12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. (Read the rest of the chapter here!)
This chapter is actually a chapter about freedom and redemption, but I specifically pulled these two quotes out because I imagine it’s also a chapter that has been used to chastise women and validate slavery.
I see why those in power didn’t want the laity reading the Bible. I see why they fought so hard to keep it to themselves, not have it translated into native languages, and literally burn people at the stake for trying to expand access to the Bible. They knew, they knew that if the laity could study the Bible on their own, they would see that the very verses used to oppress the people were written to uplift the people.
What makes me so mad is that we’ve had an English Bible since the sixteenth century. Since then, English-language Bibles have just gotten more prolific and commonplace. And yet, we still have church leaders using it to uphold white supremacy and other racist notions, oppress women, and deny the sanctity of anyone who doesn’t fit in their tiny little box of “normal.” The sick genius of it is, they’ve also made it so the majority of Christians either don’t want to read the Bible (believing that it’s too boring or dense), or they’re so indoctrinated that they read it through the same narrow slant as the narrow-minded people who taught it to them.
The Bible is a book about radical love and radical freedom. Even if you just know the big stories that becomes apparent. Yes, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, but even with their transgressions they are spared worse punishments, such as death. Noah is spared from the flood through God’s love. Abraham receives a divine covenant because God loves him. Moses leads his people in revolt from Egypt because God is with them. David is beloved by God. Jesus is sent to Earth to disrupt the whole existing power hierarchy because God so loves us all. God is anti-hate, anti-oppression.
There are lots of wonderful, straight white guys out there sharing wonderful things about God, Jesus, and the Bible. I love the podcasts Almost Heretical and The Bible for Normal People, both hosted by white guys. I also love Richard Rohr and appreciate the work of John Shelby Spong. But they aren’t the only voices in theology. This year, I’m going to start focusing on theologians of color, female theologians, and any other minority voices I can find. From my small corner of the internet, I’m going to do my part to open up the discussion to voices from other experiences.
That being said, I’m only one person with very finite time, so I’m not sure how long it will take to get to all of them. I want to share a (very incomplete) list with you of some of the authors/theologians/books I’m looking at. It’s a dense list (WordPress editing only lets me do so many things for readability), but please read through it. Bookmark it and come back to it several times if need be. If something or someone on this list speaks to you, I encourage you to beat me to it and start reading. My hope is two-fold: that we can promote these minority voices in a way that they deserve, and also that you, dear reader, may find something that has been missing from your own spiritual journey. Perhaps you haven’t seen yourself fully reflected in Christianity yet, or perhaps you are missing a perspective you didn’t even think was possible. Even if you are not a woman, or black, or gay, it’s still important to read these experiences because understanding leads to empathy leads to acceptance leads to love. Finally, one more big thank you to Marla of @whitegirllearning who seriously recommended almost half these books/authors to me. Follow her if these aren’t enough book recommendations for you, she touches on a much broader subject base than I do. Enough preamble, here is my list:
1. Thabiti Anyabwile-A pastor right up the street from me in Washington, DC! His books include Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons and Reviving the Black Church. He also has a blog that I’m looking forward to reading.
2. Karen Armstrong-Armstrong’s book The Evolution of God is the book that got me started on thinking critically about faith. I just finished (and loved) her book St Paul: The Apostle We Love To Hate and am looking forward to reading more of her works, particularly The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity’s Creation of the Sex War in the West and The End of Silence: Women and the Priesthood.
3. Anthony Bradley-professor, author, and director of Center for the Study of Human Flourishing at The King’s College. His book Black Scholars in White Space caught my eye, and he’s published several other that look good, too.
4. Sarah Bessey– Co-organizer of the Evolving Faith Conference, contributor to a number of publications, author of Jesus Feminist and also has an archive of essays, here.
5. Nadia Bolz-Weber-Lutheran Pastor, former stand-up comic, and three-time New York Bestseller list. Her latest book, Shameless, “offers a full-blown overhaul of our harmful and antiquated ideas about sex, gender, and our bodies,” to quote the blurb.
6. Steven Charlston-A Choctaw elder and retired Episcopalian bishop. I’ve always loved the duality of faith that Indigenous believers often have, and am excited to include several of them on this list. The Four Vision Quests of Jesus was the book recommended to me.
7. Patrick Cheng-I do love my Episcopalians. Cheng has written several books on Queer Theology. His first book, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology was the book recommended to me.
8. Christena Cleveland-I’m excited to follow her most recent project, the Center for Justice + Renewal. She has also written the book Disunity in Christ.
9. James Cone (1938-2018) – Cone is often called the father of black theology. He has been critiqued, especially by Womanist theologians (several are further down this list, too), but his historical influence remains. He has written many books, with 1969’s Black Theology and Black Power being the most often referenced in my quick research on him.
10. Kaitlin B Curtice-Potawatomi and Christian, Curtice’s first book is Glory Happening, but I’m really looking forward to her May 2020 release of Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God. She also has a blog.
11. Kelly Brown Douglas-An Episcopalian and Womanist Theologian. I’m super excited to read her books Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God and Sexuality in the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective.
12. Mary Douglas (1921-2007)- Mary Douglas is actually more of an anthropologist than a theologian, but she’s written about Levitical law, mostly in academic papers, which I’m hoping to access through JSTOR.
13. Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019)-I am embarrassed to admit I’ve never read any of her books, but look to rectify that this year. Evans moved from an evangelical faith of certainty to a faith of questioning and doubt, which is scary and takes guts, especially to write about. She died tragically young, but her work seems to show no signs of losing traction with today’s audience. You can also read her blog, which looks like it’s being intermittently maintained by somebody else posthumously.
14. Stacy M. Floyd-Thomas-The book that grabbed my attention was Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion and Society but I’m also interested to read some of the works she co-authored with her husband, Juan Floyd Thomas, The Altars Where We Worship: The Religious Significance of Popular Culture.
15. Karen Gonzalez-As her website says, “I am a Christian, but I have not ceased to be Latina, Guatemalan, an immigrant, and a woman.” As someone deeply concerned about the treatment of refugees and immigrants arriving in this country, I am eager to read her book The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong. She also does a podcast called Dovetail intermittently, which explores the intersection of faith, justice, and culture.
16. Dominque DuBois Gilliard-recognized as a young leader of the Black Church at large, Gilliard has published Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores, writes a blog, and is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice initiative.
17. Lisa Sharon Harper-I love how many of these authors are also organizers, and Harper is one of those, speaking and consulting with churches and other organizations about how to mobilize people of faith to a more just world. Her latest book is The Very Good Gospel and I also want to read Forgive Us, which was co-authored by Soon-Chang Rah, who is further down this list.
18. Drew G.I. Hart-Hart is a WordPress guy, so fellow WordPress-ers, he’s easy to follow. His book is called Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism.
19. Austen Hartke-It’s hard to find a lot of specifically transgender perspectives on Christianity, but Austen Hartke has written the book Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians and also has a youTube series called “Transgender and Christian.”
20. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz (1943-2012) – Isasi-Diaz coined the term “Mujerista,” a specifically Latina liberation theology (and also the word used for it’s proponents). She has three books on Mujerista philosophy, the first one being Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the 21st Century.
21. Nyasha Junior-Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Temple University. The book first recommended to me was An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation, which looks like a great start. But I’m even more excited about her other book, Reimagining Hagar because I love to see how people study women in the Bible.
22. Kathy Kang-Her blog is warm and personable and as someone thinking more and more about “but what can we actually do” when confronted with whatever injustice there is, I’m looking forward to reading her book Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up.
23. Mihee Kim Kort-Kort is a wife, mom, presbyterian minister…and queer. (Look, all those things can exist at once! Sorry, couldn’t resist the little jab at some less accepting eyes…) Her book, Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith is the one that was recommended to me.
24. Deborah Jian Lee-as a journalist and radio producer she has a slightly different background than many on this list, but that just makes me more excited to include her. Her book, Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, was the one recommended to me.
25. James Earl Massey (1930-2018)-Massey was an influential voice in and out of the Church of God denomination. His work is prolific, the book I’m starting with is The Burdensome Joy of Preaching.
26. Brenda Salter McNeil-Dr. Brenda (her designation) focuses on reconciliation and has been for over 30 years. Roadmap to Reconciliation is her most recent book.
27. Osheta Moore-I was immediately intrigued as in her website menu there is a tab “Dear White Peacemakers.” Turns out, she has a series specifically tailored for (potentially) helpful white people on her podcast, Shalom Sistas (it looks like it’s on any platform you may use). She also has a book is Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World.
28. Soong-Chang Rah-Co-author of the aforementioned Forgive Us. Much of his work centers around the harm that colonial attitudes continue to do to the church and how the church can move forward into a more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse way. The two books I’m most looking forward to reading are Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery and The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.
29. Alexia Salvatierra-I heard Salvatierra interviewed on the podcast Can I Say This At Church. Predominantly a working activist and organizer focused on issues pertaining to immigration and poverty, she has made time to co-author the book Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World.
30. D. Danyelle Thomas-no books out (yet!), but Thomas is the creator of Unfit Christian, which strives to be the “digital voice of Black Millennial Faith & Spirituality.” You can also find her on Twitter, IG, and youTube.
31. Jemar Tisby – A Christian, historian, writer, and speaker, according to his website. His first book, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, was released January of 2019.
32. Richard Twiss (1954-2013)-Lakota, politically active in his youth with the American Indian Movement and later becoming a Christian minister, his book Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way was recommended to me, and he has several others.
33. Alice Walker – famed poet and novelist of The Color Purple is said to have coined the term “Womanist.” In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose is one of her non-fiction collections.
34. Johnathan L. Walton-Dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, he does have two books, but I’m most interested in some of his articles and book contributions that deal with megachurches and Christian consumerism. He looks at them mainly through the Black Church, but I think it’s a topic that should interest the broader Christian community as well.
34. Tracy C. West-A Methodist working within the church for inclusivity, West is also a scholar and author of several books dealing with race and gender in the context of religion. I’ll be starting with her book Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter, though they all look like good reads.
35. Dolores Williams-a first wave Womanist, Dolores Williams has been talking about how white feminism has excluded black women for a while now. Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk is the book she is most famous for, but she has made other contributions through journals and the like.
36. Jarvis J. Williams–Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, For Whom Did Christ Die? is a book I’m adding to my reading list. Also, because I am in the thick of reading Romans (and a lot of background reading on Paul) Williams’ books The Extent of the Atonement in Paul’s Theology and One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology have also caught my eye.
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