What do Lutheran women say about faith and politics? Women of the ELCA’s blog has shared the essays of Lutheran women who were asked to describe why they are politically active. These essays appear in the Women of the ELCA resource, “Called to be Political: (But I don’t want to be political!).”
I am womanist (black feminist) who is unashamedly Christian. I am also unapologetically political. My theological standpoint is foundationally the imago dei. Humans, all homo sapiens, are made in God’s image. Correspondingly, this means that I look like God and God looks like me. This claim is not exclusive to myself as I believe that all people are made in God’s image. Nevertheless, rarely do Christians imagine God as a black woman. As such, the significance of my claim is this: it is theologically plausible, an act of defiance and overtly political because historically people fail to see me and others who look like me as God does.
I believe that all people, regardless of their faith/ religion, are children of God and are thus, siblings divinely created with diverse ascribed attributes, some of which are construed in such a manner that siblings are not treated with equity and inclusion, but instead experience erasure, discrimination … and the list can go on. These are everyday realities, especially for people who live with overlapping oppressions.
I am called to love my neighbor as I love myself, thus I am intentional about loving my body, mind, and spirit. I have a spiritual director, I go the gym, I eat whole food and I work to decolonize my thinking. These too are acts of defiance—to live resistance boldly, I love myself well because I want to love my neighbor into her/his/their full potential.
I am political because I am a Christian and the God in every one of my cells calls me to love myself and my siblings—all of them. I am called to love into fullness of being and resist any structural violence that thwarts the development and thriving of any person. I cannot be non-political because Jesus was political and I want to be like him, especially during his three years of public ministry where he was a community organizer who sought the interests of 4 people asking, “what do you want me to do for you?” He did not say, “I know what you want. I know what’s best for you.” He asked a question and then listened for the answer. Moreover, Jesus questioned authority.
When we question authority in the name of the Triune God we are involved with holy engagement for the sake of the people of God. I am unashamedly Christian and unapologetically political out-heterosexual, cisgender, temporarily able-bodied black woman made in God’s image who is called to remember the politics of Jesus.
I do not let any system intentionally or unintentionally dismiss or walk over me. My mentors are Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and they accompany me everywhere I go and are an active part of my everyday life. They are saints who practiced rebellious spirituality as Jesus did during his three years of ministry. Accordingly, as the Sankofa Bird looked backward while flying forward, I am called to remember my ancestors, that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before me. They taught me how to love of the earth, neighbor, sibling, always recognizing the Triune God and remembering both my baptism and the Last Meal that we eat in remembrance of Jesus, the political activist and community organizer.
Linda Thomas is Professor of Theology and Anthropology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She holds a B.A. from Western Maryland College, M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, N.Y. and a Ph.D. from American University, Washington D.C. As a constructive theologian and an anthropologist, what excites Dr. Thomas most is learning about religious meaning cross-culturally. She loves learning about the thick layers of significance of people’s faith journeys, which include celebration and struggle in everyday life. Her work at LSTC is a laboratory for creative energy and significant intellectual work. Dr. Thomas deeply and mindfully engages God’s presence in her life and work. She embodies a womanist perspective, which means she is anti-oppressionist, concerned about the vernacular, non-ideological, communitarian and spiritual. The life and ministry of Jesus Christ guides her constructive theology and ethical commitment to vulnerable people created in God’s image across the globe.