Is Your Theology Too White?

A while back, I was talking to my friend Alicia Crosby (follow her work, please) and lamenting something I kept hearing in the books I was reading. Something about how the ideal is to move beyond identity to become solely focused on God. I still want to write about this some day. I have issues with the notion. Alicia smiled at me and pointed out that everyone I was reading was a white man.

It was humbling to realize that for most of my life I’d built my idea of God almost exclusively around what white men had to say. (And don’t even get me started on the evangelical Christian Living division of Christian publishing, powered mostly by white women, which I’d mostly rejected.)

She encouraged me to turn to non-white theologians and writers, and I started with James H. Cone, and I discovered a way of thinking about God and theology that I’d been missing.

There are many frameworks that center the experiences and perspectives of non-white people, such as womanist, mujerista, liberation and black liberation, Asian American, and Native feminist theologies. They shed light on the ways that Christianity has been shaped by sexism, racism, and colonization and they create new narratives, new ways of thinking about and acting on faith.

To give you an example, in her book Sisters in the Wilderness, Delores S Williams describes womanist theology:

Womanist theology attempts to help black women see, affirm and have confidence in the importance of their experience nad faith for determining the character of the Christian religion in the African-American community. Womanist theology challenges oppressive forces impeding black women’s struggle for survival and for the development of a positive, productive quality of life conducive to women’s and the family’s freedom and well-being. Womanist theology opposes all oppression based on race, sex, class, sexual preference, physical disability and caste.

Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk by Delores S. Williams

Turning to non-white theologians and Christian thinkers (as well as queer, disabled, and female theologians) deconstructs the oppressive Christianity that most of us who grew up in the faith were taught. It teaches us to think more critically about our constructs of God and how they’ve been used to harm others and even separate us from our true selves.

For those of us who are no longer sure about the institution of Christianity, we can still learn from the folks that are critiquing it. We might even find healing and tools to create more just and inclusive communities.

Here’s a list of fifteen contemporary BIPOC theologians and Christian thinkers. There are so many more, so please add your favorites in the comments!

But this is just a start. I believe another damning issue many Christians face is only learning about their own faith or learning about other people’s religions through Christian texts. I urge everyone to go read Muslim, Jewish, Native American, African and Indian writers (and so on). Learn how Christians misrepresent Judaism and Islam. How can Christians say their Christ-followers when they don’t understand what it truly meant for Jesus to be a Jew? I’m still working on this myself, and I wish I’d started ten years ago.

1. Kat Armas

Kat is host of the Protaganistas podcast which centers on “building bridges among communities of faith through the stories and experiences of women of color.” She is pursuing a dual MDiv and MAT at Fuller Theological Seminary, and she just signed a contract with Brazos Press: “My first book is a reflection on Abuelita Theology told through my abuela’s story, alongside the stories of overlooked & unnamed women—or ‘abuelita theologians’—in Scripture.” Kat is Cuban-American and influenced by womanist and mujerista theology.

Follow Kat on Twitter @kat_armas

2. Karen González

Karen González immigrated from Guatemala as a child and now works in the non-profit sector advocating for immigrant rights. She attended Fuller Theological Seminary and is a speaker who has presented on Latinx identity, women in the church, among other topics. Her book, The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong reflects on the role of immigrants in the Bible.

Follow Karen on Twitter @karenjgonzalez

3. Wilda Gafney

Will Gafney photographed in Fort Worth, Texas on March 27, 2015. (Photo by/Sharon Ellman)

Rev. Dr. Gafney is an Episcopal priest and Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School and the author of several books including Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel and Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction To The Women Of The Torah And The Throne.

Follow her on Twitter @wilgafney

4. Erna Kim Hackett

Erna is the Executive Pastor at The Way Berkeley and worked for many years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Erna founded Liberated Together, a space for Christian Women of Color engaged in the work of justice and healing. Her blog Feisty Thoughts offers “reflections on being a Woman of Color leader, Christianity, social justice, and race.

5. Kelly Brown Douglas

Rev. Dr. Brown Douglas was one of the first ten black women to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church and is considered one of the prominent scholars of womanist theology. She is the inaugural Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary. She is also the author of several books including Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective and Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God which looks at the killing of Trayvon Martin and the Stand Your Ground Laws.

Follow her on Twitter @deankbd

6. Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas

Dr. Floyd-Thomas is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is a prolific writer with many collaborative books that teach ethics and theology from the margins and look at overlapping theological frameworks. Check out Liberation Theologies in the United States for an introduction to the various theological frameworks that center around justice for oppressed people. Chapters cover Black Theology, Womanist Theology, Latino/Hispanic Theology, Latina Theology, Asian American Theology, Asian American Feminist Theology, Native American Theology, Native Feminist Theology, Gay and Lesbian Theology, and Feminist Theology.

7. Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros

Carolina is a Tejana poet and nonfiction writer whose work focuses on Latinidad and faith. Her book BecomingCoztōtōtl is a collection of poems “that celebrate the forces that have made claims on us since the beginning of time: our bodies,our land, our families.”

Follow her on Twitter @cisneroscafe

8. Amos Yong

Dr. Yong is the Dean of School of Theology & School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary. He is a licensed minister in the Assemblies of God denomination and a Pentecostal theologian. Dr. Young has writeen over a dozen books about Pentacostalism (among other topics) including The Future of Evangelical Theology: Soundings from the Asian America Diaspora.

Follow him on Twitter @DrAmosYong

9. Lenny Duncan

According to his website, Rev. Lenny Duncan “has been everything from high school drop out, drug dealer, sex worker, street corner poet, hitchhiker, dharma bum, small town drifter, seminarian, political activists, father, pastor, lover, public theologian, and writer.” He is the Mission Developer Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Vancouver, Washington, the executive director of Emmaus Collective, and the board chaplain for Reconciling Works. His first book is Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US.

Follow him on Twitter @lennyaduncan

10. Grace Y. Kao

Dr. Kao is a professor of ethics and Director of the Center for Sexuality, Gender, and Religion at Claremont School of Theology. She is the author of Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World and co-editor of the anthologies Asian American Christian Ethics: Voices, Methods, Issues and Encountering the Sacred: Feminist Reflections on Women’s Lives.

Follow her on Twitter @profgracekao

11. Monica A. Coleman

Dr. Coleman is the Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions at Claremont School of Theology and Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. She is a survivor of sexual violence and writes about womanist theology, mental health, among other topics. The author of many books (see the list here), her latest is Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression and Faith.

Follow her on Twitter @monicaacoleman

12. Soong-Chan Rah

Soong-Chan Rah is the Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary. He writes about evangelicalism, diversity in congregations, and lament. His latest book, which he co-wrote with Native American activist Mark Charles, is Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery about the history of the “Christian right” to claim territories they “discovered.”

Follow him on Twitter @profrah.

13. Jace Weaver

Dr. Weaver is a member of the Cherokee Nation, the Director of the Institute of Native American studies at the University of Georgia, the Franklin Professor of Native American Studies and Religion, and Adjunct Professor of Law.  He has published over a dozen books, including Notes from a Miner’s Canary: Essays on the State of Native America.

14 & 15. J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa

J Mase III is a black/trans/queer poet, educator and founder of awQward, the first trans and queer people of color-specific talent agency. Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is a Nigerian, CUban, Indienous, American performing artist of all sorts, priestess, writer and educator. She is the founder of The Inanna D Initiatives which produce events and initiatives that celebrate the work of TGNC artists of color.

Together they co-edited the Black Trans Prayer Book, an “interfaith, multi-dimensional, artistic and theological work that collects the stories, poems, prayers, meditation, spells, and incantations of Black Trans & Non-Binary people.”

Follow them on Twitter @jmaseIII and @theladydane.

Who are your favorite BIPOC theologians and Christian thinkers? Link to them in the comments!

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