African American Social Ethics
Womanist Approach to Religion and Society
Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas
Jimmy C. Sansom
Joining heart, mind and soul to divine justice and social justice within the African American community transpires in a number of ways. Looking back in history we find many individuals and movements vying to reach the goal of liberation and equality for al without basis to color, class or sex. Harriet Tubman risked her life while working the Underground Railroad to help free enslaved Africans. Sojourner Truth fought for abolitionism and women's suffrage. Rosa Parks stood her ground on a bus and refused to move to the back that initiated a boycott of city transportation by African Americans. Martin Luther King, Fr. Rallied many African Americans together in peaceful demonstrations and marches in hopes of gaining freedom and equality for all people.
African American Social Ethics and Womanist Theology focuses on an important approach to Black Church Studies. They share in some of the same beliefs and practices in trying to make gains and strides of an oppressed people. Womanist Theology goes beyond just the social ethics value in that it fights for the double oppression of African American females. Both approaches want liberation for African Americans from the dominant culture but Womanist Theology wants as its ultimate goal liberation and equality for al people. One compliments the other and it is here that I focus theoretically on the approach to Black Church Studies.
Liberation, freedom and equality are the norms for African American Social Ethics and Womanist Theology. Religious authority within the American culture came from a Eurocentristic view that determined an Anglo-American perception should determine the normative values within American society (Roberts, pg. 13). These normative values were viewed differently by the African Americans. Liberation, freedom and equality are what were preached but what was practiced was different when it came to the African American.
The Bible states that slaves should obey their master. Charles C. Jones believed enslaved Africans would become more obedient and calm them down if the Christian faith was taught to them (Roberts, pg. 7). Others thought it would be the demise of slavery because under English rule no Christian could enslave another Christian (Roberts, pg. 6). Those that heard what Christianity was supposed to represent held onto the belief that they would be freed and liberated one day. It was the Eurocentric interpretation that kept Africans oppressed from a Biblical standpoint.
Today, it has not changed much for the African American ethically or theologically. "As long as the white-male experience continues to be established as the ethical norm, Black women, Black men and others will suffer unequivocal oppression" (Cannon, pg. 283). The white majority dictates what the norms are. They are the majority in power, make interpretations and preach to others. Theologians have understood the dominant theological traditions as to ignore human oppression (Douglas, pg. 26).
African American men and women believe in the implied messages of the Constitution and the Bible. All people are to be free and equal. It is not to be free and equal in just religious matters but also to be free and equal in all aspects of society. Martin Luther King, Jr. focused on this approach. The outcome was to modify the hearts of white Americans (Roberts, pg. 14). Still, oppression was observed and practiced throughout the African American community. Because of the discrimination present, the Black community created values and virtues on their own terms in order to triumph against the odds against them (Cannon, pg. 282).
Virtue theory says that the main goal for the African American people is the preservation and promotion of the community (Paris, pg. 5). Virtue theory is the determinate measure of...