Hope is Here

An excerpt from God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland, PhD

“Being both Black and female in the aftermath of Trump’s election in 2016, I was beginning to connect the dots between the cultural idea of a white male God and my incessant fear as a Black woman. There was just one problem. I had no idea where to turn. Imagination is theology; we can only believe what we can imagine. And our cultural landscape hasn’t give us many tools to imagine a non-white, non-male God.

My whole life, I had been indoctrinated into American society’s constrictive worship of white male God; my spiritual imagination didn’t know how to venture beyond the Protestant white male God that colonized and subdued America’s spiritual imagination. As I came to learn, this is exactly where the patriarchy wants us – without an adventurous spiritual imagination, without the audacity to ask boundary-pushing questions about God, and without a connection to our true, uncontrollable power. In order to encounter the divine truth that lives beyond what we think we know, we have to excavate our cultural landscape to under the hidden work of this white male God and forge a new path.

In early 2017, I mustered all of the desperate courage I could find and took one single, trembling step away from all I had known and all I had been taught to ask. With this step, I began anxiously searching for images of what I call the Sacred Black Feminine, a divine being that stands with and for Black women because She Herself is a Black woman. Thankfully, I didn’t have to search far. Just beyond the Protestantism of my origins and from the mystical depths of rogue Catholicism, rose the Black Madonna, a Black female image of the divine who is often claimed by Catholicism but draws seekers of all religions and spiritualities.

Within seconds of viewing photos of the Black Madonnas, my gut shifted from terror to hope. Before I even read a word about the Black Madonna, my soul immediately recognized that these photos and drawings of ancient Black Madonnas declared a truth about my own sacredness and gave birth to a new understanding of God” (pgs 16-178).