is about me being in process, and in struggle. It’s about me acknowledging that how I have understood God is largely through Christian narratives and that probably won’t change. But those narratives are far more expansive than I originally thought and I’m committed to letting those frameworks be liberatory in all the ways they can be. I recognize the contradictions, but I’m not Christian apologist, so I’m not arguing for systematic coherence. I’m arguing for the legitimacy of experience, the legitimacy of narrative, and the legitimacy of our right to participate in the interpretive process of those narratives.

      • I hear you. I too think this was an interesting read and that you are on to something. I do however disagree on the area of creating one’s own theology. People do it but I dare say that no matter what that Theology is the creators who made it (in good intentions sometimes) do not live according to that Theology. We are all fallible creatures. So creating your theology to me will probably be critiqued by some others down the line because it human-created.

        Also I do not necessarily believe in any right to participate in the interpretative process of those narratives of scripture. This should not be seen as a right. You choose to do what you like. It is called free will and God gave it to us freely. We are to use free will to do what God says in His Word. We may not disagree with some areas of scripture but that does not mean that we are right. Who are we to say God is infinitely wise and omniscience and then go back and say The Word of God (Yes written by inspired Men) is contradictory. I have been there before only to come back to a scripture I formerly thought was wrong or contradictory, and seen the deeper truth. So yes I have cherry-picked scripture but now I decided to try and be led not by my intelligence, which says I should understand by my head, and now rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal the deeper wisdom of the Word. The ultimate theology should come from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Any self-professing Christian should have the Holy Spirit in them. The Holy Spirit, if sought from God daily, will help one interpret Scripture at the right time and not always when you come across it). Again I do not believe in any right. It is not a human rights issue. This I believe is all about benefiting from the personal relationship you and I claim we share with God through the help of His Holy Spirit.

        So my plead to all Christians is not to choose what they like from Scripture but to seek the Spirit of God daily to make sense of the Word and the World and live life via the fruits and gifts that only God provides. If you are not at this stage then all we need is to ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and believe in faith that you have received. Next seek the daily in-filling of the Spirit so these gifts are refueled daily through prayer and reading the Word and in fellowship with real God-loving and obedient brethren of God.

        You are searching for truth which is good. Please stay in the Word and with the help of God’s Spirit you will get God-inspired and not self-inspired answers to the issues in the Bible and the World around you. Stay blessed writer.

        Again a good read.

        Layke25

      • All theology is human-made. The word literally means “study of God.” God doesn’t need to study God. Since all theology is human-made, all theology is potentially fallible. I have as much right to re-think the theological stances passed down to me as the original thinkers who created the theological traditions did. So when I say construct my own theology, I literally mean that I’m reading different theologians who work from a different set of presuppositions, not that I’m reinventing the wheel. I gave a partial list of these people in the post.

        So that’s what I’m doing. I’m willing to be wrong. I’m sure I have a lot of things wrong. But I know that everything I used to believe (especially the homophobia and sexism) isn’t right. So I’ll be wrong, but what I won’t do is have an unexamined faith.

        Thanks for reading.

      • Okay. Thank you for clarifying a little better. I appreciate that. again i believe you are on to something and we should always examine theology or doctrine. Before I was saved I was raised in a denomination whose theology or doctrine I never questioned until I was an adult. I too had to examine those beliefs I had blindly held on to. however i was not liberated from it by using just my brain. I had to prayerfully (don’t mean to sound too spiritual) search for answers in the Word. I believe you do the same. So I will admit I am just beginning to learn more about Feminism but encourage you to seek out your answers prayerfully by imploring the Holy Spirit help especially in the Word. I believe you have your answers there. Thanks for your mature responses. Great posts.

      • I hope we get the moral of the story which is that God’s Holy Spirit is what we need to understand scripture and not just mere intellectual power. We should be very careful how we interpret scripture. Theology varies and was created by men ( with or without the help of the Spirit). So I feel like it is okay to read other theologians work, I feel our ultimate default in interpreting scripture should be with help of the holy spirit to provide one with God’s spiritual daily bread. I wonder if Paul or the other apostles or even Jesus was preoccupied with theology on earth. I may argue they were just interested in carrying out the mission on earth, which is to go out and spread the gospel and love of Jesus.
        We as Christians sometimes try to understand the deepest things in life when we are not yet able to obey the basic commandments of God. There are more important things than Theology I think. What do you think dear Writer?

    • Thank you! Who are we to decide what is and isn’t true or what we should or shouldn’t follow? By saying that or acting in that manner, you are essentially saying you know better than God. I personally do not feel comfortable with that logic. The Bible is the Word of God. If you choose to disagree and follow your own course then that is your prerogative, but please don’t justify your own theology as Christian because it’s not.

      • I’m gonna say this one last time; conservative Christian theology is not the only Christian theology. Never has been. Never will be. And just because it’s the kind of theology you hear in church every Sunday doesn’t mean it’s the best. So call it Christian I certainly will. You be blessed.

      • SWF, are you truly unaware that there have been literally hundreds of different Biblical interpretive traditions? What you consider unadorned, uninterpreted Christian theology straight from the Bible would have been rejected as madness at best, blasphemy straight from Satan by the church authorities of a thousand years ago. By choosing one particular tradition for your own, you ARE deciding what is and isn’t true and what you should or shouldn’t follow. Everyone who is a Christian has to use their own discernment in this way. Like it or not, you’re following your own course, too. You should be choosing based on your thinking and your experiences, not on what the church you happen to live next to has told you is true.

  5. What a beautiful article! Mary absolutely had a choice in the matter of being Jesus’ mother. If she didn’t there would have been no annunciation, just insemination. Why would God want an unwilling woman to bear his son? God knows that forcing pregnancy on to women is inhumane!

    • Your comment is so profound. I’ve never thought of Mary’s agency in the birth of Christ. You’ve given me so much to ponder in the span of a few sentences.

  6. I agree with Jessica…Just because you don’t agree with whole sections of the Bible doesn’t mean you get to then create what you think needs to be in the Bible…Just own that you believe in the parts of the Bible that are feasible or palatable to you and the parts that you don’t like, you reject…I cannot judge…I’m not God, but I think you need to own that…Also, including Sherri Shepherd’s recent divorce in your commentary is unfair as we don’t know all of the circumstances of what happened. Besides, her first marriage also ended in divorce…sometimes, divorces have nothing to with God…And doing every right or by Biblical standards is no guarantee that everything will always go right…what is faith for is that was the case? I don’t agree with everything the Bible says either, but I just own it and I don’t make up my own theology to replace it…I guess I will have to take it with God on judgment day…But I enjoyed your work…

    • ‘Create what I think needs to be in the Bible?’ Lol. Where did I say or imply such a thing? What I said was that I reject conservative theology. The idea that conservative theology is the only kind that exists suggests that you should read more. Moreover, I provided a list of the theologians I’m reading. You should google them or click the links provided. I think you will find that far from merely making up things, I’m now reading the work of other Christians who think about these matters in more expansive and progressive ways.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. There’s a saying that in all your getting, get understanding. The things mentioned in the opening paragraph are not what God has said, but what people commonly say of Him. The Bible can be read historically, culturally, & biblically (what God says). Problems happen when a cultural or historical fact is misinterpreted as spiritual truth, when a church enforces its proof texts/doctrine over the bible, or sadly when men do evil in the name of God. The Bible is clear on issues such as premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, restoration, women (equal to men is the scriptural stance) and many other topics irregardless of culture or time. And as far as a woman being forced to marry her rapist, that also is untrue. What IS true is that the rapist was forced to provide for the woman for the rest of her life as it was very likely that the culture (NOT God) would deem her un-marriageable. Each person has to decide for them self if limited human knowledge out ranks God’s wisdom.

    • The use of the phrase ‘the Bible is clear’ is always used to foreclose discussion. Moreover, such assertions are designed to impose certainty where it often doesn’t exist. It’s a phrase I probably used a lot at a certain moment of my spiritual journey. These days I find it problematic and myopic. As I said up thread, I provided a list of the theologians I’m reading. Many of these folks are highly trained. Wil Gafney is a dynamic preacher who reads the bible in its original languages. And I think she (and many other Christians) would disagree with you that the Bible is clear on all these things. You should check her work out.

      Oh and since you are so clear that the Word is so clear, Deut 22: 28-29 seems crystal on the point about a man having to marry the woman he raped (which means that woman is forced to marry her rapist.) And if you don’t agree with this interpretation, then all that means is that the Bible isn’t especially clear on this point even to you.

      Peace.

  8. As a woman with a disability whose mother was told that my disability was a form of punishment, thank you for this. As a young Black feminist who’s been struggling so hard with my faith and my feminism and how to do (be?) both at the same time, thank you for this.Thank you for illustrating how we could ask more complicated (or in my opinion, progressive) questions about the Bible. The section of the article about abortion is something everyone should read. While we are on the Bible, can we talk about how most Black Churches (or the Black male pastors running them) leave out discussions of women in the Bible who show great amounts of self-agency (Eve, Esther, Tamar, Sarai/Sarah for example, or my all time favorite Judith from the Apocrypha) and men who show great amounts of passivity (seriously,Adam says nothing and JUST as willingly eats the fruit, yet Eve takes all the blame in my Black church). Or how about the fact that Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Jesus are as much apostles as any of the men? Why can’t we at least acknowledge that there are many instances in the Bible that are morally dubious, even by the most conservative standards? Does anyone notice how Lot (who is so revered in my church) offers his daughters as prostitutes? Or Jephthah’s vow that results in him killing his daugther? And just how exactly does Esther win King Ahasuerus’ favor, because to me it sounded an awful lot like a sex contest and the Bible does not seem to condemn her for it…?. And that’s just the Old Testament! And if we are going to take the Bible literally, just exactly where is the passage that even mentions abortion? I’m no Bible expert by any means, but the trite “cookie-cutter” discussions about the good book leave a lot to be desired, well at least by this feminist..

  9. Thanks for your article and I definitely agree with the fact that conservative theology not only harms black women but in a larger perspective it hurts black people. As a pastor of a church myself, one of the things I do is encourage people not just to read the Bible on face value and say, “God said it, I believe it and that’s it!” but to dig deeper and examine the language, culture and history of the text and discern how God is speaking to us today. One might find a totally different theological view – if we are able to move past our comfort zones.

  10. This writing was spot on!! I am a feminist who believes in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost!! I’m a fourth generation PK!!! I’ve lived the church thing all my life and sat in many a pew pissed because black folks seem to check all of their common sense at the door. Even in the midst of the movements in NC now, it’s unfortunate that many black churches are quite mum, not realizing that all of this conservative legislation here will have an affect on our generations to come. “The Politics of Jesus” was one of the best books I’ve read to disavow the conservative theology that the Christian Right preaches. Thank you for bringing this perspective to light.

  11. Can i just say as a black man your article is spot on….I always spoke to my mother about many of these issues. Having a father who was from west Africa Sierra Leone and a mother from down south who is pro-black i grew up with Afrocentric views as as a child i dived into the Bible frequently, and by the time i was in my teenagers years i was quoting it word by word..My mother never imposed Christianity on me she gave me a choice (my father was Muslim) and i chose it becoming baptized at age 13..However as time commenced and i lived, traveled the world and seen a perspective different outside of the black, christian perspective i began to question things, not from a bitter place or to judge the faith but simply in effort to acquire knowledge and most, if not every black pastor i would come into contact with some of those important questions when the couldn’t answer they would respond with ‘sometimes man doesn’t know or my brotha it’s in there you just have to read’ instead of simply telling me they didn’t have the answers to my questions…I believe that much of the Bible isn’t supposed to be taken in literal context or was written in a arch…i believe that the Bible we have today isn’t the original Jesus spoke Aramaic and Hebrew and in those languages his name was Yeshua, the letter J wasn’t in the old old english alphabet that was used during the time of the translation of the scripture by KJ and didn’t come until the late 1600′s so how can he have the title of Jesus in translation when Jesus Christ is not the same as Yeshua…some things to consider…and in regards to the homophobia blacks always quote leviticus 18:22 about man lying with mankind but people seldom quote the 75 other things leviticus forbids like wearing clothes woven out of two fabrics, eating fruit from a tree that has been planted for less then 4 years, a woman coming back to church less then 66 days after giving birth to her child, trimming of hair, eating shrimp and etc many of these things are forbidden in old law and are questionable as to whether or not these scriptures were all from the holy land or just fantasies constructed by King James and his team of translators, who couldn’t understand the original biblical text.

    I just feel GOD is a GOD who wants us to use our brains, have LOGIC & FAITH…many have FAITH but NO LOGIC. People don’t ask questions about the social context about what they’re being told they just mindlessly follow…even the Bible says ‘study to show thyself approved’ I’m pretty sure GOD meant that in general. So thanks for this article, thank you for having a brain and for those people who are upset about what you mentioned then it simply shows you have done your job well..Some feathers need to be ruffled in the black church a dialogue is needed simply banning someone or calling them blasphemous because they have deep questions about the faith is ridiculous or because you don’t agree with who they are, the black churches, and churches in general have become like the Pharisees and etc….

  12. Awesome article. As I read this, all I could think of really is how right Dr. Cooper is, and how much I always enjoy black church when I go. Except those preachers sure do go on. Fat girls gotta eat.

  13. Such an insightful and instructive essay! Thank you for sharing your POV and experiences; I can only learn when writers like yourself let me in the room (so to speak).

  14. I have absolutely no problem with your choice to reject the Bible. What I don’t quite understand is how you consider yourself to be a Christian (follower of Christ) and not follow the Bible. Jesus preached from the Old Testament while providing the bridge to the New Testament. The Bible is designed to direct our thinking, speaking, and actions independently and collectively as Christians. Therefore, it is very clear on issues such as homosexuality, abortion, marriage, family, leadership, ecclesiology, faith, salvation, holiness, righteousness, etc. As Christians, the goal is for us (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to conform our lives to match the standards in scripture, as opposed to adjusting the Bible to conform to our lives. This process of discipleship begins with conversion and continues until death. So I guess I really don’t understand how you can be a follower of Jesus but reject what he values, says, or does. That doesn’t sound like a follower to me. How can I be a Muslim and reject the teachings of the Koran?
    Christianity in a nutshell is about a realization that a deeply depraved and sinful mankind needs a righteous and perfect savior to save him or her and conform them to his image on a day to day basis. Mankind is born in sin and shaped in iniquity. Therefore we are inherently wicked beings and incapable of saving ourselves. What what make a deeply wicked and sick human being think he or she is capable of saving themselves other than pride? The scriptures make it plain how God feels about prideful mankind.

    So it is your right to reject the Bible. I just don’t understand how you can say you follow Jesus and not follow the Bible when Jesus makes it clear the value of following the Bible. You are right, the whole Bible is summed up as love God and love your neighbors. However, Jesus says that if you love me you will keep my commandments. That is, we should strive to live a life that is consistent with scripture. When we fall, surely grace is available. But our hearts should be focused on living out the precepts and principles in the Bible instead of relativism. The Bible speaks in Kings about those who did what was right in their own eyes. I would recommend reading the Bible from cover to cover in a small group and independently before being so critical of it

    • “Mankind is born in sin and shaped in iniquity. Therefore we are inherently wicked beings and incapable of saving ourselves.”

      I read this and wonder if you think that God is inherently wicked. Genesis is clear that man is made in the very image and likeness of God. If that is the case, then it means that you must believe that God is born in sin, shaped in iniquity, and inherently wicked.

      • You are correct that God made man in his image and likeness. However, that was before Adam sinned. Every human being, with the exception of Jesus Christ is sinful inherently. Psalm 51:5 says” Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” That is why we needed a perfect and sinless savior to save us. Remember that the “lamb” that was sacrificed had to be without blemish in the Old Testament. In the New Testament Jesus is referred to as the lamb of God because he is the one person that was and will ever be perfect! That is why he was born from a virgin, Mary, so that the DNA and genealogy of sin and wickedness would not be passed down to him. In the book of Jeremiah it clearly states that our righteousness is like a filthy rag to God. In other words, if we did every thing right on earth we would still look sinful in the eyes of God. The Bible says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. So the first step to being saved is realizing I am a sinner and then repenting. The problem is that a lot of people don’t have a clear understanding of what salvation is, why they need to be saved, and how Jesus paid the price for it on Calvary. Many people acknowledge the act and event of the cross, but they don’t really understand the significance of the blood, the wooden beams, the crown of thorns, the 33 lashes, etc.

        So no God is perfect and righteous and man is sinful and wicked. What cleanses us of our sins is the blood of Jesus and not our moral behavior. If we weren’t sick in sin we wouldn’t need a “doctor” to save us. Jesus is referred to as a doctor in the Gospels.

  15. Thoroughly enjoyed reading that someone else feels as I do. I believe we are being awakened! I also believe that the “End” that everyone is referring to now a days is the end of the church age (area) as we no it! The nonsense is coming to an end. I like that it is written that God said, I will make a new covenant with my people and write it in their hearts and mind. That sounds pretty personal to me.

    I could say more, instead I will end with peace be unto you all and may THE TRUTH set you free!!! Thank you sister for a much needed commentary!

  16. Thank you for this article. I totally agree that one must “wrestle” with the text, and look at the time, place and to whom it is written in order to properly understand what was meant. The Church twists the Bible to satisfy its own preferred doctrines and dogma, no matter who is hurt. For example, the church taught for centuries that masturbation was a sin, citing Onan “spilling his seed on the ground.” Masturbation was even called Onanism for a period of time. How many millions lived with guilt over this issue? However, if one reads the full text, we realize that Onan’s sin was not masturbation at all, but refusing to impregnate his brother’s widow and raise up a child in his brother’s memory, as was the custom. In the same way, we have been lied to that Sodom was destroyed for homosexuality, when Ezekiel is very clear that this was not the case. Preachers insist that “homosexuality is an abomination” but even Jewish scholars acknowledge that the word that is translated as “abomination” refers specifically to practices related to idolatry, and the “sacred prostitutes” , both male and female, in the pagan temples as the verses before and after those infamous passages in Leviticus make plain.
    I could go on and on, but I will finish by saying that so-called Christians have brought Christianity into disrepute with their judmentalism, hypocrisy, gossip, back-biting, and lack of love, compassion and charity. I no longer call myself a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus.

  17. 2 Timothy 4:3 says For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,

    We are in this time now where people are no longer following Bible based teaching and preaching and are instead following teaching and preaching that “tickles” their ears. Who wouldn’t want to follow a false gospe that doesn’t convict me of sin and require repentance. Even worse, we have “new” teachers that are sprouting up that are teaching what people what to hear. One translation says they are preaching to itching ears. I am a father of two children. They would probably love for me to tell them that playing in the middle of the street ( no matter how much they enjoy it) is not dangerous andotentially fatal. However, as a loving parent I am compelled (by love) to warn them this danger—even if they don’t want to hear it. In this same way, God clearly warns us of sin to hopefully keep us from danger in this life and he’ll in the afterlife.

    1 Corinthians 6:8–10 says …8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. 9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God

    Galatians 5:19 says 9Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    We see here in both of these passages clear definitions of what is and is not right by God’s standard. We can not reconstruct the Bible to make us feel better about our behavior. Instead, we should be striving through the power of the Holy Spirit to change our behavior to match God’s standard. So if the Bible says itis wrong then can not call myself a Christian (follower of Jesus) and say that is right. We all struggle with one or more of sins listed in these two passages above. The answer is not to change the definition of what is and is not a sin. The answer is for me to grow and change spiritually with the Lords help. The Bible is intended to convict and drive mankind to repentance!

    • Thank you for quoting these scriptures to me. I guess I gave the impression that I didn’t know them. I do. I disagree with your conservative hermeneutic approach to interpreting them, however. I gave a book list, because the Bible is not the only book I read. Feel free to make of these facts what you will and do with them what you will.

      The reality is that people who interpret the Bible as you do do not have a monopoly on defining what Christianity is. And frankly the judgmental attitude that surges through what you’ve written here has a whole lot to do with people not wanting to be Christian and leaving the church in droves. Anyway, I refuse to let conservative folks usurp Christianity. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and you don’t get to tell me any different.

      Peace.

  18. If women left the Black Church there would be nothing left but little boys, old men and preachers. Black women are the backbone of the Church but men use the bible (which has been revised, translated & edited over a period of two millenia) as a blunt object to control women. I consider myself a hopeful agnostic with a Buddist practice who loves the example Jesus left us. The Gospel of Mary (deemed non-cannonical by men) indicted that Mary Magdeline was an integral part of Jesus ministry, If Jesus had respect for Mary why can’t the Black Churh do the same?

  19. Pingback: The UK Strengthens Female Genital Mutilation Legislation | sexynewz.com

  20. God is within! All one needs to do is silence the conditioning and listen to the voice. Done and done. Good points. But, what if life is about transcendence and not death, wouldn’t aborting a baby thwart a soul’s chance at obtaining Eternity? Of course, there is no judgement, to each its own; but it’s definitely food for thought.

  21. I’m confused by what this all means… I hope you are relaying on God and the holy spirit instead of your own over thinking.. I like some of the things you said but God allows what it made and not made… If the current Bible and it’s translations are what God allowed then who I am to question it.. Now asking and questions and delving deeper into the word is good, but this seems to be over thought..

  22. “Bad theology is harmful. It misrepresents who God is and who we are.”

    I agree with this statement.

    I think we would also both agree that good theology, properly lived, provides us with personal and communal value.

    Where we disagree is the definition of “theology.”

    In my opinion, the best theology is growing in understanding God as He has explained Himself to us.

    Moses sat on a mountain for a month to us write the law (which I confess I do not always understand).

    Jesus left the glory of heaven and came to earth to explain the law and give us redemption.

    For us to presume we can choose what is true for us is arrogance towards God.

    Yes there are difficult things in the Old Testament that only make sense in cultural context. Yes Paul wrote about the silence of women in certain arenas but He also praised many women who labored with him in the gospel. I believe he did understand the importance of female leadership within the church.

    God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself to us and I’m sorry for any spiritual abuse you have encountered which would cause you to fear His full scripture.

    I’ve been saved since I was young and it’s only been the last two years where I’ve overcome my fear of scripture.

    Truth is always true; we study to understand. Don’t be afraid.

    Blessings to you,
    ~ Meg

  23. Hey Brittney,

    Thanks so much for this article—it is beautiful and impassioned and speaks loudly many things that I think need to be heard. I’m also a follower of Christ and a feminist, and I love hearing feminist Christian voices. (I also really appreciate your drawing our collective attention to the importance of institutional change and societal sins. I think you’d like those parts of Pope Francis’ recent piece “the joy of the gospel” [I don't know if you've read it—I'm not a catholic, but it was really cool in parts]).

    My question is this:

    My understanding of the way moral reasoning works is that we, as Christians, make our way towards an understanding of what is Good (capital G), as revealed from God. For me, it seems like we find that understanding in the Bible, through the leading of the Spirit, from church tradition, from what others have written re: the Bible, etc. In my reading of the Bible, I’ve come to conclude that hope is good, faith is good, love is especially good etc.

    I make choices about what to do and how to live my life, what to value, based on my understanding of what is good and bad as I understand them based on reading the Bible, discerning the leading of the spirit, and reading how other believers have thought about it.

    Is this the same way you reason? If not, do you have other factors that you use in how you compute what is good/bad?

    You mention how certain things in the Bible are problematic, e.g. “I come able to see and call out racism, sexism, patriarchy and homophobia in the text” and “When I see the ways in which the Old Testament seems to sanction genocide so a chosen group can get to their “Promised Land,” I have a problem with that.”

    What standard do you use to judge what is problematic, and what isn’t? That is, what are your fundamental principles and where do they come from?

    (In my own experience, I value love because of my understanding of love as God’s character and one of the highest goods. When I read about the way Israel’s activity in the B.C. was so fundamentally war and military focused it was hard to understand, and the two ideas felt totally incongruous. But in another cultural moment, e.g. the spartans [maybe the Vikings? Some warring culture], the warring nature of the Israelites would make sense. Perhaps Jesus’ grace and humility would be hard to swallow.)

    What do you use to discern the *Bad* (as in, God hates this! e.g. pride) from the *bad* (as in, the things that are not appealing in this cultural moment)?

    Thanks so much, and thanks for the reading list.

  24. Excellent Post! I can identify with so many of the ideas you expressed. Being raised the same way you and many of us were…”in church” I eventually came to a point were I was burned out and dissociated. I felt like I was being controlled and my talents were being vastly taken advantage of. And, I wasn’t even free to express that. I’m glad that you are able to still keep a relationship with the church and regard the Bible. I have not found that. I know i still believe in God. But, Christianity,.. It’s Just hard for me to remain true to who I am and also except doctrine that’s been used to control, abuse and ostracize the members in our society that have been mistreated this way for so long. I guess this is were the duality of human nature comes into play. Having the ability to extract the good in something. For me, right now, (and I feel guilty for admitting this) I find it more harmful than helpful.

    • Basically you never did have a real relationship with God for yourself just followed a religion because your parents made you go to church… You seem to think that this life is in your hands and you’ll live it forever to make some of the statements you did. Christianity is not meant to control people and take them away from who they are.. Actually it’s meant to do the opposite, it’s just that people don’t like truth, they just like to do what they want to do…

  25. Pingback: Jesus Wasn’t A Slut-Shamer or How Conservative Theology Harms Black Women – Black Feminists On-Line

Leave a Reply

Support the CFC! Donate Today!

Thank you to our Generous Supporters!

Email us at crunkfeminists@gmail.com to find out how you can become a supporter.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,689 other subscribers

Follow me on Twitter

Blog Topics