The Red Couch: Mujerista Theology Discussion

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red couch - mujerista theology - discussion

Our house is alive with the frenetic energy of the five o’clock rush.

My eldest daughter calls out from the lounge, questioning me about the surname of a worship musician and songwriter who she really likes. My attention is scattered at best. Her voice, vying for my attention, cuts through the clatter of kitchen noise:

“Mum, does she have brown skin…like me?”

I immediately stop what I’m doing, and walk into the lounge where she is sitting on the couch. Her fingers gently tracing the soft skin between her wrist and the crease of her inner elbow. A small cavity opens up in the base of my belly. My daughter is nine years old, and already she is beginning to perceive that the walls that hold the church are largely white. She is beginning to wonder if there is a place for her and her gifts. Searching out the markers, people to guide the way. Looking for signs that her body belongs in the place where there should be no question.

It is this relationship, between the bodies in which we live and move and have our being, our experience of God, and our place within the people of God, which Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz considers in Mujerista Theology.  In particular, Isasi-Diaz is concerned with how Latina women’s bodies shape and are shaped by theology and experience. She invites us to listen and challenges us to consider what it means to inhabit a Latina body. She advocates for the inclusion of Latina women’s voices and that their knowledge, experience, and perspective would hold a place in our theological framework and biblical interpretation.

One of threads woven throughout the book is the importance of the stories of ordinary women. For Isasi-Diaz, listening and storytelling are the beginning and center-point of change. In order to work for a more just world, we  must begin by locating ourselves honestly within the frame. There is a need to acknowledge the bodies in which we find ourselves and the particular worlds within which we live and work. But the emphasis here is on the necessity of  listening to the stories of women who live in different bodies.  For it is in listening that we reveal the forces which form and shape us. This is how we excavate the structures of power, and uncover the foundations of even our most unconscious assumptions and habits. Isasi-Diaz describes this listening and re-framing as “a process of conversion” (Chapter 6).

Consequently, it is essential that both the powerful and those from whom power has been withheld must engage in honest, vulnerable self disclosure. If a true mutuality and sharing of power is to be achieved, then we must understand the shape of power – not so that we may take our place within its framework, but so that we may remake it entirely (Chapter 8).  For Isasi-Diaz, this work of remaking power creates “eschatological glimpses” – windows into the world remade and redeemed in God’s image (Chapter 4).

I come to the text as an outsider, as neither Latina, nor North American. I am a Pākeha woman (a New Zealander of white European descent), married to a Māori (Ngāti Porou/ Ngāti Whātua) man, an indigenous New Zealander. A mother of two daughters who live both in and between worlds. But I receive Isasi-Diaz’s invitation to come as Mary did, and sit at the feet of Jesus. To intentionally carve out time to listen, to learn, and allow our sisters to speak from their vulnerability and from their strength and to examine the forces of power which form my own self understanding.

A theme which stood out for me throughout the book is the teasing out of the relationship between love and justice. Isasi-Diaz challenges us to consider how we might engage difference with more than idle fascination or superficial acknowledgement. This is framed as an act of both love and justice, which she sees as parts of the same curve, rather than values which are at odds with one another.

One of the ways Isasi-Diaz sees us achieving this is through reconsidering the way we understand Jesus’ command to love our neighbor. True love of neighbor must be more than charity, it must seek to value and enable other so that they may live fully and wholeheartedly in our world. For “…to be oppressive limits love, love cannot exist in the midst of alienation” (Chapter 5). When we truly stand together, recognizing, encouraging, and enabling the unique gifts each brings, we stand in true love and solidarity. This is the vision of the future, of a world remade which Isasi-Diaz wants us both to glimpse and to work for.

Al viento nadie lo para
al mar nadie lo encadena
Las mujeres solidarias
son fuego pue nadie apaga

(No-one stops the wind
no-one chains the sea
the women in solidarity
are a fire no-one can extinguish)

Questions For Discussion:

What was your biggest learning in reading Mujerista Theology?

Was there anything that shocked or surprised you?

What did you find most challenging?

 

We’ll be reading Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World by Kelley Nikondeha for our “off-month” book. Join our Facebook group for discussions! We’ll see you back here in May for Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World by Amy Peterson.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

 

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Melissa Powell
Tēnā koutou e hoa ma, ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa. (Hello friends, warm greetings to everyone.) My name is Melissa and I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I live with my family - my husband Jacob (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua) and our two daughters. We live in the shadow of Maungakiekie (aka One Tree Hill), the second largest of Auckland's many dormant volcanoes. Though its rumbling belly has long been quiet, the marks of its origins live on in the rich fertile soil on which we have made our home. We live in Onehunga, one of Auckland's most ethnically and socially diverse communities and have been engaged in community ministry here for the past 10 years. After 12 years in pastoral ministry I am currently taking a break to complete my Masters in Theology at Carey Graduate School. I am passionate about languages and stories and the way we tell them.
Melissa Powell
Melissa Powell

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