STACEY M. FLOYD-THOMAS
In her sermon titled “Has the Lord Spoken to Moses Only?” Pauli Murray raises critical questions pertinent to the womanist theological project: “Does the future of humanity depend upon how quickly … feminine principles can be incorporated into our religious life and thought? Is God calling women to reassert prophetic leadership and ministry before it is too late?”1 Murray uses the story of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron, the first woman identified as blessed by God with the gift of prophecy. Foreshadowing much of the womanist vision, Murray’s invoking of Miriam’s prophetic stance as an example of how the questions of gendering power dynamics and perspectives with Black religious life may have always existed yet awaited women of great faith, courage, and wisdom to call attention to and ultimately end such injustice. The conditions and circumstances of our contemporary era are just as needful of a prophetic critique of the racialized and gendered oppression that still plagues Christianity, both Black and white.
Furthermore, womanist theology reveals itself to be an organic discourse inasmuch as it is faithful to the church while also seeking to remake this most central and cherished institution. This is not viewed as an innovation by womanist theologians but is deemed a continuation of Black women’s traditional culture of struggle, survival, and celebration that represents the likes of womanist muses such as Maria Stewart, Jarena Lee, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Anna Julia Cooper, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Zora Neale Hurston, Pauli Murray, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark, and countless others in affirmation of themselves of the Black community and their relationship to the divine. Also embedded in the work of these theologians is an emphasis on bringing together elements of Black literature, visual art, music, and sacred testimonies to make an urgent and impassioned plea to Black churches to address not only racism and classism in mainline Christianity but also sexism and anti-intellectualism in the historic Black church tradition.