My Ethiopian Bible is bigger than Your White King James Bible!!!
“Let me add one more line in order to connect my African-South African reality with that of my fellow Africana sisters: ‘Isono sethu ubulili bethu besifazane–“Our sin is our female sex.’ ” Madipoane Masenya (page 33)
Like many posts I do, I begin this one with a personal story. A while back I was riding the Fort Worth T bus on the way home from a long morning at work. I sat in the back, wearing my blue “Got Jesus?” hoodie when a elderly black man across the aisle from me, informed me that my hoodie was wrong, that I had the wrong name on that shirt. And I responded, what am I doing wrong? And the man said, God’s name is Jehovah, and Jehovah only. Of course, my reply was well Jehovah is the German rendition of the divine name in the “Old Testament.” He tried to call himself persuading me to his “argument” but I tuned him out, and went on my merry way. Lovely story right? Probably wondering what exactly does that have to do with this post on Women, Art, and Responsibility in The Africana Bible?
Well, my friend, for Christians in the African Diaspora, the Bible is a cherished book. West Africans generally, according to Steed Vernyl Davidson, Justin Ukpong, and Gosnell York in “The Bible and Africana Life: A Problematic Relationship,” sometimes sleep with their Bible under their pillows (hey in Texas, it’s guns–okay okay, I kid, well maybe not) (p 39-40). The Bible is seen as being able to be reconciled with African worldview(s), but funny thing is, some white Christians identify their own brand of Christianity as THE only way of being biblical. Funny how that works, eh? The Bible permeates so much of African diasporic life that the Hebrew Bible inspires artwork, from John Edgar Wideman’s novel Two Cities to Harriet Power’s “Bible Quilt” to the spirituals of enslaved Africans sung on American shores to Isaac Hayes’ album, Black Moses. Need I go on? — see “The Hebrew Bible in Africana Art, Music, and Popular Culture” by Kimberly N. Ruffin (page 52-57).
Back to my story: is Jehovah, the German iteration of YHWH, the Holy Name, the SINGULAR, ONE AND ONLY WAY to address God, to have a relationship with God. 1000 years ago, God became Incarnate in a German Barbarian, and it is by being a part of the Prussian race that one is saved, right? Looks that way. That’s the logic my friend on the bus. My friend and his fellow co-religionists are reading the Bible irresponsibly. Rev. Wil Gafney argues that responsibly reading Israel’s Scriptures means “putting an end to the mediation of the scriptures through gentile languages, especially German, in this post-Holocaust world” (48). Indeed, even Israel’s Scriptures depiction of God’s Gender is not masculine (sorry, John Piper), but the only reproductive organ God has in the Bible is a womb (50). Whoopsy! Looks like androncentrists, sexists, and masculinists have a problem with God! Gafney continues, “The reception of the scriptures of Israel into the Christian canon was and is marked by usurpation, colonization, anti-Judaism, and anti-Semitism. Specifically in the West, the scriptures of Israel have regularly been mediated through gentilic culture and languages, particularly German, which is especially onerous in a post-Holocaust world” (47). When you think about it, misogynists who hate women, they read the Bible irresponsibly too.