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>> 139 5 Eve’s Positionality Afrocentric and Womanist Ideologies Holy Gender Politics I first became interested in the relationship between Afrocentrism and gendered dynamics at First Afrikan during one of my earliest visits. It was October 2003 and the pastor’s birthday. During the meet-andgreet portion of the service, he stood at the front of the church shaking hands and hugging members of the congregation. Reverend Lomax was flanked by two tall women, each wearing a black pantsuit decorated with conch shells and with their locks arranged in elegant twists and loops upon their heads. The women stood on either side of the pastor, giving the distinct impression of being his woman warrior protectors. During the sermon, Lomax directly challenged the gender norms in the church and in the larger society. He told the men in the congregation, “You can be as macho as you want to be, but if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you are filled with the her-ness of God. ‘I am a man,’ you say? Not unless you get in touch with the woman in you.” On another Sunday, Reverend Lomax preached about Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead. His larger theme was that the story is not so much about the miracle as it is that God cares for the last, the least, and the lowest. What I found interesting was his analysis of the 140 > 141 “Do you think that the Bible is a patriarchal or sexist book?” I asked. “Yes, definitely,” Mrs. Carnes replied. “I would try to read the Bible and just some of the things . . . ” She paused for a moment. “The way women were treated in there, I always thought of as being second class citizens. You’re being beneath man, subservient to. I just feel like that was the teaching, the way they presented it to me or the way I read it. It just didn’t seem like we ever had any real anything when it came to the Bible. We were just servants or whatever.” I inquired, “Do you think that God has a feminine nature or that God can be referred to as she?” “Yes, most definitely!” “When did you come to believe that?” “I always believed it. That’s why I always stayed in trouble with Christianity . That’s another one of those things where I say I’m beginning to better understand ancestral memory now. All those things that I always knew to be true but I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way, and no other people that I was around were feeling this way. Since I’ve been going to First Afrikan, I’m realizing that all the things that I’ve been really feeling are legitimate.” For Mrs. Carnes, despite what was presented to her in the Bible, she believed that women were equal to rather than subservient to men. She attributed this knowledge to her ancestral memories or a truth passed down through the generations from her African ancestors. First Afrikan Church was one of the few places she had this perspective affirmed. However, not all members of First Afrikan agreed with Reverend Lomax and Mrs. Carnes. I had become acquainted with Jacob Thorne at church, where he greeted visitors at the front door. Jacob is fifty-two years old, of average height, with a teddy bear rotundity and a bald head. When I asked him for an interview, he invited me to his home for breakfast. I enjoyed a meal of grits, eggs, and biscuits with special syrup from Maine. “Do you agree that God has a feminine nature and can be referred to as ‘She’?” I asked him. “Yes,” he responded. “That’s true, because God is a spirit and we— nobody’s never seen God, so he very well could be a woman or a man, who knows.” 142 > 143 To Be Feminist, Christian, and Black Before proceeding, I should define what is meant by the terms “feminism ,” “womanism,” and “womanist theology.” “Feminism” is an ideology and, at times, a social movement that advocates for political, economic, and social equity for women. Within some conceptions of feminism, woman are to be treated equally to or the same as men. In other interpretations, equity does not necessarily mean equal treatment as consideration is given to the social and physiological differences between women and men. Within either perspective, feminism seeks to liberate women from subordination and oppression based on their gendered...


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