Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk
Delores S. Williams. Publisher: Orbis Books (1993, 2013)
“Drawing on the biblical figure of Hagar. Delores Williams finds a prototype for the struggle of African-American women. Through Hagar’s story of poverty and slavery, ethnicity and sexual exploitation, exile and encounter with God, she traces parallels in the history of African-American women from slavery to the present day. First published twenty years ago, Sisters in the Wilderness has been acclaimed as a modern classis” (Back Cover).
“The Christian Century” writes, “Published in 1993, this book presented a watershed moment in the development not only of womanist theology but also in American theology and biblical studies. Williams brilliantly captures and clarifies a number of crucial themes of race, identity and experience while advancing conversations in liberationist biblical hermeneutics and theology with her innovative reading of Hagar and her powerful critique of atonement theories.”
Womanist theology is the developing of theology for Black Women and women of color.
“The term womanist was coined by black, female, Pulitzer prize winner Alice Walker, who is the author of “The Color Purpose.” She gives the following definition of a womanist: 1. From womanish (Opp. of ‘girlish,’ i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, ‘You acting womanish,’ i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one. Interested in grown-up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: ‘You trying to be grown.’ Responsible. In charge. Serious.”
All theology is contextualized, and this is the beginning of an attempt to contextualize African-American female theology. The struggle of White Women is not identical to the struggle of African American women. The struggle of African American men and the African American community is not identical to that of African American women. Each context is unique and doesn’t necessarily need to be right or wrong, but a part of the theological conversation.
It widely accepted that without African American women there would be no Black Church or Black community. Consequently, they have raised the question of how the stories of the Bible should be read and interpreted.
Williams uses the leitmotif of “sisters in the wilderness” in keeping with the story of Hagar. Hagar was mistreated by Abraham, Sarah, and perhaps, even God. In the wilderness, she faced motherhood, homelessness, and survival. In the family of Abraham and Sarah, she faced surrogacy and mistreatment. This brings into focus the role of motherhood in the Black Community.
Rather than reading the text through the eyes of the dominant society, women are applying the text to their experience while using other sources of information like Black songs, poems, experience, etc.
There are tensions in the Black community over the perspective of motherhood. For instance, in the Blues literature, there is a twin tension between a woman being mother or some man’s baby (Mama-baby). Motherhood, in the Black community, takes place in a context of resistance.
White Racial Narcissism is a preference for all things white and the demonization of all things Black in the psyche of America. This impacts religion, science, economics, etc. Consequently, even Black theology is often a reflection of White values.
Since slavery, women have a long history of resistance activity against slavery and racism.
Liberation Theology, even Black Liberation Theology, has given little attention to African American women. Therefore, the symbolism of the cross—as seen through dominant eyes—may need to be reevaluated. Is the wilderness symbolism a better symbolism for addressing the mistreatment of African American women? Does the cross glorify mistreatment and submissiveness, rather than the vision of righting relationships and the resistance of social norms that is exemplified in Jesus, the Christ?
What is really at stake is what is acceptably female. The Victorian model of motherhood, which is the male perspective of the Virgin Mary, touts a woman that is quiet, recessive, at home, etc. This leaves no room for the African American woman who is resistant, strong, active, political, proud, etc.
The Black Church has aided and abetted the oppression of women through Black preachers that refused to license women and, in some cases, used their bodies and kept them emotionally bound for their own pride and purposes.
Whether you agree with womanist theologians or not, this is a must-read book because they are asking legitimate questions of the text.
 Williams, Delores S., Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (Kindle Locations 4394-4400). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.
My foundation and source for truth is the Word of God. Over the years, I have established a discipline of reading the Bible on a daily basis and have read through the Bible over 40 times.
Having a daily quiet time of prayer, Bible reading and study, and meditating on God's Word are core values that are incorporated into my lifestyle. Every pastor, minister of the gospel, and saint must eat daily from the Word of God in order to grow, thrive, have power for living, and to represent His image accurately and effectively.
The following Bible translations are recommended:
In addition to reading The Holy Bible, I have disciplined myself to read over 100 books each year. Being a well-rounded reader provides wisdom to contribute to your personal growth and walk with the Lord, will strengthen leadership abilities, enable church development and interpretation of the Bible, and enhance your ability to minister to and communicate with others.
Bishop Johnson also distributes his sermon outlines as an encouragement and foundation for pastors and leaders to build upon for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Recent Book Reports (Selected)
Work: The Meaning of Your Life
Lester DeKoster “Lester DeKoster (1915-2009) was director of The Calvin College and Seminary Library, editor of The Banner, and author of numerous books, including Communism & Christian Faith and Light for the City: Calvin’s Preaching, Source of Life and Liberty, Publisher: Christian’s Library Press (1982)
“Where do we find the core of life’s meaning? Right on the job! At whatever work we do—with head or hand, from kitchen to executive suite, from your house to the White House!
‘Work is the great equalizer—everyone has to come to it in order to find meaning in living: no short cuts, no detours, no bargain rates.’
For DeKoster, bringing hope to the world of work is not only crucial to finding meaning in our work, but to finding meaning in our lives as a whole. If we do our daily work without the hope that God is present and active in it, our lives become ‘a wilderness of work,’ a desert through which we trudge, desperately thirsting for meaning and purpose. If we work with hope, that thirst will be satisfied—not only in our work, but increasingly in the rest of our lives as well” ([Greg Forster, from the Afterword], Back Cover).
Following are recommended reading lists with book reports. See the links below to view, download, or print the reading lists.
Bishop's Reading Book List
Reading Year Completed 10/11/17-10/10/18
Additional Books/Resources are listed below:
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