- Speak Like Christ, Adorn Like PlaskowEmbodied Theologies
embodiment, multiple religious belonging, process theology, theology, womanist
The notion of embodied theology is that our theologies are not simply or primarily rational constructions but rather rooted in the totality of our lives. In Goddess and God in the World, Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow offer up their lives and the theology that has emerged from their experiences. They model, as have so many other womanist and feminist theologians, a theology rooted deeply in faith and experience.
My embodied theology emerges from four sources. One is the radical incarnation of a progressive Christianity that sees the divine in a Palestinian teacher-healer and the faith communities of early Christianity and ancient Israel. Second, my embodied theology is also sourced from traditional Yoruba religion that honors divinity in women, men, twin babies, storms, plants, other elements of nature, and dance. For these reasons, I value the role of divine incarnation, ancestors, and forging faith in an imperial context. There is a scriptural sacrality in the way one asks a question of a great teacher who then responds by telling a story. This is true of both Jesus's parables and the Odu of Ifa (traditional Yoruba religion). A third source of my embodied theology, like Christ and Plaskow, emerges from my own embodied experience. I am a cisgendered woman sometimes queer, sex-positive, light-skinned African American with dreadlocks and a blood disease, dislocating kneecaps, and an often-invisible sometimes-disabling mental health challenge. I occupy places of both privilege and disadvantage. My embodied experiences affect how I live in the world and my spiritual practices, as well as how I know and relate to God. I draw from feminist, womanist, queer, black, and disability theologies in my own [End Page 105] theological constructions. A final important source for my embodied theology is my experience as a mother who has birthed and extended-nursed a girl child. Nurturing another body within and with my own body and radical mothering significantly expands and deepens my understanding of the divine as creator, nurturer, teacher, and parent. When my body became my daughter's world, I better understood Sallie McFague's assertion that the world can be understood as God's body.1
Unlike Christ and Plaskow, my embodied theology emerges as a given. Whereas they are pioneers in their respective fields, I am an heir. I am the beneficiary of the ground that Christ, Plaskow, McFague, Renita Weems, Delores williams, Marjorie hewitt Suchocki, and many others broke. They are my writers, teachers, and mentors. I encountered and took for granted feminist and womanist theologies when I began to think intentionally and constructively about my own theology. That said, my experience as a victim and survivor of sexual violence and as a minister-activist-advocate against sexual violence pushed me toward a process theological worldview. Deep grappling for an adequate theodicy sent me hurling toward a worldview that embraces change and understands loss and agency without wholly blaming God, humanity, or a devil for suffering.
When I read the curated narrative experiences of Christ and Plaskow, I see the great distance between us shaped primarily through our generational and racial differences. Amid their challenges as women, as non-Christian, and within the shifting boundaries of ethnicity-race-religion in the United States, I still feel the whiteness dripping off the pages. We are foreigners. Our experiences of education and oppression are radically dissonant. Nevertheless, their theological conclusions of feminism, Goddess, earthiness, and panentheism feel like shoes in which my feet still fit.2 I see how their theologies emerge from their personal experiences and the experiences of their communities just as much as my theology emerges from mine. I hope and find that the theology that emerges from my experiences is meaningful to those with whom I share similar embodiment and those with whom I largely do not. That there is still consonance between Christ and Plaskow's theological conclusions and my own suggests that there is something transcendent, perhaps even an element of truth, in the progressive, multireligious beliefs we espouse.
As a process theologian with multireligious practices and commitments...