Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Reconciliation and Intercultural Studies (MA-RIS)

Department

Theology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Brenda Salter McNeil, D.Min., Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies

Keywords

Belonging (Social psychology); Bible. Esther; Black theology Christianity and culture; Church work with minorities; Church work with teenagers; Church work with youth; Cultural pluralism; Feminist theology; Image of God; Liberation theology; Minorities; Multiculturalism—Religious aspects—Christianity; Reconciliation—Religious aspects—Christianity; Social integration—Religious aspects—Christianity; Social justice; Womanist theology

Abstract

Historically, many have attempted to advocate for equality by centering an earthly dominant power to bring about likeness to the majority. Unfortunately, even the most noble of causes excludes those furthest from the center source. Therefore, reconciliation must not focus on human structures of power and equality, but God’s, centering the One who created all things, to be again returned to their truthful spaces. Thus, for reconciliation to be a realized truth, we must not center the dominant source of human power, but the furthest out, realizing the likeness to God that humanity continuously excludes. For this, womanism gives a unique lens, starting from the margins and folding upwards towards the One who gave all things life.

In my context of youth ministry, terms such as multiethnic, special needs, females, and females of color, were often used to describe the various ministries for "the other" cultures and people groups in the community. These contextual groups were intended to serve people more inclusively, to create a place of belonging and community for every person. In addition, as an African American student, much of my theological education needed to be contextualized or demanded special training to be validated, however this reality was not limited to the academy. In ministry, words such as reconciliation, diversity, unity, inclusion, and belonging were some of the major words used to describe the vision behind the organizational changes being made in the late 2010’s. In this context of organizational change, there is ministry and multiethnic ministry to describe the specialty of interacting and preaching to youth of color. The quantifier “multiethnic” signals that it is different from mainstream because ministry is tailored to dominant culture, thus multiethnic must be created for the experiences and realities of youth of color in hopes to create a belonging among peers that would not necessarily happen otherwise.

Consequently, the narratives perpetuated in youth culture excludes and prevents youth in seeing their fullness as being a part of God's image. Dominant culture theology has made it such that only white males can see their full humanity reflected in God and others cannot. This has caused harm and a mass exodus in churches and the Christian community. Although organizations and para-church spaces are based in the community, it is the church that sets the rules that upholds these limited and exclusive perspectives as being God- ordained. It is my contention that Christian organizations that serve youth are constrained by a theology that closes the doors to those who do not conform.

Therefore, using womanist theology as a lens, we will begin to see the ways reconciliation is made possible because it begins with marginalized communities, bases itself in practical steps towards justice, and centers the fullness of Godself in humanities conditions while transforming unjust systems. By looking at the narrative of Esther through the perspective of black feminists, we will not only learn more about the ways that reconciliation requires an imagination of creativity and experience, but also must lead towards liberation for those beyond oneself, adaptable and inclusive. As reconciliation, unity, and the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven is the prayer of the church, the focus of this thesis is to answer the question: “How can the Church create a culture of belonging where female, non-white, and non-binary dominant culture youth can have their humanity centered in the imago dei that reflects God’s kinship community of wholeness, reconciliation, and unified diversity?”

Share

COinS
 
Copyright Status