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Religion, Theology and Self-Improvement Sundays: Women, Religion, Theology and Society Part 16

In our last three weeks of this series we will examine this question of the nature, structure and function of the "original" woman and the concept, view, attitude and treatment of women in society. In our opinion, only when deep religious and theological issues pertaining to women are addressed and studied can true liberation, freedom, justice and equality be obtained by and for women all over the world. A woman's point of view, and particularly a Black woman's point of view, is essential to the resolution of this issue.

To that end, we conclude with a look at a book, Just a Sister Away - A Womanist Vision of Women's Relationships in the Bible by Renita J. Weems. The book is intellectually challenging, emotional and scripturally based. Many will agree and disagree with its conclusions. We begin with excerpts from the book's foreword

"Just a Sister Away was written for those of us who are hungry. If you are like myself, you have heard and read about many of the women in the Bible all your life, and you have often wondered whether there might not be another way of understanding these stories. Those biblical women whose stories have gained the attention of the Church are renowned either for being thoroughly selfless or resolutely wanton. Such amblyopic interpretations infer that, in the sight of God, women must be notoriously one or the other.

Dutifully, we have sat through sermons, lectures, and Bible study lessons, nodding when appropriate, copiously taking notes when expected and, when called upon, obediently recapitulating what we have been told. All the while our souls have remained starved for a new revelation on the role of women in salvation history. Surely, God did not mean for us to be a footnote to redemption.

And if, like myself, you are an African-American woman, you are all the more hungry to hear a voice you recognize. How many times have I gone into bookstores - feminist, African-American, and Christian bookstores - desperately seeking a book written unapologetically with me, an African-American woman, in mind. When I have made purchases, it is because I, like so many, have learned how to redesign what I can and to make do with what I have. Although there has been a recent groundswell of literature by and about black women in the non-religious sector - and we all benefit greatly when black women regain their voices - the voice of black women religious writers has been strangely muted.

Just a Sister Away attempts to combine the best of the fruits of feminist biblical criticism with its passion for reclaiming and reconstructing the stories of biblical women, along with the best of the Afro-American oral tradition, with its gift for story-telling and its love of drama. For this reason, the novelist Alice Walker's term "womanist" - referring to a black feminist; a courageous woman who is committed to whole people, both men and women - best describes the critical perspective taken here. That is, Just a Sister Away is an audacious attempt to probe beneath the surface of biblical texts to discover a place for everyone the uncharted territory of stories that could give us clues as to what biblical women felt about their lives.

We know all too well how ancient men felt about women; and we have a reasonably sound idea of the role of women in ancient society, home, synagogue, and church. But how the women felt about themselves, we do not know. What we do know is that one of the best ways to get an idea oh how a woman feels about being a woman is to take a look at how she treats other women. Hence, Just a Sister Away examines women's relations with one another."

Cedric Muhammad

Sunday, February 18, 2001

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